Skimpole, "I will do anything to give you pleasure, but it seems an idle form--a superstition. Besides, I give you my word, Miss Clare and my dear Miss Summerson, I thought Mr. Carstone was immensely rich. I thought he had only to make over something, or to sign a bond, or a draft, or a cheque, or a bill, or to put something on a file somewhere, to bring down a shower of money."
"Indeed it is not so, sir," said Ada. "He is poor."
"No, really?" returned Mr. Skimpole with his bright smile. "You surprise me.
"And not being the richer for trusting in a rotten reed," said my guardian, laying his hand emphatically on the sleeve of Mr. Skimpole's dressing-gown, "be you very careful not to encourage him in that reliance, Harold."
"My dear good friend," returned Mr. Skimpole, "and my dear Miss Simmerson, and my dear Miss Clare, how can I do that? It's business, and I don't know business. It is he who encourages me. He emerges from great feats of business, presents the brightest prospects before me as their result, and calls upon me to admire them. I do admire them--as bright prospects. But I know no more about them, and I tell him so."
The helpless kind of candour with which he presented this before us, the light-hearted manner in which he was amused by his innocence, the fantastic way in which he took himself under his own protection and argued about that curious person, combined with the delightful ease of everything he said exactly to make out my guardian's case. The more I saw of him, the more unlikely it seemed to me, when he was present, that he could design, conceal, or influence anything; and yet the less likely that appeared when he was not present, and the less agreeable it was to think of his having anything to do with any one for whom I cared.
Hearing that his examination (as he called it) was now over, Mr. Skimpole left the room with a radiant face to fetch his daughters (his sons had run away at various times), leaving my guardian quite delighted by the manner in which he had vindicated his childish character. He soon came back, bringing with him the three young ladies and Mrs. Skimpole, who had once been a beauty but was now a delicate high-nosed invalid suffering under a complication of disorders.
"This," said Mr. Skimpole, "is my Beauty daughter, Arethusa--plays and sings odds and ends like her father. This is my Sentiment daughter, Laura--plays a little but don't sing. This is my Comedy daughter, Kitty--sings a little but don't play. We all draw a little and compose a little, and none of us have any idea of time or money."
Mrs. Skimpole sighed, I thought, as if she would have been glad to strike out this item in the family attainments. I also thought that she rather impressed her sigh upon my guardian and that she took every opportunity of throwing in another.
"It is pleasant," said Mr. Skimpole, turning his sprightly eyes from one to the other of us, "and it is whimsically interesting to trace peculiarities in families. In this family we are all children, and I am the youngest."
The daughters, who appeared to be very fond of him, were amused by this droll fact, particularly the Comedy daughter.
"My dears, it is true," said Mr. Skimpole, "is it not? So it is, and so it must be, because like the dogs in the hymn, 'it is our nature to.' Now, here is Miss Summerson with a fine administrative capacity and a knowledge of details perfectly surprising. It will sound very strange in Miss Summerson's ears, I dare say, that we know nothing about chops in this house. But we don't, not the least. We can't cook anything whatever. A needle and thread we don't know how to use. We admire the people who possess the practical wisdom we want, but we don't quarrel with them. Then why should they quarrel with us? Live and let live, we say to them. Live upon your practical wisdom, and let us live upon you!"
He laughed, but as usual seemed quite candid and really to mean what he said.
"We have sympathy, my roses," said Mr.