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Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

Part 11 out of 21

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this over like brother and sister. Will you listen to me?'

'Oh, Charley!' she replied through her starting tears; 'do I not listen
to you, and hear many hard things!'

'Then I am sorry. There, Liz! I am unfeignedly sorry. Only you
do put me out so. Now see. Mr Headstone is perfectly devoted to
you. He has told me in the strongest manner that he has never
been his old self for one single minute since I first brought him to
see you. Miss Peecher, our schoolmistress--pretty and young, and
all that--is known to be very much attached to him, and he won't
so much as look at her or hear of her. Now, his devotion to you
must be a disinterested one; mustn't it? If he married Miss
Peecher, he would be a great deal better off in all worldly
respects, than in marrying you. Well then; he has nothing to get
by it, has he?'

'Nothing, Heaven knows!'

'Very well then,' said the boy; 'that's something in his favour, and a
great thing. Then I come in. Mr Headstone has always got me on,
and he has a good deal in his power, and of course if he was my
brother-in-law he wouldn't get me on less, but would get me on
more. Mr Headstone comes and confides in me, in a very delicate
way, and says, "I hope my marrying your sister would be
agreeable to you, Hexam, and useful to you?" I say, "There's
nothing in the world, Mr Headstone, that I could he better pleased
with." Mr Headstone says, "Then I may rely upon your intimate
knowledge of me for your good word with your sister, Hexam?"
And I say, "Certainly, Mr Headstone, and naturally I have a good
deal of influence with her." So I have; haven't I, Liz?'

'Yes, Charley.'

'Well said! Now, you see, we begin to get on, the moment we
begin to be really talking it over, like brother and sister. Very
well. Then YOU come in. As Mr Headstone's wife you would be
occupying a most respectable station, and you would be holding a
far better place in society than you hold now, and you would at
length get quit of the river-side and the old disagreeables
belonging to it, and you would be rid for good of dolls'
dressmakers and their drunken fathers, and the like of that. Not
that I want to disparage Miss Jenny Wren: I dare say she is all
very well in her way; but her way is not your way as Mr
Headstone's wife. Now, you see, Liz, on all three accounts--on
Mr Headstone's, on mine, on yours--nothing could be better or
more desirable.'

They were walking slowly as the boy spoke, and here he stood
still, to see what effect he had made. His sister's eyes were fixed
upon him; but as they showed no yielding, and as she remained
silent, he walked her on again. There was some discomfiture in
his tone as he resumed, though he tried to conceal it.

'Having so much influence with you, Liz, as I have, perhaps I
should have done better to have had a little chat with you in the
first instance, before Mr Headstone spoke for himself. But really
all this in his favour seemed so plain and undeniable, and I knew
you to have always been so reasonable and sensible, that I didn't
consider it worth while. Very likely that was a mistake of mine.
However, it's soon set right. All that need be done to set it right, is
for you to tell me at once that I may go home and tell Mr
Headstone that what has taken place is not final, and that it will all
come round by-and-by.'

He stopped again. The pale face looked anxiously and lovingly at
him, but she shook her head.

'Can't you speak?' said the boy sharply.

'I am very unwilling to speak, Charley. If I must, I must. I cannot
authorize you to say any such thing to Mr Headstone: I cannot
allow you to say any such thing to Mr Headstone. Nothing
remains to be said to him from me, after what I have said for good
and all, to-night.'

'And this girl,' cried the boy, contemptuously throwing her off
again, 'calls herself a sister!'

'Charley, dear, that is the second time that you have almost struck
me. Don't be hurt by my words. I don't mean--Heaven forbid!--
that you intended it; but you hardly know with what a sudden
swing you removed yourself from me.'

'However!' said the boy, taking no heed of the remonstrance, and
pursuing his own mortified disappointment, 'I know what this
means, and you shall not disgrace me.'

'It means what I have told you, Charley, and nothing more.'

'That's not true,' said the boy in a violent tone, 'and you know it's
not. It means your precious Mr Wrayburn; that's what it means.'

'Charley! If you remember any old days of ours together,
forbear!'

'But you shall not disgrace me,' doggedly pursued the boy. 'I am
determined that after I have climbed up out of the mire, you shall
not pull me down. You can't disgrace me if I have nothing to do
with you, and I will have nothing to do with you for the future.'

'Charley! On many a night like this, and many a worse night, I
have sat on the stones of the street, hushing you in my arms.
Unsay those words without even saying you are sorry for them,
and my arms are open to you still, and so is my heart.'

'I'll not unsay them. I'll say them again. You are an inveterately
bad girl, and a false sister, and I have done with you. For ever, I
have done with you!'

He threw up his ungrateful and ungracious hand as if it set up a
barrier between them, and flung himself upon his heel and left her.
She remained impassive on the same spot, silent and motionless,
until the striking of the church clock roused her, and she turned
away. But then, with the breaking up of her immobility came the
breaking up of the waters that the cold heart of the selfish boy had
frozen. And 'O that I were lying here with the dead!' and 'O
Charley, Charley, that this should be the end of our pictures in the
fire!' were all the words she said, as she laid her face in her hands
on the stone coping.

A figure passed by, and passed on, but stopped and looked round
at her. It was the figure of an old man with a bowed head,
wearing a large brimmed low-crowned hat, and a long-skirted
coat. After hesitating a little, the figure turned back, and,
advancing with an air of gentleness and compassion, said:

'Pardon me, young woman, for speaking to you, but you are under
some distress of mind. I cannot pass upon my way and leave you
weeping here alone, as if there was nothing in the place. Can I
help you? Can I do anything to give you comfort?'

She raised her head at the sound of these kind words, and
answered gladly, 'O, Mr Riah, is it you?'

'My daughter,' said the old man, 'I stand amazed! I spoke as to a
stranger. Take my arm, take my arm. What grieves you? Who
has done this? Poor girl, poor girl!'

'My brother has quarrelled with me,' sobbed Lizzie, 'and
renounced me.'

'He is a thankless dog,' said the Jew, angrily. 'Let him go.' Shake
the dust from thy feet and let him go. Come, daughter! Come
home with me--it is but across the road--and take a little time to
recover your peace and to make your eyes seemly, and then I will
bear you company through the streets. For it is past your usual
time, and will soon be late, and the way is long, and there is much
company out of doors to-night.'

She accepted the support he offered her, and they slowly passed
out of the churchyard. They were in the act of emerging into the
main thoroughfare, when another figure loitering discontentedly
by, and looking up the street and down it, and all about, started
and exclaimed, 'Lizzie! why, where have you been? Why, what's
the matter?'

As Eugene Wrayburn thus addressed her, she drew closer to the
Jew, and bent her head. The Jew having taken in the whole of
Eugene at one sharp glance, cast his eyes upon the ground, and
stood mute.

'Lizzie, what is the matter?'

'Mr Wrayburn, I cannot tell you now. I cannot tell you to-night, if
I ever can tell you. Pray leave me.'

'But, Lizzie, I came expressly to join you. I came to walk home
with you, having dined at a coffee-house in this neighbourhood
and knowing your hour. And I have been lingering about,' added
Eugene, 'like a bailiff; or,' with a look at Riah, 'an old clothesman.'

The Jew lifted up his eyes, and took in Eugene once more, at
another glance.

'Mr Wrayburn, pray, pray, leave me with this protector. And one
thing more. Pray, pray be careful of yourself.'

'Mysteries of Udolpho!' said Eugene, with a look of wonder. 'May
I be excused for asking, in the elderly gentleman's presence, who
is this kind protector?'

'A trustworthy friend,' said Lizzie.

'I will relieve him of his trust,' returned Eugene. 'But you must tell
me, Lizzie, what is the matter?'

'Her brother is the matter,' said the old man, lifting up his eyes
again.

'Our brother the matter?' returned Eugene, with airy contempt.
'Our brother is not worth a thought, far less a tear. What has our
brother done?'

The old man lifted up his eyes again, with one grave look at
Wrayburn, and one grave glance at Lizzie, as she stood looking
down. Both were so full of meaning that even Eugene was
checked in his light career, and subsided into a thoughtful
'Humph!'

With an air of perfect patience the old man, remaining mute and
keeping his eyes cast down, stood, retaining Lizzie's arm, as
though in his habit of passive endurance, it would be all one to
him if he had stood there motionless all night.

'If Mr Aaron,' said Eugene, who soon found this fatiguing, 'will be
good enough to relinquish his charge to me, he will be quite free
for any engagement he may have at the Synagogue. Mr Aaron,
will you have the kindness?'

But the old man stood stock still.

'Good evening, Mr Aaron,' said Eugene, politely; 'we need not
detain you.' Then turning to Lizzie, 'Is our friend Mr Aaron a little
deaf?'

'My hearing is very good, Christian gentleman,' replied the old
man, calmly; 'but I will hear only one voice to-night, desiring me
to leave this damsel before I have conveyed her to her home. If
she requests it, I will do it. I will do it for no one else.'

'May I ask why so, Mr Aaron?' said Eugene, quite undisturbed in
his ease.

'Excuse me. If she asks me, I will tell her,' replied the old man. 'I
will tell no one else.'

'I do not ask you,' said Lizzie, 'and I beg you to take me home. Mr
Wrayburn, I have had a bitter trial to-night, and I hope you will
not think me ungrateful, or mysterious, or changeable. I am
neither; I am wretched. Pray remember what I said to you. Pray,
pray, take care.'

'My dear Lizzie,' he returned, in a low voice, bending over her on
the other side; 'of what? Of whom?'

'Of any one you have lately seen and made angry.'

He snapped his fingers and laughed. 'Come,' said he, 'since no
better may be, Mr Aaron and I will divide this trust, and see you
home together. Mr Aaron on that side; I on this. If perfectly
agreeable to Mr Aaron, the escort will now proceed.'

He knew his power over her. He knew that she would not insist
upon his leaving her. He knew that, her fears for him being
aroused, she would be uneasy if he were out of her sight. For all
his seeming levity and carelessness, he knew whatever he chose to
know of the thoughts of her heart.

And going on at her side, so gaily, regardless of all that had been
urged against him; so superior in his sallies and self-possession to
the gloomy constraint of her suitor and the selfish petulance of her
brother; so faithful to her, as it seemed, when her own stock was
faithless; what an immense advantage, what an overpowering
influence, were his that night! Add to the rest, poor girl, that she
had heard him vilified for her sake, and that she had suffered for
his, and where the wonder that his occasional tones of serious
interest (setting off his carelessness, as if it were assumed to calm
her), that his lightest touch, his lightest look, his very presence
beside her in the dark common street, were like glimpses of an
enchanted world, which it was natural for jealousy and malice and
all meanness to be unable to bear the brightness of, and to gird at
as bad spirits might.

Nothing more being said of repairing to Riah's, they went direct to
Lizzie's lodging. A little short of the house-door she parted from
them, and went in alone.

'Mr Aaron,' said Eugene, when they were left together in the
street, 'with many thanks for your company, it remains for me
unwillingly to say Farewell.'

'Sir,' returned the other, 'I give you good night, and I wish that you
were not so thoughtless.'

'Mr Aaron,' returned Eugene, 'I give you good night, and I wish
(for you are a little dull) that you were not so thoughtful.'

But now, that his part was played out for the evening, and when in
turning his back upon the Jew he came off the stage, he was
thoughtful himself. 'How did Lightwood's catechism run?' he
murmured, as he stopped to light his cigar. 'What is to come of it?
What are you doing? Where are you going? We shall soon know
now. Ah!' with a heavy sigh.

The heavy sigh was repeated as if by an echo, an hour afterwards,
when Riah, who had been sitting on some dark steps in a corner
over against the house, arose and went his patient way; stealing
through the streets in his ancient dress, like the ghost of a departed
Time.

Chapter 16

AN ANNIVERSARY OCCASION

The estimable Twemlow, dressing himself in his lodgings over the
stable-yard in Duke Street, Saint James's, and hearing the horses at
their toilette below, finds himself on the whole in a
disadvantageous position as compared with the noble animals at
livery. For whereas, on the one hand, he has no attendant to slap
him soundingly and require him in gruff accents to come up and
come over, still, on the other hand, he has no attendant at all; and
the mild gentleman's finger-joints and other joints working rustily
in the morning, he could deem it agreeable even to be tied up by
the countenance at his chamber-door, so he were there skilfully
rubbed down and slushed and sluiced and polished and clothed,
while himself taking merely a passive part in these trying
transactions.

How the fascinating Tippins gets on when arraying herself for the
bewilderment of the senses of men, is known only to the Graces
and her maid; but perhaps even that engaging creature, though not
reduced to the self-dependence of Twemlow could dispense with
a good deal of the trouble attendant on the daily restoration of her
charms, seeing that as to her face and neck this adorable divinity
is, as it were, a diurnal species of lobster--throwing off a shell
every forenoon, and needing to keep in a retired spot until the new
crust hardens.

Howbeit, Twemlow doth at length invest himself with collar and
cravat and wristbands to his knuckles, and goeth forth to
breakfast. And to breakfast with whom but his near neighbours,
the Lammles of Sackville Street, who have imparted to him that
he will meet his distant kinsman, Mr Fledgely. The awful
Snigsworth might taboo and prohibit Fledgely, but the peaceable
Twemlow reasons, If he IS my kinsman I didn't make him so, and
to meet a man is not to know him.'

It is the first anniversary of the happy marriage of Mr and Mrs
Lammle, and the celebration is a breakfast, because a dinner on
the desired scale of sumptuosity cannot be achieved within less
limits than those of the non-existent palatial residence of which so
many people are madly envious. So, Twemlow trips with not a
little stiffness across Piccadilly, sensible of having once been more
upright in figure and less in danger of being knocked down by
swift vehicles. To be sure that was in the days when he hoped for
leave from the dread Snigsworth to do something, or be
something, in life, and before that magnificent Tartar issued the
ukase, 'As he will never distinguish himself, he must be a poor
gentleman-pensioner of mine, and let him hereby consider himself
pensioned.'

Ah! my Twemlow! Say, little feeble grey personage, what
thoughts are in thy breast to-day, of the Fancy--so still to call her
who bruised thy heart when it was green and thy head brown--and
whether it be better or worse, more painful or less, to believe in
the Fancy to this hour, than to know her for a greedy armour-
plated crocodile, with no more capacity of imagining the delicate
and sensitive and tender spot behind thy waistcoat, than of going
straight at it with a knitting-needle. Say likewise, my Twemlow,
whether it be the happier lot to be a poor relation of the great, or
to stand in the wintry slush giving the hack horses to drink out of
the shallow tub at the coach-stand, into which thou has so nearly
set thy uncertain foot. Twemlow says nothing, and goes on.

As he approaches the Lammles' door, drives up a little one-horse
carriage, containing Tippins the divine. Tippins, letting down the
window, playfully extols the vigilance of her cavalier in being in
waiting there to hand her out. Twemlow hands her out with as
much polite gravity as if she were anything real, and they proceed
upstairs. Tippins all abroad about the legs, and seeking to express
that those unsteady articles are only skipping in their native
buoyancy.

And dear Mrs Lammle and dear Mr Lammle, how do you do, and
when are you going down to what's-its-name place--Guy, Earl of
Warwick, you know--what is it?--Dun Cow--to claim the flitch of
bacon? And Mortimer, whose name is for ever blotted out from
my list of lovers, by reason first of fickleness and then of base
desertion, how do YOU do, wretch? And Mr Wrayburn, YOU
here! What can YOU come for, because we are all very sure
before-hand that you are not going to talk! And Veneering, M.P.,
how are things going on down at the house, and when will you
turn out those terrible people for us? And Mrs Veneering, my
dear, can it positively be true that you go down to that stifling
place night after night, to hear those men prose? Talking of
which, Veneering, why don't you prose, for you haven't opened
your lips there yet, and we are dying to hear what you have got to
say to us! Miss Podsnap, charmed to see you. Pa, here? No!
Ma, neither? Oh! Mr Boots! Delighted. Mr Brewer! This IS a
gathering of the clans. Thus Tippins, and surveys Fledgeby and
outsiders through golden glass, murmuring as she turns about and
about, in her innocent giddy way, Anybody else I know? No, I
think not. Nobody there. Nobody THERE. Nobody anywhere!

Mr Lammle, all a-glitter, produces his friend Fledgeby, as dying
for the honour of presentation to Lady Tippins. Fledgeby
presented, has the air of going to say something, has the air of
going to say nothing, has an air successively of meditation, of
resignation, and of desolation, backs on Brewer, makes the tour of
Boots, and fades into the extreme background, feeling for his
whisker, as if it might have turned up since he was there five
minutes ago.

But Lammle has him out again before he has so much as
completely ascertained the bareness of the land. He would seem
to be in a bad way, Fledgeby; for Lammle represents him as dying
again. He is dying now, of want of presentation to Twemlow.

Twemlow offers his hand. Glad to see him. 'Your mother, sir,
was a connexion of mine.'

'I believe so,' says Fledgeby, 'but my mother and her family were
two.'

'Are you staying in town?' asks Twemlow.

'I always am,' says Fledgeby.

'You like town,' says Twemlow. But is felled flat by Fledgeby's
taking it quite ill, and replying, No, he don't like town. Lammle
tries to break the force of the fall, by remarking that some people
do not like town. Fledgeby retorting that he never heard of any
such case but his own, Twemlow goes down again heavily.

'There is nothing new this morning, I suppose?' says Twemlow,
returning to the mark with great spirit.

Fledgeby has not heard of anything.

'No, there's not a word of news,' says Lammle.

'Not a particle,' adds Boots.

'Not an atom,' chimes in Brewer.

Somehow the execution of this little concerted piece appears to
raise the general spirits as with a sense of duty done, and sets the
company a going. Everybody seems more equal than before, to
the calamity of being in the society of everybody else. Even
Eugene standing in a window, moodily swinging the tassel of a
blind, gives it a smarter jerk now, as if he found himself in better
case.

Breakfast announced. Everything on table showy and gaudy, but
with a self-assertingly temporary and nomadic air on the
decorations, as boasting that they will be much more showy and
gaudy in the palatial residence. Mr Lammle's own particular
servant behind his chair; the Analytical behind Veneering's chair;
instances in point that such servants fall into two classes: one
mistrusting the master's acquaintances, and the other mistrusting
the master. Mr Lammle's servant, of the second class. Appearing
to be lost in wonder and low spirits because the police are so long
in coming to take his master up on some charge of the first
magnitude.

Veneering, M.P., on the right of Mrs Lammle; Twemlow on her
left; Mrs Veneering, W.M.P. (wife of Member of Parliament), and
Lady Tippins on Mr Lammle's right and left. But be sure that well
within the fascination of Mr Lammle's eye and smile sits little
Georgiana. And be sure that close to little Georgiana, also under
inspection by the same gingerous gentleman, sits Fledgeby.

Oftener than twice or thrice while breakfast is in progress, Mr
Twemlow gives a little sudden turn towards Mrs Lammle, and
then says to her, 'I beg your pardon!' This not being Twemlow's
usual way, why is it his way to-day? Why, the truth is, Twemlow
repeatedly labours under the impression that Mrs Lammle is going
to speak to him, and turning finds that it is not so, and mostly that
she has her eyes upon Veneering. Strange that this impression so
abides by Twemlow after being corrected, yet so it is.

Lady Tippins partaking plentifully of the fruits of the earth
(including grape-juice in the category) becomes livelier, and
applies herself to elicit sparks from Mortimer Lightwood. It is
always understood among the initiated, that that faithless lover
must be planted at table opposite to Lady Tippins, who will then
strike conversational fire out of him. In a pause of mastication
and deglutition, Lady Tippins, contemplating Mortimer, recalls
that it was at our dear Veneerings, and in the presence of a party
who are surely all here, that he told them his story of the man
from somewhere, which afterwards became so horribly interesting
and vulgarly popular.

'Yes, Lady Tippins,' assents Mortimer; 'as they say on the stage,
"Even so!"

'Then we expect you,' retorts the charmer, 'to sustain your
reputation, and tell us something else.'

'Lady Tippins, I exhausted myself for life that day, and there is
nothing more to be got out of me.'

Mortimer parries thus, with a sense upon him that elsewhere it is
Eugene and not he who is the jester, and that in these circles
where Eugene persists in being speechless, he, Mortimer, is but
the double of the friend on whom he has founded himself.

'But,' quoth the fascinating Tippins, 'I am resolved on getting
something more out of you. Traitor! what is this I hear about
another disappearance?'

'As it is you who have heard it,' returns Lightwood, 'perhaps you'll
tell us.'

'Monster, away!' retorts Lady Tippins. 'Your own Golden
Dustman referred me to you.'

Mr Lammle, striking in here, proclaims aloud that there is a sequel
to the story of the man from somewhere. Silence ensues upon the
proclamation.

'I assure you,' says Lightwood, glancing round the table, 'I have
nothing to tell.' But Eugene adding in a low voice, 'There, tell it,
tell it!' he corrects himself with the addition, 'Nothing worth
mentioning.'

Boots and Brewer immediately perceive that it is immensely
worth mentioning, and become politely clamorous. Veneering is
also visited by a perception to the same effect. But it is
understood that his attention is now rather used up, and difficult to
hold, that being the tone of the House of Commons.

'Pray don't be at the trouble of composing yourselves to listen,'
says Mortimer Lightwood, 'because I shall have finished long
before you have fallen into comfortable attitudes. It's like--'

'It's like,' impatiently interrupts Eugene, 'the children's narrative:

"I'll tell you a story
Of Jack a Manory,
And now my story's begun;
I'll tell you another
Of Jack and his brother,
And now my story is done."

--Get on, and get it over!'

Eugene says this with a sound of vexation in his voice, leaning
back in his chair and looking balefully at Lady Tippins, who nods
to him as her dear Bear, and playfully insinuates that she (a self-
evident proposition) is Beauty, and he Beast.

'The reference,' proceeds Mortimer, 'which I suppose to be made
by my honourable and fair enslaver opposite, is to the following
circumstance. Very lately, the young woman, Lizzie Hexam,
daughter of the late Jesse Hexam, otherwise Gaffer, who will be
remembered to have found the body of the man from somewhere,
mysteriously received, she knew not from whom, an explicit
retraction of the charges made against her father, by another
water-side character of the name of Riderhood. Nobody believed
them, because little Rogue Riderhood--I am tempted into the
paraphrase by remembering the charming wolf who would have
rendered society a great service if he had devoured Mr
Riderhood's father and mother in their infancy--had previously
played fast and loose with the said charges, and, in fact,
abandoned them. However, the retraction I have mentioned
found its way into Lizzie Hexam's hands, with a general flavour on
it of having been favoured by some anonymous messenger in a
dark cloak and slouched hat, and was by her forwarded, in her
father's vindication, to Mr Boffin, my client. You will excuse the
phraseology of the shop, but as I never had another client, and in
all likelihood never shall have, I am rather proud of him as a
natural curiosity probably unique.'

Although as easy as usual on the surface, Lightwood is not quite
as easy as usual below it. With an air of not minding Eugene at
all, he feels that the subject is not altogether a safe one in that
connexion.

'The natural curiosity which forms the sole ornament of my
professional museum,' he resumes, 'hereupon desires his
Secretary--an individual of the hermit-crab or oyster species, and
whose name, I think, is Chokesmith--but it doesn't in the least
matter--say Artichoke--to put himself in communication with
Lizzie Hexam. Artichoke professes his readiness so to do,
endeavours to do so, but fails.'

'Why fails?' asks Boots.

'How fails?' asks Brewer.

'Pardon me,' returns Lightwood,' I must postpone the reply for one
moment, or we shall have an anti-climax. Artichoke failing
signally, my client refers the task to me: his purpose being to
advance the interests of the object of his search. I proceed to put
myself in communication with her; I even happen to possess some
special means,' with a glance at Eugene, 'of putting myself in
communication with her; but I fail too, because she has vanished.'

'Vanished!' is the general echo.

'Disappeared,' says Mortimer. 'Nobody knows how, nobody
knows when, nobody knows where. And so ends the story to
which my honourable and fair enslaver opposite referred.'

Tippins, with a bewitching little scream, opines that we shall every
one of us be murdered in our beds. Eugene eyes her as if some of
us would be enough for him. Mrs Veneering, W.M.P., remarks
that these social mysteries make one afraid of leaving Baby.
Veneering, M.P., wishes to be informed (with something of a
second-hand air of seeing the Right Honourable Gentleman at the
head of the Home Department in his place) whether it is intended
to be conveyed that the vanished person has been spirited away or
otherwise harmed? Instead of Lightwood's answering, Eugene
answers, and answers hastily and vexedly: 'No, no, no; he doesn't
mean that; he means voluntarily vanished--but utterly--
completely.'

However, the great subject of the happiness of Mr and Mrs
Lammle must not be allowed to vanish with the other
vanishments--with the vanishing of the murderer, the vanishing of
Julius Handford, the vanishing of Lizzie Hexam,--and therefore
Veneering must recall the present sheep to the pen from which
they have strayed. Who so fit to discourse of the happiness of Mr
and Mrs Lammle, they being the dearest and oldest friends he has
in the world; or what audience so fit for him to take into his
confidence as that audience, a noun of multitude or signifying
many, who are all the oldest and dearest friends he has in the
world? So Veneering, without the formality of rising, launches
into a familiar oration, gradually toning into the Parliamentary
sing-song, in which he sees at that board his dear friend Twemlow
who on that day twelvemonth bestowed on his dear friend
Lammle the fair hand of his dear friend Sophronia, and in which
he also sees at that board his dear friends Boots and Brewer
whose rallying round him at a period when his dear friend Lady
Tippins likewise rallied round him--ay, and in the foremost rank--
he can never forget while memory holds her seat. But he is free to
confess that he misses from that board his dear old friend
Podsnap, though he is well represented by his dear young friend
Georgiana. And he further sees at that board (this he announces
with pomp, as if exulting in the powers of an extraordinary
telescope) his friend Mr Fledgeby, if he will permit him to call him
so. For all of these reasons, and many more which he right well
knows will have occurred to persons of your exceptional
acuteness, he is here to submit to you that the time has arrived
when, with our hearts in our glasses, with tears in our eyes, with
blessings on our lips, and in a general way with a profusion of
gammon and spinach in our emotional larders, we should one and
all drink to our dear friends the Lammles, wishing them many
years as happy as the last, and many many friends as congenially
united as themselves. And this he will add; that Anastatia
Veneering (who is instantly heard to weep) is formed on the same
model as her old and chosen friend Sophronia Lammle, in respect
that she is devoted to the man who wooed and won her, and nobly
discharges the duties of a wife.

Seeing no better way out of it, Veneering here pulls up his
oratorical Pegasus extremely short, and plumps down, clean over
his head, with: 'Lammle, God bless you!'

Then Lammle. Too much of him every way; pervadingly too
much nose of a coarse wrong shape, and his nose in his mind and
his manners; too much smile to be real; too much frown to be
false; too many large teeth to be visible at once without suggesting
a bite. He thanks you, dear friends, for your kindly greeting, and
hopes to receive you--it may be on the next of these delightfiil
occasions--in a residence better suited to your claims on the rites
of hospitality. He will never forget that at Veneering's he first saw
Sophronia. Sophronia will never forget that at Veneering's she
first saw him. 'They spoke of it soon after they were married, and
agreed that they would never forget it. In fact, to Veneering they
owe their union. They hope to show their sense of this some day
('No, no, from Veneering)--oh yes, yes, and let him rely upon it,
they will if they can! His marriage with Sophronia was not a
marriage of interest on either side: she had her little fortune, he
had his little fortune: they joined their little fortunes: it was a
marriage of pure inclination and suitability. Thank you!
Sophronia and he are fond of the society of young people; but he
is not sure that their house would be a good house for young
people proposing to remain single, since the contemplation of its
domestic bliss might induce them to change their minds. He will
not apply this to any one present; certainly not to their darling
little Georgiana. Again thank you! Neither, by-the-by, will he
apply it to his friend Fledgeby. He thanks Veneering for the
feeling manner in which he referred to their common friend
Fledgeby, for he holds that gentleman in the highest estimation.
Thank you. In fact (returning unexpectedly to Fledgeby), the
better you know him, the more you find in him that you desire to
know. Again thank you! In his dear Sophronia's name and in his
own, thank you!

Mrs Lammle has sat quite still, with her eyes cast down upon the
table-cloth. As Mr Lammle's address ends, Twemlow once more
turns to her involuntarily, not cured yet of that often recurring
impression that she is going to speak to him. This time she really
is going to speak to him. Veneering is talking with his other next
neighbour, and she speaks in a low voice.

'Mr Twemlow.'

He answers, 'I beg your pardon? Yes?' Still a little doubtful,
because of her not looking at him.

'You have the soul of a gentleman, and I know I may trust you.
Will you give me the opportunity of saying a few words to you
when you come up stairs?'

'Assuredly. I shall be honoured.'

'Don't seem to do so, if you please, and don't think it inconsistent
if my manner should be more careless than my words. I may be
watched.'

Intensely astonished, Twemlow puts his hand to his forehead, and
sinks back in his chair meditating. Mrs Lammle rises. All rise.
The ladies go up stairs. The gentlemen soon saunter after them.
Fledgeby has devoted the interval to taking an observation of
Boots's whiskers, Brewer's whiskers, and Lammle's whiskers, and
considering which pattern of whisker he would prefer to produce
out of himself by friction, if the Genie of the cheek would only
answer to his rubbing.

In the drawing-room, groups form as usual. Lightwood, Boots,
and Brewer, flutter like moths around that yellow wax candle--
guttering down, and with some hint of a winding-sheet in it--Lady
Tippins. Outsiders cultivate Veneering, M P., and Mrs Veneering,
W.M.P. Lammle stands with folded arms, Mephistophelean in a
corner, with Georgiana and Fledgeby. Mrs Lammle, on a sofa by
a table, invites Mr Twemlow's attention to a book of portraits in
her hand.

Mr Twemlow takes his station on a settee before her, and Mrs
Lammle shows him a portrait.

'You have reason to be surprised,' she says softly, 'but I wish you
wouldn't look so.'

Disturbed Twemlow, making an effort not to look so, looks much
more so.

'I think, Mr Twemlow, you never saw that distant connexion of
yours before to-day?'

'No, never.'

'Now that you do see him, you see what he is. You are not proud
of him?'

'To say the truth, Mrs Lammle, no.'

'If you knew more of him, you would be less inclined to
acknowledge him. Here is another portrait. What do you think of
it?'

Twemlow has just presence of mind enough to say aloud: 'Very
like! Uncommonly like!'

'You have noticed, perhaps, whom he favours with his attentions?
You notice where he is now, and how engaged?'

'Yes. But Mr Lammle--'

She darts a look at him which he cannot comprehend, and shows
him another portrait.

'Very good; is it not?'

'Charming!' says Twemlow.

'So like as to be almost a caricature?--Mr Twemlow, it is
impossible to tell you what the struggle in my mind has been,
before I could bring myself to speak to you as I do now. It is only
in the conviction that I may trust you never to betray me, that I
can proceed. Sincerely promise me that you never will betray my
confidence--that you will respect it, even though you may no
longer respect me,--and I shall be as satisfied as if you had sworn
it.'

'Madam, on the honour of a poor gentleman--'

'Thank you. I can desire no more. Mr Twemlow, I implore you to
save that child!'

'That child?'

'Georgiana. She will be sacrificed. She will be inveigled and
married to that connexion of yours. It is a partnership affair, a
money-speculation. She has no strength of will or character to
help herself and she is on the brink of being sold into
wretchedness for life.'

'Amazing! But what can I do to prevent it?' demands Twemlow,
shocked and bewildered to the last degree.

'Here is another portrait. And not good, is it?'

Aghast at the light manner of her throwing her head back to look
at it critically, Twemlow still dimly perceives the expediency of
throwing his own head back, and does so. Though he no more
sees the portrait than if it were in China.

'Decidedly not good,' says Mrs Lammle. 'Stiff and exaggerated!'

'And ex--' But Twemlow, in his demolished state, cannot
command the word, and trails off into '--actly so.'

'Mr Twemlow, your word will have weight with her pompous,
self-blinded father. You know how much he makes of your
family. Lose no time. Warn him.'

'But warn him against whom?'

'Against me.'

By great good fortune Twemlow receives a stimulant at this
critical instant. The stimulant is Lammle's voice.

'Sophronia, my dear, what portraits are you showing Twemlow?'

'Public characters, Alfred.'

'Show him the last of me.'

'Yes, Alfred.'

She puts the book down, takes another book up, turns the leaves,
and presents the portrait to Twemlow.

'That is the last of Mr Lammle. Do you think it good?--Warn her
father against me. I deserve it, for I have been in the scheme from
the first. It is my husband's scheme, your connexion's, and mine.
I tell you this, only to show you the necessity of the poor little
foolish affectionate creature's being befriended and rescued. You
will not repeat this to her father. You will spare me so far, and
spare my husband. For, though this celebration of to-day is all a
mockery, he is my husband, and we must live.--Do you think it
like?'

Twemlow, in a stunned condition, feigns to compare the portrait in
his hand with the original looking towards him from his
Mephistophelean corner.

'Very well indeed!' are at length the words which Twemlow with
great difficulty extracts from himself.

'I am glad you think so. On the whole, I myself consider it the
best. The others are so dark. Now here, for instance, is another
of Mr Lammle--'

'But I don't understand; I don't see my way,' Twemlow stammers,
as he falters over the book with his glass at his eye. 'How warn
her father, and not tell him? Tell him how much? Tell him how
little? I--I--am getting lost.'

'Tell him I am a match-maker; tell him I am an artful and
designing woman; tell him you are sure his daughter is best out of
my house and my company. Tell him any such things of me; they
will all be true. You know what a puffed-up man he is, and how
easily you can cause his vanity to take the alarm. Tell him as
much as will give him the alarm and make him careful of her, and
spare me the rest. Mr Twemlow, I feel my sudden degradation in
your eyes; familiar as I am with my degradation in my own eyes, I
keenly feel the change that must have come upon me in yours, in
these last few moments. But I trust to your good faith with me as
implicitly as when I began. If you knew how often I have tried to
speak to you to-day, you would almost pity me. I want no new
promise from you on my own account, for I am satisfied, and I
always shall be satisfied, with the promise you have given me. I
can venture to say no more, for I see that I am watched. If you
would set my mind at rest with the assurance that you will
interpose with the father and save this harmless girl, close that
book before you return it to me, and I shall know what you mean,
and deeply thank you in my heart.--Alfred, Mr Twemlow thinks
the last one the best, and quite agrees with you and me.'

Alfred advances. The groups break up. Lady Tippins rises to go,
and Mrs Veneering follows her leader. For the moment, Mrs
Lammle does not turn to them, but remains looking at Twemlow
looking at Alfred's portrait through his eyeglass. The moment
past, Twemlow drops his eyeglass at its ribbon's length, rises, and
closes the book with an emphasis which makes that fragile
nursling of the fairies, Tippins, start.

Then good-bye and good-bye, and charming occasion worthy of
the Golden Age, and more about the flitch of bacon, and the like
of that; and Twemlow goes staggering across Piccadilly with his
hand to his forehead, and is nearly run down by a flushed
lettercart, and at last drops safe in his easy-chair, innocent good
gentleman, with his hand to his forehead still, and his head in a
whirl.

BOOK THE THIRD

A LONG LANE

Chapter 1

LODGERS IN QUEER STREET

It was a foggy day in London, and the fog was heavy and dark.
Animate London, with smarting eyes and irritated lungs, was
blinking, wheezing, and choking; inanimate London was a sooty
spectre, divided in purpose between being visible and invisible,
and so being wholly neither. Gaslights flared in the shops with a
haggard and unblest air, as knowing themselves to be night-
creatures that had no business abroad under the sun; while the sun
itself when it was for a few moments dimly indicated through
circling eddies of fog, showed as if it had gone out and were
collapsing flat and cold. Even in the surrounding country it was a
foggy day, but there the fog was grey, whereas in London it was, at
about the boundary line, dark yellow, and a little within it brown,
and then browner, and then browner, until at the heart of the City--
which call Saint Mary Axe--it was rusty-black. From any point of
the high ridge of land northward, it might have been discerned that
the loftiest buildings made an occasional struggle to get their heads
above the foggy sea, and especially that the great dome of Saint
Paul's seemed to die hard; but this was not perceivable in the
streets at their feet, where the whole metropolis was a heap of
vapour charged with muffled sound of wheels, and enfolding a
gigantic catarrh.

At nine o'clock on such a morning, the place of business of Pubsey
and Co. was not the liveliest object even in Saint Mary Axe--which
is not a very lively spot--with a sobbing gaslight in the counting-
house window, and a burglarious stream of fog creeping in to
strangle it through the keyhole of the main door. But the light
went out, and the main door opened, and Riah came forth with a
bag under his arm.

Almost in the act of coming out at the door, Riah went into the fog,
and was lost to the eyes of Saint Mary Axe. But the eyes of this
history can follow him westward, by Cornhill, Cheapside, Fleet
Street, and the Strand, to Piccadilly and the Albany. Thither he
went at his grave and measured pace, staff in hand, skirt at heel;
and more than one head, turning to look back at his venerable
figure already lost in the mist, supposed it to be some ordinary
figure indistinctly seen, which fancy and the fog had worked into
that passing likeness.

Arrived at the house in which his master's chambers were on the
second floor, Riah proceeded up the stairs, and paused at
Fascination Fledgeby's door. Making free with neither bell nor
knocker, he struck upon the door with the top of his staff, and,
having listened, sat down on the threshold. It was characteristic of
his habitual submission, that he sat down on the raw dark
staircase, as many of his ancestors had probably sat down in
dungeons, taking what befell him as it might befall.

After a time, when he had grown so cold as to be fain to blow upon
his fingers, he arose and knocked with his staff again, and listened
again, and again sat down to wait. Thrice he repeated these
actions before his listening ears were greeted by the voice of
Fledgeby, calling from his bed, 'Hold your row!--I'll come and open
the door directly!' But, in lieu of coming directly, he fell into a
sweet sleep for some quarter of an hour more, during which added
interval Riah sat upon the stairs and waited with perfect patience.

At length the door stood open, and Mr Fledgeby's retreating
drapery plunged into bed again. Following it at a respectful
distance, Riah passed into the bed-chamber, where a fire had been
sometime lighted, and was burning briskly.

'Why, what time of night do you mean to call it?' inquired
Fledgeby, turning away beneath the clothes, and presenting a
comfortable rampart of shoulder to the chilled figure of the old
man.

'Sir, it is full half-past ten in the morning.'

'The deuce it is! Then it must be precious foggy?'

'Very foggy, sir.'

'And raw, then?'

'Chill and bitter,' said Riah, drawing out a handkerchief, and
wiping the moisture from his beard and long grey hair as he stood
on the verge of the rug, with his eyes on the acceptable fire.

With a plunge of enjoyment, Fledgeby settled himself afresh.

'Any snow, or sleet, or slush, or anything of that sort?' he asked.

'No, sir, no. Not quite so bad as that. The streets are pretty clean.'

'You needn't brag about it,' returned Fledgeby, disappointed in his
desire to heighten the contrast between his bed and the streets.
'But you're always bragging about something. Got the books
there?'

'They are here, sir.'

'All right. I'll turn the general subject over in my mind for a
minute or two, and while I'm about it you can empty your bag and
get ready for me.'

With another comfortable plunge, Mr Fledgeby fell asleep again.
The old man, having obeyed his directions, sat down on the edge of
a chair, and, folding his hands before him, gradually yielded to the
influence of the warmth, and dozed. He was roused by Mr
Fledgeby's appearing erect at the foot of the bed, in Turkish
slippers, rose-coloured Turkish trousers (got cheap from somebody
who had cheated some other somebody out of them), and a gown
and cap to correspond. In that costume he would have left nothing
to be desired, if he had been further fitted out with a bottomless
chair, a lantern, and a bunch of matches.

'Now, old 'un!' cried Fascination, in his light raillery, 'what dodgery
are you up to next, sitting there with your eyes shut? You ain't
asleep. Catch a weasel at it, and catch a Jew!'

'Truly, sir, I fear I nodded,' said the old man.

'Not you!' returned Fledgeby, with a cunning look. 'A telling move
with a good many, I dare say, but it won't put ME off my guard.
Not a bad notion though, if you want to look indifferent in driving
a bargain. Oh, you are a dodger!'

The old man shook his head, gently repudiating the imputation,
and suppresed a sigh, and moved to the table at which Mr
Fledgeby was now pouring out for himself a cup of steaming and
fragrant coffee from a pot that had stood ready on the hob. It was
an edifying spectacle, the young man in his easy chair taking his
coffee, and the old man with his grey head bent, standing awaiting
his pleasure.

'Now!' said Fledgeby. 'Fork out your balance in hand, and prove
by figures how you make it out that it ain't more. First of all, light
that candle.'

Riah obeyed, and then taking a bag from his breast, and referring
to the sum in the accounts for which they made him responsible,
told it out upon the table. Fledgeby told it again with great care,
and rang every sovereign.

'I suppose,' he said, taking one up to eye it closely, 'you haven't
been lightening any of these; but it's a trade of your people's, you
know. YOU understand what sweating a pound means, don't
you?'

'Much as you do, sir,' returned the old man, with his hands under
opposite cuffs of his loose sleeves, as he stood at the table,
deferentially observant of the master's face. 'May I take the liberty
to say something?'

'You may,' Fledgeby graciously conceded.

'Do you not, sir--without intending it--of a surety without intending
it--sometimes mingle the character I fairly earn in your
employment, with the character which it is your policy that I
should bear?'

'I don't find it worth my while to cut things so fine as to go into the
inquiry,' Fascination coolly answered.

'Not in justice?'

'Bother justice!' said Fledgeby.

'Not in generosity?'

'Jews and generosity!' said Fledgeby. 'That's a good connexion!
Bring out your vouchers, and don't talk Jerusalem palaver.'

The vouchers were produced, and for the next half-hour Mr
Fledgeby concentrated his sublime attention on them. They and
the accounts were all found correct, and the books and the papers
resumed their places in the bag.

'Next,' said Fledgeby, 'concerning that bill-broking branch of the
business; the branch I like best. What queer bills are to be bought,
and at what prices? You have got your list of what's in the
market?'

'Sir, a long list,' replied Riah, taking out a pocket-book, and
selecting from its contents a folded paper, which, being unfolded,
became a sheet of foolscap covered with close writing.

'Whew!' whistled Fledgeby, as he took it in his hand. 'Queer Street
is full of lodgers just at present! These are to be disposed of in
parcels; are they?'

'In parcels as set forth,' returned the old man, looking over his
master's shoulder; 'or the lump.'

'Half the lump will be waste-paper, one knows beforehand,' said
Fledgeby. 'Can you get it at waste-paper price? That's the
question.'

Riah shook his head, and Fledgeby cast his small eyes down the
list. They presently began to twinkle, and he no sooner became
conscious of their twinkling, than he looked up over his shoulder at
the grave face above him, and moved to the chimney-piece.
Making a desk of it, he stood there with his back to the old man,
warming his knees, perusing the list at his leisure, and often
returning to some lines of it, as though they were particularly
interesting. At those times he glanced in the chimney-glass to see
what note the old man took of him. He took none that could be
detected, but, aware of his employer's suspicions, stood with his
eyes on the ground.

Mr Fledgeby was thus amiably engaged when a step was heard at
the outer door, and the door was heard to open hastily. 'Hark!
That's your doing, you Pump of Israel,' said Fledgeby; 'you can't
have shut it.' Then the step was heard within, and the voice of Mr
Alfred Lammle called aloud, 'Are you anywhere here, Fledgeby?'
To which Fledgeby, after cautioning Riah in a low voice to take his
cue as it should be given him, replied, 'Here I am!' and opened his
bedroom door.

'Come in!' said Fledgeby. 'This gentleman is only Pubsey and Co.
of Saint Mary Axe, that I am trying to make terms for an
unfortunate friend with in a matter of some dishonoured bills. But
really Pubsey and Co. are so strict with their debtors, and so hard
to move, that I seem to be wasting my time. Can't I make ANY
terms with you on my friend's part, Mr Riah?'

'I am but the representative of another, sir,' returned the Jew in a
low voice. 'I do as I am bidden by my principal. It is not my
capital that is invested in the business. It is not my profit that
arises therefrom.'

'Ha ha!' laughed Fledgeby. 'Lammle?'

'Ha ha!' laughed Lammle. 'Yes. Of course. We know.'

'Devilish good, ain't it, Lammle?' said Fledgeby, unspeakably
amused by his hidden joke.

'Always the same, always the same!' said Lammle. 'Mr--'

'Riah, Pubsey and Co. Saint Mary Axe,' Fledgeby put in, as he
wiped away the tears that trickled from his eyes, so rare was his
enjoyment of his secret joke.

'Mr Riah is bound to observe the invaRiahle forms for such cases
made and provided,' said Lammle.

'He is only the representative of another!' cried Fledgeby. 'Does as
he is told by his principal! Not his capital that's invested in the
business. Oh, that's good! Ha ha ha ha!' Mr Lammle joined in the
laugh and looked knowing; and the more he did both, the more
exquisite the secret joke became for Mr Fledgeby.

'However,' said that fascinating gentleman, wiping his eyes again,
'if we go on in this way, we shall seem to be almost making game
of Mr Riah, or of Pubsey and Co. Saint Mary Axe, or of somebody:
which is far from our intention. Mr Riah, if you would have the
kindness to step into the next room for a few moments while I
speak with Mr Lammle here, I should like to try to make terms
with you once again before you go.'

The old man, who had never raised his eyes during the whole
transaction of Mr Fledgeby's joke, silently bowed and passed out
by the door which Fledgeby opened for him. Having closed it on
him, Fledgeby returned to Lammle, standing with his back to the
bedroom fire, with one hand under his coat-skirts, and all his
whiskers in the other.

'Halloa!' said Fledgeby. 'There's something wrong!'

'How do you know it?' demanded Lammle.

'Because you show it,' replied Fledgeby in unintentional rhyme.

'Well then; there is,' said Lammle; 'there IS something wrong; the
whole thing's wrong.'

'I say!' remonstrated Fascination very slowly, and sitting down
with his hands on his knees to stare at his glowering friend with
his back to the fire.

'I tell you, Fledgeby,' repeated Lammle, with a sweep of his right
arm, 'the whole thing's wrong. The game's up.'

'What game's up?' demanded Fledgeby, as slowly as before, and
more sternly.

'THE game. OUR game. Read that.'

Fledgeby took a note from his extended hand and read it aloud.
'Alfred Lammle, Esquire. Sir: Allow Mrs Podsnap and myself to
express our united sense of the polite attentions of Mrs Alfred
Lammle and yourself towards our daughter, Georgiana. Allow us
also, wholly to reject them for the future, and to communicate our
final desire that the two families may become entire strangers. I
have the honour to be, Sir, your most obedient and very humble
servant, JOHN PODSNAP.' Fledgeby looked at the three blank
sides of this note, quite as long and earnestly as at the first
expressive side, and then looked at Lammle, who responded with
another extensive sweep of his right arm.

'Whose doing is this?' said Fledgeby.

'Impossible to imagine,' said Lammle.

'Perhaps,' suggested Fledgeby, after reflecting with a very
discontented brow, 'somebody has been giving you a bad
character.'

'Or you,' said Lammle, with a deeper frown.

Mr Fledgeby appeared to be on the verge of some mutinous
expressions, when his hand happened to touch his nose. A certain
remembrance connected with that feature operating as a timely
warning, he took it thoughtfully between his thumb and forefinger,
and pondered; Lammle meanwhile eyeing him with furtive eyes.

'Well!' said Fledgeby. 'This won't improve with talking about. If
we ever find out who did it, we'll mark that person. There's
nothing more to be said, except that you undertook to do what
circumstances prevent your doing.'

'And that you undertook to do what you might have done by this
time, if you had made a prompter use of circumstances,' snarled
Lammle.

'Hah! That,' remarked Fledgeby, with his hands in the Turkish
trousers, 'is matter of opinion.'

'Mr Fledgeby,' said Lammle, in a bullying tone, 'am I to understand
that you in any way reflect upon me, or hint dissatisfaction with
me, in this affair?'

'No,' said Fledgeby; 'provided you have brought my promissory
note in your pocket, and now hand it over.'

Lammle produced it, not without reluctance. Fledgeby looked at it,
identified it, twisted it up, and threw it into the fire. They both
looked at it as it blazed, went out, and flew in feathery ash up the
chimney.

'NOW, Mr Fledgeby,' said Lammle, as before; 'am I to understand
that you in any way reflect upon me, or hint dissatisfaction with
me, in this affair?'

'No,' said Fledgeby.

'Finally and unreservedly no?'

'Yes.'

'Fledgeby, my hand.'

Mr Fledgeby took it, saying, 'And if we ever find out who did this,
we'll mark that person. And in the most friendly manner, let me
mention one thing more. I don't know what your circumstances
are, and I don't ask. You have sustained a loss here. Many men
are liable to be involved at times, and you may be, or you may not
be. But whatever you do, Lammle, don't--don't--don't, I beg of
you--ever fall into the hands of Pubsey and Co. in the next room,
for they are grinders. Regular flayers and grinders, my dear
Lammle,' repeated Fledgeby with a peculiar relish, 'and they'll skin
you by the inch, from the nape of your neck to the sole of your foot,
and grind every inch of your skin to tooth-powder. You have seen
what Mr Riah is. Never fall into his hands, Lammle, I beg of you
as a friend!'

Mr Lammle, disclosing some alarm at the solemnity of this
affectionate adjuration, demanded why the devil he ever should fall
into the hands of Pubsey and Co.?

'To confess the fact, I was made a little uneasy,' said the candid
Fledgeby, 'by the manner in which that Jew looked at you when he
heard your name. I didn't like his eye. But it may have been the
heated fancy of a friend. Of course if you are sure that you have no
personal security out, which you may not be quite equal to
meeting, and which can have got into his hands, it must have been
fancy. Still, I didn't like his eye.'

The brooding Lammle, with certain white dints coming and going
in his palpitating nose, looked as if some tormenting imp were
pinching it. Fledgeby, watching him with a twitch in his mean
face which did duty there for a smile, looked very like the
tormentor who was pinching.

'But I mustn't keep him waiting too long,' said Fledgeby, 'or he'll
revenge it on my unfortunate friend. How's your very clever and
agreeable wife? She knows we have broken down?'

'I showed her the letter.'

'Very much surprised?' asked Fledgeby.

'I think she would have been more so,' answered Lammle, 'if there
had been more go in YOU?'

'Oh!--She lays it upon me, then?'

'Mr Fledgeby, I will not have my words misconstrued.'

'Don't break out, Lammle,' urged Fledgeby, in a submissive tone,
'because there's no occasion. I only asked a question. Then she
don't lay it upon me? To ask another question.'

'No, sir.'

'Very good,' said Fledgeby, plainly seeing that she did. 'My
compliments to her. Good-bye!'

They shook hands, and Lammle strode out pondering. Fledgeby
saw him into the fog, and, returning to the fire and musing with his
face to it, stretched the legs of the rose-coloured Turkish trousers
wide apart, and meditatively bent his knees, as if he were going
down upon them.

'You have a pair of whiskers, Lammle, which I never liked,'
murmured Fledgeby, 'and which money can't produce; you are
boastful of your manners and your conversation; you wanted to
pull my nose, and you have let me in for a failure, and your wife
says I am the cause of it. I'll bowl you down. I will, though I have
no whiskers,' here he rubbed the places where they were due, 'and
no manners, and no conversation!'

Having thus relieved his noble mind, he collected the legs of the
Turkish trousers, straightened himself on his knees, and called out
to Riah in the next room, 'Halloa, you sir!' At sight of the old man
re-entering with a gentleness monstrously in contrast with the
character he had given him, Mr Fledgeby was so tickled again, that
he exclaimed, laughing, 'Good! Good! Upon my soul it is
uncommon good!'

'Now, old 'un,' proceeded Fledgeby, when he had had his laugh
out, 'you'll buy up these lots that I mark with my pencil--there's a
tick there, and a tick there, and a tick there--and I wager two-pence
you'll afterwards go on squeezing those Christians like the Jew you
are. Now, next you'll want a cheque--or you'll say you want it,
though you've capital enough somewhere, if one only knew where,
but you'd be peppered and salted and grilled on a gridiron before
you'd own to it--and that cheque I'll write.'

When he had unlocked a drawer and taken a key from it to open
another drawer, in which was another key that opened another
drawer, in which was another key that opened another drawer, in
which was the cheque book; and when he had written the cheque;
and when, reversing the key and drawer process, he had placed his
cheque book in safety again; he beckoned the old man, with the
folded cheque, to come and take it.

'Old 'un,' said Fledgeby, when the Jew had put it in his
pocketbook, and was putting that in the breast of his outer
garment; 'so much at present for my affairs. Now a word about
affairs that are not exactly mine. Where is she?'

With his hand not yet withdrawn from the breast of his garment,
Riah started and paused.

'Oho!' said Fledgeby. 'Didn't expect it! Where have you hidden
her?'

Showing that he was taken by surprise, the old man looked at his
master with some passing confusion, which the master highly
enjoyed.

'Is she in the house I pay rent and taxes for in Saint Mary Axe?'
demanded Fledgeby.

'No, sir.'

'Is she in your garden up atop of that house--gone up to be dead, or
whatever the game is?' asked Fledgeby.

'No, sir.'

'Where is she then?'

Riah bent his eyes upon the ground, as if considering whether he
could answer the question without breach of faith, and then silently
raised them to Fledgeby's face, as if he could not.

'Come!' said Fledgeby. 'I won't press that just now. But I want to
know this, and I will know this, mind you. What are you up to?'

The old man, with an apologetic action of his head and hands, as
not comprehending the master's meaning, addressed to him a look
of mute inquiry.

'You can't be a gallivanting dodger,' said Fledgeby. 'For you're a
"regular pity the sorrows", you know--if you DO know any
Christian rhyme--"whose trembling limbs have borne him to"--et
cetrer. You're one of the Patriarchs; you're a shaky old card; and
you can't be in love with this Lizzie?'

'O, sir!' expostulated Riah. 'O, sir, sir, sir!'

'Then why,' retorted Fledgeby, with some slight tinge of a blush,
'don't you out with your reason for having your spoon in the soup at
all?'

'Sir, I will tell you the truth. But (your pardon for the stipulation) it
is in sacred confidence; it is strictly upon honour.'

'Honour too!' cried Fledgeby, with a mocking lip. 'Honour among
Jews. Well. Cut away.'

'It is upon honour, sir?' the other still stipulated, with respectful
firmness.

'Oh, certainly. Honour bright,' said Fledgeby.

The old man, never bidden to sit down, stood with an earnest hand
laid on the back of the young man's easy chair. The young man sat
looking at the fire with a face of listening curiosity, ready to check
him off and catch him tripping.

'Cut away,' said Fledgeby. 'Start with your motive.'

'Sir, I have no motive but to help the helpless.'

Mr Fledgeby could only express the feelings to which this
incredible statement gave rise in his breast, by a prodigiously long
derisive sniff.

'How I came to know, and much to esteem and to respect, this
damsel, I mentioned when you saw her in my poor garden on the
house-top,' said the Jew.

'Did you?' said Fledgeby, distrustfully. 'Well. Perhaps you did,
though.'

'The better I knew her, the more interest I felt in her fortunes. They
gathered to a crisis. I found her beset by a selfish and ungrateful
brother, beset by an unacceptable wooer, beset by the snares of a
more powerful lover, beset by the wiles of her own heart.'

'She took to one of the chaps then?'

'Sir, it was only natural that she should incline towards him, for he
had many and great advantages. But he was not of her station, and
to marry her was not in his mind. Perils were closing round her,
and the circle was fast darkening, when I--being as you have said,
sir, too old and broken to be suspected of any feeling for her but a
father's--stepped in, and counselled flight. I said, "My daughter,
there are times of moral danger when the hardest virtuous
resolution to form is flight, and when the most heroic bravery is
flight." She answered, she had had this in her thoughts; but
whither to fly without help she knew not, and there were none to
help her. I showed her there was one to help her, and it was I.
And she is gone.'

'What did you do with her?' asked Fledgeby, feeling his cheek.

'I placed her,' said the old man, 'at a distance;' with a grave smooth
outward sweep from one another of his two open hands at arm's
length; 'at a distance--among certain of our people, where her
industry would serve her, and where she could hope to exercise it,
unassailed from any quarter.'

Fledgeby's eyes had come from the fire to notice the action of his
hands when he said 'at a distance.' Fledgeby now tried (very
unsuccessfully) to imitate that action, as he shook his head and
said, 'Placed her in that direction, did you? Oh you circular old
dodger!'

With one hand across his breast and the other on the easy chair,
Riah, without justifying himself, waited for further questioning.
But, that it was hopeless to question him on that one reserved
point, Fledgeby, with his small eyes too near together, saw full
well.

'Lizzie,' said Fledgeby, looking at the fire again, and then looking
up. 'Humph, Lizzie. You didn't tell me the other name in your
garden atop of the house. I'll be more communicative with you.
The other name's Hexam.'

Riah bent his head in assent.

'Look here, you sir,' said Fledgeby. 'I have a notion I know
something of the inveigling chap, the powerful one. Has he
anything to do with the law?'

'Nominally, I believe it his calling.'

'I thought so. Name anything like Lightwood?'

'Sir, not at all like.'

'Come, old 'un,' said Fledgeby, meeting his eyes with a wink, 'say
the name.'

'Wrayburn.'

'By Jupiter!' cried Fledgeby. 'That one, is it? I thought it might be
the other, but I never dreamt of that one! I shouldn't object to your
baulking either of the pair, dodger, for they are both conceited
enough; but that one is as cool a customer as ever I met with. Got
a beard besides, and presumes upon it. Well done, old 'un! Go on
and prosper!'

Brightened by this unexpected commendation, Riah asked were
there more instructions for him?

'No,' said Fledgeby, 'you may toddle now, Judah, and grope about
on the orders you have got.' Dismissed with those pleasing words,
the old man took his broad hat and staff, and left the great
presence: more as if he were some superior creature benignantly
blessing Mr Fledgeby, than the poor dependent on whom he set his
foot. Left alone, Mr Fledgeby locked his outer door, and came
back to his fire.

'Well done you!' said Fascination to himself. 'Slow, you may be;
sure, you are!' This he twice or thrice repeated with much
complacency, as he again dispersed the legs of the Turkish trousers
and bent the knees.

'A tidy shot that, I flatter myself,' he then soliloquised. 'And a Jew
brought down with it! Now, when I heard the story told at
Lammle's, I didn't make a jump at Riah. Not a hit of it; I got at
him by degrees.' Herein he was quite accurate; it being his habit,
not to jump, or leap, or make an upward spring, at anything in life,
but to crawl at everything.

'I got at him,' pursued Fledgeby, feeling for his whisker, 'by
degrees. If your Lammles or your Lightwoods had got at him
anyhow, they would have asked him the question whether he
hadn't something to do with that gal's disappearance. I knew a
better way of going to work. Having got behind the hedge, and put
him in the light, I took a shot at him and brought him down plump.
Oh! It don't count for much, being a Jew, in a match against ME!'

Another dry twist in place of a smile, made his face crooked here.

'As to Christians,' proceeded Fledgeby, 'look out, fellow-
Christians, particularly you that lodge in Queer Street! I have got
the run of Queer Street now, and you shall see some games there.
To work a lot of power over you and you not know it, knowing as
you think yourselves, would be almost worth laying out money
upon. But when it comes to squeezing a profit out of you into the
bargain, it's something like!'

With this apostrophe Mr Fledgeby appropriately proceeded to
divest himself of his Turkish garments, and invest himself with
Christian attire. Pending which operation, and his morning
ablutions, and his anointing of himself with the last infallible
preparation for the production of luxuriant and glossy hair upon the
human countenance (quacks being the only sages he believed in
besides usurers), the murky fog closed about him and shut him up
in its sooty embrace. If it had never let him out any more, the
world would have had no irreparable loss, but could have easily
replaced him from its stock on hand.

Chapter 2

A RESPECTED FRIEND IN A NEW ASPECT

In the evening of this same foggy day when the yellow window-
blind of Pubsey and Co. was drawn down upon the day's work,
Riah the Jew once more came forth into Saint Mary Axe. But this
time he carried no bag, and was not bound on his master's affairs.
He passed over London Bridge, and returned to the Middlesex
shore by that of Westminster, and so, ever wading through the fog,
waded to the doorstep of the dolls' dressmaker.

Miss Wren expected him. He could see her through the window
by the light of her low fire--carefully banked up with damp cinders
that it might last the longer and waste the less when she was out--
sitting waiting for him in her bonnet. His tap at the glass roused
her from the musing solitude in which she sat, and she came to the
door to open it; aiding her steps with a little crutch-stick.

'Good evening, godmother!' said Miss Jenny Wren.

The old man laughed, and gave her his arm to lean on.

'Won't you come in and warm yourself, godmother?' asked Miss
Jenny Wren.

'Not if you are ready, Cinderella, my dear.'

'Well!' exclaimed Miss Wren, delighted. 'Now you ARE a clever
old boy! If we gave prizes at this establishment (but we only keep
blanks), you should have the first silver medal, for taking me up so
quick.' As she spake thus, Miss Wren removed the key of the
house-door from the keyhole and put it in her pocket, and then
bustlingly closed the door, and tried it as they both stood on the
step. Satisfied that her dwelling was safe, she drew one hand
through the old man's arm and prepared to ply her crutch-stick
with the other. But the key was an instrument of such gigantic
proportions, that before they started Riah proposed to carry it.

'No, no, no! I'll carry it myself,' returned Miss Wren. 'I'm awfully
lopsided, you know, and stowed down in my pocket it'll trim the
ship. To let you into a secret, godmother, I wear my pocket on my
high side, o' purpose.'

With that they began their plodding through the fog.

'Yes, it was truly sharp of you, godmother,' resumed Miss Wren
with great approbation, 'to understand me. But, you see, you ARE
so like the fairy godmother in the bright little books! You look so
unlike the rest of people, and so much as if you had changed
yourself into that shape, just this moment, with some benevolent
object. Boh!' cried Miss Jenny, putting her face close to the old
man's. 'I can see your features, godmother, behind the beard.'

'Does the fancy go to my changing other objects too, Jenny?'

'Ah! That it does! If you'd only borrow my stick and tap this piece
of pavement--this dirty stone that my foot taps--it would start up a
coach and six. I say! Let's believe so!'

'With all my heart,' replied the good old man.

'And I'll tell you what I must ask you to do, godmother. I must ask
you to be so kind as give my child a tap, and change him
altogether. O my child has been such a bad, bad child of late! It
worries me nearly out of my wits. Not done a stroke of work these
ten days. Has had the horrors, too, and fancied that four copper-
coloured men in red wanted to throw him into a fiery furnace.'

'But that's dangerous, Jenny.'

'Dangerous, godmother? My child is always dangerous, more or
less. He might'--here the little creature glanced back over her
shoulder at the sky--'be setting the house on fire at this present
moment. I don't know who would have a child, for my part! It's
no use shaking him. I have shaken him till I have made myself
giddy. "Why don't you mind your Commandments and honour
your parent, you naughty old boy?" I said to him all the time. But
he only whimpered and stared at me.'

'What shall be changed, after him?' asked Riah in a compassionately
playful voice.

'Upon my word, godmother, I am afraid I must be selfish next, and
get you to set me right in the back and the legs. It's a little thing to
you with your power, godmother, but it's a great deal to poor weak
aching me.'

There was no querulous complaining in the words, but they were
not the less touching for that.

'And then?'

'Yes, and then--YOU know, godmother. We'll both jump up into
the coach and six and go to Lizzie. This reminds me, godmother,
to ask you a serious question. You are as wise as wise can be
(having been brought up by the fairies), and you can tell me this: Is
it better to have had a good thing and lost it, or never to have had
it?'

'Explain, god-daughter.'

'I feel so much more solitary and helpless without Lizzie now, than
I used to feel before I knew her.' (Tears were in her eyes as she
said so.)

'Some beloved companionship fades out of most lives, my dear,'
said the Jew,--'that of a wife, and a fair daughter, and a son of
promise, has faded out of my own life--but the happiness was.'

'Ah!' said Miss Wren thoughtfully, by no means convinced, and
chopping the exclamation with that sharp little hatchet of hers;
'then I tell you what change I think you had better begin with,
godmother. You had better change Is into Was and Was into Is,
and keep them so.'

'Would that suit your case? Would you not be always in pain
then?' asked the old man tenderly.

'Right!' exclaimed Miss Wren with another chop. 'You have
changed me wiser, godmother.--Not,' she added with the quaint
hitch of her chin and eyes, 'that you need be a very wonderful
godmother to do that deed.'

Thus conversing, and having crossed Westminster Bridge, they
traversed the ground that Riah had lately traversed, and new
ground likewise; for, when they had recrossed the Thames by way
of London Bridge, they struck down by the river and held their still
foggier course that way.

But previously, as they were going along, Jenny twisted her
venerable friend aside to a brilliantly-lighted toy-shop window, and
said: 'Now look at 'em! All my work!'

This referred to a dazzling semicircle of dolls in all the colours of
the rainbow, who were dressed for presentation at court, for going
to balls, for going out driving, for going out on horseback, for
going out walking, for going to get married, for going to help other
dolls to get married, for all the gay events of life.'

'Pretty, pretty, pretty!' said the old man with a clap of his hands.
'Most elegant taste!'

'Glad you like 'em,' returned Miss Wren, loftily. 'But the fun is,
godmother, how I make the great ladies try my dresses on. Though
it's the hardest part of my business, and would be, even if my back
were not bad and my legs queer.'

He looked at her as not understanding what she said.

'Bless you, godmother,' said Miss Wren, 'I have to scud about town
at all hours. If it was only sitting at my bench, cutting out and
sewing, it would be comparatively easy work; but it's the trying-on
by the great ladies that takes it out of me.'

'How, the trying-on?' asked Riah.

'What a mooney godmother you are, after all!' returned Miss Wren.
'Look here. There's a Drawing Room, or a grand day in the Park,
or a Show, or a Fete, or what you like. Very well. I squeeze
among the crowd, and I look about me. When I see a great lady
very suitable for my business, I say "You'll do, my dear!' and I take
particular notice of her, and run home and cut her out and baste
her. Then another day, I come scudding back again to try on, and
then I take particular notice of her again. Sometimes she plainly
seems to say, 'How that little creature is staring!' and sometimes
likes it and sometimes don't, but much more often yes than no. All
the time I am only saying to myself, "I must hollow out a bit here; I
must slope away there;" and I am making a perfect slave of her,
with making her try on my doll's dress. Evening parties are severer
work for me, because there's only a doorway for a full view, and
what with hobbling among the wheels of the carriages and the legs
of the horses, I fully expect to be run over some night. However,
there I have 'em, just the same. When they go bobbing into the
hall from the carriage, and catch a glimpse of my little
physiognomy poked out from behind a policeman's cape in the
rain, I dare say they think I am wondering and admiring with all
my eyes and heart, but they little think they're only working for my
dolls! There was Lady Belinda Whitrose. I made her do double
duty in one night. I said when she came out of the carriage,
"YOU'll do, my dear!" and I ran straight home and cut her out and
basted her. Back I came again, and waited behind the men that
called the carriages. Very bad night too. At last, "Lady Belinda
Whitrose's carriage! Lady Belinda Whitrose coming down!" And
I made her try on--oh! and take pains about it too--before she got
seated. That's Lady Belinda hanging up by the waist, much too
near the gaslight for a wax one, with her toes turned in.'

When they had plodded on for some time nigh the river, Riah
asked the way to a certain tavern called the Six Jolly Fellowship
Porters. Following the directions he received, they arrived, after
two or three puzzled stoppages for consideration, and some
uncertain looking about them, at the door of Miss Abbey
Potterson's dominions. A peep through the glass portion of the
door revealed to them the glories of the bar, and Miss Abbey
herself seated in state on her snug throne, reading the newspaper.
To whom, with deference, they presented themselves.

Taking her eyes off her newspaper, and pausing with a suspended
expression of countenance, as if she must finish the paragraph in
hand before undertaking any other business whatever, Miss Abbey
demanded, with some slight asperity: 'Now then, what's for you?'

'Could we see Miss Potterson?' asked the old man, uncovering his
head.

'You not only could, but you can and you do,' replied the hostess.

'Might we speak with you, madam?'

By this time Miss Abbey's eyes had possessed themselves of the
small figure of Miss Jenny Wren. For the closer observation of
which, Miss Abbey laid aside her newspaper, rose, and looked
over the half-door of the bar. The crutch-stick seemed to entreat
for its owner leave to come in and rest by the fire; so, Miss Abbey
opened the half-door, and said, as though replying to the crutch-
stick:

'Yes, come in and rest by the fire.'

'My name is Riah,' said the old man, with courteous action, 'and
my avocation is in London city. This, my young companion--'

'Stop a bit,' interposed Miss Wren. 'I'll give the lady my card.' She
produced it from her pocket with an air, after struggling with the
gigantic door-key which had got upon the top of it and kept it
down. Miss Abbey, with manifest tokens of astonishment, took
the diminutive document, and found it to run concisely thus:--

MISS JENNY WREN

DOLLS' DRESSMAKER.

Dolls attended at their own residences.

'Lud!' exclaimed Miss Potterson, staring. And dropped the card.

'We take the liberty of coming, my young companion and I,
madam,' said Riah, 'on behalf of Lizzie Hexam.'

Miss Potterson was stooping to loosen the bonnet-strings of the
dolls' dressmaker. She looked round rather angrily, and said:
'Lizzie Hexam is a very proud young woman.'

'She would be so proud,' returned Riah, dexterously, 'to stand well
in your good opinion, that before she quitted London for--'

'For where, in the name of the Cape of Good Hope?' asked Miss
Potterson, as though supposing her to have emigrated.

'For the country,' was the cautious answer,--'she made us promise
to come and show you a paper, which she left in our hands for that
special purpose. I am an unserviceable friend of hers, who began
to know her after her departure from this neighbourhood. She has
been for some time living with my young companion, and has been
a helpful and a comfortable friend to her. Much needed, madam,'
he added, in a lower voice. 'Believe me; if you knew all, much
needed.'

'I can believe that,' said Miss Abbey, with a softening glance at the
little creature.

'And if it's proud to have a heart that never hardens, and a temper
that never tires, and a touch that never hurts,' Miss Jenny struck in,
flushed, 'she is proud. And if it's not, she is NOT.'

Her set purpose of contradicting Miss Abbey point blank, was so
far from offending that dread authority, as to elicit a gracious
smile. 'You do right, child,' said Miss Abbey, 'to speak well of
those who deserve well of you.'

'Right or wrong,' muttered Miss Wren, inaudibly, with a visible
hitch of her chin, 'I mean to do it, and you may make up your mind
to THAT, old lady.'

'Here is the paper, madam,' said the Jew, delivering into Miss
Potterson's hands the original document drawn up by Rokesmith,
and signed by Riderhood. 'Will you please to read it?'

'But first of all,' said Miss Abbey, '-- did you ever taste shrub,
child?'

Miss Wren shook her head.

'Should you like to?'

'Should if it's good,' returned Miss Wren.

'You shall try. And, if you find it good, I'll mix some for you with
hot water. Put your poor little feet on the fender. It's a cold, cold
night, and the fog clings so.' As Miss Abbey helped her to turn her
chair, her loosened bonnet dropped on the floor. 'Why, what lovely
hair!' cried Miss Abbey. 'And enough to make wigs for all the
dolls in the world. What a quantity!'

'Call THAT a quantity?' returned Miss Wren. 'Poof! What do you
say to the rest of it?' As she spoke, she untied a band, and the
golden stream fell over herself and over the chair, and flowed down
to the ground. Miss Abbey's admiration seemed to increase her
perplexity. She beckoned the Jew towards her, as she reached
down the shrub-bottle from its niche, and whispered:

'Child, or woman?'

'Child in years,' was the answer; 'woman in self-reliance and trial.'

'You are talking about Me, good people,' thought Miss Jenny,
sitting in her golden bower, warming her feet. 'I can't hear what
you say, but I know your tricks and your manners!'

The shrub, when tasted from a spoon, perfectly harmonizing with
Miss Jenny's palate, a judicious amount was mixed by Miss
Potterson's skilful hands, whereof Riah too partook. After this
preliminary, Miss Abbey read the document; and, as often as she
raised her eyebrows in so doing, the watchful Miss Jenny
accompanied the action with an expressive and emphatic sip of the
shrub and water.

'As far as this goes,' said Miss Abbey Potterson, when she had
read it several times, and thought about it, 'it proves (what didn't
much need proving) that Rogue Riderhood is a villain. I have my
doubts whether he is not the villain who solely did the deed; but I
have no expectation of those doubts ever being cleared up now. I
believe I did Lizzie's father wrong, but never Lizzie's self; because
when things were at the worst I trusted her, had perfect confidence
in her, and tried to persuade her to come to me for a refuge. I am
very sorry to have done a man wrong, particularly when it can't be
undone. Be kind enough to let Lizzie know what I say; not
forgetting that if she will come to the Porters, after all, bygones
being bygones, she will find a home at the Porters, and a friend at
the Porters. She knows Miss Abbey of old, remind her, and she
knows what-like the home, and what-like the friend, is likely to
turn out. I am generally short and sweet--or short and sour,
according as it may be and as opinions vary--' remarked Miss
Abbey, 'and that's about all I have got to say, and enough too.'

But before the shrub and water was sipped out, Miss Abbey
bethought herself that she would like to keep a copy of the paper
by her. 'It's not long, sir,' said she to Riah, 'and perhaps you
wouldn't mind just jotting it down.' The old man willingly put on
his spectacles, and, standing at the little desk in the corner where
Miss Abbey filed her receipts and kept her sample phials
(customers' scores were interdicted by the strict administration of
the Porters), wrote out the copy in a fair round character. As he
stood there, doing his methodical penmanship, his ancient
scribelike figure intent upon the work, and the little dolls'
dressmaker sitting in her golden bower before the fire, Miss Abbey
had her doubts whether she had not dreamed those two rare figures
into the bar of the Six Jolly Fellowships, and might not wake with
a nod next moment and find them gone.

Miss Abbey had twice made the experiment of shutting her eyes
and opening them again, still finding the figures there, when,
dreamlike, a confused hubbub arose in the public room. As she
started up, and they all three looked at one another, it became a
noise of clamouring voices and of the stir of feet; then all the
windows were heard to be hastily thrown up, and shouts and cries
came floating into the house from the river. A moment more, and
Bob Gliddery came clattering along the passage, with the noise of
all the nails in his boots condensed into every separate nail.

'What is it?' asked Miss Abbey.

'It's summut run down in the fog, ma'am,' answered Bob. 'There's
ever so many people in the river.'

'Tell 'em to put on all the kettles!' cried Miss Abbey. 'See that the
boiler's full. Get a bath out. Hang some blankets to the fire. Heat
some stone bottles. Have your senses about you, you girls down
stairs, and use 'em.'

While Miss Abbey partly delivered these directions to Bob--whom
she seized by the hair, and whose head she knocked against the
wall, as a general injunction to vigilance and presence of mind--
and partly hailed the kitchen with them--the company in the public
room, jostling one another, rushed out to the causeway, and the
outer noise increased.

'Come and look,' said Miss Abbey to her visitors. They all three
hurried to the vacated public room, and passed by one of the
windows into the wooden verandah overhanging the river.

'Does anybody down there know what has happened?' demanded
Miss Abbey, in her voice of authority.

'It's a steamer, Miss Abbey,' cried one blurred figure in the fog.

'It always IS a steamer, Miss Abbey,' cried another.

'Them's her lights, Miss Abbey, wot you see a-blinking yonder,'
cried another.

'She's a-blowing off her steam, Miss Abbey, and that's what makes
the fog and the noise worse, don't you see?' explained another.

Boats were putting off, torches were lighting up, people were
rushing tumultuously to the water's edge. Some man fell in with a
splash, and was pulled out again with a roar of laughter. The
drags were called for. A cry for the life-buoy passed from mouth to
mouth. It was impossible to make out what was going on upon the
river, for every boat that put off sculled into the fog and was lost to
view at a boat's length. Nothing was clear but that the unpopular
steamer was assailed with reproaches on all sides. She was the
Murderer, bound for Gallows Bay; she was the Manslaughterer,
bound for Penal Settlement; her captain ought to be tried for his
life; her crew ran down men in row-boats with a relish; she
mashed up Thames lightermen with her paddles; she fired property
with her funnels; she always was, and she always would be,
wreaking destruction upon somebody or something, after the
manner of all her kind. The whole bulk of the fog teemed with
such taunts, uttered in tones of universal hoarseness. All the
while, the steamer's lights moved spectrally a very little, as she lay-
to, waiting the upshot of whatever accident had happened. Now,
she began burning blue-lights. These made a luminous patch
about her, as if she had set the fog on fire, and in the patch--the
cries changing their note, and becoming more fitful and more
excited--shadows of men and boats could be seen moving, while
voices shouted: 'There!' 'There again!' 'A couple more strokes a-
head!' 'Hurrah!' 'Look out!' 'Hold on!' 'Haul in!' and the like. Lastly,
with a few tumbling clots of blue fire, the night closed in dark
again, the wheels of the steamer were heard revolving, and her
lights glided smoothly away in the direction of the sea.

It appeared to Miss Abbey and her two companions that a
considerable time had been thus occupied. There was now as
eager a set towards the shore beneath the house as there had been
from it; and it was only on the first boat of the rush coming in that
it was known what had occurred.

'If that's Tom Tootle,' Miss Abbey made proclamation, in her most
commanding tones, 'let him instantly come underneath here.'

The submissive Tom complied, attended by a crowd.

'What is it, Tootle?' demanded Miss Abbey.

'It's a foreign steamer, miss, run down a wherry.'

'How many in the wherry?'

'One man, Miss Abbey.'

'Found?'

'Yes. He's been under water a long time, Miss; but they've
grappled up the body.'

'Let 'em bring it here. You, Bob Gliddery, shut the house-door and
stand by it on the inside, and don't you open till I tell you. Any
police down there?'

'Here, Miss Abbey,' was official rejoinder.

'After they have brought the body in, keep the crowd out, will you?
And help Bob Gliddery to shut 'em out.'

'All right, Miss Abbey.'

The autocratic landlady withdrew into the house with Riah and
Miss Jenny, and disposed those forces, one on either side of her,
within the half-door of the bar, as behind a breastwork.

'You two stand close here,' said Miss Abbey, 'and you'll come to no
hurt, and see it brought in. Bob, you stand by the door.'

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