We did not appreciate the writer the less for laughing heartily over it, and we settled that I should send him a letter of thanks on the morrow and accept his offer. It was a most agreeable one to me, for all the places I could have thought of, I should have liked to go to none so well as Chesney Wold.
"Now, little housewife," said my guardian, looking at his watch, "I was strictly timed before I came upstairs, for you must not be tired too soon; and my time has waned away to the last minute. I have one other petition. Little Miss Flite, hearing a rumour that you were ill, made nothing of walking down here--twenty miles, poor soul, in a pair of dancing shoes--to inquire. It was heaven's mercy we were at home, or she would have walked back again."
The old conspiracy to make me happy! Everybody seemed to be in it!
"Now, pet," said my guardian, "if it would not be irksome to you to admit the harmless little creature one afternoon before you save Boythorn's otherwise devoted house from demolition, I believe you would make her prouder and better pleased with herself than I-- though my eminent name is Jarndyce--could do in a lifetime."
I have no doubt he knew there would be something in the simple image of the poor afflicted creature that would fall like a gentle lesson on my mind at that time. I felt it as he spoke to me. I could not tell him heartily enough how ready I was to receive her. I had always pitied her, never so much as now. I had always been glad of my little power to soothe her under her calamity, but never, never, half so glad before.
We arranged a time for Miss Flite to come out by the coach and share my early dinner. When my guardian left me, I turned my face away upon my couch and prayed to be forgiven if I, surrounded by such blessings, had magnified to myself the little trial that I had to undergo. The childish prayer of that old birthday when I had aspired to be industrious, contented, and true-hearted and to do good to some one and win some love to myself if I could came back into my mind with a reproachful sense of all the happiness I had since enjoyed and all the affectionate hearts that had been turned towards me. If I were weak now, what had I profited by those mercies? I repeated the old childish prayer in its old childish words and found that its old peace had not departed from it.
My guardian now came every day. In a week or so more I could walk about our rooms and hold long talks with Ada from behind the window-curtain. Yet I never saw her, for I had not as yet the courage to look at the dear face, though I could have done so easily without her seeing me.
On the appointed day Miss Flite arrived. The poor little creature ran into my room quite forgetful of her usual dignity, and crying from her very heart of hearts, "My dear Fitz Jarndyce!" fell upon my neck and kissed me twenty times.
"Dear me!" said she, putting her hand into her reticule, "I have nothing here but documents, my dear Fitz Jarndyce; I must borrow a pocket handkerchief."
Charley gave her one, and the good creature certainly made use of it, for she held it to her eyes with both hands and sat so, shedding tears for the next ten minutes.
"With pleasure, my dear Fitz Jarndyce," she was careful to explain. "Not the least pain. Pleasure to see you well again. Pleasure at having the honour of being admitted to see you. I am so much fonder of you, my love, than of the Chancellor. Though I DO attend court regularly. By the by, my dear, mentioning pocket handkerchiefs--"
Miss Flite here looked at Charley, who had been to meet her at the place where the coach stopped. Charley glanced at me and looked unwilling to pursue the suggestion.
"Ve-ry right!" said Miss Flite, "Ve-ry correct. Truly! Highly indiscreet of me to mention it; but my dear Miss Fitz Jarndyce, I am afraid I am at times (between ourselves, you wouldn't think it) a little--rambling you know," said Miss Flite, touching her forehead. "Nothing more."
"What were you going to tell me?" said I, smiling, for I saw she wanted to go on.