17. Esther's Narrative
Richard very often came to see us while we remained in London (though he soon failed
in his letter-writing), and with his quick abilities, his good spirits, his good temper, his
gaiety and freshness, was always delightful. But though I liked him more and more the
better I knew him, I still felt more and more how much it was to be regretted that he had
been educated in no habits of application and concentration. The system which had
addressed him in exactly the same manner as it had addressed hundreds of other boys,
all varying in character and capacity, had enabled him to dash through his tasks, always
with fair credit and often with distinction, but in a fitful, dazzling way that had confirmed
his reliance on those very qualities in himself which it had been most desirable to direct
and train. They were good qualities, without which no high place can be meritoriously
won, but like fire and water, though excellent servants, they were very bad masters. If
they had been under Richard's direction, they would have been his friends; but Richard
being under their direction, they became his enemies.
I write down these opinions not because I believe that this or any other thing was so
because I thought so, but only because I did think so and I want to be quite candid
about all I thought and did. These were my thoughts about Richard. I thought I often
observed besides how right my guardian was in what he had said, and that the
uncertainties and delays of the Chancery suit had imparted to his nature something of
the careless spirit of a gamester who felt that he was part of a great gaming system.
Mr. and Mrs. Bayham Badger coming one afternoon when my guardian was not at
home, in the course of conversation I naturally inquired after Richard.
"Why, Mr. Carstone," said Mrs. Badger, "is very well and is, I assure you, a great
acquisition to our society. Captain Swosser used to say of me that I was always better
than land a-head and a breeze a-starn to the midshipmen's mess when the purser's
junk had become as tough as the fore-topsel weather earings. It was his naval way of
mentioning generally that I was an acquisition to any society. I may render the same
tribute, I am sure, to Mr. Carstone. But I--you won't think me premature if I mention it?"
I said no, as Mrs. Badger's insinuating tone seemed to require such an answer.
"Nor Miss Clare?" said Mrs. Bayham Badger sweetly.
Ada said no, too, and looked uneasy.
"Why, you see, my dears," said Mrs. Badger, "--you'll excuse me calling you my dears?"
We entreated Mrs. Badger not to mention it.