The mirror was gone from its usual place in that room too, but what I had to bear was none the harder to bear for that.
My guardian had throughout been earnest to visit me, and there was now no good reason why I should deny myself that happiness. He came one morning, and when he first came in, could only hold me in his embrace and say, "My dear, dear girl!" I had long known--who could know better?--what a deep fountain of affection and generosity his heart was; and was it not worth my trivial suffering and change to fill such a place in it? "Oh, yes!" I thought. "He has seen me, and he loves me better than he did; he has seen me and is even fonder of me than he was before; and what have I to mourn for!"
He sat down by me on the sofa, supporting me with his arm. For a little while he sat with his hand over his face, but when he removed it, fell into his usual manner. There never can have been, there never can be, a pleasanter manner.
"My little woman," said he, "what a sad time this has been. Such an inflexible little woman, too, through all!"
"Only for the best, guardian," said I.
"For the best?" he repeated tenderly. "Of course, for the best. But here have Ada and I been perfectly forlorn and miserable; here has your friend Caddy been coming and going late and early; here has every one about the house been utterly lost and dejected; here has even poor Rick been writing--to ME too--in his anxiety for you!"
I had read of Caddy in Ada's letters, but not of Richard. I told him so.
"Why, no, my dear," he replied. "I have thought it better not to mention it to her."
"And you speak of his writing to YOU," said I, repeating his emphasis. "As if it were not natural for him to do so, guardian; as if he could write to a better friend!"
"He thinks he could, my love," returned my guardian, "and to many a better. The truth is, he wrote to me under a sort of protest while unable to write to you with any hope of an answer--wrote coldly, haughtily, distantly, resentfully. Well, dearest little woman, we must look forbearingly on it. He is not to blame. Jarndyce and Jarndyce has warped him out of himself and perverted me in his eyes. I have known it do as bad deeds, and worse, many a time. If two angels could be concerned in it, I believe it would change their nature."
"It has not changed yours, guardian."
"Oh, yes, it has, my dear," he said laughingly. "It has made the south wind easterly, I don't know how often. Rick mistrusts and suspects me--goes to lawyers, and is taught to mistrust and suspect me. Hears I have conflicting interests, claims clashing against his and what not. Whereas, heaven knows that if I could get out of the mountains of wiglomeration on which my unfortunate name has been so long bestowed (which I can't) or could level them by the extinction of my own original right (which I can't either, and no human power ever can, anyhow, I believe, to such a pass have we got), I would do it this hour. I would rather restore to poor Rick his proper nature than be endowed with all the money that dead suitors, broken, heart and soul, upon the wheel of Chancery, have left unclaimed with the Accountant-General--and that's money enough, my dear, to be cast into a pyramid, in memory of Chancery's transcendent wickedness."
"IS it possible, guardian," I asked, amazed, "that Richard can be suspicious of you?"
"Ah, my love, my love," he said, "it is in the subtle poison of such abuses to breed such diseases. His blood is infected, and objects lose their natural aspects in his sight. It is not HIS fault."
"But it is a terrible misfortune, guardian."
"It is a terrible misfortune, little woman, to be ever drawn within the influences of Jarndyce and Jarndyce. I know none greater. By little and little he has been induced to trust in that rotten reed, and it communicates some portion of its rottenness to everything around him. But again I say with all my soul, we must be patient with poor Rick and not blame him. What a troop of fine fresh hearts like his have I seen in my time turned by the same means!"
I could not help expressing something of my wonder and regret that his benevolent, disinterested intentions had prospered so little.