She knows its influence perfectly, has studied it too well to miss a grain of its effect on any one. As she looks at him so steadily and coldly, he not only feels conscious that he has no guide in the least perception of what is really the complexion of her thoughts, but also that he is being every moment, as it were, removed further and further from her.
She will not speak, it is plain. So he must.
"In short, your ladyship," says Mr. Guppy like a meanly penitent thief, "the person I was to have had the letters of, has come to a sudden end, and--" He stops. Lady Dedlock calmly finishes the sentence.
"And the letters are destroyed with the person?"
Mr. Guppy would say no if he could--as he is unable to hide.
"I believe so, your ladyship."
If he could see the least sparkle of relief in her face now? No, he could see no such thing, even if that brave outside did not utterly put him away, and he were not looking beyond it and about it.
He falters an awkward excuse or two for his failure.
"Is this all you have to say?" inquires Lady Dedlock, having heard him out--or as nearly out as he can stumble.
Mr. Guppy thinks that's all.
"You had better be sure that you wish to say nothing more to me, this being the last time you will have the opportunity."
Mr. Guppy is quite sure. And indeed he has no such wish at present, by any means.
"That is enough. I will dispense with excuses. Good evening to you!" And she rings for Mercury to show the young man of the name of Guppy out.
But in that house, in that same moment, there happens to be an old man of the name of Tulkinghorn. And that old man, coming with his quiet footstep to the library, has his hand at that moment on the handle of the door--comes in--and comes face to face with the young man as he is leaving the room.
One glance between the old man and the lady, and for an instant the blind that is always down flies up. Suspicion, eager and sharp, looks out. Another instant, close again.
"I beg your pardon, Lady Dedlock. I beg your pardon a thousand times. It is so very unusual to find you here at this hour. I supposed the room was empty. I beg your pardon!"
"Stay!" She negligently calls him back. "Remain here, I beg. I am going out to dinner. I have nothing more to say to this young man!"
The disconcerted young man bows, as he goes out, and cringingly hopes that Mr. Tulkinghorn of the Fields is well.
"Aye, aye?" says the lawyer, looking at him from under his bent brows, though he has no need to look again--not he. "From Kenge and Carboy's, surely?"
"Kenge and Carboy's, Mr. Tulkinghorn. Name of Guppy, sir."
"To be sure. Why, thank you, Mr. Guppy, I am very well!"
"Happy to hear it, sir. You can't be too well, sir, for the credit of the profession."
"Thank you, Mr. Guppy!"
Mr. Guppy sneaks away. Mr. Tulkinghorn, such a foil in his old- fashioned rusty black to Lady Dedlock's brightness, hands her down the staircase to her carriage. He returns rubbing his chin, and rubs it a good deal in the course of the evening.
A Turn of the Screw
"Now, what," says Mr. George, "may this be? Is it blank cartridge or ball? A flash in the pan or a shot?"
An open letter is the subject of the trooper's speculations, and it seems to perplex him mightily. He looks at it at arm's length, brings it close to him, holds it in his right hand, holds it in his left hand, reads it with his head on this side, with his head on that side, contracts his eyebrows, elevates them, still cannot satisfy himself. He smooths it out upon the table with his heavy palm, and thoughtfully walking up and down the gallery, makes a halt before it every now and then to come upon it with a fresh eye. Even that won't do. "Is it," Mr. George still muses, "blank cartridge or ball?"
Phil Squod, with the aid of a brush and paint-pot, is employed in the distance whitening the targets, softly whistling in quick-march time and in drum-and-fife manner that he must and will go back again to the girl he left behind him.