Self-praise is no recommendation, but I may say for myself that I am not so bad a man of business neither."
Lady Dedlock looks at him in stern inquiry. Mr. Guppy immediately withdraws his eyes from her face and looks anywhere else.
"Indeed, it has been made so hard," he goes on, "to have any idea what that party was up to in combination with others that until the loss which we all deplore I was gravelled--an expression which your ladyship, moving in the higher circles, will be so good as to consider tantamount to knocked over. Small likewise--a name by which I refer to another party, a friend of mine that your ladyship is not acquainted with--got to be so close and double-faced that at times it wasn't easy to keep one's hands off his 'ead. However, what with the exertion of my humble abilities, and what with the help of a mutual friend by the name of Mr. Tony Weevle (who is of a high aristocratic turn and has your ladyship's portrait always hanging up in his room), I have now reasons for an apprehension as to which I come to put your ladyship upon your guard. First, will your ladyship allow me to ask you whether you have had any strange visitors this morning? I don't mean fashionable visitors, but such visitors, for instance, as Miss Barbary's old servant, or as a person without the use of his lower extremities, carried upstairs similarly to a guy?"
"Then I assure your ladyship that such visitors have been here and have been received here. Because I saw them at the door, and waited at the corner of the square till they came out, and took half an hour's turn afterwards to avoid them."
"What have I to do with that, or what have you? I do not understand you. What do you mean?"
"Your ladyship, I come to put you on your guard. There may be no occasion for it. Very well. Then I have only done my best to keep my promise to Miss Summerson. I strongly suspect (from what Small has dropped, and from what we have corkscrewed out of him) that those letters I was to have brought to your ladyship were not destroyed when I supposed they were. That if there was anything to be blown upon, it IS blown upon. That the visitors I have alluded to have been here this morning to make money of it. And that the money is made, or making."
Mr. Guppy picks up his hat and rises.
"Your ladyship, you know best whether there's anything in what I say or whether there's nothing. Something or nothing, I have acted up to Miss Summerson's wishes in letting things alone and in undoing what I had begun to do, as far as possible; that's sufficient for me. In case I should be taking a liberty in putting your ladyship on your guard when there's no necessity for it, you will endeavour, I should hope, to outlive my presumption, and I shall endeavour to outlive your disapprobation. I now take my farewell of your ladyship, and assure you that there's no danger of your ever being waited on by me again."
She scarcely acknowledges these parting words by any look, but when he has been gone a little while, she rings her bell.
"Where is Sir Leicester?"
Mercury reports that he is at present shut up in the library alone.
"Has Sir Leicester had any visitors this morning?"
Several, on business. Mercury proceeds to a description of them, which has been anticipated by Mr. Guppy. Enough; he may go.
So! All is broken down. Her name is in these many mouths, her husband knows his wrongs, her shame will be published--may be spreading while she thinks about it--and in addition to the thunderbolt so long foreseen by her, so unforeseen by him, she is denounced by an invisible accuser as the murderess of her enemy.
Her enemy he was, and she has often, often, often wished him dead. Her enemy he is, even in his grave. This dreadful accusation comes upon her like a new torment at his lifeless hand. And when she recalls how she was secretly at his door that night, and how she may be represented to have sent her favourite girl away so soon before merely to release herself from observation, she shudders as if the hangman's hands were at her neck.