"This is a lovely place," said Richard, looking round. "None of the jar and discord of law-suits here!"
But there was other trouble.
"I tell you what, my dear girl," said Richard, "when I get affairs in general settled, I shall come down here, I think, and rest."
"Would it not be better to rest now?" I asked.
"Oh, as to resting NOW," said Richard, "or as to doing anything very definite NOW, that's not easy. In short, it can't be done; I can't do it at least."
"Why not?" said I.
"You know why not, Esther. If you were living in an unfinished house, liable to have the roof put on or taken off--to be from top to bottom pulled down or built up--to-morrow, next day, next week, next month, next year--you would find it hard to rest or settle. So do I. Now? There's no now for us suitors."
I could almost have believed in the attraction on which my poor little wandering friend had expatiated when I saw again the darkened look of last night. Terrible to think it had in it also a shade of that unfortunate man who had died.
"My dear Richard," said I, "this is a bad beginning of our conversation."
"I knew you would tell me so, Dame Durden."
"And not I alone, dear Richard. It was not I who cautioned you once never to found a hope or expectation on the family curse."
"There you come back to John Jarndyce!" said Richard impatiently. "Well! We must approach him sooner or later, for he is the staple of what I have to say, and it's as well at once. My dear Esther, how can you be so blind? Don't you see that he is an interested party and that it may be very well for him to wish me to know nothing of the suit, and care nothing about it, but that it may not be quite so well for me?"
"Oh, Richard," I remonstrated, "is it possible that you can ever have seen him and heard him, that you can ever have lived under his roof and known him, and can yet breathe, even to me in this solitary place where there is no one to hear us, such unworthy suspicions?"
He reddened deeply, as if his natural generosity felt a pang of reproach. He was silent for a little while before he replied in a subdued voice, "Esther, I am sure you know that I am not a mean fellow and that I have some sense of suspicion and distrust being poor qualities in one of my years."
"I know it very well," said I. "I am not more sure of anything."
"That's a dear girl," retorted Richard, "and like you, because it gives me comfort. I had need to get some scrap of comfort out of all this business, for it's a bad one at the best, as I have no occasion to tell you."
"I know perfectly," said I. "I know as well, Richard--what shall I say? as well as you do--that such misconstructions are foreign to your nature. And I know, as well as you know, what so changes it."
"Come, sister, come," said Richard a little more gaily, "you will be fair with me at all events. If I have the misfortune to be under that influence, so has he. If it has a little twisted me, it may have a little twisted him too. I don't say that he is not an honourable man, out of all this complication and uncertainty; I am sure he is. But it taints everybody. You know it taints everybody. You have heard him say so fifty times. Then why should HE escape?"
"Because," said I, "his is an uncommon character, and he has resolutely kept himself outside the circle, Richard."
"Oh, because and because!" replied Richard in his vivacious way. "I am not sure, my dear girl, but that it may be wise and specious to preserve that outward indifference. It may cause other parties interested to become lax about their interests; and people may die off, and points may drag themselves out of memory, and many things may smoothly happen that are convenient enough."
I was so touched with pity for Richard that I could not reproach him any more, even by a look. I remembered my guardian's gentleness towards his errors and with what perfect freedom from resentment he had spoken of them.
"Esther," Richard resumed, "you are not to suppose that I have come here to make underhanded charges against John Jarndyce.