"My love," said Richard, "there is no one with whom I have a greater wish to talk than you, for I want you to understand me."
"And I want you, Richard," said I, shaking my head, "to understand some one else."
"Since you refer so immediately to John Jarndyce," said Richard, "--I suppose you mean him?"
"Of course I do."
"Then I may say at once that I am glad of it, because it is on that subject that I am anxious to be understood. By you, mind--you, my dear! I am not accountable to Mr. Jarndyce or Mr. Anybody."
I was pained to find him taking this tone, and he observed it.
"Well, well, my dear," said Richard, "we won't go into that now. I want to appear quietly in your country-house here, with you under my arm, and give my charming cousin a surprise. I suppose your loyalty to John Jarndyce will allow that?"
"My dear Richard," I returned, "you know you would be heartily welcome at his house--your home, if you will but consider it so; and you are as heartily welcome here!"
"Spoken like the best of little women!" cried Richard gaily.
I asked him how he liked his profession.
"Oh, I like it well enough!" said Richard. "It's all right. It does as well as anything else, for a time. I don't know that I shall care about it when I come to be settled, but I can sell out then and--however, never mind all that botheration at present."
So young and handsome, and in all respects so perfectly the opposite of Miss Flite! And yet, in the clouded, eager, seeking look that passed over him, so dreadfully like her!
"I am in town on leave just now," said Richard.
"Yes. I have run over to look after my--my Chancery interests before the long vacation," said Richard, forcing a careless laugh. "We are beginning to spin along with that old suit at last, I promise you."
No wonder that I shook my head!
"As you say, it's not a pleasant subject." Richard spoke with the same shade crossing his face as before. "Let it go to the four winds for to-night. Puff! Gone! Who do you suppose is with me?"
"Was it Mr. Skimpole's voice I heard?"
"That's the man! He does me more good than anybody. What a fascinating child it is!"
I asked Richard if any one knew of their coming down together. He answered, no, nobody. He had been to call upon the dear old infant--so he called Mr. Skimpole--and the dear old infant had told him where we were, and he had told the dear old infant he was bent on coming to see us, and the dear old infant had directly wanted to come too; and so he had brought him. "And he is worth--not to say his sordid expenses--but thrice his weight in gold," said Richard. "He is such a cheery fellow. No worldliness about him. Fresh and green-hearted!"
I certainly did not see the proof of Mr. Skimpole's worldliness in his having his expenses paid by Richard, but I made no remark about that. Indeed, he came in and turned our conversation. He was charmed to see me, said he had been shedding delicious tears of joy and sympathy at intervals for six weeks on my account, had never been so happy as in hearing of my progress, began to understand the mixture of good and evil in the world now, felt that he appreciated health the more when somebody else was ill, didn't know but what it might be in the scheme of things that A should squint to make B happier in looking straight or that C should carry a wooden leg to make D better satisfied with his flesh and blood in a silk stocking.
"My dear Miss Summerson, here is our friend Richard," said Mr. Skimpole, "full of the brightest visions of the future, which he evokes out of the darkness of Chancery. Now that's delightful, that's inspiriting, that's full of poetry! In old times the woods and solitudes were made joyous to the shepherd by the imaginary piping and dancing of Pan and the nymphs. This present shepherd, our pastoral Richard, brightens the dull Inns of Court by making Fortune and her train sport through them to the melodious notes of a judgment from the bench. That's very pleasant, you know! Some ill-conditioned growling fellow may say to me, 'What's the use of these legal and equitable abuses? How do you defend them?' I reply, 'My growling friend, I DON'T defend them, but they are very agreeable to me.