Sir Leicester leans back in his chair, and breathlessly ejaculates, “Good Heaven!”

“Now, Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet,” Mr Bucket begins, standing over him with one hand spread out on the library table, and the forefinger of the other in impressive use, “it’s my duty to prepare you for a train of circumstances that may, and I go so far as to say that will, give you a shock. But Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, you are a gentleman; and I know what a gentleman is, and what a gentleman is capable of. A gentleman can bear a shock, when it must come, boldly and steadily. A gentleman can make up his mind to stand up against almost any blow. Why, take yourself, Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet. If there’s a blow to be inflicted on you, you naturally think of your family. You ask yourself, how would all them ancestors of yours, away to Julius Cæsar — not to go beyond him at present — have borne that blow; you remember scores of them that would have borne it well; and you bear it well on their accounts, and to maintain the family credit. That’s the way you argue, and that’s the way you act, Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet.”

Sir Leicester, leaning back in his chair, and grasping the elbows, sits looking at him with a stony face.

“Now, Sir Leicester Dedlock,” proceeds Mr Bucket, “thus preparing you, let me beg of you not to trouble your mind, for a moment, as to anything having come to my knowledge. I know so much about so many characters, high and low, that a piece of information more or less, don’t signify a straw. I don’t suppose there’s a move on the board that would surprise me; and as to this or that move having taken place, why my knowing it is no odds at all; any possible move whatever (provided it’s in a wrong direction) being a probable move according to my experience. Therefore what I say to you, Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, is, don’t you go and let yourself be put out of the way, because of my knowing anything of your family affairs.”

“I thank you for your preparation,” returns Sir Leicester, after a silence, without moving hand, foot, or feature; “which I hope is not necessary, though I give it credit for being well intended. Be so good as to go on. Also;” Sir Leicester seems to shrink in the shadow of his figure; “also, to take a seat, if you have no objection.”

None at all. Mr Bucket brings a chair, and diminishes his shadow.

“Now, Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, with this short preface, I come to the point. Lady Dedlock—”

Sir Leicester raises himself in his seat, and stares at him fiercely. Mr Bucket brings the finger into play as an emollient.

“Lady Dedlock, you see, she’s universally admired. That’s what her Ladyship is; she’s universally admired,” says Mr Bucket.

“I would greatly prefer, officer,” Sir Leicester returns, stiffly, “my Lady’s name being entirely omitted from this discussion.”

“So would I, Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, but — it’s impossible.”


Mr Bucket shakes his relentless head.

“Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, it’s altogether impossible. What I have got to say, is about her Ladyship. She is the pivot it all turns on.”

“Officer,” retorts Sir Leicester, with a fiery eye, and a quivering lip, “you know your duty. Do your duty; but be careful not to overstep it. I would not suffer it. I would not endure it. You bring my Lady’s name into this communication, upon your responsibility — upon your responsibility. My Lady’s name is not a name for common persons to trifle with!”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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