"YOU know life, you know, sir," says Mr. Bucket with a complimentary twinkle of his eye and crook of his finger, "and you can confirm what I've mentioned to this lady. YOU don't want to be told that from information I have received I have gone to work. You're up to what a lady can't be expected to be up to. Lord! Especially in your elevated station of society, miss," says Mr. Bucket, quite reddening at another narrow escape from "my dear."
"The officer, Volumnia," observes Sir Leicester, "is faithful to his duty, and perfectly right."
Mr. Bucket murmurs, "Glad to have the honour of your approbation, Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet."
"In fact, Volumnia," proceeds Sir Leicester, "it is not holding up a good model for imitation to ask the officer any such questions as you have put to him. He is the best judge of his own responsibility; he acts upon his responsibility. And it does not become us, who assist in making the laws, to impede or interfere with those who carry them into execution. Or," says Sir Leicester somewhat sternly, for Volumnia was going to cut in before he had rounded his sentence, "or who vindicate their outraged majesty."
Volumnia with all humility explains that she had not merely the plea of curiosity to urge (in common with the giddy youth of her sex in general) but that she is perfectly dying with regret and interest for the darling man whose loss they all deplore.
"Very well, Volumnia," returns Sir Leicester. "Then you cannot be too discreet."
Mr. Bucket takes the opportunity of a pause to be heard again.
"Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, I have no objections to telling this lady, with your leave and among ourselves, that I look upon the case as pretty well complete. It is a beautiful case — a beautiful case — and what little is wanting to complete it, I expect to be able to supply in a few hours."
"I am very glad indeed to hear it," says Sir Leicester. "Highly creditable to you."
"Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet," returns Mr. Bucket very seriously, "I hope it may at one and the same time do me credit and prove satisfactory to all. When I depict it as a beautiful case, you see, miss," Mr. Bucket goes on, glancing gravely at Sir Leicester, "I mean from my point of view. As considered from other points of view, such cases will always involve more or less unpleasantness. Very strange things comes to our knowledge in families, miss; bless your heart, what you would think to be phenomenons, quite."
Volumnia, with her innocent little scream, supposes so.
"Aye, and even in gen-teel families, in high families, in great families," says Mr. Bucket, again gravely eyeing Sir Leicester aside. "I have had the honour of being employed in high families before, and you have no idea — come, I'll go so far as to say not even YOU have any idea, sir," this to the debilitated cousin, "what games goes on!"
The cousin, who has been casting sofa-pillows on his head, in a prostration of boredom yawns, "Vayli," being the used-up for "very likely."
Sir Leicester, deeming it time to dismiss the officer, here majestically interposes with the words, "Very good. Thank you!" and also with a wave of his hand, implying not only that there is an end of the discourse, but that if high families fall into low habits they must take the consequences. "You will not forget, officer," he adds with condescension, "that I am at your disposal when you please."
Mr. Bucket (still grave) inquires if to-morrow morning, now, would suit, in case he should be as for'ard as he expects to be. Sir Leicester replies, "All times are alike to me." Mr. Bucket makes his three bows and is withdrawing when a forgotten point occurs to him.
"Might I ask, by the by," he says in a low voice, cautiously returning, "who posted the reward-bill on the staircase."
"I ordered it to be put up there," replies Sir Leicester.
"Would it be considered a liberty, Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, if I was to ask you why?"
"Not at all. I chose it as a conspicuous part of the house. I think it cannot be too prominently kept before the whole establishment. I wish my people to be impressed with the enormity of the crime, the determination to punish it, and the hopelessness of escape. At the same time, officer, if you in your better knowledge of the subject see any objection — "
Mr. Bucket sees none now; the bill having been put up, had better not be taken down. Repeating his three bows he withdraws, closing the door on Volumnia's little scream, which is a preliminary to her remarking that that charmingly horrible person is a perfect Blue Chamber.
In his fondness for society and his adaptability to all grades, Mr. Bucket is presently standing before the hall-fire — bright and warm on the early winter night — admiring Mercury.
"Why, you're six foot two, I suppose?" says Mr. Bucket.
"Three," says Mercury.
"Are you so much? But then, you see, you're broad in proportion and don't look it. You're not one of the weak-legged ones, you ain't. Was you ever modelled now?" Mr. Bucket asks, conveying the expression of an artist into the turn of his eye and head.
Mercury never was modelled.
"Then you ought to be, you know," says Mr. Bucket; "and a friend of mine that you'll hear of one day as a Royal Academy sculptor would stand something handsome to make a drawing of your proportions for the marble. My Lady's out, ain't she?"
"Out to dinner."
"Goes out pretty well every day, don't she?"
"Not to be wondered at!" says Mr. Bucket. "Such a fine woman as her, so handsome and so graceful and so elegant, is like a fresh lemon on a dinner-table, ornamental wherever she goes. Was your father in the same way of life as yourself?"
Answer in the negative.
"Mine was," says Mr. Bucket. "My father was first a page, then a footman, then a butler, then a steward, then an inn-keeper. Lived universally respected, and died lamented. Said with his last breath that he considered service the most honourable part of his career, and so it was. I've a brother in service, AND a brother- in-law. My Lady a good temper?"
Mercury replies, "As good as you can expect."
"Ah!" says Mr. Bucket. "A little spoilt? A little capricious? Lord! What can you anticipate when they're so handsome as that? And we like 'em all the better for it, don't we?"
Mercury, with his hands in the pockets of his bright peach-blossom small-clothes, stretches his symmetrical silk legs with the air of a man of gallantry and can't deny it. Come the roll of wheels and a violent ringing at the bell. "Talk of the angels," says Mr. Bucket. "Here she is!"