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Charles Dickens > Bleak House > Chapter XXXIII

Bleak House

Chapter XXXIII


Now do those two gentlemen not very neat about the cuffs and
buttons who attended the last coroner's inquest at the Sol's Arms
reappear in the precincts with surprising swiftness (being, in
fact, breathlessly fetched by the active and intelligent beadle),
and institute perquisitions through the court, and dive into the
Sol's parlour, and write with ravenous little pens on tissue-paper.
Now do they note down, in the watches of the night, how the
neighbourhood of Chancery Lane was yesterday, at about midnight,
thrown into a state of the most intense agitation and excitement by
the following alarming and horrible discovery. Now do they set
forth how it will doubtless be remembered that some time back a
painful sensation was created in the public mind by a case of
mysterious death from opium occurring in the first floor of the
house occupied as a rag, bottle, and general marine store shop, by
an eccentric individual of intemperate habits, far advanced in
life, named Krook; and how, by a remarkable coincidence, Krook was
examined at the inquest, which it may be recollected was held on
that occasion at the Sol's Arms, a well-conducted tavern
immediately adjoining the premises in question on the west side and
licensed to a highly respectable landlord, Mr. James George Bogsby.
Now do they show (in as many words as possible) how during some
hours of yesterday evening a very peculiar smell was observed by
the inhabitants of the court, in which the tragical occurrence
which forms the subject of that present account transpired; and
which odour was at one time so powerful that Mr. Swills, a comic
vocalist professionally engaged by Mr. J. G. Bogsby, has himself
stated to our reporter that he mentioned to Miss M. Melvilleson, a
lady of some pretensions to musical ability, likewise engaged by
Mr. J. G. Bogsby to sing at a series of concerts called Harmonic
Assemblies, or Meetings, which it would appear are held at the
Sol's Arms under Mr. Bogsby's direction pursuant to the Act of
George the Second, that he (Mr. Swills) found his voice seriously
affected by the impure state of the atmosphere, his jocose
expression at the time being that he was like an empty post-office,
for he hadn't a single note in him. How this account of Mr. Swills
is entirely corroborated by two intelligent married females
residing in the same court and known respectively by the names of
Mrs. Piper and Mrs. Perkins, both of whom observed the foetid
effluvia and regarded them as being emitted from the premises in
the occupation of Krook, the unfortunate deceased. All this and a
great deal more the two gentlemen who have formed an amicable
partnership in the melancholy catastrophe write down on the spot;
and the boy population of the court (out of bed in a moment) swarm
up the shutters of the Sol's Arms parlour, to behold the tops of
their heads while they are about it.

The whole court, adult as well as boy, is sleepless for that night,
and can do nothing but wrap up its many heads, and talk of the ill-
fated house, and look at it. Miss Flite has been bravely rescued
from her chamber, as if it were in flames, and accommodated with a
bed at the Sol's Arms. The Sol neither turns off its gas nor shuts
its door all night, for any kind of public excitement makes good
for the Sol and causes the court to stand in need of comfort. The
house has not done so much in the stomachic article of cloves or in
brandy-and-water warm since the inquest. The moment the pot-boy
heard what had happened, he rolled up his shirt-sleeves tight to
his shoulders and said, "There'll be a run upon us!" In the first
outcry, young Piper dashed off for the fire-engines and returned in
triumph at a jolting gallop perched up aloft on the Phoenix and
holding on to that fabulous creature with all his might in the
midst of helmets and torches. One helmet remains behind after
careful investigation of all chinks and crannies and slowly paces
up and down before the house in company with one of the two
policemen who have likewise been left in charge thereof. To this
trio everybody in the court possessed of sixpence has an insatiate
desire to exhibit hospitality in a liquid form.

Mr. Weevle and his friend Mr. Guppy are within the bar at the Sol
and are worth anything to the Sol that the bar contains if they
will only stay there. "This is not a time, says Mr. Bogsby, "to
haggle about money," though he looks something sharply after it,
over the counter; "give your orders, you two gentlemen, and you're
welcome to whatever you put a name to."

Thus entreated, the two gentlemen (Mr. Weevle especially) put names
to so many things that in course of time they find it difficult to
put a name to anything quite distinctly, though they still relate
to all new-comers some version of the night they have had of it,
and of what they said, and what they thought, and what they saw.
Meanwhile, one or other of the policemen often flits about the
door, and pushing it open a little way at the full length of his
arm, looks in from outer gloom. Not that he has any suspicions,
but that he may as well know what they are up to in there.

Thus night pursues its leaden course, finding the court still out
of bed through the unwonted hours, still treating and being
treated, still conducting itself similarly to a court that has had
a little money left it unexpectedly. Thus night at length with
slow-retreating steps departs, and the lamp-lighter going his
rounds, like an executioner to a despotic king, strikes off the
little heads of fire that have aspired to lessen the darkness.
Thus the day cometh, whether or no.

And the day may discern, even with its dim London eye, that the
court has been up all night. Over and above the faces that have
fallen drowsily on tables and the heels that lie prone on hard
floors instead of beds, the brick and mortar physiognomy of the
very court itself looks worn and jaded. And now the neighbourhood,
waking up and beginning to hear of what has happened, comes
streaming in, half dressed, to ask questions; and the two policemen
and the helmet (who are far less impressible externally than the
court) have enough to do to keep the door.

"Good gracious, gentlemen!" says Mr. Snagsby, coming up. "What's
this I hear!"

"Why, it's true," returns one of the policemen. "That's what it
is. Now move on here, come!"

"Why, good gracious, gentlemen," says Mr. Snagsby, somewhat
promptly backed away, "I was at this door last night betwixt ten
and eleven o'clock in conversation with the young man who lodges

"Indeed?" returns the policeman. "You will find the young man next
door then. Now move on here, some of you,"

"Not hurt, I hope?" says Mr. Snagsby.

"Hurt? No. What's to hurt him!"

Mr. Snagsby, wholly unable to answer this or any question in his
troubled mind, repairs to the Sol's Arms and finds Mr. Weevle
languishing over tea and toast with a considerable expression on
him of exhausted excitement and exhausted tobacco-smoke.

"And Mr. Guppy likewise!" quoth Mr. Snagsby. "Dear, dear, dear!
What a fate there seems in all this! And my lit--"

Mr. Snagsby's power of speech deserts him in the formation of the
words "my little woman." For to see that injured female walk into
the Sol's Arms at that hour of the morning and stand before the
beer-engine, with her eyes fixed upon him like an accusing spirit,
strikes him dumb.

"My dear," says Mr. Snagsby when his tongue is loosened, "will you
take anything? A little--not to put too fine a point upon it--drop
of shrub?"

"No," says Mrs. Snagsby.

"My love, you know these two gentlemen?"

"Yes!" says Mrs. Snagsby, and in a rigid manner acknowledges their
presence, still fixing Mr. Snagsby with her eye.

The devoted Mr. Snagsby cannot bear this treatment. He takes Mrs.
Snagsby by the hand and leads her aside to an adjacent cask.

"My little woman, why do you look at me in that way? Pray don't do

"I can't help my looks," says Mrs. Snagsby, "and if I could I

Mr. Snagsby, with his cough of meekness, rejoins, "Wouldn't you
really, my dear?" and meditates. Then coughs his cough of trouble
and says, "This is a dreadful mystery, my love!" still fearfully
disconcerted by Mrs. Snagsby's eye.

"It IS," returns Mrs. Snagsby, shaking her head, "a dreadful

"My little woman," urges Mr. Snagsby in a piteous manner, "don't
for goodness' sake speak to me with that bitter expression and look
at me in that searching way! I beg and entreat of you not to do
it. Good Lord, you don't suppose that I would go spontaneously
combusting any person, my dear?"

"I can't say," returns Mrs. Snagsby.

On a hasty review of his unfortunate position, Mr. Snagsby "can't
say" either. He is not prepared positively to deny that he may
have had something to do with it. He has had something--he don't
know what--to do with so much in this connexion that is mysterious
that it is possible he may even be implicated, without knowing it,
in the present transaction. He faintly wipes his forehead with his
handkerchief and gasps.

"My life," says the unhappy stationer, "would you have any
objections to mention why, being in general so delicately
circumspect in your conduct, you come into a wine-vaults before

"Why do YOU come here?" inquires Mrs. Snagsby.

"My dear, merely to know the rights of the fatal accident which has
happened to the venerable party who has been--combusted." Mr.
Snagsby has made a pause to suppress a groan. "I should then have
related them to you, my love, over your French roll."

"I dare say you would! You relate everything to me, Mr. Snagsby."

"Every--my lit--"

"I should be glad," says Mrs. Snagsby after contemplating his
increased confusion with a severe and sinister smile, "if you would
come home with me; I think you may be safer there, Mr. Snagsby,
than anywhere else."

"My love, I don't know but what I may be, I am sure. I am ready to

Mr. Snagsby casts his eye forlornly round the bar, gives Messrs.
Weevle and Guppy good morning, assures them of the satisfaction
with which he sees them uninjured, and accompanies Mrs. Snagsby
from the Sol's Arms. Before night his doubt whether he may not be
responsible for some inconceivable part in the catastrophe which is
the talk of the whole neighbourhood is almost resolved into
certainty by Mrs. Snagsby's pertinacity in that fixed gaze. His
mental sufferings are so great that he entertains wandering ideas
of delivering himself up to justice and requiring to be cleared if
innocent and punished with the utmost rigour of the law if guilty.

Mr. Weevle and Mr. Guppy, having taken their breakfast, step into
Lincoln's Inn to take a little walk about the square and clear as
many of the dark cobwebs out of their brains as a little walk may.

"There can be no more favourable time than the present, Tony," says
Mr. Guppy after they have broodingly made out the four sides of the
square, "for a word or two between us upon a point on which we
must, with very little delay, come to an understanding."

"Now, I tell you what, William G.!" returns the other, eyeing his
companion with a bloodshot eye. "If it's a point of conspiracy,
you needn't take the trouble to mention it. I have had enough of
that, and I ain't going to have any more. We shall have YOU taking
fire next or blowing up with a bang."

This supposititious phenomenon is so very disagreeable to Mr. Guppy
that his voice quakes as he says in a moral way, "Tony, I should
have thought that what we went through last night would have been a
lesson to you never to be personal any more as long as you lived."
To which Mr. Weevle returns, "William, I should have thought it
would have been a lesson to YOU never to conspire any more as long
as you lived." To which Mr. Guppy says, "Who's conspiring?" To
which Mr. Jobling replies, "Why, YOU are!" To which Mr. Guppy
retorts, "No, I am not." To which Mr. Jobling retorts again, "Yes,
you are!" To which Mr. Guppy retorts, "Who says so?" To which Mr.
Jobling retorts, "I say so!" To which Mr. Guppy retorts, "Oh,
indeed?" To which Mr. Jobling retorts, "Yes, indeed!" And both
being now in a heated state, they walk on silently for a while to
cool down again.

"Tony," says Mr. Guppy then, "if you heard your friend out instead
of flying at him, you wouldn't fall into mistakes. But your temper
is hasty and you are not considerate. Possessing in yourself,
Tony, all that is calculated to charm the eye--"

"Oh! Blow the eye!" cries Mr. Weevle, cutting him short. "Say what
you have got to say!"

Finding his friend in this morose and material condition, Mr. Guppy
only expresses the finer feelings of his soul through the tone of
injury in which he recommences, "Tony, when I say there is a point
on which we must come to an understanding pretty soon, I say so
quite apart from any kind of conspiring, however innocent. You
know it is professionally arranged beforehand in all cases that are
tried what facts the witnesses are to prove. Is it or is it not
desirable that we should know what facts we are to prove on the
inquiry into the death of this unfortunate old mo--gentleman?"
(Mr. Guppy was going to say "mogul," but thinks "gentleman" better
suited to the circumstances.)

"What facts? THE facts."

"The facts bearing on that inquiry. Those are"--Mr. Guppy tells
them off on his fingers--"what we knew of his habits, when you saw
him last, what his condition was then, the discovery that we made,
and how we made it."

"Yes," says Mr. Weevle. "Those are about the facts."

"We made the discovery in consequence of his having, in his
eccentric way, an appointment with you at twelve o'clock at night,
when you were to explain some writing to him as you had often done
before on account of his not being able to read. I, spending the
evening with you, was called down--and so forth. The inquiry being
only into the circumstances touching the death of the deceased,
it's not necessary to go beyond these facts, I suppose you'll

"No!" returns Mr. Weevle. "I suppose not."

"And this is not a conspiracy, perhaps?" says the injured Guppy.

"No," returns his friend; "if it's nothing worse than this, I
withdraw the observation."

"Now, Tony," says Mr. Guppy, taking his arm again and walking him
slowly on, "I should like to know, in a friendly way, whether you
have yet thought over the many advantages of your continuing to
live at that place?"

"What do you mean?" says Tony, stopping.

"Whether you have yet thought over the many advantages of your
continuing to live at that place?" repeats Mr. Guppy, walking him
on again.

"At what place? THAT place?" pointing in the direction of the rag
and bottle shop.

Mr. Guppy nods.

"Why, I wouldn't pass another night there for any consideration
that you could offer me," says Mr. Weevle, haggardly staring.

"Do you mean it though, Tony?"

"Mean it! Do I look as if I mean it? I feel as if I do; I know
that," says Mr. Weevle with a very genuine shudder.

"Then the possibility or probability--for such it must be
considered--of your never being disturbed in possession of those
effects lately belonging to a lone old man who seemed to have no
relation in the world, and the certainty of your being able to find
out what he really had got stored up there, don't weigh with you at
all against last night, Tony, if I understand you?" says Mr. Guppy,
biting his thumb with the appetite of vexation.

"Certainly not. Talk in that cool way of a fellow's living there?"
cries Mr. Weevle indignantly. "Go and live there yourself."

"Oh! I, Tony!" says Mr. Guppy, soothing him. "I have never lived
there and couldn't get a lodging there now, whereas you have got

"You are welcome to it," rejoins his friend, "and--ugh!--you may
make yourself at home in it."

"Then you really and truly at this point," says Mr. Guppy, "give up
the whole thing, if I understand you, Tony?"

"You never," returns Tony with a most convincing steadfastness,
"said a truer word in all your life. I do!"

While they are so conversing, a hackney-coach drives into the
square, on the box of which vehicle a very tall hat makes itself
manifest to the public. Inside the coach, and consequently not so
manifest to the multitude, though sufficiently so to the two
friends, for the coach stops almost at their feet, are the
venerable Mr. Smallweed and Mrs. Smallweed, accompanied by their
granddaughter Judy.

An air of haste and excitement pervades the party, and as the tall
hat (surmounting Mr. Smallweed the younger) alights, Mr. Smallweed
the elder pokes his head out of window and bawls to Mr. Guppy, "How
de do, sir! How de do!"

"What do Chick and his family want here at this time of the
morning, I wonder!" says Mr. Guppy, nodding to his familiar.

"My dear sir," cries Grandfather Smallweed, "would you do me a
favour? Would you and your friend be so very obleeging as to carry
me into the public-house in the court, while Bart and his sister
bring their grandmother along? Would you do an old man that good
turn, sir?"

Mr. Guppy looks at his friend, repeating inquiringly, "The public-
house in the court?" And they prepare to bear the venerable burden
to the Sol's Arms.

"There's your fare!" says the patriarch to the coachman with a
fierce grin and shaking his incapable fist at him. "Ask me for a
penny more, and I'll have my lawful revenge upon you. My dear
young men, be easy with me, if you please. Allow me to catch you
round the neck. I won't squeeze you tighter than I can help. Oh,
Lord! Oh, dear me! Oh, my bones!"

It is well that the Sol is not far off, for Mr. Weevle presents an
apoplectic appearance before half the distance is accomplished.
With no worse aggravation of his symptoms, however, than the
utterance of divers croaking sounds expressive of obstructed
respiration, he fulils his share of the porterage and the
benevolent old gentleman is deposited by his own desire in the
parlour of the Sol's Arms.

"Oh, Lord!" gasps Mr. Smallweed, looking about him, breathless,
from an arm-chair. "Oh, dear me! Oh, my bones and back! Oh, my
aches and pains! Sit down, you dancing, prancing, shambling,
scrambling poll-parrot! Sit down!"

This little apostrophe to Mrs. Smallweed is occasioned by a
propensity on the part of that unlucky old lady whenever she finds
herself on her feet to amble about and "set" to inanimate objects,
accompanying herself with a chattering noise, as in a witch dance.
A nervous affection has probably as much to do with these
demonstrations as any imbecile intention in the poor old woman, but
on the present occasion they are so particularly lively in
connexion with the Windsor arm-chair, fellow to that in which Mr.
Smallweed is seated, that she only quite desists when her
grandchildren have held her down in it, her lord in the meanwhile
bestowing upon her, with great volubility, the endearing epithet of
"a pig-headed jackdaw," repeated a surprising number of times.

"My dear sir," Grandfather Smallweed then proceeds, addressing Mr.
Guppy, "there has been a calamity here. Have you heard of it,
either of you?"

"Heard of it, sir! Why, we discovered it."

"You discovered it. You two discovered it! Bart, THEY discovered

The two discoverers stare at the Smallweeds, who return the

"My dear friends," whines Grandfather Smallweed, putting out both
his hands, "I owe you a thousand thanks for discharging the
melancholy office of discovering the ashes of Mrs. Smallweed's

"Eh?" says Mr. Guppy.

"Mrs. Smallweed's brother, my dear friend--her only relation. We
were not on terms, which is to be deplored now, but he never WOULD
be on terms. He was not fond of us. He was eccentric--he was very
eccentric. Unless he has left a will (which is not at all likely)
I shall take out letters of administration. I have come down to
look after the property; it must be sealed up, it must be
protected. I have come down," repeats Grandfather Smallweed,
hooking the air towards him with all his ten fingers at once, "to
look after the property."

"I think, Small," says the disconsolate Mr. Guppy, "you might have
mentioned that the old man was your uncle."

"You two were so close about him that I thought you would like me
to be the same," returns that old bird with a secretly glistening
eye. "Besides, I wasn't proud of him."

"Besides which, it was nothing to you, you know, whether he was or
not," says Judy. Also with a secretly glistening eye.

"He never saw me in his life to know me," observed Small; "I don't
know why I should introduce HIM, I am sure!"

"No, he never communicated with us, which is to be deplored," the
old gentleman strikes in, "but I have come to look after the
property--to look over the papers, and to look after the property.
We shall make good our title. It is in the hands of my solicitor.
Mr. Tulkinghorn, of Lincoln's Inn Fields, over the way there, is so
good as to act as my solicitor; and grass don't grow under HIS
feet, I can tell ye. Krook was Mrs. Smallweed's only brother; she
had no relation but Krook, and Krook had no relation but Mrs.
Smallweed. I am speaking of your brother, you brimstone black-
beetle, that was seventy-six years of age."

Mrs. Smallweed instantly begins to shake her head and pipe up,
"Seventy-six pound seven and sevenpence! Seventysix thousand bags
of money! Seventy-six hundred thousand million of parcels of bank-

"Will somebody give me a quart pot?" exclaims her exasperated
husband, looking helplessly about him and finding no missile within
his reach. "Will somebody obleege me with a spittoon? Will
somebody hand me anything hard and bruising to pelt at her? You
hag, you cat, you dog, you brimstone barker!" Here Mr. Smallweed,
wrought up to the highest pitch by his own eloquence, actually
throws Judy at her grandmother in default of anything else, by
butting that young virgin at the old lady with such force as he can
muster and then dropping into his chair in a heap.

"Shake me up, somebody, if you'll he so good," says the voice from
within the faintly struggling bundle into which he has collapsed.
"I have come to look after the property. Shake me up, and call in
the police on duty at the next house to be explained to about the
property. My solicitor will be here presently to protect the
property. Transportation or the gallows for anybody who shall
touch the property!" As his dutiful grandchildren set him up,
panting, and putting him through the usual restorative process of
shaking and punching, he still repeats like an echo, "The--the
property! The property! Property!"

Mr. Weevle and Mr. Guppy look at each other, the former as having
relinquished the whole affair, the latter with a discomfited
countenance as having entertained some lingering expectations yet.
But there is nothing to be done in opposition to the Smallweed
interest. Mr. Tulkinghorn's clerk comes down from his official pew
in the chambers to mention to the police that Mr. Tulkinghorn is
answerable for its being all correct about the next of kin and that
the papers and effects will be formally taken possession of in due
time and course. Mr. Smallweed is at once permitted so far to
assert his supremacy as to be carried on a visit of sentiment into
the next house and upstairs into Miss Flite's deserted room, where
he looks like a hideous bird of prey newly added to her aviary.

The arrival of this unexpected heir soon taking wind in the court
still makes good for the Sol and keeps the court upon its mettle.
Mrs. Piper and Mrs. Perkins think it hard upon the young man if
there really is no will, and consider that a handsome present ought
to be made him out of the estate. Young Piper and young Perkins,
as members of that restless juvenile circle which is the terror of
the foot-passengers in Chancery Lane, crumble into ashes behind the
pump and under the archway all day long, where wild yells and
hootings take place over their remains. Little Swills and Miss M.
Melvilleson enter into affable conversation with their patrons,
feeling that these unusual occurrences level the barriers between
professionals and non-professionals. Mr. Bogsby puts up "The
popular song of King Death, with chorus by the whole strength of
the company," as the great Harmonic feature of the week and
announces in the bill that "J. G. B. is induced to do so at a
considerable extra expense in consequence of a wish which has been
very generally expressed at the bar by a large body of respectable
individuals and in homage to a late melancholy event which has
aroused so much sensation." There is one point connected with the
deceased upon which the court is particularly anxious, namely, that
the fiction of a full-sized coffin should be preserved, though
there is so little to put in it. Upon the undertaker's stating in
the Sol's bar in the course of the day that he has received orders
to construct "a six-footer," the general solicitude is much
relieved, and it is considered that Mr. Smallweed's conduct does
him great honour.

Out of the court, and a long way out of it, there is considerable
excitement too, for men of science and philosophy come to look, and
carriages set down doctors at the corner who arrive with the same
intent, and there is more learned talk about inflammable gases and
phosphuretted hydrogen than the court has ever imagined. Some of
these authorities (of course the wisest) hold with indignation that
the deceased had no business to die in the alleged manner; and
being reminded by other authorities of a certain inquiry into the
evidence for such deaths reprinted in the sixth volume of the
Philosophical Transactions; and also of a book not quite unknown on
English medical jurisprudence; and likewise of the Italian case of
the Countess Cornelia Baudi as set forth in detail by one
Bianchini, prebendary of Verona, who wrote a scholarly work or so
and was occasionally heard of in his time as having gleams of
reason in him; and also of the testimony of Messrs. Fodere and
Mere, two pestilent Frenchmen who WOULD investigate the subject;
and further, of the corroborative testimony of Monsieur Le Cat, a
rather celebrated French surgeon once upon a time, who had the
unpoliteness to live in a house where such a case occurred and even
to write an account of it--still they regard the late Mr. Krook's
obstinacy in going out of the world by any such by-way as wholly
unjustifiable and personally offensive. The less the court
understands of all this, the more the court likes it, and the
greater enjoyment it has in the stock in trade of the Sol's Arms.
Then there comes the artist of a picture newspaper, with a
foreground and figures ready drawn for anything from a wreck on the
Cornish coast to a review in Hyde Park or a meeting in Manchester,
and in Mrs. Perkins' own room, memorable evermore, he then and
there throws in upon the block Mr. Krook's house, as large as life;
in fact, considerably larger, making a very temple of it.
Similarly, being permitted to look in at the door of the fatal
chamber, he depicts that apartment as three-quarters of a mile long
by fifty yards high, at which the court is particularly charmed.
All this time the two gentlemen before mentioned pop in and out of
every house and assist at the philosophical disputations--go
everywhere and listen to everybody--and yet are always diving into
the Sol's parlour and writing with the ravenous little pens on the

At last come the coroner and his inquiry, like as before, except
that the coroner cherishes this case as being out of the common way
and tells the gentlemen of the jury, in his private capacity, that
"that would seem to be an unlucky house next door, gentlemen, a
destined house; but so we sometimes find it, and these are
mysteries we can't account for!" After which the six-footer comes
into action and is much admired.

In all these proceedings Mr. Guppy has so slight a part, except
when he gives his evidence, that he is moved on like a private
individual and can only haunt the secret house on the outside,
where he has the mortification of seeing Mr. Smallweed padlocking
the door, and of bitterly knowing himself to be shut out. But
before these proceedings draw to a close, that is to say, on the
night next after the catastrophe, Mr. Guppy has a thing to say that
must be said to Lady Dedlock.

For which reason, with a sinking heart and with that hang-dog sense
of guilt upon him which dread and watching enfolded in the Sol's
Arms have produced, the young man of the name of Guppy presents
himself at the town mansion at about seven o'clock in the evening
and requests to see her ladyship. Mercury replies that she is
going out to dinner; don't he see the carriage at the door? Yes,
he does see the carriage at the door; but he wants to see my Lady

Mercury is disposed, as he will presently declare to a fellow-
gentleman in waiting, "to pitch into the young man"; but his
instructions are positive. Therefore he sulkily supposes that the
young man must come up into the library. There he leaves the young
man in a large room, not over-light, while he makes report of him.

Mr. Guppy looks into the shade in all directions, discovering
everywhere a certain charred and whitened little heap of coal or
wood. Presently he hears a rustling. Is it--? No, it's no ghost,
but fair flesh and blood, most brilliantly dressed.

"I have to beg your ladyship's pardon," Mr. Guppy stammers, very
downcast. "This is an inconvenient time--"

"I told you, you could come at any time." She takes a chair,
looking straight at him as on the last occasion.

"Thank your ladyship. Your ladyship is very affable."

"You can sit down." There is not much affability in her tone.

"I don't know, your ladyship, that it's worth while my sitting down
and detaining you, for I--I have not got the letters that I
mentioned when I had the honour of waiting on your ladyship."

"Have you come merely to say so?"

"Merely to say so, your ladyship." Mr. Guppy besides being
depressed, disappointed, and uneasy, is put at a further
disadvantage by the splendour and beauty of her appearance.

She knows its influence perfectly, has studied it too well to miss
a grain of its effect on any one. As she looks at him so steadily
and coldly, he not only feels conscious that he has no guide in the
least perception of what is really the complexion of her thoughts,
but also that he is being every moment, as it were, removed further
and further from her.

She will not speak, it is plain. So he must.

"In short, your ladyship," says Mr. Guppy like a meanly penitent
thief, "the person I was to have had the letters of, has come to a
sudden end, and--" He stops. Lady Dedlock calmly finishes the

"And the letters are destroyed with the person?"

Mr. Guppy would say no if he could--as he is unable to hide.

"I believe so, your ladyship."

If he could see the least sparkle of relief in her face now? No,
he could see no such thing, even if that brave outside did not
utterly put him away, and he were not looking beyond it and about

He falters an awkward excuse or two for his failure.

"Is this all you have to say?" inquires Lady Dedlock, having heard
him out--or as nearly out as he can stumble.

Mr. Guppy thinks that's all.

"You had better be sure that you wish to say nothing more to me,
this being the last time you will have the opportunity."

Mr. Guppy is quite sure. And indeed he has no such wish at
present, by any means.

"That is enough. I will dispense with excuses. Good evening to
you!" And she rings for Mercury to show the young man of the name
of Guppy out.

But in that house, in that same moment, there happens to be an old
man of the name of Tulkinghorn. And that old man, coming with his
quiet footstep to the library, has his hand at that moment on the
handle of the door--comes in--and comes face to face with the young
man as he is leaving the room.

One glance between the old man and the lady, and for an instant the
blind that is always down flies up. Suspicion, eager and sharp,
looks out. Another instant, close again.

"I beg your pardon, Lady Dedlock. I beg your pardon a thousand
times. It is so very unusual to find you here at this hour. I
supposed the room was empty. I beg your pardon!"

"Stay!" She negligently calls him back. "Remain here, I beg. I
am going out to dinner. I have nothing more to say to this young

The disconcerted young man bows, as he goes out, and cringingly
hopes that Mr. Tulkinghorn of the Fields is well.

"Aye, aye?" says the lawyer, looking at him from under his bent
brows, though he has no need to look again--not he. "From Kenge
and Carboy's, surely?"

"Kenge and Carboy's, Mr. Tulkinghorn. Name of Guppy, sir."

"To be sure. Why, thank you, Mr. Guppy, I am very well!"

"Happy to hear it, sir. You can't be too well, sir, for the credit
of the profession."

"Thank you, Mr. Guppy!"

Mr. Guppy sneaks away. Mr. Tulkinghorn, such a foil in his old-
fashioned rusty black to Lady Dedlock's brightness, hands her down
the staircase to her carriage. He returns rubbing his chin, and
rubs it a good deal in the course of the evening.

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