When he came back to his chair, I saw tears in his eyes.
"Of course, Esther, you know what she says here?" He spoke in a softened voice and kissed the letter as he asked me.
"Offers me," he went on, tapping his foot upon the floor, "the little inheritance she is certain of so soon--just as little and as much as I have wasted--and begs and prays me to take it, set myself right with it, and remain in the service."
"I know your welfare to be the dearest wish of her heart," said I. "And, oh, my dear Richard, Ada's is a noble heart."
"I am sure it is. I--I wish I was dead!"
He went back to the window, and laying his arm across it, leaned his head down on his arm. It greatly affected me to see him so, but I hoped he might become more yielding, and I remained silent. My experience was very limited; I was not at all prepared for his rousing himself out of this emotion to a new sense of injury.
"And this is the heart that the same John Jarndyce, who is not otherwise to be mentioned between us, stepped in to estrange from me," said he indignantly. "And the dear girl makes me this generous offer from under the same John Jarndyce's roof, and with the same John Jarndyce's gracious consent and connivance, I dare say, as a new means of buying me off."
"Richard!" I cried out, rising hastily. "I will not hear you say such shameful words!" I was very angry with him indeed, for the first time in my life, but it only lasted a moment. When I saw his worn young face looking at me as if he were sorry, I put my hand on his shoulder and said, "If you please, my dear Richard, do not speak in such a tone to me. Consider!"
He blamed himself exceedingly and told me in the most generous manner that he had been very wrong and that he begged my pardon a thousand times. At that I laughed, but trembled a little too, for I was rather fluttered after being so fiery.
"To accept this offer, my dear Esther," said he, sitting down beside me and resuming our conversation, "--once more, pray, pray forgive me; I am deeply grieved--to accept my dearest cousin's offer is, I need not say, impossible. Besides, I have letters and papers that I could show you which would convince you it is all over here. I have done with the red coat, believe me. But it is some satisfaction, in the midst of my troubles and perplexities, to know that I am pressing Ada's interests in pressing my own. Vholes has his shoulder to the wheel, and he cannot help urging it on as much for her as for me, thank God!"
His sanguine hopes were rising within him and lighting up his features, but they made his face more sad to me than it had been before.
"No, no!" cried Richard exultingly. "If every farthing of Ada's little fortune were mine, no part of it should be spent in retaining me in what I am not fit for, can take no interest in, and am weary of. It should be devoted to what promises a better return, and should be used where she has a larger stake. Don't be uneasy for me! I shall now have only one thing on my mind, and Vholes and I will work it. I shall not be without means. Free of my commission, I shall be able to compound with some small usurers who will hear of nothing but their bond now--Vholes says so. I should have a balance in my favour anyway, but that would swell it. Come, come! You shall carry a letter to Ada from me, Esther, and you must both of you be more hopeful of me and not believe that I am quite cast away just yet, my dear."
I will not repeat what I said to Richard. I know it was tiresome, and nobody is to suppose for a moment that it was at all wise. It only came from my heart. He heard it patiently and feelingly, but I saw that on the two subjects he had reserved it was at present hopeless to make any representation to him. I saw too, and had experienced in this very interview, the sense of my guardian's remark that it was even more mischievous to use persuasion with him than to leave him as he was.
Therefore I was driven at last to asking Richard if he would mind convincing me that it really was all over there, as he had said, and that it was not his mere impression.