She does not speak at first, nor even when she has slowly dropped into the easy chair by the table. They look at each other, like two pictures.
“Sir,” she says, for the moment obliged to set her lips with all the energy she has, that she may speak distinctly, “I will make it plainer. I do not dispute your hypothetical case. I anticipated it, and felt its truth as strongly as you can do, when I saw Mr. Rouncewell here. I knew very well that if he could have had the power of seeing me as I was, he would consider the poor girl tarnished by having for a moment been, although most innocently, the subject of my great and distinguished patronage. But I have an interest in her, or I should rather say—no longer belonging to this place—I had, and if you can find so much consideration for the woman under your foot as to remember that, she will be very sensible of your mercy.”
Mr. Tulkinghorn, profoundly attentive, throws this off with a shrug of self-depreciation and contracts his eyebrows a little more.
“You have prepared me for my exposure, and I thank you for that too. Is there anything that you require of me? Is there any claim that I can release or any charge or trouble that I can spare my husband in obtaining HIS release by certifying to the exactness of your discovery? I will write anything, here and now, that you will dictate. I am ready to do it.”
Sketches and comments
This scene between Mr. Tulkinghorn and Lady Dedlock is easily one of the most iconic images from the book. Tulkinghorn, the seemingly all-powerful lawyer and keeper of secrets, and who embodies the worst qualities of the Court of Chancery, which is the true villain of the piece; and Lady Dedlock, the perfect, patrician noblewoman who seemingly glides untouched through life.
I’ve purposely designed a symmetrical composition that belies the the true balance of power between these two. Lady Dedlock’s throat is bare, exposed, helpless. She is utterly passive, awaiting Tulkinghorn’s instructions. Tulkinghorn, in stark contrast, is barricaded behind a table, a chair, a thick stack of official documents, with his throat encrusted behind his ruffled shirt, neckcloth, and high, stiff collar.
The phrase, “They look at each other, like two pictures”, is perfect in its simplicity.
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