"Oh, dear, yes, sir! Work of yours."
"Thinking of more important matters, I forget where you said he lived?"
"Across the lane, sir. In fact, he lodges at a--" Mr. Snagsby makes another bolt, as if the bit of bread and buffer were insurmountable "--at a rag and bottle shop."
"Can you show me the place as I go back?"
"With the greatest pleasure, sir!"
Mr. Snagsby pulls off his sleeves and his grey coat, pulls on his black coat, takes his hat from its peg. "Oh! Here is my little woman!" he says aloud. "My dear, will you be so kind as to tell one of the lads to look after the shop while I step across the lane with Mr. Tulkinghorn? Mrs. Snagsby, sir--I shan't be two minutes, my love!"
Mrs. Snagsby bends to the lawyer, retires behind the counter, peeps at them through the window-blind, goes softly into the back office, refers to the entries in the book still lying open. Is evidently curious.
"You will find that the place is rough, sir," says Mr. Snagsby, walking deferentially in the road and leaving the narrow pavement to the lawyer; "and the party is very rough. But they're a wild lot in general, sir. The advantage of this particular man is that he never wants sleep. He'll go at it right on end if you want him to, as long as ever you like."
It is quite dark now, and the gas-lamps have acquired their full effect. Jostling against clerks going to post the day's letters, and against counsel and attorneys going home to dinner, and against plaintiffs and defendants and suitors of all sorts, and against the general crowd, in whose way the forensic wisdom of ages has interposed a million of obstacles to the transaction of the commonest business of life; diving through law and equity, and through that kindred mystery, the street mud, which is made of nobody knows what and collects about us nobody knows whence or how-- we only knowing in general that when there is too much of it we find it necessary to shovel it away--the lawyer and the law-stationer come to a rag and bottle shop and general emporium of much disregarded merchandise, lying and being in the shadow of the wall of Lincoln's Inn, and kept, as is announced in paint, to all whom it may concern, by one Krook.
"This is where he lives, sir," says the law-stationer.
"This is where he lives, is it?" says the lawyer unconcernedly. "Thank you."
"Are you not going in, sir?"
"No, thank you, no; I am going on to the Fields at present. Good evening. Thank you!" Mr. Snagsby lifts his hat and returns to his little woman and his tea.
But Mr. Tulkinghorn does not go on to the Fields at present. He goes a short way, turns back, comes again to the shop of Mr. Krook, and enters it straight. It is dim enough, with a blot-headed candle or so in the windows, and an old man and a cat sitting in the back part by a fire. The old man rises and comes forward, with another blot-headed candle in his hand.
"Pray is your lodger within?"
"Male or female, sir?" says Mr. Krook.
"Male. The person who does copying."
Mr. Krook has eyed his man narrowly. Knows him by sight. Has an indistinct impression of his aristocratic repute.
"Did you wish to see him, sir?"
"It's what I seldom do myself," says Mr. Krook with a grin. "Shall I call him down? But it's a weak chance if he'd come, sir!"
"I'll go up to him, then," says Mr. Tulkinghorn.
"Second floor, sir. Take the candle. Up there!" Mr. Krook, with his cat beside him, stands at the bottom of the staircase, looking after Mr. Tulkinghorn. "Hi-hi!" he says when Mr. Tulkinghorn has nearly disappeared. The lawyer looks down over the hand-rail. The cat expands her wicked mouth and snarls at him.
"Order, Lady Jane! Behave yourself to visitors, my lady! You know what they say of my lodger?" whispers Krook, going up a step or two.
"What do they say of him?"
"They say he has sold himself to the enemy, but you and I know better--he don't buy. I'll tell you what, though; my lodger is so black-humoured and gloomy that I believe he'd as soon make that bargain as any other.