Charles Dickens

He rang the bell in a covert under-handed way, as though it were a treasonable act; and passed in at the door, the moment it was opened wide enough to receive his body. That done, he shut it immediately with his own hands.

Mr Bailey, taking up his name without delay, returned with a request that he would follow him into his master's chamber. The chairman of the Anglo-Bengalee Disinterested Loan and Life Assurance Board was dressing, and received him as a business person who was often backwards and forwards, and was received at all times for his business' sake.

'Well, Mr Nadgett?'

Mr Nadgett put his hat upon the ground and coughed. The boy having withdrawn and shut the door, he went to it softly, examined the handle, and returned to within a pace or two of the chair in which Mr Montague sat.

'Any news, Mr Nadgett?'

'I think we have some news at last, sir.'

'I am happy to hear it. I began to fear you were off the scent, Mr Nadgett.'

'No, sir. It grows cold occasionally. It will sometimes. We can't help that.'

'You are truth itself, Mr Nadgett. Do you report a great success?'

'That depends upon your judgment and construction of it,' was his answer, as he put on his spectacles.

'What do you think of it yourself? Have you pleased yourself?'

Mr Nadgett rubbed his hands slowly, stroked his chin, looked round the room, and said, 'Yes, yes, I think it's a good case. I am disposed to think it's a good case. Will you go into it at once?'

'By all means.'

Mr Nadgett picked out a certain chair from among the rest, and having planted it in a particular spot, as carefully as if he had been going to vault over it, placed another chair in front of it; leaving room for his own legs between them. He then sat down in chair number two, and laid his pocket-book, very carefully, on chair number one. He then untied the pocket-book, and hung the string over the back of chair number one. He then drew both the chairs a little nearer Mr Montague, and opening the pocket-book spread out its contents. Finally he selected a certain memorandum from the rest, and held it out to his employer, who, during the whole of these preliminary ceremonies, had been making violent efforts to conceal his impatience.

'I wish you wouldn't be so fond of making notes, my excellent friend,' said Tigg Montague with a ghastly smile. 'I wish you would consent to give me their purport by word of mouth.'

'I don't like word of mouth,' said Mr Nadgett gravely. 'We never know who's listening.'

Mr Montague was going to retort, when Nadgett handed him the paper, and said, with quiet exultation in his tone, 'We'll begin at the beginning, and take that one first, if you please, sir.'

The chairman cast his eyes upon it, coldly, and with a smile which did not render any great homage to the slow and methodical habits of his spy. But he had not read half-a-dozen lines when the expression of his face began to change, and before he had finished the perusal of the paper, it was full of grave and serious attention.

'Number Two,' said Mr Nadgett, handing him another, and receiving back the first. 'Read Number Two, sir, if you please. There is more interest as you go on.'

Tigg Montague leaned backward in his chair, and cast upon his emissary such a look of vacant wonder (not unmingled with alarm), that Mr Nadgett considered it necessary to repeat the request he had already twice preferred; with the view to recalling his attention to the point in hand. Profiting by the hint, Mr Montague went on with Number Two, and afterwards with Numbers Three, and Four, and Five, and so on.

These documents were all in Mr Nadgett's writing, and were apparently a series of memoranda, jotted down from time to time upon the backs of old letters, or any scrap of paper that came first to hand. Loose straggling scrawls they were, and of very uninviting exterior; but they had weighty purpose in them, if the chairman's face were any index to the character of their contents.

The progress of Mr Nadgett's secret satisfaction arising out of the effect they made, kept pace with the emotions of the reader.