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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesBleak House - Chapter LIV - Springing a Mine
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Bleak House - Chapter LIV - Springing a Mine Post by :justsurfin Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Dickens Date :December 2010 Read :2068

Click below to download : Bleak House - Chapter LIV - Springing a Mine (Format : PDF)

Bleak House - Chapter LIV - Springing a Mine

Refreshed by sleep, Mr. Bucket rises betimes in the morning and
prepares for a field-day. Smartened up by the aid of a clean shirt
and a wet hairbrush, with which instrument, on occasions of
ceremony, he lubricates such thin locks as remain to him after his
life of severe study, Mr. Bucket lays in a breakfast of two mutton
chops as a foundation to work upon, together with tea, eggs, toast,
and marmalade on a corresponding scale. Having much enjoyed these
strengthening matters and having held subtle conference with his
familiar demon, he confidently instructs Mercury "just to mention
quietly to Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, that whenever he's ready
for me, I'm ready for him." A gracious message being returned that
Sir Leicester will expedite his dressing and join Mr. Bucket in the
library within ten minutes, Mr. Bucket repairs to that apartment
and stands before the fire with his finger on his chin, looking at
the blazing coals.

Thoughtful Mr. Bucket is, as a man may be with weighty work to do,
but composed, sure, confident. From the expression of his face he
might be a famous whist-player for a large stake--say a hundred
guineas certain--with the game in his hand, but with a high
reputation involved in his playing his hand out to the last card in
a masterly way. Not in the least anxious or disturbed is Mr.
Bucket when Sir Leicester appears, but he eyes the baronet aside as
he comes slowly to his easy-chair with that observant gravity of
yesterday in which there might have been yesterday, but for the
audacity of the idea, a touch of compassion.

"I am sorry to have kept you waiting, officer, but I am rather
later than my usual hour this morning. I am not well. The
agitation and the indignation from which I have recently suffered
have been too much for me. I am subject to--gout"--Sir Leicester
was going to say indisposition and would have said it to anybody
else, but Mr. Bucket palpably knows all about it--"and recent
circumstances have brought it on."

As he takes his seat with some difficulty and with an air of pain,
Mr. Bucket draws a little nearer, standing with one of his large
hands on the library-table.

"I am not aware, officer," Sir Leicester observes; raising his eyes
to his face, "whether you wish us to be alone, but that is entirely
as you please. If you do, well and good. If not, Miss Dedlock
would be interested--"

"Why, Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet," returns Mr. Bucket with his
head persuasively on one side and his forefinger pendant at one ear
like an earring, "we can't be too private just at present. You
will presently see that we can't be too private. A lady, under the
circumstances, and especially in Miss Dedlock's elevated station of
society, can't but be agreeable to me, but speaking without a view
to myself, I will take the liberty of assuring you that I know we
can't be too private."

"That is enough."

"So much so, Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet," Mr. Bucket resumes,
"that I was on the point of asking your permission to turn the key
in the door."

"By all means." Mr. Bucket skilfully and softly takes that
precaution, stooping on his knee for a moment from mere force of
habit so to adjust the key in the lock as that no one shall peep in
from the outerside.

"Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, I mentioned yesterday evening that
I wanted but a very little to complete this case. I have now
completed it and collected proof against the person who did this
crime."

"Against the soldier?"

"No, Sir Leicester Dedlock; not the soldier."

Sir Leicester looks astounded and inquires, "Is the man in
custody?"

Mr. Bucket tells him, after a pause, "It was a woman."

Sir Leicester leans back in his chair, and breathlessly ejaculates,
"Good heaven!"

"Now, Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet," Mr. Bucket begins, standing
over him with one hand spread out on the library-table and the
forefinger of the other in impressive use, "it's my duty to prepare
you for a train of circumstances that may, and I go so far as to
say that will, give you a shock. But Sir Leicester Dedlock,
Baronet, you are a gentleman, and I know what a gentleman is and
what a gentleman is capable of. A gentleman can bear a shock when
it must come, boldly and steadily. A gentleman can make up his
mind to stand up against almost any blow. Why, take yourself, Sir
Leicester Dedlock, Baronet. If there's a blow to be inflicted on
you, you naturally think of your family. You ask yourself, how
would all them ancestors of yours, away to Julius Caesar--not to go
beyond him at present--have borne that blow; you remember scores of
them that would have borne it well; and you bear it well on their
accounts, and to maintain the family credit. That's the way you
argue, and that's the way you act, Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet."

Sir Leicester, leaning back in his chair and grasping the elbows,
sits looking at him with a stony face.

"Now, Sir Leicester Dedlock," proceeds Mr. Bucket, "thus preparing
you, let me beg of you not to trouble your mind for a moment as to
anything having come to MY knowledge. I know so much about so many
characters, high and low, that a piece of information more or less
don't signify a straw. I don't suppose there's a move on the board
that would surprise ME, and as to this or that move having taken
place, why my knowing it is no odds at all, any possible move
whatever (provided it's in a wrong direction) being a probable move
according to my experience. Therefore, what I say to you, Sir
Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, is, don't you go and let yourself be
put out of the way because of my knowing anything of your family
affairs."

"I thank you for your preparation," returns Sir Leicester after a
silence, without moving hand, foot, or feature, "which I hope is
not necessary; though I give it credit for being well intended. Be
so good as to go on. Also"--Sir Leicester seems to shrink in the
shadow of his figure--"also, to take a seat, if you have no
objection."

None at all. Mr. Bucket brings a chair and diminishes his shadow.
"Now, Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, with this short preface I
come to the point. Lady Dedlock--"

Sir Leicester raises himself in his seat and stares at him
fiercely. Mr. Bucket brings the finger into play as an emollient.

"Lady Dedlock, you see she's universally admired. That's what her
ladyship is; she's universally admired," says Mr. Bucket.

"I would greatly prefer, officer," Sir Leicester returns stiffly,
"my Lady's name being entirely omitted from this discussion."

"So would I, Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, but--it's impossible."

"Impossible?"

Mr. Bucket shakes his relentless head.

"Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, it's altogether impossible. What
I have got to say is about her ladyship. She is the pivot it all
turns on."

"Officer," retorts Sir Leicester with a fiery eye and a quivering
lip, "you know your duty. Do your duty, but be careful not to
overstep it. I would not suffer it. I would not endure it. You
bring my Lady's name into this communication upon your
responsibility--upon your responsibility. My Lady's name is not a
name for common persons to trifle with!"

"Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, I say what I must say, and no
more."

"I hope it may prove so. Very well. Go on. Go on, sir!"
Glancing at the angry eyes which now avoid him and at the angry
figure trembling from head to foot, yet striving to be still, Mr.
Bucket feels his way with his forefinger and in a low voice
proceeds.

"Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, it becomes my duty to tell you
that the deceased Mr. Tulkinghorn long entertained mistrusts and
suspicions of Lady Dedlock."

"If he had dared to breathe them to me, sir--which he never did--I
would have killed him myself!" exclaims Sir Leicester, striking his
hand upon the table. But in the very heat and fury of the act he
stops, fixed by the knowing eyes of Mr. Bucket, whose forefinger is
slowly going and who, with mingled confidence and patience, shakes
his head.

"Sir Leicester Dedlock, the deceased Mr. Tulkinghorn was deep and
close, and what he fully had in his mind in the very beginning I
can't quite take upon myself to say. But I know from his lips that
he long ago suspected Lady Dedlock of having discovered, through
the sight of some handwriting--in this very house, and when you
yourself, Sir Leicester Dedlock, were present--the existence, in
great poverty, of a certain person who had been her lover before
you courted her and who ought to have been her husband." Mr.
Bucket stops and deliberately repeats, "Ought to have been her
husband, not a doubt about it. I know from his lips that when that
person soon afterwards died, he suspected Lady Dedlock of visiting
his wretched lodging and his wretched grave, alone and in secret.
I know from my own inquiries and through my eyes and ears that Lady
Dedlock did make such visit in the dress of her own maid, for the
deceased Mr. Tulkinghorn employed me to reckon up her ladyship--if
you'll excuse my making use of the term we commonly employ--and I
reckoned her up, so far, completely. I confronted the maid in the
chambers in Lincoln's Inn Fields with a witness who had been Lady
Dedlock's guide, and there couldn't be the shadow of a doubt that
she had worn the young woman's dress, unknown to her. Sir
Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, I did endeavour to pave the way a
little towards these unpleasant disclosures yesterday by saying
that very strange things happened even in high families sometimes.
All this, and more, has happened in your own family, and to and
through your own Lady. It's my belief that the deceased Mr.
Tulkinghorn followed up these inquiries to the hour of his death
and that he and Lady Dedlock even had bad blood between them upon
the matter that very night. Now, only you put that to Lady
Dedlock, Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, and ask her ladyship
whether, even after he had left here, she didn't go down to his
chambers with the intention of saying something further to him,
dressed in a loose black mantle with a deep fringe to it."

Sir Leicester sits like a statue, gazing at the cruel finger that
is probing the life-blood of his heart.

"You put that to her ladyship, Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, from
me, Inspector Bucket of the Detective. And if her ladyship makes
any difficulty about admitting of it, you tell her that it's no
use, that Inspector Bucket knows it and knows that she passed the
soldier as you called him (though he's not in the army now) and
knows that she knows she passed him on the staircase. Now, Sir
Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, why do I relate all this?"

Sir Leicester, who has covered his face with his hands, uttering a
single groan, requests him to pause for a moment. By and by he
takes his hands away, and so preserves his dignity and outward
calmness, though there is no more colour in his face than in his
white hair, that Mr. Bucket is a little awed by him. Something
frozen and fixed is upon his manner, over and above its usual shell
of haughtiness, and Mr. Bucket soon detects an unusual slowness in
his speech, with now and then a curious trouble in beginning, which
occasions him to utter inarticulate sounds. With such sounds he
now breaks silence, soon, however, controlling himself to say that
he does not comprehend why a gentleman so faithful and zealous as
the late Mr. Tulkinghorn should have communicated to him nothing of
this painful, this distressing, this unlooked-for, this
overwhelming, this incredible intelligence.

"Again, Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet," returns Mr. Bucket, "put
it to her ladyship to clear that up. Put it to her ladyship, if
you think it right, from Inspector Bucket of the Detective. You'll
find, or I'm much mistaken, that the deceased Mr. Tulkinghorn had
the intention of communicating the whole to you as soon as he
considered it ripe, and further, that he had given her ladyship so
to understand. Why, he might have been going to reveal it the very
morning when I examined the body! You don't know what I'm going to
say and do five minutes from this present time, Sir Leicester
Dedlock, Baronet; and supposing I was to be picked off now, you
might wonder why I hadn't done it, don't you see?"

True. Sir Leicester, avoiding, with some trouble those obtrusive
sounds, says, "True." At this juncture a considerable noise of
voices is heard in the hall. Mr. Bucket, after listening, goes to
the library-door, softly unlocks and opens it, and listens again.
Then he draws in his head and whispers hurriedly but composedly,
"Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, this unfortunate family affair has
taken air, as I expected it might, the deceased Mr. Tulkinghorn
being cut down so sudden. The chance to hush it is to let in these
people now in a wrangle with your footmen. Would you mind sitting
quiet--on the family account--while I reckon 'em up? And would you
just throw in a nod when I seem to ask you for it?"

Sir Leicester indistinctly answers, "Officer. The best you can,
the best you can!" and Mr. Bucket, with a nod and a sagacious crook
of the forefinger, slips down into the hall, where the voices
quickly die away. He is not long in returning; a few paces ahead
of Mercury and a brother deity also powdered and in peach-blossomed
smalls, who bear between them a chair in which is an incapable old
man. Another man and two women come behind. Directing the
pitching of the chair in an affable and easy manner, Mr. Bucket
dismisses the Mercuries and locks the door again. Sir Leicester
looks on at this invasion of the sacred precincts with an icy
stare.

"Now, perhaps you may know me, ladies and gentlemen," says Mr.
Bucket in a confidential voice. "I am Inspector Bucket of the
Detective, I am; and this," producing the tip of his convenient
little staff from his breast-pocket, "is my authority. Now, you
wanted to see Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet. Well! You do see
him, and mind you, it ain't every one as is admitted to that
honour. Your name, old gentleman, is Smallweed; that's what your
name is; I know it well."

"Well, and you never heard any harm of it!" cries Mr. Smallweed in
a shrill loud voice.

"You don't happen to know why they killed the pig, do you?" retorts
Mr. Bucket with a steadfast look, but without loss of temper.

"No!"

"Why, they killed him," says Mr. Bucket, "on account of his having
so much cheek. Don't YOU get into the same position, because it
isn't worthy of you. You ain't in the habit of conversing with a
deaf person, are you?"

"Yes," snarls Mr. Smallweed, "my wife's deaf."

"That accounts for your pitching your voice so high. But as she
ain't here; just pitch it an octave or two lower, will you, and
I'll not only be obliged to you, but it'll do you more credit,"
says Mr. Bucket. "This other gentleman is in the preaching line, I
think?"

"Name of Chadband," Mr. Smallweed puts in, speaking henceforth in a
much lower key.

"Once had a friend and brother serjeant of the same name," says Mr.
Bucket, offering his hand, "and consequently feel a liking for it.
Mrs. Chadband, no doubt?"

"And Mrs. Snagsby," Mr. Smallweed introduces.

"Husband a law-stationer and a friend of my own," says Mr. Bucket.
"Love him like a brother! Now, what's up?"

"Do you mean what business have we come upon?" Mr. Smallweed asks,
a little dashed by the suddenness of this turn.

"Ah! You know what I mean. Let us hear what it's all about in
presence of Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet. Come."

Mr. Smallweed, beckoning Mr. Chadband, takes a moment's counsel
with him in a whisper. Mr. Chadband, expressing a considerable
amount of oil from the pores of his forehead and the palms of his
hands, says aloud, "Yes. You first!" and retires to his former
place.

"I was the client and friend of Mr. Tulkinghorn," pipes Grandfather
Smallweed then; "I did business with him. I was useful to him, and
he was useful to me. Krook, dead and gone, was my brother-in-law.
He was own brother to a brimstone magpie--leastways Mrs. Smallweed.
I come into Krook's property. I examined all his papers and all
his effects. They was all dug out under my eyes. There was a
bundle of letters belonging to a dead and gone lodger as was hid
away at the back of a shelf in the side of Lady Jane's bed--his
cat's bed. He hid all manner of things away, everywheres. Mr.
Tulkinghorn wanted 'em and got 'em, but I looked 'em over first.
I'm a man of business, and I took a squint at 'em. They was
letters from the lodger's sweetheart, and she signed Honoria. Dear
me, that's not a common name, Honoria, is it? There's no lady in
this house that signs Honoria is there? Oh, no, I don't think so!
Oh, no, I don't think so! And not in the same hand, perhaps? Oh,
no, I don't think so!"

Here Mr. Smallweed, seized with a fit of coughing in the midst of
his triumph, breaks off to ejaculate, "Oh, dear me! Oh, Lord! I'm
shaken all to pieces!"

"Now, when you're ready," says Mr. Bucket after awaiting his
recovery, "to come to anything that concerns Sir Leicester Dedlock,
Baronet, here the gentleman sits, you know."

"Haven't I come to it, Mr. Bucket?" cries Grandfather Smallweed.
"Isn't the gentleman concerned yet? Not with Captain Hawdon, and
his ever affectionate Honoria, and their child into the bargain?
Come, then, I want to know where those letters are. That concerns
me, if it don't concern Sir Leicester Dedlock. I will know where
they are. I won't have 'em disappear so quietly. I handed 'em
over to my friend and solicitor, Mr. Tulkinghorn, not to anybody
else."

"Why, he paid you for them, you know, and handsome too," says Mr.
Bucket.

"I don't care for that. I want to know who's got 'em. And I tell
you what we want--what we all here want, Mr. Bucket. We want more
painstaking and search-making into this murder. We know where the
interest and the motive was, and you have not done enough. If
George the vagabond dragoon had any hand in it, he was only an
accomplice, and was set on. You know what I mean as well as any
man."

"Now I tell you what," says Mr. Bucket, instantaneously altering
his manner, coming close to him, and communicating an extraordinary
fascination to the forefinger, "I am damned if I am a-going to have
my case spoilt, or interfered with, or anticipated by so much as
half a second of time by any human being in creation. YOU want
more painstaking and search-making! YOU do? Do you see this hand,
and do you think that I don't know the right time to stretch it out
and put it on the arm that fired that shot?"

Such is the dread power of the man, and so terribly evident it is
that he makes no idle boast, that Mr. Smallweed begins to
apologize. Mr. Bucket, dismissing his sudden anger, checks him.

"The advice I give you is, don't you trouble your head about the
murder. That's my affair. You keep half an eye on the newspapers,
and I shouldn't wonder if you was to read something about it before
long, if you look sharp. I know my business, and that's all I've
got to say to you on that subject. Now about those letters. You
want to know who's got 'em. I don't mind telling you. I have got
'em. Is that the packet?"

Mr. Smallweed looks, with greedy eyes, at the little bundle Mr.
Bucket produces from a mysterious part of his coat, and identifles
it as the same.

"What have you got to say next?" asks Mr. Bucket. "Now, don't open
your mouth too wide, because you don't look handsome when you do
it."

"I want five hundred pound."

"No, you don't; you mean fifty," says Mr. Bucket humorously.

It appears, however, that Mr. Smallweed means five hundred.

"That is, I am deputed by Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, to
consider (without admitting or promising anything) this bit of
business," says Mr. Bucket--Sir Leicester mechanically bows his
head--"and you ask me to consider a proposal of five hundred
pounds. Why, it's an unreasonable proposal! Two fifty would be
bad enough, but better than that. Hadn't you better say two
fifty?"

Mr. Smallweed is quite clear that he had better not.

"Then," says Mr. Bucket, "let's hear Mr. Chadband. Lord! Many a
time I've heard my old fellow-serjeant of that name; and a moderate
man he was in all respects, as ever I come across!"

Thus invited, Mr. Chadband steps forth, and after a little sleek
smiling and a little oil-grinding with the palms of his hands,
delivers himself as follows, "My friends, we are now--Rachael, my
wife, and I--in the mansions of the rich and great. Why are we now
in the mansions of the rich and great, my friends? Is it because
we are invited? Because we are bidden to feast with them, because
we are bidden to rejoice with them, because we are bidden to play
the lute with them, because we are bidden to dance with them? No.
Then why are we here, my friends? Air we in possession of a sinful
secret, and do we require corn, and wine, and oil, or what is much
the same thing, money, for the keeping thereof? Probably so, my
friends."

"You're a man of business, you are," returns Mr. Bucket, very
attentive, "and consequently you're going on to mention what the
nature of your secret is. You are right. You couldn't do better."

"Let us then, my brother, in a spirit of love," says Mr. Chadband
with a cunning eye, "proceed unto it. Rachael, my wife, advance!"

Mrs. Chadband, more than ready, so advances as to jostle her
husband into the background and confronts Mr. Bucket with a hard,
frowning smile.

"Since you want to know what we know," says she, "I'll tell you. I
helped to bring up Miss Hawdon, her ladyship's daughter. I was in
the service of her ladyship's sister, who was very sensitive to the
disgrace her ladyship brought upon her, and gave out, even to her
ladyship, that the child was dead--she WAS very nearly so--when she
was born. But she's alive, and I know her." With these words, and
a laugh, and laying a bitter stress on the word "ladyship," Mrs.
Chadband folds her arms and looks implacably at Mr. Bucket.

"I suppose now," returns that officer, "YOU will he expecting a
twenty-pound note or a present of about that figure?"

Mrs. Chadband merely laughs and contemptuously tells him he can
"offer" twenty pence.

"My friend the law-stationer's good lady, over there," says Mr.
Bucket, luring Mrs. Snagsby forward with the finger. "What may
YOUR game be, ma'am?"

Mrs. Snagsby is at first prevented, by tears and lamentations, from
stating the nature of her game, but by degrees it confusedly comes
to light that she is a woman overwhelmed with injuries and wrongs,
whom Mr. Snagsby has habitually deceived, abandoned, and sought to
keep in darkness, and whose chief comfort, under her afflictions,
has been the sympathy of the late Mr. Tulkinghorn, who showed so
much commiseration for her on one occasion of his calling in Cook's
Court in the absence of her perjured husband that she has of late
habitually carried to him all her woes. Everybody it appears, the
present company excepted, has plotted against Mrs. Snagsby's peace.
There is Mr. Guppy, clerk to Kenge and Carboy, who was at first as
open as the sun at noon, but who suddenly shut up as close as
midnight, under the influence--no doubt--of Mr. Snagsby's suborning
and tampering. There is Mr. Weevle, friend of Mr. Guppy, who lived
mysteriously up a court, owing to the like coherent causes. There
was Krook, deceased; there was Nimrod, deceased; and there was Jo,
deceased; and they were "all in it." In what, Mrs. Snagsby does
not with particularity express, but she knows that Jo was Mr.
Snagsby's son, "as well as if a trumpet had spoken it," and she
followed Mr. Snagsby when he went on his last visit to the boy, and
if he was not his son why did he go? The one occupation of her
life has been, for some time back, to follow Mr. Snagsby to and
fro, and up and down, and to piece suspicious circumstances
together--and every circumstance that has happened has been most
suspicious; and in this way she has pursued her object of detecting
and confounding her false husband, night and day. Thus did it come
to pass that she brought the Chadbands and Mr. Tulkinghorn
together, and conferred with Mr. Tulkinghorn on the change in Mr.
Guppy, and helped to turn up the circumstances in which the present
company are interested, casually, by the wayside, being still and
ever on the great high road that is to terminate in Mr. Snagsby's
full exposure and a matrimonial separation. All this, Mrs.
Snagsby, as an injured woman, and the friend of Mrs. Chadband, and
the follower of Mr. Chadband, and the mourner of the late Mr.
Tulkinghorn, is here to certify under the seal of confidence, with
every possible confusion and involvement possible and impossible,
having no pecuniary motive whatever, no scheme or project but the
one mentioned, and bringing here, and taking everywhere, her own
dense atmosphere of dust, arising from the ceaseless working of her
mill of jealousy.

While this exordium is in hand--and it takes some time--Mr. Bucket,
who has seen through the transparency of Mrs. Snagsby's vinegar at
a glance, confers with his familiar demon and bestows his shrewd
attention on the Chadbands and Mr. Smallweed. Sir Leicester
Dedlock remains immovable, with the same icy surface upon him,
except that he once or twice looks towards Mr. Bucket, as relying
on that officer alone of all mankind.

"Very good," says Mr. Bucket. "Now I understand you, you know, and
being deputed by Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, to look into this
little matter," again Sir Leicester mechanically bows in
confirmation of the statement, "can give it my fair and full
attention. Now I won't allude to conspiring to extort money or
anything of that sort, because we are men and women of the world
here, and our object is to make things pleasant. But I tell you
what I DO wonder at; I am surprised that you should think of making
a noise below in the hall. It was so opposed to your interests.
That's what I look at."

"We wanted to get in," pleads Mr. Smallweed.

"Why, of course you wanted to get in," Mr. Bucket asserts with
cheerfulness; "but for a old gentleman at your time of life--what I
call truly venerable, mind you!--with his wits sharpened, as I have
no doubt they are, by the loss of the use of his limbs, which
occasions all his animation to mount up into his head, not to
consider that if he don't keep such a business as the present as
close as possible it can't be worth a mag to him, is so curious!
You see your temper got the better of you; that's where you lost
ground," says Mr. Bucket in an argumentative and friendly way.

"I only said I wouldn't go without one of the servants came up to
Sir Leicester Dedlock," returns Mr. Smallweed.

"That's it! That's where your temper got the better of you. Now,
you keep it under another time and you'll make money by it. Shall
I ring for them to carry you down?"

"When are we to hear more of this?" Mrs. Chadband sternly demands.

"Bless your heart for a true woman! Always curious, your
delightful sex is!" replies Mr. Bucket with gallantry. "I shall
have the pleasure of giving you a call to-morrow or next day--not
forgetting Mr. Smallweed and his proposal of two fifty."

"Five hundred!" exclaims Mr. Smallweed.

"All right! Nominally five hundred." Mr. Bucket has his hand on
the bell-rope. "SHALL I wish you good day for the present on the
part of myself and the gentleman of the house?" he asks in an
insinuating tone.

Nobody having the hardihood to object to his doing so, he does it,
and the party retire as they came up. Mr. Bucket follows them to
the door, and returning, says with an air of serious business, "Sir
Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, it's for you to consider whether or not
to buy this up. I should recommend, on the whole, it's being
bought up myself; and I think it may be bought pretty cheap. You
see, that little pickled cowcumber of a Mrs. Snagsby has been used
by all sides of the speculation and has done a deal more harm in
bringing odds and ends together than if she had meant it. Mr.
Tulkinghorn, deceased, he held all these horses in his hand and
could have drove 'em his own way, I haven't a doubt; but he was
fetched off the box head-foremost, and now they have got their legs
over the traces, and are all dragging and pulling their own ways.
So it is, and such is life. The cat's away, and the mice they
play; the frost breaks up, and the water runs. Now, with regard to
the party to be apprehended."

Sir Leicester seems to wake, though his eyes have been wide open,
and he looks intently at Mr. Bucket as Mr. Bucket refers to his
watch.

"The party to be apprehended is now in this house," proceeds Mr.
Bucket, putting up his watch with a steady hand and with rising
spirits, "and I'm about to take her into custody in your presence.
Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, don't you say a word nor yet stir.
There'll be no noise and no disturbance at all. I'll come back in
the course of the evening, if agreeable to you, and endeavour to
meet your wishes respecting this unfortunate family matter and the
nobbiest way of keeping it quiet. Now, Sir Leicester Dedlock,
Baronet, don't you be nervous on account of the apprehension at
present coming off. You shall see the whole case clear, from first
to last."

Mr. Bucket rings, goes to the door, briefly whispers Mercury, shuts
the door, and stands behind it with his arms folded. After a
suspense of a minute or two the door slowly opens and a Frenchwoman
enters. Mademoiselle Hortense.

The moment she is in the room Mr. Bucket claps the door to and puts
his back against it. The suddenness of the noise occasions her to
turn, and then for the first time she sees Sir Leicester Dedlock in
his chair.

"I ask you pardon," she mutters hurriedly. "They tell me there was
no one here."

Her step towards the door brings her front to front with Mr.
Bucket. Suddenly a spasm shoots across her face and she turns
deadly pale.

"This is my lodger, Sir Leicester Dedlock," says Mr. Bucket,
nodding at her. "This foreign young woman has been my lodger for
some weeks back."

"What do Sir Leicester care for that, you think, my angel?" returns
mademoiselle in a jocular strain.

"Why, my angel," returns Mr. Bucket, "we shall see."

Mademoiselle Hortense eyes him with a scowl upon her tight face,
which gradually changes into a smile of scorn, "You are very
mysterieuse. Are you drunk?"

"Tolerable sober, my angel," returns Mr. Bucket.

"I come from arriving at this so detestable house with your wife.
Your wife have left me since some minutes. They tell me downstairs
that your wife is here. I come here, and your wife is not here.
What is the intention of this fool's play, say then?" mademoiselle
demands, with her arms composedly crossed, but with something in
her dark cheek beating like a clock.

Mr. Bucket merely shakes the finger at her.

"Ah, my God, you are an unhappy idiot!" cries mademoiselle with a
toss of her head and a laugh. "Leave me to pass downstairs, great
pig." With a stamp of her foot and a menace.

"Now, mademoiselle," says Mr. Bucket in a cool determined way, "you
go and sit down upon that sofy."

"I will not sit down upon nothing," she replies with a shower of
nods.

"Now, mademoiselle," repeats Mr. Bucket, making no demonstration
except with the finger, "you sit down upon that sofy."

"Why?"

"Because I take you into custody on a charge of murder, and you
don't need to be told it. Now, I want to be polite to one of your
sex and a foreigner if I can. If I can't, I must be rough, and
there's rougher ones outside. What I am to be depends on you. So
I recommend you, as a friend, afore another half a blessed moment
has passed over your head, to go and sit down upon that sofy."

Mademoiselle complies, saying in a concentrated voice while that
something in her cheek beats fast and hard, "You are a devil."

"Now, you see," Mr. Bucket proceeds approvingly, "you're
comfortable and conducting yourself as I should expect a foreign
young woman of your sense to do. So I'll give you a piece of
advice, and it's this, don't you talk too much. You're not
expected to say anything here, and you can't keep too quiet a
tongue in your head. In short, the less you PARLAY, the better,
you know." Mr. Bucket is very complacent over this French
explanation.

Mademoiselle, with that tigerish expansion of the mouth and her
black eyes darting fire upon him, sits upright on the sofa in a
rigid state, with her hands clenched--and her feet too, one might
suppose--muttering, "Oh, you Bucket, you are a devil!"

"Now, Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet," says Mr. Bucket, and from
this time forth the finger never rests, "this young woman, my
lodger, was her ladyship's maid at the time I have mentioned to
you; and this young woman, besides being extraordinary vehement and
passionate against her ladyship after being discharged--"

"Lie!" cries mademoiselle. "I discharge myself."

"Now, why don't you take my advice?" returns Mr. Bucket in an
impressive, almost in an imploring, tone. "I'm surprised at the
indiscreetness you commit. You'll say something that'll be used
against you, you know. You're sure to come to it. Never you mind
what I say till it's given in evidence. It is not addressed to
you."

"Discharge, too," cries mademoiselle furiously, "by her ladyship!
Eh, my faith, a pretty ladyship! Why, I r-r-r-ruin my character hy
remaining with a ladyship so infame!"

"Upon my soul I wonder at you!" Mr. Bucket remonstrates. "I
thought the French were a polite nation, I did, really. Yet to
hear a female going on like that before Sir Leicester Dedlock,
Baronet!"

"He is a poor abused!" cries mademoiselle. "I spit upon his house,
upon his name, upon his imbecility," all of which she makes the
carpet represent. "Oh, that he is a great man! Oh, yes, superb!
Oh, heaven! Bah!"

"Well, Sir Leicester Dedlock," proceeds Mr. Bucket, "this
intemperate foreigner also angrily took it into her head that she
had established a claim upon Mr. Tulkinghorn, deceased, by
attending on the occasion I told you of at his chambers, though she
was liberally paid for her time and trouble."

"Lie!" cries mademoiselle. "I ref-use his money all togezzer."

"If you WILL PARLAY, you know," says Mr. Bucket parenthetically,
"you must take the consequences. Now, whether she became my
lodger, Sir Leicester Dedlock, with any deliberate intention then
of doing this deed and blinding me, I give no opinion on; but she
lived in my house in that capacity at the time that she was
hovering about the chambers of the deceased Mr. Tulkinghorn with a
view to a wrangle, and likewise persecuting and half frightening
the life out of an unfortunate stationer."

"Lie!" cries mademoiselle. "All lie!"

"The murder was commttted, Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, and you
know under what circumstances. Now, I beg of you to follow me
close with your attention for a minute or two. I was sent for, and
the case was entrusted to me. I examined the place, and the body,
and the papers, and everything. From information I received (from
a clerk in the same house) I took George into custody as having
been seen hanging about there on the night, and at very nigh the
time of the murder, also as having been overheard in high words
with the deceased on former occasions--even threatening him, as the
witness made out. If you ask me, Sir Leicester Dedlock, whether
from the first I believed George to be the murderer, I tell you
candidly no, but he might be, notwithstanding, and there was enough
against him to make it my duty to take him and get him kept under
remand. Now, observe!"

As Mr. Bucket bends forward in some excitement--for him--and
inaugurates what he is going to say with one ghostly beat of his
forefinger in the air, Mademoiselle Hortense fixes her black eyes
upon him with a dark frown and sets her dry lips closely and firmly
together.

"I went home, Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, at night and found
this young woman having supper with my wife, Mrs. Bucket. She had
made a mighty show of being fond of Mrs. Bucket from her first
offering herself as our lodger, but that night she made more than
ever--in fact, overdid it. Likewise she overdid her respect, and
all that, for the lamented memory of the deceased Mr. Tulkinghorn.
By the living Lord it flashed upon me, as I sat opposite to her at
the table and saw her with a knife in her hand, that she had done
it!"

Mademoiselle is hardly audible in straining through her teeth and
lips the words, "You are a devil."

"Now where," pursues Mr. Bucket, "had she been on the night of the
murder? She had been to the theayter. (She really was there, I
have since found, both before the deed and after it.) I knew I had
an artful customer to deal with and that proof would be very
difficult; and I laid a trap for her--such a trap as I never laid
yet, and such a venture as I never made yet. I worked it out in my
mind while I was talking to her at supper. When I went upstairs to
bed, our house being small and this young woman's ears sharp, I
stuffed the sheet into Mrs. Bucket's mouth that she shouldn't say a
word of surprise and told her all about it. My dear, don't you
give your mind to that again, or I shall link your feet together at
the ankles." Mr. Bucket, breaking off, has made a noiseless
descent upon mademoiselle and laid his heavy hand upon her
shoulder.

"What is the matter with you now?" she asks him.

"Don't you think any more," returns Mr. Bucket with admonitory
finger, "of throwing yourself out of window. That's what's the
matter with me. Come! Just take my arm. You needn't get up; I'll
sit down by you. Now take my arm, will you? I'm a married man,
you know; you're acquainted with my wife. Just take my arm."

Vaiuly endeavouring to moisten those dry lips, with a painful sound
she struggles with herself and complies.

"Now we're all right again. Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, this
case could never have been the case it is but for Mrs. Bucket, who
is a woman in fifty thousand--in a hundred and fifty thousand! To
throw this young woman off her guard, I have never set foot in our
house since, though I've communicated with Mrs. Bucket in the
baker's loaves and in the milk as often as required. My whispered
words to Mrs. Bucket when she had the sheet in her mouth were, 'My
dear, can you throw her off continually with natural accounts of my
suspicions against George, and this, and that, and t'other? Can
you do without rest and keep watch upon her night and day? Can you
undertake to say, "She shall do nothing without my knowledge, she
shall be my prisoner without suspecting it, she shall no more
escape from me than from death, and her life shall be my life, and
her soul my soul, till I have got her, if she did this murder?"'
Mrs. Bucket says to me, as well as she could speak on account of
the sheet, 'Bucket, I can!' And she has acted up to it glorious!"

"Lies!" mademoiselle interposes. "All lies, my friend!"

"Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, how did my calculations come out
under these circumstances? When I calculated that this impetuous
young woman would overdo it in new directions, was I wrong or
right? I was right. What does she try to do? Don't let it give
you a turn? To throw the murder on her ladyship."

Sir Leicester rises from his chair and staggers down again.

"And she got encouragement in it from hearing that I was always
here, which was done a-purpose. Now, open that pocket-book of
mine, Sir Leicester Dedlock, if I may take the liberty of throwing
it towards you, and look at the letters sent to me, each with the
two words 'Lady Dedlock' in it. Open the one directed to yourself,
which I stopped this very morning, and read the three words 'Lady
Dedlock, Murderess' in it. These letters have been falling about
like a shower of lady-birds. What do you say now to Mrs. Bucket,
from her spy-place having seen them all 'written by this young
woman? What do you say to Mrs. Bucket having, within this half-
hour, secured the corresponding ink and paper, fellow half-sheets
and what not? What do you say to Mrs. Bucket having watched the
posting of 'em every one by this young woman, Sir Leicester
Dedlock, Baronet?" Mr. Bucket asks, triumphant in his admiration
of his lady's genius.

Two things are especially observable as Mr. Bucket proceeds to a
conclusion. First, that he seems imperceptibly to establish a
dreadful right of property in mademoiselle. Secondly, that the
very atmosphere she breathes seems to narrow and contract about her
as if a close net or a pall were being drawn nearer and yet nearer
around her breathless figure.

"There is no doubt that her ladyship was on the spot at the
eventful period," says Mr. Bucket, "and my foreign friend here saw
her, I believe, from the upper part of the staircase. Her ladyship
and George and my foreign friend were all pretty close on one
another's heels. But that don't signify any more, so I'll not go
into it. I found the wadding of the pistol with which the deceased
Mr. Tulkinghorn was shot. It was a bit of the printed description
of your house at Chesney Wold. Not much in that, you'll say, Sir
Leicester Dedlock, Baronet. No. But when my foreign friend here
is so thoroughly off her guard as to think it a safe time to tear
up the rest of that leaf, and when Mrs. Bucket puts the pieces
together and finds the wadding wanting, it begins to look like
Queer Street."

"These are very long lies," mademoiselle interposes. "You prose
great deal. Is it that you have almost all finished, or are you
speaking always?"

"Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet," proceeds Mr. Bucket, who delights
in a full title and does violence to himself when he dispenses with
any fragment of it, "the last point in the case which I am now
going to mention shows the necessity of patience in our business,
and never doing a thing in a hurry. I watched this young woman
yesterday without her knowledge when she was looking at the
funeral, in company with my wife, who planned to take her there;
and I had so much to convict her, and I saw such an expression in
her face, and my mind so rose against her malice towards her
ladyship, and the time was altogether such a time for bringing down
what you may call retribution upon her, that if I had been a
younger hand with less experience, I should have taken her,
certain. Equally, last night, when her ladyship, as is so
universally admired I am sure, come home looking--why, Lord, a man
might almost say like Venus rising from the ocean--it was so
unpleasant and inconsistent to think of her being charged with a
murder of which she was innocent that I felt quite to want to put
an end to the job. What should I have lost? Sir Leicester
Dedlock, Baronet, I should have lost the weapon. My prisoner here
proposed to Mrs. Bucket, after the departure of the funeral, that
they should go per bus a little ways into the country and take tea
at a very decent house of entertainment. Now, near that house of
entertainment there's a piece of water. At tea, my prisoner got up
to fetch her pocket handkercher from the bedroom where the bonnets
was; she was rather a long time gone and came back a little out of
wind. As soon as they came home this was reported to me by Mrs.
Bucket, along with her observations and suspicions. I had the
piece of water dragged by moonlight, in presence of a couple of our
men, and the pocket pistol was brought up before it had been there
half-a-dozen hours. Now, my dear, put your arm a little further
through mine, and hold it steady, and I shan't hurt you!"

In a trice Mr. Bucket snaps a handcuff on her wrist. "That's one,"
says Mr. Bucket. "Now the other, darling. Two, and all told!"

He rises; she rises too. "Where," she asks him, darkening her
large eyes until their drooping lids almost conceal them--and yet
they stare, "where is your false, your treacherous, and cursed
wife?"

"She's gone forrard to the Police Office," returns Mr. Bucket.
"You'll see her there, my dear."

"I would like to kiss her!" exclaims Mademoiselle Hortense, panting
tigress-like.

"You'd bite her, I suspect," says Mr. Bucket.

"I would!" making her eyes very large. "I would love to tear her
limb from limb."

"Bless you, darling," says Mr. Bucket with the greatest composure,
"I'm fully prepared to hear that. Your sex have such a surprising
animosity against one another when you do differ. You don't mind
me half so much, do you?"

"No. Though you are a devil still."

"Angel and devil by turns, eh?" cries Mr. Bucket. "But I am in my
regular employment, you must consider. Let me put your shawl tidy.
I've been lady's maid to a good many before now. Anything wanting
to the bonnet? There's a cab at the door."

Mademoiselle Hortense, casting an indignant eye at the glass,
shakes herself perfectly neat in one shake and looks, to do her
justice, uncommonly genteel.

"Listen then, my angel," says she after several sarcastic nods.
"You are very spiritual. But can you restore him back to life?"

Mr. Bucket answers, "Not exactly."

"That is droll. Listen yet one time. You are very spiritual. Can
you make a honourahle lady of her?"

"Don't be so malicious," says Mr. Bucket.

"Or a haughty gentleman of HIM?" cries mademoiselle, referring to
Sir Leicester with ineffable disdain. "Eh! Oh, then regard him!
The poor infant! Ha! Ha! Ha!"

"Come, come, why this is worse PARLAYING than the other," says Mr.
Bucket. "Come along!"

"You cannot do these things? Then you can do as you please with
me. It is but the death, it is all the same. Let us go, my angel.
Adieu, you old man, grey. I pity you, and I despise you!"

With these last words she snaps her teeth together as if her mouth
closed with a spring. It is impossible to describe how Mr. Bucket
gets her out, but he accomplishes that feat in a manner so peculiar
to himself, enfolding and pervading her like a cloud, and hovering
away with her as if he were a homely Jupiter and she the object of
his affections.

Sir Leicester, left alone, remains in the same attitude, as though
he were still listening and his attention were still occupied. At
length he gazes round the empty room, and finding it deserted,
rises unsteadily to his feet, pushes back his chair, and walks a
few steps, supporting himself by the table. Then he stops, and
with more of those inarticulate sounds, lifts up his eyes and seems
to stare at something.

Heaven knows what he sees. The green, green woods of Chesney Wold,
the noble house, the pictures of his forefathers, strangers
defacing them, officers of police coarsely handling his most
precious heirlooms, thousands of fingers pointing at him, thousands
of faces sneering at him. But if such shadows flit before him to
his bewilderment, there is one other shadow which he can name with
something like distinctness even yet and to which alone he
addresses his tearing of his white hair and his extended arms.

It is she in association with whom, saving that she has been for
years a main fibre of the root of his dignity and pride, he has
never had a selfish thought. It is she whom he has loved, admired,
honoured, and set up for the world to respect. It is she who, at
the core of all the constrained formalities and conventionalities
of his life, has been a stock of living tenderness and love,
susceptible as nothing else is of being struck with the agony he
feels. He sees her, almost to the exclusion of himself, and cannot
bear to look upon her cast down from the high place she has graced
so well.

And even to the point of his sinking on the ground, oblivious of
his suffering, he can yet pronounce her name with something like
distinctness in the midst of those intrusive sounds, and in a tone
of mourning and compassion rather than reproach.

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