“And I said,” I timidly reminded him, “but its mistress remained.”

He still held me, in the same protecting manner, and with the same bright goodness in his face.

“Dear guardian,” said I, “I know how you have felt all that has happened, and how considerate you have been. As so much time has passed, and as you spoke only this morning of my being so well again, perhaps you expect me to renew the subject. Perhaps I ought to do so. I will be the mistress of Bleak House when you please.”

“See,” he returned gaily, “what a sympathy there must be between us! I have had nothing else, poor Rick excepted — it’s a large exception — in my mind. When you came in, I was full of it. When shall we give Bleak House its mistress, little woman?”

“When you please.”

“Next month?”

“Next month, dear guardian.”

“The day on which I take the happiest and best step of my life — the day on which I shall be a man more exulting and more enviable than any other man in the world — the day on which I give Bleak House its little mistress — shall be next month, then,” said my guardian.

I put my arms round his neck and kissed him, just as I had done on the day when I brought my answer.

A servant came to the door to announce Mr Bucket, which was quite unnecessary, for Mr Bucket was already looking in over the servant’s shoulder. “Mr Jarndyce and Miss Summerson,” said he, rather out of breath, “with all apologies for intruding, will you allow me to order up a person that’s on the stairs, and that objects to being left there in case of becoming the subject of observations in his absence? Thank you. Be so good as chair that there Member in this direction, will you?” said Mr Bucket, beckoning over the banisters.

This singular request produced an old man in a black skull-cap, unable to walk, who was carried up by a couple of bearers, and deposited in the room near the door. Mr Bucket immediately got rid of the bearers, mysteriously shut the door, and bolted it.

“Now you see, Mr Jarndyce,” he then began, putting down his hat, and opening his subject with a flourish of his well-remembered finger, “you know me, and Miss Summerson knows me. This gentleman likewise knows me, and his name is Smallweed. The discounting line is his line principally, and he’s what you may call a dealer in bills. That’s about what you are, you know, ain’t you?” said Mr Bucket, stopping a little to address the gentleman in question, who was exceedingly suspicious of him.

He seemed about to dispute this designation of himself, when he was seized with a violent fit of coughing.

“Now, moral, you know!” said Mr Bucket, improving the accident. “Don’t you contradict when there ain’t no occasion, and you won’t be took in that way. Now, Mr Jarndyce, I address myself to you. I’ve been negotiating with this gentleman on behalf of Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet; and one way and another I’ve been in and out and about his premises a deal. His premises are the premises formerly occupied by Krook, marine Store Dealer — a relation of this gentleman’s that you saw in his life-time if I don’t mistake?”

My guardian replied, “Yes.”

“Well! You are to understand,” said Mr Bucket, “that this gentleman he come into Krook’s property, and a good deal of Magpie property there was. Vast lots of waste paper among the rest. Lord bless you, of no use to nobody!”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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