I would prefer not to

«What is wanted?» said he mildly.

«The copies, the copies,» said I hurriedly. «We are going to examine them. There» - and I held towards him the fourth quadruplicate.

«I would prefer not to,» he said, and gently disappeared behind the screen.

For a few moments I was turned into a pillar of salt, standing at the head of my seated column of clerks. Recovering myself, I advanced towards the screen, and demanded the reason for such extraordinary conduct.

«Why do you refuse?»

«I would prefer not to.»

With any other man I should have flown outright into a dreadful passion, scorned all further words, and thrust him ignominiously from my presence. But there was something about Bartleby that not only strangely disarmed me, but in a wonderful manner touched and disconcerted me. I began to reason with him.

«These are your own copies we are about to examine. It is labor saving to you, because one examination will answer for your four papers. It is common usage. Every copyist is bound to help examine his copy. Is it not so? Will you not speak? Answer!»

«I prefer not to,» he replied in a flute-like tone.

(Extracto do conto Nicholas Bartleby de Hermann Melville)

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