Telescopic Philanthropy

We were to pass the night, Mr Kenge told us when we arrived in his room, at Mrs Jellyby’s; and then he turned to me, and said he took it for granted I knew who Mrs Jellyby was?

“I really don’t, sir,” I returned. “Perhaps Mr Carstone — or Miss Clare—”

But no, they knew nothing whatever about Mrs Jellyby.

“In-deed! Mrs Jellyby,” said Mr Kenge, standing with his back to the fire, and casting his eyes over the dusty hearth-rug as if it were Mrs Jellyby’s biography, “is a lady of very remarkable strength of character who devotes herself entirely to the public. She has devoted herself to an extensive variety of public subjects, at various times, and is at present (until something else attracts her) devoted to the subject of Africa; with a view to the general cultivation of the coffee berry — and the natives — and the happy settlement, on the banks of the African rivers, of our superabundant home population. Mr Jarndyce, who is desirous to aid any work that is considered likely to be a good work, and who is much sought after by philanthropists, has, I believe, a very high opinion of Mrs Jellyby.”

Mr Kenge, adjusting his cravat, then looked at us.

“And Mr Jellyby, sir?” suggested Richard.

“Ah! Mr Jellyby,” said Mr Kenge, “is — a — I don’t know that I can describe him to you better than by saying that he is the husband of Mrs Jellyby.”

“A nonentity, sir?” said Richard with a droll look.

“I don’t say that,” returned Mr Kenge gravely. “I can’t say that, indeed, for I know nothing whatever of Mr Jellyby. I never, to my knowledge, had the pleasure of seeing Mr Jellyby. He may be a very superior man; but he is, so to speak, merged — merged — in the more shining qualities of his wife.” Mr Kenge proceeded to tell us that as the road to Bleak House would have been very long, dark, and tedious, on such an evening, and as we had been travelling already, Mr Jarndyce had himself proposed this arrangement. A carriage would be at Mrs Jellyby’s to convey us out of town, early in the forenoon of to-morrow.

He then rang a little bell, and the young gentleman came in. Addressing him by the name of Guppy, Mr Kenge inquired whether Miss Summerson’s boxes and the rest of the baggage had been “sent round.” Mr Guppy said yes, they had been sent round, and a coach was waiting to take us round too as soon as we pleased.

“Then it only remains,” said Mr Kenge, shaking hands with us, “for me to express my lively satisfaction in (good day, Miss Clare!) the arrangement this day concluded, and my (good-bye to you, Miss Summerson!) lively hope that it will conduce to the happiness, the (glad to have had the honour of making your acquaintance, Mr Carstone!) welfare, the advantage in all points of view, of all concerned! Guppy, see the party safely there.”

“Where is ‘there,’ Mr Guppy?” said Richard as we went downstairs.

“No distance,” said Mr Guppy; “round in Thavies’ Inn, you know.”

“I can’t say I know where it is, for I come from Winchester, and am strange in London.”

“Only round the corner,” said Mr Guppy. “We just twist up Chancery Lane, and cut along Holborn, and there we are in four minutes time, as near as a toucher. This is about a London particular now, ain’t it, miss?” He seemed quite delighted with it on my account.

“The fog is very dense indeed!” said I.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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