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Allegory looks pretty cool in Lincoln's Inn Fields, though the
evening is hot, for both Mr. Tulkinghorn's windows are wide open,
and the room is lofty, gusty, and gloomy. These may not be
desirable characteristics when November comes with fog and sleet or
January with ice and snow, but they have their merits in the sultry
long vacation weather. They enable Allegory, though it has cheeks
like peaches, and knees like bunches of blossoms, and rosy
swellings for calves to its legs and muscles to its arms, to look
tolerably cool to-night.
Plenty of dust comes in at Mr. Tulkinghorn's windows, and plenty
more has generated among his furniture and papers. It lies thick
everywhere. When a breeze from the country that has lost its way
takes fright and makes a blind hurry to rush out again, it flings
as much dust in the eyes of Allegory as the law--or Mr. Tulkinghorn,
one of its trustiest representatives--may scatter, on occasion, in
the eyes of the laity.
In his lowering magazine of dust, the universal article into which
his papers and himself, and all his clients, and all things of
earth, animate and inanimate, are resolving, Mr. Tulkinghorn sits
at one of the open windows enjoying a bottle of old port. Though a
hard-grained man, close, dry, and silent, he can enjoy old wine
with the best. He has a priceless bin of port in some artful
cellar under the Fields, which is one of his many secrets. When he
dines alone in chambers, as he has dined to-day, and has his bit of
fish and his steak or chicken brought in from the coffee-house, he
descends with a candle to the echoing regions below the deserted
mansion, and heralded by a remote reverberation of thundering
doors, comes gravely back encircled by an earthy atmosphere and
carrying a bottle from which he pours a radiant nectar, two score
and ten years old, that blushes in the glass to find itself so
famous and fills the whole room with the fragrance of southern
Mr. Tulkinghorn, sitting in the twilight by the open window, enjoys
his wine. As if it whispered to him of its fifty years of silence
and seclusion, it shuts him up the closer. More impenetrable than
ever, he sits, and drinks, and mellows as it were in secrecy,
pondering at that twilight hour on all the mysteries he knows,
associated with darkening woods in the country, and vast blank
shut-up houses in town, and perhaps sparing a thought or two for
himself, and his family history, and his money, and his will--all a
mystery to every one--and that one bachelor friend of his, a man of
the same mould and a lawyer too, who lived the same kind of life
until he was seventy-five years old, and then suddenly conceiving
(as it is supposed) an impression that it was too monotonous, gave
his gold watch to his hair-dresser one summer evening and walked
leisurely home to the Temple and hanged himself.
But Mr. Tulkinghorn is not alone to-night to ponder at his usual
length. Seated at the same table, though with his chair modestly
and uncomfortably drawn a little way from it, sits a bald, mild,
shining man who coughs respectfully behind his hand when the lawyer
bids him fill his glass.
"Now, Snagsby," says Mr. Tulkinghorn, "to go over this odd story
"If you please, sir."
"You told me when you were so good as to step round here last
"For which I must ask you to excuse me if it was a liberty, sir;
but I remember that you had taken a sort of an interest in that
person, and I thought it possible that you might--just--wish--to--"
Mr. Tulkinghorn is not the man to help him to any conclusion or to
admit anything as to any possibility concerning himself. So Mr.
Snagsby trails off into saying, with an awkward cough, "I must ask
you to excuse the liberty, sir, I am sure."
"Not at all," says Mr. Tulkinghorn. "You told me, Snagsby, that
you put on your hat and came round without mentioning your
intention to your wife. That was prudent I think, because it's not
a matter of such importance that it requires to be mentioned."
"Well, sir," returns Mr. Snagsby, "you see, my little woman is--not
to put too fine a point upon it--inquisitive. She's inquisitive.
Poor little thing, she's liable to spasms, and it's good for her to
have her mind employed. In consequence of which she employs it--I
should say upon every individual thing she can lay hold of, whether
it concerns her or not--especially not. My little woman has a very
active mind, sir."
Mr. Snagsby drinks and murmurs with an admiring cough behind his
hand, "Dear me, very fine wine indeed!"
"Therefore you kept your visit to yourself last night?" says Mr.
Tulkinghorn. "And to-night too?"
"Yes, sir, and to-night, too. My little woman is at present in--
not to put too fine a point on it--in a pious state, or in what she
considers such, and attends the Evening Exertions (which is the
name they go by) of a reverend party of the name of Chadband. He
has a great deal of eloquence at his command, undoubtedly, but I am
not quite favourable to his style myself. That's neither here nor
there. My little woman being engaged in that way made it easier
for me to step round in a quiet manner."
Mr. Tulkinghorn assents. "Fill your glass, Snagsby."
"Thank you, sir, I am sure," returns the stationer with his cough
of deference. "This is wonderfully fine wine, sir!"
"It is a rare wine now," says Mr. Tulkinghorn. "It is fifty years
"Is it indeed, sir? But I am not surprised to hear it, I am sure.
It might be--any age almost." After rendering this general tribute
to the port, Mr. Snagsby in his modesty coughs an apology behind
his hand for drinking anything so precious.
"Will you run over, once again, what the boy said?" asks Mr.
Tulkinghorn, putting his hands into the pockets of his rusty
smallclothes and leaning quietly back in his chair.
"With pleasure, sir."
Then, with fidelity, though with some prolixity, the law-stationer
repeats Jo's statement made to the assembled guests at his house.
On coming to the end of his narrative, he gives a great start and
breaks off with, "Dear me, sir, I wasn't aware there was any other
Mr. Snagsby is dismayed to see, standing with an attentive face
between himself and the lawyer at a little distance from the table,
a person with a hat and stick in his hand who was not there when he
himself came in and has not since entered by the door or by either
of the windows. There is a press in the room, but its hinges have
not creaked, nor has a step been audible upon the floor. Yet this
third person stands there with his attentive face, and his hat and
stick in his hands, and his hands behind him, a composed and quiet
listener. He is a stoutly built, steady-looking, sharp-eyed man in
black, of about the middle-age. Except that he looks at Mr.
Snagsby as if he were going to take his portrait, there is nothing
remarkable about him at first sight but his ghostly manner of
"Don't mind this gentleman," says Mr. Tulkinghorn in his quiet way.
"This is only Mr. Bucket."
"Oh, indeed, sir?" returns the stationer, expressing by a cough
that he is quite in the dark as to who Mr. Bucket may be.
"I wanted him to hear this story," says the lawyer, "because I have
half a mind (for a reason) to know more of it, and he is very
intelligent in such things. What do you say to this, Bucket?"
"It's very plain, sir. Since our people have moved this boy on,
and he's not to be found on his old lay, if Mr. Snagsby don't
object to go down with me to Tom-all-Alone's and point him out, we
can have him here in less than a couple of hours' time. I can do
it without Mr. Snagsby, of course, but this is the shortest way."
"Mr. Bucket is a detective officer, Snagsby," says the lawyer in
"Is he indeed, sir?" says Mr. Snagsby with a strong tendency in his
clump of hair to stand on end.
"And if you have no real objection to accompany Mr. Bucket to the
place in question," pursues the lawyer, "I shall feel obliged to
you if you will do so."
In a moment's hesitation on the part of Mr. Snagsby, Bucket dips
down to the bottom of his mind.
"Don't you be afraid of hurting the boy," he says. "You won't do
that. It's all right as far as the boy's concerned. We shall only
bring him here to ask him a question or so I want to put to him,
and he'll be paid for his trouble and sent away again. It'll be a
good job for him. I promise you, as a man, that you shall see the
boy sent away all right. Don't you be afraid of hurting him; you
an't going to do that."
"Very well, Mr. Tulkinghorn!" cries Mr. Snagsby cheerfully. And
reassured, "Since that's the case--"
"Yes! And lookee here, Mr. Snagsby," resumes Bucket, taking him
aside by the arm, tapping him familiarly on the breast, and
speaking in a confidential tone. "You're a man of the world, you
know, and a man of business, and a man of sense. That's what YOU
"I am sure I am much obliged to you for your good opinion," returns
the stationer with his cough of modesty, "but--"
"That's what YOU are, you know," says Bucket. "Now, it an't
necessary to say to a man like you, engaged in your business, which
is a business of trust and requires a person to be wide awake and
have his senses about him and his head screwed on tight (I had an
uncle in your business once)--it an't necessary to say to a man
like you that it's the best and wisest way to keep little matters
like this quiet. Don't you see? Quiet!"
"Certainly, certainly," returns the other.
"I don't mind telling YOU," says Bucket with an engaging appearance
of frankness, "that as far as I can understand it, there seems to
be a doubt whether this dead person wasn't entitled to a little
property, and whether this female hasn't been up to some games
respecting that property, don't you see?"
"Oh!" says Mr. Snagsby, but not appearing to see quite distinctly.
"Now, what YOU want," pursues Bucket, again tapping Mr. Snagsby on
the breast in a comfortable and soothing manner, "is that every
person should have their rights according to justice. That's what
"To be sure," returns Mr. Snagsby with a nod.
"On account of which, and at the same time to oblige a--do you call
it, in your business, customer or client? I forget how my uncle
used to call it."
"Why, I generally say customer myself," replies Mr. Snagsby.
"You're right!" returns Mr. Bucket, shaking hands with him quite
affectionately. "--On account of which, and at the same time to
oblige a real good customer, you mean to go down with me, in
confidence, to Tom-all-Alone's and to keep the whole thing quiet
ever afterwards and never mention it to any one. That's about your
intentions, if I understand you?"
"You are right, sir. You are right," says Mr. Snagsby.
"Then here's your hat," returns his new friend, quite as intimate
with it as if he had made it; "and if you're ready, I am."
They leave Mr. Tulkinghorn, without a ruffle on the surface of his
unfathomable depths, drinking his old wine, and go down into the
"You don't happen to know a very good sort of person of the name of
Gridley, do you?" says Bucket in friendly converse as they descend
"No," says Mr. Snagsby, considering, "I don't know anybody of that
"Nothing particular," says Bucket; "only having allowed his temper
to get a little the better of him and having been threatening some
respectable people, he is keeping out of the way of a warrant I
have got against him--which it's a pity that a man of sense should
As they walk along, Mr. Snagsby observes, as a novelty, that
however quick their pace may be, his companion still seems in some
undefinable manner to lurk and lounge; also, that whenever he is
going to turn to the right or left, he pretends to have a fixed
purpose in his mind of going straight ahead, and wheels off,
sharply, at the very last moment. Now and then, when they pass a
police-constable on his beat, Mr. Snagsby notices that both the
constable and his guide fall into a deep abstraction as they come
towards each other, and appear entirely to overlook each other, and
to gaze into space. In a few instances, Mr. Bucket, coming behind
some under-sized young man with a shining hat on, and his sleek
hair twisted into one flat curl on each side of his head, almost
without glancing at him touches him with his stick, upon which the
young man, looking round, instantly evaporates. For the most part
Mr. Bucket notices things in general, with a face as unchanging as
the great mourning ring on his little finger or the brooch,
composed of not much diamond and a good deal of setting, which he
wears in his shirt.
When they come at last to Tom-all-Alone's, Mr. Bucket stops for a
moment at the corner and takes a lighted bull's-eye from the
constable on duty there, who then accompanies him with his own
particular bull's-eye at his waist. Between his two conductors,
Mr. Snagsby passes along the middle of a villainous street,
undrained, unventilated, deep in black mud and corrupt water--
though the roads are dry elsewhere--and reeking with such smells
and sights that he, who has lived in London all his life, can
scarce believe his senses. Branching from this street and its
heaps of ruins are other streets and courts so infamous that Mr.
Snagsby sickens in body and mind and feels as if he were going
every moment deeper down into the infernal gulf.
"Draw off a bit here, Mr. Snagsby," says Bucket as a kind of shabby
palanquin is borne towards them, surrounded by a noisy crowd.
"Here's the fever coming up the street!"
As the unseen wretch goes by, the crowd, leaving that object of
attraction, hovers round the three visitors like a dream of
horrible faces and fades away up alleys and into ruins and behind
walls, and with occasional cries and shrill whistles of warning,
thenceforth flits about them until they leave the place.
"Are those the fever-houses, Darby?" Mr. Bucket coolly asks as he
turns his bull's-eye on a line of stinking ruins.
Darby replies that "all them are," and further that in all, for
months and months, the people "have been down by dozens" and have
been carried out dead and dying "like sheep with the rot." Bucket
observing to Mr. Snagsby as they go on again that he looks a little
poorly, Mr. Snagsby answers that he feels as if he couldn't breathe
the dreadful air.
There is inquiry made at various houses for a boy named Jo. As few
people are known in Tom-all-Alone's by any Christian sign, there is
much reference to Mr. Snagsby whether he means Carrots, or the
Colonel, or Gallows, or Young Chisel, or Terrier Tip, or Lanky, or
the Brick. Mr. Snagsby describes over and over again. There are
conflicting opinions respecting the original of his picture. Some
think it must be Carrots, some say the Brick. The Colonel is
produced, but is not at all near the thing. Whenever Mr. Snagsby
and his conductors are stationary, the crowd flows round, and from
its squalid depths obsequious advice heaves up to Mr. Bucket.
Whenever they move, and the angry bull's-eyes glare, it fades away
and flits about them up the alleys, and in the ruins, and behind
the walls, as before.
At last there is a lair found out where Toughy, or the Tough
Subject, lays him down at night; and it is thought that the Tough
Subject may be Jo. Comparison of notes between Mr. Snagsby and the
proprietress of the house--a drunken face tied up in a black
bundle, and flaring out of a heap of rags on the floor of a dog-
hutch which is her private apartment--leads to the establishment of
this conclusion. Toughy has gone to the doctor's to get a bottle
of stuff for a sick woman but will be here anon.
"And who have we got here to-night?" says Mr. Bucket, opening
another door and glaring in with his bull's-eye. "Two drunken men,
eh? And two women? The men are sound enough," turning back each
sleeper's arm from his face to look at him. "Are these your good
men, my dears?"
"Yes, sir," returns one of the women. "They are our husbands."
"What are you doing here? You don't belong to London."
"No, sir. We belong to Hertfordshire."
"Whereabouts in Hertfordshire?"
"Come up on the tramp?"
"We walked up yesterday. There's no work down with us at present,
but we have done no good by coming here, and shall do none, I
"That's not the way to do much good," says Mr. Bucket, turning his
head in the direction of the unconscious figures on the ground.
"It an't indeed," replies the woman with a sigh. "Jenny and me
knows it full well."
The room, though two or three feet higher than the door, is so low
that the head of the tallest of the visitors would touch the
blackened ceiling if he stood upright. It is offensive to every
sense; even the gross candle burns pale and sickly in the polluted
air. There are a couple of benches and a higher bench by way of
table. The men lie asleep where they stumbled down, but the women
sit by the candle. Lying in the arms of the woman who has spoken
is a very young child.
"Why, what age do you call that little creature?" says Bucket. "It
looks as if it was born yesterday." He is not at all rough about
it; and as he turns his light gently on the infant, Mr. Snagsby is
strangely reminded of another infant, encircled with light, that he
has seen in pictures.
"He is not three weeks old yet, sir," says the woman.
"Is he your child?"
The other woman, who was bending over it when they came in, stoops
down again and kisses it as it lies asleep.
"You seem as fond of it as if you were the mother yourself," says
"I was the mother of one like it, master, and it died."
"Ah, Jenny, Jenny!" says the other woman to her. "Better so. Much
better to think of dead than alive, Jenny! Much better!"
"Why, you an't such an unnatural woman, I hope," returns Bucket
sternly, "as to wish your own child dead?"
"God knows you are right, master," she returns. "I am not. I'd
stand between it and death with my own life if I could, as true as
any pretty lady."
"Then don't talk in that wrong manner," says Mr. Bucket, mollified
again. "Why do you do it?"
"It's brought into my head, master," returns the woman, her eyes
filling with tears, "when I look down at the child lying so. If it
was never to wake no more, you'd think me mad, I should take on so.
I know that very well. I was with Jenny when she lost hers--warn't
I, Jenny?--and I know how she grieved. But look around you at this
place. Look at them," glancing at the sleepers on the ground.
"Look at the boy you're waiting for, who's gone out to do me a good
turn. Think of the children that your business lays with often and
often, and that YOU see grow up!"
"Well, well," says Mr. Bucket, "you train him respectable, and
he'll be a comfort to you, and look after you in your old age, you
"I mean to try hard," she answers, wiping her eyes. "But I have
been a-thinking, being over-tired to-night and not well with the
ague, of all the many things that'll come in his way. My master
will be against it, and he'll be beat, and see me beat, and made to
fear his home, and perhaps to stray wild. If I work for him ever
so much, and ever so hard, there's no one to help me; and if he
should be turned bad 'spite of all I could do, and the time should
come when I should sit by him in his sleep, made hard and changed,
an't it likely I should think of him as he lies in my lap now and
wish he had died as Jenny's child died!"
"There, there!" says Jenny. "Liz, you're tired and ill. Let me
In doing so, she displaces the mother's dress, but quickly
readjusts it over the wounded and bruised bosom where the baby has
"It's my dead child," says Jenny, walking up and down as she
nurses, "that makes me love this child so dear, and it's my dead
child that makes her love it so dear too, as even to think of its
being taken away from her now. While she thinks that, I think what
fortune would I give to have my darling back. But we mean the same
thing, if we knew how to say it, us two mothers does in our poor
As Mr. Snagsby blows his nose and coughs his cough of sympathy, a
step is heard without. Mr. Bucket throws his light into the
doorway and says to Mr. Snagsby, "Now, what do you say to Toughy?
Will HE do?"
"That's Jo," says Mr. Snagsby.
Jo stands amazed in the disk of light, like a ragged figure in a
magic-lantern, trembling to think that he has offended against the
law in not having moved on far enough. Mr. Snagsby, however,
giving him the consolatory assurance, "It's only a job you will be
paid for, Jo," he recovers; and on being taken outside by Mr.
Bucket for a little private confabulation, tells his tale
satisfactorily, though out of breath.
"I have squared it with the lad," says Mr. Bucket, returning, "and
it's all right. Now, Mr. Snagsby, we're ready for you."
First, Jo has to complete his errand of good nature by handing over
the physic he has been to get, which he delivers with the laconic
verbal direction that "it's to be all took d'rectly." Secondly,
Mr. Snagsby has to lay upon the table half a crown, his usual
panacea for an immense variety of afflictions. Thirdly, Mr. Bucket
has to take Jo by the arm a little above the elbow and walk him on
before him, without which observance neither the Tough Subject nor
any other Subject could be professionally conducted to Lincoln's
Inn Fields. These arrangements completed, they give the women good
night and come out once more into black and foul Tom-all-Alone's.
By the noisome ways through which they descended into that pit,
they gradually emerge from it, the crowd flitting, and whistling,
and skulking about them until they come to the verge, where
restoration of the bull's-eyes is made to Darby. Here the crowd,
like a concourse of imprisoned demons, turns back, yelling, and is
seen no more. Through the clearer and fresher streets, never so
clear and fresh to Mr. Snagsby's mind as now, they walk and ride
until they come to Mr. Tulkinghorn's gate.
As they ascend the dim stairs (Mr. Tulkinghorn's chambers being on
the first floor), Mr. Bucket mentions that he has the key of the
outer door in his pocket and that there is no need to ring. For a
man so expert in most things of that kind, Bucket takes time to
open the door and makes some noise too. It may be that he sounds a
note of preparation.
Howbeit, they come at last into the hall, where a lamp is burning,
and so into Mr. Tulkinghorn's usual room--the room where he drank
his old wine to-night. He is not there, but his two old-fashioned
candlesticks are, and the room is tolerably light.
Mr. Bucket, still having his professional hold of Jo and appearing
to Mr. Snagsby to possess an unlimited number of eyes, makes a
little way into this room, when Jo starts and stops.
"What's the matter?" says Bucket in a whisper.
"There she is!" cries Jo.
A female figure, closely veiled, stands in the middle of the room,
where the light falls upon it. It is quite still and silent. The
front of the figure is towards them, but it takes no notice of
their entrance and remains like a statue.
"Now, tell me," says Bucket aloud, "how you know that to be the
"I know the wale," replies Jo, staring, "and the bonnet, and the
"Be quite sure of what you say, Tough," returns Bucket, narrowly
observant of him. "Look again."
"I am a-looking as hard as ever I can look," says Jo with starting
eyes, "and that there's the wale, the bonnet, and the gownd."
"What about those rings you told me of?" asks Bucket.
"A-sparkling all over here," says Jo, rubbing the fingers of his
left hand on the knuckles of his right without taking his eyes from
The figure removes the right-hand glove and shows the hand.
"Now, what do you say to that?" asks Bucket.
Jo shakes his head. "Not rings a bit like them. Not a hand like
"What are you talking of?" says Bucket, evidently pleased though,
and well pleased too.
"Hand was a deal whiter, a deal delicater, and a deal smaller,"
"Why, you'll tell me I'm my own mother next," says Mr. Bucket. "Do
you recollect the lady's voice?"
"I think I does," says Jo.
The figure speaks. "Was it at all like this? I will speak as long
as you like if you are not sure. Was it this voice, or at all like
Jo looks aghast at Mr. Bucket. "Not a bit!"
"Then, what," retorts that worthy, pointing to the figure, "did you
say it was the lady for?"
"Cos," says Jo with a perplexed stare but without being at all
shaken in his certainty, "cos that there's the wale, the bonnet,
and the gownd. It is her and it an't her. It an't her hand, nor
yet her rings, nor yet her woice. But that there's the wale, the
bonnet, and the gownd, and they're wore the same way wot she wore
'em, and it's her height wot she wos, and she giv me a sov'ring and
"Well!" says Mr. Bucket slightly, "we haven't got much good out of
YOU. But, however, here's five shillings for you. Take care how
you spend it, and don't get yourself into trouble." Bucket
stealthily tells the coins from one hand into the other like
counters--which is a way he has, his principal use of them being in
these games of skill--and then puts them, in a little pile, into
the boy's hand and takes him out to the door, leaving Mr. Snagsby,
not by any means comfortable under these mysterious circumstances,
alone with the veiled figure. But on Mr. Tulkinghorn's coming into
the room, the veil is raised and a sufficiently good-looking
Frenchwoman is revealed, though her expression is something of the
"Thank you, Mademoiselle Hortense," says Mr. Tulkinghorn with his
usual equanimity. "I will give you no further trouble about this
"You will do me the kindness to remember, sir, that I am not at
present placed?" says mademoiselle.
"And to confer upon me the favour of your distinguished
"By all means, Mademoiselle Hortense."
"A word from Mr. Tulkinghorn is so powerful."
"It shall not be wanting, mademoiselle."
"Receive the assurance of my devoted gratitude, dear sir."
Mademoiselle goes out with an air of native gentility; and Mr.
Bucket, to whom it is, on an emergency, as natural to be groom of
the ceremonies as it is to be anything else, shows her downstairs,
not without gallantry.
"Well, Bucket?" quoth Mr. Tulkinghorn on his return.
"It's all squared, you see, as I squared it myself, sir. There
an't a doubt that it was the other one with this one's dress on.
The boy was exact respecting colours and everything. Mr. Snagsby,
I promised you as a man that he should be sent away all right.
Don't say it wasn't done!"
"You have kept your word, sir," returns the stationer; "and if I
can be of no further use, Mr. Tulkinghorn, I think, as my little
woman will be getting anxious--"
"Thank you, Snagsby, no further use," says Mr. Tulkinghorn. "I am
quite indebted to you for the trouble you have taken already."
"Not at all, sir. I wish you good night."
"You see, Mr. Snagsby," says Mr. Bucket, accompanying him to the
door and shaking hands with him over and over again, "what I like
in you is that you're a man it's of no use pumping; that's what YOU
are. When you know you have done a right thing, you put it away,
and it's done with and gone, and there's an end of it. That's what
"That is certainly what I endeavour to do, sir," returns Mr.
"No, you don't do yourself justice. It an't what you endeavour to
do," says Mr. Bucket, shaking hands with him and blessing him in
the tenderest manner, "it's what you DO. That's what I estimate in
a man in your way of business."
Mr. Snagsby makes a suitable response and goes homeward so confused
by the events of the evening that he is doubtful of his being awake
and out--doubtful of the reality of the streets through which he
goes--doubtful of the reality of the moon that shines above him.
He is presently reassured on these subjects by the unchallengeable
reality of Mrs. Snagsby, sitting up with her head in a perfect
beehive of curl-papers and night-cap, who has dispatched Guster to
the police-station with official intelligence of her husband's
being made away with, and who within the last two hours has passed
through every stage of swooning with the greatest decorum. But as
the little woman feelingly says, many thanks she gets for it!