Part 18 out of 21
to a little washing-room, where Bella soaped his face and rubbed
his face, and soaped his hands and rubbed his hands, and splashed
him and rinsed him and towelled him, until he was as red as beet-
root, even to his very ears: 'Now you must be brushed and combed,
sir,' said Bella, busily. 'Hold the light, John. Shut your eyes, sir,
and let me take hold of your chin. Be good directly, and do as you
Her father being more than willing to obey, she dressed his hair in
her most elaborate manner, brushing it out straight, parting it,
winding it over her fingers, sticking it up on end, and constantly
falling back on John to get a good look at the effect of it. Who
always received her on his disengaged arm, and detained her,
while the patient cherub stood waiting to be finished.
'There!' said Bella, when she had at last completed the final
touches. 'Now, you are something like a genteel boy! Put your
jacket on, and come and have your supper.'
The cherub investing himself with his coat was led back to his
corner--where, but for having no egotism in his pleasant nature, he
would have answered well enough for that radiant though self-
sufficient boy, Jack Horner--Bella with her own hands laid a cloth
for him, and brought him his supper on a tray. 'Stop a moment,'
said she, 'we must keep his little clothes clean;' and tied a napkin
under his chin, in a very methodical manner.
While he took his supper, Bella sat by him, sometimes
admonishing him to hold his fork by the handle, like a polite child,
and at other times carving for him, or pouring out his drink.
Fantastic as it all was, and accustomed as she ever had been to
make a plaything of her good father, ever delighted that she should
put him to that account, still there was an occasional something on
Bella's part that was new. It could not be said that she was less
playful, whimsical, or natural, than she always had been; but it
seemed, her husband thought, as if there were some rather graver
reason than he had supposed for what she had so lately said, and
as if throughout all this, there were glimpses of an underlying
It was a circumstance in support of this view of the case, that when
she had lighted her father's pipe, and mixed him his glass of grog,
she sat down on a stool between her father and her husband,
leaning her arm upon the latter, and was very quiet. So quiet, that
when her father rose to take his leave, she looked round with a
start, as if she had forgotten his being there.
'You go a little way with Pa, John?'
'Yes, my dear. Do you?'
'I have not written to Lizzie Hexam since I wrote and told her that
I really had a lover--a whole one. I have often thought I would like
to tell her how right she was when she pretended to read in the live
coals that I would go through fire and water for him. I am in the
humour to tell her so to-night, John, and I'll stay at home and do it.'
'You are tired.'
'Not at all tired, John dear, but in the humour to write to Lizzie.
Good night, dear Pa. Good night, you dear, good, gentle Pa!'
Left to herself she sat down to write, and wrote Lizzie a long letter.
She had but completed it and read it over, when her husband came
back. 'You are just in time, sir,' said Bella; 'I am going to give you
your first curtain lecture. It shall be a parlour-curtain lecture. You
shall take this chair of mine when I have folded my letter, and I
will take the stool (though you ought to take it, I can tell you, sir, if
it's the stool of repentance), and you'll soon find yourself taken to
Her letter folded, sealed, and directed, and her pen wiped, and her
middle finger wiped, and her desk locked up and put away, and
these transactions performed with an air of severe business
sedateness, which the Complete British Housewife might have
assumed, and certainly would not have rounded off and broken
down in with a musical laugh, as Bella did: she placed her
husband in his chair, and placed herself upon her stool.
'Now, sir! To begin at the beginning. What is your name?'
A question more decidedly rushing at the secret he was keeping
from her, could not have astounded him. But he kept his
countenance and his secret, and answered, 'John Rokesmith, my
'Good boy! Who gave you that name?'
With a returning suspicion that something might have betrayed
him to her, he answered, interrogatively, 'My godfathers and my
godmothers, dear love?'
'Pretty good!' said Bella. 'Not goodest good, because you hesitate
about it. However, as you know your Catechism fairly, so far, I'll
let you off the rest. Now, I am going to examine you out of my
own head. John dear, why did you go back, this evening, to the
question you once asked me before--would I like to be rich?'
Again, his secret! He looked down at her as she looked up at him,
with her hands folded on his knee, and it was as nearly told as
ever secret was.
Having no reply ready, he could do no better than embrace her.
'In short, dear John,' said Bella, 'this is the topic of my lecture: I
want nothing on earth, and I want you to believe it.'
'If that's all, the lecture may be considered over, for I do.'
'It's not all, John dear,' Bella hesitated. 'It's only Firstly. There's a
dreadful Secondly, and a dreadful Thirdly to come--as I used to say
to myself in sermon-time when I was a very small-sized sinner at
'Let them come, my dearest.'
'Are you sure, John dear; are you absolutely certain in your
innermost heart of hearts--?'
'Which is not in my keeping,' he rejoined.
'No, John, but the key is.--Are you absolutely certain that down at
the bottom of that heart of hearts, which you have given to me as I
have given mine to you, there is no remembrance that I was once
'Why, if there were no remembrance in me of the time you speak
of,' he softly asked her with his lips to hers, 'could I love you quite
as well as I do; could I have in the Calendar of my life the brightest
of its days; could I whenever I look at your dear face, or hear your
dear voice, see and hear my noble champion? It can never have
been that which made you serious, darling?'
'No John, it wasn't that, and still less was it Mrs Boffin, though I
love her. Wait a moment, and I'll go on with the lecture. Give me
a moment, because I like to cry for joy. It's so delicious, John dear,
to cry for joy.'
She did so on his neck, and, still clinging there, laughed a little
when she said, 'I think I am ready now for Thirdly, John.'
'I am ready for Thirdly,' said John, 'whatever it is.'
'I believe, John,' pursued Bella, 'that you believe that I believe--'
'My dear child,' cried her husband gaily, 'what a quantity of
'Isn't there?' said Bella, with another laugh. 'I never knew such a
quantity! It's like verbs in an exercise. But I can't get on with less
believing. I'll try again. I believe, dear John, that you believe that
I believe that we have as much money as we require, and that we
want for nothing.'
'It is strictly true, Bella.'
'But if our money should by any means be rendered not so much--if
we had to stint ourselves a little in purchases that we can afford to
make now--would you still have the same confidence in my being
quite contented, John?'
'Precisely the same confidence, my soul.'
'Thank you, John dear, thousands upon thousands of times. And I
may take it for granted, no doubt,' with a little faltering, 'that you
would be quite as contented yourself John? But, yes, I know I
may. For, knowing that I should be so, how surely I may know
that you would be so; you who are so much stronger, and firmer,
and more reasonable and more generous, than I am.'
'Hush!' said her husband, 'I must not hear that. You are all wrong
there, though otherwise as right as can be. And now I am brought
to a little piece of news, my dearest, that I might have told you
earlier in the evening. I have strong reason for confidently
believing that we shall never be in the receipt of a smaller income
than our present income.'
She might have shown herself more interested in the intelligence;
but she had returned to the investigation of the coat-button that had
engaged her attention a few hours before, and scarcely seemed to
heed what he said.
'And now we have got to the bottom of it at last,' cried her
husband, rallying her, 'and this is the thing that made you serious?'
'No dear,' said Bella, twisting the button and shaking her head, 'it
'Why then, Lord bless this little wife of mine, there's a Fourthly!'
'This worried me a little, and so did Secondly,' said Bella, occupied
with the button, 'but it was quite another sort of seriousness--a
much deeper and quieter sort of seriousness--that I spoke of John
As he bent his face to hers, she raised hers to meet it, and laid her
little right hand on his eyes, and kept it there.
'Do you remember, John, on the day we were married, Pa's
speaking of the ships that might be sailing towards us from the
'Perfectly, my darling!'
'I think...among them...there is a ship upon the
ocean...bringing...to you and me...a little baby, John.'
A CRY FOR HELP
The Paper Mill had stopped work for the night, and the paths and
roads in its neighbourhood were sprinkled with clusters of people
going home from their day's labour in it. There were men, women,
and children in the groups, and there was no want of lively colour
to flutter in the gentle evening wind. The mingling of various
voices and the sound of laughter made a cheerful impression upon
the ear, analogous to that of the fluttering colours upon the eye.
Into the sheet of water reflecting the flushed sky in the foreground
of the living picture, a knot of urchins were casting stones, and
watching the expansion of the rippling circles. So, in the rosy
evening, one might watch the ever-widening beauty of the
landscape--beyond the newly-released workers wending home--
beyond the silver river--beyond the deep green fields of corn, so
prospering, that the loiterers in their narrow threads of pathway
seemed to float immersed breast-high--beyond the hedgerows and
the clumps of trees--beyond the windmills on the ridge--away to
where the sky appeared to meet the earth, as if there were no
immensity of space between mankind and Heaven.
It was a Saturday evening, and at such a time the village dogs,
always much more interested in the doings of humanity than in the
affairs of their own species, were particularly active. At the
general shop, at the butcher's and at the public-house, they evinced
an inquiring spirit never to he satiated. Their especial interest in
the public-house would seem to imply some latent rakishness in
the canine character; for little was eaten there, and they, having no
taste for beer or tobacco (Mrs Hubbard's dog is said to have
smoked, but proof is wanting), could only have been attracted by
sympathy with loose convivial habits. Moreover, a most wretched
fiddle played within; a fiddle so unutterably vile, that one lean
long-bodied cur, with a better ear than the rest, found himself
under compulsion at intervals to go round the corner and howl.
Yet, even he returned to the public-house on each occasion with
the tenacity of a confirmed drunkard.
Fearful to relate, there was even a sort of little Fair in the village.
Some despairing gingerbread that had been vainly trying to dispose
of itself all over the country, and had cast a quantity of dust upon
its head in its mortification, again appealed to the public from an
infirm booth. So did a heap of nuts, long, long exiled from
Barcelona, and yet speaking English so indifferently as to call
fourteen of themselves a pint. A Peep-show which had originally
started with the Battle of Waterloo, and had since made it every
other battle of later date by altering the Duke of Wellington's nose,
tempted the student of illustrated history. A Fat Lady, perhaps in
part sustained upon postponed pork, her professional associate
being a Learned Pig, displayed her life-size picture in a low dress
as she appeared when presented at Court, several yards round.
All this was a vicious spectacle as any poor idea of amusement on
the part of the rougher hewers of wood and drawers of water in this
land of England ever is and shall be. They MUST NOT vary the
rheumatism with amusement. They may vary it with fever and
ague, or with as many rheumatic variations as they have joints; but
positively not with entertainment after their own manner.
The various sounds arising from this scene of depravity, and
floating away into the still evening air, made the evening, at any
point which they just reached fitfully, mellowed by the distance,
more still by contrast. Such was the stillness of the evening to
Eugene Wrayburn, as he walked by the river with his hands behind
He walked slowly, and with the measured step and preoccupied air
of one who was waiting. He walked between the two points, an
osier-bed at this end and some floating lilies at that, and at each
point stopped and looked expectantly in one direction.
'It is very quiet,' said he.
It was very quiet. Some sheep were grazing on the grass by the
river-side, and it seemed to him that he had never before heard the
crisp tearing sound with which they cropped it. He stopped idly,
and looked at them.
'You are stupid enough, I suppose. But if you are clever enough to
get through life tolerably to your satisfaction, you have got the
better of me, Man as I am, and Mutton as you are!'
A rustle in a field beyond the hedge attracted his attention. 'What's
here to do?' he asked himself leisurely going towards the gate and
looking over. 'No jealous paper-miller? No pleasures of the chase
in this part of the country? Mostly fishing hereabouts!'
The field had been newly mown, and there were yet the marks of
the scythe on the yellow-green ground, and the track of wheels
where the hay had been carried. Following the tracks with his
eyes, the view closed with the new hayrick in a corner.
Now, if he had gone on to the hayrick, and gone round it? But, say
that the event was to be, as the event fell out, and how idle are such
suppositions! Besides, if he had gone; what is there of warning in
a Bargeman lying on his face?
'A bird flying to the hedge,' was all he thought about it; and came
back, and resumed his walk.
'If I had not a reliance on her being truthful,' said Eugene, after
taking some half-dozen turns, 'I should begin to think she had
given me the slip for the second time. But she promised, and she
is a girl of her word.'
Turning again at the water-lilies, he saw her coming, and advanced
to meet her.
'I was saying to myself, Lizzie, that you were sure to come, though
you were late.'
'I had to linger through the village as if I had no object before me,
and I had to speak to several people in passing along, Mr
'Are the lads of the village--and the ladies--such scandal-mongers?'
he asked, as he took her hand and drew it through his arm.
She submitted to walk slowly on, with downcast eyes. He put her
hand to his lips, and she quietly drew it away.
'Will you walk beside me, Mr Wrayburn, and not touch me?' For,
his arm was already stealing round her waist.
She stopped again, and gave him an earnest supplicating look.
'Well, Lizzie, well!' said he, in an easy way though ill at ease with
himself 'don't be unhappy, don't be reproachful.'
'I cannot help being unhappy, but I do not mean to be reproachful.
Mr Wrayburn, I implore you to go away from this neighbourhood,
'Lizzie, Lizzie, Lizzie!' he remonstrated. 'As well be reproachful as
wholly unreasonable. I can't go away.'
'Faith!' said Eugene in his airily candid manner. 'Because you
won't let me. Mind! I don't mean to be reproachful either. I don't
complain that you design to keep me here. But you do it, you do
'Will you walk beside me, and not touch me;' for, his arm was
coming about her again; 'while I speak to you very seriously, Mr
'I will do anything within the limits of possibility, for you, Lizzie,'
he answered with pleasant gaiety as he folded his arms. 'See here!
Napoleon Buonaparte at St Helena.'
'When you spoke to me as I came from the Mill the night before
last,' said Lizzie, fixing her eyes upon him with the look of
supplication which troubled his better nature, 'you told me that you
were much surprised to see me, and that you were on a solitary
fishing excursion. Was it true?'
'It was not,' replied Eugene composedly, 'in the least true. I came
here, because I had information that I should find you here.'
'Can you imagine why I left London, Mr Wrayburn?'
'I am afraid, Lizzie,' he openly answered, 'that you left London to
get rid of me. It is not flattering to my self-love, but I am afraid
'How could you be so cruel?'
'O Mr Wrayburn,' she answered, suddenly breaking into tears, 'is
the cruelty on my side! O Mr Wrayburn, Mr Wrayburn, is there no
cruelty in your being here to-night!'
'In the name of all that's good--and that is not conjuring you in my
own name, for Heaven knows I am not good'--said Eugene, 'don't
'What else can I be, when I know the distance and the difference
between us? What else can I be, when to tell me why you came
here, is to put me to shame!' said Lizzie, covering her face.
He looked at her with a real sentiment of remorseful tenderness
and pity. It was not strong enough to impell him to sacrifice
himself and spare her, but it was a strong emotion.
'Lizzie! I never thought before, that there was a woman in the
world who could affect me so much by saying so little. But don't
be hard in your construction of me. You don't know what my state
of mind towards you is. You don't know how you haunt me and
bewilder me. You don't know how the cursed carelessness that is
over-officious in helping me at every other turning of my life,
WON'T help me here. You have struck it dead, I think, and I
sometimes almost wish you had struck me dead along with it.'
She had not been prepared for such passionate expressions, and
they awakened some natural sparks of feminine pride and joy in
her breast. To consider, wrong as he was, that he could care so
much for her, and that she had the power to move him so!
'It grieves you to see me distressed, Mr Wrayburn; it grieves me to
see you distressed. I don't reproach you. Indeed I don't reproach
you. You have not felt this as I feel it, being so different from me,
and beginning from another point of view. You have not thought.
But I entreat you to think now, think now!'
'What am I to think of?' asked Eugene, bitterly.
'Think of me.'
'Tell me how NOT to think of you, Lizzie, and you'll change me
'I don't mean in that way. Think of me, as belonging to another
station, and quite cut off from you in honour. Remember that I
have no protector near me, unless I have one in your noble heart.
Respect my good name. If you feel towards me, in one particular,
as you might if I was a lady, give me the full claims of a lady upon
your generous behaviour. I am removed from you and your family
by being a working girl. How true a gentleman to be as
considerate of me as if I was removed by being a Queen!'
He would have been base indeed to have stood untouched by her
appeal. His face expressed contrition and indecision as he asked:
'Have I injured you so much, Lizzie?'
'No, no. You may set me quite right. I don't speak of the past, Mr
Wrayburn, but of the present and the future. Are we not here now,
because through two days you have followed me so closely where
there are so many eyes to see you, that I consented to this
appointment as an escape?'
'Again, not very flattering to my self-love,' said Eugene, moodily;
'but yes. Yes. Yes.'
'Then I beseech you, Mr Wrayburn, I beg and pray you, leave this
neighbourhood. If you do not, consider to what you will drive me.'
He did consider within himself for a moment or two, and then
retorted, 'Drive you? To what shall I drive you, Lizzie?'
'You will drive me away. I live here peacefully and respected, and
I am well employed here. You will force me to quit this place as I
quitted London, and--by following me again--will force me to quit
the next place in which I may find refuge, as I quitted this.'
'Are you so determined, Lizzie--forgive the word I am going to use,
for its literal truth--to fly from a lover?'
'I am so determined,' she answered resolutely, though trembling, 'to
fly from such a lover. There was a poor woman died here but a
little while ago, scores of years older than I am, whom I found by
chance, lying on the wet earth. You may have heard some account
'I think I have,' he answered, 'if her name was Higden.'
'Her name was Higden. Though she was so weak and old, she
kept true to one purpose to the very last. Even at the very last, she
made me promise that her purpose should be kept to, after she was
dead, so settled was her determination. What she did, I can do.
Mr Wrayburn, if I believed--but I do not believe--that you could be
so cruel to me as to drive me from place to place to wear me out,
you should drive me to death and not do it.'
He looked full at her handsome face, and in his own handsome
face there was a light of blended admiration, anger, and reproach,
which she--who loved him so in secret whose heart had long been
so full, and he the cause of its overflowing--drooped before. She
tried hard to retain her firmness, but he saw it melting away under
his eyes. In the moment of its dissolution, and of his first full
knowledge of his influence upon her, she dropped, and he caught
her on his arm.
'Lizzie! Rest so a moment. Answer what I ask you. If I had not
been what you call removed from you and cut off from you, would
you have made this appeal to me to leave you?'
'I don't know, I don't know. Don't ask me, Mr Wrayburn. Let me
'I swear to you, Lizzie, you shall go directly. I swear to you, you
shall go alone. I'll not accompany you, I'll not follow you, if you
'How can I, Mr Wrayburn? How can I tell you what I should have
done, if you had not been what you are?'
'If I had not been what you make me out to be,' he struck in,
skilfully changing the form of words, 'would you still have hated
'O Mr Wrayburn,' she replied appealingly, and weeping, 'you
know me better than to think I do!'
'If I had not been what you make me out to be, Lizzie, would you
still have been indifferent to me?'
'O Mr Wrayburn,' she answered as before, 'you know me better
than that too!'
There was something in the attitude of her whole figure as he
supported it, and she hung her head, which besought him to be
merciful and not force her to disclose her heart. He was not
merciful with her, and he made her do it.
'If I know you better than quite to believe (unfortunate dog though I
am!) that you hate me, or even that you are wholly indifferent to
me, Lizzie, let me know so much more from yourself before we
separate. Let me know how you would have dealt with me if you
had regarded me as being what you would have considered on
equal terms with you.'
'It is impossible, Mr Wrayburn. How can I think of you as being
on equal terms with me? If my mind could put you on equal terms
with me, you could not be yourself. How could I remember, then,
the night when I first saw you, and when I went out of the room
because you looked at me so attentively? Or, the night that passed
into the morning when you broke to me that my father was dead?
Or, the nights when you used to come to see me at my next home?
Or, your having known how uninstructed I was, and having caused
me to be taught better? Or, my having so looked up to you and
wondered at you, and at first thought you so good to be at all
mindful of me?'
'Only "at first" thought me so good, Lizzie? What did you think
me after "at first"? So bad?'
'I don't say that. I don't mean that. But after the first wonder and
pleasure of being noticed by one so different from any one who had
ever spoken to me, I began to feel that it might have been better if I
had never seen you.'
'Because you WERE so different,' she answered in a lower voice.
'Because it was so endless, so hopeless. Spare me!'
'Did you think for me at all, Lizzie?' he asked, as if he were a little
'Not much, Mr Wrayburn. Not much until to-night.'
'Will you tell me why?'
'I never supposed until to-night that you needed to be thought for.
But if you do need to be; if you do truly feel at heart that you have
indeed been towards me what you have called yourself to-night,
and that there is nothing for us in this life but separation; then
Heaven help you, and Heaven bless you!'
The purity with which in these words she expressed something of
her own love and her own suffering, made a deep impression on
him for the passing time. He held her, almost as if she were
sanctified to him by death, and kissed her, once, almost as he
might have kissed the dead.
'I promised that I would not accompany you, nor follow you. Shall
I keep you in view? You have been agitated, and it's growing
'I am used to be out alone at this hour, and I entreat you not to do
'I promise. I can bring myself to promise nothing more tonight,
Lizzie, except that I will try what I can do.'
'There is but one means, Mr Wrayburn, of sparing yourself and of
sparing me, every way. Leave this neighbourhood to-morrow
'I will try.'
As he spoke the words in a grave voice, she put her hand in his,
removed it, and went away by the river-side.
'Now, could Mortimer believe this?' murmured Eugene, still
remaining, after a while, where she had left him. 'Can I even
believe it myself?'
He referred to the circumstance that there were tears upon his
hand, as he stood covering his eyes. 'A most ridiculous position
this, to be found out in!' was his next thought. And his next struck
its root in a little rising resentment against the cause of the tears.
'Yet I have gained a wonderful power over her, too, let her be as
much in earnest as she will!'
The reflection brought back the yielding of her face and form as
she had drooped under his gaze. Contemplating the reproduction,
he seemed to see, for the second time, in the appeal and in the
confession of weakness, a little fear.
'And she loves me. And so earnest a character must be very
earnest in that passion. She cannot choose for herself to be strong
in this fancy, wavering in that, and weak in the other. She must go
through with her nature, as I must go through with mine. If mine
exacts its pains and penalties all round, so must hers, I suppose.'
Pursuing the inquiry into his own nature, he thought, 'Now, if I
married her. If, outfacing the absurdity of the situation in
correspondence with M. R. F., I astonished M. R. F. to the utmost
extent of his respected powers, by informing him that I had
married her, how would M. R. F. reason with the legal mind?
"You wouldn't marry for some money and some station, because
you were frightfully likely to become bored. Are you less
frightfully likely to become bored, marrying for no money and no
station? Are you sure of yourself?" Legal mind, in spite of
forensic protestations, must secretly admit, "Good reasoning on
the part of M. R. F. NOT sure of myself."'
In the very act of calling this tone of levity to his aid, he felt it to be
profligate and worthless, and asserted her against it.
'And yet,' said Eugene, 'I should like to see the fellow (Mortimer
excepted) who would undertake to tell me that this was not a real
sentiment on my part, won out of me by her beauty and her worth,
in spite of myself, and that I would not be true to her. I should
particularly like to see the fellow to-night who would tell me so, or
who would tell me anything that could he construed to her
disadvantage; for I am wearily out of sorts with one Wrayburn who
cuts a sorry figure, and I would far rather be out of sorts with
somebody else. "Eugene, Eugene, Eugene, this is a bad business."
Ah! So go the Mortimer Lightwood bells, and they sound
Strolling on, he thought of something else to take himself to task
for. 'Where is the analogy, Brute Beast,' he said impatiently,
'between a woman whom your father coolly finds out for you and a
woman whom you have found out for yourself, and have ever
drifted after with more and more of constancy since you first set
eyes upon her? Ass! Can you reason no better than that?'
But, again he subsided into a reminiscence of his first full
knowledge of his power just now, and of her disclosure of her
heart. To try no more to go away, and to try her again, was the
reckless conclusion it turned uppermost. And yet again, 'Eugene,
Eugene, Eugene, this is a bad business!' And, 'I wish I could stop
the Lightwood peal, for it sounds like a knell.'
Looking above, he found that the young moon was up, and that the
stars were beginning to shine in the sky from which the tones of
red and yellow were flickering out, in favour of the calm blue of a
summer night. He was still by the river-side. Turning suddenly,
he met a man, so close upon him that Eugene, surprised, stepped
back, to avoid a collision. The man carried something over his
shoulder which might have been a broken oar, or spar, or bar, and
took no notice of him, but passed on.
'Halloa, friend!' said Eugene, calling after him, 'are you blind?'
The man made no reply, but went his way.
Eugene Wrayburn went the opposite way, with his hands behind
him and his purpose in his thoughts. He passed the sheep, and
passed the gate, and came within hearing of the village sounds,
and came to the bridge. The inn where he stayed, like the village
and the mill, was not across the river, but on that side of the stream
on which he walked. However, knowing the rushy bank and the
backwater on the other side to be a retired place, and feeling out of
humour for noise or company, he crossed the bridge, and sauntered
on: looking up at the stars as they seemed one by one to be kindled
in the sky, and looking down at the river as the same stars seemed
to be kindled deep in the water. A landing-place overshadowed by
a willow, and a pleasure-boat lying moored there among some
stakes, caught his eye as he passed along. The spot was in such
dark shadow, that he paused to make out what was there, and then
passed on again.
The rippling of the river seemed to cause a correspondent stir in his
uneasy reflections. He would have laid them asleep if he could,
but they were in movement, like the stream, and all tending one
way with a strong current. As the ripple under the moon broke
unexpectedly now and then, and palely flashed in a new shape and
with a new sound, so parts of his thoughts started, unbidden, from
the rest, and revealed their wickedness. 'Out of the question to
marry her,' said Eugene, 'and out of the question to leave her. The
He had sauntered far enough. Before turning to retrace his steps,
he stopped upon the margin, to look down at the reflected night. In
an instant, with a dreadful crash, the reflected night turned
crooked, flames shot jaggedly across the air, and the moon and
stars came bursting from the sky.
Was he struck by lightning? With some incoherent half-formed
thought to that effect, he turned under the blows that were blinding
him and mashing his life, and closed with a murderer, whom he
caught by a red neckerchief--unless the raining down of his own
blood gave it that hue.
Eugene was light, active, and expert; but his arms were broken, or
he was paralysed, and could do no more than hang on to the man,
with his head swung back, so that he could see nothing but the
heaving sky. After dragging at the assailant, he fell on the bank
with him, and then there was another great crash, and then a
splash, and all was done.
Lizzie Hexam, too, had avoided the noise, and the Saturday
movement of people in the straggling street, and chose to walk
alone by the water until her tears should be dry, and she could so
compose herself as to escape remark upon her looking ill or
unhappy on going home. The peaceful serenity of the hour and
place, having no reproaches or evil intentions within her breast to
contend against, sank healingly into its depths. She had meditated
and taken comfort. She, too, was turning homeward, when she
heard a strange sound.
It startled her, for it was like a sound of blows. She stood still, and
listened. It sickened her, for blows fell heavily and cruelly on the
quiet of the night. As she listened, undecided, all was silent. As
she yet listened, she heard a faint groan, and a fall into the river.
Her old bold life and habit instantly inspired her. Without vain
waste of breath in crying for help where there were none to hear,
she ran towards the spot from which the sounds had come. It lay
between her and the bridge, but it was more removed from her than
she had thought; the night being so very quiet, and sound
travelling far with the help of water.
At length, she reached a part of the green bank, much and newly
trodden, where there lay some broken splintered pieces of wood
and some torn fragments of clothes. Stooping, she saw that the
grass was bloody. Following the drops and smears, she saw that
the watery margin of the bank was bloody. Following the current
with her eyes, she saw a bloody face turned up towards the moon,
and drifting away.
Now, merciful Heaven be thanked for that old time, and grant, O
Blessed Lord, that through thy wonderful workings it may turn to
good at last! To whomsoever the drifting face belongs, be it man's
or woman's, help my humble hands, Lord God, to raise it from
death and restore it to some one to whom it must be dear!
It was thought, fervently thought, but not for a moment did the
prayer check her. She was away before it welled up in her mind,
away, swift and true, yet steady above all--for without steadiness it
could never be done--to the landing-place under the willow-tree,
where she also had seen the boat lying moored among the stakes.
A sure touch of her old practised hand, a sure step of her old
practised foot, a sure light balance of her body, and she was in the
boat. A quick glance of her practised eye showed her, even
through the deep dark shadow, the sculls in a rack against the red-
brick garden-wall. Another moment, and she had cast off (taking
the line with her), and the boat had shot out into the moonlight,
and she was rowing down the stream as never other woman rowed
on English water.
Intently over her shoulder, without slackening speed, she looked
ahead for the driving face. She passed the scene of the struggle--
yonder it was, on her left, well over the boat's stern--she passed on
her right, the end of the village street, a hilly street that almost
dipped into the river; its sounds were growing faint again, and she
slackened; looking as the boat drove, everywhere, everywhere, for
the floating face.
She merely kept the boat before the stream now, and rested on her
oars, knowing well that if the face were not soon visible, it had
gone down, and she would overshoot it. An untrained sight would
never have seen by the moonlight what she saw at the length of a
few strokes astern. She saw the drowning figure rise to the
surface, slightly struggle, and as if by instinct turn over on its back
to float. Just so had she first dimly seen the face which she now
dimly saw again.
Firm of look and firm of purpose, she intently watched its coming
on, until it was very near; then, with a touch unshipped her sculls,
and crept aft in the boat, between kneeling and crouching. Once,
she let the body evade her, not being sure of her grasp. Twice, and
she had seized it by its bloody hair.
It was insensible, if not virtually dead; it was mutilated, and
streaked the water all about it with dark red streaks. As it could
not help itself, it was impossible for her to get it on board. She
bent over the stern to secure it with the line, and then the river and
its shores rang to the terrible cry she uttered.
But, as if possessed by supernatural spirit and strength, she lashed
it safe, resumed her seat, and rowed in, desperately, for the nearest
shallow water where she might run the boat aground. Desperately,
but not wildly, for she knew that if she lost distinctness of
intention, all was lost and gone.
She ran the boat ashore, went into the water, released him from the
line, and by main strength lifted him in her arms and laid him in
the bottom of the boat. He had fearful wounds upon him, and she
bound them up with her dress torn into strips. Else, supposing him
to be still alive, she foresaw that he must bleed to death before he
could be landed at his inn, which was the nearest place for
This done very rapidly, she kissed his disfigured forehead, looked
up in anguish to the stars, and blessed him and forgave him, 'if
she had anything to forgive.' It was only in that instant that she
thought of herself, and then she thought of herself only for him.
Now, merciful Heaven be thanked for that old time, enabling me,
without a wasted moment, to have got the boat afloat again, and to
row back against the stream! And grant, O Blessed Lord God, that
through poor me he may be raised from death, and preserved to
some one else to whom he may be dear one day, though never
dearer than to me!
She rowed hard--rowed desperately, but never wildly--and seldom
removed her eyes from him in the bottom of the boat. She had so
laid him there, as that she might see his disfigured face; it was so
much disfigured that his mother might have covered it, but it was
above and beyond disfigurement in her eyes.
The boat touched the edge of the patch of inn lawn, sloping gently
to the water. There were lights in the windows, but there chanced
to be no one out of doors. She made the boat fast, and again by
main strength took him up, and never laid him down until she laid
him down in the house.
Surgeons were sent for, and she sat supporting his head. She had
oftentimes heard in days that were gone, how doctors would lift the
hand of an insensible wounded person, and would drop it if the
person were dead. She waited for the awful moment when the
doctors might lift this hand, all broken and bruised, and let it fall.
The first of the surgeons came, and asked, before proceeding to his
examination, 'Who brought him in?'
'I brought him in, sir,' answered Lizzie, at whom all present
'You, my dear? You could not lift, far less carry, this weight.'
'I think I could not, at another time, sir; but I am sure I did.'
The surgeon looked at her with great attention, and with some
compassion. Having with a grave face touched the wounds upon
the head, and the broken arms, he took the hand.
O! would he let it drop?
He appeared irresolute. He did not retain it, but laid it gently
down, took a candle, looked more closely at the injuries on the
head, and at the pupils of the eyes. That done, he replaced the
candle and took the hand again. Another surgeon then coming in,
the two exchanged a whisper, and the second took the hand.
Neither did he let it fall at once, but kept it for a while and laid it
'Attend to the poor girl,' said the first surgeon then. 'She is quite
unconscious. She sees nothing and hears nothing. All the better
for her! Don't rouse her, if you can help it; only move her. Poor
girl, poor girl! She must be amazingly strong of heart, but it is
much to be feared that she has set her heart upon the dead. Be
gentle with her.'
BETTER TO BE ABEL THAN CAIN
Day was breaking at Plashwater Weir Mill Lock. Stars were yet
visible, but there was dull light in the east that was not the light of
night. The moon had gone down, and a mist crept along the banks
of the river, seen through which the trees were the ghosts of trees,
and the water was the ghost of water. This earth looked spectral,
and so did the pale stars: while the cold eastern glare,
expressionless as to heat or colour, with the eye of the firmament
quenched, might have been likened to the stare of the dead.
Perhaps it was so likened by the lonely Bargeman, standing on the
brink of the lock. For certain, Bradley Headstone looked that way,
when a chill air came up, and when it passed on murmuring, as if
it whispered something that made the phantom trees and water
tremble--or threaten--for fancy might have made it either.
He turned away, and tried the Lock-house door. It was fastened on
'Is he afraid of me?' he muttered, knocking.
Rogue Riderhood was soon roused, and soon undrew the bolt and
let him in.
'Why, T'otherest, I thought you had been and got lost! Two nights
away! I a'most believed as you'd giv' me the slip, and I had as
good as half a mind for to advertise you in the newspapers to come
Bradley's face turned so dark on this hint, that Riderhood deemed
it expedient to soften it into a compliment.
'But not you, governor, not you,' he went on, stolidly shaking his
head. 'For what did I say to myself arter having amused myself
with that there stretch of a comic idea, as a sort of a playful game?
Why, I says to myself; "He's a man o' honour." That's what I says
to myself. "He's a man o' double honour."'
Very remarkably, Riderhood put no question to him. He had
looked at him on opening the door, and he now looked at him
again (stealthily this time), and the result of his looking was, that
he asked him no question.
'You'll be for another forty on 'em, governor, as I judges, afore you
turns your mind to breakfast,' said Riderhood, when his visitor sat
down, resting his chin on his hand, with his eyes on the ground.
And very remarkably again: Riderhood feigned to set the scanty
furniture in order, while he spoke, to have a show of reason for not
looking at him.
'Yes. I had better sleep, I think,' said Bradley, without changing
'I myself should recommend it, governor,' assented Riderhood.
'Might you be anyways dry?'
'Yes. I should like a drink,' said Bradley; but without appearing to
Mr Riderhood got out his bottle, and fetched his jug-full of water,
and administered a potation. Then, he shook the coverlet of his
bed and spread it smooth, and Bradley stretched himself upon it in
the clothes he wore. Mr Riderhood poetically remarking that he
would pick the bones of his night's rest, in his wooden chair, sat in
the window as before; but, as before, watched the sleeper narrowly
until he was very sound asleep. Then, he rose and looked at him
close, in the bright daylight, on every side, with great minuteness.
He went out to his Lock to sum up what he had seen.
'One of his sleeves is tore right away below the elber, and the
t'other's had a good rip at the shoulder. He's been hung on to,
pretty tight, for his shirt's all tore out of the neck-gathers. He's
been in the grass and he's been in the water. And he's spotted, and
I know with what, and with whose. Hooroar!'
Bradley slept long. Early in the afternoon a barge came down.
Other barges had passed through, both ways, before it; but the
Lock-keeper hailed only this particular barge, for news, as if he
had made a time calculation with some nicety. The men on board
told him a piece of news, and there was a lingering on their part to
enlarge upon it.
Twelve hours had intervened since Bradley's lying down, when he
got up. 'Not that I swaller it,' said Riderhood, squinting at his
Lock, when he saw Bradley coming out of the house, 'as you've
been a sleeping all the time, old boy!'
Bradley came to him, sitting on his wooden lever, and asked what
o'clock it was? Riderhood told him it was between two and three.
'When are you relieved?' asked Bradley.
'Day arter to-morrow, governor.'
'Not a inch sooner, governor.'
On both sides, importance seemed attached to this question of
relief. Riderhood quite petted his reply; saying a second time, and
prolonging a negative roll of his head, 'n--n--not a inch sooner,
'Did I tell you I was going on to-night?' asked Bradley.
'No, governor,' returned Riderhood, in a cheerful, affable, and
conversational manner, 'you did not tell me so. But most like you
meant to it and forgot to it. How, otherways, could a doubt have
come into your head about it, governor?'
'As the sun goes down, I intend to go on,' said Bradley.
'So much the more necessairy is a Peck,' returned Riderhood.
'Come in and have it, T'otherest.'
The formality of spreading a tablecloth not being observed in Mr
Riderhood's establishment, the serving of the 'peck' was the affair
of a moment; it merely consisting in the handing down of a
capacious baking dish with three-fourths of an immense meat pie
in it, and the production of two pocket-knives, an earthenware
mug, and a large brown bottle of beer.
Both ate and drank, but Riderhood much the more abundantly. In
lieu of plates, that honest man cut two triangular pieces from the
thick crust of the pie, and laid them, inside uppermost, upon the
table: the one before himself, and the other before his guest. Upon
these platters he placed two goodly portions of the contents of the
pie, thus imparting the unusual interest to the entertainment that
each partaker scooped out the inside of his plate, and consumed it
with his other fare, besides having the sport of pursuing the clots of
congealed gravy over the plain of the table, and successfully taking
them into his mouth at last from the blade of his knife, in case of
their not first sliding off it.
Bradley Headstone was so remarkably awkward at these exercises,
that the Rogue observed it.
'Look out, T'otherest!' he cried, 'you'll cut your hand!'
But, the caution came too late, for Bradley gashed it at the instant.
And, what was more unlucky, in asking Riderhood to tie it up, and
in standing close to him for the purpose, he shook his hand under
the smart of the wound, and shook blood over Riderhood's dress.
When dinner was done, and when what remained of the platters
and what remained of the congealed gravy had been put back into
what remained of the pie, which served as an economical
investment for all miscellaneous savings, Riderhood filled the mug
with beer and took a long drink. And now he did look at Bradley,
and with an evil eye.
'T'otherest!' he said, hoarsely, as he bent across the table to touch
his arm. 'The news has gone down the river afore you.'
'Who do you think,' said Riderhood, with a hitch of his head, as if
he disdainfully jerked the feint away, 'picked up the body? Guess.'
'I am not good at guessing anything.'
'She did. Hooroar! You had him there agin. She did.'
The convulsive twitching of Bradley Headstone's face, and the
sudden hot humour that broke out upon it, showed how grimly the
intelligence touched him. But he said not a single word, good or
bad. He only smiled in a lowering manner, and got up and stood
leaning at the window, looking through it. Riderhood followed
him with his eyes. Riderhood cast down his eyes on his own
besprinkled clothes. Riderhood began to have an air of being
better at a guess than Bradley owned to being.
'I have been so long in want of rest,' said the schoolmaster, 'that
with your leave I'll lie down again.'
'And welcome, T'otherest!' was the hospitable answer of his host.
He had laid himself down without waiting for it, and he remained
upon the bed until the sun was low. When he arose and came out
to resume his journey, he found his host waiting for him on the
grass by the towing-path outside the door.
'Whenever it may be necessary that you and I should have any
further communication together,' said Bradley, 'I will come back.
'Well, since no better can be,' said Riderhood, turning on his heel,
'Good-night!' But he turned again as the other set forth, and added
under his breath, looking after him with a leer: 'You wouldn't be
let to go like that, if my Relief warn't as good as come. I'll catch
you up in a mile.'
In a word, his real time of relief being that evening at sunset, his
mate came lounging in, within a quarter of an hour. Not staying to
fill up the utmost margin of his time, but borrowing an hour or so,
to be repaid again when he should relieve his reliever, Riderhood
straightway followed on the track of Bradley Headstone.
He was a better follower than Bradley. It had been the calling of
his life to slink and skulk and dog and waylay, and he knew his
calling well. He effected such a forced march on leaving the Lock
House that he was close up with him--that is to say, as close up
with him as he deemed it convenient to be--before another Lock
was passed. His man looked back pretty often as he went, but got
no hint of him. HE knew how to take advantage of the ground,
and where to put the hedge between them, and where the wall, and
when to duck, and when to drop, and had a thousand arts beyond
the doomed Bradley's slow conception.
But, all his arts were brought to a standstill, like himself when
Bradley, turning into a green lane or riding by the river-side--a
solitary spot run wild in nettles, briars, and brambles, and
encumbered with the scathed trunks of a whole hedgerow of felled
trees, on the outskirts of a little wood--began stepping on these
trunks and dropping down among them and stepping on them
again, apparently as a schoolboy might have done, but assuredly
with no schoolboy purpose, or want of purpose.
'What are you up to?' muttered Riderhood, down in the ditch, and
holding the hedge a little open with both hands. And soon his
actions made a most extraordinary reply. 'By George and the
Draggin!' cried Riderhood, 'if he ain't a going to bathe!'
He had passed back, on and among the trunks of trees again, and
has passed on to the water-side and had begun undressing on the
grass. For a moment it had a suspicious look of suicide, arranged
to counterfeit accident. 'But you wouldn't have fetched a bundle
under your arm, from among that timber, if such was your game!'
said Riderhood. Nevertheless it was a relief to him when the
bather after a plunge and a few strokes came out. 'For I shouldn't,'
he said in a feeling manner, 'have liked to lose you till I had made
more money out of you neither.'
Prone in another ditch (he had changed his ditch as his man had
changed his position), and holding apart so small a patch of the
hedge that the sharpest eyes could not have detected him, Rogue
Riderhood watched the bather dressing. And now gradually came
the wonder that he stood up, completely clothed, another man, and
not the Bargeman.
'Aha!' said Riderhood. 'Much as you was dressed that night. I see.
You're a taking me with you, now. You're deep. But I knows a
When the bather had finished dressing, he kneeled on the grass,
doing something with his hands, and again stood up with his
bundle under his arm. Looking all around him with great
attention, he then went to the river's edge, and flung it in as far,
and yet as lightly as he could. It was not until he was so decidedly
upon his way again as to be beyond a bend of the river and for the
time out of view, that Riderhood scrambled from the ditch.
'Now,' was his debate with himself 'shall I foller you on, or shall I
let you loose for this once, and go a fishing?' The debate
continuing, he followed, as a precautionary measure in any case,
and got him again in sight. 'If I was to let you loose this once,' said
Riderhood then, still following, 'I could make you come to me
agin, or I could find you out in one way or another. If I wasn't to
go a fishing, others might.--I'll let you loose this once, and go a
fishing!' With that, he suddenly dropped the pursuit and turned.
The miserable man whom he had released for the time, but not for
long, went on towards London. Bradley was suspicious of every
sound he heard, and of every face he saw, but was under a spell
which very commonly falls upon the shedder of blood, and had no
suspicion of the real danger that lurked in his life, and would have
it yet. Riderhood was much in his thoughts--had never been out of
his thoughts since the night-adventure of their first meeting; but
Riderhood occupied a very different place there, from the place of
pursuer; and Bradley had been at the pains of devising so many
means of fitting that place to him, and of wedging him into it, that
his mind could not compass the possibility of his occupying any
other. And this is another spell against which the shedder of blood
for ever strives in vain. There are fifty doors by which discovery
may enter. With infinite pains and cunning, he double locks and
bars forty-nine of them, and cannot see the fiftieth standing wide
Now, too, was he cursed with a state of mind more wearing and
more wearisome than remorse. He had no remorse; but the
evildoer who can hold that avenger at bay, cannot escape the
slower torture of incessantly doing the evil deed again and doing it
more efficiently. In the defensive declarations and pretended
confessions of murderers, the pursuing shadow of this torture may
be traced through every lie they tell. If I had done it as alleged, is
it conceivable that I would have made this and this mistake? If I
had done it as alleged, should I have left that unguarded place
which that false and wicked witness against me so infamously
deposed to? The state of that wretch who continually finds the
weak spots in his own crime, and strives to strengthen them when
it is unchangeable, is a state that aggravates the offence by doing
the deed a thousand times instead of once; but it is a state, too, that
tauntingly visits the offence upon a sullen unrepentant nature with
its heaviest punishment every time.
Bradley toiled on, chained heavily to the idea of his hatred and his
vengeance, and thinking how he might have satiated both in many
better ways than the way he had taken. The instrument might have
been better, the spot and the hour might have been better chosen.
To batter a man down from behind in the dark, on the brink of a
river, was well enough, but he ought to have been instantly
disabled, whereas he had turned and seized his assailant; and so, to
end it before chance-help came, and to be rid of him, he had been
hurriedly thrown backward into the river before the life was fully
beaten out of him. Now if it could be done again, it must not be so
done. Supposing his head had been held down under water for a
while. Supposing the first blow had been truer. Supposing he had
been shot. Supposing he had been strangled. Suppose this way,
that way, the other way. Suppose anything but getting unchained
from the one idea, for that was inexorably impossible.
The school reopened next day. The scholars saw little or no
change in their master's face, for it always wore its slowly
labouring expression. But, as he heard his classes, he was always
doing the deed and doing it better. As he paused with his piece of
chalk at the black board before writing on it, he was thinking of the
spot, and whether the water was not deeper and the fall straighter,
a little higher up, or a little lower down. He had half a mind to
draw a line or two upon the board, and show himself what he
meant. He was doing it again and improving on the manner, at
prayers, in his mental arithmetic, all through his questioning, all
through the day.
Charley Hexam was a master now, in another school, under
another head. It was evening, and Bradley was walking in his
garden observed from behind a blind by gentle little Miss Peecher,
who contemplated offering him a loan of her smelling salts for
headache, when Mary Anne, in faithful attendance, held up her
'Yes, Mary Anne?'
'Young Mr Hexam, if you please, ma'am, coming to see Mr
'Very good, Mary Anne.'
Again Mary Anne held up her arm.
'You may speak, Mary Anne?'
'Mr Headstone has beckoned young Mr Hexam into his house,
ma'am, and he has gone in himself without waiting for young Mr
Hexam to come up, and now HE has gone in too, ma'am, and has
shut the door.'
'With all my heart, Mary Anne.'
Again Mary Anne's telegraphic arm worked.
'What more, Mary Anne?'
'They must find it rather dull and dark, Miss Peecher, for the
parlour blind's down, and neither of them pulls it up.'
'There is no accounting,' said good Miss Peecher with a little sad
sigh which she repressed by laying her hand on her neat
methodical boddice, 'there is no accounting for tastes, Mary Anne.'
Charley, entering the dark room, stopped short when he saw his
old friend in its yellow shade.
'Come in, Hexam, come in.'
Charley advanced to take the hand that was held out to him; but
stopped again, short of it. The heavy, bloodshot eyes of the
schoolmaster, rising to his face with an effort, met his look of
'Mr Headstone, what's the matter?'
'Mr Headstone, have you heard the news? This news about the
fellow, Mr Eugene Wrayburn? That he is killed?'
'He is dead, then!' exclaimed Bradley.
Young Hexam standing looking at him, he moistened his lips with
his tongue, looked about the room, glanced at his former pupil, and
looked down. 'I heard of the outrage,' said Bradley, trying to
constrain his working mouth, 'but I had not heard the end of it.'
'Where were you,' said the boy, advancing a step as he lowered his
voice, 'when it was done? Stop! I don't ask that. Don't tell me. If
you force your confidence upon me, Mr Headstone, I'll give up
every word of it. Mind! Take notice. I'll give up it, and I'll give
up you. I will!'
The wretched creature seemed to suffer acutely under this
renunciation. A desolate air of utter and complete loneliness fell
upon him, like a visible shade.
'It's for me to speak, not you,' said the boy. 'If you do, you'll do it at
your peril. I am going to put your selfishness before you, Mr
Headstone--your passionate, violent, and ungovernable selfishness
--to show you why I can, and why I will, have nothing more to do
He looked at young Hexam as if he were waiting for a scholar to go
on with a lesson that he knew by heart and was deadly tired of.
But he had said his last word to him.
'If you had any part--I don't say what--in this attack,' pursued the
boy; 'or if you know anything about it--I don't say how much--or if
you know who did it--I go no closer--you did an injury to me that's
never to be forgiven. You know that I took you with me to his
chambers in the Temple when I told him my opinion of him, and
made myself responsible for my opinion of you. You know that I
took you with me when I was watching him with a view to
recovering my sister and bringing her to her senses; you know that
I have allowed myself to be mixed up with you, all through this
business, in favouring your desire to marry my sister. And how do
you know that, pursuing the ends of your own violent temper, you
have not laid me open to suspicion? Is that your gratitude to me,
Bradley sat looking steadily before him at the vacant air. As often
as young Hexam stopped, he turned his eyes towards him, as if he
were waiting for him to go on with the lesson, and get it done. As
often as the boy resumed, Bradley resumed his fixed face.
'I am going to be plain with you, Mr Headstone,' said young
Hexam, shaking his head in a half-threatening manner, 'because
this is no time for affecting not to know things that I do know--
except certain things at which it might not be very safe for you, to
hint again. What I mean is this: if you were a good master, I was a
good pupil. I have done you plenty of credit, and in improving my
own reputation I have improved yours quite as much. Very well
then. Starting on equal terms, I want to put before you how you
have shown your gratitude to me, for doing all I could to further
your wishes with reference to my sister. You have compromised
me by being seen about with me, endeavouring to counteract this
Mr Eugene Wrayburn. That's the first thing you have done. If my
character, and my now dropping you, help me out of that, Mr
Headstone, the deliverance is to be attributed to me, and not to you.
No thanks to you for it!'
The boy stopping again, he moved his eyes again.
'I am going on, Mr Headstone, don't you be afraid. I am going on
to the end, and I have told you beforehand what the end is. Now,
you know my story. You are as well aware as I am, that I have had
many disadvantages to leave behind me in life. You have heard
me mention my father, and you are sufficiently acquainted with the
fact that the home from which I, as I may say, escaped, might have
been a more creditable one than it was. My father died, and then it
might have been supposed that my way to respectability was pretty
clear. No. For then my sister begins.'
He spoke as confidently, and with as entire an absence of any tell-
tale colour in his cheek, as if there were no softening old time
behind him. Not wonderful, for there WAS none in his hollow
empty heart. What is there but self, for selfishness to see behind
'When I speak of my sister, I devoutly wish that you had never seen
her, Mr Headstone. However, you did see her, and that's useless
now. I confided in you about her. I explained her character to you,
and how she interposed some ridiculous fanciful notions in the
way of our being as respectable as I tried for. You fell in love with
her, and I favoured you with all my might. She could not be
induced to favour you, and so we came into collision with this Mr
Eugene Wrayburn. Now, what have you done? Why, you have
justified my sister in being firmly set against you from first to last,
and you have put me in the wrong again! And why have you done
it? Because, Mr Headstone, you are in all your passions so selfish,
and so concentrated upon yourself that you have not bestowed one
proper thought on me.'
The cool conviction with which the boy took up and held his
position, could have been derived from no other vice in human
'It is,' he went on, actually with tears, 'an extraordinary
circumstance attendant on my life, that every effort I make towards
perfect respectability, is impeded by somebody else through no
fault of mine! Not content with doing what I have put before you,
you will drag my name into notoriety through dragging my sister's
--which you are pretty sure to do, if my suspicions have any
foundation at all--and the worse you prove to be, the harder it will
be for me to detach myself from being associated with you in
When he had dried his eyes and heaved a sob over his injuries, he
began moving towards the door.
'However, I have made up my mind that I will become respectable
in the scale of society, and that I will not be dragged down by
others. I have done with my sister as well as with you. Since she
cares so little for me as to care nothing for undermining my
respectability, she shall go her way and I will go mine. My
prospects are very good, and I mean to follow them alone. Mr
Headstone, I don't say what you have got upon your conscience, for
I don't know. Whatever lies upon it, I hope you will see the justice
of keeping wide and clear of me, and will find a consolation in
completely exonerating all but yourself. I hope, before many years
are out, to succeed the master in my present school, and the
mistress being a single woman, though some years older than I am,
I might even marry her. If it is any comfort to you to know what
plans I may work out by keeping myself strictly respectable in the
scale of society, these are the plans at present occurring to me. In
conclusion, if you feel a sense of having injured me, and a desire to
make some small reparation, I hope you will think how respectable
you might have been yourself and will contemplate your blighted
Was it strange that the wretched man should take this heavily to
heart? Perhaps he had taken the boy to heart, first, through some
long laborious years; perhaps through the same years he had found
his drudgery lightened by communication with a brighter and more
apprehensive spirit than his own; perhaps a family resemblance of
face and voice between the boy and his sister, smote him hard in
the gloom of his fallen state. For whichsoever reason, or for all, he
drooped his devoted head when the boy was gone, and shrank
together on the floor, and grovelled there, with the palms of his
hands tight-clasping his hot temples, in unutterable misery, and
unrelieved by a single tear.
Rogue Riderhood had been busy with the river that day. He had
fished with assiduity on the previous evening, but the light was
short, and he had fished unsuccessfully. He had fished again that
day with better luck, and had carried his fish home to Plashwater
Weir Mill Lock-house, in a bundle.
A FEW GRAINS OF PEPPER
The dolls' dressmaker went no more to the business-premises of
Pubsey and Co. in St Mary Axe, after chance had disclosed to her
(as she supposed) the flinty and hypocritical character of Mr Riah.
She often moralized over her work on the tricks and the manners of
that venerable cheat, but made her little purchases elsewhere, and
lived a secluded life. After much consultation with herself, she
decided not to put Lizzie Hexam on her guard against the old man,
arguing that the disappointment of finding him out would come
upon her quite soon enough. Therefore, in her communication
with her friend by letter, she was silent on this theme, and
principally dilated on the backslidings of her bad child, who every
day grew worse and worse.
'You wicked old boy,' Miss Wren would say to him, with a
menacing forefinger, 'you'll force me to run away from you, after
all, you will; and then you'll shake to bits, and there'll be nobody to
pick up the pieces!'
At this foreshadowing of a desolate decease, the wicked old boy
would whine and whimper, and would sit shaking himself into the
lowest of low spirits, until such time as he could shake himself out
of the house and shake another threepennyworth into himself. But
dead drunk or dead sober (he had come to such a pass that he was
least alive in the latter state), it was always on the conscience of
the paralytic scarecrow that he had betrayed his sharp parent for
sixty threepennyworths of rum, which were all gone, and that her
sharpness would infallibly detect his having done it, sooner or
later. All things considered therefore, and addition made of the
state of his body to the state of his mind, the bed on which Mr
Dolls reposed was a bed of roses from which the flowers and
leaves had entirely faded, leaving him to lie upon the thorns and
On a certain day, Miss Wren was alone at her work, with the
house-door set open for coolness, and was trolling in a small sweet
voice a mournful little song which might have been the song of the
doll she was dressing, bemoaning the brittleness and meltability of
wax, when whom should she descry standing on the pavement,
looking in at her, but Mr Fledgeby.
'I thought it was you?' said Fledgeby, coming up the two steps.
'Did you?' Miss Wren retorted. 'And I thought it was you, young
man. Quite a coincidence. You're not mistaken, and I'm not
mistaken. How clever we are!'
'Well, and how are you?' said Fledgeby.
'I am pretty much as usual, sir,' replied Miss Wren. 'A very
unfortunate parent, worried out of my life and senses by a very bad
Fledgeby's small eyes opened so wide that they might have passed
for ordinary-sized eyes, as he stared about him for the very young
person whom he supposed to be in question.
'But you're not a parent,' said Miss Wren, 'and consequently it's of
no use talking to you upon a family subject.--To what am I to
attribute the honour and favour?'
'To a wish to improve your acquaintance,' Mr Fledgeby replied.
Miss Wren, stopping to bite her thread, looked at him very
'We never meet now,' said Fledgeby; 'do we?'
'No,' said Miss Wren, chopping off the word.
'So I had a mind,' pursued Fledgeby, 'to come and have a talk with
you about our dodging friend, the child of Israel.'
'So HE gave you my address; did he?' asked Miss Wren.
'I got it out of him,' said Fledgeby, with a stammer.
'You seem to see a good deal of him,' remarked Miss Wren, with
shrewd distrust. 'A good deal of him you seem to see, considering.'
'Yes, I do,' said Fledgeby. 'Considering.'
'Haven't you,' inquired the dressmaker, bending over the doll on
which her art was being exercised, 'done interceding with him yet?'
'No,' said Fledgeby, shaking his head.
'La! Been interceding with him all this time, and sticking to him
still?' said Miss Wren, busy with her work.
'Sticking to him is the word,' said Fledgeby.
Miss Wren pursued her occupation with a concentrated air, and
asked, after an interval of silent industry:
'Are you in the army?'
'Not exactly,' said Fledgeby, rather flattered by the question.
'Navy?' asked Miss Wren.
'N--no,' said Fledgeby. He qualified these two negatives, as if he
were not absolutely in either service, but was almost in both.
'What are you then?' demanded Miss Wren.
'I am a gentleman, I am,' said Fledgeby.
'Oh!' assented Jenny, screwing up her mouth with an appearance of
conviction. 'Yes, to be sure! That accounts for your having so
much time to give to interceding. But only to think how kind and
friendly a gentleman you must be!'
Mr Fledgeby found that he was skating round a board marked
Dangerous, and had better cut out a fresh track. 'Let's get back to
the dodgerest of the dodgers,' said he. 'What's he up to in the case
of your friend the handsome gal? He must have some object.
What's his object?'
'Cannot undertake to say, sir, I am sure!' returned Miss Wren,
'He won't acknowledge where she's gone,' said Fledgeby; 'and I
have a fancy that I should like to have another look at her. Now I
know he knows where she is gone.'
'Cannot undertake to say, sir, I am sure!' Miss Wren again
'And you know where she is gone,' hazarded Fledgeby.
'Cannot undertake to say, sir, really,' replied Miss Wren.
The quaint little chin met Mr Fledgeby's gaze with such a baffling
hitch, that that agreeable gentleman was for some time at a loss
how to resume his fascinating part in the dialogue. At length he
'Miss Jenny!--That's your name, if I don't mistake?'
'Probably you don't mistake, sir,' was Miss Wren's cool answer;
'because you had it on the best authority. Mine, you know.'
'Miss Jenny! Instead of coming up and being dead, let's come out
and look alive. It'll pay better, I assure you,' said Fledgeby,
bestowing an inveigling twinkle or two upon the dressmaker.
'You'll find it pay better.'
'Perhaps,' said Miss Jenny, holding out her doll at arm's length,
and critically contemplating the effect of her art with her scissors
on her lips and her head thrown back, as if her interest lay there,
and not in the conversation; 'perhaps you'll explain your meaning,
young man, which is Greek to me.--You must have another touch
of blue in your trimming, my dear.' Having addressed the last
remark to her fair client, Miss Wren proceeded to snip at some
blue fragments that lay before her, among fragments of all colours,
and to thread a needle from a skein of blue silk.
'Look here,' said Fledgeby.--'Are you attending?'
'I am attending, sir,' replied Miss Wren, without the slightest
appearance of so doing. 'Another touch of blue in your trimming,
'Well, look here,' said Fledgeby, rather discouraged by the
circumstances under which he found himself pursuing the
conversation. 'If you're attending--'
('Light blue, my sweet young lady,' remarked Miss Wren, in a
sprightly tone, 'being best suited to your fair complexion and your
'I say, if you're attending,' proceeded Fledgeby, 'it'll pay better in
this way. It'll lead in a roundabout manner to your buying damage
and waste of Pubsey and Co. at a nominal price, or even getting it
'Aha!' thought the dressmaker. 'But you are not so roundabout,
Little Eyes, that I don't notice your answering for Pubsey and Co.
after all! Little Eyes, Little Eyes, you're too cunning by half.'
'And I take it for granted,' pursued Fledgeby, 'that to get the most
of your materials for nothing would be well worth your while, Miss
'You may take it for granted,' returned the dressmaker with many
knowing nods, 'that it's always well worth my while to make
'Now,' said Fledgeby approvingly, 'you're answering to a sensible
purpose. Now, you're coming out and looking alive! So I make so
free, Miss Jenny, as to offer the remark, that you and Judah were
too thick together to last. You can't come to be intimate with such
a deep file as Judah without beginning to see a little way into him,
you know,' said Fledgeby with a wink.
'I must own,' returned the dressmaker, with her eyes upon her
work, 'that we are not good friends at present.'
'I know you're not good friends at present,' said Fledgeby. 'I know
all about it. I should like to pay off Judah, by not letting him have
his own deep way in everything. In most things he'll get it by hook
or by crook, but--hang it all!--don't let him have his own deep way
in everything. That's too much.' Mr Fledgeby said this with some
display of indignant warmth, as if he was counsel in the cause for
'How can I prevent his having his own way?' began the
'Deep way, I called it,' said Fledgeby.
'--His own deep way, in anything?'
'I'll tell you,' said Fledgeby. 'I like to hear you ask it, because it's
looking alive. It's what I should expect to find in one of your
sagacious understanding. Now, candidly.'
'Eh?' cried Miss Jenny.
'I said, now candidly,' Mr Fledgeby explained, a little put out.
'I should be glad to countermine him, respecting the handsome
gal, your friend. He means something there. You may depend
upon it, Judah means something there. He has a motive, and of
course his motive is a dark motive. Now, whatever his motive is,
it's necessary to his motive'--Mr Fledgeby's constructive powers
were not equal to the avoidance of some tautology here--'that it
should be kept from me, what he has done with her. So I put it to
you, who know: What HAS he done with her? I ask no more.
And is that asking much, when you understand that it will pay?'
Miss Jenny Wren, who had cast her eyes upon the bench again
after her last interruption, sat looking at it, needle in hand but not
working, for some moments. She then briskly resumed her work,
and said with a sidelong glance of her eyes and chin at Mr
'Where d'ye live?'
'Albany, Piccadilly,' replied Fledgeby.
'When are you at home?'
'When you like.'
'Breakfast-time?' said Jenny, in her abruptest and shortest manner.
'No better time in the day,' said Fledgeby.
'I'll look in upon you to-morrow, young man. Those two ladies,'
pointing to dolls, 'have an appointment in Bond Street at ten
precisely. When I've dropped 'em there, I'll drive round to you.
With a weird little laugh, Miss Jenny pointed to her crutch-stick as
'This is looking alive indeed!' cried Fledgeby, rising.
'Mark you! I promise you nothing,' said the dolls' dressmaker,
dabbing two dabs at him with her needle, as if she put out both his
'No no. I understand,' returned Fledgeby. 'The damage and waste
question shall be settled first. It shall be made to pay; don't you be
afraid. Good-day, Miss Jenny.'
'Good-day, young man.'
Mr Fledgeby's prepossessing form withdrew itself; and the little
dressmaker, clipping and snipping and stitching, and stitching and
snipping and clipping, fell to work at a great rate; musing and
muttering all the time.
'Misty, misty, misty. Can't make it out. Little Eyes and the wolf in
a conspiracy? Or Little Eyes and the wolf against one another?
Can't make it out. My poor Lizzie, have they both designs against
you, either way? Can't make it out. Is Little Eyes Pubsey, and the
wolf Co? Can't make it out. Pubsey true to Co, and Co to Pubsey?
Pubsey false to Co, and Co to Pubsey? Can't make it out. What
said Little Eyes? "Now, candidly?" Ah! However the cat jumps,
HE'S a liar. That's all I can make out at present; but you may go to
bed in the Albany, Piccadilly, with THAT for your pillow, young
man!' Thereupon, the little dressmaker again dabbed out his eyes
separately, and making a loop in the air of her thread and deftly
catching it into a knot with her needle, seemed to bowstring him
into the bargain.
For the terrors undergone by Mr Dolls that evening when his little
parent sat profoundly meditating over her work, and when he
imagined himself found out, as often as she changed her attitude,
or turned her eyes towards him, there is no adequate name.
Moreover it was her habit to shake her head at that wretched old
boy whenever she caught his eye as he shivered and shook. What
are popularly called 'the trembles' being in full force upon him that
evening, and likewise what are popularly called 'the horrors,' he
had a very bad time of it; which was not made better by his being
so remorseful as frequently to moan 'Sixty threepennorths.' This
imperfect sentence not being at all intelligible as a confession, but
sounding like a Gargantuan order for a dram, brought him into
new difficulties by occasioning his parent to pounce at him in a
more than usually snappish manner, and to overwhelm him with
What was a bad time for Mr Dolls, could not fail to be a bad time
for the dolls' dressmaker. However, she was on the alert next
morning, and drove to Bond Street, and set down the two ladies
punctually, and then directed her equipage to conduct her to the
Albany. Arrived at the doorway of the house in which Mr
Fledgeby's chambers were, she found a lady standing there in a
travelling dress, holding in her hand--of all things in the world--a
'You want some one?' said the lady in a stern manner.
'I am going up stairs to Mr Fledgeby's.'
'You cannot do that at this moment. There is a gentleman with
him. I am waiting for the gentleman. His business with Mr
Fledgeby will very soon be transacted, and then you can go up.
Until the gentleman comes down, you must wait here.'
While speaking, and afterwards, the lady kept watchfully between
her and the staircase, as if prepared to oppose her going up, by
force. The lady being of a stature to stop her with a hand, and
looking mightily determined, the dressmaker stood still.
'Well? Why do you listen?' asked the lady.
'I am not listening,' said the dressmaker.
'What do you hear?' asked the lady, altering her phrase.
'Is it a kind of a spluttering somewhere?' said the dressmaker, with
an inquiring look.
'Mr Fledgeby in his shower-bath, perhaps,' remarked the lady,
'And somebody's beating a carpet, I think?'
'Mr Fledgeby's carpet, I dare say,' replied the smiling lady.
Miss Wren had a reasonably good eye for smiles, being well
accustomed to them on the part of her young friends, though their
smiles mostly ran smaller than in nature. But she had never seen
so singular a smile as that upon this lady's face. It twitched her
nostrils open in a remarkable manner, and contracted her lips and
eyebrows. It was a smile of enjoyment too, though of such a fierce
kind that Miss Wren thought she would rather not enjoy herself
than do it in that way.
'Well!' said the lady, watching her. 'What now?'
'I hope there's nothing the matter!' said the dressmaker.
'Where?' inquired the lady.
'I don't know where,' said Miss Wren, staring about her. 'But I
never heard such odd noises. Don't you think I had better call
'I think you had better not,' returned the lady with a significant
frown, and drawing closer.
On this hint, the dressmaker relinquished the idea, and stood
looking at the lady as hard as the lady looked at her. Meanwhile
the dressmaker listened with amazement to the odd noises which
still continued, and the lady listened too, but with a coolness in
which there was no trace of amazement.
Soon afterwards, came a slamming and banging of doors; and then
came running down stairs, a gentleman with whiskers, and out of
breath, who seemed to be red-hot.
'Is your business done, Alfred?' inquired the lady.
'Very thoroughly done,' replied the gentleman, as he took his hat
'You can go up to Mr Fledgeby as soon as you like,' said the lady,
moving haughtily away.
'Oh! And you can take these three pieces of stick with you,' added
the gentleman politely, 'and say, if you please, that they come from
Mr Alfred Lammle, with his compliments on leaving England. Mr
Alfred Lammle. Be so good as not to forget the name.'
The three pieces of stick were three broken and frayed fragments of
a stout lithe cane. Miss Jenny taking them wonderingly, and the
gentleman repeating with a grin, 'Mr Alfred Lammle, if you'll be
so good. Compliments, on leaving England,' the lady and
gentleman walked away quite deliberately, and Miss Jenny and her
crutch-stick went up stairs. 'Lammle, Lammle, Lammle?' Miss
Jenny repeated as she panted from stair to stair, 'where have I
heard that name? Lammle, Lammle? I know! Saint Mary Axe!'
With a gleam of new intelligence in her sharp face, the dolls'
dressmaker pulled at Fledgeby's bell. No one answered; but, from
within the chambers, there proceeded a continuous spluttering
sound of a highly singular and unintelligible nature.
'Good gracious! Is Little Eyes choking?' cried Miss Jenny.
Pulling at the bell again and getting no reply, she pushed the outer
door, and found it standing ajar. No one being visible on her
opening it wider, and the spluttering continuing, she took the
liberry of opening an inner door, and then beheld the
extraordinary spectacle of Mr Fledgeby in a shirt, a pair of
Turkish trousers, and a Turkish cap, rolling over and over on his
own carpet, and spluttering wonderfully.
'Oh Lord!' gasped Mr Fledgeby. 'Oh my eye! Stop thief! I am
strangling. Fire! Oh my eye! A glass of water. Give me a glass
of water. Shut the door. Murder! Oh Lord!' And then rolled and
spluttered more than ever.
Hurrying into another room, Miss Jenny got a glass of water, and
brought it for Fledgeby's relief: who, gasping, spluttering, and
rattling in his throat betweenwhiles, drank some water, and laid
his head faintly on her arm.
'Oh my eye!' cried Fledgehy, struggling anew. 'It's salt and snuff.
It's up my nose, and down my throat, and in my wind-pipe. Ugh!
Ow! Ow! Ow! Ah--h--h--h!' And here, crowing fearfully, with his
eyes starting out of his head, appeared to be contending with every
mortal disease incidental to poultry.
'And Oh my Eye, I'm so sore!' cried Fledgeby, starting, over on his
back, in a spasmodic way that caused the dressmaker to retreat to
the wall. 'Oh I smart so! Do put something to my back and arms,
and legs and shoulders. Ugh! It's down my throat again and can't
come up. Ow! Ow! Ow! Ah--h--h--h! Oh I smart so!' Here Mr
Fledgeby bounded up, and bounded down, and went rolling over
and over again.
The dolls' dressmaker looked on until he rolled himself into a
corner with his Turkish slippers uppermost, and then, resolving in
the first place to address her ministration to the salt and snuff, gave
him more water and slapped his back. But, the latter application
was by no means a success, causing Mr Fledgeby to scream, and to
cry out, 'Oh my eye! don't slap me! I'm covered with weales and I
However, he gradually ceased to choke and crow, saving at
intervals, and Miss Jenny got him into an easy-chair: where, with
his eyes red and watery, with his features swollen, and with some
half-dozen livid bars across his face, he presented a most rueful
'What ever possessed you to take salt and snuff, young man?'
inquired Miss Jenny.
'I didn't take it,' the dismal youth replied. 'It was crammed into my
'Who crammed it?' asked Miss Jenny.
'He did,' answered Fledgeby. 'The assassin. Lammle. He rubbed
it into my mouth and up my nose and down my throat--Ow! Ow!
Ow! Ah--h--h--h! Ugh!--to prevent my crying out, and then
cruelly assaulted me.'
'With this?' asked Miss Jenny, showing the pieces of cane.
'That's the weapon,' said Fledgeby, eyeing it with the air of an
acquaintance. 'He broke it over me. Oh I smart so! How did you
come by it?'
'When he ran down stairs and joined the lady he had left in the hall
with his hat'--Miss Jenny began.
'Oh!' groaned Mr Fledgeby, writhing, 'she was holding his hat, was
she? I might have known she was in it.'
'When he came down stairs and joined the lady who wouldn't let
me come up, he gave me the pieces for you, and I was to say,
"With Mr Alfred Lammle's compliments on his leaving England."'
Miss Jenny said it with such spiteful satisfaction, and such a hitch
of her chin and eyes as might have added to Mr Fledgehy's
miseries, if he could have noticed either, in his bodily pain with his
hand to his head.
'Shall I go for the police?' inquired Miss Jenny, with a nimble start
towards the door.
'Stop! No, don't!' cried Fledgeby. 'Don't, please. We had better
keep it quiet. Will you be so good as shut the door? Oh I do smart
In testimony of the extent to which he smarted, Mr Fledgeby came
wallowing out of the easy-chair, and took another roll on the
Now the door's shut,' said Mr Fledgeby, sitting up in anguish, with
his Turkish cap half on and half off, and the bars on his face
getting bluer, 'do me the kindness to look at my back and
shoulders. They must be in an awful state, for I hadn't got my
dressing-gown on, when the brute came rushing in. Cut my shirt
away from the collar; there's a pair of scissors on that table. Oh!'
groaned Mr Fledgeby, with his hand to his head again. 'How I do
smart, to be sure!'
'There?' inquired Miss Jenny, alluding to the back and shoulders.
'Oh Lord, yes!' moaned Fledgeby, rocking himself. 'And all over!
The busy little dressmaker quickly snipped the shirt away, and laid
bare the results of as furious and sound a thrashing as even Mr
Fledgeby merited. 'You may well smart, young man!' exclaimed
Miss Jenny. And stealthily rubbed her little hands behind him,
and poked a few exultant pokes with her two forefingers over the
crown of his head.
'What do you think of vinegar and brown paper?' inquired the
suffering Fledgeby, still rocking and moaning. 'Does it look as if
vinegar and brown paper was the sort of application?'
'Yes,' said Miss Jenny, with a silent chuckle. 'It looks as if it ought
to be Pickled.'
Mr Fledgeby collapsed under the word 'Pickled,' and groaned
again. 'My kitchen is on this floor,' he said; 'you'll find brown
paper in a dresser-drawer there, and a bottle of vinegar on a shelf.
Would you have the kindness to make a few plasters and put 'em
on? It can't be kept too quiet.'
'One, two--hum--five, six. You'll want six,' said the dress-maker.
'There's smart enough,' whimpered Mr Fledgeby, groaning and
writhing again, 'for sixty.'
Miss Jenny repaired to the kitchen, scissors in hand, found the
brown paper and found the vinegar, and skilfully cut out and
steeped six large plasters. When they were all lying ready on the
dresser, an idea occurred to her as she was about to gather them
'I think,' said Miss Jenny with a silent laugh, 'he ought to have a
little pepper? Just a few grains? I think the young man's tricks
and manners make a claim upon his friends for a little pepper?'
Mr Fledgeby's evil star showing her the pepper-box on the
chimneypiece, she climbed upon a chair, and got it down, and
sprinkled all the plasters with a judicious hand. She then went
back to Mr Fledgeby, and stuck them all on him: Mr Fledgeby
uttering a sharp howl as each was put in its place.
'There, young man!' said the dolls' dressmaker. 'Now I hope you
feel pretty comfortable?'
Apparently, Mr Fledgeby did not, for he cried by way of answer,
'Oh--h how I do smart!'
Miss Jenny got his Persian gown upon him, extinguished his eyes
crookedly with his Persian cap, and helped him to his bed: upon
which he climbed groaning. 'Business between you and me being
out of the question to-day, young man, and my time being
precious,' said Miss Jenny then, 'I'll make myself scarce. Are you
'Oh my eye!' cried Mr Fledgeby. 'No, I ain't. Oh--h--h! how I do
The last thing Miss Jenny saw, as she looked back before closing
the room door, was Mr Fledgeby in the act of plunging and
gambolling all over his bed, like a porpoise or dolphin in its native
element. She then shut the bedroom door, and all the other doors,
and going down stairs and emerging from the Albany into the busy
streets, took omnibus for Saint Mary Axe: pressing on the road all
the gaily-dressed ladies whom she could see from the window, and
making them unconscious lay-figures for dolls, while she mentally
cut them out and basted them.
TWO PLACES VACATED
Set down by the omnibus at the corner of Saint Mary Axe, and
trusting to her feet and her crutch-stick within its precincts, the
dolls' dressmaker proceeded to the place of business of Pubsey and
Co. All there was sunny and quiet externally, and shady and quiet
internally. Hiding herself in the entry outside the glass door, she
could see from that post of observation the old man in his
spectacles sitting writing at his desk.
'Boh!' cried the dressmaker, popping in her head at the glass-door.
'Mr Wolf at home?'
The old man took his glasses off, and mildly laid them down
beside him. 'Ah Jenny, is it you? I thought you had given me up.'
'And so I had given up the treacherous wolf of the forest,' she
replied; 'but, godmother, it strikes me you have come back. I am