Part 16 out of 21
"Our Father! Yes, that's wery good, sir."
"Which art in heaven."
"Art in heaven--is the light a-comin, sir?"
"It is close at hand. Hallowed by thy name!"
The light is come upon the dark benighted way. Dead!
Dead, your Majesty. Dead, my lords and gentlemen. Dead, right
reverends and wrong reverends of every order. Dead, men and women,
born with heavenly compassion in your hearts. And dying thus
around us every day.
The place in Lincolnshire has shut its many eyes again, and the
house in town is awake. In Lincolnshire the Dedlocks of the past
doze in their picture-frames, and the low wind murmurs through the
long drawing-room as if they were breathing pretty regularly. In
town the Dedlocks of the present rattle in their fire-eyed
carriages through the darkness of the night, and the Dedlock
Mercuries, with ashes (or hair-powder) on their heads, symptomatic
of their great humility, loll away the drowsy mornings in the
little windows of the hall. The fashionable world--tremendous orb,
nearly five miles round--is in full swing, and the solar system
works respectfully at its appointed distances.
Where the throng is thickest, where the lights are brightest, where
all the senses are ministered to with the greatest delicacy and
refinement, Lady Dedlock is. From the shining heights she has
scaled and taken, she is never absent. Though the belief she of
old reposed in herself as one able to reserve whatsoever she would
under her mantle of pride is beaten down, though she has no
assurance that what she is to those around her she will remain
another day, it is not in her nature when envious eyes are looking
on to yield or to droop. They say of her that she has lately grown
more handsome and more haughty. The debilitated cousin says of
her that she's beauty nough--tsetup shopofwomen--but rather
larming kind--remindingmanfact--inconvenient woman--who WILL
Mr. Tulkinghorn says nothing, looks nothing. Now, as heretofore,
he is to be found in doorways of rooms, with his limp white cravat
loosely twisted into its old-fashioned tie, receiving patronage
from the peerage and making no sign. Of all men he is still the
last who might be supposed to have any influence upon my Lady. Of
all woman she is still the last who might be supposed to have any
dread of him.
One thing has been much on her mind since their late interview in
his turret-room at Chesney Wold. She is now decided, and prepared
to throw it off.
It is morning in the great world, afternoon according to the little
sun. The Mercuries, exhausted by looking out of window, are
reposing in the hall and hang their heavy heads, the gorgeous
creatures, like overblown sunflowers. Like them, too, they seem to
run to a deal of seed in their tags and trimmings. Sir Leicester,
in the library, has fallen asleep for the good of the country over
the report of a Parliamentary committee. My Lady sits in the room
in which she gave audience to the young man of the name of Guppy.
Rosa is with her and has been writing for her and reading to her.
Rosa is now at work upon embroidery or some such pretty thing, and
as she bends her head over it, my Lady watches her in silence. Not
for the first time to-day.
The pretty village face looks brightly up. Then, seeing how
serious my Lady is, looks puzzled and surprised.
"See to the door. Is it shut?"
Yes. She goes to it and returns, and looks yet more surprised.
"I am about to place confidence in you, child, for I know I may
trust your attachment, if not your judgment. In what I am going to
do, I will not disguise myself to you at least. But I confide in
you. Say nothing to any one of what passes between us."
The timid little beauty promises in all earnestness to be
"Do you know," Lady Dedlock asks her, signing to her to bring her
chair nearer, "do you know, Rosa, that I am different to you from
what I am to any one?"
"Yes, my Lady. Much kinder. But then I often think I know you as
you really are."
"You often think you know me as I really am? Poor child, poor
She says it with a kind of scorn--though not of Rosa--and sits
brooding, looking dreamily at her.
"Do you think, Rosa, you are any relief or comfort to me? Do you
suppose your being young and natural, and fond of me and grateful
to me, makes it any pleasure to me to have you near me?"
"I don't know, my Lady; I can scarcely hope so. But with all my
heart, I wish it was so."
"It is so, little one."
The pretty face is checked in its flush of pleasure by the dark
expression on the handsome face before it. It looks timidly for an
"And if I were to say to-day, 'Go! Leave me!' I should say what
would give me great pain and disquiet, child, and what would leave
me very solitary."
"My Lady! Have I offended you?"
"In nothing. Come here."
Rosa bends down on the footstool at my Lady's feet. My Lady, with
that motherly touch of the famous ironmaster night, lays her hand
upon her dark hair and gently keeps it there.
"I told you, Rosa, that I wished you to be happy and that I would
make you so if I could make anybody happy on this earth. I cannot.
There are reasons now known to me, reasons in which you have no
part, rendering it far better for you that you should not remain
here. You must not remain here. I have determined that you shall
not. I have written to the father of your lover, and he will be
here to-day. All this I have done for your sake."
The weeping girl covers her hand with kisses and says what shall
she do, what shall she do, when they are separated! Her mistress
kisses her on the cheek and makes no other answer.
"Now, be happy, child, under better circumstances. Be beloved and
"Ah, my Lady, I have sometimes thought--forgive my being so free--
that YOU are not happy."
"Will you be more so when you have sent me away? Pray, pray, think
again. Let me stay a little while!"
"I have said, my child, that what I do, I do for your sake, not my
own. It is done. What I am towards you, Rosa, is what I am now--
not what I shall be a little while hence. Remember this, and keep
my confidence. Do so much for my sake, and thus all ends between
She detaches herself from her simple-hearted companion and leaves
the room. Late in the afternoon, when she next appears upon the
staircase, she is in her haughtiest and coldest state. As
indifferent as if all passion, feeling, and interest had been worn
out in the earlier ages of the world and had perished from its
surface with its other departed monsters.
Mercury has announced Mr. Rouncewell, which is the cause of her
appearance. Mr. Rouncewell is not in the library, but she repairs
to the library. Sir Leicester is there, and she wishes to speak to
"Sir Leicester, I am desirous--but you are engaged."
Oh, dear no! Not at all. Only Mr. Tulkinghorn.
Always at hand. Haunting every place. No relief or security from
him for a moment.
"I beg your pardon, Lady Dedlock. Will you allow me to retire?"
With a look that plainly says, "You know you have the power to
remain if you will," she tells him it is not necessary and moves
towards a chair. Mr. Tulkinghorn brings it a little forward for
her with his clumsy bow and retires into a window opposite.
Interposed between her and the fading light of day in the now quiet
street, his shadow falls upon her, and he darkens all before her.
Even so does he darken her life.
It is a dull street under the best conditions, where the two long
rows of houses stare at each other with that severity that half-a-
dozen of its greatest mansions seem to have been slowly stared into
stone rather than originally built in that material. It is a
street of such dismal grandeur, so determined not to condescend to
liveliness, that the doors and windows hold a gloomy state of their
own in black paint and dust, and the echoing mews behind have a dry
and massive appearance, as if they were reserved to stable the
stone chargers of noble statues. Complicated garnish of iron-work
entwines itself over the flights of steps in this awful street, and
from these petrified bowers, extinguishers for obsolete flambeaux
gasp at the upstart gas. Here and there a weak little iron hoop,
through which bold boys aspire to throw their friends' caps (its
only present use), retains its place among the rusty foliage,
sacred to the memory of departed oil. Nay, even oil itself, yet
lingering at long intervals in a little absurd glass pot, with a
knob in the bottom like an oyster, blinks and sulks at newer lights
every night, like its high and dry master in the House of Lords.
Therefore there is not much that Lady Dedlock, seated in her chair,
could wish to see through the window in which Mr. Tulkinghorn
stands. And yet--and yet--she sends a look in that direction as if
it were her heart's desire to have that figure moved out of the
Sir Leicester begs his Lady's pardon. She was about to say?
"Only that Mr. Rouncewell is here (he has called by my appointment)
and that we had better make an end of the question of that girl. I
am tired to death of the matter."
"What can I do--to--assist?" demands Sir Leicester in some
"Let us see him here and have done with it. Will you tell them to
send him up?"
"Mr. Tulkinghorn, be so good as to ring. Thank you. Request,"
says Sir Leicester to Mercury, not immediately remembering the
business term, "request the iron gentleman to walk this way."
Mercury departs in search of the iron gentleman, finds, and
produces him. Sir Leicester receives that ferruginous person
"I hope you are well, Mr. Rouncewell. Be seated. (My solicitor,
Mr. Tulkinghorn.) My Lady was desirous, Mr. Rouncewell," Sir
Leicester skilfully transfers him with a solemn wave of his hand,
"was desirous to speak with you. Hem!"
"I shall be very happy," returns the iron gentleman, "to give my
best attention to anything Lady Dedlock does me the honour to say."
As he turns towards her, he finds that the impression she makes
upon him is less agreeable than on the former occasion. A distant
supercilious air makes a cold atmosphere about her, and there is
nothing in her bearing, as there was before, to encourage openness.
"Pray, sir," says Lady Dedlock listlessly, "may I be allowed to
inquire whether anything has passed between you and your son
respecting your son's fancy?"
It is almost too troublesome to her languid eyes to bestow a look
upon him as she asks this question.
"If my memory serves me, Lady Dedlock, I said, when I had the
pleasure of seeing you before, that I should seriously advise my
son to conquer that--fancy." The ironmaster repeats her expression
with a little emphasis.
"And did you?"
"Oh! Of course I did."
Sir Leicester gives a nod, approving and confirmatory. Very
proper. The iron gentleman, having said that he would do it, was
bound to do it. No difference in this respect between the base
metals and the precious. Highly proper.
"And pray has he done so?"
"Really, Lady Dedlock, I cannot make you a definite reply. I fear
not. Probably not yet. In our condition of life, we sometimes
couple an intention with our--our fancies which renders them not
altogether easy to throw off. I think it is rather our way to be
Sir Leicester has a misgiving that there may be a hidden Wat
Tylerish meaning in this expression, and fumes a little. Mr.
Rouncewell is perfectly good-humoured and polite, but within such
limits, evidently adapts his tone to his reception.
"Because," proceeds my Lady, "I have been thinking of the subject,
which is tiresome to me."
"I am very sorry, I am sure."
"And also of what Sir Leicester said upon it, in which I quite
concur"--Sir Leicester flattered--"and if you cannot give us the
assurance that this fancy is at an end, I have come to the
conclusion that the girl had better leave me."
"I can give no such assurance, Lady Dedlock. Nothing of the kind."
"Then she had better go."
"Excuse me, my Lady," Sir Leicester considerately interposes, "but
perhaps this may be doing an injury to the young woman which she
has not merited. Here is a young woman," says Sir Leicester,
magnificently laying out the matter with his right hand like a
service of plate, "whose good fortune it is to have attracted the
notice and favour of an eminent lady and to live, under the
protection of that eminent lady, surrounded by the various
advantages which such a position confers, and which are
unquestionably very great--I believe unquestionably very great,
sir--for a young woman in that station of life. The question then
arises, should that young woman be deprived of these many
advantages and that good fortune simply because she has"--Sir
Leicester, with an apologetic but dignified inclination of his head
towards the ironmaster, winds up his sentence--"has attracted the
notice of Mr Rouncewell's son? Now, has she deserved this
punishment? Is this just towards her? Is this our previous
"I beg your pardon," interposes Mr. Rouncewell's son's father.
"Sir Leicester, will you allow me? I think I may shorten the
subject. Pray dismiss that from your consideration. If you
remember anything so unimportant--which is not to be expected--you
would recollect that my first thought in the affair was directly
opposed to her remaining here."
Dismiss the Dedlock patronage from consideration? Oh! Sir
Leicester is bound to believe a pair of ears that have been handed
down to him through such a family, or he really might have
mistrusted their report of the iron gentleman's observations.
"It is not necessary," observes my Lady in her coldest manner
before he can do anything but breathe amazedly, "to enter into
these matters on either side. The girl is a very good girl; I have
nothing whatever to say against her, but she is so far insensible
to her many advantages and her good fortune that she is in love--or
supposes she is, poor little fool--and unable to appreciate them."
Sir Leicester begs to observe that wholly alters the case. He
might have been sure that my Lady had the best grounds and reasons
in support of her view. He entirely agrees with my Lady. The
young woman had better go.
"As Sir Leicester observed, Mr. Rouncewell, on the last occasion
when we were fatigued by this business," Lady Dedlock languidly
proceeds, "we cannot make conditions with you. Without conditions,
and under present circumstances, the girl is quite misplaced here
and had better go. I have told her so. Would you wish to have her
sent back to the village, or would you like to take her with you,
or what would you prefer?"
"Lady Dedlock, if I may speak plainly--"
"By all means."
"--I should prefer the course which will the soonest relieve you of
the incumbrance and remove her from her present position."
"And to speak as plainly," she returns with the same studied
carelessness, "so should I. Do I understand that you will take her
The iron gentleman makes an iron bow.
"Sir Leicester, will you ring?" Mr. Tulkinghorn steps forward from
his window and pulls the bell. "I had forgotten you. Thank you."
He makes his usual bow and goes quietly back again. Mercury,
swift-responsive, appears, receives instructions whom to produce,
skims away, produces the aforesaid, and departs.
Rosa has been crying and is yet in distress. On her coming in, the
ironmaster leaves his chair, takes her arm in his, and remains with
her near the door ready to depart.
"You are taken charge of, you see," says my Lady in her weary
manner, "and are going away well protected. I have mentioned that
you are a very good girl, and you have nothing to cry for."
"She seems after all," observes Mr. Tulkinghorn, loitering a little
forward with his hands behind him, "as if she were crying at going
"Why, she is not well-bred, you see," returns Mr. Rouncewell with
some quickness in his manner, as if he were glad to have the lawyer
to retort upon, "and she is an inexperienced little thing and knows
no better. If she had remained here, sir, she would have improved,
"No doubt," is Mr. Tulkinghorn's composed reply.
Rosa sobs out that she is very sorry to leave my Lady, and that she
was happy at Chesney Wold, and has been happy with my Lady, and
that she thanks my Lady over and over again. "Out, you silly
little puss!" says the ironmaster, checking her in a low voice,
though not angrily. "Have a spirit, if you're fond of Watt!" My
Lady merely waves her off with indifference, saying, "There, there,
child! You are a good girl. Go away!" Sir Leicester has
magnificently disengaged himself from the subject and retired into
the sanctuary of his blue coat. Mr. Tulkinghorn, an indistinct
form against the dark street now dotted with lamps, looms in my
Lady's view, bigger and blacker than before.
"Sir Leicester and Lady Dedlock," says Mr. Rouncewell after a pause
of a few moments, "I beg to take my leave, with an apology for
having again troubled you, though not of my own act, on this
tiresome subject. I can very well understand, I assure you, how
tiresome so small a matter must have become to Lady Dedlock. If I
am doubtful of my dealing with it, it is only because I did not at
first quietly exert my influence to take my young friend here away
without troubling you at all. But it appeared to me--I dare say
magnifying the importance of the thing--that it was respectful to
explain to you how the matter stood and candid to consult your
wishes and convenience. I hope you will excuse my want of
acquaintance with the polite world."
Sir Leicester considers himself evoked out of the sanctuary by
these remarks. "Mr. Rouncewell," he returns, "do not menfion it.
Justifications are unnecessary, I hope, on either side."
"I am glad to hear it, Sir Leicester; and if I may, by way of a
last word, revert to what I said before of my mother's long
connexion with the family and the worth it bespeaks on both sides,
I would point out this little instance here on my arm who shows
herself so affectionate and faithful in parting and in whom my
mother, I dare say, has done something to awaken such feelings--
though of course Lady Dedlock, by her heartfelt interest and her
genial condescension, has done much more.
If he mean this ironically, it may be truer than he thinks. He
points it, however, by no deviation from his straightforward manner
of speech, though in saying it he turns towards that part of the
dim room where my Lady sits. Sir Leicester stands to return his
parting salutation, Mr. Tulkinghorn again rings, Mercury takes
another flight, and Mr. Rouncewell and Rosa leave the house.
Then lights are brought in, discovering Mr. Tulkinghorn still
standing in his window with his hands behind him and my Lady still
sitting with his figure before her, closing up her view of the
night as well as of the day. She is very pale. Mr. Tulkinghorn,
observing it as she rises to retire, thinks, "Well she may be! The
power of this woman is astonishing. She has been acting a part the
whole time." But he can act a part too--his one unchanging
character--and as he holds the door open for this woman, fifty
pairs of eyes, each fifty times sharper than Sir Leicester's pair,
should find no flaw in him.
Lady Dedlock dines alone in her own room to-day. Sir Leicester is
whipped in to the rescue of the Doodle Party and the discomfiture
of the Coodle Faction. Lady Dedlock asks on sitting down to
dinner, still deadly pale (and quite an illustration of the
debilitated cousin's text), whether he is gone out? Yes. Whether
Mr. Tulkinghorn is gone yet? No. Presently she asks again, is he
gone YET? No. What is he doing? Mercury thinks he is writing
letters in the library. Would my Lady wish to see him? Anything
But he wishes to see my Lady. Within a few more minutes he is
reported as sending his respects, and could my Lady please to
receive him for a word or two after her dinner? My Lady will
receive him now. He comes now, apologizing for intruding, even by
her permission, while she is at table. When they are alone, my
Lady waves her hand to dispense with such mockeries.
"What do you want, sir?"
"Why, Lady Dedlock," says the lawyer, taking a chair at a little
distance from her and slowly rubbing his rusty legs up and down, up
and down, up and down, "I am rather surprised by the course you
"Yes, decidedly. I was not prepared for it. I consider it a
departure from our agreement and your promise. It puts us in a new
position, Lady Dedlock. I feel myself under the necessity of
saying that I don't approve of it."
He stops in his rubbing and looks at her, with his hands on his
knees. Imperturbable and unchangeable as he is, there is still an
indefinable freedom in his manner which is new and which does not
escape this woman's observation.
"I do not quite understand you."
"Oh, yes you do, I think. I think you do. Come, come, Lady
Dedlock, we must not fence and parry now. You know you like this
"And you know--and I know--that you have not sent her away for the
reasons you have assigned, but for the purpose of separating her as
much as possible from--excuse my mentioning it as a matter of
business--any reproach and exposure that impend over yourself."
"Well, Lady Dedlock," returns the lawyer, crossing his legs and
nursing the uppermost knee. "I object to that. I consider that a
dangerous proceeding. I know it to be unnecessary and calculated
to awaken speculation, doubt, rumour, I don't know what, in the
house. Besides, it is a violation of our agreement. You were to
be exactly what you were before. Whereas, it must be evident to
yourself, as it is to me, that you have been this evening very
different from what you were before. Why, bless my soul, Lady
Dedlock, transparenfly so!"
"If, sir," she begins, "in my knowledge of my secret--" But he
"Now, Lady Dedlock, this is a matter of business, and in a matter
of business the ground cannot be kept too clear. It is no longer
your secret. Excuse me. That is just the mistake. It is my
secret, in trust for Sir Leicester and the family. If it were your
secret, Lady Dedlock, we should not be here holding this
"That is very true. If in my knowledge of THE secret I do what I
can to spare an innocent girl (especially, remembering your own
reference to her when you told my story to the assembled guests at
Chesney Wold) from the taint of my impending shame, I act upon a
resolution I have taken. Nothing in the world, and no one in the
world, could shake it or could move me." This she says with great
deliberation and distinctness and with no more outward passion than
himself. As for him, he methodically discusses his matter of
business as if she were any insensible instrument used in business.
"Really? Then you see, Lady Dedlock," he returns, "you are not to
be trusted. You have put the case in a perfecfly plain way, and
according to the literal fact; and that being the case, you are not
to be trusted."
"Perhaps you may remember that I expressed some anxiety on this
same point when we spoke at night at Chesney Wold?"
"Yes," says Mr. Tulkinghorn, coolly getting up and standing on the
hearth. "Yes. I recollect, Lady Dedlock, that you certainly
referred to the girl, but that was before we came to our
arrangement, and both the letter and the spirit of our arrangement
altogether precluded any action on your part founded upon my
discovery. There can be no doubt about that. As to sparing the
girl, of what importance or value is she? Spare! Lady Dedlock,
here is a family name compromised. One might have supposed that
the course was straight on--over everything, neither to the right
nor to the left, regardless of all considerations in the way,
sparing nothing, treading everything under foot."
She has been looking at the table. She lifts up her eyes and looks
at him. There is a stern expression on her face and a part of her
lower lip is compressed under her teeth. "This woman understands
me," Mr. Tulkinghorn thinks as she lets her glance fall again.
"SHE cannot be spared. Why should she spare others?"
For a little while they are silent. Lady Dedlock has eaten no
dinner, but has twice or thrice poured out water with a steady hand
and drunk it. She rises from table, takes a lounging-chair, and
reclines in it, shading her face. There is nothing in her manner
to express weakness or excite compassion. It is thoughtful,
gloomy, concentrated. "This woman," thinks Mr. Tulkinghorn,
standing on the hearth, again a dark object closing up her view,
"is a study."
He studies her at his leisure, not speaking for a time. She too
studies something at her leisure. She is not the first to speak,
appearing indeed so unlikely to be so, though he stood there until
midnight, that even he is driven upon breaking silence.
"Lady Dedlock, the most disagreeable part of this business
interview remains, but it is business. Our agreement is broken. A
lady of your sense and strength of character will be prepared for
my now declaring it void and taking my own course."
"I am quite prepared."
Mr. Tulkinghorn inclines his head. "That is all I have to trouble
you with, Lady Dedlock."
She stops him as he is moving out of the room by asking, "This is
the notice I was to receive? I wish not to misapprehend you."
"Not exactly the notice you were to receive, Lady Dedlock, because
the contemplated notice supposed the agreement to have been
observed. But virtually the same, virtually the same. The
difference is merely in a lawyer's mind."
"You intend to give me no other notice?"
"You are right. No."
"Do you contemplate undeceiving Sir Leicester to-night?"
"A home question!" says Mr. Tulkinghorn with a slight smile and
cautiously shaking his head at the shaded face. "No, not to-
"All things considered, I had better decline answering that
question, Lady Dedlock. If I were to say I don't know when,
exactly, you would not believe me, and it would answer no purpose.
It may be to-morrow. I would rather say no more. You are
prepared, and I hold out no expectations which circumstances might
fail to justify. I wish you good evening."
She removes her hand, turns her pale face towards him as he walks
silently to the door, and stops him once again as he is about to
"Do you intend to remain in the house any time? I heard you were
writing in the library. Are you going to return there?"
"Only for my hat. I am going home."
She bows her eyes rather than her head, the movement is so slight
and curious, and he withdraws. Clear of the room he looks at his
watch but is inclined to doubt it by a minute or thereabouts.
There is a splendid clock upon the staircase, famous, as splendid
clocks not often are, for its accuracy. "And what do YOU say," Mr.
Tulkinghorn inquires, referring to it. "What do you say?"
If it said now, "Don't go home!" What a famous clock, hereafter,
if it said to-night of all the nights that it has counted off, to
this old man of all the young and old men who have ever stood
before it, "Don't go home!" With its sharp clear bell it strikes
three quarters after seven and ticks on again. "Why, you are worse
than I thought you," says Mr. Tulkinghorn, muttering reproof to his
watch. "Two minutes wrong? At this rate you won't last my time."
What a watch to return good for evil if it ticked in answer, "Don't
He passes out into the streets and walks on, with his hands behind
him, under the shadow of the lofty houses, many of whose mysteries,
difficulties, mortgages, delicate affairs of all kinds, are
treasured up within his old black satin waistcoat. He is in the
confidence of the very bricks and mortar. The high chimney-stacks
telegraph family secrets to him. Yet there is not a voice in a
mile of them to whisper, "Don't go home!"
Through the stir and motion of the commoner streets; through the
roar and jar of many vehicles, many feet, many voices; with the
blazing shop-lights lighting him on, the west wind blowing him on,
and the crowd pressing him on, he is pitilessly urged upon his way,
and nothing meets him murmuring, "Don't go home!" Arrived at last
in his dull room to light his candles, and look round and up, and
see the Roman pointing from the ceiling, there is no new
significance in the Roman's hand to-night or in the flutter of the
attendant groups to give him the late warning, "Don't come here!"
It is a moonlight night, but the moon, being past the full, is only
now rising over the great wilderness of London. The stars are
shining as they shone above the turret-leads at Chesney Wold. This
woman, as he has of late been so accustomed to call her, looks out
upon them. Her soul is turbulent within her; she is sick at heart
and restless. The large rooms are too cramped and close. She
cannot endure their restraint and will walk alone in a neighbouring
Too capricious and imperious in all she does to be the cause of
much surprise in those about her as to anything she does, this
woman, loosely muffled, goes out into the moonlight. Mercury
attends with the key. Having opened the garden-gate, he delivers
the key into his Lady's hands at her request and is bidden to go
back. She will walk there some time to ease her aching head. She
may be an hour, she may be more. She needs no further escort. The
gate shuts upon its spring with a clash, and he leaves her passing
on into the dark shade of some trees.
A fine night, and a bright large moon, and multitudes of stars.
Mr. Tulkinghorn, in repairing to his cellar and in opening and
shutting those resounding doors, has to cross a little prison-like
yard. He looks up casually, thinking what a fine night, what a
bright large moon, what multitudes of stars! A quiet night, too.
A very quiet night. When the moon shines very brilliantly, a
solitude and stillness seem to proceed from her that influence even
crowded places full of life. Not only is it a still night on dusty
high roads and on hill-summits, whence a wide expanse of country
may be seen in repose, quieter and quieter as it spreads away into
a fringe of trees against the sky with the grey ghost of a bloom
upon them; not only is it a still night in gardens and in woods,
and on the river where the water-meadows are fresh and green, and
the stream sparkles on among pleasant islands, murmuring weirs, and
whispering rushes; not only does the stillness attend it as it
flows where houses cluster thick, where many bridges are reflected
in it, where wharves and shipping make it black and awful, where it
winds from these disfigurements through marshes whose grim beacons
stand like skeletons washed ashore, where it expands through the
bolder region of rising grounds, rich in cornfield wind-mill and
steeple, and where it mingles with the ever-heaving sea; not only
is it a still night on the deep, and on the shore where the watcher
stands to see the ship with her spread wings cross the path of
light that appears to be presented to only him; but even on this
stranger's wilderness of London there is some rest. Its steeples
and towers and its one great dome grow more ethereal; its smoky
house-tops lose their grossness in the pale effulgence; the noises
that arise from the streets are fewer and are softened, and the
footsteps on the pavements pass more tranquilly away. In these
fields of Mr. Tulkinghorn's inhabiting, where the shepherds play on
Chancery pipes that have no stop, and keep their sheep in the fold
by hook and by crook until they have shorn them exceeding close,
every noise is merged, this moonlight night, into a distant ringing
hum, as if the city were a vast glass, vibrating.
What's that? Who fired a gun or pistol? Where was it?
The few foot-passengers start, stop, and stare about them. Some
windows and doors are opened, and people come out to look. It was
a loud report and echoed and rattled heavily. It shook one house,
or so a man says who was passing. It has aroused all the dogs in
the neighbourhood, who bark vehemently. Terrified cats scamper
across the road. While the dogs are yet barking and howling--there
is one dog howling like a demon--the church-clocks, as if they were
startled too, begin to strike. The hum from the streets, likewise,
seems to swell into a shout. But it is soon over. Before the last
clock begins to strike ten, there is a lull. When it has ceased,
the fine night, the bright large moon, and multitudes of stars, are
left at peace again.
Has Mr. Tulkinghorn been disturbed? His windows are dark and
quiet, and his door is shut. It must be something unusual indeed
to bring him out of his shell. Nothing is heard of him, nothing is
seen of him. What power of cannon might it take to shake that
rusty old man out of his immovable composure?
For many years the persistent Roman has been pointing, with no
particular meaning, from that ceiling. It is not likely that he
has any new meaning in him to-night. Once pointing, always
pointing--like any Roman, or even Briton, with a single idea.
There he is, no doubt, in his impossible attitude, pointing,
unavailingly, all night long. Moonlight, darkness, dawn, sunrise,
day. There he is still, eagerly pointing, and no one minds him.
But a little after the coming of the day come people to clean the
rooms. And either the Roman has some new meaning in him, not
expressed before, or the foremost of them goes wild, for looking up
at his outstretched hand and looking down at what is below it, that
person shrieks and flies. The others, looking in as the first one
looked, shriek and fly too, and there is an alarm in the street.
What does it mean? No light is admitted into the darkened chamber,
and people unaccustomed to it enter, and treading softly but
heavily, carry a weight into the bedroom and lay it down. There is
whispering and wondering all day, strict search of every corner,
careful tracing of steps, and careful noting of the disposition of
every article of furniture. All eyes look up at the Roman, and all
voices murmur, "If he could only tell what he saw!"
He is pointing at a table with a bottle (nearly full of wine) and a
glass upon it and two candles that were blown out suddenly soon
after being lighted. He is pointing at an empty chair and at a
stain upon the ground before it that might be almost covered with a
hand. These objects lie directly within his range. An excited
imagination might suppose that there was something in them so
terrific as to drive the rest of the composition, not only the
attendant big-legged boys, but the clouds and flowers and pillars
too--in short, the very body and soul of Allegory, and all the
brains it has--stark mad. It happens surely that every one who
comes into the darkened room and looks at these things looks up at
the Roman and that he is invested in all eyes with mystery and awe,
as if he were a paralysed dumb witness.
So it shall happen surely, through many years to come, that ghostly
stories shall be told of the stain upon the floor, so easy to be
covered, so hard to be got out, and that the Roman, pointing from
the ceiling shall point, so long as dust and damp and spiders spare
him, with far greater significance than he ever had in Mr.
Tulkinghorn's time, and with a deadly meaning. For Mr.
Tulkinghorn's time is over for evermore, and the Roman pointed at
the murderous hand uplifted against his life, and pointed
helplessly at him, from night to morning, lying face downward on
the floor, shot through the heart.
A great annual occasion has come round in the establishment of Mr.
Matthew Bagnet, otherwise Lignum Vitae, ex-artilleryman and present
bassoon-player. An occasion of feasting and festival. The
celebration of a birthday in the family.
It is not Mr. Bagnet's birthday. Mr. Bagnet merely distinguishes
that epoch in the musical instrument business by kissing the
children with an extra smack before breakfast, smoking an
additional pipe after dinner, and wondering towards evening what
his poor old mother is thinking about it--a subject of infinite
speculation, and rendered so by his mother having departed this
life twenty years. Some men rarely revert to their father, but
seem, in the bank-books of their remembrance, to have transferred
all the stock of filial affection into their mother's name. Mr.
Bagnet is one of like his trade the better for that. If I had kept
clear of his old girl causes him usually to make the noun-
substantive "goodness" of the feminine gender.
It is not the birthday of one of the three children. Those
occasions are kept with some marks of distinction, but they rarely
overleap the bounds of happy returns and a pudding. On young
Woolwich's last birthday, Mr. Bagnet certainly did, after observing
on his growth and general advancement, proceed, in a moment of
profound reflection on the changes wrought by time, to examine him
in the catechism, accomplishing with extreme accuracy the questions
number one and two, "What is your name?" and "Who gave you that
name?" but there failing in the exact precision of his memory and
substituting for number three the question "And how do you like
that name?" which he propounded with a sense of its importance, in
itself so edifying and improving as to give it quite an orthodox
air. This, however, was a speciality on that particular birthday,
and not a general solemnity.
It is the old girl's birthday, and that is the greatest holiday and
reddest-letter day in Mr. Bagnet's calendar. The auspicious event
is always commemorated according to certain forms settled and
prescribed by Mr. Bagnet some years since. Mr. Bagnet, being
deeply convinced that to have a pair of fowls for dinner is to
attain the highest pitch of imperial luxury, invariably goes forth
himself very early in the morning of this day to buy a pair; he is,
as invariably, taken in by the vendor and installed in the
possession of the oldest inhabitants of any coop in Europe.
Returning with these triumphs of toughness tied up in a clean blue
and white cotton handkerchief (essential to the arrangements), he
in a casual manner invites Mrs. Bagnet to declare at breakfast what
she would like for dinner. Mrs. Bagnet, by a coincidence never
known to fail, replying fowls, Mr. Bagnet instantly produces his
bundle from a place of concealment amidst general amazement and
rejoicing. He further requires that the old girl shall do nothing
all day long but sit in her very best gown and be served by himself
and the young people. As he is not illustrious for his cookery,
this may be supposed to be a matter of state rather than enjoyment
on the old girl's part, but she keeps her state with all imaginable
On this present birthday, Mr. Bagnet has accomplished the usual
preliminaries. He has bought two specimens of poultry, which, if
there be any truth in adages, were certainly not caught with chaff,
to be prepared for the spit; he has amazed and rejoiced the family
by their unlooked-for production; he is himself directing the
roasting of the poultry; and Mrs. Bagnet, with her wholesome brown
fingers itching to prevent what she sees going wrong, sits in her
gown of ceremony, an honoured guest.
Quebec and Malta lay the cloth for dinner, while Woolwich, serving,
as beseems him, under his father, keeps the fowls revolving. To
these young scullions Mrs. Bagnet occasionally imparts a wink, or a
shake of the head, or a crooked face, as they made mistakes.
"At half after one." Says Mr. Bagnet. "To the minute. They'll be
Mrs. Bagnet, with anguish, beholds one of them at a standstill
before the fire and beginning to burn.
"You shall have a dinner, old girl," says Mr. Bagnet. "Fit for a
Mrs. Bagnet shows her white teeth cheerfully, but to the perception
of her son, betrays so much uneasiness of spirit that he is
impelled by the dictates of affection to ask her, with his eyes,
what is the matter, thus standing, with his eyes wide open, more
oblivious of the fowls than before, and not affording the least
hope of a return to consciousness. Fortunately his elder sister
perceives the cause of the agitation in Mrs. Bagnet's breast and
with an admonitory poke recalls him. The stopped fowls going round
again, Mrs. Bagnet closes her eyes in the intensity of her relief.
"George will look us up," says Mr. Bagnet. "At half after four.
To the moment. How many years, old girl. Has George looked us up.
"Ah, Lignum, Lignum, as many as make an old woman of a young one, I
begin to think. Just about that, and no less," returns Mrs.
Bagnet, laughing and shaking her head.
"Old girl," says Mr. Bagnet, "never mind. You'd be as young as
ever you was. If you wasn't younger. Which you are. As everybody
Quebec and Malta here exclaim, with clapping of hands, that Bluffy
is sure to bring mother something, and begin to speculate on what
it will be.
"Do you know, Lignum," says Mrs. Bagnet, casting a glance on the
table-cloth, and winking "salt!" at Malta with her right eye, and
shaking the pepper away from Quebec with her head, "I begin to
think George is in the roving way again.
"George," returns Mr. Bagnet, "will never desert. And leave his
old comrade. In the lurch. Don't be afraid of it."
"No, Lignum. No. I don't say he will. I don't think he will.
But if he could get over this money trouble of his, I believe he
would be off."
Mr. Bagnet asks why.
"Well," returns his wife, considering, "George seems to me to be
getting not a little impatient and restless. I don't say but what
he's as free as ever. Of course he must be free or he wouldn't be
George, but he smarts and seems put out."
"He's extra-drilled," says Mr. Bagnet. "By a lawyer. Who would
put the devil out."
"There's something in that," his wife assents; "but so it is,
Further conversation is prevented, for the time, by the necessity
under which Mr. Bagnet finds himself of directing the whole force
of his mind to the dinner, which is a little endangered by the dry
humour of the fowls in not yielding any gravy, and also by the made
gravy acquiring no flavour and turning out of a flaxen complexion.
With a similar perverseness, the potatoes crumble off forks in the
process of peeling, upheaving from their centres in every
direction, as if they were subject to earthquakes. The legs of the
fowls, too, are longer than could be desired, and extremely scaly.
Overcoming these disadvantages to the best of his ability, Mr.
Bagnet at last dishes and they sit down at table, Mrs. Bagnet
occupying the guest's place at his right hand.
It is well for the old girl that she has but one birthday in a
year, for two such indulgences in poultry might be injurious.
Every kind of finer tendon and ligament that is in the nature of
poultry to possess is developed in these specimens in the singular
form of guitar-strings. Their limbs appear to have struck roots
into their breasts and bodies, as aged trees strike roots into the
earth. Their legs are so hard as to encourage the idea that they
must have devoted the greater part of their long and arduous lives
to pedestrian exercises and the walking of matches. But Mr.
Bagnet, unconscious of these little defects, sets his heart on Mrs.
Bagnet eating a most severe quantity of the delicacies before her;
and as that good old girl would not cause him a moment's
disappointment on any day, least of all on such a day, for any
consideration, she imperils her digestion fearfully. How young
Woolwich cleans the drum-sticks without being of ostrich descent,
his anxious mother is at a loss to understand.
The old girl has another trial to undergo after the conclusion of
the repast in sitting in state to see the room cleared, the hearth
swept, and the dinner-service washed up and polished in the
backyard. The great delight and energy with which the two young
ladies apply themselves to these duties, turning up their skirts in
imitation of their mother and skating in and out on little
scaffolds of pattens, inspire the highest hopes for the future, but
some anxiety for the present. The same causes lead to confusion of
tongues, a clattering of crockery, a rattling of tin mugs, a
whisking of brooms, and an expenditure of water, all in excess,
while the saturation of the young ladies themselves is almost too
moving a spectacle for Mrs. Bagnet to look upon with the calmness
proper to her position. At last the various cleansing processes
are triumphantly completed; Quebec and Malta appear in fresh
attire, smiling and dry; pipes, tobacco, and something to drink are
placed upon the table; and the old girl enjoys the first peace of
mind she ever knows on the day of this delightful entertainment.
When Mr. Bagnet takes his usual seat, the hands of the clock are
very near to half-past four; as they mark it accurately, Mr. Bagnet
announces, "George! Military time."
It is George, and he has hearty congratulations for the old girl
(whom he kisses on the great occasion), and for the children, and
for Mr. Bagnet. "Happy returns to all!" says Mr. George.
"But, George, old man!" cries Mrs. Bagnet, looking at him
curiously. "What's come to you?"
"Come to me?"
"Ah! You are so white, George--for you--and look so shocked. Now
don't he, Lignum?"
"George," says Mr. Bagnet, "tell the old girl. What's the matter."
"I didn't know I looked white," says the trooper, passing his hand
over his brow, "and I didn't know I looked shocked, and I'm sorry I
do. But the truth is, that boy who was taken in at my place died
yesterday afternoon, and it has rather knocked me over."
"Poor creetur!" says Mrs. Bagnet with a mother's pity. "Is he
gone? Dear, dear!"
"I didn't mean to say anything about it, for it's not birthday
talk, but you have got it out of me, you see, before I sit down. I
should have roused up in a minute," says the trooper, making
himself speak more gaily, "but you're so quick, Mrs. Bagnet."
"You're right. The old girl," says Mr. Bagnet. "Is as quick. As
"And what's more, she's the subject of the day, and we'll stick to
her," cries Mr. George. "See here, I have brought a little brooch
along with me. It's a poor thing, you know, but it's a keepsake.
That's all the good it is, Mrs. Bagnet."
Mr. George produces his present, which is greeted with admiring
leapings and clappings by the young family, and with a species of
reverential admiration by Mr. Bagnet. "Old girl," says Mr. Bagnet.
"Tell him my opinion of it."
"Why, it's a wonder, George!" Mrs. Bagnet exclaims. "It's the
beautifullest thing that ever was seen!"
"Good!" says Mr. Bagnet. "My opinion."
"It's so pretty, George," cries Mrs. Bagnet, turning it on all
sides and holding it out at arm's length, "that it seems too choice
"Bad!" says Mr. Bagnet. "Not my opinlon."
"But whatever it is, a hundred thousand thanks, old fellow," says
Mrs. Bagnet, her eyes sparkling with pleasure and her hand
stretched out to him; "and though I have been a crossgrained
soldier's wife to you sometimes, George, we are as strong friends,
I am sure, in reality, as ever can be. Now you shall fasten it on
yourself, for good luck, if you will, George."
The children close up to see it done, and Mr. Bagnet looks over
young Woolwich's head to see it done with an interest so maturely
wooden, yet pleasantly childish, that Mrs. Bagnet cannot help
laughing in her airy way and saying, "Oh, Lignum, Lignum, what a
precious old chap you are!" But the trooper fails to fasten the
brooch. His hand shakes, he is nervous, and it falls off. "Would
any one believe this?" says he, catching it as it drops and looking
round. "I am so out of sorts that I bungle at an easy job like
Mrs. Bagnet concludes that for such a case there is no remedy like
a pipe, and fastening the brooch herself in a twinkling, causes the
trooper to be inducted into his usual snug place and the pipes to
be got into action. "If that don't bring you round, George," says
she, "just throw your eye across here at your present now and then,
and the two together MUST do it."
"You ought to do it of yourself," George answers; "I know that very
well, Mrs. Bagnet. I'll tell you how, one way and another, the
blues have got to be too many for me. Here was this poor lad.
'Twas dull work to see him dying as he did, and not be able to help
"What do you mean, George? You did help him. You took him under
"I helped him so far, but that's little. I mean, Mrs. Bagnet,
there he was, dying without ever having been taught much more than
to know his right hand from his left. And he was too far gone to
be helped out of that."
"Ah, poor creetur!" says Mrs. Bagnet.
"Then," says the trooper, not yet lighting his pipe, and passing
his heavy hand over his hair, "that brought up Gridley in a man's
mind. His was a bad case too, in a different way. Then the two
got mixed up in a man's mind with a flinty old rascal who had to do
with both. And to think of that rusty carbine, stock and barrel,
standing up on end in his corner, hard, indifferent, taking
everything so evenly--it made flesh and blood tingle, I do assure
"My advice to you," returns Mrs. Bagnet, "is to light your pipe and
tingle that way. It's wholesomer and comfortabler, and better for
the health altogether."
"You're right," says the trooper, "and I'll do it."
So he does it, though still with an indignant gravity that
impresses the young Bagnets, and even causes Mr. Bagnet to defer
the ceremony of drinking Mrs. Bagnet's health, always given by
himself on these occasions in a speech of exemplary terseness. But
the young ladies having composed what Mr. Bagnet is in the habit of
calling "the mixtur," and George's pipe being now in a glow, Mr.
Bagnet considers it his duty to proceed to the toast of the
evening. He addresses the assembled company in the following
"George. Woolwich. Quebec. Malta. This is her birthday. Take a
day's march. And you won't find such another. Here's towards
The toast having been drunk with enthusiasm, Mrs. Bagnet returns
thanks in a neat address of corresponding brevity. This model
composition is limited to the three words "And wishing yours!"
which the old girl follows up with a nod at everybody in succession
and a well-regulated swig of the mixture. This she again follows
up, on the present occasion, by the wholly unexpected exclamation,
"Here's a man!"
Here IS a man, much to the astonishment of the little company,
looking in at the parlour-door. He is a sharp-eyed man--a quick
keen man--and he takes in everybody's look at him, all at once,
individually and collectively, in a manner that stamps him a
"George," says the man, nodding, "how do you find yourself?"
"Why, it's Bucket!" cries Mr. George.
"Yes," says the man, coming in and closing the door. "I was going
down the street here when I happened to stop and look in at the
musical instruments in the shop-window--a friend of mine is in want
of a second-hand wiolinceller of a good tone--and I saw a party
enjoying themselves, and I thought it was you in the corner; I
thought I couldn't be mistaken. How goes the world with you,
George, at the present moment? Pretty smooth? And with you,
ma'am? And with you, governor? And Lord," says Mr. Bucket,
opening his arms, "here's children too! You may do anything with
me if you only show me children. Give us a kiss, my pets. No
occasion to inquire who YOUR father and mother is. Never saw such
a likeness in my life!"
Mr. Bucket, not unwelcome, has sat himself down next to Mr. George
and taken Quebec and Malta on his knees. "You pretty dears," says
Mr. Bucket, "give us another kiss; it's the only thing I'm greedy
in. Lord bless you, how healthy you look! And what may be the
ages of these two, ma'am? I should put 'em down at the figures of
about eight and ten."
"You're very near, sir," says Mrs. Bagnet.
"I generally am near," returns Mr. Bucket, "being so fond of
children. A friend of mine has had nineteen of 'em, ma'am, all by
one mother, and she's still as fresh and rosy as the morning. Not
so much so as yourself, but, upon my soul, she comes near you! And
what do you call these, my darling?" pursues Mr. Bucket, pinching
Malta's cheeks. "These are peaches, these are. Bless your heart!
And what do you think about father? Do you think father could
recommend a second-hand wiolinceller of a good tone for Mr.
Bucket's friend, my dear? My name's Bucket. Ain't that a funny
These blandishments have entirely won the family heart. Mrs.
Bagnet forgets the day to the extent of filling a pipe and a glass
for Mr. Bucket and waiting upon him hospitably. She would be glad
to receive so pleasant a character under any circumstances, but she
tells him that as a friend of George's she is particularly glad to
see him this evening, for George has not been in his usual spirits.
"Not in his usual spirits?" exclaims Mr. Bucket. "Why, I never
heard of such a thing! What's the matter, George? You don't
intend to tell me you've been out of spirits. What should you be
out of spirits for? You haven't got anything on your mind, you
"Nothing particular," returns the trooper.
"I should think not," rejoins Mr. Bucket. "What could you have on
your mind, you know! And have these pets got anything on THEIR
minds, eh? Not they, but they'll be upon the minds of some of the
young fellows, some of these days, and make 'em precious low-
spirited. I ain't much of a prophet, but I can tell you that,
Mrs. Bagnet, quite charmed, hopes Mr. Bucket has a family of his
"There, ma'am!" says Mr. Bucket. "Would you believe it? No, I
haven't. My wife and a lodger constitute my family. Mrs. Bucket
is as fond of children as myself and as wishful to have 'em, but
no. So it is. Worldly goods are divided unequally, and man must
not repine. What a very nice backyard, ma'am! Any way out of that
There is no way out of that yard.
"Ain't there really?" says Mr. Bucket. "I should have thought
there might have been. Well, I don't know as I ever saw a backyard
that took my fancy more. Would you allow me to look at it? Thank
you. No, I see there's no way out. But what a very good-
proportioned yard it is!"
Having cast his sharp eye all about it, Mr. Bucket returns to his
chair next his friend Mr. George and pats Mr. George affectionately
on the shoulder.
"How are your spirits now, George?"
"All right now," returns the trooper.
"That's your sort!" says Mr. Bucket. "Why should you ever have
been otherwise? A man of your fine figure and constitution has no
right to be out of spirits. That ain't a chest to be out of
spirits, is it, ma'am? And you haven't got anything on your mind,
you know, George; what could you have on your mind!"
Somewhat harping on this phrase, considering the extent and variety
of his conversational powers, Mr. Bucket twice or thrice repeats it
to the pipe he lights, and with a listening face that is
particularly his own. But the sun of his sociality soon recovers
from this brief eclipse and shines again.
"And this is brother, is it, my dears?" says Mr. Bucket, referring
to Quebec and Malta for information on the subject of young
Woolwich. "And a nice brother he is--half-brother I mean to say.
For he's too old to be your boy, ma'am."
"I can certify at all events that he is not anybody else's,"
returns Mrs. Bagnet, laughing.
"Well, you do surprise me! Yet he's like you, there's no denying.
Lord, he's wonderfully like you! But about what you may call the
brow, you know, THERE his father comes out!" Mr. Bucket compares
the faces with one eye shut up, while Mr. Bagnet smokes in stolid
This is an opportunity for Mrs. Bagnet to inform him that the boy
is George's godson.
"George's godson, is he?" rejoins Mr. Bucket with extreme
cordiality. "I must shake hands over again with George's godson.
Godfather and godson do credit to one another. And what do you
intend to make of him, ma'am? Does he show any turn for any
Mr. Bagnet suddenly interposes, "Plays the fife. Beautiful."
"Would you believe it, governor," says Mr. Bucket, struck by the
coincidence, "that when I was a boy I played the fife myself? Not
in a scientific way, as I expect he does, but by ear. Lord bless
you! 'British Grenadiers'--there's a tune to warm an Englishman
up! COULD you give us 'British Grenadiers,' my fine fellow?"
Nothing could be more acceptable to the little circle than this
call upon young Woolwich, who immediately fetches his fife and
performs the stirring melody, during which performance Mr. Bucket,
much enlivened, beats time and never falls to come in sharp with
the burden, "British Gra-a-anadeers!" In short, he shows so much
musical taste that Mr. Bagnet actually takes his pipe from his lips
to express his conviction that he is a singer. Mr. Bucket receives
the harmonious impeachment so modestly, confessing how that he did
once chaunt a little, for the expression of the feelings of his own
bosom, and with no presumptuous idea of entertaining his friends,
that he is asked to sing. Not to be behindhand in the sociality of
the evening, he complies and gives them "Believe Me, if All Those
Endearing Young Charms." This ballad, he informs Mrs. Bagnet, he
considers to have been his most powerful ally in moving the heart
of Mrs. Bucket when a maiden, and inducing her to approach the
altar--Mr. Bucket's own words are "to come up to the scratch."
This sparkling stranger is such a new and agreeable feature in the
evening that Mr. George, who testified no great emotions of
pleasure on his entrance, begins, in spite of himself, to be rather
proud of him. He is so friendly, is a man of so many resources,
and so easy to get on with, that it is something to have made him
known there. Mr. Bagnet becomes, after another pipe, so sensible
of the value of his acquaintance that he solicits the honour of his
company on the old girl's next birthday. If anything can more
closely cement and consolidate the esteem which Mr. Bucket has
formed for the family, it is the discovery of the nature of the
occasion. He drinks to Mrs. Bagnet with a warmth approaching to
rapture, engages himself for that day twelvemonth more than
thankfully, makes a memorandum of the day in a large black pocket-
book with a girdle to it, and breathes a hope that Mrs. Bucket and
Mrs. Bagnet may before then become, in a manner, sisters. As he
says himself, what is public life without private ties? He is in
his humble way a public man, but it is not in that sphere that he
finds happiness. No, it must be sought within the confines of
It is natural, under these circumstances, that he, in his turn,
should remember the friend to whom he is indebted for so promising
an acquaintance. And he does. He keeps very close to him.
Whatever the subject of the conversation, he keeps a tender eye
upon him. He waits to walk home with him. He is interested in his
very boots and observes even them attentively as Mr. George sits
smoking cross-legged in the chimney-corner.
At length Mr. George rises to depart. At the same moment Mr.
Bucket, with the secret sympathy of friendship, also rises. He
dotes upon the children to the last and remembers the commission he
has undertaken for an absent friend.
"Respecting that second-hand wiolinceller, governor--could you
recommend me such a thing?"
"Scores," says Mr. Bagnet.
"I am obliged to you," returns Mr. Bucket, squeezing his hand.
"You're a friend in need. A good tone, mind you! My friend is a
regular dab at it. Ecod, he saws away at Mozart and Handel and the
rest of the big-wigs like a thorough workman. And you needn't,"
says Mr. Bucket in a considerate and private voice, "you needn't
commit yourself to too low a figure, governor. I don't want to pay
too large a price for my friend, but I want you to have your proper
percentage and be remunerated for your loss of time. That is but
fair. Every man must live, and ought to it."
Mr. Bagnet shakes his head at the old girl to the effect that they
have found a jewel of price.
"Suppose I was to give you a look in, say, at half arter ten to-
morrow morning. Perhaps you could name the figures of a few
wiolincellers of a good tone?" says Mr. Bucket.
Nothing easier. Mr. and Mrs. Bagnet both engage to have the
requisite information ready and even hint to each other at the
practicability of having a small stock collected there for
"Thank you," says Mr. Bucket, "thank you. Good night, ma'am. Good
night, governor. Good night, darlings. I am much obliged to you
for one of the pleasantest evenings I ever spent in my life."
They, on the contrary, are much obliged to him for the pleasure he
has given them in his company; and so they part with many
expressions of goodwill on both sides. "Now George, old boy," says
Mr. Bucket, taking his arm at the shop-door, "come along!" As they
go down the little street and the Bagnets pause for a minute
looking after them, Mrs. Bagnet remarks to the worthy Lignum that
Mr. Bucket "almost clings to George like, and seems to be really
fond of him."
The neighbouring streets being narrow and ill-paved, it is a little
inconvenient to walk there two abreast and arm in arm. Mr. George
therefore soon proposes to walk singly. But Mr. Bucket, who cannot
make up his mind to relinquish his friendly hold, replies, "Wait
half a minute, George. I should wish to speak to you first."
Immediately afterwards, he twists him into a public-house and into
a parlour, where he confronts him and claps his own back against
"Now, George," says Mr. Bucket, "duty is duty, and friendship is
friendship. I never want the two to clash if I can help it. I
have endeavoured to make things pleasant to-night, and I put it to
you whether I have done it or not. You must consider yourself in
"Custody? What for?" returns the trooper, thunderstruck.
"Now, George," says Mr. Bucket, urging a sensible view of the case
upon him with his fat forefinger, "duty, as you know very well, is
one thing, and conversation is another. It's my duty to inform you
that any observations you may make will be liable to be used
against you. Therefore, George, be careful what you say. You
don't happen to have heard of a murder?"
"Now, George," says Mr. Bucket, keeping his forefinger in an
impressive state of action, "bear in mind what I've said to you. I
ask you nothing. You've been in low spirits this afternoon. I
say, you don't happen to have heard of a murder?"
"No. Where has there been a murder?"
"Now, George," says Mr. Bucket, "don't you go and commit yourself.
I'm a-going to tell you what I want you for. There has been a
murder in Lincoln's Inn Fields--gentleman of the name of
Tulkinghorn. He was shot last night. I want you for that."
The trooper sinks upon a seat behind him, and great drops start out
upon his forehead, and a deadly pallor overspreads his face.
"Bucket! It's not possible that Mr. Tulkinghorn has been killed
and that you suspect ME?"
"George," returns Mr. Bucket, keeping his forefinger going, "it is
certainly possible, because it's the case. This deed was done last
night at ten o'clock. Now, you know where you were last night at
ten o'clock, and you'll be able to prove it, no doubt."
"Last night! Last night?" repeats the trooper thoughtfully. Then
it flashes upon him. "Why, great heaven, I was there last night!"
"So I have understood, George," returns Mr. Bucket with great
deliberation. "So I have understood. Likewise you've been very
often there. You've been seen hanging about the place, and you've
been heard more than once in a wrangle with him, and it's possible
--I don't say it's certainly so, mind you, but it's possible--that
he may have been heard to call you a threatening, murdering,
The trooper gasps as if he would admit it all if he could speak.
"Now, George," continues Mr. Bucket, putting his hat upon the table
with an air of business rather in the upholstery way than
otherwise, "my wish is, as it has been all the evening, to make
things pleasant. I tell you plainly there's a reward out, of a
hundred guineas, offered by Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet. You
and me have always been pleasant together; but I have got a duty to
discharge; and if that hundred guineas is to be made, it may as
well be made by me as any other man. On all of which accounts, I
should hope it was clear to you that I must have you, and that I'm
damned if I don't have you. Am I to call in any assistance, or is
the trick done?"
Mr. George has recovered himself and stands up like a soldier.
"Come," he says; "I am ready."
"George," continues Mr. Bucket, "wait a bit!" With his upholsterer
manner, as if the trooper were a window to be fitted up, he takes
from his pocket a pair of handcuffs. "This is a serious charge,
George, and such is my duty."
The trooper flushes angrily and hesitates a moment, but holds out
his two hands, clasped together, and says, "There! Put them on!"
Mr. Bucket adjusts them in a moment. "How do you find them? Are
they comfortable? If not, say so, for I wish to make things as
pleasant as is consistent with my duty, and I've got another pair
in my pocket." This remark he offers like a most respectable
tradesman anxious to execute an order neatly and to the perfect
satisfaction of his customer. "They'll do as they are? Very well!
Now, you see, George"--he takes a cloak from a corner and begins
adjusting it about the trooper's neck--"I was mindful of your
feelings when I come out, and brought this on purpose. There!
Who's the wiser?"
"Only I," returns the trooper, "but as I know it, do me one more
good turn and pull my hat over my eyes."
"Really, though! Do you mean it? Ain't it a pity? It looks so."
"I can't look chance men in the face with these things on," Mr.
George hurriedly replies. "Do, for God's sake, pull my hat
So strongly entreated, Mr. Bucket complies, puts his own hat on,
and conducts his prize into the streets, the trooper marching on as
steadily as usual, though with his head less erect, and Mr. Bucket
steering him with his elbow over the crossings and up the turnings.
It happened that when I came home from Deal I found a note from
Caddy Jellyby (as we always continued to call her), informing me
that her health, which had been for some time very delicate, was
worse and that she would be more glad than she could tell me if I
would go to see her. It was a note of a few lines, written from
the couch on which she lay and enclosed to me in another from her
husband, in which he seconded her entreaty with much solicitude.
Caddy was now the mother, and I the godmother, of such a poor
little baby--such a tiny old-faced mite, with a countenance that
seemed to be scarcely anything but cap-border, and a little lean,
long-fingered hand, always clenched under its chin. It would lie
in this attitude all day, with its bright specks of eyes open,
wondering (as I used to imagine) how it came to be so small and
weak. Whenever it was moved it cried, but at all other times it
was so patient that the sole desire of its life appeared to be to
lie quiet and think. It had curious little dark veins in its face
and curious little dark marks under its eyes like faint
remembrances of poor Caddy's inky days, and altogether, to those
who were not used to it, it was quite a piteous little sight.
But it was enough for Caddy that SHE was used to it. The projects
with which she beguiled her illness, for little Esther's education,
and little Esther's marriage, and even for her own old age as the
grandmother of little Esther's little Esthers, was so prettily
expressive of devotion to this pride of her life that I should be
tempted to recall some of them but for the timely remembrance that
I am getting on irregularly as it is.
To return to the letter. Caddy had a superstition about me which
had been strengthening in her mind ever since that night long ago
when she had lain asleep with her head in my lap. She almost--I
think I must say quite--believed that I did her good whenever I was
near her. Now although this was such a fancy of the affectionate
girl's that I am almost ashamed to mention it, still it might have
all the force of a fact when she was really ill. Therefore I set
off to Caddy, with my guardian's consent, post-haste; and she and
Prince made so much of me that there never was anything like it.
Next day I went again to sit with her, and next day I went again.
It was a very easy journey, for I had only to rise a little earlier
in the morning, and keep my accounts, and attend to housekeeping
matters before leaving home.
But when I had made these three visits, my guardian said to me, on
my return at night, "Now, little woman, little woman, this will
never do. Constant dropping will wear away a stone, and constant
coaching will wear out a Dame Durden. We will go to London for a
while and take possession of our old lodgings."
"Not for me, dear guardian," said I, "for I never feel tired,"
which was strictly true. I was only too happy to be in such
"For me then," returned my guardian, "or for Ada, or for both of
us. It is somebody's birthday to-morrow, I think."
"Truly I think it is," said I, kissing my darling, who would be
"Well," observed my guardian, half pleasantly, half seriously,
"that's a great occasion and will give my fair cousin some
necessary business to transact in assertion of her independence,
and will make London a more convenient place for all of us. So to
London we will go. That being settled, there is another thing--how
have you left Caddy?"
"Very unwell, guardian. I fear it will be some time before she
regains her health and strength."
"What do you call some time, now?" asked my guardian thoughtfully.
"Some weeks, I am afraid."
"Ah!" He began to walk about the room with his hands in his
pockets, showing that he had been thinking as much. "Now, what do
you say about her doctor? Is he a good doctor, my love?"
I felt obliged to confess that I knew nothing to the contrary but
that Prince and I had agreed only that evening that we would like
his opinion to be confirmed by some one.
"Well, you know," returned my guardian quickly, "there's
I had not meant that, and was rather taken by surprise. For a
moment all that I had had in my mind in connexion with Mr.
Woodcourt seemed to come back and confuse me.
"You don't object to him, little woman?"
"Object to him, guardian? Oh no!"
"And you don't think the patient would object to him?"
So far from that, I had no doubt of her being prepared to have a
great reliance on him and to like him very much. I said that he
was no stranger to her personally, for she had seen him often in
his kind attendance on Miss Flite.
"Very good," said my guardian. "He has been here to-day, my dear,
and I will see him about it to-morrow."
I felt in this short conversation--though I did not know how, for
she was quiet, and we interchanged no look--that my dear girl well
remembered how merrily she had clasped me round the waist when no
other hands than Caddy's had brought me the little parting token.
This caused me to feel that I ought to tell her, and Caddy too,
that I was going to be the mistress of Bleak House and that if I
avoided that disclosure any longer I might become less worthy in my
own eyes of its master's love. Therefore, when we went upstairs
and had waited listening until the clock struck twelve in order
that only I might be the first to wish my darling all good wishes
on her birthday and to take her to my heart, I set before her, just
as I had set before myself, the goodness and honour of her cousin
John and the happy life that was in store for for me. If ever my
darling were fonder of me at one time than another in all our
intercourse, she was surely fondest of me that night. And I was so
rejoiced to know it and so comforted by the sense of having done
right in casting this last idle reservation away that I was ten
times happier than I had been before. I had scarcely thought it a
reservation a few hours ago, but now that it was gone I felt as if
I understood its nature better.
Next day we went to London. We found our old lodging vacant, and
in half an hour were quietly established there, as if we had never
gone away. Mr. Woodcourt dined with us to celebrate my darling's
birthday, and we were as pleasant as we could be with the great
blank among us that Richard's absence naturally made on such an
occasion. After that day I was for some weeks--eight or nine as I
remember--very much with Caddy, and thus it fell out that I saw
less of Ada at this time than any other since we had first come
together, except the time of my own illness. She often came to
Caddy's, but our function there was to amuse and cheer her, and we
did not talk in our usual confidential manner. Whenever I went
home at night we were together, but Caddy's rest was broken by
pain, and I often remained to nurse her.
With her husband and her poor little mite of a baby to love and
their home to strive for, what a good creature Caddy was! So self-
denying, so uncomplaining, so anxious to get well on their account,
so afraid of giving trouble, and so thoughtful of the unassisted
labours of her husband and the comforts of old Mr. Turveydrop; I
had never known the best of her until now. And it seemed so
curious that her pale face and helpless figure should be lying
there day after day where dancing was the business of life, where
the kit and the apprentices began early every morning in the ball-
room, and where the untidy little boy waltzed by himself in the
kitchen all the afternoon.
At Caddy's request I took the supreme direction of her apartment,
trimmed it up, and pushed her, couch and all, into a lighter and
more airy and more cheerful corner than she had yet occupied; then,
every day, when we were in our neatest array, I used to lay my
small small namesake in her arms and sit down to chat or work or
read to her. It was at one of the first of these quiet times that
I told Caddy about Bleak House.
We had other visitors besides Ada. First of all we had Prince, who
in his hurried intervals of teaching used to come softly in and sit
softly down, with a face of loving anxiety for Caddy and the very
little child. Whatever Caddy's condition really was, she never
failed to declare to Prince that she was all but well--which I,
heaven forgive me, never failed to confirm. This would put Prince
in such good spirits that he would sometimes take the kit from his
pocket and play a chord or two to astonish the baby, which I never
knew it to do in the least degree, for my tiny namesake never
noticed it at all.
Then there was Mrs. Jellyby. She would come occasionally, with her
usual distraught manner, and sit calmly looking miles beyond her
grandchild as if her attention were absorbed by a young
Borrioboolan on its native shores. As bright-eyed as ever, as
serene, and as untidy, she would say, "Well, Caddy, child, and how
do you do to-day?" And then would sit amiably smiling and taking
no notice of the reply or would sweetly glide off into a
calculation of the number of letters she had lately received and
answered or of the coffee-bearing power of Borrioboola-Gha. This
she would always do with a serene contempt for our limited sphere
of action, not to be disguised.
Then there was old Mr. Turveydrop, who was from morning to night
and from night to morning the subject of innumerable precautions.
If the baby cried, it was nearly stifled lest the noise should make
him uncomfortable. If the fire wanted stirring in the night, it
was surreptitiously done lest his rest should be broken. If Caddy
required any little comfort that the house contained, she first
carefully discussed whether he was likely to require it too. In
return for this consideration he would come into the room once a
day, all but blessing it--showing a condescension, and a patronage,
and a grace of manner in dispensing the light of his high-
shouldered presence from which I might have supposed him (if I had
not known better) to have been the benefactor of Caddy's life.
"My Caroline," he would say, making the nearest approach that he
could to bending over her. "Tell me that you are better to-day."
"Oh, much better, thank you, Mr. Turveydrop," Caddy would reply.
"Delighted! Enchanted! And our dear Miss Summerson. She is not
qulte prostrated by fatigue?" Here he would crease up his eyelids
and kiss his fingers to me, though I am happy to say he had ceased
to be particular in his attentions since I had been so altered.
"Not at all," I would assure him.
"Charming! We must take care of our dear Caroline, Miss Summerson.
We must spare nothing that will restore her. We must nourish her.
My dear Caroline"--he would turn to his daughter-in-law with
infinite generosity and protection--"want for nothing, my love.
Frame a wish and gratify it, my daughter. Everything this house
contains, everything my room contains, is at your service, my dear.
Do not," he would sometimes add in a burst of deportment, "even
allow my simple requirements to be considered if they should at any
time interfere with your own, my Caroline. Your necessities are
greater than mine."
He had established such a long prescriptive right to this
deportment (his son's inheritance from his mother) that I several
times knew both Caddy and her husband to be melted to tears by
these affectionate self-sacrifices.
"Nay, my dears," he would remonstrate; and when I saw Caddy's thin
arm about his fat neck as he said it, I would be melted too, though
not by the same process. "Nay, nay! I have promised never to
leave ye. Be dutiful and affectionate towards me, and I ask no
other return. Now, bless ye! I am going to the Park."
He would take the air there presently and get an appetite for his
hotel dinner. I hope I do old Mr. Turveydrop no wrong, but I never
saw any better traits in him than these I faithfully record, except
that he certainly conceived a liking for Peepy and would take the
child out walking with great pomp, always on those occasions
sending him home before he went to dinner himself, and occasionally
with a halfpenny in his pocket. But even this disinterestedness
was attended with no inconsiderable cost, to my knowledge, for
before Peepy was sufficiently decorated to walk hand in hand with
the professor of deportment, he had to be newly dressed, at the
expense of Caddy and her husband, from top to toe.
Last of our visitors, there was Mr. Jellyby. Really when he used
to come in of an evening, and ask Caddy in his meek voice how she
was, and then sit down with his head against the wall, and make no
attempt to say anything more, I liked him very much. If he found
me bustling about doing any little thing, he sometimes half took
his coat off, as if with an intention of helping by a great
exertion; but he never got any further. His sole occupation was to
sit with his head against the wall, looking hard at the thoughtful
baby; and I could not quite divest my mind of a fancy that they
understood one another.
I have not counted Mr. Woodcourt among our visitors because he was
now Caddy's regular attendant. She soon began to improve under his
care, but he was so gentle, so skilful, so unwearying in the pains
he took that it is not to be wondered at, I am sure. I saw a good
deal of Mr. Woodcourt during this time, though not so much as might
be supposed, for knowing Caddy to be safe in his hands, I often
slipped home at about the hours when he was expected. We
frequently met, notwithstanding. I was quite reconciled to myself
now, but I still felt glad to think that he was sorry for me, and
he still WAS sorry for me I believed. He helped Mr. Badger in his
professional engagements, which were numerous, and had as yet no
settled projects for the future.
It was when Caddy began to recover that I began to notice a change
in my dear girl. I cannot say how it first presented itself to me,
because I observed it in many slight particulars which were nothing
in themselves and only became something when they were pieced
together. But I made it out, by putting them together, that Ada
was not so frankly cheerful with me as she used to be. Her
tenderness for me was as loving and true as ever; I did not for a
moment doubt that; but there was a quiet sorrow about her which she
did not confide to me, and in which I traced some hidden regret.
Now, I could not understand this, and I was so anxious for the
happiness of my own pet that it caused me some uneasiness and set
me thinking often. At length, feeling sure that Ada suppressed
this something from me lest it should make me unhappy too, it came
into my head that she was a little grieved--for me--by what I had
told her about Bleak House.
How I persuaded myself that this was likely, I don't know. I had
no idea that there was any selfish reference in my doing so. I was
not grieved for myself: I was quite contented and quite happy.
Still, that Ada might be thinking--for me, though I had abandoned
all such thoughts--of what once was, but was now all changed,
seemed so easy to believe that I believed it.
What could I do to reassure my darling (I considered then) and show
her that I had no such feelings? Well! I could only be as brisk
and busy as possible, and that I had tried to be all along.
However, as Caddy's illness had certainly interfered, more or less,
with my home duties--though I had always been there in the morning
to make my guardian's breakfast, and he had a hundred times laughed
and said there must be two little women, for his little woman was
never missing--I resolved to be doubly diligent and gay. So I went
about the house humming all the tunes I knew, and I sat working and
working in a desperate manner, and I talked and talked, morning,
noon, and night.
And still there was the same shade between me and my darling.
"So, Dame Trot," observed my guardian, shutting up his book one
night when we were all three together, "so Woodcourt has restored
Caddy Jellyby to the full enjoyment of life again?"
"Yes," I said; "and to be repaid by such gratitude as hers is to be
made rich, guardian."
"I wish it was," he returned, "with all my heart."
So did I too, for that matter. I said so.
"Aye! We would make him as rich as a Jew if we knew how. Would we
not, little woman?"
I laughed as I worked and replied that I was not sure about that,
for it might spoil him, and he might not be so useful, and there
might be many who could ill spare him. As Miss Flite, and Caddy
herself, and many others.
"True," said my guardian. "I had forgotten that. But we would
agree to make him rich enough to live, I suppose? Rich enough to
work with tolerable peace of mind? Rich enough to have his own
happy home and his own household gods--and household goddess, too,
That was quite another thing, I said. We must all agree in that.
"To be sure," said my guardian. "All of us. I have a great regard
for Woodcourt, a high esteem for him; and I have been sounding him
delicately about his plans. It is difficult to offer aid to an
independent man with that just kind of pride which he possesses.
And yet I would be glad to do it if I might or if I knew how. He
seems half inclined for another voyage. But that appears like
casting such a man away."
"It might open a new world to him," said I.
''So it might, little woman," my guardian assented. ''I doubt if
he expects much of the old world. Do you know I have fancied that
he sometimes feels some particular disappointment or misfortune
encountered in it. You never heard of anything of that sort?"
I shook my head.
"Humph," said my guardian. "I am mistaken, I dare say." As there
was a little pause here, which I thought, for my dear girl's
satisfaction, had better be filled up, I hummed an air as I worked
which was a favourite with my guardian.
"And do you think Mr. Woodcourt will make another voyage?" I asked
him when I had hummed it quietly all through.
"I don't quite know what to think, my dear, but I should say it was
likely at present that he will give a long trip to another
"I am sure he will take the best wishes of all our hearts with him
wherever he goes," said I; "and though they are not riches, he will
never be the poorer for them, guardian, at least."
"Never, little woman," he replied.
I was sitting in my usual place, which was now beside my guardian's
chair. That had not been my usual place before the letter, but it
was now. I looked up to Ada, who was sitting opposite, and I saw,
as she looked at me, that her eyes were filled with tears and that
tears were falling down her face. I felt that I had only to be
placid and merry once for all to undeceive my dear and set her
loving heart at rest. I really was so, and I had nothing to do but
to be myself.
So I made my sweet girl lean upon my shoulder--how little thinking
what was heavy on her mind!--and I said she was not quite well, and
put my arm about her, and took her upstairs. When we were in our
own room, and when she might perhaps have told me what I was so
unprepared to hear, I gave her no encouragement to confide in me; I
never thought she stood in need of it.
"Oh, my dear good Esther," said Ada, "if I could only make up my
mind to speak to you and my cousin John when you are together!"
"Why, my love!" I remonstrated. "Ada, why should you not speak to
Ada only dropped her head and pressed me closer to her heart.
"You surely don't forget, my beauty," said I, smiling, "what quiet,
old-fashioned people we are and how I have settled down to be the
discreetest of dames? You don't forget how happily and peacefully
my life is all marked out for me, and by whom? I am certain that
you don't forget by what a noble character, Ada. That can never
"No, never, Esther."
"Why then, my dear," said I, "there can be nothing amiss--and why
should you not speak to us?"
"Nothing amiss, Esther?" returned Ada. "Oh, when I think of all
these years, and of his fatherly care and kindness, and of the old
relations among us, and of you, what shall I do, what shall I do!"
I looked at my child in some wonder, but I thought it better not to
answer otherwise than by cheering her, and so I turned off into
many little recollections of our life together and prevented her
from saying more. When she lay down to sleep, and not before, I
returned to my guardian to say good night, and then I came back to
Ada and sat near her for a little while.
She was asleep, and I thought as I looked at her that she was a
little changed. I had thought so more than once lately. I could
not decide, even looking at her while she was unconscious, how she
was changed, but something in the familiar beauty of her face
looked different to me. My guardian's old hopes of her and Richard
arose sorrowfully in my mind, and I said to myself, "She has been
anxious about him," and I wondered how that love would end.
When I had come home from Caddy's while she was ill, I had often
found Ada at work, and she had always put her work away, and I had
never known what it was. Some of it now lay in a drawer near her,
which was not quite closed. I did not open the drawer, but I still
rather wondered what the work could he, for it was evidently
nothing for herself.
And I noticed as I kissed my dear that she lay with one hand under
her pillow so that it was hidden.
How much less amiable I must have been than they thought me, how
much less amiable than I thought myself, to be so preoccupied with
my own cheerfulness and contentment as to think that it only rested
with me to put my dear girl right and set her mind at peace!
But I lay down, self-deceived, in that belief. And I awoke in it
next day to find that there was still the same shade between me and
When Mr. Woodcourt arrived in London, he went, that very same day,
to Mr. Vholes's in Symond's Inn. For he never once, from the
moment when I entreated him to be a friend to Richard, neglected or
forgot his promise. He had told me that he accepted the charge as
a sacred trust, and he was ever true to it in that spirit.
He found Mr. Vholes in his office and informed Mr. Vholes of his
agreement with Richard that he should call there to learn his
"Just so, sir," said Mr. Vholes. "Mr. C.'s address is not a
hundred miles from here, sir, Mr. C.'s address is not a hundred
miles from here. Would you take a seat, sir?"
Mr. Woodcourt thanked Mr. Vholes, but he had no business with him
beyond what he had mentioned.
"Just so, sir. I believe, sir," said Mr. Vholes, still quietly
insisting on the seat by not giving the address, "that you have
influence with Mr. C. Indeed I am aware that you have."
"I was not aware of it myself," returned Mr. Woodcourt; "but I
suppose you know best."
"Sir," rejoined Mr. Vholes, self-contained as usual, voice and all,
"it is a part of my professional duty to know best. It is a part
of my professional duty to study and to understand a gentleman who
confides his interests to me. In my professional duty I shall not
be wanting, sir, if I know it. I may, with the best intentions, be
wanting in it without knowing it; but not if I know it, sir."
Mr. Woodcourt again mentioned the address.
"Give me leave, sir," said Mr. Vholes. "Bear with me for a moment.
Sir, Mr. C. is playing for a considerable stake, and cannot play
without--need I say what?"
"Money, I presume?"
"Sir," said Mr. Vholes, "to be honest with you (honesty being my
golden rule, whether I gain by it or lose, and I find that I
generally lose), money is the word. Now, sir, upon the chances of
Mr. C.'s game I express to you no opinion, NO opinion. It might be
highly impolitic in Mr. C., after playing so long and so high, to
leave off; it might be the reverse; I say nothing. No, sir," said
Mr. Vholes, bringing his hand flat down upon his desk in a positive
"You seem to forget," returned Mr, Woodcourt, "that I ask you to
say nothing and have no interest in anything you say."
"Pardon me, sir!" retorted Mr. Vholes. "You do yourself an
injustice. No, sir! Pardon me! You shall not--shall not in my
office, if I know it--do yourself an injustice. You are interested
in anything, and in everything, that relates to your friend. I
know human nature much better, sir, than to admit for an instant
that a gentleman of your appearance is not interested in whatever
concerns his friend."
"Well," replied Mr. Woodcourt, "that may be. I am particularly
interested in his address."
"The number, sir," said Mr. Vholes parenthetically, "I believe I
have already mentioned. If Mr. C. is to continue to play for this
considerable stake, sir, he must have funds. Understand me! There
are funds in hand at present. I ask for nothing; there are funds
in hand. But for the onward play, more funds must be provided,
unless Mr. C. is to throw away what he has already ventured, which
is wholly and solely a point for his consideration. This, sir, I
take the opportunity of stating openly to you as the friend of Mr.
C. Without funds I shall always be happy to appear and act for Mr.
C. to the extent of all such costs as are safe to be allowed out of
the estate, not beyond that. I could not go beyond that, sir,
without wronging some one. I must either wrong my three dear girls
or my venerable father, who is entirely dependent on me, in the
Vale of Taunton; or some one. Whereas, sir, my resolution is (call
it weakness or folly if you please) to wrong no one."
Mr. Woodcourt rather sternly rejoined that he was glad to hear it.
"I wish, sir," said Mr. Vholes, "to leave a good name behind me.
Therefore I take every opportunity of openly stating to a friend of
Mr. C. how Mr. C. is situated. As to myself, sir, the labourer is
worthy of his hire. If I undertake to put my shoulder to the
wheel, I do it, and I earn what I get. I am here for that purpose.
My name is painted on the door outside, with that object."
"And Mr. Carstone's address, Mr. Vholes?"
"Sir," returned Mr. Vholes, "as I believe I have already mentioned,
it is next door. On the second story you will find Mr. C.'s
apartments. Mr. C. desires to be near his professional adviser,
and I am far from objecting, for I court inquiry."
Upon this Mr. Woodcourt wished Mr. Vholes good day and went in
search of Richard, the change in whose appearance he began to
understand now but too well.
He found him in a dull room, fadedly furnished, much as I had found
him in his barrack-room but a little while before, except that he
was not writing but was sitting with a book before him, from which
his eyes and thoughts were far astray. As the door chanced to be
standing open, Mr. Woodcourt was in his presence for some moments
without being perceived, and he told me that he never could forget
the haggardness of his face and the dejection of his manner before
he was aroused from his dream.
"Woodcourt, my dear fellow," cried Richard, starting up with
extended hands, "you come upon my vision like a ghost."
"A friendly one," he replied, "and only waiting, as they say ghosts
do, to be addressed. How does the mortal world go?" They were
seated now, near together.
"Badly enough, and slowly enough," said Richard, "speaking at least
for my part of it."
"What part is that?"
"The Chancery part."
"I never heard," returned Mr. Woodcourt, shaking his head, "of its
going well yet."
"Nor I," said Richard moodily. "Who ever did?" He brightened
again in a moment and said with his natural openness, "Woodcourt, I
should be sorry to be misunderstood by you, even if I gained by it
in your estimation. You must know that I have done no good this
long time. I have not intended to do much harm, but I seem to have
been capable of nothing else. It may be that I should have done
better by keeping out of the net into which my destiny has worked
me, but I think not, though I dare say you will soon hear, if you
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