Charles Dickens, Bleak House: Ch. 34

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Whether there are two people in England less likely to come satisfactorily out of any negotiation with Mr. Smallweed than Mr. George and Mr. Matthew Bagnet may be very reasonably questioned.  Also, notwithstanding their martial appearance, broad square shoulders, and heavy tread, whether there are within the same limits two more simple and unaccustomed children in all the Smallweedy affairs of life.  As they proceed with great gravity through the streets towards the region of Mount Pleasant, Mr. Bagnet, observing his companion to be thoughtful, considers it a friendly part to refer to Mrs. Bagnet's late sally.

"George, you know the old girl—she's as sweet and as mild as milk.  But touch her on the children—or myself—and she's off like gunpowder."

"It does her credit, Mat!"

"George," says Mr. Bagnet, looking straight before him, "the old girl—can't do anything—that don't do her credit.  More or less.  I never say so.  Discipline must he maintained."

"She's worth her weight in gold," says the trooper.

"In gold?" says Mr. Bagnet.  "I'll tell you what.  The old girl's weight—is twelve stone six.  Would I take that weight—in any metal—for the old girl?  No.  Why not?  Because the old girl's metal is far more precious—than the preciousest metal.  And she's ALL metal!"

"You are right, Mat!"

"When she took me—and accepted of the ring—she 'listed under me and the children—heart and head, for life.  She's that earnest," says Mr. Bagnet, "and true to her colours—that, touch us with a finger—and she turns out—and stands to her arms.  If the old girl fires wide—once in a way—at the call of duty—look over it, George.  For she's loyal!"

"Why, bless her, Mat," returns the trooper, "I think the higher of her for it!"

"You are right!" says Mr. Bagnet with the warmest enthusiasm, though without relaxing the rigidity of a single muscle.  "Think as high of the old girl—as the rock of Gibraltar—and still you'll be thinking low—of such merits.  But I never own to it before her.  Discipline must be maintained."

These encomiums bring them to Mount Pleasant and to Grandfather Smallweed's house.  The door is opened by the perennial Judy, who, having surveyed them from top to toe with no particular favour, but indeed with a malignant sneer, leaves them standing there while she consults the oracle as to their admission.  The oracle may be inferred to give consent from the circumstance of her returning with the words on her honey lips that they can come in if they want to it.  Thus privileged, they come in and find Mr. Smallweed with his feet in the drawer of his chair as if it were a paper foot-bath and Mrs. Smallweed obscured with the cushion like a bird that is not to sing.

"My dear friend," says Grandfather Smallweed with those two lean affectionate arms of his stretched forth.  "How de do?  How de do?  Who is our friend, my dear friend?"

"Why this," returns George, not able to be very conciliatory at first, "is Matthew Bagnet, who has obliged me in that matter of ours, you know."

"Oh!  Mr. Bagnet?  Surely!"  The old man looks at him under his hand.

"Hope you're well, Mr. Bagnet?  Fine man, Mr. George!  Military air, sir!"

No chairs being offered, Mr. George brings one forward for Bagnet and one for himself.  They sit down, Mr. Bagnet as if he had no power of bending himself, except at the hips, for that purpose.

"Judy," says Mr. Smallweed, "bring the pipe."