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“It depends on what the money is wanted for,” answered Mr. Troy.

“Look here,” said Old Sharon; “I give you an opinion for your guinea; but, mind this, it’s an opinion founded on hearsay — and you know as a lawyer what that is worth. Venture your ten pounds — in plain English, pay me for my time and trouble in a baffling and difficult case — and I’ll give you an opinion founded on my own experience.”

“Explain yourself a little more clearly,” said Mr. Troy. “What do you guarantee to tell us if we venture the ten pounds?”

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“I guarantee to name the person, or the persons, on whom the suspicion really rests. And if you employ me after that, I guarantee (before you pay me a halfpenny more) to prove that I am right by laying my hand on the thief.”

“Let us have the guinea opinion first,” said Mr. Troy.

Old Sharon made another frightful exhibition of the whole inside of his mouth; his laugh was louder and fiercer than ever. “I like you!” he said to Mr. Troy, “you are so devilish fond of your money. Lord! how rich you must be! Now listen. Here’s the guinea opinion: Suspect, in this case, the very last person on whom suspicion could possibly fall.”

Moody, listening attentively, started, and changed color at those last words. Mr. Troy looked thoroughly disappointed and made no attempt to conceal it.

“Is that all?” he asked.

“All?” retorted the cynical vagabond. “You’re a pretty lawyer! What more can I say, when I don’t know for certain whether the witness who has given me my information has misled me or not? Have I spoken to the girl and formed my own opinion? No! Have I been introduced among the servants (as errand-boy, or to clean the boots and shoes, or what not), and have I formed my own judgement of them? No! I take your opinions for granted, and I tell you how I should set to work myself if they were my opinions too — and that’s a guinea’s-worth, a devilish good guinea’s-worth to a rich man like you!”

Old Sharon’s logic produced a certain effect on Mr. Troy, in spite of himself. It was smartly put from his point of view — there was no denying that.

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“Even if I consented to your proposal,” he said, “I should object to your annoying the young lady with impertinent questions, or to your being introduced as a spy into a respectable house.”

Old Sharon doubled his dirty fists and drummed with them on the rickety table in a comical frenzy of impatience while Mr. Troy was speaking.

“What the devil do you know about my way of doing my business?” he burst out when the lawyer had done. “One of us two is talking like a born idiot — and (mind this) it isn’t me. Look here! Your young lady goes out for a walk, and she meets with a dirty, shabby old beggar — I look like a shabby old beggar already, don’t I? Very good. This dirty old wretch whines and whimpers and tells a long story, and gets sixpence out of the girl — and knows her by that time, inside and out, as well as if he had made her — and, mark! hasn’t asked her a single ques tion, and, instead of annoying her, has made her happy in the performance of a charitable action. Stop a bit! I haven’t done with you yet. Who blacks your boots and shoes? Look here!” He pushed his pug-dog off his lap, dived under the table, appeared again with an old boot and a bottle of blackening, and set to work with tigerish activity. “I’m going out for a walk, you know, and I may as well make myself smart.” With that announcement, he began to sing over his work — a song of sentiment, popular in England in the early part of the present century —“She’s all my fancy painted her; she’s lovely, she’s divine; but her heart it is another’s; and it never can be mine! Too-ral-loo-ral-loo’. I like a love-song. Brush away! brush away! till I see my own pretty face in the blacking. Hey! Here’s a nice, harmless, jolly old man! sings and jokes over his work, and makes the kitchen quite cheerful. What’s that you say? He’s a stranger, and don’t talk to him too freely. You ought to be ashamed of yourself to speak in that way of a poor old fellow with one foot in the grave. Mrs. Cook will give him a nice bit of dinner in the scullery; and John Footman will look out an old coat for him. And when he’s heard everything he wants to hear, and doesn’t come back again the next day to his work — what do they think of it in the servants’ hall? Do they say, ‘We’ve had a spy among us!’ Yah! you know better than that, by this time. The cheerful old man has been run over in the street, or is down with the fever, or has turned up his toes in the parish dead-house — that’s what they say in the servants’ hall. Try me in your own kitchen, and see if your servants take me for a spy. Come, come, Mr. Lawyer! out with your ten pounds, and don’t waste any more precious time about it!”

“I will consider and let you know,” said Mr. Troy.

Old Sharon laughed more ferociously than ever, and hobbled round the table in a great hurry to the place at which Moody was sitting. He laid one hand on the steward’s shoulder, and pointed derisively with the other to Mr. Troy.

“I say, Mr. Silent-man! Bet you five pounds I never hear of that lawyer again!”

Silently attentive all through the interview (except when he was answering questions), Moody only replied in the fewest words. “I don’t bet,” was all he said. He showed no resentment at Sharon’s familiarity, and he appeared to find no amusement in Sharon’s extraordinary talk. The old vagabond seemed actually to produce a serious impression on him! When Mr. Troy set the example of rising to go, he still kept his seat, and looked at the lawyer as if he regretted leaving the atmosphere of tobacco smoke reeking in the dirty room.

“Have you anything to say before we go?” Mr. Troy asked.