As easily might the tone of a delicate musical instrument be inferred from its case, as the tone of Mr. Tulkinghorn from his case.
He now interposes, addressing the young surgeon in his unmoved, professional way.
"I looked in here," he observes, "just before you, with the intention of giving this deceased man, whom I never saw alive, some employment at his trade of copying. I had heard of him from my stationer--Snagsby of Cook's Court. Since no one here knows anything about him, it might be as well to send for Snagsby. Ah!" to the little crazy woman, who has often seen him in court, and whom he has often seen, and who proposes, in frightened dumb-show, to go for the law-stationer. "Suppose you do!"
While she is gone, the surgeon abandons his hopeless investigation and covers its subject with the patchwork counterpane. Mr. Krook and he interchange a word or two. Mr. Tulkinghorn says nothing, but stands, ever, near the old portmanteau.
Mr. Snagsby arrives hastily in his grey coat and his black sleeves. "Dear me, dear me," he says; "and it has come to this, has it! Bless my soul!"
"Can you give the person of the house any information about this unfortunate creature, Snagsby?" inquires Mr. Tulkinghorn. "He was in arrears with his rent, it seems. And he must be buried, you know."
"Well, sir," says Mr. Snagsby, coughing his apologetic cough behind his hand, "I really don't know what advice I could offer, except sending for the beadle."
"I don't speak of advice," returns Mr. Tulkinghorn. "I could advise--"
"No one better, sir, I am sure," says Mr. Snagsby, with his deferential cough.
"I speak of affording some clue to his connexions, or to where he came from, or to anything concerning him."
"I assure you, sir," says Mr. Snagsby after prefacing his reply with his cough of general propitiation, "that I no more know where he came from than I know--"
"Where he has gone to, perhaps," suggests the surgeon to help him out.
A pause. Mr. Tulkinghorn looking at the law-stationer. Mr. Krook, with his mouth open, looking for somebody to speak next.
"As to his connexions, sir," says Mr. Snagsby, "if a person was to say to me, 'Snagsby, here's twenty thousand pound down, ready for you in the Bank of England if you'll only name one of 'em,' I couldn't do it, sir! About a year and a half ago--to the best of my belief, at the time when he first came to lodge at the present rag and bottle shop--"
"That was the time!" says Krook with a nod.
"About a year and a half ago," says Mr. Snagsby, strengthened, "he came into our place one morning after breakfast, and finding my little woman (which I name Mrs. Snagsby when I use that appellation) in our shop, produced a specimen of his handwriting and gave her to understand that he was in want of copying work to do and was, not to put too fine a point upon it," a favourite apology for plain speaking with Mr. Snagsby, which he always offers with a sort of argumentative frankness, "hard up! My little woman is not in general partial to strangers, particular--not to put too fine a point upon it--when they want anything. But she was rather took by something about this person, whether by his being unshaved, or by his hair being in want of attention, or by what other ladies' reasons, I leave you to judge; and she accepted of the specimen, and likewise of the address. My little woman hasn't a good ear for names," proceeds Mr. Snagsby after consulting his cough of consideration behind his hand, "and she considered Nemo equally the same as Nimrod. In consequence of which, she got into a habit of saying to me at meals, 'Mr. Snagsby, you haven't found Nimrod any work yet!' or 'Mr. Snagsby, why didn't you give that eight and thirty Chancery folio in Jarndyce to Nimrod?' or such like. And that is the way he gradually fell into job-work at our place; and that is the most I know of him except that he was a quick hand, and a hand not sparing of night-work, and that if you gave him out, say, five and forty folio on the Wednesday night, you would have it brought in on the Thursday morning.