Part 9 out of 21
'I told you so, Pa, but you wouldn't believe it,' returned Bella, with
a pleasant childish gravity. 'Isn't it shocking?'
'It would be quite so, if you fully knew what you said, my dear, or
'Well, Pa, I can only tell you that I mean nothing else. Talk to me
of love!' said Bella, contemptuously: though her face and figure
certainly rendered the subject no incongruous one. 'Talk to me of
fiery dragons! But talk to me of poverty and wealth, and there
indeed we touch upon realities.'
'My De-ar, this is becoming Awful--' her father was emphatically
beginning: when she stopped him.
'Pa, tell me. Did you marry money?'
'You know I didn't, my dear.'
Bella hummed the Dead March in Saul, and said, after all it
signified very little! But seeing him look grave and downcast, she
took him round the neck and kissed him back to cheerfulness
'I didn't mean that last touch, Pa; it was only said in joke. Now
mind! You are not to tell of me, and I'll not tell of you. And more
than that; I promise to have no secrets from you, Pa, and you may
make certain that, whatever mercenary things go on, I shall
always tell you all about them in strict confidence.'
Fain to be satisfied with this concession from the lovely woman,
R. W. rang the bell, and paid the bill. 'Now, all the rest of this,
Pa,' said Bella, rolling up the purse when they were alone again,
hammering it small with her little fist on the table, and cramming it
into one of the pockets of his new waistcoat, 'is for you, to buy
presents with for them at home, and to pay bills with, and to
divide as you like, and spend exactly as you think proper. Last of
all take notice, Pa, that it's not the fruit of any avaricious scheme.
Perhaps if it was, your little mercenary wretch of a daughter
wouldn't make so free with it!'
After which, she tugged at his coat with both hands, and pulled
him all askew in buttoning that garment over the precious
waistcoat pocket, and then tied her dimples into her bonnet-strings
in a very knowing way, and took him back to London. Arrived at
Mr Boffin's door, she set him with his back against it, tenderly
took him by the ears as convenient handles for her purpose, and
kissed him until he knocked muffled double knocks at the door
with the back of his head. That done, she once more reminded
him of their compact and gaily parted from him.
Not so gaily, however, but that tears filled her eyes as he went
away down the dark street. Not so gaily, but that she several
times said, 'Ah, poor little Pa! Ah, poor dear struggling shabby
little Pa!' before she took heart to knock at the door. Not so gaily,
but that the brilliant furniture seemed to stare her out of
countenance as if it insisted on being compared with the dingy
furniture at home. Not so gaily, but that she fell into very low
spirits sitting late in her own room, and very heartily wept, as she
wished, now that the deceased old John Harmon had never made
a will about her, now that the deceased young John Harmon had
lived to marry her. 'Contradictory things to wish,' said Bella, 'but
my life and fortunes are so contradictory altogether that what can
I expect myself to be!'
IN WHICH THE ORPHAN MAKES HIS WILL
The Secretary, working in the Dismal Swamp betimes next
morning, was informed that a youth waited in the hall who gave
the name of Sloppy. The footman who communicated this
intelligence made a decent pause before uttering the name, to
express that it was forced on his reluctance by the youth in
question, and that if the youth had had the good sense and good
taste to inherit some other name it would have spared the feelings
of him the bearer.
'Mrs Boffin will be very well pleased,' said the Secretary in a
perfectly composed way. 'Show him in.'
Mr Sloppy being introduced, remained close to the door: revealing
in various parts of his form many surprising, confounding, and
'I am glad to see you,' said John Rokesmith, in a cheerful tone of
welcome. 'I have been expecting you.'
Sloppy explained that he had meant to come before, but that the
Orphan (of whom he made mention as Our Johnny) had been
ailing, and he had waited to report him well.
'Then he is well now?' said the Secretary.
'No he ain't,' said Sloppy.
Mr Sloppy having shaken his head to a considerable extent,
proceeded to remark that he thought Johnny 'must have took 'em
from the Minders.' Being asked what he meant, he answered,
them that come out upon him and partickler his chest. Being
requested to explain himself, he stated that there was some of 'em
wot you couldn't kiver with a sixpence. Pressed to fall back upon
a nominative case, he opined that they wos about as red as ever
red could be. 'But as long as they strikes out'ards, sir,' continued
Sloppy, 'they ain't so much. It's their striking in'ards that's to be
John Rokesmith hoped the child had had medical attendance? Oh
yes, said Sloppy, he had been took to the doctor's shop once. And
what did the doctor call it? Rokesmith asked him. After some
perplexed reflection, Sloppy answered, brightening, 'He called it
something as wos wery long for spots.' Rokesmith suggested
measles. 'No,' said Sloppy with confidence, 'ever so much longer
than THEM, sir!' (Mr Sloppy was elevated by this fact, and
seemed to consider that it reflected credit on the poor little
'Mrs Boffin will be sorry to hear this,' said Rokesmith.
'Mrs Higden said so, sir, when she kep it from her, hoping as Our
Johnny would work round.'
'But I hope he will?' said Rokesmith, with a quick turn upon the
'I hope so,' answered Sloppy. 'It all depends on their striking
in'ards.' He then went on to say that whether Johnny had 'took
'em' from the Minders, or whether the Minders had 'took em from
Johnny, the Minders had been sent home and had 'got em.
Furthermore, that Mrs Higden's days and nights being devoted to
Our Johnny, who was never out of her lap, the whole of the
mangling arrangements had devolved upon himself, and he had
had 'rayther a tight time'. The ungainly piece of honesty beamed
and blushed as he said it, quite enraptured with the remembrance
of having been serviceable.
'Last night,' said Sloppy, 'when I was a-turning at the wheel pretty
late, the mangle seemed to go like Our Johnny's breathing. It
begun beautiful, then as it went out it shook a little and got
unsteady, then as it took the turn to come home it had a rattle-like
and lumbered a bit, then it come smooth, and so it went on till I
scarce know'd which was mangle and which was Our Johnny. Nor
Our Johnny, he scarce know'd either, for sometimes when the
mangle lumbers he says, "Me choking, Granny!" and Mrs Higden
holds him up in her lap and says to me "Bide a bit, Sloppy," and
we all stops together. And when Our Johnny gets his breathing
again, I turns again, and we all goes on together.'
Sloppy had gradually expanded with his description into a stare
and a vacant grin. He now contracted, being silent, into a half-
repressed gush of tears, and, under pretence of being heated, drew
the under part of his sleeve across his eyes with a singularly
awkward, laborious, and roundabout smear.
'This is unfortunate,' said Rokesmith. 'I must go and break it to
Mrs Boffin. Stay you here, Sloppy.'
Sloppy stayed there, staring at the pattern of the paper on the wall,
until the Secretary and Mrs Boffin came back together. And with
Mrs Boffin was a young lady (Miss Bella Wilfer by name) who
was better worth staring at, it occurred to Sloppy, than the best of
'Ah, my poor dear pretty little John Harmon!' exclaimed Mrs
'Yes mum,' said the sympathetic Sloppy.
'You don't think he is in a very, very bad way, do you?' asked the
pleasant creature with her wholesome cordiality.
Put upon his good faith, and finding it in collision with his
inclinations, Sloppy threw back his head and uttered a mellifluous
howl, rounded off with a sniff.
'So bad as that!' cried Mrs Boffin. 'And Betty Higden not to tell
me of it sooner!'
'I think she might have been mistrustful, mum,' answered Sloppy,
'Of what, for Heaven's sake?'
'I think she might have been mistrustful, mum,' returned Sloppy
with submission, 'of standing in Our Johnny's light. There's so
much trouble in illness, and so much expense, and she's seen such
a lot of its being objected to.'
'But she never can have thought,' said Mrs Boffin, 'that I would
grudge the dear child anything?'
'No mum, but she might have thought (as a habit-like) of its
standing in Johnny's light, and might have tried to bring him
through it unbeknownst.'
Sloppy knew his ground well. To conceal herself in sickness, like
a lower animal; to creep out of sight and coil herself away and die;
had become this woman's instinct. To catch up in her arms the
sick child who was dear to her, and hide it as if it were a criminal,
and keep off all ministration but such as her own ignorant
tenderness and patience could supply, had become this woman's
idea of maternal love, fidelity, and duty. The shameful accounts
we read, every week in the Christian year, my lords and
gentlemen and honourable boards, the infamous records of small
official inhumanity, do not pass by the people as they pass by us.
And hence these irrational, blind, and obstinate prejudices, so
astonishing to our magnificence, and having no more reason in
them--God save the Queen and Confound their politics--no, than
smoke has in coming from fire!
'It's not a right place for the poor child to stay in,' said Mrs Boffin.
'Tell us, dear Mr Rokesmith, what to do for the best.'
He had already thought what to do, and the consultation was very
short. He could pave the way, he said, in half an hour, and then
they would go down to Brentford. 'Pray take me,' said Bella.
Therefore a carriage was ordered, of capacity to take them all, and
in the meantime Sloppy was regaled, feasting alone in the
Secretary's room, with a complete realization of that fairy vision--
meat, beer, vegetables, and pudding. In consequence of which his
buttons became more importunate of public notice than before,
with the exception of two or three about the region of the
waistband, which modestly withdrew into a creasy retirement.
Punctual to the time, appeared the carriage and the Secretary. He
sat on the box, and Mr Sloppy graced the rumble. So, to the Three
Magpies as before: where Mrs Boffin and Miss Bella were handed
out, and whence they all went on foot to Mrs Betty Higden's.
But, on the way down, they had stopped at a toy-shop, and had
bought that noble charger, a description of whose points and
trappings had on the last occasion conciliated the then worldly-
minded orphan, and also a Noah's ark, and also a yellow bird with
an artificial voice in him, and also a military doll so well dressed
that if he had only been of life-size his brother-officers in the
Guards might never have found him out. Bearing these gifts, they
raised the latch of Betty Higden's door, and saw her sitting in the
dimmest and furthest corner with poor Johnny in her lap.
'And how's my boy, Betty?' asked Mrs Boffin, sitting down beside
'He's bad! He's bad!' said Betty. 'I begin to be afeerd he'll not be
yours any more than mine. All others belonging to him have gone
to the Power and the Glory, and I have a mind that they're
drawing him to them--leading him away.'
'No, no, no,' said Mrs Boffin.
'I don't know why else he clenches his little hand as if it had hold
of a finger that I can't see. Look at it,' said Betty, opening the
wrappers in which the flushed child lay, and showing his small
right hand lying closed upon his breast. 'It's always so. It don't
'Is he asleep?'
'No, I think not. You're not asleep, my Johnny?'
'No,' said Johnny, with a quiet air of pity for himself; and without
opening his eyes.
'Here's the lady, Johnny. And the horse.'
Johnny could bear the lady, with complete indifference, but not
the horse. Opening his heavy eyes, he slowly broke into a smile
on beholding that splendid phenomenon, and wanted to take it in
his arms. As it was much too big, it was put upon a chair where
he could hold it by the mane and contemplate it. Which he soon
forgot to do.
But, Johnny murmuring something with his eyes closed, and Mrs
Boffin not knowing what, old Betty bent her ear to listen and took
pains to understand. Being asked by her to repeat what he had
said, he did so two or three times, and then it came out that he
must have seen more than they supposed when he looked up to
see the horse, for the murmur was, 'Who is the boofer lady?'
Now, the boofer, or beautiful, lady was Bella; and whereas this
notice from the poor baby would have touched her of itself; it was
rendered more pathetic by the late melting of her heart to her poor
little father, and their joke about the lovely woman. So, Bella's
behaviour was very tender and very natural when she kneeled on
the brick floor to clasp the child, and when the child, with a child's
admiration of what is young and pretty, fondled the boofer lady.
'Now, my good dear Betty,' said Mrs Boffin, hoping that she saw
her opportunity, and laying her hand persuasively on her arm; 'we
have come to remove Johnny from this cottage to where he can be
taken better care of.'
Instantly, and before another word could be spoken, the old
woman started up with blazing eyes, and rushed at the door with
the sick child.
'Stand away from me every one of ye!' she cried out wildly. 'I see
what ye mean now. Let me go my way, all of ye. I'd sooner kill
the Pretty, and kill myself!'
'Stay, stay!' said Rokesmith, soothing her. 'You don't understand.'
'I understand too well. I know too much about it, sir. I've run
from it too many a year. No! Never for me, nor for the child,
while there's water enough in England to cover us!'
The terror, the shame, the passion of horror and repugnance, firing
the worn face and perfectly maddening it, would have been a
quite terrible sight, if embodied in one old fellow-creature alone.
Yet it 'crops up'--as our slang goes--my lords and gentlemen and
honourable boards, in other fellow-creatures, rather frequently!
'It's been chasing me all my life, but it shall never take me nor
mine alive!' cried old Betty. 'I've done with ye. I'd have fastened
door and window and starved out, afore I'd ever have let ye in, if I
had known what ye came for!'
But, catching sight of Mrs Boffin's wholesome face, she relented,
and crouching down by the door and bending over her burden to
hush it, said humbly: 'Maybe my fears has put me wrong. If they
have so, tell me, and the good Lord forgive me! I'm quick to take
this fright, I know, and my head is summ'at light with wearying
'There, there, there!' returned Mrs Boffin. 'Come, come! Say no
more of it, Betty. It was a mistake, a mistake. Any one of us
might have made it in your place, and felt just as you do.'
'The Lord bless ye!' said the old woman, stretching out her hand.
'Now, see, Betty,' pursued the sweet compassionate soul, holding
the hand kindly, 'what I really did mean, and what I should have
begun by saying out, if I had only been a little wiser and handier.
We want to move Johnny to a place where there are none but
children; a place set up on purpose for sick children; where the
good doctors and nurses pass their lives with children, talk to none
but children, touch none but children, comfort and cure none but
'Is there really such a place?' asked the old woman, with a gaze of
'Yes, Betty, on my word, and you shall see it. If my home was a
better place for the dear boy, I'd take him to it; but indeed indeed
'You shall take him,' returned Betty, fervently kissing the
comforting hand, 'where you will, my deary. I am not so hard, but
that I believe your face and voice, and I will, as long as I can see
This victory gained, Rokesmith made haste to profit by it, for he
saw how woefully time had been lost. He despatched Sloppy to
bring the carriage to the door; caused the child to be carefully
wrapped up; bade old Betty get her bonnet on; collected the toys,
enabling the little fellow to comprehend that his treasures were to
be transported with him; and had all things prepared so easily that
they were ready for the carriage as soon as it appeared, and in a
minute afterwards were on their way. Sloppy they left behind,
relieving his overcharged breast with a paroxysm of mangling.
At the Children's Hospital, the gallant steed, the Noah's ark,
yellow bird, and the officer in the Guards, were made as welcome
as their child-owner. But the doctor said aside to Rokesmith, 'This
should have been days ago. Too late!'
However, they were all carried up into a fresh airy room, and
there Johnny came to himself, out of a sleep or a swoon or
whatever it was, to find himself lying in a little quiet bed, with a
little platform over his breast, on which were already arranged, to
give him heart and urge him to cheer up, the Noah's ark, the noble
steed, and the yellow bird; with the officer in the Guards doing
duty over the whole, quite as much to the satisfaction of his
country as if he had been upon Parade. And at the bed's head was
a coloured picture beautiful to see, representing as it were another
Johnny seated on the knee of some Angel surely who loved little
children. And, marvellous fact, to lie and stare at: Johnny had
become one of a little family, all in little quiet beds (except two
playing dominoes in little arm-chairs at a little table on the hearth):
and on all the little beds were little platforms whereon were to be
seen dolls' houses, woolly dogs with mechanical barks in them not
very dissimilar from the artificial voice pervading the bowels of
the yellow bird, tin armies, Moorish tumblers, wooden tea things,
and the riches of the earth.
As Johnny murmured something in his placid admiration, the
ministering women at his bed's head asked him what he said. It
seemed that he wanted to know whether all these were brothers
and sisters of his? So they told him yes. It seemed then, that he
wanted to know whether God had brought them all together there?
So they told him yes again. They made out then, that he wanted
to know whether they would all get out of pain? So they
answered yes to that question likewise, and made him understand
that the reply included himself.
Johnny's powers of sustaining conversation were as yet so very
imperfectly developed, even in a state of health, that in sickness
they were little more than monosyllabic. But, he had to be
washed and tended, and remedies were applied, and though those
offices were far, far more skilfully and lightly done than ever
anything had been done for him in his little life, so rough and
short, they would have hurt and tired him but for an amazing
circumstance which laid hold of his attention. This was no less
than the appearance on his own little platform in pairs, of All
Creation, on its way into his own particular ark: the elephant
leading, and the fly, with a diffident sense of his size, politely
bringing up the rear. A very little brother lying in the next bed
with a broken leg, was so enchanted by this spectacle that his
delight exalted its enthralling interest; and so came rest and sleep.
'I see you are not afraid to leave the dear child here, Betty,'
whispered Mrs Boffin.
'No, ma'am. Most willingly, most thankfully, with all my heart and
So, they kissed him, and left him there, and old Betty was to come
back early in the morning, and nobody but Rokesmith knew for
certain how that the doctor had said, 'This should have been days
ago. Too late!'
But, Rokesmith knowing it, and knowing that his bearing it in
mind would be acceptable thereafter to that good woman who had
been the only light in the childhood of desolate John Harmon dead
and gone, resolved that late at night he would go back to the
bedside of John Harmon's namesake, and see how it fared with
The family whom God had brought together were not all asleep,
but were all quiet. From bed to bed, a light womanly tread and a
pleasant fresh face passed in the silence of the night. A little head
would lift itself up into the softened light here and there, to be
kissed as the face went by--for these little patients are very loving
--and would then submit itself to be composed to rest again. The
mite with the broken leg was restless, and moaned; but after a
while turned his face towards Johnny's bed, to fortify himself with
a view of the ark, and fell asleep. Over most of the beds, the toys
were yet grouped as the children had left them when they last laid
themselves down, and, in their innocent grotesqueness and
incongruity, they might have stood for the children's dreams.
The doctor came in too, to see how it fared with Johnny. And he
and Rokesmith stood together, looking down with compassion on
'What is it, Johnny?' Rokesmith was the questioner, and put an
arm round the poor baby as he made a struggle.
'Him!' said the little fellow. 'Those!'
The doctor was quick to understand children, and, taking the
horse, the ark, the yellow bird, and the man in the Guards, from
Johnny's bed, softly placed them on that of his next neighbour, the
mite with the broken leg.
With a weary and yet a pleased smile, and with an action as if he
stretched his little figure out to rest, the child heaved his body on
the sustaining arm, and seeking Rokesmith's face with his lips,
'A kiss for the boofer lady.'
Having now bequeathed all he had to dispose of, and arranged his
affairs in this world, Johnny, thus speaking, left it.
Some of the Reverend Frank Milvey's brethren had found
themselves exceedingly uncomfortable in their minds, because
they were required to bury the dead too hopefully. But, the
Reverend Frank, inclining to the belief that they were required to
do one or two other things (say out of nine-and-thirty) calculated
to trouble their consciences rather more if they would think as
much about them, held his peace.
Indeed, the Reverend Frank Milvey was a forbearing man, who
noticed many sad warps and blights in the vineyard wherein he
worked, and did not profess that they made him savagely wise.
He only learned that the more he himself knew, in his little limited
human way, the better he could distantly imagine what
Omniscience might know.
Wherefore, if the Reverend Frank had had to read the words that
troubled some of his brethren, and profitably touched innumerable
hearts, in a worse case than Johnny's, he would have done so out
of the pity and humility of his soul. Reading them over Johnny, he
thought of his own six children, but not of his poverty, and read
them with dimmed eyes. And very seriously did he and his bright
little wife, who had been listening, look down into the small grave
and walk home arm-in-arm.
There was grief in the aristocratic house, and there was joy in the
Bower. Mr Wegg argued, if an orphan were wanted, was he not
an orphan himself; and could a better be desired? And why go
beating about Brentford bushes, seeking orphans forsooth who
had established no claims upon you and made no sacrifices for
you, when here was an orphan ready to your hand who had given
up in your cause, Miss Elizabeth, Master George, Aunt Jane, and
Mr Wegg chuckled, consequently, when he heard the tidings.
Nay, it was afterwards affirmed by a witness who shall at present
be nameless, that in the seclusion of the Bower he poked out his
wooden leg, in the stage-ballet manner, and executed a taunting or
triumphant pirouette on the genuine leg remaining to him.
John Rokesmith's manner towards Mrs Boffin at this time, was
more the manner of a young man towards a mother, than that of a
Secretary towards his employer's wife. It had always been marked
by a subdued affectionate deference that seemed to have sprung
up on the very day of his engagement; whatever was odd in her
dress or her ways had seemed to have no oddity for him; he had
sometimes borne a quietly-amused face in her company, but still it
had seemed as if the pleasure her genial temper and radiant nature
yielded him, could have been quite as naturally expressed in a tear
as in a smile. The completeness of his sympathy with her fancy
for having a little John Harmon to protect and rear, he had shown
in every act and word, and now that the kind fancy was
disappointed, he treated it with a manly tenderness and respect for
which she could hardly thank him enough.
'But I do thank you, Mr Rokesmith,' said Mrs Boffin, 'and I thank
you most kindly. You love children.'
'I hope everybody does.'
'They ought,' said Mrs Boffin; 'but we don't all of us do what we
ought, do us?'
John Rokesmith replied, 'Some among us supply the short-comings
of the rest. You have loved children well, Mr Boffin has told me.'
Not a bit better than he has, but that's his way; he puts all the good
upon me. You speak rather sadly, Mr Rokesmith.'
'It sounds to me so. Were you one of many children?' He shook
'An only child?'
'No there was another. Dead long ago.'
'Father or mother alive?'
'And the rest of your relations?'
'Dead--if I ever had any living. I never heard of any.'
At this point of the dialogue Bella came in with a light step. She
paused at the door a moment, hesitating whether to remain or
retire; perplexed by finding that she was not observed.
'Now, don't mind an old lady's talk,' said Mrs Boffin, 'but tell me.
Are you quite sure, Mr Rokesmith, that you have never had a
disappointment in love?'
'Quite sure. Why do you ask me?'
'Why, for this reason. Sometimes you have a kind of kept-down
manner with you, which is not like your age. You can't be thirty?'
'I am not yet thirty.'
Deeming it high time to make her presence known, Bella coughed
here to attract attention, begged pardon, and said she would go,
fearing that she interrupted some matter of business.
'No, don't go,' rejoined Mrs Boffin, 'because we are coming to
business, instead of having begun it, and you belong to it as much
now, my dear Bella, as I do. But I want my Noddy to consult with
us. Would somebody be so good as find my Noddy for me?'
Rokesmith departed on that errand, and presently returned
accompanied by Mr Boffin at his jog-trot. Bella felt a little vague
trepidation as to the subject-matter of this same consultation, until
Mrs Boffin announced it.
'Now, you come and sit by me, my dear,' said that worthy soul,
taking her comfortable place on a large ottoman in the centre of
the room, and drawing her arm through Bella's; 'and Noddy, you
sit here, and Mr Rokesmith you sit there. Now, you see, what I
want to talk about, is this. Mr and Mrs Milvey have sent me the
kindest note possible (which Mr Rokesmith just now read to me
out aloud, for I ain't good at handwritings), offering to find me
another little child to name and educate and bring up. Well. This
has set me thinking.'
('And she is a steam-ingein at it,' murmured Mr Boffin, in an
admiring parenthesis, 'when she once begins. It mayn't be so easy
to start her; but once started, she's a ingein.')
'--This has set me thinking, I say,' repeated Mrs Boffin, cordially
beaming under the influence of her husband's compliment, 'and I
have thought two things. First of all, that I have grown timid of
reviving John Harmon's name. It's an unfortunate name, and I
fancy I should reproach myself if I gave it to another dear child,
and it proved again unlucky.'
'Now, whether,' said Mr Boffin, gravely propounding a case for his
Secretary's opinion; 'whether one might call that a superstition?'
'It is a matter of feeling with Mrs Boffin,' said Rokesmith, gently.
'The name has always been unfortunate. It has now this new
unfortunate association connected with it. The name has died out.
Why revive it? Might I ask Miss Wilfer what she thinks?'
'It has not been a fortunate name for me,' said Bella, colouring--'or
at least it was not, until it led to my being here--but that is not the
point in my thoughts. As we had given the name to the poor child,
and as the poor child took so lovingly to me, I think I should feel
jealous of calling another child by it. I think I should feel as if the
name had become endeared to me, and I had no right to use it so.'
'And that's your opinion?' remarked Mr Boffin, observant of the
Secretary's face and again addressing him.
'I say again, it is a matter of feeling,' returned the Secretary. 'I
think Miss Wilfer's feeling very womanly and pretty.'
'Now, give us your opinion, Noddy,' said Mrs Boffin.
'My opinion, old lady,' returned the Golden Dustman, 'is your
'Then,' said Mrs Boffin, 'we agree not to revive John Harmon's
name, but to let it rest in the grave. It is, as Mr Rokesmith says, a
matter of feeling, but Lor how many matters ARE matters of
feeling! Well; and so I come to the second thing I have thought
of. You must know, Bella, my dear, and Mr Rokesmith, that
when I first named to my husband my thoughts of adopting a little
orphan boy in remembrance of John Harmon, I further named to
my husband that it was comforting to think that how the poor boy
would be benefited by John's own money, and protected from
John's own forlornness.'
'Hear, hear!' cried Mr Boffin. 'So she did. Ancoar!'
'No, not Ancoar, Noddy, my dear,' returned Mrs Boffin, 'because I
am going to say something else. I meant that, I am sure, as I much
as I still mean it. But this little death has made me ask myself the
question, seriously, whether I wasn't too bent upon pleasing
myself. Else why did I seek out so much for a pretty child, and a
child quite to my liking? Wanting to do good, why not do it for its
own sake, and put my tastes and likings by?'
'Perhaps,' said Bella; and perhaps she said it with some little
sensitiveness arising out of those old curious relations of hers
towards the murdered man; 'perhaps, in reviving the name, you
would not have liked to give it to a less interesting child than the
original. He interested you very much.'
'Well, my dear,' returned Mrs Boffin, giving her a squeeze, 'it's
kind of you to find that reason out, and I hope it may have been
so, and indeed to a certain extent I believe it was so, but I am
afraid not to the whole extent. However, that don't come in
question now, because we have done with the name.'
'Laid it up as a remembrance,' suggested Bella, musingly.
'Much better said, my dear; laid it up as a remembrance. Well
then; I have been thinking if I take any orphan to provide for, let it
not be a pet and a plaything for me, but a creature to be helped for
its own sake.'
'Not pretty then?' said Bella.
'No,' returned Mrs Boffin, stoutly.
'Nor prepossessing then?' said Bella.
'No,' returned Mrs Boffin. 'Not necessarily so. That's as it may
happen. A well-disposed boy comes in my way who may be even
a little wanting in such advantages for getting on in life, but is
honest and industrious and requires a helping hand and deserves
it. If I am very much in earnest and quite determined to be
unselfish, let me take care of HIM.'
Here the footman whose feelings had been hurt on the former
occasion, appeared, and crossing to Rokesmith apologetically
announced the objectionable Sloppy.
The four members of Council looked at one another, and paused.
'Shall he be brought here, ma'am?' asked Rokesmith.
'Yes,' said Mrs Boffin. Whereupon the footman disappeared,
reappeared presenting Sloppy, and retired much disgusted.
The consideration of Mrs Boffin had clothed Mr Sloppy in a suit
of black, on which the tailor had received personal directions from
Rokesmith to expend the utmost cunning of his art, with a view to
the concealment of the cohering and sustaining buttons. But, so
much more powerful were the frailties of Sloppy's form than the
strongest resources of tailoring science, that he now stood before
the Council, a perfect Argus in the way of buttons: shining and
winking and gleaming and twinkling out of a hundred of those
eyes of bright metal, at the dazzled spectators. The artistic taste
of some unknown hatter had furnished him with a hatband of
wholesale capacity which was fluted behind, from the crown of
his hat to the brim, and terminated in a black bunch, from which
the imagination shrunk discomfited and the reason revolted. Some
special powers with which his legs were endowed, had already
hitched up his glossy trousers at the ankles, and bagged them at
the knees; while similar gifts in his arms had raised his coat-
sleeves from his wrists and accumulated them at his elbows. Thus
set forth, with the additional embellishments of a very little tail to
his coat, and a yawning gulf at his waistband, Sloppy stood
'And how is Betty, my good fellow?' Mrs Boffin asked him.
'Thankee, mum,' said Sloppy, 'she do pretty nicely, and sending
her dooty and many thanks for the tea and all faviours and
wishing to know the family's healths.'
'Have you just come, Sloppy?'
'Then you have not had your dinner yet?'
'No, mum. But I mean to it. For I ain't forgotten your handsome
orders that I was never to go away without having had a good 'un
off of meat and beer and pudding--no: there was four of 'em, for I
reckoned 'em up when I had 'em; meat one, beer two, vegetables
three, and which was four?--Why, pudding, HE was four!' Here
Sloppy threw his head back, opened his mouth wide, and laughed
'How are the two poor little Minders?' asked Mrs Boffin.
'Striking right out, mum, and coming round beautiful.'
Mrs Boffin looked on the other three members of Council, and
then said, beckoning with her finger:
'Come forward, Sloppy. Should you like to dine here every day?'
'Off of all four on 'em, mum? O mum!' Sloppy's feelings obliged
him to squeeze his hat, and contract one leg at the knee.
'Yes. And should you like to be always taken care of here, if you
were industrious and deserving?'
'Oh, mum!--But there's Mrs Higden,' said Sloppy, checking himself
in his raptures, drawing back, and shaking his head with very
serious meaning. 'There's Mrs Higden. Mrs Higden goes before
all. None can ever be better friends to me than Mrs Higden's
been. And she must be turned for, must Mrs Higden. Where
would Mrs Higden be if she warn't turned for!' At the mere
thought of Mrs Higden in this inconceivable affliction, Mr
Sloppy's countenance became pale, and manifested the most
'You are as right as right can be, Sloppy,' said Mrs Boffin 'and far
be it from me to tell you otherwise. It shall be seen to. If Betty
Higden can be turned for all the same, you shall come here and be
taken care of for life, and be made able to keep her in other ways
than the turning.'
'Even as to that, mum,' answered the ecstatic Sloppy, 'the turning
might be done in the night, don't you see? I could be here in the
day, and turn in the night. I don't want no sleep, I don't. Or even
if I any ways should want a wink or two,' added Sloppy, after a
moment's apologetic reflection, 'I could take 'em turning. I've took
'em turning many a time, and enjoyed 'em wonderful!'
On the grateful impulse of the moment, Mr Sloppy kissed Mrs
Boffin's hand, and then detaching himself from that good creature
that he might have room enough for his feelings, threw back his
head, opened his mouth wide, and uttered a dismal howl. It was
creditable to his tenderness of heart, but suggested that he might
on occasion give some offence to the neighbours: the rather, as
the footman looked in, and begged pardon, finding he was not
wanted, but excused himself; on the ground 'that he thought it was
SOME AFFAIRS OF THE HEART
Little Miss Peecher, from her little official dwelling-house, with its
little windows like the eyes in needles, and its little doors like the
covers of school-books, was very observant indeed of the object
of her quiet affections. Love, though said to be afflicted with
blindness, is a vigilant watchman, and Miss Peecher kept him on
double duty over Mr Bradley Headstone. It was not that she was
naturally given to playing the spy--it was not that she was at all
secret, plotting, or mean--it was simply that she loved the
irresponsive Bradley with all the primitive and homely stock of
love that had never been examined or certificated out of her. If
her faithful slate had had the latent qualities of sympathetic paper,
and its pencil those of invisible ink, many a little treatise
calculated to astonish the pupils would have come bursting
through the dry sums in school-time under the warming influence
of Miss Peecher's bosom. For, oftentimes when school was not,
and her calm leisure and calm little house were her own, Miss
Peecher would commit to the confidential slate an imaginary
description of how, upon a balmy evening at dusk, two figures
might have been observed in the market-garden ground round the
corner, of whom one, being a manly form, bent over the other,
being a womanly form of short stature and some compactness, and
breathed in a low voice the words, 'Emma Peecher, wilt thou be
my own?' after which the womanly form's head reposed upon the
manly form's shoulder, and the nightingales tuned up. Though all
unseen, and unsuspected by the pupils, Bradley Headstone even
pervaded the school exercises. Was Geography in question? He
would come triumphantly flying out of Vesuvius and Aetna ahead
of the lava, and would boil unharmed in the hot springs of Iceland,
and would float majestically down the Ganges and the Nile. Did
History chronicle a king of men? Behold him in pepper-and-salt
pantaloons, with his watch-guard round his neck. Were copies to
be written? In capital B's and H's most of the girls under Miss
Peecher's tuition were half a year ahead of every other letter in
the alphabet. And Mental Arithmetic, administered by Miss
Peecher, often devoted itself to providing Bradley Headstone with
a wardrobe of fabulous extent: fourscore and four neck-ties at two
and ninepence-halfpenny, two gross of silver watches at four
pounds fifteen and sixpence, seventy-four black hats at eighteen
shillings; and many similar superfluities.
The vigilant watchman, using his daily opportunities of turning his
eyes in Bradley's direction, soon apprized Miss Peecher that
Bradley was more preoccupied than had been his wont, and more
given to strolling about with a downcast and reserved face, turning
something difficult in his mind that was not in the scholastic
syllabus. Putting this and that together--combining under the head
'this,' present appearances and the intimacy with Charley Hexam,
and ranging under the head 'that' the visit to his sister, the
watchman reported to Miss Peecher his strong suspicions that the
sister was at the bottom of it.
'I wonder,' said Miss Peecher, as she sat making up her weekly
report on a half-holiday afternoon, 'what they call Hexam's sister?'
Mary Anne, at her needlework, attendant and attentive, held her
'Well, Mary Anne?'
'She is named Lizzie, ma'am.'
'She can hardly be named Lizzie, I think, Mary Anne,' returned
Miss Peecher, in a tunefully instructive voice. 'Is Lizzie a
Christian name, Mary Anne?'
Mary Anne laid down her work, rose, hooked herself behind, as
being under catechization, and replied: 'No, it is a corruption, Miss
'Who gave her that name?' Miss Peecher was going on, from the
mere force of habit, when she checked herself; on Mary Anne's
evincing theological impatience to strike in with her godfathers
and her godmothers, and said: 'I mean of what name is it a
'Elizabeth, or Eliza, Miss Peecher.'
'Right, Mary Anne. Whether there were any Lizzies in the early
Christian Church must be considered very doubtful, very
doubtful.' Miss Peecher was exceedingly sage here. 'Speaking
correctly, we say, then, that Hexam's sister is called Lizzie; not
that she is named so. Do we not, Mary Anne?'
'We do, Miss Peecher.'
'And where,' pursued Miss Peecher, complacent in her little
transparent fiction of conducting the examination in a semiofficial
manner for Mary Anne's benefit, not her own, 'where does this
young woman, who is called but not named Lizzie, live? Think,
now, before answering.'
'In Church Street, Smith Square, by Mill Bank, ma'am.'
'In Church Street, Smith Square, by Mill Bank,' repeated Miss
Peecher, as if possessed beforehand of the book in which it was
written. Exactly so. And what occupation does this young
woman pursue, Mary Anne? Take time.'
'She has a place of trust at an outfitter's in the City, ma'am.'
'Oh!' said Miss Peecher, pondering on it; but smoothly added, in a
confirmatory tone, 'At an outfitter's in the City. Ye-es?'
'And Charley--' Mary Anne was proceeding, when Miss Peecher
'I mean Hexam, Miss Peecher.'
'I should think you did, Mary Anne. I am glad to hear you do.
'Says,' Mary Anne went on, 'that he is not pleased with his sister,
and that his sister won't be guided by his advice, and persists in
being guided by somebody else's; and that--'
'Mr Headstone coming across the garden!' exclaimed Miss
Peecher, with a flushed glance at the looking-glass. 'You have
answered very well, Mary Anne. You are forming an excellent
habit of arranging your thoughts clearly. That will do.'
The discreet Mary Anne resumed her seat and her silence, and
stitched, and stitched, and was stitching when the schoolmaster's
shadow came in before him, announcing that he might be instantly
'Good evening, Miss Peecher,' he said, pursuing the shadow, and
taking its place.
'Good evening, Mr Headstone. Mary Anne, a chair.'
'Thank you,' said Bradley, seating himself in his constrained
manner. 'This is but a flying visit. I have looked in, on my way, to
ask a kindness of you as a neighbour.'
'Did you say on your way, Mr Headstone?' asked Miss Peecher.
'On my way to--where I am going.'
'Church Street, Smith Square, by Mill Bank,' repeated Miss
Peecher, in her own thoughts.
'Charley Hexam has gone to get a book or two he wants, and will
probably be back before me. As we leave my house empty, I took
the liberty of telling him I would leave the key here. Would you
kindly allow me to do so?'
'Certainly, Mr Headstone. Going for an evening walk, sir?'
'Partly for a walk, and partly for--on business.'
'Business in Church Street, Smith Square, by Mill Bank,' repeated
Miss Peecher to herself.
'Having said which,' pursued Bradley, laying his door-key on the
table, 'I must be already going. There is nothing I can do for you,
'Thank you, Mr Headstone. In which direction?'
'In the direction of Westminster.'
'Mill Bank,' Miss Peecher repeated in her own thoughts once
again. 'No, thank you, Mr Headstone; I'll not trouble you.'
'You couldn't trouble me,' said the schoolmaster.
'Ah!' returned Miss Peecher, though not aloud; 'but you can
trouble ME!' And for all her quiet manner, and her quiet smile,
she was full of trouble as he went his way.
She was right touching his destination. He held as straight a
course for the house of the dolls' dressmaker as the wisdom of his
ancestors, exemplified in the construction of the intervening
streets, would let him, and walked with a bent head hammering at
one fixed idea. It had been an immoveable idea since he first set
eyes upon her. It seemed to him as if all that he could suppress in
himself he had suppressed, as if all that he could restrain in
himself he had restrained, and the time had come--in a rush, in a
moment--when the power of self-command had departed from
him. Love at first sight is a trite expression quite sufficiently
discussed; enough that in certain smouldering natures like this
man's, that passion leaps into a blaze, and makes such head as fire
does in a rage of wind, when other passions, but for its mastery,
could be held in chains. As a multitude of weak, imitative natures
are always lying by, ready to go mad upon the next wrong idea
that may be broached--in these times, generally some form of
tribute to Somebody for something that never was done, or, if ever
done, that was done by Somebody Else--so these less ordinary
natures may lie by for years, ready on the touch of an instant to
burst into flame.
The schoolmaster went his way, brooding and brooding, and a
sense of being vanquished in a struggle might have been pieced
out of his worried face. Truly, in his breast there lingered a
resentful shame to find himself defeated by this passion for
Charley Hexam's sister, though in the very self-same moments he
was concentrating himself upon the object of bringing the passion
to a successful issue.
He appeared before the dolls' dressmaker, sitting alone at her
work. 'Oho!' thought that sharp young personage, 'it's you, is it? I
know your tricks and your manners, my friend!'
'Hexam's sister,' said Bradley Headstone, 'is not come home yet?'
'You are quite a conjuror,' returned Miss Wren.
'I will wait, if you please, for I want to speak to her.'
'Do you?' returned Miss Wren. 'Sit down. I hope it's mutual.'
Bradley glanced distrustfully at the shrewd face again bending
over the work, and said, trying to conquer doubt and hesitation:
'I hope you don't imply that my visit will be unacceptable to
'There! Don't call her that. I can't bear you to call her that,'
returned Miss Wren, snapping her fingers in a volley of impatient
snaps, 'for I don't like Hexam.'
'No.' Miss Wren wrinkled her nose, to express dislike. 'Selfish.
Thinks only of himself. The way with all of you.'
'The way with all of us? Then you don't like ME?'
'So-so,' replied Miss Wren, with a shrug and a laugh. 'Don't know
much about you.'
'But I was not aware it was the way with all of us,' said Bradley,
returning to the accusation, a little injured. 'Won't you say, some
'Meaning,' returned the little creature, 'every one of you, but you.
Hah! Now look this lady in the face. This is Mrs Truth. The
Bradley glanced at the doll she held up for his observation--which
had been lying on its face on her bench, while with a needle and
thread she fastened the dress on at the back--and looked from it to
'I stand the Honourable Mrs T. on my bench in this corner against
the wall, where her blue eyes can shine upon you,' pursued Miss
Wren, doing so, and making two little dabs at him in the air with
her needle, as if she pricked him with it in his own eyes; 'and I
defy you to tell me, with Mrs T. for a witness, what you have
come here for.'
'To see Hexam's sister.'
'You don't say so!' retorted Miss Wren, hitching her chin. 'But on
'O Mrs T.!' exclaimed Miss Wren. 'You hear him!'
'To reason with her,' pursued Bradley, half humouring what was
present, and half angry with what was not present; 'for her own
'Oh Mrs T.!' exclaimed the dressmaker.
'For her own sake,' repeated Bradley, warming, 'and for her
brother's, and as a perfectly disinterested person.'
'Really, Mrs T.,' remarked the dressmaker, 'since it comes to this,
we must positively turn you with your face to the wall.' She had
hardly done so, when Lizzie Hexam arrived, and showed some
surprise on seeing Bradley Headstone there, and Jenny shaking
her little fist at him close before her eyes, and the Honourable Mrs
T. with her face to the wall.
'Here's a perfectly disinterested person, Lizzie dear,' said the
knowing Miss Wren, 'come to talk with you, for your own sake
and your brother's. Think of that. I am sure there ought to be no
third party present at anything so very kind and so very serious;
and so, if you'll remove the third party upstairs, my dear, the third
party will retire.'
Lizzie took the hand which the dolls' dressmaker held out to her
for the purpose of being supported away, but only looked at her
with an inquiring smile, and made no other movement.
'The third party hobbles awfully, you know, when she's left to
herself;' said Miss Wren, 'her back being so bad, and her legs so
queer; so she can't retire gracefully unless you help her, Lizzie.'
'She can do no better than stay where she is,' returned Lizzie,
releasing the hand, and laying her own lightly on Miss Jenny's
curls. And then to Bradley: 'From Charley, sir?'
In an irresolute way, and stealing a clumsy look at her, Bradley
rose to place a chair for her, and then returned to his own.
'Strictly speaking,' said he, 'I come from Charley, because I left
him only a little while ago; but I am not commissioned by Charley.
I come of my own spontaneous act.'
With her elbows on her bench, and her chin upon her hands, Miss
Jenny Wren sat looking at him with a watchful sidelong look.
Lizzie, in her different way, sat looking at him too.
'The fact is,' began Bradley, with a mouth so dry that he had some
difficulty in articulating his words: the consciousness of which
rendered his manner still more ungainly and undecided; 'the truth
is, that Charley, having no secrets from me (to the best of my
belief), has confided the whole of this matter to me.'
He came to a stop, and Lizzie asked: 'what matter, sir?'
'I thought,' returned the schoolmaster, stealing another look at her,
and seeming to try in vain to sustain it; for the look dropped as it
lighted on her eyes, 'that it might be so superfluous as to be almost
impertinent, to enter upon a definition of it. My allusion was to
this matter of your having put aside your brother's plans for you,
and given the preference to those of Mr--I believe the name is Mr
He made this point of not being certain of the name, with another
uneasy look at her, which dropped like the last.
Nothing being said on the other side, he had to begin again, and
began with new embarrassment.
'Your brother's plans were communicated to me when he first had
them in his thoughts. In point of fact he spoke to me about them
when I was last here--when we were walking back together, and
when I--when the impression was fresh upon me of having seen
There might have been no meaning in it, but the little dressmaker
here removed one of her supporting hands from her chin, and
musingly turned the Honourable Mrs T. with her face to the
company. That done, she fell into her former attitude.
'I approved of his idea,' said Bradley, with his uneasy look
wandering to the doll, and unconsciously resting there longer than
it had rested on Lizzie, 'both because your brother ought naturally
to be the originator of any such scheme, and because I hoped to
be able to promote it. I should have had inexpressible pleasure, I
should have taken inexpressible interest, in promoting it.
Therefore I must acknowledge that when your brother was
disappointed, I too was disappointed. I wish to avoid reservation
or concealment, and I fully acknowledge that.'
He appeared to have encouraged himself by having got so far. At
all events he went on with much greater firmness and force of
emphasis: though with a curious disposition to set his teeth, and
with a curious tight-screwing movement of his right hand in the
clenching palm of his left, like the action of one who was being
physically hurt, and was unwilling to cry out.
'I am a man of strong feelings, and I have strongly felt this
disappointment. I do strongly feel it. I don't show what I feel;
some of us are obliged habitually to keep it down. To keep it
down. But to return to your brother. He has taken the matter so
much to heart that he has remonstrated (in my presence he
remonstrated) with Mr Eugene Wrayburn, if that be the name. He
did so, quite ineffectually. As any one not blinded to the real
character of Mr--Mr Eugene Wrayburn--would readily suppose.'
He looked at Lizzie again, and held the look. And his face turned
from burning red to white, and from white back to burning red,
and so for the time to lasting deadly white.
'Finally, I resolved to come here alone, and appeal to you. I
resolved to come here alone, and entreat you to retract the course
you have chosen, and instead of confiding in a mere stranger--a
person of most insolent behaviour to your brother and others--to
prefer your brother and your brother's friend.'
Lizzie Hexam had changed colour when those changes came over
him, and her face now expressed some anger, more dislike, and
even a touch of fear. But she answered him very steadily.
'I cannot doubt, Mr Headstone, that your visit is well meant. You
have been so good a friend to Charley that I have no right to
doubt it. I have nothing to tell Charley, but that I accepted the
help to which he so much objects before he made any plans for
me; or certainly before I knew of any. It was considerately and
delicately offered, and there were reasons that had weight with me
which should be as dear to Charley as to me. I have no more to
say to Charley on this subject.'
His lips trembled and stood apart, as he followed this repudiation
of himself; and limitation of her words to her brother.
'I should have told Charley, if he had come to me,' she resumed, as
though it were an after-thought, 'that Jenny and I find our teacher
very able and very patient, and that she takes great pains with us.
So much so, that we have said to her we hope in a very little while
to be able to go on by ourselves. Charley knows about teachers,
and I should also have told him, for his satisfaction, that ours
comes from an institution where teachers are regularly brought
'I should like to ask you,' said Bradley Headstone, grinding his
words slowly out, as though they came from a rusty mill; 'I should
like to ask you, if I may without offence, whether you would have
objected--no; rather, I should like to say, if I may without offence,
that I wish I had had the opportunity of coming here with your
brother and devoting my poor abilities and experience to your
'Thank you, Mr Headstone.'
'But I fear,' he pursued, after a pause, furtively wrenching at the
seat of his chair with one hand, as if he would have wrenched the
chair to pieces, and gloomily observing her while her eyes were
cast down, 'that my humble services would not have found much
favour with you?'
She made no reply, and the poor stricken wretch sat contending
with himself in a heat of passion and torment. After a while he
took out his handkerchief and wiped his forehead and hands.
'There is only one thing more I had to say, but it is the most
important. There is a reason against this matter, there is a
personal relation concerned in this matter, not yet explained to
you. It might--I don't say it would--it might--induce you to think
differently. To proceed under the present circumstances is out of
the question. Will you please come to the understanding that
there shall be another interview on the subject?'
'With Charley, Mr Headstone?'
'With--well,' he answered, breaking off, 'yes! Say with him too.
Will you please come to the understanding that there must be
another interview under more favourable circumstances, before
the whole case can be submitted?'
'I don't,' said Lizzie, shaking her head, 'understand your meaning,
'Limit my meaning for the present,' he interrupted, 'to the whole
case being submitted to you in another interview.'
'What case, Mr Headstone? What is wanting to it?'
'You--you shall be informed in the other interview.' Then he said,
as if in a burst of irrepressible despair, 'I--I leave it all incomplete!
There is a spell upon me, I think!' And then added, almost as if he
asked for pity, 'Good-night!'
He held out his hand. As she, with manifest hesitation, not to say
reluctance, touched it, a strange tremble passed over him, and his
face, so deadly white, was moved as by a stroke of pain. Then he
The dolls' dressmaker sat with her attitude unchanged, eyeing the
door by which he had departed, until Lizzie pushed her bench
aside and sat down near her. Then, eyeing Lizzie as she had
previously eyed Bradley and the door, Miss Wren chopped that
very sudden and keen chop in which her jaws sometimes indulged,
leaned back in her chair with folded arms, and thus expressed
'Humph! If he--I mean, of course, my dear, the party who is
coming to court me when the time comes--should be THAT sort of
man, he may spare himself the trouble. HE wouldn't do to be
trotted about and made useful. He'd take fire and blow up while
he was about it.
'And so you would be rid of him,' said Lizzie, humouring her.
'Not so easily,' returned Miss Wren. 'He wouldn't blow up alone.
He'd carry me up with him. I know his tricks and his manners.'
'Would he want to hurt you, do you mean?' asked Lizzie.
'Mightn't exactly want to do it, my dear,' returned Miss Wren; 'but
a lot of gunpowder among lighted lucifer-matches in the next
room might almost as well be here.'
'He is a very strange man,' said Lizzie, thoughtfully.
'I wish he was so very strange a man as to be a total stranger,'
answered the sharp little thing.
It being Lizzie's regular occupation when they were alone of an
evening to brush out and smooth the long fair hair of the dolls'
dressmaker, she unfastened a ribbon that kept it back while the
little creature was at her work, and it fell in a beautiful shower
over the poor shoulders that were much in need of such adorning
rain. 'Not now, Lizzie, dear,' said Jenny; 'let us have a talk by the
fire.' With those words, she in her turn loosened her friend's dark
hair, and it dropped of its own weight over her bosom, in two rich
masses. Pretending to compare the colours and admire the
contrast, Jenny so managed a mere touch or two of her nimble
hands, as that she herself laying a cheek on one of the dark folds,
seemed blinded by her own clustering curls to all but the fire,
while the fine handsome face and brow of Lizzie were revealed
without obstruction in the sombre light.
'Let us have a talk,' said Jenny, 'about Mr Eugene Wrayburn.'
Something sparkled down among the fair hair resting on the dark
hair; and if it were not a star--which it couldn't be--it was an eye;
and if it were an eye, it was Jenny Wren's eye, bright and watchful
as the bird's whose name she had taken.
'Why about Mr Wrayburn?' Lizzie asked.
'For no better reason than because I'm in the humour. I wonder
whether he's rich!'
'No, not rich.'
'I think so, for a gentleman.'
'Ah! To be sure! Yes, he's a gentleman. Not of our sort; is he?'
A shake of the head, a thoughtful shake of the head, and the
answer, softly spoken, 'Oh no, oh no!'
The dolls' dressmaker had an arm round her friend's waist.
Adjusting the arm, she slyly took the opportunity of blowing at her
own hair where it fell over her face; then the eye down there,
under lighter shadows sparkled more brightly and appeared more
'When He turns up, he shan't be a gentleman; I'll very soon send
him packing, if he is. However, he's not Mr Wrayburn; I haven't
captivated HIM. I wonder whether anybody has, Lizzie!'
'It is very likely.'
'Is it very likely? I wonder who!'
'Is it not very likely that some lady has been taken by him, and
that he may love her dearly?'
'Perhaps. I don't know. What would you think of him, Lizzie, if
you were a lady?'
'I a lady!' she repeated, laughing. 'Such a fancy!'
'Yes. But say: just as a fancy, and for instance.'
'I a lady! I, a poor girl who used to row poor father on the river.
I, who had rowed poor father out and home on the very night
when I saw him for the first time. I, who was made so timid by his
looking at me, that I got up and went out!'
('He did look at you, even that night, though you were not a lady!'
thought Miss Wren.)
'I a lady!' Lizzie went on in a low voice, with her eyes upon the
fire. 'I, with poor father's grave not even cleared of undeserved
stain and shame, and he trying to clear it for me! I a lady!'
'Only as a fancy, and for instance,' urged Miss Wren.
'Too much, Jenny, dear, too much! My fancy is not able to get
that far.' As the low fire gleamed upon her, it showed her smiling,
mournfully and abstractedly.
'But I am in the humour, and I must be humoured, Lizzie, because
after all I am a poor little thing, and have had a hard day with my
bad child. Look in the fire, as I like to hear you tell how you used
to do when you lived in that dreary old house that had once been
a windmill. Look in the--what was its name when you told
fortunes with your brother that I DON'T like?'
'The hollow down by the flare?'
'Ah! That's the name! You can find a lady there, I know.'
'More easily than I can make one of such material as myself,
The sparkling eye looked steadfastly up, as the musing face
looked thoughtfully down. 'Well?' said the dolls' dressmaker, 'We
have found our lady?'
Lizzie nodded, and asked, 'Shall she be rich?'
'She had better be, as he's poor.'
'She is very rich. Shall she be handsome?'
'Even you can be that, Lizzie, so she ought to be.'
'She is very handsome.'
'What does she say about him?' asked Miss Jenny, in a low voice:
watchful, through an intervening silence, of the face looking down
at the fire.
'She is glad, glad, to be rich, that he may have the money. She is
glad, glad, to be beautiful, that he may be proud of her. Her poor
'Eh? Her poor hear?' said Miss Wren.
'Her heart--is given him, with all its love and truth. She would
joyfully die with him, or, better than that, die for him. She knows
he has failings, but she thinks they have grown up through his
being like one cast away, for the want of something to trust in, and
care for, and think well of. And she says, that lady rich and
beautiful that I can never come near, "Only put me in that empty
place, only try how little I mind myself, only prove what a world
of things I will do and bear for you, and I hope that you might
even come to be much better than you are, through me who am so
much worse, and hardly worth the thinking of beside you."'
As the face looking at the fire had become exalted and forgetful in
the rapture of these words, the little creature, openly clearing
away her fair hair with her disengaged hand, had gazed at it with
earnest attention and something like alarm. Now that the speaker
ceased, the little creature laid down her head again, and moaned,
'O me, O me, O me!'
'In pain, dear Jenny?' asked Lizzie, as if awakened.
'Yes, but not the old pain. Lay me down, lay me down. Don't go
out of my sight to-night. Lock the door and keep close to me.
Then turning away her face, she said in a whisper to herself, 'My
Lizzie, my poor Lizzie! O my blessed children, come back in the
long bright slanting rows, and come for her, not me. She wants
help more than I, my blessed children!'
She had stretched her hands up with that higher and better look,
and now she turned again, and folded them round Lizzie's neck,
and rocked herself on Lizzie's breast.
MORE BIRDS OF PREY
Rogue Riderhood dwelt deep and dark in Limehouse Hole, among
the riggers, and the mast, oar and block makers, and the boat-
builders, and the sail-lofts, as in a kind of ship's hold stored full of
waterside characters, some no better than himself, some very
much better, and none much worse. The Hole, albeit in a general
way not over nice in its choice of company, was rather shy in
reference to the honour of cultivating the Rogue's acquaintance;
more frequently giving him the cold shoulder than the warm hand,
and seldom or never drinking with him unless at his own expense.
A part of the Hole, indeed, contained so much public spirit and
private virtue that not even this strong leverage could move it to
good fellowship with a tainted accuser. But, there may have been
the drawback on this magnanimous morality, that its exponents
held a true witness before Justice to be the next unneighbourly
and accursed character to a false one.
Had it not been for the daughter whom he often mentioned, Mr
Riderhood might have found the Hole a mere grave as to any
means it would yield him of getting a living. But Miss Pleasant
Riderhood had some little position and connection in Limehouse
Hole. Upon the smallest of small scales, she was an unlicensed
pawnbroker, keeping what was popularly called a Leaving Shop,
by lending insignificant sums on insignificant articles of property
deposited with her as security. In her four-and-twentieth year of
life, Pleasant was already in her fifth year of this way of trade.
Her deceased mother had established the business, and on that
parent's demise she had appropriated a secret capital of fifteen
shillings to establishing herself in it; the existence of such capital
in a pillow being the last intelligible confidential communication
made to her by the departed, before succumbing to dropsical
conditions of snuff and gin, incompatible equally with coherence
Why christened Pleasant, the late Mrs Riderhood might possibly
have been at some time able to explain, and possibly not. Her
daughter had no information on that point. Pleasant she found
herself, and she couldn't help it. She had not been consulted on
the question, any more than on the question of her coming into
these terrestrial parts, to want a name. Similarly, she found
herself possessed of what is colloquially termed a swivel eye
(derived from her father), which she might perhaps have declined
if her sentiments on the subject had been taken. She was not
otherwise positively ill-looking, though anxious, meagre, of a
muddy complexion, and looking as old again as she really was.
As some dogs have it in the blood, or are trained, to worry certain
creatures to a certain point, so--not to make the comparison
disrespectfially--Pleasant Riderhood had it in the blood, or had
been trained, to regard seamen, within certain limits, as her prey.
Show her a man in a blue jacket, and, figuratively speaking, she
pinned him instantly. Yet, all things considered, she was not of an
evil mind or an unkindly disposition. For, observe how many
things were to be considered according to her own unfortunate
experience. Show Pleasant Riderhood a Wedding in the street,
and she only saw two people taking out a regular licence to
quarrel and fight. Show her a Christening, and she saw a little
heathen personage having a quite superfluous name bestowed
upon it, inasmuch as it would be commonly addressed by some
abusive epithet: which little personage was not in the least wanted
by anybody, and would be shoved and banged out of everybody's
way, until it should grow big enough to shove and bang. Show her
a Funeral, and she saw an unremunerative ceremony in the nature
of a black masquerade, conferring a temporary gentility on the
performers, at an immense expense, and representing the only
formal party ever given by the deceased. Show her a live father,
and she saw but a duplicate of her own father, who from her
infancy had been taken with fits and starts of discharging his duty
to her, which duty was always incorporated in the form of a fist or
a leathern strap, and being discharged hurt her. All things
considered, therefore, Pleasant Riderhood was not so very, very
bad. There was even a touch of romance in her--of such romance
as could creep into Limehouse Hole--and maybe sometimes of a
summer evening, when she stood with folded arms at her shop-
door, looking from the reeking street to the sky where the sun was
setting, she may have had some vaporous visions of far-off islands
in the southern seas or elsewhere (not being geographically
particular), where it would be good to roam with a congenial
partner among groves of bread-fruit, waiting for ships to be wafted
from the hollow ports of civilization. For, sailors to be got the
better of, were essential to Miss Pleasant's Eden.
Not on a summer evening did she come to her little shop-door,
when a certain man standing over against the house on the
opposite side of the street took notice of her. That was on a cold
shrewd windy evening, after dark. Pleasant Riderhood shared
with most of the lady inhabitants of the Hole, the peculiarity that
her hair was a ragged knot, constantly coming down behind, and
that she never could enter upon any undertaking without first
twisting it into place. At that particular moment, being newly
come to the threshold to take a look out of doors, she was winding
herself up with both hands after this fashion. And so prevalent
was the fashion, that on the occasion of a fight or other
disturbance in the Hole, the ladies would be seen flocking from all
quarters universally twisting their back-hair as they came along,
and many of them, in the hurry of the moment, carrying their
back-combs in their mouths.
It was a wretched little shop, with a roof that any man standing in
it could touch with his hand; little better than a cellar or cave,
down three steps. Yet in its ill-lighted window, among a flaring
handkerchief or two, an old peacoat or so, a few valueless
watches and compasses, a jar of tobacco and two crossed pipes, a
bottle of walnut ketchup, and some horrible sweets these creature
discomforts serving as a blind to the main business of the Leaving
Shop--was displayed the inscription SEAMAN'S BOARDING-HOUSE.
Taking notice of Pleasant Riderhood at the door, the man crossed
so quickly that she was still winding herself up, when he stood
close before her.
'Is your father at home?' said he.
'I think he is,' returned Pleasant, dropping her arms; 'come in.'
It was a tentative reply, the man having a seafaring appearance.
Her father was not at home, and Pleasant knew it. 'Take a seat by
the fire,' were her hospitable words when she had got him in; 'men
of your calling are always welcome here.'
'Thankee,' said the man.
His manner was the manner of a sailor, and his hands were the
hands of a sailor, except that they were smooth. Pleasant had an
eye for sailors, and she noticed the unused colour and texture of
the hands, sunburnt though they were, as sharply as she noticed
their unmistakable loosneness and suppleness, as he sat himself
down with his left arm carelessly thrown across his left leg a little
above the knee, and the right arm as carelessly thrown over the
elbow of the wooden chair, with the hand curved, half open and
half shut, as if it had just let go a rope.
'Might you be looking for a Boarding-House?' Pleasant inquired,
taking her observant stand on one side of the fire.
'I don't rightly know my plans yet,' returned the man.
'You ain't looking for a Leaving Shop?'
'No,' said the man.
'No,' assented Pleasant, 'you've got too much of an outfit on you
for that. But if you should want either, this is both.'
'Ay, ay!' said the man, glancing round the place. 'I know. I've
been here before.'
'Did you Leave anything when you were here before?' asked
Pleasant, with a view to principal and interest.
'No.' The man shook his head.
'I am pretty sure you never boarded here?'
'No.' The man again shook his head.
'What DID you do here when you were here before?' asked
Pleasant. 'For I don't remember you.'
'It's not at all likely you should. I only stood at the door, one
night--on the lower step there--while a shipmate of mine looked in
to speak to your father. I remember the place well.' Looking very
curiously round it.
'Might that have been long ago?'
'Ay, a goodish bit ago. When I came off my last voyage.'
'Then you have not been to sea lately?'
'No. Been in the sick bay since then, and been employed ashore.'
'Then, to be sure, that accounts for your hands.'
The man with a keen look, a quick smile, and a change of manner,
caught her up. 'You're a good observer. Yes. That accounts for
Pleasant was somewhat disquieted by his look, and returned it
suspiciously. Not only was his change of manner, though very
sudden, quite collected, but his former manner, which he resumed,
had a certain suppressed confidence and sense of power in it that
were half threatening.
'Will your father be long?' he inquired.
'I don't know. I can't say.'
'As you supposed he was at home, it would seem that he has just
gone out? How's that?'
'I supposed he had come home,' Pleasant explained.
'Oh! You supposed he had come home? Then he has been some
time out? How's that?'
'I don't want to deceive you. Father's on the river in his boat.'
'At the old work?' asked the man.
'I don't know what you mean,' said Pleasant, shrinking a step back.
'What on earth d'ye want?'
'I don't want to hurt your father. I don't want to say I might, if I
chose. I want to speak to him. Not much in that, is there? There
shall be no secrets from you; you shall be by. And plainly, Miss
Riderhood, there's nothing to be got out of me, or made of me. I
am not good for the Leaving Shop, I am not good for the
Boarding-House, I am not good for anything in your way to the
extent of sixpenn'orth of halfpence. Put the idea aside, and we
shall get on together.'
'But you're a seafaring man?' argued Pleasant, as if that were a
sufficient reason for his being good for something in her way.
'Yes and no. I have been, and I may be again. But I am not for
you. Won't you take my word for it?'
The conversation had arrived at a crisis to justify Miss Pleasant's
hair in tumbling down. It tumbled down accordingly, and she
twisted it up, looking from under her bent forehead at the man. In
taking stock of his familiarly worn rough-weather nautical clothes,
piece by piece, she took stock of a formidable knife in a sheath at
his waist ready to his hand, and of a whistle hanging round his
neck, and of a short jagged knotted club with a loaded head that
peeped out of a pocket of his loose outer jacket or frock. He sat
quietly looking at her; but, with these appendages partially
revealing themselves, and with a quantity of bristling oakum-
coloured head and whisker, he had a formidable appearance.
'Won't you take my word for it?' he asked again.
Pleasant answered with a short dumb nod. He rejoined with
another short dumb nod. Then he got up and stood with his arms
folded, in front of the fire, looking down into it occasionally, as
she stood with her arms folded, leaning against the side of the
'To wile away the time till your father comes,' he said,--'pray is
there much robbing and murdering of seamen about the water-side
'No,' said Pleasant.
'Complaints of that sort are sometimes made, about Ratcliffe and
Wapping and up that way. But who knows how many are true?'
'To be sure. And it don't seem necessary.'
'That's what I say,' observed Pleasant. 'Where's the reason for it?
Bless the sailors, it ain't as if they ever could keep what they have,
'You're right. Their money may be soon got out of them, without
violence,' said the man.
'Of course it may,' said Pleasant; 'and then they ship again and get
more. And the best thing for 'em, too, to ship again as soon as
ever they can be brought to it. They're never so well off as when
'I'll tell you why I ask,' pursued the visitor, looking up from the
fire. 'I was once beset that way myself, and left for dead.'
'No?' said Pleasant. 'Where did it happen?'
'It happened,' returned the man, with a ruminative air, as he drew
his right hand across his chin, and dipped the other in the pocket
of his rough outer coat, 'it happened somewhere about here as I
reckon. I don't think it can have been a mile from here.'
'Were you drunk?' asked Pleasant.
'I was muddled, but not with fair drinking. I had not been
drinking, you understand. A mouthful did it.'
Pleasant with a grave look shook her head; importing that she
understood the process, but decidedly disapproved.
'Fair trade is one thing,' said she, 'but that's another. No one has a
right to carry on with Jack in THAT way.'
'The sentiment does you credit,' returned the man, with a grim
smile; and added, in a mutter, 'the more so, as I believe it's not
your father's.--Yes, I had a bad time of it, that time. I lost
everything, and had a sharp struggle for my life, weak as I was.'
'Did you get the parties punished?' asked Pleasant.
'A tremendous punishment followed,' said the man, more
seriously; 'but it was not of my bringing about.'
'Of whose, then?' asked Pleasant.
The man pointed upward with his forefinger, and, slowly
recovering that hand, settled his chin in it again as he looked at the
fire. Bringing her inherited eye to bear upon him, Pleasant
Riderhood felt more and more uncomfortable, his manner was so
mysterious, so stern, so self-possessed.
'Anyways,' said the damsel, 'I am glad punishment followed, and I
say so. Fair trade with seafaring men gets a bad name through
deeds of violence. I am as much against deeds of violence being
done to seafaring men, as seafaring men can be themselves. I am
of the same opinion as my mother was, when she was living. Fair
trade, my mother used to say, but no robbery and no blows.' In
the way of trade Miss Pleasant would have taken--and indeed did
take when she could--as much as thirty shillings a week for board
that would be dear at five, and likewise conducted the Leaving
business upon correspondingly equitable principles; yet she had
that tenderness of conscience and those feelings of humanity, that
the moment her ideas of trade were overstepped, she became the
seaman's champion, even against her father whom she seldom
But, she was here interrupted by her father's voice exclaiming
angrily, 'Now, Poll Parrot!' and by her father's hat being heavily
flung from his hand and striking her face. Accustomed to such
occasional manifestations of his sense of parental duty, Pleasant
merely wiped her face on her hair (which of course had tumbled
down) before she twisted it up. This was another common
procedure on the part of the ladies of the Hole, when heated by
verbal or fistic altercation.
'Blest if I believe such a Poll Parrot as you was ever learned to
speak!' growled Mr Riderhood, stooping to pick up his hat, and
making a feint at her with his head and right elbow; for he took
the delicate subject of robbing seamen in extraordinary dudgeon,
and was out of humour too. 'What are you Poll Parroting at now?
Ain't you got nothing to do but fold your arms and stand a Poll
Parroting all night?'
'Let her alone,' urged the man. 'She was only speaking to me.'
'Let her alone too!' retorted Mr Riderhood, eyeing him all over.
'Do you know she's my daughter?'
'And don't you know that I won't have no Poll Parroting on the
part of my daughter? No, nor yet that I won't take no Poll
Parroting from no man? And who may YOU be, and what may
'How can I tell you until you are silent?' returned the other
'Well,' said Mr Riderhood, quailing a little, 'I am willing to be
silent for the purpose of hearing. But don't Poll Parrot me.'
'Are you thirsty, you?' the man asked, in the same fierce short
way, after returning his look.
'Why nat'rally,' said Mr Riderhood, 'ain't I always thirsty!'
(Indignant at the absurdity of the question.)
'What will you drink?' demanded the man.
'Sherry wine,' returned Mr Riderhood, in the same sharp tone, 'if
you're capable of it.'
The man put his hand in his pocket, took out half a sovereign, and
begged the favour of Miss Pleasant that she would fetch a bottle.
'With the cork undrawn,' he added, emphatically, looking at her
'I'll take my Alfred David,' muttered Mr Riderhood, slowly
relaxing into a dark smile, 'that you know a move. Do I know
YOU? N--n--no, I don't know you.'
The man replied, 'No, you don't know me.' And so they stood
looking at one another surlily enough, until Pleasant came back.
'There's small glasses on the shelf,' said Riderhood to his daughter.
'Give me the one without a foot. I gets my living by the sweat of
my brow, and it's good enough for ME.' This had a modest self-
denying appearance; but it soon turned out that as, by reason of
the impossibility of standing the glass upright while there was
anything in it, it required to be emptied as soon as filled, Mr
Riderhood managed to drink in the proportion of three to one.
With his Fortunatus's goblet ready in his hand, Mr Riderhood sat
down on one side of the table before the fire, and the strange man
on the other: Pleasant occupying a stool between the latter and the
fireside. The background, composed of handkerchiefs, coats,
shirts, hats, and other old articles 'On Leaving,' had a general dim
resemblance to human listeners; especially where a shiny black
sou'wester suit and hat hung, looking very like a clumsy mariner
with his back to the company, who was so curious to overhear,
that he paused for the purpose with his coat half pulled on, and his
shoulders up to his ears in the uncompleted action.
The visitor first held the bottle against the light of the candle, and
next examined the top of the cork. Satisfied that it had not been
tampered with, he slowly took from his breastpocket a rusty clasp-
knife, and, with a corkscrew in the handle, opened the wine. That
done, he looked at the cork, unscrewed it from the corkscrew, laid
each separately on the table, and, with the end of the sailor's knot
of his neckerchief, dusted the inside of the neck of the bottle. All
this with great deliberation.
At first Riderhood had sat with his footless glass extended at arm's
length for filling, while the very deliberate stranger seemed
absorbed in his preparations. But, gradually his arm reverted
home to him, and his glass was lowered and lowered until he
rested it upside down upon the table. By the same degrees his
attention became concentrated on the knife. And now, as the man
held out the bottle to fill all round, Riderhood stood up, leaned
over the table to look closer at the knife, and stared from it to him.
'What's the matter?' asked the man.
'Why, I know that knife!' said Riderhood.
'Yes, I dare say you do.'
He motioned to him to hold up his glass, and filled it. Riderhood
emptied it to the last drop and began again.
'That there knife--'
'Stop,' said the man, composedly. 'I was going to drink to your
daughter. Your health, Miss Riderhood.'
'That knife was the knife of a seaman named George Radfoot.'
'That seaman was well beknown to me.'
'What's come to him?'
'Death has come to him. Death came to him in an ugly shape. He
looked,' said the man, 'very horrible after it.'
'Arter what?' said Riderhood, with a frowning stare.
'After he was killed.'
'Killed? Who killed him?'
Only answering with a shrug, the man filled the footless glass, and
Riderhood emptied it: looking amazedly from his daughter to his
'You don't mean to tell a honest man--' he was recommencing with
his empty glass in his hand, when his eye became fascinated by
the stranger's outer coat. He leaned across the table to see it
nearer, touched the sleeve, turned the cuff to look at the sleeve-
lining (the man, in his perfect composure, offering not the least
objection), and exclaimed, 'It's my belief as this here coat was
George Radfoot's too!'
'You are right. He wore it the last time you ever saw him, and the
last time you ever will see him--in this world.'
'It's my belief you mean to tell me to my face you killed him!'
exclaimed Riderhood; but, nevertheless, allowing his glass to be
The man only answered with another shrug, and showed no
symptom of confusion.
'Wish I may die if I know what to be up to with this chap!' said
Riderhood, after staring at him, and tossing his last glassful down
his throat. 'Let's know what to make of you. Say something
'I will,' returned the other, leaning forward across the table, and
speaking in a low impressive voice. 'What a liar you are!'
The honest witness rose, and made as though he would fling his
glass in the man's face. The man not wincing, and merely shaking
his forefinger half knowingly, half menacingly, the piece of
honesty thought better of it and sat down again, putting the glass
'And when you went to that lawyer yonder in the Temple with that
invented story,' said the stranger, in an exasperatingly comfortable
sort of confidence, 'you might have had your strong suspicions of
a friend of your own, you know. I think you had, you know.'
'Me my suspicions? Of what friend?'
'Tell me again whose knife was this?' demanded the man.
'It was possessed by, and was the property of--him as I have made
mention on,' said Riderhood, stupidly evading the actual mention
of the name.
'Tell me again whose coat was this?'
'That there article of clothing likeways belonged to, and was wore
by--him as I have made mention on,' was again the dull Old Bailey
'I suspect that you gave him the credit of the deed, and of keeping
cleverly out of the way. But there was small cleverness in HIS
keeping out of the way. The cleverness would have been, to have
got back for one single instant to the light of the sun.'
'Things is come to a pretty pass,' growled Mr Riderhood, rising to
his feet, goaded to stand at bay, 'when bullyers as is wearing dead
men's clothes, and bullyers as is armed with dead men's knives, is
to come into the houses of honest live men, getting their livings by
the sweats of their brows, and is to make these here sort of
charges with no rhyme and no reason, neither the one nor yet the
other! Why should I have had my suspicions of him?'
'Because you knew him,' replied the man; 'because you had been
one with him, and knew his real character under a fair outside;
because on the night which you had afterwards reason to believe
to be the very night of the murder, he came in here, within an hour
of his having left his ship in the docks, and asked you in what
lodgings he could find room. Was there no stranger with him?'
'I'll take my world-without-end everlasting Alfred David that you
warn't with him,' answered Riderhood. 'You talk big, you do, but
things look pretty black against yourself, to my thinking. You
charge again' me that George Radfoot got lost sight of, and was no
more thought of. What's that for a sailor? Why there's fifty such,
out of sight and out of mind, ten times as long as him--through
entering in different names, re-shipping when the out'ard voyage is
made, and what not--a turning up to light every day about here,
and no matter made of it. Ask my daughter. You could go on Poll
Parroting enough with her, when I warn't come in: Poll Parrot a
little with her on this pint. You and your suspicions of my
suspicions of him! What are my suspicions of you? You tell me
George Radfoot got killed. I ask you who done it and how you
know it. You carry his knife and you wear his coat. I ask you
how you come by 'em? Hand over that there bottle!' Here Mr
Riderhood appeared to labour under a virtuous delusion that it
was his own property. 'And you,' he added, turning to his
daughter, as he filled the footless glass, 'if it warn't wasting good
sherry wine on you, I'd chuck this at you, for Poll Parroting with
this man. It's along of Poll Parroting that such like as him gets
their suspicions, whereas I gets mine by argueyment, and being
nat'rally a honest man, and sweating away at the brow as a honest
man ought.' Here he filled the footless goblet again, and stood
chewing one half of its contents and looking down into the other
as he slowly rolled the wine about in the glass; while Pleasant,
whose sympathetic hair had come down on her being
apostrophised, rearranged it, much in the style of the tail of a
horse when proceeding to market to be sold.
'Well? Have you finished?' asked the strange man.
'No,' said Riderhood, 'I ain't. Far from it. Now then! I want to
know how George Radfoot come by his death, and how you come
by his kit?'
'If you ever do know, you won't know now.'
'And next I want to know,' proceeded Riderhood 'whether you
mean to charge that what-you-may-call-it-murder--'
'Harmon murder, father,' suggested Pleasant.
'No Poll Parroting!' he vociferated, in return. 'Keep your mouth
shut!--I want to know, you sir, whether you charge that there
crime on George Radfoot?'