What could I ever do but thank him! I was going out at the door when he asked me to stay a moment. Quickly turning round, I saw that same expression on his face again; and all at once, I don't know how, it flashed upon me as a new and far-off possibility that I understood it.
"My dear Esther," said my guardian, "I have long had something in my thoughts that I have wished to say to you."
"I have had some difficulty in approaching it, and I still have. I should wish it to be so deliberately said, and so deliberately considered. Would you object to my writing it?"
"Dear guardian, how could I object to your writing anything for ME to read?"
"Then see, my love," said he with his cheery smile, "am I at this moment quite as plain and easy--do I seem as open, as honest and old-fashioned--as I am at any time?"
I answered in all earnestness, "Quite." With the strictest truth, for his momentary hesitation was gone (it had not lasted a minute), and his fine, sensible, cordial, sterling manner was restored.
"Do I look as if I suppressed anything, meant anything but what I said, had any reservation at all, no matter what?" said he with his bright clear eyes on mine.
I answered, most assuredly he did not.
"Can you fully trust me, and thoroughly rely on what I profess, Esther?"
"Most thoroughly," said I with my whole heart.
"My dear girl," returned my guardian, "give me your hand."
He took it in his, holding me lightly with his arm, and looking down into my face with the same genuine freshness and faithfulness of manner--the old protecting manner which had made that house my home in a moment--said, "You have wrought changes in me, little woman, since the winter day in the stage-coach. First and last you have done me a world of good since that time."
"Ah, guardian, what have you done for me since that time!"
"But," said he, "that is not to be remembered now."
"It never can be forgotten."
"Yes, Esther," said he with a gentle seriousness, "it is to be forgotten now, to be forgotten for a while. You are only to remember now that nothing can change me as you know me. Can you feel quite assured of that, my dear?"
"I can, and I do," I said.
"That's much," he answered. "That's everything. But I must not take that at a word. I will not write this something in my thoughts until you have quite resolved within yourself that nothing can change me as you know me. If you doubt that in the least degree, I will never write it. If you are sure of that, on good consideration, send Charley to me this night week--'for the letter.' But if you are not quite certain, never send. Mind, I trust to your truth, in this thing as in everything. If you are not quite certain on that one point, never send!"
"Guardian," said I, "I am already certain, I can no more be changed in that conviction than you can be changed towards me. I shall send Charley for the letter."
He shook my hand and said no more. Nor was any more said in reference to this conversation, either by him or me, through the whole week. When the appointed night came, I said to Charley as soon as I was alone, "Go and knock at Mr. Jarndyce's door, Charley, and say you have come from me--'for the letter.'" Charley went up the stairs, and down the stairs, and along the passages--the zig- zag way about the old-fashioned house seemed very long in my listening ears that night--and so came back, along the passages, and down the stairs, and up the stairs, and brought the letter. "Lay it on the table, Charley," said I. So Charley laid it on the table and went to bed, and I sat looking at it without taking it up, thinking of many things.
I began with my overshadowed childhood, and passed through those timid days to the heavy time when my aunt lay dead, with her resolute face so cold and set, and when I was more solitary with Mrs. Rachael than if I had had no one in the world to speak to or to look at. I passed to the altered days when I was so blest as to find friends in all around me, and to be beloved.