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Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

Part 19 out of 21

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not quite sure, because the wolf and you change forms. I want to
ask you a question or two, to find out whether you are really
godmother or really wolf. May I?'

'Yes, Jenny, yes.' But Riah glanced towards the door, as if he
thought his principal might appear there, unseasonably.

'If you're afraid of the fox,' said Miss Jenny, 'you may dismiss all
present expectations of seeing that animal. HE won't show
himself abroad, for many a day.'

'What do you mean, my child?'

'I mean, godmother,' replied Miss Wren, sitting down beside the
Jew, 'that the fox has caught a famous flogging, and that if his skin
and bones are not tingling, aching, and smarting at this present
instant, no fox did ever tingle, ache, and smart.' Therewith Miss
Jenny related what had come to pass in the Albany, omitting the
few grains of pepper.

'Now, godmother,' she went on, 'I particularly wish to ask you
what has taken place here, since I left the wolf here? Because I
have an idea about the size of a marble, rolling about in my little
noddle. First and foremost, are you Pubsey and Co., or are you
either? Upon your solemn word and honour.'

The old man shook his head.

'Secondly, isn't Fledgeby both Pubsey and Co.?'

The old man answered with a reluctant nod.

'My idea,' exclaimed Miss Wren, 'is now about the size of an
orange. But before it gets any bigger, welcome back, dear

The little creature folded her arms about the old man's neck with
great earnestness, and kissed him. 'I humbly beg your forgiveness,
godmother. I am truly sorry. I ought to have had more faith in
you. But what could I suppose when you said nothing for yourself,
you know? I don't mean to offer that as a justification, but what
could I suppose, when you were a silent party to all he said? It did
look bad; now didn't it?'

'It looked so bad, Jenny,' responded the old man, with gravity, 'that
I will straightway tell you what an impression it wrought upon me.
I was hateful in mine own eyes. I was hateful to myself, in being
so hateful to the debtor and to you. But more than that, and worse
than that, and to pass out far and broad beyond myself--I reflected
that evening, sitting alone in my garden on the housetop, that I was
doing dishonour to my ancient faith and race. I reflected--clearly
reflected for the first time--that in bending my neck to the yoke I
was willing to wear, I bent the unwilling necks of the whole
Jewish people. For it is not, in Christian countries, with the Jews
as with other peoples. Men say, 'This is a bad Greek, but there are
good Greeks. This is a bad Turk, but there are good Turks.' Not
so with the Jews. Men find the bad among us easily enough--
among what peoples are the bad not easily found?--but they take
the worst of us as samples of the best; they take the lowest of us as
presentations of the highest; and they say "All Jews are alike." If,
doing what I was content to do here, because I was grateful for the
past and have small need of money now, I had been a Christian, I
could have done it, compromising no one but my individual self.
But doing it as a Jew, I could not choose but compromise the Jews
of all conditions and all countries. It is a little hard upon us, but it
is the truth. I would that all our people remembered it! Though I
have little right to say so, seeing that it came home so late to me.'

The dolls' dressmaker sat holding the old man by the hand, and
looking thoughtfully in his face.

'Thus I reflected, I say, sitting that evening in my garden on the
housetop. And passing the painful scene of that day in review
before me many times, I always saw that the poor gentleman
believed the story readily, because I was one of the Jews--that you
believed the story readily, my child, because I was one of the Jews-
-that the story itself first came into the invention of the originator
thereof, because I was one of the Jews. This was the result of my
having had you three before me, face to face, and seeing the thing
visibly presented as upon a theatre. Wherefore I perceived that the
obligation was upon me to leave this service. But Jenny, my dear,'
said Riah, breaking off, 'I promised that you should pursue your
questions, and I obstruct them.'

'On the contrary, godmother; my idea is as large now as a
pumpkin--and YOU know what a pumpkin is, don't you? So you
gave notice that you were going? Does that come next?' asked
Miss Jenny with a look of close attention.

'I indited a letter to my master. Yes. To that effect.'

'And what said Tingling-Tossing-Aching-Screaming-
Scratching-Smarter?' asked Miss Wren with an unspeakable
enjoyment in the utterance of those honourable titles and in the
recollection of the pepper.

'He held me to certain months of servitude, which were his lawful
term of notice. They expire to-morrow. Upon their expiration--not
before--I had meant to set myself right with my Cinderella.'

'My idea is getting so immense now,' cried Miss Wren, clasping
her temples, 'that my head won't hold it! Listen, godmother; I am
going to expound. Little Eyes (that's Screaming-Scratching-
Smarter) owes you a heavy grudge for going. Little Eyes casts
about how best to pay you off. Little Eyes thinks of Lizzie. Little
Eyes says to himself, 'I'll find out where he has placed that girl,
and I'll betray his secret because it's dear to him.' Perhaps Little
Eyes thinks, "I'll make love to her myself too;" but that I can't
swear--all the rest I can. So, Little Eyes comes to me, and I go to
Little Eyes. That's the way of it. And now the murder's all out, I'm
sorry,' added the dolls' dressmaker, rigid from head to foot with
energy as she shook her little fist before her eyes, 'that I didn't give
him Cayenne pepper and chopped pickled Capsicum!'

This expression of regret being but partially intelligible to Mr
Riah, the old man reverted to the injuries Fledgeby had received,
and hinted at the necessity of his at once going to tend that beaten

'Godmother, godmother, godmother!' cried Miss Wren irritably, 'I
really lose all patience with you. One would think you believed in
the Good Samaritan. How can you be so inconsistent?'

'Jenny dear,' began the old man gently, 'it is the custom of our
people to help--'

'Oh! Bother your people!' interposed Miss Wren, with a toss of her
head. 'If your people don't know better than to go and help Little
Eyes, it's a pity they ever got out of Egypt. Over and above that,'
she added, 'he wouldn't take your help if you offered it. Too much
ashamed. Wants to keep it close and quiet, and to keep you out of
the way.'

They were still debating this point when a shadow darkened the
entry, and the glass door was opened by a messenger who brought
a letter unceremoniously addressed, 'Riah.' To which he said there
was an answer wanted.

The letter, which was scrawled in pencil uphill and downhill and
round crooked corners, ran thus:


Your accounts being all squared, go. Shut up the place, turn out
directly, and send me the key by bearer. Go. You are an
unthankful dog of a Jew. Get out.


The dolls' dressmaker found it delicious to trace the screaming and
smarting of Little Eyes in the distorted writing of this epistle. She
laughed over it and jeered at it in a convenient corner (to the great
astonishment of the messenger) while the old man got his few
goods together in a black bag. That done, the shutters of the upper
windows closed, and the office blind pulled down, they issued
forth upon the steps with the attendant messenger. There, while
Miss Jenny held the bag, the old man locked the house door, and
handed over the key to him; who at once retired with the same.

'Well, godmother,' said Miss Wren, as they remained upon the
steps together, looking at one another. 'And so you're thrown upon
the world!'

'It would appear so, Jenny, and somewhat suddenly.'

'Where are you going to seek your fortune?' asked Miss Wren.

The old man smiled, but looked about him with a look of having
lost his way in life, which did not escape the dolls' dressmaker.

'Verily, Jenny,' said he, 'the question is to the purpose, and more
easily asked than answered. But as I have experience of the ready
goodwill and good help of those who have given occupation to
Lizzie, I think I will seek them out for myself.'

'On foot?' asked Miss Wren, with a chop.

'Ay!' said the old man. 'Have I not my staff?'

It was exactly because he had his staff, and presented so quaint an
aspect, that she mistrusted his making the journey.

'The best thing you can do,' said Jenny, 'for the time being, at all
events, is to come home with me, godmother. Nobody's there but
my bad child, and Lizzie's lodging stands empty.' The old man
when satisfied that no inconvenience could be entailed on any one
by his compliance, readily complied; and the singularly-assorted
couple once more went through the streets together.

Now, the bad child having been strictly charged by his parent to
remain at home in her absence, of course went out; and, being in
the very last stage of mental decrepitude, went out with two
objects; firstly, to establish a claim he conceived himself to have
upon any licensed victualler living, to be supplied with
threepennyworth of rum for nothing; and secondly, to bestow some
maudlin remorse on Mr Eugene Wrayburn, and see what profit
came of it. Stumblingly pursuing these two designs--they both
meant rum, the only meaning of which he was capable--the
degraded creature staggered into Covent Garden Market and there
bivouacked, to have an attack of the trembles succeeded by an
attack of the horrors, in a doorway.

This market of Covent Garden was quite out of the creature's line
of road, but it had the attraction for him which it has for the worst
of the solitary members of the drunken tribe. It may be the
companionship of the nightly stir, or it may be the companionship
of the gin and beer that slop about among carters and hucksters, or
it may be the companionship of the trodden vegetable refuse which
is so like their own dress that perhaps they take the Market for a
great wardrobe; but be it what it may, you shall see no such
individual drunkards on doorsteps anywhere, as there. Of dozing
women-drunkards especially, you shall come upon such specimens
there, in the morning sunlight, as you might seek out of doors in
vain through London. Such stale vapid rejected cabbage-leaf and
cabbage-stalk dress, such damaged-orange countenance, such
squashed pulp of humanity, are open to the day nowhere else. So,
the attraction of the Market drew Mr Dolls to it, and he had out his
two fits of trembles and horrors in a doorway on which a woman
had had out her sodden nap a few hours before.

There is a swarm of young savages always flitting about this same
place, creeping off with fragments of orange-chests, and mouldy
litter--Heaven knows into what holes they can convey them, having
no home!--whose bare feet fall with a blunt dull softness on the
pavement as the policeman hunts them, and who are (perhaps for
that reason) little heard by the Powers that be, whereas in top-boots
they would make a deafening clatter. These, delighting in the
trembles and the horrors of Mr Dolls, as in a gratuitous drama,
flocked about him in his doorway, butted at him, leaped at him,
and pelted him. Hence, when he came out of his invalid retirement
and shook off that ragged train, he was much bespattered, and in
worse case than ever. But, not yet at his worst; for, going into a
public-house, and being supplied in stress of business with his
rum, and seeking to vanish without payment, he was collared,
searched, found penniless, and admonished not to try that again, by
having a pail of dirty water cast over him. This application
superinduced another fit of the trembles; after which Mr Dolls, as
finding himself in good cue for making a call on a professional
friend, addressed himself to the Temple.

There was nobody at the chambers but Young Blight. That
discreet youth, sensible of a certain incongruity in the association
of such a client with the business that might be coming some day,
with the best intentions temporized with Dolls, and offered a
shilling for coach-hire home. Mr Dolls, accepting the shilling,
promptly laid it out in two threepennyworths of conspiracy against
his life, and two threepennyworths of raging repentance.
Returning to the Chambers with which burden, he was descried
coming round into the court, by the wary young Blight watching
from the window: who instantly closed the outer door, and left the
miserable object to expend his fury on the panels.

The more the door resisted him, the more dangerous and imminent
became that bloody conspiracy against his life. Force of police
arriving, he recognized in them the conspirators, and laid about
him hoarsely, fiercely, staringly, convulsively, foamingly. A
humble machine, familiar to the conspirators and called by the
expressive name of Stretcher, being unavoidably sent for, he was
rendered a harmless bundle of torn rags by being strapped down
upon it, with voice and consciousness gone out of him, and life fast
going. As this machine was borne out at the Temple gate by four
men, the poor little dolls' dressmaker and her Jewish friend were
coming up the street.

'Let us see what it is,' cried the dressmaker. 'Let us make haste and
look, godmother.'

The brisk little crutch-stick was but too brisk. 'O gentlemen,
gentlemen, he belongs to me!'

'Belongs to you?' said the head of the party, stopping it.

'O yes, dear gentlemen, he's my child, out without leave. My poor
bad, bad boy! and he don't know me, he don't know me! O what
shall I do,' cried the little creature, wildly beating her hands
together, 'when my own child don't know me!'

The head of the party looked (as well he might) to the old man for
explanation. He whispered, as the dolls' dressmaker bent over the
exhausted form and vainly tried to extract some sign of recognition
from it: 'It's her drunken father.'

As the load was put down in the street, Riah drew the head of the
party aside, and whispered that he thought the man was dying.
'No, surely not?' returned the other. But he became less confident,
on looking, and directed the bearers to 'bring him to the nearest
doctor's shop.'

Thither he was brought; the window becoming from within, a wall
of faces, deformed into all kinds of shapes through the agency of
globular red bottles, green bottles, blue bottles, and other coloured
bottles. A ghastly light shining upon him that he didn't need, the
beast so furious but a few minutes gone, was quiet enough now,
with a strange mysterious writing on his face, reflected from one of
the great bottles, as if Death had marked him: 'Mine.'

The medical testimony was more precise and more to the purpose
than it sometimes is in a Court of Justice. 'You had better send for
something to cover it. All's over.'

Therefore, the police sent for something to cover it, and it was
covered and borne through the streets, the people falling away.
After it, went the dolls' dressmaker, hiding her face in the Jewish
skirts, and clinging to them with one hand, while with the other
she plied her stick. It was carried home, and, by reason that the
staircase was very narrow, it was put down in the parlour--the little
working-bench being set aside to make room for it--and there, in
the midst of the dolls with no speculation in their eyes, lay Mr
Dolls with no speculation in his.

Many flaunting dolls had to be gaily dressed, before the money
was in the dressmaker's pocket to get mourning for Mr Dolls. As
the old man, Riah, sat by, helping her in such small ways as he
could, he found it difficult to make out whether she really did
realize that the deceased had been her father.

'If my poor boy,' she would say, 'had been brought up better, he
might have done better. Not that I reproach myself. I hope I have
no cause for that.'

'None indeed, Jenny, I am very certain.'

'Thank you, godmother. It cheers me to hear you say so. But you
see it is so hard to bring up a child well, when you work, work,
work, all day. When he was out of employment, I couldn't always
keep him near me. He got fractious and nervous, and I was
obliged to let him go into the streets. And he never did well in the
streets, he never did well out of sight. How often it happens with

'Too often, even in this sad sense!' thought the old man.

'How can I say what I might have turned out myself, but for my
back having been so bad and my legs so queer, when I was young!'
the dressmaker would go on. 'I had nothing to do but work, and
so I worked. I couldn't play. But my poor unfortunate child could
play, and it turned out the worse for him.'

'And not for him alone, Jenny.'

'Well! I don't know, godmother. He suffered heavily, did my
unfortunate boy. He was very, very ill sometimes. And I called
him a quantity of names;' shaking her head over her work, and
dropping tears. 'I don't know that his going wrong was much the
worse for me. If it ever was, let us forget it.'

'You are a good girl, you are a patient girl.'

'As for patience,' she would reply with a shrug, 'not much of that,
godmother. If I had been patient, I should never have called him
names. But I hope I did it for his good. And besides, I felt my
responsibility as a mother, so much. I tried reasoning, and
reasoning failed. I tried coaxing, and coaxing failed. I tried
scolding and scolding failed. But I was bound to try everything,
you know, with such a charge upon my hands. Where would have
been my duty to my poor lost boy, if I had not tried everything!'

With such talk, mostly in a cheerful tone on the part of the
industrious little creature, the day-work and the night-work were
beguiled until enough of smart dolls had gone forth to bring into
the kitchen, where the working-bench now stood, the sombre stuff
that the occasion required, and to bring into the house the other
sombre preparations. 'And now,' said Miss Jenny, 'having
knocked off my rosy-cheeked young friends, I'll knock off my
white-cheeked self.' This referred to her making her own dress,
which at last was done. 'The disadvantage of making for yourself,'
said Miss Jenny, as she stood upon a chair to look at the result in
the glass, 'is, that you can't charge anybody else for the job, and the
advantage is, that you haven't to go out to try on. Humph! Very
fair indeed! If He could see me now (whoever he is) I hope he
wouldn't repent of his bargain!'

The simple arrangements were of her own making, and were stated
to Riah thus:

'I mean to go alone, godmother, in my usual carriage, and you'll be
so kind as keep house while I am gone. It's not far off. And when
I return, we'll have a cup of tea, and a chat over future
arrangements. It's a very plain last house that I have been able to
give my poor unfortunate boy; but he'll accept the will for the deed
if he knows anything about it; and if he doesn't know anything
about it,' with a sob, and wiping her eyes, 'why, it won't matter to
him. I see the service in the Prayer-book says, that we brought
nothing into this world and it is certain we can take nothing out. It
comforts me for not being able to hire a lot of stupid undertaker's
things for my poor child, and seeming as if I was trying to smuggle
'em out of this world with him, when of course I must break down
in the attempt, and bring 'em all back again. As it is, there'll be
nothing to bring back but me, and that's quite consistent, for I
shan't be brought back, some day!'

After that previous carrying of him in the streets, the wretched old
fellow seemed to he twice buried. He was taken on the shoulders
of half a dozen blossom-faced men, who shuffled with him to the
churchyard, and who were preceded by another blossom-faced
man, affecting a stately stalk, as if he were a Policeman of the
D(eath) Division, and ceremoniously pretending not to know his
intimate acquaintances, as he led the pageant. Yet, the spectacle of
only one little mourner hobbling after, caused many people to turn
their heads with a look of interest.

At last the troublesome deceased was got into the ground, to be
buried no more, and the stately stalker stalked back before the
solitary dressmaker, as if she were bound in honour to have no
notion of the way home. Those Furies, the conventionalities, being
thus appeased, he left her.

'I must have a very short cry, godmother, before I cheer up for
good,' said the little creature, coming in. 'Because after all a child
is a child, you know.'

It was a longer cry than might have been expected. Howbeit, it
wore itself out in a shadowy corner, and then the dressmaker came
forth, and washed her face, and made the tea. 'You wouldn't mind
my cutting out something while we are at tea, would you?' she
asked her Jewish friend, with a coaxing air.

'Cinderella, dear child,' the old man expostulated, 'will you never

'Oh! It's not work, cutting out a pattern isn't,' said Miss Jenny,
with her busy little scissors already snipping at some paper. 'The
truth is, godmother, I want to fix it while I have it correct in my

'Have you seen it to-day then?' asked Riah.

'Yes, godmother. Saw it just now. It's a surplice, that's what it is.
Thing our clergymen wear, you know,' explained Miss Jenny, in
consideration of his professing another faith.

'And what have you to do with that, Jenny?'

'Why, godmother,' replied the dressmaker, 'you must know that we
Professors who live upon our taste and invention, are obliged to
keep our eyes always open. And you know already that I have
many extra expenses to meet just now. So, it came into my head
while I was weeping at my poor boy's grave, that something in my
way might be done with a clergyman.'

'What can be done?' asked the old man.

'Not a funeral, never fear!' returned Miss Jenny, anticipating his
objection with a nod. 'The public don't like to be made
melancholy, I know very well. I am seldom called upon to put my
young friends into mourning; not into real mourning, that is; Court
mourning they are rather proud of. But a doll clergyman, my dear,
--glossy black curls and whiskers--uniting two of my young friends
in matrimony,' said Miss Jenny, shaking her forefinger, 'is quite
another affair. If you don't see those three at the altar in Bond
Street, in a jiffy, my name's Jack Robinson!'

With her expert little ways in sharp action, she had got a doll into
whitey-brown paper orders, before the meal was over, and was
displaying it for the edification of the Jewish mind, when a knock
was heard at the street-door. Riah went to open it, and presently
came back, ushering in, with the grave and courteous air that sat so
well upon him, a gentleman.

The gentleman was a stranger to the dressmaker; but even in the
moment of his casting his eyes upon her, there was something in
his manner which brought to her remembrance Mr Eugene

'Pardon me,' said the gentleman. 'You are the dolls' dressmaker?'

'I am the dolls' dressmaker, sir.'

'Lizzie Hexam's friend?'

'Yes, sir,' replied Miss Jenny, instantly on the defensive. 'And
Lizzie Hexam's friend.'

'Here is a note from her, entreating you to accede to the request of
Mr Mortimer Lightwood, the bearer. Mr Riah chances to know
that I am Mr Mortimer Lightwood, and will tell you so.'

Riah bent his head in corroboration.

'Will you read the note?'

'It's very short,' said Jenny, with a look of wonder, when she had
read it.

'There was no time to make it longer. Time was so very precious.
My dear friend Mr Eugene Wrayburn is dying.'

The dressmaker clasped her hands, and uttered a little piteous cry.

'Is dying,' repeated Lightwood, with emotion, 'at some distance
from here. He is sinking under injuries received at the hands of a
villain who attacked him in the dark. I come straight from his
bedside. He is almost always insensible. In a short restless
interval of sensibility, or partial sensibility, I made out that he
asked for you to be brought to sit by him. Hardly relying on my
own interpretation of the indistinct sounds he made, I caused
Lizzie to hear them. We were both sure that he asked for you.'

The dressmaker, with her hands still clasped, looked affrightedly
from the one to the other of her two companions.

'If you delay, he may die with his request ungratified, with his last
wish--intrusted to me--we have long been much more than
brothers--unfulfilled. I shall break down, if I try to say more.

In a few moments the black bonnet and the crutch-stick were on
duty, the good Jew was left in possession of the house, and the
dolls' dressmaker, side by side in a chaise with Mortimer
Lightwood, was posting out of town.

Chapter 10


A darkened and hushed room; the river outside the windows
flowing on to the vast ocean; a figure on the bed, swathed and
bandaged and bound, lying helpless on its back, with its two
useless arms in splints at its sides. Only two days of usage so
familiarized the little dressmaker with this scene, that it held the
place occupied two days ago by the recollections of years.

He had scarcely moved since her arrival. Sometimes his eyes were
open, sometimes closed. When they were open, there was no
meaning in their unwinking stare at one spot straight before them,
unless for a moment the brow knitted into a faint expression of
anger, or surprise. Then, Mortimer Lightwood would speak to
him, and on occasions he would be so far roused as to make an
attempt to pronounce his friend's name. But, in an instant
consciousness was gone again, and no spirit of Eugene was in
Eugene's crushed outer form.

They provided Jenny with materials for plying her work, and she
had a little table placed at the foot of his bed. Sitting there, with
her rich shower of hair falling over the chair-back, they hoped she
might attract his notice. With the same object, she would sing,
just above her breath, when he opened his eyes, or she saw his
brow knit into that faint expression, so evanescent that it was like a
shape made in water. But as yet he had not heeded. The 'they'
here mentioned were the medical attendant; Lizzie, who was there
in all her intervals of rest; and Lightwood, who never left him.

The two days became three, and the three days became four. At
length, quite unexpectedly, he said something in a whisper.

'What was it, my dear Eugene?'

'Will you, Mortimer--'

'Will I--?

--'Send for her?'

'My dear fellow, she is here.'

Quite unconscious of the long blank, he supposed that they were
still speaking together.

The little dressmaker stood up at the foot of the bed, humming her
song, and nodded to him brightly. 'I can't shake hands, Jenny,'
said Eugene, with something of his old look; 'but I am very glad to
see you.'

Mortimer repeated this to her, for it could only be made out by
bending over him and closely watching his attempts to say it. In a
little while, he added:

'Ask her if she has seen the children.'

Mortimer could not understand this, neither could Jenny herself,
until he added:

'Ask her if she has smelt the flowers.'

'Oh! I know!' cried Jenny. 'I understand him now!' Then,
Lightwood yielded his place to her quick approach, and she said,
bending over the bed, with that better look: 'You mean my long
bright slanting rows of children, who used to bring me ease and
rest? You mean the children who used to take me up, and make
me light?'

Eugene smiled, 'Yes.'

'I have not seen them since I saw you. I never see them now, but I
am hardly ever in pain now.'

'It was a pretty fancy,' said Eugene.

'But I have heard my birds sing,' cried the little creature, 'and I
have smelt my flowers. Yes, indeed I have! And both were most
beautiful and most Divine!'

'Stay and help to nurse me,' said Eugene, quietly. 'I should like
you to have the fancy here, before I die.'

She touched his lips with her hand, and shaded her eyes with that
same hand as she went back to her work and her little low song.
He heard the song with evident pleasure, until she allowed it
gradually to sink away into silence.


'My dear Eugene.'

'If you can give me anything to keep me here for only a few

To keep you here, Eugene?'

'To prevent my wandering away I don't know where--for I begin to
be sensible that I have just come back, and that I shall lose myself
again--do so, dear boy!'

Mortimer gave him such stimulants as could be given him with
safety (they were always at hand, ready), and bending over him
once more, was about to caution him, when he said:

'Don't tell me not to speak, for I must speak. If you knew the
harassing anxiety that gnaws and wears me when I am wandering
in those places--where are those endless places, Mortimer? They
must be at an immense distance!'

He saw in his friend's face that he was losing himself; for he added
after a moment: 'Don't be afraid--I am not gone yet. What was it?'

'You wanted to tell me something, Eugene. My poor dear fellow,
you wanted to say something to your old friend--to the friend who
has always loved you, admired you, imitated you, founded himself
upon you, been nothing without you, and who, God knows, would
be here in your place if he could!'

'Tut, tut!' said Eugene with a tender glance as the other put his
hand before his face. 'I am not worth it. I acknowledge that I like
it, dear boy, but I am not worth it. This attack, my dear Mortimer;
this murder--'

His friend leaned over him with renewed attention, saying: 'You
and I suspect some one.'

'More than suspect. But, Mortimer, while I lie here, and when I lie
here no longer, I trust to you that the perpetrator is never brought to


'Her innocent reputation would be ruined, my friend. She would be
punished, not he. I have wronged her enough in fact; I have
wronged her still more in intention. You recollect what pavement
is said to be made of good intentions. It is made of bad intentions
too. Mortimer, I am lying on it, and I know!'

'Be comforted, my dear Eugene.'

'I will, when you have promised me. Dear Mortimer, the man
must never be pursued. If he should be accused, you must keep
him silent and save him. Don't think of avenging me; think only of
hushing the story and protecting her. You can confuse the case,
and turn aside the circumstances. Listen to what I say to you. It
was not the schoolmaster, Bradley Headstone. Do you hear me?
Twice; it was not the schoolmaster, Bradley Headstone. Do you
hear me? Three times; it was not the schoolmaster, Bradley

He stopped, exhausted. His speech had been whispered, broken,
and indistinct; but by a great effort he had made it plain enough to
be unmistakeable.

'Dear fellow, I am wandering away. Stay me for another moment,
if you can.'

Lightwood lifted his head at the neck, and put a wine-glass to his
lips. He rallied.

'I don't know how long ago it was done, whether weeks, days, or
hours. No matter. There is inquiry on foot, and pursuit. Say! Is
there not?'


'Check it; divert it! Don't let her be brought in question. Shield
her. The guilty man, brought to justice, would poison her name.
Let the guilty man go unpunished. Lizzie and my reparation before
all! Promise me!'

'Eugene, I do. I promise you!'

In the act of turning his eyes gratefully towards his friend, he
wandered away. His eyes stood still, and settled into that former
intent unmeaning stare.

Hours and hours, days and nights, he remained in this same
condition. There were times when he would calmly speak to his
friend after a long period of unconsciousness, and would say he
was better, and would ask for something. Before it could he given
him, he would be gone again.

The dolls' dressmaker, all softened compassion now, watched him
with an earnestness that never relaxed. She would regularly
change the ice, or the cooling spirit, on his head, and would keep
her ear at the pillow betweenwhiles, listening for any faint words
that fell from him in his wanderings. It was amazing through how
many hours at a time she would remain beside him, in a crouching
attitude, attentive to his slightest moan. As he could not move a
hand, he could make no sign of distress; but, through this close
watching (if through no secret sympathy or power) the little
creature attained an understanding of him that Lightwood did not
possess. Mortimer would often turn to her, as if she were an
interpreter between this sentient world and the insensible man; and
she would change the dressing of a wound, or ease a ligature, or
turn his face, or alter the pressure of the bedclothes on him, with an
absolute certainty of doing right. The natural lightness and
delicacy of touch which had become very refined by practice in her
miniature work, no doubt was involved in this; but her perception
was at least as fine.

The one word, Lizzie, he muttered millions of times. In a certain
phase of his distressful state, which was the worst to those who
tended him, he would roll his head upon the pillow, incessantly
repeating the name in a hurried and impatient manner, with the
misery of a disturbed mind, and the monotony of a machine.
Equally, when he lay still and staring, he would repeat it for hours
without cessation, but then, always in a tone of subdued warning
and horror. Her presence and her touch upon his breast or face
would often stop this, and then they learned to expect that he
would for some time remain still, with his eyes closed, and that he
would be conscious on opening them. But, the heavy
disappointment of their hope--revived by the welcome silence of
the room--was, that his spirit would glide away again and be lost,
in the moment of their joy that it was there.

This frequent rising of a drowning man from the deep, to sink
again, was dreadful to the beholders. But, gradually the change
stole upon him that it became dreadful to himself. His desire to
impart something that was on his mind, his unspeakable yearning
to have speech with his friend and make a communication to him,
so troubled him when he recovered consciousness, that its term
was thereby shortened. As the man rising from the deep would
disappear the sooner for fighting with the water, so he in his
desperate struggle went down again.

One afternoon when he had been lying still, and Lizzie,
unrecognized, had just stolen out of the room to pursue her
occupation, he uttered Lightwood's name.

'My dear Eugene, I am here.'

'How long is this to last, Mortimer?'

Lightwood shook his head. 'Still, Eugene, you are no worse than
you were.'

'But I know there's no hope. Yet I pray it may last long enough for
you to do me one last service, and for me to do one last action.
Keep me here a few moments, Mortimer. Try, try!'

His friend gave him what aid he could, and encouraged him to
believe that he was more composed, though even then his eyes
were losing the expression they so rarely recovered.

'Hold me here, dear fellow, if you can. Stop my wandering away.
I am going!'

'Not yet, not yet. Tell me, dear Eugene, what is it I shall do?'

'Keep me here for only a single minute. I am going away again.
Don't let me go. Hear me speak first. Stop me--stop me!'

'My poor Eugene, try to be calm.'

'I do try. I try so hard. If you only knew how hard! Don't let me
wander till I have spoken. Give me a little more wine.'

Lightwood complied. Eugene, with a most pathetic struggle
against the unconsciousness that was coming over him, and with a
look of appeal that affected his friend profoundly, said:

'You can leave me with Jenny, while you speak to her and tell her
what I beseech of her. You can leave me with Jenny, while you are
gone. There's not much for you to do. You won't be long away.'

'No, no, no. But tell me what it is that I shall do, Eugene!'

'I am going! You can't hold me.'

'Tell me in a word, Eugene!'

His eyes were fixed again, and the only word that came from his
lips was the word millions of times repeated. Lizzie, Lizzie,

But, the watchful little dressmaker had been vigilant as ever in her
watch, and she now came up and touched Lightwood's arm as he
looked down at his friend, despairingly.

'Hush!' she said, with her finger on her lips. 'His eyes are closing.
He'll be conscious when he next opens them. Shall I give you a
leading word to say to him?'

'O Jenny, if you could only give me the right word!'

'I can. Stoop down.'

He stooped, and she whispered in his ear. She whispered in his ear
one short word of a single syllable. Lightwood started, and looked
at her.

'Try it,' said the little creature, with an excited and exultant face.
She then bent over the unconscious man, and, for the first time,
kissed him on the cheek, and kissed the poor maimed hand that
was nearest to her. Then, she withdrew to the foot of the bed.

Some two hours afterwards, Mortimer Lightwood saw his consciousness
come back, and instantly, but very tranquilly, bent over him.

'Don't speak, Eugene. Do no more than look at me, and listen to
me. You follow what I say.'

He moved his head in assent.

'I am going on from the point where we broke off. Is the word we
should soon have come to--is it--Wife?'

'O God bless you, Mortimer!'

'Hush! Don't be agitated. Don't speak. Hear me, dear Eugene.
Your mind will be more at peace, lying here, if you make Lizzie
your wife. You wish me to speak to her, and tell her so, and
entreat her to be your wife. You ask her to kneel at this bedside
and be married to you, that your reparation may be complete. Is
that so?'

'Yes. God bless you! Yes.'

'It shall be done, Eugene. Trust it to me. I shall have to go away
for some few hours, to give effect to your wishes. You see this is

'Dear friend, I said so.'

'True. But I had not the clue then. How do you think I got it?'

Glancing wistfully around, Eugene saw Miss Jenny at the foot of
the bed, looking at him with her elbows on the bed, and her head
upon her hands. There was a trace of his whimsical air upon him,
as he tried to smile at her.

'Yes indeed,' said Lightwood, 'the discovery was hers. Observe my
dear Eugene; while I am away you will know that I have
discharged my trust with Lizzie, by finding her here, in my present
place at your bedside, to leave you no more. A final word before I
go. This is the right course of a true man, Eugene. And I solemnly
believe, with all my soul, that if Providence should mercifully
restore you to us, you will be blessed with a noble wife in the
preserver of your life, whom you will dearly love.'

'Amen. I am sure of that. But I shall not come through it,

'You will not be the less hopeful or less strong, for this, Eugene.'

'No. Touch my face with yours, in case I should not hold out till
you come back. I love you, Mortimer. Don't be uneasy for me
while you are gone. If my dear brave girl will take me, I feel
persuaded that I shall live long enough to be married, dear fellow.'

Miss Jenny gave up altogether on this parting taking place between
the friends, and sitting with her back towards the bed in the bower
made by her bright hair, wept heartily, though noiselessly.
Mortimer Lightwood was soon gone. As the evening light
lengthened the heavy reflections of the trees in the river, another
figure came with a soft step into the sick room.

'Is he conscious?' asked the little dressmaker, as the figure took its
station by the pillow. For, Jenny had given place to it immediately,
and could not see the sufferer's face, in the dark room, from her
new and removed position.

'He is conscious, Jenny,' murmured Eugene for himself. 'He knows
his wife.'

Chapter 11


Mrs John Rokesmith sat at needlework in her neat little room,
beside a basket of neat little articles of clothing, which presented
so much of the appearance of being in the dolls' dressmaker's way
of business, that one might have supposed she was going to set up
in opposition to Miss Wren. Whether the Complete British Family
Housewife had imparted sage counsel anent them, did not appear,
but probably not, as that cloudy oracle was nowhere visible. For
certain, however, Mrs John Rokesmith stitched at them with so
dexterous a hand, that she must have taken lessons of somebody.
Love is in all things a most wonderful teacher, and perhaps love
(from a pictorial point of view, with nothing on but a thimble), had
been teaching this branch of needlework to Mrs John Rokesmith.

It was near John's time for coming home, but as Mrs John was
desirous to finish a special triumph of her skill before dinner, she
did not go out to meet him. Placidly, though rather
consequentially smiling, she sat stitching away with a regular
sound, like a sort of dimpled little charming Dresden-china clock
by the very best maker.

A knock at the door, and a ring at the bell. Not John; or Bella
would have flown out to meet him. Then who, if not John? Bella
was asking herself the question, when that fluttering little fool of a
servant fluttered in, saying, 'Mr Lightwood!'

Oh good gracious!

Bella had but time to throw a handkerchief over the basket, when
Mr Lightwood made his bow. There was something amiss with
Mr Lightwood, for he was strangely grave and looked ill.

With a brief reference to the happy time when it had been his
privilege to know Mrs Rokesmith as Miss Wilfer, Mr Lightwood
explained what was amiss with him and why he came. He came
bearing Lizzie Hexam's earnest hope that Mrs John Rokesmith
would see her married.

Bella was so fluttered by the request, and by the short narrative he
had feelingly given her, that there never was a more timely
smelling-bottle than John's knock. 'My husband,' said Bella; 'I'll
bring him in.'

But, that turned out to be more easily said than done; for, the
instant she mentioned Mr Lightwood's name, John stopped, with
his hand upon the lock of the room door.

'Come up stairs, my darling.'

Bella was amazed by the flush in his face, and by his sudden
turning away. 'What can it mean?' she thought, as she
accompanied him up stairs.

'Now, my life,' said John, taking her on his knee, 'tell me all about

All very well to say, 'Tell me all about it;' but John was very much
confused. His attention evidently trailed off, now and then, even
while Bella told him all about it. Yet she knew that he took a great
interest in Lizzie and her fortunes. What could it mean?

'You will come to this marriage with me, John dear?'

'N--no, my love; I can't do that.'

'You can't do that, John?'

'No, my dear, it's quite out of the question. Not to be thought of.'

'Am I to go alone, John?'

'No, my dear, you will go with Mr Lightwood.'

'Don't you think it's time we went down to Mr Lightwood, John
dear?' Bella insinuated.

'My darling, it's almost time you went, but I must ask you to
excuse me to him altogether.'

'You never mean, John dear, that you are not going to see him?
Why, he knows you have come home. I told him so.'

'That's a little unfortunate, but it can't be helped. Unfortunate or
fortunate, I positively cannot see him, my love.'

Bella cast about in her mind what could be his reason for this
unaccountable behaviour; as she sat on his knee looking at him in
astonishment and pouting a little. A weak reason presented itself.

'John dear, you never can be jealous of Mr Lightwood?'

'Why, my precious child,' returned her husband, laughing outright:
'how could I be jealous of him? Why should I be jealous of him?'

'Because, you know, John,' pursued Bella, pouting a little more,
'though he did rather admire me once, it was not my fault.'

'It was your fault that I admired you,' returned her husband, with a
look of pride in her, 'and why not your fault that he admired you?
But, I jealous on that account? Why, I must go distracted for life,
if I turned jealous of every one who used to find my wife beautiful
and winning!'

'I am half angry with you, John dear,' said Bella, laughing a little,
'and half pleased with you; because you are such a stupid old
fellow, and yet you say nice things, as if you meant them. Don't be
mysterious, sir. What harm do you know of Mr Lightwood?'

'None, my love.'

'What has he ever done to you, John?'

'He has never done anything to me, my dear. I know no more
against him than I know against Mr Wrayburn; he has never done
anything to me; neither has Mr Wrayburn. And yet I have exactly
the same objection to both of them.'

'Oh, John!' retorted Bella, as if she were giving him up for a bad
job, as she used to give up herself. 'You are nothing better than a
sphinx! And a married sphinx isn't a--isn't a nice confidential
husband,' said Bella, in a tone of injury.

'Bella, my life,' said John Rokesmith, touching her cheek, with a
grave smile, as she cast down her eyes and pouted again; 'look at
me. I want to speak to you.'

'In earnest, Blue Beard of the secret chamber?' asked Bella,
clearing her pretty face.

'In earnest. And I confess to the secret chamber. Don't you
remember that you asked me not to declare what I thought of your
higher qualities until you had been tried?'

'Yes, John dear. And I fully meant it, and I fully mean it.'

'The time will come, my darling--I am no prophet, but I say so,--
when you WILL be tried. The time will come, I think, when you
will undergo a trial through which you will never pass quite
triumphantly for me, unless you can put perfect faith in me.'

'Then you may be sure of me, John dear, for I can put perfect faith
in you, and I do, and I always, always will. Don't judge me by a
little thing like this, John. In little things, I am a little thing
myself--I always was. But in great things, I hope not; I don't
mean to boast, John dear, but I hope not!'

He was even better convinced of the truth of what she said than she
was, as he felt her loving arms about him. If the Golden
Dustman's riches had been his to stake, he would have staked them
to the last farthing on the fidelity through good and evil of her
affectionate and trusting heart.

'Now, I'll go down to, and go away with, Mr Lightwood,' said
Bella, springing up. 'You are the most creasing and tumbling
Clumsy-Boots of a packer, John, that ever was; but if you're quite
good, and will promise never to do so any more (though I don't
know what you have done!) you may pack me a little bag for a
night, while I get my bonnet on.'

He gaily complied, and she tied her dimpled chin up, and shook
her head into her bonnet, and pulled out the bows of her bonnet-
strings, and got her gloves on, finger by finger, and finally got
them on her little plump hands, and bade him good-bye and went
down. Mr Lightwood's impatience was much relieved when he
found her dressed for departure.

'Mr Rokesmith goes with us?' he said, hesitating, with a look
towards the door.

'Oh, I forgot!' replied Bella. 'His best compliments. His face is
swollen to the size of two faces, and he is to go to bed directly,
poor fellow, to wait for the doctor, who is coming to lance him.'

'It is curious,' observed Lightwood, 'that I have never yet seen Mr
Rokesmith, though we have been engaged in the same affairs.'

'Really?' said the unblushing Bella.

'I begin to think,' observed Lightwood, 'that I never shall see him.'

'These things happen so oddly sometimes,' said Bella with a steady
countenance, 'that there seems a kind of fatality in them. But I am
quite ready, Mr Lightwood.'

They started directly, in a little carriage that Lightwood had
brought with him from never-to-be-forgotten Greenwich; and
from Greenwich they started directly for London; and in London
they waited at a railway station until such time as the Reverend
Frank Milvey, and Margaretta his wife, with whom Mortimer
Lightwood had been already in conference, should come and join

That worthy couple were delayed by a portentous old parishioner of
the female gender, who was one of the plagues of their lives, and
with whom they bore with most exemplary sweetness and good-
humour, notwithstanding her having an infection of absurdity
about her, that communicated itself to everything with which, and
everybody with whom, she came in contact. She was a member of
the Reverend Frank's congregation, and made a point of
distinguishing herself in that body, by conspicuously weeping at
everything, however cheering, said by the Reverend Frank in his
public ministration; also by applying to herself the various
lamentations of David, and complaining in a personally injured
manner (much in arrear of the clerk and the rest of the respondents)
that her enemies were digging pit-falls about her, and breaking her
with rods of iron. Indeed, this old widow discharged herself of that
portion of the Morning and Evening Service as if she were lodging
a complaint on oath and applying for a warrant before a magistrate.
But this was not her most inconvenient characteristic, for that took
the form of an impression, usually recurring in inclement weather
and at about daybreak, that she had something on her mind and
stood in immediate need of the Reverend Frank to come and take it
off. Many a time had that kind creature got up, and gone out to
Mrs Sprodgkin (such was the disciple's name), suppressing a
strong sense of her comicality by his strong sense of duty, and
perfectly knowing that nothing but a cold would come of it.
However, beyond themselves, the Reverend Frank Milvey and Mrs
Milvey seldom hinted that Mrs Sprodgkin was hardly worth the
trouble she gave; but both made the best of her, as they did of all
their troubles.

This very exacting member of the fold appeared to be endowed
with a sixth sense, in regard of knowing when the Reverend Frank
Milvey least desired her company, and with promptitude appearing
in his little hall. Consequently, when the Reverend Frank had
willingly engaged that he and his wife would accompany
Lightwood back, he said, as a matter of course: 'We must make
haste to get out, Margaretta, my dear, or we shall be descended on
by Mrs Sprodgkin.' To which Mrs Milvey replied, in her
pleasantly emphatic way, 'Oh YES, for she IS such a marplot,
Frank, and DOES worry so!' Words that were scarcely uttered
when their theme was announced as in faithful attendance below,
desiring counsel on a spiritual matter. The points on which Mrs
Sprodkgin sought elucidation being seldom of a pressing nature
(as Who begat Whom, or some information concerning the
Amorites), Mrs Milvey on this special occasion resorted to the
device of buying her off with a present of tea and sugar, and a loaf
and butter. These gifts Mrs Sprodgkin accepted, but still insisted
on dutifully remaining in the hall, to curtsey to the Reverend Frank
as he came forth. Who, incautiously saying in his genial manner,
'Well, Sally, there you are!' involved himself in a discursive
address from Mrs Sprodgkin, revolving around the result that she
regarded tea and sugar in the light of myrrh and frankincense, and
considered bread and butter identical with locusts and wild honey.
Having communicated this edifying piece of information, Mrs
Sprodgkin was left still unadjourned in the hall, and Mr and Mrs
Milvey hurried in a heated condition to the railway station. All of
which is here recorded to the honour of that good Christian pair,
representatives of hundreds of other good Christian pairs as
conscientious and as useful, who merge the smallness of their
work in its greatness, and feel in no danger of losing dignity when
they adapt themselves to incomprehensible humbugs.

'Detained at the last moment by one who had a claim upon me,'
was the Reverend Frank's apology to Lightwood, taking no thought
of himself. To which Mrs Milvey added, taking thought for him,
like the championing little wife she was; 'Oh yes, detained at the
last moment. But AS to the claim, Frank, I MUST say that I DO
think you are OVER-considerate sometimes, and allow THAT to
be a LITTLE abused.'

Bella felt conscious, in spite of her late pledge for herself, that her
husband's absence would give disagreeable occasion for surprise to
the Milveys. Nor could she appear quite at her ease when Mrs
Milvey asked:

'HOW is Mr Rokesmith, and IS he gone before us, or DOES he
follow us?'

It becoming necessary, upon this, to send him to bed again and
hold him in waiting to be lanced again, Bella did it. But not half
as well on the second occasion as on the first; for, a twice-told
white one seems almost to become a black one, when you are not
used to it

'Oh DEAR!' said Mrs Milvey, 'I am SO sorry! Mr Rokesmith took
SUCH an interest in Lizzie Hexam, when we were there before.
And if we had ONLY known of his face, we COULD have given
him something that would have kept it down long enough for so
SHORT a purpose.'

By way of making the white one whiter, Bella hastened to stipulate
that he was not in pain. Mrs Milvey was SO glad of it.

'I don't know HOW it is,' said Mrs Milvey, 'and I am SURE you
don't, Frank, but the clergy and their wives seem to CAUSE
swelled faces. Whenever I take notice of a child in the school, it
seems to me as if its face swelled INSTANTLY. Frank NEVER
makes acquaintance with a new old woman, but she gets the face-
ache. And another thing is, we DO make the poor children sniff
so. I don't know HOW we do it, and I should be so glad not to; but
the MORE we take notice of them, the MORE they sniff. Just as
they do when the text is given out.--Frank, that's a schoolmaster. I
have seen him somewhere.'

The reference was to a young man of reserved appearance, in a coat
and waistcoat of black, and pantaloons of pepper and salt. He had
come into the office of the station, from its interior, in an unsettled
way, immediately after Lightwood had gone out to the train; and he
had been hurriedly reading the printed hills and notices on the
wall. He had had a wandering interest in what was said among the
people waiting there and passing to and fro. He had drawn nearer,
at about the time when Mrs Milvey mentioned Lizzie Hexam, and
had remained near, since: though always glancing towards the
door by which Lightwood had gone out. He stood with his back
towards them, and his gloved hands clasped behind him. There
was now so evident a faltering upon him, expressive of indecision
whether or no he should express his having heard himself referred
to, that Mr Milvey spoke to him.

'I cannot recall your name,' he said, 'but I remember to have seen
you in your school.'

'My name is Bradley Headstone, sir,' he replied, backing into a
more retired place.

'I ought to have remembered it,' said Mr Milvey, giving him his
hand. 'I hope you are well? A little overworked, I am afraid?'

'Yes, I am overworked just at present, sir.'

'Had no play in your last holiday time?'

'No, sir.'

'All work and no play, Mr Headstone, will not make dulness, in
your case, I dare say; but it will make dyspepsia, if you don't take

'I will endeavour to take care, sir. Might I beg leave to speak to
you, outside, a moment?'

'By all means.'

It was evening, and the office was well lighted. The schoolmaster,
who had never remitted his watch on Lightwood's door, now
moved by another door to a corner without, where there was more
shadow than light; and said, plucking at his gloves:

'One of your ladies, sir, mentioned within my hearing a name that I
am acquainted with; I may say, well acquainted with. The name of
the sister of an old pupil of mine. He was my pupil for a long time,
and has got on and gone upward rapidly. The name of Hexam.
The name of Lizzie Hexam.' He seemed to be a shy man,
struggling against nervousness, and spoke in a very constrained
way. The break he set between his last two sentences was quite
embarrassing to his hearer.

'Yes,' replied Mr Milvey. 'We are going down to see her.'

'I gathered as much, sir. I hope there is nothing amiss with the
sister of my old pupil? I hope no bereavement has befallen her. I
hope she is in no affliction? Has lost no--relation?'

Mr Milvey thought this a man with a very odd manner, and a dark
downward look; but he answered in his usual open way.

'I am glad to tell you, Mr Headstone, that the sister of your old
pupil has not sustained any such loss. You thought I might be
going down to bury some one?'

'That may have been the connexion of ideas, sir, with your clerical
character, but I was not conscious of it.--Then you are not, sir?'

A man with a very odd manner indeed, and with a lurking look
that was quite oppressive.

'No. In fact,' said Mr Milvey, 'since you are so interested in the
sister of your old pupil, I may as well tell you that I am going
down to marry her.'

The schoolmaster started back.

'Not to marry her, myself,' said Mr Milvey, with a smile, 'because I
have a wife already. To perform the marriage service at her

Bradley Headstone caught hold of a pillar behind him. If Mr
Milvey knew an ashy face when he saw it, he saw it then.

'You are quite ill, Mr Headstone!'

'It is not much, sir. It will pass over very soon. I am accustomed
to be seized with giddiness. Don't let me detain you, sir; I stand in
need of no assistance, I thank you. Much obliged by your sparing
me these minutes of your time.'

As Mr Milvey, who had no more minutes to spare, made a suitable
reply and turned back into the office, he observed the schoolmaster
to lean against the pillar with his hat in his hand, and to pull at his
neckcloth as if he were trying to tear it off. The Reverend Frank
accordingly directed the notice of one of the attendants to him, by
saying: 'There is a person outside who seems to be really ill, and to
require some help, though he says he does not.'

Lightwood had by this time secured their places, and the departure-
bell was about to be rung. They took their seats, and were
beginning to move out of the station, when the same attendant
came running along the platform, looking into all the carriages.

'Oh! You are here, sir!' he said, springing on the step, and holding
the window-frame by his elbow, as the carriage moved. 'That
person you pointed out to me is in a fit.'

'I infer from what he told me that he is subject to such attacks. He
will come to, in the air, in a little while.'

He was took very bad to be sure, and was biting and knocking
about him (the man said) furiously. Would the gentleman give
him his card, as he had seen him first? The gentleman did so, with
the explanation that he knew no more of the man attacked than that
he was a man of a very respectable occupation, who had said he
was out of health, as his appearance would of itself have indicated.
The attendant received the card, watched his opportunity for
sliding down, slid down, and so it ended.

Then, the train rattled among the house-tops, and among the
ragged sides of houses torn down to make way for it, and over the
swarming streets, and under the fruitful earth, until it shot across
the river: bursting over the quiet surface like a bomb-shell, and
gone again as if it had exploded in the rush of smoke and steam
and glare. A little more, and again it roared across the river, a
great rocket: spurning the watery turnings and doublings with
ineffable contempt, and going straight to its end, as Father Time
goes to his. To whom it is no matter what living waters run high
or low, reflect the heavenly lights and darknesses, produce their
little growth of weeds and flowers, turn here, turn there, are noisy
or still, are troubled or at rest, for their course has one sure
termination, though their sources and devices are many.

Then, a carriage ride succeeded, near the solemn river, stealing
away by night, as all things steal away, by night and by day, so
quietly yielding to the attraction of the loadstone rock of Eternity;
and the nearer they drew to the chamber where Eugene lay, the
more they feared that they might find his wanderings done. At last
they saw its dim light shining out, and it gave them hope: though
Lightwood faltered as he thought: 'If he were gone, she would still
be sitting by him.'

But he lay quiet, half in stupor, half in sleep. Bella, entering with a
raised admonitory finger, kissed Lizzie softly, but said not a word.
Neither did any of them speak, but all sat down at the foot of the
bed, silently waiting. And now, in this night-watch, mingling with
the flow of the river and with the rush of the train, came the
questions into Bella's mind again: What could be in the depths of
that mystery of John's? Why was it that he had never been seen by
Mr Lightwood, whom he still avoided? When would that trial
come, through which her faith in, and her duty to, her dear
husband, was to carry her, rendering him triumphant? For, that
had been his term. Her passing through the trial was to make the
man she loved with all her heart, triumphant. Term not to sink out
of sight in Bella's breast.

Far on in the night, Eugene opened his eyes. He was sensible, and
said at once: 'How does the time go? Has our Mortimer come

Lightwood was there immediately, to answer for himself. 'Yes,
Eugene, and all is ready.'

'Dear boy!' returned Eugene with a smile, 'we both thank you
heartily. Lizzie, tell them how welcome they are, and that I would
be eloquent if I could.'

'There is no need,' said Mr Milvey. 'We know it. Are you better,
Mr Wrayburn?'

'I am much happier,' said Eugene.

'Much better too, I hope?'

Eugene turned his eyes towards Lizzie, as if to spare her, and
answered nothing

Then, they all stood around the bed, and Mr Milvey, opening his
book, began the service; so rarely associated with the shadow of
death; so inseparable in the mind from a flush of life and gaiety
and hope and health and joy. Bella thought how different from her
own sunny little wedding, and wept. Mrs Milvey overflowed with
pity, and wept too. The dolls' dressmaker, with her hands before
her face, wept in her golden bower. Reading in a low clear voice,
and bending over Eugene, who kept his eyes upon him, Mr Milvey
did his office with suitable simplicity. As the bridegroom could
not move his hand, they touched his fingers with the ring, and so
put it on the bride. When the two plighted their troth, she laid her
hand on his and kept it there. When the ceremony was done, and
all the rest departed from the room, she drew her arm under his
head, and laid her own head down upon the pillow by his side.

'Undraw the curtains, my dear girl,' said Eugene, after a while, 'and
let us see our wedding-day.'

The sun was rising, and his first rays struck into the room, as she
came back, and put her lips to his. 'I bless the day!' said Eugene.
'I bless the day!' said Lizzie.

'You have made a poor marriage of it, my sweet wife,' said
Eugene. 'A shattered graceless fellow, stretched at his length here,
and next to nothing for you when you are a young widow.'

'I have made the marriage that I would have given all the world to
dare to hope for,' she replied.

'You have thrown yourself away,' said Eugene, shaking his head.
'But you have followed the treasure of your heart. My justification
is, that you had thrown that away first, dear girl!'

'No. I had given it to you.'

'The same thing, my poor Lizzie!'

'Hush! hush! A very different thing.'

There were tears in his eyes, and she besought him to close them.
'No,' said Eugene, again shaking his head; 'let me look at you,
Lizzie, while I can. You brave devoted girl! You heroine!'

Her own eyes filled under his praises. And when he mustered
strength to move his wounded head a very little way, and lay it on
her bosom, the tears of both fell.

'Lizzie,' said Eugene, after a silence: 'when you see me wandering
away from this refuge that I have so ill deserved, speak to me by
my name, and I think I shall come back.'

'Yes, dear Eugene.'

'There!' he exclaimed, smiling. 'I should have gone then, but for

A little while afterwards, when he appeared to be sinking into
insensibility, she said, in a calm loving voice: 'Eugene, my dear
husband!' He immediately answered: 'There again! You see how
you can recall me!' And afterwards, when he could not speak, he
still answered by a slight movement of his head upon her bosom.

The sun was high in the sky, when she gently disengaged herself to
give him the stimulants and nourishment he required. The utter
helplessness of the wreck of him that lay cast ashore there, now
alarmed her, but he himself appeared a little more hopeful.

'Ah, my beloved Lizzie!' he said, faintly. 'How shall I ever pay all
I owe you, if I recover!'

'Don't be ashamed of me,' she replied, 'and you will have more than
paid all.'

'It would require a life, Lizzie, to pay all; more than a life.'

'Live for that, then; live for me, Eugene; live to see how hard I will
try to improve myself, and never to discredit you.'

'My darling girl,' he replied, rallying more of his old manner than
he had ever yet got together. 'On the contrary, I have been thinking
whether it is not the best thing I can do, to die.'

'The best thing you can do, to leave me with a broken heart?'

'I don't mean that, my dear girl. I was not thinking of that. What I
was thinking of was this. Out of your compassion for me, in this
maimed and broken state, you make so much of me--you think so
well of me--you love me so dearly.'

'Heaven knows I love you dearly!'

'And Heaven knows I prize it! Well. If I live, you'll find me out.'

'I shall find out that my husband has a mine of purpose and energy,
and will turn it to the best account?'

'I hope so, dearest Lizzie,' said Eugene, wistfully, and yet
somewhat whimsically. 'I hope so. But I can't summon the vanity
to think so. How can I think so, looking back on such a trifiling
wasted youth as mine! I humbly hope it; but I daren't believe it.
There is a sharp misgiving in my conscience that if I were to live, I
should disappoint your good opinion and my own--and that I ought
to die, my dear!'

Chapter 12


The winds and tides rose and fell a certain number of times, the
earth moved round the sun a certain number of times, the ship
upon the ocean made her voyage safely, and brought a baby-Bella
home. Then who so blest and happy as Mrs John Rokesmith,
saving and excepting Mr John Rokesmith!

'Would you not like to be rich NOW, my darling?'

'How can you ask me such a question, John dear? Am I not rich?'

These were among the first words spoken near the baby Bella as
she lay asleep. She soon proved to be a baby of wonderful
intelligence, evincing the strongest objection to her grandmother's
society, and being invariably seized with a painful acidity of the
stomach when that dignified lady honoured her with any attention.

It was charming to see Bella contemplating this baby, and finding
out her own dimples in that tiny reflection, as if she were looking
in the glass without personal vanity. Her cherubic father justly
remarked to her husband that the baby seemed to make her
younger than before, reminding him of the days when she had a pet
doll and used to talk to it as she carried it about. The world might
have been challenged to produce another baby who had such a
store of pleasant nonsense said and sung to it, as Bella said and
sung to this baby; or who was dressed and undressed as often in
four-and-twenty hours as Bella dressed and undressed this baby; or
who was held behind doors and poked out to stop its father's way
when he came home, as this baby was; or, in a word, who did half
the number of baby things, through the lively invention of a gay
and proud young mother, that this inexhaustible baby did.

The inexhaustible baby was two or three months old, when Bella
began to notice a cloud upon her husband's brow. Watching it, she
saw a gathering and deepening anxiety there, which caused her
great disquiet. More than once, she awoke him muttering in his
sleep; and, though he muttered nothing worse than her own name,
it was plain to her that his restlessness originated in some load of
care. Therefore, Bella at length put in her claim to divide this
load, and hear her half of it.

'You know, John dear,' she said, cheerily reverting to their former
conversation, 'that I hope I may safely be trusted in great things.
And it surely cannot be a little thing that causes you so much
uneasiness. It's very considerate of you to try to hide from me that
you are uncomfortable about something, but it's quite impossible to
be done, John love.'

'I admit that I am rather uneasy, my own.'

'Then please to tell me what about, sir.'

But no, he evaded that. 'Never mind!' thought Bella, resolutely.
'John requires me to put perfect faith in him, and he shall not be

She went up to London one day, to meet him, in order that they
might make some purchases. She found him waiting for her at her
journey's end, and they walked away together through the streets.
He was in gay spirits, though still harping on that notion of their
being rich; and he said, now let them make believe that yonder fine
carriage was theirs, and that it was waiting to take them home to a
fine house they had; what would Bella, in that case, best like to
find in the house? Well! Bella didn't know: already having
everything she wanted, she couldn't say. But, by degrees she was
led on to confess that she would like to have for the inexhaustible
baby such a nursery as never was seen. It was to be 'a very
rainbow for colours', as she was quite sure baby noticed colours;
and the staircase was to be adorned with the most exquisite
flowers, as she was absolutely certain baby noticed flowers; and
there was to be an aviary somewhere, of the loveliest little birds, as
there was not the smallest doubt in the world that baby noticed
birds. Was there nothing else? No, John dear. The predilections
of the inexhaustible baby being provided for, Bella could think of
nothing else.

They were chatting on in this way, and John had suggested, 'No
jewels for your own wear, for instance?' and Bella had replied
laughing. O! if he came to that, yes, there might be a beautiful
ivory case of jewels on her dressing-table; when these pictures
were in a moment darkened and blotted out.

They turned a corner, and met Mr Lightwood.

He stopped as if he were petrified by the sight of Bella's husband,
who in the same moment had changed colour.

'Mr Lightwood and I have met before,' he said.

'Met before, John?' Bella repeated in a tone of wonder. 'Mr
Lightwood told me he had never seen you.'

'I did not then know that I had,' said Lightwood, discomposed on
her account. I believed that I had only heard of--Mr Rokesmith.'
With an emphasis on the name.

'When Mr Lightwood saw me, my love,' observed her husband, not
avoiding his eye, but looking at him, 'my name was Julius

Julius Handford! The name that Bella had so often seen in old
newspapers, when she was an inmate of Mr Boffin's house! Julius
Handford, who had been publicly entreated to appear, and for
intelligence of whom a reward had been publicly offered!

'I would have avoided mentioning it in your presence,' said
Lightwood to Bella, delicately; 'but since your husband mentions it
himself, I must confirm his strange admission. I saw him as Mr
Julius Handford, and I afterwards (unquestionably to his
knowledge) took great pains to trace him out.'

'Quite true. But it was not my object or my interest,' said
Rokesmith, quietly, 'to be traced out.'

Bella looked from the one to the other, in amazement.

'Mr Lightwood,' pursued her husband, 'as chance has brought us
face to face at last--which is not to be wondered at, for the wonder
is, that, in spite of all my pains to the contrary, chance has not
confronted us together sooner--I have only to remind you that you
have been at my house, and to add that I have not changed my

'Sir' returned Lightwood, with a meaning glance towards Bella,
'my position is a truly painful one. I hope that no complicity in a
very dark transaction may attach to you, but you cannot fail to
know that your own extraordinary conduct has laid you under

'I know it has,' was all the reply.

'My professional duty,' said Lightwood hesitating, with another
glance towards Bella, 'is greatly at variance with my personal
inclination; but I doubt, Mr Handford, or Mr Rokesmith, whether I
am justified in taking leave of you here, with your whole course

Bella caught her husband by the hand.

'Don't be alarmed, my darling. Mr Lightwood will find that he is
quite justified in taking leave of me here. At all events,' added
Rokesmith, 'he will find that I mean to take leave of him here.'

'I think, sir,' said Lightwood, 'you can scarcely deny that when I
came to your house on the occasion to which you have referred,
you avoided me of a set purpose.'

'Mr Lightwood, I assure you I have no disposition to deny it, or
intention to deny it. I should have continued to avoid you, in
pursuance of the same set purpose, for a short time longer, if we
had not met now. I am going straight home, and shall remain at
home to-morrow until noon. Hereafter, I hope we may be better
acquainted. Good-day.'

Lightwood stood irresolute, but Bella's husband passed him in the
steadiest manner, with Bella on his arm; and they went home
without encountering any further remonstrance or molestation from
any one.

When they had dined and were alone, John Rokesmith said to his
wife, who had preserved her cheerfulness: 'And you don't ask me,
my dear, why I bore that name?'

'No, John love. I should dearly like to know, of course;' (which her
anxious face confirmed;) 'but I wait until you can tell me of your
own free will. You asked me if I could have perfect faith in you,
and I said yes, and I meant it.'

It did not escape Bella's notice that he began to look triumphant.
She wanted no strengthening in her firmness; but if she had had
need of any, she would have derived it from his kindling face.

'You cannot have been prepared, my dearest, for such a discovery
as that this mysterious Mr Handford was identical with your

'No, John dear, of course not. But you told me to prepare to be
tried, and I prepared myself.'

He drew her to nestle closer to him, and told her it would soon be
over, and the truth would soon appear. 'And now,' he went on, 'lay
stress, my dear, on these words that I am going to add. I stand in
no kind of peril, and I can by possibility be hurt at no one's hand.'

'You are quite, quite sure of that, John dear?'

'Not a hair of my head! Moreover, I have done no wrong, and have
injured no man. Shall I swear it?'

'No, John!' cried Bella, laying her hand upon his lips, with a proud
look. 'Never to me!'

'But circumstances,' he went on '--I can, and I will, disperse them
in a moment--have surrounded me with one of the strangest
suspicions ever known. You heard Mr Lightwood speak of a dark

'Yes, John.'

'You are prepared to hear explicitly what he meant?'

'Yes, John.'

'My life, he meant the murder of John Harmon, your allotted

With a fast palpitating heart, Bella grasped him by the arm. 'You
cannot be suspected, John?'

'Dear love, I can be--for I am!'

There was silence between them, as she sat looking in his face,
with the colour quite gone from her own face and lips. 'How dare
they!' she cried at length, in a burst of generous indignation. 'My
beloved husband, how dare they!'

He caught her in his arms as she opened hers, and held her to his
heart. 'Even knowing this, you can trust me, Bella?'

'I can trust you, John dear, with all my soul. If I could not trust
you, I should fall dead at your feet.'

The kindling triumph in his face was bright indeed, as he looked
up and rapturously exclaimed, what had he done to deserve the
blessing of this dear confiding creature's heart! Again she put her
hand upon his lips, saying, 'Hush!' and then told him, in her own
little natural pathetic way, that if all the world were against him,
she would be for him; that if all the world repudiated him, she
would believe him; that if he were infamous in other eyes, he
would be honoured in hers; and that, under the worst unmerited
suspicion, she could devote her life to consoling him, and
imparting her own faith in him to their little child.

A twilight calm of happiness then succeeding to their radiant noon,
they remained at peace, until a strange voice in the room startled
them both. The room being by that time dark, the voice said,
'Don't let the lady be alarmed by my striking a light,' and
immediately a match rattled, and glimmered in a hand. The hand
and the match and the voice were then seen by John Rokesmith to
belong to Mr Inspector, once meditatively active in this chronicle.

'I take the liberty,' said Mr Inspector, in a business-like manner, 'to
bring myself to the recollection of Mr Julius Handford, who gave
me his name and address down at our place a considerable time
ago. Would the lady object to my lighting the pair of candles on
the chimneypiece, to throw a further light upon the subject? No?
Thank you, ma'am. Now, we look cheerful.'

Mr Inspector, in a dark-blue buttoned-up frock coat and
pantaloons, presented a serviceable, half-pay, Royal Arms kind of
appearance, as he applied his pocket handkerchief to his nose and
bowed to the lady.

'You favoured me, Mr Handford,' said Mr Inspector, 'by writing
down your name and address, and I produce the piece of paper on
which you wrote it. Comparing the same with the writing on the
fly-leaf of this book on the table--and a sweet pretty volume it is--I
find the writing of the entry, 'Mrs John Rokesmith. From her
husband on her birthday"--and very gratifying to the feelings such
memorials are--to correspond exactly. Can I have a word with

'Certainly. Here, if you please,' was the reply.

'Why,' retorted Mr Inspector, again using his pocket handkerchief,
'though there's nothing for the lady to be at all alarmed at, still,
ladies are apt to take alarm at matters of business--being of that
fragile sex that they're not accustomed to them when not of a
strictly domestic character--and I do generally make it a rule to
propose retirement from the presence of ladies, before entering
upon business topics. Or perhaps,' Mr Inspector hinted, 'if the lady
was to step up-stairs, and take a look at baby now!'

'Mrs Rokesmith,'--her husband was beginning; when Mr Inspector,
regarding the words as an introduction, said, 'Happy I am sure, to
have the honour.' And bowed, with gallantry.

'Mrs Rokesmith,' resumed her husband, 'is satisfied that she can
have no reason for being alarmed, whatever the business is.'

'Really? Is that so?' said Mr Inspector. 'But it's a sex to live and
learn from, and there's nothing a lady can't accomplish when she
once fully gives her mind to it. It's the case with my own wife.
Well, ma'am, this good gentleman of yours has given rise to a
rather large amount of trouble which might have been avoided if he
had come forward and explained himself. Well you see! He
DIDN'T come forward and explain himself. Consequently, now
that we meet, him and me, you'll say--and say right--that there's
nothing to be alarmed at, in my proposing to him TO come
forward--or, putting the same meaning in another form, to come
along with me--and explain himself.'

When Mr Inspector put it in that other form, 'to come along with
me,' there was a relishing roll in his voice, and his eye beamed
with an official lustre.

'Do you propose to take me into custody?' inquired John
Rokesmith, very coolly.

'Why argue?' returned Mr Inspector in a comfortable sort of
remonstrance; 'ain't it enough that I propose that you shall come
along with me?'

'For what reason?'

Lord bless my soul and body!' returned Mr Inspector, 'I wonder at
it in a man of your education. Why argue?'

'What do you charge against me?'

'I wonder at you before a lady,' said Mr Inspector, shaking his
head reproachfully: 'I wonder, brought up as you have been, you
haven't a more delicate mind! I charge you, then, with being some
way concerned in the Harmon Murder. I don't say whether before,
or in, or after, the fact. I don't say whether with having some
knowledge of it that hasn't come out.'

'You don't surprise me. I foresaw your visit this afternoon.'

'Don't!' said Mr Inspector. 'Why, why argue? It's my duty to
inform you that whatever you say, will be used against you.'

'I don't think it will.'

'But I tell you it will,' said Mr Inspector. 'Now, having received
the caution, do you still say that you foresaw my visit this

'Yes. And I will say something more, if you will step with me into
the next room.'

With a reassuring kiss on the lips of the frightened Bella, her
husband (to whom Mr Inspector obligingly offered his arm), took
up a candle, and withdrew with that gentleman. They were a full
half-hour in conference. When they returned, Mr Inspector
looked considerably astonished.

'I have invited this worthy officer, my dear,' said John, 'to make a
short excursion with me in which you shall be a sharer. He will
take something to eat and drink, I dare say, on your invitation,
while you are getting your bonnet on.'

Mr Inspector declined eating, but assented to the proposal of a
glass of brandy and water. Mixing this cold, and pensively
consuming it, he broke at intervals into such soliloquies as that he
never did know such a move, that he never had been so gravelled,
and that what a game was this to try the sort of stuff a man's
opinion of himself was made of! Concurrently with these
comments, he more than once burst out a laughing, with the half-
enjoying and half-piqued air of a man, who had given up a good
conundrum, after much guessing, and been told the answer. Bella
was so timid of him, that she noted these things in a half-
shrinking, half-perceptive way, and similarly noted that there was
a great change in his manner towards John. That coming-along-
with-him deportment was now lost in long musing looks at John
and at herself and sometimes in slow heavy rubs of his hand
across his forehead, as if he were ironing cut the creases which his
deep pondering made there. He had had some coughing and
whistling satellites secretly gravitating towards him about the
premises, but they were now dismissed, and he eyed John as if he
had meant to do him a public service, but had unfortunately been
anticipated. Whether Bella might have noted anything more, if she
had been less afraid of him, she could not determine; but it was all
inexplicable to her, and not the faintest flash of the real state of the
case broke in upon her mind. Mr Inspector's increased notice of
herself and knowing way of raising his eyebrows when their eyes
by any chance met, as if he put the question 'Don't you see?'
augmented her timidity, and, consequently, her perplexity. For all
these reasons, when he and she and John, at towards nine o'clock
of a winter evening went to London, and began driving from
London Bridge, among low-lying water-side wharves and docks
and strange places, Bella was in the state of a dreamer; perfectly
unable to account for her being there, perfectly unable to forecast
what would happen next, or whither she was going, or why; certain
of nothing in the immediate present, but that she confided in John,
and that John seemed somehow to be getting more triumphant.
But what a certainty was that!

They alighted at last at the corner of a court, where there was a
building with a bright lamp and wicket gate. Its orderly
appearance was very unlike that of the surrounding neighbourhood,
and was explained by the inscription POLICE STATION.

'We are not going in here, John?' said Bella, clinging to him.

'Yes, my dear; but of our own accord. We shall come out again as
easily, never fear.'

The whitewashed room was pure white as of old, the methodical
book-keeping was in peaceful progress as of old, and some distant
howler was banging against a cell door as of old. The sanctuary
was not a permanent abiding-place, but a kind of criminal
Pickford's. The lower passions and vices were regularly ticked off
in the books, warehoused in the cells, carted away as per
accompanying invoice, and left little mark upon it.

Mr Inspector placed two chairs for his visitors, before the fire, and
communed in a low voice with a brother of his order (also of a
half-pay, and Royal Arms aspect), who, judged only by his
occupation at the moment, might have been a writing-master,
setting copies. Their conference done, Mr Inspector returned to the
fireplace, and, having observed that he would step round to the
Fellowships and see how matters stood, went out. He soon came
back again, saying, 'Nothing could be better, for they're at supper
with Miss Abbey in the bar;' and then they all three went out

Still, as in a dream, Bella found herself entering a snug old-
fashioned public-house, and found herself smuggled into a little
three-cornered room nearly opposite the bar of that establishment.
Mr Inspector achieved the smuggling of herself and John into this
queer room, called Cosy in an inscription on the door, by entering
in the narrow passage first in order, and suddenly turning round
upon them with extended arms, as if they had been two sheep. The
room was lighted for their reception.

'Now,' said Mr Inspector to John, turning the gas lower; 'I'll mix
with 'em in a casual way, and when I say Identification, perhaps
you'll show yourself.'

John nodded, and Mr Inspector went alone to the half-door of the
bar. From the dim doorway of Cosy, within which Bella and her
husband stood, they could see a comfortable little party of three
persons sitting at supper in the bar, and could hear everything that
was said.

The three persons were Miss Abbey and two male guests. To
whom collectively, Mr Inspector remarked that the weather was
getting sharp for the time of year.

'It need be sharp to suit your wits, sir,' said Miss Abbey. 'What
have you got in hand now?'

'Thanking you for your compliment: not much, Miss Abbey,' was
Mr Inspector's rejoinder.

'Who have you got in Cosy?' asked Miss Abbey.

'Only a gentleman and his wife, Miss.'

'And who are they? If one may ask it without detriment to your
deep plans in the interests of the honest public?' said Miss Abbey,
proud of Mr Inspector as an administrative genius.

'They are strangers in this part of the town, Miss Abbey. They are
waiting till I shall want the gentleman to show himself
somewhere, for half a moment.'

'While they're waiting,' said Miss Abbey, 'couldn't you join us?'

Mr Inspector immediately slipped into the bar, and sat down at the
side of the half-door, with his back towards the passage, and
directly facing the two guests. 'I don't take my supper till later in
the night,' said he, 'and therefore I won't disturb the compactness
of the table. But I'll take a glass of flip, if that's flip in the jug in
the fender.'

'That's flip,' replied Miss Abbey, 'and it's my making, and if even
you can find out better, I shall be glad to know where.' Filling
him, with hospitable hands, a steaming tumbler, Miss Abbey
replaced the jug by the fire; the company not having yet arrived at
the flip-stage of their supper, but being as yet skirmishing with
strong ale.

'Ah--h!' cried Mr Inspector. 'That's the smack! There's not a
Detective in the Force, Miss Abbey, that could find out better stuff
than that.'

'Glad to hear you say so,' rejoined Miss Abbey. 'You ought to
know, if anybody does.'

'Mr Job Potterson,' Mr Inspector continued, 'I drink your health.
Mr Jacob Kibble, I drink yours. Hope you have made a prosperous
voyage home, gentlemen both.'

Mr Kibble, an unctuous broad man of few words and many
mouthfuls, said, more briefly than pointedly, raising his ale to his
lips: 'Same to you.' Mr Job Potterson, a semi-seafaring man of
obliging demeanour, said, 'Thank you, sir.'

'Lord bless my soul and body!' cried Mr Inspector. 'Talk of trades,
Miss Abbey, and the way they set their marks on men' (a subject
which nobody had approached); 'who wouldn't know your brother
to be a Steward! There's a bright and ready twinkle in his eye,
there's a neatness in his action, there's a smartness in his figure,
there's an air of reliability about him in case you wanted a basin,
which points out the steward! And Mr Kibble; ain't he Passenger,
all over? While there's that mercantile cut upon him which would
make you happy to give him credit for five hundred pound, don't
you see the salt sea shining on him too?'

'YOU do, I dare say,' returned Miss Abbey, 'but I don't. And as for
stewarding, I think it's time my brother gave that up, and took his
House in hand on his sister's retiring. The House will go to pieces
if he don't. I wouldn't sell it for any money that could be told out,
to a person that I couldn't depend upon to be a Law to the Porters,
as I have been.'

'There you're right, Miss,' said Mr Inspector. 'A better kept house
is not known to our men. What do I say? Half so well a kept
house is not known to our men. Show the Force the Six Jolly
Fellowship Porters, and the Force--to a constable--will show you a
piece of perfection, Mr Kibble.'

That gentleman, with a very serious shake of his head, subscribed
the article.

'And talk of Time slipping by you, as if it was an animal at rustic
sports with its tail soaped,' said Mr Inspector (again, a subject
which nobody had approached); 'why, well you may. Well you
may. How has it slipped by us, since the time when Mr Job
Potterson here present, Mr Jacob Kibble here present, and an
Officer of the Force here present, first came together on a matter of

Bella's husband stepped softly to the half-door of the bar, and stood

'How has Time slipped by us,' Mr Inspector went on slowly, with
his eyes narrowly observant of the two guests, 'since we three very
men, at an Inquest in this very house--Mr Kibble? Taken ill, sir?'

Mr Kibble had staggered up, with his lower jaw dropped, catching
Potterson by the shoulder, and pointing to the half-door. He now
cried out: 'Potterson! Look! Look there!' Potterson started up,
started back, and exclaimed: 'Heaven defend us, what's that!'

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