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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
'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,
'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.
'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
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
'What do you mean by not knocking at the door?' demanded
'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
'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?'
'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
'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
'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?'
'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
'Ever in trouble?' said Eugene.
'Once.' (Might happen to any man, Mr Riderhood added
'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
'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.
'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
'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?'
'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:
'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 Mottimer, impatiently.
'Hah!' Mr Riderhood very slowly and hoarsely chimed in, with
several retrospective nods of his head. 'Warn't I troubled in my
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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 crnshed 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
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,
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,
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
'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
'Are these notes correct, now, as to the information you bring here
and the evidence you mean to give?' he asked, when he had
'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 ahout him, no
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
'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.'
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