Guppy, anxiously biting his thumb-nail.
"You can't speak too low. Yes. That's what he and I agreed."
"I tell you what, Tony--"
"You can't speak too low," says Tony once more. Mr. Guppy nods his sagacious head, advances it yet closer, and drops into a whisper.
"I tell you what. The first thing to be done is to make another packet like the real one so that if he should ask to see the real one while it's in my possession, you can show him the dummy."
"And suppose he detects the dummy as soon as he sees it, which with his biting screw of an eye is about five hundred times more likely than not," suggests Tony.
"Then we'll face it out. They don't belong to him, and they never did. You found that, and you placed them in my hands--a legal friend of yours--for security. If he forces us to it, they'll be producible, won't they?"
"Ye-es," is Mr. Weevle's reluctant admission.
"Why, Tony," remonstrates his friend, "how you look! You don't doubt William Guppy? You don't suspect any harm?"
"I don't suspect anything more than I know, William," returns the other gravely.
"And what do you know?" urges Mr. Guppy, raising his voice a little; but on his friend's once more warning him, "I tell you, you can't speak too low," he repeats his question without any sound at all, forming with his lips only the words, "What do you know?"
"I know three things. First, I know that here we are whispering in secrecy, a pair of conspirators."
"Well!" says Mr. Guppy. "And we had better be that than a pair of noodles, which we should be if we were doing anything else, for it's the only way of doing what we want to do. Secondly?"
"Secondly, it's not made out to me how it's likely to be profitable, after all."
Mr. Guppy casts up his eyes at the portrait of Lady Dedlock over the mantelshelf and replies, "Tony, you are asked to leave that to the honour of your friend. Besides its being calculated to serve that friend in those chords of the human mind which--which need not be called into agonizing vibration on the present occasion--your friend is no fool. What's that?"
"It's eleven o'clock striking by the bell of Saint Paul's. Listen and you'll hear all the bells in the city jangling."
Both sit silent, listening to the metal voices, near and distant, resounding from towers of various heights, in tones more various than their situations. When these at length cease, all seems more mysterious and quiet than before. One disagreeable result of whispering is that it seems to evoke an atmosphere of silence, haunted by the ghosts of sound--strange cracks and tickings, the rustling of garments that have no substance in them, and the tread of dreadful feet that would leave no mark on the sea-sand or the winter snow. So sensitive the two friends happen to be that the air is full of these phantoms, and the two look over their shoulders by one consent to see that the door is shut.
"Yes, Tony?" says Mr. Guppy, drawing nearer to the fire and biting his unsteady thumb-nail. "You were going to say, thirdly?"
"It's far from a pleasant thing to be plotting about a dead man in the room where he died, especially when you happen to live in it."
"But we are plotting nothing against him, Tony."
"May be not, still I don't like it. Live here by yourself and see how YOU like it."
"As to dead men, Tony," proceeds Mr. Guppy, evading this proposal, "there have been dead men in most rooms."
"I know there have, but in most rooms you let them alone, and--and they let you alone," Tony answers.
The two look at each other again. Mr. Guppy makes a hurried remark to the effect that they may be doing the deceased a service, that he hopes so. There is an oppressive blank until Mr. Weevle, by stirring the fire suddenly, makes Mr. Guppy start as if his heart had been stirred instead.
"Fah! Here's more of this hateful soot hanging about," says he. "Let us open the window a bit and get a mouthful of air. It's too close."
He raises the sash, and they both rest on the window-sill, half in and half out of the room.