Part 03 - Our Mutual Friend Audiobook by Charles Dickens (Book 1, Chs 10-13)


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Transcript:
Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens CHAPTER 10
A MARRIAGE CONTRACT
There is excitement in the Veneering mansion.
The mature young lady is going to be married (powder and all) to the mature
young gentleman, and she is to be married from the Veneering house, and the
Veneerings are to give the breakfast.
The Analytical, who objects as a matter of principle to everything that occurs on the
premises, necessarily objects to the match; but his consent has been dispensed with,
and a spring-van is delivering its load of
greenhouse plants at the door, in order that to-morrow's feast may be crowned with
flowers. The mature young lady is a lady of
property.
The mature young gentleman is a gentleman of property.
He invests his property.
He goes, in a condescending amateurish way, into the City, attends meetings of
Directors, and has to do with traffic in Shares.
As is well known to the wise in their generation, traffic in Shares is the one
thing to have to do with in this world.
Have no antecedents, no established character, no cultivation, no ideas, no
manners; have Shares.
Have Shares enough to be on Boards of Direction in capital letters, oscillate on
mysterious business between London and Paris, and be great.
Where does he come from?
Shares. Where is he going to?
Shares. What are his tastes?
Shares.
Has he any principles? Shares.
What squeezes him into Parliament? Shares.
Perhaps he never of himself achieved success in anything, never originated
anything, never produced anything? Sufficient answer to all; Shares.
O mighty Shares!
To set those blaring images so high, and to cause us smaller vermin, as under the
influence of henbane or opium, to cry out, night and day, 'Relieve us of our money,
scatter it for us, buy us and sell us, ruin
us, only we beseech ye take rank among the powers of the earth, and fatten on us'!
While the Loves and Graces have been preparing this torch for Hymen, which is to
be kindled to-morrow, Mr Twemlow has suffered much in his mind.
It would seem that both the mature young lady and the mature young gentleman must
indubitably be Veneering's oldest friends. Wards of his, perhaps?
Yet that can scarcely be, for they are older than himself.
Veneering has been in their confidence throughout, and has done much to lure them
to the altar.
He has mentioned to Twemlow how he said to Mrs Veneering, 'Anastatia, this must be a
match.'
He has mentioned to Twemlow how he regards Sophronia Akershem (the mature young lady)
in the light of a sister, and Alfred Lammle (the mature young gentleman) in the light
of a brother.
Twemlow has asked him whether he went to school as a junior with Alfred?
He has answered, 'Not exactly.' Whether Sophronia was adopted by his
mother?
He has answered, 'Not precisely so.' Twemlow's hand has gone to his forehead
with a lost air.
But, two or three weeks ago, Twemlow, sitting over his newspaper, and over his
dry-toast and weak tea, and over the stable-yard in Duke Street, St James's,
received a highly-perfumed cocked-hat and
monogram from Mrs Veneering, entreating her dearest Mr T., if not particularly engaged
that day, to come like a charming soul and make a fourth at dinner with dear Mr
Podsnap, for the discussion of an
interesting family topic; the last three words doubly underlined and pointed with a
note of admiration.
And Twemlow replying, 'Not engaged, and more than delighted,' goes, and this takes
place:
'My dear Twemlow,' says Veneering, 'your ready response to Anastatia's unceremonious
invitation is truly kind, and like an old, old friend.
You know our dear friend Podsnap?'
Twemlow ought to know the dear friend Podsnap who covered him with so much
confusion, and he says he does know him, and Podsnap reciprocates.
Apparently, Podsnap has been so wrought upon in a short time, as to believe that he
has been intimate in the house many, many, many years.
In the friendliest manner he is making himself quite at home with his back to the
fire, executing a statuette of the Colossus at Rhodes.
Twemlow has before noticed in his feeble way how soon the Veneering guests become
infected with the Veneering fiction. Not, however, that he has the least notion
of its being his own case.
'Our friends, Alfred and Sophronia,' pursues Veneering the veiled prophet: 'our
friends Alfred and Sophronia, you will be glad to hear, my dear fellows, are going to
be married.
As my wife and I make it a family affair the entire direction of which we take upon
ourselves, of course our first step is to communicate the fact to our family
friends.'
('Oh!' thinks Twemlow, with his eyes on Podsnap, 'then there are only two of us,
and he's the other.')
'I did hope,' Veneering goes on, 'to have had Lady Tippins to meet you; but she is
always in request, and is unfortunately engaged.'
('Oh!' thinks Twemlow, with his eyes wandering, 'then there are three of us, and
SHE'S the other.')
'Mortimer Lightwood,' resumes Veneering, 'whom you both know, is out of town; but he
writes, in his whimsical manner, that as we ask him to be bridegroom's best man when
the ceremony takes place, he will not
refuse, though he doesn't see what he has to do with it.'
('Oh!' thinks Twemlow, with his eyes rolling, 'then there are four of us, and
HE'S the other.')
'Boots and Brewer,' observes Veneering, 'whom you also know, I have not asked to-
day; but I reserve them for the occasion.'
('Then,' thinks Twemlow, with his eyes shut, 'there are si--' But here collapses
and does not completely recover until dinner is over and the Analytical has been
requested to withdraw.)
'We now come,' says Veneering, 'to the point, the real point, of our little family
consultation. Sophronia, having lost both father and
mother, has no one to give her away.'
'Give her away yourself,' says Podsnap. 'My dear Podsnap, no.
For three reasons.
Firstly, because I couldn't take so much upon myself when I have respected family
friends to remember. Secondly, because I am not so vain as to
think that I look the part.
Thirdly, because Anastatia is a little superstitious on the subject and feels
averse to my giving away anybody until baby is old enough to be married.'
'What would happen if he did?'
Podsnap inquires of Mrs Veneering.
'My dear Mr Podsnap, it's very foolish I know, but I have an instinctive
presentiment that if Hamilton gave away anybody else first, he would never give
away baby.'
Thus Mrs Veneering; with her open hands pressed together, and each of her eight
aquiline fingers looking so very like her one aquiline nose that the bran-new jewels
on them seem necessary for distinction's sake.
'But, my dear Podsnap,' quoth Veneering, 'there IS a tried friend of our family who,
I think and hope you will agree with me, Podsnap, is the friend on whom this
agreeable duty almost naturally devolves.
That friend,' saying the words as if the company were about a hundred and fifty in
number, 'is now among us. That friend is Twemlow.'
'Certainly!'
From Podsnap. 'That friend,' Veneering repeats with
greater firmness, 'is our dear good Twemlow.
And I cannot sufficiently express to you, my dear Podsnap, the pleasure I feel in
having this opinion of mine and Anastatia's so readily confirmed by you, that other
equally familiar and tried friend who
stands in the proud position--I mean who proudly stands in the position--or I ought
rather to say, who places Anastatia and myself in the proud position of himself
standing in the simple position--of baby's godfather.'
And, indeed, Veneering is much relieved in mind to find that Podsnap betrays no
jealousy of Twemlow's elevation.
So, it has come to pass that the spring-van is strewing flowers on the rosy hours and
on the staircase, and that Twemlow is surveying the ground on which he is to play
his distinguished part to-morrow.
He has already been to the church, and taken note of the various impediments in
the aisle, under the auspices of an extremely dreary widow who opens the pews,
and whose left hand appears to be in a
state of acute rheumatism, but is in fact voluntarily doubled up to act as a money-
box.
And now Veneering shoots out of the Study wherein he is accustomed, when
contemplative, to give his mind to the carving and gilding of the Pilgrims going
to Canterbury, in order to show Twemlow the
little flourish he has prepared for the trumpets of fashion, describing how that on
the seventeenth instant, at St James's Church, the Reverend Blank Blank, assisted
by the Reverend Dash Dash, united in the
bonds of matrimony, Alfred Lammle Esquire, of Sackville Street, Piccadilly, to
Sophronia, only daughter of the late Horatio Akershem, Esquire, of Yorkshire.
Also how the fair bride was married from the house of Hamilton Veneering, Esquire,
of Stucconia, and was given away by Melvin Twemlow, Esquire, of Duke Street, St
James's, second cousin to Lord Snigsworth, of Snigsworthy Park.
While perusing which composition, Twemlow makes some opaque approach to perceiving
that if the Reverend Blank Blank and the Reverend Dash Dash fail, after this
introduction, to become enrolled in the
list of Veneering's dearest and oldest friends, they will have none but themselves
to thank for it.
After which, appears Sophronia (whom Twemlow has seen twice in his lifetime), to
thank Twemlow for counterfeiting the late Horatio Akershem Esquire, broadly of
Yorkshire.
And after her, appears Alfred (whom Twemlow has seen once in his lifetime), to do the
same and to make a pasty sort of glitter, as if he were constructed for candle-light
only, and had been let out into daylight by some grand mistake.
And after that, comes Mrs Veneering, in a pervadingly aquiline state of figure, and
with transparent little knobs on her temper, like the little transparent knob on
the bridge of her nose, 'Worn out by worry
and excitement,' as she tells her dear Mr Twemlow, and reluctantly revived with
curacoa by the Analytical.
And after that, the bridesmaids begin to come by rail-road from various parts of the
country, and to come like adorable recruits enlisted by a sergeant not present; for, on
arriving at the Veneering depot, they are in a barrack of strangers.
So, Twemlow goes home to Duke Street, St James's, to take a plate of mutton broth
with a chop in it, and a look at the marriage-service, in order that he may cut
in at the right place to-morrow; and he is
low, and feels it dull over the livery stable-yard, and is distinctly aware of a
dint in his heart, made by the most adorable of the adorable bridesmaids.
For, the poor little harmless gentleman once had his fancy, like the rest of us,
and she didn't answer (as she often does not), and he thinks the adorable bridesmaid
is like the fancy as she was then (which
she is not at all), and that if the fancy had not married some one else for money,
but had married him for love, he and she would have been happy (which they wouldn't
have been), and that she has a tenderness
for him still (whereas her toughness is a proverb).
Brooding over the fire, with his dried little head in his dried little hands, and
his dried little elbows on his dried little knees, Twemlow is melancholy.
'No Adorable to bear me company here!' thinks he.
'No Adorable at the club! A waste, a waste, a waste, my Twemlow!'
And so drops asleep, and has galvanic starts all over him.
Betimes next morning, that horrible old Lady Tippins (relict of the late Sir Thomas
Tippins, knighted in mistake for somebody else by His Majesty King George the Third,
who, while performing the ceremony, was
graciously pleased to observe, 'What, what, what?
Who, who, who? Why, why, why?') begins to be dyed and
varnished for the interesting occasion.
She has a reputation for giving smart accounts of things, and she must be at
these people's early, my dear, to lose nothing of the fun.
Whereabout in the bonnet and drapery announced by her name, any fragment of the
real woman may be concealed, is perhaps known to her maid; but you could easily buy
all you see of her, in Bond Street; or you
might scalp her, and peel her, and scrape her, and make two Lady Tippinses out of
her, and yet not penetrate to the genuine article.
She has a large gold eye-glass, has Lady Tippins, to survey the proceedings with.
If she had one in each eye, it might keep that other drooping lid up, and look more
uniform.
But perennial youth is in her artificial flowers, and her list of lovers is full.
'Mortimer, you wretch,' says Lady Tippins, turning the eyeglass about and about,
'where is your charge, the bridegroom?'
'Give you my honour,' returns Mortimer, 'I don't know, and I don't care.'
'Miserable! Is that the way you do your duty?'
'Beyond an impression that he is to sit upon my knee and be seconded at some point
of the solemnities, like a principal at a prizefight, I assure you I have no notion
what my duty is,' returns Mortimer.
Eugene is also in attendance, with a pervading air upon him of having
presupposed the ceremony to be a funeral, and of being disappointed.
The scene is the Vestry-room of St James's Church, with a number of leathery old
registers on shelves, that might be bound in Lady Tippinses.
But, hark!
A carriage at the gate, and Mortimer's man arrives, looking rather like a spurious
Mephistopheles and an unacknowledged member of that gentleman's family.
Whom Lady Tippins, surveying through her eye-glass, considers a fine man, and quite
a catch; and of whom Mortimer remarks, in the lowest spirits, as he approaches, 'I
believe this is my fellow, confound him!'
More carriages at the gate, and lo the rest of the characters.
Whom Lady Tippins, standing on a cushion, surveying through the eye-glass, thus
checks off.
'Bride; five-and-forty if a day, thirty shillings a yard, veil fifteen pound,
pocket-handkerchief a present.
Bridesmaids; kept down for fear of outshining bride, consequently not girls,
twelve and sixpence a yard, Veneering's flowers, snub-nosed one rather pretty but
too conscious of her stockings, bonnets three pound ten.
Twemlow; blessed release for the dear man if she really was his daughter, nervous
even under the pretence that she is, well he may be.
Mrs Veneering; never saw such velvet, say two thousand pounds as she stands, absolute
jeweller's window, father must have been a pawnbroker, or how could these people do
it?
Attendant unknowns; pokey.'
Ceremony performed, register signed, Lady Tippins escorted out of sacred edifice by
Veneering, carriages rolling back to Stucconia, servants with favours and
flowers, Veneering's house reached, drawing-rooms most magnificent.
Here, the Podsnaps await the happy party; Mr Podsnap, with his hair-brushes made the
most of; that imperial rocking-horse, Mrs Podsnap, majestically skittish.
Here, too, are Boots and Brewer, and the two other Buffers; each Buffer with a
flower in his button-hole, his hair curled, and his gloves buttoned on tight,
apparently come prepared, if anything had
happened to the bridegroom, to be married instantly.
Here, too, the bride's aunt and next relation; a widowed female of a Medusa
sort, in a stoney cap, glaring petrifaction at her fellow-creatures.
Here, too, the bride's trustee; an oilcake- fed style of business-gentleman with mooney
spectacles, and an object of much interest.
Veneering launching himself upon this trustee as his oldest friend (which makes
seven, Twemlow thought), and confidentially retiring with him into the conservatory, it
is understood that Veneering is his co-
trustee, and that they are arranging about the fortune.
Buffers are even overheard to whisper Thir- ty Thou-sand Pou-nds! with a smack and a
relish suggestive of the very finest oysters.
Pokey unknowns, amazed to find how intimately they know Veneering, pluck up
spirit, fold their arms, and begin to contradict him before breakfast.
What time Mrs Veneering, carrying baby dressed as a bridesmaid, flits about among
the company, emitting flashes of many- coloured lightning from diamonds, emeralds,
and rubies.
The Analytical, in course of time achieving what he feels to be due to himself in
bringing to a dignified conclusion several quarrels he has on hand with the
pastrycook's men, announces breakfast.
Dining-room no less magnificent than drawing-room; tables superb; all the camels
out, and all laden. Splendid cake, covered with Cupids, silver,
and true-lovers' knots.
Splendid bracelet, produced by Veneering before going down, and clasped upon the arm
of bride.
Yet nobody seems to think much more of the Veneerings than if they were a tolerable
landlord and landlady doing the thing in the way of business at so much a head.
The bride and bridegroom talk and laugh apart, as has always been their manner; and
the Buffers work their way through the dishes with systematic perseverance, as has
always been THEIR manner; and the pokey
unknowns are exceedingly benevolent to one another in invitations to take glasses of
champagne; but Mrs Podsnap, arching her mane and rocking her grandest, has a far
more deferential audience than Mrs
Veneering; and Podsnap all but does the honours.
Another dismal circumstance is, that Veneering, having the captivating Tippins
on one side of him and the bride's aunt on the other, finds it immensely difficult to
keep the peace.
For, Medusa, besides unmistakingly glaring petrifaction at the fascinating Tippins,
follows every lively remark made by that dear creature, with an audible snort: which
may be referable to a chronic cold in the
head, but may also be referable to indignation and contempt.
And this snort being regular in its reproduction, at length comes to be
expected by the company, who make embarrassing pauses when it is falling due,
and by waiting for it, render it more emphatic when it comes.
The stoney aunt has likewise an injurious way of rejecting all dishes whereof Lady
Tippins partakes: saying aloud when they are proffered to her, 'No, no, no, not for
me.
Take it away!'
As with a set purpose of implying a misgiving that if nourished upon similar
meats, she might come to be like that charmer, which would be a fatal
consummation.
Aware of her enemy, Lady Tippins tries a youthful sally or two, and tries the eye-
glass; but, from the impenetrable cap and snorting armour of the stoney aunt all
weapons rebound powerless.
Another objectionable circumstance is, that the pokey unknowns support each other in
being unimpressible.
They persist in not being frightened by the gold and silver camels, and they are banded
together to defy the elaborately chased ice-pails.
They even seem to unite in some vague utterance of the sentiment that the
landlord and landlady will make a pretty good profit out of this, and they almost
carry themselves like customers.
Nor is there compensating influence in the adorable bridesmaids; for, having very
little interest in the bride, and none at all in one another, those lovely beings
become, each one of her own account,
depreciatingly contemplative of the millinery present; while the bridegroom's
man, exhausted, in the back of his chair, appears to be improving the occasion by
penitentially contemplating all the wrong
he has ever done; the difference between him and his friend Eugene, being, that the
latter, in the back of HIS chair, appears to be contemplating all the wrong he would
like to do--particularly to the present company.
In which state of affairs, the usual ceremonies rather droop and flag, and the
splendid cake when cut by the fair hand of the bride has but an indigestible
appearance.
However, all the things indispensable to be said are said, and all the things
indispensable to be done are done (including Lady Tippins's yawning, falling
asleep, and waking insensible), and there
is hurried preparation for the nuptial journey to the Isle of Wight, and the outer
air teems with brass bands and spectators.
In full sight of whom, the malignant star of the Analytical has pre-ordained that
pain and ridicule shall befall him.
For he, standing on the doorsteps to grace the departure, is suddenly caught a most
prodigious thump on the side of his head with a heavy shoe, which a Buffer in the
hall, champagne-flushed and wild of aim,
has borrowed on the spur of the moment from the pastrycook's porter, to cast after the
departing pair as an auspicious omen.
So they all go up again into the gorgeous drawing-rooms--all of them flushed with
breakfast, as having taken scarlatina sociably--and there the combined unknowns
do malignant things with their legs to
ottomans, and take as much as possible out of the splendid furniture.
And so, Lady Tippins, quite undetermined whether today is the day before yesterday,
or the day after to-morrow, or the week after next, fades away; and Mortimer
Lightwood and Eugene fade away, and Twemlow
fades away, and the stoney aunt goes away-- she declines to fade, proving rock to the
last--and even the unknowns are slowly strained off, and it is all over.
All over, that is to say, for the time being.
But, there is another time to come, and it comes in about a fortnight, and it comes to
Mr and Mrs Lammle on the sands at Shanklin, in the Isle of Wight.
Mr and Mrs Lammle have walked for some time on the Shanklin sands, and one may see by
their footprints that they have not walked arm in arm, and that they have not walked
in a straight track, and that they have
walked in a moody humour; for, the lady has prodded little spirting holes in the damp
sand before her with her parasol, and the gentleman has trailed his stick after him.
As if he were of the Mephistopheles family indeed, and had walked with a drooping
tail. 'Do you mean to tell me, then, Sophronia--'
Thus he begins after a long silence, when Sophronia flashes fiercely, and turns upon
him. 'Don't put it upon ME, sir.
I ask you, do YOU mean to tell me?'
Mr Lammle falls silent again, and they walk as before.
Mrs Lammle opens her nostrils and bites her under-lip; Mr Lammle takes his gingerous
whiskers in his left hand, and, bringing them together, frowns furtively at his
beloved, out of a thick gingerous bush.
'Do I mean to say!' Mrs Lammle after a time repeats, with
indignation. 'Putting it on me!
The unmanly disingenuousness!'
Mr Lammle stops, releases his whiskers, and looks at her.
'The what?' Mrs Lammle haughtily replies, without
stopping, and without looking back.
'The meanness.' He is at her side again in a pace or two,
and he retorts, 'That is not what you said. You said disingenuousness.'
'What if I did?'
'There is no "if" in the case. You did.'
'I did, then. And what of it?'
'What of it?' says Mr Lammle.
'Have you the face to utter the word to me?'
'The face, too!' replied Mrs Lammle, staring at him with cold scorn.
'Pray, how dare you, sir, utter the word to me?'
'I never did.'
As this happens to be true, Mrs Lammle is thrown on the feminine resource of saying,
'I don't care what you uttered or did not utter.'
After a little more walking and a little more silence, Mr Lammle breaks the latter.
'You shall proceed in your own way. You claim a right to ask me do I mean to
tell you.
Do I mean to tell you what?' 'That you are a man of property?'
'No.' 'Then you married me on false pretences?'
'So be it.
Next comes what you mean to say. Do you mean to say you are a woman of
property?' 'No.'
'Then you married me on false pretences.'
'If you were so dull a fortune-hunter that you deceived yourself, or if you were so
greedy and grasping that you were over- willing to be deceived by appearances, is
it my fault, you adventurer?' the lady demands, with great asperity.
'I asked Veneering, and he told me you were rich.'
'Veneering!' with great contempt.'
And what does Veneering know about me!' 'Was he not your trustee?'
'No. I have no trustee, but the one you saw on the day when you fraudulently married
me.
And his trust is not a very difficult one, for it is only an annuity of a hundred and
fifteen pounds. I think there are some odd shillings or
pence, if you are very particular.'
Mr Lammle bestows a by no means loving look upon the partner of his joys and sorrows,
and he mutters something; but checks himself.
'Question for question.
It is my turn again, Mrs Lammle. What made you suppose me a man of
property?' 'You made me suppose you so.
Perhaps you will deny that you always presented yourself to me in that
character?' 'But you asked somebody, too.
Come, Mrs Lammle, admission for admission.
You asked somebody?' 'I asked Veneering.'
'And Veneering knew as much of me as he knew of you, or as anybody knows of him.'
After more silent walking, the bride stops short, to say in a passionate manner:
'I never will forgive the Veneerings for this!'
'Neither will I,' returns the bridegroom.
With that, they walk again; she, making those angry spirts in the sand; he,
dragging that dejected tail. The tide is low, and seems to have thrown
them together high on the bare shore.
A gull comes sweeping by their heads and flouts them.
There was a golden surface on the brown cliffs but now, and behold they are only
damp earth.
A taunting roar comes from the sea, and the far-out rollers mount upon one another, to
look at the entrapped impostors, and to join in impish and exultant gambols.
'Do you pretend to believe,' Mrs Lammle resumes, sternly, 'when you talk of my
marrying you for worldly advantages, that it was within the bounds of reasonable
probability that I would have married you for yourself?'
'Again there are two sides to the question, Mrs Lammle.
What do you pretend to believe?'
'So you first deceive me and then insult me!' cries the lady, with a heaving bosom.
'Not at all. I have originated nothing.
The double-edged question was yours.'
'Was mine!' the bride repeats, and her parasol breaks in her angry hand.
His colour has turned to a livid white, and ominous marks have come to light about his
nose, as if the finger of the very devil himself had, within the last few moments,
touched it here and there.
But he has repressive power, and she has none.
'Throw it away,' he coolly recommends as to the parasol; 'you have made it useless; you
look ridiculous with it.'
Whereupon she calls him in her rage, 'A deliberate villain,' and so casts the
broken thing from her as that it strikes him in falling.
The finger-marks are something whiter for the instant, but he walks on at her side.
She bursts into tears, declaring herself the wretchedest, the most deceived, the
worst-used, of women.
Then she says that if she had the courage to kill herself, she would do it.
Then she calls him vile impostor.
Then she asks him, why, in the disappointment of his base speculation, he
does not take her life with his own hand, under the present favourable circumstances.
Then she cries again.
Then she is enraged again, and makes some mention of swindlers.
Finally, she sits down crying on a block of stone, and is in all the known and unknown
humours of her sex at once.
Pending her changes, those aforesaid marks in his face have come and gone, now here
now there, like white steps of a pipe on which the diabolical performer has played a
tune.
Also his livid lips are parted at last, as if he were breathless with running.
Yet he is not. 'Now, get up, Mrs Lammle, and let us speak
reasonably.'
She sits upon her stone, and takes no heed of him.
'Get up, I tell you.' Raising her head, she looks contemptuously
in his face, and repeats, 'You tell me!
Tell me, forsooth!' She affects not to know that his eyes are
fastened on her as she droops her head again; but her whole figure reveals that
she knows it uneasily.
'Enough of this. Come!
Do you hear? Get up.'
Yielding to his hand, she rises, and they walk again; but this time with their faces
turned towards their place of residence. 'Mrs Lammle, we have both been deceiving,
and we have both been deceived.
We have both been biting, and we have both been bitten.
In a nut-shell, there's the state of the case.'
'You sought me out--'
'Tut! Let us have done with that. WE know very well how it was.
Why should you and I talk about it, when you and I can't disguise it?
To proceed.
I am disappointed and cut a poor figure.' 'Am I no one?'
'Some one--and I was coming to you, if you had waited a moment.
You, too, are disappointed and cut a poor figure.'
'An injured figure!'
'You are now cool enough, Sophronia, to see that you can't be injured without my being
equally injured; and that therefore the mere word is not to the purpose.
When I look back, I wonder how I can have been such a fool as to take you to so great
an extent upon trust.' 'And when I look back--' the bride cries,
interrupting.
'And when you look back, you wonder how you can have been--you'll excuse the word?'
'Most certainly, with so much reason. '--Such a fool as to take ME to so great an
extent upon trust.
But the folly is committed on both sides. I cannot get rid of you; you cannot get rid
of me. What follows?'
'Shame and misery,' the bride bitterly replies.
'I don't know. A mutual understanding follows, and I think
it may carry us through.
Here I split my discourse (give me your arm, Sophronia), into three heads, to make
it shorter and plainer.
Firstly, it's enough to have been done, without the mortification of being known to
have been done. So we agree to keep the fact to ourselves.
You agree?'
'If it is possible, I do.' 'Possible!
We have pretended well enough to one another.
Can't we, united, pretend to the world?
Agreed. Secondly, we owe the Veneerings a grudge,
and we owe all other people the grudge of wishing them to be taken in, as we
ourselves have been taken in.
Agreed?' 'Yes. Agreed.'
'We come smoothly to thirdly. You have called me an adventurer,
Sophronia.
So I am. In plain uncomplimentary English, so I am.
So are you, my dear. So are many people.
We agree to keep our own secret, and to work together in furtherance of our own
schemes.' 'What schemes?'
'Any scheme that will bring us money.
By our own schemes, I mean our joint interest.
Agreed?' She answers, after a little hesitation, 'I
suppose so.
Agreed.' 'Carried at once, you see!
Now, Sophronia, only half a dozen words more.
We know one another perfectly.
Don't be tempted into twitting me with the past knowledge that you have of me, because
it is identical with the past knowledge that I have of you, and in twitting me, you
twit yourself, and I don't want to hear you do it.
With this good understanding established between us, it is better never done.
To wind up all:--You have shown temper today, Sophronia.
Don't be betrayed into doing so again, because I have a Devil of a temper myself.'
So, the happy pair, with this hopeful marriage contract thus signed, sealed, and
delivered, repair homeward.
If, when those infernal finger-marks were on the white and breathless countenance of
Alfred Lammle, Esquire, they denoted that he conceived the purpose of subduing his
dear wife Mrs Alfred Lammle, by at once
divesting her of any lingering reality or pretence of self-respect, the purpose would
seem to have been presently executed.
The mature young lady has mighty little need of powder, now, for her downcast face,
as he escorts her in the light of the setting sun to their abode of bliss.
>
Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens CHAPTER 11
PODSNAPPERY
Mr Podsnap was well to do, and stood very high in Mr Podsnap's opinion.
Beginning with a good inheritance, he had married a good inheritance, and had thriven
exceedingly in the Marine Insurance way, and was quite satisfied.
He never could make out why everybody was not quite satisfied, and he felt conscious
that he set a brilliant social example in being particularly well satisfied with most
things, and, above all other things, with himself.
Thus happily acquainted with his own merit and importance, Mr Podsnap settled that
whatever he put behind him he put out of existence.
There was a dignified conclusiveness--not to add a grand convenience--in this way of
getting rid of disagreeables which had done much towards establishing Mr Podsnap in his
lofty place in Mr Podsnap's satisfaction.
'I don't want to know about it; I don't choose to discuss it; I don't admit it!'
Mr Podsnap had even acquired a peculiar flourish of his right arm in often clearing
the world of its most difficult problems, by sweeping them behind him (and
consequently sheer away) with those words and a flushed face.
For they affronted him.
Mr Podsnap's world was not a very large world, morally; no, nor even
geographically: seeing that although his business was sustained upon commerce with
other countries, he considered other
countries, with that important reservation, a mistake, and of their manners and customs
would conclusively observe, 'Not English!' when, PRESTO! with a flourish of the arm,
and a flush of the face, they were swept away.
Elsewhere, the world got up at eight, shaved close at a quarter-past, breakfasted
at nine, went to the City at ten, came home at half-past five, and dined at seven.
Mr Podsnap's notions of the Arts in their integrity might have been stated thus.
Literature; large print, respectfully descriptive of getting up at eight, shaving
close at a quarter past, breakfasting at nine, going to the City at ten, coming home
at half-past five, and dining at seven.
Painting and Sculpture; models and portraits representing Professors of
getting up at eight, shaving close at a quarter past, breakfasting at nine, going
to the City at ten, coming home at half- past five, and dining at seven.
Music; a respectable performance (without variations) on stringed and wind
instruments, sedately expressive of getting up at eight, shaving close at a quarter
past, breakfasting at nine, going to the
City at ten, coming home at half-past five, and dining at seven.
Nothing else to be permitted to those same vagrants the Arts, on pain of
excommunication.
Nothing else To Be--anywhere! As a so eminently respectable man, Mr
Podsnap was sensible of its being required of him to take Providence under his
protection.
Consequently he always knew exactly what Providence meant.
Inferior and less respectable men might fall short of that mark, but Mr Podsnap was
always up to it.
And it was very remarkable (and must have been very comfortable) that what Providence
meant, was invariably what Mr Podsnap meant.
These may be said to have been the articles of a faith and school which the present
chapter takes the liberty of calling, after its representative man, Podsnappery.
They were confined within close bounds, as Mr Podsnap's own head was confined by his
shirt-collar; and they were enunciated with a sounding pomp that smacked of the
creaking of Mr Podsnap's own boots.
There was a Miss Podsnap. And this young rocking-horse was being
trained in her mother's art of prancing in a stately manner without ever getting on.
But the high parental action was not yet imparted to her, and in truth she was but
an undersized damsel, with high shoulders, low spirits, chilled elbows, and a rasped
surface of nose, who seemed to take
occasional frosty peeps out of childhood into womanhood, and to shrink back again,
overcome by her mother's head-dress and her father from head to foot--crushed by the
mere dead-weight of Podsnappery.
A certain institution in Mr Podsnap's mind which he called 'the young person' may be
considered to have been embodied in Miss Podsnap, his daughter.
It was an inconvenient and exacting institution, as requiring everything in the
universe to be filed down and fitted to it.
The question about everything was, would it bring a blush into the cheek of the young
person?
And the inconvenience of the young person was, that, according to Mr Podsnap, she
seemed always liable to burst into blushes when there was no need at all.
There appeared to be no line of demarcation between the young person's excessive
innocence, and another person's guiltiest knowledge.
Take Mr Podsnap's word for it, and the soberest tints of drab, white, lilac, and
grey, were all flaming red to this troublesome Bull of a young person.
The Podsnaps lived in a shady angle adjoining Portman Square.
They were a kind of people certain to dwell in the shade, wherever they dwelt.
Miss Podsnap's life had been, from her first appearance on this planet, altogether
of a shady order; for, Mr Podsnap's young person was likely to get little good out of
association with other young persons, and
had therefore been restricted to companionship with not very congenial older
persons, and with massive furniture.
Miss Podsnap's early views of life being principally derived from the reflections of
it in her father's boots, and in the walnut and rosewood tables of the dim drawing-
rooms, and in their swarthy giants of
looking-glasses, were of a sombre cast; and it was not wonderful that now, when she was
on most days solemnly tooled through the Park by the side of her mother in a great
tall custard-coloured phaeton, she showed
above the apron of that vehicle like a dejected young person sitting up in bed to
take a startled look at things in general, and very strongly desiring to get her head
under the counterpane again.
Said Mr Podsnap to Mrs Podsnap, 'Georgiana is almost eighteen.'
Said Mrs Podsnap to Mr Podsnap, assenting, 'Almost eighteen.'
Said Mr Podsnap then to Mrs Podsnap, 'Really I think we should have some people
on Georgiana's birthday.'
Said Mrs Podsnap then to Mr Podsnap, 'Which will enable us to clear off all those
people who are due.'
So it came to pass that Mr and Mrs Podsnap requested the honour of the company of
seventeen friends of their souls at dinner; and that they substituted other friends of
their souls for such of the seventeen
original friends of their souls as deeply regretted that a prior engagement prevented
their having the honour of dining with Mr and Mrs Podsnap, in pursuance of their kind
invitation; and that Mrs Podsnap said of
all these inconsolable personages, as she checked them off with a pencil in her list,
'Asked, at any rate, and got rid of;' and that they successfully disposed of a good
many friends of their souls in this way, and felt their consciences much lightened.
There were still other friends of their souls who were not entitled to be asked to
dinner, but had a claim to be invited to come and take a haunch of mutton vapour-
bath at half-past nine.
For the clearing off of these worthies, Mrs Podsnap added a small and early evening to
the dinner, and looked in at the music-shop to bespeak a well-conducted automaton to
come and play quadrilles for a carpet dance.
Mr and Mrs Veneering, and Mr and Mrs Veneering's bran-new bride and bridegroom,
were of the dinner company; but the Podsnap establishment had nothing else in common
with the Veneerings.
Mr Podsnap could tolerate taste in a mushroom man who stood in need of that sort
of thing, but was far above it himself. Hideous solidity was the characteristic of
the Podsnap plate.
Everything was made to look as heavy as it could, and to take up as much room as
possible.
Everything said boastfully, 'Here you have as much of me in my ugliness as if I were
only lead; but I am so many ounces of precious metal worth so much an ounce;--
wouldn't you like to melt me down?'
A corpulent straddling epergne, blotched all over as if it had broken out in an
eruption rather than been ornamented, delivered this address from an unsightly
silver platform in the centre of the table.
Four silver wine-coolers, each furnished with four staring heads, each head
obtrusively carrying a big silver ring in each of its ears, conveyed the sentiment up
and down the table, and handed it on to the pot-bellied silver salt-cellars.
All the big silver spoons and forks widened the mouths of the company expressly for the
purpose of thrusting the sentiment down their throats with every morsel they ate.
The majority of the guests were like the plate, and included several heavy articles
weighing ever so much.
But there was a foreign gentleman among them: whom Mr Podsnap had invited after
much debate with himself--believing the whole European continent to be in mortal
alliance against the young person--and
there was a droll disposition, not only on the part of Mr Podsnap but of everybody
else, to treat him as if he were a child who was hard of hearing.
As a delicate concession to this unfortunately-born foreigner, Mr Podsnap,
in receiving him, had presented his wife as 'Madame Podsnap;' also his daughter as
'Mademoiselle Podsnap,' with some
inclination to add 'ma fille,' in which bold venture, however, he checked himself.
The Veneerings being at that time the only other arrivals, he had added (in a
condescendingly explanatory manner), 'Monsieur Vey-nair-reeng,' and had then
subsided into English.
'How Do You Like London?' Mr Podsnap now inquired from his station of
host, as if he were administering something in the nature of a powder or potion to the
deaf child; 'London, Londres, London?'
The foreign gentleman admired it. 'You find it Very Large?' said Mr Podsnap,
spaciously. The foreign gentleman found it very large.
'And Very Rich?'
The foreign gentleman found it, without doubt, enormement riche.
'Enormously Rich, We say,' returned Mr Podsnap, in a condescending manner.
'Our English adverbs do Not terminate in Mong, and We Pronounce the "ch" as if there
were a "t" before it. We say Ritch.'
'Reetch,' remarked the foreign gentleman.
'And Do You Find, Sir,' pursued Mr Podsnap, with dignity, 'Many Evidences that Strike
You, of our British Constitution in the Streets Of The World's Metropolis, London,
Londres, London?'
The foreign gentleman begged to be pardoned, but did not altogether
understand.
'The Constitution Britannique,' Mr Podsnap explained, as if he were teaching in an
infant school.'
We Say British, But You Say Britannique, You Know' (forgivingly, as if that were not
his fault). 'The Constitution, Sir.'
The foreign gentleman said, 'Mais, yees; I know eem.'
A youngish sallowish gentleman in spectacles, with a lumpy forehead, seated
in a supplementary chair at a corner of the table, here caused a profound sensation by
saying, in a raised voice, 'ESKER,' and then stopping dead.
'Mais oui,' said the foreign gentleman, turning towards him.
'Est-ce que?
Quoi donc?' But the gentleman with the lumpy forehead
having for the time delivered himself of all that he found behind his lumps, spake
for the time no more.
'I Was Inquiring,' said Mr Podsnap, resuming the thread of his discourse,
'Whether You Have Observed in our Streets as We should say, Upon our Pavvy as You
would say, any Tokens--'
The foreign gentleman, with patient courtesy entreated pardon; 'But what was
tokenz?' 'Marks,' said Mr Podsnap; 'Signs, you know,
Appearances--Traces.'
'Ah! Of a Orse?' inquired the foreign gentleman.
'We call it Horse,' said Mr Podsnap, with forbearance.
'In England, Angleterre, England, We Aspirate the "H," and We Say "Horse."
Only our Lower Classes Say "Orse!"' 'Pardon,' said the foreign gentleman; 'I am
alwiz wrong!'
'Our Language,' said Mr Podsnap, with a gracious consciousness of being always
right, 'is Difficult. Ours is a Copious Language, and Trying to
Strangers.
I will not Pursue my Question.' But the lumpy gentleman, unwilling to give
it up, again madly said, 'ESKER,' and again spake no more.
'It merely referred,' Mr Podsnap explained, with a sense of meritorious proprietorship,
'to Our Constitution, Sir. We Englishmen are Very Proud of our
Constitution, Sir.
It Was Bestowed Upon Us By Providence. No Other Country is so Favoured as This
Country.'
'And ozer countries?--' the foreign gentleman was beginning, when Mr Podsnap
put him right again.
'We do not say Ozer; we say Other: the letters are "T" and "H;" You say Tay and
Aish, You Know; (still with clemency). The sound is "th"--"th!"'
'And OTHER countries,' said the foreign gentleman.
'They do how?'
'They do, Sir,' returned Mr Podsnap, gravely shaking his head; 'they do--I am
sorry to be obliged to say it--AS they do.'
'It was a little particular of Providence,' said the foreign gentleman, laughing; 'for
the frontier is not large.' 'Undoubtedly,' assented Mr Podsnap; 'But So
it is.
It was the Charter of the Land. This Island was Blest, Sir, to the Direct
Exclusion of such Other Countries as--as there may happen to be.
And if we were all Englishmen present, I would say,' added Mr Podsnap, looking round
upon his compatriots, and sounding solemnly with his theme, 'that there is in the
Englishman a combination of qualities, a
modesty, an independence, a responsibility, a repose, combined with an absence of
everything calculated to call a blush into the cheek of a young person, which one
would seek in vain among the Nations of the Earth.'
Having delivered this little summary, Mr Podsnap's face flushed, as he thought of
the remote possibility of its being at all qualified by any prejudiced citizen of any
other country; and, with his favourite
right-arm flourish, he put the rest of Europe and the whole of Asia, Africa, and
America nowhere.
The audience were much edified by this passage of words; and Mr Podsnap, feeling
that he was in rather remarkable force to- day, became smiling and conversational.
'Has anything more been heard, Veneering,' he inquired, 'of the lucky legatee?'
'Nothing more,' returned Veneering, 'than that he has come into possession of the
property.
I am told people now call him The Golden Dustman.
I mentioned to you some time ago, I think, that the young lady whose intended husband
was murdered is daughter to a clerk of mine?'
'Yes, you told me that,' said Podsnap; 'and by-the-bye, I wish you would tell it again
here, for it's a curious coincidence-- curious that the first news of the
discovery should have been brought straight
to your table (when I was there), and curious that one of your people should have
been so nearly interested in it. Just relate that, will you?'
Veneering was more than ready to do it, for he had prospered exceedingly upon the
Harmon Murder, and had turned the social distinction it conferred upon him to the
account of making several dozen of bran-new bosom-friends.
Indeed, such another lucky hit would almost have set him up in that way to his
satisfaction.
So, addressing himself to the most desirable of his neighbours, while Mrs
Veneering secured the next most desirable, he plunged into the case, and emerged from
it twenty minutes afterwards with a Bank Director in his arms.
In the mean time, Mrs Veneering had dived into the same waters for a wealthy Ship-
Broker, and had brought him up, safe and sound, by the hair.
Then Mrs Veneering had to relate, to a larger circle, how she had been to see the
girl, and how she was really pretty, and (considering her station) presentable.
And this she did with such a successful display of her eight aquiline fingers and
their encircling jewels, that she happily laid hold of a drifting General Officer,
his wife and daughter, and not only
restored their animation which had become suspended, but made them lively friends
within an hour.
Although Mr Podsnap would in a general way have highly disapproved of Bodies in rivers
as ineligible topics with reference to the cheek of the young person, he had, as one
may say, a share in this affair which made him a part proprietor.
As its returns were immediate, too, in the way of restraining the company from
speechless contemplation of the wine- coolers, it paid, and he was satisfied.
And now the haunch of mutton vapour-bath having received a gamey infusion, and a few
last touches of sweets and coffee, was quite ready, and the bathers came; but not
before the discreet automaton had got
behind the bars of the piano music-desk, and there presented the appearance of a
captive languishing in a rose-wood jail.
And who now so pleasant or so well assorted as Mr and Mrs Alfred Lammle, he all
sparkle, she all gracious contentment, both at occasional intervals exchanging looks
like partners at cards who played a game against All England.
There was not much youth among the bathers, but there was no youth (the young person
always excepted) in the articles of Podsnappery.
Bald bathers folded their arms and talked to Mr Podsnap on the hearthrug; sleek-
whiskered bathers, with hats in their hands, lunged at Mrs Podsnap and retreated;
prowling bathers, went about looking into
ornamental boxes and bowls as if they had suspicions of larceny on the part of the
Podsnaps, and expected to find something they had lost at the bottom; bathers of the
gentler sex sat silently comparing ivory shoulders.
All this time and always, poor little Miss Podsnap, whose tiny efforts (if she had
made any) were swallowed up in the magnificence of her mother's rocking, kept
herself as much out of sight and mind as
she could, and appeared to be counting on many dismal returns of the day.
It was somehow understood, as a secret article in the state proprieties of
Podsnappery that nothing must be said about the day.
Consequently this young damsel's nativity was hushed up and looked over, as if it
were agreed on all hands that it would have been better that she had never been born.
The Lammles were so fond of the dear Veneerings that they could not for some
time detach themselves from those excellent friends; but at length, either a very open
smile on Mr Lammle's part, or a very secret
elevation of one of his gingerous eyebrows- -certainly the one or the other--seemed to
say to Mrs Lammle, 'Why don't you play?'
And so, looking about her, she saw Miss Podsnap, and seeming to say responsively,
'That card?' and to be answered, 'Yes,' went and sat beside Miss Podsnap.
Mrs Lammle was overjoyed to escape into a corner for a little quiet talk.
It promised to be a very quiet talk, for Miss Podsnap replied in a flutter, 'Oh!
Indeed, it's very kind of you, but I am afraid I DON'T talk.'
'Let us make a beginning,' said the insinuating Mrs Lammle, with her best
smile. 'Oh! I am afraid you'll find me very dull.
But Ma talks!'
That was plainly to be seen, for Ma was talking then at her usual canter, with
arched head and mane, opened eyes and nostrils.
'Fond of reading perhaps?'
'Yes. At least I--don't mind that so much,' returned Miss Podsnap.
'M-m-m-m-music.
So insinuating was Mrs Lammle that she got half a dozen ms into the word before she
got it out. 'I haven't nerve to play even if I could.
Ma plays.'
(At exactly the same canter, and with a certain flourishing appearance of doing
something, Ma did, in fact, occasionally take a rock upon the instrument.)
'Of course you like dancing?'
'Oh no, I don't,' said Miss Podsnap. 'No? With your youth and attractions?
Truly, my dear, you surprise me!'
'I can't say,' observed Miss Podsnap, after hesitating considerably, and stealing
several timid looks at Mrs Lammle's carefully arranged face, 'how I might have
liked it if I had been a--you won't mention it, WILL you?'
'My dear! Never!'
'No, I am sure you won't.
I can't say then how I should have liked it, if I had been a chimney-sweep on May-
day.' 'Gracious!' was the exclamation which
amazement elicited from Mrs Lammle.
'There! I knew you'd wonder.
But you won't mention it, will you?'
'Upon my word, my love,' said Mrs Lammle, 'you make me ten times more desirous, now I
talk to you, to know you well than I was when I sat over yonder looking at you.
How I wish we could be real friends!
Try me as a real friend. Come!
Don't fancy me a frumpy old married woman, my dear; I was married but the other day,
you know; I am dressed as a bride now, you see.
About the chimney-sweeps?'
'Hush! Ma'll hear.'
'She can't hear from where she sits.' 'Don't you be too sure of that,' said Miss
Podsnap, in a lower voice.
'Well, what I mean is, that they seem to enjoy it.'
'And that perhaps you would have enjoyed it, if you had been one of them?'
Miss Podsnap nodded significantly.
'Then you don't enjoy it now?' 'How is it possible?' said Miss Podsnap.
'Oh it is such a dreadful thing! If I was wicked enough--and strong enough--
to kill anybody, it should be my partner.'
This was such an entirely new view of the Terpsichorean art as socially practised,
that Mrs Lammle looked at her young friend in some astonishment.
Her young friend sat nervously twiddling her fingers in a pinioned attitude, as if
she were trying to hide her elbows.
But this latter Utopian object (in short sleeves) always appeared to be the great
inoffensive aim of her existence. 'It sounds horrid, don't it?' said Miss
Podsnap, with a penitential face.
Mrs Lammle, not very well knowing what to answer, resolved herself into a look of
smiling encouragement. 'But it is, and it always has been,'
pursued Miss Podsnap, 'such a trial to me!
I so dread being awful. And it is so awful!
No one knows what I suffered at Madame Sauteuse's, where I learnt to dance and
make presentation-curtseys, and other dreadful things--or at least where they
tried to teach me.
Ma can do it.' 'At any rate, my love,' said Mrs Lammle,
soothingly, 'that's over.' 'Yes, it's over,' returned Miss Podsnap,
'but there's nothing gained by that.
It's worse here, than at Madame Sauteuse's. Ma was there, and Ma's here; but Pa wasn't
there, and company wasn't there, and there were not real partners there.
Oh there's Ma speaking to the man at the piano!
Oh there's Ma going up to somebody! Oh I know she's going to bring him to me!
Oh please don't, please don't, please don't!
Oh keep away, keep away, keep away!'
These pious ejaculations Miss Podsnap uttered with her eyes closed, and her head
leaning back against the wall.
But the Ogre advanced under the pilotage of Ma, and Ma said, 'Georgiana, Mr Grompus,'
and the Ogre clutched his victim and bore her off to his castle in the top couple.
Then the discreet automaton who had surveyed his ground, played a blossomless
tuneless 'set,' and sixteen disciples of Podsnappery went through the figures of -
1, Getting up at eight and shaving close at
a quarter past - 2, Breakfasting at nine - 3, Going to the City at ten - 4, Coming
home at half-past five - 5, Dining at seven, and the grand chain.
While these solemnities were in progress, Mr Alfred Lammle (most loving of husbands)
approached the chair of Mrs Alfred Lammle (most loving of wives), and bending over
the back of it, trifled for some few seconds with Mrs Lammle's bracelet.
Slightly in contrast with this brief airy toying, one might have noticed a certain
dark attention in Mrs Lammle's face as she said some words with her eyes on Mr
Lammle's waistcoat, and seemed in return to receive some lesson.
But it was all done as a breath passes from a mirror.
And now, the grand chain riveted to the last link, the discreet automaton ceased,
and the sixteen, two and two, took a walk among the furniture.
And herein the unconsciousness of the Ogre Grompus was pleasantly conspicuous; for,
that complacent monster, believing that he was giving Miss Podsnap a treat, prolonged
to the utmost stretch of possibility a
peripatetic account of an archery meeting; while his victim, heading the procession of
sixteen as it slowly circled about, like a revolving funeral, never raised her eyes
except once to steal a glance at Mrs Lammle, expressive of intense despair.
At length the procession was dissolved by the violent arrival of a nutmeg, before
which the drawing-room door bounced open as if it were a cannon-ball; and while that
fragrant article, dispersed through several
glasses of coloured warm water, was going the round of society, Miss Podsnap returned
to her seat by her new friend. 'Oh my goodness,' said Miss Podsnap.
'THAT'S over!
I hope you didn't look at me.' 'My dear, why not?'
'Oh I know all about myself,' said Miss Podsnap.
'I'll tell you something I know about you, my dear,' returned Mrs Lammle in her
winning way, 'and that is, you are most unnecessarily shy.'
'Ma ain't,' said Miss Podsnap.
'--I detest you! Go along!'
This shot was levelled under her breath at the gallant Grompus for bestowing an
insinuating smile upon her in passing.
'Pardon me if I scarcely see, my dear Miss Podsnap,' Mrs Lammle was beginning when the
young lady interposed.
'If we are going to be real friends (and I suppose we are, for you are the only person
who ever proposed it) don't let us be awful.
It's awful enough to BE Miss Podsnap, without being called so.
Call me Georgiana.' 'Dearest Georgiana,' Mrs Lammle began
again.
'Thank you,' said Miss Podsnap. 'Dearest Georgiana, pardon me if I scarcely
see, my love, why your mamma's not being shy, is a reason why you should be.'
'Don't you really see that?' asked Miss Podsnap, plucking at her fingers in a
troubled manner, and furtively casting her eyes now on Mrs Lammle, now on the ground.
'Then perhaps it isn't?'
'My dearest Georgiana, you defer much too readily to my poor opinion.
Indeed it is not even an opinion, darling, for it is only a confession of my
dullness.'
'Oh YOU are not dull,' returned Miss Podsnap.
'I am dull, but you couldn't have made me talk if you were.'
Some little touch of conscience answering this perception of her having gained a
purpose, called bloom enough into Mrs Lammle's face to make it look brighter as
she sat smiling her best smile on her dear
Georgiana, and shaking her head with an affectionate playfulness.
Not that it meant anything, but that Georgiana seemed to like it.
'What I mean is,' pursued Georgiana, 'that Ma being so endowed with awfulness, and Pa
being so endowed with awfulness, and there being so much awfulness everywhere--I mean,
at least, everywhere where I am--perhaps it
makes me who am so deficient in awfulness, and frightened at it--I say it very badly--
I don't know whether you can understand what I mean?'
'Perfectly, dearest Georgiana!'
Mrs Lammle was proceeding with every reassuring wile, when the head of that
young lady suddenly went back against the wall again and her eyes closed.
'Oh there's Ma being awful with somebody with a glass in his eye!
Oh I know she's going to bring him here! Oh don't bring him, don't bring him!
Oh he'll be my partner with his glass in his eye!
Oh what shall I do!'
This time Georgiana accompanied her ejaculations with taps of her feet upon the
floor, and was altogether in quite a desperate condition.
But, there was no escape from the majestic Mrs Podsnap's production of an ambling
stranger, with one eye screwed up into extinction and the other framed and glazed,
who, having looked down out of that organ,
as if he descried Miss Podsnap at the bottom of some perpendicular shaft, brought
her to the surface, and ambled off with her.
And then the captive at the piano played another 'set,' expressive of his mournful
aspirations after freedom, and other sixteen went through the former melancholy
motions, and the ambler took Miss Podsnap
for a furniture walk, as if he had struck out an entirely original conception.
In the mean time a stray personage of a meek demeanour, who had wandered to the
hearthrug and got among the heads of tribes assembled there in conference with Mr
Podsnap, eliminated Mr Podsnap's flush and
flourish by a highly unpolite remark; no less than a reference to the circumstance
that some half-dozen people had lately died in the streets, of starvation.
It was clearly ill-timed after dinner.
It was not adapted to the cheek of the young person.
It was not in good taste. 'I don't believe it,' said Mr Podsnap,
putting it behind him.
The meek man was afraid we must take it as proved, because there were the Inquests and
the Registrar's returns. 'Then it was their own fault,' said Mr
Podsnap.
Veneering and other elders of tribes commended this way out of it.
At once a short cut and a broad road.
The man of meek demeanour intimated that truly it would seem from the facts, as if
starvation had been forced upon the culprits in question--as if, in their
wretched manner, they had made their weak
protests against it--as if they would have taken the liberty of staving it off if they
could--as if they would rather not have been starved upon the whole, if perfectly
agreeable to all parties.
'There is not,' said Mr Podsnap, flushing angrily, 'there is not a country in the
world, sir, where so noble a provision is made for the poor as in this country.'
The meek man was quite willing to concede that, but perhaps it rendered the matter
even worse, as showing that there must be something appallingly wrong somewhere.
'Where?' said Mr Podsnap.
The meek man hinted Wouldn't it be well to try, very seriously, to find out where?
'Ah!' said Mr Podsnap. 'Easy to say somewhere; not so easy to say
where!
But I see what you are driving at. I knew it from the first.
Centralization. No. Never with my consent.
Not English.'
An approving murmur arose from the heads of tribes; as saying, 'There you have him!
Hold him!'
He was not aware (the meek man submitted of himself) that he was driving at any
ization. He had no favourite ization that he knew
of.
But he certainly was more staggered by these terrible occurrences than he was by
names, of howsoever so many syllables. Might he ask, was dying of destitution and
neglect necessarily English?
'You know what the population of London is, I suppose,' said Mr Podsnap.
The meek man supposed he did, but supposed that had absolutely nothing to do with it,
if its laws were well administered.
'And you know; at least I hope you know;' said Mr Podsnap, with severity, 'that
Providence has declared that you shall have the poor always with you?'
The meek man also hoped he knew that.
'I am glad to hear it,' said Mr Podsnap with a portentous air.
'I am glad to hear it. It will render you cautious how you fly in
the face of Providence.'
In reference to that absurd and irreverent conventional phrase, the meek man said, for
which Mr Podsnap was not responsible, he the meek man had no fear of doing anything
so impossible; but--
But Mr Podsnap felt that the time had come for flushing and flourishing this meek man
down for good. So he said:
'I must decline to pursue this painful discussion.
It is not pleasant to my feelings; it is repugnant to my feelings.
I have said that I do not admit these things.
I have also said that if they do occur (not that I admit it), the fault lies with the
sufferers themselves.
It is not for ME'--Mr Podsnap pointed 'me' forcibly, as adding by implication though
it may be all very well for YOU--'it is not for me to impugn the workings of
Providence.
I know better than that, I trust, and I have mentioned what the intentions of
Providence are.
Besides,' said Mr Podsnap, flushing high up among his hair-brushes, with a strong
consciousness of personal affront, 'the subject is a very disagreeable one.
I will go so far as to say it is an odious one.
It is not one to be introduced among our wives and young persons, and I--' He
finished with that flourish of his arm which added more expressively than any
words, And I remove it from the face of the earth.
Simultaneously with this quenching of the meek man's ineffectual fire; Georgiana
having left the ambler up a lane of sofa, in a No Thoroughfare of back drawing-room,
to find his own way out, came back to Mrs Lammle.
And who should be with Mrs Lammle, but Mr Lammle.
So fond of her!
'Alfred, my love, here is my friend. Georgiana, dearest girl, you must like my
husband next to me.
Mr Lammle was proud to be so soon distinguished by this special commendation
to Miss Podsnap's favour.
But if Mr Lammle were prone to be jealous of his dear Sophronia's friendships, he
would be jealous of her feeling towards Miss Podsnap.
'Say Georgiana, darling,' interposed his wife.
'Towards--shall I?--Georgiana.'
Mr Lammle uttered the name, with a delicate curve of his right hand, from his lips
outward.
'For never have I known Sophronia (who is not apt to take sudden likings) so
attracted and so captivated as she is by-- shall I once more?--Georgiana.'
The object of this homage sat uneasily enough in receipt of it, and then said,
turning to Mrs Lammle, much embarrassed: 'I wonder what you like me for!
I am sure I can't think.'
'Dearest Georgiana, for yourself. For your difference from all around you.'
'Well! That may be.
For I think I like you for your difference from all around me,' said Georgiana with a
smile of relief.
'We must be going with the rest,' observed Mrs Lammle, rising with a show of
unwillingness, amidst a general dispersal. 'We are real friends, Georgiana dear?'
'Real.'
'Good night, dear girl!'
She had established an attraction over the shrinking nature upon which her smiling
eyes were fixed, for Georgiana held her hand while she answered in a secret and
half-frightened tone:
'Don't forget me when you are gone away. And come again soon.
Good night!'
Charming to see Mr and Mrs Lammle taking leave so gracefully, and going down the
stairs so lovingly and sweetly.
Not quite so charming to see their smiling faces fall and brood as they dropped
moodily into separate corners of their little carriage.
But to be sure that was a sight behind the scenes, which nobody saw, and which nobody
was meant to see.
Certain big, heavy vehicles, built on the model of the Podsnap plate, took away the
heavy articles of guests weighing ever so much; and the less valuable articles got
away after their various manners; and the Podsnap plate was put to bed.
As Mr Podsnap stood with his back to the drawing-room fire, pulling up his
shirtcollar, like a veritable cock of the walk literally pluming himself in the midst
of his possessions, nothing would have
astonished him more than an intimation that Miss Podsnap, or any other young person
properly born and bred, could not be exactly put away like the plate, brought
out like the plate, polished like the
plate, counted, weighed, and valued like the plate.
That such a young person could possibly have a morbid vacancy in the heart for
anything younger than the plate, or less monotonous than the plate; or that such a
young person's thoughts could try to scale
the region bounded on the north, south, east, and west, by the plate; was a
monstrous imagination which he would on the spot have flourished into space.
This perhaps in some sort arose from Mr Podsnap's blushing young person being, so
to speak, all cheek; whereas there is a possibility that there may be young persons
of a rather more complex organization.
If Mr Podsnap, pulling up his shirt-collar, could only have heard himself called 'that
fellow' in a certain short dialogue, which passed between Mr and Mrs Lammle in their
opposite corners of their little carriage, rolling home!
'Sophronia, are you awake?' 'Am I likely to be asleep, sir?'
'Very likely, I should think, after that fellow's company.
Attend to what I am going to say.' 'I have attended to what you have already
said, have I not?
What else have I been doing all to-night.' 'Attend, I tell you,' (in a raised voice)
'to what I am going to say. Keep close to that idiot girl.
Keep her under your thumb.
You have her fast, and you are not to let her go.
Do you hear?' 'I hear you.'
'I foresee there is money to be made out of this, besides taking that fellow down a
peg. We owe each other money, you know.'
Mrs Lammle winced a little at the reminder, but only enough to shake her scents and
essences anew into the atmosphere of the little carriage, as she settled herself
afresh in her own dark corner.
>
Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens CHAPTER 12
THE SWEAT OF AN HONEST MAN'S BROW
Mr Mortimer Lightwood and Mr Eugene Wrayburn took a coffee-house dinner
together in Mr Lightwood's office. They had newly agreed to set up a joint
establishment together.
They had taken a bachelor cottage near Hampton, on the brink of the Thames, with a
lawn, and a boat-house; and all things fitting, and were to float with the stream
through the summer and the Long Vacation.
It was not summer yet, but spring; and it was not gentle spring ethereally mild, as
in Thomson's Seasons, but nipping spring with an easterly wind, as in Johnson's,
Jackson's, Dickson's, Smith's, and Jones's Seasons.
The grating wind sawed rather than blew; and as it sawed, the sawdust whirled about
the sawpit.
Every street was a sawpit, and there were no top-sawyers; every passenger was an
under-sawyer, with the sawdust blinding him and choking him.
That mysterious paper currency which circulates in London when the wind blows,
gyrated here and there and everywhere. Whence can it come, whither can it go?
It hangs on every bush, flutters in every tree, is caught flying by the electric
wires, haunts every enclosure, drinks at every pump, cowers at every grating,
shudders upon every plot of grass, seeks
rest in vain behind the legions of iron rails.
In Paris, where nothing is wasted, costly and luxurious city though it be, but where
wonderful human ants creep out of holes and pick up every scrap, there is no such
thing.
There, it blows nothing but dust. There, sharp eyes and sharp stomachs reap
even the east wind, and get something out of it.
The wind sawed, and the sawdust whirled.
The shrubs wrung their many hands, bemoaning that they had been over-persuaded
by the sun to bud; the young leaves pined; the sparrows repented of their early
marriages, like men and women; the colours
of the rainbow were discernible, not in floral spring, but in the faces of the
people whom it nibbled and pinched. And ever the wind sawed, and the sawdust
whirled.
When the spring evenings are too long and light to shut out, and such weather is
rife, the city which Mr Podsnap so explanatorily called London, Londres,
London, is at its worst.
Such a black shrill city, combining the qualities of a smoky house and a scolding
wife; such a gritty city; such a hopeless city, with no rent in the leaden canopy of
its sky; such a beleaguered city, invested
by the great Marsh Forces of Essex and Kent.
So the two old schoolfellows felt it to be, as, their dinner done, they turned towards
the fire to smoke.
Young Blight was gone, the coffee-house waiter was gone, the plates and dishes were
gone, the wine was going--but not in the same direction.
'The wind sounds up here,' quoth Eugene, stirring the fire, 'as if we were keeping a
lighthouse. I wish we were.'
'Don't you think it would bore us?'
Lightwood asked. 'Not more than any other place.
And there would be no Circuit to go. But that's a selfish consideration,
personal to me.'
'And no clients to come,' added Lightwood. 'Not that that's a selfish consideration at
all personal to ME.'
'If we were on an isolated rock in a stormy sea,' said Eugene, smoking with his eyes on
the fire, 'Lady Tippins couldn't put off to visit us, or, better still, might put off
and get swamped.
People couldn't ask one to wedding breakfasts.
There would be no Precedents to hammer at, except the plain-sailing Precedent of
keeping the light up.
It would be exciting to look out for wrecks.'
'But otherwise,' suggested Lightwood, 'there might be a degree of sameness in the
life.'
'I have thought of that also,' said Eugene, as if he really had been considering the
subject in its various bearings with an eye to the business; 'but it would be a defined
and limited monotony.
It would not extend beyond two people.
Now, it's a question with me, Mortimer, whether a monotony defined with that
precision and limited to that extent, might not be more endurable than the unlimited
monotony of one's fellow-creatures.'
As Lightwood laughed and passed the wine, he remarked, 'We shall have an opportunity,
in our boating summer, of trying the question.'
'An imperfect one,' Eugene acquiesced, with a sigh, 'but so we shall.
I hope we may not prove too much for one another.'
'Now, regarding your respected father,' said Lightwood, bringing him to a subject
they had expressly appointed to discuss: always the most slippery eel of eels of
subjects to lay hold of.
'Yes, regarding my respected father,' assented Eugene, settling himself in his
arm-chair.
'I would rather have approached my respected father by candlelight, as a theme
requiring a little artificial brilliancy; but we will take him by twilight, enlivened
with a glow of Wallsend.'
He stirred the fire again as he spoke, and having made it blaze, resumed.
'My respected father has found, down in the parental neighbourhood, a wife for his not-
generally-respected son.'
'With some money, of course?' 'With some money, of course, or he would
not have found her.
My respected father--let me shorten the dutiful tautology by substituting in future
M. R. F., which sounds military, and rather like the Duke of Wellington.'
'What an absurd fellow you are, Eugene!'
'Not at all, I assure you.
M. R. F. having always in the clearest manner provided (as he calls it) for his
children by pre-arranging from the hour of the birth of each, and sometimes from an
earlier period, what the devoted little
victim's calling and course in life should be, M. R. F. pre-arranged for myself that I
was to be the barrister I am (with the slight addition of an enormous practice,
which has not accrued), and also the married man I am not.'
'The first you have often told me.' 'The first I have often told you.
Considering myself sufficiently incongruous on my legal eminence, I have until now
suppressed my domestic destiny. You know M. R. F., but not as well as I do.
If you knew him as well as I do, he would amuse you.'
'Filially spoken, Eugene!'
'Perfectly so, believe me; and with every sentiment of affectionate deference towards
M. R. F. But if he amuses me, I can't help it.
When my eldest brother was born, of course the rest of us knew (I mean the rest of us
would have known, if we had been in existence) that he was heir to the Family
Embarrassments--we call it before the company the Family Estate.
But when my second brother was going to be born by-and-by, "this," says M. R. F., "is
a little pillar of the church."
WAS born, and became a pillar of the church; a very shaky one.
My third brother appeared, considerably in advance of his engagement to my mother; but
M. R. F., not at all put out by surprise, instantly declared him a Circumnavigator.
Was pitch-forked into the Navy, but has not circumnavigated.
I announced myself and was disposed of with the highly satisfactory results embodied
before you.
When my younger brother was half an hour old, it was settled by M. R. F. that he
should have a mechanical genius. And so on.
Therefore I say that M. R. F. amuses me.'
'Touching the lady, Eugene.' 'There M. R. F. ceases to be amusing,
because my intentions are opposed to touching the lady.'
'Do you know her?'
'Not in the least.' 'Hadn't you better see her?'
'My dear Mortimer, you have studied my character.
Could I possibly go down there, labelled "ELIGIBLE.
ON VIEW," and meet the lady, similarly labelled?
Anything to carry out M. R. F.'s arrangements, I am sure, with the greatest
pleasure--except matrimony. Could I possibly support it?
I, so soon bored, so constantly, so fatally?'
'But you are not a consistent fellow, Eugene.'
'In susceptibility to boredom,' returned that worthy, 'I assure you I am the most
consistent of mankind.' 'Why, it was but now that you were dwelling
in the advantages of a monotony of two.'
'In a lighthouse. Do me the justice to remember the
condition. In a lighthouse.'
Mortimer laughed again, and Eugene, having laughed too for the first time, as if he
found himself on reflection rather entertaining, relapsed into his usual
gloom, and drowsily said, as he enjoyed his
cigar, 'No, there is no help for it; one of the prophetic deliveries of M. R. F. must
for ever remain unfulfilled. With every disposition to oblige him, he
must submit to a failure.'
It had grown darker as they talked, and the wind was sawing and the sawdust was
whirling outside paler windows.
The underlying churchyard was already settling into deep dim shade, and the shade
was creeping up to the housetops among which they sat.
'As if,' said Eugene, 'as if the churchyard ghosts were rising.'
He had walked to the window with his cigar in his mouth, to exalt its flavour by
comparing the fireside with the outside, when he stopped midway on his return to his
arm-chair, and said:
'Apparently one of the ghosts has lost its way, and dropped in to be directed.
Look at this phantom!'
Lightwood, whose back was towards the door, turned his head, and there, in the darkness
of the entry, stood a something in the likeness of a man: to whom he addressed the
not irrelevant inquiry, 'Who the devil are you?'
'I ask your pardons, Governors,' replied the ghost, in a hoarse double-barrelled
whisper, 'but might either on you be Lawyer Lightwood?'
'What do you mean by not knocking at the door?' demanded Mortimer.
'I ask your pardons, Governors,' replied the ghost, as before, 'but probable you was
not aware your door stood open.'
'What do you want?' Hereunto the ghost again hoarsely replied,
in its double-barrelled manner, 'I ask your pardons, Governors, but might one on you be
Lawyer Lightwood?'
'One of us is,' said the owner of that name.
'All right, Governors Both,' returned the ghost, carefully closing the room door;
''tickler business.'
Mortimer lighted the candles.
They showed the visitor to be an ill- looking visitor with a squinting leer, who,
as he spoke, fumbled at an old sodden fur cap, formless and mangey, that looked like
a furry animal, dog or cat, puppy or kitten, drowned and decaying.
'Now,' said Mortimer, 'what is it?'
'Governors Both,' returned the man, in what he meant to be a wheedling tone, 'which on
you might be Lawyer Lightwood?' 'I am.'
'Lawyer Lightwood,' ducking at him with a servile air, 'I am a man as gets my living,
and as seeks to get my living, by the sweat of my brow.
Not to risk being done out of the sweat of my brow, by any chances, I should wish
afore going further to be swore in.' 'I am not a swearer in of people, man.'
The visitor, clearly anything but reliant on this assurance, doggedly muttered
'Alfred David.' 'Is that your name?' asked Lightwood.
'My name?' returned the man.
'No; I want to take a Alfred David.' (Which Eugene, smoking and contemplating
him, interpreted as meaning Affidavit.)
'I tell you, my good fellow,' said Lightwood, with his indolent laugh, 'that I
have nothing to do with swearing.' 'He can swear AT you,' Eugene explained;
'and so can I.
But we can't do more for you.'
Much discomfited by this information, the visitor turned the drowned dog or cat,
puppy or kitten, about and about, and looked from one of the Governors Both to
the other of the Governors Both, while he deeply considered within himself.
At length he decided: 'Then I must be took down.'
'Where?' asked Lightwood.
'Here,' said the man. 'In pen and ink.'
'First, let us know what your business is about.'
'It's about,' said the man, taking a step forward, dropping his hoarse voice, and
shading it with his hand, 'it's about from five to ten thousand pound reward.
That's what it's about.
It's about Murder. That's what it's about.'
'Come nearer the table. Sit down.
Will you have a glass of wine?'
'Yes, I will,' said the man; 'and I don't deceive you, Governors.'
It was given him.
Making a stiff arm to the elbow, he poured the wine into his mouth, tilted it into his
right cheek, as saying, 'What do you think of it?' tilted it into his left cheek, as
saying, 'What do YOU think of it?' jerked
it into his stomach, as saying, 'What do YOU think of it?'
To conclude, smacked his lips, as if all three replied, 'We think well of it.'
'Will you have another?'
'Yes, I will,' he repeated, 'and I don't deceive you, Governors.'
And also repeated the other proceedings. 'Now,' began Lightwood, 'what's your name?'
'Why, there you're rather fast, Lawyer Lightwood,' he replied, in a remonstrant
manner. 'Don't you see, Lawyer Lightwood?
There you're a little bit fast.
I'm going to earn from five to ten thousand pound by the sweat of my brow; and as a
poor man doing justice to the sweat of my brow, is it likely I can afford to part
with so much as my name without its being took down?'
Deferring to the man's sense of the binding powers of pen and ink and paper, Lightwood
nodded acceptance of Eugene's nodded proposal to take those spells in hand.
Eugene, bringing them to the table, sat down as clerk or notary.
'Now,' said Lightwood, 'what's your name?' But further precaution was still due to the
sweat of this honest fellow's brow.
'I should wish, Lawyer Lightwood,' he stipulated, 'to have that T'other Governor
as my witness that what I said I said.
Consequent, will the T'other Governor be so good as chuck me his name and where he
lives?' Eugene, cigar in mouth and pen in hand,
tossed him his card.
After spelling it out slowly, the man made it into a little roll, and tied it up in an
end of his neckerchief still more slowly.
'Now,' said Lightwood, for the third time, 'if you have quite completed your various
preparations, my friend, and have fully ascertained that your spirits are cool and
not in any way hurried, what's your name?'
'Roger Riderhood.' 'Dwelling-place?'
'Lime'us Hole.' 'Calling or occupation?'
Not quite so glib with this answer as with the previous two, Mr Riderhood gave in the
definition, 'Waterside character.' 'Anything against you?'
Eugene quietly put in, as he wrote.
Rather baulked, Mr Riderhood evasively remarked, with an innocent air, that he
believed the T'other Governor had asked him summa't.
'Ever in trouble?' said Eugene.
'Once.' (Might happen to any man, Mr Riderhood
added incidentally.) 'On suspicion of--'
'Of seaman's pocket,' said Mr Riderhood.
'Whereby I was in reality the man's best friend, and tried to take care of him.'
'With the sweat of your brow?' asked Eugene.
'Till it poured down like rain,' said Roger Riderhood.
Eugene leaned back in his chair, and smoked with his eyes negligently turned on the
informer, and his pen ready to reduce him to more writing.
Lightwood also smoked, with his eyes negligently turned on the informer.
'Now let me be took down again,' said Riderhood, when he had turned the drowned
cap over and under, and had brushed it the wrong way (if it had a right way) with his
sleeve.
'I give information that the man that done the Harmon Murder is Gaffer Hexam, the man
that found the body.
The hand of Jesse Hexam, commonly called Gaffer on the river and along shore, is the
hand that done that deed. His hand and no other.'
The two friends glanced at one another with more serious faces than they had shown yet.
'Tell us on what grounds you make this accusation,' said Mortimer Lightwood.
'On the grounds,' answered Riderhood, wiping his face with his sleeve, 'that I
was Gaffer's pardner, and suspected of him many a long day and many a dark night.
On the grounds that I knowed his ways.
On the grounds that I broke the pardnership because I see the danger; which I warn you
his daughter may tell you another story about that, for anythink I can say, but you
know what it'll be worth, for she'd tell
you lies, the world round and the heavens broad, to save her father.
On the grounds that it's well understood along the cause'ays and the stairs that he
done it.
On the grounds that he's fell off from, because he done it.
On the grounds that I will swear he done it.
On the grounds that you may take me where you will, and get me sworn to it.
I don't want to back out of the consequences.
I have made up MY mind.
Take me anywheres.' 'All this is nothing,' said Lightwood.
'Nothing?' repeated Riderhood, indignantly and amazedly.
'Merely nothing.
It goes to no more than that you suspect this man of the crime.
You may do so with some reason, or you may do so with no reason, but he cannot be
convicted on your suspicion.'
'Haven't I said--I appeal to the T'other Governor as my witness--haven't I said from
the first minute that I opened my mouth in this here world-without-end-everlasting
chair' (he evidently used that form of
words as next in force to an affidavit), 'that I was willing to swear that he done
it? Haven't I said, Take me and get me sworn to
it?
Don't I say so now? You won't deny it, Lawyer Lightwood?'
'Surely not; but you only offer to swear to your suspicion, and I tell you it is not
enough to swear to your suspicion.'
'Not enough, ain't it, Lawyer Lightwood?' he cautiously demanded.
'Positively not.' 'And did I say it WAS enough?
Now, I appeal to the T'other Governor.
Now, fair! Did I say so?'
'He certainly has not said that he had no more to tell,' Eugene observed in a low
voice without looking at him, 'whatever he seemed to imply.'
'Hah!' cried the informer, triumphantly perceiving that the remark was generally in
his favour, though apparently not closely understanding it.
'Fort'nate for me I had a witness!'
'Go on, then,' said Lightwood. 'Say out what you have to say.
No after-thought.' 'Let me be took down then!' cried the
informer, eagerly and anxiously.
'Let me be took down, for by George and the Draggin I'm a coming to it now!
Don't do nothing to keep back from a honest man the fruits of the sweat of his brow!
I give information, then, that he told me that he done it.
Is THAT enough?' 'Take care what you say, my friend,'
returned Mortimer.
'Lawyer Lightwood, take care, you, what I say; for I judge you'll be answerable for
follering it up!'
Then, slowly and emphatically beating it all out with his open right hand on the
palm of his left; 'I, Roger Riderhood, Lime'us Hole, Waterside character, tell
you, Lawyer Lightwood, that the man Jesse
Hexam, commonly called upon the river and along-shore Gaffer, told me that he done
the deed. What's more, he told me with his own lips
that he done the deed.
What's more, he said that he done the deed. And I'll swear it!'
'Where did he tell you so?'
'Outside,' replied Riderhood, always beating it out, with his head determinedly
set askew, and his eyes watchfully dividing their attention between his two auditors,
'outside the door of the Six Jolly
Fellowships, towards a quarter after twelve o'clock at midnight--but I will not in my
conscience undertake to swear to so fine a matter as five minutes--on the night when
he picked up the body.
The Six Jolly Fellowships won't run away. If it turns out that he warn't at the Six
Jolly Fellowships that night at midnight, I'm a liar.'
'What did he say?'
'I'll tell you (take me down, T'other Governor, I ask no better).
He come out first; I come out last.
I might be a minute arter him; I might be half a minute, I might be a quarter of a
minute; I cannot swear to that, and therefore I won't.
That's knowing the obligations of a Alfred David, ain't it?'
'Go on.' 'I found him a waiting to speak to me.
He says to me, "Rogue Riderhood"--for that's the name I'm mostly called by--not
for any meaning in it, for meaning it has none, but because of its being similar to
Roger.'
'Never mind that.' ''Scuse ME, Lawyer Lightwood, it's a part
of the truth, and as such I do mind it, and I must mind it and I will mind it.
"Rogue Riderhood," he says, "words passed betwixt us on the river tonight."
Which they had; ask his daughter!
"I threatened you," he says, "to chop you over the fingers with my boat's stretcher,
or take a aim at your brains with my boathook.
I did so on accounts of your looking too hard at what I had in tow, as if you was
suspicious, and on accounts of your holding on to the gunwale of my boat."
I says to him, "Gaffer, I know it."
He says to me, "Rogue Riderhood, you are a man in a dozen"--I think he said in a
score, but of that I am not positive, so take the lowest figure, for precious be the
obligations of a Alfred David.
"And," he says, "when your fellow-men is up, be it their lives or be it their
watches, sharp is ever the word with you. Had you suspicions?"
I says, "Gaffer, I had; and what's more, I have."
He falls a shaking, and he says, "Of what?" I says, "Of foul play."
He falls a shaking worse, and he says, "There WAS foul play then.
I done it for his money. Don't betray me!"
Those were the words as ever he used.'
There was a silence, broken only by the fall of the ashes in the grate.
An opportunity which the informer improved by smearing himself all over the head and
neck and face with his drowned cap, and not at all improving his own appearance.
'What more?' asked Lightwood.
'Of him, d'ye mean, Lawyer Lightwood?' 'Of anything to the purpose.'
'Now, I'm blest if I understand you, Governors Both,' said the informer, in a
creeping manner: propitiating both, though only one had spoken.
'What?
Ain't THAT enough?' 'Did you ask him how he did it, where he
did it, when he did it?' 'Far be it from me, Lawyer Lightwood!
I was so troubled in my mind, that I wouldn't have knowed more, no, not for the
sum as I expect to earn from you by the sweat of my brow, twice told!
I had put an end to the pardnership.
I had cut the connexion. I couldn't undo what was done; and when he
begs and prays, "Old pardner, on my knees, don't split upon me!"
I only makes answer "Never speak another word to Roger Riderhood, nor look him in
the face!" and I shuns that man.'
Having given these words a swing to make them mount the higher and go the further,
Rogue Riderhood poured himself out another glass of wine unbidden, and seemed to chew
it, as, with the half-emptied glass in his hand, he stared at the candles.
Mortimer glanced at Eugene, but Eugene sat glowering at his paper, and would give him
no responsive glance.
Mortimer again turned to the informer, to whom he said:
'You have been troubled in your mind a long time, man?'
Giving his wine a final chew, and swallowing it, the informer answered in a
single word: 'Hages!'
'When all that stir was made, when the Government reward was offered, when the
police were on the alert, when the whole country rang with the crime!' said
Mortimer, impatiently.
'Hah!' Mr Riderhood very slowly and hoarsely
chimed in, with several retrospective nods of his head.
'Warn't I troubled in my mind then!'
'When conjecture ran wild, when the most extravagant suspicions were afloat, when
half a dozen innocent people might have been laid by the heels any hour in the
day!' said Mortimer, almost warming.
'Hah!' Mr Riderhood chimed in, as before.
'Warn't I troubled in my mind through it all!'
'But he hadn't,' said Eugene, drawing a lady's head upon his writing-paper, and
touching it at intervals, 'the opportunity then of earning so much money, you see.'
'The T'other Governor hits the nail, Lawyer Lightwood!
It was that as turned me.
I had many times and again struggled to relieve myself of the trouble on my mind,
but I couldn't get it off.
I had once very nigh got it off to Miss Abbey Potterson which keeps the Six Jolly
Fellowships--there is the 'ouse, it won't run away,--there lives the lady, she ain't
likely to be struck dead afore you get there--ask her!--but I couldn't do it.
At last, out comes the new bill with your own lawful name, Lawyer Lightwood, printed
to it, and then I asks the question of my own intellects, Am I to have this trouble
on my mind for ever?
Am I never to throw it off? Am I always to think more of Gaffer than of
my own self? If he's got a daughter, ain't I got a
daughter?'
'And echo answered--?' Eugene suggested.
'"You have,"' said Mr Riderhood, in a firm tone.
'Incidentally mentioning, at the same time, her age?' inquired Eugene.
'Yes, governor. Two-and-twenty last October.
And then I put it to myself, "Regarding the money.
It is a pot of money." For it IS a pot,' said Mr Riderhood, with
candour, 'and why deny it?'
'Hear!' from Eugene as he touched his drawing.
'"It is a pot of money; but is it a sin for a labouring man that moistens every crust
of bread he earns, with his tears--or if not with them, with the colds he catches in
his head--is it a sin for that man to earn it?
Say there is anything again earning it."
This I put to myself strong, as in duty bound; "how can it be said without blaming
Lawyer Lightwood for offering it to be earned?"
And was it for ME to blame Lawyer Lightwood?
No.' 'No,' said Eugene.
'Certainly not, Governor,' Mr Riderhood acquiesced.
'So I made up my mind to get my trouble off my mind, and to earn by the sweat of my
brow what was held out to me.
And what's more, he added, suddenly turning bloodthirsty, 'I mean to have it!
And now I tell you, once and away, Lawyer Lightwood, that Jesse Hexam, commonly
called Gaffer, his hand and no other, done the deed, on his own confession to me.
And I give him up to you, and I want him took.
This night!'
After another silence, broken only by the fall of the ashes in the grate, which
attracted the informer's attention as if it were the chinking of money, Mortimer
Lightwood leaned over his friend, and said in a whisper:
'I suppose I must go with this fellow to our imperturbable friend at the police-
station.'
'I suppose,' said Eugene, 'there is no help for it.'
'Do you believe him?' 'I believe him to be a thorough rascal.
But he may tell the truth, for his own purpose, and for this occasion only.'
'It doesn't look like it.' 'HE doesn't,' said Eugene.
'But neither is his late partner, whom he denounces, a prepossessing person.
The firm are cut-throat Shepherds both, in appearance.
I should like to ask him one thing.'
The subject of this conference sat leering at the ashes, trying with all his might to
overhear what was said, but feigning abstraction as the 'Governors Both' glanced
at him.
'You mentioned (twice, I think) a daughter of this Hexam's,' said Eugene, aloud.
'You don't mean to imply that she had any guilty knowledge of the crime?'
The honest man, after considering--perhaps considering how his answer might affect the
fruits of the sweat of his brow--replied, unreservedly, 'No, I don't.'
'And you implicate no other person?'
'It ain't what I implicate, it's what Gaffer implicated,' was the dogged and
determined answer. 'I don't pretend to know more than that his
words to me was, "I done it."
Those was his words.' 'I must see this out, Mortimer,' whispered
Eugene, rising. 'How shall we go?'
'Let us walk,' whispered Lightwood, 'and give this fellow time to think of it.'
Having exchanged the question and answer, they prepared themselves for going out, and
Mr Riderhood rose.
While extinguishing the candles, Lightwood, quite as a matter of course took up the
glass from which that honest gentleman had drunk, and coolly tossed it under the
grate, where it fell shivering into fragments.
'Now, if you will take the lead,' said Lightwood, 'Mr Wrayburn and I will follow.
You know where to go, I suppose?'
'I suppose I do, Lawyer Lightwood.' 'Take the lead, then.'
The waterside character pulled his drowned cap over his ears with both hands, and
making himself more round-shouldered than nature had made him, by the sullen and
persistent slouch with which he went, went
down the stairs, round by the Temple Church, across the Temple into Whitefriars,
and so on by the waterside streets. 'Look at his hang-dog air,' said Lightwood,
following.
'It strikes me rather as a hang-MAN air,' returned Eugene.
'He has undeniable intentions that way.' They said little else as they followed.
He went on before them as an ugly Fate might have done, and they kept him in view,
and would have been glad enough to lose sight of him.
But on he went before them, always at the same distance, and the same rate.
Aslant against the hard implacable weather and the rough wind, he was no more to be
driven back than hurried forward, but held on like an advancing Destiny.
There came, when they were about midway on their journey, a heavy rush of hail, which
in a few minutes pelted the streets clear, and whitened them.
It made no difference to him.
A man's life being to be taken and the price of it got, the hailstones to arrest
the purpose must lie larger and deeper than those.
He crashed through them, leaving marks in the fast-melting slush that were mere
shapeless holes; one might have fancied, following, that the very fashion of
humanity had departed from his feet.
The blast went by, and the moon contended with the fast-flying clouds, and the wild
disorder reigning up there made the pitiful little tumults in the streets of no
account.
It was not that the wind swept all the brawlers into places of shelter, as it had
swept the hail still lingering in heaps wherever there was refuge for it; but that
it seemed as if the streets were absorbed
by the sky, and the night were all in the air.
'If he has had time to think of it,' said Eugene, he has not had time to think better
of it--or differently of it, if that's better.
There is no sign of drawing back in him; and as I recollect this place, we must be
close upon the corner where we alighted that night.'
In fact, a few abrupt turns brought them to the river side, where they had slipped
about among the stones, and where they now slipped more; the wind coming against them
in slants and flaws, across the tide and
the windings of the river, in a furious way.
With that habit of getting under the lee of any shelter which waterside characters
acquire, the waterside character at present in question led the way to the leeside of
the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters before he spoke.
'Look round here, Lawyer Lightwood, at them red curtains.
It's the Fellowships, the 'ouse as I told you wouldn't run away.
And has it run away?'
Not showing himself much impressed by this remarkable confirmation of the informer's
evidence, Lightwood inquired what other business they had there?
'I wished you to see the Fellowships for yourself, Lawyer Lightwood, that you might
judge whether I'm a liar; and now I'll see Gaffer's window for myself, that we may
know whether he's at home.'
With that, he crept away. 'He'll come back, I suppose?' murmured
Lightwood. 'Ay! and go through with it,' murmured
Eugene.
He came back after a very short interval indeed.
'Gaffer's out, and his boat's out. His daughter's at home, sitting a-looking
at the fire.
But there's some supper getting ready, so Gaffer's expected.
I can find what move he's upon, easy enough, presently.'
Then he beckoned and led the way again, and they came to the police-station, still as
clean and cool and steady as before, saving that the flame of its lamp--being but a
lamp-flame, and only attached to the Force as an outsider--flickered in the wind.
Also, within doors, Mr Inspector was at his studies as of yore.
He recognized the friends the instant they reappeared, but their reappearance had no
effect on his composure.
Not even the circumstance that Riderhood was their conductor moved him, otherwise
than that as he took a dip of ink he seemed, by a settlement of his chin in his
stock, to propound to that personage,
without looking at him, the question, 'What have YOU been up to, last?'
Mortimer Lightwood asked him, would he be so good as look at those notes?
Handing him Eugene's.
Having read the first few lines, Mr Inspector mounted to that (for him)
extraordinary pitch of emotion that he said, 'Does either of you two gentlemen
happen to have a pinch of snuff about him?'
Finding that neither had, he did quite as well without it, and read on.
'Have you heard these read?' he then demanded of the honest man.
'No,' said Riderhood.
'Then you had better hear them.' And so read them aloud, in an official
manner.
'Are these notes correct, now, as to the information you bring here and the evidence
you mean to give?' he asked, when he had finished reading.
'They are.
They are as correct,' returned Mr Riderhood, 'as I am.
I can't say more than that for 'em.' 'I'll take this man myself, sir,' said Mr
Inspector to Lightwood.
Then to Riderhood, 'Is he at home? Where is he?
What's he doing? You have made it your business to know all
about him, no doubt.'
Riderhood said what he did know, and promised to find out in a few minutes what
he didn't know. 'Stop,' said Mr Inspector; 'not till I tell
you: We mustn't look like business.
Would you two gentlemen object to making a pretence of taking a glass of something in
my company at the Fellowships? Well-conducted house, and highly
respectable landlady.'
They replied that they would be happy to substitute a reality for the pretence,
which, in the main, appeared to be as one with Mr Inspector's meaning.
'Very good,' said he, taking his hat from its peg, and putting a pair of handcuffs in
his pocket as if they were his gloves. 'Reserve!'
Reserve saluted.
'You know where to find me?' Reserve again saluted.
'Riderhood, when you have found out concerning his coming home, come round to
the window of Cosy, tap twice at it, and wait for me.
Now, gentlemen.'
As the three went out together, and Riderhood slouched off from under the
trembling lamp his separate way, Lightwood asked the officer what he thought of this?
Mr Inspector replied, with due generality and reticence, that it was always more
likely that a man had done a bad thing than that he hadn't.
That he himself had several times 'reckoned up' Gaffer, but had never been able to
bring him to a satisfactory criminal total. That if this story was true, it was only in
part true.
That the two men, very shy characters, would have been jointly and pretty equally
'in it;' but that this man had 'spotted' the other, to save himself and get the
money.
'And I think,' added Mr Inspector, in conclusion, 'that if all goes well with
him, he's in a tolerable way of getting it.
But as this is the Fellowships, gentlemen, where the lights are, I recommend dropping
the subject.
You can't do better than be interested in some lime works anywhere down about
Northfleet, and doubtful whether some of your lime don't get into bad company as it
comes up in barges.'
'You hear Eugene?' said Lightwood, over his shoulder.
'You are deeply interested in lime.'
'Without lime,' returned that unmoved barrister-at-law, 'my existence would be
unilluminated by a ray of hope.'
>
Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens CHAPTER 13
TRACKING THE BIRD OF PREY
The two lime merchants, with their escort, entered the dominions of Miss Abbey
Potterson, to whom their escort (presenting them and their pretended business over the
half-door of the bar, in a confidential
way) preferred his figurative request that 'a mouthful of fire' might be lighted in
Cosy.
Always well disposed to assist the constituted authorities, Miss Abbey bade
Bob Gliddery attend the gentlemen to that retreat, and promptly enliven it with fire
and gaslight.
Of this commission the bare-armed Bob, leading the way with a flaming wisp of
paper, so speedily acquitted himself, that Cosy seemed to leap out of a dark sleep and
embrace them warmly, the moment they passed the lintels of its hospitable door.
'They burn sherry very well here,' said Mr Inspector, as a piece of local
intelligence.
'Perhaps you gentlemen might like a bottle?'
The answer being By all means, Bob Gliddery received his instructions from Mr
Inspector, and departed in a becoming state of alacrity engendered by reverence for the
majesty of the law.
'It's a certain fact,' said Mr Inspector, 'that this man we have received our
information from,' indicating Riderhood with his thumb over his shoulder, 'has for
some time past given the other man a bad
name arising out of your lime barges, and that the other man has been avoided in
consequence. I don't say what it means or proves, but
it's a certain fact.
I had it first from one of the opposite sex of my acquaintance,' vaguely indicating
Miss Abbey with his thumb over his shoulder, 'down away at a distance, over
yonder.'
Then probably Mr Inspector was not quite unprepared for their visit that evening?
Lightwood hinted. 'Well you see,' said Mr Inspector, 'it was
a question of making a move.
It's of no use moving if you don't know what your move is.
You had better by far keep still.
In the matter of this lime, I certainly had an idea that it might lie betwixt the two
men; I always had that idea. Still I was forced to wait for a start, and
I wasn't so lucky as to get a start.
This man that we have received our information from, has got a start, and if
he don't meet with a check he may make the running and come in first.
There may turn out to be something considerable for him that comes in second,
and I don't mention who may or who may not try for that place.
There's duty to do, and I shall do it, under any circumstances; to the best of my
judgment and ability.' 'Speaking as a shipper of lime--' began
Eugene.
'Which no man has a better right to do than yourself, you know,' said Mr Inspector.
'I hope not,' said Eugene; 'my father having been a shipper of lime before me,
and my grandfather before him--in fact we having been a family immersed to the crowns
of our heads in lime during several
generations--I beg to observe that if this missing lime could be got hold of without
any young female relative of any distinguished gentleman engaged in the lime
trade (which I cherish next to my life)
being present, I think it might be a more agreeable proceeding to the assisting
bystanders, that is to say, lime-burners.'
'I also,' said Lightwood, pushing his friend aside with a laugh, 'should much
prefer that.'
'It shall be done, gentlemen, if it can be done conveniently,' said Mr Inspector, with
coolness. 'There is no wish on my part to cause any
distress in that quarter.
Indeed, I am sorry for that quarter.' 'There was a boy in that quarter,' remarked
Eugene. 'He is still there?'
'No,' said Mr Inspector.'
He has quitted those works. He is otherwise disposed of.'
'Will she be left alone then?' asked Eugene.
'She will be left,' said Mr Inspector, 'alone.'
Bob's reappearance with a steaming jug broke off the conversation.
But although the jug steamed forth a delicious perfume, its contents had not
received that last happy touch which the surpassing finish of the Six Jolly
Fellowship Porters imparted on such momentous occasions.
Bob carried in his left hand one of those iron models of sugar-loaf hats, before
mentioned, into which he emptied the jug, and the pointed end of which he thrust deep
down into the fire, so leaving it for a few
moments while he disappeared and reappeared with three bright drinking-glasses.
Placing these on the table and bending over the fire, meritoriously sensible of the
trying nature of his duty, he watched the wreaths of steam, until at the special
instant of projection he caught up the iron
vessel and gave it one delicate twirl, causing it to send forth one gentle hiss.
Then he restored the contents to the jug; held over the steam of the jug, each of the
three bright glasses in succession; finally filled them all, and with a clear
conscience awaited the applause of his fellow-creatures.
It was bestowed (Mr Inspector having proposed as an appropriate sentiment 'The
lime trade!') and Bob withdrew to report the commendations of the guests to Miss
Abbey in the bar.
It may be here in confidence admitted that, the room being close shut in his absence,
there had not appeared to be the slightest reason for the elaborate maintenance of
this same lime fiction.
Only it had been regarded by Mr Inspector as so uncommonly satisfactory, and so
fraught with mysterious virtues, that neither of his clients had presumed to
question it.
Two taps were now heard on the outside of the window.
Mr Inspector, hastily fortifying himself with another glass, strolled out with a
noiseless foot and an unoccupied countenance.
As one might go to survey the weather and the general aspect of the heavenly bodies.
'This is becoming grim, Mortimer,' said Eugene, in a low voice.
'I don't like this.'
'Nor I' said Lightwood. 'Shall we go?'
'Being here, let us stay. You ought to see it out, and I won't leave
you.
Besides, that lonely girl with the dark hair runs in my head.
It was little more than a glimpse we had of her that last time, and yet I almost see
her waiting by the fire to-night.
Do you feel like a dark combination of traitor and pickpocket when you think of
that girl?' 'Rather,' returned Lightwood.
'Do you?'
'Very much so.' Their escort strolled back again, and
reported.
Divested of its various lime-lights and shadows, his report went to the effect that
Gaffer was away in his boat, supposed to be on his old look-out; that he had been
expected last high-water; that having
missed it for some reason or other, he was not, according to his usual habits at
night, to be counted on before next high- water, or it might be an hour or so later;
that his daughter, surveyed through the
window, would seem to be so expecting him, for the supper was not cooking, but set out
ready to be cooked; that it would be high- water at about one, and that it was now
barely ten; that there was nothing to be
done but watch and wait; that the informer was keeping watch at the instant of that
present reporting, but that two heads were better than one (especially when the second
was Mr Inspector's); and that the reporter meant to share the watch.
And forasmuch as crouching under the lee of a hauled-up boat on a night when it blew
cold and strong, and when the weather was varied with blasts of hail at times, might
be wearisome to amateurs, the reporter
closed with the recommendation that the two gentlemen should remain, for a while at any
rate, in their present quarters, which were weather-tight and warm.
They were not inclined to dispute this recommendation, but they wanted to know
where they could join the watchers when so disposed.
Rather than trust to a verbal description of the place, which might mislead, Eugene
(with a less weighty sense of personal trouble on him than he usually had) would
go out with Mr Inspector, note the spot, and come back.
On the shelving bank of the river, among the slimy stones of a causeway--not the
special causeway of the Six Jolly Fellowships, which had a landing-place of
its own, but another, a little removed, and
very near to the old windmill which was the denounced man's dwelling-place--were a few
boats; some, moored and already beginning to float; others, hauled up above the reach
of the tide.
Under one of these latter, Eugene's companion disappeared.
And when Eugene had observed its position with reference to the other boats, and had
made sure that he could not miss it, he turned his eyes upon the building where, as
he had been told, the lonely girl with the dark hair sat by the fire.
He could see the light of the fire shining through the window.
Perhaps it drew him on to look in.
Perhaps he had come out with the express intention.
That part of the bank having rank grass growing on it, there was no difficulty in
getting close, without any noise of footsteps: it was but to scramble up a
ragged face of pretty hard mud some three
or four feet high and come upon the grass and to the window.
He came to the window by that means. She had no other light than the light of
the fire.
The unkindled lamp stood on the table. She sat on the ground, looking at the
brazier, with her face leaning on her hand.
There was a kind of film or flicker on her face, which at first he took to be the
fitful firelight; but, on a second look, he saw that she was weeping.
A sad and solitary spectacle, as shown him by the rising and the falling of the fire.
It was a little window of but four pieces of glass, and was not curtained; he chose
it because the larger window near it was.
It showed him the room, and the bills upon the wall respecting the drowned people
starting out and receding by turns. But he glanced slightly at them, though he
looked long and steadily at her.
A deep rich piece of colour, with the brown flush of her cheek and the shining lustre
of her hair, though sad and solitary, weeping by the rising and the falling of
the fire.
She started up. He had been so very still that he felt sure
it was not he who had disturbed her, so merely withdrew from the window and stood
near it in the shadow of the wall.
She opened the door, and said in an alarmed tone, 'Father, was that you calling me?'
And again, 'Father!' And once again, after listening, 'Father!
I thought I heard you call me twice before!'
No response.
As she re-entered at the door, he dropped over the bank and made his way back, among
the ooze and near the hiding-place, to Mortimer Lightwood: to whom he told what he
had seen of the girl, and how this was becoming very grim indeed.
'If the real man feels as guilty as I do,' said Eugene, 'he is remarkably
uncomfortable.'
'Influence of secrecy,' suggested Lightwood.
'I am not at all obliged to it for making me Guy Fawkes in the vault and a Sneak in
the area both at once,' said Eugene.
'Give me some more of that stuff.' Lightwood helped him to some more of that
stuff, but it had been cooling, and didn't answer now.
'Pooh,' said Eugene, spitting it out among the ashes.
'Tastes like the wash of the river.' 'Are you so familiar with the flavour of
the wash of the river?'
'I seem to be to-night. I feel as if I had been half drowned, and
swallowing a gallon of it.' 'Influence of locality,' suggested
Lightwood.
'You are mighty learned to-night, you and your influences,' returned Eugene.
'How long shall we stay here?' 'How long do you think?'
'If I could choose, I should say a minute,' replied Eugene, 'for the Jolly Fellowship
Porters are not the jolliest dogs I have known.
But I suppose we are best here until they turn us out with the other suspicious
characters, at midnight.' Thereupon he stirred the fire, and sat down
on one side of it.
It struck eleven, and he made believe to compose himself patiently.
But gradually he took the fidgets in one leg, and then in the other leg, and then in
one arm, and then in the other arm, and then in his chin, and then in his back, and
then in his forehead, and then in his hair,
and then in his nose; and then he stretched himself recumbent on two chairs, and
groaned; and then he started up. 'Invisible insects of diabolical activity
swarm in this place.
I am tickled and twitched all over. Mentally, I have now committed a burglary
under the meanest circumstances, and the myrmidons of justice are at my heels.'
'I am quite as bad,' said Lightwood, sitting up facing him, with a tumbled head;
after going through some wonderful evolutions, in which his head had been the
lowest part of him.
'This restlessness began with me, long ago. All the time you were out, I felt like
Gulliver with the Lilliputians firing upon him.'
'It won't do, Mortimer.
We must get into the air; we must join our dear friend and brother, Riderhood.
And let us tranquillize ourselves by making a compact.
Next time (with a view to our peace of mind) we'll commit the crime, instead of
taking the criminal. You swear it?'
'Certainly.'
'Sworn! Let Tippins look to it.
Her life's in danger.'
Mortimer rang the bell to pay the score, and Bob appeared to transact that business
with him: whom Eugene, in his careless extravagance, asked if he would like a
situation in the lime-trade?
'Thankee sir, no sir,' said Bob. 'I've a good sitiwation here, sir.'
'If you change your mind at any time,' returned Eugene, 'come to me at my works,
and you'll always find an opening in the lime-kiln.'
'Thankee sir,' said Bob.
'This is my partner,' said Eugene, 'who keeps the books and attends to the wages.
A fair day's wages for a fair day's work is ever my partner's motto.'
'And a very good 'un it is, gentlemen,' said Bob, receiving his fee, and drawing a
bow out of his head with his right hand, very much as he would have drawn a pint of
beer out of the beer engine.
'Eugene,' Mortimer apostrophized him, laughing quite heartily when they were
alone again, 'how CAN you be so ridiculous?'
'I am in a ridiculous humour,' quoth Eugene; 'I am a ridiculous fellow.
Everything is ridiculous. Come along!'
It passed into Mortimer Lightwood's mind that a change of some sort, best expressed
perhaps as an intensification of all that was wildest and most negligent and reckless
in his friend, had come upon him in the last half-hour or so.
Thoroughly used to him as he was, he found something new and strained in him that was
for the moment perplexing.
This passed into his mind, and passed out again; but he remembered it afterwards.
'There's where she sits, you see,' said Eugene, when they were standing under the
bank, roared and riven at by the wind.
'There's the light of her fire.' 'I'll take a peep through the window,' said
Mortimer. 'No, don't!'
Eugene caught him by the arm.
'Best, not make a show of her. Come to our honest friend.'
He led him to the post of watch, and they both dropped down and crept under the lee
of the boat; a better shelter than it had seemed before, being directly contrasted
with the blowing wind and the bare night.
'Mr Inspector at home?' whispered Eugene. 'Here I am, sir.'
'And our friend of the perspiring brow is at the far corner there?
Good.
Anything happened?' 'His daughter has been out, thinking she
heard him calling, unless it was a sign to him to keep out of the way.
It might have been.'
'It might have been Rule Britannia,' muttered Eugene, 'but it wasn't.
Mortimer!' 'Here!'
(On the other side of Mr Inspector.)
'Two burglaries now, and a forgery!' With this indication of his depressed state
of mind, Eugene fell silent. They were all silent for a long while.
As it got to be flood-tide, and the water came nearer to them, noises on the river
became more frequent, and they listened more.
To the turning of steam-paddles, to the clinking of iron chain, to the creaking of
blocks, to the measured working of oars, to the occasional violent barking of some
passing dog on shipboard, who seemed to scent them lying in their hiding-place.
The night was not so dark but that, besides the lights at bows and mastheads gliding to
and fro, they could discern some shadowy bulk attached; and now and then a ghostly
lighter with a large dark sail, like a
warning arm, would start up very near them, pass on, and vanish.
At this time of their watch, the water close to them would be often agitated by
some impulsion given it from a distance.
Often they believed this beat and plash to be the boat they lay in wait for, running
in ashore; and again and again they would have started up, but for the immobility
with which the informer, well used to the river, kept quiet in his place.
The wind carried away the striking of the great multitude of city church clocks, for
those lay to leeward of them; but there were bells to windward that told them of
its being One--Two--Three.
Without that aid they would have known how the night wore, by the falling of the tide,
recorded in the appearance of an ever- widening black wet strip of shore, and the
emergence of the paved causeway from the river, foot by foot.
As the time so passed, this slinking business became a more and more precarious
one.
It would seem as if the man had had some intimation of what was in hand against him,
or had taken fright?
His movements might have been planned to gain for him, in getting beyond their
reach, twelve hours' advantage?
The honest man who had expended the sweat of his brow became uneasy, and began to
complain with bitterness of the proneness of mankind to cheat him--him invested with
the dignity of Labour!
Their retreat was so chosen that while they could watch the river, they could watch the
house.
No one had passed in or out, since the daughter thought she heard the father
calling. No one could pass in or out without being
seen.
'But it will be light at five,' said Mr Inspector, 'and then WE shall be seen.'
'Look here,' said Riderhood, 'what do you say to this?
He may have been lurking in and out, and just holding his own betwixt two or three
bridges, for hours back.' 'What do you make of that?' said Mr
Inspector.
Stoical, but contradictory. 'He may be doing so at this present time.'
'What do you make of that?' said Mr Inspector.
'My boat's among them boats here at the cause'ay.'
'And what do you make of your boat?' said Mr Inspector.
'What if I put off in her and take a look round?
I know his ways, and the likely nooks he favours.
I know where he'd be at such a time of the tide, and where he'd be at such another
time. Ain't I been his pardner?
None of you need show.
None of you need stir. I can shove her off without help; and as to
me being seen, I'm about at all times.'
'You might have given a worse opinion,' said Mr Inspector, after brief
consideration. 'Try it.'
'Stop a bit.
Let's work it out. If I want you, I'll drop round under the
Fellowships and tip you a whistle.'
'If I might so far presume as to offer a suggestion to my honourable and gallant
friend, whose knowledge of naval matters far be it from me to impeach,' Eugene
struck in with great deliberation, 'it
would be, that to tip a whistle is to advertise mystery and invite speculation.
My honourable and gallant friend will, I trust, excuse me, as an independent member,
for throwing out a remark which I feel to be due to this house and the country.'
'Was that the T'other Governor, or Lawyer Lightwood?' asked Riderhood.
For, they spoke as they crouched or lay, without seeing one another's faces.
'In reply to the question put by my honourable and gallant friend,' said
Eugene, who was lying on his back with his hat on his face, as an attitude highly
expressive of watchfulness, 'I can have no
hesitation in replying (it not being inconsistent with the public service) that
those accents were the accents of the T'other Governor.'
'You've tolerable good eyes, ain't you, Governor?
You've all tolerable good eyes, ain't you?' demanded the informer.
All.
'Then if I row up under the Fellowship and lay there, no need to whistle.
You'll make out that there's a speck of something or another there, and you'll know
it's me, and you'll come down that cause'ay to me.
Understood all?'
Understood all. 'Off she goes then!'
In a moment, with the wind cutting keenly at him sideways, he was staggering down to
his boat; in a few moments he was clear, and creeping up the river under their own
shore.
Eugene had raised himself on his elbow to look into the darkness after him.
'I wish the boat of my honourable and gallant friend,' he murmured, lying down
again and speaking into his hat, 'may be endowed with philanthropy enough to turn
bottom-upward and extinguish him!-- Mortimer.'
'My honourable friend.' 'Three burglaries, two forgeries, and a
midnight assassination.'
Yet in spite of having those weights on his conscience, Eugene was somewhat enlivened
by the late slight change in the circumstances of affairs.
So were his two companions.
Its being a change was everything. The suspense seemed to have taken a new
lease, and to have begun afresh from a recent date.
There was something additional to look for.
They were all three more sharply on the alert, and less deadened by the miserable
influences of the place and time.
More than an hour had passed, and they were even dozing, when one of the three--each
said it was he, and he had NOT dozed--made out Riderhood in his boat at the spot
agreed on.
They sprang up, came out from their shelter, and went down to him.
When he saw them coming, he dropped alongside the causeway; so that they,
standing on the causeway, could speak with him in whispers, under the shadowy mass of
the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters fast asleep.
'Blest if I can make it out!' said he, staring at them.
'Make what out?
Have you seen him?' 'No.'
'What HAVE you seen?' asked Lightwood. For, he was staring at them in the
strangest way.
'I've seen his boat.' 'Not empty?'
'Yes, empty. And what's more,--adrift.
And what's more,--with one scull gone.
And what's more,--with t'other scull jammed in the thowels and broke short off.
And what's more,--the boat's drove tight by the tide 'atwixt two tiers of barges.
And what's more,--he's in luck again, by George if he ain't!'
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