Bleak House HTML version

3. A Progress
I have a great deal of difficulty in beginning to write my portion of these pages, for I
know I am not clever. I always knew that. I can remember, when I was a very little girl
indeed, I used to say to my doll when we were alone together, "Now, Dolly, I am not
clever, you know very well, and you must be patient with me, like a dear!" And so she
used to sit propped up in a great arm-chair, with her beautiful complexion and rosy lips,
staring at me--or not so much at me, I think, as at nothing--while I busily stitched away
and told her every one of my secrets.
My dear old doll! I was such a shy little thing that I seldom dared to open my lips, and
never dared to open my heart, to anybody else. It almost makes me cry to think what a
relief it used to be to me when I came home from school of a day to run upstairs to my
room and say, "Oh, you dear faithful Dolly, I knew you would be expecting me!" and
then to sit down on the floor, leaning on the elbow of her great chair, and tell her all I
had noticed since we parted. I had always rather a noticing way--not a quick way, oh,
no!--a silent way of noticing what passed before me and thinking I should like to
understand it better. I have not by any means a quick understanding. When I love a
person very tenderly indeed, it seems to brighten. But even that may be my vanity.
I was brought up, from my earliest remembrance--like some of the princesses in the
fairy stories, only I was not charming--by my godmother. At least, I only knew her as
such. She was a good, good woman! She went to church three times every Sunday,
and to morning prayers on Wednesdays and Fridays, and to lectures whenever there
were lectures; and never missed. She was handsome; and if she had ever smiled,
would have been (I used to think) like an angel--but she never smiled. She was always
grave and strict. She was so very good herself, I thought, that the badness of other
people made her frown all her life. I felt so different from her, even making every
allowance for the differences between a child and a woman; I felt so poor, so trifling,
and so far off that I never could be unrestrained with her--no, could never even love her
as I wished. It made me very sorry to consider how good she was and how unworthy of
her I was, and I used ardently to hope that I might have a better heart; and I talked it
over very often with the dear old doll, but I never loved my godmother as I ought to have
loved her and as I felt I must have loved her if I had been a better girl.
This made me, I dare say, more timid and retiring than I naturally was and cast me upon
Dolly as the only friend with whom I felt at ease. But something happened when I was
still quite a little thing that helped it very much.
I had never heard my mama spoken of. I had never heard of my papa either, but I felt
more interested about my mama. I had never worn a black frock, that I could recollect. I
had never been shown my mama's grave. I had never been told where it was. Yet I had
never been taught to pray for any relation but my godmother. I had more than once
approached this subject of my thoughts with Mrs. Rachael, our only servant, who took