Our mutual friend, p.3
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       Our Mutual Friend, p.3

           Charles Dickens
 

  Chapter 3

  ANOTHER MAN

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

  'Whose writing is this?'

  'Mine, sir.'

  'Who told you to write it?'

  'My father, Jesse Hexam.'

  'Is it he who found the body?'

  'Yes, sir.'

  'What is your father?'

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

  'Is it far?'

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

  'To your father's?'

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

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

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

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

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

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

  'And Lazarus?'

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

  'You seem to have a good sister.'

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

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

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

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

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

  'And I,' said Eugene, 'have been "called" seven years, and have had nobusiness at all, and never shall have any. And if I had, I shouldn'tknow how to do it.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

  'I am one by myself, one,' said Mortimer, 'high up an awful staircasecommanding a burial-ground, and I have a whole clerk to myself, and hehas nothing to do but look at the burial-ground, and what he will turnout when arrived at maturity, I cannot conceive. Whether, in that shabbyrook's nest, he is always plotting wisdom, or plotting murder; whetherhe will grow up, after so much solitary brooding, to enlighten hisfellow-creatures, or to poison them; is the only speck of interest thatpresents itself to my professional view. Will you give me a light? Thankyou.'

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

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

  'And so will I,' said Eugene.

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

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

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

  'This is a confoundedly out-of-the-way place,' said Mortimer, slippingover the stones and refuse on the shore, as the boy turned the cornersharp.

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

  The low building had the look of having once been a mill. There was arotten wart of wood upon its forehead that seemed to indicate wherethe sails had been, but the whole was very indistinctly seen in theobscurity of the night. The boy lifted the latch of the door, and theypassed at once into a low circular room, where a man stood before a redfire, looking down into it, and a girl sat engaged in needlework. Thefire was in a rusty brazier, not fitted to the hearth; and a commonlamp, shaped like a hyacinth-root, smoked and flared in the neck of astone bottle on the table. There was a wooden bunk or berth in a corner,and in another corner a wooden stair leading above--so clumsy and steepthat it was little better than a ladder. Two or three old sculls andoars stood against the wall, and against another part of the wall was asmall dresser, making a spare show of the commonest articles of crockeryand cooking-vessels. The roof of the room was not plastered, but wasformed of the flooring of the room above. This, being very old, knotted,seamed, and beamed, gave a lowering aspect to the chamber; and roof, andwalls, and floor, alike abounding i
n old smears of flour, red-lead (orsome such stain which it had probably acquired in warehousing), anddamp, alike had a look of decomposition.

  'The gentleman, father.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

  'Only papers.'

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

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

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

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

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

  'Quite right.'

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

  'Quite right.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  'Lost?'

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

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

  'Mr Lightwood?'

  During a pause, Mortimer and the stranger confronted each other. Neitherknew the other.

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

  'I repeated it, after this man.'

  'You said you were a stranger in London?'

  'An utter stranger.'

  'Are you seeking a Mr Harmon?'

  'No.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

  Mr Lightwood explained that it was no friend of his.

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

  Mr Lightwood explained further.

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

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

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

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

/>   'Yes.'

  'HAVE you identified?'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  'Not at all.'

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

  'Staying there, I presume, sir?'

  'Staying there.'

  'Consequently, from the country?'

  'Eh? Yes--from the country.'

  'Good-night, sir.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

  'Where did you go, Liz?'

  'I went out in the dark.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  'Ah! It wants my eyes, Charley.'

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

  'Why, there are you and me, Charley, when you were quite a baby thatnever knew a mother--'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  'Where am I, Liz?'

  'Still in the hollow down by the flare.'

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

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

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

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

  'No it hasn't!'

  'Yes it has, Charley. I see, as plain as plain can be, that your way isnot ours, and that even if father could be got to forgive your takingit (which he never could be), that way of yours would be darkened by ourway. But I see too, Charley--'

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

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

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

  'I should be very glad to be able to read real books. I feel my want oflearning very much, Charley. But I should feel it much more, if I didn'tknow it to be a tie between me and father.--Hark! Father's tread!'

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

  Mr Mortimer Lightwood, besides sustaining the character of one of thewitnesses, doubled the part with that of the eminent solicitor whowatched the proceedings on behalf of the representatives of thedeceased, as was duly recorded in the newspapers. Mr Inspector watchedthe proceedings too, and kept his watching closely to himself. Mr JuliusHandford having given his right address, and being reported in solventcircumstances as to his bill, though nothing more was known of him athis hotel except that his way of life was very retired, had no summonsto appear, and was merely present in the shades of Mr Inspector's mind.

  The case was made interesting to the public, by Mr Mortimer Lightwood'sevidence touching the circumstances under which the deceased, Mr JohnHarmon, had returned to England; exclusive private proprietorship inwhich circumstances was set up at dinner-tables for several days, byVeneering, Twemlow, Podsnap, and all the Buffers: who all related themirreconcilably with one another, and contradicted themselves. It wasalso made interesting by the testimony of Job Potterson, the ship'ssteward, and one Mr Jacob Kibble, a fellow-passenger, that the deceasedMr John Harmon did bring over, in a hand-valise with which he diddisembark, the sum realized by the forced sale of his little landedproperty, and that the sum exceeded, in ready money, seven hundredpounds. It was further made interesting, by the remarkable experiencesof Jesse Hexam in having rescued from the Thames so many dead bodies,and for whose behoof a rapturous admirer subscribing himself 'A friendto Burial' (perhaps an undertaker), sent eighteen postage stamps, andfive 'Now Sir's to the editor of the Times.

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

  This Proclamation rendered Mr Inspector additionally studious, andcaused him to stand meditating on river-stairs and causeways, and to golurking about in boats, putting this and that together. But, accordingto the success with which you put this and that together, you get awoman and a fish apart, or a Mermaid in combination. And Mr Inspectorcould turn out nothing better than a Mermaid, which no Judge and Jurywould believe in.

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

 
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