Mr. Bagnet's gravity becomes yet more profound.
"But I think you asked me, Mr. George"--old Smallweed, who all this time has had the pipe in his hand, is the speaker now--"I think you asked me, what did the letter mean?"
"Why, yes, I did," returns the trooper in his off-hand way, "but I don't care to know particularly, if it's all correct and pleasant."
Mr. Smallweed, purposely balking himself in an aim at the trooper's head, throws the pipe on the ground and breaks it to pieces.
"That's what it means, my dear friend. I'll smash you. I'll crumble you. I'll powder you. Go to the devil!"
The two friends rise and look at one another. Mr. Bagnet's gravity has now attained its profoundest point.
"Go to the devil!" repeats the old man. "I'll have no more of your pipe-smokings and swaggerings. What? You're an independent dragoon, too! Go to my lawyer (you remember where; you have been there before) and show your independence now, will you? Come, my dear friend, there's a chance for you. Open the street door, Judy; put these blusterers out! Call in help if they don't go. Put 'em out!"
He vociferates this so loudly that Mr. Bagnet, laying his hands on the shoulders of his comrade before the latter can recover from his amazement, gets him on the outside of the street door, which is instantly slammed by the triumphant Judy. Utterly confounded, Mr. George awhile stands looking at the knocker. Mr. Bagnet, in a perfect abyss of gravity, walks up and down before the little parlour window like a sentry and looks in every time he passes, apparently revolving something in his mind.
"Come, Mat," says Mr. George when he has recovered himself, "we must try the lawyer. Now, what do you think of this rascal?"
Mr. Bagnet, stopping to take a farewell look into the parlour, replies with one shake of his head directed at the interior, "If my old girl had been here--I'd have told him!" Having so discharged himself of the subject of his cogitations, he falls into step and marches off with the trooper, shoulder to shoulder.
When they present themselves in Lincoln's Inn Fields, Mr. Tulkinghorn is engaged and not to be seen. He is not at all willing to see them, for when they have waited a full hour, and the clerk, on his bell being rung, takes the opportunity of mentioning as much, he brings forth no more encouraging message than that Mr. Tulkinghorn has nothing to say to them and they had better not wait. They do wait, however, with the perseverance of military tactics, and at last the bell rings again and the client in possession comes out of Mr. Tulkinghorn's room.
The client is a handsome old lady, no other than Mrs. Rouncewell, housekeeper at Chesney Wold. She comes out of the sanctuary with a fair old-fashioned curtsy and softly shuts the door. She is treated with some distinction there, for the clerk steps out of his pew to show her through the outer office and to let her out. The old lady is thanking him for his attention when she observes the comrades in waiting.
"I beg your pardon, sir, but I think those gentlemen are military?"
The clerk referring the question to them with his eye, and Mr. George not turning round from the almanac over the fire-place. Mr. Bagnet takes upon himself to reply, "Yes, ma'am. Formerly."
"I thought so. I was sure of it. My heart warms, gentlemen, at the sight of you. It always does at the sight of such. God bless you, gentlemen! You'll excuse an old woman, but I had a son once who went for a soldier. A fine handsome youth he was, and good in his bold way, though some people did disparage him to his poor mother. I ask your pardon for troubling you, sir. God bless you, gentlemen!"
"Same to you, ma'am!" returns Mr. Bagnet with right good will.
There is something very touching in the earnestness of the old lady's voice and in the tremble that goes through her quaint old figure. But Mr. George is so occupied with the almanac over the fire-place (calculating the coming months by it perhaps) that he does not look round until she has gone away and the door is closed upon her.