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 old."
"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 gentleman present!"
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 appearing.
"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 explanation.
"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.