Mr. Bucket sits out the procession in his own easy manner and glides from the carriage when the opportunity he has settled with himself arrives. He makes for Sir Leicester Dedlock's, which is at present a sort of home to him, where he comes and goes as he likes at all hours, where he is always welcome and made much of, where he knows the whole establishment, and walks in an atmosphere of mysterious greatness.
No knocking or ringing for Mr. Bucket. He has caused himself to be provided with a key and can pass in at his pleasure. As he is crossing the hall, Mercury informs him, "Here's another letter for you, Mr. Bucket, come by post," and gives it him.
"Another one, eh?" says Mr. Bucket.
If Mercury should chance to be possessed by any lingering curiosity as to Mr. Bucket's letters, that wary person is not the man to gratify it. Mr. Bucket looks at him as if his face were a vista of some miles in length and he were leisurely contemplating the same.
"Do you happen to carry a box?" says Mr. Bucket.
Unfortunately Mercury is no snuff-taker.
"Could you fetch me a pinch from anywheres?" says Mr. Bucket. "Thankee. It don't matter what it is; I'm not particular as to the kind. Thankee!"
Having leisurely helped himself from a canister borrowed from somebody downstairs for the purpose, and having made a considerable show of tasting it, first with one side of his nose and then with the other, Mr. Bucket, with much deliberation, pronounces it of the right sort and goes on, letter in hand.
Now although Mr. Bucket walks upstairs to the little library within the larger one with the face of a man who receives some scores of letters every day, it happens that much correspondence is not incidental to his life. He is no great scribe, rather handling his pen like the pocket-staff he carries about with him always convenient to his grasp, and discourages correspondence with himself in others as being too artless and direct a way of doing delicate business. Further, he often sees damaging letters produced in evidence and has occasion to reflect that it was a green thing to write them. For these reasons he has very little to do with letters, either as sender or receiver. And yet he has received a round half-dozen within the last twenty-four hours.
"And this," says Mr. Bucket, spreading it out on the table, "is in the same hand, and consists of the same two words."
What two words?
He turns the key in the door, ungirdles his black pocket-book (book of fate to many), lays another letter by it, and reads, boldly written in each, "Lady Dedlock."
"Yes, yes," says Mr. Bucket. "But I could have made the money without this anonymous information."
Having put the letters in his book of fate and girdled it up again, he unlocks the door just in time to admit his dinner, which is brought upon a goodly tray with a decanter of sherry. Mr. Bucket frequently observes, in friendly circles where there is no restraint, that he likes a toothful of your fine old brown East Inder sherry better than anything you can offer him. Consequently he fills and empties his glass with a smack of his lips and is proceeding with his refreshment when an idea enters his mind.
Mr. Bucket softly opens the door of communication between that room and the next and looks in. The library is deserted, and the fire is sinking low. Mr. Bucket's eye, after taking a pigeon-flight round the room, alights upon a table where letters are usually put as they arrive. Several letters for Sir Leicester are upon it. Mr. Bucket draws near and examines the directions. "No," he says, "there's none in that hand. It's only me as is written to. I can break it to Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, to-morrow."
With that he returns to finish his dinner with a good appetite, and after a light nap, is summoned into the drawing-room. Sir Leicester has received him there these several evenings past to know whether he has anything to report. The debilitated cousin (much exhausted by the funeral) and Volumnia are in attendance.