Bleak House HTML version
22. Mr. Bucket
Allegory looks pretty cool in Lincoln's Inn Fields, though the evening is hot, for both Mr.
Tulkinghorn's windows are wide open, and the room is lofty, gusty, and gloomy. These
may not be desirable characteristics when November comes with fog and sleet or
January with ice and snow, but they have their merits in the sultry long vacation
weather. They enable Allegory, though it has cheeks like peaches, and knees like
bunches of blossoms, and rosy swellings for calves to its legs and muscles to its arms,
to look tolerably cool to-night.
Plenty of dust comes in at Mr. Tulkinghorn's windows, and plenty more has generated
among his furniture and papers. It lies thick everywhere. When a breeze from the
country that has lost its way takes fright and makes a blind hurry to rush out again, it
flings as much dust in the eyes of Allegory as the law-or Mr. Tulkinghorn, one of its
trustiest representatives--may scatter, on occasion, in the eyes of the laity.
In his lowering magazine of dust, the universal article into which his papers and himself,
and all his clients, and all things of earth, animate and inanimate, are resolving, Mr.
Tulkinghorn sits at one of the open windows enjoying a bottle of old port. Though a
hard-grained man, close, dry, and silent, he can enjoy old wine with the best. He has a
priceless bin of port in some artful cellar under the Fields, which is one of his many
secrets. When he dines alone in chambers, as he has dined to-day, and has his bit of
fish and his steak or chicken brought in from the coffee-house, he descends with a
candle to the echoing regions below the deserted mansion, and heralded by a remote
reverberation of thundering doors, comes gravely back encircled by an earthy
atmosphere and carrying a bottle from which he pours a radiant nectar, two score and
ten years old, that blushes in the glass to find itself so famous and fills the whole room
with the fragrance of southern grapes.
Mr. Tulkinghorn, sitting in the twilight by the open window, enjoys his wine. As if it
whispered to him of its fifty years of silence and seclusion, it shuts him up the closer.
More impenetrable than ever, he sits, and drinks, and mellows as it were in secrecy,
pondering at that twilight hour on all the mysteries he knows, associated with darkening
woods in the country, and vast blank shut-up houses in town, and perhaps sparing a
thought or two for himself, and his family history, and his money, and his will--all a
mystery to every one--and that one bachelor friend of his, a man of the same mould and
a lawyer too, who lived the same kind of life until he was seventy-five years old, and
then suddenly conceiving (as it is supposed) an impression that it was too monotonous,
gave his gold watch to his hair-dresser one summer evening and walked leisurely home
to the Temple and hanged himself.
But Mr. Tulkinghorn is not alone to-night to ponder at his usual length. Seated at the
same table, though with his chair modestly and uncomfortably drawn a little way from it,