I gave him those directions," says my Lady. "Let the young man wait."
"By no means, my Lady. Since he has your orders to come, I will not interrupt you." Sir Leicester in his gallantry retires, rather declining to accept a bow from the young man as he goes out and majestically supposing him to be some shoemaker of intrusive appearance.
Lady Dedlock looks imperiously at her visitor when the servant has left the room, casting her eyes over him from head to foot. She suffers him to stand by the door and asks him what he wants.
"That your ladyship would have the kindness to oblige me with a little conversation," returns Mr. Guppy, embarrassed.
"You are, of course, the person who has written me so many letters?"
"Several, your ladyship. Several before your ladyship condescended to favour me with an answer."
"And could you not take the same means of rendering a Conversation unnecessary? Can you not still?"
Mr. Guppy screws his mouth into a silent "No!" and shakes his head.
"You have been strangely importunate. If it should appear, after all, that what you have to say does not concern me--and I don't know how it can, and don't expect that it will--you will allow me to cut you short with but little ceremony. Say what you have to say, if you please."
My Lady, with a careless toss of her screen, turns herself towards the fire again, sitting almost with her back to the young man of the name of Guppy.
"With your ladyship's permission, then," says the young man, "I will now enter on my business. Hem! I am, as I told your ladyship in my first letter, in the law. Being in the law, I have learnt the habit of not committing myself in writing, and therefore I did not mention to your ladyship the name of the firm with which I am connected and in which my standing--and I may add income--is tolerably good. I may now state to your ladyship, in confidence, that the name of that firm is Kenge and Carboy, of Lincoln's Inn, which may not be altogether unknown to your ladyship in connexion with the case in Chancery of Jarndyce and Jarndyce."
My Lady's figure begins to be expressive of some attention. She has ceased to toss the screen and holds it as if she were listening.
"Now, I may say to your ladyship at once," says Mr. Guppy, a little emboldened, "it is no matter arising out of Jarndyce and Jarndyce that made me so desirous to speak to your ladyship, which conduct I have no doubt did appear, and does appear, obtrusive--in fact, almost blackguardly."
After waiting for a moment to receive some assurance to the contrary, and not receiving any, Mr. Guppy proceeds, "If it had been Jarndyce and Jarndyce, I should have gone at once to your ladyship's solicitor, Mr. Tulkinghorn, of the Fields. I have the pleasure of being acquainted with Mr. Tulkinghorn--at least we move when we meet one another--and if it had been any business of that sort, I should have gone to him."
My Lady turns a little round and says, "You had better sit down."
"Thank your ladyship." Mr. Guppy does so. "Now, your ladyship"-- Mr. Guppy refers to a little slip of paper on which he has made small notes of his line of argument and which seems to involve him in the densest obscurity whenever he looks at it--"I--Oh, yes!--I place myself entirely in your ladyship's hands. If your ladyship was to make any complaint to Kenge and Carboy or to Mr. Tulkinghorn of the present visit, I should be placed in a very disagreeable situation. That, I openly admit. Consequently, I rely upon your ladyship's honour."
My Lady, with a disdainful gesture of the hand that holds the screen, assures him of his being worth no complaint from her.
"Thank your ladyship," says Mr. Guppy; "quite satisfactory. Now-- I--dash it!--The fact is that I put down a head or two here of the order of the points I thought of touching upon, and they're written short, and I can't quite make out what they mean. If your ladyship will excuse me taking it to the window half a moment, I--"
Mr. Guppy, going to the window, tumbles into a pair of love-birds, to whom he says in his confusion, "I beg your pardon, I am sure." This does not tend to the greater legibility of his notes.