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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesBleak House - Chapter XXXIX - Attorney and Client
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Bleak House - Chapter XXXIX - Attorney and Client Post by :pm-mlm.com Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Dickens Date :December 2010 Read :1769

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Bleak House - Chapter XXXIX - Attorney and Client

The name of Mr. Vholes, preceded by the legend Ground-Floor, is
inscribed upon a door-post in Symond's Inn, Chancery Lane--a
little, pale, wall-eyed, woebegone inn like a large dust-binn of
two compartments and a sifter. It looks as if Symond were a
sparing man in his way and constructed his inn of old building
materials which took kindly to the dry rot and to dirt and all
things decaying and dismal, and perpetuated Symond's memory with
congenial shabbiness. Quartered in this dingy hatchment
commemorative of Symond are the legal bearings of Mr. Vholes.

Mr. Vholes's office, in disposition retiring and in situation
retired, is squeezed up in a corner and blinks at a dead wall.
Three feet of knotty-floored dark passage bring the client to Mr.
Vholes's jet-black door, in an angle profoundly dark on the
brightest midsummer morning and encumbered by a black bulk-head of
cellarage staircase against which belated civilians generally
strike their brows. Mr. Vholes's chambers are on so small a scale
that one clerk can open the door without getting off his stool,
while the other who elbows him at the same desk has equal
facilities for poking the fire. A smell as of unwholesome sheep
blending with the smell of must and dust is referable to the
nightly (and often daily) consumption of mutton fat in candles and
to the fretting of parchment forms and skins in greasy drawers.
The atmosphere is otherwise stale and close. The place was last
painted or whitewashed beyond the memory of man, and the two
chimneys smoke, and there is a loose outer surface of soot
evervwhere, and the dull cracked windows in their heavy frames have
but one piece of character in them, which is a determination to be
always dirty and always shut unless coerced. This accounts for the
phenomenon of the weaker of the two usually having a bundle of
firewood thrust between its jaws in hot weather.

Mr. Vholes is a very respectable man. He has not a large business,
but he is a very respectable man. He is allowed by the greater
attorneys who have made good fortunes or are making them to be a
most respectable man. He never misses a chance in his practice,
which is a mark of respectability. He never takes any pleasure,
which is another mark of respectability. He is reserved and
serious, which is another mark of respectability. His digestion is
impaired, which is highly respectable. And he is making hay of the
grass which is flesh, for his three daughters. And his father is
dependent on him in the Vale of Taunton.

The one great principle of the English law is to make business for
itself. There is no other principle distinctly, certainly, and
consistently maintained through all its narrow turnings. Viewed by
this light it becomes a coherent scheme and not the monstrous maze
the laity are apt to think it. Let them but once clearly perceive
that its grand principle is to make business for itself at their
expense, and surely they will cease to grumble.

But not perceiving this quite plainly--only seeing it by halves in
a confused way--the laity sometimes suffer in peace and pocket,
with a bad grace, and DO grumble very much. Then this
respectability of Mr. Vholes is brought into powerful play against
them. "Repeal this statute, my good sir?" says Mr. Kenge to a
smarting client. "Repeal it, my dear sir? Never, with my consent.
Alter this law, sir, and what will be the effect of your rash
proceeding on a class of practitioners very worthily represented,
allow me to say to you, by the opposite attorney in the case, Mr.
Vholes? Sir, that class of practitioners would be swept from the
face of the earth. Now you cannot afford--I will say, the social
system cannot afford--to lose an order of men like Mr. Vholes.
Diligent, persevering, steady, acute in business. My dear sir, I
understand your present feelings against the existing state of
things, which I grant to be a little hard in your case; but I can
never raise my voice for the demolition of a class of men like Mr.
Vholes." The respectability of Mr. Vholes has even been cited with
crushing effect before Parliamentary committees, as in the
following blue minutes of a distinguished attorney's evidence.
"Question (number five hundred and seventeen thousand eight hundred
and sixty-nine): If I understand you, these forms of practice
indisputably occasion delay? Answer: Yes, some delay. Question:
And great expense? Answer: Most assuredly they cannot be gone
through for nothing. Question: And unspeakable vexation? Answer:
I am not prepared to say that. They have never given ME any
vexation; quite the contrary. Question: But you think that their
abolition would damage a class of practitioners? Answer: I have no
doubt of it. Question: Can you instance any type of that class?
Answer: Yes. I would unhesitatingly mention Mr. Vholes. He would
be ruined. Question: Mr. Vholes is considered, in the profession,
a respectable man? Answer: "--which proved fatal to the inquiry
for ten years--"Mr. Vholes is considered, in the profession, a MOST
respectable man."

So in familiar conversation, private authorities no less
disinterested will remark that they don't know what this age is
coming to, that we are plunging down precipices, that now here is
something else gone, that these changes are death to people like
Vholes--a man of undoubted respectability, with a father in the
Vale of Taunton, and three daughters at home. Take a few steps
more in this direction, say they, and what is to become of Vholes's
father? Is he to perish? And of Vholes's daughters? Are they to
be shirt-makers, or governesses? As though, Mr. Vholes and his
relations being minor cannibal chiefs and it being proposed to
abolish cannibalism, indignant champions were to put the case thus:
Make man-eating unlawful, and you starve the Vholeses!

In a word, Mr. Vholes, with his three daughters and his father in
the Vale of Taunton, is continually doing duty, like a piece of
timber, to shore up some decayed foundation that has become a
pitfall and a nuisance. And with a great many people in a great
many instances, the question is never one of a change from wrong to
right (which is quite an extraneous consideration), but is always
one of injury or advantage to that eminently respectable legion,
Vholes.

The Chancellor is, within these ten minutes, "up" for the long
vacation. Mr. Vholes, and his young client, and several blue bags
hastily stuffed out of all regularity of form, as the larger sort
of serpents are in their first gorged state, have returned to the
official den. Mr. Vholes, quiet and unmoved, as a man of so much
respectability ought to be, takes off his close black gloves as if
he were skinning his hands, lifts off his tight hat as if he were
scalping himself, and sits down at his desk. The client throws his
hat and gloves upon the ground--tosses them anywhere, without
looking after them or caring where they go; flings himself into a
chair, half sighing and half groaning; rests his aching head upon
his hand and looks the portrait of young despair.

"Again nothing done!" says Richard. "Nothing, nothing done!"

"Don't say nothing done, sir," returns the placid Vholes. "That is
scarcely fair, sir, scarcely fair!"

"Why, what IS done?" says Richard, turning gloomily upon him.

"That may not be the whole question," returns Vholes, "The question
may branch off into what is doing, what is doing?"

"And what is doing?" asks the moody client.

Vholes, sitting with his arms on the desk, quietly bringing the
tips of his five right fingers to meet the tips of his five left
fingers, and quietly separating them again, and fixedly and slowly
looking at his client, replies, "A good deal is doing, sir. We
have put our shoulders to the wheel, Mr. Carstone, and the wheel is
going round."

"Yes, with Ixion on it. How am I to get through the next four or
five accursed months?" exclaims the young man, rising from his
chair and walking about the room.

"Mr. C.," returns Vholes, following him close with his eyes
wherever he goes, "your spirits are hasty, and I am sorry for it on
your account. Excuse me if I recommend you not to chafe so much,
not to be so impetuous, not to wear yourself out so. You should
have more patience. You should sustain yourself better."

"I ought to imitate you, in fact, Mr. Vholes?" says Richard,
sitting down again with an impatient laugh and beating the devil's
tattoo with his boot on the patternless carpet.

"Sir," returns Vholes, always looking at the client as if he were
making a lingering meal of him with his eyes as well as with his
professional appetite. "Sir," returns Vholes with his inward
manner of speech and his bloodless quietude, "I should not have had
the presumption to propose myself as a model for your imitation or
any man's. Let me but leave the good name to my three daughters,
and that is enough for me; I am not a self-seeker. But since you
mention me so pointedly, I will acknowledge that I should like to
impart to you a little of my--come, sir, you are disposed to call
it insensibility, and I am sure I have no objection--say
insensibility--a little of my insensibility."

"Mr. Vholes," explains the client, somewhat abashed, "I had no
intention to accuse you of insensibility."

"I think you had, sir, without knowing it," returns the equable
Vholes. "Very naturally. It is my duty to attend to your
interests with a cool head, and I can quite understand that to your
excited feelings I may appear, at such times as the present,
insensible. My daughters may know me better; my aged father may
know me better. But they have known me much longer than you have,
and the confiding eye of affection is not the distrustful eye of
business. Not that I complain, sir, of the eye of business being
distrustful; quite the contrary. In attending to your interests, I
wish to have all possible checks upon me; it is right that I should
have them; I court inquiry. But your interests demand that I
should be cool and methodical, Mr. Carstone; and I cannot be
otherwise--no, sir, not even to please you."

Mr. Vholes, after glancing at the official cat who is patiently
watching a mouse's hole, fixes his charmed gaze again on his young
client and proceeds in his buttoned-up, half-audible voice as if
there were an unclean spirit in him that will neither come out nor
speak out, "What are you to do, sir, you inquire, during the
vacation. I should hope you gentlemen of the army may find many
means of amusing yourselves if you give your minds to it. If you
had asked me what I was to do during the vacation, I could have
answered you more readily. I am to attend to your interests. I am
to be found here, day by day, attending to your interests. That is
my duty, Mr. C., and term-time or vacation makes no difference to
me. If you wish to consult me as to your interests, you will find
me here at all times alike. Other professional men go out of town.
I don't. Not that I blame them for going; I merely say I don't go.
This desk is your rock, sir!"

Mr. Vholes gives it a rap, and it sounds as hollow as a coffin.
Not to Richard, though. There is encouragement in the sound to
him. Perhaps Mr. Vholes knows there is.

"I am perfectly aware, Mr. Vholes," says Richard, more familiarly
and good-humouredly, "that you are the most reliable fellow in the
world and that to have to do with you is to have to do with a man
of business who is not to be hoodwinked. But put yourself in my
case, dragging on this dislocated life, sinking deeper and deeper
into difficulty every day, continually hoping and continually
disappointed, conscious of change upon change for the worse in
myself, and of no change for the better in anything else, and you
will find it a dark-looking case sometimes, as I do."

"You know," says Mr. Vholes, "that I never give hopes, sir. I told
you from the first, Mr. C., that I never give hopes. Particularly
in a case like this, where the greater part of the costs comes out
of the estate, I should not be considerate of my good name if I
gave hopes. It might seem as if costs were my object. Still, when
you say there is no change for the better, I must, as a bare matter
of fact, deny that."

"Aye?" returns Richard, brightening. "But how do you make it out?"

"Mr. Carstone, you are represented by--"

"You said just now--a rock."

"Yes, sir," says Mr. Vholes, gently shaking his head and rapping
the hollow desk, with a sound as if ashes were falling on ashes,
and dust on dust, "a rock. That's something. You are separately
represented, and no longer hidden and lost in the interests of
others. THAT'S something. The suit does not sleep; we wake it up,
we air it, we walk it about. THAT'S something. It's not all
Jarndyce, in fact as well as in name. THAT'S something. Nobody
has it all his own way now, sir. And THAT'S something, surely."

Richard, his face flushing suddenly, strikes the desk with his
clenched hand.

"Mr. Vholes! If any man had told me when I first went to John
Jarndyce's house that he was anything but the disinterested friend
he seemed--that he was what he has gradually turned out to be--I
could have found no words strong enough to repel the slander; I
could not have defended him too ardently. So little did I know of
the world! Whereas now I do declare to you that he becomes to me
the embodiment of the suit; that in place of its being an
abstraction, it is John Jarndyce; that the more I suffer, the more
indignant I am with him; that every new delay and every new
disappointment is only a new injury from John Jarndyce's hand."

"No, no," says vholes. "Don't say so. We ought to have patience,
all of us. Besides, I never disparage, sir. I never disparage."

"Mr. Vholes," returns the angry client. "You know as well as I
that he would have strangled the suit if he could."

"He was not active in it," Mr. Vholes admits with an appearance of
reluctance. "He certainly was not active in it. But however, but
however, he might have had amiable intentions. Who can read the
heart, Mr. C.!"

"You can," returns Richard.

"I, Mr. C.?"

"Well enough to know what his intentions were. Are or are not our
interests conflicting? Tell--me--that!" says Richard, accompanying
his last three words with three raps on his rock of trust.

"Mr. C.," returns Vholes, immovable in attitude and never winking
his hungry eyes, "I should be wanting in my duty as your
professional adviser, I should be departing from my fidelity to
your interests, if I represented those interests as identical with
the interests of Mr. Jarndyce. They are no such thing, sir. I
never impute motives; I both have and am a father, and I never
impute motives. But I must not shrink from a professional duty,
even if it sows dissensions in families. I understand you to be
now consulting me professionally as to your interests? You are so?
I reply, then, they are not identical with those of Mr. Jarndyce."

"Of course they are not!" cries Richard. "You found that out long
ago."

"Mr. C.," returns Vholes, "I wish to say no more of any third party
than is necessary. I wish to leave my good name unsullied,
together with any little property of which I may become possessed
through industry and perseverance, to my daughters Emma, Jane, and
Caroline. I also desire to live in amity with my professional
brethren. When Mr. Skimpole did me the honour, sir--I will not say
the very high honour, for I never stoop to flattery--of bringing us
together in this room, I mentioned to you that I could offer no
opinion or advice as to your interests while those interests were
entrusted to another member of the profession. And I spoke in such
terms as I was bound to speak of Kenge and Carboy's office, which
stands high. You, sir, thought fit to withdraw your interests from
that keeping nevertheless and to offer them to me. You brought
them with clean hands, sir, and I accepted them with clean hands.
Those interests are now paramount in this office. My digestive
functions, as you may have heard me mention, are not in a good
state, and rest might improve them; but I shall not rest, sir,
while I am your representative. Whenever you want me, you will
find me here. Summon me anywhere, and I will come. During the
long vacation, sir, I shall devote my leisure to studying your
interests more and more closely and to making arrangements for
moving heaven and earth (including, of course, the Chancellor)
after Michaelmas term; and when I ultimately congratulate you,
sir," says Mr. Vholes with the severity of a determined man, "when
I ultimately congratulate you, sir, with all my heart, on your
accession to fortune--which, but that I never give hopes, I might
say something further about--you will owe me nothing beyond
whatever little balance may be then outstanding of the costs as
between solicitor and client not included in the taxed costs
allowed out of the estate. I pretend to no claim upon you, Mr. C.,
but for the zealous and active discharge--not the languid and
routine discharge, sir: that much credit I stipulate for--of my
professional duty. My duty prosperously ended, all between us is
ended."

Vholes finally adds, by way of rider to this declaration of his
principles, that as Mr. Carstone is about to rejoin his regiment,
perhaps Mr. C. will favour him with an order on his agent for
twenty pounds on account.

"For there have been many little consultations and attendances of
late, sir," observes Vholes, turning over the leaves of his diary,
"and these things mount up, and I don't profess to be a man of
capital. When we first entered on our present relations I stated
to you openly--it is a principle of mine that there never can be
too much openness between solicitor and client--that I was not a
man of capital and that if capital was your object you had better
leave your papers in Kenge's office. No, Mr. C., you will find
none of the advantages or disadvantages of capital here, sir.
This," Vholes gives the desk one hollow blow again, "is your rock;
it pretends to be nothing more."

The client, with his dejection insensibly relieved and his vague
hopes rekindled, takes pen and ink and writes the draft, not
without perplexed consideration and calculation of the date it may
bear, implying scant effects in the agent's hands. All the while,
Vholes, buttoned up in body and mind, looks at him attentively.
All the while, Vholes's official cat watches the mouse's hole.

Lastly, the client, shaking hands, beseeches Mr. Vholes, for
heaven's sake and earth's sake, to do his utmost to "pull him
through" the Court of Chancery. Mr. Vholes, who never gives hopes,
lays his palm upon the client's shoulder and answers with a smile,
"Always here, sir. Personally, or by letter, you will always find
me here, sir, with my shoulder to the wheel." Thus they part, and
Vholes, left alone, employs himself in carrying sundry little
matters out of his diary into his draft bill book for the ultimate
behoof of his three daughters. So might an industrious fox or bear
make up his account of chickens or stray travellers with an eye to
his cubs, not to disparage by that word the three raw-visaged,
lank, and buttoned-up maidens who dwell with the parent Vholes in
an earthy cottage situated in a damp garden at Kennington.

Richard, emerging from the heavy shade of Symond's Inn into the
sunshine of Chancery Lane--for there happens to be sunshine there
to-day--walks thoughtfully on, and turns into Lincoln's Inn, and
passes under the shadow of the Lincoln's Inn trees. On many such
loungers have the speckled shadows of those trees often fallen; on
the like bent head, the bitten nail, the lowering eye, the
lingering step, the purposeless and dreamy air, the good consuming
and consumed, the life turned sour. This lounger is not shabby
yet, but that may come. Chancery, which knows no wisdom but in
precedent, is very rich in such precedents; and why should one be
different from ten thousand?

Yet the time is so short since his depreciation began that as he
saunters away, reluctant to leave the spot for some long months
together, though he hates it, Richard himself may feel his own case
as if it were a startling one. While his heart is heavy with
corroding care, suspense, distrust, and doubt, it may have room for
some sorrowful wonder when he recalls how different his first visit
there, how different he, how different all the colours of his mind.
But injustice breeds injustice; the fighting with shadows and being
defeated by them necessitates the setting up of substances to
combat; from the impalpable suit which no man alive can understand,
the time for that being long gone by, it has become a gloomy relief
to turn to the palpable figure of the friend who would have saved
him from this ruin and make HIM his enemy. Richard has told Vholes
the truth. Is he in a hardened or a softened mood, he still lays
his injuries equally at that door; he was thwarted, in that
quarter, of a set purpose, and that purpose could only originate in
the one subject that is resolving his existence into itself;
besides, it is a justification to him in his own eyes to have an
embodied antagonist and oppressor.

Is Richard a monster in all this, or would Chancery be found rich
in such precedents too if they could be got for citation from the
Recording Angel?

Two pairs of eyes not unused to such people look after him, as,
biting his nails and brooding, he crosses the square and is
swallowed up by the shadow of the southern gateway. Mr. Guppy and
Mr. Weevle are the possessors of those eyes, and they have been
leaning in conversation against the low stone parapet under the
trees. He passes close by them, seeing nothing but the ground.

"William," says Mr. Weevle, adjusting his whiskers, "there's
combustion going on there! It's not a case of spontaneous, but
it's smouldering combustion it is."

"Ah!" says Mr. Guppy. "He wouldn't keep out of Jarndyce, and I
suppose he's over head and ears in debt. I never knew much of him.
He was as high as the monument when he was on trial at our place.
A good riddance to me, whether as clerk or client! Well, Tony,
that as I was mentioning is what they're up to."

Mr. Guppy, refolding his arms, resettles himself against the
parapet, as resuming a conversation of interest.

"They are still up to it, sir," says Mr. Guppy, "still taking
stock, still examining papers, still going over the heaps and heaps
of rubbish. At this rate they'll be at it these seven years."

"And Small is helping?"

"Small left us at a week's notice. Told Kenge his grandfather's
business was too much for the old gentleman and he could better
himself by undertaking it. There had been a coolness between
myself and Small on account of his being so close. But he said you
and I began it, and as he had me there--for we did--I put our
acquaintance on the old footing. That's how I come to know what
they're up to."

"You haven't looked in at all?"

"Tony," says Mr. Guppy, a little disconcerted, "to be unreserved
with you, I don't greatly relish the house, except in your company,
and therefore I have not; and therefore I proposed this little
appointment for our fetching away your things. There goes the hour
by the clock! Tony"--Mr. Guppy becomes mysteriously and tenderly
eloquent--"it is necessary that I should impress upon your mind
once more that circumstances over which I have no control have made
a melancholy alteration in my most cherished plans and in that
unrequited image which I formerly mentioned to you as a friend.
That image is shattered, and that idol is laid low. My only wish
now in connexion with the objects which I had an idea of carrying
out in the court with your aid as a friend is to let 'em alone and
bury 'em in oblivion. Do you think it possible, do you think it at
all likely (I put it to you, Tony, as a friend), from your
knowledge of that capricious and deep old character who fell a prey
to the--spontaneous element, do you, Tony, think it at all likely
that on second thoughts he put those letters away anywhere, after
you saw him alive, and that they were not destroyed that night?"

Mr. Weevle reflects for some time. Shakes his head. Decidedly
thinks not.

"Tony," says Mr. Guppy as they walk towards the court, "once again
understand me, as a friend. Without entering into further
explanations, I may repeat that the idol is down. I have no
purpose to serve now but burial in oblivion. To that I have
pledged myself. I owe it to myself, and I owe it to the shattered
image, as also to the circumstances over which I have no control.
If you was to express to me by a gesture, by a wink, that you saw
lying anywhere in your late lodgings any papers that so much as
looked like the papers in question, I would pitch them into the
fire, sir, on my own responsibility."

Mr. Weevle nods. Mr. Guppy, much elevated in his own opinion by
having delivered these observations, with an air in part forensic
and in part romantic--this gentleman having a passion for
conducting anything in the form of an examination, or delivering
anything in the form of a summing up or a speech--accompanies his
friend with dignity to the court.

Never since it has been a court has it had such a Fortunatus' purse
of gossip as in the proceedings at the rag and bottle shop.
Regularly, every morning at eight, is the elder Mr. Smallweed
brought down to the corner and carried in, accompanied by Mrs.
Smallweed, Judy, and Bart; and regularly, all day, do they all
remain there until nine at night, solaced by gipsy dinners, not
abundant in quantity, from the cook's shop, rummaging and
searching, digging, delving, and diving among the treasures of the
late lamented. What those treasures are they keep so secret that
the court is maddened. In its delirium it imagines guineas pouring
out of tea-pots, crown-pieces overflowing punch-bowls, old chairs
and mattresses stuffed with Bank of England notes. It possesses
itself of the sixpenny history (with highly coloured folding
frontispiece) of Mr. Daniel Dancer and his sister, and also of Mr.
Elwes, of Suffolk, and transfers all the facts from those authentic
narratives to Mr. Krook. Twice when the dustman is called in to
carry off a cartload of old paper, ashes, and broken bottles, the
whole court assembles and pries into the baskets as they come
forth. Many times the two gentlemen who write with the ravenous
little pens on the tissue-paper are seen prowling in the
neighbourhood--shy of each other, their late partnership being
dissolved. The Sol skilfully carries a vein of the prevailing
interest through the Harmonic nights. Little Swills, in what are
professionally known as "patter" allusions to the subject, is
received with loud applause; and the same vocalist "gags" in the
regular business like a man inspired. Even Miss M. Melvilleson, in
the revived Caledonian melody of "We're a-Nodding," points the
sentiment that "the dogs love broo" (whatever the nature of that
refreshment may be) with such archness and such a turn of the head
towards next door that she is immediately understood to mean Mr.
Smallweed loves to find money, and is nightly honoured with a
double encore. For all this, the court discovers nothing; and as
Mrs. Piper and Mrs. Perkins now communicate to the late lodger whose
appearance is the signal for a general rally, it is in one
continual ferment to discover everything, and more.

Mr. Weevle and Mr. Guppy, with every eye in the court's head upon
them, knock at the closed door of the late lamented's house, in a
high state of popularity. But being contrary to the court's
expectation admitted, they immediately become unpopular and are
considered to mean no good.

The shutters are more or less closed all over the house, and the
ground-floor is sufficiently dark to require candles. Introduced
into the back shop by Mr. Smallweed the younger, they, fresh from
the sunlight, can at first see nothing save darkness and shadows;
but they gradually discern the elder Mr. Smallweed seated in his
chair upon the brink of a well or grave of waste-paper, the
virtuous Judy groping therein like a female sexton, and Mrs.
Smallweed on the level ground in the vicinity snowed up in a heap
of paper fragments, print, and manuscript which would appear to be
the accumulated compliments that have been sent flying at her in
the course of the day. The whole party, Small included, are
blackened with dust and dirt and present a fiendish appearance not
relieved by the general aspect of the room. There is more litter
and lumber in it than of old, and it is dirtier if possible;
likewise, it is ghostly with traces of its dead inhabitant and even
with his chalked writing on the wall.

On the entrance of visitors, Mr. Smallweed and Judy simultaneously
fold their arms and stop in their researches.

"Aha!" croaks the old gentleman. "How de do, gentlemen, how de do!
Come to fetch your property, Mr. Weevle? That's well, that's well.
Ha! Ha! We should have been forced to sell you up, sir, to pay
your warehouse room if you had left it here much longer. You feel
quite at home here again, I dare say? Glad to see you, glad to see
you!"

Mr. Weevle, thanking him, casts an eye about. Mr. Guppy's eye
follows Mr. Weevle's eye. Mr. Weevle's eye comes back without any
new intelligence in it. Mr. Guppy's eye comes back and meets Mr.
Smallweed's eye. That engaging old gentleman is still murmuring,
like some wound-up instrument running down, "How de do, sir--how
de--how--" And then having run down, he lapses into grinning
silence, as Mr. Guppy starts at seeing Mr. Tulkinghorn standing in
the darkness opposite with his hands behind him.

"Gentleman so kind as to act as my solicitor," says Grandfather
Smallweed. "I am not the sort of client for a gentleman of such
note, but he is so good!"

Mr. Guppy, slightly nudging his friend to take another look, makes
a shuffling bow to Mr. Tulkinghorn, who returns it with an easy
nod. Mr. Tulkinghorn is looking on as if he had nothing else to do
and were rather amused by the novelty.

"A good deal of property here, sir, I should say," Mr. Guppy
observes to Mr. Smallweed.

"Principally rags and rubbish, my dear friend! Rags and rubbish!
Me and Bart and my granddaughter Judy are endeavouring to make out
an inventory of what's worth anything to sell. But we haven't come
to much as yet; we--haven't--come--to--hah!"

Mr. Smallweed has run down again, while Mr. Weevle's eye, attended
by Mr. Guppy's eye, has again gone round the room and come back.

"Well, sir," says Mr. Weevle. "We won't intrude any longer if
you'll allow us to go upstairs."

"Anywhere, my dear sir, anywhere! You're at home. Make yourself
so, pray!"

As they go upstairs, Mr. Guppy lifts his eyebrows inquiringly and
looks at Tony. Tony shakes his head. They find the old room very
dull and dismal, with the ashes of the fire that was burning on
that memorable night yet in the discoloured grate. They have a
great disinclination to touch any object, and carefully blow the
dust from it first. Nor are they desirous to prolong their visit,
packing the few movables with all possible speed and never speaking
above a whisper.

"Look here," says Tony, recoiling. "Here's that horrible cat
coming in!"

Mr. Guppy retreats behind a chair. "Small told me of her. She
went leaping and bounding and tearing about that night like a
dragon, and got out on the house-top, and roamed about up there for
a fortnight, and then came tumbling down the chimney very thin.
Did you ever see such a brute? Looks as if she knew all about it,
don't she? Almost looks as if she was Krook. Shoohoo! Get out,
you goblin!"

Lady Jane, in the doorway, with her tiger snarl from ear to ear and
her club of a tail, shows no intention of obeying; but Mr.
Tulkinghorn stumbling over her, she spits at his rusty legs, and
swearing wrathfully, takes her arched back upstairs. Possibly to
roam the house-tops again and return by the chimney.

"Mr. Guppy," says Mr. Tulkinghorn, "could I have a word with you?"

Mr. Guppy is engaged in collecting the Galaxy Gallery of British
Beauty from the wall and depositing those works of art in their old
ignoble band-box. "Sir," he returns, reddening, "I wish to act
with courtesy towards every member of the profession, and
especially, I am sure, towards a member of it so well known as
yourself--I will truly add, sir, so distinguished as yourself.
Still, Mr. Tulkinghorn, sir, I must stipulate that if you have any
word with me, that word is spoken in the presence of my friend."

"Oh, indeed?" says Mr. Tulkinghorn.

"Yes, sir. My reasons are not of a personal nature at all, but
they are amply sufficient for myself."

"No doubt, no doubt." Mr. Tulkinghorn is as imperturbable as the
hearthstone to which he has quietly walked. "The matter is not of
that consequence that I need put you to the trouble of making any
conditions, Mr. Guppy." He pauses here to smile, and his smile is
as dull and rusty as his pantaloons. "You are to be congratulated,
Mr. Guppy; you are a fortunate young man, sir."

"Pretty well so, Mr. Tulkinghorn; I don't complain."

"Complain? High friends, free admission to great houses, and
access to elegant ladies! Why, Mr. Guppy, there are people in
London who would give their ears to be you."

Mr. Guppy, looking as if he would give his own reddening and still
reddening ears to be one of those people at present instead of
himself, replies, "Sir, if I attend to my profession and do what is
right by Kenge and Carboy, my friends and acquaintances are of no
consequence to them nor to any member of the profession, not
excepting Mr. Tulkinghorn of the Fields. I am not under any
obligation to explain myself further; and with all respect for you,
sir, and without offence--I repeat, without offence--"

"Oh, certainly!"

"--I don't intend to do it."

"Quite so," says Mr. Tulkinghorn with a calm nod. "Very good; I
see by these portraits that you take a strong interest in the
fashionable great, sir?"

He addresses this to the astounded Tony, who admits the soft
impeachment.

"A virtue in which few Englishmen are deficient," observes Mr.
Tulkinghorn. He has been standing on the hearthstone with his back
to the smoked chimney-piece, and now turns round with his glasses
to his eyes. "Who is this? 'Lady Dedlock.' Ha! A very good
likeness in its way, but it wants force of character. Good day to
you, gentlemen; good day!"

When he has walked out, Mr. Guppy, in a great perspiration, nerves
himself to the hasty completion of the taking down of the Galaxy
Gallery, concluding with Lady Dedlock.

"Tony," he says hurriedly to his astonished companion, "let us be
quick in putting the things together and in getting out of this
place. It were in vain longer to conceal from you, Tony, that
between myself and one of the members of a swan-like aristocracy
whom I now hold in my hand, there has been undivulged communication
and association. The time might have been when I might have
revealed it to you. It never will be more. It is due alike to the
oath I have taken, alike to the shattered idol, and alike to
circumstances over which I have no control, that the whole should
be buried in oblivion. I charge you as a friend, by the interest
you have ever testified in the fashionable intelligence, and by any
little advances with which I may have been able to accommodate you,
so to bury it without a word of inquiry!"

This charge Mr. Guppy delivers in a state little short of forensic
lunacy, while his friend shows a dazed mind in his whole head of
hair and even in his cultivated whiskers.

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