After they came to The Blue Dragon Inn, Pecksniff threw himself constantly in old Chuzzlewit's way, flattering and smooth, and before long Mary saw, to her grief, that the old man was coming more and more under the other's influence. When she was alone with him he seemed more his former eager self; but let Pecksniff appear and the strange dull look would come and he would seem only anxious to ask his advice about the smallest matters.
Little wonder Pecksniff concluded he could wind his victim around his finger. At length he proposed that old Chuzzlewit and Mary leave The Blue Dragon, where he said he felt sure they were not comfortable, and come and live with him under his own roof. To Mary's dismay, the old man consented, and they were soon settled in the architect's house.
The only thing that now seemed to stand in Pecksniff's way was Mary, and he decided that, as old Chuzzlewit was fond of her, he himself would marry her. Once married to her, he reasoned, with both of them to influence old Chuzzlewit, it would be easy to do what they pleased with him and with his money, too. With this end in view, he began to persecute poor Mary with his attentions, squeezing her hand and throwing kisses to her when no one else was looking.
Charity, Pecksniff's older daughter, was not blind to his plan. She was in a sour temper because the miserly Jonas, who came from London often now to see them, had begun to make love to Mercy instead of to her. To see her father now paying so much attention to Mary Graham made Charity angry, and she left her father's house and went to live in London at Mrs. Todgers's boarding-house, where she set her cap to catch a young man, whether he wanted to be caught or not. As for Mercy, the younger sister, she was leading Jonas such a dance that she thought very little of her father's schemes.
His vinegary daughter Charity out of the way, Pecksniff began to persecute Mary more and more. One day he made her so angry by holding her hand and kissing it that she threatened to complain to old Chuzzlewit. Pecksniff told her that if she did he would use all his influence to turn the old man still more against his grandson. The poor girl was in great trouble then, for she loved Martin and feared Pecksniff's growing power with old Chuzzlewit. And seeing that this threat frightened her, Pecksniff continued his annoyances.
According to Martin's parting advice, Mary had learned to like and to trust Tom Pinch, in spite of his mistaken worship of Pecksniff. One day while Tom was practising the organ at the church she came to him and, confiding in him, told all that she had endured.
In his simple-heartedness he had admired and looked up to Pecksniff all his life, but this evidence opened Tom Pinch's eyes. At last he saw the pompous hypocrite in his true light. He agreed with her that the architect was a scoundrel, and comforted her, and asked her always to trust in his own friendship.
Unluckily while they talked there was an eavesdropper near. It was Pecksniff himself. He had gone into the church to rest, and lying down in one of the high-back pews, had gone to sleep, and now the voices of Tom and Mary had awakened him. He listened and waited till they had both gone; then he stole out and went home by a roundabout way.
That night he went to old Chuzzlewit and, pretending to shed tears of sorrow, told him he had overheard Tom Pinch, the pauper pupil, whom he had trusted and befriended, making love to Mary, the old man's ward, in the church. Making a great show of his respect and regard for old Chuzzlewit, he told him this villain should not remain under his roof one night longer. Then he called in Tom Pinch and, abusing and insulting him in Chuzzlewit's presence, sent him away as he had sent away Martin.
Tom was feeling so bad over his loss of faith in his idol, Pecksniff, that he did not greatly mind this last blow. In fact, he had about concluded he could not live any longer with such a wicked hypocrite anyway. He packed his things and set off for London, feeling almost as if the world had come to an end.
Once there, however, he plucked up spirit and felt better. First of all he looked up Westlock, the former pupil of Pecksniff's, and found him the same friendly, clever fellow now in his riches as he was of old. Westlock was glad Tom had at last found his master out, and began at once to plan for his future. Next Tom went to see his sister Ruth at the house where she was governess.
He arrived there at a fortunate time, for the vulgar brass and iron founder who had hired her to try to teach his spoiled little daughter was at that moment scolding Ruth harshly for what was not her fault at all.
Tom had been gaining a spirit of his own since he had parted from Pecksniff, and, now, at sight of his gentle little sister's tears, his honest indignation rose. He gave her unjust employer a lecture that left him much astonished, and then, drawing Ruth's arm through his, he led her from the house for ever.
It was not long before each had told the other all that had happened. Tom decided that they should part no more, and they set out together to find a lodging. They took some rooms in a quiet neighborhood and settled down together till Tom could find something to do.
Ruth was a neat housekeeper, but she had to learn to cook, and they had great fun over their first meal. While she was making her first beefsteak pudding Westlock called with a great piece of news. An agent had come to him asking him to offer to his friend Tom Pinch a position as a librarian at a good salary. Who the employer was Tom was not to know. Here was a rare mystery, and Ruth in her mingled excitement and pie-making looked so sweet and charming that then and there Westlock fell in love with her.
Tom and he went at once to the agent who had made this extraordinary offer, and he took them to an unoccupied house, to a dusty room whose floor was covered all over with books. Tom, he said, was to arrange and make a list of these. Then he gave him the key, told him to come to him each week for his salary, and disappeared.
Still wondering, the two friends went back together, for of course Westlock had to taste the beefsteak pudding. Ruth had supper waiting for them. Every minute Westlock thought she grew more lovely, and as he walked home he knew he was in love at last.
Now, the mystery of Tom's library, and of the bank-note that Martin had received when his money was all gone, would have been a very joyful one to them both if they could have guessed it. Old Chuzzlewit, whom they believed so harsh, and whom the wily Pecksniff thought he had got under his thumb, was a very deep and knowing old man indeed. He had never ceased to love Martin, his grandson, though he had misunderstood him at first, but he had seen very plainly that the lad was growing selfish and he wished to save him from this. He had longed for nothing more than that Martin and Mary should marry, but he wished to try their love for each other as well as Martin's affection for him. It was to test Pecksniff that old Chuzzlewit had asked the architect to send Martin from his house, and when he saw that Pecksniff was fawning hound enough to do it, he determined to punish him in the end. It was old Chuzzlewit who had found where Martin lodged in London, and had sent him the bank-note. And, won by Tom Pinch's goodness and honor, it was he who now, secretly, made him this position. If Pecksniff had guessed all this, he would probably have had a stroke of apoplexy.
JONAS GETS RID OF AN ENEMY
Jonas, meanwhile, in his miserly soul, had been wishing that his old father would hurry and die. He wanted the money and he wanted to marry Mercy Pecksniff, and to do both he preferred the old man out of his way. He thought of this and wished it so long that at last he began to think of helping the matter along.
His father kept in a drawer some cough lozenges which he constantly used. Jonas at last bought some poison from a dissipated man who needed money badly, and made some lozenges like them. These he put in his father's drawer instead of the others.
His father, however, and Chuffey, the old clerk, noticed that the lozenges were not the same, and they guessed what Jonas had done. The shock of discovering that his own son had tried to murder him proved the old man's death. He made Chuffey promise not to betray Jonas, then fell in a fit and never spoke again.
Jonas naturally thought the poison had done the work, and was at first in dreadful fear of discovery. He made a fine funeral, with four-horse coaches, velvet trappings and silver plate, so that people would think he loved his father, and not till the body was buried did he forget his dread.
Chuffey, however, seemed to go almost daft. He would walk and cry and wring his hands and talk so strangely about his master's death that Jonas feared he would cause suspicion that all was not right. So he hired a nurse to come and keep him in his room.
This nurse went by the name of "Sairey" Gamp. She was a fat old woman, with a red face, a husky voice and a moist eye, which often turned up so as to show only the white. Wherever she went she carried a faded umbrella with a round white patch on top, and she always smelled of whisky. Mrs. Gamp was fond of talking of a certain "Mrs. Harris," whom she spoke of as a dear friend, but whom nobody else had ever seen. When she wanted to say something nice of herself she would put it in the mouth of Mrs. Harris. She was always quoting, "I says to Mrs. Harris," or "Mrs. Harris says to me." People used to say there was no such person at all, but this never failed to make Mrs. Gamp very angry.
She was a cruel nurse, and her way of making a sick man swallow a dose of medicine was by choking him till he gasped and then putting the spoon down his throat.
Such was the guardian Jonas chose to keep old Chuffey quiet in London, while he himself courted Pecksniff's daughter at her father's house. And it was not very long before he proposed to Mercy and they were married.
If Pecksniff had searched London he could not have found a worse man for his daughter to marry. But Pecksniff cared for nothing but money, and, as Jonas was now rich, he pretended great love for his new son-in-law and went around with his hands clasped and his eyes lifted to Heaven in pious thankfulness. As for Jonas, he began to treat Mercy brutally and soon she was miserable.
Jonas, meanwhile, had fallen in with a very prosperous individual. This was none other than Montague Tigg, the bold, jaunty, swaggering, shabby-genteel Tigg, who had once been glad to beg a coin from any one he knew. Now he had changed in both appearance and name. His face was covered with glossy black whiskers, his clothes were the costliest and his jewelry the most expensive. He was known now as "Mr. Tigg Montague," and was president of the great "Anglo-Bengalee Company."
The Anglo-Bengalee Company was a business which pretended to insure people's lives. It had fine offices with new furniture, new paper and a big brass plate on the door. It looked most solid and respectable, but it was really a trap, for Tigg and its other officers were only waiting until they had taken in enough money to run away with it to a foreign country. Jonas, sharp as he was, was deceived into believing it an honest enterprise. He came there to get his wife's life insured, and so he met Tigg.
Tigg, however, knowing Jonas of old, knew he had a great deal of money of his own, and thought, too, that he might influence Mr. Pecksniff, now his father-in-law. Tigg flattered Jonas accordingly, telling him what a sharp man he was and offered to make him a director in the company. He assured Jonas that there would be enormous profits and showed him how, by putting his own money into it, he could cheat other people out of much more. This idea tickled Jonas and he agreed.
Having got thus far, Tigg hired a spy named Nadgett to see if he could discover whether Jonas had ever committed any crime, the knowledge of which would put him in their power. Nadgett began his work, got on the right side of Sairey Gamp, the nurse, found out that old Chuffey was locked up for fear he might talk, and soon had a suspicion that Jonas had been concerned in his father's death.
As an experiment Tigg boldly charged him with it one day, and knew in an instant, by the way Jonas's face whitened with fear, that he had stumbled on the truth. He then told Jonas he not only must put into the company more of his own money, but must persuade Pecksniff to do likewise.
Jonas dared not now refuse. He thought of escaping to some other country, but wherever he turned he found Tigg's spies watching, and at last, he determined on a second murder to hide the first—the murder of Tigg, who knew his secret.
Tigg did not forget his plan to ensnare Pecksniff. To do this he took Jonas by carriage from London to Salisbury and, mile by mile, as they sped, the latter laid his plans. Near their destination accident came near assisting him. In the storm the carriage was upset and Tigg was thrown under the horses' feet. Jonas lashed the struggling horses, hoping they would trample and kill his companion, but the driver pulled him out just in time.
They finally reached The Blue Dragon Inn, and there, the next day, Jonas brought Pecksniff to dine with Tigg, and the latter told the architect all about his wonderful company. Though Pecksniff pretended he took the idea as a joke, yet the thought of cheating other people for big profits was very attractive to him. Before the evening was over he had fallen into the trap and had promised next day to give Tigg his money.
Jonas, his part of the bargain finished, hurried back to London. There, after telling Mercy not to disturb him, as he expected to sleep all next day, he locked himself into his room. When it was dark he dressed himself in a rough suit that he had prepared for disguise, let himself out by a rear way and took the stage back again to the village where he had left Tigg with Pecksniff.
He lay in wait in a wood through which Tigg passed after his last call on the architect, and there he killed him with a club. Then he went swiftly back to London and let himself into his room again, thinking no one had noticed his absence.
But there had been an eye at the shutter of the window in the house opposite that did not fail to observe Jonas when he went and when he came. And this eye belonged to Nadgett, the spy.
WHAT CAME OF MARTIN'S TRIP TO AMERICA
While these things were occurring, much had happened to Martin and Mark Tapley far away in America.
The sailing vessel on which they crossed was crowded and dirty, and in order to save their money they had taken passage in the steerage. For a long time Martin was very seasick, and even when he grew better he was so ashamed at having to travel in the worst and cheapest part of the vessel that he would not go on deck.
But Tapley had none of this false pride. He made friends with all, helped every one he could and soon became such a general favorite that (as he thought sadly) he was having much too good a time for him to be jolly with any credit.
The long voyage of so many weeks came to an end at last, and they reached New York. They found it a strange place indeed, and met many strange characters in it. Only one they met pleased them: a gentleman named Bevan, and from him they got much information and advice. There seemed, however, to be little opening for an architect in New York, and Martin at length decided to go West and settle in some newer region.
In the western town where they left the train they found a land agent who was selling lots in a new settlement, on the Mississippi River, called Eden. To buy their railway tickets Martin had already sold the ring Mary Graham had given him, and he had just enough to purchase a tract of land in Eden and to pay their fare there.
Martin looked at the agent's splendid plans of the new town, showing wharves, churches and public buildings, and thought it a capital place for a young architect; so they closed the bargain without more ado and took the next steamer down the desolate Mississippi.
A terrible disappointment awaited them when they found what Eden really was—a handful of rotting log cabins set in a swamp. The wharves and public buildings existed only on the agent's map with which he had so cruelly cheated them. There were only a few wan men alive there—the rest had succumbed to the sickly hot vapor that rose from the swamp and hung in the air. At the sight of what they had come to, Martin lay down and wept in very despair. But for his comrade's cheerfulness he would have wholly given up hope.
Next morning Martin found himself in the grip of the deadly fever with which the place reeked, and for many days thereafter he lay helpless and burning, nursed like a child by the faithful Mark Tapley. When he had begun to recover it came the other's turn to fall ill and Martin took his place at nursing.
Through all Tapley never complained. At last he found himself in circumstances where to be jolly was really a credit to anybody. He always insisted that he was in great spirits, and when he was weakest and could not speak he wrote "jolly" on a slate for Martin to see.
Watching beside his friend day by day, Martin came to know himself truly and to see his own selfishness. As he nursed Tapley to health again he determined to root it out of his nature and to return to England a nobler man. He began to think not of what he had sacrificed for Mary, but of what she would have sacrificed for him, and to wish with all his heart that he had not parted from his grandfather in anger. And even before Tapley was able to sit up Martin had determined to return as soon as possible to England.
He laid aside his pride and wrote to Bevan, who had befriended them in New York, to borrow money enough to bring them both to that city. Once there, Tapley found a position as cook in the same ship that had brought them from England and his wages proved sufficient to pay for Martin's passage.
So Martin started back to the home he had parted from a year before, poorer than he had left it, but at heart a better and a sounder man. His false pride was gone now. He mingled with others and helped them, and by the time they landed he was as popular a passenger as Mark Tapley was a cook.
Almost the first man they saw on landing, curiously enough, was the oily Pecksniff. They saw him escorted along the street, pointed out by the crowds as "the great architect." On that day the corner stone of a splendid public building was to be laid, and Pecksniff's design for this structure had taken the prize. The two comrades went with the crowd to hear Pecksniff's speech, and looking over a gentleman's shoulder at a picture of the building as it was to look, Martin saw that it was the very grammar school he himself had designed when he had first come to Pecksniff's. The old rascal had stolen the plans!
Martin was angry, of course, but there was no help for it, and besides he had other things to think of. Mary Graham, to be sure, was his first thought, and he and Tapley set out at once for The Blue Dragon to learn the latest news.
The rosy landlady laughed and cried together to see them and Mark Tapley kissed her so many times that she was quite out of breath. She cooked the finest dinner in the world for them and told them all she knew about their friends: how Tom Pinch had been sent away, and how every one said that Pecksniff intended to marry Mary. This news made Martin grind his teeth, and it would have been unlucky for the architect if he had been near at that moment.
Martin first sent Tapley with a note addressed to his grandfather, but Pecksniff, who came to the door, tore up the letter before the bearer's face. Mark told Martin of this, and together they forced themselves into the house, and into the room where old Chuzzlewit sat, with Pecksniff beside him, and Mary standing behind his chair.
Martin's grandfather hardly looked at him, keeping his eyes on Pecksniff's face, as though he depended on him even for his thoughts. Martin, seeing this, was almost hopeless, but he did as he had determined, and in a few manly words begged old Chuzzlewit's pardon for his own haste and temper, and asked him to take him back to his favor. While he talked, Mary had hidden her face in her hands and was weeping, for she believed his grandfather so wholly in Pecksniff's power that she had no hope for Martin.
Pecksniff was in rare good humor, for it was this very day that he had turned his money over to Tigg to make a fortune for him in the great Anglo-Bengalee Company. Now, rejoicing in his opportunity, he took it upon himself to answer. He called Martin a shameless, cowardly vagabond and ordered him from the door. Then he gave his arm to the old man and led him out of the room.
Martin clasped Mary for a moment in his arms as he kissed her and told her to keep up heart. Then he left the house and set out with Mark Tapley for London.
OLD CHUZZLEWIT'S PLOT SUCCEEDS
Where was the guilty Jonas meanwhile? Shivering at every sound, listening for the news that Tigg's body had been found in the wood, wondering if by any chance the crime might be laid on him.
Already fate was weaving a net about his feet. The man from whom he had bought the poison to kill his father had fallen very ill, and in his illness had repented of the part he had played. He had confessed to Westlock, whom, before he had fallen into wicked company, he had once known. Westlock sent for old Chuzzlewit, and he, too, was told the story of the purchased poison. Then together the three went to Jonas's house and brought him face to face with his accuser.
Confronted with their evidence Jonas gave himself up for lost, but old Chuffey, whom he had so abused, escaped the watchful eye of Sairey Gamp and entered just in time to keep his promise to his dead master and to clear Jonas, the son. He told them how it had really happened: How Jonas had intended to kill his father but how the latter's death had been due, not to the poison which he had never taken, but to the knowledge of his son's wickedness.
Jonas, in the reaction from his fear, laughed aloud, and was abusively ordering them to leave, when the door opened and the color suddenly left his cheeks. Policemen stood there, and at their head was Nadgett, the spy.
In another moment there were handcuffs on his wrists and he knew not only that the murder of Tigg had been discovered, but that every action of his own on that fatal night had been traced and that he was surely doomed to die on the gallows.
When he realized that he was lost he fell to the floor in pitiable fear. They put him in a wagon to take him to jail, but when they arrived there they found him motionless in his seat. He had swallowed some of his own poison which he carried in his pocket, and was as dead as any hangman could have made him.
Old Chuzzlewit had yet another purpose to carry out before he left London, and for this purpose he asked Westlock to meet him in his rooms at a certain time next day. He sent for Tom Pinch and his sister Ruth, for his grandson Martin, and Mark Tapley, and last, but not least, for Pecksniff himself, all to meet him there at the same hour.
All save Pecksniff arrived together, and greatly astonished most of them were, you may be sure, to see old Chuzzlewit so changed. For now the dull, bent look had vanished. His eyes were bright, his form erect and every feature eager and full of purpose. Even Mary Graham scarcely knew what to make of it.
As they sat wondering and waiting for old Chuzzlewit to speak, Pecksniff came hurriedly in, to start back as if at a shock of electricity. But he recovered himself, and clasped his hands with a look of pious joy to see the old man safe and well. Then he looked around him and shook his head.
"Oh, vermin! Oh, bloodsuckers!" he said. "Horde of unnatural plunderers and robbers! Begone! Leave him and do not stay in a spot hallowed by the gray hairs of this patriarchal gentleman!"
He advanced with outstretched arms, but he had not seen how tightly old Chuzzlewit's hand clasped the walking-stick he held. The latter, in one great burst of indignation, rose up, and with a single blow, stretched him on the ground. Mark Tapley dragged him into a corner and propped him against the wall, and in this ridiculous position, cringing, and with his assurance all gone, Pecksniff listened, as did they all, to the old man's story.
He told the assembled company how the curse of selfishness had seemed to him always to rest upon his family. How he had misunderstood Martin, his best loved grandson, and how he had seen Pecksniff doing his best to add to this bad feeling. He beckoned Martin to him and put Mary's hand in his, as he told how he had tested them both and had at last resolved to see to what a length the hypocrisy of Pecksniff would lead him. How to this end he had pretended feebleness of mind and had planned and plotted finally to expose Pecksniff and set all right.
When he had finished the door was opened and Pecksniff, looking all shrunken and frowsy and yellow, passed out, never to enter again into the lives of any of them.
There was a great and joyful gathering that night, when all these, so strangely united, took dinner together. Martin sat beside Mary, while Westlock walked home with Ruth, and before they reached there she had promised to be his wife.
Martin and Mary were married soon, and old Chuzzlewit made Martin his heir. He also gave a home to poor Mercy, the wife of the dead Jonas. Tom Pinch lived a long and happy life in the home which Westlock made for Ruth, where he had a fine organ on which he played every day. Mark Tapley, of course, married the rosy landlady of The Blue Dragon, and settled down at the inn, which he renamed The Jolly Tapley.
Charity Pecksniff succeeded in ensnaring her young man at last. The day they were to be married, however, he did not come to the church, but ran off to Van Diemen's Land, and she lived and died a vinegary, shrewish old maid.
As for Pecksniff himself, having lost all his money in the Anglo-Bengalee Company (which, of course, went to pieces on Tigg's death), he sank lower and lower, till at last, a drunken, squalid old man, he eked out a miserable existence writing whining begging letters to the very people whom he had once labored so hard to make unhappy.
OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Scene: London and Neighboring Towns
Mr. Harmon A rich dust collector
Mr. Boffin Foreman of the dust business and heir to the Harmon fortune Known as "The Golden Dustman"
Mrs. Boffin His wife
John Harmon Mr. Harmon's son Later Mr. Boffin's secretary, under the name of "John Rokesmith"
Mr. Veneering A rich man with social and political ambitions
Mr. Wilfer A clerk in Mr. Veneering's office
Bella His daughter
Silas Wegg A one-legged ballad seller
"Rogue" Riderhood A riverman of bad reputation Later a lock tender
Hexam A riverman
Charley His son
Lizzie His daughter
"Jenny Wren" A crippled friend of Lizzie's, known as "The Dolls' Dressmaker"
Eugene Wrayburn A reckless young lawyer
Headstone A schoolmaster
Mr. Venus A dismal young man with a dismal trade—the stringing together of human skeletons on wires
OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
WHAT HAPPENED TO JOHN HARMON
In London there once lived an old man named Harmon who had made a great fortune by gathering the dust and ashes of the city and sorting it for whatever it contained of value. He lived in a house surrounded by great mounds of dust that he had collected.
He was a hard-hearted man and when his daughter would not marry as he wished he turned her out of the house on a winter's night. The poor girl died soon after, and her younger brother (a boy of only fourteen), indignant at his father's cruelty, ran away to a foreign country, where for years he was not heard of.
The old man, hard-hearted as he was, and though he never spoke of the son save with anger and curses, felt this keenly, for in his own way he had loved the boy.
A Mr. Boffin was foreman of Harmon's dust business, and both he and his wife had loved the two children. Being kind and just people, they did not hesitate to let the father know how wicked they considered his action, and they never ceased to grieve for the poor little John who had run away. So, though they did not guess it, the old man made up his mind they were an honest and deserving pair.
One morning the dust collector was discovered dead in his bed, and then it was found that he had left a very curious will. The will bequeathed all his vast fortune to the son who had run away, on one condition: that he marry a young lady by the name of Bella Wilfer, the daughter of a poor London clerk.
The son had never seen Bella in his life, and in fact the old man himself had seen her only a few times—and that was a long, long time before, when she was a very little girl. He was sitting in the park one Sunday morning, and the baby Bella, because her father would not go the exact way she wanted, was screaming and stamping her little foot. Old Mr. Harmon, having such a stubborn temper himself, admired it in the little child, and came to watch for her. Then, for some strange reason, which nobody ever could guess, he had put the baby's name in his will, declaring that his son John should get his money only by marrying this little girl. And the will declared, moreover, that if the son, John Harmon, should die, or should refuse to marry Bella, all the fortune should go to Mr. Boffin.
The lawyers had great trouble in finding where John Harmon was, but finally they did so, and received word that he would return at once to England.
The ship he sailed on reached London, but the passenger it carried did not appear. A few days later, a riverman named Hexam found a body floating in the River Thames, which flows through the middle of London. In his pockets were the letters the lawyers had written to John Harmon, and there seemed no doubt that the unfortunate young man had been murdered and his body thrown into the river.
The night the body was found, while it lay at the police station, a young man, very much excited, came and asked to see it. He would not tell who he was, and his whole appearance was most wild and strange. The police wondered, but they saw no reason to detain the stranger, so after looking at the body, he went away again very hastily.
A great stir was made about the case, and the police tried their best to discover the murderer, but they were unsuccessful. Then it occurred to them that there was something suspicious in the appearance of the young man that night. They tried to find him, but he seemed to have disappeared.
At last the fortune was turned over to Mr. Boffin, and all but a few people thought no more about the murder.
Now, it was not really true that John Harmon had been drowned. This is what had happened:
The young man had come back to England unwillingly, though he was coming to such wealth. Having left his father so long before in anger, he hardly liked to touch the money. And he dreaded having to marry a young lady he had never seen, with whom all his life he might be most unhappy.
On the ship was a seaman about his own age whose face somewhat resembled his own. With this man Harmon became friendly and before the ship reached England he had told him his trouble and his dread. The other proposed that Harmon disguise himself in sailor's clothes, go into the neighborhood where Miss Bella Wilfer lived, and see if she was one whom he could love.
Now the man whom Harmon was thus trusting was a villain, who, while he had been listening to the other's story, had been planning a crime against him. He had made up his mind to kill Harmon, and, as he looked so much like him, to marry Bella himself and claim the fortune.
Near the docks where the ship came in was a sailors' boarding-house owned by a riverman of bad reputation named "Rogue" Riderhood. Riderhood had once been the partner of Hexam, the man who found the floating body, but one day he was caught trying to rob a live man and Hexam had cast him off. The seaman took Harmon to this house and there he secretly got from Riderhood some poison. Last he persuaded Harmon to change clothes with him.
All that remained now was to get rid of the real Harmon. To do this he put the poison in a cup of coffee, and Harmon, drinking this, became insensible.
The lodging-house hung out over the river and the wicked man had intended throwing the other's body, dressed now in seaman's clothing, into the water. But fate was quickly to spoil his plan. He and some others fell to quarreling over the money found in the clothing of the unconscious man. The result was a desperate fight, and when it was over there were two bodies thrown from the window into the black river—the drugged man and the seaman who had planned his murder.
The shock of the cold water brought the drugged Harmon to his senses. He struck out, and after a terrible struggle succeeded in reaching shore. The exposure and the poison made him very ill and he lay abed in an inn for some days. While he was lying helpless there the drowned body of the seaman was found by Hexam, the riverman. As it wore the clothes of John Harmon, and had his papers in its pockets, every one supposed, of course, that it was the body of the missing heir.
The first thing John Harmon saw after he was well enough to walk was a printed notice announcing the finding of his own dead body—which gave him a very queer sensation. Lying there he had had time to think over the adventure and he had guessed pretty nearly how it all had happened. He went at once to the police station to look at the corpse and saw it was that of his false friend, who had tried to lure him to his death. So it was the real John Harmon who had so excitedly appeared that night to the police inspectors, and had vanished immediately, and whom they had searched for so long in vain, under the suspicion that he himself was the murderer.
He had a very good reason for not letting the police find him, too. Now that the world considered him dead, he had determined, before he came to life, to carry out his first plan, and to find out for himself just what kind of person the Bella Wilfer he was expected to marry was, and whether Mr. and Mrs. Boffin, who had been so kind to him in his childhood, would still be as true to his memory in their wealth. For this reason he did not correct the error that had been made. He took the name of John Rokesmith, and, to get acquainted with Bella, hired lodgings in her own father's house.
Mr. Wilfer was a clerk for a Mr. Veneering, a man who had made a big fortune in the drug business and wanted now to get into Parliament. Everything the Veneerings had was brand new. They spent a great deal of money entertaining society people at dinners, but Mr. Veneering spent very little on his clerks. Bella's father, though he was always as happy as a cherub, was so poor that he never had been able to buy a whole new suit at once. His hat was shabby before he could afford a coat, and his trousers were worn before he got to new shoes. So he was glad enough indeed to get a lodger.
Mr. and Mrs. Boffin, to be sure, now had the great fortune. They bought a fine house, and everybody called Mr. Boffin "The Golden Dustman," because he was so rich. Mrs. Boffin wore velvet dresses, and Mr. Boffin, thinking that now he was rich he ought to know a great deal about books, bought a big volume of the History of the Roman Empire and hired a man with a wooden leg who kept a ballad shop near by to come and read to him in the evenings.
But in spite of all their fine things, Mr. and Mrs. Boffin remained the same good, kind-hearted couple they had always been. John Harmon (or John Rokesmith, as he now called himself), soon found this out, for he cleverly got a position as Mr. Boffin's secretary, taking charge of all his papers and preventing many dishonest people from cheating him. And Mr. and Mrs. Boffin, never suspecting who he really was, instead of "secretary," called him "Our Mutual Friend," and soon grew fond of him.
Nor did they forget Bella Wilfer (for whose disappointment, at not getting the rich husband she had expected, they felt very sorry), and soon invited her to live with them. Bella was a good-tempered, pretty girl, though inclined to be somewhat selfish and spoiled, and she was not sure, after all, that she would have liked a husband who had been willed to her like a dozen silver spoons; so she did not grieve greatly, and accepted Mr. and Mrs. Boffin's offer gratefully.
So now the secretary, John Rokesmith, beside being constantly with Mr. and Mrs. Boffin, whom he had always loved, had a chance to see Bella every day, and he was not long in finding out that it would be very easy, indeed, for him to fall in love with her.
LIZZIE HEXAM AND THE DOLLS' DRESSMAKER
Hexam, the riverman who had found the body floating in the Thames, made a living by watching in his boat for drowned bodies, and getting any rewards that might be offered for finding them. He had two children—a daughter, Lizzie, who used to row the boat for him, and a younger son, Charley.
Lizzie was a beautiful girl and a good daughter, and she never ceased to beseech her father to quit this ghastly business. She saved every cent she could get to give her brother some schooling, and kept urging the boy until he left home and became a teacher in a respectable school. For her own part she chose to stay by her father, hoping, in spite of her hatred of his calling, to make him sometime something better.
The night Hexam found the body the lawyers who had the Harmon will in charge came to his house to see about it. One of them, a careless young man by the name of Eugene Wrayburn, was greatly struck with the beauty of Lizzie, and pitied her because of the life she was obliged to live, and this interest in her made him even more deeply interested in the case of the odd will and the strange murder.
Now Mr. and Mrs. Boffin, since they were rich, had offered a great reward for the arrest of the murderer of John Harmon. To get this reward and at the same time to avenge himself on his old partner Hexam for casting him off, Rogue Riderhood went to the lawyers and declared that it was Hexam himself who had really killed the man whose body he had found. Riderhood swore that Hexam had confessed the crime to him.
Wrayburn, knowing what a shock this charge against her father would be for Lizzie, went with the officers sent to seize him. But they made no arrest, for that night Hexam himself was drowned by accidentally falling from his own boat.
But the false charge against him lay heavy on Lizzie's mind. She hated the river and all that was connected with it, and soon found herself a decent lodging in another part of London.
Here she lived with a weird little dwarf of a girl, so deformed that she could scarcely walk at all.
"I can't get up," she used to say to strangers, "because my back's bad and my legs are queer."
She had an odd face, with sharp gray eyes, and her wits were sharper yet. She worked at the strangest trade in the world. She had visiting cards on which was printed:
MISS JENNIE WREN DOLLS' DRESSMAKER Dolls Attended at Their Own Residence
She was really and truly a dolls' dressmaker and sat all day long making tiny frocks out of silk and ribbon. Every evening she would hobble out to the door of the theater or of a house where a ball was going on and wait until a lady came out in a beautiful costume; then she would take careful note of it and go home and dress a doll just like it. She even made a minister doll, in clerical collar and surplice, and used to rent him out for doll weddings.
But in spite of her trade she disliked children, because the rude ones of the neighborhood called her names through her keyhole and mimicked her bent back and crooked legs.
"Don't talk to me of children," she often said; "I know their tricks and their manners!" and when she said this she would make a fierce little jab in the air with her needle, as if she were putting out somebody's eyes.
Jennie Wren had a miserable drunkard of a father, whom she called her "troublesome child."
"He is enough to break his mother's heart," she would say when he staggered in. "I wish I had never brought him up. Ugh! You muddling, disgraceful, prodigal old son! I can't bear to look at you. Go into your corner this minute." And the wretched creature, whining and maudlin, would shuffle into his corner in disgrace, not daring to disobey her.
The odd little dolls' dressmaker was cheerful and merry with all her trials and loved Lizzie Hexam very much. Wrayburn, the young lawyer, used to come to see them, but she did not approve of him. She saw almost before Lizzie did herself that the latter was falling in love with Wrayburn, and the wise little creature feared that this would only bring pain to Lizzie, because she was an uneducated girl and Wrayburn a gentleman, who, when he married, would be expected to marry a lady far above Lizzie's station. Lizzie knew this, too, but she could not help loving Wrayburn, and as for the lawyer, he thought nothing of what the outcome might be.
Meanwhile Lizzie's brother Charley, for whom she had worked so hard, was doing well at school, but now that he was getting up in the world he had turned out to be a selfish boy and was afraid that his sister might draw him down.
One day he came to visit her, bringing with him the master of his school. The master's name was Headstone. He was a gloomy, passionate, revengeful man who dressed always in black and had no friends. Unfortunately enough, the first time he saw Lizzie he fell in love with her. It was unfortunate in more ways than one, for Lizzie disliked him greatly, and he was, as it proved, a man who would stop at nothing—not even at the worst of crimes—to attain an object.
When Lizzie's brother found Headstone wanted to marry her, in his selfishness he saw only what a fine thing it would be for himself, and when she refused, he said many harsh things and finally left her in anger, telling her she was no longer a sister of his.
This was not the worst either, for she knew Headstone had been made almost angry by her dislike, and she was in dreadful fear lest he do harm to Eugene Wrayburn, whom he suspected she loved.
In her anxiety Lizzie left her lodging with the dolls' dressmaker, and found employment in a paper-mill in a village on the river, some miles from London, letting neither Wrayburn nor Headstone know where she had gone.
The schoolmaster imagined that the lawyer (whom he now hated with a deadly hatred) knew where she was, and in order to discover if he visited her he began to dog the other's footsteps. At night, after teaching all day in school, Headstone would lie in wait outside the lawyer's door and whenever he came out would follow him.
Wrayburn soon discovered this and delighted to fool his enemy. Every night he would take a new direction and lead his pursuer for hours about the city. So that in a few weeks Headstone became almost insane with murderous anger and disappointment.
So things went on for a long while. Lizzie continued to love Eugene Wrayburn, who kept trying in every way to find her. Headstone, the schoolmaster, kept watching him and meditating evil. The little dolls' dressmaker worked on cheerily every day in the city, and in their fine house Mr. and Mrs. Boffin grew fonder and fonder of Miss Bella, whom John Rokesmith, the secretary, thought more beautiful every day.
THE RISE AND FALL OF SILAS WEGG
The wooden-legged ballad seller whom Mr. Boffin had hired to read to him was a sly, dishonest rascal named Silas Wegg, who soon made up his mind to get all the money he could out of his employer.
There is an old story of a camel who once asked a shopkeeper to let him put his nose in at the shop door to warm it. The shopkeeper consented, and little by little the camel got his head, then his neck, then his shoulders and at last his whole body into the shop, so that there was no room for the poor shopkeeper, who had to sit outside in the cold. Wegg soon began to act like the camel and took such advantage of easy-going Mr. Boffin that the latter at last let him live rent-free in the house amid the dust heaps, which he himself had occupied before he got old Harmon's money.
Wegg imagined the mounds contained treasures hidden by the old man and thought it would be a fine thing to cheat Mr. Boffin out of them. So every night he spent hours prodding the heaps. Finally he persuaded a Mr. Venus (a man who had been disappointed in love and made a melancholy living by stringing skeletons together on wires), to become his partner in the search.
One day Wegg really did find something. It was a parchment hidden in an empty pump, and he soon saw that it was a second will of old Harmon's, later than the one already known, leaving the whole fortune, not to the son at all, but to the Crown.
When Wegg saw this his hypocritical soul swelled with joy, for he thought, sooner than give up all the money to the Crown, Mr. Boffin would pay him a great deal to destroy this new will. He was such a rascal himself that it never occurred to him that maybe Mr. Boffin would prefer to be honest. He took it for granted everybody else was as bad as he was himself, yet all the while he tried to make himself believe that he was upright and noble in all he did, as hypocrites generally do.
The only point Wegg could not make up his mind about was how much he could squeeze out of his benefactor, Mr. Boffin. At first he had thought of asking for half, but the more he hugged his secret the lesser the half seemed. At last he determined to demand for himself, as the price for giving up the will, all but a very small share of the whole fortune.
Now Mr. Venus, though he had yielded at first to the rosy temptations of Wegg, was after all quite honest at heart, and his conscience troubled him so that at last he went and told Mr. Boffin all about Wegg's discovery.
The Golden Dustman at first thought Mr. Venus had some underhanded plan, so he pretended he was terribly frightened for fear of Wegg and the will he had found.
As a matter of fact, sly old Mr. Boffin was not afraid in the least, because he knew something that neither Wegg nor Venus, nor even John Rokesmith, the secretary, knew. This was, that the old original dustman, Harmon, had made still a third will, later than either of the others. The first will found was the one that had called the son back to England to marry Bella. The second will was the one leaving all his fortune to the Crown, which Wegg had found in the empty pump. The third and last one gave all the money to Mr. Boffin, no matter whom the son married, and gave none to any one else. And this third and last will, the one that was the true will, The Golden Dustman had long ago found himself, buried in a bottle in one of the dust heaps.
Mr. Boffin had never told any one about this last will, because he had all the fortune anyway. Now, however, seeing how Wegg had planned to act, he was very glad he had found it. And when he was convinced that Mr. Venus was really honest and wanted no reward whatever, Mr. Boffin determined to fool the rascally Wegg up to the very last moment.
Wegg's plan was not to demand the money until he had fully searched all the dust mounds. Mr. Boffin spurred Wegg on in this regard by making him read to him in the evenings from a book called The Lives of Famous Misers which he had bought: about the famous Mr. Dancer who had warmed his dinner by sitting on it and died naked in a sack, and yet had gold and bank-notes hidden in the crevices of the walls and in cracked jugs and tea-pots; of an old apple woman in whose house a fortune was found wrapped up in little scraps of paper; of "Vulture Hopkins" and "Blewbury Jones" and many others whose riches after their death were found hidden in strange places. While Wegg read, Mr. Boffin would pretend to get tremendously excited about his dust mounds, so that Wegg grew surer and surer there must be riches hidden in them.
Finally The Golden Dustman sold the mounds and had them carted away little by little, Wegg watching every shovelful for fear he would miss something.
Mr. Boffin hired a foreman to manage the removal of the dust who wore Wegg down to skin and bone. He worked by daylight and torchlight, too. Just as Wegg, tired out by watching all day in the rain, would crawl into bed, the foreman, like a goblin, would reappear and go to work again. Sometimes Wegg would be waked in the middle of the night, and sometimes kept at his post for as much as forty-eight hours at a stretch, till he grew so gaunt and haggard that even his wooden leg looked chubby in comparison.
At last he could not keep quiet any longer and he told Mr. Boffin what he had found. Mr. Boffin pretended the most abject dread. Wegg bullied and browbeat him to his heart's content, and ended by ordering him, like a slave, to be ready to receive him on a certain morning, and to have the money ready to pay him.
When he went to the fine Boffin house to keep this appointment he entered insolently, whistling and with his hat on. A servant showed him into the library where Mr. Boffin and the secretary sat waiting, and where the secretary at once astonished him by taking off the hat and throwing it out of the window.
In another moment Wegg found himself seized by the cravat, shaken till his teeth rattled, and pinned in a corner of the room, where the secretary knocked his head against the wall while he told him in a few words what a scoundrel he was.
When he learned that the will he had discovered was worthless paper, Wegg lost all his bullying air and cringed before them. Mr. Boffin was disposed to be merciful and offered to make good his loss of his ballad business, but Wegg, grasping and mean to the last, set its value at such a ridiculously high figure that Mr. Boffin put his money back into his pocket.
Then, at a sign from John Rokesmith, one of the servants caught Wegg by the collar, hoisted him on his back, ran down to the street with him and threw him into a garbage cart, where he disappeared from view with a tremendous splash.
And that, so far as this story is concerned, was the end of Silas Wegg.
BELLA AND THE GOLDEN DUSTMAN
It was not long before John Rokesmith, the secretary, was very much in love with Bella indeed. Bella saw this plainly, but the fine house and costly clothes had quite spoiled her, and, thinking him only a poor secretary and her father's lodger, she treated him almost with contempt.
Yet he would not tell her who he was, for he did not want her to marry him merely because of the money it would bring her. She hurt his feelings often, but in spite of it she could not help being attracted to him. He had a way, too, of looking at her that made her feel how proud and unjust she was, and sometimes made her quite despise herself.
But having had a taste of the pleasures and comforts that wealth would bring, Bella had quite determined when she married to marry nobody but a very rich man. Mr. and Mrs. Boffin both noticed how changed she was growing from her own sweet self and regretted it, for they liked Bella and they liked the secretary, too, and they could easily see that the latter was in love with her.
One day Mrs. Boffin went to the secretary's room for something. As she entered, Rokesmith, who was sitting sadly over the fire, looked up with a peculiar expression that told the good woman all in a flash who he was.
"I know you now," she cried, "you're little John Harmon!"
In the joy and surprise she almost fainted, but he caught her and set her down beside him. Just then in came Mr. Boffin, and the secretary told them the whole story, and how he now loved Bella, but would not declare himself because of her contempt.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Boffin were so glad to know he was really alive they fell to crying with joy. The Golden Dustman declared that, no matter how the last will read, John should have the fortune for his own. Rokesmith (or Harmon) at first refused to do this, but Mr. Boffin swore that if he did not he himself would not touch the money, and it would have to go to the Crown anyway. So at last it was agreed that Mr. Boffin should keep a small portion for his own, but that the other should take all the rest.
Mr. Boffin wanted to tell everybody the truth at once, but John would not let them. You see he wouldn't marry Bella for anything unless she loved him for himself alone. And she was growing so fond of riches that there seemed little chance of this happening.
Nevertheless they believed that at heart Bella was good and sweet, if they could only get to her real self, so Mr. Boffin that moment made a plan.
He determined to show Bella how much unhappiness misused riches could cause, and how too much money might sometimes spoil the kindest and best people. As a lesson to her in this he was to pretend gradually to turn into a mean, hard-hearted miser. They agreed that he should begin to treat the secretary harshly and unjustly in Bella's presence, feeling sure that her true self would stand up for him when he was slighted, and be kinder to him when he seemed poorest and most friendless.
The Golden Dustman began the new plan that very night. Every day he made himself act like a regular brown bear, and every evening he would say, "I'll be a grislier old growler to-morrow." He made the secretary slave from morning till night and found fault with him and sneered at his poverty and cut down his wages.
Each afternoon, when he went walking with Bella, Mr. Boffin would make her go into bookshops and inquire if they had any book about a miser. If they had, he would buy it, no matter what it cost, and lug it home to read. He began to drive hard bargains for everything he bought and all his talk came to be about money and the fine thing it was to have it.
"Go in for money, my dear," he would say to Bella. "Money's the article! You'll make money of your good looks, and of the money Mrs. Boffin and me will leave you, and you'll live and die rich. That's the state to live and die in—R-r-rich!"
Bella was greatly shocked at the sorrowful change in Mr. Boffin. Wealth began to look less lovely when she saw him growing so miserly. She began to wonder if she herself might ever become like that, too, and sometimes, when she thought how kind and generous the old Mr. Boffin had been, she fairly hated money and wished it had never been invented.
There was an old woman who peddled knitting-work through the country whom Mr. and Mrs. Boffin had befriended, and to whom they had given a letter to carry wherever she went. This letter asked whoever should find her, if she fell sick, to let them know. The old woman fell and died one day by the roadside near the spot where Lizzie Hexam was now living, and Lizzie, finding the letter, wrote about it to Mr. and Mrs. Boffin.
They sent the secretary and Bella, to make arrangements for the poor woman's burial, and in this way Bella met Lizzie and became her friend. Lizzie soon told her all her story, and Bella, seeing how unselfishly she loved, began to think her own ambition to marry for money a mean and ignoble thing. She thought how patient and kind the secretary had always been, and, knowing he loved her, wished heartily that her own coldness had not forbidden him to tell her so.
One day Mr. Boffin's pretended harsh treatment of his secretary seemed to come to a climax. He sent for him to come to the room where Mrs. Boffin and Bella sat, and made a fearful scene. He said he had just heard that he, Rokesmith, had been presuming on his position to make love to Bella—a young lady who wanted to marry money, who had a right to marry money, and who was very far from wanting to marry a poor beggar of a private secretary! He threw the wages that were due Rokesmith on the floor and discharged him on the spot, telling him the sooner he could pack up and leave, the better.
Then, at last, in the face of this apparent meanness and injustice, Bella saw herself and Mr. Boffin's money and John Rokesmith's love and dignity, all in their true light. She burst out crying, begged Rokesmith's forgiveness, told Mr. Boffin he was an old wretch of a miser, and when the secretary had gone, she said Rokesmith was a gentleman and worth a million Boffins, and she would not stay in the house a minute longer.
Then she packed up her things and went straight to her father's office. All the other clerks had gone home, for it was after hours, and she put her head on his shoulder and told him all about it.
And while they were talking, in came John Rokesmith, and seeing her there alone with her father, rushed to her and caught her in his arms.
"My dear, brave, noble, generous girl!" he said, and Bella, feeling all at once that she had never been quite so happy in her life, laid her head on his breast, as if that were the one place for it in all the world.
They had a talk together and then walked home to Mr. Wilfer's poor little house, Bella's father agreeing that she had done exactly the proper thing, and Bella herself feeling so happy now in having John Rokesmith's love, that she cared not a bit for the fine mansion and clothes and money of the Boffins which she had left for ever.
A few days later John Rokesmith and Bella were married and went to live in a little furnished cottage outside of London, where they settled down as happy as two birds.
THE END OF THE STORY
While these things were happening at Mr. Boffin's house, Eugene Wrayburn, with Headstone the schoolmaster watching him like a hawk, had never left off trying to find where Lizzie Hexam had gone. At length, through the "troublesome child" of the little dolls' dressmaker, he learned the name of the village where she was living and went at once to see her.
Headstone followed close behind him and when, from his hiding-place, he saw how glad Lizzie was to see the lawyer, he went quite mad with jealousy and hate, and that moment he determined to kill Wrayburn.
It happened that Rogue Riderhood was then working on the river that flowed past the village, where he tended a lock. The schoolmaster, in order to turn suspicion from himself in case any one should see him when he did this wicked deed, observing carefully how Riderhood was dressed, got himself clothes exactly like the lock tender's, even to a red handkerchief tied around his neck.
In this guise, with murder in his heart, he lay in wait along the riverside till Wrayburn passed one evening just after he had bade good night to Lizzie Hexam. The schoolmaster crept up close behind the lawyer and struck him a fearful crashing blow on the head with a club. Wrayburn grappled with him, but Headstone struck again and again with the bloody weapon, and still again as the other lay prostrate at his feet, and dragging the body to the bank, threw it into the river. Then he fled.
Lizzie Hexam had not yet turned homeward from the riverside. She heard through the night the sound of the blows, the faint moan and the splash. She ran to the spot, saw the trampled grass, and, looking across the water, saw a bloody face drifting away. She ran to launch a boat, and rowed with all her strength to overtake it.
But for her dreadful life on the river with her father she could not have found the drowning man in the darkness, but she did, and then she saw it was the man she loved. One terrible cry she uttered, then rowed with desperate strokes to the shore and with superhuman strength carried him to a near-by inn.
Wrayburn was not dead, but was dreadfully disfigured. For many days he hovered between life and death. Jennie Wren, the dolls' dressmaker, came, and she and Lizzie nursed him. As soon as he could speak he made them understand that before he died he wanted Lizzie to marry him. A minister was sent for, and with him came John Rokesmith and Bella. So the sick man was married to Lizzie, and from that hour he began to get better, till before long they knew that he would recover.
Meanwhile, not waiting to see the result of his murderous attack, Headstone had fled down the river bank to the hut where Riderhood lived and there the villainous lock tender let him rest and sleep. As the schoolmaster tossed in his guilty slumber, Riderhood noted that his clothes were like his own. He unbuttoned the sleeping man's jacket, saw the red handkerchief, and, having heard from a passing boatman of the attempted murder, he guessed that Headstone had done it and saw how he had plotted to lay the crime on him.
When the schoolmaster went away Riderhood followed him, watched him change clothes in the bushes and rescued the bloody garments the other threw away.
With these in his hands he faced the schoolmaster one day in his class room and made him promise, under threat of exposure, to come that night to the hut by the lock. Headstone was afraid to disobey. When he came, Riderhood told him he must give him money at once or he would follow him till he did.
Headstone refused and, as the other had threatened, when he started back to London, he found the lock tender by his side. He returned to the hut and the other did the same.
He started again, and again the other walked beside him. Then Headstone, turning suddenly, caught Riderhood around the waist and dragged him to the edge of the lock.
"Let go!" said Riderhood. "You can't drown me!"
"I can," panted Headstone. "And I can drown myself. I'll hold you living and I'll hold you dead. Come down!"
Riderhood went over backward into the water, and the schoolmaster upon him. When they found them, long afterward, Riderhood's body was girdled still with the schoolmaster's arms and they held him tight.
This was the awful end of the two wicked men whom fate had brought into Lizzie's life.
All this time, of course, Bella had been believing her husband to be very poor. At first he had intended to tell her who he was on the day they were married, but he said to himself: "No, she's so unselfish and contented I can't afford to be rich yet." So he pretended to get a position in the city at small wages. Then after a few months he thought it over again, and he said to himself, "She's such a cheerful little housewife that I can't afford to be rich yet." And at last a little baby was born to Bella, and then they were so happy that he said, "She's so much sweeter than she ever was that I can't afford to be rich just yet!"
But meantime Bella was imagining that Mr. Boffin was a cruel old miser, and Mr. Boffin didn't like this, so John agreed that he would tell her all about it.
But first he got Bella to describe exactly the kind of house she would like if they were very, very rich, and when she told him, he and Mr. Boffin had the Boffin mansion fixed over in just the way she had said—with a nursery with rainbow-colored walls and flowers on the staircase, and even a little room full of live birds, and a jewel box full of jewels on the dressing-table.
Fate, however, had arranged even a greater trial of Bella's love for him than all the others. As they walked together on the street one day, they came face to face with a man who had been in the police office on the night the body which every one believed to be John Harmon's had lain there. He had seen the entrance of the agitated stranger, and had helped the police in their later vain search for Rokesmith. Now he at once recognized Bella's husband as that man, who the police believed had probably committed the murder.
Rokesmith knew the man had recognized him, and when they got home he told Bella that he was accused of killing the man the Harmon will had bidden her marry.
But nothing now could shake her faith in him. "How dare they!" she cried indignantly. "My beloved husband." He caught her in his arms at that, and while he held her thus the officers entered to arrest him.
Rokesmith found the matter very easy to explain to the satisfaction of the police, but he told Bella nothing as yet, and, trusting and believing in him absolutely, she waited in great wonder. Next day he told her he had a new position and that now they must live in the city where he had taken a furnished house for them.
They drove together to see it. Strangely enough it seemed to be in the same street as Mr. Boffin's house, and stranger yet, the coach stopped at Mr. Boffin's own door. Her husband put his arm around her and drew her in, and she saw that everything was covered with flowers. As he led her on she exclaimed in astonishment to see the little room full of birds just as she had wished.
Suddenly her husband opened a door and there was Mr. Boffin beaming and Mrs. Boffin shedding tears of joy, and folding her to her breast as she said: "My deary, deary, deary, wife of John and mother of his little child! My loving loving, bright bright, pretty pretty! Welcome to your house and home, my deary!"
Then of course the whole story came out. The mystery was solved and she knew that John Rokesmith was the true John Harmon and that her husband was really the man the Harmon will had picked out for her to marry.
In the splendid Boffin house they lived happily for many years, surrounded by Bella's children. And they were never so happy as when they welcomed Eugene Wrayburn with Lizzie his wife, or Jennie Wren, the little dolls' dressmaker.
A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Scene: London and Paris
Time: 1775 to 1792
Doctor Manette A French physician Rescued after long imprisonment in the Bastille
Lucie His daughter
Miss Pross Her English nurse
Sydney Carton An idle and dissipated law student
Mr. Lorry The agent of an English bank doing business in Paris
The Marquis de St. Evremonde A French nobleman
Charles Darnay His nephew A young Frenchman living in England as a tutor Later, the Marquis de St. Evremonde, and Lucie's husband
Gabelle The steward of Darnay's French estates
Defarge A Paris wine shop keeper A leader of the revolutionists
Madame Defarge His wife
Barsad A spy and turnkey
A TALE OF TWO CITIES
HOW LUCIE FOUND A FATHER
A little more than a hundred years ago there lived in London (one of the two cities of this tale) a lovely girl of seventeen named Lucie Manette. Her mother had died when she was a baby, in France, and she lived alone with her old nurse, Miss Pross, a homely, grim guardian with hair as red as her face, who called Lucie "ladybird" and loved her very much. Miss Pross was sharp of speech and was always snapping people up as if she would bite their heads off, but, though she seldom chose to show it, she was the kindest, truest, most unselfish person in the world. Lucie had no memory of her father, and had always believed he also had died when she was a baby.
One day, however, through a Mr. Lorry, the agent of a bank, she learned a wonderful piece of news. He told her that her father was not dead, but that he had been wickedly thrown into a secret prison in Paris before she was born, and had been lost thus for eighteen long years. This prison was the Bastille—a cold, dark building like a castle, with high gray towers, a deep moat and drawbridge, and soldiers and cannon to defend it.
In those days in France the rich nobles who belonged to the royal court were very powerful and overbearing, and the rest of the people had few rights. One could be put into prison then without any trial at all, so that many innocent people suffered. Lucie's mother had guessed that Doctor Manette (for he was a physician) had in some way incurred the hatred of some one of the nobles and had thus been taken from her; but all she certainly knew was that he had disappeared one day in Paris and had never come back.
For a year she had tried in every way to find him, but at length, desolate and heartbroken, she had fallen ill and died, leaving little Lucie with only Miss Pross, her English nurse, to care for her. Mr. Lorry himself, who told Lucie this story, having known her father, had brought her, a baby, to London in his arms.
Now, he told her, after all these years, her father had been released, and was at that moment in Paris in charge of a man named Defarge, who had once been his servant. But the long imprisonment had affected his mind, so that he was little more than the broken wreck of the man he had once been. Mr. Lorry was about to go to Paris to identify him, and he wished Lucie to go also to bring him to himself.
You can imagine that Lucie's heart was both glad and sorrowful at the news; joyful that the father she had always believed dead was alive, and yet full of grief for his condition. She hastily made ready and that same day set out with Mr. Lorry for France.
When they reached Paris they went at once to find Defarge. He was a stern, forbidding man, who kept a cheap wine shop in one of the poorer quarters of the city. He took them through a dirty courtyard behind the shop and up five flights of filthy stairs to a door, which he unlocked for them to enter.
In the dim room sat a withered, white-haired old man on a low bench making shoes. His cheeks were worn and hollow, his eyes were bright and his long beard was as white as snow. He wore a ragged shirt, and his hands were thin and transparent from confinement. It was Lucie's father, Doctor Manette!
He scarcely looked up when they entered, for his mind was gone and he knew no one. All that seemed to interest him was his shoemaking. He had forgotten everything else. He even thought his own name was "One hundred and five, North Tower," which had been the number of his cell in the Bastille.
Lucie's heart almost broke to see him. She wanted to throw her arms about him, to lay her head on his breast and tell him she was his daughter who loved him and had come to take him home at last. But she was afraid this would frighten him.
She came close to him, and after a while he began to look at her. She greatly resembled her dead mother, and presently her face seemed to remind him of something. He unwound a string from around his neck and unfolded a little rag which was tied to it, and there was a lock of hair like Lucie's. Then he suddenly burst into tears—the first he had shed for long, long years—and the tears seemed to bring back a part of the past. Lucie took him in her arms and soothed him, while Mr. Lorry went to bring the coach that was to take them to England.
Through all their preparations for departure her father sat watching in a sort of scared wonder, holding tight to Lucie's hand like a child, and when they told him to come with them he descended the stairs obediently. But he would not go into the coach without his bench and shoemaking tools, and, to quiet him, they were obliged to take them, too.
So the father and daughter and Mr. Lorry journeyed back to Lucie's home in London. All the miles they rode Lucie held her father's hand, and the touch seemed to give him strength and confidence.
On the boat crossing to London was a young man who called himself Charles Darnay, handsome, dark and pale. He was most kind to Lucie, and showed her how to make a couch on deck for her father, and how she could shelter it from the wind. In the long months that followed their arrival, while the poor old man regained a measure of health, she never forgot Darnay's face and his kindness to them.
Doctor Manette's mind and memory came slowly back with his improving health. There were some days when his brain clouded. Then Lucie would find him seated at his old prison bench making shoes, and she would coax him away and talk to him until the insanity would pass away.
So time went by peacefully till a strange thing happened: Charles Darnay, who had been so kind to Lucie and her father on the boat, was arrested on a charge of treason.
England at that time was not on good terms with France, and Darnay, who was of French birth, was accused of selling information concerning the English forts and army to the French Government. This was a very serious charge, for men convicted of treason then were put to death in the cruelest ways that could be invented.
The charge was not true, and Darnay himself knew quite well who was working against him.
The fact was that Charles Darnay was not his true name. He was really Charles St. Evremonde, the descendant of a rich and noble French family, though he chose to live in London as Charles Darnay, and earned his living by giving lessons in French. He did this because he would not be one of the hated noble class of his own country, who treated the poor so heartlessly.
In France the peasants had to pay many oppressive taxes, and were wretched and half-starved, while the rich nobles rode in gilded coaches, and, if they ran over a little peasant child, threw a coin to its mother and drove on without a further thought. Among the hardest-hearted of all, and the most hated by the common people, were the Evremondes, the family of the young man who was now accused of treason. As soon as he was old enough to know how unjust was his family's treatment of the poor who were dependent on them, he had protested against it. When he became a man he had refused to live on the money that was thus taken from the hungry peasantry, and had left his home and come to London to earn his own way by teaching.
His heartless uncle, the Marquis de St. Evremonde, in France, the head of the family, hated the young man for this noble spirit. It was this uncle who had invented the plot to accuse his nephew of treason. He had hired a dishonest spy known as Barsad, who swore he had found papers in Darnay's trunk that proved his guilt, and, as Darnay had been often back and forth to France on family matters, the case looked dark for him.
Cruelly enough, among those who were called to the trial as witnesses, to show that Darnay had made these frequent journeys to France, were Doctor Manette and Lucie—because they had seen him on the boat during that memorable crossing. Lucie's tears fell fast as she gave her testimony, believing him innocent and knowing that her words would be used to condemn him.
Darnay would doubtless have been convicted but for a curious coincidence: A dissipated young lawyer, named Sydney Carton, sitting in the court room, had noticed with surprise that he himself looked very much like the prisoner; in fact, that they were so much alike they might almost have been taken for twin brothers. He called the attention of Darnay's lawyer to this, and the latter—while one of the witnesses against Darnay was making oath that he had seen him in a certain place in France—made Carton take off his wig (all lawyers wear wigs in England while in court) and stand up beside Darnay. The two were so alike the witness was puzzled, and he could not swear which of the two he had seen. For this reason Darnay, to Lucie's great joy, was found not guilty.
Sydney Carton, who had thought of and suggested this clever thing, was a reckless, besotted young man. He cared for nobody, and nobody, he used to say, cared for him. He lacked energy and ambition to work and struggle for himself, but for the sake of plenty of money with which to buy liquor, he studied cases for another lawyer, who was fast growing rich by his labor. His master, who hired him, was the lion; Carton was content, through his own indolence and lack of purpose, to be the jackal.
His conscience had always condemned him for this, and now, as he saw the innocent Darnay's look, noble and straightforward, so like himself as he might have been, and as he thought of Lucie's sweet face and of how she had wept as she was forced to give testimony against the other, Carton felt that he almost hated the man whose life he had saved.
The trial brought Lucie and these two men (so like each other in feature, yet so unlike in character) together, and afterward they often met at Doctor Manette's house.
It was in a quiet part of London that Lucie and her father lived, all alone save for the faithful Miss Pross. They had little furniture, for they were quite poor, but Lucie made the most of everything. Doctor Manette had recovered his mind, but not all of his memory. Sometimes he would get up in the night and walk up and down, up and down, for hours. At such times Lucie would hurry to him and walk up and down with him till he was calm again. She never knew why he did this, but she came to believe he was trying vainly to remember all that had happened in those lost years which he had forgotten. He kept his prison bench and tools always by him, but as time went on he gradually used them less and less often.
Mr. Lorry, with his flaxen wig and constant smile, came to tea every Sunday with them and helped to keep Doctor Manette cheerful. Sometimes Darnay, Sydney Carton and Mr. Lorry would meet there together, but of them all, Darnay came oftenest, and soon it was easy to see that he was in love with Lucie.
Sydney Carton, too, was in love with her, but he was perfectly aware that he was quite undeserving, and that Lucie could never love him in return. She was the last dream of his wild, careless life, the life he had wasted and thrown away. Once he told her this, and said that, although he could never be anything to her himself, he would give his life gladly to save any one who was near and dear to her.
Lucie fell in love with Darnay at length and one day they were married and went away on their wedding journey.
Until then, since his rescue, Lucie had never been out of Doctor Manette's sight. Now, though he was glad for her happiness, yet he felt the pain of the separation so keenly that it unhinged his mind again. Miss Pross and Mr. Lorry found him next morning making shoes at the old prison bench and for nine days he did not know them at all. At last, however, he recovered, and then, lest the sight of it affect him, one day when he was not there they chopped the bench to pieces and burned it up.
But her father was better after Lucie came back with her husband, and they took up their quiet life again. Darnay loved Lucie devotedly. He supported himself still by teaching. Mr. Lorry came from the bank oftener to tea and Sydney Carton more rarely, and their life was peaceful and content.
Once after his marriage, his cruel uncle, the Marquis de St. Evremonde, sent for Darnay to come to France on family matters. Darnay went, but declined to remain or to do the other's bidding.
But his uncle's evil life was soon to be ended. While Darnay was there the marquis was murdered one night in his bed by a grief-crazed laborer, whose little child his carriage had run over.
Darnay returned to England, shocked and horrified the more at the indifference of the life led by his race in France. Although now, by the death of his uncle, he had himself become the Marquis de St. Evremonde, yet he would not lay claim to the title, and left all the estates in charge of one of the house servants, an honest steward named Gabelle.
He had intended after his return to Lucie to settle all these affairs and to dispose of the property, which he felt it wrong for him to hold; but in the peace and happiness of his life in England he put it off and did nothing further.
And this neglect of Darnay's—as important things neglected are apt to prove—came before long to be the cause of terrible misfortune and agony to them all.
DARNAY CAUGHT IN THE NET
While these things were happening in London, the one city of this tale, other very different events were occurring in the other city of the story—Paris, the French capital.
The indifference and harsh oppression of the court and the nobles toward the poor had gone on increasing day by day, and day by day the latter had grown more sullen and resentful. All the while the downtrodden people of Paris were plotting secretly to rise in rebellion, kill the king and queen and all the nobles, seize their riches and govern France themselves.
The center of this plotting was Defarge, the keeper of the wine shop, who had cared for Doctor Manette when he had first been released from prison. Defarge and those he trusted met and planned often in the very room where Mr. Lorry and Lucie had found her father making shoes. They kept a record of all acts of cruelty toward the poor committed by the nobility, determining that, when they themselves should be strong enough, those thus guilty should be killed, their fine houses burned, and all their descendants put to death, so that not even their names should remain in France. This was a wicked and awful determination, but these poor, wretched people had been made to suffer all their lives, and their parents before them, and centuries of oppression had killed all their pity and made them as fierce as wild beasts that only wait for their cages to be opened to destroy all in their path.
They were afraid, of course, to keep any written list of persons whom they had thus condemned, so Madame Defarge, the wife of the wine seller, used to knit the names in fine stitches into a long piece of knitting that she seemed always at work on.
Madame Defarge was a stout woman with big coarse hands and eyes that never seemed to look at any one, yet saw everything that happened. She was as strong as a man and every one was somewhat afraid of her. She was even crueler and more resolute than her husband. She would sit knitting all day long in the dirty wine shop, watching and listening, and knitting in the names of people whom she hoped soon to see killed.
One of the hated names that she knitted over and over again was "Evremonde." The laborer who, in the madness of his grief for his dead child, had murdered the Marquis de St. Evremonde, Darnay's hard-hearted uncle, had been caught and hanged; and, because of this, Defarge and his wife and the other plotters had condemned all of the name of Evremonde to death.
Meanwhile the king and queen of France and all their gay and careless court of nobles feasted and danced as heedlessly as ever. They did not see the storm rising. The bitter taxes still went on. The wine shop of Defarge looked as peaceful as ever, but the men who drank there now were dreaming of murder and revenge. And the half-starved women, who sat and looked on as the gilded coaches of the rich rolled through the streets, were sullenly waiting—watching Madame Defarge as she silently knitted, knitted into her work names of those whom the people had condemned to death without mercy.
One day this frightful human storm, which for so many years had been gathering in France, burst over Paris. The poor people rose by thousands, seized whatever weapons they could get—guns, axes, or even stones of the street—and, led by Defarge and his tigerish wife, set out to avenge their wrongs. Their rage turned first of all against the Bastille, the old stone prison in which so many of their kind had died, where Doctor Manette for eighteen years had made shoes. They beat down the thick walls and butchered the soldiers who defended it, and released the prisoners. And wherever they saw one of the king's uniforms they hanged the wearer to the nearest lamp post. It was the beginning of the terrible Revolution in France that was to end in the murder of thousands of innocent lives. It was the beginning of a time when Paris's streets were to run with blood, when all the worst passions of the people were loosed, and when they went mad with the joy of revenge.
The storm spread over France—to the village where stood the great chateau of the Evremonde family, and the peasants set fire to it and burned it to the ground. And Gabelle (the servant who had been left in charge by Darnay, the new Marquis de St. Evremonde, whom they had never seen, but yet hated) they seized and put in prison. They stormed the royal palace and arrested the king and queen, threw all who bore noble names or titles into dungeons, and, as they had planned, set up a government of their own.
Darnay, safe in London with Lucie, knew little and thought less of all this, till he received a pitiful letter from Gabelle, who expected each morning to be dragged out to be killed, telling of the plight into which his faithfulness had brought him, and beseeching his master's aid.
This letter made Darnay most uneasy. He blamed himself, because he knew it was his fault that Gabelle had been left so long in such a dangerous post. He did not forget that his own family, the Evremondes, had been greatly hated. But he thought the fact that he himself had refused to be one of them, and had given his sympathy rather to the people they oppressed, would make it possible for him to obtain Gabelle's release. And with this idea he determined to go himself to Paris.
He knew the very thought of his going, now that France was mad with violence, would frighten Lucie, so he determined not to tell her. He packed some clothing hurriedly and left secretly, sending a letter back telling her where and why he was going. And by the time she read this he was well on his way from England.
Darnay had expected to find no trouble in his errand and little personal risk in his journey, but as soon as he landed on the shores of France he discovered his mistake. He had only to give his real name, "the Marquis de St. Evremonde," which he was obliged to do if he would help Gabelle, and the title was the signal for rude threats and ill treatment. Once in, he could not go back, and he felt as if a monstrous net were closing around him (as indeed, it was) from which there was no escape.
He was sent on to Paris under a guard of soldiers, and there he was at once put into prison to be tried—and in all probability condemned to death—as one of the hated noble class whom the people were now killing as fast as they could.