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On the Watch
It has left off raining down in Lincolnshire at last, and Chesney
Wold has taken heart. Mrs. Rouncewell is full of hospitable cares,
for Sir Leicester and my Lady are coming home from Paris. The
fashionable intelligence has found it out and communicates the glad
tidings to benighted England. It has also found out that they will
entertain a brilliant and distinguished circle of the elite of the
beau monde (the fashionable intelligence is weak in English, but a
giant refreshed in French) at the ancient and hospitable family seat
For the greater honour of the brilliant and distinguished circle,
and of Chesney Wold into the bargain, the broken arch of the bridge
in the park is mended; and the water, now retired within its proper
limits and again spanned gracefully, makes a figure in the prospect
from the house. The clear, cold sunshine glances into the brittle
woods and approvingly beholds the sharp wind scattering the leaves
and drying the moss. It glides over the park after the moving
shadows of the clouds, and chases them, and never catches them, all
day. It looks in at the windows and touches the ancestral portraits
with bars and patches of brightness never contemplated by the
painters. Athwart the picture of my Lady, over the great chimney-
piece, it throws a broad bend-sinister of light that strikes down
crookedly into the hearth and seems to rend it.
Through the same cold sunshine and the same sharp wind, my Lady and
Sir Leicester, in their travelling chariot (my Lady's woman and Sir
Leicester's man affectionate in the rumble), start for home. With a
considerable amount of jingling and whip-cracking, and many plunging
demonstrations on the part of two bare-backed horses and two
centaurs with glazed hats, jack-boots, and flowing manes and tails,
they rattle out of the yard of the Hotel Bristol in the Place
Vendome and canter between the sun-and-shadow-chequered colonnade of
the Rue de Rivoli and the garden of the ill-fated palace of a
headless king and queen, off by the Place of Concord, and the
Elysian Fields, and the Gate of the Star, out of Paris.
Sooth to say, they cannot go away too fast, for even here my Lady
Dedlock has been bored to death. Concert, assembly, opera, theatre,
drive, nothing is new to my Lady under the worn-out heavens. Only
last Sunday, when poor wretches were gay--within the walls playing
with children among the clipped trees and the statues in the Palace
Garden; walking, a score abreast, in the Elysian Fields, made more
Elysian by performing dogs and wooden horses; between whiles
filtering (a few) through the gloomy Cathedral of Our Lady to say a
word or two at the base of a pillar within flare of a rusty little
gridiron-full of gusty little tapers; without the walls encompassing
Paris with dancing, love-making, wine-drinking, tobacco-smoking,
tomb-visiting, billiard card and domino playing, quack-doctoring,
and much murderous refuse, animate and inanimate--only last Sunday,
my Lady, in the desolation of Boredom and the clutch of Giant
Despair, almost hated her own maid for being in spirits.
She cannot, therefore, go too fast from Paris. Weariness of soul
lies before her, as it lies behind--her Ariel has put a girdle of it
round the whole earth, and it cannot be unclasped--but the imperfect
remedy is always to fly from the last place where it has been
experienced. Fling Paris back into the distance, then, exchanging
it for endless avenues and cross-avenues of wintry trees! And, when
next beheld, let it be some leagues away, with the Gate of the Star
a white speck glittering in the sun, and the city a mere mound in a
plain--two dark square towers rising out of it, and light and shadow
descending on it aslant, like the angels in Jacob's dream!
Sir Leicester is generally in a complacent state, and rarely bored.
When he has nothing else to do, he can always contemplate his own
greatness. It is a considerable advantage to a man to have so
inexhaustible a subject. After reading his letters, he leans back
in his corner of the carriage and generally reviews his importance
"You have an unusual amount of correspondence this morning?" says my
Lady after a long time. She is fatigued with reading. Has almost
read a page in twenty miles.
"Nothing in it, though. Nothing whatever."
"I saw one of Mr. Tulkinghorn's long effusions, I think?"
"You see everything," says Sir Leicester with admiration.
"Ha!" sighs my Lady. "He is the most tiresome of men!"
"He sends--I really beg your pardon--he sends," says Sir Leicester,
selecting the letter and unfolding it, "a message to you. Our
stopping to change horses as I came to his postscript drove it out
of my memory. I beg you'll excuse me. He says--" Sir Leicester is
so long in taking out his eye-glass and adjusting it that my Lady
looks a little irritated. "He says 'In the matter of the right of
way--' I beg your pardon, that's not the place. He says--yes!
Here I have it! He says, 'I beg my respectful compliments to my
Lady, who, I hope, has benefited by the change. Will you do me the
favour to mention (as it may interest her) that I have something to
tell her on her return in reference to the person who copied the
affidavit in the Chancery suit, which so powerfully stimulated her
curiosity. I have seen him.'"
My Lady, leaning forward, looks out of her window.
"That's the message," observes Sir Leicester.
"I should like to walk a little," says my Lady, still looking out of
"Walk?" repeats Sir Leicester in a tone of surprise.
"I should like to walk a little," says my Lady with unmistakable
distinctness. "Please to stop the carriage."
The carriage is stopped, the affectionate man alights from the
rumble, opens the door, and lets down the steps, obedient to an
impatient motion of my Lady's hand. My Lady alights so quickly and
walks away so quickly that Sir Leicester, for all his scrupulous
politeness, is unable to assist her, and is left behind. A space of
a minute or two has elapsed before he comes up with her. She
smiles, looks very handsome, takes his arm, lounges with him for a
quarter of a mile, is very much bored, and resumes her seat in the
The rattle and clatter continue through the greater part of three
days, with more or less of bell-jingling and whip-cracking, and more
or less plunging of centaurs and bare-backed horses. Their courtly
politeness to each other at the hotels where they tarry is the theme
of general admiration. Though my Lord IS a little aged for my Lady,
says Madame, the hostess of the Golden Ape, and though he might be
her amiable father, one can see at a glance that they love each
other. One observes my Lord with his white hair, standing, hat in
hand, to help my Lady to and from the carriage. One observes my
Lady, how recognisant of my Lord's politeness, with an inclination
of her gracious head and the concession of her so-genteel fingers!
It is ravishing!
The sea has no appreciation of great men, but knocks them about like
the small fry. It is habitually hard upon Sir Leicester, whose
countenance it greenly mottles in the manner of sage-cheese and in
whose aristocratic system it effects a dismal revolution. It is the
Radical of Nature to him. Nevertheless, his dignity gets over it
after stopping to refit, and he goes on with my Lady for Chesney
Wold, lying only one night in London on the way to Lincolnshire.
Through the same cold sunlight, colder as the day declines, and
through the same sharp wind, sharper as the separate shadows of bare
trees gloom together in the woods, and as the Ghost's Walk, touched
at the western corner by a pile of fire in the sky, resigns itself
to coming night, they drive into the park. The rooks, swinging in
their lofty houses in the elm-tree avenue, seem to discuss the
question of the occupancy of the carriage as it passes underneath,
some agreeing that Sir Leicester and my Lady are come down, some
arguing with malcontents who won't admit it, now all consenting to
consider the question disposed of, now all breaking out again in
violent debate, incited by one obstinate and drowsy bird who will
persist in putting in a last contradictory croak. Leaving them to
swing and caw, the travelling chariot rolls on to the house, where
fires gleam warmly through some of the windows, though not through
so many as to give an inhabited expression to the darkening mass of
front. But the brilliant and distinguished circle will soon do
Mrs. Rouncewell is in attendance and receives Sir Leicester's
customary shake of the hand with a profound curtsy.
"How do you do, Mrs. Rouncewell? I am glad to see you."
"I hope I have the honour of welcoming you in good health, Sir
"In excellent health, Mrs. Rouncewell."
"My Lady is looking charmingly well," says Mrs. Rouncewell with
My Lady signifies, without profuse expenditure of words, that she is
as wearily well as she can hope to be.
But Rosa is in the distance, behind the housekeeper; and my Lady,
who has not subdued the quickness of her observation, whatever else
she may have conquered, asks, "Who is that girl?"
"A young scholar of mine, my Lady. Rosa."
"Come here, Rosa!" Lady Dedlock beckons her, with even an
appearance of interest. "Why, do you know how pretty you are,
child?" she says, touching her shoulder with her two forefingers.
Rosa, very much abashed, says, "No, if you please, my Lady!" and
glances up, and glances down, and don't know where to look, but
looks all the prettier.
"How old are you?"
"Nineteen, my Lady."
"Nineteen," repeats my Lady thoughtfully. "Take care they don't
spoil you by flattery."
"Yes, my Lady."
My Lady taps her dimpled cheek with the same delicate gloved fingers
and goes on to the foot of the oak staircase, where Sir Leicester
pauses for her as her knightly escort. A staring old Dedlock in a
panel, as large as life and as dull, looks as if he didn't know what
to make of it, which was probably his general state of mind in the
days of Queen Elizabeth.
That evening, in the housekeeper's room, Rosa can do nothing but
murmur Lady Dedlock's praises. She is so affable, so graceful, so
beautiful, so elegant; has such a sweet voice and such a thrilling
touch that Rosa can feel it yet! Mrs. Rouncewell confirms all this,
not without personal pride, reserving only the one point of
affability. Mrs. Rouncewell is not quite sure as to that. Heaven
forbid that she should say a syllable in dispraise of any member of
that excellent family, above all, of my Lady, whom the whole world
admires; but if my Lady would only be "a little more free," not
quite so cold and distant, Mrs. Rouncewell thinks she would be more
"'Tis almost a pity," Mrs. Rouncewell adds--only "almost" because it
borders on impiety to suppose that anything could be better than it
is, in such an express dispensation as the Dedlock affairs--"that my
Lady has no family. If she had had a daughter now, a grown young
lady, to interest her, I think she would have had the only kind of
excellence she wants."
"Might not that have made her still more proud, grandmother?" says
Watt, who has been home and come back again, he is such a good
"More and most, my dear," returns the housekeeper with dignity, "are
words it's not my place to use--nor so much as to hear--applied to
any drawback on my Lady."
"I beg your pardon, grandmother. But she is proud, is she not?"
"If she is, she has reason to be. The Dedlock family have always
reason to be."
"Well," says Watt, "it's to be hoped they line out of their prayer-
books a certain passage for the common people about pride and
vainglory. Forgive me, grandmother! Only a joke!"
"Sir Leicester and Lady Dedlock, my dear, are not fit subjects for
"Sir Leicester is no joke by any means," says Watt, "and I humbly
ask his pardon. I suppose, grandmother, that even with the family
and their guests down here, there is no objection to my prolonging my
stay at the Dedlock Arms for a day or two, as any other traveller
"Surely, none in the world, child."
"I am glad of that," says Watt, "because I have an inexpressible
desire to extend my knowledge of this beautiful neighbourhood."
He happens to glance at Rosa, who looks down and is very shy indeed.
But according to the old superstition, it should be Rosa's ears that
burn, and not her fresh bright cheeks, for my Lady's maid is holding
forth about her at this moment with surpassing energy.
My Lady's maid is a Frenchwoman of two and thirty, from somewhere in
the southern country about Avignon and Marseilles, a large-eyed
brown woman with black hair who would be handsome but for a certain
feline mouth and general uncomfortable tightness of face, rendering
the jaws too eager and the skull too prominent. There is something
indefinably keen and wan about her anatomy, and she has a watchful
way of looking out of the corners of her eyes without turning her
head which could be pleasantly dispensed with, especially when she
is in an ill humour and near knives. Through all the good taste of
her dress and little adornments, these objections so express
themselves that she seems to go about like a very neat she-wolf
imperfectly tamed. Besides being accomplished in all the knowledge
appertaining to her post, she is almost an Englishwoman in her
acquaintance with the language; consequently, she is in no want of
words to shower upon Rosa for having attracted my Lady's attention,
and she pours them out with such grim ridicule as she sits at dinner
that her companion, the affectionate man, is rather relieved when
she arrives at the spoon stage of that performance.
Ha, ha, ha! She, Hortense, been in my Lady's service since five
years and always kept at the distance, and this doll, this puppet,
caressed--absolutely caressed--by my Lady on the moment of her
arriving at the house! Ha, ha, ha! "And do you know how pretty you
are, child?" "No, my Lady." You are right there! "And how old are
you, child! And take care they do not spoil you by flattery,
child!" Oh, how droll! It is the BEST thing altogether.
In short, it is such an admirable thing that Mademoiselle Hortense
can't forget it; but at meals for days afterwards, even among her
countrywomen and others attached in like capacity to the troop of
visitors, relapses into silent enjoyment of the joke--an enjoyment
expressed, in her own convivial manner, by an additional tightness
of face, thin elongation of compressed lips, and sidewise look,
which intense appreciation of humour is frequently reflected in my
Lady's mirrors when my Lady is not among them.
All the mirrors in the house are brought into action now, many of
them after a long blank. They reflect handsome faces, simpering
faces, youthful faces, faces of threescore and ten that will not
submit to be old; the entire collection of faces that have come to
pass a January week or two at Chesney Wold, and which the
fashionable intelligence, a mighty hunter before the Lord, hunts
with a keen scent, from their breaking cover at the Court of St.
James's to their being run down to death. The place in Lincolnshire
is all alive. By day guns and voices are heard ringing in the
woods, horsemen and carriages enliven the park roads, servants and
hangers-on pervade the village and the Dedlock Arms. Seen by night
from distant openings in the trees, the row of windows in the long
drawing-room, where my Lady's picture hangs over the great chimney-
piece, is like a row of jewels set in a black frame. On Sunday the
chill little church is almost warmed by so much gallant company, and
the general flavour of the Dedlock dust is quenched in delicate
The brilliant and distinguished circle comprehends within it no
contracted amount of education, sense, courage, honour, beauty, and
virtue. Yet there is something a little wrong about it in despite
of its immense advantages. What can it be?
Dandyism? There is no King George the Fourth now (more the pity) to
set the dandy fashion; there are no clear-starched jack-towel
neckcloths, no short-waisted coats, no false calves, no stays.
There are no caricatures, now, of effeminate exquisites so arrayed,
swooning in opera boxes with excess of delight and being revived by
other dainty creatures poking long-necked scent-bottles at their
noses. There is no beau whom it takes four men at once to shake
into his buckskins, or who goes to see all the executions, or who is
troubled with the self-reproach of having once consumed a pea. But
is there dandyism in the brilliant and distinguished circle
notwithstanding, dandyism of a more mischievous sort, that has got
below the surface and is doing less harmless things than jack-
towelling itself and stopping its own digestion, to which no
rational person need particularly object?
Why, yes. It cannot be disguised. There ARE at Chesney Wold this
January week some ladies and gentlemen of the newest fashion, who
have set up a dandyism--in religion, for instance. Who in mere
lackadaisical want of an emotion have agreed upon a little dandy
talk about the vulgar wanting faith in things in general, meaning in
the things that have been tried and found wanting, as though a low
fellow should unaccountably lose faith in a bad shilling after
finding it out! Who would make the vulgar very picturesque and
faithful by putting back the hands upon the clock of time and
cancelling a few hundred years of history.
There are also ladies and gentlemen of another fashion, not so new,
but very elegant, who have agreed to put a smooth glaze on the world
and to keep down all its realities. For whom everything must be
languid and pretty. Who have found out the perpetual stoppage. Who
are to rejoice at nothing and be sorry for nothing. Who are not to
be disturbed by ideas. On whom even the fine arts, attending in
powder and walking backward like the Lord Chamberlain, must array
themselves in the milliners' and tailors' patterns of past
generations and be particularly careful not to be in earnest or to
receive any impress from the moving age.
Then there is my Lord Boodle, of considerable reputation with his
party, who has known what office is and who tells Sir Leicester
Dedlock with much gravity, after dinner, that he really does not see
to what the present age is tending. A debate is not what a debate
used to be; the House is not what the House used to be; even a
Cabinet is not what it formerly was. He perceives with astonishment
that supposing the present government to be overthrown, the limited
choice of the Crown, in the formation of a new ministry, would lie
between Lord Coodle and Sir Thomas Doodle--supposing it to be
impossible for the Duke of Foodle to act with Goodle, which may be
assumed to be the case in consequence of the breach arising out of
that affair with Hoodle. Then, giving the Home Department and the
leadership of the House of Commons to Joodle, the Exchequer to
Koodle, the Colonies to Loodle, and the Foreign Office to Moodle,
what are you to do with Noodle? You can't offer him the Presidency
of the Council; that is reserved for Poodle. You can't put him in
the Woods and Forests; that is hardly good enough for Quoodle. What
follows? That the country is shipwrecked, lost, and gone to pieces
(as is made manifest to the patriotism of Sir Leicester Dedlock)
because you can't provide for Noodle!
On the other hand, the Right Honourable William Buffy, M.P.,
contends across the table with some one else that the shipwreck of
the country--about which there is no doubt; it is only the manner of
it that is in question--is attributable to Cuffy. If you had done
with Cuffy what you ought to have done when he first came into
Parliament, and had prevented him from going over to Duffy, you
would have got him into alliance with Fuffy, you would have had with
you the weight attaching as a smart debater to Guffy, you would have
brought to bear upon the elections the wealth of Huffy, you would
have got in for three counties Juffy, Kuffy, and Luffy, and you
would have strengthened your administration by the official
knowledge and the business habits of Muffy. All this, instead of
being as you now are, dependent on the mere caprice of Puffy!
As to this point, and as to some minor topics, there are differences
of opinion; but it is perfectly clear to the brilliant and
distinguished circle, all round, that nobody is in question but
Boodle and his retinue, and Buffy and HIS retinue. These are the
great actors for whom the stage is reserved. A People there are, no
doubt--a certain large number of supernumeraries, who are to be
occasionally addressed, and relied upon for shouts and choruses, as
on the theatrical stage; but Boodle and Buffy, their followers and
families, their heirs, executors, administrators, and assigns, are
the born first-actors, managers, and leaders, and no others can
appear upon the scene for ever and ever.
In this, too, there is perhaps more dandyism at Chesney Wold than
the brilliant and distinguished circle will find good for itself in
the long run. For it is, even with the stillest and politest
circles, as with the circle the necromancer draws around him--very
strange appearances may be seen in active motion outside. With this
difference, that being realities and not phantoms, there is the
greater danger of their breaking in.
Chesney Wold is quite full anyhow, so full that a burning sense of
injury arises in the breasts of ill-lodged ladies'-maids, and is not
to be extinguished. Only one room is empty. It is a turret chamber
of the third order of merit, plainly but comfortably furnished and
having an old-fashioned business air. It is Mr. Tulkinghorn's room,
and is never bestowed on anybody else, for he may come at any time.
He is not come yet. It is his quiet habit to walk across the park
from the village in fine weather, to drop into this room as if he
had never been out of it since he was last seen there, to request a
servant to inform Sir Leicester that he is arrived in case he should
be wanted, and to appear ten minutes before dinner in the shadow of
the library-door. He sleeps in his turret with a complaining flag-
staff over his head, and has some leads outside on which, any fine
morning when he is down here, his black figure may be seen walking
before breakfast like a larger species of rook.
Every day before dinner, my Lady looks for him in the dusk of the
library, but he is not there. Every day at dinner, my Lady glances
down the table for the vacant place that would be waiting to receive
him if he had just arrived, but there is no vacant place. Every
night my Lady casually asks her maid, "Is Mr. Tulkinghorn come?"
Every night the answer is, "No, my Lady, not yet."
One night, while having her hair undressed, my Lady loses herself in
deep thought after this reply until she sees her own brooding face
in the opposite glass, and a pair of black eyes curiously observing
"Be so good as to attend," says my Lady then, addressing the
reflection of Hortense, "to your business. You can contemplate your
beauty at another time."
"Pardon! It was your Ladyship's beauty."
"That," says my Lady, "you needn't contemplate at all."
At length, one afternoon a little before sunset, when the bright
groups of figures which have for the last hour or two enlivened the
Ghost's Walk are all dispersed and only Sir Leicester and my Lady
remain upon the terrace, Mr. Tulkinghorn appears. He comes towards
them at his usual methodical pace, which is never quickened, never
slackened. He wears his usual expressionless mask--if it be a mask
--and carries family secrets in every limb of his body and every
crease of his dress. Whether his whole soul is devoted to the great
or whether he yields them nothing beyond the services he sells is
his personal secret. He keeps it, as he keeps the secrets of his
clients; he is his own client in that matter, and will never betray
"How do you do, Mr. Tulkinghorn?" says Sir Leicester, giving him his
Mr. Tulkinghorn is quite well. Sir Leicester is quite well. My
Lady is quite well. All highly satisfactory. The lawyer, with his
hands behind him, walks at Sir Leicester's side along the terrace.
My Lady walks upon the other side.
"We expected you before," says Sir Leicester. A gracious
observation. As much as to say, "Mr. Tulkinghorn, we remember your
existence when you are not here to remind us of it by your presence.
We bestow a fragment of our minds upon you, sir, you see!"
Mr. Tulkinghorn, comprehending it, inclines his head and says he is
"I should have come down sooner," he explains, "but that I have been
much engaged with those matters in the several suits between
yourself and Boythorn."
"A man of a very ill-regulated mind," observes Sir Leicester with
severity. "An extremely dangerous person in any community. A man
of a very low character of mind."
"He is obstinate," says Mr. Tulkinghorn.
"It is natural to such a man to be so," says Sir Leicester, looking
most profoundly obstinate himself. "I am not at all surprised to
"The only question is," pursues the lawyer, "whether you will give
"No, sir," replies Sir Leicester. "Nothing. I give up?"
"I don't mean anything of importance. That, of course, I know you
would not abandon. I mean any minor point."
"Mr. Tulkinghorn," returns Sir Leicester, "there can be no minor
point between myself and Mr. Boythorn. If I go farther, and observe
that I cannot readily conceive how ANY right of mine can be a minor
point, I speak not so much in reference to myself as an individual
as in reference to the family position I have it in charge to
Mr. Tulkinghorn inclines his head again. "I have now my
instructions," he says. "Mr. Boythorn will give us a good deal of
"It is the character of such a mind, Mr. Tulkinghorn," Sir Leicester
interrupts him, "TO give trouble. An exceedingly ill-conditioned,
levelling person. A person who, fifty years ago, would probably
have been tried at the Old Bailey for some demagogue proceeding, and
severely punished--if not," adds Sir Leicester after a moment's
pause, "if not hanged, drawn, and quartered."
Sir Leicester appears to discharge his stately breast of a burden in
passing this capital sentence, as if it were the next satisfactory
thing to having the sentence executed.
"But night is coming on," says he, "and my Lady will take cold. My
dear, let us go in."
As they turn towards the hall-door, Lady Dedlock addresses Mr.
Tulkinghorn for the first time.
"You sent me a message respecting the person whose writing I
happened to inquire about. It was like you to remember the
circumstance; I had quite forgotten it. Your message reminded me of
it again. I can't imagine what association I had with a hand like
that, but I surely had some."
"You had some?" Mr. Tulkinghorn repeats.
"Oh, yes!" returns my Lady carelessly. "I think I must have had
some. And did you really take the trouble to find out the writer of
that actual thing--what is it!--affidavit?"
"How very odd!"
They pass into a sombre breakfast-room on the ground floor, lighted
in the day by two deep windows. It is now twilight. The fire glows
brightly on the panelled wall and palely on the window-glass, where,
through the cold reflection of the blaze, the colder landscape
shudders in the wind and a grey mist creeps along, the only
traveller besides the waste of clouds.
My Lady lounges in a great chair in the chimney-corner, and Sir
Leicester takes another great chair opposite. The lawyer stands
before the fire with his hand out at arm's length, shading his face.
He looks across his arm at my Lady.
"Yes," he says, "I inquired about the man, and found him. And, what
is very strange, I found him--"
"Not to be any out-of-the-way person, I am afraid!" Lady Dedlock
"I found him dead."
"Oh, dear me!" remonstrated Sir Leicester. Not so much shocked by
the fact as by the fact of the fact being mentioned.
"I was directed to his lodging--a miserable, poverty-stricken place
--and I found him dead."
"You will excuse me, Mr. Tulkinghorn," observes Sir Leicester. "I
think the less said--"
"Pray, Sir Leicester, let me hear the story out" (it is my Lady
speaking). "It is quite a story for twilight. How very shocking!
Mr. Tulkinghorn re-asserts it by another inclination of his head.
"Whether by his own hand--"
"Upon my honour!" cries Sir Leicester. "Really!"
"Do let me hear the story!" says my Lady.
"Whatever you desire, my dear. But, I must say--"
"No, you mustn't say! Go on, Mr. Tulkinghorn."
Sir Leicester's gallantry concedes the point, though he still feels
that to bring this sort of squalor among the upper classes is
"I was about to say," resumes the lawyer with undisturbed calmness,
"that whether he had died by his own hand or not, it was beyond my
power to tell you. I should amend that phrase, however, by saying
that he had unquestionably died of his own act, though whether by
his own deliberate intention or by mischance can never certainly be
known. The coroner's jury found that he took the poison
"And what kind of man," my Lady asks, "was this deplorable
"Very difficult to say," returns the lawyer, shaking his head. "He
had lived so wretchedly and was so neglected, with his gipsy colour
and his wild black hair and beard, that I should have considered him
the commonest of the common. The surgeon had a notion that he had
once been something better, both in appearance and condition."
"What did they call the wretched being?"
"They called him what he had called himself, but no one knew his
"Not even any one who had attended on him?"
"No one had attended on him. He was found dead. In fact, I found
"Without any clue to anything more?"
"Without any; there was," says the lawyer meditatively, "an old
portmanteau, but--No, there were no papers."
During the utterance of every word of this short dialogue, Lady
Dedlock and Mr. Tulkinghorn, without any other alteration in their
customary deportment, have looked very steadily at one another--as
was natural, perhaps, in the discussion of so unusual a subject.
Sir Leicester has looked at the fire, with the general expression of
the Dedlock on the staircase. The story being told, he renews his
stately protest, saying that as it is quite clear that no
association in my Lady's mind can possibly be traceable to this poor
wretch (unless he was a begging-letter writer), he trusts to hear no
more about a subject so far removed from my Lady's station.
"Certainly, a collection of horrors," says my Lady, gathering up her
mantles and furs, "but they interest one for the moment! Have the
kindness, Mr. Tulkinghorn, to open the door for me."
Mr. Tulkinghorn does so with deference and holds it open while she
passes out. She passes close to him, with her usual fatigued manner
and insolent grace. They meet again at dinner--again, next day--
again, for many days in succession. Lady Dedlock is always the same
exhausted deity, surrounded by worshippers, and terribly liable to
be bored to death, even while presiding at her own shrine. Mr.
Tulkinghorn is always the same speechless repository of noble
confidences, so oddly but of place and yet so perfectly at home.
They appear to take as little note of one another as any two people
enclosed within the same walls could. But whether each evermore
watches and suspects the other, evermore mistrustful of some great
reservation; whether each is evermore prepared at all points for the
other, and never to be taken unawares; what each would give to know
how much the other knows--all this is hidden, for the time, in their