What two words?
He turns the key in the door, ungirdles his black pocket-book (book of fate to many), lays another letter by it, and reads, boldly written in each, "Lady Dedlock."
"Yes, yes," says Mr. Bucket. "But I could have made the money without this anonymous information."
Having put the letters in his book of fate and girdled it up again, he unlocks the door just in time to admit his dinner, which is brought upon a goodly tray with a decanter of sherry. Mr. Bucket frequently observes, in friendly circles where there is no restraint, that he likes a toothful of your fine old brown East Inder sherry better than anything you can offer him. Consequently he fills and empties his glass with a smack of his lips and is proceeding with his refreshment when an idea enters his mind.
Mr. Bucket softly opens the door of communication between that room and the next and looks in. The library is deserted, and the fire is sinking low. Mr. Bucket's eye, after taking a pigeon-flight round the room, alights upon a table where letters are usually put as they arrive. Several letters for Sir Leicester are upon it. Mr. Bucket draws near and examines the directions. "No," he says, "there's none in that hand. It's only me as is written to. I can break it to Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, to-morrow."
With that he returns to finish his dinner with a good appetite, and after a light nap, is summoned into the drawing-room. Sir Leicester has received him there these several evenings past to know whether he has anything to report. The debilitated cousin (much exhausted by the funeral) and Volumnia are in attendance.
Mr. Bucket makes three distinctly different bows to these three people. A bow of homage to Sir Leicester, a bow of gallantry to Volumnia, and a bow of recognition to the debilitated Cousin, to whom it airily says, "You are a swell about town, and you know me, and I know you." Having distributed these little specimens of his tact, Mr. Bucket rubs his hands.
"Have you anything new to communicate, officer?" inquires Sir Leicester. "Do you wish to hold any conversation with me in private?"
"Why — not to-night, Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet."
"Because my time," pursues Sir Leicester, "is wholly at your disposal with a view to the vindication of the outraged majesty of the law."
Mr. Bucket coughs and glances at Volumnia, rouged and necklaced, as though he would respectfully observe, "I do assure you, you're a pretty creetur. I've seen hundreds worse looking at your time of life, I have indeed."
The fair Volumnia, not quite unconscious perhaps of the humanizing influence of her charms, pauses in the writing of cocked-hat notes and meditatively adjusts the pearl necklace. Mr. Bucket prices that decoration in his mind and thinks it as likely as not that Volumnia is writing poetry.
"If I have not," pursues Sir Leicester, "in the most emphatic manner, adjured you, officer, to exercise your utmost skill in this atrocious case, I particularly desire to take the present opportunity of rectifying any omission I may have made. Let no expense be a consideration. I am prepared to defray all charges. You can incur none in pursuit of the object you have undertaken that I shall hesitate for a moment to bear."
Mr. Bucket made Sir Leicester's bow again as a response to this liberality.
"My mind," Sir Leicester adds with a generous warmth, "has not, as may be easily supposed, recovered its tone since the late diabolical occurrence. It is not likely ever to recover its tone. But it is full of indignation to-night after undergoing the ordeal of consigning to the tomb the remains of a faithful, a zealous, a devoted adherent."
Sir Leicester's voice trembles and his grey hair stirs upon his head. Tears are in his eyes; the best part of his nature is aroused.
"I declare," he says, "I solemnly declare that until this crime is discovered and, in the course of justice, punished, I almost feel as if there were a stain upon my name. A gentleman who has devoted a large portion of his life to me, a gentleman who has devoted the last day of his life to me, a gentleman who has constantly sat at my table and slept under my roof, goes from my house to his own, and is struck down within an hour of his leaving my house. I cannot say but that he may have been followed from my house, watched at my house, even first marked because of his association with my house — which may have suggested his possessing greater wealth and being altogether of greater importance than his own retiring demeanour would have indicated. If I cannot with my means and influence and my position bring all the perpetrators of such a crime to light, I fail in the assertion of my respect for that gentleman's memory and of my fidelity towards one who was ever faithful to me."
While he makes this protestation with great emotion and earnestness, looking round the room as if he were addressing an assembly, Mr. Bucket glances at him with an observant gravity in which there might be, but for the audacity of the thought, a touch of compassion.
"The ceremony of to-day," continues Sir Leicester, "strikingly illustrative of the respect in which my deceased friend" — he lays a stress upon the word, for death levels all distinctions — "was held by the flower of the land, has, I say, aggravated the shock I have received from this most horrible and audacious crime. If it were my brother who had committed it, I would not spare him."
Mr. Bucket looks very grave. Volumnia remarks of the deceased that he was the trustiest and dearest person!
"You must feel it as a deprivation to you, miss," replies Mr. Bucket soothingly, "no doubt. He was calculated to BE a deprivation, I'm sure he was."
Volumnia gives Mr. Bucket to understand, in reply, that her sensitive mind is fully made up never to get the better of it as long as she lives, that her nerves are unstrung for ever, and that she has not the least expectation of ever smiling again. Meanwhile she folds up a cocked hat for that redoubtable old general at Bath, descriptive of her melancholy condition.
"It gives a start to a delicate female," says Mr. Bucket sympathetically, "but it'll wear off."
Volumnia wishes of all things to know what is doing? Whether they are going to convict, or whatever it is, that dreadful soldier? Whether he had any accomplices, or whatever the thing is called in the law? And a great deal more to the like artless purpose.
"Why you see, miss," returns Mr. Bucket, bringing the finger into persuasive action — and such is his natural gallantry that he had almost said "my dear" — "it ain't easy to answer those questions at the present moment. Not at the present moment. I've kept myself on this case, Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet," whom Mr. Bucket takes into the conversation in right of his importance, "morning, noon, and night. But for a glass or two of sherry, I don't think I could have had my mind so much upon the stretch as it has been. I COULD answer your questions, miss, but duty forbids it. Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, will very soon be made acquainted with all that has been traced. And I hope that he may find it" — Mr. Bucket again looks grave — "to his satisfaction."
The debilitated cousin only hopes some fler'll be executed — zample. Thinks more interest's wanted — get man hanged presentime — than get man place ten thousand a year. Hasn't a doubt — zample — far better hang wrong fler than no fler.