Then, very strangely, I seemed to hear them, not in the reader's voice, but in the well- remembered voice of my godmother. This made me think, did Lady Dedlock's face accidentally resemble my godmother's? It might be that it did, a little; but the expression was so different, and the stern decision which had worn into my godmother's face, like weather into rocks, was so completely wanting in the face before me that it could not be that resemblance which had struck me. Neither did I know the loftiness and haughtiness of Lady Dedlock's face, at all, in any one. And yet I--I, little Esther Summerson, the child who lived a life apart and on whose birthday there was no rejoicing--seemed to arise before my own eyes, evoked out of the past by some power in this fashionable lady, whom I not only entertained no fancy that I had ever seen, but whom I perfectly well knew I had never seen until that hour.
It made me tremble so to be thrown into this unaccountable agitation that I was conscious of being distressed even by the observation of the French maid, though I knew she had been looking watchfully here, and there, and everywhere, from the moment of her coming into the church. By degrees, though very slowly, I at last overcame my strange emotion. After a long time, I looked towards Lady Dedlock again. It was while they were preparing to sing, before the sermon. She took no heed of me, and the beating at my heart was gone. Neither did it revive for more than a few moments when she once or twice afterwards glanced at Ada or at me through her glass.
The service being concluded, Sir Leicester gave his arm with much taste and gallantry to Lady Dedlock--though he was obliged to walk by the help of a thick stick--and escorted her out of church to the pony carriage in which they had come. The servants then dispersed, and so did the congregation, whom Sir Leicester had contemplated all along (Mr. Skimpole said to Mr. Boythorn's infinite delight) as if he were a considerable landed proprietor in heaven.
"He believes he is!" said Mr. Boythorn. "He firmly believes it. So did his father, and his grandfather, and his great-grandfather!"
"Do you know," pursued Mr. Skimpole very unexpectedly to Mr. Boythorn, "it's agreeable to me to see a man of that sort."
"IS it!" said Mr. Boythorn.
"Say that he wants to patronize me," pursued Mr. Skimpole. "Very well! I don't object."
"I do," said Mr. Boythorn with great vigour.
"Do you really?" returned Mr. Skimpole in his easy light vein. "But that's taking trouble, surely. And why should you take trouble? Here am I, content to receive things childishly as they fall out, and I never take trouble! I come down here, for instance, and I find a mighty potentate exacting homage. Very well! I say 'Mighty potentate, here IS my homage! It's easier to give it than to withhold it. Here it is. If you have anything of an agreeable nature to show me, I shall be happy to see it; if you have anything of an agreeable nature to give me, I shall be happy to accept it.' Mighty potentate replies in effect, 'This is a sensible fellow. I find him accord with my digestion and my bilious system. He doesn't impose upon me the necessity of rolling myself up like a hedgehog with my points outward. I expand, I open, I turn my silver lining outward like Milton's cloud, and it's more agreeable to both of us.' That's my view of such things, speaking as a child!"
"But suppose you went down somewhere else to-morrow," said Mr. Boythorn, "where there was the opposite of that fellow--or of this fellow. How then?"
"How then?" said Mr. Skimpole with an appearance of the utmost simplicity and candour. "Just the same then! I should say, 'My esteemed Boythorn'--to make you the personification of our imaginary friend--'my esteemed Boythorn, you object to the mighty potentate? Very good. So do I. I take it that my business in the social system is to be agreeable; I take it that everybody's business in the social system is to be agreeable.