And you needn't," says Mr. Bucket in a considerate and private voice, "you needn't commit yourself to too low a figure, governor. I don't want to pay too large a price for my friend, but I want you to have your proper percentage and be remunerated for your loss of time. That is but fair. Every man must live, and ought to it."
Mr. Bagnet shakes his head at the old girl to the effect that they have found a jewel of price.
"Suppose I was to give you a look in, say, at half arter ten to- morrow morning. Perhaps you could name the figures of a few wiolincellers of a good tone?" says Mr. Bucket.
Nothing easier. Mr. and Mrs. Bagnet both engage to have the requisite information ready and even hint to each other at the practicability of having a small stock collected there for approval.
"Thank you," says Mr. Bucket, "thank you. Good night, ma'am. Good night, governor. Good night, darlings. I am much obliged to you for one of the pleasantest evenings I ever spent in my life."
They, on the contrary, are much obliged to him for the pleasure he has given them in his company; and so they part with many expressions of goodwill on both sides. "Now George, old boy," says Mr. Bucket, taking his arm at the shop-door, "come along!" As they go down the little street and the Bagnets pause for a minute looking after them, Mrs. Bagnet remarks to the worthy Lignum that Mr. Bucket "almost clings to George like, and seems to be really fond of him."
The neighbouring streets being narrow and ill-paved, it is a little inconvenient to walk there two abreast and arm in arm. Mr. George therefore soon proposes to walk singly. But Mr. Bucket, who cannot make up his mind to relinquish his friendly hold, replies, "Wait half a minute, George. I should wish to speak to you first." Immediately afterwards, he twists him into a public-house and into a parlour, where he confronts him and claps his own back against the door.
"Now, George," says Mr. Bucket, "duty is duty, and friendship is friendship. I never want the two to clash if I can help it. I have endeavoured to make things pleasant to-night, and I put it to you whether I have done it or not. You must consider yourself in custody, George."
"Custody? What for?" returns the trooper, thunderstruck.
"Now, George," says Mr. Bucket, urging a sensible view of the case upon him with his fat forefinger, "duty, as you know very well, is one thing, and conversation is another. It's my duty to inform you that any observations you may make will be liable to be used against you. Therefore, George, be careful what you say. You don't happen to have heard of a murder?"
"Now, George," says Mr. Bucket, keeping his forefinger in an impressive state of action, "bear in mind what I've said to you. I ask you nothing. You've been in low spirits this afternoon. I say, you don't happen to have heard of a murder?"
"No. Where has there been a murder?"
"Now, George," says Mr. Bucket, "don't you go and commit yourself. I'm a-going to tell you what I want you for. There has been a murder in Lincoln's Inn Fields--gentleman of the name of Tulkinghorn. He was shot last night. I want you for that."
The trooper sinks upon a seat behind him, and great drops start out upon his forehead, and a deadly pallor overspreads his face.
"Bucket! It's not possible that Mr. Tulkinghorn has been killed and that you suspect ME?"
"George," returns Mr. Bucket, keeping his forefinger going, "it is certainly possible, because it's the case. This deed was done last night at ten o'clock. Now, you know where you were last night at ten o'clock, and you'll be able to prove it, no doubt."
"Last night! Last night?" repeats the trooper thoughtfully. Then it flashes upon him. "Why, great heaven, I was there last night!"
"So I have understood, George," returns Mr. Bucket with great deliberation. "So I have understood. Likewise you've been very often there. You've been seen hanging about the place, and you've been heard more than once in a wrangle with him, and it's possible --I don't say it's certainly so, mind you, but it's possible--that he may have been heard to call you a threatening, murdering, dangerous fellow."
The trooper gasps as if he would admit it all if he could speak.