‘She covered her discoloured eye with her hand, as though she wished to separate any association with noise and violence and ill treatment from the poor little child.‘ is a quotation from Bleak House (Chapter 8).
Observation by the character Esther Summerson, acting as narrator in this part of Bleak House.
In Chapter 8 of Bleak House, the misguided charity worker Mrs. Pardiggle pays a visit to Bleak House, accompanied by her five miserable sons. Later she takes Ada and Esther to visit the house of a poor brick-makers family. They observe that the wife has a black eye, which her husband admits to giving her. As Mrs. Pardiggle leaves, Ada and Esther stay to talk to the woman, who has a baby in her arms. As they approach, she tries to hide the bruised eye by covering it with one hand.
Mrs. Pardiggle accordingly rose and made a little vortex in the confined room from which the pipe itself very narrowly escaped. Taking one of her young family in each hand, and telling the others to follow closely, and expressing her hope that the brickmaker and all his house would be improved when she saw them next, she then proceeded to another cottage. I hope it is not unkind in me to say that she certainly did make, in this as in everything else, a show that was not conciliatory of doing charity by wholesale and of dealing in it to a large extent.
She supposed that we were following her, but as soon as the space was left clear, we approached the woman sitting by the fire to ask if the baby were ill.
She only looked at it as it lay on her lap. We had observed before that when she looked at it she covered her discoloured eye with her hand, as though she wished to separate any association with noise and violence and ill treatment from the poor little child.
Ada, whose gentle heart was moved by its appearance, bent down to touch its little face. As she did so, I saw what happened and drew her back. The child died.
“Oh, Esther!” cried Ada, sinking on her knees beside it. “Look here! Oh, Esther, my love, the little thing! The suffering, quiet, pretty little thing! I am so sorry for it. I am so sorry for the mother. I never saw a sight so pitiful as this before! Oh, baby, baby!”
Such compassion, such gentleness, as that with which she bent down weeping and put her hand upon the mother’s might have softened any mother’s heart that ever beat. The woman at first gazed at her in astonishment and then burst into tears.
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