Charles Dickens, Bleak House: Ch. 10

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Master is at home, and Guster will fetch him.  Guster disappears, glad to get out of the shop, which she regards with mingled dread and veneration as a storehouse of awful implements of the great torture of the law—a place not to be entered after the gas is turned off.

Mr. Snagsby appears, greasy, warm, herbaceous, and chewing.  Bolts a bit of bread and butter.  Says, "Bless my soul, sir!  Mr. Tulkinghorn!"

"I want half a word with you, Snagsby."

"Certainly, sir!  Dear me, sir, why didn't you send your young man round for me?  Pray walk into the back shop, sir."  Snagsby has brightened in a moment.

The confined room, strong of parchment-grease, is warehouse, counting-house, and copying-office.  Mr. Tulkinghorn sits, facing round, on a stool at the desk.

"Jarndyce and Jarndyce, Snagsby."

"Yes, sir."  Mr. Snagsby turns up the gas and coughs behind his hand, modestly anticipating profit.  Mr. Snagsby, as a timid man, is accustomed to cough with a variety of expressions, and so to save words.

"You copied some affidavits in that cause for me lately."

"Yes, sir, we did."

"There was one of them," says Mr. Tulkinghorn, carelessly feeling—tight, unopenable oyster of the old school!—in the wrong coat-pocket, "the handwriting of which is peculiar, and I rather like.  As I happened to be passing, and thought I had it about me, I looked in to ask you—but I haven't got it.  No matter, any other time will do.  Ah! here it is!  I looked in to ask you who copied this."

"Who copied this, sir?" says Mr. Snagsby, taking it, laying it flat on the desk, and separating all the sheets at once with a twirl and a twist of the left hand peculiar to lawstationers.  "We gave this out, sir.  We were giving out rather a large quantity of work just at that time.  I can tell you in a moment who copied it, sir, by referring to my book."

Mr. Snagsby takes his book down from the safe, makes another bolt of the bit of bread and butter which seemed to have stopped short, eyes the affidavit aside, and brings his right forefinger travelling down a page of the book, "Jewby—Packer—Jarndyce."

"Jarndyce!  Here we are, sir," says Mr. Snagsby.  "To be sure!  I might have remembered it.  This was given out, sir, to a writer who lodges just over on the opposite side of the lane."

Mr. Tulkinghorn has seen the entry, found it before the law-stationer, read it while the forefinger was coming down the hill.

"WHAT do you call him?  Nemo?" says Mr. Tulkinghorn.  "Nemo, sir.  Here it is.  Forty-two folio.  Given out on the Wednesday night at eight o'clock, brought in on the Thursday morning at half after nine."

"Nemo!" repeats Mr. Tulkinghorn.  "Nemo is Latin for no one."

"It must be English for some one, sir, I think," Mr. Snagsby submits with his deferential cough.  "It is a person's name.  Here it is, you see, sir!  Forty-two folio.  Given out Wednesday night, eight o'clock; brought in Thursday morning, half after nine."

The tail of Mr. Snagsby's eye becomes conscious of the head of Mrs. Snagsby looking in at the shop-door to know what he means by deserting his tea.  Mr. Snagsby addresses an explanatory cough to Mrs. Snagsby, as who should say, "My dear, a customer!"

"Half after nine, sir," repeats Mr. Snagsby.  "Our law-writers, who live by job-work, are a queer lot; and this may not be his name, but it's the name he goes by.  I remember now, sir, that he gives it in a written advertisement he sticks up down at the Rule Office, and the King's Bench Office, and the Judges' Chambers, and so forth.  You know the kind of document, sir—wanting employ?"