One of the fireproof boxes, unpadlocked and opened, was upon it; a part of its contents lay strewn upon the table, and the rest was then in course of passing through the hands of Mr. Snitchey; who brought it to the candle, document by document; looked at every paper singly, as he produced it; shook his head, and handed it to Mr. Craggs; who looked it over also, shook his head, and laid it down. Sometimes, they would stop, and shaking their heads in concert, look towards the abstracted client. And the name on the box being Michael Warden, Esquire, we may conclude from these premises that the name and the box were both his, and that the affairs of Michael Warden, Esquire, were in a bad way.
'That's all,' said Mr. Snitchey, turning up the last paper. 'Really there's no other resource. No other resource.'
'All lost, spent, wasted, pawned, borrowed, and sold, eh?' said the client, looking up.
'All,' returned Mr. Snitchey.
'Nothing else to be done, you say?'
'Nothing at all.'
The client bit his nails, and pondered again.
'And I am not even personally safe in England? You hold to that, do you?'
'In no part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland,' replied Mr. Snitchey.
'A mere prodigal son with no father to go back to, no swine to keep, and no husks to share with them? Eh?' pursued the client, rocking one leg over the other, and searching the ground with his eyes.
Mr. Snitchey coughed, as if to deprecate the being supposed to participate in any figurative illustration of a legal position. Mr. Craggs, as if to express that it was a partnership view of the subject, also coughed.
'Ruined at thirty!' said the client. 'Humph!'
'Not ruined, Mr. Warden,' returned Snitchey. 'Not so bad as that. You have done a good deal towards it, I must say, but you are not ruined. A little nursing - '
'A little Devil,' said the client.
'Mr. Craggs,' said Snitchey, 'will you oblige me with a pinch of snuff? Thank you, sir.'
As the imperturbable lawyer applied it to his nose with great apparent relish and a perfect absorption of his attention in the proceeding, the client gradually broke into a smile, and, looking up, said:
'You talk of nursing. How long nursing?'
'How long nursing?' repeated Snitchey, dusting the snuff from his fingers, and making a slow calculation in his mind. 'For your involved estate, sir? In good hands? S. and C.'s, say? Six or seven years.'
'To starve for six or seven years!' said the client with a fretful laugh, and an impatient change of his position.
'To starve for six or seven years, Mr. Warden,' said Snitchey, 'would be very uncommon indeed. You might get another estate by showing yourself, the while. But, we don't think you could do it - speaking for Self and Craggs - and consequently don't advise it.'
'What DO you advise?'
'Nursing, I say,' repeated Snitchey. 'Some few years of nursing by Self and Craggs would bring it round. But to enable us to make terms, and hold terms, and you to keep terms, you must go away; you must live abroad. As to starvation, we could ensure you some hundreds a-year to starve upon, even in the beginning - I dare say, Mr. Warden.'
'Hundreds,' said the client. 'And I have spent thousands!'
'That,' retorted Mr. Snitchey, putting the papers slowly back into the cast-iron box, 'there is no doubt about. No doubt about,' he repeated to himself, as he thoughtfully pursued his occupation.
The lawyer very likely knew HIS man; at any rate his dry, shrewd, whimsical manner, had a favourable influence on the client's moody state, and disposed him to be more free and unreserved. Or, perhaps the client knew HIS man, and had elicited such encouragement as he had received, to render some purpose he was about to disclose the more defensible in appearance. Gradually raising his head, he sat looking at his immovable adviser with a smile, which presently broke into a laugh.
'After all,' he said, 'my iron-headed friend - '
Mr. Snitchey pointed out his partner. 'Self and - excuse me - Craggs.'
'I beg Mr.