Charles Dickens, Bleak House: Ch. 5

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"My landlord, Krook," said the little old lady, condescending to him from her lofty station as she presented him to us.  "He is called among the neighbours the Lord Chancellor.  His shop is called the Court of Chancery.  He is a very eccentric person.  He is very odd.  Oh, I assure you he is very odd!"

She shook her head a great many times and tapped her forehead with her finger to express to us that we must have the goodness to excuse him, "For he is a little—you know—M!" said the old lady with great stateliness.  The old man overheard, and laughed.

"It's true enough," he said, going before us with the lantern, "that they call me the Lord Chancellor and call my shop Chancery.  And why do you think they call me the Lord Chancellor and my shop Chancery?"

"I don't know, I am sure!" said Richard rather carelessly.

"You see," said the old man, stopping and turning round, "they—Hi!  Here's lovely hair!  I have got three sacks of ladies' hair below, but none so beautiful and fine as this.  What colour, and what texture!"

"That'll do, my good friend!" said Richard, strongly disapproving of his having drawn one of Ada's tresses through his yellow hand.  "You can admire as the rest of us do without taking that liberty."

The old man darted at him a sudden look which even called my attention from Ada, who, startled and blushing, was so remarkably beautiful that she seemed to fix the wandering attention of the little old lady herself.  But as Ada interposed and laughingly said she could only feel proud of such genuine admiration, Mr. Krook shrunk into his former self as suddenly as he had leaped out of it.

"You see, I have so many things here," he resumed, holding up the lantern, "of so many kinds, and all as the neighbours think (but THEY know nothing), wasting away and going to rack and ruin, that that's why they have given me and my place a christening.  And I have so many old parchmentses and papers in my stock.  And I have a liking for rust and must and cobwebs.  And all's fish that comes to my net.  And I can't abear to part with anything I once lay hold of (or so my neighbours think, but what do THEY know?) or to alter anything, or to have any sweeping, nor scouring, nor cleaning, nor repairing going on about me.  That's the way I've got the ill name of Chancery.  I don't mind.  I go to see my noble and learned brother pretty well every day, when he sits in the Inn.  He don't notice me, but I notice him.  There's no great odds betwixt us.  We both grub on in a muddle.  Hi, Lady Jane!"

A large grey cat leaped from some neighbouring shelf on his shoulder and startled us all.

"Hi!  Show 'em how you scratch.  Hi!  Tear, my lady!" said her master.

The cat leaped down and ripped at a bundle of rags with her tigerish claws, with a sound that it set my teeth on edge to hear.

"She'd do as much for any one I was to set her on," said the old man.  "I deal in cat-skins among other general matters, and hers was offered to me.  It's a very fine skin, as you may see, but I didn't have it stripped off!  THAT warn't like Chancery practice though, says you!"

He had by this time led us across the shop, and now opened a door in the back part of it, leading to the house-entry.  As he stood with his hand upon the lock, the little old lady graciously observed to him before passing out, "That will do, Krook.  You mean well, but are tiresome.  My young friends are pressed for time.  I have none to spare myself, having to attend court very soon.  My young friends are the wards in Jarndyce."

"Jarndyce!" said the old man with a start.