"My little woman," urges Mr. Snagsby in a piteous manner, "don't for goodness' sake speak to me with that bitter expression and look at me in that searching way! I beg and entreat of you not to do it. Good Lord, you don't suppose that I would go spontaneously combusting any person, my dear?"
"I can't say," returns Mrs. Snagsby.
On a hasty review of his unfortunate position, Mr. Snagsby "can't say" either. He is not prepared positively to deny that he may have had something to do with it. He has had something — he don't know what — to do with so much in this connexion that is mysterious that it is possible he may even be implicated, without knowing it, in the present transaction. He faintly wipes his forehead with his handkerchief and gasps.
"My life," says the unhappy stationer, "would you have any objections to mention why, being in general so delicately circumspect in your conduct, you come into a wine-vaults before breakfast?"
"Why do YOU come here?" inquires Mrs. Snagsby.
"My dear, merely to know the rights of the fatal accident which has happened to the venerable party who has been — combusted." Mr. Snagsby has made a pause to suppress a groan. "I should then have related them to you, my love, over your French roll."
"I dare say you would! You relate everything to me, Mr. Snagsby."
"Every — my lit — "
"I should be glad," says Mrs. Snagsby after contemplating his increased confusion with a severe and sinister smile, "if you would come home with me; I think you may be safer there, Mr. Snagsby, than anywhere else."
"My love, I don't know but what I may be, I am sure. I am ready to go."
Mr. Snagsby casts his eye forlornly round the bar, gives Messrs. Weevle and Guppy good morning, assures them of the satisfaction with which he sees them uninjured, and accompanies Mrs. Snagsby from the Sol's Arms. Before night his doubt whether he may not be responsible for some inconceivable part in the catastrophe which is the talk of the whole neighbourhood is almost resolved into certainty by Mrs. Snagsby's pertinacity in that fixed gaze. His mental sufferings are so great that he entertains wandering ideas of delivering himself up to justice and requiring to be cleared if innocent and punished with the utmost rigour of the law if guilty.
Mr. Weevle and Mr. Guppy, having taken their breakfast, step into Lincoln's Inn to take a little walk about the square and clear as many of the dark cobwebs out of their brains as a little walk may.
"There can be no more favourable time than the present, Tony," says Mr. Guppy after they have broodingly made out the four sides of the square, "for a word or two between us upon a point on which we must, with very little delay, come to an understanding."
"Now, I tell you what, William G.!" returns the other, eyeing his companion with a bloodshot eye. "If it's a point of conspiracy, you needn't take the trouble to mention it. I have had enough of that, and I ain't going to have any more. We shall have YOU taking fire next or blowing up with a bang."
This supposititious phenomenon is so very disagreeable to Mr. Guppy that his voice quakes as he says in a moral way, "Tony, I should have thought that what we went through last night would have been a lesson to you never to be personal any more as long as you lived." To which Mr. Weevle returns, "William, I should have thought it would have been a lesson to YOU never to conspire any more as long as you lived." To which Mr. Guppy says, "Who's conspiring?" To which Mr. Jobling replies, "Why, YOU are!" To which Mr. Guppy retorts, "No, I am not." To which Mr. Jobling retorts again, "Yes, you are!" To which Mr. Guppy retorts, "Who says so?" To which Mr. Jobling retorts, "I say so!" To which Mr. Guppy retorts, "Oh, indeed?" To which Mr. Jobling retorts, "Yes, indeed!" And both being now in a heated state, they walk on silently for a while to cool down again.
"Tony," says Mr. Guppy then, "if you heard your friend out instead of flying at him, you wouldn't fall into mistakes. But your temper is hasty and you are not considerate. Possessing in yourself, Tony, all that is calculated to charm the eye — "
"Oh! Blow the eye!" cries Mr. Weevle, cutting him short. "Say what you have got to say!"
Finding his friend in this morose and material condition, Mr. Guppy only expresses the finer feelings of his soul through the tone of injury in which he recommences, "Tony, when I say there is a point on which we must come to an understanding pretty soon, I say so quite apart from any kind of conspiring, however innocent. You know it is professionally arranged beforehand in all cases that are tried what facts the witnesses are to prove. Is it or is it not desirable that we should know what facts we are to prove on the inquiry into the death of this unfortunate old mo — gentleman?" (Mr. Guppy was going to say "mogul," but thinks "gentleman" better suited to the circumstances.)
"What facts? THE facts."
"The facts bearing on that inquiry. Those are" — Mr. Guppy tells them off on his fingers — "what we knew of his habits, when you saw him last, what his condition was then, the discovery that we made, and how we made it."
"Yes," says Mr. Weevle. "Those are about the facts."
"We made the discovery in consequence of his having, in his eccentric way, an appointment with you at twelve o'clock at night, when you were to explain some writing to him as you had often done before on account of his not being able to read. I, spending the evening with you, was called down — and so forth. The inquiry being only into the circumstances touching the death of the deceased, it's not necessary to go beyond these facts, I suppose you'll agree?"
"No!" returns Mr. Weevle. "I suppose not."
"And this is not a conspiracy, perhaps?" says the injured Guppy.
"No," returns his friend; "if it's nothing worse than this, I withdraw the observation."
"Now, Tony," says Mr. Guppy, taking his arm again and walking him slowly on, "I should like to know, in a friendly way, whether you have yet thought over the many advantages of your continuing to live at that place?"
"What do you mean?" says Tony, stopping.
"Whether you have yet thought over the many advantages of your continuing to live at that place?" repeats Mr. Guppy, walking him on again.
"At what place? THAT place?" pointing in the direction of the rag and bottle shop.
Mr. Guppy nods.
"Why, I wouldn't pass another night there for any consideration that you could offer me," says Mr. Weevle, haggardly staring.
"Do you mean it though, Tony?"
"Mean it! Do I look as if I mean it? I feel as if I do; I know that," says Mr. Weevle with a very genuine shudder.
"Then the possibility or probability — for such it must be considered — of your never being disturbed in possession of those effects lately belonging to a lone old man who seemed to have no relation in the world, and the certainty of your being able to find out what he really had got stored up there, don't weigh with you at all against last night, Tony, if I understand you?" says Mr. Guppy, biting his thumb with the appetite of vexation.
"Certainly not. Talk in that cool way of a fellow's living there?" cries Mr. Weevle indignantly. "Go and live there yourself."