He was not in the least disconcerted by our appearance, but rose and received us in his usual airy manner.
"Here I am, you see!" he said when we were seated, not without some little difficulty, the greater part of the chairs being broken. "Here I am! This is my frugal breakfast. Some men want legs of beef and mutton for breakfast; I don't. Give me my peach, my cup of coffee, and my claret; I am content. I don't want them for themselves, but they remind me of the sun. There's nothing solar about legs of beef and mutton. Mere animal satisfaction!"
"This is our friend's consulting-room (or would be, if he ever prescribed), his sanctum, his studio," said my guardian to us.
"Yes," said Mr. Skimpole, turning his bright face about, "this is the bird's cage. This is where the bird lives and sings. They pluck his feathers now and then and clip his wings, but he sings, he sings!"
He handed us the grapes, repeating in his radiant way, "He sings! Not an ambitious note, but still he sings."
"These are very fine," said my guardian. "A present?"
"No," he answered. "No! Some amiable gardener sells them. His man wanted to know, when he brought them last evening, whether he should wait for the money. 'Really, my friend,' I said, 'I think not--if your time is of any value to you.' I suppose it was, for he went away."
My guardian looked at us with a smile, as though he asked us, "Is it possible to be worldly with this baby?"
"This is a day," said Mr. Skimpole, gaily taking a little claret in a tumbler, "that will ever be remembered here. We shall call it Saint Clare and Saint Summerson day. You must see my daughters. I have a blue-eyed daughter who is my Beauty daughter, I have a Sentiment daughter, and I have a Comedy daughter. You must see them all. They'll be enchanted."
He was going to summon them when my guardian interposed and asked him to pause a moment, as he wished to say a word to him first. "My dear Jarndyce," he cheerfully replied, going back to his sofa, "as many moments as you please. Time is no object here. We never know what o'clock it is, and we never care. Not the way to get on in life, you'll tell me? Certainly. But we DON'T get on in life. We don't pretend to do it."
My guardian looked at us again, plainly saying, "You hear him?"
"Now, Harold," he began, "the word I have to say relates to Rick."
"The dearest friend I have!" returned Mr. Skimpole cordially. "I suppose he ought not to be my dearest friend, as he is not on terms with you. But he is, I can't help it; he is full of youthful poetry, and I love him. If you don't like it, I can't help it. I love him."
The engaging frankness with which he made this declaration really had a disinterested appearance and captivated my guardian, if not, for the moment, Ada too.
"You are welcome to love him as much as you like," returned Mr. Jarndyce, "but we must save his pocket, Harold."
"Oh!" said Mr. Skimpole. "His pocket? Now you are coming to what I don't understand." Taking a little more claret and dipping one of the cakes in it, he shook his head and smiled at Ada and me with an ingenuous foreboding that he never could be made to understand.
"If you go with him here or there," said my guardian plainly, "you must not let him pay for both."
"My dear Jarndyce," returned Mr. Skimpole, his genial face irradiated by the comicality of this idea, "what am I to do? If he takes me anywhere, I must go. And how can I pay? I never have any money. If I had any money, I don't know anything about it. Suppose I say to a man, how much? Suppose the man says to me seven and sixpence? I know nothing about seven and sixpence. It is impossible for me to pursue the subject with any consideration for the man. I don't go about asking busy people what seven and sixpence is in Moorish--which I don't understand. Why should I go about asking them what seven and sixpence is in Money--which I don't understand?"
"Well," said my guardian, by no means displeased with this artless reply, "if you come to any kind of journeying with Rick, you must borrow the money of me (never breathing the least allusion to that circumstance), and leave the calculation to him."
"My dear Jarndyce," returned Mr.