"Now, Sir Leicester Dedlock," proceeds Mr. Bucket, "thus preparing you, let me beg of you not to trouble your mind for a moment as to anything having come to MY knowledge. I know so much about so many characters, high and low, that a piece of information more or less don't signify a straw. I don't suppose there's a move on the board that would surprise ME, and as to this or that move having taken place, why my knowing it is no odds at all, any possible move whatever (provided it's in a wrong direction) being a probable move according to my experience. Therefore, what I say to you, Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, is, don't you go and let yourself be put out of the way because of my knowing anything of your family affairs."
"I thank you for your preparation," returns Sir Leicester after a silence, without moving hand, foot, or feature, "which I hope is not necessary; though I give it credit for being well intended. Be so good as to go on. Also"--Sir Leicester seems to shrink in the shadow of his figure--"also, to take a seat, if you have no objection."
None at all. Mr. Bucket brings a chair and diminishes his shadow. "Now, Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, with this short preface I come to the point. Lady Dedlock--"
Sir Leicester raises himself in his seat and stares at him fiercely. Mr. Bucket brings the finger into play as an emollient.
"Lady Dedlock, you see she's universally admired. That's what her ladyship is; she's universally admired," says Mr. Bucket.
"I would greatly prefer, officer," Sir Leicester returns stiffly, "my Lady's name being entirely omitted from this discussion."
"So would I, Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, but--it's impossible."
Mr. Bucket shakes his relentless head.
"Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, it's altogether impossible. What I have got to say is about her ladyship. She is the pivot it all turns on."
"Officer," retorts Sir Leicester with a fiery eye and a quivering lip, "you know your duty. Do your duty, but be careful not to overstep it. I would not suffer it. I would not endure it. You bring my Lady's name into this communication upon your responsibility--upon your responsibility. My Lady's name is not a name for common persons to trifle with!"
"Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, I say what I must say, and no more."
"I hope it may prove so. Very well. Go on. Go on, sir!" Glancing at the angry eyes which now avoid him and at the angry figure trembling from head to foot, yet striving to be still, Mr. Bucket feels his way with his forefinger and in a low voice proceeds.
"Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, it becomes my duty to tell you that the deceased Mr. Tulkinghorn long entertained mistrusts and suspicions of Lady Dedlock."
"If he had dared to breathe them to me, sir--which he never did--I would have killed him myself!" exclaims Sir Leicester, striking his hand upon the table. But in the very heat and fury of the act he stops, fixed by the knowing eyes of Mr. Bucket, whose forefinger is slowly going and who, with mingled confidence and patience, shakes his head.
"Sir Leicester Dedlock, the deceased Mr. Tulkinghorn was deep and close, and what he fully had in his mind in the very beginning I can't quite take upon myself to say. But I know from his lips that he long ago suspected Lady Dedlock of having discovered, through the sight of some handwriting--in this very house, and when you yourself, Sir Leicester Dedlock, were present--the existence, in great poverty, of a certain person who had been her lover before you courted her and who ought to have been her husband." Mr. Bucket stops and deliberately repeats, "Ought to have been her husband, not a doubt about it. I know from his lips that when that person soon afterwards died, he suspected Lady Dedlock of visiting his wretched lodging and his wretched grave, alone and in secret. I know from my own inquiries and through my eyes and ears that Lady Dedlock did make such visit in the dress of her own maid, for the deceased Mr.