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OUR MUTUAL FRIEND

Charles Dickens

CONTENTS

Book the First

THE CUP AND THE LIP

1. ON THE LOOK OUT
2. THE MAN FROM SOMEWHERE
3. ANOTHER MAN
4. THE R. WILFER FAMILY
5. BOFFIN'S BOWER
6. CUT ADRIFT
7. MR WEGG LOOKS AFTER HIMSELF
8. MR BOFFIN IN CONSULTATION
9. MR AND MRS BOFFIN IN CONSULTATION
10. A MARRIAGE CONTRACT
11. PODSNAPPERY
12. THE SWEAT OF AN HONEST MAN'S BROW
13. TRACKING THE BIRD OF PREY
14. THE BIRD OF PREY BROUGHT DOWN
15. TWO NEW SERVANTS
16. MINDERS AND RE-MINDERS
17. A DISMAL SWAMP
Book the Second

BIRDS OF A FEATHER

1. OF AN EDUCATIONAL CHARACTER
2. STILL EDUCATIONAL
3. A PIECE OF WORK
4. CUPID PROMPTED
5. MERCURY PROMPTING
6. A RIDDLE WITHOUT AN ANSWER
7. IN WHICH A FRIENDLY MOVE IS ORIGINATED
8. IN WHICH AN INNOCENT ELOPEMENT OCCURS
9. IN WHICH THE ORPHAN MAKES HIS WILL
10. A SUCCESSOR
11. SOME AFFAIRS OF THE HEART
12. MORE BIRDS OF PREY
13. A SOLO AND A DUETT
14. STRONG OF PURPOSE
15. THE WHOLE CASE SO FAR
16. AN ANNIVERSARY OCCASION

Book the Third

A LONG LANE

1. LODGERS IN QUEER STREET
2. A RESPECTED FRIEND IN A NEW ASPECT
3. THE SAME RESPECTED FRIEND IN MORE ASPECTS THAN ONE
4. A HAPPY RETURN OF THE DAY
5. THE GOLDEN DUSTMAN FALLS INTO BAD COMPANY
6. THE GOLDEN DUSTMAN FALLS INTO WORSE COMPANY
7. THE FRIENDLY MOVE TAKES UP A STRONG POSITION
8. THE END OF A LONG JOURNEY
9. SOMEBODY BECOMES THE SUBJECT OF A PREDICTION
10. SCOUTS OUT
11. IN THE DARK
12. MEANING MISCHIEF
13. GIVE A DOG A BAD NAMEAND HANG HIM
14. MR WEGG PREPARES A GRINDSTONE FOR MR BOFFIN'S NOSE
15. THE GOLDEN DUSTMAN AT HIS WORST
16. THE FEAST OF THE THREE HOBGOBLINS
17. A SOCIAL CHORUS
Book the Fourth

A TURNING

1. SETTING TRAPS
2. THE GOLDEN DUSTMAN RISES A LITTLE
3. THE GOLDEN DUSTMAN SINKS AGAIN
4. A RUNAWAY MATCH
5. CONCERNING THE MENDICANT'S BRIDE
6. A CRY FOR HELP
7. BETTER TO BE ABEL THAN CAIN
8. A FEW GRAINS OF PEPPER
9. TWO PLACES VACATED
10. THE DOLLS' DRESSMAKER DISCOVERS A WORD
11. EFFECT IS GIVEN TO THE DOLLS' DRESSMAKER'S DISCOVERY
12. THE PASSING SHADOW
13. SHOWING HOW THE GOLDEN DUSTMAN HELPED TO SCATTER DUST
14. CHECKMATE TO THE FRIENDLY MOVE
15. WHAT WAS CAUGHT IN THE TRAPS THAT WERE SET
16. PERSONS AND THINGS IN GENERAL
17. THE VOICE OF SOCIETY
POSTSCRIPTIN LIEU OF PREFACE

BOOK THE FIRST

THE CUP AND THE LIP

Chapter 1


ON THE LOOK OUT

In these times of oursthough concerning the exact year there is no
need to be precisea boat of dirty and disreputable appearance
with two figures in itfloated on the Thamesbetween Southwark
bridge which is of ironand London Bridge which is of stoneas an
autumn evening was closing in.

The figures in this boat were those of a strong man with ragged
grizzled hair and a sun-browned faceand a dark girl of nineteen or
twentysufficiently like him to be recognizable as his daughter.
The girl rowedpulling a pair of sculls very easily; the manwith
the rudder-lines slack in his handsand his hands loose in his
waistbandkept an eager look out. He had no nethookor line
and he could not be a fisherman; his boat had no cushion for a
sitterno paintno inscriptionno appliance beyond a rusty
boathook and a coil of ropeand he could not be a waterman; his
boat was too crazy and too small to take in cargo for deliveryand
he could not be a lighterman or river-carrier; there was no clue to
what he looked forbut he looked for somethingwith a most intent
and searching gaze. The tidewhich had turned an hour before
was running downand his eyes watched every little race and eddy
in its broad sweepas the boat made slight head-way against itor
drove stern foremost before itaccording as he directed his
daughter by a movement of his head. She watched his face as
earnestly as he watched the river. Butin the intensity of her look
there was a touch of dread or horror.

Allied to the bottom of the river rather than the surfaceby reason
of the slime and ooze with which it was coveredand its sodden
statethis boat and the two figures in it obviously were doing
something that they often didand were seeking what they often
sought. Half savage as the man showedwith no covering on his
matted headwith his brown arms bare to between the elbow and
the shoulderwith the loose knot of a looser kerchief lying low on
his bare breast in a wilderness of beard and whiskerwith such
dress as he wore seeming to be made out of the mud that begrimed
his boatstill there was a business-like usage in his steady gaze.
So with every lithe action of the girlwith every turn of her wrist
perhaps most of all with her look of dread or horror; they were
things of usage.

'Keep her outLizzie. Tide runs strong here. Keep her well afore
the sweep of it.'

Trusting to the girl's skill and making no use of the rudderhe eyed
the coming tide with an absorbed attention. So the girl eyed him.
Butit happened nowthat a slant of light from the setting sun
glanced into the bottom of the boatandtouching a rotten stain
there which bore some resemblance to the outline of a muffled
human formcoloured it as though with diluted blood. This caught
the girl's eyeand she shivered.

'What ails you?' said the manimmediately aware of itthough so
intent on the advancing waters; 'I see nothing afloat.'

The red light was gonethe shudder was goneand his gazewhich
had come back to the boat for a momenttravelled away again.
Wheresoever the strong tide met with an impedimenthis gaze
paused for an instant. At every mooring-chain and ropeat every
stationery boat or barge that split the current into a broadarrowhead
at the offsets from the piers of Southwark Bridgeat the


paddles of the river steamboats as they beat the filthy waterat the
floating logs of timber lashed together lying off certain wharves
his shining eyes darted a hungry look. After a darkening hour or
sosuddenly the rudder-lines tightened in his holdand he steered
hard towards the Surrey shore.

Always watching his facethe girl instantly answered to the action
in her sculling; presently the boat swung roundquivered as from a
sudden jerkand the upper half of the man was stretched out over
the stern.

The girl pulled the hood of a cloak she woreover her head and
over her faceandlooking backward so that the front folds of this
hood were turned down the riverkept the boat in that direction
going before the tide. Until nowthe boat had barely held her own
and had hovered about one spot; but nowthe banks changed
swiftlyand the deepening shadows and the kindling lights of
London Bridge were passedand the tiers of shipping lay on either
hand.

It was not until now that the upper half of the man came back into
the boat. His arms were wet and dirtyand he washed them over
the side. In his right hand he held somethingand he washed that
in the river too. It was money. He chinked it onceand he blew
upon it onceand he spat upon it once--'for luck' he hoarsely said
--before he put it in his pocket.

'Lizzie!'

The girl turned her face towards him with a startand rowed in
silence. Her face was very pale. He was a hook-nosed manand
with that and his bright eyes and his ruffled headbore a certain
likeness to a roused bird of prey.

'Take that thing off your face.'

She put it back.

'Here! and give me hold of the sculls. I'll take the rest of the spell.'

'Nonofather! No! I can't indeed. Father!--I cannot sit so near it!'

He was moving towards her to change placesbut her terrified
expostulation stopped him and he resumed his seat.

'What hurt can it do you?'

'Nonenone. But I cannot bear it.'

'It's my belief you hate the sight of the very river.'

'I--I do not like itfather.'

'As if it wasn't your living! As if it wasn't meat and drink to you!'

At these latter words the girl shivered againand for a moment
paused in her rowingseeming to turn deadly faint. It escaped his
attentionfor he was glancing over the stern at something the boat
had in tow.

'How can you be so thankless to your best friendLizzie? The very
fire that warmed you when you were a babbywas picked out of
the river alongside the coal barges. The very basket that you slept
inthe tide washed ashore. The very rockers that I put it upon to


make a cradle of itI cut out of a piece of wood that drifted from
some ship or another.'

Lizzie took her right hand from the scull it heldand touched her
lips with itand for a moment held it out lovingly towards him:
thenwithout speakingshe resumed her rowingas another boat of
similar appearancethough in rather better trimcame out from a
dark place and dropped softly alongside.

'In luck againGaffer?' said a man with a squinting leerwho
sculled her and who was alone'I know'd you was in luck againby
your wake as you come down.'

'Ah!' replied the otherdrily. 'So you're outare you?'

'Yespardner.'

There was now a tender yellow moonlight on the riverand the
new comerkeeping half his boat's length astern of the other boat
looked hard at its track.

'I says to myself' he went on'directly you hove in viewyonder's
Gafferand in luck againby George if he ain't! Scull it is
pardner--don't fret yourself--I didn't touch him.' This was in
answer to a quick impatient movement on the part of Gaffer: the
speaker at the same time unshipping his scull on that sideand
laying his hand on the gunwale of Gaffer's boat and holding to it.

'He's had touches enough not to want no moreas well as I make
him outGaffer! Been a knocking about with a pretty many tides
ain't he pardner? Such is my out-of-luck waysyou see! He must
have passed me when he went up last timefor I was on the
lookout below bridge here. I a'most think you're like the wulturs
pardnerand scent 'em out.'

He spoke in a dropped voiceand with more than one glance at
Lizzie who had pulled on her hood again. Both men then looked
with a weird unholy interest in the wake of Gaffer's boat.

'Easy does itbetwixt us. Shall I take him aboardpardner?'

'No' said the other. In so surly a tone that the manafter a blank
stareacknowledged it with the retort:

'--Arn't been eating nothing as has disagreed with youhave you
pardner?'

'WhyyesI have' said Gaffer. 'I have been swallowing too much
of that wordPardner. I am no pardner of yours.'

'Since when was you no pardner of mineGaffer Hexam Esquire?'

'Since you was accused of robbing a man. Accused of robbing a
live man!' said Gafferwith great indignation.

'And what if I had been accused of robbing a dead manGaffer?'

'You COULDN'T do it.'

'Couldn't youGaffer?'

'No. Has a dead man any use for money? Is it possible for a dead
man to have money? What world does a dead man belong to?
'Tother world. What world does money belong to? This world.


How can money be a corpse's? Can a corpse own itwant itspend
itclaim itmiss it? Don't try to go confounding the rights and
wrongs of things in that way. But it's worthy of the sneaking spirit
that robs a live man.'

'I'll tell you what it is--.'

'No you won't. I'll tell you what it is. You got off with a short time
of it for putting you're hand in the pocket of a sailora live sailor.
Make the most of it and think yourself luckybut don't think after
that to come over ME with your pardners. We have worked
together in time pastbut we work together no more in time present
nor yet future. Let go. Cast off!'

'Gaffer! If you think to get rid of me this way--.'

'If I don't get rid of you this wayI'll try anotherand chop you over
the fingers with the stretcheror take a pick at your head with the
boat-hook. Cast off! Pull youLizzie. Pull homesince you won't
let your father pull.'

Lizzie shot aheadand the other boat fell astern. Lizzie's father
composing himself into the easy attitude of one who had asserted
the high moralities and taken an unassailable positionslowly
lighted a pipeand smokedand took a survey of what he had in
tow. What he had in towlunged itself at him sometimes in an
awful manner when the boat was checkedand sometimes seemed
to try to wrench itself awaythough for the most part it followed
submissively. A neophyte might have fancied that the ripples
passing over it were dreadfully like faint changes of expression on
a sightless face; but Gaffer was no neophyte and had no fancies.

Chapter 2

THE MAN FROM SOMEWHERE

Mr and Mrs Veneering were bran-new people in a bran-new house
in a bran-new quarter of London. Everything about the Veneerings
was spick and span new. All their furniture was newall their
friends were newall their servants were newtheir plate was new
their carriage was newtheir harness was newtheir horses were
newtheir pictures were newthey themselves were newthey were
as newly married as was lawfully compatible with their having a
bran-new babyand if they had set up a great-grandfatherhe
would have come home in matting from the Pantechniconwithout
a scratch upon himFrench polished to the crown of his head.

Forin the Veneering establishmentfrom the hall-chairs with the
new coat of armsto the grand pianoforte with the new actionand
upstairs again to the new fire-escapeall things were in a state of
high varnish and polish. And what was observable in the
furniturewas observable in the Veneerings--the surface smelt a
little too much of the workshop and was a trifle sticky.

There was an innocent piece of dinner-furniture that went upon
easy castors and was kept over a livery stable-yard in Duke Street
Saint James'swhen not in useto whom the Veneerings were a
source of blind confusion. The name of this article was Twemlow.
Being first cousin to Lord Snigsworthhe was in frequent
requisitionand at many houses might be said to represent the
dining-table in its normal state. Mr and Mrs Veneeringfor


examplearranging a dinnerhabitually started with Twemlow
and then put leaves in himor added guests to him. Sometimes
the table consisted of Twemlow and half a dozen leaves;
sometimesof Twemlow and a dozen leaves; sometimesTwemlow
was pulled out to his utmost extent of twenty leaves. Mr and Mrs
Veneering on occasions of ceremony faced each other in the centre
of the boardand thus the parallel still held; forit always
happened that the more Twemlow was pulled outthe further he
found himself from the centerand nearer to the sideboard at one
end of the roomor the window-curtains at the other.

Butit was not this which steeped the feeble soul of Twemlow in
confusion. This he was used toand could take soundings of. The
abyss to which he could find no bottomand from which started
forth the engrossing and ever-swelling difficulty of his lifewas the
insoluble question whether he was Veneering's oldest friendor
newest friend. To the excogitation of this problemthe harmless
gentleman had devoted many anxious hoursboth in his lodgings
over the livery stable-yardand in the cold gloomfavourable to
meditationof Saint James's Square. Thus. Twemlow had first
known Veneering at his clubwhere Veneering then knew nobody
but the man who made them known to one anotherwho seemed to
be the most intimate friend he had in the worldand whom he had
known two days--the bond of union between their soulsthe
nefarious conduct of the committee respecting the cookery of a
fillet of vealhaving been accidentally cemented at that date.
Immediately upon thisTwemlow received an invitation to dine
with Veneeringand dined: the man being of the party.
Immediately upon thatTwemlow received an invitation to dine
with the manand dined: Veneering being of the party. At the
man's were a Memberan Engineera Payer-off of the National
Debta Poem on Shakespearea Grievanceand a Public Office
who all seem to be utter strangers to Veneering. And yet
immediately after thatTwemlow received an invitation to dine at
Veneeringsexpressly to meet the Memberthe Engineerthe
Payer-off of the National Debtthe Poem on Shakespearethe
Grievanceand the Public Officeanddiningdiscovered that all of
them were the most intimate friends Veneering had in the world
and that the wives of all of them (who were all there) were the
objects of Mrs Veneering's most devoted affection and tender
confidence.

Thus it had come aboutthat Mr Twemlow had said to himself in
his lodgingswith his hand to his forehead: 'I must not think of
this. This is enough to soften any man's brain'--and yet was
always thinking of itand could never form a conclusion.

This evening the Veneerings give a banquet. Eleven leaves in the
Twemlow; fourteen in company all told. Four pigeon-breasted
retainers in plain clothes stand in line in the hall. A fifth retainer
proceeding up the staircase with a mournful air--as who should
say'Here is another wretched creature come to dinner; such is
life!'--announces'Mis-ter Twemlow!'

Mrs Veneering welcomes her sweet Mr Twemlow. Mr Veneering
welcomes his dear Twemlow. Mrs Veneering does not expect that
Mr Twemlow can in nature care much for such insipid things as
babiesbut so old a friend must please to look at baby. 'Ah! You
will know the friend of your family betterTootleums' says Mr
Veneeringnodding emotionally at that new article'when you
begin to take notice.' He then begs to make his dear Twemlow
known to his two friendsMr Boots and Mr Brewer--and clearly
has no distinct idea which is which.


But now a fearful circumstance occurs.

'Mis-ter and Mis-sus Podsnap!'

'My dear' says Mr Veneering to Mrs Veneeringwith an air of
much friendly interestwhile the door stands open'the Podsnaps.'

A tootoo smiling large manwith a fatal freshness on him
appearing with his wifeinstantly deserts his wife and darts at
Twemlow with:

'How do you do? So glad to know you. Charming house you have
here. I hope we are not late. So glad of the opportunityI am sure!'

When the first shock fell upon himTwemlow twice skipped back
in his neat little shoes and his neat little silk stockings of a bygone
fashionas if impelled to leap over a sofa behind him; but the large
man closed with him and proved too strong.

'Let me' says the large mantrying to attract the attention of his
wife in the distance'have the pleasure of presenting Mrs Podsnap
to her host. She will be' in his fatal freshness he seems to find
perpetual verdure and eternal youth in the phrase'she will be so
glad of the opportunityI am sure!'

In the meantimeMrs Podsnapunable to originate a mistake on
her own accountbecause Mrs Veneering is the only other lady
theredoes her best in the way of handsomely supporting her
husband'sby looking towards Mr Twemlow with a plaintive
countenance and remarking to Mrs Veneering in a feeling manner
firstlythat she fears he has been rather bilious of lateand
secondlythat the baby is already very like him.

It is questionable whether any man quite relishes being mistaken
for any other man; butMr Veneering having this very evening set
up the shirt-front of the young Antinous in new worked cambric
just come homeis not at all complimented by being supposed to
be Twemlowwho is dry and weazen and some thirty years older.
Mrs Veneering equally resents the imputation of being the wife of
Twemlow. As to Twemlowhe is so sensible of being a much
better bred man than Veneeringthat he considers the large man an
offensive ass.

In this complicated dilemmaMr Veneering approaches the large
man with extended hand andsmilingly assures that incorrigible
personage that he is delighted to see him: who in his fatal
freshness instantly replies:

'Thank you. I am ashamed to say that I cannot at this moment
recall where we metbut I am so glad of this opportunityI am
sure!'

Then pouncing upon Twemlowwho holds back with all his feeble
mighthe is haling him off to present himas Veneeringto Mrs
Podsnapwhen the arrival of more guests unravels the mistake.
Whereuponhaving re-shaken hands with Veneering as Veneering
he re-shakes hands with Twemlow as Twemlowand winds it all
up to his own perfect satisfaction by saying to the last-named
'Ridiculous opportunity--but so glad of itI am sure!'

NowTwemlow having undergone this terrific experiencehaving
likewise noted the fusion of Boots in Brewer and Brewer in Boots
and having further observed that of the remaining seven guests
four discrete characters enter with wandering eyes and wholly


declined to commit themselves as to which is Veneeringuntil
Veneering has them in his grasp;--Twemlow having profited by
these studiesfinds his brain wholesomely hardening as he
approaches the conclusion that he really is Veneering's oldest
friendwhen his brain softens again and all is lostthrough his
eyes encountering Veneering and the large man linked together as
twin brothers in the back drawing-room near the conservatory
doorand through his ears informing him in the tones of Mrs
Veneering that the same large man is to be baby's godfather.

'Dinner is on the table!'

Thus the melancholy retaineras who should say'Come down and
be poisonedye unhappy children of men!'

Twemlowhaving no lady assigned himgoes down in the rear
with his hand to his forehead. Boots and Brewerthinking him
indisposedwhisper'Man faint. Had no lunch.' But he is only
stunned by the unvanquishable difficulty of his existence.

Revived by soupTwemlow discourses mildly of the Court
Circular with Boots and Brewer. Is appealed toat the fish stage of
the banquetby Veneeringon the disputed question whether his
cousin Lord Snigsworth is in or out of town? Gives it that his
cousin is out of town. 'At Snigsworthy Park?' Veneering inquires.
'At Snigsworthy' Twemlow rejoins. Boots and Brewer regard this
as a man to be cultivated; and Veneering is clear that he is a
renumerative article. Meantime the retainer goes roundlike a
gloomy Analytical Chemist: always seeming to sayafter 'Chablis
sir?'--'You wouldn't if you knew what it's made of.'

The great looking-glass above the sideboardreflects the table and
the company. Reflects the new Veneering crestin gold and eke in
silverfrosted and also thaweda camel of all work. The Heralds'
College found out a Crusading ancestor for Veneering who bore a
camel on his shield (or might have done it if he had thought of it)
and a caravan of camels take charge of the fruits and flowers and
candlesand kneel down be loaded with the salt. Reflects
Veneering; fortywavy-haireddarktending to corpulencesly
mysteriousfilmy--a kind of sufficiently well-looking veiledprophet
not prophesying. Reflects Mrs Veneering; fairaquilinenosed
and fingerednot so much light hair as she might have
gorgeous in raiment and jewelsenthusiasticpropitiatory
conscious that a corner of her husband's veil is over herself.
Reflects Podsnap; prosperously feedingtwo little light-coloured
wiry wingsone on either side of his else bald headlooking as like
his hairbrushes as his hairdissolving view of red beads on his
foreheadlarge allowance of crumpled shirt-collar up behind.
Reflects Mrs Podsnap; fine woman for Professor Owenquantity of
boneneck and nostrils like a rocking-horsehard features
majestic head-dress in which Podsnap has hung golden offerings.
Reflects Twemlow; greydrypolitesusceptible to east wind
First-Gentleman-in-Europe collar and cravatcheeks drawn in as if
he had made a great effort to retire into himself some years ago
and had got so far and had never got any farther. Reflects mature
young lady; raven locksand complexion that lights up well when
well powdered--as it is--carrying on considerably in the captivation
of mature young gentleman; with too much nose in his facetoo
much ginger in his whiskerstoo much torso in his waistcoattoo
much sparkle in his studshis eyeshis buttonshis talkand his
teeth. Reflects charming old Lady Tippins on Veneering's right;
with an immense obtuse drab oblong facelike a face in a
tablespoonand a dyed Long Walk up the top of her headas a
convenient public approach to the bunch of false hair behind


pleased to patronize Mrs Veneering oppositewho is pleased to be
patronized. Reflects a certain 'Mortimer'another of Veneering's
oldest friends; who never was in the house beforeand appears not
to want to come againwho sits disconsolate on Mrs Veneering's
leftand who was inveigled by Lady Tippins (a friend of his
boyhood) to come to these people's and talkand who won't talk.
Reflects Eugenefriend of Mortimer; buried alive in the back of his
chairbehind a shoulder--with a powder-epaulette on it--of the
mature young ladyand gloomily resorting to the champagne
chalice whenever proffered by the Analytical Chemist. Lastlythe
looking-glass reflects Boots and Brewerand two other stuffed
Buffers interposed between the rest of the company and possible
accidents.

The Veneering dinners are excellent dinners--or new people
wouldn't come--and all goes well. NotablyLady Tippins has
made a series of experiments on her digestive functionsso
extremely complicated and daringthat if they could be published
with their results it might benefit the human race. Having taken in
provisions from all parts of the worldthis hardy old cruiser has
last touched at the North Polewhenas the ice-plates are being
removedthe following words fall from her:

'I assure youmy dear Veneering--'

(Poor Twemlow's hand approaches his foreheadfor it would seem
nowthat Lady Tippins is going to be the oldest friend.)

'I assure youmy dear Veneeringthat it is the oddest affair! Like
the advertising peopleI don't ask you to trust mewithout offering
a respectable reference. Mortimer thereis my referenceand
knows all about it.'

Mortimer raises his drooping eyelidsand slightly opens his
mouth. But a faint smileexpressive of 'What's the use!' passes
over his faceand he drops his eyelids and shuts his mouth.

'NowMortimer' says Lady Tippinsrapping the sticks of her
closed green fan upon the knuckles of her left hand--which is
particularly rich in knuckles'I insist upon your telling all that is to
be told about the man from Jamaica.'

'Give you my honour I never heard of any man from Jamaica
except the man who was a brother' replies Mortimer.

'Tobagothen.'

'Nor yet from Tobago.'

'Except' Eugene strikes in: so unexpectedly that the mature young
ladywho has forgotten all about himwith a start takes the
epaulette out of his way: 'except our friend who long lived on ricepudding
and isinglasstill at length to his something or otherhis
physician said something elseand a leg of mutton somehow ended
in daygo.'

A reviving impression goes round the table that Eugene is coming
out. An unfulfilled impressionfor he goes in again.

'Nowmy dear Mrs Veneering' quoth Lady TippinsI appeal to
you whether this is not the basest conduct ever known in this
world? I carry my lovers abouttwo or three at a timeon
condition that they are very obedient and devoted; and here is my
oldest lover-in-chiefthe head of all my slavesthrowing off his


allegiance before company! And here is another of my loversa
rough Cymon at present certainlybut of whom I had most hopeful
expectations as to his turning out well in course of timepretending
that he can't remember his nursery rhymes! On purpose to annoy
mefor he knows how I doat upon them!'

A grisly little fiction concerning her lovers is Lady Tippins's point.
She is always attended by a lover or twoand she keeps a little list
of her loversand she is always booking a new loveror striking
out an old loveror putting a lover in her black listor promoting a
lover to her blue listor adding up her loversor otherwise posting
her book. Mrs Veneering is charmed by the humourand so is
Veneering. Perhaps it is enhanced by a certain yellow play in Lady
Tippins's throatlike the legs of scratching poultry.

'I banish the false wretch from this momentand I strike him out of
my Cupidon (my name for my Ledgermy dear) this very night.
But I am resolved to have the account of the man from Somewhere
and I beg you to elicit it for memy love' to Mrs Veneering'as I
have lost my own influence. Ohyou perjured man!' This to
Mortimerwith a rattle of her fan.

'We are all very much interested in the man from Somewhere'
Veneering observes.

Then the four Bufferstaking heart of grace all four at oncesay:

'Deeply interested!'

'Quite excited!'

'Dramatic!'

'Man from Nowhereperhaps!'

And then Mrs Veneering--for the Lady Tippins's winning wiles are
contagious--folds her hands in the manner of a supplicating child
turns to her left neighbourand says'Tease! Pay! Man from
Tumwhere!' At which the four Buffersagain mysteriously moved
all four at onceexplain'You can't resist!'

'Upon my life' says Mortimer languidly'I find it immensely
embarrassing to have the eyes of Europe upon me to this extent
and my only consolation is that you will all of you execrate Lady
Tippins in your secret hearts when you findas you inevitably will
the man from Somewhere a bore. Sorry to destroy romance by
fixing him with a local habitationbut he comes from the placethe
name of which escapes mebut will suggest itself to everybody
else herewhere they make the wine.'

Eugene suggests 'Day and Martin's.'

'Nonot that place' returns the unmoved Mortimer'that's where
they make the Port. My man comes from the country where they
make the Cape Wine. But look hereold fellow; its not at all
statistical and it's rather odd.'

It is always noticeable at the table of the Veneeringsthat no man
troubles himself much about the Veneerings themselvesand that
any one who has anything to tellgenerally tells it to anybody else
in preference.

'The man' Mortimer goes onaddressing Eugene'whose name is
Harmonwas only son of a tremendous old rascal who made his


money by Dust.'

'Red velveteens and a bell?' the gloomy Eugene inquires.

'And a ladder and basket if you like. By which meansor by
othershe grew rich as a Dust Contractorand lived in a hollow in
a hilly country entirely composed of Dust. On his own small estate
the growling old vagabond threw up his own mountain rangelike
an old volcanoand its geological formation was Dust. Coal-dust
vegetable-dustbone-dustcrockery dustrough dust and sifted
dust--all manner of Dust.'

A passing remembrance of Mrs Veneeringhere induces Mortimer
to address his next half-dozen words to her; after which he
wanders away againtries Twemlow and finds he doesn't answer
ultimately takes up with the Buffers who receive him
enthusiastically.

'The moral being--I believe that's the right expression--of this
exemplary personderived its highest gratification from
anathematizing his nearest relations and turning them out of doors.
Having begun (as was natural) by rendering these attentions to the
wife of his bosomhe next found himself at leisure to bestow a
similar recognition on the claims of his daughter. He chose a
husband for herentirely to his own satisfaction and not in the least
to hersand proceeded to settle upon heras her marriage portionI
don't know how much Dustbut something immense. At this
stage of the affair the poor girl respectfully intimated that she was
secretly engaged to that popular character whom the novelists and
versifiers call Anotherand that such a marriage would make Dust
of her heart and Dust of her life--in shortwould set her upon a
very extensive scalein her father's business. Immediatelythe
venerable parent--on a cold winter's nightit is said-anathematized
and turned her out.'

Herethe Analytical Chemist (who has evidently formed a very low
opinion of Mortimer's story) concedes a little claret to the Buffers;
whoagain mysteriously moved all four at oncescrew it slowly
into themselves with a peculiar twist of enjoymentas they cry in
chorus'Pray go on.'

'The pecuniary resources of Another wereas they usually areof a
very limited nature. I believe I am not using too strong an
expression when I say that Another was hard up. Howeverhe
married the young ladyand they lived in a humble dwelling
probably possessing a porch ornamented with honeysuckle and
woodbine twininguntil she died. I must refer you to the Registrar
of the District in which the humble dwelling was situatedfor the
certified cause of death; but early sorrow and anxiety may have had
to do with itthough they may not appear in the ruled pages and
printed forms. Indisputably this was the case with Anotherfor he
was so cut up by the loss of his young wife that if he outlived her a
year it was as much as he did.'

There is that in the indolent Mortimerwhich seems to hint that if
good society might on any account allow itself to be impressible
heone of good societymight have the weakness to be impressed
by what he here relates. It is hidden with great painsbut it is in
him. The gloomy Eugene toois not without some kindred touch;
forwhen that appalling Lady Tippins declares that if Another had
survivedhe should have gone down at the head of her list of
lovers--and also when the mature young lady shrugs her epaulettes
and laughs at some private and confidential comment from the
mature young gentleman--his gloom deepens to that degree that he


trifles quite ferociously with his dessert-knife.

Mortimer proceeds.

'We must now returnas novelists sayand as we all wish they
wouldn'tto the man from Somewhere. Being a boy of fourteen
cheaply educated at Brussels when his sister's expulsion befellit
was some little time before he heard of it--probably from herself
for the mother was dead; but that I don't know. Instantlyhe
abscondedand came over here. He must have been a boy of spirit
and resourceto get here on a stopped allowance of five sous a
week; but he did it somehowand he burst in on his fatherand
pleaded his sister's cause. Venerable parent promptly resorts to
anathematizationand turns him out. Shocked and terrified boy
takes flightseeks his fortunegets aboard shipultimately turns up
on dry land among the Cape wine: small proprietorfarmer
grower--whatever you like to call it.'

At this junctureshuffling is heard in the halland tapping is heard
at the dining-room door. Analytical Chemist goes to the door
confers angrily with unseen tapperappears to become mollified by
descrying reason in the tappingand goes out.

'So he was discoveredonly the other dayafter having been
expatriated about fourteen years.'

A Buffersuddenly astounding the other threeby detaching
himselfand asserting individualityinquires: 'How discovered
and why?'

'Ah! To be sure. Thank you for reminding me. Venerable parent
dies.'

Same Bufferemboldened by successsays: 'When?'

'The other day. Ten or twelve months ago.'

Same Buffer inquires with smartness'What of?' But herein
perishes a melancholy example; being regarded by the three other
Buffers with a stony stareand attracting no further attention from
any mortal.

'Venerable parent' Mortimer repeats with a passing remembrance
that there is a Veneering at tableand for the first time addressing
him--'dies.'

The gratified Veneering repeatsgravely'dies'; and folds his arms
and composes his brow to hear it out in a judicial mannerwhen he
finds himself again deserted in the bleak world.

'His will is found' said Mortimercatching Mrs Podsnap's rockinghorse's
eye. 'It is dated very soon after the son's flight. It leaves
the lowest of the range of dust-mountainswith some sort of a
dwelling-house at its footto an old servant who is sole executor
and all the rest of the property--which is very considerable--to the
son. He directs himself to be buried with certain eccentric
ceremonies and precautions against his coming to lifewith which
I need not bore youand that's all--except--' and this ends the story.

The Analytical Chemist returningeverybody looks at him. Not
because anybody wants to see himbut because of that subtle
influence in nature which impels humanity to embrace the slightest
opportunity of looking at anythingrather than the person who
addresses it.


'--Except that the son's inheriting is made conditional on his
marrying a girlwho at the date of the willwas a child of four or
five years oldand who is now a marriageable young woman.
Advertisement and inquiry discovered the son in the man from
Somewhereand at the present momenthe is on his way home
from there--no doubtin a state of great astonishment--to succeed
to a very large fortuneand to take a wife.'

Mrs Podsnap inquires whether the young person is a young person
of personal charms? Mortimer is unable to report.

Mr Podsnap inquires what would become of the very large fortune
in the event of the marriage condition not being fulfilled?
Mortimer repliesthat by special testamentary clause it would then
go to the old servant above mentionedpassing over and excluding
the son; alsothat if the son had not been livingthe same old
servant would have been sole residuary legatee.

Mrs Veneering has just succeeded in waking Lady Tippins from a
snoreby dexterously shunting a train of plates and dishes at her
knuckles across the table; when everybody but Mortimer himself
becomes aware that the Analytical Chemist isin a ghostly
manneroffering him a folded paper. Curiosity detains Mrs
Veneering a few moments.

Mortimerin spite of all the arts of the chemistplacidly refreshes
himself with a glass of Madeiraand remains unconscious of the
Document which engrosses the general attentionuntil Lady
Tippins (who has a habit of waking totally insensible)having
remembered where she isand recovered a perception of
surrounding objectssays: 'Falser man than Don Juan; why don't
you take the note from the commendatore?' Upon whichthe
chemist advances it under the nose of Mortimerwho looks round
at himand says:

'What's this?'

Analytical Chemist bends and whispers.

'WHO?' Says Mortimer.

Analytical Chemist again bends and whispers.

Mortimer stares at himand unfolds the paper. Reads itreads it
twiceturns it over to look at the blank outsidereads it a third
time.

'This arrives in an extraordinarily opportune manner' says
Mortimer thenlooking with an altered face round the table: 'this is
the conclusion of the story of the identical man.'

'Already married?' one guesses.

'Declines to marry?' another guesses.

'Codicil among the dust?' another guesses.

'Whyno' says Mortimer; 'remarkable thingyou are all wrong.
The story is completer and rather more exciting than I supposed.
Man's drowned!'


Chapter 3

ANOTHER MAN

As the disappearing skirts of the ladies ascended the Veneering
staircaseMortimerfollowing them forth from the dining-room
turned into a library of bran-new booksin bran-new bindings
liberally gildedand requested to see the messenger who had
brought the paper. He was a boy of about fifteen. Mortimer looked
at the boyand the boy looked at the bran-new pilgrims on the
wallgoing to Canterbury in more gold frame than processionand
more carving than country.

'Whose writing is this?'

'Minesir.'

'Who told you to write it?'

'My fatherJesse Hexam.'

'Is it he who found the body?'

'Yessir.'

'What is your father?'

The boy hesitatedlooked reproachfully at the pilgrims as if they
had involved him in a little difficultythen saidfolding a plait in
the right leg of his trousers'He gets his living along-shore.'

'Is it far?'

'Is which far?' asked the boyupon his guardand again upon the
road to Canterbury.

'To your father's?'

'It's a goodish stretchsir. I come up in a caband the cab's
waiting to be paid. We could go back in it before you paid itif
you liked. I went first to your officeaccording to the direction of
the papers found in the pocketsand there I see nobody but a chap
of about my age who sent me on here.'

There was a curious mixture in the boyof uncompleted savagery
and uncompleted civilization. His voice was hoarse and coarse
and his face was coarseand his stunted figure was coarse; but he
was cleaner than other boys of his type; and his writingthough
large and roundwas good; and he glanced at the backs of the
bookswith an awakened curiosity that went below the binding.
No one who can readever looks at a bookeven unopened on a
shelflike one who cannot.

'Were any means takendo you knowboyto ascertain if it was
possible to restore life?' Mortimer inquiredas he sought for his
hat.

'You wouldn't asksirif you knew his state. Pharaoh's multitude
that were drowned in the Red Seaain't more beyond restoring to
life. If Lazarus was only half as far gonethat was the greatest of
all the miracles.'

'Halloa!' cried Mortimerturning round with his hat upon his head


'you seem to be at home in the Red Seamy young friend?'

'Read of it with teacher at the school' said the boy.

'And Lazarus?'

'Yesand him too. But don't you tell my father! We should have
no peace in our placeif that got touched upon. It's my sister's
contriving.'

'You seem to have a good sister.'

'She ain't half bad' said the boy; 'but if she knows her letters it's
the most she does--and them I learned her.'

The gloomy Eugenewith his hands in his pocketshad strolled in
and assisted at the latter part of the dialogue; when the boy spoke
these words slightingly of his sisterhe took him roughly enough
by the chinand turned up his face to look at it.

'WellI'm suresir!' said the boyresisting; 'I hope you'll know me
again.'

Eugene vouchsafed no answer; but made the proposal to Mortimer
'I'll go with youif you like?' Sothey all three went away together
in the vehicle that had brought the boy; the two friends (once boys
together at a public school) insidesmoking cigars; the messenger
on the box beside the driver.

'Let me see' said Mortimeras they went along; 'I have been
Eugeneupon the honourable roll of solicitors of the High Court of
Chanceryand attorneys at Common Lawfive years; and--except
gratuitously taking instructionson an average once a fortnightfor
the will of Lady Tippins who has nothing to leave--I have had no
scrap of business but this romantic business.'

'And I' said Eugene'have been "called" seven yearsand have had
no business at alland never shall have any. And if I hadI
shouldn't know how to do it.'

'I am far from being clear as to the last particular' returned
Mortimerwith great composure'that I have much advantage over
you.'

'I hate' said Eugeneputting his legs up on the opposite seat'I
hate my profession.'

'Shall I incommode youif I put mine up too?' returned Mortimer.
'Thank you. I hate mine.'

'It was forced upon me' said the gloomy Eugene'because it was
understood that we wanted a barrister in the family. We have got a
precious one.'

'It was forced upon me' said Mortimer'because it was understood
that we wanted a solicitor in the family. And we have got a
precious one.'

'There are four of uswith our names painted on a door-post in
right of one black hole called a set of chambers' said Eugene; 'and
each of us has the fourth of a clerk--Cassim Babain the robber's
cave--and Cassim is the only respectable member of the party.'

'I am one by myselfone' said Mortimer'high up an awful


staircase commanding a burial-groundand I have a whole clerk to
myselfand he has nothing to do but look at the burial-groundand
what he will turn out when arrived at maturityI cannot conceive.
Whetherin that shabby rook's nesthe is always plotting wisdom
or plotting murder; whether he will grow upafter so much solitary
broodingto enlighten his fellow-creaturesor to poison them; is
the only speck of interest that presents itself to my professional
view. Will you give me a light? Thank you.'

'Then idiots talk' said Eugeneleaning backfolding his arms
smoking with his eyes shutand speaking slightly through his
nose'of Energy. If there is a word in the dictionary under any
letter from A to Z that I abominateit is energy. It is such a
conventional superstitionsuch parrot gabble! What the deuce!
Am I to rush out into the streetcollar the first man of a wealthy
appearance that I meetshake himand sayGo to law upon the
spot, you dog, and retain me, or I'll be the death of you? Yet that
would be energy.'

'Precisely my view of the caseEugene. But show me a good
opportunityshow me something really worth being energetic
aboutand I'll show you energy.'

'And so will I' said Eugene.

And it is likely enough that ten thousand other young menwithin
the limits of the London Post-office town deliverymade the same
hopeful remark in the course of the same evening.

The wheels rolled onand rolled down by the Monument and by
the Towerand by the Docks; down by Ratcliffeand by
Rotherhithe; down by where accumulated scum of humanity
seemed to be washed from higher groundslike so much moral
sewageand to be pausing until its own weight forced it over the
bank and sunk it in the river. In and out among vessels that
seemed to have got ashoreand houses that seemed to have got
afloat--among bow-splits staring into windowsand windows
staring into ships--the wheels rolled onuntil they stopped at a
dark cornerriver-washed and otherwise not washed at allwhere
the boy alighted and opened the door.

'You must walk the restsir; it's not many yards.' He spoke in the
singular numberto the express exclusion of Eugene.

'This is a confoundedly out-of-the-way place' said Mortimer
slipping over the stones and refuse on the shoreas the boy turned
the corner sharp.

'Here's my father'ssir; where the light is.'

The low building had the look of having once been a mill. There
was a rotten wart of wood upon its forehead that seemed to
indicate where the sails had beenbut the whole was very
indistinctly seen in the obscurity of the night. The boy lifted the
latch of the doorand they passed at once into a low circular room
where a man stood before a red firelooking down into itand a
girl sat engaged in needlework. The fire was in a rusty braziernot
fitted to the hearth; and a common lampshaped like a hyacinthroot
smoked and flared in the neck of a stone bottle on the table.
There was a wooden bunk or berth in a cornerand in another
corner a wooden stair leading above--so clumsy and steep that it
was little better than a ladder. Two or three old sculls and oars
stood against the walland against another part of the wall was a
small dressermaking a spare show of the commonest articles of


crockery and cooking-vessels. The roof of the room was not
plasteredbut was formed of the flooring of the room above. This
being very oldknottedseamedand beamedgave a lowering
aspect to the chamber; and roofand wallsand flooralike
abounding in old smears of flourred-lead (or some such stain
which it had probably acquired in warehousing)and dampalike
had a look of decomposition.

'The gentlemanfather.'

The figure at the red fire turnedraised its ruffled headand looked
like a bird of prey.

'You're Mortimer Lightwood Esquire; are yousir?'

'Mortimer Lightwood is my name. What you found' said Mortimer
glancing rather shrinkingly towards the bunk; 'is it here?'

''Tain't not to say herebut it's close by. I do everything reg'lar.
I've giv' notice of the circumstarnce to the policeand the police
have took possession of it. No time ain't been loston any hand.
The police have put into print alreadyand here's what the print
says of it.'

Taking up the bottle with the lamp in ithe held it near a paper on
the wallwith the police headingBODY FOUND. The two
friends read the handbill as it stuck against the walland Gaffer
read them as he held the light.

'Only papers on the unfortunate manI see' said Lightwood
glancing from the description of what was foundto the finder.

'Only papers.'

Here the girl arose with her work in her handand went out at the
door.

'No money' pursued Mortimer; 'but threepence in one of the skirtpockets.'


'Three. Penny. Pieces' said Gaffer Hexamin as many sentences.

'The trousers pockets emptyand turned inside out.'

Gaffer Hexam nodded. 'But that's common. Whether it's the wash
of the tide or noI can't say. Nowhere' moving the light to
another similar placard'HIS pockets was found emptyand turned
inside out. And here' moving the light to another'HER pocket
was found emptyand turned inside out. And so was this one's.
And so was that one's. I can't readnor I don't want to itfor I
know 'em by their places on the wall. This one was a sailorwith
two anchors and a flag and G. F. T. on his arm. Look and see if he
warn't.'

'Quite right.'

'This one was the young woman in grey bootsand her linen
marked with a cross. Look and see if she warn't.'

'Quite right.'

'This is him as had a nasty cut over the eye. This is them two
young sisters what tied themselves together with a handkecher.
This the drunken old chapin a pair of list slippers and a nightcap


wot had offered--it afterwards come out--to make a hole in the
water for a quartern of rum stood aforehandand kept to his word
for the first and last time in his life. They pretty well papers the
roomyou see; but I know 'em all. I'm scholar enough!'

He waved the light over the wholeas if to typify the light of his
scholarly intelligenceand then put it down on the table and stood
behind it looking intently at his visitors. He had the special
peculiarity of some birds of preythat when he knitted his brow
his ruffled crest stood highest.

'You did not find all these yourself; did you?' asked Eugene.

To which the bird of prey slowly rejoined'And what might YOUR
name benow?'

'This is my friend' Mortimer Lightwood interposed; 'Mr Eugene
Wrayburn.'

'Mr Eugene Wrayburnis it? And what might Mr Eugene Wrayburn
have asked of me?'

'I asked yousimplyif you found all these yourself?'

'I answer yousimplymost on 'em.'

'Do you suppose there has been much violence and robbery
beforehandamong these cases?'

'I don't suppose at all about it' returned Gaffer. 'I ain't one of the
supposing sort. If you'd got your living to haul out of the river
every day of your lifeyou mightn't be much given to supposing.
Am I to show the way?'

As he opened the doorin pursuance of a nod from Lightwoodan
extremely pale and disturbed face appeared in the doorway--the
face of a man much agitated.

'A body missing?' asked Gaffer Hexamstopping short; 'or a body
found? Which?'

'I am lost!' replied the manin a hurried and an eager manner.

'Lost?'

'I--I--am a strangerand don't know the way. I--I--want to find the
place where I can see what is described here. It is possible I may
know it.' He was pantingand could hardly speak; buthe showed
a copy of the newly-printed bill that was still wet upon the wall.
Perhaps its newnessor perhaps the accuracy of his observation of
its general lookguided Gaffer to a ready conclusion.

'This gentlemanMr Lightwoodis on that business.'

'Mr Lightwood?'

During a pauseMortimer and the stranger confronted each other.
Neither knew the other.

'I thinksir' said Mortimerbreaking the awkward silence with his
airy self-possession'that you did me the honour to mention my
name?'

'I repeated itafter this man.'


'You said you were a stranger in London?'

'An utter stranger.'

'Are you seeking a Mr Harmon?'

'No.'

'Then I believe I can assure you that you are on a fruitless errand
and will not find what you fear to find. Will you come with us?'

A little winding through some muddy alleys that might have been
deposited by the last ill-savoured tidebrought them to the wicketgate
and bright lamp of a Police Station; where they found the
Night-Inspectorwith a pen and inkand rulerposting up his
books in a whitewashed officeas studiously as if he were in a
monastery on top of a mountainand no howling fury of a drunken
woman were banging herself against a cell-door in the back-yard at
his elbow. With the same air of a recluse much given to studyhe
desisted from his books to bestow a distrustful nod of recognition
upon Gafferplainly importing'Ah! we know all about YOUand
you'll overdo it some day;' and to inform Mr Morrimer Lightwood
and friendsthat he would attend them immediately. Thenhe
finished ruling the work he had in hand (it might have been
illuminating a missalhe was so calm)in a very neat and
methodical mannershowing not the slightest consciousness of the
woman who was banging herself with increased violenceand
shrieking most terrifically for some other woman's liver.

'A bull's-eye' said the Night-Inspectortaking up his keys. Which
a deferential satellite produced. 'Nowgentlemen.'

With one of his keyshe opened a cool grot at the end of the yard
and they all went in. They quickly came out againno one
speaking but Eugene: who remarked to Mortimerin a whisper
'Not MUCH worse than Lady Tippins.'

Soback to the whitewashed library of the monastery--with that
liver still in shrieking requisitionas it had been loudlywhile they
looked at the silent sight they came to see--and there through the
merits of the case as summed up by the Abbot. No clue to how
body came into river. Very often was no clue. Too late to know
for certainwhether injuries received before or after death; one
excellent surgical opinion saidbefore; other excellent surgical
opinion saidafter. Steward of ship in which gentleman came
home passengerhad been round to viewand could swear to
identity. Likewise could swear to clothes. And thenyou seeyou
had the paperstoo. How was it he had totally disappeared on
leaving ship'till found in river? Well! Probably had been upon
some little game. Probably thought it a harmless gamewasn't up
to thingsand it turned out a fatal game. Inquest to-morrowand
no doubt open verdict.

'It appears to have knocked your friend over--knocked him
completely off his legs' Mr Inspector remarkedwhen he had
finished his summing up. 'It has given him a bad turn to be sure!'
This was said in a very low voiceand with a searching look (not
the first he had cast) at the stranger.

Mr Lightwood explained that it was no friend of his.

'Indeed?' said Mr Inspectorwith an attentive ear; 'where did you
pick him up?'


Mr Lightwood explained further.

Mr Inspector had delivered his summing upand had added these
wordswith his elbows leaning on his deskand the fingers and
thumb of his right handfitting themselves to the fingers and
thumb of his left. Mr Inspector moved nothing but his eyesas he
now addedraising his voice:

'Turned you faintsir! Seems you're not accustomed to this kind of
work?'

The strangerwho was leaning against the chimneypiece with
drooping headlooked round and answered'No. It's a horrible
sight!'

'You expected to identifyI am toldsir?'

'Yes.'

'HAVE you identified?'

'No. It's a horrible sight. O! a horriblehorrible sight!'

'Who did you think it might have been?' asked Mr Inspector. 'Give
us a descriptionsir. Perhaps we can help you.'

'Nono' said the stranger; 'it would be quite useless. Good-night.'

Mr Inspector had not movedand had given no order; butthe
satellite slipped his back against the wicketand laid his left arm
along the top of itand with his right hand turned the bull's-eye he
had taken from his chief--in quite a casual manner--towards the
stranger.

'You missed a friendyou know; or you missed a foeyou know; or
you wouldn't have come hereyou know. Wellthen; ain't it
reasonable to askwho was it?' ThusMr Inspector.

'You must excuse my telling you. No class of man can understand
better than youthat families may not choose to publish their
disagreements and misfortunesexcept on the last necessity. I do
not dispute that you discharge your duty in asking me the question;
you will not dispute my right to withhold the answer. Good-night.'

Again he turned towards the wicketwhere the satellitewith his
eye upon his chiefremained a dumb statue.

'At least' said Mr Inspector'you will not object to leave me your
cardsir?'

'I should not objectif I had one; but I have not.' He reddened and
was much confused as he gave the answer.

'At least' said Mr Inspectorwith no change of voice or manner
'you will not object to write down your name and address?'

'Not at all.'

Mr Inspector dipped a pen in his inkstandand deftly laid it on a
piece of paper close beside him; then resumed his former attitude.
The stranger stepped up to the deskand wrote in a rather
tremulous hand--Mr Inspector taking sidelong note of every hair of
his head when it was bent down for the purpose--'Mr Julius


HandfordExchequer Coffee HousePalace YardWestminster.'

'Staying thereI presumesir?'

'Staying there.'

'Consequentlyfrom the country?'

'Eh? Yes--from the country.'

'Good-nightsir.'

The satellite removed his arm and opened the wicketand Mr
Julius Handford went out.

'Reserve!' said Mr Inspector. 'Take care of this piece of paperkeep
him in view without giving offenceascertain that he IS staying
thereand find out anything you can about him.'

The satellite was gone; and Mr Inspectorbecoming once again the
quiet Abbot of that Monasterydipped his pen in his ink and
resumed his books. The two friends who had watched himmore
amused by the professional manner than suspicious of Mr Julius
Handfordinquired before taking their departure too whether he
believed there was anything that really looked bad here?

The Abbot replied with reticencecouldn't say. If a murder
anybody might have done it. Burglary or pocket-picking wanted
'prenticeship. Not somurder. We were all of us up to that. Had
seen scores of people come to identifyand never saw one person
struck in that particular way. Mighthoweverhave been Stomach
and not Mind. If sorum stomach. But to be sure there were rum
everythings. Pity there was not a word of truth in that superstition
about bodies bleeding when touched by the hand of the right
person; you never got a sign out of bodies. You got row enough
out of such as her--she was good for all night now (referring here
to the banging demands for the liver)'but you got nothing out of
bodies if it was ever so.'

There being nothing more to be done until the Inquest was held
next daythe friends went away togetherand Gaffer Hexam and
his son went their separate way. Butarriving at the last corner
Gaffer bade his boy go home while he turned into a red-curtained
tavernthat stood dropsically bulging over the causeway'for a
half-a-pint.'

The boy lifted the latch he had lifted beforeand found his sister
again seated before the fire at her work. Who raised her head upon
his coming in and asking:

'Where did you goLiz?'

'I went out in the dark.'

'There was no necessity for that. It was all right enough.'

'One of the gentlementhe one who didn't speak while I was there
looked hard at me. And I was afraid he might know what my face
meant. But there! Don't mind meCharley! I was all in a tremble
of another sort when you owned to father you could write a little.'

'Ah! But I made believe I wrote so badlyas that it was odds if any
one could read it. And when I wrote slowest and smeared but with
my finger mostfather was best pleasedas he stood looking over


me.'

The girl put aside her workand drawing her seat close to his seat
by the firelaid her arm gently on his shoulder.

'You'll make the most of your timeCharley; won't you?'

'Won't I? Come! I like that. Don't I?'

'YesCharleyyes. You work hard at your learningI know. And
I work a littleCharleyand plan and contrive a little (wake out of
my sleep contriving sometimes)how to get together a shilling
nowand a shilling thenthat shall make father believe you are
beginning to earn a stray living along shore.'

'You are father's favouriteand can make him believe anything.'

'I wish I couldCharley! For if I could make him believe that
learning was a good thingand that we might lead better livesI
should be a'most content to die.'

'Don't talk stuff about dyingLiz.'

She placed her hands in one another on his shoulderand laying
her rich brown cheek against them as she looked down at the fire
went on thoughtfully:

'Of an eveningCharleywhen you are at the schooland father's--'

'At the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters' the boy struck inwith a
backward nod of his head towards the public-house.

'Yes. Then as I sit a-looking at the fireI seem to see in the
burning coal--like where that glow is now--'

'That's gasthat is' said the boy'coming out of a bit of a forest
that's been under the mud that was under the water in the days of
Noah's Ark. Look here! When I take the poker--so--and give it a
dig--'

'Don't disturb itCharleyor it'll be all in a blaze. It's that dull
glow near itcoming and goingthat I mean. When I look at it of
an eveningit comes like pictures to meCharley.'

'Show us a picture' said the boy. 'Tell us where to look.'

'Ah! It wants my eyesCharley.'

'Cut away thenand tell us what your eyes make of it.'

'Whythere are you and meCharleywhen you were quite a baby
that never knew a mother--'

'Don't go saying I never knew a mother' interposed the boy'for I
knew a little sister that was sister and mother both.'

The girl laughed delightedlyand here eyes filled with pleasant
tearsas he put both his arms round her waist and so held her.

'There are you and meCharleywhen father was away at work and
locked us outfor fear we should set ourselves afire or fall out of
windowsitting on the door-sillsitting on other door-stepssitting
on the bank of the riverwandering about to get through the time.
You are rather heavy to carryCharleyand I am often obliged to


rest. Sometimes we are sleepy and fall asleep together in a corner
sometimes we are very hungrysometimes we are a little
frightenedbut what is oftenest hard upon us is the cold. You
rememberCharley?'


'I remember' said the boypressing her to him twice or thrice'that
I snuggled under a little shawland it was warm there.'


'Sometimes it rainsand we creep under a boat or the like of that:
sometimes it's darkand we get among the gaslightssitting
watching the people as they go along the streets. At lastup comes
father and takes us home. And home seems such a shelter after out
of doors! And father pulls my shoes offand dries my feet at the
fireand has me to sit by him while he smokes his pipe long after
you are abedand I notice that father's is a large hand but never a
heavy one when it touches meand that father's is a rough voice
but never an angry one when it speaks to me. SoI grow upand
little by little father trusts meand makes me his companionand
let him be put out as he maynever once strikes me.'


The listening boy gave a grunt hereas much as to say 'But he
strikes ME though!'


'Those are some of the pictures of what is pastCharley.'


'Cut away again' said the boy'and give us a fortune-telling one; a
future one.'


'Well! There am Icontinuing with father and holding to father
because father loves me and I love father. I can't so much as read a
bookbecauseif I had learnedfather would have thought I was
deserting himand I should have lost my influence. I have not the
influence I want to haveI cannot stop some dreadful things I try to
stopbut I go on in the hope and trust that the time will come. In
the meanwhile I know that I am in some things a stay to father
and that if I was not faithful to him he would--in revenge-likeor in
disappointmentor both--go wild and bad.'


'Give us a touch of the fortune-telling pictures about me.'


'I was passing on to themCharley' said the girlwho had not
changed her attitude since she beganand who now mournfully
shook her head; 'the others were all leading up. There are you--'


'Where am ILiz?'


'Still in the hollow down by the flare.'


'There seems to be the deuce-and-all in the hollow down by the
flare' said the boyglancing from her eyes to the brazierwhich
had a grisly skeleton look on its long thin legs.


'There are youCharleyworking your wayin secret from fatherat
the school; and you get prizes; and you go on better and better; and
you come to be a--what was it you called it when you told me
about that?'


'Haha! Fortune-telling not know the name!' cried the boy
seeming to be rather relieved by this default on the part of the
hollow down by the flare. 'Pupil-teacher.'


'You come to be a pupil-teacherand you still go on better and
betterand you rise to be a master full of learning and respect. But
the secret has come to father's knowledge long beforeand it has



divided you from fatherand from me.'

'No it hasn't!'

'Yes it hasCharley. I seeas plain as plain can bethat your way
is not oursand that even if father could be got to forgive your
taking it (which he never could be)that way of yours would be
darkened by our way. But I see tooCharley--'

'Still as plain as plain can beLiz?' asked the boy playfully.

'Ah! Still. That it is a great work to have cut you away from
father's lifeand to have made a new and good beginning. So there
am ICharleyleft alone with fatherkeeping him as straight as I
canwatching for more influence than I haveand hoping that
through some fortunate chanceor when he is illor when--I don't
know what--I may turn him to wish to do better things.'

'You said you couldn't read a bookLizzie. Your library of books
is the hollow down by the flareI think.'

'I should be very glad to be able to read real books. I feel my want
of learning very muchCharley. But I should feel it much moreif
I didn't know it to be a tie between me and father.--Hark! Father's
tread!'

It being now past midnightthe bird of prey went straight to roost.
At mid-day following he reappeared at the Six Jolly Fellowship
Portersin the characternot new to himof a witness before a
Coroner's Jury.

Mr Mortimer Lightwoodbesides sustaining the character of one of
the witnessesdoubled the part with that of the eminent solicitor
who watched the proceedings on behalf of the representatives of
the deceasedas was duly recorded in the newspapers. Mr
Inspector watched the proceedings tooand kept his watching
closely to himself. Mr Julius Handford having given his right
addressand being reported in solvent circumstances as to his bill
though nothing more was known of him at his hotel except that his
way of life was very retiredhad no summons to appearand was
merely present in the shades of Mr Inspector's mind.

The case was made interesting to the publicby Mr Mortimer
Lighiwood's evidence touching the circumstances under which the
deceasedMr John Harmonhad returned to England; exclusive
private proprietorship in which circumstances was set up at dinnertables
for several daysby VeneeringTwemlowPodsnapand all
the Buffers: who all related them irreconcilably with one another
and contradicted themselves. It was also made interesting by the
testimony of Job Pottersonthe ship's stewardand one Mr Jacob
Kibblea fellow-passengerthat the deceased Mr John Harmon did
bring overin a hand-valise with which he did disembarkthe sum
realized by the forced sale of his little landed propertyand that the
sum exceededin ready moneyseven hundred pounds. It was
further made interestingby the remarkable experiences of Jesse
Hexam in having rescued from the Thames so many dead bodies
and for whose behoof a rapturous admirer subscribing himself 'A
friend to Burial' (perhaps an undertaker)sent eighteen postage
stampsand five 'Now Sir's to the editor of the Times.

Upon the evidence adduced before themthe Jury foundThat the
body of Mr John Harmon had been discovered floating in the
Thamesin an advanced state of decayand much injured; and that
the said Mr John Harmon had come by his death under highly


suspicious circumstancesthough by whose act or in what precise
manner there was no evidence before this Jury to show. And they
appended to their verdicta recommendation to the Home Office
(which Mr Inspector appeared to think highly sensible)to offer a
reward for the solution of the mystery. Within eight-and-forty
hoursa reward of One Hundred Pounds was proclaimedtogether
with a free pardon to any person or persons not the actual
perpetrator or perpetratorsand so forth in due form.

This Proclamation rendered Mr Inspector additionally studious
and caused him to stand meditating on river-stairs and causeways
and to go lurking about in boatsputting this and that together.
Butaccording to the success with which you put this and that
togetheryou get a woman and a fish apartor a Mermaid in
combination. And Mr Inspector could turn out nothing better than
a Mermaidwhich no Judge and Jury would believe in.

Thuslike the tides on which it had been borne to the knowledge of
menthe Harmon Murder--as it came to be popularly called--went
up and downand ebbed and flowednow in the townnow in the
countrynow among palacesnow among hovelsnow among lords
and ladies and gentlefolksnow among labourers and hammerers
and ballast-heaversuntil at lastafter a long interval of slack
water it got out to sea and drifted away.

Chapter 4

THE R. WILFER FAMILY

Reginald Wilfer is a name with rather a grand soundsuggesting
on first acquaintance brasses in country churchesscrolls in
stained-glass windowsand generally the De Wilfers who came
over with the Conqueror. Forit is a remarkable fact in genealogy
that no De Any ones ever came over with Anybody else.

Butthe Reginald Wilfer family were of such commonplace
extraction and pursuits that their forefathers had for generations
modestly subsisted on the Docksthe Excise Officeand the
Custom Houseand the existing R. Wilfer was a poor clerk. So
poor a clerkthough having a limited salary and an unlimited
familythat he had never yet attained the modest object of his
ambition: which wasto wear a complete new suit of clotheshat
and boots includedat one time. His black hat was brown before
he could afford a coathis pantaloons were white at the seams and
knees before he could buy a pair of bootshis boots had worn out
before he could treat himself to new pantaloonsandby the time
he worked round to the hat againthat shining modern article
roofed-in an ancient ruin of various periods.

If the conventional Cherub could ever grow up and be clothedhe
might be photographed as a portrait of Wilfer. His chubby
smoothinnocent appearance was a reason for his being always
treated with condescension when he was not put down. A stranger
entering his own poor house at about ten o'clock P.M. might have
been surprised to find him sitting up to supper. So boyish was he
in his curves and proportionsthat his old schoolmaster meeting
him in Cheapsidemight have been unable to withstand the
temptation of caning him on the spot. In shorthe was the
conventional cherubafter the supposititious shoot just mentioned
rather greywith signs of care on his expressionand in decidedly
insolvent circumstances.


He was shyand unwilling to own to the name of Reginaldas
being too aspiring and self-assertive a name. In his signature he
used only the initial R.and imparted what it really stood forto
none but chosen friendsunder the seal of confidence. Out of this
the facetious habit had arisen in the neighbourhood surrounding
Mincing Lane of making christian names for him of adjectives and
participles beginning with R. Some of these were more or less
appropriate: as RustyRetiringRuddyRoundRipeRidiculous
Ruminative; othersderived their point from their want of
application: as RagingRattlingRoaringRaffish. Buthis
popular name was Rumtywhich in a moment of inspiration had
been bestowed upon him by a gentleman of convivial habits
connected with the drug-marketsas the beginning of a social
chorushis leading part in the execution of which had led this
gentleman to the Temple of Fameand of which the whole
expressive burden ran:

'Rumty iddityrow dow dow
Sing toodlelyteedlelybow wow wow.'


Thus he was constantly addressedeven in minor notes on
businessas 'Dear Rumty'; in answer to whichhe sedately signed
himself'Yours trulyR. Wilfer.'

He was clerk in the drug-house of ChickseyVeneeringand
Stobbles. Chicksey and Stobbleshis former mastershad both
become absorbed in Veneeringonce their traveller or commission
agent: who had signalized his accession to supreme power by
bringing into the business a quantity of plate-glass window and
French-polished mahogany partitionand a gleaming and
enormous doorplate.

R. Wilfer locked up his desk one eveningandputting his bunch
of keys in his pocket much as if it were his peg-topmade for
home. His home was in the Holloway region north of Londonand
then divided from it by fields and trees. Between Battle Bridge
and that part of the Holloway district in which he dweltwas a
tract of suburban Saharawhere tiles and bricks were burntbones
were boiledcarpets were beatrubbish was shotdogs were
foughtand dust was heaped by contractors. Skirting the border of
this desertby the way he tookwhen the light of its kiln-fires made
lurid smears on the fogR. Wilfer sighed and shook his head.
'Ah me!' said he'what might have been is not what is!'

With which commentary on human lifeindicating an experience
of it not exclusively his ownhe made the best of his way to the
end of his journey.

Mrs Wilfer wasof coursea tall woman and an angular. Her lord
being cherubicshe was necessarily majesticaccording to the
principle which matrimonially unites contrasts. She was much
given to tying up her head in a pocket-handkerchiefknotted under
the chin. This head-gearin conjunction with a pair of gloves worn
within doorsshe seemed to consider as at once a kind of armour
against misfortune (invariably assuming it when in low spirits or
difficulties)and as a species of full dress. It was therefore with
some sinking of the spirit that her husband beheld her thus
heroically attiredputting down her candle in the little halland
coming down the doorsteps through the little front court to open
the gate for him.

Something had gone wrong with the house-doorfor R. Wilfer


stopped on the stepsstaring at itand cried:

'Hal-loa?'

'Yes' said Mrs Wilfer'the man came himself with a pair of
pincersand took it offand took it away. He said that as he had
no expectation of ever being paid for itand as he had an order for
another LADIES' SCHOOL door-plateit was better (burnished
up) for the interests of all parties.'

'Perhaps it wasmy dear; what do you think?'

'You are master hereR. W.' returned his wife. 'It is as you think;
not as I do. Perhaps it might have been better if the man had taken
the door too?'

'My dearwe couldn't have done without the door.'

'Couldn't we?'

'Whymy dear! Could we?'

'It is as you thinkR. W.; not as I do.' With those submissive
wordsthe dutiful wife preceded him down a few stairs to a little
basement front roomhalf kitchenhalf parlourwhere a girl of
about nineteenwith an exceedingly pretty figure and facebut with
an impatient and petulant expression both in her face and in her
shoulders (which in her sex and at her age are very expressive of
discontent)sat playing draughts with a younger girlwho was the
youngest of the House of Wilfer. Not to encumber this page by
telling off the Wilfers in detail and casting them up in the grossit
is enough for the present that the rest were what is called 'out in the
world' in various waysand that they were Many. So many
that when one of his dutiful children called in to see himR. Wilfer
generally seemed to say to himselfafter a little mental arithmetic
'Oh! here's another of 'em!' before adding aloud'How de doJohn'
or Susanas the case might be.

'Well Piggywiggies' said R. W.'how de do to-night? What I was
thinking ofmy dear' to Mrs Wilfer already seated in a corner with
folded gloves'wasthat as we have let our first floor so welland
as we have now no place in which you could teach pupils even if
pupils--'

'The milkman said he knew of two young ladies of the highest
respectability who were in search of a suitable establishmentand
he took a card' interposed Mrs Wilferwith severe monotonyas if
she were reading an Act of Parliament aloud. 'Tell your father
whether it was last MondayBella.'

'But we never heard any more of itma' said Bellathe elder girl.

'In addition to whichmy dear' her husband urged'if you have no
place to put two young persons into--'

'Pardon me' Mrs Wilfer again interposed; 'they were not young
persons. Two young ladies of the highest respectability. Tell your
fatherBellawhether the milkman said so.'

'My dearit is the same thing.'

'No it is not' said Mrs Wilferwith the same impressive monotony.
'Pardon me!'


'I meanmy dearit is the same thing as to space. As to space. If
you have no space in which to put two youthful fellow-creatures
however eminently respectablewhich I do not doubtwhere are
those youthful fellow-creatures to be accommodated? I carry it no
further than that. And solely looking at it' said her husband
making the stipulation at once in a conciliatorycomplimentary
and argumentative tone--'as I am sure you will agreemy love-from
a fellow-creature point of viewmy dear.'

'I have nothing more to say' returned Mrs Wilferwith a meek
renunciatory action of her gloves. 'It is as you thinkR. W.;
not as I do.'

Herethe huffing of Miss Bella and the loss of three of her men at a
swoopaggravated by the coronation of an opponentled to that
young lady's jerking the draught-board and pieces off the table:
which her sister went down on her knees to pick up.

'Poor Bella!' said Mrs Wilfer.

'And poor Laviniaperhapsmy dear?' suggested R. W.

'Pardon me' said Mrs Wilfer'no!'

It was one of the worthy woman's specialities that she had an
amazing power of gratifying her splenetic or wordly-minded
humours by extolling her own family: which she thus proceededin
the present caseto do.

'NoR. W. Lavinia has not known the trial that Bella has known.
The trial that your daughter Bella has undergoneisperhaps
without a paralleland has been borneI will sayNobly. When
you see your daughter Bella in her black dresswhich she alone of
all the family wearsand when you remember the circumstances
which have led to her wearing itand when you know how those
circumstances have been sustainedthenR. W.lay your head
upon your pillow and sayPoor Lavinia!'

HereMiss Laviniafrom her kneeling situation under the table
put in that she didn't want to be 'poored by pa'or anybody else.

'I am sure you do notmy dear' returned her mother'for you have
a fine brave spirit. And your sister Cecilia has a fine brave spirit of
another kinda spirit of pure devotiona beau-ti-ful spirit! The
self-sacrifice of Cecilia reveals a pure and womanly charactervery
seldom equallednever surpassed. I have now in my pocket a
letter from your sister Ceciliareceived this morning--received
three months after her marriagepoor child!--in which she tells me
that her husband must unexpectedly shelter under their roof his
reduced aunt. "But I will be true to himmamma she touchingly
writes, I will not leave himI must not forget that he is my
husband. Let his aunt come!" If this is not patheticif this is not
woman's devotion--!' The good lady waved her gloves in a sense
of the impossibility of saying moreand tied the pockethandkerchief
over her head in a tighter knot under her chin.

Bellawho was now seated on the rug to warm herselfwith her
brown eyes on the fire and a handful of her brown curls in her
mouthlaughed at thisand then pouted and half cried.

'I am sure' said she'though you have no feeling for mepaI am
one of the most unfortunate girls that ever lived. You know how
poor we are' (it is probable he didhaving some reason to know
it!)'and what a glimpse of wealth I hadand how it melted away


and how I am here in this ridiculous mourning--which I hate!--a
kind of a widow who never was married. And yet you don't feel
for me.--Yes you doyes you do.'

This abrupt change was occasioned by her father's face. She
stopped to pull him down from his chair in an attitude highly
favourable to strangulationand to give him a kiss and a pat or two
on the cheek.

'But you ought to feel for meyou knowpa.'

'My dearI do.'

'Yesand I say you ought to. If they had only left me alone and
told me nothing about itit would have mattered much less. But
that nasty Mr Lightwood feels it his dutyas he saysto write and
tell me what is in reserve for meand then I am obliged to get rid
of George Sampson.'

HereLaviniarising to the surface with the last draughtman
rescuedinterposed'You never cared for George SampsonBella.'

'And did I say I didmiss?' Thenpouting againwith the curls in
her mouth; 'George Sampson was very fond of meand admired me
very muchand put up with everything I did to him.'

'You were rude enough to him' Lavinia again interposed.

'And did I say I wasn'tmiss? I am not setting up to be sentimental
about George Sampson. I only say George Sampson was better
than nothing.'

'You didn't show him that you thought even that' Lavinia again
interposed.

'You are a chit and a little idiot' returned Bella'or you wouldn't
make such a dolly speech. What did you expect me to do? Wait
till you are a womanand don't talk about what you don't
understand. You only show your ignorance!' Thenwhimpering
againand at intervals biting the curlsand stopping to look how
much was bitten off'It's a shame! There never was such a hard
case! I shouldn't care so much if it wasn't so ridiculous. It was
ridiculous enough to have a stranger coming over to marry me
whether he liked it or not. It was ridiculous enough to know what
an embarrassing meeting it would beand how we never could
pretend to have an inclination of our owneither of us. It was
ridiculous enough to know I shouldn't like him--how COULD I
like himleft to him in a willlike a dozen of spoonswith
everything cut and dried beforehandlike orange chips. Talk of
orange flowers indeed! I declare again it's a shame! Those
ridiculous points would have been smoothed away by the money
for I love moneyand want money--want it dreadfully. I hate to be
poorand we are degradingly pooroffensively poormiserably
poorbeastly poor. But here I amleft with all the ridiculous parts
of the situation remainingandadded to them allthis ridiculous
dress! And if the truth was knownwhen the Harmon murder was
all over the townand people were speculating on its being suicide
I dare say those impudent wretches at the clubs and places made
jokes about the miserable creature's having preferred a watery
grave to me. It's likely enough they took such liberties; I shouldn't
wonder! I declare it's a very hard case indeedand I am a most
unfortunate girl. The idea of being a kind of a widowand never
having been married! And the idea of being as poor as ever after
alland going into blackbesidesfor a man I never sawand


should have hated--as far as HE was concerned--if I had seen!'

The young lady's lamentations were checked at this point by a
knuckleknocking at the half-open door of the room. The knuckle
had knocked two or three times alreadybut had not been heard.

'Who is it?' said Mrs Wilferin her Act-of-Parliament manner.
'Enter!'

A gentleman coming inMiss Bellawith a short and sharp
exclamationscrambled off the hearth-rug and massed the bitten
curls together in their right place on her neck.

'The servant girl had her key in the door as I came upand directed
me to this roomtelling me I was expected. I am afraid I should
have asked her to announce me.'

'Pardon me' returned Mrs Wilfer. 'Not at all. Two of my
daughters. R. W.this is the gentleman who has taken your firstfloor.
He was so good as to make an appointment for to-night
when you would be at home.'

A dark gentleman. Thirty at the utmost. An expressiveone might
say handsomeface. A very bad manner. In the last degree
constrainedreserveddiffidenttroubled. His eyes were on Miss
Bella for an instantand then looked at the ground as he addressed
the master of the house.

'Seeing that I am quite satisfiedMr Wilferwith the roomsand
with their situationand with their priceI suppose a memorandum
between us of two or three linesand a payment downwill bind
the bargain? I wish to send in furniture without delay.'

Two or three times during this short addressthe cherub addressed
had made chubby motions towards a chair. The gentleman now
took itlaying a hesitating hand on a corner of the tableand with
another hesitating hand lifting the crown of his hat to his lipsand
drawing it before his mouth.

'The gentlemanR. W.' said Mrs Wilfer'proposes to take your
apartments by the quarter. A quarter's notice on either side.'

'Shall I mentionsir' insinuated the landlordexpecting it to be
received as a matter of course'the form of a reference?'

'I think' returned the gentlemanafter a pause'that a reference is
not necessary; neitherto say the truthis it convenientfor I am a
stranger in London. I require no reference from youand perhaps
thereforeyou will require none from me. That will be fair on both
sides. IndeedI show the greater confidence of the twofor I will
pay in advance whatever you pleaseand I am going to trust my
furniture here. Whereasif you were in embarrassed
circumstances--this is merely supposititious--'

Conscience causing R. Wilfer to colourMrs Wilferfrom a corner
(she always got into stately corners) came to the rescue with a
deep-toned 'Per-fectly.'

'--Why then I--might lose it.'

'Well!' observed R. Wilfercheerfully'money and goods are
certainly the best of references.'

'Do you think they ARE the bestpa?' asked Miss Bellain a low


voiceand without looking over her shoulder as she warmed her
foot on the fender.

'Among the bestmy dear.'

'I should have thoughtmyselfit was so easy to add the usual kind
of one' said Bellawith a toss of her curls.

The gentleman listened to herwith a face of marked attention
though he neither looked up nor changed his attitude. He satstill
and silentuntil his future landlord accepted his proposalsand
brought writing materials to complete the business. He satstill
and silentwhile the landlord wrote.

When the agreement was ready in duplicate (the landlord having
worked at it like some cherubic scribein what is conventionally
called a doubtfulwhich means a not at all doubtfulOld Master)
it was signed by the contracting partiesBella looking on as
scornful witness. The contracting parties were R. Wilferand John
Rokesmith Esquire.

When it came to Bella's turn to sign her nameMr Rokesmithwho
was standingas he had satwith a hesitating hand upon the table
looked at her stealthilybut narrowly. He looked at the pretty
figure bending down over the paper and saying'Where am I to go
pa? Herein this corner?' He looked at the beautiful brown hair
shading the coquettish face; he looked at the free dash of the
signaturewhich was a bold one for a woman's; and then they
looked at one another.

'Much obliged to youMiss Wilfer.'

'Obliged?'

'I have given you so much trouble.'

'Signing my name? Yescertainly. But I am your landlord's
daughtersir.'

As there was nothing more to do but pay eight sovereigns in
earnest of the bargainpocket the agreementappoint a time for the
arrival of his furniture and himselfand goMr Rokesmith did that
as awkwardly as it might be doneand was escorted by his
landlord to the outer air. When R. Wilfer returnedcandlestick in
handto the bosom of his familyhe found the bosom agitated.

'Pa' said Bella'we have got a Murderer for a tenant.'

'Pa' said Lavinia'we have got a Robber.'

'To see him unable for his life to look anybody in the face!' said
Bella. 'There never was such an exhibition.'

'My dears' said their father'he is a diffident gentlemanand I
should say particularly so in the society of girls of your age.'

'Nonsenseour age!' cried Bellaimpatiently. 'What's that got to do
with him?'

'Besideswe are not of the same age:--which age?' demanded
Lavinia.

'Never YOU mindLavvy' retorted Bella; 'you wait till you are of
an age to ask such questions. Pamark my words! Between Mr


Rokesmith and methere is a natural antipathy and a deep distrust;
and something will come of it!'

'My dearand girls' said the cherub-patriarch'between Mr
Rokesmith and methere is a matter of eight sovereignsand
something for supper shall come of itif you'll agree upon the
article.'

This was a neat and happy turn to give the subjecttreats being
rare in the Wilfer householdwhere a monotonous appearance of
Dutch-cheese at ten o'clock in the evening had been rather
frequently commented on by the dimpled shoulders of Miss Bella.
Indeedthe modest Dutchman himself seemed conscious of his
want of varietyand generally came before the family in a state of
apologetic perspiration. After some discussion on the relative
merits of veal-cutletsweetbreadand lobstera decision was
pronounced in favour of veal-cutlet. Mrs Wilfer then solemnly
divested herself of her handkerchief and glovesas a preliminary
sacrifice to preparing the frying-panand R. W. himself went out to
purchase the viand. He soon returnedbearing the same in a fresh
cabbage-leafwhere it coyly embraced a rasher of ham. Melodious
sounds were not long in rising from the frying-pan on the fireor in
seemingas the firelight danced in the mellow halls of a couple of
full bottles on the tableto play appropriate dance-music.

The cloth was laid by Lavvy. Bellaas the acknowledged
ornament of the familyemployed both her hands in giving her hair
an additional wave while sitting in the easiest chairand
occasionally threw in a direction touching the supper: as'Very
brownma;' orto her sister'Put the saltcellar straightmissand
don't be a dowdy little puss.'

Meantime her fatherchinking Mr Rokesmith's gold as he sat
expectant between his knife and forkremarked that six of those
sovereigns came just in time for their landlordand stood them in a
little pile on the white tablecloth to look at.

'I hate our landlord!' said Bella.

Butobserving a fall in her father's faceshe went and sat down by
him at the tableand began touching up his hair with the handle of
a fork. It was one of the girl's spoilt ways to be always arranging
the family's hair--perhaps because her own was so prettyand
occupied so much of her attention.

'You deserve to have a house of your own; don't youpoor pa?'

'I don't deserve it better than anothermy dear.'

'At any rate Ifor onewant it more than another' said Bella
holding him by the chinas she stuck his flaxen hair on end'and I
grudge this money going to the Monster that swallows up so much
when we all want--Everything. And if you say (as you want to say;
I know you want to say sopa) "that's neither reasonable nor
honestBella then I answer, Maybe notpa--very likely--but it's
one of the consequences of being poorand of thoroughly hating
and detesting to be poorand that's my case." Nowyou look
lovelypa; why don't you always wear your hair like that? And
here's the cutlet! If it isn't very brownmaI can't eat itand must
have a bit put back to be done expressly.'

Howeveras it was browneven to Bella's tastethe young lady
graciously partook of it without reconsignment to the frying-pan
and alsoin due courseof the contents of the two bottles: whereof


one held Scotch ale and the other rum. The latter perfumewith
the fostering aid of boiling water and lemon-peeldiffused itself
throughout the roomand became so highly concentrated around
the warm firesidethat the wind passing over the house roof must
have rushed off charged with a delicious whiff of itafter buzzing
like a great bee at that particular chimneypot.

'Pa' said Bellasipping the fragrant mixture and warming her
favourite ankle; 'when old Mr Harmon made such a fool of me (not
to mention himselfas he is dead)what do you suppose he did it
for?'

'Impossible to saymy dear. As I have told you time out of number
since his will was brought to lightI doubt if I ever exchanged a
hundred words with the old gentleman. If it was his whim to
surprise ushis whim succeeded. For he certainly did it.'

'And I was stamping my foot and screamingwhen he first took
notice of me; was I?' said Bellacontemplating the ankle before
mentioned.

'You were stamping your little footmy dearand screaming with
your little voiceand laying into me with your little bonnetwhich
you had snatched off for the purpose' returned her fatheras if the
remembrance gave a relish to the rum; 'you were doing this one
Sunday morning when I took you outbecause I didn't go the exact
way you wantedwhen the old gentlemansitting on a seat near
saidThat's a nice girl; that's a VERY nice girl; a promising girl!
And so you weremy dear.'

'And then he asked my namedid hepa?'

'Then he asked your namemy dearand mine; and on other
Sunday morningswhen we walked his waywe saw him again
and--and really that's all.'

As that was all the rum and water tooorin other wordsas R. W.
delicately signified that his glass was emptyby throwing back his
head and standing the glass upside down on his nose and upper
lipit might have been charitable in Mrs Wilfer to suggest
replenishment. But that heroine briefly suggesting 'Bedtime'
insteadthe bottles were put awayand the family retired; she
cherubically escortedlike some severe saint in a paintingor
merely human matron allegorically treated.

'And by this time to-morrow' said Lavinia when the two girls were
alone in their room'we shall have Mr Rokesmith hereand shall
be expecting to have our throats cut.'

'You needn't stand between me and the candle for all that' retorted
Bella. 'This is another of the consequences of being poor! The
idea of a girl with a really fine head of hairhaving to do it by one
flat candle and a few inches of looking-glass!'

'You caught George Sampson with itBellabad as your means of
dressing it are.'

'You low little thing. Caught George Sampson with it! Don't talk
about catching peoplemisstill your own time for catching--as
you call it--comes.'

'Perhaps it has come' muttered Lavvywith a toss of her head.

'What did you say?' asked Bellavery sharply. 'What did you say


miss?'

Lavvy declining equally to repeat or to explainBella gradually
lapsed over her hair-dressing into a soliloquy on the miseries of
being pooras exemplified in having nothing to put onnothing to
go out innothing to dress byonly a nasty box to dress at instead
of a commodious dressing-tableand being obliged to take in
suspicious lodgers. On the last grievance as her climaxshe laid
great stress--and might have laid greaterhad she known that if Mr
Julius Handford had a twin brother upon earthMr John
Rokesmith was the man.

Chapter 5

BOFFIN'S BOWER

Over against a London housea corner house not far from
Cavendish Squarea man with a wooden leg had sat for some years
with his remaining foot in a basket in cold weatherpicking
up a living on this wise:--Every morning at eight o'clockhe
stumped to the cornercarrying a chaira clothes-horsea pair of
trestlesa boarda basketand an umbrellaall strapped together.
Separating thesethe board and trestles became a counterthe
basket supplied the few small lots of fruit and sweets that he
offered for sale upon it and became a foot-warmerthe unfolded
clothes-horse displayed a choice collection of halfpenny ballads
and became a screenand the stool planted within it became his
post for the rest of the day. All weathers saw the man at the post.
This is to be accepted in a double sensefor he contrived a back to
his wooden stoolby placing it against the lamp-post. When the
weather was wethe put up his umbrella over his stock in trade
not over himself; when the weather was dryhe furled that faded
articletied it round with a piece of yarnand laid it cross-wise
under the trestles: where it looked like an unwholesomely-forced
lettuce that had lost in colour and crispness what it had gained in
size.

He had established his right to the cornerby imperceptible
prescription. He had never varied his ground an inchbut had in
the beginning diffidently taken the corner upon which the side of
the house gave. A howling corner in the winter timea dusty
corner in the summer timean undesirable corner at the best of
times. Shelterless fragments of straw and paper got up revolving
storms therewhen the main street was at peace; and the watercart
as if it were drunk or short-sightedcame blundering and
jolting round itmaking it muddy when all else was clean.

On the front of his sale-board hung a little placardlike a kettleholder
bearing the inscription in his own small text:

Errands gone

On with fi

Delity By

Ladies and Gentlemen

I remain

Your humble Servt:

Silas Wegg

He had not only settled it with himself in course of timethat he
was errand-goer by appointment to the house at the corner (though
he received such commissions not half a dozen times in a yearand


then only as some servant's deputy)but also that he was one of the
house's retainers and owed vassalage to it and was bound to leal
and loyal interest in it. For this reasonhe always spoke of it as
'Our House' andthough his knowledge of its affairs was mostly
speculative and all wrongclaimed to be in its confidence. On
similar grounds he never beheld an inmate at any one of its
windows but he touched his hat. Yethe knew so little about the
inmates that he gave them names of his own invention: as 'Miss
Elizabeth''Master George''Aunt Jane''Uncle Parker '--having no
authority whatever for any such designationsbut particularly the
last--to whichas a natural consequencehe stuck with great obstinacy.


Over the house itselfhe exercised the same imaginary power as
over its inhabitants and their affairs. He had never been in itthe
length of a piece of fat black water-pipe which trailed itself over
the area-door into a damp stone passageand had rather the air of a
leech on the house that had 'taken' wonderfully; but this was no
impediment to his arranging it according to a plan of his own. It
was a great dingy house with a quantity of dim side window and
blank back premisesand it cost his mind a world of trouble so to
lay it out as to account for everything in its external appearance.
Butthis once donewas quite satisfactoryand he rested
persuadedthat he knew his way about the house blindfold: from
the barred garrets in the high roofto the two iron extinguishers
before the main door--which seemed to request all lively visitors to
have the kindness to put themselves outbefore entering.


Assuredlythis stall of Silas Wegg's was the hardest little stall of
all the sterile little stalls in London. It gave you the face-ache to
look at his applesthe stomach-ache to look at his orangesthe
tooth-ache to look at his nuts. Of the latter commodity he had
always a grim little heapon which lay a little wooden measure
which had no discernible insideand was considered to represent
the penn'orth appointed by Magna Charta. Whether from too
much east wind or no--it was an easterly corner--the stallthe
stockand the keeperwere all as dry as the Desert. Wegg was a
knotty manand a close-grainedwith a face carved out of very
hard materialthat had just as much play of expression as a
watchman's rattle. When he laughedcertain jerks occurred in it
and the rattle sprung. Sooth to sayhe was so wooden a man that
he seemed to have taken his wooden leg naturallyand rather
suggested to the fanciful observerthat he might be expected--if his
development received no untimely check--to be completely set up
with a pair of wooden legs in about six months.


Mr Wegg was an observant personoras he himself said'took a
powerful sight of notice'. He saluted all his regular passers-by
every dayas he sat on his stool backed up by the lamp-post; and
on the adaptable character of these salutes he greatly plumed
himself. Thusto the rectorhe addressed a bowcompounded of
lay deferenceand a slight touch of the shady preliminary
meditation at church; to the doctora confidential bowas to a
gentleman whose acquaintance with his inside he begged
respectfully to acknowledge; before the Quality he delighted to
abase himself; and for Uncle Parkerwho was in the army (at least
so he had settled it)he put his open hand to the side of his hat
in a military manner which that angry-eyed buttoned-up
inflammatory-faced old gentleman appeared but imperfectly to
appreciate.


The only article in which Silas dealtthat was not hardwas
gingerbread. On a certain daysome wretched infant having
purchased the damp gingerbread-horse (fearfully out of condition)
and the adhesive bird-cagewhich had been exposed for the day's sale



he had taken a tin box from under his stool to produce a relay
of those dreadful specimensand was going to look in at the lid
when he said to himselfpausing: 'Oh! Here you are again!'


The words referred to a broadround-shoulderedone-sided old
fellow in mourningcoming comically ambling towards the corner
dressed in a pea over-coatand carrying a large stick. He wore
thick shoesand thick leather gaitersand thick gloves like a
hedger's. Both as to his dress and to himselfhe was of an
overlapping rhinoceros buildwith folds in his cheeksand his
foreheadand his eyelidsand his lipsand his ears; but with
brighteagerchildishly-inquiringgrey eyesunder his ragged
eyebrowsand broad-brimmed hat. A very odd-looking old fellow
altogether.


'Here you are again' repeated Mr Weggmusing. 'And what are
you now? Are you in the Funnsor where are you? Have you
lately come to settle in this neighbourhoodor do you own to
another neighbourhood? Are you in independent circumstancesor
is it wasting the motions of a bow on you? Come! I'll speculate!
I'll invest a bow in you.'


Which Mr Wegghaving replaced his tin boxaccordingly didas
he rose to bait his gingerbread-trap for some other devoted infant.
The salute was acknowledged with:


'Morningsir! Morning! Morning!'


('Calls me Sir!' said Mr Weggto himself; 'HE won't answer. A
bow gone!')


'Morningmorningmorning!'


'Appears to be rather a 'arty old cocktoo' said Mr Weggas
before; 'Good morning to YOUsir.'


'Do you remember methen?' asked his new acquaintance
stopping in his ambleone-sidedbefore the stalland speaking in
a pounding waythough with great good-humour.


'I have noticed you go past our housesirseveral times in the
course of the last week or so.'


'Our house' repeated the other. 'Meaning--?'


'Yes' said Mr Weggnoddingas the other pointed the clumsy
forefinger of his right glove at the corner house.


'Oh! Nowwhat' pursued the old fellowin an inquisitive manner
carrying his knotted stick in his left arm as if it were a baby'what
do they allow you now?'


'It's job work that I do for our house' returned Silasdrilyand with
reticence; 'it's not yet brought to an exact allowance.'


'Oh! It's not yet brought to an exact allowance? No! It's not yet
brought to an exact allowance. Oh!--Morningmorningmorning!'


'Appears to be rather a cracked old cock' thought Silasqualifying
his former good opinionas the other ambled off. Butin a
moment he was back again with the question:


'How did you get your wooden leg?'



Mr Wegg replied(tartly to this personal inquiry)'In an accident.'

'Do you like it?'

'Well! I haven't got to keep it warm' Mr Wegg made answerin a
sort of desperation occasioned by the singularity of the question.

'He hasn't' repeated the other to his knotted stickas he gave it a
hug; 'he hasn't got--ha!--ha!--to keep it warm! Did you ever hear of
the name of Boffin?'

'No' said Mr Weggwho was growing restive under this
examination. 'I never did hear of the name of Boffin.'

'Do you like it?'

'Whyno' retorted Mr Weggagain approaching desperation; 'I
can't say I do.'

'Why don't you like it?'

'I don't know why I don't' retorted Mr Weggapproaching frenzy
'but I don't at all.'

'NowI'll tell you something that'll make you sorry for that' said
the strangersmiling. 'My name's Boffin.'

'I can't help it!' returned Mr Wegg. Implying in his manner the
offensive addition'and if I couldI wouldn't.'

'But there's another chance for you' said Mr Boffinsmiling still
'Do you like the name of Nicodemus? Think it over. Nickor
Noddy.'

'It is notsir' Mr Wegg rejoinedas he sat down on his stoolwith
an air of gentle resignationcombined with melancholy candour; it
is not a name as I could wish any one that I had a respect forto
call ME by; but there may be persons that would not view it with
the same objections.--I don't know why' Mr Wegg added
anticipating another question.

'Noddy Boffin' said that gentleman. 'Noddy. That's my name.
Noddy--or Nick--Boffin. What's your name?'

'Silas Wegg.--I don't' said Mr Weggbestirring himself to take the
same precaution as before'I don't know why Silasand I don't
know why Wegg.'

'NowWegg' said Mr Boffinhugging his stick closer'I want to
make a sort of offer to you. Do you remember when you first see
me?'

The wooden Wegg looked at him with a meditative eyeand also
with a softened air as descrying possibility of profit. 'Let me think.
I ain't quite sureand yet I generally take a powerful sight of
noticetoo. Was it on a Monday morningwhen the butcher-boy
had been to our house for ordersand bought a ballad of me
whichbeing unacquainted with the tuneI run it over to him?'

'RightWeggright! But he bought more than one.'

'Yesto be suresir; he bought several; and wishing to lay out his
money to the besthe took my opinion to guide his choiceand we
went over the collection together. To be sure we did. Here was


him as it might beand here was myself as it might beand there
was youMr Boffinas you identically arewith your self-same
stick under your very same armand your very same back towards
us. To--be--sure!' added Mr Wegglooking a little round Mr
Boffinto take him in the rearand identify this last extraordinary
coincidence'your wery self-same back!'

'What do you think I was doingWegg?'

'I should judgesirthat you might be glancing your eye down the
street.'

'NoWegg. I was a listening.'

'Was youindeed?' said Mr Weggdubiously.

'Not in a dishonourable wayWeggbecause you was singing to
the butcher; and you wouldn't sing secrets to a butcher in the
streetyou know.'

'It never happened that I did so yetto the best of my
remembrance' said Mr Weggcautiously. 'But I might do it. A
man can't say what he might wish to do some day or another.'
(Thisnot to release any little advantage he might derive from Mr
Boffin's avowal.)

'Well' repeated Boffin'I was a listening to you and to him. And
what do you--you haven't got another stoolhave you? I'm rather
thick in my breath.'

'I haven't got anotherbut you're welcome to this' said Wegg
resigning it. 'It's a treat to me to stand.'

'Lard!' exclaimed Mr Boffinin a tone of great enjoymentas he
settled himself downstill nursing his stick like a baby'it's a
pleasant placethis! And then to be shut in on each sidewith
these balladslike so many book-leaf blinkers! Whyits
delightful!'

'If I am not mistakensir' Mr Wegg delicately hintedresting a
hand on his stalland bending over the discursive Boffin'you
alluded to some offer or another that was in your mind?'

'I'm coming to it! All right. I'm coming to it! I was going to say
that when I listened that morningI listened with hadmiration
amounting to haw. I thought to myselfHere's a man with a
wooden leg--a literary man with--'

'N--not exactly sosir' said Mr Wegg.

'Whyyou know every one of these songs by name and by tune
and if you want to read or to sing any one on 'em off straight
you've only to whip on your spectacles and do it!' cried Mr Boffin.
'I see you at it!'

'Wellsir' returned Mr Weggwith a conscious inclination of the
head; 'we'll say literarythen.'

'"A literary man--WITH a wooden leg--and all Print is open to
him!" That's what I thought to myselfthat morning' pursued Mr
Boffinleaning forward to describeuncramped by the
clotheshorseas large an arc as his right arm could make; '"all
Print is open to him!" And it isain't it?'


'Whytrulysir' Mr Wegg admittedwith modesty; 'I believe you
couldn't show me the piece of English printthat I wouldn't be
equal to collaring and throwing.'

'On the spot?' said Mr Boffin.

'On the spot.'

'I know'd it! Then consider this. Here am Ia man without a
wooden legand yet all print is shut to me.'

'Indeedsir?' Mr Wegg returned with increasing self-complacency.
'Education neglected?'

'Neg--lected!' repeated Boffinwith emphasis. 'That ain't no word
for it. I don't mean to say but what if you showed me a BI could
so far give you change for itas to answer Boffin.'

'Comecomesir' said Mr Weggthrowing in a little
encouragement'that's somethingtoo.'

'It's something' answered Mr Boffin'but I'll take my oath it ain't
much.'

'Perhaps it's not as much as could be wished by an inquiring mind
sir' Mr Wegg admitted.

'Nowlook here. I'm retired from business. Me and Mrs Boffin--
Henerietty Boffin--which her father's name was Heneryand her
mother's name was Hettyand so you get it--we live on a
compittanceunder the will of a diseased governor.'

'Gentleman deadsir?'

'Man alivedon't I tell you? A diseased governor? Nowit's too
late for me to begin shovelling and sifting at alphabeds and
grammar-books. I'm getting to be a old birdand I want to take it
easy. But I want some reading--some fine bold readingsome
splendid book in a gorging Lord-Mayor's-Show of wollumes'
(probably meaning gorgeousbut misled by association of ideas);
'as'll reach right down your pint of viewand take time to go by
you. How can I get that readingWegg? By' tapping him on the
breast with the head of his thick stick'paying a man truly qualified
to do itso much an hour (say twopence) to come and do it.'

'Hem! FlatteredsirI am sure' said Weggbeginning to regard
himself in quite a new light. 'Hew! This is the offer you
mentionedsir?'

'Yes. Do you like it?'

'I am considering of itMr Boffin.'

'I don't' said Boffinin a free-handed manner'want to tie a literary
man--WITH a wooden leg--down too tight. A halfpenny an hour
shan't part us. The hours are your own to chooseafter you've done
for the day with your house here. I live over Maiden-Lane way-out
Holloway direction--and you've only got to go East-and-by-
North when you've finished hereand you're there. Twopence
halfpenny an hour' said Boffintaking a piece of chalk from his
pocket and getting off the stool to work the sum on the top of it in
his own way; 'two long'uns and a short'un--twopence halfpenny;
two short'uns is a long'un and two two long'uns is four long'uns-making
five long'uns; six nights a week at five long'uns a night'


scoring them all down separately'and you mount up to thirty
long'uns. A round'un! Half a crown!'

Pointing to this result as a large and satisfactory oneMr Boffin
smeared it out with his moistened gloveand sat down on the
remains.

'Half a crown' said Weggmeditating. 'Yes. (It ain't muchsir.)
Half a crown.'

'Per weekyou know.'

'Per week. Yes. As to the amount of strain upon the intellect now.
Was you thinking at all of poetry?' Mr Wegg inquiredmusing.

'Would it come dearer?' Mr Boffin asked.

'It would come dearer' Mr Wegg returned. 'For when a person
comes to grind off poetry night after nightit is but right he should
expect to be paid for its weakening effect on his mind.'

'To tell you the truth Wegg' said Boffin'I wasn't thinking of
poetryexcept in so fur as this:--If you was to happen now and then
to feel yourself in the mind to tip me and Mrs Boffin one of your
balladswhy then we should drop into poetry.'

'I follow yousir' said Wegg. 'But not being a regular musical
professionalI should be loath to engage myself for that; and
therefore when I dropped into poetryI should ask to be considered
so furin the light of a friend.'

At thisMr Boffin's eyes sparkledand he shook Silas earnestly by
the hand: protesting that it was more than he could have asked
and that he took it very kindly indeed.

'What do you think of the termsWegg?' Mr Boffin then
demandedwith unconcealed anxiety.

Silaswho had stimulated this anxiety by his hard reserve of
mannerand who had begun to understand his man very well
replied with an air; as if he were saying something extraordinarily
generous and great:

'Mr BoffinI never bargain.'

'So I should have thought of you!' said Mr Boffinadmiringly. 'No
sir. I never did 'aggle and I never will 'aggle. Consequently I meet
you at oncefree and fairwith--Donefor double the money!'

Mr Boffin seemed a little unprepared for this conclusionbut
assentedwith the remark'You know better what it ought to be
than I doWegg' and again shook hands with him upon it.

'Could you begin to nightWegg?' he then demanded.

'Yessir' said Mr Weggcareful to leave all the eagerness to him.
'I see no difficulty if you wish it. You are provided with the
needful implement--a booksir?'

'Bought him at a sale' said Mr Boffin. 'Eight wollumes. Red and
gold. Purple ribbon in every wollumeto keep the place where you
leave off. Do you know him?'

'The book's namesir?' inquired Silas.


'I thought you might have know'd him without it' said Mr Boffin
slightly disappointed. 'His name is Decline-And-Fall-Off-The-
Rooshan-Empire.' (Mr Boffin went over these stones slowly and
with much caution.)


'Ay indeed!' said Mr Weggnodding his head with an air of
friendly recognition.


'You know himWegg?'


'I haven't been not to say right slap through himvery lately' Mr
Wegg made answer'having been otherways employedMr Boffin.
But know him? Old familiar declining and falling off the
Rooshan? Rathersir! Ever since I was not so high as your stick.
Ever since my eldest brother left our cottage to enlist into the army.
On which occasionas the ballad that was made about it describes:


'Beside that cottage doorMr Boffin
A girl was on her knees;
She held aloft a snowy scarfSir
Which (my eldest brother noticed) fluttered in the breeze.
She breathed a prayer for himMr Boffin;
A prayer he coold not hear.
And my eldest brother lean'd upon his swordMr Boffin
And wiped away a tear.'

Much impressed by this family circumstanceand also by the
friendly disposition of Mr Weggas exemplified in his so soon
dropping into poetryMr Boffin again shook hands with that
ligneous sharperand besought him to name his hour. Mr Wegg
named eight.

'Where I live' said Mr Boffin'is called The Bower. Boffin's
Bower is the name Mrs Boffin christened it when we come into it
as a property. If you should meet with anybody that don't know it
by that name (which hardly anybody does)when you've got nigh
upon about a odd mileor say and a quarter if you likeup Maiden
LaneBattle Bridgeask for Harmony Jailand you'll be put right.
I shall expect youWegg' said Mr Boffinclapping him on the
shoulder with the greatest enthusiasm'most joyfully. I shall have
no peace or patience till you come. Print is now opening ahead of
me. This nighta literary man--WITH a wooden leg--' he
bestowed an admiring look upon that decorationas if it greatly
enhanced the relish of Mr Wegg's attainments--'will begin to lead
me a new life! My fist againWegg. Morningmorningmorning!'

Left alone at his stall as the other ambled offMr Wegg subsided
into his screenproduced a small pocket-handkerchief of a
penitentially-scrubbing characterand took himself by the nose
with a thoughtful aspect. Alsowhile he still grasped that feature
he directed several thoughtful looks down the streetafter the
retiring figure of Mr Boffin. Butprofound gravity sat enthroned
on Wegg's countenance. Forwhile he considered within himself
that this was an old fellow of rare simplicitythat this was an
opportunity to be improvedand that here might he money to be
got beyond present calculationstill he compromised himself by no
admission that his new engagement was at all out of his wayor
involved the least element of the ridiculous. Mr Wegg would even
have picked a handsome quarrel with any one who should have
challenged his deep acquaintance with those aforesaid eight
volumes of Decline and Fall. His gravity was unusualportentous
and immeasurablenot because he admitted any doubt of himself
but because he perceived it necessary to forestall any doubt of


himself in others. And herein he ranged with that very numerous
class of impostorswho are quite as determined to keep up
appearances to themselvesas to their neighbours.


A certain loftinesslikewisetook possession of Mr Wegg; a
condescending sense of being in request as an official expounder of
mysteries. It did not move him to commercial greatnessbut rather
to littlenessinsomuch that if it had been within the possibilities of
things for the wooden measure to hold fewer nuts than usualit
would have done so that day. Butwhen night cameand with her
veiled eyes beheld him stumping towards Boffin's Bowerhe was
elated too.


The Bower was as difficult to findas Fair Rosamond's without the
clue. Mr Wegghaving reached the quarter indicatedinquired for
the Bower half a dozen times without the least successuntil he
remembered to ask for Harmony Jail. This occasioned a quick
change in the spirits of a hoarse gentleman and a donkeywhom he
had much perplexed.


'Whyyer mean Old Harmon'sdo yer?' said the hoarse gentleman
who was driving his donkey in a truckwith a carrot for a whip.
'Why didn't yer niver say so? Eddard and me is a goin' by HIM!
Jump in.'


Mr Wegg compliedand the hoarse gentleman invited his attention
to the third person in companythus;


'Nowyou look at Eddard's ears. What was it as you namedagin?
Whisper.'


Mr Wegg whispered'Boffin's Bower.'


'Eddard! (keep yer hi on his ears) cut away to Boffin's Bower!'


Edwardwith his ears lying backremained immoveable.


'Eddard! (keep yer hi on his ears) cut away to Old Harmon's.'
Edward instantly pricked up his ears to their utmostand rattled off
at such a pace that Mr Wegg's conversation was jolted out of him
in a most dislocated state.


'Was-it-Ev-verajail?' asked Mr Weggholding on.


'Not a proper jailwot you and me would get committed to'
returned his escort; 'they giv' it the nameon accounts of Old
Harmon living solitary there.'


'And-why-did-they-callitharm-Ony?' asked Wegg.


'On accounts of his never agreeing with nobody. Like a speeches
of chaff. Harmon's Jail; Harmony Jail. Working it round like.'


'Doyouknow-Mist-Erboff-in?' asked Wegg.


'I should think so! Everybody do about here. Eddard knows him.
(Keep yer hi on his ears.) Noddy BoffinEddard!'


The effect of the name was so very alarmingin respect of causing
a temporary disappearance of Edward's headcasting his hind
hoofs in the airgreatly accelerating the pace and increasing the
joltingthat Mr Wegg was fain to devote his attention exclusively
to holding onand to relinquish his desire of ascertaining whether
this homage to Boffin was to be considered complimentary or the



reverse.

PresentlyEdward stopped at a gatewayand Wegg discreetly lost
no time in slipping out at the back of the truck. The moment he
was landedhis late driver with a wave of the carrotsaid 'Supper
Eddard!' and hethe hind hoofsthe truckand Edwardall seemed
to fly into the air togetherin a kind of apotheosis.

Pushing the gatewhich stood ajarWegg looked into an enclosed
space where certain tall dark mounds rose high against the sky
and where the pathway to the Bower was indicatedas the
moonlight showedbetween two lines of broken crockery set in
ashes. A white figure advancing along this pathproved to be
nothing more ghostly than Mr Boffineasily attired for the pursuit
of knowledgein an undress garment of short white smock-frock.
Having received his literary friend with great cordialityhe
conducted him to the interior of the Bower and there presented him
to Mrs Boffin:--a stout lady of a rubicund and cheerful aspect
dressed (to Mr Wegg's consternation) in a low evening-dress of
sable satinand a large black velvet hat and feathers.

'Mrs BoffinWegg' said Boffin'is a highflyer at Fashion. And
her make is suchthat she does it credit. As to myself I ain't yet as
Fash'nable as I may come to be. Heneriettyold ladythis is the
gentleman that's a going to decline and fall off the Rooshan
Empire.'

'And I am sure I hope it'll do you both good' said Mrs Boffin.

It was the queerest of roomsfitted and furnished more like a
luxurious amateur tap-room than anything else within the ken of
Silas Wegg. There were two wooden settles by the fireone on
either side of itwith a corresponding table before each. On one of
these tablesthe eight volumes were ranged flatin a rowlike a
galvanic battery; on the othercertain squat case-bottles of inviting
appearance seemed to stand on tiptoe to exchange glances with Mr
Wegg over a front row of tumblers and a basin of white sugar. On
the hoba kettle steamed; on the heartha cat reposed. Facing the
fire between the settlesa sofaa footstooland a little table
formed a centrepiece devoted to Mrs Boffin. They were garish in
taste and colourbut were expensive articles of drawing-room
furniture that had a very odd look beside the settles and the flaring
gaslight pendent from the ceiling. There was a flowery carpet on
the floor; butinstead of reaching to the firesideits glowing
vegetation stopped short at Mrs Boffin's footstooland gave place
to a region of sand and sawdust. Mr Wegg also noticedwith
admiring eyesthatwhile the flowery land displayed such hollow
ornamentation as stuffed birds and waxen fruits under glassshades
there werein the territory where vegetation ceased
compensatory shelves on which the best part of a large pie and
likewise of a cold joint were plainly discernible among other
solids. The room itself was largethough low; and the heavy
frames of its old-fashioned windowsand the heavy beams in its
crooked ceilingseemed to indicate that it had once been a house of
some mark standing alone in the country.

'Do you like itWegg?' asked Mr Boffinin his pouncing manner.

'I admire it greatlysir' said Wegg. 'Peculiar comfort at this
firesidesir.'

'Do you understand itWegg?'

'Whyin a general waysir' Mr Wegg was beginning slowly and


knowinglywith his head stuck on one sideas evasive people do
beginwhen the other cut him short:


'You DON'T understand itWeggand I'll explain it. These
arrangements is made by mutual consent between Mrs Boffin and
me. Mrs Boffinas I've mentionedis a highflyer at Fashion; at
present I'm not. I don't go higher than comfortand comfort of the
sort that I'm equal to the enjoyment of. Well then. Where would
be the good of Mrs Boffin and me quarrelling over it? We never
did quarrelbefore we come into Boffin's Bower as a property; why
quarrel when we HAVE come into Boffin's Bower as a property?
So Mrs Boffinshe keeps up her part of the roomin her way; I
keep up my part of the room in mine. In consequence of which we
have at onceSociability (I should go melancholy mad without Mrs
Boffin)Fashionand Comfort. If I get by degrees to be a higher-
flyer at Fashionthen Mrs Boffin will by degrees come for'arder. If
Mrs Boffin should ever be less of a dab at Fashion than she is at
the present timethen Mrs Boffin's carpet would go back'arder. If
we should both continny as we arewhy then HERE we areand
give us a kissold lady.'


Mrs Boffin whoperpetually smilinghad approached and drawn
her plump arm through her lord'smost willingly complied.
Fashionin the form of her black velvet hat and featherstried to
prevent it; but got deservedly crushed in the endeavour.


'So nowWegg' said Mr Boffinwiping his mouth with an air of
much refreshment'you begin to know us as we are. This is a
charming spotis the Bowerbut you must get to apprechiate it by
degrees. It's a spot to find out the merits of; little by littleand a
new'un every day. There's a serpentining walk up each of the
moundsthat gives you the yard and neighbourhood changing
every moment. When you get to the topthere's a view of the
neighbouring premisesnot to be surpassed. The premises of Mrs
Boffin's late father (Canine Provision Trade)you look down into
as if they was your own. And the top of the High Mound is
crowned with a lattice-work Arbourin whichif you don't read out
loud many a book in the summerayand as a frienddrop many a
time into poetry tooit shan't be my fault. Nowwhat'll you read
on?'


'Thank yousir' returned Weggas if there were nothing new in his
reading at all. 'I generally do it on gin and water.'


'Keeps the organ moistdoes itWegg?' asked Mr Boffinwith
innocent eagerness.


'N-nosir' replied Weggcoolly'I should hardly describe it sosir.
I should saymellers it. Mellers itis the word I should employ
Mr Boffin.'


His wooden conceit and craft kept exact pace with the delighted
expectation of his victim. The visions rising before his mercenary
mindof the many ways in which this connexion was to be turned
to accountnever obscured the foremost idea natural to a dull
overreaching manthat he must not make himself too cheap.


Mrs Boffin's Fashionas a less inexorable deity than the idol
usually worshipped under that namedid not forbid her mixing for
her literary guestor asking if he found the result to his liking. On
his returning a gracious answer and taking his place at the literary
settleMr Boffin began to compose himself as a listenerat the
opposite settlewith exultant eyes.



'Sorry to deprive you of a pipeWegg' he saidfilling his own'but
you can't do both together. Oh! and another thing I forgot to name!
When you come in here of an eveningand look round youand
notice anything on a shelf that happens to catch your fancy
mention it.'

Weggwho had been going to put on his spectaclesimmediately
laid them downwith the sprightly observation:

'You read my thoughtssir. DO my eyes deceive meor is that
object up there a--a pie? It can't be a pie.'

'Yesit's a pieWegg' replied Mr Boffinwith a glance of some
little discomfiture at the Decline and Fall.

'HAVE I lost my smell for fruitsor is it a apple piesir?' asked
Wegg.

'It's a veal and ham pie' said Mr Boffin.

'Is it indeedsir? And it would be hardsirto name the pie that is
a better pie than a weal and hammer' said Mr Weggnodding his
head emotionally.

'Have someWegg?'

'Thank youMr BoffinI think I willat your invitation. I wouldn't
at any other party'sat the present juncture; but at yourssir!--And
meaty jelly tooespecially when a little saltwhich is the case
where there's hamis mellering to the organis very mellering to
the organ.' Mr Wegg did not say what organbut spoke with a
cheerful generality.

Sothe pie was brought downand the worthy Mr Boffin exercised
his patience until Weggin the exercise of his knife and forkhad
finished the dish: only profiting by the opportunity to inform Wegg
that although it was not strictly Fashionable to keep the contents of
a larder thus exposed to viewhe (Mr Boffin) considered it
hospitable; for the reasonthat instead of sayingin a
comparatively unmeaning mannerto a visitor'There are such and
such edibles down stairs; will you have anything up?' you took the
bold practical course of saying'Cast your eye along the shelves
andif you see anything you like therehave it down.'

And nowMr Wegg at length pushed away his plate and put on his
spectaclesand Mr Boffin lighted his pipe and looked with
beaming eyes into the opening world before himand Mrs Boffin
reclined in a fashionable manner on her sofa: as one who would be
part of the audience if she found she couldand would go to sleep
if she found she couldn't.

'Hem!' began Wegg'ThisMr Boffin and Ladyis the first chapter
of the first wollume of the Decline and Fall off--' here he looked
hard at the bookand stopped.

'What's the matterWegg?'

'Whyit comes into my minddo you knowsir' said Wegg with
an air of insinuating frankness (having first again looked hard at
the book)'that you made a little mistake this morningwhich I had
meant to set you right inonly something put it out of my head. I
think you said Rooshan Empiresir?'

'It is Rooshan; ain't itWegg?'


'Nosir. Roman. Roman.'

'What's the differenceWegg?'

'The differencesir?' Mr Wegg was faltering and in danger of
breaking downwhen a bright thought flashed upon him. 'The
differencesir? There you place me in a difficultyMr Boffin.
Suffice it to observethat the difference is best postponed to some
other occasion when Mrs Boffin does not honour us with her
company. In Mrs Boffin's presencesirwe had better drop it.'

Mr Wegg thus came out of his disadvantage with quite a
chivalrous airand not only thatbut by dint of repeating with a
manly delicacy'In Mrs Boffin's presencesirwe had better drop
it!' turned the disadvantage on Boffinwho felt that he had
committed himself in a very painful manner.

ThenMr Weggin a dry unflinching wayentered on his task;
going straight across country at everything that came before him;
taking all the hard wordsbiographical and geographical; getting
rather shaken by HadrianTrajanand the Antonines; stumbling at
Polybius (pronounced Polly Beeiousand supposed by Mr Boffin to
be a Roman virginand by Mrs Boffin to be responsible for that
necessity of dropping it); heavily unseated by Titus Antoninus
Pius; up again and galloping smoothly with Augustus; finally
getting over the ground well with Commodus: whounder the
appellation of Commodiouswas held by Mr Boffin to have been
quite unworthy of his English originand 'not to have acted up to
his name' in his government of the Roman people. With the death
of this personageMr Wegg terminated his first reading; long
before which consummation several total eclipses of Mrs Boffin's
candle behind her black velvet discwould have been very
alarmingbut for being regularly accompanied by a potent smell of
burnt pens when her feathers took firewhich acted as a restorative
and woke her. Mr Wegghaving read on by rote and attached as
few ideas as possible to the textcame out of the encounter fresh;
butMr Boffinwho had soon laid down his unfinished pipeand
had ever since sat intently staring with his eyes and mind at the
confounding enormities of the Romanswas so severely punished
that he could hardly wish his literary friend Good-nightand
articulate 'Tomorrow.'

'Commodious' gasped Mr Boffinstaring at the moonafter
letting Wegg out at the gate and fastening it: 'Commodious fights
in that wild-beast-showseven hundred and thirty-five timesin
one character only! As if that wasn't stunning enougha hundred
lions is turned into the same wild-beast-show all at once! As if
that wasn't stunning enoughCommodiousin another character
kills 'em all off in a hundred goes! As if that wasn't stunning
enoughVittle-us (and well named too) eats six millions' worth
English moneyin seven months! Wegg takes it easybut uponmy-
soul to a old bird like myself these are scarers. And even now
that Commodious is strangledI don't see a way to our bettering
ourselves.' Mr Boffin added as he turned his pensive steps towards
the Bower and shook his head'I didn't think this morning there
was half so many Scarers in Print. But I'm in for it now!'

Chapter 6

CUT ADRIFT


The Six Jolly Fellowship Portersalready mentioned as a tavern of
a dropsical appearancehad long settled down into a state of hale
infirmity. In its whole constitution it had not a straight floorand
hardly a straight line; but it had outlastedand clearly would yet
outlastmany a better-trimmed buildingmany a sprucer publichouse.
Externallyit was a narrow lopsided wooden jumble of
corpulent windows heaped one upon another as you might heap as
many toppling orangeswith a crazy wooden verandah impending
over the water; indeed the whole houseinclusive of the
complaining flag-staff on the roofimpended over the waterbut
seemed to have got into the condition of a faint-hearted diver who
has paused so long on the brink that he will never go in at all.

This description applies to the river-frontage of the Six Jolly
Fellowship Porters. The back of the establishmentthough the
chief entrance was thereso contracted that it merely represented in
its connexion with the frontthe handle of a flat iron set upright on
its broadest end. This handle stood at the bottom of a wilderness
of court and alley: which wilderness pressed so hard and close
upon the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters as to leave the hostelry not
an inch of ground beyond its door. For this reasonin combination
with the fact that the house was all but afloat at high waterwhen
the Porters had a family wash the linen subjected to that operation
might usually be seen drying on lines stretched across the
reception-rooms and bed-chambers.

The wood forming the chimney-piecesbeamspartitionsfloors
and doorsof the Six Jolly Fellowship Portersseemed in its old
age fraught with confused memories of its youth. In many places it
had become gnarled and rivenaccording to the manner of old
trees; knots started out of it; and here and there it seemed to twist
itself into some likeness of boughs. In this state of second
childhoodit had an air of being in its own way garrulous about its
early life. Not without reason was it often asserted by the regular
frequenters of the Portersthat when the light shone full upon the
grain of certain panelsand particularly upon an old corner
cupboard of walnut-wood in the baryou might trace little forests
thereand tiny trees like the parent treein full umbrageous leaf.

The bar of the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters was a bar to soften the
human breast. The available space in it was not much larger than
a hackney-coach; but no one could have wished the bar biggerthat
space was so girt in by corpulent little casksand by cordial-bottles
radiant with fictitious grapes in bunchesand by lemons in nets
and by biscuits in basketsand by the polite beer-pulls that made
low bows when customers were served with beerand by the
cheese in a snug cornerand by the landlady's own small table in a
snugger corner near the firewith the cloth everlastingly laid. This
haven was divided from the rough world by a glass partition and a
half-doorwith a leaden sill upon it for the convenience of resting
your liquor; butover this half-door the bar's snugness so gushed
forth thatalbeit customers drank there standingin a dark and
draughty passage where they were shouldered by other customers
passing in and outthey always appeared to drink under an
enchanting delusion that they were in the bar itself.

For the restboth the tap and parlour of the Six Jolly Fellowship
Porters gave upon the riverand had red curtains matching the
noses of the regular customersand were provided with
comfortable fireside tin utensilslike models of sugar-loaf hats
made in that shape that they mightwith their pointed endsseek
out for themselves glowing nooks in the depths of the red coals
when they mulled your aleor heated for you those delectable


drinksPurlFlipand Dog's Nose. The first of these humming
compounds was a speciality of the Porterswhichthrough an
inscription on its door-postsgently appealed to your feelings as
'The Early Purl House'. Forit would seem that Purl must always
be taken early; though whether for any more distinctly stomachic
reason than thatas the early bird catches the wormso the early
purl catches the customercannot here be resolved. It only remains
to add that in the handle of the flat ironand opposite the barwas
a very little room like a three-cornered hatinto which no direct ray
of sunmoonor starever penetratedbut which was
superstitiously regarded as a sanctuary replete with comfort and
retirement by gaslightand on the door of which was therefore
painted its alluring name: Cosy.

Miss Pottersonsole proprietor and manager of the Fellowship
Portersreigned supreme on her thronethe Barand a man must
have drunk himself mad drunk indeed if he thought he could
contest a point with her. Being known on her own authority as
Miss Abbey Pottersonsome water-side headswhich (like the
water) were none of the clearestharboured muddled notions that
because of her dignity and firmnessshe was named afteror in
some sort related tothe Abbey at Westminster. ButAbbey was
only short for Abigailby which name Miss Potterson had been
christened at Limehouse Churchsome sixty and odd years before.

'Nowyou mindyou Riderhood' said Miss Abbey Pottersonwith
emphatic forefinger over the half-door'the Fellowship don't want
you at alland would rather by far have your room than your
company; but if you were as welcome here as you are notyou
shouldn't even then have another drop of drink here this nightafter
this present pint of beer. So make the most of it.'

'But you knowMiss Potterson' this was suggested very meekly
though'if I behave myselfyou can't help serving memiss.'

'CAN'T I!' said Abbeywith infinite expression.

'NoMiss Potterson; becauseyou seethe law--'

'I am the law heremy man' returned Miss Abbey'and I'll soon
convince you of thatif you doubt it at all.'

'I never said I did doubt it at allMiss Abbey.'

'So much the better for you.'

Abbey the supreme threw the customer's halfpence into the till
andseating herself in her fireside-chairresumed the newspaper
she had been reading. She was a talluprightwell-favoured
womanthough severe of countenanceand had more of the air of a
schoolmistress than mistress of the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters.
The man on the other side of the half-doorwas a waterside-man
with a squinting leerand he eyed her as if he were one of her
pupils in disgrace.

'You're cruel hard upon meMiss Potterson.'

Miss Potterson read her newspaper with contracted browsand
took no notice until he whispered:

'Miss Potterson! Ma'am! Might I have half a word with you?'

Deigning then to turn her eyes sideways towards the suppliant
Miss Potterson beheld him knuckling his low foreheadand


ducking at her with his headas if he were asking leave to fling
himself head foremost over the half-door and alight on his feet in
the bar.

'Well?' said Miss Pottersonwith a manner as short as she herself
was long'say your half word. Bring it out.'

'Miss Potterson! Ma'am! Would you 'sxcuse me taking the liberty
of askingis it my character that you take objections to?'

'Certainly' said Miss Potterson.

'Is it that you're afraid of--'

'I am not afraid OF YOU' interposed Miss Potterson'if you mean
that.'

'But I humbly don't mean thatMiss Abbey.'

'Then what do you mean?'

'You really are so cruel hard upon me! What I was going to make
inquiries was no more thanmight you have any apprehensions-leastways
beliefs or suppositions--that the company's property
mightn't be altogether to be considered safeif I used the house too
regular?'

'What do you want to know for?'

'WellMiss Abbeyrespectfully meaning no offence to youit
would be some satisfaction to a man's mindto understand why the
Fellowship Porters is not to be free to such as meand is to be free
to such as Gaffer.'

The face of the hostess darkened with some shadow of perplexity
as she replied: 'Gaffer has never been where you have been.'

'Signifying in QuodMiss? Perhaps not. But he may have merited
it. He may be suspected of far worse than ever I was.'

'Who suspects him?'

'Manyperhaps. Onebeyond all doubts. I do.'

'YOU are not much' said Miss Abbey Pottersonknitting her
brows again with disdain.

'But I was his pardner. Mind youMiss AbbeyI was his pardner.
As such I know more of the ins and outs of him than any person
living does. Notice this! I am the man that was his pardnerand I
am the man that suspects him.'

'Then' suggested Miss Abbeythough with a deeper shade of
perplexity than before'you criminate yourself.'

'No I don'tMiss Abbey. For how does it stand? It stands this
way. When I was his pardnerI couldn't never give him
satisfaction. Why couldn't I never give him satisfaction? Because
my luck was bad; because I couldn't find many enough of 'em.
How was his luck? Always good. Notice this! Always good! Ah!
There's a many gamesMiss Abbeyin which there's chancebut
there's a many others in which there's skill toomixed along with it.'

'That Gaffer has a skill in finding what he findswho doubts


man?' asked Miss Abbey.

'A skill in purwiding what he findsperhaps' said Riderhood
shaking his evil head.

Miss Abbey knitted her brow at himas he darkly leered at her. 'If
you're out upon the river pretty nigh every tideand if you want to
find a man or woman in the riveryou'll greatly help your luck
Miss Abbeyby knocking a man or woman on the head aforehand
and pitching 'em in.'

'Gracious Lud!' was the involuntary exclamation of Miss Potterson.

'Mind you!' returned the otherstretching forward over the half
door to throw his words into the bar; for his voice was as if the
head of his boat's mop were down his throat; 'I say soMiss
Abbey! And mind you! I'll follow him upMiss Abbey! And
mind you! I'll bring him to hook at lastif it's twenty year henceI
will! Who's heto he favoured along of his daughter? Ain't I got a
daughter of my own!'

With that flourishand seeming to have talked himself rather more
drunk and much more ferocious than he had begun by beingMr
Riderhood took up his pint pot and swaggered off to the taproom.

Gaffer was not therebut a pretty strong muster of Miss Abbey's
pupils werewho exhibitedwhen occasion requiredthe greatest
docility. On the clock's striking tenand Miss Abbey's appearing
at the doorand addressing a certain person in a faded scarlet
jacketwith 'George Jonesyour time's up! I told your wife you
should be punctual' Jones submissively rosegave the company
good-nightand retired. At half-past tenon Miss Abbey's looking
in againand saying'William WilliamsBob Glamourand
Jonathanyou are all due' WilliamsBoband Jonathan with
similar meekness took their leave and evaporated. Greater wonder
than thesewhen a bottle-nosed person in a glazed hat had after
some considerable hesitation ordered another glass of gin and
water of the attendant potboyand when Miss Abbeyinstead of
sending itappeared in personsaying'Captain Joeyyou have had
as much as will do you good' not only did the captain feebly rub
his knees and contemplate the fire without offering a word of
protestbut the rest of the company murmured'AyayCaptain!
Miss Abbey's right; you be guided by Miss AbbeyCaptain.' Nor
was Miss Abbey's vigilance in anywise abated by this submission
but rather sharpened; forlooking round on the deferential faces of
her schooland descrying two other young persons in need of
admonitionshe thus bestowed it: 'Tom Tootleit's time for a
young fellow who's going to be married next monthto be at home
and asleep. And you needn't nudge himMr Jack Mullinsfor I
know your work begins early tomorrowand I say the same to you.
So come! Good-nightlike good lads!' Upon whichthe blushing
Tootle looked to Mullinsand the blushing Mullins looked to
Tootleon the question who should rise firstand finally both rose
together and went out on the broad grinfollowed by Miss Abbey;
in whose presence the cormpany did not take the liberty of grinning
likewise.

In such an establishmentthe white-aproned pot-boy with his shirtsleeves
arranged in a tight roll on each bare shoulderwas a mere
hint of the possibility of physical forcethrown out as a matter of
state and form. Exactly at the closing hourall the guests who
were leftfiled out in the best order: Miss Abbey standing at the
half door of the barto hold a ceremony of review and dismissal.
All wished Miss Abbey good-night and Miss Abbey wished good



night to allexcept Riderhood. The sapient pot-boylooking on
officiallythen had the conviction borne in upon his soulthat the
man was evermore outcast and excommunicate from the Six Jolly
Fellowship Porters.

'You Bob Gliddery' said Miss Abbey to this pot-boy'run round to
Hexam's and tell his daughter Lizzie that I want to speak to her.'

With exemplary swiftness Bob Gliddery departedand returned.
Lizziefollowing himarrived as one of the two female domestics
of the Fellowship Porters arranged on the snug little table by the
bar fireMiss Potterson's supper of hot sausages and mashed
potatoes.

'Come in and sit ye downgirl' said Miss Abbey. 'Can you eat a
bit?'

'No thank youMiss. I have had my supper.'

'I have had mine tooI think' said Miss Abbeypushing away the
untasted dish'and more than enough of it. I am put outLizzie.'

'I am very sorry for itMiss.'

'Then whyin the name of Goodness' quoth Miss Abbeysharply
'do you do it?'

'I do itMiss!'

'Therethere. Don't look astonished. I ought to have begun with a
word of explanationbut it's my way to make short cuts at things. I
always was a pepperer. You Bob Gliddery thereput the chain
upon the door and get ye down to your supper.'

With an alacrity that seemed no less referable to the pepperer fact
than to the supper factBob obeyedand his boots were heard
descending towards the bed of the river.

'Lizzie HexamLizzie Hexam' then began Miss Potterson'how
often have I held out to you the opportunity of getting clear of your
fatherand doing well?'

'Very oftenMiss.'

'Very often? Yes! And I might as well have spoken to the iron
funnel of the strongest sea-going steamer that passes the
Fellowship Porters.'

'NoMiss' Lizzie pleaded; 'because that would not be thankful
and I am.'

'I vow and declare I am half ashamed of myself for taking such an
interest in you' said Miss Abbeypettishly'for I don't believe I
should do it if you were not good-looking. Why ain't you ugly?'

Lizzie merely answered this difficult question with an apologetic
glance.

'Howeveryou ain't' resumed Miss Potterson'so it's no use going
into that. I must take you as I find you. Which indeed is what I've
done. And you mean to say you are still obstinate?'

'Not obstinateMissI hope.'


'Firm (I suppose you call it) then?'

'YesMiss. Fixed like.'

'Never was an obstinate person yetwho would own to the word!'
remarked Miss Pottersonrubbing her vexed nose; 'I'm sure I
wouldif I was obstinate; but I am a peppererwhich is different.
Lizzie HexamLizzie Hexamthink again. Do you know the worst
of your father?'


'Do I know the worst of father!' she repeatedopening her eyes. 'Do
you know the suspicions to which your father makes himself
liable? Do you know the suspicions that are actually about
against him?'


The consciousness of what he habitually didoppressed the girl
heavilyand she slowly cast down her eyes.


'SayLizzie. Do you know?' urged Miss Abbey.


'Please to tell me what the suspicions areMiss' she asked after a
silencewith her eyes upon the ground.


'It's not an easy thing to tell a daughterbut it must be told. It is
thought by somethenthat your father helps to their death a few of
those that he finds dead.'


The relief of hearing what she felt sure was a false suspicionin
place of the expected real and true oneso lightened Lizzie's breast
for the momentthat Miss Abbey was amazed at her demeanour.
She raised her eyes quicklyshook her headandin a kind of
triumphalmost laughed.


'They little know father who talk like that!'


('She takes it' thought Miss Abbey'very quietly. She takes it with
extraordinary quietness!')


'And perhaps' said Lizzieas a recollection flashed upon her'it is
some one who has a grudge against father; some one who has
threatened father! Is it RiderhoodMiss?'


'Well; yes it is.'


'Yes! He was father's partnerand father broke with himand now
he revenges himself. Father broke with him when I was byand he
was very angry at it. And besidesMiss Abbey!--Will you never
without strong reasonlet pass your lips what I am going to say?'


She bent forward to say it in a whisper.


'I promise' said Miss Abbey.


'It was on the night when the Harmon murder was found out
through fatherjust above bridge. And just below bridgeas we
were sculling homeRiderhood crept out of the dark in his boat.
And many and many times afterwardswhen such great pains were
taken to come to the bottom of the crimeand it never could be
come nearI thought in my own thoughtscould Riderhood himself
have done the murderand did he purposely let father find the
body? It seemed a'most wicked and cruel to so much as think such
a thing; but now that he tries to throw it upon fatherI go back to it
as if it was a truth. Can it be a truth? That was put into my mind
by the dead?'



She asked this questionrather of the fire than of the hostess of the
Fellowship Portersand looked round the little bar with troubled
eyes.

ButMiss Pottersonas a ready schoolmistress accustomed to bring
her pupils to bookset the matter in a light that was essentially of
this world.

'You poor deluded girl' she said'don't you see that you can't open
your mind to particular suspicions of one of the twowithout
opening your mind to general suspicions of the other? They had
worked together. Their goings-on had been going on for some
time. Even granting that it was as you have had in your thoughts
what the two had done together would come familiar to the mind
of one.'

'You don't know fatherMisswhen you talk like that. Indeed
indeedyou don't know father.'

'LizzieLizzie' said Miss Potterson. 'Leave him. You needn't
break with him altogetherbut leave him. Do well away from him;
not because of what I have told you to-night--we'll pass no
judgment upon thatand we'll hope it may not be--but because of
what I have urged on you before. No matter whether it's owing to
your good looks or notI like you and I want to serve you. Lizzie
come under my direction. Don't fling yourself awaymy girlbut
be persuaded into being respectable and happy.'

In the sound good feeling and good sense of her entreatyMiss
Abbey had softened into a soothing toneand had even drawn her
arm round the girl's waist. Butshe only replied'Thank you
thank you! I can't. I won't. I must not think of it. The harder
father is borne uponthe more he needs me to lean on.'

And then Miss Abbeywholike all hard people when they do
softenfelt that there was considerable compensation owing to her
underwent reaction and became frigid.

'I have done what I can' she said'and you must go your way. You
make your bedand you must lie on it. But tell your father one
thing: he must not come here any more.

'OhMisswill you forbid him the house where I know he's safe?'

'The Fellowships' returned Miss Abbey'has itself to look toas
well as others. It has been hard work to establish order hereand
make the Fellowships what it isand it is daily and nightly hard
work to keep it so. The Fellowships must not have a taint upon it
that may give it a bad name. I forbid the house to Riderhoodand I
forbid the house to Gaffer. I forbid bothequally. I find from
Riderhood and you togetherthat there are suspicions against both
menand I'm not going to take upon myself to decide betwixt
them. They are both tarred with a dirty brushand I can't have the
Fellowships tarred with the same brush. That's all I know.'

'Good-nightMiss!' said Lizzie Hexamsorrowfully.

'Hah!--Good-night!' returned Miss Abbey with a shake of her head.

'Believe meMiss AbbeyI am truly grateful all the same.'

'I can believe a good deal' returned the stately Abbey'so I'll try to
believe that tooLizzie.'


No supper did Miss Potterson take that nightand only half her
usual tumbler of hot Port Negus. And the female domestics--two
robust sisterswith staring black eyesshining flat red facesblunt
nosesand strong black curlslike dolls--interchanged the
sentiment that Missis had had her hair combed the wrong way by
somebody. And the pot-boy afterwards remarkedthat he hadn't
been 'so rattled to bed'since his late mother had systematically
accelerated his retirement to rest with a poker.

The chaining of the door behind heras she went forth
disenchanted Lizzie Hexam of that first relief she had felt. The
night was black and shrillthe river-side wilderness was
melancholyand there was a sound of casting-outin the rattling of
the iron-linksand the grating of the bolts and staples under Miss
Abbey's hand. As she came beneath the lowering skya sense of
being involved in a murky shade of Murder dropped upon her; and
as the tidal swell of the river broke at her feet without her seeing
how it gatheredsoher thoughts startled her by rushing out of an
unseen void and striking at her heart.

Of her father's being groundlessly suspectedshe felt sure. Sure.
Sure. And yetrepeat the word inwardly as often as she wouldthe
attempt to reason out and prove that she was surealways came
after it and failed. Riderhood had done the deedand entrapped
her father. Riderhood had not done the deedbut had resolved in
his malice to turn against her fatherthe appearances that were
ready to his hand to distort. Equally and swiftly upon either
putting of the casefollowed the frightful possibility that her father
being innocentyet might come to be believed guilty. She had
heard of people suffering Death for bloodshed of which they were
afterwards proved pureand those ill-fated persons were notfirst
in that dangerous wrong in which her father stood. Then at the
bestthe beginning of his being set apartwhispered againstand
avoidedwas a certain fact. It dated from that very night. And as
the great black river with its dreary shores was soon lost to her
view in the gloomsoshe stood on the river's brink unable to see
into the vast blank misery of a life suspectedand fallen away from
by good and badbut knowing that it lay there dim before her
stretching away to the great oceanDeath.

One thing onlywas clear to the girl's mind. Accustomed from her
very babyhood promptly to do the thing that could be done-whether
to keep out weatherto ward off coldto postpone hunger
or what not--she started out of her meditationand ran home.

The room was quietand the lamp burnt on the table. In the bunk
in the cornerher brother lay asleep. She bent over him softly
kissed himand came to the table.

'By the time of Miss Abbey's closingand by the run of the tideit
must be one. Tide's running up. Father at Chiswickwouldn't
think of coming downtill after the turnand that's at half after
four. I'll call Charley at six. I shall hear the church-clocks strike
as I sit here.'

Very quietlyshe placed a chair before the scanty fireand sat
down in itdrawing her shawl about her.

'Charley's hollow down by the flare is not there now. Poor
Charley!'

The clock struck twoand the clock struck threeand the clock
struck fourand she remained therewith a woman's patience and


her own purpose. When the morning was well on between four
and fiveshe slipped off her shoes (that her going aboutmight not
wake Charley)trimmed the fire sparinglyput water on to boil
and set the table for breakfast. Then she went up the ladderlamp
in handand came down againand glided about and about
making a little bundle. Lastlyfrom her pocketand from the
chimney-pieceand from an inverted basin on the highest shelf she
brought halfpencea few sixpencesfewer shillingsand fell to
laboriously and noiselessly counting themand setting aside one
little heap. She was still so engagedwhen she was startled by:

'Hal-loa!' From her brothersitting up in bed.

'You made me jumpCharley.'

'Jump! Didn't you make ME jumpwhen I opened my eyes a
moment agoand saw you sitting therelike the ghost of a girl
miserin the dead of the night.'

'It's not the dead of the nightCharley. It's nigh six in the
morning.'

'Is it though? But what are you up toLiz?'

'Still telling your fortuneCharley.'

'It seems to be a precious small oneif that's it' said the boy.
'What are you putting that little pile of money by itself for?'

'For youCharley.'

'What do you mean?'

'Get out of bedCharleyand get washed and dressedand then I'll
tell you.'

Her composed mannerand her low distinct voicealways had an
influence over him. His head was soon in a basin of waterand out
of it againand staring at her through a storm of towelling.

'I never' towelling at himself as if he were his bitterest enemy
'saw such a girl as you are. What IS the moveLiz?'

'Are you almost ready for breakfastCharley?'

'You can pour it out. Hal-loa! I say? And a bundle?'

'And a bundleCharley.'

'You don't mean it's for metoo?'

'YesCharley; I do; indeed.'

More serious of faceand more slow of actionthan he had been
the boy completed his dressingand came and sat down at the little
breakfast-tablewith his eyes amazedly directed to her face.

'You seeCharley dearI have made up my mind that this is the
right time for your going away from us. Over and above all the
blessed change of by-and-byeyou'll be much happierand do
much bettereven so soon as next month. Even so soon as next
week.'

'How do you know I shall?'


'I don't quite know howCharleybut I do.' In spite of her
unchanged manner of speakingand her unchanged appearance of
composureshe scarcely trusted herself to look at himbut kept her
eyes employed on the cutting and buttering of his breadand on the
mixing of his teaand other such little preparations. 'You must
leave father to meCharley--I will do what I can with him--but you
must go.'

'You don't stand upon ceremonyI think' grumbled the boy
throwing his bread and butter aboutin an ill-humour.

She made him no answer.

'I tell you what' said the boythenbursting out into an angry
whimpering'you're a selfish jadeand you think there's not enough
for three of usand you want to get rid of me.'

'If you believe soCharley--yesthen I believe toothat I am a
selfish jadeand that I think there's not enough for three of usand
that I want to get rid of you.'

It was only when the boy rushed at herand threw his arms round
her neckthat she lost her self-restraint. But she lost it thenand
wept over him.

'Don't crydon't cry! I am satisfied to goLiz; I am satisfied to go.
I know you send me away for my good.'

'OCharleyCharleyHeaven above us knows I do!'

'Yes yes. Don't mind what I said. Don't remember it. Kiss me.'

After a silenceshe loosed himto dry her eyes and regain her
strong quiet influence.

'Now listenCharley dear. We both know it must be doneand I
alone know there is good reason for its being done at once. Go
straight to the schooland say that you and I agreed upon it--that
we can't overcome father's opposition--that father will never
trouble thembut will never take you back. You are a credit to the
schooland you will be a greater credit to it yetand they will help
you to get a living. Show what clothes you have broughtand what
moneyand say that I will send some more money. If I can get
some in no other wayI will ask a little help of those two
gentlemen who came here that night.'

'I say!' cried her brotherquickly. 'Don't you have it of that chap
that took hold of me by the chin! Don't you have it of that
Wrayburn one!'

Perhaps a slight additional tinge of red flushed up into her face and
browas with a nod she laid a hand upon his lips to keep him
silently attentive.

'And above all things mind thisCharley! Be sure you always
speak well of father. Be sure you always give father his full due.
You can't deny that because father has no learning himself he is set
against it in you; but favour nothing else against himand be sure
you say--as you know--that your sister is devoted to him. And if
you should ever happen to hear anything said against father that is
new to youit will not be true. RememberCharley! It will not be
true.'


The boy looked at her with some doubt and surprisebut she went
on again without heeding it.

'Above all things remember! It will not be true. I have nothing
more to sayCharley dearexceptbe goodand get learningand
only think of some things in the old life hereas if you had
dreamed them in a dream last night. Good-byemy Darling!'

Though so youngshe infused in these parting words a love that
was far more like a mother's than a sister'sand before which the
boy was quite bowed down. After holding her to his breast with a
passionate cryhe took up his bundle and darted out at the door
with an arm across his eyes.

The white face of the winter day came sluggishly onveiled in a
frosty mist; and the shadowy ships in the river slowly changed to
black substances; and the sunblood-red on the eastern marshes
behind dark masts and yardsseemed filled with the ruins of a
forest it had set on fire. Lizzielooking for her fathersaw him
comingand stood upon the causeway that he might see her.

He had nothing with him but his boatand came on apace. A knot
of those amphibious human-creatures who appear to have some
mysterious power of extracting a subsistence out of tidal water by
looking at itwere gathered together about the causeway. As her
father's boat groundedthey became contemplative of the mudand
dispersed themselves. She saw that the mute avoidance had
begun.

Gaffer saw ittooin so far as that he was moved when he set foot
on shoreto stare around him. Buthe promptly set to work to haul
up his boatand make her fastand take the sculls and rudder and
rope out of her. Carrying these with Lizzie's aidhe passed up to
his dwelling.

'Sit close to the firefatherdearwhile I cook your breakfast. It's
all ready for cookingand only been waiting for you. You must be
frozen.'

'WellLizzieI ain't of a glow; that's certain. And my hands seem
nailed through to the sculls. See how dead they are!' Something
suggestive in their colourand perhaps in her facestruck him as
he held them up; he turned his shoulder and held them down to the
fire.

'You were not out in the perishing nightI hopefather?'

'Nomy dear. Lay aboard a bargeby a blazing coal-fire.--Where's
that boy?'

'There's a drop of brandy for your teafatherif you'll put it in while
I turn this bit of meat. If the river was to get frozenthere would be
a deal of distress; wouldn't therefather?'

'Ah! there's always enough of that' said Gafferdropping the liquor
into his cup from a squat black bottleand dropping it slowly that
it might seem more; 'distress is for ever a going aboutlike sut in
the air--Ain't that boy up yet?'

'The meat's ready nowfather. Eat it while it's hot and
comfortable. After you have finishedwe'll turn round to the fire
and talk.'

Buthe perceived that he was evadedandhaving thrown a hasty


angry glance towards the bunkplucked at a corner of her apron
and asked:

'What's gone with that boy?'

'Fatherif you'll begin your breakfastI'll sit by and tell you.' He
looked at herstirred his tea and took two or three gulpsthen cut
at his piece of hot steak with his case-knifeand saideating:

'Now then. What's gone with that boy?'

'Don't be angrydear. It seemsfatherthat he has quite a gift of
learning.'

'Unnat'ral young beggar!' said the parentshaking his knife in the
air.

'And that having this giftand not being equally good at other
thingshe has made shift to get some schooling.'

'Unnat'ral young beggar!' said the parent againwith his former
action.

'--And that knowing you have nothing to sparefatherand not
wishing to be a burden on youhe gradually made up his mind to
go seek his fortune out of learning. He went away this morning
fatherand he cried very much at goingand he hoped you would
forgive him.'

'Let him never come a nigh me to ask me my forgiveness' said the
fatheragain emphasizing his words with the knife. 'Let him never
come within sight of my eyesnor yet within reach of my arm. His
own father ain't good enough for him. He's disowned his own
father. His own father thereforedisowns him for ever and everas
a unnat'ral young beggar.'

He had pushed away his plate. With the natural need of a strong
rough man in angerto do something forciblehe now clutched his
knife overhandand struck downward with it at the end of every
succeeding sentence. As he would have struck with his own
clenched fist if there had chanced to be nothing in it.

'He's welcome to go. He's more welcome to go than to stay. But
let him never come back. Let him never put his head inside that
door. And let you never speak a word more in his favouror you'll
disown your own fatherlikewiseand what your father says of him
he'll have to come to say of you. Now I see why them men yonder
held aloof from me. They says to one anotherHere comes the
man as ain't good enough for his own son!Lizzie--!'

Butshe stopped him with a cry. Looking at her he saw herwith a
face quite strange to himshrinking back against the wallwith her
hands before her eyes.

'Fatherdon't! I can't bear to see you striking with it. Put it down!'

He looked at the knife; but in his astonishment still held it.

'Fatherit's too horrible. O put it downput it down!'

Confounded by her appearance and exclamationhe tossed it away
and stood up with his open hands held out before him.

'What's come to youLiz? Can you think I would strike at you


with a knife?'

'Nofatherno; you would never hurt me.'

'What should I hurt?'

'Nothingdear father. On my kneesI am certainin my heart and
soul I am certainnothing! But it was too dreadful to bear; for it
looked--' her hands covering her face again'O it looked--'

'What did it look like?'

The recollection of his murderous figurecombining with her trial
of last nightand her trial of the morningcaused her to drop at his
feetwithout having answered.

He had never seen her so before. He raised her with the utmost
tendernesscalling her the best of daughtersand 'my poor pretty
creetur'and laid her head upon his kneeand tried to restore her.
But failinghe laid her head gently down againgot a pillow and
placed it under her dark hairand sought on the table for a spoonful
of brandy. There being none lefthe hurriedly caught up the empty
bottleand ran out at the door.

He returned as hurriedly as he had gonewith the bottle still empty.
He kneeled down by hertook her head on his armand moistened
her lips with a little water into which he dipped his fingers: saying
fiercelyas he looked aroundnow over this shouldernow over
that:

'Have we got a pest in the house? Is there summ'at deadly sticking
to my clothes? What's let loose upon us? Who loosed it?'

Chapter 7

MR WEGG LOOKS AFTER HIMSELF

Silas Weggbeing on his road to the Roman Empireapproaches it
by way of Clerkenwell. The time is early in the evening; the
weather moist and raw. Mr Wegg finds leisure to make a little
circuitby reason that he folds his screen earlynow that he
combines another source of income with itand also that he feels it
due to himself to be anxiously expected at the Bower. 'Boffin will
get all the eagerer for waiting a bit' says Silasscrewing upas he
stumps alongfirst his right eyeand then his left. Which is
something superfluous in himfor Nature has already screwed both
pretty tight.

'If I get on with him as I expect to get on' Silas pursuesstumping
and meditating'it wouldn't become me to leave it here. It wouldn't
he respectable.' Animated by this reflectionhe stumps fasterand
looks a long way before himas a man with an ambitious project in
abeyance often will do.

Aware of a working-jeweller population taking sanctuary about the
church in ClerkenwellMr Wegg is conscious of an interest inand
a respect forthe neighbourhood. Buthis sensations in this regard
halt as to their strict moralityas he halts in his gait; forthey
suggest the delights of a coat of invisibility in which to walk off
safely with the precious stones and watch-casesbut stop short of
any compunction for the people who would lose the same.


Nothowevertowards the 'shops' where cunning artificers work in
pearls and diamonds and gold and silvermaking their hands so
richthat the enriched water in which they wash them is bought for
the refiners;--not towards these does Mr Wegg stumpbut towards
the poorer shops of small retail traders in commodities to eat and
drink and keep folks warmand of Italian frame-makersand of
barbersand of brokersand of dealers in dogs and singing-birds.
From thesein a narrow and a dirty street devoted to such callings
Mr Wegg selects one dark shop-window with a tallow candle
dimly burning in itsurrounded by a muddle of objects vaguely
resembling pieces of leather and dry stickbut among which
nothing is resolvable into anything distinctsave the candle itself in
its old tin candlestickand two preserved frogs fighting a smallsword
duel. Stumping with fresh vigourhe goes in at the dark
greasy entrypushes a little greasy dark reluctant side-doorand
follows the door into the little dark greasy shop. It is so dark that
nothing can be made out in itover a little counterbut another
tallow candle in another old tin candlestickclose to the face of a
man stooping low in a chair.

Mr Wegg nods to the face'Good evening.'

The face looking up is a sallow face with weak eyessurmounted
by a tangle of reddish-dusty hair. The owner of the face has no
cravat onand has opened his tumbled shirt-collar to work with the
more ease. For the same reason he has no coat on: only a loose
waistcoat over his yellow linen. His eyes are like the over-tried
eyes of an engraverbut he is not that; his expression and stoop are
like those of a shoemakerbut he is not that.

'Good eveningMr Venus. Don't you remember?'

With slowly dawning remembranceMr Venus risesand holds his
candle over the little counterand holds it down towards the legs
natural and artificialof Mr Wegg.

'To be SURE!' he saysthen. 'How do you do?'

'Weggyou know' that gentleman explains.

'Yesyes' says the other. 'Hospital amputation?'

'Just so' says Mr Wegg.

'Yesyes' quoth Venus. 'How do you do? Sit down by the fire
and warm your--your other one.'

'The little counter being so short a counter that it leaves the
fireplacewhich would have been behind it if it had been longer
accessibleMr Wegg sits down on a box in front of the fireand
inhales a warm and comfortable smell which is not the smell of the
shop. 'For that' Mr Wegg inwardly decidesas he takes a
corrective sniff or two'is mustyleatheryfeatherycellarygluey
gummyand' with another sniff'as it might bestrong of old pairs
of bellows.'

'My tea is drawingand my muffin is on the hobMr Wegg; will
you partake?'

It being one of Mr Wegg's guiding rules in life always to partake
he says he will. Butthe little shop is so excessively darkis stuck
so full of black shelves and brackets and nooks and cornersthat he
sees Mr Venus's cup and saucer only because it is close under the


candleand does not see from what mysterious recess Mr Venus
produces another for himself until it is under his nose.
ConcurrentlyWegg perceives a pretty little dead bird lying on the
counterwith its head drooping on one side against the rim of Mr
Venus's saucerand a long stiff wire piercing its breast. As if it
were Cock Robinthe hero of the balladand Mr Venus were the
sparrow with his bow and arrowand Mr Wegg were the fly with
his little eye.

Mr Venus divesand produces another muffinyet untoasted;
taking the arrow out of the breast of Cock Robinhe proceeds to
toast it on the end of that cruel instrument. When it is brownhe
dives again and produces butterwith which he completes his
work.

Mr Weggas an artful man who is sure of his supper by-and-bye
presses muffin on his host to soothe him into a compliant state of
mindoras one might sayto grease his works. As the muffins
disappearlittle by littlethe black shelves and nooks and corners
begin to appearand Mr Wegg gradually acquires an imperfect
notion that over against him on the chimney-piece is a Hindoo
baby in a bottlecurved up with his big head tucked under himas
he would instantly throw a summersault if the bottle were large
enough.

When he deems Mr Venus's wheels sufficiently lubricatedMr
Wegg approaches his object by askingas he lightly taps his hands
togetherto express an undesigning frame of mind:

'And how have I been going onthis long timeMr Venus?'

'Very bad' says Mr Venusuncompromisingly.

'What? Am I still at home?' asks Weggwith an air of surprise.

'Always at home.'

This would seem to be secretly agreeable to Weggbut he veils his
feelingsand observes'Strange. To what do you attribute it?'

'I don't know' replies Venuswho is a haggard melancholy man
speaking in a weak voice of querulous complaint'to what to
attribute itMr Wegg. I can't work you into a miscellaneous one
no how. Do what I willyou can't be got to fit. Anybody with a
passable knowledge would pick you out at a lookand say--"No
go! Don't match!"'

'Wellbut hang itMr Venus' Wegg expostulates with some little
irritation'that can't be personal and peculiar in ME. It must often
happen with miscellaneous ones.'

'With ribs (I grant you) always. But not else. When I prepare a
miscellaneous oneI know beforehand that I can't keep to nature
and be miscellaneous with ribsbecause every man has his own
ribsand no other man's will go with them; but elseways I can be
miscellaneous. I have just sent home a Beauty--a perfect Beauty-to
a school of art. One leg Belgianone leg Englishand the
pickings of eight other people in it. Talk of not being qualified to
be miscellaneous! By rights you OUGHT to beMr Wegg.'

Silas looks as hard at his one leg as he can in the dim lightand
after a pause sulkily opines 'that it must be the fault of the other
people. Or how do you mean to say it comes about?' he demands
impatiently.


'I don't know how it comes about. Stand up a minute. Hold the
light.' Mr Venus takes from a corner by his chairthe bones of a
leg and footbeautifully pureand put together with exquisite
neatness. These he compares with Mr Wegg's leg; that gentleman
looking onas if he were being measured for a riding-boot. 'NoI
don't know how it isbut so it is. You have got a twist in that
boneto the best of my belief. I never saw the likes of you.'

Mr Wegg having looked distrustfully at his own limband
suspiciously at the pattern with which it has been compared
makes the point:

'I'll bet a pound that ain't an English one!'

'An easy wagerwhen we run so much into foreign! Noit belongs
to that French gentleman.'

As he nods towards a point of darkness behind Mr Weggthe
latterwith a slight startlooks round for 'that French gentleman'
whom he at length descries to be represented (in a very
workmanlike manner) by his ribs onlystanding on a shelf in
another cornerlike a piece of armour or a pair of stays.

'Oh!' says Mr Weggwith a sort of sense of being introduced; 'I
dare say you were all right enough in your own countrybut I hope
no objections will be taken to my saying that the Frenchman was
never yet born as I should wish to match.'

At this moment the greasy door is violently pushed inwardand a
boy follows itwho saysafter having let it slam:

'Come for the stuffed canary.'

'It's three and ninepence' returns Venus; 'have you got the money?'

The boy produces four shillings. Mr Venusalways in exceedingly
low spirits and making whimpering soundspeers about for the
stuffed canary. On his taking the candle to assist his searchMr
Wegg observes that he has a convenient little shelf near his knees
exclusively appropriated to skeleton handswhich have very much
the appearance of wanting to lay hold of him. From these Mr
Venus rescues the canary in a glass caseand shows it to the boy.

'There!' he whimpers. 'There's animation! On a twigmaking up
his mind to hop! Take care of him; he's a lovely specimen.--And
three is four.'

The boy gathers up his change and has pulled the door open by a
leather strap nailed to it for the purposewhen Venus cries out:

'Stop him! Come backyou young villain! You've got a tooth
among them halfpence.'

'How was I to know I'd got it? You giv it me. I don't want none of
your teeth; I've got enough of my own.' So the boy pipesas he
selects it from his changeand throws it on the counter.

'Don't sauce MEin the wicious pride of your youth' Mr Venus
retorts pathetically.' Don't hit ME because you see I'm down. I'm
low enough without that. It dropped into the tillI suppose. They
drop into everything. There was two in the coffee-pot at breakfast
time. Molars.'


'Very wellthen' argues the boy'what do you call names for?'

To which Mr Venus only repliesshaking his shock of dusty hair
and winking his weak eyes'Don't sauce MEin the wicious pride
of your youth; don't hit MEbecause you see I'm down. You've no
idea how small you'd come outif I had the articulating of you.'

This consideration seems to have its effect on the boyfor he goes
out grumbling.

'Oh dear medear me!' sighs Mr Venusheavilysnuffing the
candle'the world that appeared so flowery has ceased to blow!
You're casting your eye round the shopMr Wegg. Let me show
you a light. My working bench. My young man's bench. A Wice.
Tools. Boneswarious. Skullswarious. Preserved Indian baby.
African ditto. Bottled preparationswarious. Everything within
reach of your handin good preservation. The mouldy ones a-top.
What's in those hampers over them againI don't quite remember.
Sayhuman warious. Cats. Articulated English baby. Dogs.
Ducks. Glass eyeswarious. Mummied bird. Dried cuticle
warious. Ohdear me! That's the general panoramic view.'

Having so held and waved the candle as that all these
heterogeneous objects seemed to come forward obediently when
they were namedand then retire againMr Venus despondently
repeats'Oh dear medear me!' resumes his seatand with
drooping despondency upon himfalls to pouring himself out more
tea.

'Where am I?' asks Mr Wegg.

'You're somewhere in the back shop across the yardsir; and
speaking quite candidlyI wish I'd never bought you of the
Hospital Porter.'

'Nowlook herewhat did you give for me?'

'Well' replies Venusblowing his tea: his head and face peering
out of the darknessover the smoke of itas if he were modernizing
the old original rise in his family: 'you were one of a warious lot
and I don't know.'

Silas puts his point in the improved form of 'What will you take
for me?'

'Well' replies Venusstill blowing his tea'I'm not preparedat a
moment's noticeto tell youMr Wegg.'

'Come! According to your own account I'm not worth much'
Wegg reasons persuasively.

'Not for miscellaneous working inI grant youMr Wegg; but you
might turn out valuable yetas a--' here Mr Venus takes a gulp of
teaso hot that it makes him chokeand sets his weak eyes
watering; 'as a Monstrosityif you'll excuse me.'

Repressing an indignant lookindicative of anything but a
disposition to excuse himSilas pursues his point.

'I think you know meMr Venusand I think you know I never
bargain.'

Mr Venus takes gulps of hot teashutting his eyes at every gulp
and opening them again in a spasmodic manner; but does not


commit himself to assent.

'I have a prospect of getting on in life and elevating myself by my
own independent exertions' says Weggfeelingly'and I shouldn't
like--I tell you openly I should NOT like--under such
circumstancesto be what I may call disperseda part of me here
and a part of me therebut should wish to collect myself like a
genteel person.'

'It's a prospect at presentis itMr Wegg? Then you haven't got the
money for a deal about you? Then I'll tell you what I'll do with
you; I'll hold you over. I am a man of my wordand you needn't be
afraid of my disposing of you. I'll hold you over. That's a promise.
Oh dear medear me!'

Fain to accept his promiseand wishing to propitiate himMr
Wegg looks on as he sighs and pours himself out more teaand
then saystrying to get a sympathetic tone into his voice:

'You seem very lowMr Venus. Is business bad?'

'Never was so good.'

'Is your hand out at all?'

'Never was so well in. Mr WeggI'm not only first in the tradebut
I'm THE trade. You may go and buy a skeleton at the West End if
you likeand pay the West End pricebut it'll be my putting
together. I've as much to do as I can possibly dowith the
assistance of my young manand I take a pride and a pleasure in
it.'

Mr Venus thus delivers hmselfhis right hand extendedhis
smoking saucer in his left handprotesting as though he were
going to burst into a flood of tears.

'That ain't a state of things to make you lowMr Venus.'

'Mr WeggI know it ain't. Mr Weggnot to name myself as a
workman without an equalI've gone on improving myself in my
knowledge of Anatomytill both by sight and by name I'm perfect.
Mr Weggif you was brought here loose in a bag to be articulated
I'd name your smallest bones blindfold equally with your largest
as fast as I could pick 'em outand I'd sort 'em alland sort your
wertebraein a manner that would equally surprise and charm you.'

'Well' remarks Silas (though not quite so readily as last time)
'THAT ain't a state of things to be low about.--Not for YOU to be
low aboutleastways.'

'Mr WeggI know it ain't; Mr WeggI know it ain't. But it's the
heart that lowers meit is the heart! Be so good as take and read
that card out loud.'

Silas receives one from his handwhich Venus takes from a
wonderful litter in a drawerand putting on his spectaclesreads:

'"Mr Venus'

'Yes. Go on.'

'"Preserver of Animals and Birds'

'Yes. Go on.'


'Articulator of human bones."'

'That's it' with a groan. 'That's it! Mr WeggI'm thirty-twoand a
bachelor. Mr WeggI love her. Mr Weggshe is worthy of being
loved by a Potentate!' Here Silas is rather alarmed by Mr Venus's
springing to his feet in the hurry of his spiritsand haggardly
confronting him with his hand on his coat collar; but Mr Venus
begging pardonsits down againsayingwith the calmness of
despair'She objects to the business.'

'Does she know the profits of it?'

'She knows the profits of itbut she don't appreciate the art of it
and she objects to it. "I do not wish she writes in her own
handwriting, to regard myselfnor yet to be regardedin that
boney light".'

Mr Venus pours himself out more teawith a look and in an
attitude of the deepest desolation.

'And so a man climbs to the top of the treeMr Weggonly to see
that there's no look-out when he's up there! I sit here of a night
surrounded by the lovely trophies of my artand what have they
done for me? Ruined me. Brought me to the pass of being
informed that "she does not wish to regard herselfnor yet to be
regardedin that boney light"!' Having repeated the fatal
expressionsMr Venus drinks more tea by gulpsand offers an
explanation of his doing so.

'It lowers me. When I'm equally lowered all overlethargy sets in.
By sticking to it till one or two in the morningI get oblivion.
Don't let me detain youMr Wegg. I'm not company for any one.'

'It is not on that account' says Silasrising'but because I've got an
appointment. It's time I was at Harmon's.'

'Eh?' said Mr Venus. 'Harmon'sup Battle Bridge way?'

Mr Wegg admits that he is bound for that port.

'You ought to be in a good thingif you've worked yourself in
there. There's lots of money goingthere.'

'To think' says Silas'that you should catch it up so quickand
know about it. Wonderful!'

'Not at allMr Wegg. The old gentleman wanted to know the
nature and worth of everything that was found in the dust; and
many's the boneand featherand what notthat he's brought to
me.'

'Reallynow!'

'Yes. (Oh dear medear me!) And he's buried quite in this
neighbourhoodyou know. Over yonder.'

Mr Wegg does not knowbut he makes as if he didby
responsively nodding his head. He also follows with his eyesthe
toss of Venus's head: as if to seek a direction to over yonder.

'I took an interest in that discovery in the river' says Venus. (She
hadn't written her cutting refusal at that time.) I've got up there-never
mindthough.'


He had raised the candle at arm's length towards one of the dark
shelvesand Mr Wegg had turned to lookwhen he broke off.

'The old gentleman was well known all round here. There used to
be stories about his having hidden all kinds of property in those
dust mounds. I suppose there was nothing in 'em. Probably you
knowMr Wegg?'

'Nothing in 'em' says Weggwho has never heard a word of this
before.

'Don't let me detain you. Good night!'

The unfortunate Mr Venus gives him a shake of the hand with a
shake of his own headand drooping down in his chairproceeds
to pour himself out more tea. Mr Wegglooking back over his
shoulder as he pulls the door open by the strapnotices that the
movement so shakes the crazy shopand so shakes a momentary
flare out of the candleas that the babies--HindooAfricanand
British--the 'human warious'the French gentlemanthe green
glass-eyed catsthe dogsthe ducksand all the rest of the
collectionshow for an instant as if paralytically animated; while
even poor little Cock Robin at Mr Venus's elbow turns over on his
innocent side. Next momentMr Wegg is stumping under the
gaslights and through the mud.

Chapter 8

MR BOFFIN IN CONSULTATION

Whosoever had gone out of Fleet Street into the Temple at the date
of this historyand had wandered disconsolate about the Temple
until he stumbled on a dismal churchyardand had looked up at the
dismal windows commanding that churchyard until at the most
dismal window of them all he saw a dismal boywould in him
have beheldat one grand comprehensive swoop of the eyethe
managing clerkjunior clerkcommon-law clerkconveyancing
clerkchancery clerkevery refinement and department of clerkof
Mr Mortimer Lightwooderewhile called in the newspapers
eminent solicitor.

Mr Boffin having been several times in communication with this
clerkly essenceboth on its own ground and at the Bowerhad no
difficulty in identifying it when he saw it up in its dusty eyrie. To
the second floor on which the window was situatedhe ascended
much pre-occupied in mind by the uncertainties besetting the
Roman Empireand much regretting the death of the amiable
Pertinax: who only last night had left the Imperial affairs in a state
of great confusionby falling a victim to the fury of the praetorian
guards.

'Morningmorningmorning!' said Mr Boffinwith a wave of his
handas the office door was opened by the dismal boywhose
appropriate name was Blight. 'Governor in?'

'Mr Lightwood gave you an appointmentsirI think?'

'I don't want him to give ityou know' returned Mr Boffin; 'I'll pay
my waymy boy.'


'No doubtsir. Would you walk in? Mr Lightwood ain't in at the
present momentbut I expect him back very shortly. Would you
take a seat in Mr Lightwood's roomsirwhile I look over our
Appointment Book?' Young Blight made a great show of fetching
from his desk a long thin manuscript volume with a brown paper
coverand running his finger down the day's appointments
murmuring'Mr AggsMr BaggsMr CaggsMr DaggsMr
FaggsMr GaggsMr Boffin. Yessir; quite right. You are a little
before your timesir. Mr Lightwood will be in directly.'

'I'm not in a hurry' said Mr Boffin

'Thank yousir. I'll take the opportunityif you pleaseof entering
your name in our Callers' Book for the day.' Young Blight made
another great show of changing the volumetaking up a pen
sucking itdipping itand running over previous entries before he
wrote. As'Mr AlleyMr BalleyMr CalleyMr DalleyMr
FalleyMr GalleyMr HalleyMr LalleyMr Malley. And Mr
Boffin.'

'Strict system here; ehmy lad?' said Mr Boffinas he was booked.

'Yessir' returned the boy. 'I couldn't get on without it.'

By which he probably meant that his mind would have been
shattered to pieces without this fiction of an occupation. Wearing
in his solitary confinement no fetters that he could polishand
being provided with no drinking-cup that he could carvebe had
fallen on the device of ringing alphabetical changes into the two
volumes in questionor of entering vast numbers of persons out of
the Directory as transacting business with Mr Lightwood. It was
the more necessary for his spiritsbecausebeing of a sensitive
temperamenthe was apt to consider it personally disgraceful to
himself that his master had no clients.

'How long have you been in the lawnow?' asked Mr Boffinwith
a pouncein his usual inquisitive way.

'I've been in the lawnowsirabout three years.'

'Must have been as good as born in it!' said Mr Boffinwith
admiration. 'Do you like it?'

'I don't mind it much' returned Young Blightheaving a sighas if
its bitterness were past.

'What wages do you get?'

'Half what I could wish' replied young Blight.

'What's the whole that you could wish?'

'Fifteen shillings a week' said the boy.

'About how long might it take you nowat a average rate of going
to be a Judge?' asked Mr Boffinafter surveying his small stature
in silence.

The boy answered that he had not yet quite worked out that little
calculation.

'I suppose there's nothing to prevent your going in for it?' said Mr
Boffin.


The boy virtually replied that as he had the honour to be a Briton
who never never neverthere was nothing to prevent his going in
for it. Yet he seemed inclined to suspect that there might be
something to prevent his coming out with it.

'Would a couple of pound help you up at all?' asked Mr Boffin.

On this headyoung Blight had no doubt whateverso Mr Boffin
made him a present of that sum of moneyand thanked him for his
attention to his (Mr Boffin's) affairs; whichhe addedwere now
he believedas good as settled.

Then Mr Boffinwith his stick at his earlike a Familiar Spirit
explaining the office to himsat staring at a little bookcase of Law
Practice and Law Reportsand at a windowand at an empty blue
bagand at a stick of sealing-waxand a penand a box of wafers
and an appleand a writing-pad--all very dusty--and at a number of
inky smears and blotsand at an imperfectly-disguised gun-case
pretending to be something legaland at an iron box labelled
HARMON ESTATEuntil Mr Lightwood appeared.

Mr Lightwood explained that he came from the proctor'swith
whom he had been engaged in transacting Mr Boffin's affairs.

'And they seem to have taken a deal out of you!' said Mr Boffin
with commiseration.

Mr Lightwoodwithout explaining that his weariness was chronic
proceeded with his exposition thatall forms of law having been at
length complied withwill of Harmon deceased having been
proveddeath of Harmon next inheriting having been proved&c.
and so forthCourt of Chancery having been moved&c. and so
forthheMr Lightwoodhad now the gratificationhonourand
happinessagain &c. and so forthof congratulating Mr Boffin on
coming into possession as residuary legateeof upwards of one
hundred thousand poundsstanding in the books of the Governor
and Company of the Bank of Englandagain &c. and so forth.

'And what is particularly eligible in the property Mr Boffinisthat
it involves no trouble. There are no estates to manageno rents to
return so much per cent upon in bad times (which is an extremely
dear way of getting your name into the newspapers)no voters to
become parboiled in hot water withno agents to take the cream off
the milk before it comes to table. You could put the whole in a
cash-box to-morrow morningand take it with you to--sayto the
Rocky Mountains. Inasmuch as every man' concluded Mr
Lightwoodwith an indolent smile'appears to be under a fatal
spell which obliges himsooner or laterto mention the Rocky
Mountains in a tone of extreme familiarity to some other manI
hope you'll excuse my pressing you into the service of that gigantic
range of geographical bores.'

Without following this last remark very closelyMr Boffin cast his
perplexed gaze first at the ceilingand then at the carpet.

'Well' he remarked'I don't know what to say about itI am sure.
was a'most as well as I was. It's a great lot to take care of.'

'My dear Mr Boffinthen DON'T take care of it!'

'Eh?' said that gentleman.

'Speaking now' returned Mortimer'with the irresponsible
imbecility of a private individualand not with the profundity of a


professional adviserI should say that if the circumstance of its
being too muchweighs upon your mindyou have the haven of
consolation open to you that you can easily make it less. And if
you should be apprehensive of the trouble of doing sothere is the
further haven of consolation that any number of people will take
the trouble off your hands.'

'Well! I don't quite see it' retorted Mr Boffinstill perplexed.
'That's not satisfactoryyou knowwhat you're a-saying.'

'Is Anything satisfactoryMr Boffin?' asked Mortimerraising his
eyebrows.

'I used to find it so' answered Mr Boffinwith a wistful look.
'While I was foreman at the Bower--afore it WAS the Bower--I
considered the business very satisfactory. The old man was a
awful Tartar (saying itI'm surewithout disrespect to his memory)
but the business was a pleasant one to look afterfrom before
daylight to past dark. It's a'most a pity' said Mr Boffinrubbing
his ear'that he ever went and made so much money. It would
have been better for him if he hadn't so given himself up to it. You
may depend upon it' making the discovery all of a sudden'that
HE found it a great lot to take care of!'

Mr Lightwood coughednot convinced.

'And speaking of satisfactory' pursued Mr Boffin'whyLord
save us! when we come to take it to piecesbit by bitwhere's the
satisfactoriness of the money as yet? When the old man does right
the poor boy after allthe poor boy gets no good of it. He gets
made away withat the moment when he's lifting (as one may say)
the cup and sarser to his lips. Mr LightwoodI will now name to
youthat on behalf of the poor dear boyme and Mrs Boffin have
stood out against the old man times out of numbertill he has
called us every name be could lay his tongue to. I have seen him
after Mrs Boffin has given him her mind respecting the claims of
the nat'ral affectionscatch off Mrs Boffin's bonnet (she worein
generala black strawperched as a matter of convenience on the
top of her head)and send it spinning across the yard. I have
indeed. And oncewhen he did this in a manner that amounted to
personalI should have given him a rattler for himselfif Mrs
Boffin hadn't thrown herself betwixt usand received flush on the
temple. Which dropped herMr Lightwood. Dropped her.'

Mr Lightwood murmured 'Equal honour--Mrs Boffin's head and
heart.'

'You understand; I name this' pursued Mr Boffin'to show you
now the affairs are wound upthat me and Mrs Boffin have ever
stood as we were in Christian honour boundthe children's friend.
Me and Mrs Boffin stood the poor girl's friend; me and Mrs Boffin
stood the poor boy's friend; me and Mrs Boffin up and faced the
old man when we momently expected to be turned out for our
pains. As to Mrs Boffin' said Mr Boffin lowering his voice'she
mightn't wish it mentioned now she's Fashionablebut she went so
far as to tell himin my presencehe was a flinty-hearted rascal.'

Mr Lightwood murmured 'Vigorous Saxon spirit--Mrs Boffin's
ancestors--bowmen--Agincourt and Cressy.'

'The last time me and Mrs Boffin saw the poor boy' said Mr
Boffinwarming (as fat usually does) with a tendency to melt'he
was a child of seven year old. For when he came back to make
intercession for his sisterme and Mrs Boffin were away


overlooking a country contract which was to be sifted before
cartedand he was come and gone in a single hour. I say he was a
child of seven year old. He was going awayall alone and forlorn
to that foreign schooland he come into our placesituate up the
yard of the present Bowerto have a warm at our fire. There was
his little scanty travelling clothes upon him. There was his little
scanty box outside in the shivering windwhich I was going to
carry for him down to the steamboatas the old man wouldn't hear
of allowing a sixpence coach-money. Mrs Boffinthen quite a
young woman and pictur of a full-blown rosestands him by her
kneels down at the firewarms her two open handsand falls to
rubbing his cheeks; but seeing the tears come into the child's eyes
the tears come fast into her ownand she holds him round the
necklike as if she was protecting himand cries to meI'd give
the wide wide world, I would, to run away with him!I don't say
but what it cut meand but what it at the same time heightened my
feelings of admiration for Mrs Boffin. The poor child clings to her
for awhileas she clings to himand thenwhen the old man calls
he says "I must go! God bless you!" and for a moment rests his
heart against her bosomand looks up at both of usas if it was in
pain--in agony. Such a look! I went aboard with him (I gave him
first what little treat I thought he'd like)and I left him when he
had fallen asleep in his berthand I came back to Mrs Boffin. But
tell her what I would of how I had left himit all went for nothing
foraccording to her thoughtshe never changed that look that he
had looked up at us two. But it did one piece of good. Mrs Boffin
and me had no child of our ownand had sometimes wished that
how we had one. But not now. "We might both of us die says
Mrs Boffin, and other eyes might see that lonely look in our
child." So of a nightwhen it was very coldor when the wind
roaredor the rain dripped heavyshe would wake sobbingand
call out in a flusterDon't you see the poor child's face? O shelter
the poor child!--till in course of years it gently wore outas many
things do.'

'My dear Mr Boffineverything wears to rags' said Mortimerwith
a light laugh.

'I won't go so far as to say everything' returned Mr Boffinon
whom his manner seemed to grate'because there's some things
that I never found among the dust. Wellsir. So Mrs Boffin and
me grow older and older in the old man's serviceliving and
working pretty hard in ittill the old man is discovered dead in his
bed. Then Mrs Boffin and me seal up his boxalways standing on
the table at the side of his bedand having frequently heerd tell of
the Temple as a spot where lawyer's dust is contracted forI come
down here in search of a lawyer to adviseand I see your young
man up at this present elevationchopping at the flies on the
window-sill with his penknifeand I give him a Hoy! not then
having the pleasure of your acquaintanceand by that means come
to gain the honour. Then youand the gentleman in the
uncomfortable neck-cloth under the little archway in Saint Paul's
Churchyard--'

'Doctors' Commons' observed Lightwood.

'I understood it was another name' said Mr Boffinpausing'but
you know best. Then you and Doctor Scommonsyou go to work
and you do the thing that's properand you and Doctor S. take
steps for finding out the poor boyand at last you do find out the
poor boyand me and Mrs Boffin often exchange the observation
We shall see him again, under happy circumstances.But it was
never to be; and the want of satisfactoriness isthat after all the
money never gets to him.'


'But it gets' remarked Lightwoodwith a languid inclination of the
head'into excellent hands.'

'It gets into the hands of me and Mrs Boffin only this very day and
hourand that's what I am working round tohaving waited for
this day and hour a' purpose. Mr Lightwoodhere has been a
wicked cruel murder. By that murder me and Mrs Boffin
mysteriously profit. For the apprehension and conviction of the
murdererwe offer a reward of one tithe of the property--a reward
of Ten Thousand Pound.'

'Mr Boffinit's too much.'

'Mr Lightwoodme and Mrs Boffin have fixed the sum together
and we stand to it.'

'But let me represent to you' returned Lightwood'speaking now
with professional profundityand not with individual imbecility
that the offer of such an immense reward is a temptation to forced
suspicionforced construction of circumstancesstrained
accusationa whole tool-box of edged tools.'

'Well' said Mr Boffina little staggered'that's the sum we put o'
one side for the purpose. Whether it shall be openly declared in the
new notices that must now be put about in our names--'

'In your nameMr Boffin; in your name.'

'Very well; in my namewhich is the same as Mrs Boffin'sand
means both of usis to be considered in drawing 'em up. But this
is the first instruction that Ias the owner of the propertygive to
my lawyer on coming into it.'

'Your lawyerMr Boffin' returned Lightwoodmaking a very short
note of it with a very rusty pen'has the gratification of taking the
instruction. There is another?'

'There is just one otherand no more. Make me as compact a little
will as can be reconciled with tightnessleaving the whole of the
property to "my beloved wifeHenerietty Boffinsole executrix".
Make it as short as you canusing those words; but make it tight.'

At some loss to fathom Mr Boffin's notions of a tight will
Lightwood felt his way.

'I beg your pardonbut professional profundity must be exact.
When you say tight--'

'I mean tight' Mr Boffin explained.

'Exactly so. And nothing can be more laudable. But is the
tightness to bind Mrs Boffin to any and what conditions?'

'Bind Mrs Boffin?' interposed her husband. 'No! What are you
thinking of! What I want isto make it all hers so tight as that her
hold of it can't be loosed.'

'Hers freelyto do what she likes with? Hers absolutely?'

'Absolutely?' repeated Mr Boffinwith a short sturdy laugh. 'Hah!
I should think so! It would be handsome in me to begin to bind
Mrs Boffin at this time of day!'


So that instructiontoowas taken by Mr Lightwood; and Mr
Lightwoodhaving taken itwas in the act of showing Mr Boffin
outwhen Mr Eugene Wrayburn almost jostled him in the doorway.
Consequently Mr Lightwood saidin his cool manner'Let
me make you two known to one another' and further signified that
Mr Wrayburn was counsel learned in the lawand thatpartly in
the way of business and partly in the way of pleasurehe had
imparted to Mr Wrayburn some of the interesting facts of Mr
Boffin's biography.

'Delighted' said Eugene--though he didn't look so--'to know Mr
Boffin.'

'Thankeesirthankee' returned that gentleman. 'And how do
YOU like the law?'

'A--not particularly' returned Eugene.

'Too dry for youeh? WellI suppose it wants some years of
sticking tobefore you master it. But there's nothing like work.
Look at the bees.'

'I beg your pardon' returned Eugenewith a reluctant smile'but
will you excuse my mentioning that I always protest against being
referred to the bees?'

'Do you!' said Mr Boffin.

'I object on principle' said Eugene'as a biped--'

'As a what?' asked Mr Boffin.

'As a two-footed creature;--I object on principleas a two-footed
creatureto being constantly referred to insects and four-footed
creatures. I object to being required to model my proceedings
according to the proceedings of the beeor the dogor the spideror
the camel. I fully admit that the camelfor instanceis an
excessively temperate person; but he has several stomachs to
entertain himself withand I have only one. BesidesI am not
fitted up with a convenient cool cellar to keep my drink in.'

'But I saidyou know' urged Mr Boffinrather at a loss for an
answer'the bee.'

'Exactly. And may I represent to you that it's injudicious to say the
bee? For the whole case is assumed. Conceding for a moment that
there is any analogy between a beeand a man in a shirt and
pantaloons (which I deny)and that it is settled that the man is to
learn from the bee (which I also deny)the question still remains
what is he to learn? To imitate? Or to avoid? When your friends
the bees worry themselves to that highly fluttered extent about their
sovereignand become perfectly distracted touching the slightest
monarchical movementare we men to learn the greatness of Tufthunting
or the littleness of the Court Circular? I am not clearMr
Boffinbut that the hive may be satirical.'

'At all eventsthey work' said Mr Boffin.

'Ye-es' returned Eugenedisparagingly'they work; but don't you
think they overdo it? They work so much more than they need-they
make so much more than they can eat--they are so incessantly
boring and buzzing at their one idea till Death comes upon them-that
don't you think they overdo it? And are human labourers to
have no holidaysbecause of the bees? And am I never to have


change of airbecause the bees don't? Mr BoffinI think honey
excellent at breakfast; butregarded in the light of my conventional
schoolmaster and moralistI protest against the tyrannical humbug
of your friend the bee. With the highest respect for you.'

'Thankee' said Mr Boffin. 'Morningmorning!'

Butthe worthy Mr Boffin jogged away with a comfortless
impression he could have dispensed withthat there was a deal of
unsatisfactoriness in the worldbesides what he had recalled as
appertaining to the Harmon property. And he was still jogging
along Fleet Street in this condition of mindwhen he became aware
that he was closely tracked and observed by a man of genteel
appearance.

'Now then?' said Mr Boffinstopping shortwith his meditations
brought to an abrupt check'what's the next article?'

'I beg your pardonMr Boffin.'

'My name tooeh? How did you come by it? I don't know you.'

'Nosiryou don't know me.'

Mr Boffin looked full at the manand the man looked full at him.

'No' said Mr Boffinafter a glance at the pavementas if it were
made of faces and he were trying to match the man's'I DON'T
know you.'

'I am nobody' said the stranger'and not likely to be known; but
Mr Boffin's wealth--'

'Oh! that's got about alreadyhas it?' muttered Mr Boffin.

'--And his romantic manner of acquiring itmake him conspicuous.
You were pointed out to me the other day.'

'Well' said Mr Boffin'I should say I was a disappintment to you
when I WAS pinted outif your politeness would allow you to
confess itfor I am well aware I am not much to look at. What
might you want with me? Not in the laware you?'

'Nosir.'

'No information to givefor a reward?'

'Nosir.'

There may have been a momentary mantling in the face of the man
as he made the last answerbut it passed directly.

'If I don't mistakeyou have followed me from my lawyer's and
tried to fix my attention. Say out! Have you? Or haven't you?'
demanded Mr Boffinrather angry.

'Yes.'

'Why have you?'

'If you will allow me to walk beside youMr BoffinI will tell you.
Would you object to turn aside into this place--I think it is called
Clifford's Inn--where we can hear one another better than in the
roaring street?'


('Now' thought Mr Boffin'if he proposes a game at skittlesor
meets a country gentleman just come into propertyor produces
any article of jewellery he has foundI'll knock him down!' With
this discreet reflectionand carrying his stick in his arms much as
Punch carries hisMr Boffin turned into Clifford's Inn aforesaid.)

'Mr BoffinI happened to be in Chancery Lane this morningwhen
I saw you going along before me. I took the liberty of following
youtrying to make up my mind to speak to youtill you went into
your lawyer's. Then I waited outside till you came out.'

('Don't quite sound like skittlesnor yet country gentlemannor yet
jewellery' thought Mr Boffin'but there's no knowing.')

'I am afraid my object is a bold oneI am afraid it has little of the
usual practical world about itbut I venture it. If you ask meor if
you ask yourself--which is more likely--what emboldens meI
answerI have been strongly assuredthat you are a man of
rectitude and plain dealingwith the soundest of sound heartsand
that you are blessed in a wife distinguished by the same qualities.'

'Your information is true of Mrs Boffinanyhow' was Mr Boffin's
answeras he surveyed his new friend again. There was
something repressed in the strange man's mannerand he walked
with his eyes on the ground--though consciousfor all thatof Mr
Boffin's observation--and he spoke in a subdued voice. But his
words came easilyand his voice was agreeable in tonealbeit
constrained.

'When I addI can discern for myself what the general tongue says
of you--that you are quite unspoiled by Fortuneand not uplifted--I
trust you will notas a man of an open naturesuspect that I mean
to flatter youbut will believe that all I mean is to excuse myself
these being my only excuses for my present intrusion.'

('How much?' thought Mr Boffin. 'It must be coming to money.
How much?')

'You will probably change your manner of livingMr Boffinin
your changed circumstances. You will probably keep a larger
househave many matters to arrangeand be beset by numbers of
correspondents. If you would try me as your Secretary--'

'As WHAT?' cried Mr Boffinwith his eyes wide open.

'Your Secretary.'

'Well' said Mr Boffinunder his breath'that's a queer thing!'

'Or' pursued the strangerwondering at Mr Boffin's wonder'if you
would try me as your man of business under any nameI know you
would find me faithful and gratefuland I hope you would find me
useful. You may naturally think that my immediate object is
money. Not sofor I would willingly serve you a year--two years-any
term you might appoint--before that should begin to be a
consideration between us.'

'Where do you come from?' asked Mr Boffin.

'I come' returned the othermeeting his eye'from many countries.'

Boffin's acquaintances with the names and situations of foreign
lands being limited in extent and somewhat confused in qualityhe


shaped his next question on an elastic model.

'From--any particular place?'

'I have been in many places.'

'What have you been?' asked Mr Boffin.

Here again he made no great advancefor the reply was'I have
been a student and a traveller.'

'But if it ain't a liberty to plump it out' said Mr Boffin'what do
you do for your living?'

'I have mentioned' returned the otherwith another look at him
and a smile'what I aspire to do. I have been superseded as to
some slight intentions I hadand I may say that I have now to
begin life.'

Not very well knowing how to get rid of this applicantand
feeling the more embarrassed because his manner and appearance
claimed a delicacy in which the worthy Mr Boffin feared he
himself might be deficientthat gentleman glanced into the mouldy
little plantation or cat-preserveof Clifford's Innas it was that day
in search of a suggestion. Sparrows were therecats were there
dry-rot and wet-rot were therebut it was not otherwise a
suggestive spot.

'All this time' said the strangerproducing a little pocket-book and
taking out a card'I have not mentioned my name. My name is
Rokesmith. I lodge at one Mr Wilfer'sat Holloway.'

Mr Boffin stared again.

'Father of Miss Bella Wilfer?' said he.

'My landlord has a daughter named Bella. Yes; no doubt.'

Nowthis name had been more or less in Mr Boffin's thoughts all
the morningand for days before; therefore he said:

'That's singulartoo!' unconsciously staring againpast all bounds
of good mannerswith the card in his hand. 'Thoughby-the-byeI
suppose it was one of that family that pinted me out?'

'No. I have never been in the streets with one of them.'

'Heard me talked of among 'emthough?'

'No. I occupy my own roomsand have held scarcely any
communication with them.'

'Odder and odder!' said Mr Boffin. 'Wellsirto tell you the truthI
don't know what to say to you.'

'Say nothing' returned Mr Rokesmith; 'allow me to call on you in a
few days. I am not so unconscionable as to think it likely that you
would accept me on trust at first sightand take me out of the very
street. Let me come to you for your further opinionat your
leisure.'

'That's fairand I don't object' said Mr Boffin; 'but it must be on
condition that it's fully understood that I no more know that I shall
ever be in want of any gentleman as Secretary--it WAS Secretary


you said; wasn't it?'

'Yes.'

Again Mr Boffin's eyes opened wideand he stared at the applicant
from head to footrepeating 'Queer!--You're sure it was Secretary?
Are you?'

'I am sure I said so.'

--'As Secretary' repeated Mr Boffinmeditating upon the word; 'I
no more know that I may ever want a Secretaryor what notthan I
do that I shall ever be in want of the man in the moon. Me and
Mrs Boffin have not even settled that we shall make any change in
our way of life. Mrs Boffin's inclinations certainly do tend towards
Fashion; butbeing already set up in a fashionable way at the
Bowershe may not make further alterations. Howeversiras you
don't press yourselfI wish to meet you so far as sayingby all
means call at the Bower if you like. Call in the course of a week or
two. At the same timeI consider that I ought to namein addition
to what I have already namedthat I have in my employment a
literary man--WITH a wooden leg--as I have no thoughts of
parting from.'

'I regret to hear I am in some sort anticipated' Mr Rokesmith
answeredevidently having heard it with surprise; 'but perhaps
other duties might arise?'

'You see' returned Mr Boffinwith a confidential sense of dignity
'as to my literary man's dutiesthey're clear. Professionally he
declines and he fallsand as a friend he drops into poetry.'

Without observing that these duties seemed by no means clear to
Mr Rokesmith's astonished comprehensionMr Boffin went on:

'And nowsirI'll wish you good-day. You can call at the Bower
any time in a week or two. It's not above a mile or so from you
and your landlord can direct you to it. But as he may not know it
by it's new name of Boffin's Bowersaywhen you inquire of him
it's Harmon's; will you?'

'Harmoon's' repeated Mr Rokesmithseeming to have caught the
sound imperfectly'Harmarn's. How do you spell it?'

'Whyas to the spelling of it' returned Mr Boffinwith great
presence of mind'that's YOUR look out. Harmon's is all you've
got to say to HIM. Morningmorningmorning!' And so departed
without looking back.

Chapter 9

MR AND MRS BOFFIN IN CONSULTATION

Betaking himself straight homewardMr Boffinwithout further let
or hindrancearrived at the Bowerand gave Mrs Boffin (in a
walking dress of black velvet and featherslike a mourning coachhorse)
an account of all he had said and done since breakfast.

'This brings us roundmy dear' he then pursued'to the question
we left unfinished: namelywhether there's to be any new go-in for
Fashion.'


'NowI'll tell you what I wantNoddy' said Mrs Boffinsmoothing
her dress with an air of immense enjoyment'I want Society.'

'Fashionable Societymy dear?'

'Yes!' cried Mrs Boffinlaughing with the glee of a child. 'Yes!
It's no good my being kept here like Wax-Work; is it now?'

'People have to pay to see Wax-Workmy dear' returned her
husband'whereas (though you'd be cheap at the same money) the
neighbours is welcome to see YOU for nothing.'

'But it don't answer' said the cheerfial Mrs Boffin. 'When we
worked like the neighbourswe suited one another. Now we have
left work off; we have left off suiting one another.'

'Whatdo you think of beginning work again?' Mr Boffin hinted.

'Out of the question! We have come into a great fortuneand we
must do what's right by our fortune; we must act up to it.'

Mr Boffinwho had a deep respect for his wife's intuitive wisdom
repliedthough rather pensively: 'I suppose we must.'

'It's never been acted up to yetandconsequentlyno good has
come of it' said Mrs Boffin.

'Trueto the present time' Mr Boffin assentedwith his former
pensivenessas he took his seat upon his settle. 'I hope good may
be coming of it in the future time. Towards whichwhat's your
viewsold lady?'

Mrs Boffina smiling creaturebroad of figure and simple of
naturewith her hands folded in her lapand with buxom creases
in her throatproceeded to expound her views.

'I saya good house in a good neighbourhoodgood things about
usgood livingand good society. I saylive like our means
without extravaganceand be happy.'

'Yes. I say be happytoo' assented the still pensive Mr Boffin.
'Lor-a-mussy!' exclaimed Mrs Boffinlaughing and clapping her
handsand gaily rocking herself to and fro'when I think of me in a
light yellow chariot and pairwith silver boxes to the wheels--'

'Oh! you was thinking of thatwas youmy dear?'

'Yes!' cried the delighted creature. 'And with a footman up behind
with a bar acrossto keep his legs from being poled! And with a
coachman up in frontsinking down into a seat big enough for
three of himall covered with upholstery in green and white! And
with two bay horses tossing their heads and stepping higher than
they trot long-ways! And with you and me leaning back insideas
grand as ninepence! Oh-h-h-h My! Ha ha ha ha ha!'

Mrs Boffin clapped her hands againrocked herself againbeat her
feet upon the floorand wiped the tears of laughter from her eyes.

'And whatmy old lady' inquired Mr Boffinwhen he also had
sympathetically laughed: 'what's your views on the subject of the
Bower?'

'Shut it up. Don't part with itbut put somebody in itto keep it.'


'Any other views?'

'Noddy' said Mrs Boffincoming from her fashionable sofa to his
side on the plain settleand hooking her comfortable arm through
his'Next I think--and I really have been thinking early and late--of
the disappointed girl; her that was so cruelly disappointedyou
knowboth of her husband and his riches. Don't you think we
might do something for her? Have her to live with us? Or
something of that sort?'

'Ne-ver once thought of the way of doing it!' cried Mr Boffin
smiting the table in his admiration. 'What a thinking steam-ingein
this old lady is. And she don't know how she does it. Neither does
the ingein!'

Mrs Boffin pulled his nearest earin acknowledgment of this piece
of philosophyand then saidgradually toning down to a motherly
strain: 'Lastand not leastI have taken a fancy. You remember
dear little John Harmonbefore he went to school? Over yonder
across the yardat our fire? Now that he is past all benefit of the
moneyand it's come to usI should like to find some orphan child
and take the boy and adopt him and give him John's nameand
provide for him. Somehowit would make me easierI fancy. Say
it's only a whim--'

'But I don't say so' interposed her husband.

'Nobut dearyif you did--'

'I should be a Beast if I did' her husband interposed again.

'That's as much as to say you agree? Good and kind of youand
like youdeary! And don't you begin to find it pleasant now' said
Mrs Boffinonce more radiant in her comely way from head to
footand once more smoothing her dress with immense enjoyment
'don't you begin to find it pleasant alreadyto think that a child will
be made brighterand betterand happierbecause of that poor sad
child that day? And isn't it pleasant to know that the good will be
done with the poor sad child's own money?'

'Yes; and it's pleasant to know that you are Mrs Boffin' said her
husband'and it's been a pleasant thing to know this many and
many a year!' It was ruin to Mrs Boffin's aspirationsbuthaving
so spokenthey sat side by sidea hopelessly Unfashionable pair.

These two ignorant and unpolished people had guided themselves
so far on in their journey of lifeby a religious sense of duty and
desire to do right. Ten thousand weaknesses and absurdities might
have been detected in the breasts of both; ten thousand vanities
additionalpossiblyin the breast of the woman. But the hard
wrathful and sordid nature that had wrung as much work out of
them as could be got in their best daysfor as little money as could
be paid to hurry on their worsthad never been so warped but that
it knew their moral straightness and respected it. In its own
despitein a constant conflict with itself and themit had done so.
And this is the eternal law. ForEvil often stops short at itself and
dies with the doer of it; but Goodnever.

Through his most inveterate purposesthe dead Jailer of Harmony
Jail had known these two faithful servants to be honest and true.
While he raged at them and reviled them for opposing him with the
speech of the honest and trueit had scratched his stony heartand
he had perceived the powerlessness of all his wealth to buy them if


he had addressed himself to the attempt. Soeven while he was
their griping taskmaster and never gave them a good wordhe had
written their names down in his will. Soeven while it was his
daily declaration that he mistrusted all mankind--and sorely indeed
he did mistrust all who bore any resemblance to himself--he was as
certain that these two peoplesurviving himwould be trustworthy
in all things from the greatest to the leastas he was that he must
surely die.

Mr and Mrs Boffinsitting side by sidewith Fashion withdrawn
to an immeasurable distancefell to discussing how they could best
find their orphan. Mrs Boffin suggested advertisement in the
newspapersrequesting orphans answering annexed description to
apply at the Bower on a certain day; but Mr Boffin wisely
apprehending obstruction of the neighbouring thoroughfares by
orphan swarmsthis course was negatived. Mrs Boffin next
suggested application to their clergyman for a likely orphan. Mr
Boffin thinking better of this schemethey resolved to call upon the
reverend gentleman at onceand to take the same opportunity of
making acquaintance with Miss Bella Wilfer. In order that these
visits might be visits of stateMrs Boffin's equipage was ordered
out.

This consisted of a long hammer-headed old horseformerly used
in the businessattached to a four-wheeled chaise of the same
periodwhich had long been exclusively used by the Harmony Jail
poultry as the favourite laying-place of several discreet hens. An
unwonted application of corn to the horseand of paint and varnish
to the carriagewhen both fell in as a part of the Boffin legacyhad
made what Mr Boffin considered a neat turn-out of the whole; and
a driver being addedin the person of a long hammer-headed
young man who was a very good match for the horseleft nothing
to be desired. Hetoohad been formerly used in the businessbut
was now entombed by an honest jobbing tailor of the district in a
perfect Sepulchre of coat and gaiterssealed with ponderous
buttons.

Behind this domesticMr and Mrs Boffin took their seats in the
back compartment of the vehicle: which was sufficiently
commodiousbut had an undignified and alarming tendencyin
getting over a rough crossingto hiccup itself away from the front
compartment. On their being descried emerging from the gates of
the Bowerthe neighbourhood turned out at door and window to
salute the Boffins. Among those who were ever and again left
behindstaring after the equipagewere many youthful spiritswho
hailed it in stentorian tones with such congratulations as 'Nod-dy
Bof-fin!' 'Bof-fin's mon-ey!' 'Down with the dustBof-fin!' and
other similar compliments. Thesethe hammer-headed young man
took in such ill part that he often impaired the majesty of the
progress by pulling up shortand making as though he would
alight to exterminate the offenders; a purpose from which he only
allowed himself to be dissuaded after long and lively arguments
with his employers.

At length the Bower district was left behindand the peaceful
dwelling of the Reverend Frank Milvey was gained. The Reverend
Frank Milvey's abode was a very modest abodebecause his
income was a very modest income. He was officially accessible to
every blundering old woman who had incoherence to bestow upon
himand readily received the Boffins. He was quite a young man
expensively educated and wretchedly paidwith quite a young wife
and half a dozen quite young children. He was under the necessity
of teaching and translating from the classicsto eke out his scanty
meansyet was generally expected to have more time to spare than


the idlest person in the parishand more money than the richest.
He accepted the needless inequalities and inconsistencies of his
lifewith a kind of conventional submission that was almost
slavish; and any daring layman who would have adjusted such
burdens as hismore decently and graciouslywould have had
small help from him.

With a ready patient face and mannerand yet with a latent smile
that showed a quick enough observation of Mrs Boffin's dressMr
Milveyin his little book-room--charged with sounds and cries as
though the six children above were coming down through the
ceilingand the roasting leg of mutton below were coming up
through the floor--listened to Mrs Boffin's statement of her want of
an orphan.

'I think' said Mr Milvey'that you have never had a child of your
ownMr and Mrs Boffin?'

Never.

'Butlike the Kings and Queens in the Fairy TalesI suppose you
have wished for one?'

In a general wayyes.

Mr Milvey smiled againas he remarked to himself 'Those kings
and queens were always wishing for children.' It occurring to him
perhapsthat if they had been Curatestheir wishes might have
tended in the opposite direction.

'I think' he pursued'we had better take Mrs Milvey into our
Council. She is indispensable to me. If you pleaseI'll call her.'

SoMr Milvey called'Margarettamy dear!' and Mrs Milvey came
down. A prettybright little womansomething worn by anxiety
who had repressed many pretty tastes and bright fanciesand
substituted in their steadschoolssoupflannelcoalsand all the
week-day cares and Sunday coughs of a large populationyoung
and old. As gallantly had Mr Milvey repressed much in himself
that naturally belonged to his old studies and old fellow-students
and taken up among the poor and their children with the hard
crumbs of life.

'Mr and Mrs Boffinmy dearwhose good fortune you have heard
of.'

Mrs Milveywith the most unaffected grace in the world
congratulated themand was glad to see them. Yet her engaging
facebeing an open as well as a perceptive onewas not without
her husband's latent smile.

'Mrs Boffin wishes to adopt a little boymy dear.'

Mrs Milveylooking rather alarmedher husband added:

'An orphanmy dear.'

'Oh!' said Mrs Milveyreassured for her own little boys.

'And I was thinkingMargarettathat perhaps old Mrs Goody's
grandchild might answer the purpose.

'Oh my DEAR Frank! I DON'T think that would do!'


'No?'

'Oh NO!'

The smiling Mrs Boffinfeeling it incumbent on her to take part in
the conversationand being charmed with the emphatic little wife
and her ready interesthere offered her acknowledgments and
inquired what there was against him?

'I DON'T think' said Mrs Milveyglancing at the Reverend Frank'
--and I believe my husband will agree with me when he considers it
again--that you could possibly keep that orphan clean from snuff.
Because his grandmother takes so MANY ouncesand drops it
over him.'

'But he would not be living with his grandmother then
Margaretta' said Mr Milvey.

'NoFrankbut it would be impossible to keep her from Mrs
Boffin's house; and the MORE there was to eat and drink therethe
oftener she would go. And she IS an inconvenient woman. I
HOPE it's not uncharitable to remember that last Christmas Eve
she drank eleven cups of teaand grumbled all the time. And she
is NOT a grateful womanFrank. You recollect her addressing a
crowd outside this houseabout her wrongswhenone night after
we had gone to bedshe brought back the petticoat of new flannel
that had been given herbecause it was too short.'

'That's true' said Mr Milvey. 'I don't think that would do. Would
little Harrison--'

'OhFRANK! ' remonstrated his emphatic wife.

'He has no grandmothermy dear.'

'Nobut I DON'T think Mrs Boffin would like an orphan who
squints so MUCH.'

'That's true again' said Mr Milveybecoming haggard with
perplexity. 'If a little girl would do--'

'Butmy DEAR FrankMrs Boffin wants a boy.'

'That's true again' said Mr Milvey. 'Tom Bocker is a nice boy'
(thoughtfully).

'But I DOUBTFrank' Mrs Milvey hintedafter a little hesitation
'if Mrs Boffin wants an orphan QUITE nineteenwho drives a cart
and waters the roads.'

Mr Milvey referred the point to Mrs Boffin in a look; on that
smiling lady's shaking her black velvet bonnet and bowshe
remarkedin lower spirits'that's true again.'

'I am sure' said Mrs Boffinconcerned at giving so much trouble
'that if I had known you would have taken so much painssir--and
you tooma' am--I don't think I would have come.'

'PRAY don't say that!' urged Mrs Milvey.

'Nodon't say that' assented Mr Milvey'because we are so much
obliged to you for giving us the preference.' Which Mrs Milvey
confirmed; and really the kindconscientious couple spokeas if
they kept some profitable orphan warehouse and were personally


patronized. 'But it is a responsible trust' added Mr Milvey'and
difficult to discharge. At the same timewe are naturally very
unwilling to lose the chance you so kindly give usand if you could
afford us a day or two to look about us--you knowMargarettawe
might carefully examine the workhouseand the Infant Schooland
your District.'

'To be SURE!' said the emphatic little wife.

'We have orphansI know' pursued Mr Milveyquite with the air
as if he might have added'in stock' and quite as anxiously as if
there were great competition in the business and he were afraid of
losing an order'over at the clay-pits; but they are employed by
relations or friendsand I am afraid it would come at last to a
transaction in the way of barter. And even if you exchanged
blankets for the child--or books and firing--it would be impossible
to prevent their being turned into liquor.'

Accordinglyit was resolved that Mr and Mrs Milvey should
search for an orphan likely to suitand as free as possible from the
foregoing objectionsand should communicate again with Mrs
Boffin. ThenMr Boffin took the liberty of mentioning to Mr
Milvey that if Mr Milvey would do him the kindness to be
perpetually his banker to the extent of 'a twenty-pound note or so'
to be expended without any reference to himhe would be heartily
obliged. At thisboth Mr Milvey and Mrs Milvey were quite as
much pleased as if they had no wants of their ownbut only knew
what poverty wasin the persons of other people; and so the
interview terminated with satisfaction and good opinion on all
sides.

'Nowold lady' said Mr Boffinas they resumed their seats behind
the hammer-headed horse and man: 'having made a very agreeable
visit therewe'll try Wilfer's.'

It appearedon their drawing up at the family gatethat to try
Wilfer's was a thing more easily projected than doneon account of
the extreme difficulty of getting into that establishment; three pulls
at the bell producing no external result; though each was attended
by audible sounds of scampering and rushing within. At the fourth
tug--vindictively administered by the hammer-headed young man-Miss
Lavinia appearedemerging from the house in an accidental
mannerwith a bonnet and parasolas designing to take a
contemplative walk. The young lady was astonished to find
visitors at the gateand expressed her feelings in appropriate
action.

'Here's Mr and Mrs Boffin!' growled the hammer-headed young
man through the bars of the gateand at the same time shaking it
as if he were on view in a Menagerie; 'they've been here half an
hour.'

'Who did you say?' asked Miss Lavinia.

'Mr and Mrs BOFFIN' returned the young manrising into a roar.

Miss Lavinia tripped up the steps to the house-doortripped down
the steps with the keytripped across the little gardenand opened
the gate. 'Please to walk in' said Miss Laviniahaughtily. 'Our
servant is out.'

Mr and Mrs Boffin complyingand pausing in the little hall until
Miss Lavinia came up to show them where to go nextperceived
three pairs of listening legs upon the stairs above. Mrs Wilfer's


legsMiss Bella's legsMr George Sampson's legs.

'Mr and Mrs BoffinI think?' said Laviniain a warning voice.
Strained attention on the part of Mrs Wilfer's legsof Miss Bella's
legsof Mr George Sampson's legs.

'YesMiss.'

'If you'll step this way--down these stairs--I'll let Ma know.'
Excited flight of Mrs Wilfer's legsof Miss Bella's legsof Mr
George Sampson's legs.

After waiting some quarter of an hour alone in the family sittingroom
which presented traces of having been so hastily arranged
after a mealthat one might have doubted whether it was made tidy
for visitorsor cleared for blindman's buffMr and Mrs Boffin
became aware of the entrance of Mrs Wilfermajestically faintand
with a condescending stitch in her side: which was her company
manner.

'Pardon me' said Mrs Wilferafter the first salutationsand as soon
as she had adjusted the handkerchief under her chinand waved
her gloved hands'to what am I indebted for this honour?'

'To make short of itma'am' returned Mr Boffin'perhaps you may
be acquainted with the names of me and Mrs Boffinas having
come into a certain property.'

'I have heardsir' returned Mrs Wilferwith a dignified bend of
her head'of such being the case.'

'And I dare sayma'am' pursued Mr Boffinwhile Mrs Boffin
added confirmatory nods and smiles'you are not very much
inclined to take kindly to us?'

'Pardon me' said Mrs Wilfer. ''Twere unjust to visit upon Mr and
Mrs Boffina calamity which was doubtless a dispensation.' These
words were rendered the more effective by a serenely heroic
expression of suffering.

'That's fairly meantI am sure' remarked the honest Mr Boffin;
'Mrs Boffin and mema'amare plain peopleand we don't want to
pretend to anythingnor yet to go round and round at anything
because there's always a straight way to everything. Consequently
we make this call to saythat we shall be glad to have the honour
and pleasure of your daughter's acquaintanceand that we shall be
rejoiced if your daughter will come to consider our house in the
light of her home equally with this. In shortwe want to cheer your
daughterand to give her the opportunity of sharing such pleasures
as we are a going to take ourselves. We want to brisk her upand
brisk her aboutand give her a change.'

'That's it!' said the open-hearted Mrs Boffin. 'Lor! Let's be
comfortable.'

Mrs Wilfer bent her head in a distant manner to her lady visitor
and with majestic monotony replied to the gentleman:

'Pardon me. I have several daughters. Which of my daughters am
I to understand is thus favoured by the kind intentions of Mr Boffin
and his lady?'

'Don't you see?' the ever-smiling Mrs Boffin put in. 'Naturally
Miss Bellayou know.'


'Oh-h!' said Mrs Wilferwith a severely unconvinced look. 'My
daughter Bella is accessible and shall speak for herself.' Then
opening the door a little waysimultaneously with a sound of
scuttling outside itthe good lady made the proclamation'Send
Miss Bella to me!' which proclamationthough grandly formaland
one might almost say heraldicto hearwas in fact enunciated with
her maternal eyes reproachfully glaring on that young lady in the
flesh--and in so much of it that she was retiring with difficulty into
the small closet under the stairsapprehensive of the emergence of
Mr and Mrs Boffin.

'The avocations of R. W.my husband' Mrs Wilfer explainedon
resuming her seat'keep him fully engaged in the City at this time
of the dayor he would have had the honour of participating in
your reception beneath our humble roof.'

'Very pleasant premises!' said Mr Boffincheerfully.

'Pardon mesir' returned Mrs Wilfercorrecting him'it is the
abode of conscious though independent Poverty.'

Finding it rather difficult to pursue the conversation down this
roadMr and Mrs Boffin sat staring at mid-airand Mrs Wilfer sat
silently giving them to understand that every breath she drew
required to be drawn with a self-denial rarely paralleled in history
until Miss Bella appeared: whom Mrs Wilfer presentedand to
whom she explained the purpose of the visitors.

'I am much obliged to youI am sure' said Miss Bellacoldly
shaking her curls'but I doubt if I have the inclination to go out at
all.'

'Bella!' Mrs Wilfer admonished her; 'Bellayou must conquer this.'

'Yesdo what your Ma saysand conquer itmy dear' urged Mrs
Boffin'because we shall be so glad to have youand because you
are much too pretty to keep yourself shut up.' With thatthe
pleasant creature gave her a kissand patted her on her dimpled
shoulders; Mrs Wilfer sitting stiffly bylike a functionary presiding
over an interview previous to an execution.

'We are going to move into a nice house' said Mrs Boffinwho
was woman enough to compromise Mr Boffin on that pointwhen
he couldn't very well contest it; 'and we are going to set up a nice
carriageand we'll go everywhere and see everything. And you
mustn't' seating Bella beside herand patting her hand'you
mustn't feel a dislike to us to begin withbecause we couldn't help
ityou knowmy dear.'

With the natural tendency of youth to yield to candour and sweet
temperMiss Bella was so touched by the simplicity of this address
that she frankly returned Mrs Boffin's kiss. Not at all to the
satisfaction of that good woman of the worldher motherwho
sought to hold the advantageous ground of obliging the Boffins
instead of being obliged.

'My youngest daughterLavinia' said Mrs Wilferglad to make a
diversionas that young lady reappeared. 'Mr George Sampsona
friend of the family.'

The friend of the family was in that stage of tender passion which
bound him to regard everybody else as the foe of the family. He
put the round head of his cane in his mouthlike a stopperwhen


he sat down. As if he felt himself full to the throat with affronting
sentiments. And he eyed the Boffins with implacable eyes.

'If you like to bring your sister with you when you come to stay
with us' said Mrs Boffin'of course we shall be glad. The better
you please yourselfMiss Bellathe better you'll please us.'

'Ohmy consent is of no consequence at allI suppose?' cried Miss
Lavinia.

'Lavvy' said her sisterin a low voice'have the goodness to be
seen and not heard.'

'NoI won't' replied the sharp Lavinia. 'I'm not a childto be taken
notice of by strangers.'

'You ARE a child.'

'I'm not a childand I won't be taken notice of. "Bring your sister
indeed!'

'Lavinia!' said Mrs Wilfer. 'Hold! I will not allow you to utter in
my presence the absurd suspicion that any strangers--I care not
what their names--can patronize my child. Do you dare to
suppose, you ridiculous girl, that Mr and Mrs Boffin would enter
these doors upon a patronizing errand; or, if they did, would
remain within them, only for one single instant, while your mother
had the strength yet remaining in her vital frame to request them to
depart? You little know your mother if you presume to think so.'

'It's all very fine,' Lavinia began to grumble, when Mrs Wilfer
repeated:

'Hold! I will not allow this. Do you not know what is due to
guests? Do you not comprehend that in presuming to hint that this
lady and gentleman could have any idea of patronizing any
member of your family--I care not which--you accuse them of an
impertinence little less than insane?'

'Never mind me and Mrs Boffin, ma'am,' said Mr Boffin,
smilingly: 'we don't care.'

'Pardon me, but I do,' returned Mrs Wilfer.

Miss Lavinia laughed a short laugh as she muttered, 'Yes, to be
sure.'

'And I require my audacious child,' proceeded Mrs Wilfer, with a
withering look at her youngest, on whom it had not the slightest
effect, 'to please to be just to her sister Bella; to remember that her
sister Bella is much sought after; and that when her sister Bella
accepts an attention, she considers herself to be conferring qui-i-ite
as much honour,'--this with an indignant shiver,--'as she receives.'

But, here Miss Bella repudiated, and said quietly, 'I can speak for
myself; you know, ma. You needn't bring ME in, please.'

'And it's all very well aiming at others through convenient me,'
said the irrepressible Lavinia, spitefully; 'but I should like to ask
George Sampson what he says to it.'

'Mr Sampson,' proclaimed Mrs Wilfer, seeing that young
gentleman take his stopper out, and so darkly fixing him with her
eyes as that he put it in again: 'Mr Sampson, as a friend of this


family and a frequenter of this house, is, I am persuaded, far too
well-bred to interpose on such an invitation.'

This exaltation of the young gentleman moved the conscientious
Mrs Boffin to repentance for having done him an injustice in her
mind, and consequently to saying that she and Mr Boffin would at
any time be glad to see him; an attention which he handsomely
acknowledged by replying, with his stopper unremoved, 'Much
obliged to you, but I'm always engaged, day and night.'

However, Bella compensating for all drawbacks by responding to
the advances of the Boffins in an engaging way, that easy pair were
on the whole well satisfied, and proposed to the said Bella that as
soon as they should be in a condition to receive her in a manner
suitable to their desires, Mrs Boffin should return with notice of
the fact. This arrangement Mrs Wilfer sanctioned with a stately
inclination of her head and wave of her gloves, as who should say,
'Your demerits shall be overlooked, and you shall be mercifully
gratified, poor people.'

'By-the-bye, ma'am,' said Mr Boffin, turning back as he was
going, 'you have a lodger?'

'A gentleman,' Mrs Wilfer answered, qualifying the low
expression, 'undoubtedly occupies our first floor.'

'I may call him Our Mutual Friend,' said Mr Boffin. 'What sort of
a fellow IS Our Mutual Friend, now? Do you like him?'

'Mr Rokesmith is very punctual, very quiet, a very eligible inmate.'

'Because,' Mr Boffin explained, 'you must know that I'm not
particularly well acquainted with Our Mutual Friend, for I have
only seen him once. You give a good account of him. Is he at
home?'

'Mr Rokesmith is at home,' said Mrs Wilfer; 'indeed,' pointing
through the window, 'there he stands at the garden gate. Waiting
for you, perhaps?'

'Perhaps so,' replied Mr Boffin. 'Saw me come in, maybe.'

Bella had closely attended to this short dialogue. Accompanying
Mrs Boffin to the gate, she as closely watched what followed.

'How are you, sir, how are you?' said Mr Boffin. 'This is Mrs
Boffin. Mr Rokesmith, that I told you of; my dear.'

She gave him good day, and he bestirred himself and helped her to
her seat, and the like, with a ready hand.

'Good-bye for the present, Miss Bella,' said Mrs Boffin, calling out
a hearty parting. 'We shall meet again soon! And then I hope I
shall have my little John Harmon to show you.'

Mr Rokesmith, who was at the wheel adjusting the skirts of her
dress, suddenly looked behind him, and around him, and then
looked up at her, with a face so pale that Mrs Boffin cried:

'Gracious!' And after a moment, 'What's the matter, sir?'

'How can you show her the Dead?' returned Mr Rokesmith.

'It's only an adopted child. One I have told her of. One I'm going


to give the name to!'

'You took me by surprise,' said Mr Rokesmith, 'and it sounded like
an omen, that you should speak of showing the Dead to one so
young and blooming.'

Now, Bella suspected by this time that Mr Rokesmith admired her.
Whether the knowledge (for it was rather that than suspicion)
caused her to incline to him a little more, or a little less, than she
had done at first; whether it rendered her eager to find out more
about him, because she sought to establish reason for her distrust,
or because she sought to free him from it; was as yet dark to her
own heart. But at most times he occupied a great amount of her
attention, and she had set her attention closely on this incident.

That he knew it as well as she, she knew as well as he, when they
were left together standing on the path by the garden gate.

'Those are worthy people, Miss Wilfer.'

'Do you know them well?' asked Bella.

He smiled, reproaching her, and she coloured, reproaching herself
--both, with the knowledge that she had meant to entrap him into an
answer not true--when he said 'I know OF them.'

'Truly, he told us he had seen you but once.'

'Truly, I supposed he did.'

Bella was nervous now, and would have been glad to recall her
question.

'You thought it strange that, feeling much interested in you, I
should start at what sounded like a proposal to bring you into
contact with the murdered man who lies in his grave. I might have
known--of course in a moment should have known--that it could
not have that meaning. But my interest remains.'

Re-entering the family-room in a meditative state, Miss Bella was
received by the irrepressible Lavinia with:

'There, Bella! At last I hope you have got your wishes realized--by
your Boffins. You'll be rich enough now--with your Boffins. You
can have as much flirting as you like--at your Boffins. But you
won't take ME to your Boffins, I can tell you--you and your Boffins
too!'

'If,' quoth Mr George Sampson, moodily pulling his stopper out,
'Miss Bella's Mr Boffin comes any more of his nonsense to ME, I
only wish him to understand, as betwixt man and man, that he
does it at his per--' and was going to say peril; but Miss Lavinia,
having no confidence in his mental powers, and feeling his oration
to have no definite application to any circumstances, jerked his
stopper in again, with a sharpness that made his eyes water.

And now the worthy Mrs Wilfer, having used her youngest
daughter as a lay-figure for the edification of these Boffins, became
bland to her, and proceeded to develop her last instance of force of
character, which was still in reserve. This was, to illuminate the
family with her remarkable powers as a physiognomist; powers
that terrified R. W. when ever let loose, as being always fraught
with gloom and evil which no inferior prescience was aware of.
And this Mrs Wilfer now did, be it observed, in jealousy of these


Boffins, in the very same moments when she was already reflecting
how she would flourish these very same Boffins and the state they
kept, over the heads of her Boffinless friends.

'Of their manners,' said Mrs Wilfer, 'I say nothing. Of their
appearance, I say nothing. Of the disinterestedness of their
intentions towards Bella, I say nothing. But the craft, the secrecy,
the dark deep underhanded plotting, written in Mrs Boffin's
countenance, make me shudder.'

As an incontrovertible proof that those baleful attributes were all
there, Mrs Wilfer shuddered on the spot.

Chapter 10

A MARRIAGE CONTRACT

There is excitement in the Veneering mansion. The mature young
lady is going to be married (powder and all) to the mature young
gentleman, and she is to be married from the Veneering house, and
the Veneerings are to give the breakfast. The Analytical, who
objects as a matter of principle to everything that occurs on the
premises, necessarily objects to the match; but his consent has
been dispensed with, and a spring-van is delivering its load of
greenhouse plants at the door, in order that to-morrow's feast may
be crowned with flowers.

The mature young lady is a lady of property. The mature young
gentleman is a gentleman of property. He invests his property. He
goes, in a condescending amateurish way, into the City, attends
meetings of Directors, and has to do with traffic in Shares. As is
well known to the wise in their generation, traffic in Shares is the
one thing to have to do with in this world. Have no antecedents,
no established character, no cultivation, no ideas, no manners;
have Shares. Have Shares enough to be on Boards of Direction in
capital letters, oscillate on mysterious business between London
and Paris, and be great. Where does he come from? Shares.
Where is he going to? Shares. What are his tastes? Shares. Has
he any principles? Shares. What squeezes him into Parliament?
Shares. Perhaps he never of himself achieved success in anything,
never originated anything, never produced anything? Sufficient
answer to all; Shares. O mighty Shares! To set those blaring
images so high, and to cause us smaller vermin, as under the
influence of henbane or opium, to cry out, night and day, 'Relieve
us of our money, scatter it for us, buy us and sell us, ruin us, only
we beseech ye take rank among the powers of the earth, and fatten
on us'!

While the Loves and Graces have been preparing this torch for
Hymen, which is to be kindled to-morrow, Mr Twemlow has
suffered much in his mind. It would seem that both the mature
young lady and the mature young gentleman must indubitably be
Veneering's oldest friends. Wards of his, perhaps? Yet that can
scarcely be, for they are older than himself. Veneering has been in
their confidence throughout, and has done much to lure them to the
altar. He has mentioned to Twemlow how he said to Mrs
Veneering, 'Anastatia, this must be a match.' He has mentioned to
Twemlow how he regards Sophronia Akershem (the mature young
lady) in the light of a sister, and Alfred Lammle (the mature young
gentleman) in the light of a brother. Twemlow has asked him
whether he went to school as a junior with Alfred? He has


answered, 'Not exactly.' Whether Sophronia was adopted by his
mother? He has answered, 'Not precisely so.' Twemlow's hand
has gone to his forehead with a lost air.

But, two or three weeks ago, Twemlow, sitting over his
newspaper, and over his dry-toast and weak tea, and over the
stable-yard in Duke Street, St James's, received a highly-perfumed
cocked-hat and monogram from Mrs Veneering, entreating her
dearest Mr T., if not particularly engaged that day, to come like a
charining soul and make a fourth at dinner with dear Mr Podsnap,
for the discussion of an interesting family topic; the last three
words doubly underlined and pointed with a note of admiration.
And Twemlow replying, 'Not engaged, and more than delighted,'
goes, and this takes place:

'My dear Twemlow,' says Veneering, 'your ready response to
Anastatia's unceremonious invitation is truly kind, and like an old,
old friend. You know our dear friend Podsnap?'

Twemlow ought to know the dear friend Podsnap who covered him
with so much confusion, and he says he does know him, and
Podsnap reciprocates. Apparently, Podsnap has been so wrought
upon in a short time, as to believe that he has been intimate in the
house many, many, many years. In the friendliest manner he is
making himself quite at home with his back to the fire, executing a
statuette of the Colossus at Rhodes. Twemlow has before noticed
in his feeble way how soon the Veneering guests become infected
with the Veneering fiction. Not, however, that he has the least
notion of its being his own case.

'Our friends, Alfred and Sophronia,' pursues Veneering the veiled
prophet: 'our friends Alfred and Sophronia, you will be glad to
hear, my dear fellows, are going to be married. As my wife and I
make it a family affair the entire direction of which we take upon
ourselves, of course our first step is to communicate the fact to our
family friends.'

('Oh!' thinks Twemlow, with his eyes on Podsnap, 'then there are
only two of us, and he's the other.')

'I did hope,' Veneering goes on, 'to have had Lady Tippins to meet
you; but she is always in request, and is unfortunately engaged.'

('Oh!' thinks Twemlow, with his eyes wandering, 'then there are
three of us, and SHE'S the other.')

'Mortimer Lightwood,' resumes Veneering, 'whom you both know,
is out of town; but he writes, in his whimsical manner, that as we
ask him to be bridegroom's best man when the ceremony takes
place, he will not refuse, though he doesn't see what he has to do
with it.'

('Oh!' thinks Twemlow, with his eyes rolling, 'then there are four of
us, and HE'S the other.')

'Boots and Brewer,' observes Veneering, 'whom you also know, I
have not asked to-day; but I reserve them for the occasion.'

('Then,' thinks Twemlow, with his eyes shut, 'there are si--' But
here collapses and does not completely recover until dinner is over
and the Analytical has been requested to withdraw.)

'We now come,' says Veneering, 'to the point, the real point, of our
little family consultation. Sophronia, having lost both father and


mother, has no one to give her away.'

'Give her away yourself,' says Podsnap.

'My dear Podsnap, no. For three reasons. Firstly, because I
couldn't take so much upon myself when I have respected family
friends to remember. Secondly, because I am not so vain as to
think that I look the part. Thirdly, because Anastatia is a little
superstitious on the subject and feels averse to my giving away
anybody until baby is old enough to be married.'

'What would happen if he did?' Podsnap inquires of Mrs Veneering.

'My dear Mr Podsnap, it's very foolish I know, but I have an
instinctive presentiment that if Hamilton gave away anybody else
first, he would never give away baby.' Thus Mrs Veneering; with
her open hands pressed together, and each of her eight aquiline
fingers looking so very like her one aquiline nose that the bran-new
jewels on them seem necessary for distinction's sake.

'But, my dear Podsnap,' quoth Veneering, 'there IS a tried friend of
our family who, I think and hope you will agree with me, Podsnap,
is the friend on whom this agreeable duty almost naturally
devolves. That friend,' saying the words as if the company were
about a hundred and fifty in number, 'is now among us. That
friend is Twemlow.'

'Certainly!' From Podsnap.

'That friend,' Veneering repeats with greater firmness, 'is our dear
good Twemlow. And I cannot sufficiently express to you, my dear
Podsnap, the pleasure I feel in having this opinion of mine and
Anastatia's so readily confirmed by you, that other equally familiar
and tried friend who stands in the proud position--I mean who
proudly stands in the position--or I ought rather to say, who places
Anastatia and myself in the proud position of himself standing in
the simple position--of baby's godfather.' And, indeed, Veneering
is much relieved in mind to find that Podsnap betrays no jealousy
of Twemlow's elevation.

So, it has come to pass that the spring-van is strewing flowers on
the rosy hours and on the staircase, and that Twemlow is surveying
the ground on which he is to play his distinguished part tomorrow.
He has already been to the church, and taken note of the
various impediments in the aisle, under the auspices of an
extremely dreary widow who opens the pews, and whose left hand
appears to be in a state of acute rheumatism, but is in fact
voluntarily doubled up to act as a money-box.

And now Veneering shoots out of the Study wherein he is
accustomed, when contemplative, to give his mind to the carving
and gilding of the Pilgrims going to Canterbury, in order to show
Twemlow the little flourish he has prepared for the trumpets of
fashion, describing how that on the seventeenth instant, at St
James's Church, the Reverend Blank Blank, assisted by the
Reverend Dash Dash, united in the bonds of matrimony, Alfred
Lammle Esquire, of Sackville Street, Piccadilly, to Sophronia, only
daughter of the late Horatio Akershem, Esquire, of Yorkshire.
Also how the fair bride was married from the house of Hamilton
Veneering, Esquire, of Stucconia, and was given away by Melvin
Twemlow, Esquire, of Duke Street, St James's, second cousin to
Lord Snigsworth, of Snigsworthy Park. While perusing which
composition, Twemlow makes some opaque approach to
perceiving that if the Reverend Blank Blank and the Reverend


Dash Dash fail, after this introduction, to become enrolled in the
list of Veneering's dearest and oldest friends, they will have none
but themselves to thank for it.

After which, appears Sophronia (whom Twemlow has seen twice
in his lifetime), to thank Twemlow for counterfeiting the late
Horatio Akershem Esquire, broadly of Yorkshire. And after her,
appears Alfred (whom Twemlow has seen once in his lifetime), to
do the same and to make a pasty sort of glitter, as if he were
constructed for candle-light only, and had been let out into daylight
by some grand mistake. And after that, comes Mrs Veneering, in a
pervadingly aquiline state of figure, and with transparent little
knobs on her temper, like the little transparent knob on the bridge
of her nose, 'Worn out by worry and excitement,' as she tells her
dear Mr Twemlow, and reluctantly revived with curacoa by the
Analytical. And after that, the bridesmaids begin to come by railroad
from various parts of the country, and to come like adorable
recruits enlisted by a sergeant not present; for, on arriving at the
Veneering depot, they are in a barrack of strangers.

So, Twemlow goes home to Duke Street, St James's, to take a plate
of mutton broth with a chop in it, and a look at the marriageservice,
in order that he may cut in at the right place to-morrow;
and he is low, and feels it dull over the livery stable-yard, and is
distinctly aware of a dint in his heart, made by the most adorable
of the adorable bridesmaids. For, the poor little harmless
gentleman once had his fancy, like the rest of us, and she didn't
answer (as she often does not), and he thinks the adorable
bridesmaid is like the fancy as she was then (which she is not at
all), and that if the fancy had not married some one else for money,
but had married him for love, he and she would have been happy
(which they wouldn't have been), and that she has a tenderness for
him still (whereas her toughness is a proverb). Brooding over the
fire, with his dried little head in his dried little hands, and his dried
little elbows on his dried little knees, Twemlow is melancholy.
'No Adorable to bear me company here!' thinks he. 'No Adorable
at the club! A waste, a waste, a waste, my Twemlow!' And so
drops asleep, and has galvanic starts all over him.

Betimes next morning, that horrible old Lady Tippins (relict of the
late Sir Thomas Tippins, knighted in mistake for somebody else by
His Majesty King George the Third, who, while performing the
ceremony, was graciously pleased to observe, 'What, what, what?
Who, who, who? Why, why, why?') begins to be dyed and
varnished for the interesting occasion. She has a reputation for
giving smart accounts of things, and she must be at these people's
early, my dear, to lose nothing of the fun. Whereabout in the
bonnet and drapery announced by her name, any fragment of the
real woman may be concealed, is perhaps known to her maid; but
you could easily buy all you see of her, in Bond Street; or you
might scalp her, and peel her, and scrape her, and make two Lady
Tippinses out of her, and yet not penetrate to the genuine article.
She has a large gold eye-glass, has Lady Tippins, to survey the
proceedings with. If she had one in each eye, it might keep that
other drooping lid up, and look more uniform. But perennial youth
is in her artificial flowers, and her list of lovers is full.

'Mortimer, you wretch,' says Lady Tippins, turning the eyeglass
about and about, 'where is your charge, the bridegroom?'

'Give you my honour,' returns Mortimer, 'I don't know, and I don't
care.'

'Miserable! Is that the way you do your duty?'


'Beyond an impression that he is to sit upon my knee and be
seconded at some point of the solemnities, like a principal at a
prizefight, I assure you I have no notion what my duty is,' returns
Mortimer.

Eugene is also in attendance, with a pervading air upon him of
having presupposed the ceremony to be a funeral, and of being
disappointed. The scene is the Vestry-room of St James's Church,
with a number of leathery old registers on shelves, that might be
bound in Lady Tippinses.

But, hark! A carriage at the gate, and Mortimer's man arrives,
looking rather like a spurious Mephistopheles and an
unacknowledged member of that gentleman's family. Whom Lady
Tippins, surveying through her eye-glass, considers a fine man,
and quite a catch; and of whom Mortimer remarks, in the lowest
spirits, as he approaches, 'I believe this is my fellow, confound
him!' More carriages at the gate, and lo the rest of the characters.
Whom Lady Tippins, standing on a cushion, surveying through the
eye-glass, thus checks off. 'Bride; five-and-forty if a day, thirty
shillings a yard, veil fifteen pound, pocket-handkerchief a present.
Bridesmaids; kept down for fear of outshining bride, consequently
not girls, twelve and sixpence a yard, Veneering's flowers, snubnosed
one rather pretty but too conscious of her stockings, bonnets
three pound ten. Twemlow; blessed release for the dear man if she
really was his daughter, nervous even under the pretence that she
is, well he may be. Mrs Veneering; never saw such velvet, say two
thousand pounds as she stands, absolute jeweller's window, father
must have been a pawnbroker, or how could these people do it?
Attendant unknowns; pokey.'

Ceremony performed, register signed, Lady Tippins escorted out of
sacred edifice by Veneering, carriages rolling back to Stucconia,
servants with favours and flowers, Veneering's house reached,
drawing-rooms most magnificent. Here, the Podsnaps await the
happy party; Mr Podsnap, with his hair-brushes made the most of;
that imperial rocking-horse, Mrs Podsnap, majestically skittish.
Here, too, are Boots and Brewer, and the two other Buffers; each
Buffer with a flower in his button-hole, his hair curled, and his
gloves buttoned on tight, apparently come prepared, if anything
had happened to the bridegroom, to be married instantly. Here,
too, the bride's aunt and next relation; a widowed female of a
Medusa sort, in a stoney cap, glaring petrifaction at her fellowcreatures.
Here, too, the bride's trustee; an oilcake-fed style of
business-gentleman with mooney spectacles, and an object of
much interest. Veneering launching himself upon this trustee as
his oldest friend (which makes seven, Twemlow thought), and
confidentially retiring with him into the conservatory, it is
understood that Veneering is his co-trustee, and that they are
arranging about the fortune. Buffers are even overheard to whisper
Thir-ty Thou-sand Pou-nds! with a smack and a relish suggestive
of the very finest oysters. Pokey unknowns, amazed to find how
intimately they know Veneering, pluck up spirit, fold their arms,
and begin to contradict him before breakfast. What time Mrs
Veneering, carrying baby dressed as a bridesmaid, flits about
among the company, emitting flashes of many-coloured lightning
from diamonds, emeralds, and rubies.

The Analytical, in course of time achieving what he feels to be due
to himself in bringing to a dignified conclusion several quarrels he
has on hand with the pastrycook's men, announces breakfast.
Dining-room no less magnificent than drawing-room; tables
superb; all the camels out, and all laden. Splendid cake, covered


with Cupids, silver, and true-lovers' knots. Splendid bracelet,
produced by Veneering before going down, and clasped upon the
arrn of bride. Yet nobody seems to think much more of the
Veneerings than if they were a tolerable landlord and landlady
doing the thing in the way of business at so much a head. The
bride and bridegroom talk and laugh apart, as has always been
their manner; and the Buffers work their way through the dishes
with systematic perseverance, as has always been THEIR manner;
and the pokey unknowns are exceedingly benevolent to one another
in invitations to take glasses of champagne; but Mrs Podsnap,
arching her mane and rocking her grandest, has a far more
deferential audience than Mrs Veneering; and Podsnap all but does
the honours.

Another dismal circumstance is, that Veneering, having the
captivating Tippins on one side of him and the bride's aunt on the
other, finds it immensely difficult to keep the peace. For, Medusa,
besides unmistakingly glaring petrifaction at the fascinating
Tippins, follows every lively remark made by that dear creature,
with an audible snort: which may be referable to a chronic cold in
the head, but may also be referable to indignation and contempt.
And this snort being regular in its reproduction, at length comes to
be expected by the company, who make embarrassing pauses when
it is falling due, and by waiting for it, render it more emphatic
when it comes. The stoney aunt has likewise an injurious way of
rejecting all dishes whereof Lady Tippins partakes: saying aloud
when they are proffered to her, 'No, no, no, not for me. Take it
away!' As with a set purpose of implying a misgiving that if
nourished upon similar meats, she might come to be like that
charmer, which would be a fatal consummation. Aware of her
enemy, Lady Tippins tries a youthful sally or two, and tries the eyeglass;
but, from the impenetrable cap and snorting armour of the
stoney aunt all weapons rebound powerless.

Another objectionable circumstance is, that the pokey unknowns
support each other in being unimpressible. They persist in not
being frightened by the gold and silver camels, and they are
banded together to defy the elaborately chased ice-pails. They even
seem to unite in some vague utterance of the sentiment that the
landlord and landlady will make a pretty good profit out of this,
and they almost carry themselves like customers. Nor is there
compensating influence in the adorable bridesmaids; for, having
very little interest in the bride, and none at all in one another, those
lovely beings become, each one of her own account, depreciatingly
contemplative of the millinery present; while the bridegroom's
man, exhausted, in the back of his chair, appears to be improving
the occasion by penitentially contemplating all the wrong he has
ever done; the difference between him and his friend Eugene,
being, that the latter, in the back of HIS chair, appears to be
contemplating all the wrong he would like to do--particularly to the
present company.

In which state of affairs, the usual ceremonies rather droop and
flag, and the splendid cake when cut by the fair hand of the bride
has but an indigestible appearance. However, all the things
indispensable to be said are said, and all the things indispensable
to be done are done (including Lady Tippins's yawning, falling
asleep, and waking insensible), and there is hurried preparation for
the nuptial journey to the Isle of Wight, and the outer air teems
with brass bands and spectators. In full sight of whom, the
malignant star of the Analytical has pre-ordained that pain and
ridicule shall befall him. For he, standing on the doorsteps to
grace the departure, is suddenly caught a most prodigious thump
on the side of his head with a heavy shoe, which a Buffer in the


hall, champagne-flushed and wild of aim, has borrowed on the
spur of the moment from the pastrycook's porter, to cast after the
departing pair as an auspicious omen.

So they all go up again into the gorgeous drawing-rooms--all of
them flushed with breakfast, as having taken scarlatina sociably-and
there the combined unknowns do malignant things with their
legs to ottomans, and take as much as possible out of the splendid
furniture. And so, Lady Tippins, quite undetermined whether
today is the day before yesterday, or the day after to-morrow, or the
week after next, fades away; and Mortimer Lightwood and Eugene
fade away, and Twemlow fades away, and the stoney aunt goes
away--she declines to fade, proving rock to the last--and even the
unknowns are slowly strained off, and it is all over.

All over, that is to say, for the time being. But, there is another
time to come, and it comes in about a fortnight, and it comes to Mr
and Mrs Lammle on the sands at Shanklin, in the Isle of Wight.

Mr and Mrs Lammle have walked for some time on the Shanklin
sands, and one may see by their footprints that they have not
walked arm in arm, and that they have not walked in a straight
track, and that they have walked in a moody humour; for, the lady
has prodded little spirting holes in the damp sand before her with
her parasol, and the gentleman has trailed his stick after him. As if
he were of the Mephistopheles family indeed, and had walked with
a drooping tail.

'Do you mean to tell me, then, Sophronia--'

Thus he begins after a long silence, when Sophronia flashes
fiercely, and turns upon him.

'Don't put it upon ME, sir. I ask you, do YOU mean to tell me?'

Mr Lammle falls silent again, and they walk as before. Mrs
Lammle opens her nostrils and bites her under-lip; Mr Lammle
takes his gingerous whiskers in his left hand, and, bringing them
together, frowns furtively at his beloved, out of a thick gingerous
bush.

'Do I mean to say!' Mrs Lammle after a time repeats, with
indignation. 'Putting it on me! The unmanly disingenuousness!'

Mr Lammle stops, releases his whiskers, and looks at her. 'The
what?'

Mrs Lammle haughtily replies, without stopping, and without
looking back. 'The meanness.'

He is at her side again in a pace or two, and he retorts, 'That is not
what you said. You said disingenuousness.'

'What if I did?'

'There is no if" in the case. You did.'

'I didthen. And what of it?'

'What of it?' says Mr Lammle. 'Have you the face to utter the word
to me?'

'The facetoo!' replied Mrs Lammlestaring at him with cold
scorn. 'Prayhow dare yousirutter the word to me?'


'I never did.'

As this happens to be trueMrs Lammle is thrown on the feminine
resource of saying'I don't care what you uttered or did not utter.'

After a little more walking and a little more silenceMr Lammle
breaks the latter.

'You shall proceed in your own way. You claim a right to ask me
do I mean to tell you. Do I mean to tell you what?'

'That you are a man of property?'

'No.'

'Then you married me on false pretences?'

'So be it. Next comes what you mean to say. Do you mean to say
you are a woman of property?'

'No.'

'Then you married me on false pretences.'

'If you were so dull a fortune-hunter that you deceived yourselfor
if you were so greedy and grasping that you were over-willing to
be deceived by appearancesis it my faultyou adventurer?' the
lady demandswith great asperity.

'I asked Veneeringand he told me you were rich.'

'Veneering!' with great contempt.' And what does Veneering know
about me!'

'Was he not your trustee?'

'No. I have no trusteebut the one you saw on the day when you
fraudulently married me. And his trust is not a very difficult one
for it is only an annuity of a hundred and fifteen pounds. I think
there are some odd shillings or penceif you are very particular.'

Mr Lammle bestows a by no means loving look upon the partner of
his joys and sorrowsand he mutters something; but checks
himself.

'Question for question. It is my turn againMrs Lammle. What
made you suppose me a man of property?'

'You made me suppose you so. Perhaps you will deny that you
always presented yourself to me in that character?'

'But you asked somebodytoo. ComeMrs Lammleadmission for
admission. You asked somebody?'

'I asked Veneering.'

'And Veneering knew as much of me as he knew of youor as
anybody knows of him.'

After more silent walkingthe bride stops shortto say in a
passionate manner:

'I never will forgive the Veneerings for this!'


'Neither will I' returns the bridegroom.

With thatthey walk again; shemaking those angry spirts in the
sand; hedragging that dejected tail. The tide is lowand seems to
have thrown them together high on the bare shore. A gull comes
sweeping by their heads and flouts them. There was a golden
surface on the brown cliffs but nowand behold they are only damp
earth. A taunting roar comes from the seaand the far-out rollers
mount upon one anotherto look at the entrapped impostorsand to
join in impish and exultant gambols.

'Do you pretend to believe' Mrs Lammle resumessternly'when
you talk of my marrying you for worldly advantagesthat it was
within the bounds of reasonable probability that I would have
married you for yourself?'

'Again there are two sides to the questionMrs Lammle. What do
you pretend to believe?'

'So you first deceive me and then insult me!' cries the ladywith a
heaving bosom.

'Not at all. I have originated nothing. The double-edged question
was yours.'

'Was mine!' the bride repeatsand her parasol breaks in her angry
hand.

His colour has turned to a livid whiteand ominous marks have
come to light about his noseas if the finger of the very devil
himself hadwithin the last few momentstouched it here and
there. But he has repressive powerand she has none.

'Throw it away' he coolly recommends as to the parasol; 'you have
made it useless; you look ridiculous with it.'

Whereupon she calls him in her rage'A deliberate villain' and so
casts the broken thing from her as that it strikes him in falling.
The finger-marks are something whiter for the instantbut he
walks on at her side.

She bursts into tearsdeclaring herself the wretchedestthe most
deceivedthe worst-usedof women. Then she says that if she had
the courage to kill herselfshe would do it. Then she calls him vile
impostor. Then she asks himwhyin the disappointment of his
base speculationhe does not take her life with his own hand
under the present favourable circumstances. Then she cries again.
Then she is enraged againand makes some mention of swindlers.
Finallyshe sits down crying on a block of stoneand is in all the
known and unknown humours of her sex at once. Pending her
changesthose aforesaid marks in his face have come and gone
now here now therelike white steps of a pipe on which the
diabolical performer has played a tune. Also his livid lips are
parted at lastas if he were breathless with running. Yet he is not.

'Nowget upMrs Lammleand let us speak reasonably.'

She sits upon her stoneand takes no heed of him.

'Get upI tell you.'

Raising her headshe looks contemptuously in his faceand
repeats'You tell me! Tell meforsooth!'


She affects not to know that his eyes are fastened on her as she
droops her head again; but her whole figure reveals that she knows
it uneasily.

'Enough of this. Come! Do you hear? Get up.'

Yielding to his handshe risesand they walk again; but this time
with their faces turned towards their place of residence.

'Mrs Lammlewe have both been deceivingand we have both
been deceived. We have both been bitingand we have both been
bitten. In a nut-shellthere's the state of the case.'

'You sought me out--'

'Tut! Let us have done with that. WE know very well how it was.
Why should you and I talk about itwhen you and I can't disguise
it? To proceed. I am disappointed and cut a poor figure.'

'Am I no one?'

'Some one--and I was coming to youif you had waited a moment.
Youtooare disappointed and cut a poor figure.'

'An injured figure!'

'You are now cool enoughSophroniato see that you can't be
injured without my being equally injured; and that therefore the
mere word is not to the purpose. When I look backI wonder how
I can have been such a fool as to take you to so great an extent
upon trust.'

'And when I look back--' the bride criesinterrupting.

'And when you look backyou wonder how you can have been-you'll
excuse the word?'

'Most certainlywith so much reason.

'--Such a fool as to take ME to so great an extent upon trust. But
the folly is committed on both sides. I cannot get rid of you; you
cannot get rid of me. What follows?'

'Shame and misery' the bride bitterly replies.

'I don't know. A mutual understanding followsand I think it may
carry us through. Here I split my discourse (give me your arm
Sophronia)into three headsto make it shorter and plainer.
Firstlyit's enough to have been donewithout the mortification of
being known to have been done. So we agree to keep the fact to
ourselves. You agree?'

'If it is possibleI do.'

'Possible! We have pretended well enough to one another. Can't
weunitedpretend to the world? Agreed. Secondlywe owe the
Veneerings a grudgeand we owe all other people the grudge of
wishing them to be taken inas we ourselves have been taken in.
Agreed?'

'Yes. Agreed.'

'We come smoothly to thirdly. You have called me an adventurer


Sophronia. So I am. In plain uncomplimentary Englishso I am.
So are youmy dear. So are many people. We agree to keep our
own secretand to work together in furtherance of our own
schemes.'

'What schemes?'

'Any scheme that will bring us money. By our own schemesI
mean our joint interest. Agreed?'

She answersafter a little hesitation'I suppose so. Agreed.'

'Carried at onceyou see! NowSophroniaonly half a dozen
words more. We know one another perfectly. Don't be tempted
into twitting me with the past knowledge that you have of me
because it is identical with the past knowledge that I have of you
and in twitting meyou twit yourselfand I don't want to hear you
do it. With this good understanding established between usit is
better never done. To wind up all:--You have shown temper today
Sophronia. Don't be betrayed into doing so againbecause I have a
Devil of a temper myself.'

Sothe happy pairwith this hopeful marriage contract thus signed
sealedand deliveredrepair homeward. Ifwhen those infernal
finger-marks were on the white and breathless countenance of
Alfred LammleEsquirethey denoted that he conceived the
purpose of subduing his dear wife Mrs Alfred Lammleby at once
divesting her of any lingering reality or pretence of self-respect
the purpose would seem to have been presently executed. The
mature young lady has mighty little need of powdernowfor her
downcast faceas he escorts her in the light of the setting sun to
their abode of bliss.

Chapter 11

PODSNAPPERY

Mr Podsnap was well to doand stood very high in Mr Podsnap's
opinion. Beginning with a good inheritancehe had married a
good inheritanceand had thriven exceedingly in the Marine
Insurance wayand was quite satisfied. He never could make out
why everybody was not quite satisfiedand he felt conscious that
he set a brilliant social example in being particularly well satisfied
with most thingsandabove all other thingswith himself.

Thus happily acquainted with his own merit and importanceMr
Podsnap settled that whatever he put behind him he put out of
existence. There was a dignified conclusiveness--not to add a
grand convenience--in this way of getting rid of disagreeables
which had done much towards establishing Mr Podsnap in his
lofty place in Mr Podsnap's satisfaction. 'I don't want to know
about it; I don't choose to discuss it; I don't admit it!' Mr Podsnap
had even acquired a peculiar flourish of his right arm in often
clearing the world of its most difficult problemsby sweeping them
behind him (and consequently sheer away) with those words and a
flushed face. For they affronted him.

Mr Podsnap's world was not a very large worldmorally; nonor
even geographically: seeing that although his business was
sustained upon commerce with other countrieshe considered other
countrieswith that important reservationa mistakeand of their


manners and customs would conclusively observe'Not English!'
whenPRESTO! with a flourish of the armand a flush of the face
they were swept away. Elsewherethe world got up at eight
shaved close at a quarter-pastbreakfasted at ninewent to the City
at tencame home at half-past fiveand dined at seven. Mr
Podsnap's notions of the Arts in their integrity might have been
stated thus. Literature; large printrespectfully descriptive of
getting up at eightshaving close at a quarter pastbreakfasting at
ninegoing to the City at tencoming home at half-past fiveand
dining at seven. Painting and Sculpture; models and portraits
representing Professors of getting up at eightshaving close at a
quarter pastbreakfasting at ninegoing to the City at tencoming
home at half-past fiveand dining at seven. Music; a respectable
performance (without variations) on stringed and wind
instrumentssedately expressive of getting up at eightshaving
close at a quarter pastbreakfasting at ninegoing to the City at
tencoming home at half-past fiveand dining at seven. Nothing
else to be permitted to those same vagrants the Artson pain of
excommunication. Nothing else To Be--anywhere!


As a so eminently respectable manMr Podsnap was sensible of its
being required of him to take Providence under his protection.
Consequently he always knew exactly what Providence meant.
Inferior and less respectable men might fall short of that markbut
Mr Podsnap was always up to it. And it was very remarkable (and
must have been very comfortable) that what Providence meant
was invariably what Mr Podsnap meant.


These may be said to have been the articles of a faith and school
which the present chapter takes the liberty of callingafter its
representative manPodsnappery. They were confined within close
boundsas Mr Podsnap's own head was confined by his shirt-
collar; and they were enunciated with a sounding pomp that
smacked of the creaking of Mr Podsnap's own boots.


There was a Miss Podsnap. And this young rocking-horse was
being trained in her mother's art of prancing in a stately manner
without ever getting on. But the high parental action was not yet
imparted to herand in truth she was but an undersized damsel
with high shoulderslow spiritschilled elbowsand a rasped
surface of nosewho seemed to take occasional frosty peeps out of
childhood into womanhoodand to shrink back againovercome by
her mother's head-dress and her father from head to foot--crushed
by the mere dead-weight of Podsnappery.


A certain institution in Mr Podsnap's mind which he called 'the
young person' may be considered to have been embodied in Miss
Podsnaphis daughter. It was an inconvenient and exacting
institutionas requiring everything in the universe to be filed down
and fitted to it. The question about everything waswould it bring
a blush into the cheek of the young person? And the inconvenience
of the young person wasthataccording to Mr Podsnapshe
seemed always liable to burst into blushes when there was no need
at all. There appeared to be no line of demarcation between the
young person's excessive innocenceand another person's guiltiest
knowledge. Take Mr Podsnap's word for itand the soberest tints
of drabwhitelilacand greywere all flaming red to this
troublesome Bull of a young person.


The Podsnaps lived in a shady angle adjoining Portman Square.
They were a kind of people certain to dwell in the shadewherever
they dwelt. Miss Podsnap's life had beenfrom her first
appearance on this planetaltogether of a shady order; forMr
Podsnap's young person was likely to get little good out of



association with other young personsand had therefore been
restricted to companionship with not very congenial older persons
and with massive furniture. Miss Podsnap's early views of life
being principally derived from the reflections of it in her father's
bootsand in the walnut and rosewood tables of the dim drawingrooms
and in their swarthy giants of looking-glasseswere of a
sombre cast; and it was not wonderful that nowwhen she was on
most days solemnly tooled through the Park by the side of her
mother in a great tall custard-coloured phaetonshe showed above
the apron of that vehicle like a dejected young person sitting up in
bed to take a startled look at things in generaland very strongly
desiring to get her head under the counterpane again.

Said Mr Podsnap to Mrs Podsnap'Georgiana is almost eighteen.'

Said Mrs Podsnap to Mr Podsnapassenting'Almost eighteen.'

Said Mr Podsnap then to Mrs Podsnap'Really I think we should
have some people on Georgiana's birthday.'

Said Mrs Podsnap then to Mr Podsnap'Which will enable us to
clear off all those people who are due.'

So it came to pass that Mr and Mrs Podsnap requested the honour
of the company of seventeen friends of their souls at dinner; and
that they substituted other friends of their souls for such of the
seventeen original friends of their souls as deeply regretted that a
prior engagement prevented their having the honour of dining with
Mr and Mrs Podsnapin pursuance of their kind invitation; and
that Mrs Podsnap said of all these inconsolable personagesas she
checked them off with a pencil in her list'Askedat any rateand
got rid of;' and that they successfully disposed of a good many
friends of their souls in this wayand felt their consciences much
lightened.

There were still other friends of their souls who were not entitled to
be asked to dinnerbut had a claim to be invited to come and take
a haunch of mutton vapour-bath at half-past nine. For the clearing
off of these worthiesMrs Podsnap added a small and early
evening to the dinnerand looked in at the music-shop to bespeak a
well-conducted automaton to come and play quadrilles for a carpet
dance.

Mr and Mrs Veneeringand Mr and Mrs Veneering's bran-new
bride and bridegroomwere of the dinner company; but the
Podsnap establishment had nothing else in common with the
Veneerings. Mr Podsnap could tolerate taste in a mushroom man
who stood in need of that sort of thingbut was far above it
himself. Hideous solidity was the characteristic of the Podsnap
plate. Everything was made to look as heavy as it couldand to
take up as much room as possible. Everything said boastfully
'Here you have as much of me in my ugliness as if I were only
lead; but I am so many ounces of precious metal worth so much an
ounce;--wouldn't you like to melt me down?' A corpulent
straddling epergneblotched all over as if it had broken out in an
eruption rather than been ornamenteddelivered this address from
an unsightly silver platform in the centre of the table. Four silver
wine-coolerseach furnished with four staring headseach head
obtrusively carrying a big silver ring in each of its earsconveyed
the sentiment up and down the tableand handed it on to the potbellied
silver salt-cellars. All the big silver spoons and forks
widened the mouths of the company expressly for the purpose of
thrusting the sentiment down their throats with every morsel they
ate.


The majority of the guests were like the plateand included several
heavy articles weighing ever so much. But there was a foreign
gentleman among them: whom Mr Podsnap had invited after much
debate with himself--believing the whole European continent to be
in mortal alliance against the young person--and there was a droll
dispositionnot only on the part of Mr Podsnap but of everybody
elseto treat him as if he were a child who was hard of hearing.

As a delicate concession to this unfortunately-born foreignerMr
Podsnapin receiving himhad presented his wife as 'Madame
Podsnap;' also his daughter as 'Mademoiselle Podsnap' with some
inclination to add 'ma fille' in which bold venturehoweverhe
checked himself. The Veneerings being at that time the only other
arrivalshe had added (in a condescendingly explanatory manner)
'Monsieur Vey-nair-reeng' and had then subsided into English.

'How Do You Like London?' Mr Podsnap now inquired from his
station of hostas if he were administering something in the nature
of a powder or potion to the deaf child; 'LondonLondresLondon?'

The foreign gentleman admired it.

'You find it Very Large?' said Mr Podsnapspaciously.

The foreign gentleman found it very large.

'And Very Rich?'

The foreign gentleman found itwithout doubtenormement riche.

'Enormously RichWe say' returned Mr Podsnapin a
condescending manner. 'Our English adverbs do Not terminate in
Mongand We Pronounce the "ch" as if there were a "t" before it.
We say Ritch.'

'Reetch' remarked the foreign gentleman.

'And Do You FindSir' pursued Mr Podsnapwith dignity'Many
Evidences that Strike Youof our British Constitution in the
Streets Of The World's MetropolisLondonLondresLondon?'

The foreign gentleman begged to be pardonedbut did not
altogether understand.

'The Constitution Britannique' Mr Podsnap explainedas if he
were teaching in an infant school.' We Say BritishBut You Say
BritanniqueYou Know' (forgivinglyas if that were not his fault).
'The ConstitutionSir.'

The foreign gentleman said'Maisyees; I know eem.'

A youngish sallowish gentleman in spectacleswith a lumpy
foreheadseated in a supplementary chair at a corner of the table
here caused a profound sensation by sayingin a raised voice
'ESKER' and then stopping dead.

'Mais oui' said the foreign gentlemanturning towards him. 'Est-ce
que? Quoi donc?'

But the gentleman with the lumpy forehead having for the time
delivered himself of all that he found behind his lumpsspake for
the time no more.


'I Was Inquiring' said Mr Podsnapresuming the thread of his
discourse'Whether You Have Observed in our Streets as We
should sayUpon our Pavvy as You would sayany Tokens--'

The foreign gentlemanwith patient courtesy entreated pardon;
'But what was tokenz?'

'Marks' said Mr Podsnap; 'Signsyou knowAppearances--
Traces.'

'Ah! Of a Orse?' inquired the foreign gentleman.

'We call it Horse' said Mr Podsnapwith forbearance. 'In
EnglandAngleterreEnglandWe Aspirate the "H and We Say
Horse." Only our Lower Classes Say "Orse!"'

'Pardon' said the foreign gentleman; 'I am alwiz wrong!'

'Our Language' said Mr Podsnapwith a gracious consciousness
of being always right'is Difficult. Ours is a Copious Language
and Trying to Strangers. I will not Pursue my Question.'

But the lumpy gentlemanunwilling to give it upagain madly
said'ESKER' and again spake no more.

'It merely referred' Mr Podsnap explainedwith a sense of
meritorious proprietorship'to Our ConstitutionSir. We
Englishmen are Very Proud of our ConstitutionSir. It Was
Bestowed Upon Us By Providence. No Other Country is so
Favoured as This Country.'

'And ozer countries?--' the foreign gentleman was beginningwhen
Mr Podsnap put him right again.

'We do not say Ozer; we say Other: the letters are "T" and "H;"
You say Tay and AishYou Know; (still with clemency). The
sound is "th"--"th!"'

'And OTHER countries' said the foreign gentleman. 'They do
how?'

'They doSir' returned Mr Podsnapgravely shaking his head;
'they do--I am sorry to be obliged to say it--AS they do.'

'It was a little particular of Providence' said the foreign gentleman
laughing; 'for the frontier is not large.'

'Undoubtedly' assented Mr Podsnap; 'But So it is. It was the
Charter of the Land. This Island was BlestSirto the Direct
Exclusion of such Other Countries as--as there may happen to be.
And if we were all Englishmen presentI would say' added Mr
Podsnaplooking round upon his compatriotsand sounding
solemnly with his theme'that there is in the Englishman a
combination of qualitiesa modestyan independencea
responsibilitya reposecombined with an absence of everything
calculated to call a blush into the cheek of a young personwhich
one would seek in vain among the Nations of the Earth.'

Having delivered this little summaryMr Podsnap's face flushed
as he thought of the remote possibility of its being at all qualified
by any prejudiced citizen of any other country; andwith his
favourite right-arm flourishhe put the rest of Europe and the
whole of AsiaAfricaand America nowhere.


The audience were much edified by this passage of words; and Mr
Podsnapfeeling that he was in rather remarkable force to-day
became smiling and conversational.

'Has anything more been heardVeneering' he inquired'of the
lucky legatee?'

'Nothing more' returned Veneering'than that he has come into
possession of the property. I am told people now call him The
Golden Dustman. I mentioned to you some time agoI thinkthat
the young lady whose intended husband was murdered is daughter
to a clerk of mine?'

'Yesyou told me that' said Podsnap; 'and by-the-byeI wish you
would tell it again herefor it's a curious coincidence--curious that
the first news of the discovery should have been brought straight to
your table (when I was there)and curious that one of your people
should have been so nearly interested in it. Just relate thatwill
you?'

Veneering was more than ready to do itfor he had prospered
exceedingly upon the Harmon Murderand had turned the social
distinction it conferred upon him to the account of making several
dozen of bran-new bosom-friends. Indeedsuch another lucky hit
would almost have set him up in that way to his satisfaction. So
addressing himself to the most desirable of his neighbourswhile
Mrs Veneering secured the next most desirablehe plunged into
the caseand emerged from it twenty minutes afterwards with a
Bank Director in his arms. In the mean timeMrs Veneering had
dived into the same waters for a wealthy Ship-Brokerand had
brought him upsafe and soundby the hair. Then Mrs Veneering
had to relateto a larger circlehow she had been to see the girl
and how she was really prettyand (considering her station)
presentable. And this she did with such a successful display of her
eight aquiline fingers and their encircling jewelsthat she happily
laid hold of a drifting General Officerhis wife and daughterand
not only restored their animation which had become suspended
but made them lively friends within an hour.

Although Mr Podsnap would in a general way have highly
disapproved of Bodies in rivers as ineligible topics with reference
to the cheek of the young personhe hadas one may saya share
in this affair which made him a part proprietor. As its returns were
immediatetooin the way of restraining the company from
speechless contemplation of the wine-coolersit paidand he was
satisfied.

And now the haunch of mutton vapour-bath having received a
gamey infusionand a few last touches of sweets and coffeewas
quite readyand the bathers came; but not before the discreet
automaton had got behind the bars of the piano music-deskand
there presented the appearance of a captive languishing in a rosewood
jail. And who now so pleasant or so well assorted as Mr and
Mrs Alfred Lammlehe all sparkleshe all gracious contentment
both at occasional intervals exchanging looks like partners at cards
who played a game against All England.

There was not much youth among the bathersbut there was no
youth (the young person always excepted) in the articles of
Podsnappery. Bald bathers folded their arms and talked to Mr
Podsnap on the hearthrug; sleek-whiskered batherswith hats in
their handslunged at Mrs Podsnap and retreated; prowling
batherswent about looking into ornamental boxes and bowls as if
they had suspicions of larceny on the part of the Podsnapsand


expected to find something they had lost at the bottom; bathers of
the gentler sex sat silently comparing ivory shoulders. All this
time and alwayspoor little Miss Podsnapwhose tiny efforts (if
she had made any) were swallowed up in the magnificence of her
mother's rockingkept herself as much out of sight and mind as
she couldand appeared to be counting on many dismal returns of
the day. It was somehow understoodas a secret article in the state
proprieties of Podsnappery that nothing must be said about the day.
Consequently this young damsel's nativity was hushed up and
looked overas if it were agreed on all hands that it would have
been better that she had never been born.


The Lammles were so fond of the dear Veneerings that they could
not for some time detach themselves from those excellent friends;
but at lengtheither a very open smile on Mr Lammle's partor a
very secret elevation of one of his gingerous eyebrows--certainly
the one or the other--seemed to say to Mrs Lammle'Why don't you
play?' And solooking about hershe saw Miss Podsnapand
seeming to say responsively'That card?' and to be answered'Yes'
went and sat beside Miss Podsnap.


Mrs Lammle was overjoyed to escape into a corner for a little quiet
talk.


It promised to be a very quiet talkfor Miss Podsnap replied in a
flutter'Oh! Indeedit's very kind of youbut I am afraid I DON'T
talk.'


'Let us make a beginning' said the insinuating Mrs Lammlewith
her best smile.


'Oh! I am afraid you'll find me very dull. But Ma talks!'


That was plainly to be seenfor Ma was talking then at her usual
canterwith arched head and maneopened eyes and nostrils.


'Fond of reading perhaps?'


'Yes. At least I--don't mind that so much' returned Miss Podsnap.


'M-m-m-m-music. So insinuating was Mrs Lammle that she got
half a dozen ms into the word before she got it out.


'I haven't nerve to play even if I could. Ma plays.'


(At exactly the same canterand with a certain flourishing
appearance of doing somethingMa didin factoccasionally take
a rock upon the instrument.)


'Of course you like dancing?'


'Oh noI don't' said Miss Podsnap.


'No? With your youth and attractions? Trulymy dearyou
surprise me!'


'I can't say' observed Miss Podsnapafter hesitating considerably
and stealing several timid looks at Mrs Lammle's carefully
arranged face'how I might have liked it if I had been a--you won't
mention itWILL you?'


'My dear! Never!'


'NoI am sure you won't. I can't say then how I should have liked



itif I had been a chimney-sweep on May-day.'

'Gracious!' was the exclamation which amazement elicited from
Mrs Lammle.

'There! I knew you'd wonder. But you won't mention itwill you?'

'Upon my wordmy love' said Mrs Lammle'you make me ten
times more desirousnow I talk to youto know you well than I
was when I sat over yonder looking at you. How I wish we could
be real friends! Try me as a real friend. Come! Don't fancy me a
frumpy old married womanmy dear; I was married but the other
dayyou know; I am dressed as a bride nowyou see. About the
chimney-sweeps?'

'Hush! Ma'll hear.'

'She can't hear from where she sits.'

'Don't you be too sure of that' said Miss Podsnapin a lower voice.
'Wellwhat I mean isthat they seem to enjoy it.'

'And that perhaps you would have enjoyed itif you had been one
of them?'

Miss Podsnap nodded significantly.

'Then you don't enjoy it now?'

'How is it possible?' said Miss Podsnap. 'Oh it is such a dreadful
thing! If I was wicked enough--and strong enough--to kill
anybodyit should be my partner.'

This was such an entirely new view of the Terpsichorean art as
socially practisedthat Mrs Lammle looked at her young friend in
some astonishment. Her young friend sat nervously twiddling her
fingers in a pinioned attitudeas if she were trying to hide her
elbows. But this latter Utopian object (in short sleeves) always
appeared to be the great inoffensive aim of her existence.

'It sounds horriddon't it?' said Miss Podsnapwith a penitential
face.

Mrs Lammlenot very well knowing what to answerresolved
herself into a look of smiling encouragement.

'But it isand it always has been' pursued Miss Podsnap'such a
trial to me! I so dread being awful. And it is so awful! No one
knows what I suffered at Madame Sauteuse'swhere I learnt to
dance and make presentation-curtseysand other dreadful things-or
at least where they tried to teach me. Ma can do it.'

'At any ratemy love' said Mrs Lammlesoothingly'that's over.'

'Yesit's over' returned Miss Podsnap'but there's nothing gained
by that. It's worse herethan at Madame Sauteuse's. Ma was
thereand Ma's here; but Pa wasn't thereand company wasn't
thereand there were not real partners there. Oh there's Ma
speaking to the man at the piano! Oh there's Ma going up to
somebody! Oh I know she's going to bring him to me! Oh please
don'tplease don'tplease don't! Oh keep awaykeep awaykeep
away!' These pious ejaculations Miss Podsnap uttered with her
eyes closedand her head leaning back against the wall.


But the Ogre advanced under the pilotage of Maand Ma said
'GeorgianaMr Grompus' and the Ogre clutched his victim and
bore her off to his castle in the top couple. Then the discreet
automaton who had surveyed his groundplayed a blossomless
tuneless 'set' and sixteen disciples of Podsnappery went through
the figures of - 1Getting up at eight and shaving close at a quarter
past - 2Breakfasting at nine - 3Going to the City at ten - 4
Coming home at half-past five - 5Dining at sevenand the grand
chain.

While these solemnities were in progressMr Alfred Lammle
(most loving of husbands) approached the chair of Mrs Alfred
Lammle (most loving of wives)and bending over the back of it
trifled for some few seconds with Mrs Lammle's bracelet. Slightly
in contrast with this brief airy toyingone might have noticed a
certain dark attention in Mrs Lammle's face as she said some
words with her eyes on Mr Lammle's waistcoatand seemed in
return to receive some lesson. But it was all done as a breath
passes from a mirror.

And nowthe grand chain riveted to the last linkthe discreet
automaton ceasedand the sixteentwo and twotook a walk
among the furniture. And herein the unconsciousness of the Ogre
Grompus was pleasantly conspicuous; forthat complacent
monsterbelieving that he was giving Miss Podsnap a treat
prolonged to the utmost stretch of possibility a peripatetic account
of an archery meeting; while his victimheading the procession of
sixteen as it slowly circled aboutlike a revolving funeralnever
raised her eyes except once to steal a glance at Mrs Lammle
expressive of intense despair.

At length the procession was dissolved by the violent arrival of a
nutmegbefore which the drawing-room door bounced open as if it
were a cannon-ball; and while that fragrant articledispersed
through several glasses of coloured warm waterwas going the
round of societyMiss Podsnap returned to her seat by her new
friend.

'Oh my goodness' said Miss Podsnap. 'THAT'S over! I hope you
didn't look at me.'

'My dearwhy not?'

'Oh I know all about myself' said Miss Podsnap.

'I'll tell you something I know about youmy dear' returned Mrs
Lammle in her winning way'and that isyou are most
unnecessarily shy.'

'Ma ain't' said Miss Podsnap. '--I detest you! Go along!' This
shot was levelled under her breath at the gallant Grompus for
bestowing an insinuating smile upon her in passing.

'Pardon me if I scarcely seemy dear Miss Podsnap' Mrs Lammle
was beginning when the young lady interposed.

'If we are going to be real friends (and I suppose we arefor you
are the only person who ever proposed it) don't let us be awful. It's
awful enough to BE Miss Podsnapwithout being called so. Call
me Georgiana.'

'Dearest Georgiana' Mrs Lammle began again.

'Thank you' said Miss Podsnap.


'Dearest Georgianapardon me if I scarcely seemy lovewhy your
mamma's not being shyis a reason why you should be.'

'Don't you really see that?' asked Miss Podsnapplucking at her
fingers in a troubled mannerand furtively casting her eyes now on
Mrs Lammlenow on the ground. 'Then perhaps it isn't?'

'My dearest Georgianayou defer much too readily to my poor
opinion. Indeed it is not even an opiniondarlingfor it is only a
confession of my dullness.'

'Oh YOU are not dull' returned Miss Podsnap. 'I am dullbut you
couldn't have made me talk if you were.'

Some little touch of conscience answering this perception of her
having gained a purposecalled bloom enough into Mrs Lammle's
face to make it look brighter as she sat smiling her best smile on
her dear Georgianaand shaking her head with an affectionate
playfulness. Not that it meant anythingbut that Georgiana
seemed to like it.

'What I mean is' pursued Georgiana'that Ma being so endowed
with awfulnessand Pa being so endowed with awfulnessand
there being so much awfulness everywhere--I meanat least
everywhere where I am--perhaps it makes me who am so deficient
in awfulnessand frightened at it--I say it very badly--I don't know
whether you can understand what I mean?'

'Perfectlydearest Georgiana!' Mrs Lammle was proceeding with
every reassuring wilewhen the head of that young lady suddenly
went back against the wall again and her eyes closed.

'Oh there's Ma being awful with somebody with a glass in his eye!
Oh I know she's going to bring him here! Oh don't bring him
don't bring him! Oh he'll be my partner with his glass in his eye!
Oh what shall I do!' This time Georgiana accompanied her
ejaculations with taps of her feet upon the floorand was altogether
in quite a desperate condition. Butthere was no escape from the
majestic Mrs Podsnap's production of an ambling strangerwith
one eye screwed up into extinction and the other framed and
glazedwhohaving looked down out of that organas if he
descried Miss Podsnap at the bottom of some perpendicular shaft
brought her to the surfaceand ambled off with her. And then the
captive at the piano played another 'set' expressive of his mournful
aspirations after freedomand other sixteen went through the
former melancholy motionsand the ambler took Miss Podsnap for
a furniture walkas if he had struck out an entirely original
conception.

In the mean time a stray personage of a meek demeanourwho had
wandered to the hearthrug and got among the heads of tribes
assembled there in conference with Mr Podsnapeliminated Mr
Podsnap's flush and flourish by a highly unpolite remark; no less
than a reference to the circumstance that some half-dozen people
had lately died in the streetsof starvation. It was clearly ill-timed
after dinner. It was not adapted to the cheek of the young person.
It was not in good taste.

'I don't believe it' said Mr Podsnapputting it behind him.

The meek man was afraid we must take it as provedbecause there
were the Inquests and the Registrar's returns.


'Then it was their own fault' said Mr Podsnap.

Veneering and other elders of tribes commended this way out of it.
At once a short cut and a broad road.

The man of meek demeanour intimated that truly it would seem
from the factsas if starvation had been forced upon the culprits in
question--as ifin their wretched mannerthey had made their
weak protests against it--as if they would have taken the liberty of
staving it off if they could--as if they would rather not have been
starved upon the wholeif perfectly agreeable to all parties.

'There is not' said Mr Podsnapflushing angrily'there is not a
country in the worldsirwhere so noble a provision is made for
the poor as in this country.'

The meek man was quite willing to concede thatbut perhaps it
rendered the matter even worseas showing that there must be
something appallingly wrong somewhere.

'Where?' said Mr Podsnap.

The meek man hinted Wouldn't it be well to tryvery seriouslyto
find out where?

'Ah!' said Mr Podsnap. 'Easy to say somewhere; not so easy to say
where! But I see what you are driving at. I knew it from the first.
Centralization. No. Never with my consent. Not English.'

An approving murmur arose from the heads of tribes; as saying
'There you have him! Hold him!'

He was not aware (the meek man submitted of himself) that he
was driving at any ization. He had no favourite ization that he
knew of. But he certainly was more staggered by these terrible
occurrences than he was by namesof howsoever so many
syllables. Might he askwas dying of destitution and neglect
necessarily English?

'You know what the population of London isI suppose' said Mr
Podsnap.

The meek man supposed he didbut supposed that had absolutely
nothing to do with itif its laws were well administered.

'And you know; at least I hope you know;' said Mr Podsnapwith
severity'that Providence has declared that you shall have the poor
always with you?'

The meek man also hoped he knew that.

'I am glad to hear it' said Mr Podsnap with a portentous air. 'I am
glad to hear it. It will render you cautious how you fly in the face
of Providence.'

In reference to that absurd and irreverent conventional phrasethe
meek man saidfor which Mr Podsnap was not responsiblehe the
meek man had no fear of doing anything so impossible; but--

But Mr Podsnap felt that the time had come for flushing and
flourishing this meek man down for good. So he said:

'I must decline to pursue this painful discussion. It is not pleasant
to my feelings; it is repugnant to my feelings. I have said that I do


not admit these things. I have also said that if they do occur (not
that I admit it)the fault lies with the sufferers themselves. It is not
for ME'--Mr Podsnap pointed 'me' forciblyas adding by
implication though it may be all very well for YOU--'it is not for
me to impugn the workings of Providence. I know better than that
I trustand I have mentioned what the intentions of Providence are.
Besides' said Mr Podsnapflushing high up among his hairbrushes
with a strong consciousness of personal affront'the
subject is a very disagreeable one. I will go so far as to say it is an
odious one. It is not one to be introduced among our wives and
young personsand I--' He finished with that flourish of his arm
which added more expressively than any wordsAnd I remove it
from the face of the earth.

Simultaneously with this quenching of the meek man's ineffectual
fire; Georgiana having left the ambler up a lane of sofain a No
Thoroughfare of back drawing-roomto find his own way out
came back to Mrs Lammle. And who should be with Mrs
Lammlebut Mr Lammle. So fond of her!

'Alfredmy lovehere is my friend. Georgianadearest girlyou
must like my husband next to me.

Mr Lammle was proud to be so soon distinguished by this special
commendation to Miss Podsnap's favour. But if Mr Lammle were
prone to be jealous of his dear Sophronia's friendshipshe would
be jealous of her feeling towards Miss Podsnap.

'Say Georgianadarling' interposed his wife.

'Towards--shall I?--Georgiana.' Mr Lammle uttered the name
with a delicate curve of his right handfrom his lips outward. 'For
never have I known Sophronia (who is not apt to take sudden
likings) so attracted and so captivated as she is by--shall I once
more?--Georgiana.'

The object of this homage sat uneasily enough in receipt of itand
then saidturning to Mrs Lammlemuch embarrassed:

'I wonder what you like me for! I am sure I can't think.'

'Dearest Georgianafor yourself. For your difference from all
around you.'

'Well! That may be. For I think I like you for your difference from
all around me' said Georgiana with a smile of relief.

'We must be going with the rest' observed Mrs Lammlerising
with a show of unwillingnessamidst a general dispersal. 'We are
real friendsGeorgiana dear?'

'Real.'

'Good nightdear girl!'

She had established an attraction over the shrinking nature upon
which her smiling eyes were fixedfor Georgiana held her hand
while she answered in a secret and half-frightened tone:

'Don't forget me when you are gone away. And come again soon.
Good night!'

Charming to see Mr and Mrs Lammle taking leave so gracefully
and going down the stairs so lovingly and sweetly. Not quite so


charming to see their smiling faces fall and brood as they dropped
moodily into separate corners of their little carriage. But to he sure
that was a sight behind the sceneswhich nobody sawand which
nobody was meant to see.

Certain bigheavy vehiclesbuilt on the model of the Podsnap
platetook away the heavy articles of guests weighing ever so
much; and the less valuable articles got away after their various
manners; and the Podsnap plate was put to bed. As Mr Podsnap
stood with his back to the drawing-room firepulling up his
shirtcollarlike a veritable cock of the walk literally pluming
himself in the midst of his possessionsnothing would have
astonished him more than an intimation that Miss Podsnapor any
other young person properly born and bredcould not be exactly
put away like the platebrought out like the platepolished like the
platecountedweighedand valued like the plate. That such a
young person could possibly have a morbid vacancy in the heart for
anything younger than the plateor less monotonous than the plate;
or that such a young person's thoughts could try to scale the region
bounded on the northsoutheastand westby the plate; was a
monstrous imagination which he would on the spot have flourished
into space. This perhaps in some sort arose from Mr Podsnap's
blushing young person beingso to speakall cheek; whereas there
is a possibility that there may be young persons of a rather more
complex organization.

If Mr Podsnappulling up his shirt-collarcould only have beard
himself called 'that fellow' in a certain short dialoguewhich
passed between Mr and Mrs Lammle in their opposite corners of
their little carriagerolling home!

'Sophroniaare you awake?'

'Am I likely to be asleepsir?'

'Very likelyI should thinkafter that fellow's company. Attend to
what I am going to say.'

'I have attended to what you have already saidhave I not? What
else have I been doing all to-night.'

'AttendI tell you' (in a raised voice) 'to what I am going to say.
Keep close to that idiot girl. Keep her under your thumb. You
have her fastand you are not to let her go. Do you hear?'

'I hear you.'

'I foresee there is money to be made out of thisbesides taking that
fellow down a peg. We owe each other moneyyou know.'

Mrs Lammle winced a little at the reminderbut only enough to
shake her scents and essences anew into the atmosphere of the
little carriageas she settled herself afresh in her own dark corner.

Chapter 12

THE SWEAT OF AN HONEST MAN'S BROW

Mr Mortimer Lightwood and Mr Eugene Wrayburn took a coffeehouse
dinner together in Mr Lightwood's office. They had newly
agreed to set up a joint establishment together. They had taken a


bachelor cottage near Hamptonon the brink of the Thameswith a
lawnand a boat-house; and all things fittingand were to float
with the stream through the summer and the Long Vacation.

It was not summer yetbut spring; and it was not gentle spring
ethereally mildas in Thomson's Seasonsbut nipping spring with
an easterly windas in Johnson'sJackson'sDickson'sSmith's
and Jones's Seasons. The grating wind sawed rather than blew;
and as it sawedthe sawdust whirled about the sawpit. Every
street was a sawpitand there were no top-sawyers; every
passenger was an under-sawyerwith the sawdust blinding him
and choking him.

That mysterious paper currency which circulates in London when
the wind blowsgyrated here and there and everywhere. Whence
can it comewhither can it go? It hangs on every bushflutters in
every treeis caught flying by the electric wireshaunts every
enclosuredrinks at every pumpcowers at every gratingshudders
upon every plot of grassseeks rest in vain behind the legions of
iron rails. In Pariswhere nothing is wastedcostly and luxurious
city though it bebut where wonderful human ants creep out of
holes and pick up every scrapthere is no such thing. Thereit
blows nothing but dust. Theresharp eyes and sharp stomachs
reap even the east windand get something out of it.

The wind sawedand the sawdust whirled. The shrubs wrung
their many handsbemoaning that they had been over-persuaded
by the sun to bud; the young leaves pined; the sparrows repented of
their early marriageslike men and women; the colours of the
rainbow were discerniblenot in floral springbut in the faces of
the people whom it nibbled and pinched. And ever the wind
sawedand the sawdust whirled.

When the spring evenings are too long and light to shut outand
such weather is rifethe city which Mr Podsnap so explanatorily
called LondonLondresLondonis at its worst. Such a black
shrill citycombining the qualities of a smoky house and a
scolding wife; such a gritty city; such a hopeless citywith no rent
in the leaden canopy of its sky; such a beleaguered cityinvested by
the great Marsh Forces of Essex and Kent. So the two old
schoolfellows felt it to beastheir dinner donethey turned
towards the fire to smoke. Young Blight was gonethe coffeehouse
waiter was gonethe plates and dishes were gonethe wine
was going--but not in the same direction.

'The wind sounds up here' quoth Eugenestirring the fire'as if we
were keeping a lighthouse. I wish we were.'

'Don't you think it would bore us?' Lightwood asked.

'Not more than any other place. And there would be no Circuit to
go. But that's a selfish considerationpersonal to me.'

'And no clients to come' added Lightwood. 'Not that that's a
selfish consideration at all personal to ME.'

'If we were on an isolated rock in a stormy sea' said Eugene
smoking with his eyes on the fire'Lady Tippins couldn't put off to
visit usorbetter stillmight put off and get swamped. People
couldn't ask one to wedding breakfasts. There would be no
Precedents to hammer atexcept the plain-sailing Precedent of
keeping the light up. It would be exciting to look out for wrecks.'

'But otherwise' suggested Lightwood'there might be a degree of


sameness in the life.'

'I have thought of that also' said Eugeneas if he really had been
considering the subject in its various bearings with an eye to the
business; 'but it would be a defined and limited monotony. It
would not extend beyond two people. Nowit's a question with
meMortimerwhether a monotony defined with that precision and
limited to that extentmight not be more endurable than the
unlimited monotony of one's fellow-creatures.'

As Lightwood laughed and passed the winehe remarked'We
shall have an opportunityin our boating summerof trying the
question.'

'An imperfect one' Eugene acquiescedwith a sigh'but so we
shall. I hope we may not prove too much for one another.'

'Nowregarding your respected father' said Lightwoodbringing
him to a subject they had expressly appointed to discuss: always
the most slippery eel of eels of subjects to lay hold of.

'Yesregarding my respected father' assented Eugenesettling
himself in his arm-chair. 'I would rather have approached my
respected father by candlelightas a theme requiring a little
artificial brilliancy; but we will take him by twilightenlivened
with a glow of Wallsend.'

He stirred the fire again as he spokeand having made it blaze
resumed.

'My respected father has founddown in the parental
neighbourhooda wife for his not-generally-respected son.'

'With some moneyof course?'

'With some moneyof courseor he would not have found her. My
respected father--let me shorten the dutiful tautology by
substituting in future M. R. F.which sounds militaryand rather
like the Duke of Wellington.'

'What an absurd fellow you areEugene!'

'Not at allI assure you. M. R. F. having always in the clearest
manner provided (as he calls it) for his children by pre-arranging
from the hour of the birth of eachand sometimes from an earlier
periodwhat the devoted little victim's calling and course in life
should beM. R. F. pre-arranged for myself that I was to be the
barrister I am (with the slight addition of an enormous practice
which has not accrued)and also the married man I am not.'

'The first you have often told me.'

'The first I have often told you. Considering myself sufficiently
incongruous on my legal eminenceI have until now suppressed
my domestic destiny. You know M. R. F.but not as well as I do.
If you knew him as well as I dohe would amuse you.'

'Filially spokenEugene!'

'Perfectly sobelieve me; and with every sentiment of affectionate
deference towards M. R. F. But if he amuses meI can't help it.
When my eldest brother was bornof course the rest of us knew (I
mean the rest of us would have knownif we had been in
existence) that he was heir to the Family Embarrassments--we call


it before the company the Family Estate. But when my second
brother was going to be born by-and-bythis,says M. R. F.is a
little pillar of the church.WAS bornand became a pillar of the
church; a very shaky one. My third brother appearedconsiderably
in advance of his engagement to my mother; but M. R. F.not at all
put out by surpriseinstantly declared him a Circumnavigator.
Was pitch-forked into the Navybut has not circumnavigated. I
announced myself and was disposed of with the highly satisfactory
results embodied before you. When my younger brother was half
an hour oldit was settled by M. R. F. that he should have a
mechanical genius. And so on. Therefore I say that M. R. F.
amuses me.'

'Touching the ladyEugene.'

'There M. R. F. ceases to be amusingbecause my intentions are
opposed to touching the lady.'

'Do you know her?'

'Not in the least.'

'Hadn't you better see her?'

'My dear Mortimeryou have studied my character. Could I
possibly go down therelabelled "ELIGIBLE. ON VIEW and
meet the lady, similarly labelled? Anything to carry out M. R. F.'s
arrangements, I am sure, with the greatest pleasure--except
matrimony. Could I possibly support it? I, so soon bored, so
constantly, so fatally?'

'But you are not a consistent fellow, Eugene.'

'In susceptibility to boredom,' returned that worthy, 'I assure you I
am the most consistent of mankind.'

'Why, it was but now that you were dwelling in the advantages of a
monotony of two.'

'In a lighthouse. Do me the justice to remember the condition. In
a lighthouse.'

Mortimer laughed again, and Eugene, having laughed too for the
first time, as if he found himself on reflection rather entertaining,
relapsed into his usual gloom, and drowsily said, as he enjoyed his
cigar, 'No, there is no help for it; one of the prophetic deliveries of

M. R. F. must for ever remain unfulfilled. With every disposition
to oblige him, he must submit to a failure.'
It had grown darker as they talked, and the wind was sawing and
the sawdust was whirling outside paler windows. The underlying
churchyard was already settling into deep dim shade, and the
shade was creeping up to the housetops among which they sat. 'As
if,' said Eugene, 'as if the churchyard ghosts were rising.'

He had walked to the window with his cigar in his mouth, to exalt
its flavour by comparing the fireside with the outside, when he
stopped midway on his return to his arm-chair, and said:

'Apparently one of the ghosts has lost its way, and dropped in to be
directed. Look at this phantom!'

Lightwood, whose back was towards the door, turned his head,
and there, in the darkness of the entry, stood a something in the


likeness of a man: to whom he addressed the not irrelevant inquiry,
'Who the devil are you?'

'I ask your pardons, Governors,' replied the ghost, in a hoarse
double-barrelled whisper, 'but might either on you be Lawyer
Lightwood?'

'What do you mean by not knocking at the door?' demanded
Mortimer.

'I ask your pardons, Governors,' replied the ghost, as before, 'but
probable you was not aware your door stood open.'

'What do you want?'

Hereunto the ghost again hoarsely replied, in its double-barrelled
manner, 'I ask your pardons, Governors, but might one on you be
Lawyer Lightwood?'

'One of us is,' said the owner of that name.

'All right, Governors Both,' returned the ghost, carefully closing the
room door; ''tickler business.'

Mortimer lighted the candles. They showed the visitor to be an illlooking
visitor with a squinting leer, who, as he spoke, fumbled at
an old sodden fur cap, formless and mangey, that looked like a
furry animal, dog or cat, puppy or kitten, drowned and decaying.

'Now,' said Mortimer, 'what is it?'

'Governors Both,' returned the man, in what he meant to be a
wheedling tone, 'which on you might be Lawyer Lightwood?'

'I am.'

'Lawyer Lightwood,' ducking at him with a servile air, 'I am a man
as gets my living, and as seeks to get my living, by the sweat of my
brow. Not to risk being done out of the sweat of my brow, by any
chances, I should wish afore going further to be swore in.'

'I am not a swearer in of people, man.'

The visitor, clearly anything but reliant on this assurance, doggedly
muttered 'Alfred David.'

'Is that your name?' asked Lightwood.

'My name?' returned the man. 'No; I want to take a Alfred David.'

(Which Eugene, smoking and contemplating him, interpreted as
meaning Affidavit.)

'I tell you, my good fellow,' said Lightwood, with his indolent
laugh, 'that I have nothing to do with swearing.'

'He can swear AT you,' Eugene explained; 'and so can I. But we
can't do more for you.'

Much discomfited by this information, the visitor turned the
drowned dog or cat, puppy or kitten, about and about, and looked
from one of the Governors Both to the other of the Governors Both,
while he deeply considered within himself. At length he decided:


'Then I must be took down.'

'Where?' asked Lightwood.

'Here,' said the man. 'In pen and ink.'

'First, let us know what your business is about.'

'It's about,' said the man, taking a step forward, dropping his
hoarse voice, and shading it with his hand, 'it's about from five to
ten thousand pound reward. That's what it's about. It's about
Murder. That's what it's about.'


'Come nearer the table. Sit down. Will you have a glass of wine?'


'Yes, I will,' said the man; 'and I don't deceive you, Governors.'


It was given him. Making a stiff arm to the elbow, he poured the
wine into his mouth, tilted it into his right cheek, as saying, 'What
do you think of it?' tilted it into his left cheek, as saying, 'What do
YOU think of it?' jerked it into his stomach, as saying, 'What do
YOU think of it?' To conclude, smacked his lips, as if all three
replied, 'We think well of it.'


'Will you have another?'


'Yes, I will,' he repeated, 'and I don't deceive you, Governors.' And
also repeated the other proceedings.


'Now,' began Lightwood, 'what's your name?'


'Why, there you're rather fast, Lawyer Lightwood,' he replied, in a
remonstrant manner. 'Don't you see, Lawyer Lightwood? There
you're a little bit fast. I'm going to earn from five to ten thousand
pound by the sweat of my brow; and as a poor man doing justice to
the sweat of my brow, is it likely I can afford to part with so much
as my name without its being took down?'


Deferring to the man's sense of the binding powers of pen and ink
and paper, Lightwood nodded acceptance of Eugene's nodded
proposal to take those spells in hand. Eugene, bringing them to the
table, sat down as clerk or notary.


'Now,' said Lightwood, 'what's your name?'


But further precaution was still due to the sweat of this honest
fellow's brow.


'I should wish, Lawyer Lightwood,' he stipulated, 'to have that
T'other Governor as my witness that what I said I said.
Consequent, will the T'other Governor be so good as chuck me his
name and where he lives?'


Eugene, cigar in mouth and pen in hand, tossed him his card.
After spelling it out slowly, the man made it into a little roll, and
tied it up in an end of his neckerchief still more slowly.


'Now,' said Lightwood, for the third time, 'if you have quite
completed your various preparations, my friend, and have fully
ascertained that your spirits are cool and not in any way hurried,
what's your name?'


'Roger Riderhood.'



'Dwelling-place?'

'Lime'us Hole.'

'Calling or occupation?'

Not quite so glib with this answer as with the previous two, Mr
Riderhood gave in the definition, 'Waterside character.'

'Anything against you?' Eugene quietly put in, as he wrote.

Rather baulked, Mr Riderhood evasively remarked, with an
innocent air, that he believed the T'other Governor had asked him
summa't.

'Ever in trouble?' said Eugene.

'Once.' (Might happen to any man, Mr Riderhood added
incidentally.)

'On suspicion of--'

'Of seaman's pocket,' said Mr Riderhood. 'Whereby I was in
reality the man's best friend, and tried to take care of him.'

'With the sweat of your brow?' asked Eugene.

'Till it poured down like rain,' said Roger Riderhood.

Eugene leaned back in his chair, and smoked with his eyes
negligently turned on the informer, and his pen ready to reduce him
to more writing. Lightwood also smoked, with his eyes
negligently turned on the informer.

'Now let me be took down again,' said Riderhood, when he had
turned the drowned cap over and under, and had brushed it the
wrong way (if it had a right way) with his sleeve. 'I give
information that the man that done the Harmon Murder is Gaffer
Hexam, the man that found the body. The hand of Jesse Hexam,
commonly called Gaffer on the river and along shore, is the hand
that done that deed. His hand and no other.'

The two friends glanced at one another with more serious faces
than they had shown yet.

'Tell us on what grounds you make this accusation,' said Mortimer
Lightwood.

'On the grounds,' answered Riderhood, wiping his face with his
sleeve, 'that I was Gaffer's pardner, and suspected of him many a
long day and many a dark night. On the grounds that I knowed his
ways. On the grounds that I broke the pardnership because I see
the danger; which I warn you his daughter may tell you another
story about that, for anythink I can say, but you know what it'll be
worth, for she'd tell you lies, the world round and the heavens
broad, to save her father. On the grounds that it's well understood
along the cause'ays and the stairs that he done it. On the grounds
that he's fell off from, because he done it. On the grounds that I
will swear he done it. On the grounds that you may take me where
you will, and get me sworn to it. I don't want to back out of the
consequences. I have made up MY mind. Take me anywheres.'

'All this is nothing,' said Lightwood.


'Nothing?' repeated Riderhood, indignantly and amazedly.

'Merely nothing. It goes to no more than that you suspect this man
of the crime. You may do so with some reason, or you may do so
with no reason, but he cannot be convicted on your suspicion.'

'Haven't I said--I appeal to the T'other Governor as my witness-haven't
I said from the first minute that I opened my mouth in this
here world-without-end-everlasting chair' (he evidently used that
form of words as next in force to an affidavit), 'that I was willing to
swear that he done it? Haven't I said, Take me and get me sworn
to it? Don't I say so now? You won't deny it, Lawyer Lightwood?'

'Surely not; but you only offer to swear to your suspicion, and I tell
you it is not enough to swear to your suspicion.'

'Not enough, ain't it, Lawyer Lightwood?' he cautiously demanded.

'Positively not.'

'And did I say it WAS enough? Now, I appeal to the T'other
Governor. Now, fair! Did I say so?'

'He certainly has not said that he had no more to tell,' Eugene
observed in a low voice without looking at him, 'whatever he
seemed to imply.'


'Hah!' cried the informer, triumphantly perceiving that the remark
was generally in his favour, though apparently not closely
understanding it. 'Fort'nate for me I had a witness!'

'Go on, then,' said Lightwood. 'Say out what you have to say. No
after-thought.'

'Let me be took down then!' cried the informer, eagerly and
anxiously. 'Let me be took down, for by George and the Draggin
I'm a coming to it now! Don't do nothing to keep back from a
honest man the fruits of the sweat of his brow! I give information,
then, that he told me that he done it. Is THAT enough?'

'Take care what you say, my friend,' returned Mortimer.

'Lawyer Lightwood, take care, you, what I say; for I judge you'll be
answerable for follering it up!' Then, slowly and emphatically
beating it all out with his open right hand on the palm of his left;
'I, Roger Riderhood, Lime'us Hole, Waterside character, tell you,
Lawyer Lightwood, that the man Jesse Hexam, commonly called
upon the river and along-shore Gaffer, told me that he done the
deed. What's more, he told me with his own lips that he done the
deed. What's more, he said that he done the deed. And I'll swear it!'

'Where did he tell you so?'

'Outside,' replied Riderhood, always beating it out, with his head
determinedly set askew, and his eyes watchfully dividing their
attention between his two auditors, 'outside the door of the Six
Jolly Fellowships, towards a quarter after twelve o'clock at
midnight--but I will not in my conscience undertake to swear to so
fine a matter as five minutes--on the night when he picked up the
body. The Six Jolly Fellowships won't run away. If it turns out
that he warn't at the Six Jolly Fellowships that night at midnight,
I'm a liar.'

'What did he say?'


'I'll tell you (take me down, T'other Governor, I ask no better). He
come out first; I come out last. I might be a minute arter him; I
might be half a minute, I might be a quarter of a minute; I cannot
swear to that, and therefore I won't. That's knowing the
obligations of a Alfred David, ain't it?'

'Go on.'

'I found him a waiting to speak to me. He says to me, Rogue
Riderhood"--for that's the name I'm mostly called by--not for any
meaning in itfor meaning it has nonebut because of its being
similar to Roger.'

'Never mind that.'

''Scuse MELawyer Lightwoodit's a part of the truthand as such
I do mind itand I must mind it and I will mind it. "Rogue
Riderhood he says, words passed betwixt us on the river
tonight." Which they had; ask his daughter! "I threatened you
he says, to chop you over the fingers with my boat's stretcheror
take a aim at your brains with my boathook. I did so on accounts
of your looking too hard at what I had in towas if you was
suspiciousand on accounts of your holding on to the gunwale of
my boat." I says to himGaffer, I know it.He says to me
Rogue Riderhood, you are a man in a dozen--I think he said in a
scorebut of that I am not positiveso take the lowest figurefor
precious be the obligations of a Alfred David. "And he says,
when your fellow-men is upbe it their lives or be it their watches
sharp is ever the word with you. Had you suspicions?" I says
Gaffer, I had; and what's more, I have.He falls a shakingand
he saysOf what?I saysOf foul play.He falls a shaking
worseand he saysThere WAS foul play then. I done it for his
money. Don't betray me!Those were the words as ever he used.'

There was a silencebroken only by the fall of the ashes in the
grate. An opportunity which the informer improved by smearing
himself all over the head and neck and face with his drowned cap
and not at all improving his own appearance.

'What more?' asked Lightwood.

'Of himd'ye meanLawyer Lightwood?'

'Of anything to the purpose.'

'NowI'm blest if I understand youGovernors Both' said the
informerin a creeping manner: propitiating boththough only one
had spoken. 'What? Ain't THAT enough?'

'Did you ask him how he did itwhere he did itwhen he did it?'

'Far be it from meLawyer Lightwood! I was so troubled in my
mindthat I wouldn't have knowed morenonot for the sum as I
expect to earn from you by the sweat of my browtwice told! I had
put an end to the pardnership. I had cut the connexion. I couldn't
undo what was done; and when he begs and praysOld pardner,
on my knees, don't split upon me!I only makes answer "Never
speak another word to Roger Riderhoodnor look him in the face!"
and I shuns that man.'

Having given these words a swing to make them mount the higher
and go the furtherRogue Riderhood poured himself out another
glass of wine unbiddenand seemed to chew itaswith the half



emptied glass in his handhe stared at the candles.

Mortimer glanced at Eugenebut Eugene sat glowering at his
paperand would give him no responsive glance. Mortimer again
turned to the informerto whom he said:

'You have been troubled in your mind a long timeman?'

Giving his wine a final chewand swallowing itthe informer
answered in a single word:

'Hages!'

'When all that stir was madewhen the Government reward was
offeredwhen the police were on the alertwhen the whole country
rang with the crime!' said Mottimerimpatiently.

'Hah!' Mr Riderhood very slowly and hoarsely chimed inwith
several retrospective nods of his head. 'Warn't I troubled in my
mind then!'

'When conjecture ran wildwhen the most extravagant suspicions
were afloatwhen half a dozen innocent people might have been
laid by the heels any hour in the day!' said Mortimeralmost
warming.

'Hah!' Mr Riderhood chimed inas before. 'Warn't I troubled in my
mind through it all!'

'But he hadn't' said Eugenedrawing a lady's head upon his
writing-paperand touching it at intervals'the opportunity then of
earning so much moneyyou see.'

'The T'other Governor hits the nailLawyer Lightwood! It was
that as turned me. I had many times and again struggled to relieve
myself of the trouble on my mindbut I couldn't get it off. I had
once very nigh got it off to Miss Abbey Potterson which keeps the
Six Jolly Fellowships--there is the 'ouseit won't run away--there
lives the ladyshe ain't likely to be struck dead afore you get there-ask
her!--but I couldn't do it. At lastout comes the new bill with
your own lawful nameLawyer Lightwoodprinted to itand then I
asks the question of my own intellectsAm I to have this trouble
on my mind for ever? Am I never to throw it off? Am I always to
think more of Gaffer than of my own self? If he's got a daughter
ain't I got a daughter?'

'And echo answered--?' Eugene suggested.

'"You have' said Mr Riderhood, in a firm tone.

'Incidentally mentioning, at the same time, her age?' inquired
Eugene.

'Yes, governor. Two-and-twenty last October. And then I put it to
myself, Regarding the money. It is a pot of money." For it IS a
pot' said Mr Riderhoodwith candour'and why deny it?'

'Hear!' from Eugene as he touched his drawing.

'"It is a pot of money; but is it a sin for a labouring man that
moistens every crust of bread he earnswith his tears--or if not
with themwith the colds he catches in his head--is it a sin for that
man to earn it? Say there is anything again earning it." This I put
to myself strongas in duty bound; "how can it be said without


blaming Lawyer Lightwood for offering it to be earned?" And was
it for ME to blame Lawyer Lightwood? No.'

'No' said Eugene.

'Certainly notGovernor' Mr Riderhood acquiesced. 'So I made up
my mind to get my trouble off my mindand to earn by the sweat
of my brow what was held out to me. And what's morehe added
suddenly turning bloodthirsty'I mean to have it! And now I tell
youonce and awayLawyer Lightwoodthat Jesse Hexam
commonly called Gafferhis hand and no otherdone the deedon
his own confession to me. And I give him up to youand I want
him took. This night!'

After another silencebroken only by the fall of the ashes in the
gratewhich attracted the informer's attention as if it were the
chinking of moneyMortimer Lightwood leaned over his friend
and said in a whisper:

'I suppose I must go with this fellow to our imperturbable friend at
the police-station.'

'I suppose' said Eugene'there is no help for it.'

'Do you believe him?'

'I believe him to be a thorough rascal. But he may tell the truthfor
his own purposeand for this occasion only.'

'It doesn't look like it.'

'HE doesn't' said Eugene. 'But neither is his late partnerwhom he
denouncesa prepossessing person. The firm are cut-throat
Shepherds bothin appearance. I should like to ask him one thing.'

The subject of this conference sat leering at the ashestrying with
all his might to overhear what was saidbut feigning abstraction as
the 'Governors Both' glanced at him.

'You mentioned (twiceI think) a daughter of this Hexam's' said
Eugenealoud. 'You don't mean to imply that she had any guilty
knowledge of the crime?'

The honest manafter considering--perhaps considering how his
answer might affect the fruits of the sweat of his brow--replied
unreservedly'NoI don't.'

'And you implicate no other person?'

'It ain't what I implicateit's what Gaffer implicated' was the
dogged and determined answer. 'I don't pretend to know more
than that his words to me wasI done it.Those was his words.'

'I must see this outMortimer' whispered Eugenerising. 'How
shall we go?'

'Let us walk' whispered Lightwood'and give this fellow time to
think of it.'

Having exchanged the question and answerthey prepared
themselves for going outand Mr Riderhood rose. While
extinguishing the candlesLightwoodquite as a matter of course
took up the glass from which that honest gentleman had drunk
and coolly tossed it under the gratewhere it fell shivering into


fragments.

'Nowif you will take the lead' said Lightwood'Mr Wrayburn and
I will follow. You know where to goI suppose?'

'I suppose I doLawyer Lightwood.'

'Take the leadthen.'

The waterside character pulled his drowned cap over his ears with
both handsand making himself more round-shouldered than
nature had made himby the sullen and persistent slouch with
which he wentwent down the stairsround by the Temple
Churchacross the Temple into Whitefriarsand so on by the
waterside streets.

'Look at his hang-dog air' said Lightwoodfollowing.

'It strikes me rather as a hang-MAN air' returned Eugene. 'He has
undeniable intentions that way.'

They said little else as they followed. He went on before them as
an ugly Fate might have doneand they kept him in viewand
would have been glad enough to lose sight of him. But on he went
before themalways at the same distanceand the same rate.
Aslant against the hard implacable weather and the rough windhe
was no more to be driven back than hurried forwardbut held on
like an advancing Destiny. There camewhen they were about
midway on their journeya heavy rush of hailwhich in a few
minutes pelted the streets clearand whitened them. It made no
difference to him. A man's life being to be taken and the price of it
gotthe hailstones to arrest the purpose must lie larger and deeper
than those. He crnshed through themleaving marks in the fastmelting
slush that were mere shapeless holes; one might have
fanciedfollowingthat the very fashion of humanity had departed
from his feet.

The blast went byand the moon contended with the fast-flying
cloudsand the wild disorder reigning up there made the pitiful
little tumults in the streets of no account. It was not that the wind
swept all the brawlers into places of shelteras it had swept the
hail still lingering in heaps wherever there was refuge for it; but
that it seemed as if the streets were absorbed by the skyand the
night were all in the air.

'If he has had time to think of it' said Eugenehe has not had time
to think better of it--or differently of itif that's better. There is no
sign of drawing back in him; and as I recollect this placewe must
be close upon the corner where we alighted that night.'

In facta few abrupt turns brought them to the river sidewhere
they had slipped about among the stonesand where they now
slipped more; the wind coming against them in slants and flaws
across the tide and the windings of the riverin a furious way.
With that habit of getting under the lee of any shelter which
waterside characters acquirethe waterside character at present in
question led the way to the leeside of the Six Jolly Fellowship
Porters before he spoke.

'Look round hereLawyer Lightwoodat them red curtains. It's
the Fellowshipsthe 'ouse as I told you wouldn't run away. And
has it run away?'

Not showing himself much impressed by this remarkable


confirmation of the informer's evidenceLightwood inquired what
other business they had there?

'I wished you to see the Fellowships for yourselfLawyer
Lightwoodthat you might judge whether I'm a liar; and now I'll
see Gaffer's window for myselfthat we may know whether he's at
home.'

With thathe crept away.

'He'll come backI suppose?' murmured Lightwood.

'Ay! and go through with it' murmured Eugene.

He came back after a very short interval indeed.

'Gaffer's outand his boat's out. His daughter's at homesitting alooking
at the fire. But there's some supper getting readyso
Gaffer's expected. I can find what move he's uponeasy enough
presently.'

Then he beckoned and led the way againand they came to the
police-stationstill as clean and cool and steady as beforesaving
that the flame of its lamp--being but a lamp-flameand only
attached to the Force as an outsider--flickered in the wind.

Alsowithin doorsMr Inspector was at his studies as of yore. He
recognized the friends the instant they reappearedbut their
reappearance had no effect on his composure. Not even the
circumstance that Riderhood was their conductor moved him
otherwise than that as he took a dip of ink he seemedby a
settlement of his chin in his stockto propound to that personage
without looking at himthe question'What have YOU been up to
last?'

Mortimer Lightwood asked himwould he be so good as look at
those notes? Handing him Eugene's.

Having read the first few linesMr Inspector mounted to that (for
him) extraordinary pitch of emotion that he said'Does either of
you two gentlemen happen to have a pinch of snuff about him?'
Finding that neither hadhe did quite as well without itand read
on.

'Have you heard these read?' he then demanded of the honest man.

'No' said Riderhood.

'Then you had better hear them.' And so read them aloudin an
official manner.

'Are these notes correctnowas to the information you bring here
and the evidence you mean to give?' he askedwhen he had
finished reading.

'They are. They are as correct' returned Mr Riderhood'as I am. I
can't say more than that for 'em.'

'I'll take this man myselfsir' said Mr Inspector to Lightwood.
Then to Riderhood'Is he at home? Where is he? What's he
doing? You have made it your business to know all ahout himno
doubt.'

Riderhood said what he did knowand promised to find out in a


few minutes what he didn't know.

'Stop' said Mr Inspector; 'not till I tell you: We mustn't look like
business. Would you two gentlemen object to making a pretence
of taking a glass of something in my company at the Fellowships?
Well-conducted houseand highly respectable landlady.'

They replied that they would be happy to substitute a reality for
the pretencewhichin the mainappeared to be as one with Mr
Inspector's meaning.

'Very good' said hetaking his hat from its pegand putting a pair
of handcuffs in his pocket as if they were his gloves. 'Reserve!'
Reserve saluted. 'You know where to find me?' Reserve again
saluted. 'Riderhoodwhen you have found out concerning his
coming homecome round to the window of Cosytap twice at it
and wait for me. Nowgentlemen.'

As the three went out togetherand Riderhood slouched off from
under the trembling lamp his separate wayLightwood asked the
officer what he thought of this?

Mr Inspector repliedwith due generality and reticencethat it was
always more likely that a man had done a bad thing than that he
hadn't. That he himself had several times 'reckoned up' Gafferbut
had never been able to bring him to a satisfactory criminal total.
That if this story was trueit was only in part true. That the two
menvery shy characterswould have been jointly and pretty
equally 'in it;' but that this man had 'spotted' the otherto save
himself and get the money.

'And I think' added Mr Inspectorin conclusion'that if all goes
well with himhe's in a tolerable way of getting it. But as this is
the Fellowshipsgentlemenwhere the lights areI recommend
dropping the subject. You can't do better than be interested in
some lime works anywhere down about Northfleetand doubtful
whether some of your lime don't get into bad company as it comes
up in barges.'

'You hear Eugene?' said Lightwoodover his shoulder. 'You are
deeply interested in lime.'

'Without lime' returned that unmoved barrister-at-law'my
existence would be unilluminated by a ray of hope.'

Chapter 13

TRACKING THE BIRD OF PREY

The two lime merchantswith their escortentered the dominions
of Miss Abbey Pottersonto whom their escort (presenting them
and their pretended business over the half-door of the barin a
confidential way) preferred his figurative request that 'a mouthful
of fire' might be lighted in Cosy. Always well disposed to assist
the constituted authoritiesMiss Abbey bade Bob Gliddery attend
the gentlemen to that retreatand promptly enliven it with fire and
gaslight. Of this commission the bare-armed Bobleading the way
with a flaming wisp of paperso speedily acquitted himselfthat
Cosy seemed to leap out of a dark sleep and embrace them warmly
the moment they passed the lintels of its hospitable door.


'They burn sherry very well here' said Mr Inspectoras a piece of
local intelligence. 'Perhaps you gentlemen might like a bottle?'

The answer being By all meansBob Gliddery received his
instructions from Mr Inspectorand departed in a becoming state
of alacrity engendered by reverence for the majesty of the law.

'It's a certain fact' said Mr Inspector'that this man we have
received our information from' indicating Riderhood with his
thumb over his shoulder'has for some time past given the other
man a bad name arising out of your lime bargesand that the other
man has been avoided in consequence. I don't say what it means
or provesbut it's a certain fact. I had it first from one of the
opposite sex of my acquaintance' vaguely indicating Miss Abbey
with his thumb over his shoulder'down away at a distanceover
yonder.'

Then probably Mr Inspector was not quite unprepared for their
visit that evening? Lightwood hinted.

'Well you see' said Mr Inspector'it was a question of making a
move. It's of no use moving if you don't know what your move is.
You had better by far keep still. In the matter of this limeI
certainly had an idea that it might lie betwixt the two men; I
always had that idea. Still I was forced to wait for a startand I
wasn't so lucky as to get a start. This man that we have received
our information fromhas got a startand if he don't meet with a
check he may make the running and come in first. There may turn
out to be something considerable for him that comes in secondand
I don't mention who may or who may not try for that place. There's
duty to doand I shall do itunder any circumstances; to the best of
my judgment and ability.'

'Speaking as a shipper of lime--' began Eugene.

'Which no man has a better right to do than yourselfyou know'
said Mr Inspector.

'I hope not' said Eugene; 'my father having been a shipper of lime
before meand my grandfather before him--in fact we having been
a family immersed to the crowns of our heads in lime during
several generations--I beg to observe that if this missing lime
could be got hold of without any young female relative of any
distinguished gentleman engaged in the lime trade (which I cherish
next to my life) being presentI think it might be a more agreeable
proceeding to the assisting bystandersthat is to saylime-burners.'

'I also' said Lightwoodpushing his friend aside with a laugh
'should much prefer that.'

'It shall be donegentlemenif it can be done conveniently' said
Mr Inspectorwith coolness. 'There is no wish on my part to cause
any distress in that quarter. IndeedI am sorry for that quarter.'

'There was a boy in that quarter' remarked Eugene. 'He is still
there?'

'No' said Mr Inspector.' He has quitted those works. He is
otherwise disposed of.'

'Will she be left alone then?' asked Eugene.

'She will be left' said Mr Inspector'alone.'


Bob's reappearance with a steaming jug broke off the conversation.
But although the jug steamed forth a delicious perfumeits
contents had not received that last happy touch which the
surpassing finish of the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters imparted on
such momentous occasions. Bob carried in his left hand one of
those iron models of sugar-loaf hatsbefore mentionedinto which
he emptied the jugand the pointed end of which he thrust deep
down into the fireso leaving it for a few moments while he
disappeared and reappeared with three bright drinking-glasses.
Placing these on the table and bending over the firemeritoriously
sensible of the trying nature of his dutyhe watched the wreaths of
steamuntil at the special instant of projection he caught up the
iron vessel and gave it one delicate twirlcausing it to send forth
one gentle hiss. Then he restored the contents to the jug; held over
the steam of the jugeach of the three bright glasses in succession;
finally filled them alland with a clear conscience awaited the
applause of his fellow-creatures.

It was bestowed (Mr Inspector having proposed as an appropriate
sentiment 'The lime trade!') and Bob withdrew to report the
commendations of the guests to Miss Abbey in the bar. It may be
here in confidence admitted thatthe room being close shut in his
absencethere had not appeared to be the slightest reason for the
elaborate maintenance of this same lime fiction. Only it had been
regarded by Mr Inspector as so uncommonly satisfactoryand so
fraught with mysterious virtuesthat neither of his clients had
presumed to question it.

Two taps were now heard on the outside of the window. Mr
Inspectorhastily fortifying himself with another glassstrolled out
with a noiseless foot and an unoccupied countenance. As one
might go to survey the weather and the general aspect of the
heavenly bodies.

'This is becoming grimMortimer' said Eugenein a low voice. 'I
don't like this.'

'Nor I' said Lightwood. 'Shall we go?'

'Being herelet us stay. You ought to see it outand I won't leave
you. Besidesthat lonely girl with the dark hair runs in my head.
It was little more than a glimpse we had of her that last timeand
yet I almost see her waiting by the fire to-night. Do you feel like a
dark combination of traitor and pickpocket when you think of that
girl?'

'Rather' returned Lightwood. 'Do you?'

'Very much so.'

Their escort strolled back againand reported. Divested of its
various lime-lights and shadowshis report went to the effect that
Gaffer was away in his boatsupposed to be on his old look-out;
that he had been expected last high-water; that having missed it for
some reason or otherhe was notaccording to his usual habits at
nightto be counted on before next high-wateror it might be an
hour or so later; that his daughtersurveyed through the window
would seem to be so expecting himfor the supper was not
cookingbut set out ready to be cooked; that it would be highwater
at about oneand that it was now barely ten; that there was
nothing to be done but watch and wait; that the informer was
keeping watch at the instant of that present reportingbut that two
heads were better than one (especially when the second was Mr
Inspector's); and that the reporter meant to share the watch. And


forasmuch as crouching under the lee of a hauled-up boat on a
night when it blew cold and strongand when the weather was
varied with blasts of hail at timesmight be wearisome to
amateursthe reporter closed with the recommendation that the
two gentlemen should remainfor a while at any ratein their
present quarterswhich were weather-tight and warm.


They were not inclined to dispute this recommendationbut they
wanted to know where they could join the watchers when so
disposed. Rather than trust to a verbal description of the place
which might misleadEugene (with a less weighty sense of
personal trouble on him than he usually had) would go out with Mr
Inspectornote the spotand come back.


On the shelving bank of the riveramong the slimy stones of a
causeway--not the special causeway of the Six Jolly Fellowships
which had a landing-place of its ownbut anothera little removed
and very near to the old windmill which was the denounced man's
dwelling-place--were a few boats; somemoored and already
beginning to float; othershauled up above the reach of the tide.
Under one of these latterEugene's companion disappeared. And
when Eugene had observed its position with reference to the other
boatsand had made sure that he could not miss ithe turned his
eyes upon the building whereas he had been toldthe lonely girl
with the dark hair sat by the fire.


He could see the light of the fire shining through the window.
Perhaps it drew him on to look in. Perhaps he had come out with
the express intention. That part of the bank having rank grass
growing on itthere was no difficulty in getting closewithout any
noise of footsteps: it was but to scramble up a ragged face of pretty
hard mud some three or four feet high and come upon the grass
and to the window. He came to the window by that means.


She had no other light than the light of the fire. The unkindled
lamp stood on the table. She sat on the groundlooking at the
brazierwith her face leaning on her hand. There was a kind of
film or flicker on her facewhich at first he took to be the fitful
firelight; buton a second lookhe saw that she was weeping. A
sad and solitary spectacleas shown him by the rising and the
falling of the fire.


It was a little window of but four pieces of glassand was not
curtained; he chose it because the larger window near it was. It
showed him the roomand the bills upon the wall respecting the
drowned people starting out and receding by turns. But he glanced
slightly at themthough he looked long and steadily at her. A deep
rich piece of colourwith the brown flush of her cheek and the
shining lustre of her hairthough sad and solitaryweeping by the
rising and the falling of the fire.


She started up. He had been so very still that he felt sure it was not
he who had disturbed herso merely withdrew from the window
and stood near it in the shadow of the wall. She opened the door
and said in an alarmed tone'Fatherwas that you calling me?'
And again'Father!' And once againafter listening'Father!


I
thought I heard you call me twice before!'

No response. As she re-entered at the doorhe dropped over the
bank and made his way backamong the ooze and near the hidingplace
to Mortimer Lightwood: to whom he told what he had seen
of the girland how this was becoming very grim indeed.

'If the real man feels as guilty as I do' said Eugene'he is


remarkably uncomfortable.'

'Influence of secrecy' suggested Lightwood.

'I am not at all obliged to it for making me Guy Fawkes in the
vault and a Sneak in the area both at once' said Eugene. 'Give me
some more of that stuff.'

Lightwood helped him to some more of that stuffbut it had been
coolingand didn't answer now.

'Pooh' said Eugenespitting it out among the ashes. 'Tastes like
the wash of the river.'

'Are you so familiar with the flavour of the wash of the river?'

'I seem to be to-night. I feel as if I had been half drownedand
swallowing a gallon of it.'

'Influence of locality' suggested Lightwood.

'You are mighty learned to-nightyou and your influences'
returned Eugene. 'How long shall we stay here?'

'How long do you think?'

'If I could chooseI should say a minute' replied Eugene'for the
Jolly Fellowship Porters are not the jolliest dogs I have known.
But I suppose we are best here until they turn us out with the other
suspicious charactersat midnight.'

Thereupon he stirred the fireand sat down on one side of it. It
struck elevenand he made believe to compose himself patiently.
But gradually he took the fidgets in one legand then in the other
legand then in one armand then in the other armand then in his
chinand then in his backand then in his foreheadand then in his
hairand then in his nose; and then he stretched himself recumbent
on two chairsand groaned; and then he started up.

'Invisible insects of diabolical activity swarm in this place. I am
tickled and twitched all over. MentallyI have now committed a
burglary under the meanest circumstancesand the myrmidons of
justice are at my heels.'

'I am quite as bad' said Lightwoodsitting up facing himwith a
tumbled head; after going through some wonderful evolutionsin
which his head had been the lowest part of him. 'This
restlessness began with melong ago. All the time you were outI
felt like Gulliver with the Lilliputians firing upon him.'

'It won't doMortimer. We must get into the air; we must join our
dear friend and brotherRiderhood. And let us tranquillize
ourselves by making a compact. Next time (with a view to our
peace of mind) we'll commit the crimeinstead of taking the
criminal. You swear it?'

'Certainly.'

'Sworn! Let Tippins look to it. Her life's in danger.'

Mortimer rang the bell to pay the scoreand Bob appeared to
transact that business with him: whom Eugenein his careless
extravaganceasked if he would like a situation in the lime-trade?


'Thankee sirno sir' said Bob. 'I've a good sitiwation heresir.'

'If you change your mind at any time' returned Eugene'come to
me at my worksand you'll always find an opening in the limekiln.'


'Thankee sir' said Bob.

'This is my partner' said Eugene'who keeps the books and attends
to the wages. A fair day's wages for a fair day's work is ever my
partner's motto.'

'And a very good 'un it isgentlemen' said Bobreceiving his fee
and drawing a bow out of his head with his right handvery much
as he would have drawn a pint of beer out of the beer engine.

'Eugene' Mortimer apostrophized himlaughing quite heartily
when they were alone again'how CAN you be so ridiculous?'

'I am in a ridiculous humour' quoth Eugene; 'I am a ridiculous
fellow. Everything is ridiculous. Come along!'

It passed into Mortimer Lightwood's mind that a change of some
sortbest expressed perhaps as an intensification of all that was
wildest and most negligent and reckless in his friendhad come
upon him in the last half-hour or so. Thoroughly used to him as he
washe found something new and strained in him that was for the
moment perplexing. This passed into his mindand passed out
again; but he remembered it afterwards.

'There's where she sitsyou see' said Eugenewhen they were
standing under the bankroared and riven at by the wind. 'There's
the light of her fire.'

'I'll take a peep through the window' said Mortimer.

'Nodon't!' Eugene caught him by the arm. 'Bestnot make a
show of her. Come to our honest friend.'

He led him to the post of watchand they both dropped down and
crept under the lee of the boat; a better shelter than it had seemed
beforebeing directly contrasted with the blowing wind and the
bare night.

'Mr Inspector at home?' whispered Eugene.

'Here I amsir.'

'And our friend of the perspiring brow is at the far corner there?
Good. Anything happened?'

'His daughter has been outthinking she heard him callingunless
it was a sign to him to keep out of the way. It might have been.'

'It might have been Rule Britannia' muttered Eugene'but it
wasn't. Mortimer!'

'Here!' (On the other side of Mr Inspector.)

'Two burglaries nowand a forgery!'

With this indication of his depressed state of mindEugene fell
silent.


They were all silent for a long while. As it got to be flood-tide
and the water came nearer to themnoises on the river became
more frequentand they listened more. To the turning of steampaddles
to the clinking of iron chainto the creaking of blocksto
the measured working of oarsto the occasional violent barking of
some passing dog on shipboardwho seemed to scent them lying
in their hiding-place. The night was not so dark but thatbesides
the lights at bows and mastheads gliding to and frothey could
discern some shadowy bulk attached; and now and then a ghostly
lighter with a large dark saillike a warning armwould start up
very near thempass onand vanish. At this time of their watch
the water close to them would be often agitated by some impulsion
given it from a distance. Often they believed this beat and plash to
be the boat they lay in wait forrunning in ashore; and again and
again they would have started upbut for the immobility with
which the informerwell used to the riverkept quiet in his place.

The wind carried away the striking of the great multitude of city
church clocksfor those lay to leeward of them; but there were
bells to windward that told them of its being One--Two--Three.
Without that aid they would have known how the night woreby
the falling of the tiderecorded in the appearance of an everwidening
black wet strip of shoreand the emergence of the paved
causeway from the riverfoot by foot.

As the time so passedthis slinking business became a more and
more precarious one. It would seem as if the man had had some
intimation of what was in hand against himor had taken fright?
His movements might have been planned to gain for himin
getting beyond their reachtwelve hours' advantage? The honest
man who had expended the sweat of his brow became uneasyand
began to complain with bitterness of the proneness of mankind to
cheat him--him invested with the dignity of Labour!

Their retreat was so chosen that while they could watch the river
they could watch the house. No one had passed in or outsince the
daughter thought she heard the father calling. No one could pass
in or out without being seen.

'But it will be light at five' said Mr Inspector'and then WE shall
be seen.'

'Look here' said Riderhood'what do you say to this? He may
have been lurking in and outand just holding his own betwixt two
or three bridgesfor hours back.'

'What do you make of that?' said Mr Inspector. Stoicalbut
contradictory.

'He may be doing so at this present time.'

'What do you make of that?' said Mr Inspector.

'My boat's among them boats here at the cause'ay.'

'And what do you make of your boat?' said Mr Inspector.

'What if I put off in her and take a look round? I know his ways
and the likely nooks he favours. I know where he'd be at such a
time of the tideand where he'd be at such another time. Ain't I
been his pardner? None of you need show. None of you need stir.
I can shove her off without help; and as to me being seenI'm
about at all times.'


'You might have given a worse opinion' said Mr Inspectorafter
brief consideration. 'Try it.'

'Stop a bit. Let's work it out. If I want youI'll drop round under
the Fellowships and tip you a whistle.'

'If I might so far presume as to offer a suggestion to my honourable
and gallant friendwhose knowledge of naval matters far be it
from me to impeach' Eugene struck in with great deliberation'it
would bethat to tip a whistle is to advertise mystery and invite
speculation. My honourable and gallant friend willI trustexcuse
meas an independent memberfor throwing out a remark which I
feel to be due to this house and the country.'

'Was that the T'other Governoror Lawyer Lightwood?' asked
Riderhood. Forthey spoke as they crouched or laywithout seeing
one another's faces.

'In reply to the question put by my honourable and gallant friend'
said Eugenewho was lying on his back with his hat on his face
as an attitude highly expressive of watchfulness'I can have no
hesitation in replying (it not being inconsistent with the public
service) that those accents were the accents of the T'other
Governor.'

'You've tolerable good eyesain't youGovernor? You've all
tolerable good eyesain't you?' demanded the informer.

All.

'Then if I row up under the Fellowship and lay thereno need to
whistle. You'll make out that there's a speck of something or
another thereand you'll know it's meand you'll come down that
cause'ay to me. Understood all?'

Understood all.

'Off she goes then!'

In a momentwith the wind cutting keenly at him sidewayshe
was staggering down to his boat; in a few moments he was clear
and creeping up the river under their own shore.

Eugene had raised himself on his elbow to look into the darkness
after him. 'I wish the boat of my honourable and gallant friend' he
murmuredlying down again and speaking into his hat'may be
endowed with philanthropy enough to turn bottom-upward and
extinguish him!--Mortimer.'

'My honourable friend.'

'Three burglariestwo forgeriesand a midnight assassination.'
Yet in spite of having those weights on his conscienceEugene
was somewhat enlivened by the late slight change in the
circumstances of affairs. So were his two companions. Its being a
change was everything. The suspense seemed to have taken a new
leaseand to have begun afresh from a recent date. There was
something additional to look for. They were all three more sharply
on the alertand less deadened by the miserable influences of the
place and time.

More than an hour had passedand they were even dozingwhen
one of the three--each said it was heand he had NOT dozed-made
out Riderhood in his boat at the spot agreed on. They sprang


upcame out from their shelterand went down to him. When he
saw them cominghe dropped alongside the causeway; so that
theystanding on the causewaycould speak with him in whispers
under the shadowy mass of the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters fast
asleep.

'Blest if I can make it out!' said hestaring at them.

'Make what out? Have you seen him?'

'No.'

'What HAVE you seen?' asked Lightwood. Forhe was staring at
them in the strangest way.

'I've seen his boat.'

'Not empty?'

'Yesempty. And what's more--adrift. And what's more--with
one scull gone. And what's more--with t'other scull jammed in the
thowels and broke short off. And what's more--the boat's drove
tight by the tide 'atwixt two tiers of barges. And what's more--he's
in luck againby George if he ain't!'

Chapter 14

THE BIRD OF PREY BROUGHT DOWN

Cold on the shorein the raw cold of that leaden crisis in the fourand-
twenty hours when the vital force of all the noblest and
prettiest things that live is at its lowestthe three watchers looked
each at the blank faces of the other twoand all at the blank face of
Riderhood in his boat.

'Gaffer's boatGaffer in luck againand yet no Gaffer!' So spake
Riderhoodstaring disconsolate.

As if with one accordthey all turned their eyes towards the light
of the fire shining through the window. It was fainter and duller.
Perhaps firelike the higher animal and vegetable life it helps to
sustainhas its greatest tendency towards deathwhen the night is
dying and the day is not yet born.

'If it was me that had the law of this here job in hand' growled
Riderhood with a threatening shake of his head'blest if I wouldn't
lay hold of HERat any rate!'

'Aybut it is not you' said Eugene. With something so suddenly
fierce in him that the informer returned submissively; 'Wellwell
wellt'other governorI didn't say it was. A man may speak.'

'And vermin may be silent' said Eugene. 'Hold your tongueyou
water-rat!'

Astonished by his friend's unusual heatLightwood stared tooand
then said: 'What can have become of this man?'

'Can't imagine. Unless he dived overboard.' The informer wiped
his brow ruefully as he said itsitting in his boat and always
staring disconsolate.


'Did you make his boat fast?'

'She's fast enough till the tide runs back. I couldn't make her faster
than she is. Come aboard of mineand see for your own-selves.'

There was a little backwardness in complyingfor the freight
looked too much for the boat; but on Riderhood's protesting 'that he
had had half a dozendead and alivein her afore nowand she
was nothing deep in the water nor down in the stern even thento
speak of;' they carefully took their placesand trimmed the crazy
thing. While they were doing soRiderhood still sat staring
disconsolate.

'All right. Give way!' said Lightwood.

'Give wayby George!' repeated Riderhoodbefore shoving off. 'If
he's gone and made off any how Lawyer Lightwoodit's enough to
make me give way in a different manner. But he always WAS a
cheatcon-found him! He always was a infernal cheatwas Gaffer.
Nothing straightfor'ardnothing on the square. So meanso
underhanded. Never going through with a thingnor carrying it
out like a man!'

'Hallo! Steady!' cried Eugene (he had recovered immediately on
embarking)as they bumped heavily against a pile; and then in a
lower voice reversed his late apostrophe by remarking ('I wish the
boat of my honourable and gallant friend may be endowed with
philanthropy enough not to turn bottom-upward and extinguish
us!) Steadysteady! Sit closeMortimer. Here's the hail again.
See how it flieslike a troop of wild catsat Mr Riderhood's eyes!'

Indeed he had the full benefit of itand it so mauled himthough
he bent his head low and tried to present nothing but the mangy
cap to itthat he dropped under the lee of a tier of shippingand
they lay there until it was over. The squall had come uplike a
spiteful messenger before the morning; there followed in its wake a
ragged tear of light which ripped the dark clouds until they showed
a great grey hole of day.

They were all shiveringand everything about them seemed to be
shivering; the river itself; craftriggingsailssuch early smoke as
there yet was on the shore. Black with wetand altered to the eye
by white patches of hail and sleetthe huddled buildings looked
lower than usualas if they were coweringand had shrunk with
the cold. Very little life was to be seen on either bankwindows
and doors were shutand the staring black and white letters upon
wharves and warehouses 'looked' said Eugene to Mortimer'like
inscriptions over the graves of dead businesses.'

As they glided slowly onkeeping under the shore and sneaking in
and out among the shipping by back-alleys of waterin a pilfering
way that seemed to be their boatman's normal manner of
progressionall the objects among which they crept were so huge
in contrast with their wretched boatas to threaten to crush it. Not
a ship's hullwith its rusty iron links of cable run out of hawseholes
long discoloured with the iron's rusty tearsbut seemed to be
there with a fell intention. Not a figure-head but had the menacing
look of bursting forward to run them down. Not a sluice gateor a
painted scale upon a post or wallshowing the depth of waterbut
seemed to hintlike the dreadfully facetious Wolf in bed in
Grandmamma's cottage'That's to drown YOU inmy dears!' Not
a lumbering black bargewith its cracked and blistered side
impending over thembut seemed to suck at the river with a thirst


for sucking them under. And everything so vaunted the spoiling
influences of water--discoloured copperrotten woodhoneycombed
stonegreen dank deposit--that the after-consequences of
being crushedsucked underand drawn downlooked as ugly to
the imagination as the main event.

Some half-hour of this workand Riderhood unshipped his sculls
stood holding on to a bargeand hand over hand long-wise along
the barge's side gradually worked his boat under her head into a
secret little nook of scummy water. And driven into that nookand
wedged as he had describedwas Gaffer's boat; that boat with the
stain still in itbearing some resemblance to a muffled human
form.

'Now tell me I'm a liar!' said the honest man.

('With a morbid expectation' murmured Eugene to Lightwood
'that somebody is always going to tell him the truth.')

'This is Hexam's boat' said Mr Inspector. 'I know her well.'

'Look at the broken scull. Look at the t'other scull gone. NOW tell
me I am a liar!' said the honest man.

Mr Inspector stepped into the boat. Eugene and Mortimer looked
on.

'And see now!' added Riderhoodcreeping aftand showing a
stretched rope made fast there and towing overboard. 'Didn't I tell
you he was in luck again?'

'Haul in' said Mr Inspector.

'Easy to say haul in' answered Riderhood. 'Not so easy done. His
luck's got fouled under the keels of the barges. I tried to haul in
last timebut I couldn't. See how taut the line is!'

'I must have it up' said Mr Inspector. 'I am going to take this
boat ashoreand his luck along with it. Try easy now.'

He tried easy now; but the luck resisted; wouldn't come.

'I mean to have itand the boat too' said Mr Inspectorplaying the
line.

But still the luck resisted; wouldn't come.

'Take care' said Riderhood. 'You'll disfigure. Or pull asunder
perhaps.'

'I am not going to do eithernot even to your Grandmother' said
Mr Inspector; 'but I mean to have it. Come!' he addedat once
persuasively and with authority to the hidden object in the water
as he played the line again; 'it's no good this sort of gameyou
know. You MUST come up. I mean to have you.'

There was so much virtue in this distinctly and decidedly meaning
to have itthat it yielded a littleeven while the line was played.

'I told you so' quoth Mr Inspectorpulling off his outer coatand
leaning well over the stern with a will. 'Come!'

It was an awful sort of fishingbut it no more disconcerted Mr
Inspector than if he had been fishing in a punt on a summer


evening by some soothing weir high up the peaceful river. After
certain minutesand a few directions to the rest to 'ease her a little
for'ard' and 'now ease her a trifle aft' and the likehe said
composedly'All clear!' and the line and the boat came free
together.

Accepting Lightwood's proffered hand to help him uphe then put
on his coatand said to Riderhood'Hand me over those spare
sculls of yoursand I'll pull this in to the nearest stairs. Go ahead
youand keep out in pretty open waterthat I mayn't get fouled
again.'

His directions were obeyedand they pulled ashore directly; two in
one boattwo in the other.

'Now' said Mr Inspectoragain to Riderhoodwhen they were all
on the slushy stones; 'you have had more practice in this than I
have hadand ought to be a better workman at it. Undo the towrope
and we'll help you haul in.'

Riderhood got into the boat accordingly. It appeared as if he had
scarcely had a moment's time to touch the rope or look over the
sternwhen he came scrambling backas pale as the morningand
gasped out:

'By the Lordhe's done me!'

'What do you mean?' they all demanded.

He pointed behind him at the boatand gasped to that degree that
he dropped upon the stones to get his breath.

'Gaffer's done me. It's Gaffer!'

They ran to the ropeleaving him gasping there. Soonthe form of
the bird of preydead some hourslay stretched upon the shore
with a new blast storming at it and clotting the wet hair with hailstones.


Fatherwas that you calling me? Father! I thought I heard you call
me twice before! Words never to be answeredthoseupon the
earth-side of the grave. The wind sweeps jeeringly over Father
whips him with the frayed ends of his dress and his jagged hair
tries to turn him where he lies stark on his backand force his face
towards the rising sunthat he may be shamed the more. A lull
and the wind is secret and prying with him; lifts and lets falls a
rag; hides palpitating under another rag; runs nimbly through his
hair and beard. Thenin a rushit cruelly taunts him. Fatherwas
that you calling me? Was it youthe voiceless and the dead? Was
it youthus buffeted as you lie here in a heap? Was it youthus
baptized unto Deathwith these flying impurities now flung upon
your face? Why not speakFather? Soaking into this filthy ground
as you lie hereis your own shape. Did you never see such a shape
soaked into your boat? SpeakFather. Speak to usthe windsthe
only listeners left you!

'Now see' said Mr Inspectorafter mature deliberation: kneeling
on one knee beside the bodywhen they had stood looking down
on the drowned manas he had many a time looked down on many
another man: 'the way of it was this. Of course you gentlemen
hardly failed to observe that he was towing by the neck and arms.'

They had helped to release the ropeand of course not.


'And you will have observed beforeand you will observe nowthat
this knotwhich was drawn chock-tight round his neck by the
strain of his own armsis a slip-knot': holding it up for
demonstration.

Plain enough.

'Likewise you will have observed how he had run the other end of
this rope to his boat.'

It had the curves and indentations in it stillwhere it had been
twined and bound.

'Now see' said Mr Inspector'see how it works round upon him.
It's a wild tempestuous evening when this man that was' stooping
to wipe some hailstones out of his hair with an end of his own
drowned jacket'--there! Now he's more like himself; though he's
badly bruised--when this man that wasrows out upon the river on
his usual lay. He carries with him this coil of rope. He always
carries with him this coil of rope. It's as well known to me as he
was himself. Sometimes it lay in the bottom of his boat.
Sometimes he hung it loose round his neck. He was a light-dresser
was this man;--you see?' lifting the loose neckerchief over his
breastand taking the opportunity of wiping the dead lips with it-'
and when it was wetor freezingor blew coldhe would hang
this coil of line round his neck. Last evening he does this. Worse
for him! He dodges about in his boatdoes this mantill he gets
chilled. His hands' taking up one of themwhich dropped like a
leaden weight'get numbed. He sees some object that's in his way
of businessfloating. He makes ready to secure that object. He
unwinds the end of his coil that he wants to take some turns on in
his boatand he takes turns enough on it to secure that it shan't run
out. He makes it too secureas it happens. He is a little longer
about this than usualhis hands being numbed. His object drifts
upbefore he is quite ready for it. He catches at itthinks he'll
make sure of the contents of the pockets anyhowin case he should
be parted from itbends right over the sternand in one of these
heavy squallsor in the cross-swell of two steamersor in not being
quite preparedor through all or most or somegets a lurch
overbalances and goes head-foremost overboard. Now see! He
can swimcan this manand instantly he strikes out. But in such
striking-out he tangles his armspulls strong on the slip-knotand
it runs home. The object he had expected to take in towfloats by
and his own boat tows him deadto where we found himall
entangled in his own line. You'll ask me how I make out about
the pockets? FirstI'll tell you more; there was silver in 'em. How
do I make that out? Simple and satisfactory. Because he's got it
here.' The lecturer held up the tightly clenched right hand.

'What is to be done with the remains?' asked Lightwood.

'If you wouldn't object to standing by him half a minutesir' was
the reply'I'll find the nearest of our men to come and take charge
of him;--I still call it HIMyou see' said Mr Inspectorlooking
back as he wentwith a philosophical smile upon the force of
habit.

'Eugene' said Lightwood and was about to add 'we may wait at a
little distance' when turning his head he found that no Eugene was
there.

He raised his voice and called 'Eugene! Holloa!' But no Eugene
replied.


It was broad daylight nowand he looked about. But no Eugene
was in all the view.

Mr Inspector speedily returning down the wooden stairswith a
police constableLightwood asked him if he had seen his friend
leave them? Mr Inspector could not exactly say that he had seen
him gobut had noticed that he was restless.

'Singular and entertaining combinationsiryour friend.'

'I wish it had not been a part of his singular entertaining
combination to give me the slip under these dreary circumstances
at this time of the morning' said Lightwood. 'Can we get anything
hot to drink?'

We couldand we did. In a public-house kitchen with a large fire.
We got hot brandy and waterand it revived us wonderfully. Mr
Inspector having to Mr Riderhood announced his official intention
of 'keeping his eye upon him'stood him in a corner of the
fireplacelike a wet umbrellaand took no further outward and
visible notice of that honest manexcept ordering a separate service
of brandy and water for him: apparently out of the public funds.

As Mortimer Lightwood sat before the blazing fireconscious of
drinking brandy and water then and there in his sleepand yet at
one and the same time drinking burnt sherry at the Six Jolly
Fellowshipsand lying under the boat on the river shoreand
sitting in the boat that Riderhood rowedand listening to the
lecture recently concludedand having to dine in the Temple with
an unknown manwho described himself as M. H. F. Eugene
Gaffer Harmonand said he lived at Hailstorm--as he passed
through these curious vicissitudes of fatigue and slumberarranged
upon the scale of a dozen hours to the secondhe became aware of
answering aloud a communication of pressing importance that had
never been made to himand then turned it into a cough on
beholding Mr Inspector. Forhe feltwith some natural
indignationthat that functionary might otherwise suspect him of
having closed his eyesor wandered in his attention.

'Here just before usyou see' said Mr Inspector.

'I see' said Lightwoodwith dignity.

'And had hot brandy and water tooyou see' said Mr Inspector
'and then cut off at a great rate.'

'Who?' said Lightwood.

'Your friendyou know.'

'I know' he repliedagain with dignity.

After hearingin a mist through which Mr Inspector loomed vague
and largethat the officer took upon himself to prepare the dead
man's daughter for what had befallen in the nightand generally
that he took everything upon himselfMortimer Lightwood
stumbled in his sleep to a cab-standcalled a caband had entered
the army and committed a capital military offence and been tried
by court martial and found guilty and had arranged his affairs and
been marched out to be shotbefore the door banged.

Hard work rowing the cab through the City to the Templefor a
cup of from five to ten thousand pounds valuegiven by Mr Boffin;
and hard work holding forth at that immeasurable length to Eugene


(when he had been rescued with a rope from the running
pavement) for making off in that extraordinary manner! But he
offered such ample apologiesand was so very penitentthat when
Lightwood got out of the cabhe gave the driver a particular charge
to he careful of him. Which the driver (knowing there was no
other fare left inside) stared at prodigiously.

In shortthe night's work had so exhausted and worn out this actor
in itthat he had become a mere somnambulist. He was too tired
to rest in his sleepuntil he was even tired out of being too tired
and dropped into oblivion. Late in the afternoon he awokeand in
some anxiety sent round to Eugene's lodging hard byto inquire if
he were up yet?

Oh yeshe was up. In facthe had not been to bed. He had just
come home. And here he wasclose following on the heels of the
message.

'Why what bloodshotdraggleddishevelled spectacle is this!' cried
Mortimer.

'Are my feathers so very much rumpled?' said Eugenecoolly going
up to the looking-glass. They ARE rather out of sorts. But
consider. Such a night for plumage!'

'Such a night?' repeated Mortimer. 'What became of you in the
morning?'

'My dear fellow' said Eugenesitting on his bed'I felt that we had
bored one another so longthat an unbroken continuance of those
relations must inevitably terminate in our flying to opposite points
of the earth. I also felt that I had committed every crime in the
Newgate Calendar. Sofor mingled considerations of friendship
and felonyI took a walk.'

Chapter 15

TWO NEW SERVANTS

Mr and Mrs Boffin sat after breakfastin the Bowera prey to
prosperity. Mr Boffin's face denoted Care and Complication.
Many disordered papers were before himand he looked at them
about as hopefully as an innocent civilian might look at a crowd of
troops whom he was required at five minutes' notice to manoeuvre
and review. He had been engaged in some attempts to make notes
of these papers; but being troubled (as men of his stamp often are)
with an exceedingly distrustful and corrective thumbthat busy
member had so often interposed to smear his notesthat they were
little more legible than the various impressions of itself; which
blurred his nose and forehead. It is curious to considerin such a
case as Mr Boffin'swhat a cheap article ink isand how far it may
be made to go. As a grain of musk will scent a drawer for many
yearsand still lose nothing appreciable of its original weightso a
halfpenny-worth of ink would blot Mr Boffin to the roots of his
hair and the calves of his legswithout inscribing a line on the
paper before himor appearing to diminish in the inkstand.

Mr Boffin was in such severe literary difficulties that his eyes were
prominent and fixedand his breathing was stertorouswhento
the great relief of Mrs Boffinwho observed these symptoms with
alarmthe yard bell rang.


'Who's thatI wonder!' said Mrs Boffin.


Mr Boffin drew a long breathlaid down his penlooked at his
notes as doubting whether he had the pleasure of their
acquaintanceand appearedon a second perusal of their
countenancesto be confirmed in his impression that he had not
when there was announced by the hammer-headed young man:


'Mr Rokesmith.'


'Oh!' said Mr Boffin. 'Oh indeed! Our and the Wilfers' Mutual
Friendmy dear. Yes. Ask him to come in.'


Mr Rokesmith appeared.


'Sit downsir' said Mr Boffinshaking hands with him. 'Mrs
Boffin you're already acquainted with. WellsirI am rather
unprepared to see youforto tell you the truthI've been so busy
with one thing and anotherthat I've not had time to turn your offer
over.'


'That's apology for both of us: for Mr Boffinand for me as well'
said the smiling Mrs Boffin. 'But Lor! we can talk it over now;
can't us?'


Mr Rokesmith bowedthanked herand said he hoped so.


'Let me see then' resumed Mr Boffinwith his hand to his chin. 'It
was Secretary that you named; wasn't it?'


'I said Secretary' assented Mr Rokesmith.


'It rather puzzled me at the time' said Mr Boffin'and it rather
puzzled me and Mrs Boffin when we spoke of it afterwards
because (not to make a mystery of our belief) we have always
believed a Secretary to be a piece of furnituremostly of mahogany
lined with green baize or leatherwith a lot of little drawers in it.
Nowyou won't think I take a liberty when I mention that you
certainly ain't THAT.'


Certainly notsaid Mr Rokesmith. But he had used the word in
the sense of Steward.


'Whyas to Stewardyou see' returned Mr Boffinwith his hand
still to his chin'the odds are that Mrs Boffin and me may never go
upon the water. Being both bad sailorswe should want a Steward
if we did; but there's generally one provided.'


Mr Rokesmith again explained; defining the duties he sought to
undertakeas those of general superintendentor manageror
overlookeror man of business.


'Nowfor instance--come!' said Mr Boffinin his pouncing way. 'If
you entered my employmentwhat would you do?'


'I would keep exact accounts of all the expenditure you sanctioned
Mr Boffin. I would write your lettersunder your direction. I
would transact your business with people in your pay or
employment. I would' with a glance and a half-smile at the table
'arrange your papers--'


Mr Boffin rubbed his inky earand looked at his wife.



'--And so arrange them as to have them always in order for
immediate referencewith a note of the contents of each outside it.'


'I tell you what' said Mr Boffinslowly crumpling his own blotted
note in his hand; 'if you'll turn to at these present papersand see
what you can make of 'emI shall know better what I can make of
you.'


No sooner said than done. Relinquishing his hat and glovesMr
Rokesmith sat down quietly at the tablearranged the open papers
into an orderly heapcast his eyes over each in successionfolded
itdocketed it on the outsidelaid it in a second heapandwhen
that second heap was complete and the first gonetook from his
pocket a piece of string and tied it together with a remarkably
dexterous hand at a running curve and a loop.


'Good!' said Mr Boffin. 'Very good! Now let us hear what they're
all about; will you be so good?'


John Rokesmith read his abstracts aloud. They were all about the
new house. Decorator's estimateso much. Furniture estimateso
much. Estimate for furniture of officesso much. Coach-maker's
estimateso much. Horse-dealer's estimateso much. Harness-
maker's estimateso much. Goldsmith's estimateso much.
Totalso very much. Then came correspondence. Acceptance of
Mr Boffin's offer of such a dateand to such an effect. Rejection of
Mr Boffin's proposal of such a date and to such an effect.
Concerning Mr Boffin's scheme of such another date to such
another effect. All compact and methodical.


'Apple-pie order!' said Mr Boffinafter checking off each
inscription with his handlike a man beating time. 'And whatever
you do with your inkI can't thinkfor you're as clean as a whistle
after it. Nowas to a letter. Let's' said Mr Boffinrubbing his
hands in his pleasantly childish admiration'let's try a letter next.'


'To whom shall it be addressedMr Boffin?'


'Anyone. Yourself.'


Mr Rokesmith quickly wroteand then read aloud:


'"Mr Boffin presents his compliments to Mr John Rokesmithand
begs to say that he has decided on giving Mr John Rokesmith a
trial in the capacity he desires to fill. Mr Boffin takes Mr John
Rokesmith at his wordin postponing to some indefinite period
the consideration of salary. It is quite understood that Mr Boffin is
in no way committed on that point. Mr Boffin has merely to add
that he relies on Mr John Rokesmith's assurance that he will be
faithful and serviceable. Mr John Rokesmith will please enter on
his duties immediately."'


'Well! NowNoddy!' cried Mrs Boffinclapping her hands'That
IS a good one!'


Mr Boffin was no less delighted; indeedin his own bosomhe
regarded both the composition itself and the device that had given
birth to itas a very remarkable monument of human ingenuity.


'And I tell youmy deary' said Mrs Boffin'that if you don't close
with Mr Rokesmith now at onceand if you ever go a muddling
yourself again with things never meant nor made for youyou'll
have an apoplexy--besides iron-moulding your linen--and you'll
break my heart.'



Mr Boffin embraced his spouse for these words of wisdomand
thencongratulating John Rokesmith on the brilliancy of his
achievementsgave him his hand in pledge of their new relations.
So did Mrs Boffin.

'Now' said Mr Boffinwhoin his franknessfelt that it did not
become him to have a gentleman in his employment five minutes
without reposing some confidence in him'you must be let a little
more into our affairsRokesmith. I mentioned to youwhen I
made your acquaintanceor I might better say when you made
minethat Mrs Boffin's inclinations was setting in the way of
Fashionbut that I didn't know how fashionable we might or might
not grow. Well! Mrs Boffin has carried the dayand we're going
in neck and crop for Fashion.'

'I rather inferred thatsir' replied John Rokesmith'from the scale
on which your new establishment is to be maintained.'

'Yes' said Mr Boffin'it's to be a Spanker. The fact ismy literary
man named to me that a house with which he isas I may say
connected--in which he has an interest--'

'As property?' inquired John Rokesmith.

'Why no' said Mr Boffin'not exactly that; a sort of a family tie.'

'Association?' the Secretary suggested.

'Ah!' said Mr Boffin. 'Perhaps. Anyhowhe named to me that the
house had a board upThis Eminently Aristocratic Mansion to be
let or sold.Me and Mrs Boffin went to look at itand finding it
beyond a doubt Eminently Aristocratic (though a trifle high and
dullwhich after all may be part of the same thing) took it. My
literary man was so friendly as to drop into a charming piece of
poetry on that occasionin which he complimented Mrs Boffin on
coming into possession of--how did it gomy dear?'

Mrs Boffin replied:

'"The gaythe gay and festive scene
The hallsthe halls of dazzling light."'


'That's it! And it was made neater by there really being two halls
in the housea front 'un and a back 'unbesides the servants'. He
likewise dropped into a very pretty piece of poetry to be sure
respecting the extent to which he would be willing to put himself
out of the way to bring Mrs Boffin roundin case she should ever
get low in her spirits in the house. Mrs Boffin has a wonderful
memory. Will you repeat itmy dear?'

Mrs Boffin compliedby reciting the verses in which this obliging
offer had been madeexactly as she had received them.

'"I'll tell thee how the maiden weptMrs Boffin

When her true love was slain ma'am

And how her broken spirit sleptMrs Boffin

And never woke again ma'am.

I'll tell thee (if agreeable to Mr Boffin) how the steed drew

nigh

And left his lord afar;

And if my tale (which I hope Mr Boffin might excuse) should

make you sigh

I'll strike the light guitar."'


'Correct to the letter!' said Mr Boffin. 'And I consider that the
poetry brings us both inin a beautiful manner.'

The effect of the poem on the Secretary being evidently to astonish
himMr Boffin was confirmed in his high opinion of itand was
greatly pleased.

'Nowyou seeRokesmith' he went on'a literary man--WITH a
wooden leg--is liable to jealousy. I shall therefore cast about for
comfortable ways and means of not calling up Wegg's jealousy
but of keeping you in your departmentand keeping him in his.'

'Lor!' cried Mrs Boffin. 'What I say isthe world's wide enough for
all of us!'

'So it ismy dear' said Mr Boffin'when not literary. But when so
not so. And I am bound to bear in mind that I took Wegg onat a
time when I had no thought of being fashionable or of leaving the
Bower. To let him feel himself anyways slighted nowwould be to
be guilty of a meannessand to act like having one's head turned
by the halls of dazzling light. Which Lord forbid! Rokesmith
what shall we say about your living in the house?'

'In this house?'

'Nono. I have got other plans for this house. In the new house?'

'That will be as you pleaseMr Boffin. I hold myself quite at your
disposal. You know where I live at present.'

'Well!' said Mr Boffinafter considering the point; 'suppose you
keep as you are for the presentand we'll decide by-and-by. You'll
begin to take charge at onceof all that's going on in the new
housewill you?'

'Most willingly. I will begin this very day. Will you give me the
address?'

Mr Boffin repeated itand the Secretary wrote it down in his
pocket-book. Mrs Boffin took the opportunity of his being so
engagedto get a better observation of his face than she had yet
taken. It impressed her in his favourfor she nodded aside to Mr
Boffin'I like him.'

'I will see directly that everything is in trainMr Boffin.'

'Thank'ee. Being herewould you care at all to look round the
Bower?'

'I should greatly like it. I have heard so much of its story.'

'Come!' said Mr Boffin. And he and Mrs Boffin led the way.

A gloomy house the Bowerwith sordid signs on it of having been
through its long existence as Harmony Jailin miserly holding.
Bare of paintbare of paper on the wallsbare of furniturebare of
experience of human life. Whatever is built by man for man's
occupationmustlike natural creationsfulfil the intention of its
existenceor soon perish. This old house had wasted--more from
desuetude than it would have wasted from usetwenty years for
one.

A certain leanness falls upon houses not sufficiently imbued with


life (as if they were nourished upon it)which was very noticeable
here. The staircasebalustradesand railshad a spare look--an air
of being denuded to the bone--which the panels of the walls and
the jambs of the doors and windows also bore. The scanty
moveables partook of it; save for the cleanliness of the placethe
dust--into which they were all resolving would have lain thick on
the floors; and thoseboth in colour and in grainwere worn like
old faces that had kept much alone.

The bedroom where the clutching old man had lost his grip on life
was left as he had left it. There was the old grisly four-post
bedsteadwithout hangingsand with a jail-like upper rim of iron
and spikes; and there was the old patch-work counterpane. There
was the tight-clenched old bureaureceding atop like a bad and
secret forehead; there was the cumbersome old table with twisted
legsat the bed-side; and there was the box upon itin which the
will had lain. A few old chairs with patch-work coversunder
which the more precious stuff to be preserved had slowly lost its
quality of colour without imparting pleasure to any eyestood
against the wall. A hard family likeness was on all these things.

'The room was kept like thisRokesmith' said Mr Boffin'against
the son's return. In shorteverything in the house was kept exactly
as it came to usfor him to see and approve. Even nownothing is
changed but our own room below-stairs that you have just left.
When the son came home for the last time in his lifeand for the
last time in his life saw his fatherit was most likely in this room
that they met.'

As the Secretary looked all round ithis eyes rested on a side door
in a corner.

'Another staircase' said Mr Boffinunlocking the door'leading
down into the yard. We'll go down this wayas you may like to
see the yardand it's all in the road. When the son was a little
childit was up and down these stairs that he mostly came and
went to his father. He was very timid of his father. I've seen him
sit on these stairsin his shy waypoor childmany a time. Mr and
Mrs Boffin have comforted himsitting with his little book on
these stairsoften.'

'Ah! And his poor sister too' said Mrs Boffin. 'And here's the
sunny place on the white wall where they one day measured one
another. Their own little hands wrote up their names hereonly
with a pencil; but the names are here stilland the poor dears gone
for ever.'

'We must take care of the namesold lady' said Mr Boffin. 'We
must take care of the names. They shan't be rubbed out in our
timenor yetif we can help itin the time after us. Poor little
children!'

'Ahpoor little children!' said Mrs Boffin.

They had opened the door at the bottom of the staircase giving on
the yardand they stood in the sunlightlooking at the scrawl of the
two unsteady childish hands two or three steps up the staircase.
There was something in this simple memento of a blighted
childhoodand in the tenderness of Mrs Boffinthat touched the
Secretary.

Mr Boffin then showed his new man of business the Moundsand
his own particular Mound which had been left him as his legacy
under the will before he acquired the whole estate.


'It would have been enough for us' said Mr Boffin'in case it had
pleased God to spare the last of those two young lives and
sorrowful deaths. We didn't want the rest.'

At the treasures of the yardand at the outside of the houseand at
the detached building which Mr Boffin pointed out as the residence
of himself and his wife during the many years of their servicethe
Secretary looked with interest. It was not until Mr Boffin had
shown him every wonder of the Bower twice overthat he
remembered his having duties to discharge elsewhere.

'You have no instructions to give meMr Boffinin reference to
this place?'

'Not anyRokesmith. No.'

'Might I askwithout seeming impertinentwhether you have any
intention of selling it?'

'Certainly not. In remembrance of our old masterour old master's
childrenand our old serviceme and Mrs Boffin mean to keep it
up as it stands.'

The Secretary's eyes glanced with so much meaning in them at the
Moundsthat Mr Boffin saidas if in answer to a remark:

'Ayaythat's another thing. I may sell THEMthough I should be
sorry to see the neighbourhood deprived of 'em too. It'll look but a
poor dead flat without the Mounds. Still I don't say that I'm going
to keep 'em always therefor the sake of the beauty of the
landscape. There's no hurry about it; that's all I say at present. I
ain't a scholar in muchRokesmithbut I'm a pretty fair scholar in
dust. I can price the Mounds to a fractionand I know how they
can be best disposed of; and likewise that they take no harm by
standing where they do. You'll look in to-morrowwill you be so
kind?'

'Every day. And the sooner I can get you into your new house
completethe better you will be pleasedsir?'

'Wellit ain't that I'm in a mortal hurry' said Mr Boffin; 'only
when you DO pay people for looking aliveit's as well to know
that they ARE looking alive. Ain't that your opinion?'

'Quite!' replied the Secretary; and so withdrew.

'Now' said Mr Boffin to himself; subsiding into his regular series
of turns in the yard'if I can make it comfortable with Weggmy
affairs will be going smooth.'

The man of low cunning hadof courseacquired a mastery over
the man of high simplicity. The mean man hadof coursegot the
better of the generous man. How long such conquests lastis
another matter; that they are achievedis every-day experiencenot
even to be flourished away by Podsnappery itself. The
undesigning Boffin had become so far immeshed by the wily Wegg
that his mind misgave him he was a very designing man indeed in
purposing to do more for Wegg. It seemed to him (so skilful was
Wegg) that he was plotting darklywhen he was contriving to do
the very thing that Wegg was plotting to get him to do. And thus
while he was mentally turning the kindest of kind faces on Wegg
this morninghe was not absolutely sure but that he might
somehow deserve the charge of turning his back on him.


For these reasons Mr Boffin passed but anxious hours until
evening cameand with it Mr Weggstumping leisurely to the
Roman Empire. At about this period Mr Boffin had become
profoundly interested in the fortunes of a great military leader
known to him as Bully Sawyersbut perhaps better known to fame
and easier of identification by the classical studentunder the less
Britannic name of Belisarius. Even this general's career paled in
interest for Mr Boffin before the clearing of his conscience with
Wegg; and hencewhen that literary gentleman had according to
custom eaten and drunk until he was all a-glowand when he took
up his book with the usual chirping introduction'And nowMr
Boffinsirwe'll decline and we'll fall!' Mr Boffin stopped him.

'You rememberWeggwhen I first told you that I wanted to make
a sort of offer to you?'

'Let me get on my considering capsir' replied that gentleman
turning the open book face downward. 'When you first told me
that you wanted to make a sort of offer to me? Now let me think.'
(as if there were the least necessity) 'Yesto be sure I doMr
Boffin. It was at my corner. To be sure it was! You had first
asked me whether I liked your nameand Candour had compelled
a reply in the negative case. I little thought thensirhow familiar
that name would come to be!'

'I hope it will be more familiar stillWegg.'

'Do youMr Boffin? Much obliged to youI'm sure. Is it your
pleasuresirthat we decline and we fall?' with a feint of taking up
the book.

'Not just yet awhileWegg. In factI have got another offer to
make you.'

Mr Wegg (who had had nothing else in his mind for several
nights) took off his spectacles with an air of bland surprise.

'And I hope you'll like itWegg.'

'Thank yousir' returned that reticent individual. 'I hope it may
prove so. On all accountsI am sure.' (Thisas a philanthropic
aspiration.)

'What do you think' said Mr Boffin'of not keeping a stall
Wegg?'

'I thinksir' replied Wegg'that I should like to be shown the
gentleman prepared to make it worth my while!'

'Here he is' said Mr Boffin.

Mr Wegg was going to sayMy Benefactorand had said My
Benewhen a grandiloquent change came over him.

'NoMr Boffinnot you sir. Anybody but you. Do not fearMr
Boffinthat I shall contaminate the premises which your gold has
boughtwith MY lowly pursuits. I am awaresirthat it would not
become me to carry on my little traffic under the windows of your
mansion. I have already thought of thatand taken my measures.
No need to be bought outsir. Would Stepney Fields be
considered intrusive? If not remote enoughI can go remoter. In
the words of the poet's songwhich I do not quite remember:


Thrown on the wide worlddoom'd to wander and roam

Bereft of my parentsbereft of a home

A stranger to something and what's his name joy

Behold little Edmund the poor Peasant boy.

--And equally' said Mr Weggrepairing the want of direct
application in the last line'behold myself on a similar footing!'

'NowWeggWeggWegg' remonstrated the excellent Boffin.
'You are too sensitive.'

'I know I amsir' returned Weggwith obstinate magnanimity. 'I
am acquainted with my faults. I always wasfrom a childtoo
sensitive.'

'But listen' pursued the Golden Dustman; 'hear me outWegg.
You have taken it into your head that I mean to pension you off.'

'Truesir' returned Weggstill with an obstinate magnanimity. 'I
am acquainted with my faults. Far be it from me to deny them. I
HAVE taken it into my head.'

'But I DON'T mean it.'

The assurance seemed hardly as comforting to Mr Weggas Mr
Boffin intended it to be. Indeedan appreciable elongation of his
visage might have been observed as he replied:

'Don't youindeedsir?'

'No' pursued Mr Boffin; 'because that would expressas I
understand itthat you were not going to do anything to deserve
your money. But you are; you are.'

'Thatsir' replied Mr Weggcheering up bravely'is quite another
pair of shoes. Nowmy independence as a man is again elevated.
NowI no longer

Weep for the hour

When to Boffinses bower

The Lord of the valley with offers came;

Neither does the moon hide her light

From the heavens to-night

And weep behind her clouds o'er any individual in the present

Company's shame.

--Please to proceedMr Boffin.'

'Thank'eeWeggboth for your confidence in me and for your
frequent dropping into poetry; both of which is friendly. Well
then; my idea isthat you should give up your stalland that I
should put you into the Bower hereto keep it for us. It's a
pleasant spot; and a man with coals and candles and a pound a
week might be in clover here.'

'Hem! Would that mansir--we will say that manfor the purposes
of argueyment;' Mr Wegg made a smiling demonstration of great
perspicuity here; 'would that mansirbe expected to throw any
other capacity inor would any other capacity be considered extra?
Now let us (for the purposes of argueyment) suppose that man to
be engaged as a reader: say (for the purposes of argunyment) in the
evening. Would that man's pay as a reader in the eveningbe
added to the other amountwhichadopting your languagewe will
call clover; or would it merge into that amountor clover?'


'Well' said Mr Boffin'I suppose it would be added.'

'I suppose it wouldsir. You are rightsir. Exactly my own views
Mr Boffin.' Here Wegg roseand balancing himself on his wooden
legfluttered over his prey with extended hand. 'Mr Boffin
consider it done. Say no moresirnot a word more. My stall and
I are for ever parted. The collection of ballads will in future be
reserved for private studywith the object of making poetry
tributary'--Wegg was so proud of having found this wordthat he
said it againwith a capital letter--'Tributaryto friendship. Mr
Boffindon't allow yourself to be made uncomfortable by the pang
it gives me to part from my stock and stall. Similar emotion was
undergone by my own father when promoted for his merits from
his occupation as a waterman to a situation under Government.
His Christian name was Thomas. His words at the time (I was
then an infantbut so deep was their impression on methat I
committed them to memory) were:

Then farewell my trim-built wherry
Oars and coat and badge farewell!
Never more at Chelsea Ferry
Shall your Thomas take a spell!


--My father got over itMr Boffinand so shall I.'

While delivering these valedictory observationsWegg continually
disappointed Mr Boffin of his hand by flourishing it in the air. He
now darted it at his patronwho took itand felt his mind relieved
of a great weight: observing that as they had arranged their joint
affairs so satisfactorilyhe would now he glad to look into those
of Bully Sawyers. Whichindeedhad been left over-night in a
very unpromising postureand for whose impending expedition
against the Persians the weather had been by no means favourable
all day.

Mr Wegg resumed his spectacles therefore. But Sawyers was not
to be of the party that night; forbefore Wegg had found his place
Mrs Boffin's tread was heard upon the stairsso unusually heavy
and hurriedthat Mr Boffin would have started up at the sound
anticipating some occurrence much out of the common course
even though she had not also called to him in an agitated tone.

Mr Boffin hurried outand found her on the dark staircase
pantingwith a lighted candle in her hand.

'What's the mattermy dear?'

'I don't know; I don't know; but I wish you'd come up-stairs.'

Much surprisedMr Boffin went up stairs and accompanied Mrs
Boffin into their own room: a second large room on the same floor
as the room in which the late proprietor had died. Mr Boffin
looked all round himand saw nothing more unusual than various
articles of folded linen on a large chestwhich Mrs Boffin had been
sorting.

'What is itmy dear? Whyyou're frightened! YOU frightened?'

'I am not one of that sort certainly' said Mrs Boffinas she sat
down in a chair to recover herselfand took her husband's arm; 'but
it's very strange!'

'What ismy dear?'


'Noddythe faces of the old man and the two children are all over
the house to-night.'

'My dear?' exclaimed Mr Boffin. But not without a certain
uncomfortable sensation gliding down his back.

'I know it must sound foolishand yet it is so.'

'Where did you think you saw them?'

'I don't know that I think I saw them anywhere. I felt them.'

'Touched them?'

'No. Felt them in the air. I was sorting those things on the chest
and not thinking of the old man or the childrenbut singing to
myselfwhen all in a moment I felt there was a face growing out of
the dark.'

'What face?' asked her husbandlooking about him.

'For a moment it was the old man'sand then it got younger. For a
moment it was both the children'sand then it got older. For a
moment it was a strange faceand then it was all the faces.'

'And then it was gone?'

'Yes; and then it was gone.'

'Where were you thenold lady?'

'Hereat the chest. Well; I got the better of itand went on sorting
and went on singing to myself. "Lor!" I saysI'll think of
something else--something comfortable--and put it out of my
head.So I thought of the new house and Miss Bella Wilferand
was thinking at a great rate with that sheet there in my handwhen
all of a suddenthe faces seemed to be hidden in among the folds
of it and I let it drop.'

As it still lay on the floor where it had fallenMr Boffin picked it
up and laid it on the chest.

'And then you ran down stairs?'

'No. I thought I'd try another roomand shake it off. I says to
myselfI'll go and walk slowly up and down the old man's room
three times, from end to end, and then I shall have conquered it.I
went in with the candle in my hand; but the moment I came near
the bedthe air got thick with them.'

'With the faces?'

'Yesand I even felt that they were in the dark behind the sidedoor
and on the little staircasefloating away into the yard. Then
I called you.'

Mr Boffinlost in amazementlooked at Mrs Boffin. Mrs Boffin
lost in her own fluttered inability to make this outlooked at Mr
Boffin.

'I thinkmy dear' said the Golden Dustman'I'll at once get rid of
Wegg for the nightbecause he's coming to inhabit the Bowerand
it might be put into his head or somebody else'sif he heard this


and it got about that the house is haunted. Whereas we know
better. Don't we?'

'I never had the feeling in the house before' said Mrs Boffin; 'and I
have been about it alone at all hours of the night. I have been in
the house when Death was in itand I have been in the house when
Murder was a new part of its adventuresand I never had a fright
in it yet.'

'And won't againmy dear' said Mr Boffin. 'Depend upon itit
comes of thinking and dwelling on that dark spot.'

'Yes; but why didn't it come before?' asked Mrs Boffin.

This draft on Mr Boffin's philosophy could only be met by that
gentleman with the remark that everything that is at allmust begin
at some time. Thentucking his wife's arm under his ownthat she
might not be left by herself to be troubled againhe descended to
release Wegg. Whobeing something drowsy after his plentiful
repastand constitutionally of a shirking temperamentwas well
enough pleased to stump awaywithout doing what he had come to
doand was paid for doing.

Mr Boffin then put on his hatand Mrs Boffin her shawl; and the
pairfurther provided with a bunch of keys and a lighted lantern
went all over the dismal house--dismal everywherebut in their
own two rooms--from cellar to cock-loft. Not resting satisfied with
giving that much chace to Mrs Boffin's fanciesthey pursued them
into the yard and outbuildingsand under the Mounds. And
setting the lanternwhen all was doneat the foot of one of the
Moundsthey comfortably trotted to and fro for an evening walkto
the end that the murky cobwebs in Mrs Boffin's brain might be
blown away.

Theremy dear!' said Mr Boffin when they came in to supper.
'That was the treatmentyou see. Completely worked round
haven't you?'

'Yesdeary' said Mrs Boffinlaying aside her shawl. 'I'm not
nervous any more. I'm not a bit troubled now. I'd go anywhere
about the house the same as ever. But--'

'Eh!' said Mr Boffin.

'But I've only to shut my eyes.'

'And what then?'

'Why then' said Mrs Boffinspeaking with her eyes closedand
her left hand thoughtfully touching her brow'thenthere they are!
The old man's faceand it gets younger. The two children's faces
and they get older. A face that I don't know. And then all the
faces!'

Opening her eyes againand seeing her husband's face across the
tableshe leaned forward to give it a pat on the cheekand sat
down to supperdeclaring it to be the best face in the world.

Chapter 16

MINDERS AND RE-MINDERS


The Secretary lost no time in getting to workand his vigilance and
method soon set their mark on the Golden Dustman's affairs. His
earnestness in determining to understand the length and breadth
and depth of every piece of work submitted to him by his employer
was as special as his despatch in transacting it. He accepted no
information or explanation at second handbut made himself the
master of everything confided to him.

One part of the Secretary's conductunderlying all the restmight
have been mistrusted by a man with a better knowledge of men
than the Golden Dustman had. The Secretary was as far from
being inquisitive or intrusive as Secretary could bebut nothing
less than a complete understanding of the whole of the affairs
would content him. It soon became apparent (from the knowledge
with which he set out) that he must have been to the office where
the Harmon will was registeredand must have read the will. He
anticipated Mr Boffin's consideration whether he should be
advised with on this or that topicby showing that he already knew
of it and understood it. He did this with no attempt at
concealmentseeming to be satisfied that it was part of his duty to
have prepared himself at all attainable points for its utmost
discharge.

This might--let it be repeated--have awakened some little vague
mistrust in a man more worldly-wise than the Golden Dustman.
On the other handthe Secretary was discerningdiscreetand
silentthough as zealous as if the affairs had been his own. He
showed no love of patronage or the command of moneybut
distinctly preferred resigning both to Mr Boffin. Ifin his limited
spherehe sought powerit was the power of knowledge; the
power derivable from a perfect comprehension of his business.

As on the Secretary's face there was a nameless cloudso on his
manner there was a shadow equally indefinable. It was not that he
was embarrassedas on that first night with the Wilfer family; he
was habitually unembarrassed nowand yet the something
remained. It was not that his manner was badas on that occasion;
it was now very goodas being modestgraciousand ready. Yet
the something never left it. It has been written of men who have
undergone a cruel captivityor who have passed through a terrible
straitor who in self-preservation have killed a defenceless fellowcreature
that the record thereof has never faded from their
countenances until they died. Was there any such record here?

He established a temporary office for himself in the new houseand
all went well under his handwith one singular exception. He
manifestly objected to communicate with Mr Boffin's solicitor.
Two or three timeswhen there was some slight occasion for his
doing sohe transferred the task to Mr Boffin; and his evasion of it
soon became so curiously apparentthat Mr Boffin spoke to him on
the subject of his reluctance.

'It is so' the Secretary admitted. 'I would rather not.'

Had he any personal objection to Mr Lightwood?

'I don't know him.'

Had he suffered from law-suits?

'Not more than other men' was his short answer.

Was he prejudiced against the race of lawyers?


'No. But while I am in your employmentsirI would rather he
excused from going between the lawyer and the client. Of course if
you press itMr BoffinI am ready to comply. But I should take it
as a great favour if you would not press it without urgent occasion.'

Nowit could not be said that there WAS urgent occasionfor
Lightwood retained no other affairs in his hands than such as still
lingered and languished about the undiscovered criminaland such
as arose out of the purchase of the house. Many other matters that
might have travelled to himnow stopped short at the Secretary
under whose administration they were far more expeditiously and
satisfactorily disposed of than they would have been if they had got
into Young Blight's domain. This the Golden Dustman quite
understood. Even the matter immediately in hand was of very little
moment as requiring personal appearance on the Secretary's part
for it amounted to no more than this:--The death of Hexam
rendering the sweat of the honest man's brow unprofitablethe
honest man had shufflingly decided to moisten his brow for
nothingwith that severe exertion which is known in legal circles
as swearing your way through a stone wall. Consequentlythat
new light had gone sputtering out. Butthe airing of the old facts
had led some one concerned to suggest that it would be well before
they were reconsigned to their gloomy shelf--now probably for
ever--to induce or compel that Mr Julius Handford to reappear and
be questioned. And all traces of Mr Julius Handford being lost
Lightwood now referred to his client for authority to seek him
through public advertisement.

'Does your objection go to writing to LightwoodRokesmith?'

'Not in the leastsir.'

'Then perhaps you'll write him a lineand say he is free to do what
he likes. I don't think it promises.'

'I don't think it promises' said the Secretary.

'Stillhe may do what he likes.'

'I will write immediately. Let me thank you for so considerately
yielding to my disinclination. It may seem less unreasonableif I
avow to you that although I don't know Mr LightwoodI have a
disagreeable association connected with him. It is not his fault; he
is not at all to blame for itand does not even know my name.'

Mr Boffin dismissed the matter with a nod or two. The letter was
writtenand next day Mr Julius Handford was advertised for. He
was requested to place himself in communication with Mr
Mortimer Lightwoodas a possible means of furthering the ends of
justiceand a reward was offered to any one acquainted with his
whereabout who would communicate the same to the said Mr
Mortimer Lightwood at his office in the Temple. Every day for six
weeks this advertisement appeared at the head of all the
newspapersand every day for six weeks the Secretarywhen he
saw itsaid to himself; in the tone in which he had said to his
employer--'I don't think it promises!'

Among his first occupations the pursuit of that orphan wanted by
Mrs Boffin held a conspicuous place. From the earliest moment of
his engagement he showed a particular desire to please herand
knowing her to have this object at hearthe followed it up with
unwearying alacrity and interest.


Mr and Mrs Milvey had found their search a difficult one. Either
an eligible orphan was of the wrong sex (which almost always
happened) or was too oldor too youngor too sicklyor too dirty
or too much accustomed to the streetsor too likely to run away; or
it was found impossible to complete the philanthropic transaction
without buying the orphan. Forthe instant it became known that
anybody wanted the orphanup started some affectionate relative
of the orphan who put a price upon the orphan's head. The
suddenness of an orphan's rise in the market was not to be
paralleled by the maddest records of the Stock Exchange. He
would be at five thousand per cent discount out at nurse making a
mud pie at nine in the morningand (being inquired for) would go
up to five thousand per cent premium before noon. The market
was 'rigged' in various artful ways. Counterfeit stock got into
circulation. Parents boldly represented themselves as deadand
brought their orphans with them. Genuine orphan-stock was
surreptitiously withdrawn from the market. It being announcedby
emissaries posted for the purposethat Mr and Mrs Milvey were
coming down the courtorphan scrip would be instantly concealed
and production refusedsave on a condition usually stated by the
brokers as 'a gallon of beer'. Likewisefluctuations of a wild and
South-Sea nature were occasionedby orphan-holders keeping
backand then rushing into the market a dozen together. Butthe
uniform principle at the root of all these various operations was
bargain and sale; and that principle could not be recognized by Mr
and Mrs Milvey.

At lengthtidings were received by the Reverend Frank of a
charming orphan to be found at Brentford. One of the deceased
parents (late his parishioners) had a poor widowed grandmother in
that agreeable townand sheMrs Betty Higdenhad carried off the
orphan with maternal carebut could not afford to keep him.

The Secretary proposed to Mrs Boffineither to go down himself
and take a preliminary survey of this orphanor to drive her down
that she might at once form her own opinion. Mrs Boffin
preferring the latter coursethey set off one morning in a hired
phaetonconveying the hammer-headed young man behind them.

The abode of Mrs Betty Higden was not easy to findlying in such
complicated back settlements of muddy Brentford that they left
their equipage at the sign of the Three Magpiesand went in search
of it on foot. After many inquiries and defeatsthere was pointed
out to them in a lanea very small cottage residencewith a board
across the open doorwayhooked on to which board by the armpits
was a young gentleman of tender yearsangling for mud with a
headless wooden horse and line. In this young sportsman
distinguished by a crisply curling auburn head and a bluff
countenancethe Secretary descried the orphan.

It unfortunately happened as they quickened their pacethat the
orphanlost to considerations of personal safety in the ardour of the
momentoverbalanced himself and toppled into the street. Being
an orphan of a chubby conformationhe then took to rollingand
had rolled into the gutter before they could come up. From the
gutter he was rescued by John Rokesmithand thus the first
meeting with Mrs Higden was inaugurated by the awkward
circumstance of their being in possession--one would say at first
sight unlawful possession--of the orphanupside down and purple
in the countenance. The board across the doorway tooacting as a
trap equally for the feet of Mrs Higden coming outand the feet of
Mrs Boffin and John Rokesmith going ingreatly increased the
difficulty of the situation: to which the cries of the orphan imparted
a lugubrious and inhuman character.


At firstit was impossible to explainon account of the orphan's
'holding his breath': a most terrific proceedingsuper-inducing in
the orphan lead-colour rigidity and a deadly silencecompared
with which his cries were music yielding the height of enjoyment.
But as he gradually recoveredMrs Boffin gradually introduced
herself; and smiling peace was gradually wooed back to Mrs Betty
Higden's home.

It was then perceived to be a small home with a large mangle in it
at the handle of which machine stood a very long boywith a very
little headand an open mouth of disproportionate capacity that
seemed to assist his eyes in staring at the visitors. In a corner
below the mangleon a couple of stoolssat two very little
children: a boy and a girl; and when the very long boyin an
interval of staringtook a turn at the mangleit was alarming to see
how it lunged itself at those two innocentslike a catapult designed
for their destructionharmlessly retiring when within an inch of
their heads. The room was clean and neat. It had a brick floor
and a window of diamond panesand a flounce hanging below the
chimney-pieceand strings nailed from bottom to top outside the
window on which scarlet-beans were to grow in the coming season
if the Fates were propitious. However propitious they might have
been in the seasons that were goneto Betty Higden in the matter
of beansthey had not been very favourable in the matter of coins;
for it was easy to see that she was poor.

She was one of those old womenwas Mrs Betty Higdenwho by
dint of an indomitable purpose and a strong constitution fight out
many yearsthough each year has come with its new knock-down
blows fresh to the fight against herwearied by it; an active old
womanwith a bright dark eye and a resolute faceyet quite a
tender creature too; not a logically-reasoning womanbut God is
goodand hearts may count in Heaven as high as heads.

'Yes sure!' said shewhen the business was opened'Mrs Milvey
had the kindness to write to mema'amand I got Sloppy to read it.
It was a pretty letter. But she's an affable lady.'

The visitors glanced at the long boywho seemed to indicate by a
broader stare of his mouth and eyes that in him Sloppy stood
confessed.

'For I aintyou must know' said Betty'much of a hand at reading
writing-handthough I can read my Bible and most print. And I
do love a newspaper. You mightn't think itbut Sloppy is a
beautiful reader of a newspaper. He do the Police in different
voices.'

The visitors again considered it a point of politeness to look at
Sloppywholooking at themsuddenly threw back his head
extended his mouth to its utmost widthand laughed loud and
long. At this the two innocentswith their brains in that apparent
dangerlaughedand Mrs Higden laughedand the orphan
laughedand then the visitors laughed. Which was more cheerful
than intelligible.

Then Sloppy seeming to be seized with an industrious mania or
furyturned to at the mangleand impelled it at the heads of the
innocents with such a creaking and rumblingthat Mrs Higden
stopped him.

'The gentlefolks can't hear themselves speakSloppy. Bide a bit
bide a bit!'


'Is that the dear child in your lap?' said Mrs Boffin.

'Yesma'amthis is Johnny.'

'Johnnytoo!' cried Mrs Boffinturning to the Secretary; 'already
Johnny! Only one of the two names left to give him! He's a pretty
boy.'

With his chin tucked down in his shy childish mannerhe was
looking furtively at Mrs Boffin out of his blue eyesand reaching
his fat dimpled hand up to the lips of the old womanwho was
kissing it by times.

'Yesma'amhe's a pretty boyhe's a dear darling boyhe's the
child of my own last left daughter's daughter. But she's gone the
way of all the rest.'

'Those are not his brother and sister?' said Mrs Boffin. 'Ohdear
noma'am. Those are Minders.'

'Minders?' the Secretary repeated.

'Left to he Mindedsir. I keep a Minding-School. I can take only
threeon account of the Mangle. But I love childrenand Fourpence
a week is Four-pence. Come hereToddles and Poddles.'

Toddles was the pet-name of the boy; Poddles of the girl. At their
little unsteady pacethey came across the floorhand-in-handas if
they were traversing an extremely difficult road intersected by
brooksandwhen they had had their heads patted by Mrs Betty
Higdenmade lunges at the orphandramatically representing an
attempt to bear himcrowinginto captivity and slavery. All the
three children enjoyed this to a delightful extentand the
sympathetic Sloppy again laughed long and loud. When it was
discreet to stop the playBetty Higden said 'Go to your seats
Toddles and Poddles' and they returned hand-in-hand across
countryseeming to find the brooks rather swollen by late rains.

'And Master--or Mister--Sloppy?' said the Secretaryin doubt
whether he was manboyor what.

'A love-child' returned Betty Higdendropping her voice; 'parents
never known; found in the street. He was brought up in the--' with
a shiver of repugnance'--the House.'

'The Poor-house?' said the Secretary.

Mrs Higden set that resolute old face of hersand darkly nodded
yes.

'You dislike the mention of it.'

'Dislike the mention of it?' answered the old woman. 'Kill me
sooner than take me there. Throw this pretty child under carthorses
feet and a loaded waggonsooner than take him there.
Come to us and find us all a-dyingand set a light to us all where
we lie and let us all blaze away with the house into a heap of
cinders sooner than move a corpse of us there!'

A surprising spirit in this lonely woman after so many years of
hard workingand hard livingmy Lords and Gentlemen and
Honourable Boards! What is it that we call it in our grandiose
speeches? British independencerather perverted? Is thator


something like itthe ring of the cant?

'Do I never read in the newspapers' said the damefondling the
child--'God help me and the like of me!--how the worn-out people
that do come down to thatget driven from post to pillar and pillar
to posta-purpose to tire them out! Do I never read how they are
put offput offput off--how they are grudgedgrudgedgrudged
the shelteror the doctoror the drop of physicor the bit of bread?
Do I never read how they grow heartsick of it and give it upafter
having let themsleves drop so lowand how they after all die out
for want of help? Then I sayI hope I can die as well as another
and I'll die without that disgrace.'

Absolutely impossible my Lords and Gentlemen and Honourable
Boardsby any stretch of legislative wisdom to set these perverse
people right in their logic?

'Johnnymy pretty' continued old Bettycaressing the childand
rather mourning over it than speaking to it'your old Granny Betty
is nigher fourscore year than threescore and ten. She never begged
nor had a penny of the Union money in all her life. She paid scot
and she paid lot when she had money to pay; she worked when she
couldand she starved when she must. You pray that your Granny
may have strength enough left her at the last (she's strong for an
old oneJohnny)to get up from her bed and run and hide herself
and swown to death in a holesooner than fall into the hands of
those Cruel Jacks we read of that dodge and driveand worry and
wearyand scorn and shamethe decent poor.'

A brilliant successmy Lords and Gentlemen and Honourable
Boards to have brought it to this in the minds of the best of the
poor! Under submissionmight it be worth thinking of at any odd
time?

The fright and abhorrence that Mrs Betty Higden smoothed out of
her strong face as she ended this diversionshowed how seriously
she had meant it.

'And does he work for you?' asked the Secretarygently bringing
the discourse back to Master or Mister Sloppy.

'Yes' said Betty with a good-humoured smile and nod of the head.
'And well too.'

'Does he live here?'

'He lives more here than anywhere. He was thought to be no
better than a Naturaland first come to me as a Minder. I made
interest with Mr Blogg the Beadle to have him as a Minderseeing
him by chance up at churchand thinking I might do something
with him. For he was a weak ricketty creetur then.'

'Is he called by his right name?'

'Whyyou seespeaking quite correctlyhe has no right name. I
always understood he took his name from being found on a Sloppy
night.'

'He seems an amiable fellow.'

'Bless yousirthere's not a bit of him' returned Betty'that's not
amiable. So you may judge how amiable he isby running your
eye along his heighth.'


Of an ungainly make was Sloppy. Too much of him longwisetoo
little of him broadwiseand too many sharp angles of him anglewise.
One of those shambling male human creaturesborn to be
indiscreetly candid in the revelation of buttons; every button he had
about him glaring at the public to a quite preternatural extent. A
considerable capital of knee and elbow and wrist and anklehad
Sloppyand he didn't know how to dispose of it to the best
advantagebut was always investing it in wrong securitiesand so
getting himself into embarrassed circumstances. Full-Private
Number One in the Awkward Squad of the rank and file of life
was Sloppyand yet had his glimmering notions of standing true to
the Colours.

'And now' said Mrs Boffin'concerning Johnny.'

As Johnnywith his chin tucked in and lips poutingreclined in
Betty's lapconcentrating his blue eyes on the visitors and shading
them from observation with a dimpled armold Betty took one of
his fresh fat hands in her withered rightand fell to gently beating
it on her withered left.

'Yesma'am. Concerning Johnny.'

'If you trust the dear child to me' said Mrs Boffinwith a face
inviting trust'he shall have the best of homesthe best of carethe
best of educationthe best of friends. Please God I will be a true
good mother to him!'

'I am thankful to youma'amand the dear child would be thankful
if he was old enough to understand.' Still lightly beating the little
hand upon her own. 'I wouldn't stand in the dear child's lightnot
if I had all my life before me instead of a very little of it. But I
hope you won't take it ill that I cleave to the child closer than
words can tellfor he's the last living thing left me.'

'Take it illmy dear soul? Is it likely? And you so tender of him as
to bring him home here!'

'I have seen' said Bettystill with that light beat upon her hard
rough hand'so many of them on my lap. And they are all gone
but this one! I am ashamed to seem so selfishbut I don't really
mean it. It'll be the making of his fortuneand he'll be a gentleman
when I am dead. I--I--don't know what comes over me. I--try
against it. Don't notice me!' The light beat stoppedthe resolute
mouth gave wayand the fine strong old face broke up into
weakness and tears.

Nowgreatly to the relief of the visitorsthe emotional Sloppy no
sooner beheld his patroness in this conditionthanthrowing back
his head and throwing open his mouthhe lifted up his voice and
bellowed. This alarming note of something wrong instantly
terrified Toddles and Poddleswho were no sooner heard to roar
surprisinglythan Johnnycurving himself the wrong way and
striking out at Mrs Boffin with a pair of indifferent shoesbecame
a prey to despair. The absurdity of the situation put its pathos to
the rout. Mrs Betty Higden was herself in a momentand brought
them all to order with that speedthat Sloppystopping short in a
polysyllabic bellowtransferred his energy to the mangleand had
taken several penitential turns before he could be stopped.

'Theretherethere!' said Mrs Boffinalmost regarding her kind
self as the most ruthless of women. 'Nothing is going to be done.
Nobody need be frightened. We're all comfortable; ain't weMrs
Higden?'


'Sure and certain we are' returned Betty.

'And there really is no hurryyou know' said Mrs Boffin in a lower
voice. 'Take time to think of itmy good creature!'

'Don't you fear ME no morema'am' said Betty; 'I thought of it for
good yesterday. I don't know what come over me just nowbut it'll
never come again.'

'WellthenJohnny shall have more time to think of it' returned
Mrs Boffin; 'the pretty child shall have time to get used to it. And
you'll get him more used to itif you think well of it; won't you?'

Betty undertook thatcheerfully and readily.

'Lor' cried Mrs Boffinlooking radiantly about her'we want to
make everybody happynot dismal!--And perhaps you wouldn't
mind letting me know how used to it you begin to getand how it
all goes on?'

'I'll send Sloppy' said Mrs Higden.

'And this gentleman who has come with me will pay him for his
trouble' said Mrs Boffin. 'And Mr Sloppywhenever you come to
my housebe sure you never go away without having had a good
dinner of meatbeervegetablesand pudding.'

This still further brightened the face of affairs; forthe highly
sympathetic Sloppyfirst broadly staring and grinningand then
roaring with laughterToddles and Poddles followed suitand
Johnny trumped the trick. T and P considering these favourable
circumstances for the resumption of that dramatic descent upon
Johnnyagain came across-country hand-in-hand upon a
buccaneermg expedition; and this having been fought out in the
chimney corner behind Mrs Higden's chairwith great valour on
both sidesthose desperate pirates returned hand-in-hand to their
stoolsacross the dry bed of a mountain torrent.

'You must tell me what I can do for youBetty my friend' said Mrs
Boffin confidentially'if not to-daynext time.'

'Thank you all the samema'ambut I want nothing for myself. I
can work. I'm strong. I can walk twenty mile if I'm put to it.' Old
Betty was proudand said it with a sparkle in her bright eyes.

'Yesbut there are some little comforts that you wouldn't be the
worse for' returned Mrs Boffin. 'Bless yeI wasn't born a lady any
more than you.'

'It seems to me' said Bettysmiling'that you were born a lady
and a true oneor there never was a lady born. But I couldn't take
anything from youmy dear. I never did take anything from any
one. It ain't that I'm not gratefulbut I love to earn it better.'

'Wellwell!' returned Mrs Boffin. 'I only spoke of little thingsor I
wouldn't have taken the liberty.'

Betty put her visitor's hand to her lipsin acknowledgment of the
delicate answer. Wonderfully upright her figure wasand
wonderfully self-reliant her lookasstanding facing her visitor
she explained herself further.

'If I could have kept the dear childwithout the dread that's always


upon me of his coming to that fate I have spoken ofI could never
have parted with himeven to you. For I love himI love himI
love him! I love my husband long dead and gonein him; I love
my children dead and gonein him; I love my young and hopeful
days dead and gonein him. I couldn't sell that loveand look you
in your bright kind face. It's a free gift. I am in want of nothing.
When my strength fails meif I can but die out quick and quietI
shall be quite content. I have stood between my dead and that
shame I have spoken of; and it has been kept off from every one of
them. Sewed into my gown' with her hand upon her breast'is just
enough to lay me in the grave. Only see that it's rightly spentso
as I may rest free to the last from that cruelty and disgraceand
you'll have done much more than a little thing for meand all that
in this present world my heart is set upon.'

Mrs Betty Higden's visitor pressed her hand. There was no more
breaking up of the strong old face into weakness. My Lords and
Gentlemen and Honourable Boardsit really was as composed as
our own facesand almost as dignified.

And nowJohnny was to be inveigled into occupying a temporary
position on Mrs Boffin's lap. It was not until he had been piqued
into competition with the two diminutive Mindersby seeing them
successively raised to that post and retire from it without injury
that he could be by any means induced to leave Mrs Betty Higden's
skirts; towards which he exhibitedeven when in Mrs Boffin's
embracestrong yearningsspiritual and bodily; the former
expressed in a very gloomy visagethe latter in extended arms.
Howevera general description of the toy-wonders lurking in Mr
Boffin's houseso far conciliated this worldly-minded orphan as to
induce him to stare at her frowninglywith a fist in his mouthand
even at length to chuckle when a richly-caparisoned horse on
wheelswith a miraculous gift of cantering to cake-shopswas
mentioned. This sound being taken up by the Mindersswelled
into a rapturous trio which gave general satisfaction.

Sothe interview was considered very successfuland Mrs Boffin
was pleasedand all were satisfied. Not least of allSloppywho
undertook to conduct the visitors back by the best way to the Three
Magpiesand whom the hammer-headed young man much
despised.

This piece of business thus put in trainthe Secretary drove Mrs
Boffin back to the Bowerand found employment for himself at the
new house until evening. Whetherwhen evening camehe took a
way to his lodgings that led through fieldswith any design of
finding Miss Bella Wilfer in those fieldsis not so certain as that
she regularly walked there at that hour.

Andmoreoverit is certain that there she was.

No longer in mourningMiss Bella was dressed in as pretty
colours as she could muster. There is no denying that she was as
pretty as theyand that she and the colours went very prettily
together. She was reading as she walkedand of course it is to be
inferredfrom her showing no knowledge of Mr Rokesmith's
approachthat she did not know he was approaching.

'Eh?' said Miss Bellaraising her eyes from her bookwhen he
stopped before her. 'Oh! It's you.'

'Only I. A fine evening!'

'Is it?' said Bellalooking coldly round. 'I suppose it isnow you


mention it. I have not been thinking of the evening.'

'So intent upon your book?'

'Ye-e-es' replied Bellawith a drawl of indifference.

'A love storyMiss Wilfer?'

'Oh dear noor I shouldn't be reading it. It's more about money
than anything else.'

'And does it say that money is better than anything?'

'Upon my word' returned Bella'I forget what it saysbut you can
find out for yourself if you likeMr Rokesmith. I don't want it any
more.'

The Secretary took the book--she had fluttered the leaves as if it
were a fan--and walked beside her.

'I am charged with a message for youMiss Wilfer.'

'ImpossibleI think!' said Bellawith another drawl.

'From Mrs Boffin. She desired me to assure you of the pleasure
she has in finding that she will be ready to receive you in another
week or two at furthest.'

Bella turned her head towards himwith her prettily-insolent
eyebrows raisedand her eyelids drooping. As much as to say
'How did YOU come by the messagepray?'

'I have been waiting for an opportunity of telling you that I am Mr
Boffin's Secretary.'

'I am as wise as ever' said Miss Bellaloftily'for I don't know
what a Secretary is. Not that it signifies.'

'Not at all.'

A covert glance at her faceas he walked beside hershowed him
that she had not expected his ready assent to that proposition.

'Then are you going to be always thereMr Rokesmith?' she
inquiredas if that would be a drawback.

'Always? No. Very much there? Yes.'

'Dear me!' drawled Bellain a tone of mortification.

'But my position there as Secretarywill be very different from
yours as guest. You will know little or nothing about me. I shall
transact the business: you will transact the pleasure. I shall have
my salary to earn; you will have nothing to do but to enjoy and
attract.'

'Attractsir?' said Bellaagain with her eyebrows raisedand her
eyelids drooping. 'I don't understand you.'

Without replying on this pointMr Rokesmith went on.

'Excuse me; when I first saw you in your black dress--'

('There!' was Miss Bella's mental exclamation. 'What did I say to


them at home? Everybody noticed that ridiculous mourning.')

'When I first saw you in your black dressI was at a loss to account
for that distinction between yourself and your family. I hope it was
not impertinent to speculate upon it?'

'I hope notI am sure' said Miss Bellahaughtily. 'But you ought
to know best how you speculated upon it.'

Mr Rokesmith inclined his head in a deprecatory mannerand
went on.

'Since I have been entrusted with Mr Boffin's affairsI have
necessarily come to understand the little mystery. I venture to
remark that I feel persuaded that much of your loss may be
repaired. I speakof coursemerely of wealthMiss Wilfer. The
loss of a perfect strangerwhose worthor worthlessnessI cannot
estimate--nor you either--is beside the question. But this excellent
gentleman and lady are so full of simplicityso full of generosity
so inclined towards youand so desirous to--how shall I express
it?--to make amends for their good fortunethat you have only to
respond.'

As he watched her with another covert lookhe saw a certain
ambitious triumph in her face which no assumed coldness could
conceal.

'As we have been brought under one roof by an accidental
combination of circumstanceswhich oddly extends itself to the
new relations before usI have taken the liberty of saying these few
words. You don't consider them intrusive I hope?' said the
Secretary with deference.

'ReallyMr RokesmithI can't say what I consider them' returned
the young lady. 'They are perfectly new to meand may be founded
altogether on your own imagination.'

'You will see.'

These same fields were opposite the Wilfer premises. The discreet
Mrs Wilfer now looking out of window and beholding her
daughter in conference with her lodgerinstantly tied up her head
and came out for a casual walk.

'I have been telling Miss Wilfer' said John Rokesmithas the
majestic lady came stalking up'that I have becomeby a curious
chanceMr Boffin's Secretary or man of business.'

'I have not' returned Mrs Wilferwaving her gloves in her chronic
state of dignityand vague ill-usage'the honour of any intimate
acquaintance with Mr Boffinand it is not for me to congratulate
that gentleman on the acquisition he has made.'

'A poor one enough' said Rokesmith.

'Pardon me' returned Mrs Wilfer'the merits of Mr Boffin may be
highly distinguished--may be more distinguished than the
countenance of Mrs Boffin would imply--but it were the insanity of
humility to deem him worthy of a better assistant.'

'You are very good. I have also been telling Miss Wilfer that she is
expected very shortly at the new residence in town.'

'Having tacitly consented' said Mrs Wilferwith a grand shrug of


her shouldersand another wave of her gloves'to my child's
acceptance of the proffered attentions of Mrs BoffinI interpose no
objection.'

Here Miss Bella offered the remonstrance: 'Don't talk nonsense
maplease.'

'Peace!' said Mrs Wilfer.

'NomaI am not going to be made so absurd. Interposing
objections!'

'I say' repeated Mrs Wilferwith a vast access of grandeur'that I
am NOT going to interpose objections. If Mrs Boffin (to whose
countenance no disciple of Lavater could possibly for a single
moment subscribe)' with a shiver'seeks to illuminate her new
residence in town with the attractions of a child of mineI am
content that she should be favoured by the company of a child of
mine.'

'You use the wordma'amI have myself used' said Rokesmith
with a glance at Bella'when you speak of Miss Wilfer's attractions
there.'

'Pardon me' returned Mrs Wilferwith dreadful solemnity'but I
had not finished.'

'Pray excuse me.'

'I was about to say' pursued Mrs Wilferwho clearly had not had
the faintest idea of saying anything more: 'that when I use the term
attractionsI do so with the qualification that I do not mean it in
any way whatever.'

The excellent lady delivered this luminous elucidation of her views
with an air of greatly obliging her hearersand greatly
distinguishing herself. Whereat Miss Bella laughed a scornful
little laugh and said:

'Quite enough about thisI am sureon all sides. Have the
goodnessMr Rokesmithto give my love to Mrs Boffin--'

'Pardon me!' cried Mrs Wilfer. 'Compliments.'

'Love!' repeated Bellawith a little stamp of her foot.

'No!' said Mrs Wilfermonotonously. 'Compliments.'

('Say Miss Wilfer's loveand Mrs Wilfer's compliments' the
Secretary proposedas a compromise.)

'And I shall be very glad to come when she is ready for me. The
soonerthe better.'

'One last wordBella' said Mrs Wilfer'before descending to the
family apartment. I trust that as a child of mine you will ever be
sensible that it will be graceful in youwhen associating with Mr
and Mrs Boffin upon equal termsto remember that the Secretary
Mr Rokesmithas your father's lodgerhas a claim on your good
word.'

The condescension with which Mrs Wilfer delivered this
proclamation of patronagewas as wonderful as the swiftness with
which the lodger had lost caste in the Secretary. He smiled as the


mother retired down stairs; but his face fellas the daughter
followed.

'So insolentso trivialso capriciousso mercenaryso carelessso
hard to touchso hard to turn!' he saidbitterly.

And added as he went upstairs. 'And yet so prettyso pretty!'

And added presentlyas he walked to and fro in his room. 'And if
she knew!'

She knew that he was shaking the house by his walking to and fro;
and she declared it another of the miseries of being poorthat you
couldn't get rid of a haunting Secretarystump--stump--stumping
overhead in the darklike a Ghost.

Chapter 17

A DISMAL SWAMP

And nowin the blooming summer daysbehold Mr and Mrs
Boffin established in the eminently aristocratic family mansion
and behold all manner of crawlingcreepingflutteringand
buzzing creaturesattracted by the gold dust of the Golden
Dustman!

Foremost among those leaving cards at the eminently aristocratic
door before it is quite paintedare the Veneerings: out of breath
one might imaginefrom the impetuosity of their rush to the
eminently aristocratic steps. One copper-plate Mrs Veneering
two copper-plate Mr Veneeringsand a connubial copper-plate Mr
and Mrs Veneeringrequesting the honour of Mr and Mrs Boffin's
company at dinner with the utmost Analytical solemnities. The
enchanting Lady Tippins leaves a card. Twemlow leaves cards. A
tall custard-coloured phaeton tooling up in a solemn manner leaves
four cardsto wita couple of Mr Podsnapsa Mrs Podsnapand a
Miss Podsnap. All the world and his wife and daughter leave
cards. Sometimes the world's wife has so many daughtersthat her
card reads rather like a Miscellaneous Lot at an Auction;
comprising Mrs TapkinsMiss TapkinsMiss Frederica Tapkins
Miss Antonina TapkinsMiss Malvina Tapkinsand Miss
Euphemia Tapkins; at the same timethe same lady leaves the card
of Mrs Henry George Alfred SwoshleNEE Tapkins; alsoa card
Mrs Tapkins at HomeWednesdaysMusicPortland Place.

Miss Bella Wilfer becomes an inmatefor an indefinite periodof
the eminently aristocratic dwelling. Mrs Boffin bears Miss Bella
away to her Milliner's and Dressmaker'sand she gets beautifully
dressed. The Veneerings find with swift remorse that they have
omitted to invite Miss Bella Wilfer. One Mrs Veneering and one
Mr and Mrs Veneering requesting that additional honourinstantly
do penance in white cardboard on the hall table. Mrs Tapkins
likewise discovers her omissionand with promptitude repairs it;
for herself; for Miss Tapkinsfor Miss Frederica Tapkinsfor Miss
Antonina Tapkinsfor Miss Malvina Tapkinsand for Miss
Euphemia Tapkins. Likewisefor Mrs Henry George Alfred
Swoshle NEE Tapkins. Likewisefor Mrs Tapkins at Home
WednesdaysMusicPortland Place.

Tradesmen's books hungerand tradesmen's mouths waterfor the
gold dust of the Golden Dustman. As Mrs Boffin and Miss Wilfer


drive outor as Mr Boffin walks out at his jog-trot pacethe
fishmonger pulls off his hat with an air of reverence founded on
conviction. His men cleanse their fingers on their woollen aprons
before presuming to touch their foreheads to Mr Boffin or Lady.
The gaping salmon and the golden mullet lying on the slab seem to
turn up their eyes sidewaysas they would turn up their hands if
they had anyin worshipping admiration. The butcherthough a
portly and a prosperous mandoesn't know what to do with
himself; so anxious is he to express humility when discovered by
the passing Boffins taking the air in a mutton grove. Presents are
made to the Boffin servantsand bland strangers with businesscards
meeting said servants in the streetoffer hypothetical
corruption. As'Supposing I was to be favoured with an order
from Mr Boffinmy dear friendit would be worth my while'--to do
a certain thing that I hope might not prove wholly disagreeable to
your feelings.

But no one knows so well as the Secretarywho opens and reads
the letterswhat a set is made at the man marked by a stroke of
notoriety. Oh the varieties of dust for ocular useoffered in
exchange for the gold dust of the Golden Dustman! Fifty-seven
churches to be erected with half-crownsforty-two parsonage
houses to be repaired with shillingsseven-and-twenty organs to be
built with halfpencetwelve hundred children to be brought up on
postage stamps. Not that a half-crownshillinghalfpennyor
postage stampwould be particularly acceptable from Mr Boffin
but that it is so obvious he is the man to make up the deficiency.
And then the charitiesmy Christian brother! And mostly in
difficultiesyet mostly lavishtooin the expensive articles of print
and paper. Large fat private double lettersealed with ducal
coronet. 'Nicodemus BoffinEsquire. My Dear Sir--Having
consented to preside at the forthcoming Annual Dinner of the
Family Party Fundand feeling deeply impressed with the
immense usefulness of that noble Institution and the great
importance of its being supported by a List of Stewards that shall
prove to the public the interest taken in it by popular and
distinguished menI have undertaken to ask you to become a
Steward on that occasion. Soliciting your favourable reply before
the 14th instantI amMy Dear SirYour faithful Servant
LINSEED. P.S. The Steward's fee is limited to three Guineas.'
Friendly thison the part of the Duke of Linseed (and thoughtful in
the postscript)only lithographed by the hundred and presenting
but a pale individuality of an address to Nicodemus Boffin
Esquirein quite another hand. It takes two noble Earls and a
Viscountcombinedto inform Nicodemus BoffinEsquirein an
equally flattering mannerthat an estimable lady in the West of
England has offered to present a purse containing twenty pounds
to the Society for Granting Annuities to Unassuming Members of
the Middle Classesif twenty individuals will previously present
purses of one hundred pounds each. And those benevolent
noblemen very kindly point out that if Nicodemus BoffinEsquire
should wish to present two or more pursesit will not be
inconsistent with the design of the estimable lady in the West of
Englandprovided each purse be coupled with the name of some
member of his honoured and respected family.

These are the corporate beggars. But there arebesidesthe
individual beggars; and how does the heart of the Secretary fail
him when he has to cope with THEM! And they must be coped
with to some extentbecause they all enclose documents (they call
their scraps documents; but they areas to papers deserving the
namewhat minced veal is to a calf)the non-return of which
would be their ruin. That is saythey are utterly ruined nowbut
they would be more utterly ruined then. Among these


correspondents are several daughters of general officerslong
accustomed to every luxury of life (except spelling)who little
thoughtwhen their gallant fathers waged war in the Peninsula
that they would ever have to appeal to those whom Providencein
its inscrutable wisdomhas blessed with untold goldand from
among whom they select the name of Nicodemus BoffinEsquire
for a maiden effort in this wiseunderstanding that he has such a
heart as never was. The Secretary learnstoothat confidence
between man and wife would seem to obtain but rarely when virtue
is in distressso numerous are the wives who take up their pens to
ask Mr Boffin for money without the knowledge of their devoted
husbandswho would never permit it; whileon the other handso
numerous are the husbands who take up their pens to ask Mr
Boffin for money without the knowledge of their devoted wives
who would instantly go out of their senses if they had the least
suspicion of the circumstance. There are the inspired beggarstoo.
These were sittingonly yesterday eveningmusing over a fragment
of candle which must soon go out and leave them in the dark for
the rest of their nightswhen surely some Angel whispered the
name of Nicodemus BoffinEsquireto their soulsimparting rays
of hopenay confidenceto which they had long been strangers!
Akin to these are the suggestively-befriended beggars. They were
partaking of a cold potato and water by the flickering and gloomy
light of a lucifer-matchin their lodgings (rent considerably in
arrearand heartless landlady threatening expulsion 'like a dog'
into the streets)when a gifted friend happening to look insaid
'Write immediately to Nicodemus BoffinEsquire' and would take
no denial. There are the nobly independent beggars too. Thesein
the days of their abundanceever regarded gold as drossand have
not yet got over that only impediment in the way of their amassing
wealthbut they want no dross from Nicodemus BoffinEsquire;
NoMr Boffin; the world may term it pridepaltry pride if you will
but they wouldn't take it if you offered it; a loansir--for fourteen
weeks to the dayinterest calculated at the rate of five per cent per
annumto be bestowed upon any charitable institution you may
name--is all they want of youand if you have the meanness to
refuse itcount on being despised by these great spirits. There are
the beggars of punctual business-habits too. These will make an
end of themselves at a quarter to one P.M. on Tuesdayif no Postoffice
order is in the interim received from Nicodemus Boffin
Esquire; arriving after a quarter to one P.M. on Tuesdayit need
not be sentas they will then (having made an exact memorandum
of the heartless circumstances) be 'cold in death.' There are the
beggars on horseback tooin another sense from the sense of the
proverb. These are mounted and ready to start on the highway to
affluence. The goal is before themthe road is in the best
conditiontheir spurs are onthe steed is willingbutat the last
momentfor want of some special thing--a clocka violinan
astronomical telescopean electrifying machine--they must
dismount for everunless they receive its equivalent in money from
Nicodemus BoffinEsquire. Less given to detail are the beggars
who make sporting ventures. Theseusually to be addressed in
reply under initials at a country post-officeinquire in feminine
handsDare one who cannot disclose herself to Nicodemus Boffin
Esquirebut whose name might startle him were it revealedsolicit
the immediate advance of two hundred pounds from unexpected
riches exercising their noblest privilege in the trust of a common
humanity?

In such a Dismal Swamp does the new house standand through it
does the Secretary daily struggle breast-high. Not to mention all
the people alive who have made inventions that won't actand all
the jobbers who job in all the jobberies jobbed; though these may
be regarded as the Alligators of the Dismal Swampand are


always lying by to drag the Golden Dustman under.

But the old house. There are no designs against the Golden
Dustman there? There are no fish of the shark tribe in the Bower
waters? Perhaps not. StillWegg is established thereand would
seemjudged by his secret proceedingsto cherish a notion of
making a discovery. Forwhen a man with a wooden leg lies
prone on his stomach to peep under bedsteads; and hops up
ladderslike some extinct birdto survey the tops of presses and
cupboards; and provides himself an iron rod which he is always
poking and prodding into dust-mounds; the probability is that he
expects to find something.

BOOK THE SECOND

BIRDS OF A FEATHER

Chapter 1

OF AN EDUCATIONAL CHARACTER

The school at which young Charley Hexam had first learned from
a book--the streets beingfor pupils of his degreethe great
Preparatory Establishment in which very much that is never
unlearned is learned without and before book--was a miserable
loft in an unsavoury yard. Its atmosphere was oppressive and
disagreeable; it was crowdednoisyand confusing; half the pupils
dropped asleepor fell into a state of waking stupefaction; the
other half kept them in either condition by maintaining a
monotonous droning noiseas if they were performingout of time
and tuneon a ruder sort of bagpipe. The teachersanimated
solely by good intentionshad no idea of executionand a
lamentable jumble was the upshot of their kind endeavours.

It was a school for all agesand for both sexes. The latter were
kept apartand the former were partitioned off into square
assortments. Butall the place was pervaded by a grimly
ludicrous pretence that every pupil was childish and innocent.
This pretencemuch favoured by the lady-visitorsled to the
ghastliest absurdities. Young women old in the vices of the
commonest and worst lifewere expected to profess themselves
enthralled by the good child's bookthe Adventures of Little
Margerywho resided in the village cottage by the mill; severely
reproved and morally squashed the millerwhen she was five and
he was fifty; divided her porridge with singing birds; denied
herself a new nankeen bonneton the ground that the turnips did
not wear nankeen bonnetsneither did the sheep who ate them;
who plaited straw and delivered the dreariest orations to all
comersat all sorts of unseasonable times. Sounwieldy young
dredgers and hulking mudlarks were referred to the experiences of
Thomas Twopencewhohaving resolved not to rob (under
circumstances of uncommon atrocity) his particular friend and
benefactorof eighteenpencepresently came into supernatural
possession of three and sixpenceand lived a shining light ever
afterwards. (Notethat the benefactor came to no good.) Several
swaggering sinners had written their own biographies in the same
strain; it always appearing from the lessons of those very boastful
personsthat you were to do goodnot because it WAS goodbut
because you were to make a good thing of it. Contrariwisethe


adult pupils were taught to read (if they could learn) out of the
New Testament; and by dint of stumbling over the syllables and
keeping their bewildered eyes on the particular syllables coming
round to their turnwere as absolutely ignorant of the sublime
historyas if they had never seen or heard of it. An exceedingly
and confoundingly perplexing jumble of a schoolin factwhere
black spirits and greyred spirits and whitejumbled jumbled
jumbled jumbledjumbled every night. And particularly every
Sunday night. For thenan inclined plane of unfortunate infants
would be handed over to the prosiest and worst of all the teachers
with good intentionswhom nobody older would endure. Who
taking his stand on the floor before them as chief executioner
would be attended by a conventional volunteer boy as
executioner's assistant. When and where it first became the
conventional system that a weary or inattentive infant in a class
must have its face smoothed downward with a hot handor when
and where the conventional volunteer boy first beheld such
system in operationand became inflamed with a sacred zeal to
administer itmatters not. It was the function of the chief
executioner to hold forthand it was the function of the acolyte to
dart at sleeping infantsyawning infantsrestless infants
whimpering infantsand smooth their wretched faces; sometimes
with one handas if he were anointing them for a whisker;
sometimes with both handsapplied after the fashion of blinkers.
And so the jumble would be in action in this department for a
mortal hour; the exponent drawling on to My Dearert
Childerrenerrlet us sayfor exampleabout the beautiful coming
to the Sepulchre; and repeating the word Sepulchre (commonly
used among infants) five hundred timesand never once hinting
what it meant; the conventional boy smoothing away right and
leftas an infallible commentary; the whole hot-bed of flushed and
exhausted infants exchanging measlesrasheswhooping-cough
feverand stomach disordersas if they were assembled in High
Market for the purpose.

Even in this temple of good intentionsan exceptionally sharp boy
exceptionally determined to learncould learn somethingand
having learned itcould impart it much better than the teachers; as
being more knowing than theyand not at the disadvantage in
which they stood towards the shrewder pupils. In this way it had
come about that Charley Hexam had risen in the jumbletaught in
the jumbleand been received from the jumble into a better
school.

'So you want to go and see your sisterHexam?'

'If you pleaseMr Headstone.'

'I have half a mind to go with you. Where does your sister live?'

'Whyshe is not settled yetMr Headstone. I'd rather you didn't
see her till she is settledif it was all the same to you.'

'Look hereHexam.' Mr Bradley Headstonehighly certificated
stipendiary schoolmasterdrew his right forefinger through one of
the buttonholes of the boy's coatand looked at it attentively. 'I
hope your sister may be good company for you?'

'Why do you doubt itMr Headstone?'

'I did not say I doubted it.'

'Nosir; you didn't say so.'


Bradley Headstone looked at his finger againtook it out of the
buttonhole and looked at it closerbit the side of it and looked at it
again.

'You seeHexamyou will be one of us. In good time you are sure
to pass a creditable examination and become one of us. Then the
question is--'

The boy waited so long for the questionwhile the schoolmaster
looked at a new side of his fingerand bit itand looked at it again
that at length the boy repeated:

'The question issir--?'

'Whether you had not better leave well alone.'

'Is it well to leave my sister aloneMr Headstone?'

'I do not say sobecause I do not know. I put it to you. I ask you
to think of it. I want you to consider. You know how well you
are doing here.'

'After allshe got me here' said the boywith a struggle.

'Perceiving the necessity of it' acquiesced the schoolmaster'and
making up her mind fully to the separation. Yes.'

The boywith a return of that former reluctance or struggle or
whatever it wasseemed to debate with himself. At length he
saidraising his eyes to the master's face:

'I wish you'd come with me and see herMr Headstonethough
she is not settled. I wish you'd come with meand take her in the
roughand judge her for yourself.'

'You are sure you would not like' asked the schoolmaster'to
prepare her?'

'My sister Lizzie' said the boyproudly'wants no preparingMr
Headstone. What she isshe isand shows herself to be. There's
no pretending about my sister.'

His confidence in hersat more easily upon him than the
indecision with which he had twice contended. It was his better
nature to be true to herif it were his worse nature to be wholly
selfish. And as yet the better nature had the stronger hold.

'WellI can spare the evening' said the schoolmaster. 'I am ready
to walk with you.'

'Thank youMr Headstone. And I am ready to go.'

Bradley Headstonein his decent black coat and waistcoatand
decent white shirtand decent formal black tieand decent
pantaloons of pepper and saltwith his decent silver watch in his
pocket and its decent hair-guard round his necklooked a
thoroughly decent young man of six-and-twenty. He was never
seen in any other dressand yet there was a certain stiffness in his
manner of wearing thisas if there were a want of adaptation
between him and itrecalling some mechanics in their holiday
clothes. He had acquired mechanically a great store of teacher's
knowledge. He could do mental arithmetic mechanicallysing at
sight mechanicallyblow various wind instruments mechanically
even play the great church organ mechanically. From his early


childhood uphis mind had been a place of mechanical stowage.
The arrangement of his wholesale warehouseso that it might be
always ready to meet the demands of retail dealers history here
geography thereastronomy to the rightpolitical economy to the
left--natural historythe physical sciencesfiguresmusicthe
lower mathematicsand what notall in their several places--this
care had imparted to his countenance a look of care; while the
habit of questioning and being questioned had given him a
suspicious manneror a manner that would be better described as
one of lying in wait. There was a kind of settled trouble in the
face. It was the face belonging to a naturally slow or inattentive
intellect that had toiled hard to get what it had wonand that had
to hold it now that it was gotten. He always seemed to be uneasy
lest anything should be missing from his mental warehouseand
taking stock to assure himself.

Suppression of so much to make room for so muchhad given him
a constrained mannerover and above. Yet there was enough of
what was animaland of what was fiery (though smouldering)still
visible in himto suggest that if young Bradley Headstonewhen a
pauper ladhad chanced to be told off for the seahe would not
have been the last man in a ship's crew. Regarding that origin of
hishe was proudmoodyand sullendesiring it to be forgotten.
And few people knew of it.

In some visits to the Jumble his attention had been attracted to this
boy Hexam. An undeniable boy for a pupil-teacher; an
undeniable boy to do credit to the master who should bring him
on. Combined with this considerationthere may have been some
thought of the pauper lad now never to be mentioned. Be that
how it mighthe had with pains gradually worked the boy into his
own schooland procured him some offices to discharge there
which were repaid with food and lodging. Such were the
circumstances that had brought togetherBradley Headstone and
young Charley Hexam that autumn evening. Autumnbecause
full half a year had come and gone since the bird of prey lay dead
upon the river-shore.

The schools--for they were twofoldas the sexes--were down in
that district of the flat country tending to the Thameswhere Kent
and Surrey meetand where the railways still bestride the marketgardens
that will soon die under them. The schools were newly
builtand there were so many like them all over the countrythat
one might have thought the whole were but one restless edifice
with the locomotive gift of Aladdin's palace. They were in a
neighbourhood which looked like a toy neighbourhood taken in
blocks out of a box by a child of particularly incoherent mindand
set up anyhow; hereone side of a new street; therea large
solitary public-house facing nowhere; hereanother unfinished
street already in ruins; therea church; herean immense new
warehouse; therea dilapidated old country villa; thena medley
of black ditchsparkling cucumber-framerank fieldrichly
cultivated kitchen-gardenbrick viaductarch-spanned canaland
disorder of frowziness and fog. As if the child had given the table
a kickand gone to sleep.

Buteven among school-buildingsschool-teachersand schoolpupils
all according to pattern and all engendered in the light of
the latest Gospel according to Monotonythe older pattern into
which so many fortunes have been shaped for good and evil
comes out. It came out in Miss Peecher the schoolmistress
watering her flowersas Mr Bradley Headstone walked forth. It
came out in Miss Peecher the schoolmistresswatering the flowers
in the little dusty bit of garden attached to her small official


residencewith little windows like the eyes in needlesand little
doors like the covers of school-books.

Smallshiningneatmethodicaland buxom was Miss Peecher;
cherry-cheeked and tuneful of voice. A little pincushiona little
housewifea little booka little workboxa little set of tables and
weights and measuresand a little womanall in one. She could
write a little essay on any subjectexactly a slate longbeginning
at the left-hand top of one side and ending at the right-hand
bottom of the otherand the essay should be strictly according to
rule. If Mr Bradley Headstone had addressed a written proposal
of marriage to hershe would probably have replied in a complete
little essay on the theme exactly a slate longbut would certainly
have replied Yes. For she loved him. The decent hair-guard that
went round his neck and took care of his decent silver watch was
an object of envy to her. So would Miss Peecher have gone round
his neck and taken care of him. Of himinsensible. Because he
did not love Miss Peecher.

Miss Peecher's favourite pupilwho assisted her in her little
householdwas in attendance with a can of water to replenish her
little watering-potand sufficiently divined the state of Miss
Peecher's affections to feel it necessary that she herself should
love young Charley Hexam. Sothere was a double palpitation
among the double stocks and double wall-flowerswhen the
master and the boy looked over the little gate.

'A fine eveningMiss Peecher' said the Master.

'A very fine eveningMr Headstone' said Miss Peecher. 'Are you
taking a walk?'

'Hexam and I are going to take a long walk.'

'Charming weather' remarked Miss PeecherFOR a long walk.'

'Ours is rather on business than mere pleasure' said the Master.
Miss Peecher inverting her watering-potand very carefully
shaking out the few last drops over a floweras if there were some
special virtue in them which would make it a Jack's beanstalk
before morningcalled for replenishment to her pupilwho had
been speaking to the boy.

'Good-nightMiss Peecher' said the Master.

'Good-nightMr Headstone' said the Mistress.

The pupil had beenin her state of pupilageso imbued with the
class-custom of stretching out an armas if to hail a cab or
omnibuswhenever she found she had an observation on hand to
offer to Miss Peecherthat she often did it in their domestic
relations; and she did it now.

'WellMary Anne?' said Miss Peecher.

'If you pleasema'amHexam said they were going to see his
sister.'

'But that can't beI think' returned Miss Peecher: 'because Mr
Headstone can have no business with HER.'

Mary Anne again hailed.

'WellMary Anne?'


'If you pleasema'amperhaps it's Hexam's business?'

'That may be' said Miss Peecher. 'I didn't think of that. Not that
it matters at all.'

Mary Anne again hailed.

'WellMary Anne?'

'They say she's very handsome.'

'OhMary AnneMary Anne!' returned Miss Peecherslightly
colouring and shaking her heada little out of humour; 'how often
have I told you not to use that vague expressionnot to speak in
that general way? When you say THEY saywhat do you mean?
Part of speech They?'

Mary Anne hooked her right arm behind her in her left handas
being under examinationand replied:

'Personal pronoun.'

'PersonThey?'

'Third person.'

'NumberThey?'

'Plural number.'

'Then how many do you meanMary Anne? Two? Or more?'

'I beg your pardonma'am' said Mary Annedisconcerted now she
came to think of it; 'but I don't know that I mean more than her
brother himself.' As she said itshe unhooked her arm.

'I felt convinced of it' returned Miss Peechersmiling again. 'Now
prayMary Annebe careful another time. He says is very
different from they sayremember. Difference between he says
and they say? Give it me.'

Mary Anne immediately hooked her right arm behind her in her
left hand--an attitude absolutely necessary to the situation--and
replied: 'One is indicative moodpresent tensethird person
singularverb active to say. Other is indicative moodpresent
tensethird person pluralverb active to say.'

'Why verb activeMary Anne?'

'Because it takes a pronoun after it in the objective caseMiss
Peecher.'

'Very good indeed' remarked Miss Peecherwith encouragement.
'In factcould not be better. Don't forget to apply itanother time
Mary Anne.' This saidMiss Peecher finished the watering of her
flowersand went into her little official residenceand took a
refresher of the principal rivers and mountains of the worldtheir
breadthsdepthsand heightsbefore settling the measurements of
the body of a dress for her own personal occupation.

Bradley Headstone and Charley Hexam duly got to the Surrey
side of Westminster Bridgeand crossed the bridgeand made
along the Middlesex shore towards Millbank. In this region are a


certain little street called Church Streetand a certain little blind
squarecalled Smith Squarein the centre of which last retreat is a
very hideous church with four towers at the four corners
generally resembling some petrified monsterfrightful and
giganticon its back with its legs in the air. They found a tree near
by in a cornerand a blacksmith's forgeand a timber yardand a
dealer's in old iron. What a rusty portion of a boiler and a great
iron wheel or so meant by lying half-buried in the dealer's forecourt
nobody seemed to know or to want to know. Like the
Miller of questionable jollity in the songThey cared for Nobody
no not theyand Nobody cared for them.

After making the round of this placeand noting that there was a
deadly kind of repose on itmore as though it had taken laudanum
than fallen into a natural restthey stopped at the point where the
street and the square joinedand where there were some little
quiet houses in a row. To these Charley Hexam finally led the
wayand at one of these stopped.

'This must be where my sister livessir. This is where she came
for a temporary lodgingsoon after father's death.'

'How often have you seen her since?'

'Whyonly twicesir' returned the boywith his former
reluctance; 'but that's as much her doing as mine.'

'How does she support herself?'

'She was always a fair needlewomanand she keeps the stockroom
of a seaman's outfitter.'

'Does she ever work at her own lodging here?'

'Sometimes; but her regular hours and regular occupation are at
their place of businessI believesir. This is the number.'

The boy knocked at a doorand the door promptly opened with a
spring and a click. A parlour door within a small entry stood
openand disclosed a child--a dwarf--a girl--a something--sitting
on a little low old-fashioned arm-chairwhich had a kind of little
working bench before it.

'I can't get up' said the child'because my back's badand my legs
are queer. But I'm the person of the house.'

'Who else is at home?' asked Charley Hexamstaring.

'Nobody's at home at present' returned the childwith a glib
assertion of her dignity'except the person of the house. What did
you wantyoung man?'

'I wanted to see my sister.'

'Many young men have sisters' returned the child. 'Give me your
nameyoung man?'

The queer little figureand the queer but not ugly little facewith
its bright grey eyeswere so sharpthat the sharpness of the
manner seemed unavoidable. As ifbeing turned out of that
mouldit must be sharp.

'Hexam is my name.'


'Ahindeed?' said the person of the house. 'I thought it might be.
Your sister will be inin about a quarter of an hour. I am very
fond of your sister. She's my particular friend. Take a seat. And
this gentleman's name?'

'Mr Headstonemy schoolmaster.'

'Take a seat. And would you please to shut the street door first? I
can't very well do it myself; because my back's so badand my
legs are so queer.'

They complied in silenceand the little figure went on with its
work of gumming or gluing together with a camel's-hair brush
certain pieces of cardboard and thin woodpreviously cut into
various shapes. The scissors and knives upon the bench showed
that the child herself had cut them; and the bright scraps of velvet
and silk and ribbon also strewn upon the bench showed that when
duly stuffed (and stuffing too was there)she was to cover them
smartly. The dexterity of her nimble fingers was remarkableand
as she brought two thin edges accurately together by giving them a
little biteshe would glance at the visitors out of the corners of her
grey eyes with a look that out-sharpened all her other sharpness.

'You can't tell me the name of my tradeI'll be bound' she said
after taking several of these observations.

'You make pincushions' said Charley.

'What else do I make?'

'Pen-wipers' said Bradley Headstone.

'Ha! ha! What else do I make? You're a schoolmasterbut you
can't tell me.'

'You do something' he returnedpointing to a corner of the little
bench'with straw; but I don't know what.'

'Well done you!' cried the person of the house. 'I only make
pincushions and pen-wipersto use up my waste. But my straw
really does belong to my business. Try again. What do I make
with my straw?'

'Dinner-mats?'

'A schoolmasterand says dinner-mats! I'll give you a clue to my
tradein a game of forfeits. I love my love with a B because she's
Beautiful; I hate my love with a B because she is Brazen; I took
her to the sign of the Blue Boarand I treated her with Bonnets;
her name's Bouncerand she lives in Bedlam.--Nowwhat do I
make with my straw?'

'Ladies' bonnets?'

'Fine ladies'' said the person of the housenodding assent. 'Dolls'.
I'm a Doll's Dressmaker.'

'I hope it's a good business?'

The person of the house shrugged her shoulders and shook her
head. 'No. Poorly paid. And I'm often so pressed for time! I had
a doll marriedlast weekand was obliged to work all night. And
it's not good for meon account of my back being so bad and my
legs so queer.'


They looked at the little creature with a wonder that did not
diminishand the schoolmaster said: 'I am sorry your fine ladies
are so inconsiderate.'

'It's the way with them' said the person of the houseshrugging
her shoulders again. 'And they take no care of their clothesand
they never keep to the same fashions a month. I work for a doll
with three daughters. Bless youshe's enough to ruin her
husband!' The person of the house gave a weird little laugh here
and gave them another look out of the corners of her eyes. She
had an elfin chin that was capable of great expression; and
whenever she gave this lookshe hitched this chin up. As if her
eyes and her chin worked together on the same wires.

'Are you always as busy as you are now?'

'Busier. I'm slack just now. I finished a large mourning order the
day before yesterday. Doll I work forlost a canary-bird.' The
person of the house gave another little laughand then nodded her
head several timesas who should moralize'Oh this worldthis
world!'

'Are you alone all day?' asked Bradley Headstone. 'Don't any of
the neighbouring children--?'

'Ahlud!' cried the person of the housewith a little screamas if
the word had pricked her. 'Don't talk of children. I can't bear
children. I know their tricks and their manners.' She said this with
an angry little shake of her tight fist close before her eyes.

Perhaps it scarcely required the teacher-habitto perceive that the
doll's dressmaker was inclined to be bitter on the difference
between herself and other children. But both master and pupil
understood it so.

'Always running about and screechingalways playing and
fightingalways skip-skip-skipping on the pavement and chalking
it for their games! Oh! I know their tricks and their manners!'
Shaking the little fist as before. 'And that's not all. Ever so often
calling names in through a person's keyholeand imitating a
person's back and legs. Oh! I know their tricks and their manners.
And I'll tell you what I'd doto punish 'em. There's doors under
the church in the Square--black doorsleading into black vaults.
Well! I'd open one of those doorsand I'd cram 'em all inand
then I'd lock the door and through the keyhole I'd blow in pepper.'

'What would be the good of blowing in pepper?' asked Charley
Hexam.

'To set 'em sneezing' said the person of the house'and make their
eyes water. And when they were all sneezing and inflamedI'd
mock 'em through the keyhole. Just as theywith their tricks and
their mannersmock a person through a person's keyhole!'

An uncommonly emphatic shake of her little fist close before her
eyesseemed to ease the mind of the person of the house; for she
added with recovered composure'Nonono. No children for
me. Give me grown-ups.'

It was difficult to guess the age of this strange creaturefor her
poor figure furnished no clue to itand her face was at once so
young and so old. Twelveor at the most thirteenmight be near
the mark.


'I always did like grown-ups' she went on'and always kept
company with them. So sensible. Sit so quiet. Don't go prancing
and capering about! And I mean always to keep among none but
grown-ups till I marry. I suppose I must make up my mind to
marryone of these days.'

She listened to a step outside that caught her earand there was a
soft knock at the door. Pulling at a handle within her reachshe
saidwith a pleased laugh: 'Now herefor instanceis a grown-up
that's my particular friend!' and Lizzie Hexam in a black dress
entered the room.

'Charley! You!'

Taking him to her arms in the old way--of which he seemed a little
ashamed--she saw no one else.

'TheretherethereLizall right my dear. See! Here's Mr
Headstone come with me.'

Her eyes met those of the schoolmasterwho had evidently
expected to see a very different sort of personand a murmured
word or two of salutation passed between them. She was a little
flurried by the unexpected visitand the schoolmaster was not at
his ease. But he never wasquite.

'I told Mr Headstone you were not settledLizbut he was so kind
as to take an interest in comingand so I brought him. How well
you look!'

Bradley seemed to think so.

'Ah! Don't shedon't she?' cried the person of the houseresuming
her occupationthough the twilight was falling fast. 'I believe you
she does! But go on with your chatone and all:

You one two three

My com-pa-nie

And don't mind me.'

--pointing this impromptu rhyme with three points of her thin forefinger.


'I didn't expect a visit from youCharley' said his sister. 'I
supposed that if you wanted to see me you would have sent to me
appointing me to come somewhere near the schoolas I did last
time. I saw my brother near the schoolsir' to Bradley
Headstone'because it's easier for me to go therethan for him to
come here. I work about midway between the two places.'

'You don't see much of one another' said Bradleynot improving
in respect of ease.

'No.' With a rather sad shake of her head. 'Charley always does
wellMr Headstone?'

'He could not do better. I regard his course as quite plain before
him.'

'I hoped so. I am so thankful. So well done of youCharley dear!
It is better for me not to come (except when he wants me)
between him and his prospects. You think soMr Headstone?'


Conscious that his pupil-teacher was looking for his answerthat
he himself had suggested the boy's keeping aloof from this sister
now seen for the first time face to faceBradley Headstone
stammered:

'Your brother is very much occupiedyou know. He has to work
hard. One cannot but say that the less his attention is diverted
from his workthe better for his future. When he shall have
established himselfwhy then--it will be another thing then.'

Lizzie shook her head againand returnedwith a quiet smile: 'I
always advised him as you advise him. Did I notCharley?'

'Wellnever mind that now' said the boy. 'How are you getting
on?'

'Very wellCharley. I want for nothing.'

'You have your own room here?'

'Oh yes. Upstairs. And it's quietand pleasantand airy.'

'And she always has the use of this room for visitors' said the
person of the housescrewing up one of her little bony fistslike
an opera-glassand looking through itwith her eyes and her chin
in that quaint accordance. 'Always this room for visitors; haven't
youLizzie dear?'

It happened that Bradley Headstone noticed a very slight action of
Lizzie Hexam's handas though it checked the doll's dressmaker.
And it happened that the latter noticed him in the same instant; for
she made a double eyeglass of her two handslooked at him
through itand criedwith a waggish shake of her head: 'Aha!
Caught you spyingdid I?'

It might have fallen out soany way; but Bradley Headstone also
noticed that immediately after thisLizziewho had not taken off
her bonnetrather hurriedly proposed that as the room was getting
dark they should go out into the air. They went out; the visitors
saying good-night to the doll's dressmakerwhom they leftleaning
back in her chair with her arms crossedsinging to herself in a
sweet thoughtful little voice.

'I'll saunter on by the river' said Bradley. 'You will be glad to talk
together.'

As his uneasy figure went on before them among the evening
shadowsthe boy said to his sisterpetulantly:

'When are you going to settle yourself in some Christian sort of
placeLiz? I thought you were going to do it before now.'

'I am very well where I amCharley.'

'Very well where you are! I am ashamed to have brought Mr
Headstone with me. How came you to get into such company as
that little witch's?'

'By chance at firstas it seemedCharley. But I think it must have
been by something more than chancefor that child--You
remember the bills upon the walls at home?'

'Confound the bills upon the walls at home! I want to forget the
bills upon the walls at homeand it would be better for you to do


the same' grumbled the boy. 'Well; what of them?'

'This child is the grandchild of the old man.'

'What old man?'

'The terrible drunken old manin the list slippers and the night-
cap.'

The boy askedrubbing his nose in a manner that half expressed
vexation at hearing so muchand half curiosity to hear more: 'How
came you to make that out? What a girl you are!'

'The child's father is employed by the house that employs me;
that's how I came to know itCharley. The father is like his own
fathera weak wretched trembling creaturefalling to pieces
never sober. But a good workman tooat the work he does. The
mother is dead. This poor ailing little creature has come to be
what she issurrounded by drunken people from her cradle--if she
ever had oneCharley.'

'I don't see what you have to do with herfor all that' said the boy.

'Don't youCharley?'

The boy looked doggedly at the river. They were at Millbankand
the river rolled on their left. His sister gently touched him on the
shoulderand pointed to it.

'Any compensation--restitution--never mind the wordyou know
my meaning. Father's grave.'

But he did not respond with any tenderness. After a moody
silence he broke out in an ill-used tone:

'It'll be a very hard thingLizifwhen I am trying my best to get
up in the worldyou pull me back.'

'ICharley?'

'YesyouLiz. Why can't you let bygones be bygones? Why can't
youas Mr Headstone said to me this very evening about another
matterleave well alone? What we have got to doisto turn our
faces full in our new directionand keep straight on.'

'And never look back? Not even to try to make some amends?'

'You are such a dreamer' said the boywith his former petulance.
'It was all very well when we sat before the fire--when we looked
into the hollow down by the flare--but we are looking into the real
worldnow.'

'Ahwe were looking into the real world thenCharley!'

'I understand what you mean by thatbut you are not justified in
it. I don't wantas I raise myself to shake you offLiz. I want to
carry you up with me. That's what I want to doand mean to do.
I know what I owe you. I said to Mr Headstone this very evening
After all, my sister got me here.Wellthen. Don't pull me
backand hold me down. That's all I askand surely that's not
unconscionable.'

She had kept a steadfast look upon himand she answered with
composure:


'I am not here selfishlyCharley. To please myself I could not be
too far from that river.'

'Nor could you be too far from it to please me. Let us get quit of it
equally. Why should you linger about it any more than I? I give it
a wide berth.'

'I can't get away from itI think' said Lizziepassing her hand
across her forehead. 'It's no purpose of mine that I live by it still.'

'There you goLiz! Dreaming again! You lodge yourself of your
own accord in a house with a drunken--tailorI suppose--or
something of the sortand a little crooked antic of a childor old
personor whatever it isand then you talk as if you were drawn
or driven there. Nowdo be more practical.'

She had been practical enough with himin suffering and striving
for him; but she only laid her hand upon his shoulder--not
reproachfully--and tapped it twice or thrice. She had been used to
do soto soothe him when she carried him abouta child as heavy
as herself. Tears started to his eyes.

'Upon my wordLiz' drawing the back of his hand across them'I
mean to be a good brother to youand to prove that I know what I
owe you. All I say isthat I hope you'll control your fancies a
littleon my account. I'll get a schooland then you must come
and live with meand you'll have to control your fancies thenso
why not now? Nowsay I haven't vexed you.'

'You haven'tCharleyyou haven't.'

'And say I haven't hurt you.'

'You haven'tCharley.' But this answer was less ready.

'Say you are sure I didn't mean to. Come! There's Mr Headstone
stopping and looking over the wall at the tideto hint that it's time
to go. Kiss meand tell me that you know I didn't mean to hurt
you.'

She told him soand they embracedand walked on and came up
with the schoolmaster.

'But we go your sister's way' he remarkedwhen the boy told him
he was ready. And with his cumbrous and uneasy action he stiffly
offered her his arm. Her hand was just within itwhen she drew it
back. He looked round with a startas if he thought she had
detected something that repelled herin the momentary touch.

'I will not go in just yet' said Lizzie. 'And you have a distance
before youand will walk faster without me.'

Being by this time close to Vauxhall Bridgethey resolvedin
consequenceto take that way over the Thamesand they left her;
Bradley Headstone giving her his hand at partingand she
thanking him for his care of her brother.

The master and the pupil walked onrapidly and silently. They
had nearly crossed the bridgewhen a gentleman came coolly
sauntering towards themwith a cigar in his mouthhis coat
thrown backand his hands behind him. Something in the careless
manner of this personand in a certain lazily arrogant air with
which he approachedholding possession of twice as much


pavement as another would have claimedinstantly caught the
boy's attention. As the gentleman passed the boy looked at him
narrowlyand then stood stilllooking after him.

'Who is it that you stare after?' asked Bradley.

'Why!' said the boywith a confused and pondering frown upon
his face'It IS that Wrayburn one!'

Bradley Headstone scrutinized the boy as closely as the boy had
scrutinized the gentleman.

'I beg your pardonMr Headstonebut I couldn't help wondering
what in the world brought HIM here!'

Though he said it as if his wonder were past--at the same time
resuming the walk--it was not lost upon the master that he looked
over his shoulder after speakingand that the same perplexed and
pondering frown was heavy on his face.

'You don't appear to like your friendHexam?'

'I DON'T like him' said the boy.

'Why not?'

'He took hold of me by the chin in a precious impertinent waythe
first time I ever saw him' said the boy.

'Againwhy?'

'For nothing. Or--it's much the same--because something I
happened to say about my sister didn't happen to please him.'

'Then he knows your sister?'

'He didn't at that time' said the boystill moodily pondering.

'Does now?'

The boy had so lost himself that he looked at Mr Bradley
Headstone as they walked on side by sidewithout attempting to
reply until the question had been repeated; then he nodded and
answered'Yessir.'

'Going to see herI dare say.'

'It can't be!' said the boyquickly. 'He doesn't know her well
enough. I should like to catch him at it!'

When they had walked on for a timemore rapidly than before
the master saidclasping the pupil's arm between the elbow and
the shoulder with his hand:

'You were going to tell me something about that person. What did
you say his name was?'

'Wrayburn. Mr Eugene Wrayburn. He is what they call a
barristerwith nothing to do. The first time be came to our old
place was when my father was alive. He came on business; not
that it was HIS business--HE never had any business--he was
brought by a friend of his.'

'And the other times?'


'There was only one other time that I know of. When my father
was killed by accidenthe chanced to be one of the finders. He
was mooning aboutI supposetaking liberties with people's chins;
but there he wassomehow. He brought the news home to my
sister early in the morningand brought Miss Abbey Pottersona
neighbourto help break it to her. He was mooning about the
house when I was fetched home in the afternoon--they didn't
know where to find me till my sister could be brought round
sufficiently to tell them--and then he mooned away.'

'And is that all?'

'That's allsir.'

Bradley Headstone gradually released the boy's armas if he were
thoughtfuland they walked on side by side as before. After a
long silence between themBradley resumed the talk.

'I suppose--your sister--' with a curious break both before and
after the words'has received hardly any teachingHexam?'

'Hardly anysir.'

'Sacrificedno doubtto her father's objections. I remember them
in your case. Yet--your sister--scarcely looks or speaks like an
ignorant person.'

'Lizzie has as much thought as the bestMr Headstone. Too
muchperhapswithout teaching. I used to call the fire at home
her booksfor she was always full of fancies--sometimes quite
wise fanciesconsidering--when she sat looking at it.'

'I don't like that' said Bradley Headstone.

His pupil was a little surprised by this striking in with so sudden
and decided and emotional an objectionbut took it as a proof of
the master's interest in himself. It emboldened him to say:

'I have never brought myself to mention it openly to youMr
Headstoneand you're my witness that I couldn't even make up
my mind to take it from you before we came out to-night; but it's a
painful thing to think that if I get on as well as you hopeI shall
be--I won't say disgracedbecause I don't mean disgraced—but-rather
put to the blush if it was known--by a sister who has been
very good to me.'

'Yes' said Bradley Headstone in a slurring wayfor his mind
scarcely seemed to touch that pointso smoothly did it glide to
another'and there is this possibility to consider. Some man who
had worked his way might come to admire--your sister--and might
even in time bring himself to think of marrying--your sister--and it
would be a sad drawback and a heavy penalty upon himif;
overcoming in his mind other inequalities of condition and other
considerations against itthis inequality and this consideration
remained in full force.'

'That's much my own meaningsir.'

'Ayay' said Bradley Headstone'but you spoke of a mere
brother. Nowthe case I have supposed would be a much stronger
case; because an admirera husbandwould form the connexion
voluntarilybesides being obliged to proclaim it: which a brother is
not. After allyou knowit must be said of you that you couldn't


help yourself: while it would be said of himwith equal reason
that he could.'

'That's truesir. Sometimes since Lizzie was left free by father's
deathI have thought that such a young woman might soon
acquire more than enough to pass muster. And sometimes I have
even thought that perhaps Miss Peecher--'

'For the purposeI would advise Not Miss Peecher' Bradley
Headstone struck in with a recurrence of his late decision of
manner.

'Would you be so kind as to think of it for meMr Headstone?'

'YesHexamyes. I'll think of it. I'll think maturely of it. I'll think
well of it.'

Their walk was almost a silent one afterwardsuntil it ended at the
school-house. Thereone of neat Miss Peecher's little windows
like the eyes in needleswas illuminatedand in a corner near it
sat Mary Anne watchingwhile Miss Peecher at the table stitched
at the neat little body she was making up by brown paper pattern
for her own wearing. N.B. Miss Peecher and Miss Peecher's
pupils were not much encouraged in the unscholastic art of
needleworkby Government.

Mary Anne with her face to the windowheld her arm up.

'WellMary Anne?'

'Mr Headstone coming homema'am.'

In about a minuteMary Anne again hailed.

'YesMary Anne?'

'Gone in and locked his doorma'am.'

Miss Peecher repressed a sigh as she gathered her work together
for bedand transfixed that part of her dress where her heart
would have been if she had had the dress onwith a sharpsharp
needle.

Chapter 2

STILL EDUCATIONAL

The person of the housedoll's dressmaker and manufacturer of
ornamental pincushions and pen-wiperssat in her quaint little low
arm-chairsinging in the darkuntil Lizzie came back. The person
of the house had attained that dignity while yet of very tender
years indeedthrough being the only trustworthy person IN the
house.

'Well Lizzie-Mizzie-Wizzie' said shebreaking off in her song.
'what's the news out of doors?'

'What's the news in doors?' returned Lizzieplayfully smoothing
the bright long fair hair which grew very luxuriant and beautiful
on the head of the doll's dressmaker.


'Let me seesaid the blind man. Why the last news isthat I don't
mean to marry your brother.'

'No?'

'No-o' shaking her head and her chin. 'Don't like the boy.'

'What do you say to his master?'

'I say that I think he's bespoke.'

Lizzie finished putting the hair carefully back over the misshapen
shouldersand then lighted a candle. It showed the little parlour
to be dingybut orderly and clean. She stood it on the
mantelshelfremote from the dressmaker's eyesand then put the
room door openand the house door openand turned the little
low chair and its occupant towards the outer air. It was a sultry
nightand this was a fine-weather arrangement when the day's
work was done. To complete itshe seated herself in a chair by
the side of the little chairand protectingly drew under her arm the
spare hand that crept up to her.

'This is what your loving Jenny Wren calls the best time in the day
and night' said the person of the house. Her real name was Fanny
Cleaver; but she had long ago chosen to bestow upon herself the
appellation of Miss Jenny Wren.

'I have been thinking' Jenny went on'as I sat at work to-day
what a thing it would beif I should be able to have your company
till I am marriedor at least courted. Because when I am courted
I shall make Him do some of the things that you do for me. He
couldn't brush my hair like you door help me up and down stairs
like you doand he couldn't do anything like you do; but he could
take my work homeand he could call for orders in his clumsy
way. And he shall too. I'LL trot him aboutI can tell him!'

Jenny Wren had her personal vanities--happily for her--and no
intentions were stronger in her breast than the various trials and
torments that werein the fulness of timeto be inflicted upon
'him.'

'Wherever he may happen to be just at presentor whoever he
may happen to be' said Miss Wren'I know his tricks and his
mannersand I give him warning to look out.'

'Don't you think you are rather hard upon him?' asked her friend
smilingand smoothing her hair.

'Not a bit' replied the sage Miss Wrenwith an air of vast
experience. 'My dearthey don't care for youthose fellowsif
you're NOT hard upon 'em. But I was saying If I should be able to
have your company. Ah! What a large If! Ain't it?'

'I have no intention of parting companyJenny.'

'Don't say thator you'll go directly.'

'Am I so little to be relied upon?'

'You're more to be relied upon than silver and gold.' As she said
itMiss Wren suddenly broke offscrewed up her eyes and her
chinand looked prodigiously knowing. 'Aha!

Who comes here?


A Grenadier.
What does he want?
A pot of beer.


And nothing else in the worldmy dear!'

A man's figure paused on the pavement at the outer door. 'Mr
Eugene Wrayburnain't it?' said Miss Wren.

'So I am told' was the answer.

'You may come inif you're good.'

'I am not good' said Eugene'but I'll come in.'

He gave his hand to Jenny Wrenand he gave his hand to Lizzie
and he stood leaning by the door at Lizzie's side. He had been
strolling with his cigarhe said(it was smoked out and gone by
this time) and he had strolled round to return in that direction that
he might look in as he passed. Had she not seen her brother to-
night?

'Yes' said Lizziewhose manner was a little troubled.

Gracious condescension on our brother's part! Mr Eugene
Wrayburn thought he had passed my young gentleman on the
bridge yonder. Who was his friend with him?

'The schoolmaster.'

'To be sure. Looked like it.'

Lizzie sat so stillthat one could not have said wherein the fact of
her manner being troubled was expressed; and yet one could not
have doubted it. Eugene was as easy as ever; but perhapsas she
sat with her eyes cast downit might have been rather more
perceptible that his attention was concentrated upon her for
certain momentsthan its concentration upon any subject for any
short time ever waselsewhere.

'I have nothing to reportLizzie' said Eugene. 'Buthaving
promised you that an eye should be always kept on Mr Riderhood
through my friend LightwoodI like occasionally to renew my
assurance that I keep my promiseand keep my friend up to the
mark.'

'I should not have doubted itsir.'

'GenerallyI confess myself a man to be doubted' returned
Eugenecoolly'for all that.'

'Why are you?' asked the sharp Miss Wren.

'Becausemy dear' said the airy Eugene'I am a bad idle dog.'

'Then why don't you reform and be a good dog?' inquired Miss
Wren.

'Becausemy dear' returned Eugene'there's nobody who makes it
worth my while. Have you considered my suggestionLizzie?'
This in a lower voicebut only as if it were a graver matter; not at
all to the exclusion of the person of the house.

'I have thought of itMr Wrayburnbut I have not been able to


make up my mind to accept it.'

'False pride!' said Eugene.

'I think notMr Wrayburn. I hope not.'

'False pride!' repeated Eugene. 'Whywhat else is it? The thing is
worth nothing in itself. The thing is worth nothing to me. What
can it be worth to me? You know the most I make of it. I propose
to be of some use to somebody--which I never was in this world
and never shall be on any other occasion--by paying some
qualified person of your own sex and ageso many (or rather so
few) contemptible shillingsto come herecertain nights in the
weekand give you certain instruction which you wouldn't want if
you hadn't been a self-denying daughter and sister. You know
that it's good to have itor you would never have so devoted
yourself to your brother's having it. Then why not have it:
especially when our friend Miss Jenny here would profit by it too?
If I proposed to be the teacheror to attend the lessons--obviously
incongruous!--but as to thatI might as well be on the other side of
the globeor not on the globe at all. False prideLizzie. Because
true pride wouldn't shameor be shamed byyour thankless
brother. True pride wouldn't have schoolmasters brought here
like doctorsto look at a bad case. True pride would go to work
and do it. You know thatwell enoughfor you know that your
own true pride would do it to-morrowif you had the ways and
means which false pride won't let me supply. Very well. I add no
more than this. Your false pride does wrong to yourself and does
wrong to your dead father.'

'How to my fatherMr Wrayburn?' she askedwith an anxious
face.

'How to your father? Can you ask! By perpetuating the
consequences of his ignorant and blind obstinacy. By resolving
not to set right the wrong he did you. By determining that the
deprivation to which he condemned youand which he forced
upon youshall always rest upon his head.'

It chanced to be a subtle string to soundin her who had so spoken
to her brother within the hour. It sounded far more forcibly
because of the change in the speaker for the moment; the passing
appearance of earnestnesscomplete convictioninjured
resentment of suspiciongenerous and unselfish interest. All these
qualitiesin him usually so light and carelessshe felt to be
inseparable from some touch of their opposites in her own breast.
She thoughthad sheso far below him and so differentrejected
this disinterestednessbecause of some vain misgiving that he
sought her outor heeded any personal attractions that he might
descry in her? The poor girlpure of heart and purposecould not
bear to think it. Sinking before her own eyesas she suspected
herself of itshe drooped her head as though she had done him
some wicked and grievous injuryand broke into silent tears.

'Don't be distressed' said Eugeneveryvery kindly. 'I hope it is
not I who have distressed you. I meant no more than to put the
matter in its true light before you; though I acknowledge I did it
selfishly enoughfor I am disappointed.'

Disappointed of doing her a service. How else COULD he be
disappointed?

'It won't break my heart' laughed Eugene; 'it won't stay by me
eight-and-forty hours; but I am genuinely disappointed. I had set


my fancy on doing this little thing for you and for our friend Miss
Jenny. The novelty of my doing anything in the least usefulhad
its charms. I seenowthat I might have managed it better. I
might have affected to do it wholly for our friend Miss J. I might
have got myself upmorallyas Sir Eugene Bountiful. But upon
my soul I can't make flourishesand I would rather be
disappointed than try.'

If he meant to follow home what was in Lizzie's thoughtsit was
skilfully done. If he followed it by mere fortuitous coincidenceit
was done by an evil chance.

'It opened out so naturally before me' said Eugene. 'The ball
seemed so thrown into my hands by accident! I happen to be
originally brought into contact with youLizzieon those two
occasions that you know of. I happen to be able to promise you
that a watch shall be kept upon that false accuserRiderhood. I
happen to be able to give you some little consolation in the
darkest hour of your distressby assuring you that I don't believe
him. On the same occasion I tell you that I am the idlest and least
of lawyersbut that I am better than nonein a case I have noted
down with my own handand that you may be always sure of my
best helpand incidentally of Lightwood's tooin your efforts to
clear your father. Soit gradually takes my fancy that I may help
you--so easily!--to clear your father of that other blame which I
mentioned a few minutes agoand which is a just and real one. I
hope I have explained myself; for I am heartily sorry to have
distressed you. I hate to claim to mean wellbut I really did mean
honestly and simply welland I want you to know it.'

'I have never doubted thatMr Wrayburn' said Lizzie; the more
repentantthe less he claimed.

'I am very glad to hear it. Though if you had quite understood my
whole meaning at firstI think you would not have refused. Do
you think you would?'

'I--don't know that I shouldMr Wrayburn.'

'Well! Then why refuse now you do understand it?'

'It's not easy for me to talk to you' returned Lizziein some
confusion'for you see all the consequences of what I sayas soon
as I say it.'

'Take all the consequences' laughed Eugene'and take away my
disappointment. Lizzie Hexamas I truly respect youand as I am
your friend and a poor devil of a gentlemanI protest I don't even
now understand why you hesitate.'

There was an appearance of opennesstrustfulnessunsuspecting
generosityin his words and mannerthat won the poor girl over;
and not only won her overbut again caused her to feel as though
she had been influenced by the opposite qualitieswith vanity at
their head.

'I will not hesitate any longerMr Wrayburn. I hope you will not
think the worse of me for having hesitated at all. For myself and
for Jenny--you let me answer for youJenny dear?'

The little creature had been leaning backattentivewith her
elbows resting on the elbows of her chairand her chin upon her
hands. Without changing her attitudeshe answered'Yes!' so
suddenly that it rather seemed as if she had chopped the


monosyllable than spoken it.

'For myself and for JennyI thankfully accept your kind offer.'

'Agreed! Dismissed!' said Eugenegiving Lizzie his hand before
lightly waving itas if he waved the whole subject away. 'I hope it
may not be often that so much is made of so little!'

Then he fell to talking playfully with Jenny Wren. 'I think of
setting up a dollMiss Jenny' he said.

'You had better not' replied the dressmaker.

'Why not?'

'You are sure to break it. All you children do.'

'But that makes good for tradeyou knowMiss Wren' returned
Eugene. 'Much as people's breaking promises and contracts and
bargains of all sortsmakes good for MY trade.'

'I don't know about that' Miss Wren retorted; 'but you had better
by half set up a pen-wiperand turn industriousand use it.'

'Whyif we were all as industrious as youlittle Busy-Bodywe
should begin to work as soon as we could crawland there would
be a bad thing!'

'Do you mean' returned the little creaturewith a flush suffusing
her face'bad for your backs and your legs?'

'Nonono' said Eugene; shocked--to do him justice--at the
thought of trifling with her infirmity. 'Bad for businessbad for
business. If we all set to work as soon as we could use our hands
it would be all over with the dolls' dressmakers.'

'There's something in that' replied Miss Wren; 'you have a sort of
an idea in your noddle sometimes.' Thenin a changed tone;
'Talking of ideasmy Lizzie' they were sitting side by side as they
had sat at first'I wonder how it happens that when I am work
workworking hereall alone in the summer-timeI smell flowers.'

'As a commonplace individualI should say' Eugene suggested
languidly--for he was growing weary of the person of the house-'
that you smell flowers because you DO smell flowers.'

'No I don't' said the little creatureresting one arm upon the elbow
of her chairresting her chin upon that handand looking vacantly
before her; 'this is not a flowery neighbourhood. It's anything but
that. And yet as I sit at workI smell miles of flowers. I smell
rosestill I think I see the rose-leaves lying in heapsbushelson
the floor. I smell fallen leavestill I put down my hand--so--and
expect to make them rustle. I smell the white and the pink May in
the hedgesand all sorts of flowers that I never was among. For I
have seen very few flowers indeedin my life.'

'Pleasant fancies to haveJenny dear!' said her friend: with a
glance towards Eugene as if she would have asked him whether
they were given the child in compensation for her losses.

'So I thinkLizziewhen they come to me. And the birds I hear!
Oh!' cried the little creatureholding out her hand and looking
upward'how they sing!'


There was something in the face and action for the momentquite
inspired and beautiful. Then the chin dropped musingly upon the
hand again.

'I dare say my birds sing better than other birdsand my flowers
smell better than other flowers. For when I was a little child' in a
tone as though it were ages ago'the children that I used to see
early in the morning were very different from any others that I
ever saw. They were not like me; they were not chilledanxious
raggedor beaten; they were never in pain. They were not like the
children of the neighbours; they never made me tremble all over
by setting up shrill noisesand they never mocked me. Such
numbers of them too! All in white dressesand with something
shining on the bordersand on their headsthat I have never been
able to imitate with my workthough I know it so well. They used
to come down in long bright slanting rowsand say all together
Who is this in pain! Who is this in pain!When I told them who
it wasthey answeredCome and play with us!When I said "I
never play! I can't play!" they swept about me and took me up
and made me light. Then it was all delicious ease and rest till they
laid me downand saidall togetherHave patience, and we will
come again.Whenever they came backI used to know they
were coming before I saw the long bright rowsby hearing them
askall together a long way offWho is this in pain! Who is this
in pain!And I used to cry outO my blessed children, it's poor
me. Have pity on me. Take me up and make me light!'

By degreesas she progressed in this remembrancethe hand was
raisedthe late ecstatic look returnedand she became quite
beautiful. Having so paused for a momentsilentwith a listening
smile upon her faceshe looked round and recalled herself.

'What poor fun you think me; don't youMr Wrayburn? You may
well look tired of me. But it's Saturday nightand I won't detain
you.'

'That is to sayMiss Wren' observed Eugenequite ready to profit
by the hint'you wish me to go?'

'Wellit's Saturday night' she returnedand my child's coming
home. And my child is a troublesome bad childand costs me a
world of scolding. I would rather you didn't see my child.'

'A doll?' said Eugenenot understandingand looking for an
explanation.

But Lizziewith her lips onlyshaping the two words'Her father'
he delayed no longer. He took his leave immediately. At the
corner of the street he stopped to light another cigarand possibly
to ask himself what he was doing otherwise. If sothe answer was
indefinite and vague. Who knows what he is doingwho is
careless what he does!

A man stumbled against him as he turned awaywho mumbled
some maudlin apology. Looking after this manEugene saw him
go in at the door by which he himself had just come out.

On the man's stumbling into the roomLizzie rose to leave it.

'Don't go awayMiss Hexam' he said in a submissive manner
speaking thickly and with difficulty. 'Don't fly from unfortunate
man in shattered state of health. Give poor invalid honour of your
company. It ain't--ain't catching.'


Lizzie murmured that she had something to do in her own room
and went away upstairs.

'How's my Jenny?' said the mantimidly. 'How's my Jenny Wren
best of childrenobject dearest affections broken-hearted invalid?'

To which the person of the housestretching out her arm in an
attitude of commandreplied with irresponsive asperity: 'Go along
with you! Go along into your corner! Get into your corner
directly!'

The wretched spectacle made as if he would have offered some
remonstrance; but not venturing to resist the person of the house
thought better of itand went and sat down on a particular chair of
disgrace.

'Oh-h-h!' cried the person of the housepointing her little finger
'You bad old boy! Oh-h-h you naughtywicked creature! WHAT
do you mean by it?'

The shaking figureunnerved and disjointed from head to footput
out its two hands a little wayas making overtures of peace and
reconciliation. Abject tears stood in its eyesand stained the
blotched red of its cheeks. The swollen lead-coloured under lip
trembled with a shameful whine. The whole indecorous
threadbare ruinfrom the broken shoes to the prematurely-grey
scanty hairgrovelled. Not with any sense worthy to be called a
senseof this dire reversal of the places of parent and childbut in
a pitiful expostulation to be let off from a scolding.

'I know your tricks and your manners' cried Miss Wren. 'I know
where you've been to!' (which indeed it did not require
discernment to discover). 'Ohyou disgraceful old chap!'

The very breathing of the figure was contemptibleas it laboured
and rattled in that operationlike a blundering clock.

'Slaveslaveslavefrom morning to night' pursued the person of
the house'and all for this! WHAT do you mean by it?'

There was something in that emphasized 'What' which absurdly
frightened the figure. As often as the person of the house worked
her way round to it--even as soon as he saw that it was coming-he
collapsed in an extra degree.

'I wish you had been taken upand locked up' said the person of
the house. 'I wish you had been poked into cells and black holes
and run over by rats and spiders and beetles. I know their tricks
and their mannersand they'd have tickled you nicely. Ain't you
ashamed of yourself?'

'Yesmy dear' stammered the father.

'Then' said the person of the houseterrifying him by a grand
muster of her spirits and forces before recurring to the emphatic
word'WHAT do you mean by it?'

'Circumstances over which had no control' was the miserable
creature's plea in extenuation.

'I'LL circumstance you and control you too' retorted the person of
the housespeaking with vehement sharpness'if you talk in that
way. I'll give you in charge to the policeand have you fined five
shillings when you can't payand then I won't pay the money for


youand you'll be transported for life. How should you like to be
transported for life?'


'Shouldn't like it. Poor shattered invalid. Trouble nobody long'
cried the wretched figure.


'Comecome!' said the person of the housetapping the table near
her in a business-like mannerand shaking her head and her chin;
'you know what you've got to do. Put down your money this
instant.'


The obedient figure began to rummage in its pockets.


'Spent a fortune out of your wagesI'll be bound!' said the person
of the house. 'Put it here! All you've got left! Every farthing!'


Such a business as he made of collecting it from his dogs'-eared
pockets; of expecting it in this pocketand not finding it; of not
expecting it in that pocketand passing it over; of finding no
pocket where that other pocket ought to be!


'Is this all?' demanded the person of the housewhen a confused
heap of pence and shillings lay on the table.


'Got no more' was the rueful answerwith an accordant shake of
the head.


'Let me make sure. You know what you've got to do. Turn all
your pockets inside outand leave 'em so!' cried the person of the
house.


He obeyed. And if anything could have made him look more
abject or more dismally ridiculous than beforeit would have been
his so displaying himself.


'Here's but seven and eightpence halfpenny!' exclaimed Miss
Wrenafter reducing the heap to order. 'Ohyou prodigal old son!
Now you shall be starved.'


'Nodon't starve me' he urgedwhimpering.


'If you were treated as you ought to be' said Miss Wren'you'd be
fed upon the skewers of cats' meat;--only the skewersafter the
cats had had the meat. As it isgo to bed.'


When he stumbled out of the corner to complyhe again put out
both his handsand pleaded: 'Circumstances over which no
control--'


'Get along with you to bed!' cried Miss Wrensnapping him up.
'Don't speak to me. I'm not going to forgive you. Go to bed this
moment!'


Seeing another emphatic 'What' upon its wayhe evaded it by
complying and was heard to shuffle heavily up stairsand shut his
doorand throw himself on his bed. Within a little while
afterwardsLizzie came down.


'Shall we have our supperJenny dear?'


'Ah! bless us and save uswe need have something to keep us
going' returned Miss Jennyshrugging her shoulders.


Lizzie laid a cloth upon the little bench (more handy for the



person of the house than an ordinary table)and put upon it such
plain fare as they were accustomed to haveand drew up a stool
for herself.

'Now for supper! What are you thinking ofJenny darling?'

'I was thinking' she returnedcoming out of a deep study'what I
would do to Himif he should turn out a drunkard.'

'Ohbut he won't' said Lizzie. 'You'll take care of that
beforehand.'

'I shall try to take care of it beforehandbut he might deceive me.
Ohmy dearall those fellows with their tricks and their manners
do deceive!' With the little fist in full action. 'And if soI tell you
what I think I'd do. When he was asleepI'd make a spoon red
hotand I'd have some boiling liquor bubbling in a saucepanand
I'd take it out hissingand I'd open his mouth with the other hand-or
perhaps he'd sleep with his mouth ready open--and I'd pour it
down his throatand blister it and choke him.'

'I am sure you would do no such horrible thing' said Lizzie.

'Shouldn't I? Well; perhaps I shouldn't. But I should like to!'

'I am equally sure you would not.'

'Not even like to? Wellyou generally know best. Only you
haven't always lived among it as I have lived--and your back isn't
bad and your legs are not queer.'

As they went on with their supperLizzie tried to bring her round
to that prettier and better state. Butthe charm was broken. The
person of the house was the person of a house full of sordid
shames and careswith an upper room in which that abased figure
was infecting even innocent sleep with sensual brutality and
degradation. The doll's dressmaker had become a little quaint
shrew; of the worldworldly; of the earthearthy.

Poor doll's dressmaker! How often so dragged down by hands
that should have raised her up; how often so misdirected when
losing her way on the eternal roadand asking guidance! Poor
poor little doll's dressmaker!

Chapter 3

A PIECE OF WORK

Britanniasitting meditating one fine day (perhaps in the attitude
in which she is presented on the copper coinage)discovers all of
a sudden that she wants Veneering in Parliament. It occurs to her
that Veneering is 'a representative man'--which cannot in these
times be doubted--and that Her Majesty's faithful Commons are
incomplete without him. SoBritannia mentions to a legal
gentleman of her acquaintance that if Veneering will 'put down'
five thousand poundshe may write a couple of initial letters after
his name at the extremely cheap rate of two thousand five
hundred per letter. It is clearly understood between Britannia and
the legal gentleman that nobody is to take up the five thousand
poundsbut that being put down they will disappear by magical
conjuration and enchantment.


The legal gentleman in Britannia's confidence going straight from
that lady to Veneeringthus commissionedVeneering declares
himself highly flatteredbut requires breathing time to ascertain
'whether his friends will rally round him.' Above all thingshe
saysit behoves him to be clearat a crisis of this importance
'whether his friends will rally round him.' The legal gentlemanin
the interests of his client cannot allow much time for this purpose
as the lady rather thinks she knows somebody prepared to put
down six thousand pounds; but he says he will give Veneering
four hours.

Veneering then says to Mrs Veneering'We must work' and
throws himself into a Hansom cab. Mrs Veneering in the same
moment relinquishes baby to Nurse; presses her aquiline hands
upon her browto arrange the throbbing intellect within; orders
out the carriage; and repeats in a distracted and devoted manner
compounded of Ophelia and any self-immolating female of
antiquity you may prefer'We must work.'

Veneering having instructed his driver to charge at the Public in
the streetslike the Life-Guards at Waterloois driven furiously to
Duke StreetSaint James's. Therehe finds Twemlow in his
lodgingsfresh from the hands of a secret artist who has been
doing something to his hair with yolks of eggs. The process
requiring that Twemlow shallfor two hours after the application
allow his hair to stick upright and dry graduallyhe is in an
appropriate state for the receipt of startling intelligence; looking
equally like the Monument on Fish Street Hilland King Priam on
a certain incendiary occasion not wholly unknown as a neat point
from the classics.

'My dear Twemlow' says Veneeringgrasping both his bandsas
the dearest and oldest of my friends--'

('Then there can be no more doubt about it in future' thinks
Twemlow'and I AM!')

'--Are you of opinion that your cousinLord Snigsworthwould
give his name as a Member of my Committee? I don't go so far as
to ask for his lordship; I only ask for his name. Do you think he
would give me his name?'

In sudden low spiritsTwemlow replies'I don't think he would.'

'My political opinions' says Veneeringnot previously aware of
having any'are identical with those of Lord Snigsworthand
perhaps as a matter of public feeling and public principleLord
Snigswotth would give me his name.'

'It might be so' says Twemlow; 'but--' And perplexedly scratching
his headforgetful of the yolks of eggsis the more discomfited by
being reminded how stickey he is.

'Between such old and intimate friends as ourselves' pursues
Veneering'there should in such a case be no reserve. Promise me
that if I ask you to do anything for me which you don't like to do
or feel the slightest difficulty in doingyou will freely tell me so.'

ThisTwemlow is so kind as to promisewith every appearance of
most heartily intending to keep his word.

'Would you have any objection to write down to Snigsworthy
Parkand ask this favour of Lord Snigsworth? Of course if it were


granted I should know that I owed it solely to you; while at the
same time you would put it to Lord Snigsworth entirely upon
public grounds. Would you have any objection?'

Says Twemlowwith his hand to his forehead'You have exacted
a promise from me.'

'I havemy dear Twemlow.'

'And you expect me to keep it honourably.'

'I domy dear Twemlow.'

'ON the wholethen;--observe me' urges Twemlow with great
nicetyas if; in the case of its having been off the wholehe would
have done it directly--'ON the wholeI must beg you to excuse me
from addressing any communication to Lord Snigsworth.'

'Bless youbless you!' says Veneering; horribly disappointedbut
grasping him by both hands againin a particularly fervent
manner.

It is not to be wondered at that poor Twemlow should decline to
inflict a letter on his noble cousin (who has gout in the temper)
inasmuch as his noble cousinwho allows him a small annuity on
which he livestakes it out of himas the phrase goesin extreme
severity; putting himwhen he visits at Snigsworthy Parkunder a
kind of martial law; ordaining that he shall hang his hat on a
particular pegsit on a particular chairtalk on particular subjects
to particular peopleand perform particular exercises: such as
sounding the praises of the Family Varnish (not to say Pictures)
and abstaining from the choicest of the Family Wines unless
expressly invited to partake.

'One thinghoweverI CAN do for you' says Twemlow; 'and that
iswork for you.'

Veneering blesses him again.

'I'll go' says Twemlowin a rising hurry of spirits'to the club;--let
us see now; what o'clock is it?'

'Twenty minutes to eleven.'

'I'll be' says Twemlow'at the club by ten minutes to twelveand
I'll never leave it all day.'

Veneering feels that his friends are rallying round himand says
'Thank youthank you. I knew I could rely upon you. I said to
Anastatia before leaving home just now to come to you--of course
the first friend I have seen on a subject so momentous to memy
dear Twemlow--I said to AnastatiaWe must work.'

'You were rightyou were right' replies Twemlow. 'Tell me. Is
SHE working?'

'She is' says Veneering.

'Good!' cries Twemlowpolite little gentleman that he is. 'A
woman's tact is invaluable. To have the dear sex with usis to
have everything with us.'

'But you have not imparted to me' remarks Veneering'what you
think of my entering the House of Commons?'


'I think' rejoins Twemlowfeelingly'that it is the best club in
London.'

Veneering again blesses himplunges down stairsrushes into his
Hansomand directs the driver to be up and at the British Public
and to charge into the City.

Meanwhile Twemlowin an increasing hurry of spiritsgets his
hair down as well as he can--which is not very well; forafter
these glutinous applications it is restiveand has a surface on it
somewhat in the nature of pastry--and gets to the club by the
appointed time. At the club he promptly secures a large window
writing materialsand all the newspapersand establishes himself;
immoveableto be respectfully contemplated by Pall Mall.
Sometimeswhen a man enters who nods to himTwemlow says
'Do you know Veneering?' Man says'No; member of the club?'
Twemlow says'Yes. Coming in for Pocket-Breaches.' Man says
'Ah! Hope he may find it worth the money!' yawnsand saunters
out. Towards six o'clock of the afternoonTwemlow begins to
persuade himself that he is positively jaded with workand thinks
it much to be regretted that he was not brought up as a
Parliamentary agent.

From Twemlow'sVeneering dashes at Podsnap's place of
business. Finds Podsnap reading the paperstandingand inclined
to be oratorical over the astonishing discovery he has madethat
Italy is not England. Respectfully entreats Podsnap's pardon for
stopping the flow of his words of wisdomand informs him what is
in the wind. Tells Podsnap that their political opinions are
identical. Gives Podsnap to understand that heVeneering
formed his political opinions while sitting at the feet of him
Podsnap. Seeks earnestly to know whether Podsnap 'will rally
round him?'

Says Podsnapsomething sternly'Nowfirst of allVeneeringdo
you ask my advice?'

Veneering falters that as so old and so dear a friend-


'Yesyesthat's all very well' says Podsnap; 'but have you made
up your mind to take this borough of Pocket-Breaches on its own
termsor do you ask my opinion whether you shall take it or leave
it alone?'

Veneering repeats that his heart's desire and his soul's thirst are
that Podsnap shall rally round him.

'NowI'll be plain with youVeneering' says Podsnapknitting his
brows. 'You will infer that I don't care about Parliamentfrom the
fact of my not being there?'

Whyof course Veneering knows that! Of course Veneering
knows that if Podsnap chose to go therehe would be therein a
space of time that might be stated by the light and thoughtless as a
jiffy.

'It is not worth my while' pursues Podsnapbecoming handsomely
mollified'and it is the reverse of important to my position. But it
is not my wish to set myself up as law for another mandifferently
situated. You think it IS worth YOUR whileand IS important to
YOUR position. Is that so?'

Always with the proviso that Podsnap will rally round him


Veneering thinks it is so.

'Then you don't ask my advice' says Podsnap. 'Good. Then I
won't give it you. But you do ask my help. Good. Then I'll work
for you.'

Veneering instantly blesses himand apprises him that Twemlow is
already working. Podsnap does not quite approve that anybody
should be already working--regarding it rather in the light of a
liberty--but tolerates Twemlowand says he is a well-connected
old female who will do no harm.

'I have nothing very particular to do to-day' adds Podsnap'and
I'll mix with some influential people. I had engaged myself to
dinnerbut I'll send Mrs Podsnap and get off going myself; and I'll
dine with you at eight. It's important we should report progress
and compare notes. Nowlet me see. You ought to have a couple
of active energetic fellowsof gentlemanly mannersto go about.'

Veneeringafter cogitationthinks of Boots and Brewer.

'Whom I have met at your house' says Podsnap. 'Yes. They'll do
very well. Let them each have a caband go about.'

Veneering immediately mentions what a blessing he feels itto
possess a friend capable of such grand administrative suggestions
and really is elated at this going about of Boots and Breweras an
idea wearing an electioneering aspect and looking desperately like
business. Leaving Podsnapat a hand-gallophe descends upon
Boots and Brewerwho enthusiastically rally round him by at
once bolting off in cabstaking opposite directions. Then
Veneering repairs to the legal gentleman in Britannia's confidence
and with him transacts some delicate affairs of businessand
issues an address to the independent electors of Pocket-Breaches
announcing that he is coming among them for their suffragesas
the mariner returns to the home of his early childhood: a phrase
which is none the worse for his never having been near the place
in his lifeand not even now distinctly knowing where it is.

Mrs Veneeringduring the same eventful hoursis not idle. No
sooner does the carriage turn outall completethan she turns into
itall completeand gives the word 'To Lady Tippins's.' That
charmer dwells over a staymaker's in the Belgravian Borderswith
a life-size model in the window on the ground floor of a
distinguished beauty in a blue petticoatstay-lace in handlooking
over her shoulder at the town in innocent surprise. As well she
mayto find herself dressing under the circumstances.

Lady Tippins at home? Lady Tippins at homewith the room
darkenedand her back (like the lady's at the ground-floor
windowthough for a different reason) cunningly turned towards
the light. Lady Tippins is so surprised by seeing her dear Mrs
Veneering so early--in the middle of the nightthe pretty creature
calls it--that her eyelids almost go upunder the influence of that
emotion.

To whom Mrs Veneering incoherently communicateshow that
Veneering has been offered Pocket-Breaches; how that it is the
time for rallying round; how that Veneering has said 'We must
work'; how that she is hereas a wife and motherto entreat Lady
Tippins to work; how that the carriage is at Lady Tippins's
disposal for purposes of work; how that sheproprietress of said
bran new elegant equipagewill return home on foot--on bleeding
feet if need be--to work (not specifying how)until she drops by


the side of baby's crib.

'My love' says Lady Tippins'compose yourself; we'll bring him
in.' And Lady Tippins really does workand work the Veneering
horses too; for she clatters about town all daycalling upon
everybody she knowsand showing her entertaining powers and
green fan to immense advantageby rattling on withMy dear
soulwhat do you think? What do you suppose me to be? You'll
never guess. I'm pretending to be an electioneering agent. And
for what place of all places? Pocket-Breaches. And why?
Because the dearest friend I have in the world has bought it. And
who is the dearest friend I have in the world? A man of the name
of Veneering. Not omitting his wifewho is the other dearest
friend I have in the world; and I positively declare I forgot their
babywho is the other. And we are carrying on this little farce to
keep up appearancesand isn't it refreshing! Thenmy precious
childthe fun of it is that nobody knows who these Veneerings
areand that they know nobodyand that they have a house out of
the Tales of the Geniiand give dinners out of the Arabian Nights.
Curious to see 'emmy dear? Say you'll know 'em. Come and
dine with 'em. They shan't bore you. Say who shall meet you.
We'll make up a party of our ownand I'll engage that they shall
not interfere with you for one single moment. You really ought to
see their gold and silver camels. I call their dinner-tablethe
Caravan. Do come and dine with my Veneeringsmy own
Veneeringsmy exclusive propertythe dearest friends I have in
the world! And above allmy dearbe sure you promise me your
vote and interest and all sorts of plumpers for Pocket-Breaches;
for we couldn't think of spending sixpence on itmy loveand can
only consent to be brought in by the spontaneous thingummies of
the incorruptible whatdoyoucallums.

Nowthe point of view seized by the bewitching Tippinsthat this
same working and rallying round is to keep up appearancesmay
have something in itbut not all the truth. More is doneor
considered to be done--which does as well--by taking cabsand
'going about' than the fair Tippins knew of. Many vast vague
reputations have been madesolely by taking cabs and going
about. This particularly obtains in all Parliamentary affairs.
Whether the business in hand be to get a man inor get a man out
or get a man overor promote a railwayor jockey a railwayor
what elsenothing is understood to be so effectual as scouring
nowhere in a violent hurry--in shortas taking cabs and going
about.

Probably because this reason is in the airTwemlowfar from
being singular in his persuasion that he works like a Trojanis
capped by Podsnapwho in his turn is capped by Boots and
Brewer. At eight o'clock when all these hard workers assemble to
dine at Veneering'sit is understood that the cabs of Boots and
Brewer mustn't leave the doorbut that pails of water must be
brought from the nearest baiting-placeand cast over the horses'
legs on the very spotlest Boots and Brewer should have instant
occasion to mount and away. Those fleet messengers require the
Analytical to see that their hats are deposited where they can be
laid hold of at an instant's notice; and they dine (remarkably well
though) with the air of firemen in charge of an engineexpecting
intelligence of some tremendous conflagration.

Mrs Veneering faintly remarksas dinner opensthat many such
days would be too much for her.

'Many such days would be too much for all of us' says Podsnap;
'but we'll bring him in!'


'We'll bring him in' says Lady Tippinssportively waving her
green fan. 'Veneering for ever!'

'We'll bring him in!' says Twemlow.

'We'll bring him in!' say Boots and Brewer.

Strictly speakingit would be hard to show cause why they should
not bring him inPocket-Breaches having closed its little bargain
and there being no opposition. Howeverit is agreed that they
must 'work' to the lastand that if they did not worksomething
indefinite would happen. It is likewise agreed that they are all so
exhausted with the work behind themand need to be so fortified
for the work before themas to require peculiar strengthening
from Veneering's cellar. Thereforethe Analytical has orders to
produce the cream of the cream of his binnsand therefore it falls
out that rallying becomes rather a trying word for the occasion;
Lady Tippins being observed gamely to inculcate the necessity of
rearing round their dear Veneering; Podsnap advocating roaring
round him; Boots and Brewer declaring their intention of reeling
round him; and Veneering thanking his devoted friends one and
allwith great emotionfor rarullarulling round him.

In these inspiring momentsBrewer strikes out an idea which is
the great hit of the day. He consults his watchand says (like Guy
Fawkes)he'll now go down to the House of Commons and see
how things look.

'I'll keep about the lobby for an hour or so' says Brewerwith a
deeply mysterious countenance'and if things look wellI won't
come backbut will order my cab for nine in the morning.'

'You couldn't do better' says Podsnap.

Veneering expresses his inability ever to acknowledge this last
service. Tears stand in Mrs Veneering's affectionate eyes. Boots
shows envyloses groundand is regarded as possessing a secondrate
mind. They all crowd to the doorto see Brewer off. Brewer
says to his driver'Nowis your horse pretty fresh?' eyeing the
animal with critical scrutiny. Driver says he's as fresh as butter.
'Put him along then' says Brewer; 'House of Commons.' Driver
darts upBrewer leaps inthey cheer him as he departsand Mr
Podsnap says'Mark my wordssir. That's a man of resource;
that's a man to make his way in life.'

When the time comes for Veneering to deliver a neat and
appropriate stammer to the men of Pocket-Breachesonly
Podsnap and Twemlow accompany him by railway to that
sequestered spot. The legal gentleman is at the Pocket-Breaches
Branch Stationwith an open carriage with a printed bill
'Veneering for ever' stuck upon itas if it were a wall; and they
gloriously proceedamidst the grins of the populaceto a feeble
little town hall on crutcheswith some onions and bootlaces under
itwhich the legal gentleman says are a Market; and from the
front window of that edifice Veneering speaks to the listening
earth. In the moment of his taking his hat offPodsnapas per
agreement made with Mrs Veneeringtelegraphs to that wife and
mother'He's up.'

Veneering loses his way in the usual No Thoroughfares of speech
and Podsnap and Twemlow say Hear hear! and sometimeswhen
he can't by any means back himself out of some very unlucky No
Thoroughfare'He-a-a-r He-a-a-r!' with an air of facetious


convictionas if the ingenuity of the thing gave them a sensation
of exquisite pleasure. But Veneering makes two remarkably good
points; so goodthat they are supposed to have been suggested to
him by the legal gentleman in Britannia's confidencewhile briefly
conferring on the stairs.

Point the first is this. Veneering institutes an original comparison
between the countryand a ship; pointedly calling the shipthe
Vessel of the Stateand the Minister the Man at the Helm.
Veneering's object is to let Pocket-Breaches know that his friend
on his right (Podsnap) is a man of wealth. Consequently says he
'Andgentlemenwhen the timbers of the Vessel of the State are
unsound and the Man at the Helm is unskilfulwould those great
Marine Insurerswho rank among our world-famed merchantprinces--
would they insure hergentlemen? Would they
underwrite her? Would they incur a risk in her? Would they have
confidence in her? Whygentlemenif I appealed to my
honourable friend upon my righthimself among the greatest and
most respected of that great and much respected classhe would
answer No!'

Point the second is this. The telling fact that Twemlow is related
to Lord Snigsworthmust be let off. Veneering supposes a state of
public affairs that probably never could by any possibility exist
(though this is not quite certainin consequence of his picture
being unintelligible to himself and everybody else)and thus
proceeds. 'Whygentlemenif I were to indicate such a
programme to any class of societyI say it would be received with
derisionwould be pointed at by the finger of scorn. If I indicated
such a programme to any worthy and intelligent tradesman of your
town--nayI will here be personaland say Our town--what would
he reply? He would replyAway with it!That's what HE would
replygentlemen. In his honest indignation he would reply
Away with it!But suppose I mounted higher in the social scale.
Suppose I drew my arm through the arm of my respected friend
upon my leftandwalking with him through the ancestral woods
of his familyand under the spreading beeches of Snigsworthy
Parkapproached the noble hallcrossed the courtyardentered by
the doorwent up the staircaseandpassing from room to room
found myself at last in the august presence of my friend's near
kinsmanLord Snigsworth. And suppose I said to that venerable
earlMy Lord, I am here before your lordship, presented by your
lordship's near kinsman, my friend upon my left, to indicate that
programme;what would his lordship answer? Whyhe would
answerAway with it!That's what he would answergentlemen.
Away with it!Unconsciously usingin his exalted spherethe
exact language of the worthy and intelligent tradesman of our
townthe near and dear kinsman of my friend upon my left would
answer in his wrathAway with it!'

Veneering finishes with this last successand Mr Podsnap
telegraphs to Mrs Veneering'He's down.'

Thendinner is had at the Hotel with the legal gentlemanand then
there are in due successionnominationand declaration. Finally
Mr Podsnap telegraphs to Mrs Veneering'We have brought him
in.'

Another gorgeous dinner awaits them on their return to the
Veneering hallsand Lady Tippins awaits themand Boots and
Brewer await them. There is a modest assertion on everybody's
part that everybody single-handed 'brought him in'; but in the main
it is conceded by allthat that stroke of business on Brewer's part
in going down to the house that night to see how things looked


was the master-stroke.

A touching little incident is related by Mrs Veneeringin the
course of the evening. Mrs Veneering is habitually disposed to be
tearfuland has an extra disposition that way after her late
excitement. Previous to withdrawing from the dinner-table with
Lady Tippinsshe saysin a pathetic and physically weak manner:

'You will all think it foolish of meI knowbut I must mention it.
As I sat by Baby's cribon the night before the electionBaby was
very uneasy in her sleep.'

The Analytical chemistwho is gloomily looking onhas diabolical
impulses to suggest 'Wind' and throw up his situation; but
represses them.

'After an interval almost convulsiveBaby curled her little hands
in one another and smiled.'

Mrs Veneering stopping hereMr Podsnap deems it incumbent on
him to say: 'I wonder why!'

'Could it beI asked myself' says Mrs Veneeringlooking about
her for her pocket-handkerchief'that the Fairies were telling
Baby that her papa would shortly be an M. P.?'

So overcome by the sentiment is Mrs Veneeringthat they all get
up to make a clear stage for Veneeringwho goes round the table
to the rescueand bears her out backwardwith her feet
impressively scraping the carpet: after remarking that her work
has been too much for her strength. Whether the fairies made any
mention of the five thousand poundsand it disagreed with Baby
is not speculated upon.

Poor little Twemlowquite done upis touched. and still continues
touched after he is safely housed over the livery-stable yard in
Duke StreetSaint James's. But thereupon his sofaa tremendous
consideration breaks in upon the mild gentlemanputting all softer
considerations to the rout.

'Gracious heavens! Now I have time to think of ithe never saw
one of his constituents in all his daysuntil we saw them together!'

After having paced the room in distress of mindwith his hand to
his foreheadthe innocent Twemlow returns to his sofa and
moans:

'I shall either go distractedor dieof this man. He comes upon
me too late in life. I am not strong enough to bear him!'

Chapter 4

CUPID PROMPTED

To use the cold language of the worldMrs Alfred Lammle rapidly
improved the acquaintance of Miss Podsnap. To use the warm
language of Mrs Lammleshe and her sweet Georgiana soon
became one: in heartin mindin sentimentin soul.

Whenever Georgiana could escape from the thraldom of
Podsnappery; could throw off the bedclothes of the custard



coloured phaetonand get up; could shrink out of the range of her
mother's rockingand (so to speak) rescue her poor little frosty
toes from being rocked over; she repaired to her friendMrs
Alfred Lammle. Mrs Podsnap by no means objected. As a
consciously 'splendid woman' accustomed to overhear herself so
denominated by elderly osteologists pursuing their studies in
dinner societyMrs Podsnap could dispense with her daughter.
Mr Podsnapfor his parton being informed where Georgiana
wasswelled with patronage of the Lammles. That theywhen
unable to lay hold of himshould respectfully grasp at the hem of
his mantle; that theywhen they could not bask in the glory of him
the sunshould take up with the pale reflected light of the watery
young moon his daughter; appeared quite naturalbecomingand
proper. It gave him a better opinion of the discretion of the
Lammles than he had heretofore heldas showing that they
appreciated the value of the connexion. SoGeorgiana repairing
to her friendMr Podsnap went out to dinnerand to dinnerand
yet to dinnerarm in arm with Mrs Podsnap: settling his obstinate
head in his cravat and shirt-collarmuch as if he were performing
on the Pandean pipesin his own honourthe triumphal march
See the conquering Podsnap comesSound the trumpetsbeat the
drums!

It was a trait in Mr Podsnap's character (and in one form or other
it will be generally seen to pervade the depths and shallows of
Podsnappery)that he could not endure a hint of disparagement of
any friend or acquaintance of his. 'How dare you?' he would seem
to sayin such a case. 'What do you mean? I have licensed this
person. This person has taken out MY certificate. Through this
person you strike at mePodsnap the Great. And it is not that I
particularly care for the person's dignitybut that I do most
particularly care for Podsnap's.' Henceif any one in his presence
had presumed to doubt the responsibility of the Lammleshe
would have been mightily huffed. Not that any one didfor
VeneeringM.P.was always the authority for their being very
richand perhaps believed it. As indeed he mightif he chosefor
anything he knew of the matter.

Mr and Mrs Lammle's house in Sackville StreetPiccadillywas
but a temporary residence. It has done well enoughthey
informed their friendsfor Mr Lammle when a bachelorbut it
would not do now. Sothey were always looking at palatial
residences in the best situationsand always very nearly taking or
buying onebut never quite concluding the bargain. Hereby they
made for themselves a shining little reputation apart. People said
on seeing a vacant palatial residence'The very thing for the
Lammles!' and wrote to the Lammles about itand the Lammles
always went to look at itbut unfortunately it never exactly
answered. In shortthey suffered so many disappointmentsthat
they began to think it would he necessary to build a palatial
residence. And hereby they made another shining reputation;
many persons of their acquaintance becoming by anticipation
dissatisfied with their own housesand envious of the non-existent
Lammle structure.

The handsome fittings and furnishings of the house in Sackville
Street were piled thick and high over the skeleton up-stairsand if
it ever whispered from under its load of upholstery'Here I am in
the closet!' it was to very few earsand certainly never to Miss
Podsnap's. What Miss Podsnap was particularly charmed with
next to the graces of her friendwas the happiness of her friend's
married life. This was frequently their theme of conversation.

'I am sure' said Miss Podsnap'Mr Lammle is like a lover. At


least I--I should think he was.'

'Georgianadarling!' said Mrs Lammleholding up a forefinger
'Take care!'

'Oh my goodness me!' exclaimed Miss Podsnapreddening. 'What
have I said now?'

'Alfredyou know' hinted Mrs Lammleplayfully shaking her
head. 'You were never to say Mr Lammle any moreGeorgiana.'

'Oh! Alfredthen. I am glad it's no worse. I was afraid I had said
something shocking. I am always saying something wrong to ma.'

'To meGeorgiana dearest?'

'Nonot to you; you are not ma. I wish you were.'

Mrs Lammle bestowed a sweet and loving smile upon her friend
which Miss Podsnap returned as she best could. They sat at lunch
in Mrs Lammle's own boudoir.

'And sodearest GeorgianaAlfred is like your notion of a lover?'

'I don't say thatSophronia' Georgiana repliedbeginning to
conceal her elbows. 'I haven't any notion of a lover. The dreadful
wretches that ma brings up at places to torment meare not lovers.
I only mean that Mr--'

'Againdearest Georgiana?'

'That Alfred--'

'Sounds much betterdarling.'

'--Loves you so. He always treats you with such delicate gallantry
and attention. Nowdon't he?'

'Trulymy dear' said Mrs Lammlewith a rather singular
expression crossing her face. 'I believe that he loves mefully as
much as I love him.'

'Ohwhat happiness!' exclaimed Miss Podsnap.

'But do you knowmy Georgiana' Mrs Lammle resumed
presently'that there is something suspicious in your enthusiastic
sympathy with Alfred's tenderness?'

'Good gracious noI hope not!'

'Doesn't it rather suggest' said Mrs Lammle archly'that my
Georgiana's little heart is--'

'Oh don't!' Miss Podsnap blushingly besought her. 'Please don't!
I assure youSophroniathat I only praise Alfredbecause he is
your husband and so fond of you.'

Sophronia's glance was as if a rather new light broke in upon her.
It shaded off into a cool smileas she saidwith her eyes upon her
lunchand her eyebrows raised:

'You are quite wrongmy lovein your guess at my meaning.
What I insinuated wasthat my Georgiana's little heart was
growing conscious of a vacancy.'


'Nonono' said Georgiana. 'I wouldn't have anybody say
anything to me in that way for I don't know how many thousand
pounds.'

'In what waymy Georgiana?' inquired Mrs Lammlestill smiling
coolly with her eyes upon her lunchand her eyebrows raised.

'YOU know' returned poor little Miss Podsnap. 'I think I should
go out of my mindSophroniawith vexation and shyness and
detestationif anybody did. It's enough for me to see how loving
you and your husband are. That's a different thing. I couldn't
bear to have anything of that sort going on with myself. I should
beg and pray to--to have the person taken away and trampled
upon.'

Ah! here was Alfred. Having stolen in unobservedhe playfully
leaned on the back of Sophronia's chairandas Miss Podsnap saw
himput one of Sophronia's wandering locks to his lipsand waved
a kiss from it towards Miss Podsnap.

'What is this about husbands and detestations?' inquired the
captivating Alfred.

'Whythey say' returned his wife'that listeners never hear any
good of themselves; though you--but pray how long have you
been heresir?'

'This instant arrivedmy own.'

'Then I may go on--though if you had been here but a moment or
two sooneryou would have heard your praises sounded by
Georgiana.'

'Onlyif they were to be called praises at all which I really don't
think they were' explained Miss Podsnap in a flutter'for being so
devoted to Sophronia.'

'Sophronia!' murmured Alfred. 'My life!' and kissed her hand. In
return for which she kissed his watch-chain.

'But it was not I who was to be taken away and trampled uponI
hope?' said Alfreddrawing a seat between them.

'Ask Georgianamy soul' replied his wife.

Alfred touchingly appealed to Georgiana.

'Ohit was nobody' replied Miss Podsnap. 'It was nonsense.'

'But if you are determined to knowMr Inquisitive Petas I
suppose you are' said the happy and fond Sophroniasmiling'it
was any one who should venture to aspire to Georgiana.'

'Sophroniamy love' remonstrated Mr Lammlebecoming graver
'you are not serious?'

'Alfredmy love' returned his wife'I dare say Georgiana was not
but I am.'

'Now this' said Mr Lammle'shows the accidental combinations
that there are in things! Could you believemy Ownestthat I
came in here with the name of an aspirant to our Georgiana on my
lips?'


'Of course I could believeAlfred' said Mrs Lammle'anything
that YOU told me.'

'You dear one! And I anything that YOU told me.'

How delightful those interchangesand the looks accompanying
them! Nowif the skeleton up-stairs had taken that opportunity
for instanceof calling out 'Here I amsuffocating in the closet!'

'I give you my honourmy dear Sophronia--'

'And I know what that islove' said she.

'You domy darling--that I came into the room all but uttering
young Fledgeby's name. Tell Georgianadearestabout young
Fledgeby.'

'Oh nodon't! Please don't!' cried Miss Podsnapputting her
fingers in her ears. 'I'd rather not.'

Mrs Lammle laughed in her gayest mannerandremoving her
Georgiana's unresisting handsand playfully holding them in her
own at arms' lengthsometimes near together and sometimes wide
apartwent on:

'You must knowyou dearly beloved little goosethat once upon a
time there was a certain person called young Fledgeby. And this
young Fledgebywho was of an excellent family and richwas
known to two other certain personsdearly attached to one
another and called Mr and Mrs Alfred Lammle. So this young
Fledgebybeing one night at the playthere sees with Mr and Mrs
Alfred Lammlea certain heroine called--'

'Nodon't say Georgiana Podsnap!' pleaded that young lady
almost in tears. 'Please don't. Oh do do do say somebody else!
Not Georgiana Podsnap. Oh don'tdon'tdon't!'

'No other' said Mrs Lammlelaughing airilyandfull of
affectionate blandishmentsopening and closing Georgiana's arms
like a pair of compassesthan my little Georgiana Podsnap. So
this young Fledgeby goes to that Alfred Lammle and says--'

'Oh ple-e-e-ease don't!' Georgianaas if the supplication were
being squeezed out of her by powerful compression. 'I so hate
him for saying it!'

'For saying whatmy dear?' laughed Mrs Lammle.

'OhI don't know what he said' cried Georgiana wildly'but I hate
him all the same for saying it.'

'My dear' said Mrs Lammlealways laughing in her most
captivating way'the poor young fellow only says that he is
stricken all of a heap.'

'Ohwhat shall I ever do!' interposed Georgiana. 'Oh my goodness
what a Fool he must be!'

'--And implores to be asked to dinnerand to make a fourth at the
play another time. And so he dines to-morrow and goes to the
Opera with us. That's all. Exceptmy dear Georgiana--and what
will you think of this!--that he is infinitely shyer than youand far
more afraid of you than you ever were of any one in all your


days!'

In perturbation of mind Miss Podsnap still fumed and plucked at
her hands a littlebut could not help laughing at the notion of
anybody's being afraid of her. With that advantageSophronia
flattered her and rallied her more successfullyand then the
insinuating Alfred flattered her and rallied herand promised that
at any moment when she might require that service at his hands
he would take young Fledgeby out and trample on him. Thus it
remained amicably understood that young Fledgeby was to come
to admireand that Georgiana was to come to be admired; and
Georgiana with the entirely new sensation in her breast of having
that prospect before herand with many kisses from her dear
Sophronia in present possessionpreceded six feet one of
discontented footman (an amount of the article that always came
for her when she walked home) to her father's dwelling.

The happy pair being left togetherMrs Lammle said to her
husband:

'If I understand this girlsiryour dangerous fascinations have
produced some effect upon her. I mention the conquest in good
time because I apprehend your scheme to be more important to
you than your vanity.'

There was a mirror on the wall before themand her eyes just
caught him smirking in it. She gave the reflected image a look of
the deepest disdainand the image received it in the glass. Next
moment they quietly eyed each otheras if theythe principals
had had no part in that expressive transaction.

It may have been that Mrs Lammle tried in some manner to
excuse her conduct to herself by depreciating the poor little victim
of whom she spoke with acrimonious contempt. It may have been
too that in this she did not quite succeedfor it is very difficult to
resist confidenceand she knew she had Georgiana's.

Nothing more was said between the happy pair. Perhaps
conspirators who have once established an understandingmay
not be over-fond of repeating the terms and objects of their
conspiracy. Next day came; came Georgiana; and came
Fledgeby.

Georgiana had by this time seen a good deal of the house and its
frequenters. As there was a certain handsome room with a billiard
table in it--on the ground flooreating out a backyard--which
might have been Mr Lammle's officeor librarybut was called by
neither namebut simply Mr Lammle's roomso it would have
been hard for stronger female heads than Georgiana's to determine
whether its frequenters were men of pleasure or men of business.
Between the room and the men there were strong points of
general resemblance. Both were too gaudytoo slangeytoo
odorous of cigarsand too much given to horseflesh; the latter
characteristic being exemplified in the room by its decorations
and in the men by their conversation. High-stepping horses
seemed necessary to all Mr Lammle's friends--as necessary as
their transaction of business together in a gipsy way at untimely
hours of the morning and eveningand in rushes and snatches.
There were friends who seemed to be always coming and going
across the Channelon errands about the Bourseand Greek and
Spanish and India and Mexican and par and premium and discount
and three quarters and seven eighths. There were other friends
who seemed to be always lolling and lounging in and out of the
Cityon questions of the Bourseand Greek and Spanish and India


and Mexican and par and premium and discount and three
quarters and seven eighths. They were all feverishboastfuland
indefinably loose; and they all ate and drank a great deal; and
made bets in eating and drinking. They all spoke of sums of
moneyand only mentioned the sums and left the money to be
understood; as 'five and forty thousand Tom' or 'Two hundred and
twenty-two on every individual share in the lot Joe.' They seemed
to divide the world into two classes of people; people who were
making enormous fortunesand people who were being
enormously ruined. They were always in a hurryand yet seemed
to have nothing tangible to do; except a few of them (these
mostly asthmatic and thick-lipped) who were for ever
demonstrating to the restwith gold pencil-cases which they could
hardly hold because of the big rings on their forefingershow
money was to be made. Lastlythey all swore at their grooms
and the grooms were not quite as respectful or complete as other
men's grooms; seeming somehow to fall short of the groom point
as their masters fell short of the gentleman point.

Young Fledgeby was none of these. Young Fledgeby had a
peachy cheekor a cheek compounded of the peach and the red
red red wall on which it growsand was an awkwardsandyhaired
small-eyed youthexceeding slim (his enemies would have
said lanky)and prone to self-examination in the articles of
whisker and moustache. While feeling for the whisker that he
anxiously expectedFledgeby underwent remarkable fluctuations
of spiritsranging along the whole scale from confidence to
despair. There were times when he startedas exclaiming 'By
Jupiter here it is at last!' There were other times whenbeing
equally depressedhe would be seen to shake his headand give
up hope. To see him at those periods leaning on a chimneypiece
like as on an urn containing the ashes of his ambitionwith the
cheek that would not sproutupon the hand on which that cheek
had forced convictionwas a distressing sight.

Not so was Fledgeby seen on this occasion. Arrayed in superb
raimentwith his opera hat under his armhe concluded his selfexamination
hopefullyawaited the arrival of Miss Podsnapand
talked small-talk with Mrs Lammle. In facetious homage to the
smallness of his talkand the jerky nature of his manners
Fledgeby's familiars had agreed to confer upon him (behind his
back) the honorary title of Fascination Fledgeby.

'Warm weatherMrs Lammle' said Fascination Fledgeby. Mrs
Lammle thought it scarcely as warm as it had been yesterday.
'Perhaps not' said Fascination Fledgebywith great quickness of
repartee; 'but I expect it will be devilish warm to-morrow.'

He threw off another little scintillation. 'Been out to-dayMrs
Lammle?'

Mrs Lammle answeredfor a short drive.

'Some people' said Fascination Fledgeby'are accustomed to take
long drives; but it generally appears to me that if they make 'em
too longthey overdo it.'

Being in such featherhe might have surpassed himself in his next
sallyhad not Miss Podsnap been announced. Mrs Lammle flew
to embrace her darling little Georgyand when the first transports
were overpresented Mr Fledgeby. Mr Lammle came on the
scene lastfor he was always lateand so were the frequenters
always late; all hands being bound to be made lateby private
information about the Bourseand Greek and Spanish and India


and Mexican and par and premium and discount and three
quarters and seven eighths.


A handsome little dinner was served immediatelyand Mr Lammle
sat sparkling at his end of the tablewith his servant behind his
chairand HIS ever-lingering doubts upon the subject of his wages
behind himself. Mr Lammle's utmost powers of sparkling were in
requisition to-dayfor Fascination Fledgeby and Georgiana not
only struck each other speechlessbut struck each other into
astonishing attitudes; Georgianaas she sat facing Fledgeby
making such efforts to conceal her elbows as were totally
incompatible with the use of a knife and fork; and Fledgebyas he
sat facing Georgianaavoiding her countenance by every possible
deviceand betraying the discomposure of his mind in feeling for
his whiskers with his spoonhis wine glassand his bread.


SoMr and Mrs Alfred Lammle had to promptand this is how
they prompted.


'Georgiana' said Mr Lammlelow and smilingand sparkling all
overlike a harlequin; 'you are not in your usual spirits. Why are
you not in your usual spiritsGeorgiana?'


Georgiana faltered that she was much the same as she was in
general; she was not aware of being different.


'Not aware of being different!' retorted Mr Alfred Lammle. 'You
my dear Georgiana! Who are always so natural and
unconstrained with us! Who are such a relief from the crowd that
are all alike! Who are the embodiment of gentlenesssimplicity
and reality!'


Miss Podsnap looked at the dooras if she entertained confused
thoughts of taking refuge from these compliments in flight.


'NowI will be judged' said Mr Lammleraising his voice a little
'by my friend Fledgeby.'


'Oh DON'T!' Miss Podsnap faintly ejaculated: when Mrs Lammle
took the prompt-book.


'I beg your pardonAlfredmy dearbut I cannot part with Mr
Fledgeby quite yet; you must wait for him a moment. Mr
Fledgeby and I are engaged in a personal discussion.'


Fledgeby must have conducted it on his side with immense artfor
no appearance of uttering one syllable had escaped him.


'A personal discussionSophroniamy love? What discussion?
FledgebyI am jealous. What discussionFledgeby?'


'Shall I tell himMr Fledgeby?' asked Mrs Lammle.


Trying to look as if he knew anything about itFascination replied
'Yestell him.'


'We were discussing then' said Mrs Lammle'if you MUST know
Alfredwhether Mr Fledgeby was in his usual flow of spirits.'


'Whythat is the very pointSophroniathat Georgiana and I were
discussing as to herself! What did Fledgeby say?'


'Oha likely thingsirthat I am going to tell you everythingand
be told nothing! What did Georgiana say?'



'Georgiana said she was doing her usual justice to herself to-day
and I said she was not.'

'Precisely' exclaimed Mrs Lammle'what I said to Mr Fledgeby.'
Stillit wouldn't do. They would not look at one another. Nonot
even when the sparkling host proposed that the quartette should
take an appropriately sparkling glass of wine. Georgiana looked
from her wine glass at Mr Lammle and at Mrs Lammle; but
mightn'tcouldn'tshouldn'twouldn'tlook at Mr Fledgeby.
Fascination looked from his wine glass at Mrs Lammle and at Mr
Lammle; but mightn'tcouldn'tshouldn'twouldn'tlook at
Georgiana.

More prompting was necessary. Cupid must be brought up to the
mark. The manager had put him down in the bill for the partand
he must play it.

'Sophroniamy dear' said Mr Lammle'I don't like the colour of
your dress.'

'I appeal' said Mrs Lammle'to Mr Fledgeby.'

'And I' said Mr Lammle'to Georgiana.'

'Georgymy love' remarked Mrs Lammle aside to her dear girl'I
rely upon you not to go over to the opposition. NowMr
Fledgeby.'

Fascination wished to know if the colour were not called rosecolour?
Yessaid Mr Lammle; actually he knew everything; it
was really rose-colour. Fascination took rose-colour to mean the
colour of roses. (In this he was very warmly supported by Mr and
Mrs Lammle.) Fascination had heard the term Queen of Flowers
applied to the Rose. Similarlyit might be said that the dress was
the Queen of Dresses. ('Very happyFledgeby!' from Mr
Lammle.) NotwithstandingFascination's opinion was that we all
had our eyes--or at least a large majority of us--and that--and--and
his farther opinion was several andswith nothing beyond them.

'OhMr Fledgeby' said Mrs Lammle'to desert me in that way!
OhMr Fledgebyto abandon my poor dear injured rose and
declare for blue!'

'Victoryvictory!' cried Mr Lammle; 'your dress is condemnedmy
dear.'

'But what' said Mrs Lammlestealing her affectionate hand
towards her dear girl's'what does Georgy say?'

'She says' replied Mr Lammleinterpreting for her'that in her
eyes you look well in any colourSophroniaand that if she had
expected to be embarrassed by so pretty a compliment as she has
receivedshe would have worn another colour herself. Though I
tell herin replythat it would not have saved herfor whatever
colour she had worn would have been Fledgeby's colour. But
what does Fledgeby say?'

'He says' replied Mrs Lammleinterpreting for himand patting
the back of her dear girl's handas if it were Fledgeby who was
patting it'that it was no complimentbut a little natural act of
homage that he couldn't resist. And' expressing more feeling as if
it were more feeling on the part of Fledgeby'he is righthe is
right!'


Stillno not even nowwould they look at one another. Seeming
to gnash his sparkling teethstudseyesand buttonsall at once
Mr Lammle secretly bent a dark frown on the twoexpressive of
an intense desire to bring them together by knocking their heads
together.

'Have you heard this opera of to-nightFledgeby?' he asked
stopping very shortto prevent himself from running on into
'confound you.'

'Why nonot exactly' said Fledgeby. 'In fact I don't know a note
of it.'

'Neither do you know itGeorgy?' said Mrs Lammle. 'N-no'
replied Georgianafaintlyunder the sympathetic coincidence.

'Whythen' said Mrs Lammlecharmed by the discovery which
flowed from the premises'you neither of you know it! How
charming!'

Even the craven Fledgeby felt that the time was now come when
he must strike a blow. He struck it by sayingpartly to Mrs
Lammle and partly to the circumambient air'I consider myself
very fortunate in being reserved by--'

As he stopped deadMr Lammlemaking that gingerous bush of
his whiskers to look out ofoffered him the word 'Destiny.'

'NoI wasn't going to say that' said Fledgeby. 'I was going to say
Fate. I consider it very fortunate that Fate has written in the book
of--in the book which is its own property--that I should go to that
opera for the first time under the memorable circumstances of
going with Miss Podsnap.'

To which Georgiana repliedhooking her two little fingers in one
anotherand addressing the tablecloth'Thank youbut I generally
go with no one but youSophroniaand I like that very much.'

Content perforce with this success for the timeMr Lammle let
Miss Podsnap out of the roomas if he were opening her cage
doorand Mrs Lammle followed. Coffee being presently served
up stairshe kept a watch on Fledgeby until Miss Podsnap's cup
was emptyand then directed him with his finger (as if that young
gentleman were a slow Retriever) to go and fetch it. This feat he
performednot only without failurebut even with the original
embellishment of informing Miss Podsnap that green tea was
considered bad for the nerves. Though there Miss Podsnap
unintentionally threw him out by faltering'Ohis it indeed? How
does it act?' Which he was not prepared to elucidate.

The carriage announcedMrs Lammle said; 'Don't mind meMr
Fledgebymy skirts and cloak occupy both my handstake Miss
Podsnap.' And he took herand Mrs Lammle went nextand Mr
Lammle went lastsavagely following his little flocklike a drover.

But he was all sparkle and glitter in the box at the Operaand
there he and his dear wife made a conversation between Fledgeby
and Georgiana in the following ingenious and skilful manner.
They sat in this order: Mrs LammleFascination Fledgeby
GeorgianaMr Lammle. Mrs Lammle made leading remarks to
Fledgebyonly requiring monosyllabic replies. Mr Lammle did
the like with Georgiana. At times Mrs Lammle would lean
forward to address Mr Lammle to this purpose.


'Alfredmy dearMr Fledgeby very justly saysapropos of the last
scenethat true constancy would not require any such stimulant as
the stage deems necessary.' To which Mr Lammle would reply
'AySophroniamy lovebut as Georgiana has observed to methe
lady had no sufficient reason to know the state of the gentleman's
affections.' To which Mrs Lammle would rejoin'Very true
Alfred; but Mr Fledgeby points out' this. To which Alfred would
demur: 'UndoubtedlySophroniabut Georgiana acutely remarks'
that. Through this device the two young people conversed at
great length and committed themselves to a variety of delicate
sentimentswithout having once opened their lipssave to say yes
or noand even that not to one another.

Fledgeby took his leave of Miss Podsnap at the carriage doorand
the Lammles dropped her at her own homeand on the way Mrs
Lammle archly rallied herin her fond and protecting mannerby
saying at intervals'Oh little Georgianalittle Georgiana!' Which
was not much; but the tone added'You have enslaved your
Fledgeby.'

And thus the Lammles got home at lastand the lady sat down
moody and wearylooking at her dark lord engaged in a deed of
violence with a bottle of soda-water as though he were wringing
the neck of some unlucky creature and pouring its blood down his
throat. As he wiped his dripping whiskers in an ogreish wayhe
met her eyesand pausingsaidwith no very gentle voice:

'Well?'

'Was such an absolute Booby necessary to the purpose?'

'I know what I am doing. He is no such dolt as you suppose.'

'A geniusperhaps?'

'You sneerperhaps; and you take a lofty air upon yourself
perhaps! But I tell you this:--when that young fellow's interest is
concernedhe holds as tight as a horse-leech. When money is in
question with that young fellowhe is a match for the Devil.'

'Is he a match for you?'

'He is. Almost as good a one as you thought me for you. He has
no quality of youth in himbut such as you have seen to-day.
Touch him upon moneyand you touch no booby then. He really
is a doltI supposein other things; but it answers his one purpose
very well.'

'Has she money in her own right in any case?'

'Ay! she has money in her own right in any case. You have done
so well to-daySophroniathat I answer the questionthough you
know I object to any such questions. You have done so well today
Sophroniathat you must be tired. Get to bed.'

Chapter 5

MERCURY PROMPTING

Fledgeby deserved Mr Alfred Lammle's eulogium. He was the


meanest cur existingwith a single pair of legs. And instinct (a
word we all clearly understand) going largely on four legsand
reason always on twomeanness on four legs never attains the
perfection of meanness on two.

The father of this young gentleman had been a money-lenderwho
had transacted professional business with the mother of this young
gentlemanwhen hethe latterwas waiting in the vast dark antechambers
of the present world to be born. The ladya widow
being unable to pay the money-lendermarried him; and in due
courseFledgeby was summoned out of the vast dark antechambers
to come and be presented to the Registrar-General.
Rather a curious speculation how Fledgehy would otherwise have
disposed of his leisure until Doomsday.

Fledgeby's mother offended her family by marrying Fledgeby's
father. It is one of the easiest achievements in life to offend your
family when your family want to get rid of you. Fledgeby's
mother's family had been very much offended with her for being
poorand broke with her for becoming comparatively rich.
Fledgeby's mother's family was the Snigsworth family. She had
even the high honour to be cousin to Lord Snigsworth--so many
times removed that the noble Earl would have had no
compunction in removing her one time more and dropping her
clean outside the cousinly pale; but cousin for all that.

Among her pre-matrimonial transactions with Fledgeby's father
Fledgeby's mother had raised money of him at a great
disadvantage on a certain reversionary interest. The reversion
falling in soon after they were marriedFledgeby's father laid hold
of the cash for his separate use and benefit. This led to subjective
differences of opinionnot to say objective interchanges of bootjacks
backgammon boardsand other such domestic missiles
between Fledgeby's father and Fledgeby's motherand those led to
Fledgeby's mother spending as much money as she couldand to
Fledgeby's father doing all he couldn't to restrain her. Fledgeby's
childhood had beenin consequencea stormy one; but the winds
and the waves had gone down in the graveand Fledgeby
flourished alone.

He lived in chambers in the Albanydid Fledgebyand maintained
a spruce appearance. But his youthful fire was all composed of
sparks from the grindstone; and as the sparks flew offwent out
and never warmed anythingbe sure that Fledgeby had his tools at
the grindstoneand turned it with a wary eye.

Mr Alfred Lammle came round to the Albany to breakfast with
Fledgeby. Present on the tableone scanty pot of teaone scanty
loaftwo scanty pats of buttertwo scanty rashers of bacontwo
pitiful eggsand an abundance of handsome china bought a
secondhand bargain.

'What did you think of Georgiana?' asked Mr Lammle.

'WhyI'll tell you' said Fledgebyvery deliberately.

'Domy boy.'

'You misunderstand me' said Fledgeby. 'I don't mean I'll tell you
that. I mean I'll tell you something else.'

'Tell me anythingold fellow!'

'Ahbut there you misunderstand me again' said Fledgeby. 'I


mean I'll tell you nothing.'

Mr Lammle sparkled at himbut frowned at him too.

'Look here' said Fledgeby. 'You're deep and you're ready.
Whether I am deep or notnever mind. I am not ready. But I can
do one thingLammleI can hold my tongue. And I intend always
doing it.'

'You are a long-headed fellowFledgeby.'

'May beor may not be. If I am a short-tongued fellowit may
amount to the same thing. NowLammleI am never going to
answer questions.'

'My dear fellowit was the simplest question in the world.'

'Never mind. It seemed sobut things are not always what they
seem. I saw a man examined as a witness in Westminster Hall.
Questions put to him seemed the simplest in the worldbut turned
out to be anything rather than thatafter he had answered 'em.
Very well. Then he should have held his tongue. If he had held
his tongue he would have kept out of scrapes that he got into.'

'If I had held my tongueyou would never have seen the subject of
my question' remarked Lammledarkening.

'NowLammle' said Fascination Fledgebycalmly feeling for his
whisker'it won't do. I won't be led on into a discussion. I can't
manage a discussion. But I can manage to hold my tongue.'

'Can?' Mr Lammie fell back upon propitiation. 'I should think you
could! Whywhen these fellows of our acquaintance drink and
you drink with themthe more talkative they getthe more silent
you get. The more they let outthe more you keep in.'

'I don't objectLammle' returned Fledgebywith an internal
chuckle'to being understoodthough I object to being questioned.
That certainly IS the way I do it.'

'And when all the rest of us are discussing our venturesnone of us
ever know what a single venture of yours is!'

'And none of you ever will from meLammle' replied Fledgeby
with another internal chuckle; 'that certainly IS the way I do it.'

'Why of course it isI know!' rejoined Lammlewith a flourish of
franknessand a laughand stretching out his hands as if to show
the universe a remarkable man in Fledgeby. 'If I hadn't known it
of my Fledgebyshould I have proposed our little compact of
advantageto my Fledgeby?'

'Ah!' remarked Fascinationshaking his head slyly. 'But I am not
to be got at in that way. I am not vain. That sort of vanity don't
payLammle. Nonono. Compliments only make me hold my
tongue the more.'

Alfred Lammle pushed his plate away (no great sacrifice under
the circumstances of there being so little in it)thrust his hands in
his pocketsleaned back in his chairand contemplated Fledgeby
in silence. Then he slowly released his left hand from its pocket
and made that bush of his whiskersstill contemplating him in
silence. Then he slowly broke silenceand slowly said: 'What-the--
Dev-il is this fellow about this morning?'


'Nowlook hereLammle' said Fascination Fledgebywith the
meanest of twinkles in his meanest of eyes: which were too near
togetherby the way: 'look hereLammle; I am very well aware
that I didn't show to advantage last nightand that you and your
wife--whoI consideris a very clever woman and an agreeable
woman--did. I am not calculated to show to advantage under that
sort of circumstances. I know very well you two did show to
advantageand managed capitally. But don't you on that account
come talking to me as if I was your doll and puppetbecause I am
not.

'And all this' cried Alfredafter studying with a look the meanness
that was fain to have the meanest helpand yet was so mean as to
turn upon it: 'all this because of one simple natural question!'

'You should have waited till I thought proper to say something
about it of myself. I don't like your coming over me with your
Georgianasas if you was her proprietor and mine too.'

'Wellwhen you are in the gracious mind to say anything about it
of yourself' retorted Lammle'pray do.'

'I have done it. I have said you managed capitally. You and your
wife both. If you'll go on managing capitallyI'll go on doing my
part. Only don't crow.'

'I crow!' exclaimed Lammleshrugging his shoulders.

'Or' pursued the other--'or take it in your head that people are
your puppets because they don't come out to advantage at the
particular moments when you dowith the assistance of a very
clever and agreeable wife. All the rest keep on doingand let Mrs
Lammle keep on doing. NowI have held my tongue when I
thought properand I have spoken when I thought properand
there's an end of that. And now the question is' proceeded
Fledgebywith the greatest reluctance'will you have another
egg?'

'NoI won't' said Lammleshortly.

'Perhaps you're right and will find yourself better without it'
replied Fascinationin greatly improved spirits. 'To ask you if
you'll have another rasher would be unmeaning flatteryfor it
would make you thirsty all day. Will you have some more bread
and butter?'

'NoI won't' repeated Lammle.

'Then I will' said Fascination. And it was not a mere retort for the
sound's sakebut was a cheerful cogent consequence of the
refusal; for if Lammle had applied himself again to the loafit
would have been so heavily visitedin Fledgeby's opinionas to
demand abstinence from breadon his partfor the remainder of
that meal at leastif not for the whole of the next.

Whether this young gentleman (for he was but three-and-twenty)
combined with the miserly vice of an old manany of the openhanded
vices of a young onewas a moot point; so very
honourably did he keep his own counsel. He was sensible of the
value of appearances as an investmentand liked to dress well; but
he drove a bargain for every moveable about himfrom the coat
on his back to the china on his breakfast-table; and every bargain
by representing somebody's ruin or somebody's lossacquired a


peculiar charm for him. It was a part of his avarice to takewithin
narrow boundslong odds at races; if he wonhe drove harder
bargains; if he losthe half starved himself until next time. Why
money should be so precious to an Ass too dull and mean to
exchange it for any other satisfactionis strange; but there is no
animal so sure to get laden with itas the Ass who sees nothing
written on the face of the earth and sky but the three letters L. S.
D.--not LuxurySensualityDissolutenesswhich they often stand
forbut the three dry letters. Your concentrated Fox is seldom
comparable to your concentrated Ass in money-breeding.

Fascination Fledgeby feigned to be a young gentleman living on
his meansbut was known secretly to be a kind of outlaw in the
bill-broking lineand to put money out at high interest in various
ways. His circle of familiar acquaintancefrom Mr Lammle
roundall had a touch of the outlawas to their rovings in the
merry greenwood of Jobbery Forestlying on the outskirts of the
Share-Market and the Stock Exchange.

'I suppose youLammle' said Fledgebyeating his bread and
butter'always did go in for female society?'

'Always' replied Lammleglooming considerably under his late
treatment.

'Came natural to youeh?' said Fledgeby.

'The sex were pleased to like mesir' said Lammle sulkilybut
with the air of a man who had not been able to help himself.

'Made a pretty good thing of marryingdidn't you?' asked
Fledgeby.

The other smiled (an ugly smile)and tapped one tap upon his
nose.

'My late governor made a mess of it' said Fledgeby. 'But Geor--is
the right name Georgina or Georgiana?'

'Georgiana.'

'I was thinking yesterdayI didn't know there was such a name.
thought it must end in ina.

'Why?'

'Whyyou play--if you can--the Concertinayou know' replied
Fledgebymeditating very slowly. 'And you have--when you
catch it--the Scarlatina. And you can come down from a balloon
in a parach--no you can't though. Wellsay Georgeute--I mean
Georgiana.'

'You were going to remark of Georgiana--?' Lammle moodily
hintedafter waiting in vain.

'I was going to remark of Georgianasir' said Fledgebynot at all
pleased to be reminded of his having forgotten it'that she don't
seem to be violent. Don't seem to be of the pitching-in order.'

'She has the gentleness of the doveMr Fledgeby.'

'Of course you'll say so' replied Fledgebysharpeningthe moment
his interest was touched by another. 'But you knowthe real look-
out is this:--what I saynot what you say. I say having my late


governor and my late mother in my eye--that Georgiana don't
seem to be of the pitching-in order.'

The respected Mr Lammle was a bullyby nature and by usual
practice. Perceivingas Fledgeby's affronts cumulatedthat
conciliation by no means answered the purpose herehe now
directed a scowling look into Fledgeby's small eyes for the effect
of the opposite treatment. Satisfied by what he saw therehe
burst into a violent passion and struck his hand upon the table
making the china ring and dance.

'You are a very offensive fellowsir' cried Mr Lammlerising.
'You are a highly offensive scoundrel. What do you mean by this
behaviour?'

'I say!' remonstrated Fledgeby. 'Don't break out.'

'You are a very offensive fellow sir' repeated Mr Lammle. 'You
are a highly offensive scoundrel!'

'I SAYyou know!' urged Fledgebyquailing.

'Whyyou coarse and vulgar vagabond!' said Mr Lammlelooking
fiercely about him'if your servant was here to give me sixpence
of your money to get my boots cleaned afterwards--for you are
not worth the expenditure--I'd kick you.'

'No you wouldn't' pleaded Fledgeby. 'I am sure you'd think better
of it.'

'I tell you whatMr Fledgeby' said Lammle advancing on him.
'Since you presume to contradict meI'll assert myself a little.
Give me your nose!'

Fledgeby covered it with his hand insteadand saidretreating'I
beg you won't!'

'Give me your nosesir' repeated Lammle.

Still covering that feature and backingMr Fledgeby reiterated
(apparently with a severe cold in his head)'I begI begyou
won't.'

'And this fellow' exclaimed Lammlestopping and making the
most of his chest--'This fellow presumes on my having selected
him out of all the young fellows I knowfor an advantageous
opportunity! This fellow presumes on my having in my desk
round the cornerhis dirty note of hand for a wretched sum
payable on the occurrence of a certain eventwhich event can
only be of my and my wife's bringing about! This fellow
Fledgebypresumes to be impertinent to meLammle. Give me
your nose sir!'

'No! Stop! I beg your pardon' said Fledgebywith humility.

'What do you saysir?' demanded Mr Lammleseeming too
furious to understand.

'I beg your pardon' repeated Fledgeby.

'Repeat your words loudersir. The just indignation of a
gentleman has sent the blood boiling to my head. I don't hear
you.'


'I say' repeated Fledgebywith laborious explanatory politeness'I
beg your pardon.'

Mr Lammle paused. 'As a man of honour' said hethrowing
himself into a chair'I am disarmed.'

Mr Fledgeby also took a chairthough less demonstrativelyand
by slow approaches removed his hand from his nose. Some
natural diffidence assailed him as to blowing itso shortly after its
having assumed a personal and delicatenot to say public
character; but he overcame his scruples by degreesand modestly
took that liberty under an implied protest.

'Lammle' he said sneakinglywhen that was done'I hope we are
friends again?'

'Mr Fledgeby' returned Lammle'say no more.'

'I must have gone too far in making myself disagreeable' said
Fledgeby'but I never intended it.'

'Say no moresay no more!' Mr Lammle repeated in a magnificent
tone. 'Give me your'--Fledgeby started--'hand.'

They shook handsand on Mr Lammle's partin particularthere
ensued great geniality. Forhe was quite as much of a dastard as
the otherand had been in equal danger of falling into the second
place for goodwhen he took heart just in timeto act upon the
information conveyed to him by Fledgeby's eye.

The breakfast ended in a perfect understanding. Incessant
machinations were to be kept at work by Mr and Mrs Lammle;
love was to be made for Fledgebyand conquest was to be insured
to him; he on his part very humbly admitting his defects as to the
softer social artsand entreating to be backed to the utmost by his
two able coadjutors.

Little recked Mr Podsnap of the traps and toils besetting his
Young Person. He regarded her as safe within the Temple of
Podsnapperyhiding the fulness of time when sheGeorgiana
should take himFitz-Podsnapwho with all his worldly goods
should her endow. It would call a blush into the cheek of his
standard Young Person to have anything to do with such matters
save to take as directedand with worldly goods as per settlement
to be endowed. Who giveth this woman to be married to this
man? IPodsnap. Perish the daring thought that any smaller
creation should come between!

It was a public holidayand Fledgeby did not recover his spirits or
his usual temperature of nose until the afternoon. Walking into
the City in the holiday afternoonhe walked against a living
stream setting out of it; and thuswhen he turned into the
precincts of St Mary Axehe found a prevalent repose and quiet
there. A yellow overhanging plaster-fronted house at which be
stopped was quiet too. The blinds were all drawn downand the
inscription Pubsey and Co. seemed to doze in the counting-house
window on the ground-floor giving on the sleepy street.

Fledgeby knocked and rangand Fledgeby rang and knockedbut
no one came. Fledgeby crossed the narrow street and looked up
at the house-windowsbut nobody looked down at Fledgeby. He
got out of tempercrossed the narrow street againand pulled the
housebell as if it were the house's noseand he were taking a hint
from his late experience. His ear at the keyhole seemed thenat


lastto give him assurance that something stirred within. His eye
at the keyhole seemed to confirm his earfor he angrily pulled the
house's nose againand pulled and pulled and continued to pull
until a human nose appeared in the dark doorway.

'Now you sir!' cried Fledgeby. 'These are nice games!'

He addressed an old Jewish man in an ancient coatlong of skirt
and wide of pocket. A venerable manbald and shining at the top
of his headand with long grey hair flowing down at its sides and
mingling with his beard. A man who with a graceful Eastern
action of homage bent his headand stretched out his hands with
the palms downwardas if to deprecate the wrath of a superior.

'What have you been up to?' said Fledgebystorming at him.

'Generous Christian master' urged the Jewish man'it being
holidayI looked for no one.'

'Holiday he blowed!' said Fledgebyentering. 'What have YOU
got to do with holidays? Shut the door.'

With his former action the old man obeyed. In the entry hung his
rusty large-brimmed low-crowned hatas long out of date as his
coat; in the corner near it stood his staff--no walking-stick but a
veritable staff. Fledgeby turned into the counting-houseperched
himself on a business stooland cocked his hat. There were light
boxes on shelves in the counting-houseand strings of mock beads
hanging up. There were samples of cheap clocksand samples of
cheap vases of flowers. Foreign toysall.

Perched on the stool with his hat cocked on his head and one of
his legs danglingthe youth of Fledgeby hardly contrasted to
advantage with the age of the Jewish man as he stood with his
bare head bowedand his eyes (which he only raised in speaking)
on the ground. His clothing was worn down to the rusty hue of
the hat in the entrybut though he looked shabby he did not look
mean. NowFledgebythough not shabbydid look mean.

'You have not told me what you were up toyou sir' said
Fledgebyscratching his head with the brim of his hat.

'SirI was breathing the air.'

'In the cellarthat you didn't hear?'

'On the house-top.'

'Upon my soul! That's a way of doing business.'

'Sir' the old man represented with a grave and patient air'there
must be two parties to the transaction of businessand the holiday
has left me alone.'

'Ah! Can't be buyer and seller too. That's what the Jews say; ain't
it?'

'At least we say trulyif we say so' answered the old man with a
smile.

'Your people need speak the truth sometimesfor they lie enough'
remarked Fascination Fledgeby.

'Sirthere is' returned the old man with quiet emphasis'too much


untruth among all denominations of men.'

Rather dashedFascination Fledgeby took another scratch at his
intellectual head with his hatto gain time for rallying.

'For instance' he resumedas though it were he who had spoken
last'who but you and I ever heard of a poor Jew?'

'The Jews' said the old manraising his eyes from the ground with
his former smile. 'They hear of poor Jews oftenand are very
good to them.'

'Bother that!' returned Fledgeby. 'You know what I mean. You'd
persuade me if you couldthat you are a poor Jew. I wish you'd
confess how much you really did make out of my late governor. I
should have a better opinion of you.'

The old man only bent his headand stretched out his hands as
before.

'Don't go on posturing like a Deaf and Dumb School' said the
ingenious Fledgeby'but express yourself like a Christian--or as
nearly as you can.'

'I had had sickness and misfortunesand was so poor' said the old
man'as hopelessly to owe the fatherprincipal and interest. The
son inheritingwas so merciful as to forgive me bothand place
me here.'

He made a little gesture as though he kissed the hem of an
imaginary garment worn by the noble youth before him. It was
humbly donebut picturesquelyand was not abasing to the doer.

'You won't say moreI see' said Fledgebylooking at him as if he
would like to try the effect of extracting a double-tooth or two
'and so it's of no use my putting it to you. But confess thisRiah;
who believes you to be poor now?'

'No one' said the old man.

'There you're right' assented Fledgeby.

'No one' repeated the old man with a grave slow wave of his
head. 'All scout it as a fable. Were I to say "This little fancy
business is not mine";' with a lithe sweep of his easily-turning
hand around himto comprehend the various objects on the
shelves; '"it is the little business of a Christian young gentleman
who places mehis servantin trust and charge hereand to whom
I am accountable for every single bead they would laugh.
When, in the larger money-business, I tell the borrowers--'

'I say, old chap!' interposed Fledgeby, 'I hope you mind what you
DO tell 'em?'

'Sir, I tell them no more than I am about to repeat. When I tell
them, I cannot promise thisI cannot answer for the otherI must
see my principalI have not the moneyI am a poor man and it
does not rest with me they are so unbelieving and so impatient,
that they sometimes curse me in Jehovah's name.'

'That's deuced good, that is!' said Fascination Fledgeby.

'And at other times they say, Can it never be done without these
tricksMr Riah? ComecomeMr Riahwe know the arts of your


people"--my people!--"If the money is to be lentfetch itfetch it;
if it is not to be lentkeep it and say so." They never believe me.'

'THAT'S all right' said Fascination Fledgeby.

'They sayWe know, Mr Riah, we know. We have but to look at
you, and we know.'

'Oha good 'un are you for the post' thought Fledgeby'and a
good 'un was I to mark you out for it! I may be slowbut I am
precious sure.'

Not a syllable of this reflection shaped itself in any scrap of Mr
Fledgeby's breathlest it should tend to put his servant's price up.
But looking at the old man as he stood quiet with his bead bowed
and his eyes cast downhe felt that to relinquish an inch of his
baldnessan inch of his grey hairan inch of his coat-skirtan inch
of his hat-briman inch of his walking-staffwould be to relinquish
hundreds of pounds.

'Look hereRiah' said Fledgebymollified by these self-approving
considerations. 'I want to go a little more into buying-up queer
bills. Look out in that direction.'

'Sirit shall be done.'

'Casting my eye over the accountsI find that branch of business
pays pretty fairlyand I am game for extending it. I like to know
people's affairs likewise. So look out.'

'SirI willpromptly.'

'Put it about in the right quartersthat you'll buy queer bills by the
lump--by the pound weight if that's all--supposing you see your
way to a fair chance on looking over the parcel. And there's one
thing more. Come to me with the books for periodical inspection
as usualat eight on Monday morning.'

Riah drew some folding tablets from his breast and noted it down.

'That's all I wanted to say at the present time' continued Fledgeby
in a grudging veinas he got off the stool'except that I wish you'd
take the air where you can hear the bellor the knockereither
one of the two or both. By-the-by how DO you take the air at the
top of the house? Do you stick your head out of a chimney-pot?'

'Sirthere are leads thereand I have made a little garden there.'

'To bury your money inyou old dodger?'

'A thumbnail's space of garden would hold the treasure I bury
master' said Riah. 'Twelve shillings a weekeven when they are
an old man's wagesbury themselves.'

'I should like to know what you really are worth' returned
Fledgebywith whom his growing rich on that stipend and
gratitude was a very convenient fiction. 'But come! Let's have a
look at your garden on the tilesbefore I go!'

The old man took a step backand hesitated.

'TrulysirI have company there.'

'Have youby George!' said Fledgeby; 'I suppose you happen to


know whose premises these are?'

'Sirthey are yoursand I am your servant in them.'

'Oh! I thought you might have overlooked that' retorted Fledgeby
with his eyes on Riah's beard as he felt for his own; 'having
company on my premisesyou know!'

'Come up and see the guestssir. I hope for your admission that
they can do no harm.'

Passing him with a courteous reverencespecially unlike any
action that Mr Fledgeby could for his life have imparted to his
own head and handsthe old man began to ascend the stairs. As
he toiled on beforewith his palm upon the stair-railand his long
black skirta very gaberdineoverhanging each successive step
he might have been the leader in some pilgrimage of devotional
ascent to a prophet's tomb. Not troubled by any such weak
imaginingFascination Fledgeby merely speculated on the time of
life at which his beard had begunand thought once more what a
good 'un he was for the part.

Some final wooden steps conducted themstooping under a low
penthouse roofto the house-top. Riah stood stillandturning to
his masterpointed out his guests.

Lizzie Hexam and Jenny Wren. For whomperhaps with some old
instinct of his racethe gentle Jew had spread a carpet. Seated on
itagainst no more romantic object than a blackened chimneystack
over which some bumble creeper had been trainedthey
both pored over one book; both with attentive faces; Jenny with
the sharper; Lizzie with the more perplexed. Another little book
or two were lying nearand a common basket of common fruit
and another basket full of strings of beads and tinsel scraps. A
few boxes of humble flowers and evergreens completed the
garden; and the encompassing wilderness of dowager old
chimneys twirled their cowls and fluttered their smokerather as if
they were bridlingand fanning themselvesand looking on in a
state of airy surprise.

Taking her eyes off the bookto test her memory of something in
itLizzie was the first to see herself observed. As she roseMiss
Wren likewise became consciousand saidirreverently
addressing the great chief of the premises: 'Whoever you areI
can't get upbecause my back's bad and my legs are queer.'

'This is my master' said Riahstepping forward.

('Don't look like anybody's master' observed Miss Wren to
herselfwith a hitch of her chin and eyes.)

'Thissir' pursued the old man'is a little dressmaker for little
people. Explain to the masterJenny.'

'Dolls; that's all' said Jennyshortly. 'Very difficult to fit too
because their figures are so uncertain. You never know where to
expect their waists.'

'Her friend' resumed the old manmotioning towards Lizzie; 'and
as industrious as virtuous. But that they both are. They are busy
early and latesirearly and late; and in bye-timesas on this
holidaythey go to book-learning.'

'Not much good to be got out of that' remarked Fledgeby.


'Depends upon the person!' quoth Miss Wrensnapping him up.

'I made acquaintance with my guestssir' pursued the Jewwith
an evident purpose of drawing out the dressmaker'through their
coming here to buy of our damage and waste for Miss Jenny's
millinery. Our waste goes into the best of companysiron her
rosy-cheeked little customers. They wear it in their hairand on
their ball-dressesand even (so she tells me) are presented at
Court with it.'

'Ah!' said Fledgebyon whose intelligence this doll-fancy made
rather strong demands; 'she's been buying that basketful to-dayI
suppose?'

'I suppose she has' Miss Jenny interposed; 'and paying for it too
most likely!'

'Let's have a look at it' said the suspicious chief. Riah handed it
to him. 'How much for this now?'

'Two precious silver shillings' said Miss Wren.

Riah confirmed her with two nodsas Fledgeby looked to him. A
nod for each shilling.

'Well' said Fledgebypoking into the contents of the basket with
his forefinger'the price is not so bad. You have got good
measureMiss What-is-it.'

'Try Jenny' suggested that young lady with great calmness.

'You have got good measureMiss Jenny; but the price is not so
bad.--And you' said Fledgebyturning to the other visitor'do you
buy anything heremiss?'

'Nosir.'

'Nor sell anything neithermiss?'

'Nosir.'

Looking askew at the questionerJenny stole her hand up to her
friend'sand drew her friend downso that she bent beside her on
her knee.

'We are thankful to come here for restsir' said Jenny. 'You see
you don't know what the rest of this place is to us; does he
Lizzie? It's the quietand the air.'

'The quiet!' repeated Fledgebywith a contemptuous turn of his
head towards the City's roar. 'And the air!' with a 'Poof!' at the
smoke.

'Ah!' said Jenny. 'But it's so high. And you see the clouds rushing
on above the narrow streetsnot minding themand you see the
golden arrows pointing at the mountains in the sky from which the
wind comesand you feel as if you were dead.'

The little creature looked above herholding up her slight
transparent hand.

'How do you feel when you are dead?' asked Fledgebymuch
perplexed.


'Ohso tranquil!' cried the little creaturesmiling. 'Ohso peaceful
and so thankful! And you hear the people who are alivecrying
and workingand calling to one another down in the close dark
streetsand you seem to pity them so! And such a chain has fallen
from youand such a strange good sorrowful happiness comes
upon you!'

Her eyes fell on the old manwhowith his hands foldedquietly
looked on.

'Why it was only just now' said the little creaturepointing at him
'that I fancied I saw him come out of his grave! He toiled out at
that low door so bent and wornand then he took his breath and
stood uprightand looked all round him at the skyand the wind
blew upon himand his life down in the dark was over!--Till he
was called back to life' she addedlooking round at Fledgeby with
that lower look of sharpness. 'Why did you call him back?'

'He was long enough cominganyhow' grumbled Fledgeby.

'But you are not deadyou know' said Jenny Wren. 'Get down to
life!'

Mr Fledgeby seemed to think it rather a good suggestionand with
a nod turned round. As Riah followed to attend him down the
stairsthe little creature called out to the Jew in a silvery tone
'Don't be long gone. Come backand be dead!' And still as they
went down they heard the little sweet voicemore and more
faintlyhalf calling and half singing'Come back and be dead
Come back and be dead!'

When they got down into the entryFledgebypausing under the
shadow of the broad old hatand mechanically poising the staff
said to the old man:

'That's a handsome girlthat one in her senses.'

'And as good as handsome' answered Riah.

'At all events' observed Fledgebywith a dry whistle'I hope she
ain't bad enough to put any chap up to the fasteningsand get the
premises broken open. You look out. Keep your weather eye
awake and don't make any more acquaintanceshowever
handsome. Of course you always keep my name to yourself?'

'Sirassuredly I do.'

'If they ask itsay it's Pubseyor say it's Coor say it's anything
you likebut what it is.'

His grateful servant--in whose race gratitude is deepstrongand
enduring--bowed his headand actually did now put the hem of
his coat to his lips: though so lightly that the wearer knew nothing
of it.

ThusFascination Fledgeby went his wayexulting in the artful
cleverness with which he had turned his thumb down on a Jew
and the old man went his different way up-stairs. As he mounted
the call or song began to sound in his ears againandlooking
abovehe saw the face of the little creature looking down out of a
Glory of her long bright radiant hairand musically repeating to
himlike a vision:


'Come up and be dead! Come up and be dead!'

Chapter 6

A RIDDLE WITHOUT AN ANSWER

Again Mr Mortimer Lightwood and Mr Eugene Wrayburn sat
together in the Temple. This eveninghoweverthey were not
together in the place of business of the eminent solicitorbut in
another dismal set of chambers facing it on the same second-floor;
on whose dungeon-like black outer-door appeared the legend:

PRIVATE

MR EUGENE WRAYBURN

MR MORTIMER LIGHTWOOD

(Mr Lightwood's Offices opposite.)

Appearances indicated that this establishment was a very recent
institution. The white letters of the inscription were extremely
white and extremely strong to the sense of smellthe complexion
of the tables and chairs was (like Lady Tippins's) a little too
blooming to be believed inand the carpets and floorcloth seemed
to rush at the beholder's face in the unusual prominency of their
patterns. But the Templeaccustomed to tone down both the still
life and the human life that has much to do with itwould soon get
the better of all that.

'Well!' said Eugeneon one side of the fire'I feel tolerably
comfortable. I hope the upholsterer may do the same.'

'Why shouldn't he?' asked Lightwoodfrom the other side of the
fire.

'To be sure' pursued Eugenereflecting'he is not in the secret of
our pecuniary affairsso perhaps he may be in an easy frame of
mind.'

'We shall pay him' said Mortimer.

'Shall wereally?' returned Eugeneindolently surprised. 'You
don't say so!'

'I mean to pay himEugenefor my part' said Mortimerin a
slightly injured tone.

'Ah! I mean to pay him too' retorted Eugene. 'But then I mean so
much that I--that I don't mean.'

'Don't mean?'

'So much that I only mean and shall always only mean and nothing
moremy dear Mortimer. It's the same thing.'

His friendlying back in his easy chairwatched him lying back in
his easy chairas he stretched out his legs on the hearth-rugand
saidwith the amused look that Eugene Wrayburn could always
awaken in him without seeming to try or care:


'Anyhowyour vagaries have increased the bill.'

'Calls the domestic virtues vagaries!' exclaimed Eugeneraising his
eyes to the ceiling.

'This very complete little kitchen of ours' said Mortimer'in which
nothing will ever be cooked--'

'My deardear Mortimer' returned his friendlazily lifting his head
a little to look at him'how often have I pointed out to you that its
moral influence is the important thing?'

'Its moral influence on this fellow!' exclaimed Lightwood
laughing.

'Do me the favour' said Eugenegetting out of his chair with much
gravity'to come and inspect that feature of our establishment
which you rashly disparage.' With thattaking up a candlehe
conducted his chum into the fourth room of the set of chambers--a
little narrow room--which was very completely and neatly fitted
as a kitchen. 'See!' said Eugene'miniature flour-barrelrollingpin
spice-boxshelf of brown jarschopping-boardcoffee-mill
dresser elegantly furnished with crockerysaucepans and pans
roasting jacka charming kettlean armoury of dish-covers. The
moral influence of these objectsin forming the domestic virtues
may have an immense influence upon me; not upon youfor you
are a hopeless casebut upon me. In factI have an idea that I
feel the domestic virtues already forming. Do me the favour to
step into my bedroom. Secretaireyou seeand abstruse set of
solid mahogany pigeon-holesone for every letter of the alphabet.
To what use do I devote them? I receive a bill--say from Jones. I
docket it neatly at the secretaireJONESand I put it into
pigeonhole J. It's the next thing to a receipt and is quite as
satisfactory to ME. And I very much wishMortimer' sitting on
his bedwith the air of a philosopher lecturing a disciple'that my
example might induce YOU to cultivate habits of punctuality and
method; andby means of the moral influences with which I have
surrounded youto encourage the formation of the domestic
virtues.'

Mortimer laughed againwith his usual commentaries of 'How
CAN you be so ridiculousEugene!' and 'What an absurd fellow
you are!' but when his laugh was outthere was something serious
if not anxiousin his face. Despite that pernicious assumption of
lassitude and indifferencewhich had become his second nature
he was strongly attached to his friend. He had founded himself
upon Eugene when they were yet boys at school; and at this hour
imitated him no lessadmired him no lessloved him no lessthan
in those departed days.

'Eugene' said he'if I could find you in earnest for a minuteI
would try to say an earnest word to you.'

'An earnest word?' repeated Eugene. 'The moral influences are
beginning to work. Say on.'

'WellI will' returned the other'though you are not earnest yet.'

'In this desire for earnestness' murmured Eugenewith the air of
one who was meditating deeply'I trace the happy influences of
the little flour-barrel and the coffee-mill. Gratifying.'

'Eugene' resumed Mortimerdisregarding the light interruption
and laying a hand upon Eugene's shoulderas heMortimerstood


before him seated on his bed'you are withholding something from
me.'

Eugene looked at himbut said nothing.

'All this past summeryou have been withholding something from
me. Before we entered on our boating vacationyou were as bent
upon it as I have seen you upon anything since we first rowed
together. But you cared very little for it when it cameoften
found it a tie and a drag upon youand were constantly away.
Now it was well enough half-a-dozen timesa dozen timestwenty
timesto say to me in your own odd mannerwhich I know so well
and like so muchthat your disappearances were precautions
against our boring one another; but of course after a short while I
began to know that they covered something. I don't ask what it is
as you have not told me; but the fact is so. Sayis it not?'

'I give you my word of honourMortimer' returned Eugeneafter
a serious pause of a few moments'that I don't know.'

'Don't knowEugene?'

'Upon my souldon't know. I know less about myself than about
most people in the worldand I don't know.'

'You have some design in your mind?'

'Have I? I don't think I have.'

'At any rateyou have some subject of interest there which used
not to be there?'

'I really can't say' replied Eugeneshaking his head blanklyafter
pausing again to reconsider. 'At times I have thought yes; at other
times I have thought no. NowI have been inclined to pursue
such a subject; now I have felt that it was absurdand that it tired
and embarrassed me. AbsolutelyI can't say. Frankly and
faithfullyI would if I could.'

So replyinghe clapped a handin his turnon his friend's
shoulderas he rose from his seat upon the bedand said:

'You must take your friend as he is. You know what I ammy
dear Mortimer. You know how dreadfully susceptible I am to
boredom. You know that when I became enough of a man to find
myself an embodied conundrumI bored myself to the last degree
by trying to find out what I meant. You know that at length I gave
it upand declined to guess any more. Then how can I possibly
give you the answer that I have not discovered? The old nursery
form runsRiddle-me-riddle-me-ree, p'raps you can't tell me what
this may be?My reply runsNo. Upon my life, I can't.'

So much of what was fantastically true to his own knowledge of
this utterly careless Eugenemingled with the answerthat
Mortimer could not receive it as a mere evasion. Besidesit was
given with an engaging air of opennessand of special exemption
of the one friend he valuedfrom his reckless indifference.

'Comedear boy!' said Eugene. 'Let us try the effect of smoking.
If it enlightens me at all on this questionI will impart
unreservedly.'

They returned to the room they had come fromandfinding it
heatedopened a window. Having lighted their cigarsthey leaned


out of this windowsmokingand looking down at the moonlight
as it shone into the court below.

'No enlightenment' resumed Eugeneafter certain minutes of
silence. 'I feel sincerely apologeticmy dear Mortimerbut
nothing comes.'

'If nothing comes' returned Mortimer'nothing can come from it.
So I shall hope that this may hold good throughoutand that there
may be nothing on foot. Nothing injurious to youEugeneor--'

Eugene stayed him for a moment with his hand on his armwhile
he took a piece of earth from an old flowerpot on the window-sill
and dexterously shot it at a little point of light opposite; having
done which to his satisfactionhe said'Or?'

'Or injurious to any one else.'

'How' said Eugenetaking another little piece of earthand
shooting it with great precision at the former mark'how injurious
to any one else?'

'I don't know.'

'And' said Eugenetakingas he said the wordanother shot'to
whom else?'

'I don't know.'

Checking himself with another piece of earth in his handEugene
looked at his friend inquiringly and a little suspiciously. There
was no concealed or half-expressed meaning in his face.

'Two belated wanderers in the mazes of the law' said Eugene
attracted by the sound of footstepsand glancing down as he
spoke'stray into the court. They examine the door-posts of
number oneseeking the name they want. Not finding it at
number onethey come to number two. On the hat of wanderer
number twothe shorter oneI drop this pellet. Hitting him on the
hatI smoke serenelyand become absorbed in contemplation of
the sky.'

Both the wanderers looked up towards the window; butafter
interchanging a mutter or twosoon applied themselves to the
door-posts below. There they seemed to discover what they
wantedfor they disappeared from view by entering at the
doorway. 'When they emerge' said Eugene'you shall see me
bring them both down'; and so prepared two pellets for the
purpose.

He had not reckoned on their seeking his nameor Lightwood's.
But either the one or the other would seem to be in questionfor
now there came a knock at the door. 'I am on duty to-night' said
Mortimer'stay you where you areEugene.' Requiring no
persuasionhe stayed theresmoking quietlyand not at all curious
to know who knockeduntil Mortimer spoke to him from within
the roomand touched him. Thendrawing in his headhe found
the visitors to be young Charley Hexam and the schoolmaster;
both standing facing himand both recognized at a glance.

'You recollect this young fellowEugene?' said Mortimer.

'Let me look at him' returned Wrayburncoolly. 'Ohyesyes. I
recollect him!'


He had not been about to repeat that former action of taking him
by the chinbut the boy had suspected him of itand had thrown
up his arm with an angry start. LaughinglyWrayburn looked to
Lightwood for an explanation of this odd visit.

'He says he has something to say.'

'Surely it must be to youMortimer.'

'So I thoughtbut he says no. He says it is to you.'

'YesI do say so' interposed the boy. 'And I mean to say what I
want to saytooMr Eugene Wrayburn!'

Passing him with his eyes as if there were nothing where he stood
Eugene looked on to Bradley Headstone. With consummate
indolencehe turned to Mortimerinquiring: 'And who may this
other person be?'

'I am Charles Hexam's friend' said Bradley; 'I am Charles
Hexam's schoolmaster.'

'My good siryou should teach your pupils better manners'
returned Eugene.

Composedly smokinghe leaned an elbow on the chimneypieceat
the side of the fireand looked at the schoolmaster. It was a cruel
lookin its cold disdain of himas a creature of no worth. The
schoolmaster looked at himand thattoowas a cruel look
though of the different kindthat it had a raging jealousy and fiery
wrath in it.

Very remarkablyneither Eugene Wrayburn nor Bradley
Headstone looked at all at the boy. Through the ensuing dialogue
those twono matter who spokeor whom was addressedlooked
at each other. There was some secretsure perception between
themwhich set them against one another in all ways.

'In some high respectsMr Eugene Wrayburn' said Bradley
answering him with pale and quivering lips'the natural feelings of
my pupils are stronger than my teaching.'

'In most respectsI dare say' replied Eugeneenjoying his cigar
'though whether high or low is of no importance. You have my
name very correctly. Pray what is yours?'

'It cannot concern you much to knowbut--'

'True' interposed Eugenestriking sharply and cutting him short at
his mistake'it does not concern me at all to know. I can say
Schoolmasterwhich is a most respectable title. You are right
Schoolmaster.'

It was not the dullest part of this goad in its galling of Bradley
Headstonethat he had made it himself in a moment of incautious
anger. He tried to set his lips so as to prevent their quiveringbut
they quivered fast.

'Mr Eugene Wrayburn' said the boy'I want a word with you. I
have wanted it so muchthat we have looked out your address in
the bookand we have been to your officeand we have come
from your office here.'


'You have given yourself much troubleSchoolmaster' observed
Eugeneblowing the feathery ash from his cigar. 'I hope it may
prove remunerative.'

'And I am glad to speak' pursued the boy'in presence of Mr
Lightwoodbecause it was through Mr Lightwood that you ever
saw my sister.'

For a mere momentWrayburn turned his eyes aside from the
schoolmaster to note the effect of the last word on Mortimerwho
standing on the opposite side of the fireas soon as the word was
spokenturned his face towards the fire and looked down into it.

'Similarlyit was through Mr Lightwood that you ever saw her
againfor you were with him on the night when my father was
foundand so I found you with her on the next day. Since then
you have seen my sister often. You have seen my sister oftener
and oftener. And I want to know why?'

'Was this worth whileSchoolmaster?' murmured Eugenewith the
air of a disinterested adviser. 'So much trouble for nothing? You
should know bestbut I think not.'

'I don't knowMr Wrayburn' answered Bradleywith his passion
rising'why you address me--'

'Don't you? said Eugene. 'Then I won't.'

He said it so tauntingly in his perfect placiditythat the
respectable right-hand clutching the respectable hair-guard of the
respectable watch could have wound it round his throat and
strangled him with it. Not another word did Eugene deem it worth
while to utterbut stood leaning his head upon his handsmoking
and looking imperturbably at the chafing Bradley Headstone with
his clutching right-handuntil Bradley was wellnigh mad.

'Mr Wrayburn' proceeded the boy'we not only know this that I
have charged upon youbut we know more. It has not yet come
to my sister's knowledge that we have found it outbut we have.
We had a planMr Headstone and Ifor my sister's educationand
for its being advised and overlooked by Mr Headstonewho is a
much more competent authoritywhatever you may pretend to
thinkas you smokethan you could produceif you tried. Then
what do we find? What do we findMr Lightwood? Whywe
find that my sister is already being taughtwithout our knowing it.
We find that while my sister gives an unwilling and cold ear to our
schemes for her advantage--Iher brotherand Mr Headstonethe
most competent authorityas his certificates would easily prove
that could be produced--she is wilfully and willingly profiting by
other schemes. Ayand taking painstoofor I know what such
pains are. And so does Mr Headstone! Well! Somebody pays for
thisis a thought that naturally occurs to us; who pays? We apply
ourselves to find outMr Lightwoodand we find that your friend
this Mr Eugene Wrayburnherepays. Then I ask him what right
has he to do itand what does he mean by itand how comes he to
be taking such a liberty without my consentwhen I am raising
myself in the scale of society by my own exertions and Mr
Headstone's aidand have no right to have any darkness cast upon
my prospectsor any imputation upon my respectabilitythrough
my sister?'

The boyish weakness of this speechcombined with its great
selfishnessmade it a poor one indeed. And yet Bradley
Headstoneused to the little audience of a schooland unused to


the larger ways of menshowed a kind of exultation in it.

'Now I tell Mr Eugene Wrayburn' pursued the boyforced into
the use of the third person by the hopelessness of addressing him
in the first'that I object to his having any acquaintance at all with
my sisterand that I request him to drop it altogether. He is not to
take it into his head that I am afraid of my sister's caring for HIM--'

(As the boy sneeredthe Master sneeredand Eugene blew off the
feathery ash again.)

--'But I object to itand that's enough. I am more important to to
my sister than he thinks. As I raise myselfI intend to raise her;
she knows thatand she has to look to me for her prospects. Now
I understand all this very welland so does Mr Headstone. My
sister is an excellent girlbut she has some romantic notions; not
about such things as your Mr Eugene Wrayburnsbut about the
death of my father and other matters of that sort. Mr Wrayburn
encourages those notions to make himself of importanceand so
she thinks she ought to be grateful to himand perhaps even likes
to be. Now I don't choose her to be grateful to himor to be
grateful to anybody but meexcept Mr Headstone. And I tell Mr
Wrayburn that if he don't take heed of what I sayit will be worse
for her. Let him turn that over in his memoryand make sure of it.
Worse for her!'

A pause ensuedin which the schoolmaster looked very awkward.

'May I suggestSchoolmaster' said Eugeneremoving his fastwaning
cigar from his lips to glance at it'that you can now take
your pupil away.'

'And Mr Lightwood' added the boywith a burning faceunder
the flaming aggravation of getting no sort of answer or attention'I
hope you'll take notice of what I have said to your friendand of
what your friend has heard me sayword by wordwhatever he
pretends to the contrary. You are bound to take notice of itMr
Lightwoodforas I have already mentionedyou first brought
your friend into my sister's companyand but for you we never
should have seen him. Lord knows none of us ever wanted him
any more than any of us will ever miss him. Now Mr Headstone
as Mr Eugene Wrayburn has been obliged to hear what I had to
sayand couldn't help himselfand as I have said it out to the last
wordwe have done all we wanted to doand may go.'

'Go down-stairsand leave me a momentHexam' he returned.
The boy complying with an indignant look and as much noise as
he could makeswung out of the room; and Lightwood went to
the windowand leaned therelooking out.

'You think me of no more value than the dirt under your feet' said
Bradley to Eugenespeaking in a carefully weighed and measured
toneor he could not have spoken at all.

'I assure youSchoolmaster' replied Eugene'I don't think about
you.'

'That's not true' returned the other; 'you know better.'

'That's coarse' Eugene retorted; 'but you DON'T know better.'

'Mr Wrayburnat least I know very well that it would be idle to
set myself against you in insolent words or overbearing manners.
That lad who has just gone out could put you to shame in half-a



dozen branches of knowledge in half an hourbut you can throw
him aside like an inferior. You can do as much by meI have no
doubtbeforehand.'

'Possibly' remarked Eugene.

'But I am more than a lad' said Bradleywith his clutching hand
'and I WILL be heardsir.'

'As a schoolmaster' said Eugene'you are always being heard.
That ought to content you.'

'But it does not content me' replied the otherwhite with passion.
'Do you suppose that a manin forming himself for the duties I
dischargeand in watching and repressing himself daily to
discharge them welldismisses a man's nature?'

'I suppose you' said Eugene'judging from what I see as I look at
youto be rather too passionate for a good schoolmaster.' As he
spokehe tossed away the end of his cigar.

'Passionate with yousirI admit I am. Passionate with yousirI
respect myself for being. But I have not Devils for my pupils.'

'For your TeachersI should rather say' replied Eugene.

'Mr Wrayburn.'

'Schoolmaster.'

'Sirmy name is Bradley Headstone.'

'As you justly saidmy good siryour name cannot concern me.
Nowwhat more?'

'This more. Ohwhat a misfortune is mine' cried Bradley
breaking off to wipe the starting perspiration from his face as he
shook from head to foot'that I cannot so control myself as to
appear a stronger creature than thiswhen a man who has not felt
in all his life what I have felt in a day can so command himself!'
He said it in a very agonyand even followed it with an errant
motion of his hands as if he could have torn himself.

Eugene Wrayburn looked on at himas if he found him beginning
to be rather an entertaining study.

'Mr WrayburnI desire to say something to you on my own part.'

'ComecomeSchoolmaster' returned Eugenewith a languid
approach to impatience as the other again struggled with himself;
'say what you have to say. And let me remind you that the door is
standing openand your young friend waiting for you on the
stairs.'

'When I accompanied that youth heresirI did so with the
purpose of addingas a man whom you should not be permitted to
put asidein case you put him aside as a boythat his instinct is
correct and right.' Thus Bradley Headstonewith great effort and
difficulty.

'Is that all?' asked Eugene.

'Nosir' said the otherflushed and fierce. 'I strongly support him
in his disapproval of your visits to his sisterand in his objection to


your officiousness--and worse--in what you have taken upon
yourself to do for her.'


'Is THAT all?' asked Eugene.


'Nosir. I determined to tell you that you are not justified in these
proceedingsand that they are injurious to his sister.'


'Are you her schoolmaster as well as her brother's?--Or perhaps
you would like to be?' said Eugene.


It was a stab that the blood followedin its rush to Bradley
Headstone's faceas swiftly as if it had been dealt with a dagger.
'What do you mean by that?' was as much as he could utter.


'A natural ambition enough' said Eugenecoolly. Far be it from
me to say otherwise. The sister who is something too much upon
your lipsperhaps--is so very different from all the associations to
which she had been usedand from all the low obscure people
about herthat it is a very natural ambition.'


'Do you throw my obscurity in my teethMr Wrayburn?'


'That can hardly befor I know nothing concerning it
Schoolmasterand seek to know nothing.'


'You reproach me with my origin' said Bradley Headstone; 'you
cast insinuations at my bringing-up. But I tell yousirI have
worked my way onwardout of both and in spite of bothand
have a right to be considered a better man than youwith better
reasons for being proud.'


'How I can reproach you with what is not within my knowledge
or how I can cast stones that were never in my handis a problem
for the ingenuity of a schoolmaster to prove' returned Eugene. 'Is
THAT all?'


'Nosir. If you suppose that boy--'


'Who really will be tired of waiting' said Eugenepolitely.


'If you suppose that boy to be friendlessMr Wrayburnyou
deceive yourself. I am his friendand you shall find me so.'


'And you will find HIM on the stairs' remarked Eugene.


'You may have promised yourselfsirthat you could do what you
chose herebecause you had to deal with a mere boy
inexperiencedfriendlessand unassisted. But I give you warning
that this mean calculation is wrong. You have to do with a man
also. You have to do with me. I will support himandif need be
require reparation for him. My hand and heart are in this cause
and are open to him.'


'And--quite a coincidence--the door is open' remarked Eugene.


'I scorn your shifty evasionsand I scorn you' said the
schoolmaster. 'In the meanness of your nature you revile me with
the meanness of my birth. I hold you in contempt for it. But if
you don't profit by this visitand act accordinglyyou will find me
as bitterly in earnest against you as I could be if I deemed you
worth a second thought on my own account.'


With a consciously bad grace and stiff manneras Wrayburn



looked so easily and calmly onhe went out with these wordsand
the heavy door closed like a furnace-door upon his red and white
heats of rage.

'A curious monomaniac' said Eugene. 'The man seems to believe
that everybody was acquainted with his mother!'

Mortimer Lightwood being still at the windowto which he had in
delicacy withdrawnEugene called to himand he fell to slowly
pacing the room.

'My dear fellow' said Eugeneas he lighted another cigar'I fear
my unexpected visitors have been troublesome. If as a set-off
(excuse the legal phrase from a barrister-at-law) you would like to
ask Tippins to teaI pledge myself to make love to her.'

'EugeneEugeneEugene' replied Mortimerstill pacing the room
'I am sorry for this. And to think that I have been so blind!'

'How blinddear boy?' inquired his unmoved friend.

'What were your words that night at the river-side public-house?'
said Lightwoodstopping. 'What was it that you asked me? Did I
feel like a dark combination of traitor and pickpocket when I
thought of that girl?'

'I seem to remember the expression' said Eugene.

'How do YOU feel when you think of her just now?'

His friend made no direct replybut observedafter a few whiffs
of his cigar'Don't mistake the situation. There is no better girl in
all this London than Lizzie Hexam. There is no better among my
people at home; no better among your people.'

'Granted. What follows?'

'There' said Eugenelooking after him dubiously as he paced
away to the other end of the room'you put me again upon
guessing the riddle that I have given up.'

'Eugenedo you design to capture and desert this girl?'

'My dear fellowno.'

'Do you design to marry her?'

'My dear fellowno.'

'Do you design to pursue her?'

'My dear fellowI don't design anything. I have no design
whatever. I am incapable of designs. If I conceived a designI
should speedily abandon itexhausted by the operation.'

'Oh EugeneEugene!'

'My dear Mortimernot that tone of melancholy reproachI
entreat. What can I do more than tell you all I knowand
acknowledge my ignorance of all I don't know! How does that
little old song gowhichunder pretence of being cheerfulis by
far the most lugubrious I ever heard in my life?

Away with melancholy,


Nor doleful changes ring
On life and human folly,
But merrily merrily sing


Fal la!

Don't let us sing Fal lamy dear Mortimer (which is comparatively
unmeaning)but let us sing that we give up guessing the riddle
altogether.'

'Are you in communication with this girlEugeneand is what
these people say true?'

'I concede both admissions to my honourable and learned friend.'

'Then what is to come of it? What are you doing? Where are you
going?'

'My dear Mortimerone would think the schoolmaster had left
behind him a catechizing infection. You are ruffled by the want
of another cigar. Take one of theseI entreat. Light it at mine
which is in perfect order. So! Now do me the justice to observe
that I am doing all I can towards self-improvementand that you
have a light thrown on those household implements whichwhen
you only saw them as in a glass darklyyou were hastily--I must
say hastily--inclined to depreciate. Sensible of my deficienciesI
have surrounded myself with moral influences expressly meant to
promote the formation of the domestic virtues. To those
influencesand to the improving society of my friend from
boyhoodcommend me with your best wishes.'

'AhEugene!' said Lightwoodaffectionatelynow standing near
himso that they both stood in one little cloud of smoke; 'I would
that you answered my three questions! What is to come of it?
What are you doing? Where are you going?'

'And my dear Mortimer' returned Eugenelightly fanning away
the smoke with his hand for the better exposition of his frankness
of face and manner'believe meI would answer them instantly if
I could. But to enable me to do soI must first have found out the
troublesome conundrum long abandoned. Here it is. Eugene
Wrayburn.' Tapping his forehead and breast. 'Riddle-meriddleme-
reeperhaps you can't tell me what this may be?--Noupon my
life I can't. I give it up!'

Chapter 7

IN WHICH A FRIENDLY MOVE IS ORIGINATED

The arrangement between Mr Boffin and his literary manMr
Silas Weggso far altered with the altered habits of Mr Boffin's
lifeas that the Roman Empire usually declined in the morning
and in the eminently aristocratic family mansionrather than in the
eveningas of yoreand in Boffin's Bower. There were occasions
howeverwhen Mr Boffinseeking a brief refuge from the
blandishments of fashionwould present himself at the Bower
after darkto anticipate the next sallying forth of Weggand
would thereon the old settlepursue the downward fortunes of
those enervated and corrupted masters of the world who were by
this time on their last legs. If Wegg had been worse paid for his
officeor better qualified to discharge ithe would have
considered these visits complimentary and agreeable; butholding


the position of a handsomely-remunerated humbughe resented
them. This was quite according to rulefor the incompetent
servantby whomsoever employedis always against his
employer. Even those born governorsnoble and right honourable
creatureswho have been the most imbecile in high placeshave
uniformly shown themselves the most opposed (sometimes in
belying distrustsometimes in vapid insolence) to THEIR
employer. What is in such wise true of the public master and
servantis equally true of the private master and servant all the
world over.

When Mr Silas Wegg did at last obtain free access to 'Our House'
as he had been wont to call the mansion outside which he had sat
shelterless so longand when he did at last find it in all particulars
as different from his mental plans of it as according to the nature
of things it well could bethat far-seeing and far-reaching
characterby way of asserting himself and making out a case for
compensationaffected to fall into a melancholy strain of musing
over the mournful past; as if the house and he had had a fall in life
together.

'And thissir' Silas would say to his patronsadly nodding his head
and musing'was once Our House! Thissiris the building from
which I have so often seen those great creaturesMiss Elizabeth
Master GeorgeAunt Janeand Uncle Parker'--whose very names
were of his own inventing--'pass and repass! And has it come to
thisindeed! Ah dear medear me!'

So tender were his lamentationsthat the kindly Mr Boffin was
quite sorry for himand almost felt mistrustful that in buying the
house he had done him an irreparable injury.

Two or three diplomatic interviewsthe result of great subtlety on
Mr Wegg's partbut assuming the mask of careless yielding to a
fortuitous combination of circumstances impelling him towards
Clerkenwellhad enabled him to complete his bargain with Mr
Venus.

'Bring me round to the Bower' said Silaswhen the bargain was
closed'next Saturday eveningand if a sociable glass of old
Jamaikey warm should meet your viewsI am not the man to
begrudge it.'

'You are aware of my being poor companysir' replied Mr Venus
'but be it so.'

It being sohere is Saturday evening comeand here is Mr Venus
comeand ringing at the Bower-gate.

Mr Wegg opens the gatedescries a sort of brown paper truncheon
under Mr Venus's armand remarksin a dry tone: 'Oh! I thought
perhaps you might have come in a cab.'

'NoMr Wegg' replies Venus. 'I am not above a parcel.'

'Above a parcel! No!' says Weggwith some dissatisfaction. But
does not openly growl'a certain sort of parcel might be above
you.'

'Here is your purchaseMr Wegg' says Venuspolitely handing it
over'and I am glad to restore it to the source from whence it-flowed.'


'Thankee' says Wegg. 'Now this affair is concludedI may


mention to you in a friendly way that I've my doubts whetherif I
had consulted a lawyeryou could have kept this article back from
me. I only throw it out as a legal point.'

'Do you think soMr Wegg? I bought you in open contract.'

'You can't buy human flesh and blood in this countrysir; not
aliveyou can't' says Weggshaking his head. 'Then querybone?'

'As a legal point?' asks Venus.

'As a legal point.'

'I am not competent to speak upon thatMr Wegg' says Venus
reddening and growing something louder; 'but upon a point of fact
I think myself competent to speak; and as a point of fact I would
have seen you--will you allow me to sayfurther?'

'I wouldn't say more than furtherif I was you' Mr Wegg suggests
pacifically.

--'Before I'd have given that packet into your hand without being
paid my price for it. I don't pretend to know how the point of law
may standbut I'm thoroughly confident upon the point of fact.'

As Mr Venus is irritable (no doubt owing to his disappointment in
love)and as it is not the cue of Mr Wegg to have him out of
temperthe latter gentleman soothingly remarks'I only put it as a
little case; I only put it ha'porthetically.'

'Then I'd ratherMr Weggyou put it another timepenn'orthetically'
is Mr Venus's retort'for I tell you candidly I don't like
your little cases.'

Arrived by this time in Mr Wegg's sitting-roommade bright on
the chilly evening by gaslight and fireMr Venus softens and
compliments him on his abode; profiting by the occasion to
remind Wegg that he (Venus) told him he had got into a good
thing.

'Tolerable' Wegg rejoins. 'But bear in mindMr Venusthat
there's no gold without its alloy. Mix for yourself and take a seat
in the chimbley-corner. Will you perform upon a pipesir?'

'I am but an indifferent performersir' returns the other; 'but I'll
accompany you with a whiff or two at intervals.'

SoMr Venus mixesand Wegg mixes; and Mr Venus lights and
puffsand Wegg lights and puffs.

'And there's alloy even in this metal of yoursMr Weggyou was
remarking?'

'Mystery' returns Wegg. 'I don't like itMr Venus. I don't like to
have the life knocked out of former inhabitants of this housein
the gloomy darkand not know who did it.'

'Might you have any suspicionsMr Wegg?'

'No' returns that gentleman. 'I know who profits by it. But I've
no suspicions.'

Having said whichMr Wegg smokes and looks at the fire with a
most determined expression of Charity; as if he had caught that


cardinal virtue by the skirts as she felt it her painful duty to depart
from himand held her by main force.

'Similarly' resumes Wegg'I have observations as I can offer upon
certain points and parties; but I make no objectionsMr Venus.
Here is an immense fortune drops from the clouds upon a person
that shall be nameless. Here is a weekly allowancewith a certain
weight of coalsdrops from the clouds upon me. Which of us is
the better man? Not the person that shall be nameless. That's an
observation of minebut I don't make it an objection. I take my
allowance and my certain weight of coals. He takes his fortune.
That's the way it works.'

'It would be a good thing for meif I could see things in the calm
light you doMr Wegg.'

'Again look here' pursues Silaswith an oratorical flourish of his
pipe and his wooden leg: the latter having an undignified tendency
to tilt him back in his chair; 'here's another observationMr Venus
unaccompanied with an objection. Him that shall be nameless is
liable to be talked over. He gets talked over. Him that shall be
namelesshaving me at his right handnaturally looking to be
promoted higherand you may perhaps say meriting to be
promoted higher--'

(Mr Venus murmurs that he does say so.)

'--Him that shall be namelessunder such circumstances passes me
byand puts a talking-over stranger above my head. Which of us
two is the better man? Which of us two can repeat most poetry?
Which of us two hasin the service of him that shall be nameless
tackled the Romansboth civil and militarytill he has got as
husky as if he'd been weaned and ever since brought up on
sawdust? Not the talking-over stranger. Yet the house is as free
to him as if it was hisand he has his roomand is put upon a
footingand draws about a thousand a year. I am banished to the
Bowerto be found in it like a piece of furniture whenever
wanted. Meritthereforedon't win. That's the way it works. I
observe itbecause I can't help observing itbeing accustomed to
take a powerful sight of notice; but I don't object. Ever here
beforeMr Venus?'

'Not inside the gateMr Wegg.'

'You've been as far as the gate thenMr Venus?'

'YesMr Weggand peeped in from curiosity.'

'Did you see anything?'

'Nothing but the dust-yard.'

Mr Wegg rolls his eyes all round the roomin that ever unsatisfied
quest of hisand then rolls his eyes all round Mr Venus; as if
suspicious of his having something about him to be found out.

'And yetsir' he pursues'being acquainted with old Mr Harmon
one would have thought it might have been polite in youtooto
give him a call. And you're naturally of a polite dispositionyou
are.' This last clause as a softening compliment to Mr Venus.

'It is truesir' replies Venuswinking his weak eyesand running
his fingers through his dusty shock of hair'that I was sobefore a
certain observation soured me. You understand to what I allude


Mr Wegg? To a certain written statement respecting not wishing
to be regarded in a certain light. Since thatall is fledsave gall.'

'Not all' says Mr Weggin a tone of sentimental condolence.

'Yessir' returns Venus'all! The world may deem it harshbut I'd
quite as soon pitch into my best friend as not. IndeedI'd sooner!'

Involuntarily making a pass with his wooden leg to guard himself
as Mr Venus springs up in the emphasis of this unsociable
declarationMr Wegg tilts over on his backchair and alland is
rescued by that harmless misanthropein a disjointed state and
ruefully rubbing his head.

'Whyyou lost your balanceMr Wegg' says Venushanding him
his pipe.

'And about time to do it' grumbles Silas'when a man's visitors
without a word of noticeconduct themselves with the sudden
wiciousness of Jacks-in-boxes! Don't come flying out of your
chair like thatMr Venus!'

'I ask your pardonMr Wegg. I am so soured.'

'Yesbut hang it' says Wegg argumentatively'a well-governed
mind can be soured sitting! And as to being regarded in lights
there's bumpey lights as well as bony. IN which' again rubbing
his head'I object to regard myself.'

'I'll bear it in memorysir.'

'If you'll be so good.' Mr Wegg slowly subdues his ironical tone
and his lingering irritationand resumes his pipe. 'We were talking
of old Mr Harmon being a friend of yours.'

'Not a friendMr Wegg. Only known to speak toand to have a
little deal with now and then. A very inquisitive characterMr
Weggregarding what was found in the dust. As inquisitive as
secret.'

'Ah! You found him secret?' returns Weggwith a greedy relish.

'He had always the look of itand the manner of it.'

'Ah!' with another roll of his eyes. 'As to what was found in the
dust now. Did you ever hear him mention how he found itmy
dear friend? Living on the mysterious premisesone would like to
know. For instancewhere he found things? Orfor instancehow
he set about it? Whether he began at the top ot the moundsor
whether he began at the bottom. Whether he prodded'; Mr
Wegg's pantomime is skilful and expressive here; 'or whether he
scooped? Should you say scoopedmy dear Mr Venus; or should
you as a man--say prodded?'

'I should say neitherMr Wegg.'

'As a fellow-manMr Venus--mix again--why neither?'

'Because I supposesirthat what was foundwas found in the
sorting and sifting. All the mounds are sorted and sifted?'

'You shall see 'em and pass your opinion. Mix again.'

On each occasion of his saying 'mix again'Mr Weggwith a hop


on his wooden leghitches his chair a little nearer; more as if he
were proposing that himself and Mr Venus should mix againthan
that they should replenish their glasses.

'Living (as I said before) on the mysterious premises' says Wegg
when the other has acted on his hospitable entreaty'one likes to
know. Would you be inclined to say now--as a brother--that he
ever hid things in the dustas well as found 'em?'

'Mr Weggon the whole I should say he might.'

Mr Wegg claps on his spectaclesand admiringly surveys Mr
Venus from head to foot.

'As a mortal equally with myselfwhose hand I take in mine for
the first time this dayhaving unaccountably overlooked that act
so full of boundless confidence binding a fellow-creetur TO a
fellow creetur' says Weggholding Mr Venus's palm outflat and
ready for smitingand now smiting it; 'as such--and no other--for I
scorn all lowlier ties betwixt myself and the man walking with his
face erect that alone I call my Twin--regarded and regarding in
this trustful bond--what do you think he might have hid?'

'It is but a suppositionMr Wegg.'

'As a Being with his hand upon his heart' cries Wegg; and the
apostrophe is not the less impressive for the Being's hand being
actually upon his rum and water; 'put your supposition into
languageand bring it outMr Venus!'

'He was the species of old gentlemansir' slowly returns that
practical anatomistafter drinking'that I should judge likely to
take such opportunities as this place offeredof stowing away
moneyvaluablesmaybe papers.'

'As one that was ever an ornament to human life' says Mr Wegg
again holding out Mr Venus's palm as if he were going to tell his
fortune by chiromancyand holding his own up ready for smiting
it when the time should come; 'as one that the poet might have
had his eye onin writing the national naval words:

Helm a-weathernow lay her close
Yard arm and yard arm she lies;
Againcried IMr Venusgive her t'other dose
Man shrouds and grapplesiror she flies!


--that is to sayregarded in the light of true British Oakfor such
you are explainMr Venusthe expression "papers"!'

'Seeing that the old gentleman was generally cutting off some near
relationor blocking out some natural affection' Mr Venus rejoins
'he most likely made a good many wills and codicils.'

The palm of Silas Wegg descends with a sounding smack upon the
palm of Venusand Wegg lavishly exclaims'Twin in opinion
equally with feeling! Mix a little more!'

Having now hitched his wooden leg and his chair close in front of
Mr VenusMr Wegg rapidly mixes for bothgives his visitor his
glasstouches its rim with the rim of his ownputs his own to his
lipsputs it downand spreading his hands on his visitor's knees
thus addresses him:

'Mr Venus. It ain't that I object to being passed over for a


strangerthough I regard the stranger as a more than doubtful
customer. It ain't for the sake of making moneythough money is
ever welcome. It ain't for myselfthough I am not so haughty as
to be above doing myself a good turn. It's for the cause of the
right.'

Mr Venuspassively winking his weak eyes both at once
demands: 'What isMr Wegg?'

'The friendly movesirthat I now propose. You see the move
sir?'

'Till you have pointed it outMr WeggI can't say whether I do or
not.'

'If there IS anything to be found on these premiseslet us find it
together. Let us make the friendly move of agreeing to look for it
together. Let us make the friendly move of agreeing to share the
profits of it equally betwixt us. In the cause of the right.' Thus
Silas assuming a noble air.

'Then' says Mr Venuslooking upafter meditating with his hair
held in his handsas if he could only fix his attention by fixing his
head; 'if anything was to be unburied from under the dustit would
be kept a secret by you and me? Would that be itMr Wegg?'

'That would depend upon what it wasMr Venus. Say it was
moneyor plateor jewelleryit would be as much ours as
anybody else's.'

Mr Venus rubs an eyebrowinterrogatively.

'In the cause of the right it would. Because it would be
unknowingly sold with the mounds elseand the buyer would get
what he was never meant to haveand never bought. And what
would that beMr Venusbut the cause of the wrong?'

'Say it was papers' Mr Venus propounds.

'According to what they contained we should offer to dispose of
'em to the parties most interested' replies Weggpromptly.

'In the cause of the rightMr Wegg?'

'Always soMr Venus. If the parties should use them in the cause
of the wrongthat would be their act and deed. Mr Venus. I have
an opinion of yousirto which it is not easy to give mouth. Since
I called upon you that evening when you wereas I may say
floating your powerful mind in teaI have felt that you required to
be roused with an object. In this friendly movesiryou will have
a glorious object to rouse you.'

Mr Wegg then goes on to enlarge upon what throughout has been
uppermost in his crafty mind:--the qualifications of Mr Venus for
such a search. He expatiates on Mr Venus's patient habits and
delicate manipulation; on his skill in piecing little things together;
on his knowledge of various tissues and textures; on the likelihood
of small indications leading him on to the discovery of great
concealments. 'While as to myself' says Wegg'I am not good at
it. Whether I gave myself up to proddingor whether I gave
myself up to scoopingI couldn't do it with that delicate touch so
as not to show that I was disturbing the mounds. Quite different
with YOUgoing to work (as YOU would) in the light of a fellowman
holily pledged in a friendly move to his brother man.' Mr


Wegg next modestly remarks on the want of adaptation in a
wooden leg to ladders and such like airy perchesand also hints at
an inherent tendency in that timber fictionwhen called into
action for the purposes of a promenade on an ashey slopeto stick
itself into the yielding footholdand peg its owner to one spot.
Thenleaving this part of the subjecthe remarks on the special
phenomenon that before his installation in the Bowerit was from
Mr Venus that he first heard of the legend of hidden wealth in the
Mounds: 'which'he observes with a vaguely pious air'was surely
never meant for nothing.' Lastlyhe returns to the cause of the
rightgloomily foreshadowing the possibility of something being
unearthed to criminate Mr Boffin (of whom he once more
candidly admits it cannot be denied that he profits by a murder)
and anticipating his denunciation by the friendly movers to
avenging justice. And thisMr Wegg expressly points outnot at
all for the sake of the reward--though it would be a want of
principle not to take it.

To all thisMr Venuswith his shock of dusty hair cocked after
the manner of a terrier's earsattends profoundly. When Mr
Wegghaving finishedopens his arms wideas if to show Mr
Venus how bare his breast isand then folds them pending a reply
Mr Venus winks at him with both eyes some little time before
speaking.

'I see you have tried it by yourselfMr Wegg' he says when he
does speak. 'You have found out the difficulties by experience.'

'Noit can hardly be said that I have tried it' replies Wegga little
dashed by the hint. 'I have just skimmed it. Skimmed it.'

'And found nothing besides the difficulties?'

Wegg shakes his head.

'I scarcely know what to say to thisMr Wegg' observes Venus
after ruminating for a while.

'Say yes' Wegg naturally urges.

'If I wasn't souredmy answer would be no. But being souredMr
Weggand driven to reckless madness and desperationI suppose
it's Yes.'

Wegg joyfully reproduces the two glassesrepeats the ceremony
of clinking their rimsand inwardly drinks with great heartiness to
the health and success in life of the young lady who has reduced
Mr Venus to his present convenient state of mind.

The articles of the friendly move are then severally recited and
agreed upon. They are but secrecyfidelityand perseverance.
The Bower to be always free of access to Mr Venus for his
researchesand every precaution to be taken against their
attracting observation in the neighbourhood.

'There's a footstep!' exclaims Venus.

'Where?' cries Weggstarting.

'Outside. St!'

They are in the act of ratifying the treaty of friendly moveby
shaking hands upon it. They softly break offlight their pipes
which have gone outand lean back in their chairs. No doubta


footstep. It approaches the windowand a hand taps at the glass.
'Come in!' calls Wegg; meaning come round by the door. But the
heavy old-fashioned sash is slowly raisedand a head slowly looks
in out of the dark background of night.

'Pray is Mr Silas Wegg here? Oh! I see him!'

The friendly movers might not have been quite at their easeeven
though the visitor had entered in the usual manner. Butleaning
on the breast-high windowand staring in out of the darknessthey
find the visitor extremely embarrassing. Expecially Mr Venus:
who removes his pipedraws back his headand stares at the
stareras if it were his own Hindoo baby come to fetch him home.

'Good eveningMr Wegg. The yard gate-lock should be looked
toif you please; it don't catch.'

'Is it Mr Rokesmith?' falters Wegg.

'It is Mr Rokesmith. Don't let me disturb you. I am not coming in.
I have only a message for youwhich I undertook to deliver on my
way home to my lodgings. I was in two minds about coming
beyond the gate without ringing: not knowing but you might have
a dog about.'

'I wish I had' mutters Weggwith his back turned as he rose from
his chair. St! Hush! The talking-over strangerMr Venus.'

'Is that any one I know?' inquires the staring Secretary.

'NoMr Rokesmith. Friend of mine. Passing the evening with
me.'

'Oh! I beg his pardon. Mr Boffin wishes you to know that he does
not expect you to stay at home any eveningon the chance of his
coming. It has occurred to him that he maywithout intending it
have been a tie upon you. In futureif he should come without
noticehe will take his chance of finding youand it will be all the
same to him if he does not. I undertook to tell you on my way.
That's all.'

With thatand 'Good night' the Secretary lowers the windowand
disappears. They listenand hear his footsteps go back to the
gateand hear the gate close after him.

'And for that individualMr Venus' remarks Weggwhen he is
fully gone'I have been passed over! Let me ask you what you
think of him?'

ApparentlyMr Venus does not know what to think of himfor he
makes sundry efforts to replywithout delivering himself of any
other articulate utterance than that he has 'a singular look'.

'A double lookyou meansir' rejoins Weggplaying bitterly upon
the word. 'That's HIS look. Any amount of singular look for me
but not a double look! That's an under-handed mindsir.'

'Do you say there's something against him?' Venus asks.

'Something against him?' repeats Wegg. 'Something? What would
the relief be to my feelings--as a fellow-man--if I wasn't the slave
of truthand didn't feel myself compelled to answerEverything!'

See into what wonderful maudlin refugesfeatherless ostriches


plunge their heads! It is such unspeakable moral compensation to
Weggto be overcome by the consideration that Mr Rokesmith
has an underhanded mind!

'On this starlight nightMr Venus' he remarkswhen he is showing
that friendly mover out across the yardand both are something
the worse for mixing again and again: 'on this starlight night to
think that talking-over strangersand underhanded mindscan go
walking home under the skyas if they was all square!'

'The spectacle of those orbs' says Mr Venusgazing upward with
his hat tumbling off; 'brings heavy on me her crushing words that
she did not wish to regard herself nor yet to be regarded in that--'

'I know! I know! You needn't repeat 'em' says Weggpressing
his hand. 'But think how those stars steady me in the cause of the
right against some that shall be nameless. It isn't that I bear
malice. But see how they glisten with old remembrances! Old
remembrances of whatsir?'

Mr Venus begins drearily replying'Of her wordsin her own
handwritingthat she does not wish to regard herselfnor yet--'
when Silas cuts him short with dignity.

'Nosir! Remembrances of Our Houseof Master Georgeof Aunt
Janeof Uncle Parkerall laid waste! All offered up sacrifices to
the minion of fortune and the worm of the hour!'

Chapter 8

IN WHICH AN INNOCENT ELOPEMENT OCCURS

The minion of fortune and the worm of the houror in less cutting
languageNicodemus BoffinEsquirethe Golden Dustmanhad
become as much at home in his eminently aristocratic family
mansion as he was likely ever to be. He could not but feel that
like an eminently aristocratic family cheeseit was much too large
for his wantsand bred an infinite amount of parasites; but he was
content to regard this drawback on his property as a sort of
perpetual Legacy Duty. He felt the more resigned to itforasmuch
as Mrs Boffin enjoyed herself completelyand Miss Bella was
delighted.

That young lady wasno doubtand acquisition to the Boffins.
She was far too pretty to be unattractive anywhereand far too
quick of perception to be below the tone of her new career.
Whether it improved her heart might be a matter of taste that was
open to question; but as touching another matter of tasteits
improvement of her appearance and mannerthere could be no
question whatever.

And thus it soon came about that Miss Bella began to set Mrs
Boffin right; and even furtherthat Miss Bella began to feel ill at
easeand as it were responsiblewhen she saw Mrs Boffin going
wrong. Not that so sweet a disposition and so sound a nature
could ever go very wrong even among the great visiting authorities
who agreed that the Boffins were 'charmingly vulgar' (which for
certain was not their own case in saying so)but that when she
made a slip on the social ice on which all the children of
Podsnapperywith genteel souls to be savedare required to skate
in circlesor to slide in long rowsshe inevitably tripped Miss


Bella up (so that young lady felt)and caused her to experience
great confusion under the glances of the more skilful performers
engaged in those ice-exercises.

At Miss Bella's time of life it was not to be expected that she
should examine herself very closely on the congruity or stability
of her position in Mr Boffin's house. And as she had never been
sparing of complaints of her old home when she had no other to
compare it withso there was no novelty of ingratitude or disdain
in her very much preferring her new one.

'An invaluable man is Rokesmith' said Mr Boffinafter some two
or three months. 'But I can't quite make him out.'

Neither could Bellaso she found the subject rather interesting.

'He takes more care of my affairsmorningnoonand night' said
Mr Boffin'than fifty other men put together either could or
would; and yet he has ways of his own that are like tying a
scaffolding-pole right across the roadand bringing me up short
when I am almost a-walking arm in arm with him.'

'May I ask how sosir?' inquired Bella.

'Wellmy dear' said Mr Boffin'he won't meet any company here
but you. When we have visitorsI should wish him to have his
regular place at the table like ourselves; but nohe won't take it.'

'If he considers himself above it' said Miss Bellawith an airy toss
of her head'I should leave him alone.'

'It ain't thatmy dear' replied Mr Boffinthinking it over. 'He
don't consider himself above it.'

'Perhaps he considers himself beneath it' suggested Bella. 'If so
he ought to know best.'

'Nomy dear; nor it ain't thatneither. No' repeated Mr Boffin
with a shake of his headafter again thinking it over; 'Rokesmith's
a modest manbut he don't consider himself beneath it.'

'Then what does he considersir?' asked Bella.

'Dashed if I know!' said Mr Boffin. 'It seemed that first as if it was
only Lightwood that he objected to meet. And now it seems to be
everybodyexcept you.'

Oho! thought Miss Bella. 'In--deed! That's itis it!' For Mr
Mortimer Lightwood had dined there two or three timesand she
had met him elsewhereand he had shown her some attention.
'Rather cool in a Secretary--and Pa's lodger--to make me the
subject of his jealousy!'

That Pa's daughter should be so contemptuous of Pa's lodger was
odd; but there were odder anomalies than that in the mind of the
spoilt girl: spoilt first by povertyand then by wealth. Be it this
history's parthoweverto leave them to unravel themselves.

'A little too muchI think' Miss Bella reflected scornfully'to have
Pa's lodger laying claim to meand keeping eligible people off! A
little too muchindeedto have the opportunities opened to me by
Mr and Mrs Boffinappropriated by a mere Secretary and Pa's
lodger!'


Yet it was not so very long ago that Bella had been fluttered by
the discovery that this same Secretary and lodger seem to like her.
Ah! but the eminently aristocratic mansion and Mrs Boffin's
dressmaker had not come into play then.

In spite of his seemingly retiring manners a very intrusive person
this Secretary and lodgerin Miss Bella's opinion. Always a light
in his office-room when we came home from the play or Opera
and he always at the carriage-door to hand us out. Always a
provoking radiance too on Mrs Boffin's faceand an abominably
cheerful reception of himas if it were possible seriously to
approve what the man had in his mind!

'You never charge meMiss Wilfer' said the Secretary
encountering her by chance alone in the great drawing-room'with
commissions for home. I shall always be happy to execute any
commands you may have in that direction.'

'Pray what may you meanMr Rokesmith?' inquired Miss Bella
with languidly drooping eyelids.

'By home? I mean your father's house at Holloway.'

She coloured under the retort--so skilfully thrustthat the words
seemed to be merely a plain answergiven in plain good faith--and
saidrather more emphatically and sharply:

'What commissions and commands are you speaking of?'

'Only little words of remembrance as I assume you sent somehow
or other' replied the Secretary with his former air. 'It would be a
pleasure to me if you would make me the bearer of them. As you
knowI come and go between the two houses every day.'

'You needn't remind me of thatsir.'

She was too quick in this petulant sally against 'Pa's lodger'; and
she felt that she had been so when she met his quiet look.

'They don't send many--what was your expression?--words of
remembrance to me' said Bellamaking haste to take refuge in illusage.


'They frequently ask me about youand I give them such slight
intelligence as I can.'

'I hope it's truly given' exclaimed Bella.

'I hope you cannot doubt itfor it would be very much against
youif you could.'

'NoI do not doubt it. I deserve the reproachwhich is very just
indeed. I beg your pardonMr Rokesmith.'

'I should beg you not to do sobut that it shows you to such
admirable advantage' he replied with earnestness. 'Forgive me; I
could not help saying that. To return to what I have digressed
fromlet me add that perhaps they think I report them to you
deliver little messagesand the like. But I forbear to trouble you
as you never ask me.'

'I am goingsir' said Bellalooking at him as if he had reproved
her'to see them tomorrow.'


'Is that' he askedhesitating'said to meor to them?'

'To which you please.'

'To both? Shall I make it a message?'

'You can if you likeMr Rokesmith. Message or no messageI am
going to see them tomorrow.'

'Then I will tell them so.'

He lingered a momentas though to give her the opportunity of
prolonging the conversation if she wished. As she remained silent
he left her. Two incidents of the little interview were felt by Miss
Bella herselfwhen alone againto be very curious. The first was
that he unquestionably left her with a penitent air upon herand a
penitent feeling in her heart. The second wasthat she had not an
intention or a thought of going homeuntil she had announced it to
him as a settled design.

'What can I mean by itor what can he mean by it?' was her
mental inquiry: 'He has no right to any power over meand how
do I come to mind him when I don't care for him?'

Mrs Boffininsisting that Bella should make tomorrow's
expedition in the chariotshe went home in great grandeur. Mrs
Wilfer and Miss Lavinia had speculated much on the probabilities
and improbabilities of her coming in this gorgeous stateandon
beholding the chariot from the window at which they were
secreted to look out for itagreed that it must be detained at the
door as long as possiblefor the mortification and confusion of the
neighbours. Then they repaired to the usual family roomto
receive Miss Bella with a becoming show of indifference.

The family room looked very small and very meanand the
downward staircase by which it was attained looked very narrow
and very crooked. The little house and all its arrangements were a
poor contrast to the eminently aristocratic dwelling. 'I can hardly
believethought Bellathat I ever did endure life in this place!'

Gloomy majesty on the part of Mrs Wilferand native pertness on
the part of Lavvydid not mend the matter. Bella really stood in
natural need of a little helpand she got none.

'This' said Mrs Wilferpresenting a cheek to be kissedas
sympathetic and responsive as the back of the bowl of a spoon'is
quite an honour! You will probably find your sister Lavvy grown
Bella.'

'Ma' Miss Lavinia interposed'there can be no objection to your
being aggravatingbecause Bella richly deserves it; but I really
must request that you will not drag in such ridiculous nonsense as
my having grown when I am past the growing age.'

'I grewmyself' Mrs Wilfer sternly proclaimed'after I was
married.'

'Very wellMa' returned Lavvy'then I think you had much better
have left it alone.'

The lofty glare with which the majestic woman received this
answermight have embarrassed a less pert opponentbut it had
no effect upon Lavinia: wholeaving her parent to the enjoyment
of any amount of glaring at she might deem desirable under the


circumstancesaccosted her sisterundismayed.

'I suppose you won't consider yourself quite disgracedBellaif I
give you a kiss? Well! And how do you doBella? And how are
your Boffins?'

'Peace!' exclaimed Mrs Wilfer. 'Hold! I will not suffer this tone of
levity.'

'My goodness me! How are your Spoffinsthen?' said Lavvy
'since Ma so very much objects to your Boffins.'

'Impertinent girl! Minx!' said Mrs wilferwith dread severity.

'I don't care whether I am a Minxor a Sphinx' returned Lavinia
coollytossing her head; 'it's exactly the same thing to meand I'd
every bit as soon be one as the other; but I know this--I'll not grow
after I'm married!'

'You will not? YOU will not?' repeated Mrs Wilfersolemnly.

'NoMaI will not. Nothing shall induce me.'

Mrs Wilferhaving waved her glovesbecame loftily pathetic.

'But it was to be expected;' thus she spake. 'A child of mine
deserts me for the proud and prosperousand another child of
mine despises me. It is quite fitting.'

'Ma' Bella struck in'Mr and Mrs Boffin are prosperousno
doubt; but you have no right to say they are proud. You must
know very well that they are not.'

'In shortMa' said Lavvybouncing over to the enemy without a
word of noticeyou must know very well--or if you don'tmore
shame for you!--that Mr and Mrs Boffin are just absolute
perfection.'

'Truly' returned Mrs Wilfercourteously receiving the deserterit
would seem that we are required to think so. And thisLaviniais
my reason for objecting to a tone of levity. Mrs Boffin (of whose
physiognomy I can never speak with the composure I would
desire to preserve)and your motherare not on terms of intimacy.
It is not for a moment to be supposed that she and her husband
dare to presume to speak of this family as the Wilfers. I cannot
therefore condescend to speak of them as the Boffins. No; for
such a tone--call it familiaritylevityequalityor what you will-would
imply those social interchanges which do not exist. Do I
render myself intelligible?'

Without taking the least notice of this inquiryalbeit delivered in
an imposing and forensic mannerLavinia reminded her sister
'After allyou knowBellayou haven't told us how your
Whatshisnames are.'

'I don't want to speak of them here' replied Bellasuppressing
indignationand tapping her foot on the floor. 'They are much too
kind and too good to be drawn into these discussions.'

'Why put it so?' demanded Mrs Wilferwith biting sarcasm. 'Why
adopt a circuitous form of speech? It is polite and it is obliging;
but why do it? Why not openly say that they are much too kind
and too good for US? We understand the allusion. Why disguise
the phrase?'


'Ma' said Bellawith one beat of her foot'you are enough to
drive a saint madand so is Lavvy.'

'Unfortunate Lavvy!' cried Mrs Wilferin a tone of commiseration.
'She always comes for it. My poor child!' But Lavvywith the
suddenness of her former desertionnow bounced over to the other
enemy: very sharply remarking'Don't patronize MEMabecause
I can take care of myself.'

'I only wonder' resumed Mrs Wilferdirecting her observations to
her elder daughteras safer on the whole than her utterly
unmanageable younger'that you found time and inclination to
tear yourself from Mr and Mrs Boffinand come to see us at all. I
only wonder that our claimscontending against the superior
claims of Mr and Mrs Boffinhad any weight. I feel I ought to be
thankful for gaining so muchin competition with Mr and Mrs
Boffin.' (The good lady bitterly emphasized the first letter of the
word Boffinas if it represented her chief objection to the owners
of that nameand as if she could have born DoffinMoffinor
Poffin much better.)

'Ma' said Bellaangrily'you force me to say that I am truly sorry
I did come homeand that I never will come home againexcept
when poor dear Pa is here. ForPa is too magnanimous to feel
envy and spite towards my generous friendsand Pa is delicate
enough and gentle enough to remember the sort of little claim they
thought I had upon them and the unusually trying position in
whichthrough no act of my ownI had been placed. And I
always did love poor dear Pa better than all the rest of you put
togetherand I always do and I always shall!'

Here Belladeriving no comfort from her charming bonnet and her
elegant dressburst into tears.

'I thinkR.W.' cried Mrs Wilferlifting up her eyes and
apostrophising the air'that if you were presentit would be a trial
to your feelings to hear your wife and the mother of your family
depreciated in your name. But Fate has spared you thisR.W.
whatever it may have thought proper to inflict upon her!'

Here Mrs Wilfer burst into tears.

'I hate the Boffins!' protested Miss Lavinia. I don't care who
objects to their being called the Boffins. I WILL call 'em the
Boffins. The Boffinsthe Boffinsthe Boffins! And I say they are
mischief-making Boffinsand I say the Boffins have set Bella
against meand I tell the Boffins to their faces:' which was not
strictly the factbut the young lady was excited: 'that they are
detestable Boffinsdisreputable Boffinsodious Boffinsbeastly
Boffins. There!'

Here Miss Lavinia burst into tears.

The front garden-gate clankedand the Secretary was seen coming
at a brisk pace up the steps. 'Leave Me to open the door to him'
said Mrs Wilferrising with stately resignation as she shook her
head and dried her eyes; 'we have at present no stipendiary girl to
do so. We have nothing to conceal. If he sees these traces of
emotion on our cheekslet him construe them as he may.'

With those words she stalked out. In a few moments she stalked
in againproclaiming in her heraldic manner'Mr Rokesmith is the
bearer of a packet for Miss Bella Wilfer.'


Mr Rokesmith followed close upon his nameand of course saw
what was amiss. But he discreetly affected to see nothingand
addressed Miss Bella.

'Mr Boffin intended to have placed this in the carriage for you this
morning. He wished you to have itas a little keepsake he had
prepared--it is only a purseMiss Wilfer--but as he was
disappointed in his fancyI volunteered to come after you with it.'

Bella took it in her handand thanked him.

'We have been quarrelling here a littleMr Rokesmithbut not
more than we used; you know our agreeable ways among
ourselves. You find me just going. Good-byemamma. Goodbye
Lavvy!' and with a kiss for each Miss Bella turned to the
door. The Secretary would have attended herbut Mrs Wilfer
advancing and saying with dignity'Pardon me! Permit me to
assert my natural right to escort my child to the equipage which is
in waiting for her' he begged pardon and gave place. It was a
very magnificent spectacle indeedtoo see Mrs Wilfer throw open
the house-doorand loudly demand with extended gloves'The
male domestic of Mrs Boffin!' To whom presenting himselfshe
delivered the brief but majestic charge'Miss Wilfer. Coming out!'
and so delivered her overlike a female Lieutenant of the Tower
relinquishing a State Prisoner. The effect of this ceremonial was
for some quarter of an hour afterwards perfectly paralyzing on the
neighboursand was much enhanced by the worthy lady airing
herself for that term in a kind of splendidly serene trance on the
top step.

When Bella was seated in the carriageshe opened the little
packet in her hand. It contained a pretty purseand the purse
contained a bank note for fifty pounds. 'This shall be a joyful
surprise for poor dear Pa' said Bella'and I'll take it myself into
the City!'

As she was uninformed respecting the exact locality of the place
of business of Chicksey Veneering and Stobblesbut knew it to be
near Mincing Laneshe directed herself to be driven to the corner
of that darksome spot. Thence she despatched 'the male domestic
of Mrs Boffin' in search of the counting-house of Chicksey
Veneering and Stobbleswith a message importing that if R.
Wilfer could come outthere was a lady waiting who would be
glad to speak with him. The delivery of these mysterious words
from the mouth of a footman caused so great an excitement in the
counting-housethat a youthful scout was instantly appointed to
follow Rumtyobserve the ladyand come in with his report. Nor
was the agitation by any means diminishedwhen the scout rushed
back with the intelligence that the lady was 'a slap-up gal in a
bang-up chariot.'

Rumty himselfwith his pen behind his ear under his rusty hat
arrived at the carriage-door in a breathless conditionand had
been fairly lugged into the vehicle by his cravat and embraced
almost unto chokingbefore he recognized his daughter. 'My dear
child!' he then pantedincoherently. 'Good gracious me! What a
lovely woman you are! I thought you had been unkind and
forgotten your mother and sister.'

'I have just been to see themPa dear.'

'Oh! and how--how did you find your mother?' asked R. W.
dubiously.


'Very disagreeablePaand so was Lavvy.'

'They are sometimes a little liable to it' observed the patient
cherub; 'but I hope you made allowancesBellamy dear?'

'No. I was disagreeable tooPa; we were all of us disagreeable
together. But I want you to come and dine with me somewhere
Pa.'

'Whymy dearI have already partaken of a--if one might mention
such an article in this superb chariot--of a--Saveloy' replied R.
Wilfermodestly dropping his voice on the wordas he eyed the
canary-coloured fittings.

'Oh! That's nothingPa!'

'Trulyit ain't as much as one could sometimes wish it to bemy
dear' he admitteddrawing his hand across his mouth. 'Stillwhen
circumstances over which you have no controlinterpose
obstacles between yourself and Small Germansyou can't do
better than bring a contented mind to hear on'--again dropping his
voice in deference to the chariot--'Saveloys!'

'You poor good Pa! PadoI beg and prayget leave for the rest
of the dayand come and pass it with me!'

'Wellmy dearI'll cut back and ask for leave.'

'But before you cut back' said Bellawho had already taken him
by the chinpulled his hat offand begun to stick up his hair in her
old way'do say that you are sure I am giddy and inconsiderate
but have never really slighted youPa.'

'My dearI say it with all my heart. And might I likewise observe'
her father delicately hintedwith a glance out at window'that
perhaps it might he calculated to attract attentionhaving one's
hair publicly done by a lovely woman in an elegant turn-out in
Fenchurch Street?'

Bella laughed and put on his hat again. But when his boyish
figure bobbed awayits shabbiness and cheerful patience smote
the tears out of her eyes. 'I hate that Secretary for thinking it of
me' she said to herself'and yet it seems half true!'

Back came her fathermore like a boy than everin his release
from school. 'All rightmy dear. Leave given at once. Really
very handsomely done!'

'Now where can we find some quiet placePain which I can wait
for you while you go on an errand for meif I send the carriage
away?'

It demanded cogitation. 'You seemy dear' he explained'you
really have become such a very lovely womanthat it ought to he
a very quiet place.' At length he suggested'Near the garden up
by the Trinity House on Tower Hill.' Sothey were driven there
and Bella dismissed the chariot; sending a pencilled note by it to
Mrs Boffinthat she was with her father.

'NowPaattend to what I am going to sayand promise and vow
to be obedient.'

'I promise and vowmy dear.'


'You ask no questions. You take this purse; you go to the nearest
place where they keep everything of the very very bestready
made; you buy and put onthe most beautiful suit of clothesthe
most beautiful hatand the most beautiful pair of bright boots
(patent leatherPamind!) that are to be got for money; and you
come back to me.'

'Butmy dear Bella--'

'Take carePa!' pointing her forefinger at himmerrily. 'You have
promised and vowed. It's perjuryyou know.'

There was water in the foolish little fellow's eyesbut she kissed
them dry (though her own were wet)and he bobbed away again.
After half an hourhe came backso brilliantly transformedthat
Bella was obliged to walk round him in ecstatic admiration twenty
timesbefore she could draw her arm through hisand delightedly
squeeze it.

'NowPa' said Bellahugging him close'take this lovely woman
out to dinner.'

'Where shall we gomy dear?'

'Greenwich!' said Bellavaliantly. 'And be sure you treat this
lovely woman with everything of the best.'

While they were going along to take boat'Don't you wishmy
dear' said R. W.timidly'that your mother was here?'

'NoI don'tPafor I like to have you all to myself to-day. I was
always your little favourite at homeand you were always mine.
We have run away together oftenbefore now; haven't wePa?'

'Ahto be sure we have! Many a Sunday when your mother was-was
a little liable to it' repeating his former delicate expression
after pausing to cough.

'Yesand I am afraid I was seldom or never as good as I ought to
have beenPa. I made you carry meover and over againwhen
you should have made me walk; and I often drove you in harness
when you would much rather have sat down and read your newspaper:
didn't I?'

'Sometimessometimes. But Lorwhat a child you were! What a
companion you were!'

'Companion? That's just what I want to be to-dayPa.'

'You are safe to succeedmy love. Your brothers and sisters have
all in their turns been companions to meto a certain extentbut
only to a certain extent. Your mother hasthroughout lifebeen a
companion that any man might--might look up to--and--and
commit the sayings ofto memory--and--form himself upon--if he--'

'If he liked the model?' suggested Bella.

'We-ellye-es' he returnedthinking about itnot quite satisfied
with the phrase: 'or perhaps I might sayif it was in him.
Supposingfor instancethat a man wanted to be always marching
he would find your mother an inestimable companion. But if he
had any taste for walkingor should wish at any time to break into
a trothe might sometimes find it a little difficult to keep step with


your mother. Or take it this wayBella' he addedafter a
moment's reflection; 'Supposing that a man had to go through life
we won't say with a companionbut we'll say to a tune. Very
good. Supposing that the tune allotted to him was the Dead
March in Saul. Well. It would be a very suitable tune for
particular occasions--none better--but it would be difficult to keep
time with in the ordinary run of domestic transactions. For
instanceif he took his supper after a hard dayto the Dead March
in Saulhis food might be likely to sit heavy on him. Orif he was
at any time inclined to relieve his mind by singing a comic song or
dancing a hornpipeand was obliged to do it to the Dead March in
Saulhe might find himself put out in the execution of his lively
intentions.'

'Poor Pa!' thought Bellaas she hung upon his arm.

'Nowwhat I will say for youmy dear' the cherub pursued mildly
and without a notion of complaining'isthat you are so adaptable.
So adaptable.'

'Indeed I am afraid I have shown a wretched temperPa. I am
afraid I have been very complainingand very capricious. I
seldom or never thought of it before. But when I sat in the
carriage just now and saw you coming along the pavementI
reproached myself.'

'Not at allmy dear. Don't speak of such a thing.'

A happy and a chatty man was Pa in his new clothes that day.
Take it for all in allit was perhaps the happiest day he had ever
known in his life; not even excepting that on which his heroic
partner had approached the nuptial altar to the tune of the Dead
March in Saul.

The little expedition down the river was delightfuland the little
room overlooking the river into which they were shown for dinner
was delightful. Everything was delightful. The park was
delightfulthe punch was delightfulthe dishes of fish were
delightfulthe wine was delightful. Bella was more delightful than
any other item in the festival; drawing Pa out in the gayest
manner; making a point of always mentioning herself as the lovely
woman; stimulating Pa to order thingsby declaring that the lovely
woman insisted on being treated with them; and in short causing
Pa to be quite enraptured with the consideration that he WAS the
Pa of such a charming daughter.

And thenas they sat looking at the ships and steamboats making
their way to the sea with the tide that was running downthe
lovely woman imagined all sorts of voyages for herself and Pa.
NowPain the character of owner of a lumbering square-sailed
collierwas tacking away to Newcastleto fetch black diamonds
to make his fortune with; nowPa was going to China in that
handsome threemasted shipto bring home opiumwith which he
would for ever cut out Chicksey Veneering and Stobblesand to
bring home silks and shawls without end for the decoration of his
charming daughter. NowJohn Harmon's disastrous fate was all a
dreamand he had come home and found the lovely woman just
the article for himand the lovely woman had found him just the
article for herand they were going away on a tripin their gallant
barkto look after their vineswith streamers flying at all pointsa
band playing on deck and Pa established in the great cabin. Now
John Harmon was consigned to his grave againand a merchant of
immense wealth (name unknown) had courted and married the
lovely womanand he was so enormously rich that everything you


saw upon the river sailing or steaming belonged to himand he
kept a perfect fleet of yachts for pleasureand that little impudent
yacht which you saw over therewith the great white sailwas
called The Bellain honour of his wifeand she held her state
aboard when it pleased herlike a modern Cleopatra. Anonthere
would embark in that troop-ship when she got to Gravesenda
mighty generalof large property (name also unknown)who
wouldn't hear of going to victory without his wifeand whose wife
was the lovely womanand she was destined to become the idol of
all the red coats and blue jackets alow and aloft. And then again:
you saw that ship being towed out by a steam-tug? Well! where
did you suppose she was going to? She was going among the coral
reefs and cocoa-nuts and all that sort of thingand she was
chartered for a fortunate individual of the name of Pa (himself on
boardand much respected by all hands)and she was goingfor
his sole profit and advantageto fetch a cargo of sweet-smelling
woodsthe most beautiful that ever were seenand the most
profitable that ever were heard of; and her cargo would be a great
fortuneas indeed it ought to be: the lovely woman who had
purchased her and fitted her expressly for this voyagebeing
married to an Indian Princewho was a Something-or-Otherand
who wore Cashmere shawls all over himself and diamonds and
emeralds blazing in his turbanand was beautifully coffeecoloured
and excessively devotedthough a little too jealous.
Thus Bella ran on merrilyin a manner perfectly enchanting to Pa
who was as willing to put his head into the Sultan's tub of water as
the beggar-boys below the window were to put THEIR heads in
the mud.

'I supposemy dear' said Pa after dinner'we may come to the
conclusion at homethat we have lost you for good?'

Bella shook her head. Didn't know. Couldn't say. All she was
able to report wasthat she was most handsomely supplied with
everything she could possibly wantand that whenever she hinted
at leaving Mr and Mrs Boffinthey wouldn't hear of it.

'And nowPa' pursued Bella'I'll make a confession to you. I am
the most mercenary little wretch that ever lived in the world.'

'I should hardly have thought it of youmy dear' returned her
fatherfirst glancing at himself; and then at the dessert.

'I understand what you meanPabut it's not that. It's not that I
care for money to keep as moneybut I do care so much for what
it will buy!'

'Really I think most of us do' returned R. W.

'But not to the dreadful extent that I doPa. O-o!' cried Bella
screwing the exclamation out of herself with a twist of her
dimpled chin. 'I AM so mercenary!'

With a wistful glance R. W. saidin default of having anything
better to say: 'About when did you begin to feel it coming onmy
dear?'

'That's itPa. That's the terrible part of it. When I was at home
and only knew what it was to be poorI grumbled but didn't so
much mind. When I was at home expecting to be richI thought
vaguely of all the great things I would do. But when I had been
disappointed of my splendid fortuneand came to see it from day
to day in other handsand to have before my eyes what it could
really dothen I became the mercenary little wretch I am.'


'It's your fancymy dear.'

'I can assure you it's nothing of the sortPa!' said Bellanodding at
himwith her very pretty eyebrows raised as high as they would
goand looking comically frightened. 'It's a fact. I am always
avariciously scheming.'

'Lor! But how?'

'I'll tell youPa. I don't mind telling YOUbecause we have
always been favourites of each other'sand because you are not
like a Pabut more like a sort of a younger brother with a dear
venerable chubbiness on him. And besides' added Bellalaughing
as she pointed a rallying finger at his face'because I have got you
in my power. This is a secret expedition. If ever you tell of me
I'll tell of you. I'll tell Ma that you dined at Greenwich.'

'Well; seriouslymy dear' observed R. W.with some trepidation
of manner'it might be as well not to mention it.'

'Aha!' laughed Bella. 'I knew you wouldn't like itsir! So you
keep my confidenceand I'll keep yours. But betray the lovely
womanand you shall find her a serpent. Nowyou may give me
a kissPaand I should like to give your hair a turnbecause it has
been dreadfully neglected in my absence.'

R. W. submitted his head to the operatorand the operator went
on talking; at the same time putting separate locks of his hair
through a curious process of being smartly rolled over her two
revolving forefingerswhich were then suddenly pulled out of it in
opposite lateral directions. On each of these occasions the patient
winced and winked.
'I have made up my mind that I must have moneyPa. I feel that I
can't beg itborrow itor steal it; and so I have resolved that I
must marry it.'

R. W. cast up his eyes towards heras well as he could under the
operating circumstancesand said in a tone of remonstrance'My
de-ar Bella!'
'Have resolvedI sayPathat to get money I must marry money.
In consequence of whichI am always looking out for money to
captivate.'

'My de-a-r Bella!'

'YesPathat is the state of the case. If ever there was a
mercenary plotter whose thoughts and designs were always in her
mean occupationI am the amiable creature. But I don't care. I
hate and detest being poorand I won't be poor if I can marry
money. Now you are deliciously fluffyPaand in a state to
astonish the waiter and pay the bill.'

'Butmy dear Bellathis is quite alarming at your age.'

'I told you soPabut you wouldn't believe it' returned Bellawith
a pleasant childish gravity. 'Isn't it shocking?'

'It would be quite soif you fully knew what you saidmy dearor
meant it.'

'WellPaI can only tell you that I mean nothing else. Talk to me


of love!' said Bellacontemptuously: though her face and figure
certainly rendered the subject no incongruous one. 'Talk to me of
fiery dragons! But talk to me of poverty and wealthand there
indeed we touch upon realities.'

'My De-arthis is becoming Awful--' her father was emphatically
beginning: when she stopped him.

'Patell me. Did you marry money?'

'You know I didn'tmy dear.'

Bella hummed the Dead March in Sauland saidafter all it
signified very little! But seeing him look grave and downcastshe
took him round the neck and kissed him back to cheerfulness
again.

'I didn't mean that last touchPa; it was only said in joke. Now
mind! You are not to tell of meand I'll not tell of you. And more
than that; I promise to have no secrets from youPaand you may
make certain thatwhatever mercenary things go onI shall
always tell you all about them in strict confidence.'

Fain to be satisfied with this concession from the lovely woman

R. W. rang the belland paid the bill. 'Nowall the rest of this
Pa' said Bellarolling up the purse when they were alone again
hammering it small with her little fist on the tableand cramming it
into one of the pockets of his new waistcoat'is for youto buy
presents with for them at homeand to pay bills withand to
divide as you likeand spend exactly as you think proper. Last of
all take noticePathat it's not the fruit of any avaricious scheme.
Perhaps if it wasyour little mercenary wretch of a daughter
wouldn't make so free with it!'
After whichshe tugged at his coat with both handsand pulled
him all askew in buttoning that garment over the precious
waistcoat pocketand then tied her dimples into her bonnet-strings
in a very knowing wayand took him back to London. Arrived at
Mr Boffin's doorshe set him with his back against ittenderly
took him by the ears as convenient handles for her purposeand
kissed him until he knocked muffled double knocks at the door
with the back of his head. That doneshe once more reminded
him of their compact and gaily parted from him.

Not so gailyhoweverbut that tears filled her eyes as he went
away down the dark street. Not so gailybut that she several
times said'Ahpoor little Pa! Ahpoor dear struggling shabby
little Pa!' before she took heart to knock at the door. Not so gaily
but that the brilliant furniture seemed to stare her out of
countenance as if it insisted on being compared with the dingy
furniture at home. Not so gailybut that she fell into very low
spirits sitting late in her own roomand very heartily weptas she
wishednow that the deceased old John Harmon had never made
a will about hernow that the deceased young John Harmon had
lived to marry her. 'Contradictory things to wish' said Bella'but
my life and fortunes are so contradictory altogether that what can
I expect myself to be!'

Chapter 9

IN WHICH THE ORPHAN MAKES HIS WILL


The Secretaryworking in the Dismal Swamp betimes next
morningwas informed that a youth waited in the hall who gave
the name of Sloppy. The footman who communicated this
intelligence made a decent pause before uttering the nameto
express that it was forced on his reluctance by the youth in
questionand that if the youth had had the good sense and good
taste to inherit some other name it would have spared the feelings
of him the bearer.

'Mrs Boffin will be very well pleased' said the Secretary in a
perfectly composed way. 'Show him in.'

Mr Sloppy being introducedremained close to the door: revealing
in various parts of his form many surprisingconfoundingand
incomprehensible buttons.

'I am glad to see you' said John Rokesmithin a cheerful tone of
welcome. 'I have been expecting you.'

Sloppy explained that he had meant to come beforebut that the
Orphan (of whom he made mention as Our Johnny) had been
ailingand he had waited to report him well.

'Then he is well now?' said the Secretary.

'No he ain't' said Sloppy.

Mr Sloppy having shaken his head to a considerable extent
proceeded to remark that he thought Johnny 'must have took 'em
from the Minders.' Being asked what he meanthe answered
them that come out upon him and partickler his chest. Being
requested to explain himselfhe stated that there was some of 'em
wot you couldn't kiver with a sixpence. Pressed to fall back upon
a nominative casehe opined that they wos about as red as ever
red could be. 'But as long as they strikes out'ardssir' continued
Sloppy'they ain't so much. It's their striking in'ards that's to be
kep off.'

John Rokesmith hoped the child had had medical attendance? Oh
yessaid Sloppyhe had been took to the doctor's shop once. And
what did the doctor call it? Rokesmith asked him. After some
perplexed reflectionSloppy answeredbrightening'He called it
something as wos wery long for spots.' Rokesmith suggested
measles. 'No' said Sloppy with confidence'ever so much longer
than THEMsir!' (Mr Sloppy was elevated by this factand
seemed to consider that it reflected credit on the poor little
patient.)

'Mrs Boffin will be sorry to hear this' said Rokesmith.

'Mrs Higden said sosirwhen she kep it from herhoping as Our
Johnny would work round.'

'But I hope he will?' said Rokesmithwith a quick turn upon the
messenger.

'I hope so' answered Sloppy. 'It all depends on their striking
in'ards.' He then went on to say that whether Johnny had 'took
'em' from the Mindersor whether the Minders had 'took em from
Johnnythe Minders had been sent home and had 'got em.
Furthermorethat Mrs Higden's days and nights being devoted to
Our Johnnywho was never out of her lapthe whole of the
mangling arrangements had devolved upon himselfand he had


had 'rayther a tight time'. The ungainly piece of honesty beamed
and blushed as he said itquite enraptured with the remembrance
of having been serviceable.

'Last night' said Sloppy'when I was a-turning at the wheel pretty
latethe mangle seemed to go like Our Johnny's breathing. It
begun beautifulthen as it went out it shook a little and got
unsteadythen as it took the turn to come home it had a rattle-like
and lumbered a bitthen it come smoothand so it went on till I
scarce know'd which was mangle and which was Our Johnny. Nor
Our Johnnyhe scarce know'd eitherfor sometimes when the
mangle lumbers he saysMe choking, Granny!and Mrs Higden
holds him up in her lap and says to me "Bide a bitSloppy and
we all stops together. And when Our Johnny gets his breathing
again, I turns again, and we all goes on together.'

Sloppy had gradually expanded with his description into a stare
and a vacant grin. He now contracted, being silent, into a halfrepressed
gush of tears, and, under pretence of being heated, drew
the under part of his sleeve across his eyes with a singularly
awkward, laborious, and roundabout smear.

'This is unfortunate,' said Rokesmith. 'I must go and break it to
Mrs Boffin. Stay you here, Sloppy.'

Sloppy stayed there, staring at the pattern of the paper on the wall,
until the Secretary and Mrs Boffin came back together. And with
Mrs Boffin was a young lady (Miss Bella Wilfer by name) who
was better worth staring at, it occurred to Sloppy, than the best of
wall-papering.

'Ah, my poor dear pretty little John Harmon!' exclaimed Mrs
Boffin.

'Yes mum,' said the sympathetic Sloppy.

'You don't think he is in a very, very bad way, do you?' asked the
pleasant creature with her wholesome cordiality.

Put upon his good faith, and finding it in collision with his
inclinations, Sloppy threw back his head and uttered a mellifluous
howl, rounded off with a sniff.

'So bad as that!' cried Mrs Boffin. 'And Betty Higden not to tell
me of it sooner!'

'I think she might have been mistrustful, mum,' answered Sloppy,
hesitating.

'Of what, for Heaven's sake?'

'I think she might have been mistrustful, mum,' returned Sloppy
with submission, 'of standing in Our Johnny's light. There's so
much trouble in illness, and so much expense, and she's seen such
a lot of its being objected to.'

'But she never can have thought,' said Mrs Boffin, 'that I would
grudge the dear child anything?'

'No mum, but she might have thought (as a habit-like) of its
standing in Johnny's light, and might have tried to bring him
through it unbeknownst.'

Sloppy knew his ground well. To conceal herself in sickness, like


a lower animal; to creep out of sight and coil herself away and die;
had become this woman's instinct. To catch up in her arms the
sick child who was dear to her, and hide it as if it were a criminal,
and keep off all ministration but such as her own ignorant
tenderness and patience could supply, had become this woman's
idea of maternal love, fidelity, and duty. The shameful accounts
we read, every week in the Christian year, my lords and
gentlemen and honourable boards, the infamous records of small
official inhumanity, do not pass by the people as they pass by us.
And hence these irrational, blind, and obstinate prejudices, so
astonishing to our magnificence, and having no more reason in
them--God save the Queen and Confound their politics--no, than
smoke has in coming from fire!

'It's not a right place for the poor child to stay in,' said Mrs Boffin.
'Tell us, dear Mr Rokesmith, what to do for the best.'

He had already thought what to do, and the consultation was very
short. He could pave the way, he said, in half an hour, and then
they would go down to Brentford. 'Pray take me,' said Bella.
Therefore a carriage was ordered, of capacity to take them all, and
in the meantime Sloppy was regaled, feasting alone in the
Secretary's room, with a complete realization of that fairy vision-meat,
beer, vegetables, and pudding. In consequence of which his
buttons became more importunate of public notice than before,
with the exception of two or three about the region of the
waistband, which modestly withdrew into a creasy retirement.

Punctual to the time, appeared the carriage and the Secretary. He
sat on the box, and Mr Sloppy graced the rumble. So, to the Three
Magpies as before: where Mrs Boffin and Miss Bella were handed
out, and whence they all went on foot to Mrs Betty Higden's.

But, on the way down, they had stopped at a toy-shop, and had
bought that noble charger, a description of whose points and
trappings had on the last occasion conciliated the then worldlyminded
orphan, and also a Noah's ark, and also a yellow bird with
an artificial voice in him, and also a military doll so well dressed
that if he had only been of life-size his brother-officers in the
Guards might never have found him out. Bearing these gifts, they
raised the latch of Betty Higden's door, and saw her sitting in the
dimmest and furthest corner with poor Johnny in her lap.

'And how's my boy, Betty?' asked Mrs Boffin, sitting down beside
her.

'He's bad! He's bad!' said Betty. 'I begin to be afeerd he'll not be
yours any more than mine. All others belonging to him have gone
to the Power and the Glory, and I have a mind that they're
drawing him to them--leading him away.'

'No, no, no,' said Mrs Boffin.

'I don't know why else he clenches his little hand as if it had hold
of a finger that I can't see. Look at it,' said Betty, opening the
wrappers in which the flushed child lay, and showing his small
right hand lying closed upon his breast. 'It's always so. It don't
mind me.'

'Is he asleep?'

'No, I think not. You're not asleep, my Johnny?'

'No,' said Johnny, with a quiet air of pity for himself; and without


opening his eyes.

'Here's the lady, Johnny. And the horse.'

Johnny could bear the lady, with complete indifference, but not
the horse. Opening his heavy eyes, he slowly broke into a smile
on beholding that splendid phenomenon, and wanted to take it in
his arms. As it was much too big, it was put upon a chair where
he could hold it by the mane and contemplate it. Which he soon
forgot to do.

But, Johnny murmuring something with his eyes closed, and Mrs
Boffin not knowing what, old Betty bent her ear to listen and took
pains to understand. Being asked by her to repeat what he had
said, he did so two or three times, and then it came out that he
must have seen more than they supposed when he looked up to
see the horse, for the murmur was, 'Who is the boofer lady?'
Now, the boofer, or beautiful, lady was Bella; and whereas this
notice from the poor baby would have touched her of itself; it was
rendered more pathetic by the late melting of her heart to her poor
little father, and their joke about the lovely woman. So, Bella's
behaviour was very tender and very natural when she kneeled on
the brick floor to clasp the child, and when the child, with a child's
admiration of what is young and pretty, fondled the boofer lady.

'Now, my good dear Betty,' said Mrs Boffin, hoping that she saw
her opportunity, and laying her hand persuasively on her arm; 'we
have come to remove Johnny from this cottage to where he can be
taken better care of.'

Instantly, and before another word could be spoken, the old
woman started up with blazing eyes, and rushed at the door with
the sick child.

'Stand away from me every one of ye!' she cried out wildly. 'I see
what ye mean now. Let me go my way, all of ye. I'd sooner kill
the Pretty, and kill myself!'

'Stay, stay!' said Rokesmith, soothing her. 'You don't understand.'

'I understand too well. I know too much about it, sir. I've run
from it too many a year. No! Never for me, nor for the child,
while there's water enough in England to cover us!'

The terror, the shame, the passion of horror and repugnance, firing
the worn face and perfectly maddening it, would have been a
quite terrible sight, if embodied in one old fellow-creature alone.
Yet it 'crops up'--as our slang goes--my lords and gentlemen and
honourable boards, in other fellow-creatures, rather frequently!

'It's been chasing me all my life, but it shall never take me nor
mine alive!' cried old Betty. 'I've done with ye. I'd have fastened
door and window and starved out, afore I'd ever have let ye in, if I
had known what ye came for!'

But, catching sight of Mrs Boffin's wholesome face, she relented,
and crouching down by the door and bending over her burden to
hush it, said humbly: 'Maybe my fears has put me wrong. If they
have so, tell me, and the good Lord forgive me! I'm quick to take
this fright, I know, and my head is summ'at light with wearying
and watching.'

'There, there, there!' returned Mrs Boffin. 'Come, come! Say no
more of it, Betty. It was a mistake, a mistake. Any one of us


might have made it in your place, and felt just as you do.'

'The Lord bless ye!' said the old woman, stretching out her hand.

'Now, see, Betty,' pursued the sweet compassionate soul, holding
the hand kindly, 'what I really did mean, and what I should have
begun by saying out, if I had only been a little wiser and handier.
We want to move Johnny to a place where there are none but
children; a place set up on purpose for sick children; where the
good doctors and nurses pass their lives with children, talk to none
but children, touch none but children, comfort and cure none but
children.'

'Is there really such a place?' asked the old woman, with a gaze of
wonder.

'Yes, Betty, on my word, and you shall see it. If my home was a
better place for the dear boy, I'd take him to it; but indeed indeed
it's not.'

'You shall take him,' returned Betty, fervently kissing the
comforting hand, 'where you will, my deary. I am not so hard, but
that I believe your face and voice, and I will, as long as I can see
and hear.'

This victory gained, Rokesmith made haste to profit by it, for he
saw how woefully time had been lost. He despatched Sloppy to
bring the carriage to the door; caused the child to be carefully
wrapped up; bade old Betty get her bonnet on; collected the toys,
enabling the little fellow to comprehend that his treasures were to
be transported with him; and had all things prepared so easily that
they were ready for the carriage as soon as it appeared, and in a
minute afterwards were on their way. Sloppy they left behind,
relieving his overcharged breast with a paroxysm of mangling.

At the Children's Hospital, the gallant steed, the Noah's ark,
yellow bird, and the officer in the Guards, were made as welcome
as their child-owner. But the doctor said aside to Rokesmith, 'This
should have been days ago. Too late!'

However, they were all carried up into a fresh airy room, and
there Johnny came to himself, out of a sleep or a swoon or
whatever it was, to find himself lying in a little quiet bed, with a
little platform over his breast, on which were already arranged, to
give him heart and urge him to cheer up, the Noah's ark, the noble
steed, and the yellow bird; with the officer in the Guards doing
duty over the whole, quite as much to the satisfaction of his
country as if he had been upon Parade. And at the bed's head was
a coloured picture beautiful to see, representing as it were another
Johnny seated on the knee of some Angel surely who loved little
children. And, marvellous fact, to lie and stare at: Johnny had
become one of a little family, all in little quiet beds (except two
playing dominoes in little arm-chairs at a little table on the hearth):
and on all the little beds were little platforms whereon were to be
seen dolls' houses, woolly dogs with mechanical barks in them not
very dissimilar from the artificial voice pervading the bowels of
the yellow bird, tin armies, Moorish tumblers, wooden tea things,
and the riches of the earth.

As Johnny murmured something in his placid admiration, the
ministering women at his bed's head asked him what he said. It
seemed that he wanted to know whether all these were brothers
and sisters of his? So they told him yes. It seemed then, that he
wanted to know whether God had brought them all together there?


So they told him yes again. They made out then, that he wanted
to know whether they would all get out of pain? So they
answered yes to that question likewise, and made him understand
that the reply included himself.

Johnny's powers of sustaining conversation were as yet so very
imperfectly developed, even in a state of health, that in sickness
they were little more than monosyllabic. But, he had to be
washed and tended, and remedies were applied, and though those
offices were far, far more skilfully and lightly done than ever
anything had been done for him in his little life, so rough and
short, they would have hurt and tired him but for an amazing
circumstance which laid hold of his attention. This was no less
than the appearance on his own little platform in pairs, of All
Creation, on its way into his own particular ark: the elephant
leading, and the fly, with a diffident sense of his size, politely
bringing up the rear. A very little brother lying in the next bed
with a broken leg, was so enchanted by this spectacle that his
delight exalted its enthralling interest; and so came rest and sleep.

'I see you are not afraid to leave the dear child here, Betty,'
whispered Mrs Boffin.

'No, ma'am. Most willingly, most thankfully, with all my heart and
soul.'

So, they kissed him, and left him there, and old Betty was to come
back early in the morning, and nobody but Rokesmith knew for
certain how that the doctor had said, 'This should have been days
ago. Too late!'

But, Rokesmith knowing it, and knowing that his bearing it in
mind would be acceptable thereafter to that good woman who had
been the only light in the childhood of desolate John Harmon dead
and gone, resolved that late at night he would go back to the
bedside of John Harmon's namesake, and see how it fared with
him.

The family whom God had brought together were not all asleep,
but were all quiet. From bed to bed, a light womanly tread and a
pleasant fresh face passed in the silence of the night. A little head
would lift itself up into the softened light here and there, to be
kissed as the face went by--for these little patients are very loving
--and would then submit itself to be composed to rest again. The
mite with the broken leg was restless, and moaned; but after a
while turned his face towards Johnny's bed, to fortify himself with
a view of the ark, and fell asleep. Over most of the beds, the toys
were yet grouped as the children had left them when they last laid
themselves down, and, in their innocent grotesqueness and
incongruity, they might have stood for the children's dreams.

The doctor came in too, to see how it fared with Johnny. And he
and Rokesmith stood together, looking down with compassion on
him.

'What is it, Johnny?' Rokesmith was the questioner, and put an
arm round the poor baby as he made a struggle.

'Him!' said the little fellow. 'Those!'

The doctor was quick to understand children, and, taking the
horse, the ark, the yellow bird, and the man in the Guards, from
Johnny's bed, softly placed them on that of his next neighbour, the
mite with the broken leg.


With a weary and yet a pleased smile, and with an action as if he
stretched his little figure out to rest, the child heaved his body on
the sustaining arm, and seeking Rokesmith's face with his lips,
said:

'A kiss for the boofer lady.'

Having now bequeathed all he had to dispose of, and arranged his
affairs in this world, Johnny, thus speaking, left it.

Chapter 10

A SUCCESSOR

Some of the Reverend Frank Milvey's brethren had found
themselves exceedingly uncomfortable in their minds, because
they were required to bury the dead too hopefully. But, the
Reverend Frank, inclining to the belief that they were required to
do one or two other things (say out of nine-and-thirty) calculated
to trouble their consciences rather more if they would think as
much about them, held his peace.

Indeed, the Reverend Frank Milvey was a forbearing man, who
noticed many sad warps and blights in the vineyard wherein he
worked, and did not profess that they made him savagely wise.
He only learned that the more he himself knew, in his little limited
human way, the better he could distantly imagine what
Omniscience might know.

Wherefore, if the Reverend Frank had had to read the words that
troubled some of his brethren, and profitably touched innumerable
hearts, in a worse case than Johnny's, he would have done so out
of the pity and humility of his soul. Reading them over Johnny, he
thought of his own six children, but not of his poverty, and read
them with dimmed eyes. And very seriously did he and his bright
little wife, who had been listening, look down into the small grave
and walk home arm-in-arm.

There was grief in the aristocratic house, and there was joy in the
Bower. Mr Wegg argued, if an orphan were wanted, was he not
an orphan himself; and could a better be desired? And why go
beating about Brentford bushes, seeking orphans forsooth who
had established no claims upon you and made no sacrifices for
you, when here was an orphan ready to your hand who had given
up in your cause, Miss Elizabeth, Master George, Aunt Jane, and
Uncle Parker?

Mr Wegg chuckled, consequently, when he heard the tidings.
Nay, it was afterwards affirmed by a witness who shall at present
be nameless, that in the seclusion of the Bower he poked out his
wooden leg, in the stage-ballet manner, and executed a taunting or
triumphant pirouette on the genuine leg remaining to him.

John Rokesmith's manner towards Mrs Boffin at this time, was
more the manner of a young man towards a mother, than that of a
Secretary towards his employer's wife. It had always been marked
by a subdued affectionate deference that seemed to have sprung
up on the very day of his engagement; whatever was odd in her
dress or her ways had seemed to have no oddity for him; he had
sometimes borne a quietly-amused face in her company, but still it


had seemed as if the pleasure her genial temper and radiant nature
yielded him, could have been quite as naturally expressed in a tear
as in a smile. The completeness of his sympathy with her fancy
for having a little John Harmon to protect and rear, he had shown
in every act and word, and now that the kind fancy was
disappointed, he treated it with a manly tenderness and respect for
which she could hardly thank him enough.

'But I do thank you, Mr Rokesmith,' said Mrs Boffin, 'and I thank
you most kindly. You love children.'

'I hope everybody does.'

'They ought,' said Mrs Boffin; 'but we don't all of us do what we
ought, do us?'

John Rokesmith replied, 'Some among us supply the short-comings
of the rest. You have loved children well, Mr Boffin has told me.'

Not a bit better than he has, but that's his way; he puts all the good
upon me. You speak rather sadly, Mr Rokesmith.'

'Do I?'

'It sounds to me so. Were you one of many children?' He shook
his head.

'An only child?'

'No there was another. Dead long ago.'

'Father or mother alive?'

'Dead.'-


'And the rest of your relations?'

'Dead--if I ever had any living. I never heard of any.'

At this point of the dialogue Bella came in with a light step. She
paused at the door a moment, hesitating whether to remain or
retire; perplexed by finding that she was not observed.

'Now, don't mind an old lady's talk,' said Mrs Boffin, 'but tell me.
Are you quite sure, Mr Rokesmith, that you have never had a
disappointment in love?'

'Quite sure. Why do you ask me?'

'Why, for this reason. Sometimes you have a kind of kept-down
manner with you, which is not like your age. You can't be thirty?'

'I am not yet thirty.'

Deeming it high time to make her presence known, Bella coughed
here to attract attention, begged pardon, and said she would go,
fearing that she interrupted some matter of business.

'No, don't go,' rejoined Mrs Boffin, 'because we are coming to
business, instead of having begun it, and you belong to it as much
now, my dear Bella, as I do. But I want my Noddy to consult with
us. Would somebody be so good as find my Noddy for me?'

Rokesmith departed on that errand, and presently returned


accompanied by Mr Boffin at his jog-trot. Bella felt a little vague
trepidation as to the subject-matter of this same consultation, until
Mrs Boffin announced it.

'Now, you come and sit by me, my dear,' said that worthy soul,
taking her comfortable place on a large ottoman in the centre of
the room, and drawing her arm through Bella's; 'and Noddy, you
sit here, and Mr Rokesmith you sit there. Now, you see, what I
want to talk about, is this. Mr and Mrs Milvey have sent me the
kindest note possible (which Mr Rokesmith just now read to me
out aloud, for I ain't good at handwritings), offering to find me
another little child to name and educate and bring up. Well. This
has set me thinking.'

('And she is a steam-ingein at it,' murmured Mr Boffin, in an
admiring parenthesis, 'when she once begins. It mayn't be so easy
to start her; but once started, she's a ingein.')

'--This has set me thinking, I say,' repeated Mrs Boffin, cordially
beaming under the influence of her husband's compliment, 'and I
have thought two things. First of all, that I have grown timid of
reviving John Harmon's name. It's an unfortunate name, and I
fancy I should reproach myself if I gave it to another dear child,
and it proved again unlucky.'

'Now, whether,' said Mr Boffin, gravely propounding a case for his
Secretary's opinion; 'whether one might call that a superstition?'

'It is a matter of feeling with Mrs Boffin,' said Rokesmith, gently.
'The name has always been unfortunate. It has now this new
unfortunate association connected with it. The name has died out.
Why revive it? Might I ask Miss Wilfer what she thinks?'

'It has not been a fortunate name for me,' said Bella, colouring--'or
at least it was not, until it led to my being here--but that is not the
point in my thoughts. As we had given the name to the poor child,
and as the poor child took so lovingly to me, I think I should feel
jealous of calling another child by it. I think I should feel as if the
name had become endeared to me, and I had no right to use it so.'

'And that's your opinion?' remarked Mr Boffin, observant of the
Secretary's face and again addressing him.

'I say again, it is a matter of feeling,' returned the Secretary. 'I
think Miss Wilfer's feeling very womanly and pretty.'

'Now, give us your opinion, Noddy,' said Mrs Boffin.

'My opinion, old lady,' returned the Golden Dustman, 'is your
opinion.'

'Then,' said Mrs Boffin, 'we agree not to revive John Harmon's
name, but to let it rest in the grave. It is, as Mr Rokesmith says, a
matter of feeling, but Lor how many matters ARE matters of
feeling! Well; and so I come to the second thing I have thought
of. You must know, Bella, my dear, and Mr Rokesmith, that
when I first named to my husband my thoughts of adopting a little
orphan boy in remembrance of John Harmon, I further named to
my husband that it was comforting to think that how the poor boy
would be benefited by John's own money, and protected from
John's own forlornness.'

'Hear, hear!' cried Mr Boffin. 'So she did. Ancoar!'


'No, not Ancoar, Noddy, my dear,' returned Mrs Boffin, 'because I
am going to say something else. I meant that, I am sure, as I much
as I still mean it. But this little death has made me ask myself the
question, seriously, whether I wasn't too bent upon pleasing
myself. Else why did I seek out so much for a pretty child, and a
child quite to my liking? Wanting to do good, why not do it for its
own sake, and put my tastes and likings by?'

'Perhaps,' said Bella; and perhaps she said it with some little
sensitiveness arising out of those old curious relations of hers
towards the murdered man; 'perhaps, in reviving the name, you
would not have liked to give it to a less interesting child than the
original. He interested you very much.'

'Well, my dear,' returned Mrs Boffin, giving her a squeeze, 'it's
kind of you to find that reason out, and I hope it may have been
so, and indeed to a certain extent I believe it was so, but I am
afraid not to the whole extent. However, that don't come in
question now, because we have done with the name.'

'Laid it up as a remembrance,' suggested Bella, musingly.

'Much better said, my dear; laid it up as a remembrance. Well
then; I have been thinking if I take any orphan to provide for, let it
not be a pet and a plaything for me, but a creature to be helped for
its own sake.'

'Not pretty then?' said Bella.

'No,' returned Mrs Boffin, stoutly.

'Nor prepossessing then?' said Bella.

'No,' returned Mrs Boffin. 'Not necessarily so. That's as it may
happen. A well-disposed boy comes in my way who may be even
a little wanting in such advantages for getting on in life, but is
honest and industrious and requires a helping hand and deserves
it. If I am very much in earnest and quite determined to be
unselfish, let me take care of HIM.'

Here the footman whose feelings had been hurt on the former
occasion, appeared, and crossing to Rokesmith apologetically
announced the objectionable Sloppy.

The four members of Council looked at one another, and paused.
'Shall he be brought here, ma'am?' asked Rokesmith.

'Yes,' said Mrs Boffin. Whereupon the footman disappeared,
reappeared presenting Sloppy, and retired much disgusted.

The consideration of Mrs Boffin had clothed Mr Sloppy in a suit
of black, on which the tailor had received personal directions from
Rokesmith to expend the utmost cunning of his art, with a view to
the concealment of the cohering and sustaining buttons. But, so
much more powerful were the frailties of Sloppy's form than the
strongest resources of tailoring science, that he now stood before
the Council, a perfect Argus in the way of buttons: shining and
winking and gleaming and twinkling out of a hundred of those
eyes of bright metal, at the dazzled spectators. The artistic taste
of some unknown hatter had furnished him with a hatband of
wholesale capacity which was fluted behind, from the crown of
his hat to the brim, and terminated in a black bunch, from which
the imagination shrunk discomfited and the reason revolted. Some
special powers with which his legs were endowed, had already


hitched up his glossy trousers at the ankles, and bagged them at
the knees; while similar gifts in his arms had raised his coatsleeves
from his wrists and accumulated them at his elbows. Thus
set forth, with the additional embellishments of a very little tail to
his coat, and a yawning gulf at his waistband, Sloppy stood
confessed.

'And how is Betty, my good fellow?' Mrs Boffin asked him.

'Thankee, mum,' said Sloppy, 'she do pretty nicely, and sending
her dooty and many thanks for the tea and all faviours and
wishing to know the family's healths.'

'Have you just come, Sloppy?'

'Yes, mum.'

'Then you have not had your dinner yet?'

'No, mum. But I mean to it. For I ain't forgotten your handsome
orders that I was never to go away without having had a good 'un
off of meat and beer and pudding--no: there was four of 'em, for I
reckoned 'em up when I had 'em; meat one, beer two, vegetables
three, and which was four?--Why, pudding, HE was four!' Here
Sloppy threw his head back, opened his mouth wide, and laughed
rapturously.

'How are the two poor little Minders?' asked Mrs Boffin.

'Striking right out, mum, and coming round beautiful.'

Mrs Boffin looked on the other three members of Council, and
then said, beckoning with her finger:

'Sloppy.'

'Yes, mum.'

'Come forward, Sloppy. Should you like to dine here every day?'

'Off of all four on 'em, mum? O mum!' Sloppy's feelings obliged
him to squeeze his hat, and contract one leg at the knee.

'Yes. And should you like to be always taken care of here, if you
were industrious and deserving?'

'Oh, mum!--But there's Mrs Higden,' said Sloppy, checking himself
in his raptures, drawing back, and shaking his head with very
serious meaning. 'There's Mrs Higden. Mrs Higden goes before
all. None can ever be better friends to me than Mrs Higden's
been. And she must be turned for, must Mrs Higden. Where
would Mrs Higden be if she warn't turned for!' At the mere
thought of Mrs Higden in this inconceivable affliction, Mr
Sloppy's countenance became pale, and manifested the most
distressful emotions.

'You are as right as right can be, Sloppy,' said Mrs Boffin 'and far
be it from me to tell you otherwise. It shall be seen to. If Betty
Higden can be turned for all the same, you shall come here and be
taken care of for life, and be made able to keep her in other ways
than the turning.'

'Even as to that, mum,' answered the ecstatic Sloppy, 'the turning
might be done in the night, don't you see? I could be here in the


day, and turn in the night. I don't want no sleep, I don't. Or even
if I any ways should want a wink or two,' added Sloppy, after a
moment's apologetic reflection, 'I could take 'em turning. I've took
'em turning many a time, and enjoyed 'em wonderful!'

On the grateful impulse of the moment, Mr Sloppy kissed Mrs
Boffin's hand, and then detaching himself from that good creature
that he might have room enough for his feelings, threw back his
head, opened his mouth wide, and uttered a dismal howl. It was
creditable to his tenderness of heart, but suggested that he might
on occasion give some offence to the neighbours: the rather, as
the footman looked in, and begged pardon, finding he was not
wanted, but excused himself; on the ground 'that he thought it was
Cats.'

Chapter 11

SOME AFFAIRS OF THE HEART

Little Miss Peecher, from her little official dwelling-house, with its
little windows like the eyes in needles, and its little doors like the
covers of school-books, was very observant indeed of the object
of her quiet affections. Love, though said to be afflicted with
blindness, is a vigilant watchman, and Miss Peecher kept him on
double duty over Mr Bradley Headstone. It was not that she was
naturally given to playing the spy--it was not that she was at all
secret, plotting, or mean--it was simply that she loved the
irresponsive Bradley with all the primitive and homely stock of
love that had never been examined or certificated out of her. If
her faithful slate had had the latent qualities of sympathetic paper,
and its pencil those of invisible ink, many a little treatise
calculated to astonish the pupils would have come bursting
through the dry sums in school-time under the warming influence
of Miss Peecher's bosom. For, oftentimes when school was not,
and her calm leisure and calm little house were her own, Miss
Peecher would commit to the confidential slate an imaginary
description of how, upon a balmy evening at dusk, two figures
might have been observed in the market-garden ground round the
corner, of whom one, being a manly form, bent over the other,
being a womanly form of short stature and some compactness, and
breathed in a low voice the words, 'Emma Peecher, wilt thou be
my own?' after which the womanly form's head reposed upon the
manly form's shoulder, and the nightingales tuned up. Though all
unseen, and unsuspected by the pupils, Bradley Headstone even
pervaded the school exercises. Was Geography in question? He
would come triumphantly flying out of Vesuvius and Aetna ahead
of the lava, and would boil unharmed in the hot springs of Iceland,
and would float majestically down the Ganges and the Nile. Did
History chronicle a king of men? Behold him in pepper-and-salt
pantaloons, with his watch-guard round his neck. Were copies to
be written? In capital B's and H's most of the girls under Miss
Peecher's tuition were half a year ahead of every other letter in
the alphabet. And Mental Arithmetic, administered by Miss
Peecher, often devoted itself to providing Bradley Headstone with
a wardrobe of fabulous extent: fourscore and four neck-ties at two
and ninepence-halfpenny, two gross of silver watches at four
pounds fifteen and sixpence, seventy-four black hats at eighteen
shillings; and many similar superfluities.

The vigilant watchman, using his daily opportunities of turning his
eyes in Bradley's direction, soon apprized Miss Peecher that


Bradley was more preoccupied than had been his wont, and more
given to strolling about with a downcast and reserved face, turning
something difficult in his mind that was not in the scholastic
syllabus. Putting this and that together--combining under the head
'this,' present appearances and the intimacy with Charley Hexam,
and ranging under the head 'that' the visit to his sister, the
watchman reported to Miss Peecher his strong suspicions that the
sister was at the bottom of it.

'I wonder,' said Miss Peecher, as she sat making up her weekly
report on a half-holiday afternoon, 'what they call Hexam's sister?'

Mary Anne, at her needlework, attendant and attentive, held her
arm up.

'Well, Mary Anne?'

'She is named Lizzie, ma'am.'

'She can hardly be named Lizzie, I think, Mary Anne,' returned
Miss Peecher, in a tunefully instructive voice. 'Is Lizzie a
Christian name, Mary Anne?'

Mary Anne laid down her work, rose, hooked herself behind, as
being under catechization, and replied: 'No, it is a corruption, Miss
Peecher.'

'Who gave her that name?' Miss Peecher was going on, from the
mere force of habit, when she checked herself; on Mary Anne's
evincing theological impatience to strike in with her godfathers
and her godmothers, and said: 'I mean of what name is it a
corruption?'

'Elizabeth, or Eliza, Miss Peecher.'

'Right, Mary Anne. Whether there were any Lizzies in the early
Christian Church must be considered very doubtful, very
doubtful.' Miss Peecher was exceedingly sage here. 'Speaking
correctly, we say, then, that Hexam's sister is called Lizzie; not
that she is named so. Do we not, Mary Anne?'

'We do, Miss Peecher.'

'And where,' pursued Miss Peecher, complacent in her little
transparent fiction of conducting the examination in a semiofficial
manner for Mary Anne's benefit, not her own, 'where does this
young woman, who is called but not named Lizzie, live? Think,
now, before answering.'

'In Church Street, Smith Square, by Mill Bank, ma'am.'

'In Church Street, Smith Square, by Mill Bank,' repeated Miss
Peecher, as if possessed beforehand of the book in which it was
written. Exactly so. And what occupation does this young
woman pursue, Mary Anne? Take time.'

'She has a place of trust at an outfitter's in the City, ma'am.'

'Oh!' said Miss Peecher, pondering on it; but smoothly added, in a
confirmatory tone, 'At an outfitter's in the City. Ye-es?'

'And Charley--' Mary Anne was proceeding, when Miss Peecher
stared.


'I mean Hexam, Miss Peecher.'

'I should think you did, Mary Anne. I am glad to hear you do.
And Hexam--'

'Says,' Mary Anne went on, 'that he is not pleased with his sister,
and that his sister won't be guided by his advice, and persists in
being guided by somebody else's; and that--'

'Mr Headstone coming across the garden!' exclaimed Miss
Peecher, with a flushed glance at the looking-glass. 'You have
answered very well, Mary Anne. You are forming an excellent
habit of arranging your thoughts clearly. That will do.'

The discreet Mary Anne resumed her seat and her silence, and
stitched, and stitched, and was stitching when the schoolmaster's
shadow came in before him, announcing that he might be instantly
expected.

'Good evening, Miss Peecher,' he said, pursuing the shadow, and
taking its place.

'Good evening, Mr Headstone. Mary Anne, a chair.'

'Thank you,' said Bradley, seating himself in his constrained
manner. 'This is but a flying visit. I have looked in, on my way, to
ask a kindness of you as a neighbour.'

'Did you say on your way, Mr Headstone?' asked Miss Peecher.

'On my way to--where I am going.'

'Church Street, Smith Square, by Mill Bank,' repeated Miss
Peecher, in her own thoughts.

'Charley Hexam has gone to get a book or two he wants, and will
probably be back before me. As we leave my house empty, I took
the liberty of telling him I would leave the key here. Would you
kindly allow me to do so?'

'Certainly, Mr Headstone. Going for an evening walk, sir?'

'Partly for a walk, and partly for--on business.'

'Business in Church Street, Smith Square, by Mill Bank,' repeated
Miss Peecher to herself.

'Having said which,' pursued Bradley, laying his door-key on the
table, 'I must be already going. There is nothing I can do for you,
Miss Peecher?'

'Thank you, Mr Headstone. In which direction?'

'In the direction of Westminster.'

'Mill Bank,' Miss Peecher repeated in her own thoughts once
again. 'No, thank you, Mr Headstone; I'll not trouble you.'

'You couldn't trouble me,' said the schoolmaster.

'Ah!' returned Miss Peecher, though not aloud; 'but you can
trouble ME!' And for all her quiet manner, and her quiet smile,
she was full of trouble as he went his way.


She was right touching his destination. He held as straight a
course for the house of the dolls' dressmaker as the wisdom of his
ancestors, exemplified in the construction of the intervening
streets, would let him, and walked with a bent head hammering at
one fixed idea. It had been an immoveable idea since he first set
eyes upon her. It seemed to him as if all that he could suppress in
himself he had suppressed, as if all that he could restrain in
himself he had restrained, and the time had come--in a rush, in a
moment--when the power of self-command had departed from
him. Love at first sight is a trite expression quite sufficiently
discussed; enough that in certain smouldering natures like this
man's, that passion leaps into a blaze, and makes such head as fire
does in a rage of wind, when other passions, but for its mastery,
could be held in chains. As a multitude of weak, imitative natures
are always lying by, ready to go mad upon the next wrong idea
that may be broached--in these times, generally some form of
tribute to Somebody for something that never was done, or, if ever
done, that was done by Somebody Else--so these less ordinary
natures may lie by for years, ready on the touch of an instant to
burst into flame.

The schoolmaster went his way, brooding and brooding, and a
sense of being vanquished in a struggle might have been pieced
out of his worried face. Truly, in his breast there lingered a
resentful shame to find himself defeated by this passion for
Charley Hexam's sister, though in the very self-same moments he
was concentrating himself upon the object of bringing the passion
to a successful issue.

He appeared before the dolls' dressmaker, sitting alone at her
work. 'Oho!' thought that sharp young personage, 'it's you, is it?
know your tricks and your manners, my friend!'

'Hexam's sister,' said Bradley Headstone, 'is not come home yet?'

'You are quite a conjuror,' returned Miss Wren.

'I will wait, if you please, for I want to speak to her.'

'Do you?' returned Miss Wren. 'Sit down. I hope it's mutual.'
Bradley glanced distrustfully at the shrewd face again bending
over the work, and said, trying to conquer doubt and hesitation:

'I hope you don't imply that my visit will be unacceptable to
Hexam's sister?'

'There! Don't call her that. I can't bear you to call her that,'
returned Miss Wren, snapping her fingers in a volley of impatient
snaps, 'for I don't like Hexam.'

'Indeed?'

'No.' Miss Wren wrinkled her nose, to express dislike. 'Selfish.
Thinks only of himself. The way with all of you.'

'The way with all of us? Then you don't like ME?'

'So-so,' replied Miss Wren, with a shrug and a laugh. 'Don't know
much about you.'

'But I was not aware it was the way with all of us,' said Bradley,
returning to the accusation, a little injured. 'Won't you say, some
of us?'


'Meaning,' returned the little creature, 'every one of you, but you.
Hah! Now look this lady in the face. This is Mrs Truth. The
Honourable. Full-dressed.'

Bradley glanced at the doll she held up for his observation--which
had been lying on its face on her bench, while with a needle and
thread she fastened the dress on at the back--and looked from it to
her.

'I stand the Honourable Mrs T. on my bench in this corner against
the wall, where her blue eyes can shine upon you,' pursued Miss
Wren, doing so, and making two little dabs at him in the air with
her needle, as if she pricked him with it in his own eyes; 'and I
defy you to tell me, with Mrs T. for a witness, what you have
come here for.'

'To see Hexam's sister.'

'You don't say so!' retorted Miss Wren, hitching her chin. 'But on
whose account?'

'Her own.'

'O Mrs T.!' exclaimed Miss Wren. 'You hear him!'

'To reason with her,' pursued Bradley, half humouring what was
present, and half angry with what was not present; 'for her own
sake.'

'Oh Mrs T.!' exclaimed the dressmaker.

'For her own sake,' repeated Bradley, warming, 'and for her
brother's, and as a perfectly disinterested person.'

'Really, Mrs T.,' remarked the dressmaker, 'since it comes to this,
we must positively turn you with your face to the wall.' She had
hardly done so, when Lizzie Hexam arrived, and showed some
surprise on seeing Bradley Headstone there, and Jenny shaking
her little fist at him close before her eyes, and the Honourable Mrs

T. with her face to the wall.
'Here's a perfectly disinterested person, Lizzie dear,' said the
knowing Miss Wren, 'come to talk with you, for your own sake
and your brother's. Think of that. I am sure there ought to be no
third party present at anything so very kind and so very serious;
and so, if you'll remove the third party upstairs, my dear, the third
party will retire.'

Lizzie took the hand which the dolls' dressmaker held out to her
for the purpose of being supported away, but only looked at her
with an inquiring smile, and made no other movement.

'The third party hobbles awfully, you know, when she's left to
herself;' said Miss Wren, 'her back being so bad, and her legs so
queer; so she can't retire gracefully unless you help her, Lizzie.'

'She can do no better than stay where she is,' returned Lizzie,
releasing the hand, and laying her own lightly on Miss Jenny's
curls. And then to Bradley: 'From Charley, sir?'

In an irresolute way, and stealing a clumsy look at her, Bradley
rose to place a chair for her, and then returned to his own.

'Strictly speaking,' said he, 'I come from Charley, because I left


him only a little while ago; but I am not commissioned by Charley.
I come of my own spontaneous act.'

With her elbows on her bench, and her chin upon her hands, Miss
Jenny Wren sat looking at him with a watchful sidelong look.
Lizzie, in her different way, sat looking at him too.

'The fact is,' began Bradley, with a mouth so dry that he had some
difficulty in articulating his words: the consciousness of which
rendered his manner still more ungainly and undecided; 'the truth
is, that Charley, having no secrets from me (to the best of my
belief), has confided the whole of this matter to me.'

He came to a stop, and Lizzie asked: 'what matter, sir?'

'I thought,' returned the schoolmaster, stealing another look at her,
and seeming to try in vain to sustain it; for the look dropped as it
lighted on her eyes, 'that it might be so superfluous as to be almost
impertinent, to enter upon a definition of it. My allusion was to
this matter of your having put aside your brother's plans for you,
and given the preference to those of Mr--I believe the name is Mr
Eugene Wrayburn.'

He made this point of not being certain of the name, with another
uneasy look at her, which dropped like the last.

Nothing being said on the other side, he had to begin again, and
began with new embarrassment.

'Your brother's plans were communicated to me when he first had
them in his thoughts. In point of fact he spoke to me about them
when I was last here--when we were walking back together, and
when I--when the impression was fresh upon me of having seen
his sister.'

There might have been no meaning in it, but the little dressmaker
here removed one of her supporting hands from her chin, and
musingly turned the Honourable Mrs T. with her face to the
company. That done, she fell into her former attitude.

'I approved of his idea,' said Bradley, with his uneasy look
wandering to the doll, and unconsciously resting there longer than
it had rested on Lizzie, 'both because your brother ought naturally
to be the originator of any such scheme, and because I hoped to
be able to promote it. I should have had inexpressible pleasure, I
should have taken inexpressible interest, in promoting it.
Therefore I must acknowledge that when your brother was
disappointed, I too was disappointed. I wish to avoid reservation
or concealment, and I fully acknowledge that.'

He appeared to have encouraged himself by having got so far. At
all events he went on with much greater firmness and force of
emphasis: though with a curious disposition to set his teeth, and
with a curious tight-screwing movement of his right hand in the
clenching palm of his left, like the action of one who was being
physically hurt, and was unwilling to cry out.

'I am a man of strong feelings, and I have strongly felt this
disappointment. I do strongly feel it. I don't show what I feel;
some of us are obliged habitually to keep it down. To keep it
down. But to return to your brother. He has taken the matter so
much to heart that he has remonstrated (in my presence he
remonstrated) with Mr Eugene Wrayburn, if that be the name. He
did so, quite ineffectually. As any one not blinded to the real


character of Mr--Mr Eugene Wrayburn--would readily suppose.'

He looked at Lizzie again, and held the look. And his face turned
from burning red to white, and from white back to burning red,
and so for the time to lasting deadly white.

'Finally, I resolved to come here alone, and appeal to you. I
resolved to come here alone, and entreat you to retract the course
you have chosen, and instead of confiding in a mere stranger--a
person of most insolent behaviour to your brother and others--to
prefer your brother and your brother's friend.'

Lizzie Hexam had changed colour when those changes came over
him, and her face now expressed some anger, more dislike, and
even a touch of fear. But she answered him very steadily.

'I cannot doubt, Mr Headstone, that your visit is well meant. You
have been so good a friend to Charley that I have no right to
doubt it. I have nothing to tell Charley, but that I accepted the
help to which he so much objects before he made any plans for
me; or certainly before I knew of any. It was considerately and
delicately offered, and there were reasons that had weight with me
which should be as dear to Charley as to me. I have no more to
say to Charley on this subject.'

His lips trembled and stood apart, as he followed this repudiation
of himself; and limitation of her words to her brother.

'I should have told Charley, if he had come to me,' she resumed, as
though it were an after-thought, 'that Jenny and I find our teacher
very able and very patient, and that she takes great pains with us.
So much so, that we have said to her we hope in a very little while
to be able to go on by ourselves. Charley knows about teachers,
and I should also have told him, for his satisfaction, that ours
comes from an institution where teachers are regularly brought
up.'

'I should like to ask you,' said Bradley Headstone, grinding his
words slowly out, as though they came from a rusty mill; 'I should
like to ask you, if I may without offence, whether you would have
objected--no; rather, I should like to say, if I may without offence,
that I wish I had had the opportunity of coming here with your
brother and devoting my poor abilities and experience to your
service.'

'Thank you, Mr Headstone.'

'But I fear,' he pursued, after a pause, furtively wrenching at the
seat of his chair with one hand, as if he would have wrenched the
chair to pieces, and gloomily observing her while her eyes were
cast down, 'that my humble services would not have found much
favour with you?'

She made no reply, and the poor stricken wretch sat contending
with himself in a heat of passion and torment. After a while he
took out his handkerchief and wiped his forehead and hands.

'There is only one thing more I had to say, but it is the most
important. There is a reason against this matter, there is a
personal relation concerned in this matter, not yet explained to
you. It might--I don't say it would--it might--induce you to think
differently. To proceed under the present circumstances is out of
the question. Will you please come to the understanding that
there shall be another interview on the subject?'


'With Charley, Mr Headstone?'

'With--well,' he answered, breaking off, 'yes! Say with him too.
Will you please come to the understanding that there must be
another interview under more favourable circumstances, before
the whole case can be submitted?'

'I don't,' said Lizzie, shaking her head, 'understand your meaning,
Mr Headstone.'

'Limit my meaning for the present,' he interrupted, 'to the whole
case being submitted to you in another interview.'

'What case, Mr Headstone? What is wanting to it?'

'You--you shall be informed in the other interview.' Then he said,
as if in a burst of irrepressible despair, 'I--I leave it all incomplete!
There is a spell upon me, I think!' And then added, almost as if he
asked for pity, 'Good-night!'

He held out his hand. As she, with manifest hesitation, not to say
reluctance, touched it, a strange tremble passed over him, and his
face, so deadly white, was moved as by a stroke of pain. Then he
was gone.

The dolls' dressmaker sat with her attitude unchanged, eyeing the
door by which he had departed, until Lizzie pushed her bench
aside and sat down near her. Then, eyeing Lizzie as she had
previously eyed Bradley and the door, Miss Wren chopped that
very sudden and keen chop in which her jaws sometimes indulged,
leaned back in her chair with folded arms, and thus expressed
herself:

'Humph! If he--I mean, of course, my dear, the party who is
coming to court me when the time comes--should be THAT sort of
man, he may spare himself the trouble. HE wouldn't do to be
trotted about and made useful. He'd take fire and blow up while
he was about it.

'And so you would be rid of him,' said Lizzie, humouring her.

'Not so easily,' returned Miss Wren. 'He wouldn't blow up alone.
He'd carry me up with him. I know his tricks and his manners.'

'Would he want to hurt you, do you mean?' asked Lizzie.

'Mightn't exactly want to do it, my dear,' returned Miss Wren; 'but
a lot of gunpowder among lighted lucifer-matches in the next
room might almost as well be here.'

'He is a very strange man,' said Lizzie, thoughtfully.

'I wish he was so very strange a man as to be a total stranger,'
answered the sharp little thing.

It being Lizzie's regular occupation when they were alone of an
evening to brush out and smooth the long fair hair of the dolls'
dressmaker, she unfastened a ribbon that kept it back while the
little creature was at her work, and it fell in a beautiful shower
over the poor shoulders that were much in need of such adorning
rain. 'Not now, Lizzie, dear,' said Jenny; 'let us have a talk by the
fire.' With those words, she in her turn loosened her friend's dark
hair, and it dropped of its own weight over her bosom, in two rich


masses. Pretending to compare the colours and admire the
contrast, Jenny so managed a mere touch or two of her nimble
hands, as that she herself laying a cheek on one of the dark folds,
seemed blinded by her own clustering curls to all but the fire,
while the fine handsome face and brow of Lizzie were revealed
without obstruction in the sombre light.

'Let us have a talk,' said Jenny, 'about Mr Eugene Wrayburn.'

Something sparkled down among the fair hair resting on the dark
hair; and if it were not a star--which it couldn't be--it was an eye;
and if it were an eye, it was Jenny Wren's eye, bright and watchful
as the bird's whose name she had taken.

'Why about Mr Wrayburn?' Lizzie asked.

'For no better reason than because I'm in the humour. I wonder
whether he's rich!'

'No, not rich.'

'Poor?'

'I think so, for a gentleman.'

'Ah! To be sure! Yes, he's a gentleman. Not of our sort; is he?'
A shake of the head, a thoughtful shake of the head, and the
answer, softly spoken, 'Oh no, oh no!'

The dolls' dressmaker had an arm round her friend's waist.
Adjusting the arm, she slyly took the opportunity of blowing at her
own hair where it fell over her face; then the eye down there,
under lighter shadows sparkled more brightly and appeared more
watchful.

'When He turns up, he shan't be a gentleman; I'll very soon send
him packing, if he is. However, he's not Mr Wrayburn; I haven't
captivated HIM. I wonder whether anybody has, Lizzie!'

'It is very likely.'

'Is it very likely? I wonder who!'

'Is it not very likely that some lady has been taken by him, and
that he may love her dearly?'

'Perhaps. I don't know. What would you think of him, Lizzie, if
you were a lady?'

'I a lady!' she repeated, laughing. 'Such a fancy!'

'Yes. But say: just as a fancy, and for instance.'

'I a lady! I, a poor girl who used to row poor father on the river.
I, who had rowed poor father out and home on the very night
when I saw him for the first time. I, who was made so timid by his
looking at me, that I got up and went out!'

('He did look at you, even that night, though you were not a lady!'
thought Miss Wren.)

'I a lady!' Lizzie went on in a low voice, with her eyes upon the
fire. 'I, with poor father's grave not even cleared of undeserved
stain and shame, and he trying to clear it for me! I a lady!'


'Only as a fancy, and for instance,' urged Miss Wren.

'Too much, Jenny, dear, too much! My fancy is not able to get
that far.' As the low fire gleamed upon her, it showed her smiling,
mournfully and abstractedly.

'But I am in the humour, and I must be humoured, Lizzie, because
after all I am a poor little thing, and have had a hard day with my
bad child. Look in the fire, as I like to hear you tell how you used
to do when you lived in that dreary old house that had once been
a windmill. Look in the--what was its name when you told
fortunes with your brother that I DON'T like?'

'The hollow down by the flare?'

'Ah! That's the name! You can find a lady there, I know.'

'More easily than I can make one of such material as myself,
Jenny.'

The sparkling eye looked steadfastly up, as the musing face
looked thoughtfully down. 'Well?' said the dolls' dressmaker, 'We
have found our lady?'

Lizzie nodded, and asked, 'Shall she be rich?'

'She had better be, as he's poor.'

'She is very rich. Shall she be handsome?'

'Even you can be that, Lizzie, so she ought to be.'

'She is very handsome.'

'What does she say about him?' asked Miss Jenny, in a low voice:
watchful, through an intervening silence, of the face looking down
at the fire.

'She is glad, glad, to be rich, that he may have the money. She is
glad, glad, to be beautiful, that he may be proud of her. Her poor
heart--'

'Eh? Her poor hear?' said Miss Wren.

'Her heart--is given him, with all its love and truth. She would
joyfully die with him, or, better than that, die for him. She knows
he has failings, but she thinks they have grown up through his
being like one cast away, for the want of something to trust in, and
care for, and think well of. And she says, that lady rich and
beautiful that I can never come near, Only put me in that empty
placeonly try how little I mind myselfonly prove what a world
of things I will do and bear for youand I hope that you might
even come to be much better than you arethrough me who am so
much worseand hardly worth the thinking of beside you."'

As the face looking at the fire had become exalted and forgetful in
the rapture of these wordsthe little creatureopenly clearing
away her fair hair with her disengaged handhad gazed at it with
earnest attention and something like alarm. Now that the speaker
ceasedthe little creature laid down her head againand moaned
'O meO meO me!'

'In paindear Jenny?' asked Lizzieas if awakened.


'Yesbut not the old pain. Lay me downlay me down. Don't go
out of my sight to-night. Lock the door and keep close to me.
Then turning away her faceshe said in a whisper to herself'My
Lizziemy poor Lizzie! O my blessed childrencome back in the
long bright slanting rowsand come for hernot me. She wants
help more than Imy blessed children!'

She had stretched her hands up with that higher and better look
and now she turned againand folded them round Lizzie's neck
and rocked herself on Lizzie's breast.

Chapter 12

MORE BIRDS OF PREY

Rogue Riderhood dwelt deep and dark in Limehouse Holeamong
the riggersand the mastoar and block makersand the boatbuilders
and the sail-loftsas in a kind of ship's hold stored full of
waterside characterssome no better than himselfsome very
much betterand none much worse. The Holealbeit in a general
way not over nice in its choice of companywas rather shy in
reference to the honour of cultivating the Rogue's acquaintance;
more frequently giving him the cold shoulder than the warm hand
and seldom or never drinking with him unless at his own expense.
A part of the Holeindeedcontained so much public spirit and
private virtue that not even this strong leverage could move it to
good fellowship with a tainted accuser. Butthere may have been
the drawback on this magnanimous moralitythat its exponents
held a true witness before Justice to be the next unneighbourly
and accursed character to a false one.

Had it not been for the daughter whom he often mentionedMr
Riderhood might have found the Hole a mere grave as to any
means it would yield him of getting a living. But Miss Pleasant
Riderhood had some little position and connection in Limehouse
Hole. Upon the smallest of small scalesshe was an unlicensed
pawnbrokerkeeping what was popularly called a Leaving Shop
by lending insignificant sums on insignificant articles of property
deposited with her as security. In her four-and-twentieth year of
lifePleasant was already in her fifth year of this way of trade.
Her deceased mother had established the businessand on that
parent's demise she had appropriated a secret capital of fifteen
shillings to establishing herself in it; the existence of such capital
in a pillow being the last intelligible confidential communication
made to her by the departedbefore succumbing to dropsical
conditions of snuff and ginincompatible equally with coherence
and existence.

Why christened Pleasantthe late Mrs Riderhood might possibly
have been at some time able to explainand possibly not. Her
daughter had no information on that point. Pleasant she found
herselfand she couldn't help it. She had not been consulted on
the questionany more than on the question of her coming into
these terrestrial partsto want a name. Similarlyshe found
herself possessed of what is colloquially termed a swivel eye
(derived from her father)which she might perhaps have declined
if her sentiments on the subject had been taken. She was not
otherwise positively ill-lookingthough anxiousmeagreof a
muddy complexionand looking as old again as she really was.


As some dogs have it in the bloodor are trainedto worry certain
creatures to a certain pointso--not to make the comparison
disrespectfially--Pleasant Riderhood had it in the bloodor had
been trainedto regard seamenwithin certain limitsas her prey.
Show her a man in a blue jacketandfiguratively speakingshe
pinned him instantly. Yetall things consideredshe was not of an
evil mind or an unkindly disposition. Forobserve how many
things were to be considered according to her own unfortunate
experience. Show Pleasant Riderhood a Wedding in the street
and she only saw two people taking out a regular licence to
quarrel and fight. Show her a Christeningand she saw a little
heathen personage having a quite superfluous name bestowed
upon itinasmuch as it would be commonly addressed by some
abusive epithet: which little personage was not in the least wanted
by anybodyand would be shoved and banged out of everybody's
wayuntil it should grow big enough to shove and bang. Show her
a Funeraland she saw an unremunerative ceremony in the nature
of a black masqueradeconferring a temporary gentility on the
performersat an immense expenseand representing the only
formal party ever given by the deceased. Show her a live father
and she saw but a duplicate of her own fatherwho from her
infancy had been taken with fits and starts of discharging his duty
to herwhich duty was always incorporated in the form of a fist or
a leathern strapand being discharged hurt her. All things
consideredthereforePleasant Riderhood was not so veryvery
bad. There was even a touch of romance in her--of such romance
as could creep into Limehouse Hole--and maybe sometimes of a
summer eveningwhen she stood with folded arms at her shopdoor
looking from the reeking street to the sky where the sun was
settingshe may have had some vaporous visions of far-off islands
in the southern seas or elsewhere (not being geographically
particular)where it would be good to roam with a congenial
partner among groves of bread-fruitwaiting for ships to be wafted
from the hollow ports of civilization. Forsailors to be got the
better ofwere essential to Miss Pleasant's Eden.

Not on a summer evening did she come to her little shop-door
when a certain man standing over against the house on the
opposite side of the street took notice of her. That was on a cold
shrewd windy eveningafter dark. Pleasant Riderhood shared
with most of the lady inhabitants of the Holethe peculiarity that
her hair was a ragged knotconstantly coming down behindand
that she never could enter upon any undertaking without first
twisting it into place. At that particular momentbeing newly
come to the threshold to take a look out of doorsshe was winding
herself up with both hands after this fashion. And so prevalent
was the fashionthat on the occasion of a fight or other
disturbance in the Holethe ladies would be seen flocking from all
quarters universally twisting their back-hair as they came along
and many of themin the hurry of the momentcarrying their
back-combs in their mouths.

It was a wretched little shopwith a roof that any man standing in
it could touch with his hand; little better than a cellar or cave
down three steps. Yet in its ill-lighted windowamong a flaring
handkerchief or twoan old peacoat or soa few valueless
watches and compassesa jar of tobacco and two crossed pipesa
bottle of walnut ketchupand some horrible sweets these creature
discomforts serving as a blind to the main business of the Leaving
Shop--was displayed the inscription SEAMAN'S BOARDING-HOUSE.

Taking notice of Pleasant Riderhood at the doorthe man crossed
so quickly that she was still winding herself upwhen he stood
close before her.


'Is your father at home?' said he.

'I think he is' returned Pleasantdropping her arms; 'come in.'

It was a tentative replythe man having a seafaring appearance.
Her father was not at homeand Pleasant knew it. 'Take a seat by
the fire' were her hospitable words when she had got him in; 'men
of your calling are always welcome here.'

'Thankee' said the man.

His manner was the manner of a sailorand his hands were the
hands of a sailorexcept that they were smooth. Pleasant had an
eye for sailorsand she noticed the unused colour and texture of
the handssunburnt though they wereas sharply as she noticed
their unmistakable loosneness and supplenessas he sat himself
down with his left arm carelessly thrown across his left leg a little
above the kneeand the right arm as carelessly thrown over the
elbow of the wooden chairwith the hand curvedhalf open and
half shutas if it had just let go a rope.

'Might you be looking for a Boarding-House?' Pleasant inquired
taking her observant stand on one side of the fire.

'I don't rightly know my plans yet' returned the man.

'You ain't looking for a Leaving Shop?'

'No' said the man.

'No' assented Pleasant'you've got too much of an outfit on you
for that. But if you should want eitherthis is both.'

'Ayay!' said the manglancing round the place. 'I know. I've
been here before.'

'Did you Leave anything when you were here before?' asked
Pleasantwith a view to principal and interest.

'No.' The man shook his head.

'I am pretty sure you never boarded here?'

'No.' The man again shook his head.

'What DID you do here when you were here before?' asked
Pleasant. 'For I don't remember you.'

'It's not at all likely you should. I only stood at the doorone
night--on the lower step there--while a shipmate of mine looked in
to speak to your father. I remember the place well.' Looking very
curiously round it.

'Might that have been long ago?'

'Aya goodish bit ago. When I came off my last voyage.'

'Then you have not been to sea lately?'

'No. Been in the sick bay since thenand been employed ashore.'

'Thento be surethat accounts for your hands.'


The man with a keen looka quick smileand a change of manner
caught her up. 'You're a good observer. Yes. That accounts for
my hands.'

Pleasant was somewhat disquieted by his lookand returned it
suspiciously. Not only was his change of mannerthough very
suddenquite collectedbut his former mannerwhich he resumed
had a certain suppressed confidence and sense of power in it that
were half threatening.

'Will your father be long?' he inquired.

'I don't know. I can't say.'

'As you supposed he was at homeit would seem that he has just
gone out? How's that?'

'I supposed he had come home' Pleasant explained.

'Oh! You supposed he had come home? Then he has been some
time out? How's that?'

'I don't want to deceive you. Father's on the river in his boat.'

'At the old work?' asked the man.

'I don't know what you mean' said Pleasantshrinking a step back.
'What on earth d'ye want?'

'I don't want to hurt your father. I don't want to say I mightif I
chose. I want to speak to him. Not much in thatis there? There
shall be no secrets from you; you shall be by. And plainlyMiss
Riderhoodthere's nothing to be got out of meor made of me. I
am not good for the Leaving ShopI am not good for the
Boarding-HouseI am not good for anything in your way to the
extent of sixpenn'orth of halfpence. Put the idea asideand we
shall get on together.'

'But you're a seafaring man?' argued Pleasantas if that were a
sufficient reason for his being good for something in her way.

'Yes and no. I have beenand I may be again. But I am not for
you. Won't you take my word for it?'

The conversation had arrived at a crisis to justify Miss Pleasant's
hair in tumbling down. It tumbled down accordinglyand she
twisted it uplooking from under her bent forehead at the man. In
taking stock of his familiarly worn rough-weather nautical clothes
piece by pieceshe took stock of a formidable knife in a sheath at
his waist ready to his handand of a whistle hanging round his
neckand of a short jagged knotted club with a loaded head that
peeped out of a pocket of his loose outer jacket or frock. He sat
quietly looking at her; butwith these appendages partially
revealing themselvesand with a quantity of bristling oakumcoloured
head and whiskerhe had a formidable appearance.

'Won't you take my word for it?' he asked again.

Pleasant answered with a short dumb nod. He rejoined with
another short dumb nod. Then he got up and stood with his arms
foldedin front of the firelooking down into it occasionallyas
she stood with her arms foldedleaning against the side of the
chimney-piece.


'To wile away the time till your father comes' he said--'pray is
there much robbing and murdering of seamen about the water-side
now?'

'No' said Pleasant.

'Any?'

'Complaints of that sort are sometimes madeabout Ratcliffe and
Wapping and up that way. But who knows how many are true?'

'To be sure. And it don't seem necessary.'

'That's what I say' observed Pleasant. 'Where's the reason for it?
Bless the sailorsit ain't as if they ever could keep what they have
without it.'

'You're right. Their money may be soon got out of themwithout
violence' said the man.

'Of course it may' said Pleasant; 'and then they ship again and get
more. And the best thing for 'emtooto ship again as soon as
ever they can be brought to it. They're never so well off as when
they're afloat.'

'I'll tell you why I ask' pursued the visitorlooking up from the
fire. 'I was once beset that way myselfand left for dead.'

'No?' said Pleasant. 'Where did it happen?'

'It happened' returned the manwith a ruminative airas he drew
his right hand across his chinand dipped the other in the pocket
of his rough outer coat'it happened somewhere about here as I
reckon. I don't think it can have been a mile from here.'

'Were you drunk?' asked Pleasant.

'I was muddledbut not with fair drinking. I had not been
drinkingyou understand. A mouthful did it.'

Pleasant with a grave look shook her head; importing that she
understood the processbut decidedly disapproved.

'Fair trade is one thing' said she'but that's another. No one has a
right to carry on with Jack in THAT way.'

'The sentiment does you credit' returned the manwith a grim
smile; and addedin a mutter'the more soas I believe it's not
your father's.--YesI had a bad time of itthat time. I lost
everythingand had a sharp struggle for my lifeweak as I was.'

'Did you get the parties punished?' asked Pleasant.

'A tremendous punishment followed' said the manmore
seriously; 'but it was not of my bringing about.'

'Of whosethen?' asked Pleasant.

The man pointed upward with his forefingerandslowly
recovering that handsettled his chin in it again as he looked at the
fire. Bringing her inherited eye to bear upon himPleasant
Riderhood felt more and more uncomfortablehis manner was so
mysteriousso sternso self-possessed.


'Anyways' said the damsel'I am glad punishment followedand I
say so. Fair trade with seafaring men gets a bad name through
deeds of violence. I am as much against deeds of violence being
done to seafaring menas seafaring men can be themselves. I am
of the same opinion as my mother waswhen she was living. Fair
trademy mother used to saybut no robbery and no blows.' In
the way of trade Miss Pleasant would have taken--and indeed did
take when she could--as much as thirty shillings a week for board
that would be dear at fiveand likewise conducted the Leaving
business upon correspondingly equitable principles; yet she had
that tenderness of conscience and those feelings of humanitythat
the moment her ideas of trade were oversteppedshe became the
seaman's championeven against her father whom she seldom
otherwise resisted.

Butshe was here interrupted by her father's voice exclaiming
angrily'NowPoll Parrot!' and by her father's hat being heavily
flung from his hand and striking her face. Accustomed to such
occasional manifestations of his sense of parental dutyPleasant
merely wiped her face on her hair (which of course had tumbled
down) before she twisted it up. This was another common
procedure on the part of the ladies of the Holewhen heated by
verbal or fistic altercation.

'Blest if I believe such a Poll Parrot as you was ever learned to
speak!' growled Mr Riderhoodstooping to pick up his hatand
making a feint at her with his head and right elbow; for he took
the delicate subject of robbing seamen in extraordinary dudgeon
and was out of humour too. 'What are you Poll Parroting at now?
Ain't you got nothing to do but fold your arms and stand a Poll
Parroting all night?'

'Let her alone' urged the man. 'She was only speaking to me.'

'Let her alone too!' retorted Mr Riderhoodeyeing him all over.
'Do you know she's my daughter?'

'Yes.'

'And don't you know that I won't have no Poll Parroting on the
part of my daughter? Nonor yet that I won't take no Poll
Parroting from no man? And who may YOU beand what may
YOU want?'

'How can I tell you until you are silent?' returned the other
fiercely.

'Well' said Mr Riderhoodquailing a little'I am willing to be
silent for the purpose of hearing. But don't Poll Parrot me.'

'Are you thirstyyou?' the man askedin the same fierce short
wayafter returning his look.

'Why nat'rally' said Mr Riderhood'ain't I always thirsty!'
(Indignant at the absurdity of the question.)

'What will you drink?' demanded the man.

'Sherry wine' returned Mr Riderhoodin the same sharp tone'if
you're capable of it.'

The man put his hand in his pockettook out half a sovereignand
begged the favour of Miss Pleasant that she would fetch a bottle.
'With the cork undrawn' he addedemphaticallylooking at her


father.

'I'll take my Alfred David' muttered Mr Riderhoodslowly
relaxing into a dark smile'that you know a move. Do I know
YOU? N--n--noI don't know you.'

The man replied'Noyou don't know me.' And so they stood
looking at one another surlily enoughuntil Pleasant came back.

'There's small glasses on the shelf' said Riderhood to his daughter.
'Give me the one without a foot. I gets my living by the sweat of
my browand it's good enough for ME.' This had a modest selfdenying
appearance; but it soon turned out that asby reason of
the impossibility of standing the glass upright while there was
anything in itit required to be emptied as soon as filledMr
Riderhood managed to drink in the proportion of three to one.

With his Fortunatus's goblet ready in his handMr Riderhood sat
down on one side of the table before the fireand the strange man
on the other: Pleasant occupying a stool between the latter and the
fireside. The backgroundcomposed of handkerchiefscoats
shirtshatsand other old articles 'On Leaving' had a general dim
resemblance to human listeners; especially where a shiny black
sou'wester suit and hat hunglooking very like a clumsy mariner
with his back to the companywho was so curious to overhear
that he paused for the purpose with his coat half pulled onand his
shoulders up to his ears in the uncompleted action.

The visitor first held the bottle against the light of the candleand
next examined the top of the cork. Satisfied that it had not been
tampered withhe slowly took from his breastpocket a rusty claspknife
andwith a corkscrew in the handleopened the wine. That
donehe looked at the corkunscrewed it from the corkscrewlaid
each separately on the tableandwith the end of the sailor's knot
of his neckerchiefdusted the inside of the neck of the bottle. All
this with great deliberation.

At first Riderhood had sat with his footless glass extended at arm's
length for fillingwhile the very deliberate stranger seemed
absorbed in his preparations. Butgradually his arm reverted
home to himand his glass was lowered and lowered until he
rested it upside down upon the table. By the same degrees his
attention became concentrated on the knife. And nowas the man
held out the bottle to fill all roundRiderhood stood upleaned
over the table to look closer at the knifeand stared from it to him.

'What's the matter?' asked the man.

'WhyI know that knife!' said Riderhood.

'YesI dare say you do.'

He motioned to him to hold up his glassand filled it. Riderhood
emptied it to the last drop and began again.

'That there knife--'

'Stop' said the mancomposedly. 'I was going to drink to your
daughter. Your healthMiss Riderhood.'

'That knife was the knife of a seaman named George Radfoot.'

'It was.'


'That seaman was well beknown to me.'

'He was.'

'What's come to him?'

'Death has come to him. Death came to him in an ugly shape. He
looked' said the man'very horrible after it.'

'Arter what?' said Riderhoodwith a frowning stare.

'After he was killed.'

'Killed? Who killed him?'

Only answering with a shrugthe man filled the footless glassand
Riderhood emptied it: looking amazedly from his daughter to his
visitor.

'You don't mean to tell a honest man--' he was recommencing with
his empty glass in his handwhen his eye became fascinated by
the stranger's outer coat. He leaned across the table to see it
nearertouched the sleeveturned the cuff to look at the sleevelining
(the manin his perfect composureoffering not the least
objection)and exclaimed'It's my belief as this here coat was
George Radfoot's too!'

'You are right. He wore it the last time you ever saw himand the
last time you ever will see him--in this world.'

'It's my belief you mean to tell me to my face you killed him!'
exclaimed Riderhood; butneverthelessallowing his glass to be
filled again.

The man only answered with another shrugand showed no
symptom of confusion.

'Wish I may die if I know what to be up to with this chap!' said
Riderhoodafter staring at himand tossing his last glassful down
his throat. 'Let's know what to make of you. Say something
plain.'

'I will' returned the otherleaning forward across the tableand
speaking in a low impressive voice. 'What a liar you are!'

The honest witness roseand made as though he would fling his
glass in the man's face. The man not wincingand merely shaking
his forefinger half knowinglyhalf menacinglythe piece of
honesty thought better of it and sat down againputting the glass
down too.

'And when you went to that lawyer yonder in the Temple with that
invented story' said the strangerin an exasperatingly comfortable
sort of confidence'you might have had your strong suspicions of
a friend of your ownyou know. I think you hadyou know.'

'Me my suspicions? Of what friend?'

'Tell me again whose knife was this?' demanded the man.

'It was possessed byand was the property of--him as I have made
mention on' said Riderhoodstupidly evading the actual mention
of the name.


'Tell me again whose coat was this?'

'That there article of clothing likeways belonged toand was wore
by--him as I have made mention on' was again the dull Old Bailey
evasion.

'I suspect that you gave him the credit of the deedand of keeping
cleverly out of the way. But there was small cleverness in HIS
keeping out of the way. The cleverness would have beento have
got back for one single instant to the light of the sun.'

'Things is come to a pretty pass' growled Mr Riderhoodrising to
his feetgoaded to stand at bay'when bullyers as is wearing dead
men's clothesand bullyers as is armed with dead men's knivesis
to come into the houses of honest live mengetting their livings by
the sweats of their browsand is to make these here sort of
charges with no rhyme and no reasonneither the one nor yet the
other! Why should I have had my suspicions of him?'

'Because you knew him' replied the man; 'because you had been
one with himand knew his real character under a fair outside;
because on the night which you had afterwards reason to believe
to be the very night of the murderhe came in herewithin an hour
of his having left his ship in the docksand asked you in what
lodgings he could find room. Was there no stranger with him?'

'I'll take my world-without-end everlasting Alfred David that you
warn't with him' answered Riderhood. 'You talk bigyou dobut
things look pretty black against yourselfto my thinking. You
charge again' me that George Radfoot got lost sight ofand was no
more thought of. What's that for a sailor? Why there's fifty such
out of sight and out of mindten times as long as him--through
entering in different namesre-shipping when the out'ard voyage is
madeand what not--a turning up to light every day about here
and no matter made of it. Ask my daughter. You could go on Poll
Parroting enough with herwhen I warn't come in: Poll Parrot a
little with her on this pint. You and your suspicions of my
suspicions of him! What are my suspicions of you? You tell me
George Radfoot got killed. I ask you who done it and how you
know it. You carry his knife and you wear his coat. I ask you
how you come by 'em? Hand over that there bottle!' Here Mr
Riderhood appeared to labour under a virtuous delusion that it
was his own property. 'And you' he addedturning to his
daughteras he filled the footless glass'if it warn't wasting good
sherry wine on youI'd chuck this at youfor Poll Parroting with
this man. It's along of Poll Parroting that such like as him gets
their suspicionswhereas I gets mine by argueymentand being
nat'rally a honest manand sweating away at the brow as a honest
man ought.' Here he filled the footless goblet againand stood
chewing one half of its contents and looking down into the other
as he slowly rolled the wine about in the glass; while Pleasant
whose sympathetic hair had come down on her being
apostrophisedrearranged itmuch in the style of the tail of a
horse when proceeding to market to be sold.

'Well? Have you finished?' asked the strange man.

'No' said Riderhood'I ain't. Far from it. Now then! I want to
know how George Radfoot come by his deathand how you come
by his kit?'

'If you ever do knowyou won't know now.'

'And next I want to know' proceeded Riderhood 'whether you


mean to charge that what-you-may-call-it-murder--'

'Harmon murderfather' suggested Pleasant.

'No Poll Parroting!' he vociferatedin return. 'Keep your mouth
shut!--I want to knowyou sirwhether you charge that there
crime on George Radfoot?'

'If you ever do knowyou won't know now.'

'Perhaps you done it yourself?' said Riderhoodwith a threatening
action.

'I alone know' returned the mansternly shaking his head'the
mysteries of that crime. I alone know that your trumped-up story
cannot possibly be true. I alone know that it must be altogether
falseand that you must know it to be altogether false. I come
here to-night to tell you so much of what I knowand no more.'

Mr Riderhoodwith his crooked eye upon his visitormeditated
for some momentsand then refilled his glassand tipped the
contents down his throat in three tips.

'Shut the shop-door!' he then said to his daughterputting the glass
suddenly down. 'And turn the key and stand by it! If you know
all thisyou sir' gettingas he spokebetween the visitor and the
door'why han't you gone to Lawyer Lightwood?'

'Thatalsois alone known to myself' was the cool answer.

'Don't you know thatif you didn't do the deedwhat you say you
could tell is worth from five to ten thousand pound?' asked
Riderhood.

'I know it very welland when I claim the money you shall share it.'

The honest man pausedand drew a little nearer to the visitorand
a little further from the door.

'I know it' repeated the manquietly'as well as I know that you
and George Radfoot were one together in more than one dark
business; and as well as I know that youRoger Riderhood
conspired against an innocent man for blood-money; and as well
as I know that I can--and that I swear I will!--give you up on both
scoresand be the proof against you in my own personif you defy
me!'

'Father!' cried Pleasantfrom the door. 'Don't defy him! Give
way to him! Don't get into more troublefather!'

'Will you leave off a Poll ParrotingI ask you?' cried Mr
Riderhoodhalf beside himself between the two. Then
propitiatingly and crawlingly: 'You sir! You han't said what you
want of me. Is it fairis it worthy of yourselfto talk of my
defying you afore ever you say what you want of me?'

'I don't want much' said the man. 'This accusation of yours must
not be left half made and half unmade. What was done for the
blood-money must be thoroughly undone.'

'Well; but Shipmate--'

'Don't call me Shipmate' said the man.


'Captainthen' urged Mr Riderhood; 'there! You won't object to
Captain. It's a honourable titleand you fully look it. Captain!
Ain't the man dead? Now I ask you fair. Ain't Gaffer dead?'

'Well' returned the otherwith impatience'yeshe is dead. What
then?'

'Can words hurt a dead manCaptain? I only ask you fair.'

'They can hurt the memory of a dead manand they can hurt his
living children. How many children had this man?'

'Meaning GafferCaptain?'

'Of whom else are we speaking?' returned the otherwith a
movement of his footas if Rogue Riderhood were beginning to
sneak before him in the body as well as the spiritand he spurned
him off. 'I have heard of a daughterand a son. I ask for
information; I ask YOUR daughter; I prefer to speak to her. What
children did Hexam leave?'

Pleasantlooking to her father for permission to replythat honest
man exclaimed with great bitterness:

'Why the devil don't you answer the Captain? You can Poll Parrot
enough when you ain't wanted to Poll Parrotyou perwerse jade!'

Thus encouragedPleasant explained that there were only Lizzie
the daughter in questionand the youth. Both very respectable
she added.

'It is dreadful that any stigma should attach to them' said the
visitorwhom the consideration rendered so uneasy that he rose
and paced to and fromuttering'Dreadful! Unforeseen? How
could it be foreseen!' Then he stoppedand asked aloud: 'Where
do they live?'

Pleasant further explained that only the daughter had resided with
the father at the time of his accidental deathand that she had
immediately afterwards quitted the neighbourhood.

'I know that' said the man'for I have been to the place they dwelt
inat the time of the inquest. Could you quietly find out for me
where she lives now?'

Pleasant had no doubt she could do that. Within what timedid
she think? Within a day. The visitor said that was welland he
would return for the informationrelying on its being obtained. To
this dialogue Riderhood had attended in silenceand he now
obsequiously bespake the Captain.

'Captain! Mentioning them unfort'net words of mine respecting
Gafferit is contrairily to be bore in mind that Gaffer always were
a precious rascaland that his line were a thieving line. Likeways
when I went to them two GovernorsLawyer Lightwood and the
t'other Governorwith my informationI may have been a little
over-eager for the cause of justiceor (to put it another way) a
little over-stimilated by them feelings which rouses a man up
when a pot of money is going aboutto get his hand into that pot
of money for his family's sake. Besides whichI think the wine of
them two Governors was--I will not say a hocussed winebut fur
from a wine as was elthy for the mind. And there's another thing
to be rememberedCaptain. Did I stick to them words when
Gaffer was no moreand did I say bold to them two Governors


Governors both, wot I informed I still inform; wot was took down
I hold to? No. I saysfrank and open--no shufflingmind you
Captain!--"I may have been mistookI've been a thinking of itit
mayn't have been took down correct on this and thatand I won't
swear to thick and thinI'd rayther forfeit your good opinions than
do it. And so far as I know' concluded Mr Riderhoodby way of
proof and evidence to character'I HAVE actiwally forfeited the
good opinions of several persons--even your ownCaptainif I
understand your words--but I'd sooner do it than be forswore.
There; if that's conspiracycall me conspirator.'

'You shall sign' said the visitortaking very little heed of this
oration'a statement that it was all utterly falseand the poor girl
shall have it. I will bring it with me for your signaturewhen I
come again.'

'When might you be expectedCaptain?' inquired Riderhood
again dubiously getting between him and door.

'Quite soon enough for you. I shall not disappoint you; don't be
afraid.'

'Might you be inclined to leave any nameCaptain?'

'Nonot at all. I have no such intention.'

'"Shall" is summ'at of a hard wordCaptain' urged Riderhoodstill
feebly dodging between him and the dooras he advanced. 'When
you say a man "shall" sign this and that and t'otherCaptainyou
order him about in a grand sort of a way. Don't it seem so to
yourself?'

The man stood stilland angrily fixed him with his eyes.

'Fatherfather!' entreated Pleasantfrom the doorwith her
disengaged hand nervously trembling at her lips; 'don't! Don't get
into trouble any more!'

'Hear me outCaptainhear me out! All I was wishing to mention
Captainafore you took your departer' said the sneaking Mr
Riderhoodfalling out of his path'wasyour handsome words
relating to the reward.'

'When I claim it' said the manin a tone which seemed to leave
some such words as 'you dog' very distinctly understood'you
shall share it.'

Looking stedfastly at Riderhoodhe once more said in a low
voicethis time with a grim sort of admiration of him as a perfect
piece of evil'What a liar you are!' andnodding his head twice or
thrice over the complimentpassed out of the shop. Butto
Pleasant he said good-night kindly.

The honest man who gained his living by the sweat of his brow
remained in a state akin to stupefactionuntil the footless glass
and the unfinished bottle conveyed themselves into his mind.
From his mind he conveyed them into his handsand so conveyed
the last of the wine into his stomach. When that was donehe
awoke to a clear perception that Poll Parroting was solely
chargeable with what had passed. Thereforenot to be remiss in
his duty as a fatherhe threw a pair of sea-boots at Pleasant
which she ducked to avoidand then criedpoor thingusing her
hair for a pocket-handkerchief.


Chapter 13

A SOLO AND A DUETT

The wind was blowing so hard when the visitor came out at the
shop-door into the darkness and dirt of Limehouse Holethat it
almost blew him in again. Doors were slamming violentlylamps
were flickering or blown outsigns were rocking in their frames
the water of the kennelswind-dispersedflew about in drops like
rain. Indifferent to the weatherand even preferring it to better
weather for its clearance of the streetsthe man looked about him
with a scrutinizing glance. 'Thus much I know' he murmured. 'I
have never been here since that nightand never was here before
that nightbut thus much I recognize. I wonder which way did we
take when we came out of that shop. We turned to the right as I
have turnedbut I can recall no more. Did we go by this alley?
Or down that little lane?'

He tried bothbut both confused him equallyand he came
straying back to the same spot. 'I remember there were poles
pushed out of upper windows on which clothes were dryingand I
remember a low public-houseand the sound flowing down a
narrow passage belonging to it of the scraping of a fiddle and the
shuffling of feet. But here are all these things in the laneand here
are all these things in the alley. And I have nothing else in my
mind but a walla dark doorwaya flight of stairsand a room.'

He tried a new directionbut made nothing of it; wallsdark
doorwaysflights of stairs and roomswere too abundant. And
like most people so puzzledhe again and again described a circle
and found himself at the point from which he had begun. 'This is
like what I have read in narratives of escape from prison' said he
'where the little track of the fugitives in the night always seems to
take the shape of the great round worldon which they wander; as
if it were a secret law.'

Here he ceased to be the oakum-headedoakum-whiskered man
on whom Miss Pleasant Riderhood had lookedandallowing for
his being still wrapped in a nautical overcoatbecame as like that
same lost wanted Mr Julius Handfordas never man was like
another in this world. In the breast of the coat he stowed the
bristling hair and whiskerin a momentas the favouring wind
went with him down a solitary place that it had swept clear of
passengers. Yet in that same moment he was the Secretary also
Mr Boffin's Secretary. For John Rokesmithtoowas as like that
same lost wanted Mr Julius Handford as never man was like
another in this world.

'I have no clue to the scene of my death' said he. 'Not that it
matters now. But having risked discovery by venturing here at all
I should have been glad to track some part of the way.' With
which singular words he abandoned his searchcame up out of
Limehouse Holeand took the way past Limehouse Church. At
the great iron gate of the churchyard he stopped and looked in.
He looked up at the high tower spectrally resisting the windand
he looked round at the white tombstoneslike enough to the dead
in their winding-sheetsand he counted the nine tolls of the clockbell.


'It is a sensation not experienced by many mortals' said he'to be
looking into a churchyard on a wild windy nightand to feel that I


no more hold a place among the living than these dead doand
even to know that I lie buried somewhere elseas they lie buried
here. Nothing uses me to it. A spirit that was once a man could
hardly feel stranger or loneliergoing unrecognized among
mankindthan I feel.

'But this is the fanciful side of the situation. It has a real sideso
difficult thatthough I think of it every dayI never thoroughly
think it out. Nowlet me determine to think it out as I walk home.
I know I evade itas many men--perhaps most men--do evade
thinking their way through their greatest perplexity. I will try to
pin myself to mine. Don't evade itJohn Harmon; don't evade it;
think it out!

'When I came to Englandattracted to the country with which I
had none but most miserable associationsby the accounts of my
fine inheritance that found me abroadI came backshrinking
from my father's moneyshrinking from my father's memory
mistrustful of being forced on a mercenary wifemistrustful of my
father's intention in thrusting that marriage on memistrustful that
I was already growing avariciousmistrustful that I was slackening
in gratitude to the two dear noble honest friends who had made
the only sunlight in my childish life or that of my hearthroken
sister. I came backtimiddivided in my mindafraid of myself
and everybody hereknowing of nothing but wretchedness that
my father's wealth had ever brought about. Nowstopand so far
think it outJohn Harmon. Is that so? That is exactly so.

'On board serving as third mate was George Radfoot. I knew
nothing of him. His name first became known to me about a week
before we sailedthrough my being accosted by one of the shipagent's
clerks as "Mr Radfoot." It was one day when I had gone
aboard to look to my preparationsand the clerkcoming behind
me as I stood on decktapped me on the shoulderand saidMr
Rad-foot, look here,referring to some papers that he had in his
hand. And my name first became known to Radfootthrough
another clerk within a day or twoand while the ship was yet in
portcoming up behind himtapping him on the shoulder and
beginningI beg your pardon, Mr Harmon--.I believe we were
alike in bulk and stature but not otherwiseand that we were not
strikingly alikeeven in those respectswhen we were together
and could be compared.

'Howevera sociable word or two on these mistakes became an
easy introduction between usand the weather was hotand he
helped me to a cool cabin on deck alongside his ownand his first
school had been at Brussels as mine had beenand he had learnt
French as I had learnt itand he had a little history of himself to
relate--God only knows how much of it trueand how much of it
false--that had its likeness to mine. I had been a seaman too. So
we got to be confidential togetherand the more easily yet
because he and every one on board had known by general rumour
what I was making the voyage to England for. By such degrees
and meanshe came to the knowledge of my uneasiness of mind
and of its setting at that time in the direction of desiring to see and
form some judgment of my allotted wifebefore she could
possibly know me for myself; also to try Mrs Boffin and give her a
glad surprise. So the plot was made out of our getting common
sailors' dresses (as he was able to guide me about London)and
throwing ourselves in Bella Wilfer's neighbourhoodand trying to
put ourselves in her wayand doing whatever chance might favour
on the spotand seeing what came of it. If nothing came of itI
should be no worse offand there would merely be a short delay


in my presenting myself to Lightwood. I have all these facts right?
Yes. They are all accurately right.

'His advantage in all this wasthat for a time I was to be lost. It
might be for a day or for two daysbut I must be lost sight of on
landingor there would be recognitionanticipationand failure.
ThereforeI disembarked with my valise in my hand--as Potterson
the steward and Mr Jacob Kibble my fellow-passenger afterwards
remembered--and waited for him in the dark by that very
Limehouse Church which is now behind me.

'As I had always shunned the port of LondonI only knew the
church through his pointing out its spire from on board. Perhaps I
might recallif it were any good to trythe way by which I went to
it alone from the river; but how we two went from it to
Riderhood's shopI don't know--any more than I know what turns
we took and doubles we madeafter we left it. The way was
purposely confusedno doubt.

'But let me go on thinking the facts outand avoid confusing them
with my speculations. Whether be took me by a straight way or a
crooked waywhat is that to the purpose now? SteadyJohn
Harmon.

'When we stopped at Riderhood'sand he asked that scoundrel a
question or twopurporting to refer only to the lodging-houses in
which there was accommodation for ushad I the least suspicion
of him? None. Certainly none until afterwards when I held the
clue. I think he must have got from Riderhood in a paperthe
drugor whatever it wasthat afterwards stupefied mebut I am
far from sure. All I felt safe in charging on him to-nightwas old
companionship in villainy between them. Their undisguised
intimacyand the character I now know Riderhood to bearmade
that not at all adventurous. But I am not clear about the drug.
Thinking out the circumstances on which I found my suspicion
they are only two. One: I remember his changing a small folded
paper from one pocket to anotherafter we came outwhich he
had not touched before. Two: I now know Riderhood to have
been previously taken up for being concerned in the robbery of an
unlucky seamanto whom some such poison had been given.

'It is my conviction that we cannot have gone a mile from that
shopbefore we came to the wallthe dark doorwaythe flight of
stairsand the room. The night was particularly dark and it rained
hard. As I think the circumstances backI hear the rain splashing
on the stone pavement of the passagewhch was not under cover.
The room overlooked the riveror a dockor a creekand the tide
was out. Being possessed of the time down to that pointI know
by the hour that it must have been about low water; but while the
coffee was getting readyI drew back the curtain (a dark-brown
curtain)andlooking outknew by the kind of reflection below
of the few neighbouring lightsthat they were reflected in tidal
mud.

'He had carried under his arm a canvas bagcontaining a suit of
his clothes. I had no change of outer clothes with meas I was to
buy slops. "You are very wetMr Harmon--I can hear him
saying--and I am quite dry under this good waterproof coat. Put
on these clothes of mine. You may find on trying them that they
will answer your purpose to-morrowas well as the slops you
mean to buyor better. While you changeI'll hurry the hot
coffee." When he came backI had his clothes onand there was
a black man with himwearing a linen jacketlike a stewardwho
put the smoking coffee on the table in a tray and never looked at


me. I am so far literal and exact? Literal and exactI am certain.


'NowI pass to sick and deranged impressions; they are so strong
that I rely upon them; but there are spaces between them that I
know nothing aboutand they are not pervaded by any idea of
time.


'I had drank some coffeewhen to my sense of sight he began to
swell immenselyand something urged me to rush at him. We had
a struggle near the door. He got from methrough my not
knowing where to strikein the whirling round of the roomand
the flashing of flames of fire between us. I dropped down. Lying
helpless on the groundI was turned over by a foot. I was dragged
by the neck into a corner. I heard men speak together. I was
turned over by other feet. I saw a figure like myself lying dressed
in my clothes on a bed. What might have beenfor anything I
knewa silence of daysweeksmonthsyearswas broken by a
violent wrestling of men all over the room. The figure like myself
was assailedand my valise was in its hand. I was trodden upon
and fallen over. I heard a noise of blowsand thought it was a
wood-cutter cutting down a tree. I could not have said that my
name was John Harmon--I could not have thought it--I didn't
know it--but when I heard the blowsI thought of the wood-cutter
and his axeand had some dead idea that I was lying in a forest.


'This is still correct? Still correctwith the exception that I cannot
possibly express it to myself without using the word I. But it was
not I. There was no such thing as Iwithin my knowledge.


'It was only after a downward slide through something like a tube
and then a great noise and a sparkling and crackling as of fires
that the consciousness came upon meThis is John Harmon
drowning! John Harmon, struggle for your life. John Harmon,
call on Heaven and save yourself!I think I cried it out aloud in a
great agonyand then a heavy horrid unintelligible something
vanishedand it was I who was struggling there alone in the water.


'I was very weak and faintfrightfully oppressed with drowsiness
and driving fast with the tide. Looking over the black waterI saw
the lights racing past me on the two banks of the riveras if they
were eager to be gone and leave me dying in the dark. The tide
was running downbut I knew nothing of up or down then. When
guiding myself safely with Heaven's assistance before the fierce
set of the waterI at last caught at a boat mooredone of a tier of
boats at a causewayI was sucked under herand came uponly
just aliveon the other side.


'Was I long in the water? Long enough to be chilled to the heart
but I don't know how long. Yet the cold was mercifulfor it was
the cold night air and the rain that restored me from a swoon on
the stones of the causeway. They naturally supposed me to have
toppled indrunkwhen I crept to the public-house it belonged to;
for I had no notion where I wasand could not articulate--through
the poison that had made me insensible having affected my
speech--and I supposed the night to be the previous nightas it
was still dark and raining. But I had lost twenty-four hours.


'I have checked the calculation oftenand it must have been two
nights that I lay recovering in that public-house. Let me see. Yes.
I am sure it was while I lay in that bed therethat the thought
entered my head of turning the danger I had passed throughto the
account of being for some time supposed to have disappeared
mysteriouslyand of proving Bella. The dread of our being forced
on one anotherand perpetuating the fate that seemed to have



fallen on my father's riches--the fate that they should lead to
nothing but evil--was strong upon the moral timidity that dates
from my childhood with my poor sister.

'As to this hour I cannot understand that side of the river where I
recovered the shorebeing the opposite side to that on which I
was ensnaredI shall never understand it now. Even at this
momentwhile I leave the river behind megoing homeI cannot
conceive that it rolls between me and that spotor that the sea is
where it is. But this is not thinking it out; this is making a leap to
the present time.

'I could not have done itbut for the fortune in the waterproof belt
round my body. Not a great fortuneforty and odd pounds for the
inheritor of a hundred and odd thousand! But it was enough.
Without it I must have disclosed myself. Without itI could never
have gone to that Exchequer Coffee Houseor taken Mrs Wilfer's
lodgings.

'Some twelve days I lived at that hotelbefore the night when I
saw the corpse of Radfoot at the Police Station. The inexpressible
mental horror that I laboured underas one of the consequences of
the poisonmakes the interval seem greatly longerbut I know it
cannot have been longer. That suffering has gradually weakened
and weakened sinceand has only come upon me by startsand I
hope I am free from it now; but even nowI have sometimes to
thinkconstrain myselfand stop before speakingor I could not
say the words I want to say.

'Again I ramble away from thinking it out to the end. It is not so
far to the end that I need be tempted to break off. Nowon
straight!

'I examined the newspapers every day for tidings that I was
missingbut saw none. Going out that night to walk (for I kept
retired while it was light)I found a crowd assembled round a
placard posted at Whitehall. It described myselfJohn Harmonas
found dead and mutilated in the river under circumstances of
strong suspiciondescribed my dressdescribed the papers in my
pocketsand stated where I was lying for recognition. In a wild
incautious way I hurried thereand there--with the horror of the
death I had escapedbefore my eyes in its most appalling shape
added to the inconceivable horror tormenting me at that time
when the poisonous stuff was strongest on me--I perceived that
Radfoot had been murdered by some unknown hands for the
money for which he would have murdered meand that probably
we had both been shot into the river from the same dark place into
the same dark tidewhen the stream ran deep and strong.

'That night I almost gave up my mysterythough I suspected no
onecould offer no informationknew absolutely nothing save that
the murdered man was not Ibut Radfoot. Next day while I
hesitatedand next day while I hesitatedit seemed as if the whole
country were determined to have me dead. The Inquest declared
me deadthe Government proclaimed me dead; I could not listen
at my fireside for five minutes to the outer noisesbut it was borne
into my ears that I was dead.

'So John Harmon diedand Julius Handford disappearedand John
Rokesmith was born. John Rokesmith's intent to-night has been to
repair a wrong that he could never have imagined possible
coming to his ears through the Lightwood talk related to himand
which he is bound by every consideration to remedy. In that
intent John Rokesmith will persevereas his duty is.


'Nowis it all thought out? All to this time? Nothing omitted?
Nonothing. But beyond this time? To think it out through the
futureis a harder though a much shorter task than to think it out
through the past. John Harmon is dead. Should John Harmon
come to life?

'If yeswhy? If nowhy?'

'Take yesfirst. To enlighten human Justice concerning the
offence of one far beyond it who may have a living mother. To
enlighten it with the lights of a stone passagea flight of stairsa
brown window-curtainand a black man. To come into possession
of my father's moneyand with it sordidly to buy a beautiful
creature whom I love--I cannot help it; reason has nothing to do
with it; I love her against reason--but who would as soon love me
for my own sakeas she would love the beggar at the corner.
What a use for the moneyand how worthy of its old misuses!

'Nowtake no. The reasons why John Harmon should not come to
life. Because he has passively allowed these dear old faithful
friends to pass into possession of the property. Because he sees
them happy with itmaking a good use of iteffacing the old rust
and tarnish on the money. Because they have virtually adopted
Bellaand will provide for her. Because there is affection enough
in her natureand warmth enough in her heartto develop into
something enduringly goodunder favourable conditions. Because
her faults have been intensified by her place in my father's will
and she is already growing better. Because her marriage with
John Harmonafter what I have heard from her own lipswould
be a shocking mockeryof which both she and I must always be
consciousand which would degrade her in her mindand me in
mineand each of us in the other's. Because if John Harmon
comes to life and does not marry herthe property falls into the
very hands that hold it now.

'What would I have? DeadI have found the true friends of my
lifetime still as true as tender and as faithful as when I was alive
and making my memory an incentive to good actions done in my
name. DeadI have found them when they might have slighted
my nameand passed greedily over my grave to ease and wealth
lingering by the waylike single-hearted childrento recall their
love for me when I was a poor frightened child. DeadI have
heard from the woman who would have been my wife if I had
livedthe revolting truth that I should have purchased hercaring
nothing for meas a Sultan buys a slave.

'What would I have? If the dead could knowor do knowhow
the living use themwho among the hosts of dead has found a
more disinterested fidelity on earth than I? Is not that enough for
me? If I had come backthese noble creatures would have
welcomed mewept over megiven up everything to me with joy.
I did not come backand they have passed unspoiled into my
place. Let them rest in itand let Bella rest in hers.

'What course for me then? This. To live the same quiet Secretary
lifecarefully avoiding chances of recognitionuntil they shall
have become more accustomed to their altered stateand until the
great swarm of swindlers under many names shall have found
newer prey. By that timethe method I am establishing through
all the affairsand with which I will every day take new pains to
make them both familiarwill beI may hopea machine in such
working order as that they can keep it going. I know I need but
ask of their generosityto have. When the right time comesI will


ask no more than will replace me in my former path of lifeand
John Rokesmith shall tread it as contentedly as he may. But John
Harmon shall come back no more.

'That I may neverin the days to come afar offhave any weak
misgiving that Bella mightin any contingencyhave taken me for
my own sake if I had plainly asked herI WILL plainly ask her:
proving beyond all question what I already know too well. And
now it is all thought outfrom the beginning to the endand my
mind is easier.'

So deeply engaged had the living-dead man beenin thus
communing with himselfthat he had regarded neither the wind
nor the wayand had resisted the former instinctively as he had
pursued the latter. But being now come into the Citywhere there
was a coach-standhe stood irresolute whether to go to his
lodgingsor to go first to Mr Boffin's house. He decided to go
round by the housearguingas he carried his overcoat upon his
armthat it was less likely to attract notice if left therethan if
taken to Holloway: both Mrs Wilfer and Miss Lavinia being
ravenously curious touching every article of which the lodger
stood possessed.

Arriving at the househe found that Mr and Mrs Boffin were out
but that Miss Wilfer was in the drawing-room. Miss Wilfer had
remained at homein consequence of not feeling very welland
had inquired in the evening if Mr Rokesmith were in his room.

'Make my compliments to Miss Wilferand say I am here now.'

Miss Wilfer's compliments came down in returnandif it were
not too much troublewould Mr Rokesmith be so kind as to come
up before he went?

It was not too much troubleand Mr Rokesmith came up.

Oh she looked very prettyshe looked veryvery pretty! If the
father of the late John Harmon had but left his money
unconditionally to his sonand if his son had but lighted on this
loveable girl for himselfand had the happiness to make her loving
as well as loveable!

'Dear me! Are you not wellMr Rokesmith?'

'Yesquite well. I was sorry to hearwhen I came inthat YOU
were not.'

'A mere nothing. I had a headache--gone now--and was not quite
fit for a hot theatreso I stayed at home. I asked you if you were
not wellbecause you look so white.'

'Do I? I have had a busy evening.'

She was on a low ottoman before the firewith a little shining
jewel of a tableand her book and her workbeside her. Ah! what
a different life the late John Harmon'sif it had been his happy
privilege to take his place upon that ottomanand draw his arm
about that waistand say'I hope the time has been long without
me? What a Home Goddess you lookmy darling!'

Butthe present John Rokesmithfar removed from the late John
Harmonremained standing at a distance. A little distance in
respect of spacebut a great distance in respect of separation.


'Mr Rokesmith' said Bellataking up her workand inspecting it
all round the corners'I wanted to say something to you when I
could have the opportunityas an explanation why I was rude to
you the other day. You have no right to think ill of mesir.'

The sharp little way in which she darted a look at himhalf
sensitively injuredand half pettishlywould have been very much
admired by the late John Harmon.

'You don't know how well I think of youMiss Wilfer.'

'Trulyyou must have a very high opinion of meMr Rokesmith
when you believe that in prosperity I neglect and forget my old
home.'

'Do I believe so?'

'You DIDsirat any rate' returned Bella.

'I took the liberty of reminding you of a little omission into which
you had fallen--insensibly and naturally fallen. It was no more
than that.'

'And I beg leave to ask youMr Rokesmith' said Bella'why you
took that liberty?--I hope there is no offence in the phrase; it is
your ownremember.'

'Because I am trulydeeplyprofoundly interested in youMiss
Wilfer. Because I wish to see you always at your best. Because
I--shall I go on?'

'Nosir' returned Bellawith a burning face'you have said more
than enough. I beg that you will NOT go on. If you have any
generosityany honouryou will say no more.'

The late John Harmonlooking at the proud face with the downcast
eyesand at the quick breathing as it stirred the fall of bright
brown hair over the beautiful neckwould probably have
remained silent.

'I wish to speak to yousir' said Bella'once for alland I don't
know how to do it. I have sat here all this eveningwishing to
speak to youand determining to speak to youand feeling that I
must. I beg for a moment's time.'

He remained silentand she remained with her face averted
sometimes making a slight movement as if she would turn and
speak. At length she did so.

'You know how I am situated heresirand you know how I am
situated at home. I must speak to you for myselfsince there is no
one about me whom I could ask to do so. It is not generous in
youit is not honourable in youto conduct yourself towards me
as you do.'

'Is it ungenerous or dishonourable to be devoted to you; fascinated
by you?'

'Preposterous!' said Bella.

The late John Harmon might have thought it rather a
contemptuous and lofty word of repudiation.


'I now feel obliged to go on' pursued the Secretary'though it
were only in self-explanation and self-defence. I hopeMiss
Wilferthat it is not unpardonable--even in me--to make an honest
declaration of an honest devotion to you.'

'An honest declaration!' repeated Bellawith emphasis.

'Is it otherwise?'

'I must requestsir' said Bellataking refuge in a touch of timely
resentment'that I may not be questioned. You must excuse me if
I decline to be cross-examined.'

'OhMiss Wilferthis is hardly charitable. I ask you nothing but
what your own emphasis suggests. HoweverI waive even that
question. But what I have declaredI take my stand by. I cannot
recall the avowal of my earnest and deep attachment to youand I
do not recall it.'

'I reject itsir' said Bella.

'I should be blind and deaf if I were not prepared for the reply.
Forgive my offencefor it carries its punishment with it.'

'What punishment?' asked Bella.

'Is my present endurance none? But excuse me; I did not mean to
cross-examine you again.'

'You take advantage of a hasty word of mine' said Bella with a
little sting of self-reproach'to make me seem--I don't know what.
I spoke without consideration when I used it. If that was badI
am sorry; but you repeat it after considerationand that seems to
me to be at least no better. For the restI beg it may be
understoodMr Rokesmiththat there is an end of this between us
now and for ever.'

'Now and for ever' he repeated.

'Yes. I appeal to yousir' proceeded Bella with increasing spirit
'not to pursue me. I appeal to you not to take advantage of your
position in this house to make my position in it distressing and
disagreeable. I appeal to you to discontinue your habit of making
your misplaced attentions as plain to Mrs Boffin as to me.'

'Have I done so?'

'I should think you have' replied Bella. 'In any case it is not your
fault if you have notMr Rokesmith.'

'I hope you are wrong in that impression. I should be very sorry to
have justified it. I think I have not. For the future there is no
apprehension. It is all over.'

'I am much relieved to hear it' said Bella. 'I have far other views
in lifeand why should you waste your own?'

'Mine!' said the Secretary. 'My life!'

His curious tone caused Bella to glance at the curious smile with
which he said it. It was gone as he glanced back. 'Pardon me
Miss Wilfer' he proceededwhen their eyes met; 'you have used
some hard wordsfor which I do not doubt you have a justification
in your mindthat I do not understand. Ungenerous and


dishonourable. In what?'

'I would rather not be asked' said Bellahaughtily looking down.

'I would rather not askbut the question is imposed upon me.
Kindly explain; or if not kindlyjustly.'

'Ohsir!' said Bellaraising her eyes to hisafter a little struggle to
forbear'is it generous and honourable to use the power here
which your favour with Mr and Mrs Boffin and your ability in
your place give youagainst me?'

'Against you?'

'Is it generous and honourable to form a plan for gradually
bringing their influence to bear upon a suit which I have shown
you that I do not likeand which I tell you that I utterly reject?'

The late John Harmon could have borne a good dealbut he would
have been cut to the heart by such a suspicion as this.

'Would it be generous and honourable to step into your place--if
you did sofor I don't know that you didand I hope you did not-anticipating
or knowing beforehandthat I should come hereand
designing to take me at this disadvantage?'

'This mean and cruel disadvantage' said the Secretary.

'Yes' assented Bella.

The Secretary kept silence for a little while; then merely said
'You are wholly mistakenMiss Wilfer; wonderfully mistaken. I
cannot sayhoweverthat it is your fault. If I deserve better
things of youyou do not know it.'

'At leastsir' retorted Bellawith her old indignation rising'you
know the history of my being here at all. I have heard Mr Boffin
say that you are master of every line and word of that willas you
are master of all his affairs. And was it not enough that I should
have been willed awaylike a horseor a dogor a bird; but must
you too begin to dispose of me in your mindand speculate in me
as soon as I had ceased to be the talk and the laugh of the town?
Am I for ever to be made the property of strangers?'

'Believe me' returned the Secretary'you are wonderfully
mistaken.'

'I should be glad to know it' answered Bella.

'I doubt if you ever will. Good-night. Of course I shall be careful
to conceal any traces of this interview from Mr and Mrs Boffinas
long as I remain here. Trust mewhat you have complained of is
at an end for ever.'

'I am glad I have spokenthenMr Rokesmith. It has been painful
and difficultbut it is done. If I have hurt youI hope you will
forgive me. I am inexperienced and impetuousand I have been a
little spoilt; but I really am not so bad as I dare say I appearor as
you think me.'

He quitted the room when Bella had said thisrelenting in her
wilful inconsistent way. Left aloneshe threw herself back on her
ottomanand said'I didn't know the lovely woman was such a
Dragon!' Thenshe got up and looked in the glassand said to her


image'You have been positively swelling your featuresyou little
fool!' Thenshe took an impatient walk to the other end of the
room and backand said'I wish Pa was here to have a talk about
an avaricious marriage; but he is better awaypoor dearfor I
know I should pull his hair if he WAS here.' And then she threw
her work awayand threw her book after itand sat down and
hummed a tuneand hummed it out of tuneand quarrelled with it.

And John Rokesmithwhat did he?

He went down to his roomand buried John Harmon many
additional fathoms deep. He took his hatand walked outandas
he went to Holloway or anywhere else--not at all minding where-heaped
mounds upon mounds of earth over John Harmon's grave.
His walking did not bring him home until the dawn of day. And so
busy had he been all nightpiling and piling weights upon weights
of earth above John Harmon's gravethat by that time John
Harmon lay buried under a whole Alpine range; and still the
Sexton Rokesmith accumulated mountains over himlightening his
labour with the dirge'Cover himcrush himkeep him down!'

Chapter 14

STRONG OF PURPOSE

The sexton-task of piling earth above John Harmon all night long
was not conducive to sound sleep; but Rokesmith had some
broken morning restand rose strengthened in his purpose. It was
all over now. No ghost should trouble Mr and Mrs Boffin's peace;
invisible and voicelessthe ghost should look on for a little while
longer at the state of existence out of which it had departedand
then should for ever cease to haunt the scenes in which it had no
place.

He went over it all again. He had lapsed into the condition in
which he found himselfas many a man lapses into many a
conditionwithout perceiving the accumulative power of its
separate circumstances. When in the distrust engendered by his
wretched childhood and the action for evil--never yet for good
within his knowledge then--of his father and his father's wealth on
all within their influencehe conceived the idea of his first
deceptionit was meant to be harmlessit was to last but a few
hours or daysit was to involve in it only the girl so capriciously
forced upon him and upon whom he was so capriciously forced
and it was honestly meant well towards her. Forif he had found
her unhappy in the prospect of that marriage (through her heart
inclining to another man or for any other cause)be would
seriously have said: 'This is another of the old perverted uses of
the misery-making money. I will let it go to my and my sister's
only protectors and friends.' When the snare into which he fell so
outstripped his first intention as that he found himself placarded
by the police authorities upon the London walls for deadhe
confusedly accepted the aid that fell upon himwithout
considering how firmly it must seem to fix the Boffins in their
accession to the fortune. When he saw themand knew themand
even from his vantage-ground of inspection could find no flaw in
themhe asked himself'And shall I come to life to dispossess
such people as these?' There was no good to set against the
putting of them to that hard proof. He had heard from Bella's own
lips when he stood tapping at the door on that night of his taking
the lodgingsthat the marriage would have been on her part


thoroughly mercenary. He had since tried herin his own
unknown person and supposed stationand she not only rejected
his advances but resented them. Was it for him to have the shame
of buying heror the meanness of punishing her? Yetby coming
to life and accepting the condition of the inheritancehe must do
the former; and by coming to life and rejecting ithe must do the
latter.

Another consequence that he had never foreshadowedwas the
implication of an innocent man in his supposed murder. He would
obtain complete retraction from the accuserand set the wrong
right; but clearly the wrong could never have been done if he had
never planned a deception. Thenwhatever inconvenience or
distress of mind the deception cost himit was manful repentantly
to accept as among its consequencesand make no complaint.

Thus John Rokesmith in the morningand it buried John Harmon
still many fathoms deeper than he had been buried in the night.

Going out earlier than he was accustomed to dohe encountered
the cherub at the door. The cherub's way was for a certain space
his wayand they walked together.

It was impossible not to notice the change in the cherub's
appearance. The cherub felt very conscious of itand modestly
remarked:

'A present from my daughter BellaMr Rokesmith.'

The words gave the Secretary a stroke of pleasurefor he
remembered the fifty poundsand he still loved the girl. No doubt
it was very weak--it always IS very weaksome authorities hold-but
he loved the girl.

'I don't know whether you happen to have read many books of
African TravelMr Rokesmith?' said R. W.

'I have read several.'

'Wellyou knowthere's usually a King Georgeor a King Boyor
a King Samboor a King Billor Bullor Rumor Junkor
whatever name the sailors may have happened to give him.'

'Where?' asked Rokesmith.

'Anywhere. Anywhere in AfricaI mean. Pretty well everywhere
I may say; for black kings are cheap--and I think'--said R. W.
with an apologetic air'nasty'.

'I am much of your opinionMr Wilfer. You were going to say--?'

'I was going to saythe king is generally dressed in a London hat
onlyor a Manchester pair of bracesor one epauletteor an
uniform coat with his legs in the sleevesor something of that
kind.'

'Just so' said the Secretary.

'In confidenceI assure youMr Rokesmith' observed the cheerful
cherub'that when more of my family were at home and to be
provided forI used to remind myself immensely of that king.
You have no ideaas a single manof the difficulty I have had in
wearing more than one good article at a time.'


'I can easily believe itMr Wilfer.'

'I only mention it' said R. W. in the warmth of his heart'as a
proof of the amiabledelicateand considerate affection of my
daughter Bella. If she had been a little spoiltI couldn't have
thought so very much of itunder the circumstances. But nonot
a bit. And she is so very pretty! I hope you agree with me in
finding her very prettyMr Rokesmith?'

'Certainly I do. Every one must.'

'I hope so' said the cherub. 'IndeedI have no doubt of it. This is
a great advancement for her in lifeMr Rokesmith. A great
opening of her prospects?'

'Miss Wilfer could have no better friends than Mr and Mrs Boffin.'

'Impossible!' said the gratified cherub. 'Really I begin to think
things are very well as they are. If Mr John Harmon had lived--'

'He is better dead' said the Secretary.

'NoI won't go so far as to say that' urged the cheruba little
remonstrant against the very decisive and unpitying tone; 'but he
mightn't have suited Bellaor Bella mightn't have suited himor
fifty thingswhereas now I hope she can choose for herself.'

'Has she--as you place the confidence in me of speaking on the
subjectyou will excuse my asking--has she--perhaps--chosen?'
faltered the Secretary.

'Oh dear no!' returned R. W.

'Young ladies sometimes' Rokesmith hinted'choose without
mentioning their choice to their fathers.'

'Not in this caseMr Rokesmith. Between my daughter Bella and
me there is a regular league and covenant of confidence. It was
ratified only the other day. The ratification dates from--these'
said the cherubgiving a little pull at the lappels of his coat and
the pockets of his trousers. 'Oh noshe has not chosen. To be
sureyoung George Sampsonin the days when Mr John Harmon--'

'Who I wish had never been born!' said the Secretarywith a
gloomy brow.

R. W. looked at him with surpriseas thinking he had contracted
an unaccountable spite against the poor deceasedand continued:
'In the days when Mr John Harmon was being sought outyoung
George Sampson certainly was hovering about Bellaand Bella let
him hover. But it never was seriously thought ofand it's still less
than ever to be thought of now. For Bella is ambitiousMr
Rokesmithand I think I may predict will marry fortune. This
timeyou seeshe will have the person and the property before
her togetherand will be able to make her choice with her eyes
open. This is my road. I am very sorry to part company so soon.
Good morningsir!'
The Secretary pursued his waynot very much elevated in spirits
by this conversationandarriving at the Boffin mansionfound
Betty Higden waiting for him.

'I should thank you kindlysir' said Betty'if I might make so bold
as have a word or two wi' you.'


She should have as many words as she likedhe told her; and took
her into his roomand made her sit down.

''Tis concerning Sloppysir' said Betty. 'And that's how I come
here by myself. Not wishing him to know what I'm a-going to say
to youI got the start of him early and walked up.'

'You have wonderful energy' returned Rokesmith. 'You are as
young as I am.'

Betty Higden gravely shook her head. 'I am strong for my time of
lifesirbut not youngthank the Lord!'

'Are you thankful for not being young?'

'Yessir. If I was youngit would all have to be gone through
againand the end would be a weary way offdon't you see? But
never mind me; 'tis concerning Sloppy.'

'And what about himBetty?'

''Tis just thissir. It can't be reasoned out of his head by any
powers of mine but what that he can do right by your kind lady
and gentleman and do his work for meboth together. Now he
can't. To give himself up to being put in the way of arning a good
living and getting onhe must give me up. Well; he won't.'

'I respect him for it' said Rokesmith.

'DO yesir? I don't know but what I do myself. Still that don't
make it right to let him have his way. So as he won't give me up
I'm a-going to give him up.'

'HowBetty?'

'I'm a-going to run away from him.'

With an astonished look at the indomitable old face and the bright
eyesthe Secretary repeated'Run away from him?'

'Yessir' said Bettywith one nod. And in the nod and in the firm
set of her mouththere was a vigour of purpose not to be doubted.

'Comecome!' said the Secretary. 'We must talk about this. Let
us take our time over itand try to get at the true sense of the case
and the true courseby degrees.'

'Nowlookee hereby dear' returned old Betty--'asking your
excuse for being so familiarbut being of a time of life a'most to
be your grandmother twice over. Nowlookeehere. 'Tis a poor
living and a hard as is to be got out of this work that I'm a doing
nowand but for Sloppy I don't know as I should have held to it
this long. But it did just keep us onthe two together. Now that
I'm alone--with even Johnny gone--I'd far sooner be upon my feet
and tiring of myself outthan a sitting folding and folding by the
fire. And I'll tell you why. There's a deadness steals over me at
timesthat the kind of life favours and I don't like. NowI seem to
have Johnny in my arms--nowhis mother--nowhis mother's
mother--nowI seem to be a child myselfa lying once again in the
arms of my own mother--then I get numbedthought and sense
till I start out of my seatafeerd that I'm a growing like the poor
old people that they brick up in the Unionsas you may sometimes
see when they let 'em out of the four walls to have a warm in the


suncrawling quite scared about the streets. I was a nimble girl
and have always been a active bodyas I told your ladyfirst time
ever I see her good face. I can still walk twenty mile if I am put to
it. I'd far better be a walking than a getting numbed and dreary.
I'm a good fair knitterand can make many little things to sell.
The loan from your lady and gentleman of twenty shillings to fit
out a basket withwould be a fortune for me. Trudging round the
country and tiring of myself outI shall keep the deadness offand
get my own bread by my own labour. And what more can I
want?'

'And this is your plan' said the Secretary'for running away?'

'Show me a better! My dearyshow me a better! WhyI know
very well' said old Betty Higden'and you know very wellthat
your lady and gentleman would set me up like a queen for the rest
of my lifeif so be that we could make it right among us to have it
so. But we can't make it right among us to have it so. I've never
took charity yetnor yet has any one belonging to me. And it
would be forsaking of myself indeedand forsaking of my children
dead and goneand forsaking of their children dead and goneto
set up a contradiction now at last.'

'It might come to be justifiable and unavoidable at last' the
Secretary gently hintedwith a slight stress on the word.

'I hope it never will! It ain't that I mean to give offence by being
anyways proud' said the old creature simply'but that I want to be
of a piece likeand helpful of myself right through to my death.'

'And to be sure' added the Secretaryas a comfort for her'Sloppy
will be eagerly looking forward to his opportunity of being to you
what you have been to him.'

'Trust him for thatsir!' said Bettycheerfully. 'Though he had
need to be something quick about itfor I'm a getting to be an old
one. But I'm a strong one tooand travel and weather never hurt
me yet! Nowbe so kind as speak for me to your lady and
gentlemanand tell 'em what I ask of their good friendliness to let
me doand why I ask it.'

The Secretary felt that there was no gainsaying what was urged by
this brave old heroineand he presently repaired to Mrs Boffin
and recommended her to let Betty Higden have her wayat all
events for the time. 'It would be far more satisfactory to your kind
heartI know' he said'to provide for herbut it may be a duty to
respect this independent spirit.' Mrs Boffin was not proof against
the consideration set before her. She and her husband had worked
tooand had brought their simple faith and honour clean out of
dustheaps. If they owed a duty to Betty Higdenof a surety that
duty must be done.

'ButBetty' said Mrs Boffinwhen she accompanied John
Rokesmith back to his roomand shone upon her with the light of
her radiant face'granted all elseI think I wouldn't run away'.

''Twould come easier to Sloppy' said Mrs Higdenshaking her
head. ''Twould come easier to me too. But 'tis as you please.'

'When would you go?'

'Now' was the bright and ready answer. 'To-daymy dearytomorrow.
Bless yeI am used to it. I know many parts of the
country well. When nothing else was to be doneI have worked


in many a market-garden afore nowand in many a hop-garden
too.'

'If I give my consent to your goingBetty--which Mr Rokesmith
thinks I ought to do--'

Betty thanked him with a grateful curtsey.

'--We must not lose sight of you. We must not let you pass out of
our knowledge. We must know all about you.'

'Yesmy dearybut not through letter-writingbecause letterwriting--
indeedwriting of most sorts hadn't much come up for
such as me when I was young. But I shall be to and fro. No fear
of my missing a chance of giving myself a sight of your reviving
face. Besides' said Bettywith logical good faith'I shall have a
debt to pay offby littlesand naturally that would bring me back
if nothing else would.'

'MUST it be done?' asked Mrs Boffinstill reluctantof the
Secretary.

'I think it must.'

After more discussion it was agreed that it should be doneand
Mrs Boffin summoned Bella to note down the little purchases that
were necessary to set Betty up in trade. 'Don't ye be timorous for
memy dear' said the stanch old heartobservant of Bella's face:
when I take my seat with my workclean and busy and freshin a
country market-placeI shall turn a sixpence as sure as ever a
farmer's wife there.'

The Secretary took that opportunity of touching on the practical
question of Mr Sloppy's capabilities. He would have made a
wonderful cabinet-makersaid Mrs Higden'if there had been the
money to put him to it.' She had seen him handle tools that he had
borrowed to mend the mangleor to knock a broken piece of
furniture togetherin a surprising manner. As to constructing toys
for the Mindersout of nothinghe had done that daily. And once
as many as a dozen people had got together in the lane to see the
neatness with which he fitted the broken pieces of a foreign
monkey's musical instrument. 'That's well' said the Secretary. 'It
will not be hard to find a trade for him.'

John Harmon being buried under mountains nowthe Secretary
that very same day set himself to finish his affairs and have done
with him. He drew up an ample declarationto be signed by
Rogue Riderhood (knowing he could get his signature to itby
making him another and much shorter evening call)and then
considered to whom should he give the document? To Hexam's
sonor daughter? Resolved speedilyto the daughter. But it
would be safer to avoid seeing the daughterbecause the son had
seen Julius Handfordand--he could not be too careful--there
might possibly be some comparison of notes between the son and
daughterwhich would awaken slumbering suspicionand lead to
consequences. 'I might even' he reflected'be apprehended as
having been concerned in my own murder!' Thereforebest to
send it to the daughter under cover by the post. Pleasant
Riderhood had undertaken to find out where she livedand it was
not necessary that it should be attended by a single word of
explanation. So farstraight.

Butall that he knew of the daughter he derived from Mrs Boffin's
accounts of what she heard from Mr Lightwoodwho seemed to


have a reputation for his manner of relating a storyand to have
made this story quite his own. It interested himand he would like
to have the means of knowing more--asfor instancethat she
received the exonerating paperand that it satisfied her--by
opening some channel altogether independent of Lightwood: who
likewise had seen Julius Handfordwho had publicly advertised
for Julius Handfordand whom of all men hethe Secretarymost
avoided. 'But with whom the common course of things might
bring me in a moment face to faceany day in the week or any
hour in the day.'

Nowto cast about for some likely means of opening such a
channel. The boyHexamwas training for and with a
schoolmaster. The Secretary knew itbecause his sister's share in
that disposal of him seemed to be the best part of Lightwood's
account of the family. This young fellowSloppystood in need of
some instruction. If hethe Secretaryengaged that schoolmaster
to impart it to himthe channel might be opened. The next point
wasdid Mrs Boffin know the schoolmaster's name? Nobut she
knew where the school was. Quite enough. Promptly the
Secretary wrote to the master of that schooland that very
evening Bradley Headstone answered in person.

The Secretary stated to the schoolmaster how the object wasto
send to him for certain occasional evening instructiona youth
whom Mr and Mrs Boffin wished to help to an industrious and
useful place in life. The schoolmaster was willing to undertake the
charge of such a pupil. The Secretary inquired on what terms?
The schoolmaster stated on what terms. Agreed and disposed of.

'May I asksir' said Bradley Headstone'to whose good opinion I
owe a recommendation to you?'

'You should know that I am not the principal here. I am Mr
Boffin's Secretary. Mr Boffin is a gentleman who inherited a
property of which you may have heard some public mention; the
Harmon property.'

'Mr Harmon' said Bradley: who would have been a great deal
more at a loss than he wasif he had known to whom he spoke:
'was murdered and found in the river.'

'Was murdered and found in the river.'

'It was not--'

'No' interposed the Secretarysmiling'it was not he who
recommended you. Mr Boffin heard of you through a certain Mr
Lightwood. I think you know Mr Lightwoodor know of him?'

'I know as much of him as I wish to knowsir. I have no
acquaintance with Mr Lightwoodand I desire none. I have no
objection to Mr Lightwoodbut I have a particular objection to
some of Mr Lightwood's friends--in shortto one of Mr
Lightwood's friends. His great friend.'

He could hardly get the words outeven then and thereso fierce
did he grow (though keeping himself down with infinite pains of
repression)when the careless and contemptuous bearing of
Eugene Wrayburn rose before his mind.

The Secretary saw there was a strong feeling here on some sore
pointand he would have made a diversion from itbut for
Bradley's holding to it in his cumbersome way.


'I have no objection to mention the friend by name' he said
doggedly. 'The person I object tois Mr Eugene Wrayburn.'

The Secretary remembered him. In his disturbed recollection of
that night when he was striving against the drugged drinkthere
was but a dim image of Eugene's person; but he remembered his
nameand his manner of speakingand how he had gone with
them to view the bodyand where he had stoodand what he had
said.

'PrayMr Headstonewhat is the name' he askedagain trying to
make a diversion'of young Hexam's sister?'

'Her name is Lizzie' said the schoolmasterwith a strong
contraction of his whole face.

'She is a young woman of a remarkable character; is she not?'

'She is sufficiently remarkable to be very superior to Mr Eugene
Wrayburn--though an ordinary person might be that' said the
schoolmaster; 'and I hope you will not think it impertinent in me
sirto ask why you put the two names together?'

'By mere accident' returned the Secretary. 'Observing that Mr
Wrayburn was a disagreeable subject with youI tried to get away
from it: though not very successfullyit would appear.'

'Do you know Mr Wrayburnsir?'

'No.'

'Then perhaps the names cannot be put together on the authority
of any representation of his?'

'Certainly not.'

'I took the liberty to ask' said Bradleyafter casting his eyes on
the ground'because he is capable of making any representation
in the swaggering levity of his insolence. I--I hope you will not
misunderstand mesir. I--I am much interested in this brother and
sisterand the subject awakens very strong feelings within me.
Veryverystrong feelings.' With a shaking handBradley took
out his handkerchief and wiped his brow.

The Secretary thoughtas he glanced at the schoolmaster's face
that he had opened a channel here indeedand that it was an
unexpectedly dark and deep and stormy oneand difficult to
sound. All at oncein the midst of his turbulent emotionsBradley
stopped and seemed to challenge his look. Much as though he
suddenly asked him'What do you see in me?'

'The brotheryoung Hexamwas your real recommendation here'
said the Secretaryquietly going back to the point; 'Mr and Mrs
Boffin happening to knowthrough Mr Lightwoodthat he was
your pupil. Anything that I ask respecting the brother and sister
or either of themI ask for myself out of my own interest in the
subjectand not in my official characteror on Mr Boffin's behalf.
How I come to be interestedI need not explain. You know the
father's connection with the discovery of Mr Harmon's body.'

'Sir' replied Bradleyvery restlessly indeed'I know all the
circumstances of that case.'


'Pray tell meMr Headstone' said the Secretary. 'Does the sister
suffer under any stigma because of the impossible accusation-groundless
would be a better word--that was made against the
fatherand substantially withdrawn?'

'Nosir' returned Bradleywith a kind of anger.

'I am very glad to hear it.'

'The sister' said Bradleyseparating his words over-carefullyand
speaking as if he were repeating them from a book'suffers under
no reproach that repels a man of unimpeachable character who
had made for himself every step of his way in lifefrom placing
her in his own station. I will not sayraising her to his own
station; I sayplacing her in it. The sister labours under no
reproachunless she should unfortunately make it for herself.
When such a man is not deterred from regarding her as his equal
and when he has convinced himself that there is no blemish on
herI think the fact must be taken to be pretty expressive.'

'And there is such a man?' said the Secretary.

Bradley Headstone knotted his browsand squared his large lower
jawand fixed his eyes on the ground with an air of determination
that seemed unnecessary to the occasionas he replied: 'And there
is such a man.'

The Secretary had no reason or excuse for prolonging the
conversationand it ended here. Within three hours the oakumheaded
apparition once more dived into the Leaving Shopand
that night Rogue Riderhood's recantation lay in the post office
addressed under cover to Lizzie Hexam at her right address.

All these proceedings occupied John Rokesmith so muchthat it
was not until the following day that he saw Bella again. It seemed
then to be tacitly understood between them that they were to be
as distantly easy as they couldwithout attracting the attention of
Mr and Mrs Boffin to any marked change in their manner. The
fitting out of old Betty Higden was favourable to thisas keeping
Bella engaged and interestedand as occupying the general
attention.

'I think' said Rokesmithwhen they all stood about herwhile she
packed her tidy basket--except Bellawho was busily helping on
her knees at the chair on which it stood; 'that at least you might
keep a letter in your pocketMrs Higdenwhich I would write for
you and date from heremerely statingin the names of Mr and
Mrs Boffinthat they are your friends;--I won't say patrons
because they wouldn't like it.'

'Nonono' said Mr Boffin; 'no patronizing! Let's keep out of
THATwhatever we come to.'

'There's more than enough of that aboutwithout us; ain't there
Noddy?' said Mrs Boffin.

'I believe youold lady!' returned the Golden Dustman.
'Overmuch indeed!'

'But people sometimes like to be patronized; don't theysir?' asked
Bellalooking up.

'I don't. And if THEY domy dearthey ought to learn better'
said Mr Boffin. 'Patrons and Patronessesand Vice-Patrons and


Vice-Patronessesand Deceased Patrons and Deceased
Patronessesand Ex-Vice-Patrons and Ex-Vice-Patronesseswhat
does it all mean in the books of the Charities that come pouring in
on Rokesmith as he sits among 'em pretty well up to his neck! If
Mr Tom Noakes gives his five shillings ain't he a Patronand if
Mrs Jack Styles gives her five shillings ain't she a Patroness?
What the deuce is it all about? If it ain't stark staring impudence
what do you call it?'

'Don't be warmNoddy' Mrs Boffin urged.

'Warm!' cried Mr Boffin. 'It's enough to make a man smoking hot.
I can't go anywhere without being Patronized. I don't want to be
Patronized. If I buy a ticket for a Flower Showor a Music Show
or any sort of Showand pay pretty heavy for itwhy am I to be
Patroned and Patronessed as if the Patrons and Patronesses
treated me? If there's a good thing to be donecan't it be done on
its own merits? If there's a bad thing to be donecan it ever be
Patroned and Patronessed right? Yet when a new Institution's
going to be builtit seems to me that the bricks and mortar ain't
made of half so much consequence as the Patrons and
Patronesses; nonor yet the objects. I wish somebody would tell
me whether other countries get Patronized to anything like the
extent of this one! And as to the Patrons and Patronesses
themselvesI wonder they're not ashamed of themselves. They
ain't Pillsor Hair-Washesor Invigorating Nervous Essencesto
be puffed in that way!'

Having delivered himself of these remarksMr Boffin took a trot
according to his usual customand trotted back to the spot from
which he had started.

'As to the letterRokesmith' said Mr Boffin'you're as right as a
trivet. Give her the lettermake her take the letterput it in her
pocket by violence. She might fall sick. You know you might fall
sick' said Mr Boffin. 'Don't deny itMrs Higdenin your
obstinacy; you know you might.'

Old Betty laughedand said that she would take the letter and be
thankful.

'That's right!' said Mr Boffin. 'Come! That's sensible. And don't
be thankful to us (for we never thought of it)but to Mr
Rokesmith.'

The letter was writtenand read to herand given to her.

'Nowhow do you feel?' said Mr Boffin. 'Do you like it?'

'The lettersir?' said Betty. 'Ayit's a beautiful letter!'

'Nonono; not the letter' said Mr Boffin; 'the idea. Are you sure
you're strong enough to carry out the idea?'

'I shall be strongerand keep the deadness off betterthis way
than any way left open to mesir.'

'Don't say than any way left openyou know' urged Mr Boffin;
'because there are ways without end. A housekeeper would be
acceptable over yonder at the Bowerfor instance. Wouldn't you
like to see the Bowerand know a retired literary man of the name
of Wegg that lives there--WITH a wooden leg?'

Old Betty was proof even against this temptationand fell to


adjusting her black bonnet and shawl.

'I wouldn't let you gonow it comes to thisafter all' said Mr
Boffin'if I didn't hope that it may make a man and a workman of
Sloppyin as short a time as ever a man and workman was made
yet. Whywhat have you got thereBetty? Not a doll?'

It was the man in the Guards who had been on duty over Johnny's
bed. The solitary old woman showed what it wasand put it up
quietly in her dress. Thenshe gratefully took leave of Mrs
Boffinand of Mr Boffinand of Rokesmithand then put her old
withered arms round Bella's young and blooming neckand said
repeating Johnny's words: 'A kiss for the boofer lady.'

The Secretary looked on from a doorway at the boofer lady thus
encircledand still looked on at the boofer lady standing alone
therewhen the determined old figure with its steady bright eyes
was trudging through the streetsaway from paralysis and
pauperism.

Chapter 15

THE WHOLE CASE SO FAR

Bradley Headstone held fast by that other interview he was to
have with Lizzie Hexam. In stipulating for ithe had been
impelled by a feeling little short of desperationand the feeling
abided by him. It was very soon after his interview with the
Secretarythat he and Charley Hexam set out one leaden evening
not unnoticed by Miss Peecherto have this desperate interview
accomplished.

'That dolls' dressmaker' said Bradley'is favourable neither to me
nor to youHexam.'

'A pert crooked little chitMr Headstone! I knew she would put
herself in the wayif she couldand would be sure to strike in with
something impertinent. It was on that account that I proposed our
going to the City to-night and meeting my sister.'

'So I supposed' said Bradleygetting his gloves on his nervous
hands as he walked. 'So I supposed.'

'Nobody but my sister' pursued Charley'would have found out
such an extraordinary companion. She has done it in a ridiculous
fancy of giving herself up to another. She told me sothat night
when we went there.'

'Why should she give herself up to the dressmaker?' asked
Bradley.

'Oh!' said the boycolouring. 'One of her romantic ideas! I tried
to convince her sobut I didn't succeed. Howeverwhat we have
got to doisto succeed to-nightMr Headstoneand then all the
rest follows.'

'You are still sanguineHexam.'

'Certainly I amsir. Whywe have everything on our side.'

'Except your sisterperhaps' thought Bradley. But he only


gloomily thought itand said nothing.

'Everything on our side' repeated the boy with boyish confidence.
'Respectabilityan excellent connexion for mecommon sense
everything!'

'To be sureyour sister has always shown herself a devoted sister'
said Bradleywilling to sustain himself on even that low ground of
hope.

'NaturallyMr HeadstoneI have a good deal of influence with
her. And now that you have honoured me with your confidence
and spoken to me firstI say againwe have everything on our
side.'

And Bradley thought again'Except your sisterperhaps.'

A grey dusty withered evening in London city has not a hopeful
aspect. The closed warehouses and offices have an air of death
about themand the national dread of colour has an air of
mourning. The towers and steeples of the many houseencompassed
churchesdark and dingy as the sky that seems
descending on themare no relief to the general gloom; a sun-dial
on a church-wall has the lookin its useless black shadeof having
failed in its business enterprise and stopped payment for ever;
melancholy waifs and strays of housekeepers and porter sweep
melancholy waifs and strays of papers and pins into the kennels
and other more melancholy waifs and strays explore them
searching and stooping and poking for anything to sell. The set of
humanity outward from the City is as a set of prisoners departing
from gaoland dismal Newgate seems quite as fit a stronghold for
the mighty Lord Mayor as his own state-dwelling.

On such an eveningwhen the city grit gets into the hair and eyes
and skinand when the fallen leaves of the few unhappy city trees
grind down in corners under wheels of windthe schoolmaster and
the pupil emerged upon the Leadenhall Street regionspying
eastward for Lizzie. Being something too soon in their arrival
they lurked at a cornerwaiting for her to appear. The bestlooking
among us will not look very welllurking at a cornerand
Bradley came out of that disadvantage very poorly indeed.

'Here she comesMr Headstone! Let us go forward and meet her.'

As they advancedshe saw them comingand seemed rather
troubled. But she greeted her brother with the usual warmthand
touched the extended hand of Bradley.

'Whywhere are you goingCharleydear?' she asked him then.

'Nowhere. We came on purpose to meet you.'

'To meet meCharley?'

'Yes. We are going to walk with you. But don't let us take the
great leading streets where every one walksand we can't hear
ourselves speak. Let us go by the quiet backways. Here's a large
paved court by this churchand quiettoo. Let us go up here.'

'But it's not in the wayCharley.'

'Yes it is' said the boypetulantly. 'It's in my wayand my way is
yours.'


She had not released his handandstill holding itlooked at him
with a kind of appeal. He avoided her eyesunder pretence of
saying'Come alongMr Headstone.' Bradley walked at his side-not
at hers--and the brother and sister walked hand in hand. The
court brought them to a churchyard; a paved square courtwith a
raised bank of earth about breast highin the middleenclosed by
iron rails. Hereconveniently and heathfully elevated above the
level of the livingwere the deadand the tombstones; some of the
latter droopingly inclined from the perpendicularas if they were
ashamed of the lies they told.

They paced the whole of this place oncein a constrained and
uncomfortable mannerwhen the boy stopped and said:

'LizzieMr Headstone has something to say to you. I don't wish to
be an interruption either to him or to youand so I'll go and take a
little stroll and come back. I know in a general way what Mr
Headstone intends to sayand I very highly approve of itas I
hope--and indeed I do not doubt--you will. I needn't tell you
Lizziethat I am under great obligations to Mr Headstoneand that
I am very anxious for Mr Headstone to succeed in all he
undertakes. As I hope--and asindeedI don't doubt--you must
be.'

'Charley' returned his sisterdetaining his hand as he withdrew it
'I think you had better stay. I think Mr Headstone had better not
say what he thinks of saying.'

'Whyhow do you know what it is?' returned the boy.

'Perhaps I don'tbut--'

'Perhaps you don't? NoLizI should think not. If you knew what
it wasyou would give me a very different answer. There; let go;
be sensible. I wonder you don't remember that Mr Headstone is
looking on.'

She allowed him to separate himself from herand heafter
saying'Now Lizbe a rational girl and a good sister' walked
away. She remained standing alone with Bradley Headstoneand
it was not until she raised her eyesthat he spoke.

'I said' he began'when I saw you lastthat there was something
unexplainedwhich might perhaps influence you. I have come
this evening to explain it. I hope you will not judge of me by my
hesitating manner when I speak to you. You see me at my
greatest disadvantage. It is most unfortunate for me that I wish
you to see me at my bestand that I know you see me at my
worst.'

She moved slowly on when he pausedand he moved slowly on
beside her.

'It seems egotistical to begin by saying so much about myself' he
resumed'but whatever I say to you seemseven in my own ears
below what I want to sayand different from what I want to say. I
can't help it. So it is. You are the ruin of me.'

She started at the passionate sound of the last wordsand at the
passionate action of his handswith which they were
accompanied.

'Yes! you are the ruin--the ruin--the ruin--of me. I have no
resources in myselfI have no confidence in myselfI have no


government of myself when you are near me or in my thoughts.
And you are always in my thoughts now. I have never been quit
of you since I first saw you. Ohthat was a wretched day for me!
That was a wretchedmiserable day!'


A touch of pity for him mingled with her dislike of himand she
said: 'Mr HeadstoneI am grieved to have done you any harmbut
I have never meant it.'


'There!' he crieddespairingly. 'NowI seem to have reproached
youinstead of revealing to you the state of my own mind! Bear
with me. I am always wrong when you are in question. It is my
doom.'


Struggling with himselfand by times looking up at the deserted
windows of the houses as if there could be anything written in
their grimy panes that would help himhe paced the whole
pavement at her sidebefore he spoke again.


'I must try to give expression to what is in my mind; it shall and
must be spoken. Though you see me so confounded--though you
strike me so helpless--I ask you to believe that there are many
people who think well of me; that there are some people who
highly esteem me; that I have in my way won a Station which is
considered worth winning.'


'SurelyMr HeadstoneI do believe it. Surely I have always
known it from Charley.'


'I ask you to believe that if I were to offer my home such as it is
my station such as it ismy affections such as they areto any one
of the best consideredand best qualifiedand most distinguished
among the young women engaged in my callingthey would
probably be accepted. Even readily accepted.'


'I do not doubt it' said Lizziewith her eyes upon the ground.


'I have sometimes had it in my thoughts to make that offer and to
settle down as many men of my class do: I on the one side of a
schoolmy wife on the otherboth of us interested in the same
work.'


'Why have you not done so?' asked Lizzie Hexam. 'Why do you
not do so?'


'Far better that I never did! The only one grain of comfort I have
had these many weeks' he saidalways speaking passionately
andwhen most emphaticrepeating that former action of his
handswhich was like flinging his heart's blood down before her in
drops upon the pavement-stones; 'the only one grain of comfort I
have had these many weeks isthat I never did. For if I hadand
if the same spell had come upon me for my ruinI know I should
have broken that tie asunder as if it had been thread.'


She glanced at him with a glance of fearand a shrinking gesture.
He answeredas if she had spoken.


'No! It would not have been voluntary on my partany more than
it is voluntary in me to be here now. You draw me to you. If I
were shut up in a strong prisonyou would draw me out. I should
break through the wall to come to you. If I were lying on a sick
bedyou would draw me up--to stagger to your feet and fall there.'


The wild energy of the mannow quite let loosewas absolutely



terrible. He stopped and laid his hand upon a piece of the coping
of the burial-ground enclosureas if he would have dislodged the
stone.

'No man knows till the time comeswhat depths are within him.
To some men it never comes; let them rest and be thankful! To
meyou brought it; on meyou forced it; and the bottom of this
raging sea' striking himself upon the breast'has been heaved up
ever since.'

'Mr HeadstoneI have heard enough. Let me stop you here. It
will be better for you and better for me. Let us find my brother.'

'Not yet. It shall and must be spoken. I have been in torments
ever since I stopped short of it before. You are alarmed. It is
another of my miseries that I cannot speak to you or speak of you
without stumbling at every syllableunless I let the check go
altogether and run mad. Here is a man lighting the lamps. He will
be gone directly. I entreat of you let us walk round this place
again. You have no reason to look alarmed; I can restrain myself
and I will.'

She yielded to the entreaty--how could she do otherwise!--and
they paced the stones in silence. One by one the lights leaped up
making the cold grey church tower more remoteand they were
alone again. He said no more until they had regained the spot
where he had broken off; therehe again stood stilland again
grasped the stone. In saying what he said thenhe never looked at
her; but looked at it and wrenched at it.

'You know what I am going to say. I love you. What other men
may mean when they use that expressionI cannot tell; what I
mean isthat I am under the influence of some tremendous
attraction which I have resisted in vainand which overmasters
me. You could draw me to fireyou could draw me to wateryou
could draw me to the gallowsyou could draw me to any death
you could draw me to anything I have most avoidedyou could
draw me to any exposure and disgrace. This and the confusion of
my thoughtsso that I am fit for nothingis what I mean by your
being the ruin of me. But if you would return a favourable answer
to my offer of myself in marringeyou could draw me to any
good--every good--with equal force. My circumstances are quite
easyand you would want for nothing. My reputation stands quite
highand would be a shield for yours. If you saw me at my work
able to do it well and respected in ityou might even come to take
a sort of pride in me;--I would try hard that you should. Whatever
considerations I may have thought of against this offerI have
conqueredand I make it with all my heart. Your brother favours
me to the utmostand it is likely that we might live and work
together; anyhowit is certain that he would have my best
influence and support. I don't know what I could say more if I
tried. I might only weaken what is ill enough said as it is. I only
add that if it is any claim on you to be in earnestI am in thorough
earnestdreadful earnest.'

The powdered mortar from under the stone at which he wrenched
rattled on the pavement to confirm his words.

'Mr Headstone--'

'Stop! I implore youbefore you answer meto walk round this
place once more. It will give you a minute's time to thinkand me
a minute's time to get some fortitude together.'


Again she yielded to the entreatyand again they came back to the
same placeand again he worked at the stone.

'Is it' he saidwith his attention apparently engrossed by it'yesor
no?'

'Mr HeadstoneI thank you sincerelyI thank you gratefullyand
hope you may find a worthy wife before long and be very happy.
But it is no.'

'Is no short time necessary for reflection; no weeks or days?' he
askedin the same half-suffocated way.

'None whatever.'

'Are you quite decidedand is there no chance of any change in
my favour?'

'I am quite decidedMr Headstoneand I am bound to answer I
am certain there is none.'

'Then' said hesuddenly changing his tone and turning to herand
bringing his clenched hand down upon the stone with a force that
laid the knuckles raw and bleeding; 'then I hope that I may never
kill him!'

The dark look of hatred and revenge with which the words broke
from his livid lipsand with which he stood holding out his
smeared hand as if it held some weapon and had just struck a
mortal blowmade her so afraid of him that she turned to run
away. But he caught her by the arm.

'Mr Headstonelet me go. Mr HeadstoneI must call for help!'

'It is I who should call for help' he said; 'you don't know yet how
much I need it.'

The working of his face as she shrank from itglancing round for
her brother and uncertain what to domight have extorted a cry
from her in another instant; but all at once he sternly stopped it
and fixed itas if Death itself had done so.

'There! You see I have recovered myself. Hear me out.'

With much of the dignity of courageas she recalled her selfreliant
life and her right to be free from accountability to this man
she released her arm from his grasp and stood looking full at him.
She had never been so handsomein his eyes. A shade came over
them while he looked back at heras if she drew the very light out
of them to herself.

'This timeat leastI will leave nothing unsaid' he went onfolding
his hands before himclearly to prevent his being betrayed into
any impetuous gesture; 'this last time at least I will not be tortured
with after-thoughts of a lost opportunity. Mr Eugene Wrayburn.'

'Was it of him you spoke in your ungovernable rage and violence?'
Lizzie Hexam demanded with spirit.

He bit his lipand looked at herand said never a word.

'Was it Mr Wrayburn that you threatened?'

He bit his lip againand looked at herand said never a word.


'You asked me to hear you outand you will not speak. Let me
find my brother.'

'Stay! I threatened no one.'

Her look dropped for an instant to his bleeding hand. He lifted it
to his mouthwiped it on his sleeveand again folded it over the
other. 'Mr Eugene Wrayburn' he repeated.

'Why do you mention that name again and againMr Headstone?'

'Because it is the text of the little I have left to say. Observe!
There are no threats in it. If I utter a threatstop meand fasten it
upon me. Mr Eugene Wrayburn.'

A worse threat than was conveyed in his manner of uttering the
namecould hardly have escaped him.

'He haunts you. You accept favours from him. You are willing
enough to listen to HIM. I know itas well as he does.'

'Mr Wrayburn has been considerate and good to mesir' said
Lizzieproudly'in connexion with the death and with the memory
of my poor father.'

'No doubt. He is of course a very considerate and a very good
manMr Eugene Wrayburn.'

'He is nothing to youI think' said Lizziewith an indignation she
could not repress.

'Oh yeshe is. There you mistake. He is much to me.'

'What can he be to you?'

'He can be a rival to me among other things' said Bradley.

'Mr Headstone' returned Lizziewith a burning face'it is
cowardly in you to speak to me in this way. But it makes me able
to tell you that I do not like youand that I never have liked you
from the firstand that no other living creature has anything to do
with the effect you have produced upon me for yourself.'

His head bent for a momentas if under a weightand he then
looked up againmoistening his lips. 'I was going on with the little
I had left to say. I knew all this about Mr Eugene Wrayhurnall
the while you were drawing me to you. I strove against the
knowledgebut quite in vain. It made no difference in me. With
Mr Eugene Wrayburn in my mindI went on. With Mr Eugene
Wrayburn in my mindI spoke to you just now. With Mr Eugene
Wrayburn in my mindI have been set aside and I have been cast
out.'

'If you give those names to my thanking you for your proposal and
declining itis it my faultMr Headstone?' said Lizzie
compassionating the bitter struggle he could not concealalmost as
much as she was repelled and alarmed by it.

'I am not complaining' he returned'I am only stating the case. I
had to wrestle with my self-respect when I submitted to be drawn
to you in spite of Mr Wrayburn. You may imagine how low my
self-respect lies now.'


She was hurt and angry; but repressed herself in consideration of
his sufferingand of his being her brother's friend.

'And it lies under his feet' said Bradleyunfolding his hands in
spite of himselfand fiercely motioning with them both towards
the stones of the pavement. 'Remember that! It lies under that
fellow's feetand he treads upon it and exults above it.'

'He does not!' said Lizzie.

'He does!' said Bradley. 'I have stood before him face to faceand
he crushed me down in the dirt of his contemptand walked over
me. Why? Because he knew with triumph what was in store for
me to-night.'

'OMr Headstoneyou talk quite wildly.'

'Quite collectedly. I know what I say too well. Now I have said
all. I have used no threatremember; I have done no more than
show you how the case stands;--how the case standsso far.'

At this moment her brother sauntered into view close by. She
darted to himand caught him by the hand. Bradley followedand
laid his heavy hand on the boy's opposite shoulder.

'Charley HexamI am going home. I must walk home by myself
to-nightand get shut up in my room without being spoken to.
Give me half an hour's startand let me betill you find me at my
work in the morning. I shall be at my work in the morning just as
usual.'

Clasping his handshe uttered a short unearthly broken cryand
went his way. The brother and sister were left looking at one
another near a lamp in the solitary churchyardand the boy's face
clouded and darkenedas he said in a rough tone: 'What is the
meaning of this? What have you done to my best friend? Out
with the truth!'

'Charley!' said his sister. 'Speak a little more considerately!'

'I am not in the humour for considerationor for nonsense of any
sort' replied the boy. 'What have you been doing? Why has Mr
Headstone gone from us in that way?'

'He asked me--you know he asked me--to be his wifeCharley.'

'Well?' said the boyimpatiently.

'And I was obliged to tell him that I could not be his wife.'

'You were obliged to tell him' repeated the boy angrilybetween
his teethand rudely pushing her away. 'You were obliged to tell
him! Do you know that he is worth fifty of you?'

'It may easily be soCharleybut I cannot marry him.'

'You mean that you are conscious that you can't appreciate him
and don't deserve himI suppose?'

'I mean that I do not like himCharleyand that I will never marry
him.'

'Upon my soul' exclaimed the boy'you are a nice picture of a
sister! Upon my soulyou are a pretty piece of disinterestedness!


And so all my endeavours to cancel the past and to raise myself in
the worldand to raise you with meare to be beaten down by
YOUR low whims; are they?'

'I will not reproach youCharley.'

'Hear her!' exclaimed the boylooking round at the darkness. 'She
won't reproach me! She does her best to destroy my fortunes and
her ownand she won't reproach me! Whyyou'll tell menext
that you won't reproach Mr Headstone for coming out of the
sphere to which he is an ornamentand putting himself at YOUR
feetto be rejected by YOU!'

'NoCharley; I will only tell youas I told himselfthat I thank him
for doing sothat I am sorry he did soand that I hope he will do
much betterand be happy.'

Some touch of compunction smote the boy's hardening heart as he
looked upon herhis patient little nurse in infancyhis patient
friendadviserand reclaimer in boyhoodthe self-forgetting sister
who had done everything for him. His tone relentedand he drew
her arm through his.

'NowcomeLiz; don't let us quarrel: let us be reasonable and talk
this over like brother and sister. Will you listen to me?'

'OhCharley!' she replied through her starting tears; 'do I not listen
to youand hear many hard things!'

'Then I am sorry. ThereLiz! I am unfeignedly sorry. Only you
do put me out so. Now see. Mr Headstone is perfectly devoted to
you. He has told me in the strongest manner that he has never
been his old self for one single minute since I first brought him to
see you. Miss Peecherour schoolmistress--pretty and youngand
all that--is known to be very much attached to himand he won't
so much as look at her or hear of her. Nowhis devotion to you
must be a disinterested one; mustn't it? If he married Miss
Peecherhe would be a great deal better off in all worldly
respectsthan in marrying you. Well then; he has nothing to get
by ithas he?'

'NothingHeaven knows!'

'Very well then' said the boy; 'that's something in his favourand a
great thing. Then I come in. Mr Headstone has always got me on
and he has a good deal in his powerand of course if he was my
brother-in-law he wouldn't get me on lessbut would get me on
more. Mr Headstone comes and confides in mein a very delicate
wayand saysI hope my marrying your sister would be
agreeable to you, Hexam, and useful to you?I sayThere's
nothing in the world, Mr Headstone, that I could he better pleased
with.Mr Headstone saysThen I may rely upon your intimate
knowledge of me for your good word with your sister, Hexam?
And I sayCertainly, Mr Headstone, and naturally I have a good
deal of influence with her.So I have; haven't ILiz?'

'YesCharley.'

'Well said! Nowyou seewe begin to get onthe moment we
begin to be really talking it overlike brother and sister. Very
well. Then YOU come in. As Mr Headstone's wife you would be
occupying a most respectable stationand you would be holding a
far better place in society than you hold nowand you would at
length get quit of the river-side and the old disagreeables


belonging to itand you would be rid for good of dolls'
dressmakers and their drunken fathersand the like of that. Not
that I want to disparage Miss Jenny Wren: I dare say she is all
very well in her way; but her way is not your way as Mr
Headstone's wife. Nowyou seeLizon all three accounts--on
Mr Headstone'son mineon yours--nothing could be better or
more desirable.'

They were walking slowly as the boy spokeand here he stood
stillto see what effect he had made. His sister's eyes were fixed
upon him; but as they showed no yieldingand as she remained
silenthe walked her on again. There was some discomfiture in
his tone as he resumedthough he tried to conceal it.

'Having so much influence with youLizas I haveperhaps I
should have done better to have had a little chat with you in the
first instancebefore Mr Headstone spoke for himself. But really
all this in his favour seemed so plain and undeniableand I knew
you to have always been so reasonable and sensiblethat I didn't
consider it worth while. Very likely that was a mistake of mine.
Howeverit's soon set right. All that need be done to set it rightis
for you to tell me at once that I may go home and tell Mr
Headstone that what has taken place is not finaland that it will all
come round by-and-by.'

He stopped again. The pale face looked anxiously and lovingly at
himbut she shook her head.

'Can't you speak?' said the boy sharply.

'I am very unwilling to speakCharley. If I mustI must. I cannot
authorize you to say any such thing to Mr Headstone: I cannot
allow you to say any such thing to Mr Headstone. Nothing
remains to be said to him from meafter what I have said for good
and allto-night.'

'And this girl' cried the boycontemptuously throwing her off
again'calls herself a sister!'

'Charleydearthat is the second time that you have almost struck
me. Don't be hurt by my words. I don't mean--Heaven forbid!-that
you intended it; but you hardly know with what a sudden
swing you removed yourself from me.'

'However!' said the boytaking no heed of the remonstranceand
pursuing his own mortified disappointment'I know what this
meansand you shall not disgrace me.'

'It means what I have told youCharleyand nothing more.'

'That's not true' said the boy in a violent tone'and you know it's
not. It means your precious Mr Wrayburn; that's what it means.'

'Charley! If you remember any old days of ours together
forbear!'

'But you shall not disgrace me' doggedly pursued the boy. 'I am
determined that after I have climbed up out of the mireyou shall
not pull me down. You can't disgrace me if I have nothing to do
with youand I will have nothing to do with you for the future.'

'Charley! On many a night like thisand many a worse nightI
have sat on the stones of the streethushing you in my arms.
Unsay those words without even saying you are sorry for them


and my arms are open to you stilland so is my heart.'

'I'll not unsay them. I'll say them again. You are an inveterately
bad girland a false sisterand I have done with you. For everI
have done with you!'

He threw up his ungrateful and ungracious hand as if it set up a
barrier between themand flung himself upon his heel and left her.
She remained impassive on the same spotsilent and motionless
until the striking of the church clock roused herand she turned
away. But thenwith the breaking up of her immobility came the
breaking up of the waters that the cold heart of the selfish boy had
frozen. And 'O that I were lying here with the dead!' and 'O
CharleyCharleythat this should be the end of our pictures in the
fire!' were all the words she saidas she laid her face in her hands
on the stone coping.

A figure passed byand passed onbut stopped and looked round
at her. It was the figure of an old man with a bowed head
wearing a large brimmed low-crowned hatand a long-skirted
coat. After hesitating a littlethe figure turned backand
advancing with an air of gentleness and compassionsaid:

'Pardon meyoung womanfor speaking to youbut you are under
some distress of mind. I cannot pass upon my way and leave you
weeping here aloneas if there was nothing in the place. Can I
help you? Can I do anything to give you comfort?'

She raised her head at the sound of these kind wordsand
answered gladly'OMr Riahis it you?'

'My daughter' said the old man'I stand amazed! I spoke as to a
stranger. Take my armtake my arm. What grieves you? Who
has done this? Poor girlpoor girl!'

'My brother has quarrelled with me' sobbed Lizzie'and
renounced me.'

'He is a thankless dog' said the Jewangrily. 'Let him go.' Shake
the dust from thy feet and let him go. Comedaughter! Come
home with me--it is but across the road--and take a little time to
recover your peace and to make your eyes seemlyand then I will
bear you company through the streets. For it is past your usual
timeand will soon be lateand the way is longand there is much
company out of doors to-night.'

She accepted the support he offered herand they slowly passed
out of the churchyard. They were in the act of emerging into the
main thoroughfarewhen another figure loitering discontentedly
byand looking up the street and down itand all aboutstarted
and exclaimed'Lizzie! whywhere have you been? Whywhat's
the matter?'

As Eugene Wrayburn thus addressed hershe drew closer to the
Jewand bent her head. The Jew having taken in the whole of
Eugene at one sharp glancecast his eyes upon the groundand
stood mute.

'Lizziewhat is the matter?'

'Mr WrayburnI cannot tell you now. I cannot tell you to-nightif
I ever can tell you. Pray leave me.'

'ButLizzieI came expressly to join you. I came to walk home


with youhaving dined at a coffee-house in this neighbourhood
and knowing your hour. And I have been lingering about' added
Eugene'like a bailiff; or' with a look at Riah'an old clothesman.'

The Jew lifted up his eyesand took in Eugene once moreat
another glance.

'Mr Wrayburnprayprayleave me with this protector. And one
thing more. Praypray be careful of yourself.'

'Mysteries of Udolpho!' said Eugenewith a look of wonder. 'May
I be excused for askingin the elderly gentleman's presencewho
is this kind protector?'

'A trustworthy friend' said Lizzie.

'I will relieve him of his trust' returned Eugene. 'But you must tell
meLizziewhat is the matter?'

'Her brother is the matter' said the old manlifting up his eyes
again.

'Our brother the matter?' returned Eugenewith airy contempt.
'Our brother is not worth a thoughtfar less a tear. What has our
brother done?'

The old man lifted up his eyes againwith one grave look at
Wrayburnand one grave glance at Lizzieas she stood looking
down. Both were so full of meaning that even Eugene was
checked in his light careerand subsided into a thoughtful
'Humph!'

With an air of perfect patience the old manremaining mute and
keeping his eyes cast downstoodretaining Lizzie's armas
though in his habit of passive enduranceit would be all one to
him if he had stood there motionless all night.

'If Mr Aaron' said Eugenewho soon found this fatiguing'will be
good enough to relinquish his charge to mehe will be quite free
for any engagement he may have at the Synagogue. Mr Aaron
will you have the kindness?'

But the old man stood stock still.

'Good eveningMr Aaron' said Eugenepolitely; 'we need not
detain you.' Then turning to Lizzie'Is our friend Mr Aaron a little
deaf?'

'My hearing is very goodChristian gentleman' replied the old
mancalmly; 'but I will hear only one voice to-nightdesiring me
to leave this damsel before I have conveyed her to her home. If
she requests itI will do it. I will do it for no one else.'

'May I ask why soMr Aaron?' said Eugenequite undisturbed in
his ease.

'Excuse me. If she asks meI will tell her' replied the old man. 'I
will tell no one else.'

'I do not ask you' said Lizzie'and I beg you to take me home. Mr
WrayburnI have had a bitter trial to-nightand I hope you will
not think me ungratefulor mysteriousor changeable. I am
neither; I am wretched. Pray remember what I said to you. Pray
praytake care.'


'My dear Lizzie' he returnedin a low voicebending over her on
the other side; 'of what? Of whom?'

'Of any one you have lately seen and made angry.'

He snapped his fingers and laughed. 'Come' said he'since no
better may beMr Aaron and I will divide this trustand see you
home together. Mr Aaron on that side; I on this. If perfectly
agreeable to Mr Aaronthe escort will now proceed.'

He knew his power over her. He knew that she would not insist
upon his leaving her. He knew thather fears for him being
arousedshe would be uneasy if he were out of her sight. For all
his seeming levity and carelessnesshe knew whatever he chose to
know of the thoughts of her heart.

And going on at her sideso gailyregardless of all that had been
urged against him; so superior in his sallies and self-possession to
the gloomy constraint of her suitor and the selfish petulance of her
brother; so faithful to heras it seemedwhen her own stock was
faithless; what an immense advantagewhat an overpowering
influencewere his that night! Add to the restpoor girlthat she
had heard him vilified for her sakeand that she had suffered for
hisand where the wonder that his occasional tones of serious
interest (setting off his carelessnessas if it were assumed to calm
her)that his lightest touchhis lightest lookhis very presence
beside her in the dark common streetwere like glimpses of an
enchanted worldwhich it was natural for jealousy and malice and
all meanness to be unable to bear the brightness ofand to gird at
as bad spirits might.

Nothing more being said of repairing to Riah'sthey went direct to
Lizzie's lodging. A little short of the house-door she parted from
themand went in alone.

'Mr Aaron' said Eugenewhen they were left together in the
street'with many thanks for your companyit remains for me
unwillingly to say Farewell.'

'Sir' returned the other'I give you good nightand I wish that you
were not so thoughtless.'

'Mr Aaron' returned Eugene'I give you good nightand I wish
(for you are a little dull) that you were not so thoughtful.'

But nowthat his part was played out for the eveningand when in
turning his back upon the Jew he came off the stagehe was
thoughtful himself. 'How did Lightwood's catechism run?' he
murmuredas he stopped to light his cigar. 'What is to come of it?
What are you doing? Where are you going? We shall soon know
now. Ah!' with a heavy sigh.

The heavy sigh was repeated as if by an echoan hour afterwards
when Riahwho had been sitting on some dark steps in a corner
over against the housearose and went his patient way; stealing
through the streets in his ancient dresslike the ghost of a departed
Time.

Chapter 16

AN ANNIVERSARY OCCASION


The estimable Twemlowdressing himself in his lodgings over the
stable-yard in Duke StreetSaint James'sand hearing the horses at
their toilette belowfinds himself on the whole in a
disadvantageous position as compared with the noble animals at
livery. For whereason the one handhe has no attendant to slap
him soundingly and require him in gruff accents to come up and
come overstillon the other handhe has no attendant at all; and
the mild gentleman's finger-joints and other joints working rustily
in the morninghe could deem it agreeable even to be tied up by
the countenance at his chamber-doorso he were there skilfully
rubbed down and slushed and sluiced and polished and clothed
while himself taking merely a passive part in these trying
transactions.

How the fascinating Tippins gets on when arraying herself for the
bewilderment of the senses of menis known only to the Graces
and her maid; but perhaps even that engaging creaturethough not
reduced to the self-dependence of Twemlow could dispense with
a good deal of the trouble attendant on the daily restoration of her
charmsseeing that as to her face and neck this adorable divinity
isas it werea diurnal species of lobster--throwing off a shell
every forenoonand needing to keep in a retired spot until the new
crust hardens.

HowbeitTwemlow doth at length invest himself with collar and
cravat and wristbands to his knucklesand goeth forth to
breakfast. And to breakfast with whom but his near neighbours
the Lammles of Sackville Streetwho have imparted to him that
he will meet his distant kinsmanMr Fledgely. The awful
Snigsworth might taboo and prohibit Fledgelybut the peaceable
Twemlow reasonsIf he IS my kinsman I didn't make him soand
to meet a man is not to know him.'

It is the first anniversary of the happy marriage of Mr and Mrs
Lammleand the celebration is a breakfastbecause a dinner on
the desired scale of sumptuosity cannot be achieved within less
limits than those of the non-existent palatial residence of which so
many people are madly envious. SoTwemlow trips with not a
little stiffness across Piccadillysensible of having once been more
upright in figure and less in danger of being knocked down by
swift vehicles. To be sure that was in the days when he hoped for
leave from the dread Snigsworth to do somethingor be
somethingin lifeand before that magnificent Tartar issued the
ukase'As he will never distinguish himselfhe must be a poor
gentleman-pensioner of mineand let him hereby consider himself
pensioned.'

Ah! my Twemlow! Saylittle feeble grey personagewhat
thoughts are in thy breast to-dayof the Fancy--so still to call her
who bruised thy heart when it was green and thy head brown--and
whether it be better or worsemore painful or lessto believe in
the Fancy to this hourthan to know her for a greedy armourplated
crocodilewith no more capacity of imagining the delicate
and sensitive and tender spot behind thy waistcoatthan of going
straight at it with a knitting-needle. Say likewisemy Twemlow
whether it be the happier lot to be a poor relation of the greator
to stand in the wintry slush giving the hack horses to drink out of
the shallow tub at the coach-standinto which thou has so nearly
set thy uncertain foot. Twemlow says nothingand goes on.

As he approaches the Lammles' doordrives up a little one-horse
carriagecontaining Tippins the divine. Tippinsletting down the


windowplayfully extols the vigilance of her cavalier in being in
waiting there to hand her out. Twemlow hands her out with as
much polite gravity as if she were anything realand they proceed
upstairs. Tippins all abroad about the legsand seeking to express
that those unsteady articles are only skipping in their native
buoyancy.

And dear Mrs Lammle and dear Mr Lammlehow do you doand
when are you going down to what's-its-name place--GuyEarl of
Warwickyou know--what is it?--Dun Cow--to claim the flitch of
bacon? And Mortimerwhose name is for ever blotted out from
my list of loversby reason first of fickleness and then of base
desertionhow do YOU dowretch? And Mr WrayburnYOU
here! What can YOU come forbecause we are all very sure
before-hand that you are not going to talk! And VeneeringM.P.
how are things going on down at the houseand when will you
turn out those terrible people for us? And Mrs Veneeringmy
dearcan it positively be true that you go down to that stifling
place night after nightto hear those men prose? Talking of
whichVeneeringwhy don't you prosefor you haven't opened
your lips there yetand we are dying to hear what you have got to
say to us! Miss Podsnapcharmed to see you. Pahere? No!
Maneither? Oh! Mr Boots! Delighted. Mr Brewer! This IS a
gathering of the clans. Thus Tippinsand surveys Fledgeby and
outsiders through golden glassmurmuring as she turns about and
aboutin her innocent giddy wayAnybody else I know? NoI
think not. Nobody there. Nobody THERE. Nobody anywhere!

Mr Lammleall a-glitterproduces his friend Fledgebyas dying
for the honour of presentation to Lady Tippins. Fledgeby
presentedhas the air of going to say somethinghas the air of
going to say nothinghas an air successively of meditationof
resignationand of desolationbacks on Brewermakes the tour of
Bootsand fades into the extreme backgroundfeeling for his
whiskeras if it might have turned up since he was there five
minutes ago.

But Lammle has him out again before he has so much as
completely ascertained the bareness of the land. He would seem
to be in a bad wayFledgeby; for Lammle represents him as dying
again. He is dying nowof want of presentation to Twemlow.

Twemlow offers his hand. Glad to see him. 'Your mothersir
was a connexion of mine.'

'I believe so' says Fledgeby'but my mother and her family were
two.'

'Are you staying in town?' asks Twemlow.

'I always am' says Fledgeby.

'You like town' says Twemlow. But is felled flat by Fledgeby's
taking it quite illand replyingNohe don't like town. Lammle
tries to break the force of the fallby remarking that some people
do not like town. Fledgeby retorting that he never heard of any
such case but his ownTwemlow goes down again heavily.

'There is nothing new this morningI suppose?' says Twemlow
returning to the mark with great spirit.

Fledgeby has not heard of anything.

'Nothere's not a word of news' says Lammle.


'Not a particle' adds Boots.

'Not an atom' chimes in Brewer.

Somehow the execution of this little concerted piece appears to
raise the general spirits as with a sense of duty doneand sets the
company a going. Everybody seems more equal than beforeto
the calamity of being in the society of everybody else. Even
Eugene standing in a windowmoodily swinging the tassel of a
blindgives it a smarter jerk nowas if he found himself in better
case.

Breakfast announced. Everything on table showy and gaudybut
with a self-assertingly temporary and nomadic air on the
decorationsas boasting that they will be much more showy and
gaudy in the palatial residence. Mr Lammle's own particular
servant behind his chair; the Analytical behind Veneering's chair;
instances in point that such servants fall into two classes: one
mistrusting the master's acquaintancesand the other mistrusting
the master. Mr Lammle's servantof the second class. Appearing
to be lost in wonder and low spirits because the police are so long
in coming to take his master up on some charge of the first
magnitude.

VeneeringM.P.on the right of Mrs Lammle; Twemlow on her
left; Mrs VeneeringW.M.P. (wife of Member of Parliament)and
Lady Tippins on Mr Lammle's right and left. But be sure that well
within the fascination of Mr Lammle's eye and smile sits little
Georgiana. And be sure that close to little Georgianaalso under
inspection by the same gingerous gentlemansits Fledgeby.

Oftener than twice or thrice while breakfast is in progressMr
Twemlow gives a little sudden turn towards Mrs Lammleand
then says to her'I beg your pardon!' This not being Twemlow's
usual waywhy is it his way to-day? Whythe truth isTwemlow
repeatedly labours under the impression that Mrs Lammle is going
to speak to himand turning finds that it is not soand mostly that
she has her eyes upon Veneering. Strange that this impression so
abides by Twemlow after being correctedyet so it is.

Lady Tippins partaking plentifully of the fruits of the earth
(including grape-juice in the category) becomes livelierand
applies herself to elicit sparks from Mortimer Lightwood. It is
always understood among the initiatedthat that faithless lover
must be planted at table opposite to Lady Tippinswho will then
strike conversational fire out of him. In a pause of mastication
and deglutitionLady Tippinscontemplating Mortimerrecalls
that it was at our dear Veneeringsand in the presence of a party
who are surely all herethat he told them his story of the man
from somewherewhich afterwards became so horribly interesting
and vulgarly popular.

'YesLady Tippins' assents Mortimer; 'as they say on the stage
Even so!

'Then we expect you' retorts the charmer'to sustain your
reputationand tell us something else.'

'Lady TippinsI exhausted myself for life that dayand there is
nothing more to be got out of me.'

Mortimer parries thuswith a sense upon him that elsewhere it is
Eugene and not he who is the jesterand that in these circles


where Eugene persists in being speechlessheMortimeris but
the double of the friend on whom he has founded himself.

'But' quoth the fascinating Tippins'I am resolved on getting
something more out of you. Traitor! what is this I hear about
another disappearance?'

'As it is you who have heard it' returns Lightwood'perhaps you'll
tell us.'

'Monsteraway!' retorts Lady Tippins. 'Your own Golden
Dustman referred me to you.'

Mr Lammlestriking in hereproclaims aloud that there is a sequel
to the story of the man from somewhere. Silence ensues upon the
proclamation.

'I assure you' says Lightwoodglancing round the table'I have
nothing to tell.' But Eugene adding in a low voice'Theretell it
tell it!' he corrects himself with the addition'Nothing worth
mentioning.'

Boots and Brewer immediately perceive that it is immensely
worth mentioningand become politely clamorous. Veneering is
also visited by a perception to the same effect. But it is
understood that his attention is now rather used upand difficult to
holdthat being the tone of the House of Commons.

'Pray don't be at the trouble of composing yourselves to listen'
says Mortimer Lightwood'because I shall have finished long
before you have fallen into comfortable attitudes. It's like--'

'It's like' impatiently interrupts Eugene'the children's narrative:

I'll tell you a story
Of Jack a Manory,
And now my story's begun;
I'll tell you another
Of Jack and his brother,
And now my story is done.


--Get onand get it over!'

Eugene says this with a sound of vexation in his voiceleaning
back in his chair and looking balefully at Lady Tippinswho nods
to him as her dear Bearand playfully insinuates that she (a selfevident
proposition) is Beautyand he Beast.

'The reference' proceeds Mortimer'which I suppose to be made
by my honourable and fair enslaver oppositeis to the following
circumstance. Very latelythe young womanLizzie Hexam
daughter of the late Jesse Hexamotherwise Gafferwho will be
remembered to have found the body of the man from somewhere
mysteriously receivedshe knew not from whoman explicit
retraction of the charges made against her fatherby another
water-side character of the name of Riderhood. Nobody believed
thembecause little Rogue Riderhood--I am tempted into the
paraphrase by remembering the charming wolf who would have
rendered society a great service if he had devoured Mr
Riderhood's father and mother in their infancy--had previously
played fast and loose with the said chargesandin fact
abandoned them. Howeverthe retraction I have mentioned
found its way into Lizzie Hexam's handswith a general flavour on
it of having been favoured by some anonymous messenger in a


dark cloak and slouched hatand was by her forwardedin her
father's vindicationto Mr Boffinmy client. You will excuse the
phraseology of the shopbut as I never had another clientand in
all likelihood never shall haveI am rather proud of him as a
natural curiosity probably unique.'

Although as easy as usual on the surfaceLightwood is not quite
as easy as usual below it. With an air of not minding Eugene at
allhe feels that the subject is not altogether a safe one in that
connexion.

'The natural curiosity which forms the sole ornament of my
professional museum' he resumes'hereupon desires his
Secretary--an individual of the hermit-crab or oyster speciesand
whose nameI thinkis Chokesmith--but it doesn't in the least
matter--say Artichoke--to put himself in communication with
Lizzie Hexam. Artichoke professes his readiness so to do
endeavours to do sobut fails.'

'Why fails?' asks Boots.

'How fails?' asks Brewer.

'Pardon me' returns Lightwood' I must postpone the reply for one
momentor we shall have an anti-climax. Artichoke failing
signallymy client refers the task to me: his purpose being to
advance the interests of the object of his search. I proceed to put
myself in communication with her; I even happen to possess some
special means' with a glance at Eugene'of putting myself in
communication with her; but I fail toobecause she has vanished.'

'Vanished!' is the general echo.

'Disappeared' says Mortimer. 'Nobody knows hownobody
knows whennobody knows where. And so ends the story to
which my honourable and fair enslaver opposite referred.'

Tippinswith a bewitching little screamopines that we shall every
one of us be murdered in our beds. Eugene eyes her as if some of
us would be enough for him. Mrs VeneeringW.M.P.remarks
that these social mysteries make one afraid of leaving Baby.
VeneeringM.P.wishes to be informed (with something of a
second-hand air of seeing the Right Honourable Gentleman at the
head of the Home Department in his place) whether it is intended
to be conveyed that the vanished person has been spirited away or
otherwise harmed? Instead of Lightwood's answeringEugene
answersand answers hastily and vexedly: 'Nonono; he doesn't
mean that; he means voluntarily vanished--but utterly-completely.'


Howeverthe great subject of the happiness of Mr and Mrs
Lammle must not be allowed to vanish with the other
vanishments--with the vanishing of the murdererthe vanishing of
Julius Handfordthe vanishing of Lizzie Hexam--and therefore
Veneering must recall the present sheep to the pen from which
they have strayed. Who so fit to discourse of the happiness of Mr
and Mrs Lammlethey being the dearest and oldest friends he has
in the world; or what audience so fit for him to take into his
confidence as that audiencea noun of multitude or signifying
manywho are all the oldest and dearest friends he has in the
world? So Veneeringwithout the formality of risinglaunches
into a familiar orationgradually toning into the Parliamentary
sing-songin which he sees at that board his dear friend Twemlow
who on that day twelvemonth bestowed on his dear friend


Lammle the fair hand of his dear friend Sophroniaand in which
he also sees at that board his dear friends Boots and Brewer
whose rallying round him at a period when his dear friend Lady
Tippins likewise rallied round him--ayand in the foremost rank-he
can never forget while memory holds her seat. But he is free to
confess that he misses from that board his dear old friend
Podsnapthough he is well represented by his dear young friend
Georgiana. And he further sees at that board (this he announces
with pompas if exulting in the powers of an extraordinary
telescope) his friend Mr Fledgebyif he will permit him to call him
so. For all of these reasonsand many more which he right well
knows will have occurred to persons of your exceptional
acutenesshe is here to submit to you that the time has arrived
whenwith our hearts in our glasseswith tears in our eyeswith
blessings on our lipsand in a general way with a profusion of
gammon and spinach in our emotional larderswe should one and
all drink to our dear friends the Lammleswishing them many
years as happy as the lastand many many friends as congenially
united as themselves. And this he will add; that Anastatia
Veneering (who is instantly heard to weep) is formed on the same
model as her old and chosen friend Sophronia Lammlein respect
that she is devoted to the man who wooed and won herand nobly
discharges the duties of a wife.

Seeing no better way out of itVeneering here pulls up his
oratorical Pegasus extremely shortand plumps downclean over
his headwith: 'LammleGod bless you!'

Then Lammle. Too much of him every way; pervadingly too
much nose of a coarse wrong shapeand his nose in his mind and
his manners; too much smile to be real; too much frown to be
false; too many large teeth to be visible at once without suggesting
a bite. He thanks youdear friendsfor your kindly greetingand
hopes to receive you--it may be on the next of these delightfiil
occasions--in a residence better suited to your claims on the rites
of hospitality. He will never forget that at Veneering's he first saw
Sophronia. Sophronia will never forget that at Veneering's she
first saw him. 'They spoke of it soon after they were marriedand
agreed that they would never forget it. In factto Veneering they
owe their union. They hope to show their sense of this some day
('Nonofrom Veneering)--oh yesyesand let him rely upon it
they will if they can! His marriage with Sophronia was not a
marriage of interest on either side: she had her little fortunehe
had his little fortune: they joined their little fortunes: it was a
marriage of pure inclination and suitability. Thank you!
Sophronia and he are fond of the society of young people; but he
is not sure that their house would be a good house for young
people proposing to remain singlesince the contemplation of its
domestic bliss might induce them to change their minds. He will
not apply this to any one present; certainly not to their darling
little Georgiana. Again thank you! Neitherby-the-bywill he
apply it to his friend Fledgeby. He thanks Veneering for the
feeling manner in which he referred to their common friend
Fledgebyfor he holds that gentleman in the highest estimation.
Thank you. In fact (returning unexpectedly to Fledgeby)the
better you know himthe more you find in him that you desire to
know. Again thank you! In his dear Sophronia's name and in his
ownthank you!

Mrs Lammle has sat quite stillwith her eyes cast down upon the
table-cloth. As Mr Lammle's address endsTwemlow once more
turns to her involuntarilynot cured yet of that often recurring
impression that she is going to speak to him. This time she really
is going to speak to him. Veneering is talking with his other next


neighbourand she speaks in a low voice.

'Mr Twemlow.'

He answers'I beg your pardon? Yes?' Still a little doubtful
because of her not looking at him.

'You have the soul of a gentlemanand I know I may trust you.
Will you give me the opportunity of saying a few words to you
when you come up stairs?'

'Assuredly. I shall be honoured.'

'Don't seem to do soif you pleaseand don't think it inconsistent
if my manner should be more careless than my words. I may be
watched.'

Intensely astonishedTwemlow puts his hand to his foreheadand
sinks back in his chair meditating. Mrs Lammle rises. All rise.
The ladies go up stairs. The gentlemen soon saunter after them.
Fledgeby has devoted the interval to taking an observation of
Boots's whiskersBrewer's whiskersand Lammle's whiskersand
considering which pattern of whisker he would prefer to produce
out of himself by frictionif the Genie of the cheek would only
answer to his rubbing.

In the drawing-roomgroups form as usual. LightwoodBoots
and Brewerflutter like moths around that yellow wax candle-guttering
downand with some hint of a winding-sheet in it--Lady
Tippins. Outsiders cultivate VeneeringM P.and Mrs Veneering

W.M.P. Lammle stands with folded armsMephistophelean in a
cornerwith Georgiana and Fledgeby. Mrs Lammleon a sofa by
a tableinvites Mr Twemlow's attention to a book of portraits in
her hand.
Mr Twemlow takes his station on a settee before herand Mrs
Lammle shows him a portrait.

'You have reason to be surprised' she says softly'but I wish you
wouldn't look so.'

Disturbed Twemlowmaking an effort not to look solooks much
more so.

'I thinkMr Twemlowyou never saw that distant connexion of
yours before to-day?'

'Nonever.'

'Now that you do see himyou see what he is. You are not proud
of him?'

'To say the truthMrs Lammleno.'

'If you knew more of himyou would be less inclined to
acknowledge him. Here is another portrait. What do you think of
it?'

Twemlow has just presence of mind enough to say aloud: 'Very
like! Uncommonly like!'

'You have noticedperhapswhom he favours with his attentions?
You notice where he is nowand how engaged?'


'Yes. But Mr Lammle--'

She darts a look at him which he cannot comprehendand shows
him another portrait.

'Very good; is it not?'

'Charming!' says Twemlow.

'So like as to be almost a caricature?--Mr Twemlowit is
impossible to tell you what the struggle in my mind has been
before I could bring myself to speak to you as I do now. It is only
in the conviction that I may trust you never to betray methat I
can proceed. Sincerely promise me that you never will betray my
confidence--that you will respect iteven though you may no
longer respect me--and I shall be as satisfied as if you had sworn
it.'

'Madamon the honour of a poor gentleman--'

'Thank you. I can desire no more. Mr TwemlowI implore you to
save that child!'

'That child?'

'Georgiana. She will be sacrificed. She will be inveigled and
married to that connexion of yours. It is a partnership affaira
money-speculation. She has no strength of will or character to
help herself and she is on the brink of being sold into
wretchedness for life.'

'Amazing! But what can I do to prevent it?' demands Twemlow
shocked and bewildered to the last degree.

'Here is another portrait. And not goodis it?'

Aghast at the light manner of her throwing her head back to look
at it criticallyTwemlow still dimly perceives the expediency of
throwing his own head backand does so. Though he no more
sees the portrait than if it were in China.

'Decidedly not good' says Mrs Lammle. 'Stiff and exaggerated!'

'And ex--' But Twemlowin his demolished statecannot
command the wordand trails off into '--actly so.'

'Mr Twemlowyour word will have weight with her pompous
self-blinded father. You know how much he makes of your
family. Lose no time. Warn him.'

'But warn him against whom?'

'Against me.'

By great good fortune Twemlow receives a stimulant at this
critical instant. The stimulant is Lammle's voice.

'Sophroniamy dearwhat portraits are you showing Twemlow?'

'Public charactersAlfred.'

'Show him the last of me.'

'YesAlfred.'


She puts the book downtakes another book upturns the leaves
and presents the portrait to Twemlow.

'That is the last of Mr Lammle. Do you think it good?--Warn her
father against me. I deserve itfor I have been in the scheme from
the first. It is my husband's schemeyour connexion'sand mine.
I tell you thisonly to show you the necessity of the poor little
foolish affectionate creature's being befriended and rescued. You
will not repeat this to her father. You will spare me so farand
spare my husband. Forthough this celebration of to-day is all a
mockeryhe is my husbandand we must live.--Do you think it
like?'

Twemlowin a stunned conditionfeigns to compare the portrait in
his hand with the original looking towards him from his
Mephistophelean corner.

'Very well indeed!' are at length the words which Twemlow with
great difficulty extracts from himself.

'I am glad you think so. On the wholeI myself consider it the
best. The others are so dark. Now herefor instanceis another
of Mr Lammle--'

'But I don't understand; I don't see my way' Twemlow stammers
as he falters over the book with his glass at his eye. 'How warn
her fatherand not tell him? Tell him how much? Tell him how
little? I--I--am getting lost.'

'Tell him I am a match-maker; tell him I am an artful and
designing woman; tell him you are sure his daughter is best out of
my house and my company. Tell him any such things of me; they
will all be true. You know what a puffed-up man he isand how
easily you can cause his vanity to take the alarm. Tell him as
much as will give him the alarm and make him careful of herand
spare me the rest. Mr TwemlowI feel my sudden degradation in
your eyes; familiar as I am with my degradation in my own eyesI
keenly feel the change that must have come upon me in yoursin
these last few moments. But I trust to your good faith with me as
implicitly as when I began. If you knew how often I have tried to
speak to you to-dayyou would almost pity me. I want no new
promise from you on my own accountfor I am satisfiedand I
always shall be satisfiedwith the promise you have given me. I
can venture to say no morefor I see that I am watched. If you
would set my mind at rest with the assurance that you will
interpose with the father and save this harmless girlclose that
book before you return it to meand I shall know what you mean
and deeply thank you in my heart.--AlfredMr Twemlow thinks
the last one the bestand quite agrees with you and me.'

Alfred advances. The groups break up. Lady Tippins rises to go
and Mrs Veneering follows her leader. For the momentMrs
Lammle does not turn to thembut remains looking at Twemlow
looking at Alfred's portrait through his eyeglass. The moment
pastTwemlow drops his eyeglass at its ribbon's lengthrisesand
closes the book with an emphasis which makes that fragile
nursling of the fairiesTippinsstart.

Then good-bye and good-byeand charming occasion worthy of
the Golden Ageand more about the flitch of baconand the like
of that; and Twemlow goes staggering across Piccadilly with his
hand to his foreheadand is nearly run down by a flushed
lettercartand at last drops safe in his easy-chairinnocent good


gentlemanwith his hand to his forehead stilland his head in a
whirl.

BOOK THE THIRD

A LONG LANE

Chapter 1

LODGERS IN QUEER STREET

It was a foggy day in Londonand the fog was heavy and dark.
Animate Londonwith smarting eyes and irritated lungswas
blinkingwheezingand choking; inanimate London was a sooty
spectredivided in purpose between being visible and invisible
and so being wholly neither. Gaslights flared in the shops with a
haggard and unblest airas knowing themselves to be nightcreatures
that had no business abroad under the sun; while the sun
itself when it was for a few moments dimly indicated through
circling eddies of fogshowed as if it had gone out and were
collapsing flat and cold. Even in the surrounding country it was a
foggy daybut there the fog was greywhereas in London it wasat
about the boundary linedark yellowand a little within it brown
and then brownerand then browneruntil at the heart of the City-which
call Saint Mary Axe--it was rusty-black. From any point of
the high ridge of land northwardit might have been discerned that
the loftiest buildings made an occasional struggle to get their heads
above the foggy seaand especially that the great dome of Saint
Paul's seemed to die hard; but this was not perceivable in the
streets at their feetwhere the whole metropolis was a heap of
vapour charged with muffled sound of wheelsand enfolding a
gigantic catarrh.

At nine o'clock on such a morningthe place of business of Pubsey
and Co. was not the liveliest object even in Saint Mary Axe--which
is not a very lively spot--with a sobbing gaslight in the countinghouse
windowand a burglarious stream of fog creeping in to
strangle it through the keyhole of the main door. But the light
went outand the main door openedand Riah came forth with a
bag under his arm.

Almost in the act of coming out at the doorRiah went into the fog
and was lost to the eyes of Saint Mary Axe. But the eyes of this
history can follow him westwardby CornhillCheapsideFleet
Streetand the Strandto Piccadilly and the Albany. Thither he
went at his grave and measured pacestaff in handskirt at heel;
and more than one headturning to look back at his venerable
figure already lost in the mistsupposed it to be some ordinary
figure indistinctly seenwhich fancy and the fog had worked into
that passing likeness.

Arrived at the house in which his master's chambers were on the
second floorRiah proceeded up the stairsand paused at
Fascination Fledgeby's door. Making free with neither bell nor
knockerhe struck upon the door with the top of his staffand
having listenedsat down on the threshold. It was characteristic of
his habitual submissionthat he sat down on the raw dark
staircaseas many of his ancestors had probably sat down in
dungeonstaking what befell him as it might befall.


After a timewhen he had grown so cold as to be fain to blow upon
his fingershe arose and knocked with his staff againand listened
againand again sat down to wait. Thrice he repeated these
actions before his listening ears were greeted by the voice of
Fledgebycalling from his bed'Hold your row!--I'll come and open
the door directly!' Butin lieu of coming directlyhe fell into a
sweet sleep for some quarter of an hour moreduring which added
interval Riah sat upon the stairs and waited with perfect patience.

At length the door stood openand Mr Fledgeby's retreating
drapery plunged into bed again. Following it at a respectful
distanceRiah passed into the bed-chamberwhere a fire had been
sometime lightedand was burning briskly.

'Whywhat time of night do you mean to call it?' inquired
Fledgebyturning away beneath the clothesand presenting a
comfortable rampart of shoulder to the chilled figure of the old
man.

'Sirit is full half-past ten in the morning.'

'The deuce it is! Then it must be precious foggy?'

'Very foggysir.'

'And rawthen?'

'Chill and bitter' said Riahdrawing out a handkerchiefand
wiping the moisture from his beard and long grey hair as he stood
on the verge of the rugwith his eyes on the acceptable fire.

With a plunge of enjoymentFledgeby settled himself afresh.

'Any snowor sleetor slushor anything of that sort?' he asked.

'Nosirno. Not quite so bad as that. The streets are pretty clean.'

'You needn't brag about it' returned Fledgebydisappointed in his
desire to heighten the contrast between his bed and the streets.
'But you're always bragging about something. Got the books
there?'

'They are heresir.'

'All right. I'll turn the general subject over in my mind for a
minute or twoand while I'm about it you can empty your bag and
get ready for me.'

With another comfortable plungeMr Fledgeby fell asleep again.
The old manhaving obeyed his directionssat down on the edge of
a chairandfolding his hands before himgradually yielded to the
influence of the warmthand dozed. He was roused by Mr
Fledgeby's appearing erect at the foot of the bedin Turkish
slippersrose-coloured Turkish trousers (got cheap from somebody
who had cheated some other somebody out of them)and a gown
and cap to correspond. In that costume he would have left nothing
to be desiredif he had been further fitted out with a bottomless
chaira lanternand a bunch of matches.

'Nowold 'un!' cried Fascinationin his light raillery'what dodgery
are you up to nextsitting there with your eyes shut? You ain't
asleep. Catch a weasel at itand catch a Jew!'


'TrulysirI fear I nodded' said the old man.

'Not you!' returned Fledgebywith a cunning look. 'A telling move
with a good manyI dare saybut it won't put ME off my guard.
Not a bad notion thoughif you want to look indifferent in driving
a bargain. Ohyou are a dodger!'

The old man shook his headgently repudiating the imputation
and suppresed a sighand moved to the table at which Mr
Fledgeby was now pouring out for himself a cup of steaming and
fragrant coffee from a pot that had stood ready on the hob. It was
an edifying spectaclethe young man in his easy chair taking his
coffeeand the old man with his grey head bentstanding awaiting
his pleasure.

'Now!' said Fledgeby. 'Fork out your balance in handand prove
by figures how you make it out that it ain't more. First of alllight
that candle.'

Riah obeyedand then taking a bag from his breastand referring
to the sum in the accounts for which they made him responsible
told it out upon the table. Fledgeby told it again with great care
and rang every sovereign.

'I suppose' he saidtaking one up to eye it closely'you haven't
been lightening any of these; but it's a trade of your people'syou
know. YOU understand what sweating a pound meansdon't
you?'

'Much as you dosir' returned the old manwith his hands under
opposite cuffs of his loose sleevesas he stood at the table
deferentially observant of the master's face. 'May I take the liberty
to say something?'

'You may' Fledgeby graciously conceded.

'Do you notsir--without intending it--of a surety without intending
it--sometimes mingle the character I fairly earn in your
employmentwith the character which it is your policy that I
should bear?'

'I don't find it worth my while to cut things so fine as to go into the
inquiry' Fascination coolly answered.

'Not in justice?'

'Bother justice!' said Fledgeby.

'Not in generosity?'

'Jews and generosity!' said Fledgeby. 'That's a good connexion!
Bring out your vouchersand don't talk Jerusalem palaver.'

The vouchers were producedand for the next half-hour Mr
Fledgeby concentrated his sublime attention on them. They and
the accounts were all found correctand the books and the papers
resumed their places in the bag.

'Next' said Fledgeby'concerning that bill-broking branch of the
business; the branch I like best. What queer bills are to be bought
and at what prices? You have got your list of what's in the
market?'

'Sira long list' replied Riahtaking out a pocket-bookand


selecting from its contents a folded paperwhichbeing unfolded
became a sheet of foolscap covered with close writing.

'Whew!' whistled Fledgebyas he took it in his hand. 'Queer Street
is full of lodgers just at present! These are to be disposed of in
parcels; are they?'

'In parcels as set forth' returned the old manlooking over his
master's shoulder; 'or the lump.'

'Half the lump will be waste-paperone knows beforehand' said
Fledgeby. 'Can you get it at waste-paper price? That's the
question.'

Riah shook his headand Fledgeby cast his small eyes down the
list. They presently began to twinkleand he no sooner became
conscious of their twinklingthan he looked up over his shoulder at
the grave face above himand moved to the chimney-piece.
Making a desk of ithe stood there with his back to the old man
warming his kneesperusing the list at his leisureand often
returning to some lines of itas though they were particularly
interesting. At those times he glanced in the chimney-glass to see
what note the old man took of him. He took none that could be
detectedbutaware of his employer's suspicionsstood with his
eyes on the ground.

Mr Fledgeby was thus amiably engaged when a step was heard at
the outer doorand the door was heard to open hastily. 'Hark!
That's your doingyou Pump of Israel' said Fledgeby; 'you can't
have shut it.' Then the step was heard withinand the voice of Mr
Alfred Lammle called aloud'Are you anywhere hereFledgeby?'
To which Fledgebyafter cautioning Riah in a low voice to take his
cue as it should be given himreplied'Here I am!' and opened his
bedroom door.

'Come in!' said Fledgeby. 'This gentleman is only Pubsey and Co.
of Saint Mary Axethat I am trying to make terms for an
unfortunate friend with in a matter of some dishonoured bills. But
really Pubsey and Co. are so strict with their debtorsand so hard
to movethat I seem to be wasting my time. Can't I make ANY
terms with you on my friend's partMr Riah?'

'I am but the representative of anothersir' returned the Jew in a
low voice. 'I do as I am bidden by my principal. It is not my
capital that is invested in the business. It is not my profit that
arises therefrom.'

'Ha ha!' laughed Fledgeby. 'Lammle?'

'Ha ha!' laughed Lammle. 'Yes. Of course. We know.'

'Devilish goodain't itLammle?' said Fledgebyunspeakably
amused by his hidden joke.

'Always the samealways the same!' said Lammle. 'Mr--'

'RiahPubsey and Co. Saint Mary Axe' Fledgeby put inas he
wiped away the tears that trickled from his eyesso rare was his
enjoyment of his secret joke.

'Mr Riah is bound to observe the invaRiahle forms for such cases
made and provided' said Lammle.

'He is only the representative of another!' cried Fledgeby. 'Does as


he is told by his principal! Not his capital that's invested in the
business. Ohthat's good! Ha ha ha ha!' Mr Lammle joined in the
laugh and looked knowing; and the more he did boththe more
exquisite the secret joke became for Mr Fledgeby.

'However' said that fascinating gentlemanwiping his eyes again
'if we go on in this waywe shall seem to be almost making game
of Mr Riahor of Pubsey and Co. Saint Mary Axeor of somebody:
which is far from our intention. Mr Riahif you would have the
kindness to step into the next room for a few moments while I
speak with Mr Lammle hereI should like to try to make terms
with you once again before you go.'

The old manwho had never raised his eyes during the whole
transaction of Mr Fledgeby's jokesilently bowed and passed out
by the door which Fledgeby opened for him. Having closed it on
himFledgeby returned to Lammlestanding with his back to the
bedroom firewith one hand under his coat-skirtsand all his
whiskers in the other.

'Halloa!' said Fledgeby. 'There's something wrong!'

'How do you know it?' demanded Lammle.

'Because you show it' replied Fledgeby in unintentional rhyme.

'Well then; there is' said Lammle; 'there IS something wrong; the
whole thing's wrong.'

'I say!' remonstrated Fascination very slowlyand sitting down
with his hands on his knees to stare at his glowering friend with
his back to the fire.

'I tell youFledgeby' repeated Lammlewith a sweep of his right
arm'the whole thing's wrong. The game's up.'

'What game's up?' demanded Fledgebyas slowly as beforeand
more sternly.

'THE game. OUR game. Read that.'

Fledgeby took a note from his extended hand and read it aloud.
'Alfred LammleEsquire. Sir: Allow Mrs Podsnap and myself to
express our united sense of the polite attentions of Mrs Alfred
Lammle and yourself towards our daughterGeorgiana. Allow us
alsowholly to reject them for the futureand to communicate our
final desire that the two families may become entire strangers. I
have the honour to beSiryour most obedient and very humble
servantJOHN PODSNAP.' Fledgeby looked at the three blank
sides of this notequite as long and earnestly as at the first
expressive sideand then looked at Lammlewho responded with
another extensive sweep of his right arm.

'Whose doing is this?' said Fledgeby.

'Impossible to imagine' said Lammle.

'Perhaps' suggested Fledgebyafter reflecting with a very
discontented brow'somebody has been giving you a bad
character.'

'Or you' said Lammlewith a deeper frown.

Mr Fledgeby appeared to be on the verge of some mutinous


expressionswhen his hand happened to touch his nose. A certain
remembrance connected with that feature operating as a timely
warninghe took it thoughtfully between his thumb and forefinger
and pondered; Lammle meanwhile eyeing him with furtive eyes.

'Well!' said Fledgeby. 'This won't improve with talking about. If
we ever find out who did itwe'll mark that person. There's
nothing more to be saidexcept that you undertook to do what
circumstances prevent your doing.'

'And that you undertook to do what you might have done by this
timeif you had made a prompter use of circumstances' snarled
Lammle.

'Hah! That' remarked Fledgebywith his hands in the Turkish
trousers'is matter of opinion.'

'Mr Fledgeby' said Lammlein a bullying tone'am I to understand
that you in any way reflect upon meor hint dissatisfaction with
mein this affair?'

'No' said Fledgeby; 'provided you have brought my promissory
note in your pocketand now hand it over.'

Lammle produced itnot without reluctance. Fledgeby looked at it
identified ittwisted it upand threw it into the fire. They both
looked at it as it blazedwent outand flew in feathery ash up the
chimney.

'NOWMr Fledgeby' said Lammleas before; 'am I to understand
that you in any way reflect upon meor hint dissatisfaction with
mein this affair?'

'No' said Fledgeby.

'Finally and unreservedly no?'

'Yes.'

'Fledgebymy hand.'

Mr Fledgeby took itsaying'And if we ever find out who did this
we'll mark that person. And in the most friendly mannerlet me
mention one thing more. I don't know what your circumstances
areand I don't ask. You have sustained a loss here. Many men
are liable to be involved at timesand you may beor you may not
be. But whatever you doLammledon't--don't--don'tI beg of
you--ever fall into the hands of Pubsey and Co. in the next room
for they are grinders. Regular flayers and grindersmy dear
Lammle' repeated Fledgeby with a peculiar relish'and they'll skin
you by the inchfrom the nape of your neck to the sole of your foot
and grind every inch of your skin to tooth-powder. You have seen
what Mr Riah is. Never fall into his handsLammleI beg of you
as a friend!'

Mr Lammledisclosing some alarm at the solemnity of this
affectionate adjurationdemanded why the devil he ever should fall
into the hands of Pubsey and Co.?

'To confess the factI was made a little uneasy' said the candid
Fledgeby'by the manner in which that Jew looked at you when he
heard your name. I didn't like his eye. But it may have been the
heated fancy of a friend. Of course if you are sure that you have no
personal security outwhich you may not be quite equal to


meetingand which can have got into his handsit must have been
fancy. StillI didn't like his eye.'

The brooding Lammlewith certain white dints coming and going
in his palpitating noselooked as if some tormenting imp were
pinching it. Fledgebywatching him with a twitch in his mean
face which did duty there for a smilelooked very like the
tormentor who was pinching.

'But I mustn't keep him waiting too long' said Fledgeby'or he'll
revenge it on my unfortunate friend. How's your very clever and
agreeable wife? She knows we have broken down?'

'I showed her the letter.'

'Very much surprised?' asked Fledgeby.

'I think she would have been more so' answered Lammle'if there
had been more go in YOU?'

'Oh!--She lays it upon methen?'

'Mr FledgebyI will not have my words misconstrued.'

'Don't break outLammle' urged Fledgebyin a submissive tone
'because there's no occasion. I only asked a question. Then she
don't lay it upon me? To ask another question.'

'Nosir.'

'Very good' said Fledgebyplainly seeing that she did. 'My
compliments to her. Good-bye!'

They shook handsand Lammle strode out pondering. Fledgeby
saw him into the fogandreturning to the fire and musing with his
face to itstretched the legs of the rose-coloured Turkish trousers
wide apartand meditatively bent his kneesas if he were going
down upon them.

'You have a pair of whiskersLammlewhich I never liked'
murmured Fledgeby'and which money can't produce; you are
boastful of your manners and your conversation; you wanted to
pull my noseand you have let me in for a failureand your wife
says I am the cause of it. I'll bowl you down. I willthough I have
no whiskers' here he rubbed the places where they were due'and
no mannersand no conversation!'

Having thus relieved his noble mindhe collected the legs of the
Turkish trousersstraightened himself on his kneesand called out
to Riah in the next room'Halloayou sir!' At sight of the old man
re-entering with a gentleness monstrously in contrast with the
character he had given himMr Fledgeby was so tickled againthat
he exclaimedlaughing'Good! Good! Upon my soul it is
uncommon good!'

'Nowold 'un' proceeded Fledgebywhen he had had his laugh
out'you'll buy up these lots that I mark with my pencil--there's a
tick thereand a tick thereand a tick there--and I wager two-pence
you'll afterwards go on squeezing those Christians like the Jew you
are. Nownext you'll want a cheque--or you'll say you want it
though you've capital enough somewhereif one only knew where
but you'd be peppered and salted and grilled on a gridiron before
you'd own to it--and that cheque I'll write.'


When he had unlocked a drawer and taken a key from it to open
another drawerin which was another key that opened another
drawerin which was another key that opened another drawerin
which was the cheque book; and when he had written the cheque;
and whenreversing the key and drawer processhe had placed his
cheque book in safety again; he beckoned the old manwith the
folded chequeto come and take it.

'Old 'un' said Fledgebywhen the Jew had put it in his
pocketbookand was putting that in the breast of his outer
garment; 'so much at present for my affairs. Now a word about
affairs that are not exactly mine. Where is she?'

With his hand not yet withdrawn from the breast of his garment
Riah started and paused.

'Oho!' said Fledgeby. 'Didn't expect it! Where have you hidden
her?'

Showing that he was taken by surprisethe old man looked at his
master with some passing confusionwhich the master highly
enjoyed.

'Is she in the house I pay rent and taxes for in Saint Mary Axe?'
demanded Fledgeby.

'Nosir.'

'Is she in your garden up atop of that house--gone up to be deador
whatever the game is?' asked Fledgeby.

'Nosir.'

'Where is she then?'

Riah bent his eyes upon the groundas if considering whether he
could answer the question without breach of faithand then silently
raised them to Fledgeby's faceas if he could not.

'Come!' said Fledgeby. 'I won't press that just now. But I want to
know thisand I will know thismind you. What are you up to?'

The old manwith an apologetic action of his head and handsas
not comprehending the master's meaningaddressed to him a look
of mute inquiry.

'You can't be a gallivanting dodger' said Fledgeby. 'For you're a
regular pity the sorrowsyou know--if you DO know any
Christian rhyme--"whose trembling limbs have borne him to"--et
cetrer. You're one of the Patriarchs; you're a shaky old card; and
you can't be in love with this Lizzie?'

'Osir!' expostulated Riah. 'Osirsirsir!'

'Then why' retorted Fledgebywith some slight tinge of a blush
'don't you out with your reason for having your spoon in the soup at
all?'

'SirI will tell you the truth. But (your pardon for the stipulation) it
is in sacred confidence; it is strictly upon honour.'

'Honour too!' cried Fledgebywith a mocking lip. 'Honour among
Jews. Well. Cut away.'


'It is upon honoursir?' the other still stipulatedwith respectful
firmness.

'Ohcertainly. Honour bright' said Fledgeby.

The old mannever bidden to sit downstood with an earnest hand
laid on the back of the young man's easy chair. The young man sat
looking at the fire with a face of listening curiosityready to check
him off and catch him tripping.

'Cut away' said Fledgeby. 'Start with your motive.'

'SirI have no motive but to help the helpless.'

Mr Fledgeby could only express the feelings to which this
incredible statement gave rise in his breastby a prodigiously long
derisive sniff.

'How I came to knowand much to esteem and to respectthis
damselI mentioned when you saw her in my poor garden on the
house-top' said the Jew.

'Did you?' said Fledgebydistrustfully. 'Well. Perhaps you did
though.'

'The better I knew herthe more interest I felt in her fortunes. They
gathered to a crisis. I found her beset by a selfish and ungrateful
brotherbeset by an unacceptable wooerbeset by the snares of a
more powerful loverbeset by the wiles of her own heart.'

'She took to one of the chaps then?'

'Sirit was only natural that she should incline towards himfor he
had many and great advantages. But he was not of her stationand
to marry her was not in his mind. Perils were closing round her
and the circle was fast darkeningwhen I--being as you have said
sirtoo old and broken to be suspected of any feeling for her but a
father's--stepped inand counselled flight. I saidMy daughter,
there are times of moral danger when the hardest virtuous
resolution to form is flight, and when the most heroic bravery is
flight.She answeredshe had had this in her thoughts; but
whither to fly without help she knew notand there were none to
help her. I showed her there was one to help herand it was I.
And she is gone.'

'What did you do with her?' asked Fledgebyfeeling his cheek.

'I placed her' said the old man'at a distance;' with a grave smooth
outward sweep from one another of his two open hands at arm's
length; 'at a distance--among certain of our peoplewhere her
industry would serve herand where she could hope to exercise it
unassailed from any quarter.'

Fledgeby's eyes had come from the fire to notice the action of his
hands when he said 'at a distance.' Fledgeby now tried (very
unsuccessfully) to imitate that actionas he shook his head and
said'Placed her in that directiondid you? Oh you circular old
dodger!'

With one hand across his breast and the other on the easy chair
Riahwithout justifying himselfwaited for further questioning.
Butthat it was hopeless to question him on that one reserved
pointFledgebywith his small eyes too near togethersaw full
well.


'Lizzie' said Fledgebylooking at the fire againand then looking
up. 'HumphLizzie. You didn't tell me the other name in your
garden atop of the house. I'll be more communicative with you.
The other name's Hexam.'


Riah bent his head in assent.


'Look hereyou sir' said Fledgeby. 'I have a notion I know
something of the inveigling chapthe powerful one. Has he
anything to do with the law?'


'NominallyI believe it his calling.'


'I thought so. Name anything like Lightwood?'


'Sirnot at all like.'


'Comeold 'un' said Fledgebymeeting his eyes with a wink'say
the name.'


'Wrayburn.'


'By Jupiter!' cried Fledgeby. 'That oneis it? I thought it might be
the otherbut I never dreamt of that one! I shouldn't object to your
baulking either of the pairdodgerfor they are both conceited
enough; but that one is as cool a customer as ever I met with. Got
a beard besidesand presumes upon it. Well doneold 'un! Go on
and prosper!'


Brightened by this unexpected commendationRiah asked were
there more instructions for him?


'No' said Fledgeby'you may toddle nowJudahand grope about
on the orders you have got.' Dismissed with those pleasing words
the old man took his broad hat and staffand left the great
presence: more as if he were some superior creature benignantly
blessing Mr Fledgebythan the poor dependent on whom he set his
foot. Left aloneMr Fledgeby locked his outer doorand came
back to his fire.


'Well done you!' said Fascination to himself. 'Slowyou may be;
sureyou are!' This he twice or thrice repeated with much
complacencyas he again dispersed the legs of the Turkish trousers
and bent the knees.


'A tidy shot thatI flatter myself' he then soliloquised. 'And a Jew
brought down with it! Nowwhen I heard the story told at
Lammle'sI didn't make a jump at Riah. Not a hit of it; I got at
him by degrees.' Herein he was quite accurate; it being his habit
not to jumpor leapor make an upward springat anything in life
but to crawl at everything.


'I got at him' pursued Fledgebyfeeling for his whisker'by
degrees. If your Lammles or your Lightwoods had got at him
anyhowthey would have asked him the question whether he
hadn't something to do with that gal's disappearance. I knew a
better way of going to work. Having got behind the hedgeand put
him in the lightI took a shot at him and brought him down plump.
Oh! It don't count for muchbeing a Jewin a match against ME!'


Another dry twist in place of a smilemade his face crooked here.


'As to Christians' proceeded Fledgeby'look outfellow-



Christiansparticularly you that lodge in Queer Street! I have got
the run of Queer Street nowand you shall see some games there.
To work a lot of power over you and you not know itknowing as
you think yourselveswould be almost worth laying out money
upon. But when it comes to squeezing a profit out of you into the
bargainit's something like!'

With this apostrophe Mr Fledgeby appropriately proceeded to
divest himself of his Turkish garmentsand invest himself with
Christian attire. Pending which operationand his morning
ablutionsand his anointing of himself with the last infallible
preparation for the production of luxuriant and glossy hair upon the
human countenance (quacks being the only sages he believed in
besides usurers)the murky fog closed about him and shut him up
in its sooty embrace. If it had never let him out any morethe
world would have had no irreparable lossbut could have easily
replaced him from its stock on hand.

Chapter 2

A RESPECTED FRIEND IN A NEW ASPECT

In the evening of this same foggy day when the yellow windowblind
of Pubsey and Co. was drawn down upon the day's work
Riah the Jew once more came forth into Saint Mary Axe. But this
time he carried no bagand was not bound on his master's affairs.
He passed over London Bridgeand returned to the Middlesex
shore by that of Westminsterand soever wading through the fog
waded to the doorstep of the dolls' dressmaker.

Miss Wren expected him. He could see her through the window
by the light of her low fire--carefully banked up with damp cinders
that it might last the longer and waste the less when she was out-sitting
waiting for him in her bonnet. His tap at the glass roused
her from the musing solitude in which she satand she came to the
door to open it; aiding her steps with a little crutch-stick.

'Good eveninggodmother!' said Miss Jenny Wren.

The old man laughedand gave her his arm to lean on.

'Won't you come in and warm yourselfgodmother?' asked Miss
Jenny Wren.

'Not if you are readyCinderellamy dear.'

'Well!' exclaimed Miss Wrendelighted. 'Now you ARE a clever
old boy! If we gave prizes at this establishment (but we only keep
blanks)you should have the first silver medalfor taking me up so
quick.' As she spake thusMiss Wren removed the key of the
house-door from the keyhole and put it in her pocketand then
bustlingly closed the doorand tried it as they both stood on the
step. Satisfied that her dwelling was safeshe drew one hand
through the old man's arm and prepared to ply her crutch-stick
with the other. But the key was an instrument of such gigantic
proportionsthat before they started Riah proposed to carry it.

'Nonono! I'll carry it myself' returned Miss Wren. 'I'm awfully
lopsidedyou knowand stowed down in my pocket it'll trim the
ship. To let you into a secretgodmotherI wear my pocket on my
high sideo' purpose.'


With that they began their plodding through the fog.

'Yesit was truly sharp of yougodmother' resumed Miss Wren
with great approbation'to understand me. Butyou seeyou ARE
so like the fairy godmother in the bright little books! You look so
unlike the rest of peopleand so much as if you had changed
yourself into that shapejust this momentwith some benevolent
object. Boh!' cried Miss Jennyputting her face close to the old
man's. 'I can see your featuresgodmotherbehind the beard.'

'Does the fancy go to my changing other objects tooJenny?'

'Ah! That it does! If you'd only borrow my stick and tap this piece
of pavement--this dirty stone that my foot taps--it would start up a
coach and six. I say! Let's believe so!'

'With all my heart' replied the good old man.

'And I'll tell you what I must ask you to dogodmother. I must ask
you to be so kind as give my child a tapand change him
altogether. O my child has been such a badbad child of late! It
worries me nearly out of my wits. Not done a stroke of work these
ten days. Has had the horrorstooand fancied that four coppercoloured
men in red wanted to throw him into a fiery furnace.'

'But that's dangerousJenny.'

'Dangerousgodmother? My child is always dangerousmore or
less. He might'--here the little creature glanced back over her
shoulder at the sky--'be setting the house on fire at this present
moment. I don't know who would have a childfor my part! It's
no use shaking him. I have shaken him till I have made myself
giddy. "Why don't you mind your Commandments and honour
your parentyou naughty old boy?" I said to him all the time. But
he only whimpered and stared at me.'

'What shall be changedafter him?' asked Riah in a compassionately
playful voice.

'Upon my wordgodmotherI am afraid I must be selfish nextand
get you to set me right in the back and the legs. It's a little thing to
you with your powergodmotherbut it's a great deal to poor weak
aching me.'

There was no querulous complaining in the wordsbut they were
not the less touching for that.

'And then?'

'Yesand then--YOU knowgodmother. We'll both jump up into
the coach and six and go to Lizzie. This reminds megodmother
to ask you a serious question. You are as wise as wise can be
(having been brought up by the fairies)and you can tell me this: Is
it better to have had a good thing and lost itor never to have had
it?'

'Explaingod-daughter.'

'I feel so much more solitary and helpless without Lizzie nowthan
I used to feel before I knew her.' (Tears were in her eyes as she
said so.)

'Some beloved companionship fades out of most livesmy dear'


said the Jew--'that of a wifeand a fair daughterand a son of
promisehas faded out of my own life--but the happiness was.'

'Ah!' said Miss Wren thoughtfullyby no means convincedand
chopping the exclamation with that sharp little hatchet of hers;
'then I tell you what change I think you had better begin with
godmother. You had better change Is into Was and Was into Is
and keep them so.'

'Would that suit your case? Would you not be always in pain
then?' asked the old man tenderly.

'Right!' exclaimed Miss Wren with another chop. 'You have
changed me wisergodmother.--Not' she added with the quaint
hitch of her chin and eyes'that you need be a very wonderful
godmother to do that deed.'

Thus conversingand having crossed Westminster Bridgethey
traversed the ground that Riah had lately traversedand new
ground likewise; forwhen they had recrossed the Thames by way
of London Bridgethey struck down by the river and held their still
foggier course that way.

But previouslyas they were going alongJenny twisted her
venerable friend aside to a brilliantly-lighted toy-shop windowand
said: 'Now look at 'em! All my work!'

This referred to a dazzling semicircle of dolls in all the colours of
the rainbowwho were dressed for presentation at courtfor going
to ballsfor going out drivingfor going out on horsebackfor
going out walkingfor going to get marriedfor going to help other
dolls to get marriedfor all the gay events of life.'

'Prettyprettypretty!' said the old man with a clap of his hands.
'Most elegant taste!'

'Glad you like 'em' returned Miss Wrenloftily. 'But the fun is
godmotherhow I make the great ladies try my dresses on. Though
it's the hardest part of my businessand would beeven if my back
were not bad and my legs queer.'

He looked at her as not understanding what she said.

'Bless yougodmother' said Miss Wren'I have to scud about town
at all hours. If it was only sitting at my benchcutting out and
sewingit would be comparatively easy work; but it's the trying-on
by the great ladies that takes it out of me.'

'Howthe trying-on?' asked Riah.

'What a mooney godmother you areafter all!' returned Miss Wren.
'Look here. There's a Drawing Roomor a grand day in the Park
or a Showor a Feteor what you like. Very well. I squeeze
among the crowdand I look about me. When I see a great lady
very suitable for my businessI say "You'll domy dear!' and I take
particular notice of herand run home and cut her out and baste
her. Then another dayI come scudding back again to try onand
then I take particular notice of her again. Sometimes she plainly
seems to say'How that little creature is staring!' and sometimes
likes it and sometimes don'tbut much more often yes than no. All
the time I am only saying to myselfI must hollow out a bit here; I
must slope away there;and I am making a perfect slave of her
with making her try on my doll's dress. Evening parties are severer
work for mebecause there's only a doorway for a full viewand


what with hobbling among the wheels of the carriages and the legs
of the horsesI fully expect to be run over some night. However
there I have 'emjust the same. When they go bobbing into the
hall from the carriageand catch a glimpse of my little
physiognomy poked out from behind a policeman's cape in the
rainI dare say they think I am wondering and admiring with all
my eyes and heartbut they little think they're only working for my
dolls! There was Lady Belinda Whitrose. I made her do double
duty in one night. I said when she came out of the carriage
YOU'll do, my dear!and I ran straight home and cut her out and
basted her. Back I came againand waited behind the men that
called the carriages. Very bad night too. At lastLady Belinda
Whitrose's carriage! Lady Belinda Whitrose coming down!And
I made her try on--oh! and take pains about it too--before she got
seated. That's Lady Belinda hanging up by the waistmuch too
near the gaslight for a wax onewith her toes turned in.'

When they had plodded on for some time nigh the riverRiah
asked the way to a certain tavern called the Six Jolly Fellowship
Porters. Following the directions he receivedthey arrivedafter
two or three puzzled stoppages for considerationand some
uncertain looking about themat the door of Miss Abbey
Potterson's dominions. A peep through the glass portion of the
door revealed to them the glories of the barand Miss Abbey
herself seated in state on her snug thronereading the newspaper.
To whomwith deferencethey presented themselves.

Taking her eyes off her newspaperand pausing with a suspended
expression of countenanceas if she must finish the paragraph in
hand before undertaking any other business whateverMiss Abbey
demandedwith some slight asperity: 'Now thenwhat's for you?'

'Could we see Miss Potterson?' asked the old manuncovering his
head.

'You not only couldbut you can and you do' replied the hostess.

'Might we speak with youmadam?'

By this time Miss Abbey's eyes had possessed themselves of the
small figure of Miss Jenny Wren. For the closer observation of
whichMiss Abbey laid aside her newspaperroseand looked
over the half-door of the bar. The crutch-stick seemed to entreat
for its owner leave to come in and rest by the fire; soMiss Abbey
opened the half-doorand saidas though replying to the crutchstick:


'Yescome in and rest by the fire.'

'My name is Riah' said the old manwith courteous action'and
my avocation is in London city. Thismy young companion--'

'Stop a bit' interposed Miss Wren. 'I'll give the lady my card.' She
produced it from her pocket with an airafter struggling with the
gigantic door-key which had got upon the top of it and kept it
down. Miss Abbeywith manifest tokens of astonishmenttook
the diminutive documentand found it to run concisely thus:-


MISS JENNY WREN

DOLLS' DRESSMAKER.

Dolls attended at their own residences.


'Lud!' exclaimed Miss Pottersonstaring. And dropped the card.

'We take the liberty of comingmy young companion and I
madam' said Riah'on behalf of Lizzie Hexam.'

Miss Potterson was stooping to loosen the bonnet-strings of the
dolls' dressmaker. She looked round rather angrilyand said:
'Lizzie Hexam is a very proud young woman.'

'She would be so proud' returned Riahdexterously'to stand well
in your good opinionthat before she quitted London for--'

'For wherein the name of the Cape of Good Hope?' asked Miss
Pottersonas though supposing her to have emigrated.

'For the country' was the cautious answer--'she made us promise
to come and show you a paperwhich she left in our hands for that
special purpose. I am an unserviceable friend of herswho began
to know her after her departure from this neighbourhood. She has
been for some time living with my young companionand has been
a helpful and a comfortable friend to her. Much neededmadam'
he addedin a lower voice. 'Believe me; if you knew allmuch
needed.'

'I can believe that' said Miss Abbeywith a softening glance at the
little creature.

'And if it's proud to have a heart that never hardensand a temper
that never tiresand a touch that never hurts' Miss Jenny struck in
flushed'she is proud. And if it's notshe is NOT.'

Her set purpose of contradicting Miss Abbey point blankwas so
far from offending that dread authorityas to elicit a gracious
smile. 'You do rightchild' said Miss Abbey'to speak well of
those who deserve well of you.'

'Right or wrong' muttered Miss Wreninaudiblywith a visible
hitch of her chin'I mean to do itand you may make up your mind
to THATold lady.'

'Here is the papermadam' said the Jewdelivering into Miss
Potterson's hands the original document drawn up by Rokesmith
and signed by Riderhood. 'Will you please to read it?'

'But first of all' said Miss Abbey'-- did you ever taste shrub
child?'

Miss Wren shook her head.

'Should you like to?'

'Should if it's good' returned Miss Wren.

'You shall try. Andif you find it goodI'll mix some for you with
hot water. Put your poor little feet on the fender. It's a coldcold
nightand the fog clings so.' As Miss Abbey helped her to turn her
chairher loosened bonnet dropped on the floor. 'Whywhat lovely
hair!' cried Miss Abbey. 'And enough to make wigs for all the
dolls in the world. What a quantity!'

'Call THAT a quantity?' returned Miss Wren. 'Poof! What do you
say to the rest of it?' As she spokeshe untied a bandand the


golden stream fell over herself and over the chairand flowed down
to the ground. Miss Abbey's admiration seemed to increase her
perplexity. She beckoned the Jew towards heras she reached
down the shrub-bottle from its nicheand whispered:

'Childor woman?'

'Child in years' was the answer; 'woman in self-reliance and trial.'

'You are talking about Megood people' thought Miss Jenny
sitting in her golden bowerwarming her feet. 'I can't hear what
you saybut I know your tricks and your manners!'

The shrubwhen tasted from a spoonperfectly harmonizing with
Miss Jenny's palatea judicious amount was mixed by Miss
Potterson's skilful handswhereof Riah too partook. After this
preliminaryMiss Abbey read the document; andas often as she
raised her eyebrows in so doingthe watchful Miss Jenny
accompanied the action with an expressive and emphatic sip of the
shrub and water.

'As far as this goes' said Miss Abbey Pottersonwhen she had
read it several timesand thought about it'it proves (what didn't
much need proving) that Rogue Riderhood is a villain. I have my
doubts whether he is not the villain who solely did the deed; but I
have no expectation of those doubts ever being cleared up now. I
believe I did Lizzie's father wrongbut never Lizzie's self; because
when things were at the worst I trusted herhad perfect confidence
in herand tried to persuade her to come to me for a refuge. I am
very sorry to have done a man wrongparticularly when it can't be
undone. Be kind enough to let Lizzie know what I say; not
forgetting that if she will come to the Portersafter allbygones
being bygonesshe will find a home at the Portersand a friend at
the Porters. She knows Miss Abbey of oldremind herand she
knows what-like the homeand what-like the friendis likely to
turn out. I am generally short and sweet--or short and sour
according as it may be and as opinions vary--' remarked Miss
Abbey'and that's about all I have got to sayand enough too.'

But before the shrub and water was sipped outMiss Abbey
bethought herself that she would like to keep a copy of the paper
by her. 'It's not longsir' said she to Riah'and perhaps you
wouldn't mind just jotting it down.' The old man willingly put on
his spectaclesandstanding at the little desk in the corner where
Miss Abbey filed her receipts and kept her sample phials
(customers' scores were interdicted by the strict administration of
the Porters)wrote out the copy in a fair round character. As he
stood theredoing his methodical penmanshiphis ancient
scribelike figure intent upon the workand the little dolls'
dressmaker sitting in her golden bower before the fireMiss Abbey
had her doubts whether she had not dreamed those two rare figures
into the bar of the Six Jolly Fellowshipsand might not wake with
a nod next moment and find them gone.

Miss Abbey had twice made the experiment of shutting her eyes
and opening them againstill finding the figures therewhen
dreamlikea confused hubbub arose in the public room. As she
started upand they all three looked at one anotherit became a
noise of clamouring voices and of the stir of feet; then all the
windows were heard to be hastily thrown upand shouts and cries
came floating into the house from the river. A moment moreand
Bob Gliddery came clattering along the passagewith the noise of
all the nails in his boots condensed into every separate nail.


'What is it?' asked Miss Abbey.

'It's summut run down in the fogma'am' answered Bob. 'There's
ever so many people in the river.'

'Tell 'em to put on all the kettles!' cried Miss Abbey. 'See that the
boiler's full. Get a bath out. Hang some blankets to the fire. Heat
some stone bottles. Have your senses about youyou girls down
stairsand use 'em.'

While Miss Abbey partly delivered these directions to Bob--whom
she seized by the hairand whose head she knocked against the
wallas a general injunction to vigilance and presence of mind-and
partly hailed the kitchen with them--the company in the public
roomjostling one anotherrushed out to the causewayand the
outer noise increased.

'Come and look' said Miss Abbey to her visitors. They all three
hurried to the vacated public roomand passed by one of the
windows into the wooden verandah overhanging the river.

'Does anybody down there know what has happened?' demanded
Miss Abbeyin her voice of authority.

'It's a steamerMiss Abbey' cried one blurred figure in the fog.

'It always IS a steamerMiss Abbey' cried another.

'Them's her lightsMiss Abbeywot you see a-blinking yonder'
cried another.

'She's a-blowing off her steamMiss Abbeyand that's what makes
the fog and the noise worsedon't you see?' explained another.

Boats were putting offtorches were lighting uppeople were
rushing tumultuously to the water's edge. Some man fell in with a
splashand was pulled out again with a roar of laughter. The
drags were called for. A cry for the life-buoy passed from mouth to
mouth. It was impossible to make out what was going on upon the
riverfor every boat that put off sculled into the fog and was lost to
view at a boat's length. Nothing was clear but that the unpopular
steamer was assailed with reproaches on all sides. She was the
Murdererbound for Gallows Bay; she was the Manslaughterer
bound for Penal Settlement; her captain ought to be tried for his
life; her crew ran down men in row-boats with a relish; she
mashed up Thames lightermen with her paddles; she fired property
with her funnels; she always wasand she always would be
wreaking destruction upon somebody or somethingafter the
manner of all her kind. The whole bulk of the fog teemed with
such tauntsuttered in tones of universal hoarseness. All the
whilethe steamer's lights moved spectrally a very littleas she layto
waiting the upshot of whatever accident had happened. Now
she began burning blue-lights. These made a luminous patch
about heras if she had set the fog on fireand in the patch--the
cries changing their noteand becoming more fitful and more
excited--shadows of men and boats could be seen movingwhile
voices shouted: 'There!' 'There again!' 'A couple more strokes ahead!'
'Hurrah!' 'Look out!' 'Hold on!' 'Haul in!' and the like. Lastly
with a few tumbling clots of blue firethe night closed in dark
againthe wheels of the steamer were heard revolvingand her
lights glided smoothly away in the direction of the sea.

It appeared to Miss Abbey and her two companions that a
considerable time had been thus occupied. There was now as


eager a set towards the shore beneath the house as there had been
from it; and it was only on the first boat of the rush coming in that
it was known what had occurred.

'If that's Tom Tootle' Miss Abbey made proclamationin her most
commanding tones'let him instantly come underneath here.'

The submissive Tom compliedattended by a crowd.

'What is itTootle?' demanded Miss Abbey.

'It's a foreign steamermissrun down a wherry.'

'How many in the wherry?'

'One manMiss Abbey.'

'Found?'

'Yes. He's been under water a long timeMiss; but they've
grappled up the body.'

'Let 'em bring it here. YouBob Glidderyshut the house-door and
stand by it on the insideand don't you open till I tell you. Any
police down there?'

'HereMiss Abbey' was official rejoinder.

'After they have brought the body inkeep the crowd outwill you?
And help Bob Gliddery to shut 'em out.'

'All rightMiss Abbey.'

The autocratic landlady withdrew into the house with Riah and
Miss Jennyand disposed those forcesone on either side of her
within the half-door of the baras behind a breastwork.

'You two stand close here' said Miss Abbey'and you'll come to no
hurtand see it brought in. Bobyou stand by the door.'

That sentinelsmartly giving his rolled shirt-sleeves an extra and a
final tuck on his shouldersobeyed.

Sound of advancing voicessound of advancing steps. Shuffle and
talk without. Momentary pause. Two peculiarly blunt knocks or
pokes at the dooras if the dead man arriving on his back were
striking at it with the soles of his motionless feet.

'That's the stretcheror the shutterwhichever of the two they are
carrying' said Miss Abbeywith experienced ear. 'Openyou Bob!'

Door opened. Heavy tread of laden men. A halt. A rush.
Stoppage of rush. Door shut. Baffled boots from the vexed souls
of disappointed outsiders.

'Come onmen!' said Miss Abbey; for so potent was she with her
subjects that even then the bearers awaited her permission. 'First
floor.'

The entry being lowand the staircase being lowthey so took up
the burden they had set downas to carry that low. The recumbent
figurein passinglay hardly as high as the half door.

Miss Abbey started back at sight of it. 'Whygood God!' said she


turning to her two companions'that's the very man who made the
declaration we have just had in our hands. That's Riderhood!'

Chapter 3

THE SAME RESPECTED FRIEND IN MORE ASPECTS THAN ONE

In soothit is Riderhood and no otheror it is the outer husk and
shell of Riderhood and no otherthat is borne into Miss Abbey's
first-floor bedroom. Supple to twist and turn as the Rogue has ever
beenhe is sufficiently rigid now; and not without much shuffling
of attendant feetand tilting of his bier this way and that wayand
peril even of his sliding off it and being tumbled in a heap over the
balustradescan he be got up stairs.

'Fetch a doctor' quoth Miss Abbey. And then'Fetch his daughter.'
On both of which errandsquick messengers depart.

The doctor-seeking messenger meets the doctor halfwaycoming
under convoy of police. Doctor examines the dank carcaseand
pronouncesnot hopefullythat it is worth while trying to
reanimate the same. All the best means are at once in actionand
everybody present lends a handand a heart and soul. No one has
the least regard for the man; with them allhe has been an object of
avoidancesuspicionand aversion; but the spark of life within him
is curiously separable from himself nowand they have a deep
interest in itprobably because it IS lifeand they are living and
must die.

In answer to the doctor's inquiry how did it happenand was
anyone to blameTom Tootle gives in his verdictunavoidable
accident and no one to blame but the sufferer. 'He was slinking
about in his boat' says Tom'which slinking werenot to speak ill
of the deadthe manner of the manwhen he come right athwart
the steamer's bows and she cut him in two.' Mr Tootle is so far
figurativetouching the dismembermentas that he means the boat
and not the man. Forthe man lies whole before them.

Captain Joeythe bottle-nosed regular customer in the glazed hat
is a pupil of the much-respected old schooland (having insinuated
himself into the chamberin the execution of the impontant service
of carrying the drowned man's neck-kerchief) favours the doctor
with a sagacious old-scholastic suggestion that the body should be
hung up by the heels'sim'lar'says Captain Joey'to mutton in a
butcher's shop' and should thenas a particularly choice
manoeuvre for promoting easy respirationbe rolled upon casks.
These scraps of the wisdom of the captain's ancestors are received
with such speechless indignation by Miss Abbeythat she instantly
seizes the Captain by the collarand without a single word ejects
himnot presuming to remonstratefrom the scene.

There then remainto assist the doctor and Tomonly those three
other regular customersBob GlamourWilliam Williamsand
Jonathan (family name of the latterif anyunknown to man-kind)
who are quite enough. Miss Abbey having looked in to make sure
that nothing is wanteddescends to the barand there awaits the
resultwith the gentle Jew and Miss Jenny Wren.

If you are not gone for goodMr Riderhoodit would be something
to know where you are hiding at present. This flabby lump of
mortality that we work so hard at with such patient perseverance


yields no sign of you. If you are gone for goodRogueit is very
solemnand if you are coming backit is hardly less so. Nayin
the suspense and mystery of the latter questioninvolving that of
where you may be nowthere is a solemnity even added to that of
deathmaking us who are in attendance alike afraid to look on you
and to look off youand making those below start at the least
sound of a creaking plank in the floor.

Stay! Did that eyelid tremble? So the doctorbreathing lowand
closely watchingasks himself.

No.

Did that nostril twitch?

No.

This artificial respiration ceasingdo I feel any faint flutter under
my hand upon the chest?

No.

Over and over again No. No. But try over and over again
nevertheless.

See! A token of life! An indubitable token of life! The spark may
smoulder and go outor it may glow and expandbut see! The four
rough fellowsseeingshed tears. Neither Riderhood in this world
nor Riderhood in the othercould draw tears from them; but a
striving human soul between the two can do it easily.

He is struggling to come back. Nowhe is almost herenow he is
far away