Charles Dickens, Bleak House: Ch. 11

[+] | [-] | reset

Our Dear Brother

A touch on the lawyer's wrinkled hand as he stands in the dark room, irresolute, makes him start and say, "What's that?"

"It's me," returns the old man of the house, whose breath is in his ear.  "Can't you wake him?"


"What have you done with your candle?"

"It's gone out.  Here it is."

Krook takes it, goes to the fire, stoops over the red embers, and tries to get a light.  The dying ashes have no light to spare, and his endeavours are vain.  Muttering, after an ineffectual call to his lodger, that he will go downstairs and bring a lighted candle from the shop, the old man departs.  Mr. Tulkinghorn, for some new reason that he has, does not await his return in the room, but on the stairs outside.

The welcome light soon shines upon the wall, as Krook comes slowly up with his green-eyed cat following at his heels.  "Does the man generally sleep like this?" inquired the lawyer in a low voice.  "Hi!  I don't know," says Krook, shaking his head and lifting his eyebrows.  "I know next to nothing of his habits except that he keeps himself very close."

Thus whispering, they both go in together.  As the light goes in, the great eyes in the shutters, darkening, seem to close.  Not so the eyes upon the bed.

"God save us!" exclaims Mr. Tulkinghorn.  "He is dead!"  Krook drops the heavy hand he has taken up so suddenly that the arm swings over the bedside.

They look at one another for a moment.

"Send for some doctor!  Call for Miss Flite up the stairs, sir.  Here's poison by the bed!  Call out for Flite, will you?" says Krook, with his lean hands spread out above the body like a vampire's wings.

Mr. Tulkinghorn hurries to the landing and calls, "Miss Flite!  Flite!  Make haste, here, whoever you are!  Flite!"  Krook follows him with his eyes, and while he is calling, finds opportunity to steal to the old portmanteau and steal back again.

"Run, Flite, run!  The nearest doctor!  Run!"  So Mr. Krook addresses a crazy little woman who is his female lodger, who appears and vanishes in a breath, who soon returns accompanied by a testy medical man brought from his dinner, with a broad, snuffy upper lip and a broad Scotch tongue.

"Ey!  Bless the hearts o' ye," says the medical man, looking up at them after a moment's examination.  "He's just as dead as Phairy!"

Mr. Tulkinghorn (standing by the old portmanteau) inquires if he has been dead any time.

"Any time, sir?" says the medical gentleman.  "It's probable he wull have been dead aboot three hours."

"About that time, I should say," observes a dark young man on the other side of the bed.

"Air you in the maydickle prayfession yourself, sir?" inquires the first.

The dark young man says yes.

"Then I'll just tak' my depairture," replies the other, "for I'm nae gude here!"  With which remark he finishes his brief attendance and returns to finish his dinner.