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Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

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Prepared by:
Donald Lainson
charlie@idirect.com

OUR MUTUAL FRIEND

Charles Dickens

CONTENTS

Book the First

THE CUP AND THE LIP

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

Book the Second

BIRDS OF A FEATHER

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

Book the Third

A LONG LANE

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

Book the Fourth

A TURNING

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

POSTSCRIPT, IN LIEU OF PREFACE

BOOK THE FIRST

THE CUP AND THE LIP

Chapter 1

ON THE LOOK OUT

In these times of ours, though concerning the exact year there is no
need to be precise, a boat of dirty and disreputable appearance,
with two figures in it, floated on the Thames, between Southwark
bridge which is of iron, and London Bridge which is of stone, as an
autumn evening was closing in.

The figures in this boat were those of a strong man with ragged
grizzled hair and a sun-browned face, and a dark girl of nineteen or
twenty, sufficiently like him to be recognizable as his daughter.
The girl rowed, pulling a pair of sculls very easily; the man, with
the rudder-lines slack in his hands, and his hands loose in his
waistband, kept an eager look out. He had no net, hook, or line,
and he could not be a fisherman; his boat had no cushion for a
sitter, no paint, no inscription, no appliance beyond a rusty
boathook and a coil of rope, and he could not be a waterman; his
boat was too crazy and too small to take in cargo for delivery, and
he could not be a lighterman or river-carrier; there was no clue to
what he looked for, but he looked for something, with a most intent
and searching gaze. The tide, which had turned an hour before,
was running down, and his eyes watched every little race and eddy
in its broad sweep, as the boat made slight head-way against it, or
drove stern foremost before it, according as he directed his
daughter by a movement of his head. She watched his face as
earnestly as he watched the river. But, in the intensity of her look
there was a touch of dread or horror.

Allied to the bottom of the river rather than the surface, by reason
of the slime and ooze with which it was covered, and its sodden
state, this boat and the two figures in it obviously were doing
something that they often did, and were seeking what they often
sought. Half savage as the man showed, with no covering on his
matted head, with his brown arms bare to between the elbow and
the shoulder, with the loose knot of a looser kerchief lying low on
his bare breast in a wilderness of beard and whisker, with such
dress as he wore seeming to be made out of the mud that begrimed
his boat, still there was a business-like usage in his steady gaze.
So with every lithe action of the girl, with every turn of her wrist,
perhaps most of all with her look of dread or horror; they were
things of usage.

'Keep her out, Lizzie. Tide runs strong here. Keep her well afore
the sweep of it.'

Trusting to the girl's skill and making no use of the rudder, he eyed
the coming tide with an absorbed attention. So the girl eyed him.
But, it happened now, that a slant of light from the setting sun
glanced into the bottom of the boat, and, touching a rotten stain
there which bore some resemblance to the outline of a muffled
human form, coloured it as though with diluted blood. This caught
the girl's eye, and she shivered.

'What ails you?' said the man, immediately aware of it, though so
intent on the advancing waters; 'I see nothing afloat.'

The red light was gone, the shudder was gone, and his gaze, which
had come back to the boat for a moment, travelled away again.
Wheresoever the strong tide met with an impediment, his gaze
paused for an instant. At every mooring-chain and rope, at every
stationery boat or barge that split the current into a broad-
arrowhead, at the offsets from the piers of Southwark Bridge, at the
paddles of the river steamboats as they beat the filthy water, at the
floating logs of timber lashed together lying off certain wharves,
his shining eyes darted a hungry look. After a darkening hour or
so, suddenly the rudder-lines tightened in his hold, and he steered
hard towards the Surrey shore.

Always watching his face, the girl instantly answered to the action
in her sculling; presently the boat swung round, quivered as from a
sudden jerk, and the upper half of the man was stretched out over
the stern.

The girl pulled the hood of a cloak she wore, over her head and
over her face, and, looking backward so that the front folds of this
hood were turned down the river, kept the boat in that direction
going before the tide. Until now, the boat had barely held her own,
and had hovered about one spot; but now, the banks changed
swiftly, and the deepening shadows and the kindling lights of
London Bridge were passed, and the tiers of shipping lay on either
hand.

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

'Lizzie!'

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

'Take that thing off your face.'

She put it back.

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

'No, no, father! No! I can't indeed. Father!--I cannot sit so near it!'

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

'What hurt can it do you?'

'None, none. But I cannot bear it.'

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

'I--I do not like it, father.'

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

At these latter words the girl shivered again, and for a moment
paused in her rowing, seeming to turn deadly faint. It escaped his
attention, for he was glancing over the stern at something the boat
had in tow.

'How can you be so thankless to your best friend, Lizzie? The very
fire that warmed you when you were a babby, was picked out of
the river alongside the coal barges. The very basket that you slept
in, the tide washed ashore. The very rockers that I put it upon to
make a cradle of it, I cut out of a piece of wood that drifted from
some ship or another.'

Lizzie took her right hand from the scull it held, and touched her
lips with it, and for a moment held it out lovingly towards him:
then, without speaking, she resumed her rowing, as another boat of
similar appearance, though in rather better trim, came out from a
dark place and dropped softly alongside.

'In luck again, Gaffer?' said a man with a squinting leer, who
sculled her and who was alone, 'I know'd you was in luck again, by
your wake as you come down.'

'Ah!' replied the other, drily. 'So you're out, are you?'

'Yes, pardner.'

There was now a tender yellow moonlight on the river, and the
new comer, keeping half his boat's length astern of the other boat
looked hard at its track.

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

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

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

'Easy does it, betwixt us. Shall I take him aboard, pardner?'

'No,' said the other. In so surly a tone that the man, after a blank
stare, acknowledged it with the retort:

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

'Why, yes, I have,' said Gaffer. 'I have been swallowing too much
of that word, Pardner. I am no pardner of yours.'

'Since when was you no pardner of mine, Gaffer Hexam Esquire?'

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

'And what if I had been accused of robbing a dead man, Gaffer?'

'You COULDN'T do it.'

'Couldn't you, Gaffer?'

'No. Has a dead man any use for money? Is it possible for a dead
man to have money? What world does a dead man belong to?
'Tother world. What world does money belong to? This world.
How can money be a corpse's? Can a corpse own it, want it, spend
it, claim it, miss it? Don't try to go confounding the rights and
wrongs of things in that way. But it's worthy of the sneaking spirit
that robs a live man.'

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

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

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

'If I don't get rid of you this way, I'll try another, and chop you over
the fingers with the stretcher, or take a pick at your head with the
boat-hook. Cast off! Pull you, Lizzie. Pull home, since you won't
let your father pull.'

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

Chapter 2

THE MAN FROM SOMEWHERE

Mr and Mrs Veneering were bran-new people in a bran-new house
in a bran-new quarter of London. Everything about the Veneerings
was spick and span new. All their furniture was new, all their
friends were new, all their servants were new, their plate was new,
their carriage was new, their harness was new, their horses were
new, their pictures were new, they themselves were new, they were
as newly married as was lawfully compatible with their having a
bran-new baby, and if they had set up a great-grandfather, he
would have come home in matting from the Pantechnicon, without
a scratch upon him, French polished to the crown of his head.

For, in the Veneering establishment, from the hall-chairs with the
new coat of arms, to the grand pianoforte with the new action, and
upstairs again to the new fire-escape, all things were in a state of
high varnish and polish. And what was observable in the
furniture, was observable in the Veneerings--the surface smelt a
little too much of the workshop and was a trifle sticky.

There was an innocent piece of dinner-furniture that went upon
easy castors and was kept over a livery stable-yard in Duke Street,
Saint James's, when not in use, to whom the Veneerings were a
source of blind confusion. The name of this article was Twemlow.
Being first cousin to Lord Snigsworth, he was in frequent
requisition, and at many houses might be said to represent the
dining-table in its normal state. Mr and Mrs Veneering, for
example, arranging a dinner, habitually started with Twemlow,
and then put leaves in him, or added guests to him. Sometimes,
the table consisted of Twemlow and half a dozen leaves;
sometimes, of Twemlow and a dozen leaves; sometimes, Twemlow
was pulled out to his utmost extent of twenty leaves. Mr and Mrs
Veneering on occasions of ceremony faced each other in the centre
of the board, and thus the parallel still held; for, it always
happened that the more Twemlow was pulled out, the further he
found himself from the center, and nearer to the sideboard at one
end of the room, or the window-curtains at the other.

But, it was not this which steeped the feeble soul of Twemlow in
confusion. This he was used to,and could take soundings of. The
abyss to which he could find no bottom, and from which started
forth the engrossing and ever-swelling difficulty of his life, was the
insoluble question whether he was Veneering's oldest friend, or
newest friend. To the excogitation of this problem, the harmless
gentleman had devoted many anxious hours, both in his lodgings
over the livery stable-yard, and in the cold gloom, favourable to
meditation, of Saint James's Square. Thus. Twemlow had first
known Veneering at his club, where Veneering then knew nobody
but the man who made them known to one another, who seemed to
be the most intimate friend he had in the world, and whom he had
known two days--the bond of union between their souls, the
nefarious conduct of the committee respecting the cookery of a
fillet of veal, having been accidentally cemented at that date.
Immediately upon this, Twemlow received an invitation to dine
with Veneering, and dined: the man being of the party.
Immediately upon that, Twemlow received an invitation to dine
with the man, and dined: Veneering being of the party. At the
man's were a Member, an Engineer, a Payer-off of the National
Debt, a Poem on Shakespeare, a Grievance, and a Public Office,
who all seem to be utter strangers to Veneering. And yet
immediately after that, Twemlow received an invitation to dine at
Veneerings, expressly to meet the Member, the Engineer, the
Payer-off of the National Debt, the Poem on Shakespeare, the
Grievance, and the Public Office, and, dining, discovered that all of
them were the most intimate friends Veneering had in the world,
and that the wives of all of them (who were all there) were the
objects of Mrs Veneering's most devoted affection and tender
confidence.

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

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

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

But now a fearful circumstance occurs.

'Mis-ter and Mis-sus Podsnap!'

'My dear,' says Mr Veneering to Mrs Veneering, with an air of
much friendly interest, while the door stands open, 'the Podsnaps.'

A too, too smiling large man, with a fatal freshness on him,
appearing with his wife, instantly deserts his wife and darts at
Twemlow with:

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

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

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

In the meantime, Mrs Podsnap, unable to originate a mistake on
her own account, because Mrs Veneering is the only other lady
there, does her best in the way of handsomely supporting her
husband's, by looking towards Mr Twemlow with a plaintive
countenance and remarking to Mrs Veneering in a feeling manner,
firstly, that she fears he has been rather bilious of late, and,
secondly, that the baby is already very like him.

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

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

'Thank you. I am ashamed to say that I cannot at this moment
recall where we met, but I am so glad of this opportunity, I am
sure!'

Then pouncing upon Twemlow, who holds back with all his feeble
might, he is haling him off to present him, as Veneering, to Mrs
Podsnap, when the arrival of more guests unravels the mistake.
Whereupon, having re-shaken hands with Veneering as Veneering,
he re-shakes hands with Twemlow as Twemlow, and winds it all
up to his own perfect satisfaction by saying to the last-named,
'Ridiculous opportunity--but so glad of it, I am sure!'

Now, Twemlow having undergone this terrific experience, having
likewise noted the fusion of Boots in Brewer and Brewer in Boots,
and having further observed that of the remaining seven guests
four discrete characters enter with wandering eyes and wholly
declined to commit themselves as to which is Veneering, until
Veneering has them in his grasp;--Twemlow having profited by
these studies, finds his brain wholesomely hardening as he
approaches the conclusion that he really is Veneering's oldest
friend, when his brain softens again and all is lost, through his
eyes encountering Veneering and the large man linked together as
twin brothers in the back drawing-room near the conservatory
door, and through his ears informing him in the tones of Mrs
Veneering that the same large man is to be baby's godfather.

'Dinner is on the table!'

Thus the melancholy retainer, as who should say, 'Come down and
be poisoned, ye unhappy children of men!'

Twemlow, having no lady assigned him, goes down in the rear,
with his hand to his forehead. Boots and Brewer, thinking him
indisposed, whisper, 'Man faint. Had no lunch.' But he is only
stunned by the unvanquishable difficulty of his existence.

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

The great looking-glass above the sideboard, reflects the table and
the company. Reflects the new Veneering crest, in gold and eke in
silver, frosted and also thawed, a camel of all work. The Heralds'
College found out a Crusading ancestor for Veneering who bore a
camel on his shield (or might have done it if he had thought of it),
and a caravan of camels take charge of the fruits and flowers and
candles, and kneel down be loaded with the salt. Reflects
Veneering; forty, wavy-haired, dark, tending to corpulence, sly,
mysterious, filmy--a kind of sufficiently well-looking veiled-
prophet, not prophesying. Reflects Mrs Veneering; fair, aquiline-
nosed and fingered, not so much light hair as she might have,
gorgeous in raiment and jewels, enthusiastic, propitiatory,
conscious that a corner of her husband's veil is over herself.
Reflects Podsnap; prosperously feeding, two little light-coloured
wiry wings, one on either side of his else bald head, looking as like
his hairbrushes as his hair, dissolving view of red beads on his
forehead, large allowance of crumpled shirt-collar up behind.
Reflects Mrs Podsnap; fine woman for Professor Owen, quantity of
bone, neck and nostrils like a rocking-horse, hard features,
majestic head-dress in which Podsnap has hung golden offerings.
Reflects Twemlow; grey, dry, polite, susceptible to east wind,
First-Gentleman-in-Europe collar and cravat, cheeks drawn in as if
he had made a great effort to retire into himself some years ago,
and had got so far and had never got any farther. Reflects mature
young lady; raven locks, and complexion that lights up well when
well powdered--as it is--carrying on considerably in the captivation
of mature young gentleman; with too much nose in his face, too
much ginger in his whiskers, too much torso in his waistcoat, too
much sparkle in his studs, his eyes, his buttons, his talk, and his
teeth. Reflects charming old Lady Tippins on Veneering's right;
with an immense obtuse drab oblong face, like a face in a
tablespoon, and a dyed Long Walk up the top of her head, as a
convenient public approach to the bunch of false hair behind,
pleased to patronize Mrs Veneering opposite, who is pleased to be
patronized. Reflects a certain 'Mortimer', another of Veneering's
oldest friends; who never was in the house before, and appears not
to want to come again, who sits disconsolate on Mrs Veneering's
left, and who was inveigled by Lady Tippins (a friend of his
boyhood) to come to these people's and talk, and who won't talk.
Reflects Eugene, friend of Mortimer; buried alive in the back of his
chair, behind a shoulder--with a powder-epaulette on it--of the
mature young lady, and gloomily resorting to the champagne
chalice whenever proffered by the Analytical Chemist. Lastly, the
looking-glass reflects Boots and Brewer, and two other stuffed
Buffers interposed between the rest of the company and possible
accidents.

The Veneering dinners are excellent dinners--or new people
wouldn't come--and all goes well. Notably, Lady Tippins has
made a series of experiments on her digestive functions, so
extremely complicated and daring, that if they could be published
with their results it might benefit the human race. Having taken in
provisions from all parts of the world, this hardy old cruiser has
last touched at the North Pole, when, as the ice-plates are being
removed, the following words fall from her:

'I assure you, my dear Veneering--'

(Poor Twemlow's hand approaches his forehead, for it would seem
now, that Lady Tippins is going to be the oldest friend.)

'I assure you, my dear Veneering, that it is the oddest affair! Like
the advertising people, I don't ask you to trust me, without offering
a respectable reference. Mortimer there, is my reference, and
knows all about it.'

Mortimer raises his drooping eyelids, and slightly opens his
mouth. But a faint smile, expressive of 'What's the use!' passes
over his face, and he drops his eyelids and shuts his mouth.

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

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

'Tobago, then.'

'Nor yet from Tobago.'

'Except,' Eugene strikes in: so unexpectedly that the mature young
lady, who has forgotten all about him, with a start takes the
epaulette out of his way: 'except our friend who long lived on rice-
pudding and isinglass, till at length to his something or other, his
physician said something else, and a leg of mutton somehow ended
in daygo.'

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

'Now, my dear Mrs Veneering,' quoth Lady Tippins, I appeal to
you whether this is not the basest conduct ever known in this
world? I carry my lovers about, two or three at a time, on
condition that they are very obedient and devoted; and here is my
oldest lover-in-chief, the head of all my slaves, throwing off his
allegiance before company! And here is another of my lovers, a
rough Cymon at present certainly, but of whom I had most hopeful
expectations as to his turning out well in course of time, pretending
that he can't remember his nursery rhymes! On purpose to annoy
me, for he knows how I doat upon them!'

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

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

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

Then the four Buffers, taking heart of grace all four at once, say:

'Deeply interested!'

'Quite excited!'

'Dramatic!'

'Man from Nowhere, perhaps!'

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

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

Eugene suggests 'Day and Martin's.'

'No, not that place,' returns the unmoved Mortimer, 'that's where
they make the Port. My man comes from the country where they
make the Cape Wine. But look here, old fellow; its not at all
statistical and it's rather odd.'

It is always noticeable at the table of the Veneerings, that no man
troubles himself much about the Veneerings themselves, and that
any one who has anything to tell, generally tells it to anybody else
in preference.

'The man,' Mortimer goes on, addressing Eugene, 'whose name is
Harmon, was only son of a tremendous old rascal who made his
money by Dust.'

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

'And a ladder and basket if you like. By which means, or by
others, he grew rich as a Dust Contractor, and lived in a hollow in
a hilly country entirely composed of Dust. On his own small estate
the growling old vagabond threw up his own mountain range, like
an old volcano, and its geological formation was Dust. Coal-dust,
vegetable-dust, bone-dust, crockery dust, rough dust and sifted
dust,--all manner of Dust.'

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

'The moral being--I believe that's the right expression--of this
exemplary person, derived its highest gratification from
anathematizing his nearest relations and turning them out of doors.
Having begun (as was natural) by rendering these attentions to the
wife of his bosom, he next found himself at leisure to bestow a
similar recognition on the claims of his daughter. He chose a
husband for her, entirely to his own satisfaction and not in the least
to hers, and proceeded to settle upon her, as her marriage portion, I
don't know how much Dust, but something immense. At this
stage of the affair the poor girl respectfully intimated that she was
secretly engaged to that popular character whom the novelists and
versifiers call Another, and that such a marriage would make Dust
of her heart and Dust of her life--in short, would set her up, on a
very extensive scale, in her father's business. Immediately, the
venerable parent--on a cold winter's night, it is said--
anathematized and turned her out.'

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

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

There is that in the indolent Mortimer, which seems to hint that if
good society might on any account allow itself to be impressible,
he, one of good society, might have the weakness to be impressed
by what he here relates. It is hidden with great pains, but it is in
him. The gloomy Eugene too, is not without some kindred touch;
for, when that appalling Lady Tippins declares that if Another had
survived, he should have gone down at the head of her list of
lovers--and also when the mature young lady shrugs her epaulettes,
and laughs at some private and confidential comment from the
mature young gentleman--his gloom deepens to that degree that he
trifles quite ferociously with his dessert-knife.

Mortimer proceeds.

'We must now return, as novelists say, and as we all wish they
wouldn't, to the man from Somewhere. Being a boy of fourteen,
cheaply educated at Brussels when his sister's expulsion befell, it
was some little time before he heard of it--probably from herself,
for the mother was dead; but that I don't know. Instantly, he
absconded, and came over here. He must have been a boy of spirit
and resource, to get here on a stopped allowance of five sous a
week; but he did it somehow, and he burst in on his father, and
pleaded his sister's cause. Venerable parent promptly resorts to
anathematization, and turns him out. Shocked and terrified boy
takes flight, seeks his fortune, gets aboard ship, ultimately turns up
on dry land among the Cape wine: small proprietor, farmer,
grower--whatever you like to call it.'

At this juncture, shuffling is heard in the hall, and tapping is heard
at the dining-room door. Analytical Chemist goes to the door,
confers angrily with unseen tapper, appears to become mollified by
descrying reason in the tapping, and goes out.

'So he was discovered, only the other day, after having been
expatriated about fourteen years.'

A Buffer, suddenly astounding the other three, by detaching
himself, and asserting individuality, inquires: 'How discovered,
and why?'

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

Same Buffer, emboldened by success, says: 'When?'

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

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

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

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

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

The Analytical Chemist returning, everybody looks at him. Not
because anybody wants to see him, but because of that subtle
influence in nature which impels humanity to embrace the slightest
opportunity of looking at anything, rather than the person who
addresses it.

'--Except that the son's inheriting is made conditional on his
marrying a girl, who at the date of the will, was a child of four or
five years old, and who is now a marriageable young woman.
Advertisement and inquiry discovered the son in the man from
Somewhere, and at the present moment, he is on his way home
from there--no doubt, in a state of great astonishment--to succeed
to a very large fortune, and to take a wife.'

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

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

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

Mortimer, in spite of all the arts of the chemist, placidly refreshes
himself with a glass of Madeira, and remains unconscious of the
Document which engrosses the general attention, until Lady
Tippins (who has a habit of waking totally insensible), having
remembered where she is, and recovered a perception of
surrounding objects, says: 'Falser man than Don Juan; why don't
you take the note from the commendatore?' Upon which, the
chemist advances it under the nose of Mortimer, who looks round
at him, and says:

'What's this?'

Analytical Chemist bends and whispers.

'WHO?' Says Mortimer.

Analytical Chemist again bends and whispers.

Mortimer stares at him, and unfolds the paper. Reads it, reads it
twice, turns it over to look at the blank outside, reads it a third
time.

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

'Already married?' one guesses.

'Declines to marry?' another guesses.

'Codicil among the dust?' another guesses.

'Why, no,' says Mortimer; 'remarkable thing, you are all wrong.
The story is completer and rather more exciting than I supposed.
Man's drowned!'

Chapter 3

ANOTHER MAN

As the disappearing skirts of the ladies ascended the Veneering
staircase, Mortimer, following them forth from the dining-room,
turned into a library of bran-new books, in bran-new bindings
liberally gilded, and requested to see the messenger who had
brought the paper. He was a boy of about fifteen. Mortimer looked
at the boy, and the boy looked at the bran-new pilgrims on the
wall, going to Canterbury in more gold frame than procession, and
more carving than country.

'Whose writing is this?'

'Mine, sir.'

'Who told you to write it?'

'My father, Jesse Hexam.'

'Is it he who found the body?'

'Yes, sir.'

'What is your father?'

The boy hesitated, looked reproachfully at the pilgrims as if they
had involved him in a little difficulty, then said, folding a plait in
the right leg of his trousers, 'He gets his living along-shore.'

'Is it far?'

'Is which far?' asked the boy, upon his guard, and again upon the
road to Canterbury.

'To your father's?'

'It's a goodish stretch, sir. I come up in a cab, and the cab's
waiting to be paid. We could go back in it before you paid it, if
you liked. I went first to your office, according to the direction of
the papers found in the pockets, and there I see nobody but a chap
of about my age who sent me on here.'

There was a curious mixture in the boy, of uncompleted savagery,
and uncompleted civilization. His voice was hoarse and coarse,
and his face was coarse, and his stunted figure was coarse; but he
was cleaner than other boys of his type; and his writing, though
large and round, was good; and he glanced at the backs of the
books, with an awakened curiosity that went below the binding.
No one who can read, ever looks at a book, even unopened on a
shelf, like one who cannot.

'Were any means taken, do you know, boy, to ascertain if it was
possible to restore life?' Mortimer inquired, as he sought for his
hat.

'You wouldn't ask, sir, if you knew his state. Pharaoh's multitude
that were drowned in the Red Sea, ain't more beyond restoring to
life. If Lazarus was only half as far gone, that was the greatest of
all the miracles.'

'Halloa!' cried Mortimer, turning round with his hat upon his head,
'you seem to be at home in the Red Sea, my young friend?'

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

'And Lazarus?'

'Yes, and him too. But don't you tell my father! We should have
no peace in our place, if that got touched upon. It's my sister's
contriving.'

'You seem to have a good sister.'

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

The gloomy Eugene, with his hands in his pockets, had strolled in
and assisted at the latter part of the dialogue; when the boy spoke
these words slightingly of his sister, he took him roughly enough
by the chin, and turned up his face to look at it.

'Well, I'm sure, sir!' said the boy, resisting; 'I hope you'll know me
again.'

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

'Let me see,' said Mortimer, as they went along; 'I have been,
Eugene, upon the honourable roll of solicitors of the High Court of
Chancery, and attorneys at Common Law, five years; and--except
gratuitously taking instructions, on an average once a fortnight, for
the will of Lady Tippins who has nothing to leave--I have had no
scrap of business but this romantic business.'

'And I,' said Eugene, 'have been "called" seven years, and have had
no business at all, and never shall have any. And if I had, I
shouldn't know how to do it.'

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

'I hate,' said Eugene, putting his legs up on the opposite seat, 'I
hate my profession.'

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

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

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

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

'I am one by myself, one,' said Mortimer, 'high up an awful
staircase commanding a burial-ground, and I have a whole clerk to
myself, and he has nothing to do but look at the burial-ground, and
what he will turn out when arrived at maturity, I cannot conceive.
Whether, in that shabby rook's nest, he is always plotting wisdom,
or plotting murder; whether he will grow up, after so much solitary
brooding, to enlighten his fellow-creatures, or to poison them; is
the only speck of interest that presents itself to my professional
view. Will you give me a light? Thank you.'

'Then idiots talk,' said Eugene, leaning back, folding his arms,
smoking with his eyes shut, and speaking slightly through his
nose, 'of Energy. If there is a word in the dictionary under any
letter from A to Z that I abominate, it is energy. It is such a
conventional superstition, such parrot gabble! What the deuce!
Am I to rush out into the street, collar the first man of a wealthy
appearance that I meet, shake him, and say, "Go to law upon the
spot, you dog, and retain me, or I'll be the death of you"? Yet that
would be energy.'

'Precisely my view of the case, Eugene. But show me a good
opportunity, show me something really worth being energetic
about, and I'll show you energy.'

'And so will I,' said Eugene.

And it is likely enough that ten thousand other young men, within
the limits of the London Post-office town delivery, made the same
hopeful remark in the course of the same evening.

The wheels rolled on, and rolled down by the Monument and by
the Tower, and by the Docks; down by Ratcliffe, and by
Rotherhithe; down by where accumulated scum of humanity
seemed to be washed from higher grounds, like so much moral
sewage, and to be pausing until its own weight forced it over the
bank and sunk it in the river. In and out among vessels that
seemed to have got ashore, and houses that seemed to have got
afloat--among bow-splits staring into windows, and windows
staring into ships--the wheels rolled on, until they stopped at a
dark corner, river-washed and otherwise not washed at all, where
the boy alighted and opened the door.

'You must walk the rest, sir; it's not many yards.' He spoke in the
singular number, to the express exclusion of Eugene.

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

'Here's my father's, sir; where the light is.'

The low building had the look of having once been a mill. There
was a rotten wart of wood upon its forehead that seemed to
indicate where the sails had been, but the whole was very
indistinctly seen in the obscurity of the night. The boy lifted the
latch of the door, and they passed at once into a low circular room,
where a man stood before a red fire, looking down into it, and a
girl sat engaged in needlework. The fire was in a rusty brazier, not
fitted to the hearth; and a common lamp, shaped like a hyacinth-
root, smoked and flared in the neck of a stone bottle on the table.
There was a wooden bunk or berth in a corner, and in another
corner a wooden stair leading above--so clumsy and steep that it
was little better than a ladder. Two or three old sculls and oars
stood against the wall, and against another part of the wall was a
small dresser, making a spare show of the commonest articles of
crockery and cooking-vessels. The roof of the room was not
plastered, but was formed of the flooring of the room above. This,
being very old, knotted, seamed, and beamed, gave a lowering
aspect to the chamber; and roof, and walls, and floor, alike
abounding in old smears of flour, red-lead (or some such stain
which it had probably acquired in warehousing), and damp, alike
had a look of decomposition.

'The gentleman, father.'

The figure at the red fire turned, raised its ruffled head, and looked
like a bird of prey.

'You're Mortimer Lightwood Esquire; are you, sir?'

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

''Tain't not to say here, but it's close by. I do everything reg'lar.
I've giv' notice of the circumstarnce to the police, and the police
have took possession of it. No time ain't been lost, on any hand.
The police have put into print already, and here's what the print
says of it.'

Taking up the bottle with the lamp in it, he held it near a paper on
the wall, with the police heading, BODY FOUND. The two
friends read the handbill as it stuck against the wall, and Gaffer
read them as he held the light.

'Only papers on the unfortunate man, I see,' said Lightwood,
glancing from the description of what was found, to the finder.

'Only papers.'

Here the girl arose with her work in her hand, and went out at the
door.

'No money,' pursued Mortimer; 'but threepence in one of the skirt-
pockets.'

'Three. Penny. Pieces,' said Gaffer Hexam, in as many sentences.

'The trousers pockets empty, and turned inside out.'

Gaffer Hexam nodded. 'But that's common. Whether it's the wash
of the tide or no, I can't say. Now, here,' moving the light to
another similar placard, 'HIS pockets was found empty, and turned
inside out. And here,' moving the light to another, 'HER pocket
was found empty, and turned inside out. And so was this one's.
And so was that one's. I can't read, nor I don't want to it, for I
know 'em by their places on the wall. This one was a sailor, with
two anchors and a flag and G. F. T. on his arm. Look and see if he
warn't.'

'Quite right.'

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

'Quite right.'

'This is him as had a nasty cut over the eye. This is them two
young sisters what tied themselves together with a handkecher.
This the drunken old chap, in a pair of list slippers and a nightcap,
wot had offered--it afterwards come out--to make a hole in the
water for a quartern of rum stood aforehand, and kept to his word
for the first and last time in his life. They pretty well papers the
room, you see; but I know 'em all. I'm scholar enough!'

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

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

To which the bird of prey slowly rejoined, 'And what might YOUR
name be, now?'

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

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

'I asked you, simply, if you found all these yourself?'

'I answer you, simply, most on 'em.'

'Do you suppose there has been much violence and robbery,
beforehand, among these cases?'

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

As he opened the door, in pursuance of a nod from Lightwood, an
extremely pale and disturbed face appeared in the doorway--the
face of a man much agitated.

'A body missing?' asked Gaffer Hexam, stopping short; 'or a body
found? Which?'

'I am lost!' replied the man, in a hurried and an eager manner.

'Lost?'

'I--I--am a stranger, and don't know the way. I--I--want to find the
place where I can see what is described here. It is possible I may
know it.' He was panting, and could hardly speak; but, he showed
a copy of the newly-printed bill that was still wet upon the wall.
Perhaps its newness, or perhaps the accuracy of his observation of
its general look, guided Gaffer to a ready conclusion.

'This gentleman, Mr Lightwood, is on that business.'

'Mr Lightwood?'

During a pause, Mortimer and the stranger confronted each other.
Neither knew the other.

'I think, sir,' said Mortimer, breaking the awkward silence with his
airy self-possession, 'that you did me the honour to mention my
name?'

'I repeated it, after this man.'

'You said you were a stranger in London?'

'An utter stranger.'

'Are you seeking a Mr Harmon?'

'No.'

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

A little winding through some muddy alleys that might have been
deposited by the last ill-savoured tide, brought them to the wicket-
gate and bright lamp of a Police Station; where they found the
Night-Inspector, with a pen and ink, and ruler, posting up his
books in a whitewashed office, as studiously as if he were in a
monastery on top of a mountain, and no howling fury of a drunken
woman were banging herself against a cell-door in the back-yard at
his elbow. With the same air of a recluse much given to study, he
desisted from his books to bestow a distrustful nod of recognition
upon Gaffer, plainly importing, 'Ah! we know all about YOU, and
you'll overdo it some day;' and to inform Mr Morrimer Lightwood
and friends, that he would attend them immediately. Then, he
finished ruling the work he had in hand (it might have been
illuminating a missal, he was so calm), in a very neat and
methodical manner, showing not the slightest consciousness of the
woman who was banging herself with increased violence, and
shrieking most terrifically for some other woman's liver.

'A bull's-eye,' said the Night-Inspector, taking up his keys. Which
a deferential satellite produced. 'Now, gentlemen.'

With one of his keys, he opened a cool grot at the end of the yard,
and they all went in. They quickly came out again, no one
speaking but Eugene: who remarked to Mortimer, in a whisper,
'Not MUCH worse than Lady Tippins.'

So, back to the whitewashed library of the monastery--with that
liver still in shrieking requisition, as it had been loudly, while they
looked at the silent sight they came to see--and there through the
merits of the case as summed up by the Abbot. No clue to how
body came into river. Very often was no clue. Too late to know
for certain, whether injuries received before or after death; one
excellent surgical opinion said, before; other excellent surgical
opinion said, after. Steward of ship in which gentleman came
home passenger, had been round to view, and could swear to
identity. Likewise could swear to clothes. And then, you see, you
had the papers, too. How was it he had totally disappeared on
leaving ship, 'till found in river? Well! Probably had been upon
some little game. Probably thought it a harmless game, wasn't up
to things, and it turned out a fatal game. Inquest to-morrow, and
no doubt open verdict.

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

Mr Lightwood explained that it was no friend of his.

'Indeed?' said Mr Inspector, with an attentive ear; 'where did you
pick him up?'

Mr Lightwood explained further.

Mr Inspector had delivered his summing up, and had added these
words, with his elbows leaning on his desk, and the fingers and
thumb of his right hand, fitting themselves to the fingers and
thumb of his left. Mr Inspector moved nothing but his eyes, as he
now added, raising his voice:

'Turned you faint, sir! Seems you're not accustomed to this kind of
work?'

The stranger, who was leaning against the chimneypiece with
drooping head, looked round and answered, 'No. It's a horrible
sight!'

'You expected to identify, I am told, sir?'

'Yes.'

'HAVE you identified?'

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

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

'No, no,' said the stranger; 'it would be quite useless. Good-night.'

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

'You missed a friend, you know; or you missed a foe, you know; or
you wouldn't have come here, you know. Well, then; ain't it
reasonable to ask, who was it?' Thus, Mr Inspector.

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

Again he turned towards the wicket, where the satellite, with his
eye upon his chief, remained a dumb statue.

'At least,' said Mr Inspector, 'you will not object to leave me your
card, sir?'

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

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

'Not at all.'

Mr Inspector dipped a pen in his inkstand, and deftly laid it on a
piece of paper close beside him; then resumed his former attitude.
The stranger stepped up to the desk, and wrote in a rather
tremulous hand--Mr Inspector taking sidelong note of every hair of
his head when it was bent down for the purpose--'Mr Julius
Handford, Exchequer Coffee House, Palace Yard, Westminster.'

'Staying there, I presume, sir?'

'Staying there.'

'Consequently, from the country?'

'Eh? Yes--from the country.'

'Good-night, sir.'

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

'Reserve!' said Mr Inspector. 'Take care of this piece of paper, keep
him in view without giving offence, ascertain that he IS staying
there, and find out anything you can about him.'

The satellite was gone; and Mr Inspector, becoming once again the
quiet Abbot of that Monastery, dipped his pen in his ink and
resumed his books. The two friends who had watched him, more
amused by the professional manner than suspicious of Mr Julius
Handford, inquired before taking their departure too whether he
believed there was anything that really looked bad here?

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

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

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

'Where did you go, Liz?'

'I went out in the dark.'

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

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

'Ah! But I made believe I wrote so badly, as that it was odds if any
one could read it. And when I wrote slowest and smeared but with
my finger most, father was best pleased, as he stood looking over
me.'

The girl put aside her work, and drawing her seat close to his seat
by the fire, laid her arm gently on his shoulder.

'You'll make the most of your time, Charley; won't you?'

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

'Yes, Charley, yes. You work hard at your learning, I know. And
I work a little, Charley, and plan and contrive a little (wake out of
my sleep contriving sometimes), how to get together a shilling
now, and a shilling then, that shall make father believe you are
beginning to earn a stray living along shore.'

'You are father's favourite, and can make him believe anything.'

'I wish I could, Charley! For if I could make him believe that
learning was a good thing, and that we might lead better lives, I
should be a'most content to die.'

'Don't talk stuff about dying, Liz.'

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

'Of an evening, Charley, when you are at the school, and father's--'

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

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

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

'Don't disturb it, Charley, or it'll be all in a blaze. It's that dull
glow near it, coming and going, that I mean. When I look at it of
an evening, it comes like pictures to me, Charley.'

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

'Ah! It wants my eyes, Charley.'

'Cut away then, and tell us what your eyes make of it.'

'Why, there are you and me, Charley, when you were quite a baby
that never knew a mother--'

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

The girl laughed delightedly, and here eyes filled with pleasant
tears, as he put both his arms round her waist and so held her.

'There are you and me, Charley, when father was away at work and
locked us out, for fear we should set ourselves afire or fall out of
window, sitting on the door-sill, sitting on other door-steps, sitting
on the bank of the river, wandering about to get through the time.
You are rather heavy to carry, Charley, and I am often obliged to
rest. Sometimes we are sleepy and fall asleep together in a corner,
sometimes we are very hungry, sometimes we are a little
frightened, but what is oftenest hard upon us is the cold. You
remember, Charley?'

'I remember,' said the boy, pressing her to him twice or thrice, 'that
I snuggled under a little shawl, and it was warm there.'

'Sometimes it rains, and we creep under a boat or the like of that:
sometimes it's dark, and we get among the gaslights, sitting
watching the people as they go along the streets. At last, up comes
father and takes us home. And home seems such a shelter after out
of doors! And father pulls my shoes off, and dries my feet at the
fire, and has me to sit by him while he smokes his pipe long after
you are abed, and I notice that father's is a large hand but never a
heavy one when it touches me, and that father's is a rough voice
but never an angry one when it speaks to me. So, I grow up, and
little by little father trusts me, and makes me his companion, and,
let him be put out as he may, never once strikes me.'

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

'Those are some of the pictures of what is past, Charley.'

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

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

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

'I was passing on to them, Charley,' said the girl, who had not
changed her attitude since she began, and who now mournfully
shook her head; 'the others were all leading up. There are you--'

'Where am I, Liz?'

'Still in the hollow down by the flare.'

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

'There are you, Charley, working your way, in secret from father, at
the school; and you get prizes; and you go on better and better; and
you come to be a--what was it you called it when you told me
about that?'

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

'You come to be a pupil-teacher, and you still go on better and
better, and you rise to be a master full of learning and respect. But
the secret has come to father's knowledge long before, and it has
divided you from father, and from me.'

'No it hasn't!'

'Yes it has, Charley. I see, as plain as plain can be, that your way
is not ours, and that even if father could be got to forgive your
taking it (which he never could be), that way of yours would be
darkened by our way. But I see too, Charley--'

'Still as plain as plain can be, Liz?' asked the boy playfully.

'Ah! Still. That it is a great work to have cut you away from
father's life, and to have made a new and good beginning. So there
am I, Charley, left alone with father, keeping him as straight as I
can, watching for more influence than I have, and hoping that
through some fortunate chance, or when he is ill, or when--I don't
know what--I may turn him to wish to do better things.'

'You said you couldn't read a book, Lizzie. Your library of books
is the hollow down by the flare, I think.'

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

It being now past midnight, the bird of prey went straight to roost.
At mid-day following he reappeared at the Six Jolly Fellowship
Porters, in the character, not new to him, of a witness before a
Coroner's Jury.

Mr Mortimer Lightwood, besides sustaining the character of one of
the witnesses, doubled the part with that of the eminent solicitor
who watched the proceedings on behalf of the representatives of
the deceased, as was duly recorded in the newspapers. Mr
Inspector watched the proceedings too, and kept his watching
closely to himself. Mr Julius Handford having given his right
address, and being reported in solvent circumstances as to his bill,
though nothing more was known of him at his hotel except that his
way of life was very retired, had no summons to appear, and was
merely present in the shades of Mr Inspector's mind.

The case was made interesting to the public, by Mr Mortimer
Lighiwood's evidence touching the circumstances under which the
deceased, Mr John Harmon, had returned to England; exclusive
private proprietorship in which circumstances was set up at dinner-
tables for several days, by Veneering, Twemlow, Podsnap, and all
the Buffers: who all related them irreconcilably with one another,
and contradicted themselves. It was also made interesting by the
testimony of Job Potterson, the ship's steward, and one Mr Jacob
Kibble, a fellow-passenger, that the deceased Mr John Harmon did
bring over, in a hand-valise with which he did disembark, the sum
realized by the forced sale of his little landed property, and that the
sum exceeded, in ready money, seven hundred pounds. It was
further made interesting, by the remarkable experiences of Jesse
Hexam in having rescued from the Thames so many dead bodies,
and for whose behoof a rapturous admirer subscribing himself 'A
friend to Burial' (perhaps an undertaker), sent eighteen postage
stamps, and five 'Now Sir's to the editor of the Times.

Upon the evidence adduced before them, the Jury found, That the
body of Mr John Harmon had been discovered floating in the
Thames, in an advanced state of decay, and much injured; and that
the said Mr John Harmon had come by his death under highly
suspicious circumstances, though by whose act or in what precise
manner there was no evidence before this Jury to show. And they
appended to their verdict, a recommendation to the Home Office
(which Mr Inspector appeared to think highly sensible), to offer a
reward for the solution of the mystery. Within eight-and-forty
hours, a reward of One Hundred Pounds was proclaimed, together
with a free pardon to any person or persons not the actual
perpetrator or perpetrators, and so forth in due form.

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

Thus, like the tides on which it had been borne to the knowledge of
men, the Harmon Murder--as it came to be popularly called--went
up and down, and ebbed and flowed, now in the town, now in the
country, now among palaces, now among hovels, now among lords
and ladies and gentlefolks, now among labourers and hammerers
and ballast-heavers, until at last, after a long interval of slack
water it got out to sea and drifted away.

Chapter 4

THE R. WILFER FAMILY

Reginald Wilfer is a name with rather a grand sound, suggesting
on first acquaintance brasses in country churches, scrolls in
stained-glass windows, and generally the De Wilfers who came
over with the Conqueror. For, it is a remarkable fact in genealogy
that no De Any ones ever came over with Anybody else.

But, the Reginald Wilfer family were of such commonplace
extraction and pursuits that their forefathers had for generations
modestly subsisted on the Docks, the Excise Office, and the
Custom House, and the existing R. Wilfer was a poor clerk. So
poor a clerk, though having a limited salary and an unlimited
family, that he had never yet attained the modest object of his
ambition: which was, to wear a complete new suit of clothes, hat
and boots included, at one time. His black hat was brown before
he could afford a coat, his pantaloons were white at the seams and
knees before he could buy a pair of boots, his boots had worn out
before he could treat himself to new pantaloons, and, by the time
he worked round to the hat again, that shining modern article
roofed-in an ancient ruin of various periods.

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

He was shy, and unwilling to own to the name of Reginald, as
being too aspiring and self-assertive a name. In his signature he
used only the initial R., and imparted what it really stood for, to
none but chosen friends, under the seal of confidence. Out of this,
the facetious habit had arisen in the neighbourhood surrounding
Mincing Lane of making christian names for him of adjectives and
participles beginning with R. Some of these were more or less
appropriate: as Rusty, Retiring, Ruddy, Round, Ripe, Ridiculous,
Ruminative; others, derived their point from their want of
application: as Raging, Rattling, Roaring, Raffish. But, his
popular name was Rumty, which in a moment of inspiration had
been bestowed upon him by a gentleman of convivial habits
connected with the drug-markets, as the beginning of a social
chorus, his leading part in the execution of which had led this
gentleman to the Temple of Fame, and of which the whole
expressive burden ran:

'Rumty iddity, row dow dow,
Sing toodlely, teedlely, bow wow wow.'

Thus he was constantly addressed, even in minor notes on
business, as 'Dear Rumty'; in answer to which, he sedately signed
himself, 'Yours truly, R. Wilfer.'

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

R. Wilfer locked up his desk one evening, and, putting his bunch
of keys in his pocket much as if it were his peg-top, made for
home. His home was in the Holloway region north of London, and
then divided from it by fields and trees. Between Battle Bridge
and that part of the Holloway district in which he dwelt, was a
tract of suburban Sahara, where tiles and bricks were burnt, bones
were boiled, carpets were beat, rubbish was shot, dogs were
fought, and dust was heaped by contractors. Skirting the border of
this desert, by the way he took, when the light of its kiln-fires made
lurid smears on the fog, R. Wilfer sighed and shook his head.

'Ah me!' said he, 'what might have been is not what is!'

With which commentary on human life, indicating an experience
of it not exclusively his own, he made the best of his way to the
end of his journey.

Mrs Wilfer was, of course, a tall woman and an angular. Her lord
being cherubic, she was necessarily majestic, according to the
principle which matrimonially unites contrasts. She was much
given to tying up her head in a pocket-handkerchief, knotted under
the chin. This head-gear, in conjunction with a pair of gloves worn
within doors, she seemed to consider as at once a kind of armour
against misfortune (invariably assuming it when in low spirits or
difficulties), and as a species of full dress. It was therefore with
some sinking of the spirit that her husband beheld her thus
heroically attired, putting down her candle in the little hall, and
coming down the doorsteps through the little front court to open
the gate for him.

Something had gone wrong with the house-door, for R. Wilfer
stopped on the steps, staring at it, and cried:

'Hal-loa?'

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

'Perhaps it was, my dear; what do you think?'

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

'My dear, we couldn't have done without the door.'

'Couldn't we?'

'Why, my dear! Could we?'

'It is as you think, R. W.; not as I do.' With those submissive
words, the dutiful wife preceded him down a few stairs to a little
basement front room, half kitchen, half parlour, where a girl of
about nineteen, with an exceedingly pretty figure and face, but with
an impatient and petulant expression both in her face and in her
shoulders (which in her sex and at her age are very expressive of
discontent), sat playing draughts with a younger girl, who was the
youngest of the House of Wilfer. Not to encumber this page by
telling off the Wilfers in detail and casting them up in the gross, it
is enough for the present that the rest were what is called 'out in the
world,' in various ways, and that they were Many. So many,
that when one of his dutiful children called in to see him, R. Wilfer
generally seemed to say to himself, after a little mental arithmetic,
'Oh! here's another of 'em!' before adding aloud, 'How de do, John,'
or Susan, as the case might be.

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

'The milkman said he knew of two young ladies of the highest
respectability who were in search of a suitable establishment, and
he took a card,' interposed Mrs Wilfer, with severe monotony, as if
she were reading an Act of Parliament aloud. 'Tell your father
whether it was last Monday, Bella.'

'But we never heard any more of it, ma,' said Bella, the elder girl.

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

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

'My dear, it is the same thing.'

'No it is not,' said Mrs Wilfer, with the same impressive monotony.
'Pardon me!'

'I mean, my dear, it is the same thing as to space. As to space. If
you have no space in which to put two youthful fellow-creatures,
however eminently respectable, which I do not doubt, where are
those youthful fellow-creatures to be accommodated? I carry it no
further than that. And solely looking at it,' said her husband,
making the stipulation at once in a conciliatory, complimentary,
and argumentative tone--'as I am sure you will agree, my love--
from a fellow-creature point of view, my dear.'

'I have nothing more to say,' returned Mrs Wilfer, with a meek
renunciatory action of her gloves. 'It is as you think, R. W.;
not as I do.'

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

'Poor Bella!' said Mrs Wilfer.

'And poor Lavinia, perhaps, my dear?' suggested R. W.

'Pardon me,' said Mrs Wilfer, 'no!'

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

'No, R. W. Lavinia has not known the trial that Bella has known.
The trial that your daughter Bella has undergone, is, perhaps,
without a parallel, and has been borne, I will say, Nobly. When
you see your daughter Bella in her black dress, which she alone of
all the family wears, and when you remember the circumstances
which have led to her wearing it, and when you know how those
circumstances have been sustained, then, R. W., lay your head
upon your pillow and say, "Poor Lavinia!"'

Here, Miss Lavinia, from her kneeling situation under the table,
put in that she didn't want to be 'poored by pa', or anybody else.

'I am sure you do not, my dear,' returned her mother, 'for you have
a fine brave spirit. And your sister Cecilia has a fine brave spirit of
another kind, a spirit of pure devotion, a beau-ti-ful spirit! The
self-sacrifice of Cecilia reveals a pure and womanly character, very
seldom equalled, never surpassed. I have now in my pocket a
letter from your sister Cecilia, received this morning--received
three months after her marriage, poor child!--in which she tells me
that her husband must unexpectedly shelter under their roof his
reduced aunt. "But I will be true to him, mamma," she touchingly
writes, "I will not leave him, I must not forget that he is my
husband. Let his aunt come!" If this is not pathetic, if this is not
woman's devotion--!' The good lady waved her gloves in a sense
of the impossibility of saying more, and tied the pocket-
handkerchief over her head in a tighter knot under her chin.

Bella, who was now seated on the rug to warm herself, with her
brown eyes on the fire and a handful of her brown curls in her
mouth, laughed at this, and then pouted and half cried.

'I am sure,' said she, 'though you have no feeling for me, pa, I am
one of the most unfortunate girls that ever lived. You know how
poor we are' (it is probable he did, having some reason to know
it!), 'and what a glimpse of wealth I had, and how it melted away,
and how I am here in this ridiculous mourning--which I hate!--a
kind of a widow who never was married. And yet you don't feel
for me.--Yes you do, yes you do.'

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

'But you ought to feel for me, you know, pa.'

'My dear, I do.'

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

Here, Lavinia, rising to the surface with the last draughtman
rescued, interposed, 'You never cared for George Sampson, Bella.'

'And did I say I did, miss?' Then, pouting again, with the curls in
her mouth; 'George Sampson was very fond of me, and admired me
very much, and put up with everything I did to him.'

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

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

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

'You are a chit and a little idiot,' returned Bella, 'or you wouldn't
make such a dolly speech. What did you expect me to do? Wait
till you are a woman, and don't talk about what you don't
understand. You only show your ignorance!' Then, whimpering
again, and at intervals biting the curls, and stopping to look how
much was bitten off, 'It's a shame! There never was such a hard
case! I shouldn't care so much if it wasn't so ridiculous. It was
ridiculous enough to have a stranger coming over to marry me,
whether he liked it or not. It was ridiculous enough to know what
an embarrassing meeting it would be, and how we never could
pretend to have an inclination of our own, either of us. It was
ridiculous enough to know I shouldn't like him--how COULD I
like him, left to him in a will, like a dozen of spoons, with
everything cut and dried beforehand, like orange chips. Talk of
orange flowers indeed! I declare again it's a shame! Those
ridiculous points would have been smoothed away by the money,
for I love money, and want money--want it dreadfully. I hate to be
poor, and we are degradingly poor, offensively poor, miserably
poor, beastly poor. But here I am, left with all the ridiculous parts
of the situation remaining, and, added to them all, this ridiculous
dress! And if the truth was known, when the Harmon murder was
all over the town, and people were speculating on its being suicide,
I dare say those impudent wretches at the clubs and places made
jokes about the miserable creature's having preferred a watery
grave to me. It's likely enough they took such liberties; I shouldn't
wonder! I declare it's a very hard case indeed, and I am a most
unfortunate girl. The idea of being a kind of a widow, and never
having been married! And the idea of being as poor as ever after
all, and going into black, besides, for a man I never saw, and
should have hated--as far as HE was concerned--if I had seen!'

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

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

A gentleman coming in, Miss Bella, with a short and sharp
exclamation, scrambled off the hearth-rug and massed the bitten
curls together in their right place on her neck.

'The servant girl had her key in the door as I came up, and directed
me to this room, telling me I was expected. I am afraid I should
have asked her to announce me.'

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

A dark gentleman. Thirty at the utmost. An expressive, one might
say handsome, face. A very bad manner. In the last degree
constrained, reserved, diffident, troubled. His eyes were on Miss
Bella for an instant, and then looked at the ground as he addressed
the master of the house.

'Seeing that I am quite satisfied, Mr Wilfer, with the rooms, and
with their situation, and with their price, I suppose a memorandum
between us of two or three lines, and a payment down, will bind
the bargain? I wish to send in furniture without delay.'

Two or three times during this short address, the cherub addressed
had made chubby motions towards a chair. The gentleman now
took it, laying a hesitating hand on a corner of the table, and with
another hesitating hand lifting the crown of his hat to his lips, and
drawing it before his mouth.

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

'Shall I mention, sir,' insinuated the landlord, expecting it to be
received as a matter of course, 'the form of a reference?'

'I think,' returned the gentleman, after a pause, 'that a reference is
not necessary; neither, to say the truth, is it convenient, for I am a
stranger in London. I require no reference from you, and perhaps,
therefore, you will require none from me. That will be fair on both
sides. Indeed, I show the greater confidence of the two, for I will
pay in advance whatever you please, and I am going to trust my
furniture here. Whereas, if you were in embarrassed
circumstances--this is merely supposititious--'

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

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

'Well!' observed R. Wilfer, cheerfully, 'money and goods are
certainly the best of references.'

'Do you think they ARE the best, pa?' asked Miss Bella, in a low
voice, and without looking over her shoulder as she warmed her
foot on the fender.

'Among the best, my dear.'

'I should have thought, myself, it was so easy to add the usual kind
of one,' said Bella, with a toss of her curls.

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