Book 2 - 13
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A SOLO AND A DUETT
The wind was blowing so hard when the visitor came out at the
shop-door into the darkness and dirt of Limehouse Hole, that it
almost blew him in again. Doors were slamming violently, lamps
were flickering or blown out, signs were rocking in their frames,
the water of the kennels, wind-dispersed, flew about in drops like
rain. Indifferent to the weather, and even preferring it to better
weather for its clearance of the streets, the man looked about him
with a scrutinizing glance. 'Thus much I know,' he murmured. 'I
have never been here since that night, and never was here before
that night, but thus much I recognize. I wonder which way did we
take when we came out of that shop. We turned to the right as I
have turned, but I can recall no more. Did we go by this alley?
Or down that little lane?'
He tried both, but both confused him equally, and he came
straying back to the same spot. 'I remember there were poles
pushed out of upper windows on which clothes were drying, and I
remember a low public-house, and the sound flowing down a
narrow passage belonging to it of the scraping of a fiddle and the
shuffling of feet. But here are all these things in the lane, and here
are all these things in the alley. And I have nothing else in my
mind but a wall, a dark doorway, a flight of stairs, and a room.'
He tried a new direction, but made nothing of it; walls, dark
doorways, flights of stairs and rooms, were too abundant. And,
like most people so puzzled, he again and again described a circle,
and found himself at the point from which he had begun. 'This is
like what I have read in narratives of escape from prison,' said he,
'where the little track of the fugitives in the night always seems to
take the shape of the great round world, on which they wander; as
if it were a secret law.'
Here he ceased to be the oakum-headed, oakum-whiskered man
on whom Miss Pleasant Riderhood had looked, and, allowing for
his being still wrapped in a nautical overcoat, became as like that
same lost wanted Mr Julius Handford, as never man was like
another in this world. In the breast of the coat he stowed the
bristling hair and whisker, in a moment, as the favouring wind
went with him down a solitary place that it had swept clear of
passengers. Yet in that same moment he was the Secretary also,
Mr Boffin's Secretary. For John Rokesmith, too, was as like that
same lost wanted Mr Julius Handford as never man was like
another in this world.
'I have no clue to the scene of my death,' said he. 'Not that it
matters now. But having risked discovery by venturing here at all,
I should have been glad to track some part of the way.' With
which singular words he abandoned his search, came up out of
Limehouse Hole, and took the way past Limehouse Church. At
the great iron gate of the churchyard he stopped and looked in.
He looked up at the high tower spectrally resisting the wind, and
he looked round at the white tombstones, like enough to the dead
in their winding-sheets, and he counted the nine tolls of the clock-
'It is a sensation not experienced by many mortals,' said he, 'to be
looking into a churchyard on a wild windy night, and to feel that I
no more hold a place among the living than these dead do, and
even to know that I lie buried somewhere else, as they lie buried
here. Nothing uses me to it. A spirit that was once a man could
hardly feel stranger or lonelier, going unrecognized among
mankind, than I feel.
'But this is the fanciful side of the situation. It has a real side, so
difficult that, though I think of it every day, I never thoroughly
think it out. Now, let me determine to think it out as I walk home.
I know I evade it, as many men--perhaps most men--do evade
thinking their way through their greatest perplexity. I will try to
pin myself to mine. Don't evade it, John Harmon; don't evade it;
think it out!
'When I came to England, attracted to the country with which I
had none but most miserable associations, by the accounts of my
fine inheritance that found me abroad, I came back, shrinking
from my father's money, shrinking from my father's memory,
mistrustful of being forced on a mercenary wife, mistrustful of my
father's intention in thrusting that marriage on me, mistrustful that
I was already growing avaricious, mistrustful that I was slackening
in gratitude to the two dear noble honest friends who had made
the only sunlight in my childish life or that of my hearthroken
sister. I came back, timid, divided in my mind, afraid of myself
and everybody here, knowing of nothing but wretchedness that
my father's wealth had ever brought about. Now, stop, and so far
think it out, John Harmon. Is that so? That is exactly so.
'On board serving as third mate was George Radfoot. I knew
nothing of him. His name first became known to me about a week
before we sailed, through my being accosted by one of the ship-
agent's clerks as "Mr Radfoot." It was one day when I had gone
aboard to look to my preparations, and the clerk, coming behind
me as I stood on deck, tapped me on the shoulder, and said, "Mr
Rad-foot, look here," referring to some papers that he had in his
hand. And my name first became known to Radfoot, through
another clerk within a day or two, and while the ship was yet in
port, coming up behind him, tapping him on the shoulder and
beginning, "I beg your pardon, Mr Harmon--." I believe we were
alike in bulk and stature but not otherwise, and that we were not
strikingly alike, even in those respects, when we were together
and could be compared.
'However, a sociable word or two on these mistakes became an
easy introduction between us, and the weather was hot, and he
helped me to a cool cabin on deck alongside his own, and his first
school had been at Brussels as mine had been, and he had learnt
French as I had learnt it, and he had a little history of himself to
relate--God only knows how much of it true, and how much of it
false--that had its likeness to mine. I had been a seaman too. So
we got to be confidential together, and the more easily yet,
because he and every one on board had known by general rumour
what I was making the voyage to England for. By such degrees
and means, he came to the knowledge of my uneasiness of mind,
and of its setting at that time in the direction of desiring to see and
form some judgment of my allotted wife, before she could
possibly know me for myself; also to try Mrs Boffin and give her a
glad surprise. So the plot was made out of our getting common
sailors' dresses (as he was able to guide me about London), and
throwing ourselves in Bella Wilfer's neighbourhood, and trying to
put ourselves in her way, and doing whatever chance might favour
on the spot, and seeing what came of it. If nothing came of it, I
should be no worse off, and there would merely be a short delay
in my presenting myself to Lightwood. I have all these facts right?
Yes. They are all accurately right.
'His advantage in all this was, that for a time I was to be lost. It
might be for a day or for two days, but I must be lost sight of on
landing, or there would be recognition, anticipation, and failure.
Therefore, I disembarked with my valise in my hand--as Potterson
the steward and Mr Jacob Kibble my fellow-passenger afterwards
remembered--and waited for him in the dark by that very
Limehouse Church which is now behind me.
'As I had always shunned the port of London, I only knew the
church through his pointing out its spire from on board. Perhaps I
might recall, if it were any good to try, the way by which I went to
it alone from the river; but how we two went from it to
Riderhood's shop, I don't know--any more than I know what turns
we took and doubles we made, after we left it. The way was
purposely confused, no doubt.
'But let me go on thinking the facts out, and avoid confusing them
with my speculations. Whether be took me by a straight way or a
crooked way, what is that to the purpose now? Steady, John
'When we stopped at Riderhood's, and he asked that scoundrel a
question or two, purporting to refer only to the lodging-houses in
which there was accommodation for us, had I the least suspicion
of him? None. Certainly none until afterwards when I held the
clue. I think he must have got from Riderhood in a paper, the
drug, or whatever it was, that afterwards stupefied me, but I am
far from sure. All I felt safe in charging on him to-night, was old
companionship in villainy between them. Their undisguised
intimacy, and the character I now know Riderhood to bear, made
that not at all adventurous. But I am not clear about the drug.
Thinking out the circumstances on which I found my suspicion,
they are only two. One: I remember his changing a small folded
paper from one pocket to another, after we came out, which he
had not touched before. Two: I now know Riderhood to have
been previously taken up for being concerned in the robbery of an
unlucky seaman, to whom some such poison had been given.
'It is my conviction that we cannot have gone a mile from that
shop, before we came to the wall, the dark doorway, the flight of
stairs, and the room. The night was particularly dark and it rained
hard. As I think the circumstances back, I hear the rain splashing
on the stone pavement of the passage, whch was not under cover.
The room overlooked the river, or a dock, or a creek, and the tide
was out. Being possessed of the time down to that point, I know
by the hour that it must have been about low water; but while the
coffee was getting ready, I drew back the curtain (a dark-brown
curtain), and, looking out, knew by the kind of reflection below,
of the few neighbouring lights, that they were reflected in tidal
'He had carried under his arm a canvas bag, containing a suit of
his clothes. I had no change of outer clothes with me, as I was to
buy slops. "You are very wet, Mr Harmon,"--I can hear him
saying--"and I am quite dry under this good waterproof coat. Put
on these clothes of mine. You may find on trying them that they
will answer your purpose to-morrow, as well as the slops you
mean to buy, or better. While you change, I'll hurry the hot
coffee." When he came back, I had his clothes on, and there was
a black man with him, wearing a linen jacket, like a steward, who
put the smoking coffee on the table in a tray and never looked at
me. I am so far literal and exact? Literal and exact, I am certain.
'Now, I pass to sick and deranged impressions; they are so strong,
that I rely upon them; but there are spaces between them that I
know nothing about, and they are not pervaded by any idea of
'I had drank some coffee, when to my sense of sight he began to
swell immensely, and something urged me to rush at him. We had
a struggle near the door. He got from me, through my not
knowing where to strike, in the whirling round of the room, and
the flashing of flames of fire between us. I dropped down. Lying
helpless on the ground, I was turned over by a foot. I was dragged
by the neck into a corner. I heard men speak together. I was
turned over by other feet. I saw a figure like myself lying dressed
in my clothes on a bed. What might have been, for anything I
knew, a silence of days, weeks, months, years, was broken by a
violent wrestling of men all over the room. The figure like myself
was assailed, and my valise was in its hand. I was trodden upon
and fallen over. I heard a noise of blows, and thought it was a
wood-cutter cutting down a tree. I could not have said that my
name was John Harmon--I could not have thought it--I didn't
know it--but when I heard the blows, I thought of the wood-cutter
and his axe, and had some dead idea that I was lying in a forest.
'This is still correct? Still correct, with the exception that I cannot
possibly express it to myself without using the word I. But it was
not I. There was no such thing as I, within my knowledge.
'It was only after a downward slide through something like a tube,
and then a great noise and a sparkling and crackling as of fires,
that the consciousness came upon me, "This is John Harmon
drowning! John Harmon, struggle for your life. John Harmon,
call on Heaven and save yourself!" I think I cried it out aloud in a
great agony, and then a heavy horrid unintelligible something
vanished, and it was I who was struggling there alone in the water.
'I was very weak and faint, frightfully oppressed with drowsiness,
and driving fast with the tide. Looking over the black water, I saw
the lights racing past me on the two banks of the river, as if they
were eager to be gone and leave me dying in the dark. The tide
was running down, but I knew nothing of up or down then. When,
guiding myself safely with Heaven's assistance before the fierce
set of the water, I at last caught at a boat moored, one of a tier of
boats at a causeway, I was sucked under her, and came up, only
just alive, on the other side.
'Was I long in the water? Long enough to be chilled to the heart,
but I don't know how long. Yet the cold was merciful, for it was
the cold night air and the rain that restored me from a swoon on
the stones of the causeway. They naturally supposed me to have
toppled in, drunk, when I crept to the public-house it belonged to;
for I had no notion where I was, and could not articulate--through
the poison that had made me insensible having affected my
speech--and I supposed the night to be the previous night, as it
was still dark and raining. But I had lost twenty-four hours.
'I have checked the calculation often, and it must have been two
nights that I lay recovering in that public-house. Let me see. Yes.
I am sure it was while I lay in that bed there, that the thought
entered my head of turning the danger I had passed through, to the
account of being for some time supposed to have disappeared
mysteriously, and of proving Bella. The dread of our being forced
on one another, and perpetuating the fate that seemed to have
fallen on my father's riches--the fate that they should lead to
nothing but evil--was strong upon the moral timidity that dates
from my childhood with my poor sister.
'As to this hour I cannot understand that side of the river where I
recovered the shore, being the opposite side to that on which I
was ensnared, I shall never understand it now. Even at this
moment, while I leave the river behind me, going home, I cannot
conceive that it rolls between me and that spot, or that the sea is
where it is. But this is not thinking it out; this is making a leap to
the present time.
'I could not have done it, but for the fortune in the waterproof belt
round my body. Not a great fortune, forty and odd pounds for the
inheritor of a hundred and odd thousand! But it was enough.
Without it I must have disclosed myself. Without it, I could never
have gone to that Exchequer Coffee House, or taken Mrs Wilfer's
'Some twelve days I lived at that hotel, before the night when I
saw the corpse of Radfoot at the Police Station. The inexpressible
mental horror that I laboured under, as one of the consequences of
the poison, makes the interval seem greatly longer, but I know it
cannot have been longer. That suffering has gradually weakened
and weakened since, and has only come upon me by starts, and I
hope I am free from it now; but even now, I have sometimes to
think, constrain myself, and stop before speaking, or I could not
say the words I want to say.
'Again I ramble away from thinking it out to the end. It is not so
far to the end that I need be tempted to break off. Now, on
'I examined the newspapers every day for tidings that I was
missing, but saw none. Going out that night to walk (for I kept
retired while it was light), I found a crowd assembled round a
placard posted at Whitehall. It described myself, John Harmon, as
found dead and mutilated in the river under circumstances of
strong suspicion, described my dress, described the papers in my
pockets, and stated where I was lying for recognition. In a wild
incautious way I hurried there, and there--with the horror of the
death I had escaped, before my eyes in its most appalling shape,
added to the inconceivable horror tormenting me at that time
when the poisonous stuff was strongest on me--I perceived that
Radfoot had been murdered by some unknown hands for the
money for which he would have murdered me, and that probably
we had both been shot into the river from the same dark place into
the same dark tide, when the stream ran deep and strong.
'That night I almost gave up my mystery, though I suspected no
one, could offer no information, knew absolutely nothing save that
the murdered man was not I, but Radfoot. Next day while I
hesitated, and next day while I hesitated, it seemed as if the whole
country were determined to have me dead. The Inquest declared
me dead, the Government proclaimed me dead; I could not listen
at my fireside for five minutes to the outer noises, but it was borne
into my ears that I was dead.
'So John Harmon died, and Julius Handford disappeared, and John
Rokesmith was born. John Rokesmith's intent to-night has been to
repair a wrong that he could never have imagined possible,
coming to his ears through the Lightwood talk related to him, and
which he is bound by every consideration to remedy. In that
intent John Rokesmith will persevere, as his duty is.
'Now, is it all thought out? All to this time? Nothing omitted?
No, nothing. But beyond this time? To think it out through the
future, is a harder though a much shorter task than to think it out
through the past. John Harmon is dead. Should John Harmon
come to life?
'If yes, why? If no, why?'
'Take yes, first. To enlighten human Justice concerning the
offence of one far beyond it who may have a living mother. To
enlighten it with the lights of a stone passage, a flight of stairs, a
brown window-curtain, and a black man. To come into possession
of my father's money, and with it sordidly to buy a beautiful
creature whom I love--I cannot help it; reason has nothing to do
with it; I love her against reason--but who would as soon love me
for my own sake, as she would love the beggar at the corner.
What a use for the money, and how worthy of its old misuses!
'Now, take no. The reasons why John Harmon should not come to
life. Because he has passively allowed these dear old faithful
friends to pass into possession of the property. Because he sees
them happy with it, making a good use of it, effacing the old rust
and tarnish on the money. Because they have virtually adopted
Bella, and will provide for her. Because there is affection enough
in her nature, and warmth enough in her heart, to develop into
something enduringly good, under favourable conditions. Because
her faults have been intensified by her place in my father's will,
and she is already growing better. Because her marriage with
John Harmon, after what I have heard from her own lips, would
be a shocking mockery, of which both she and I must always be
conscious, and which would degrade her in her mind, and me in
mine, and each of us in the other's. Because if John Harmon
comes to life and does not marry her, the property falls into the
very hands that hold it now.
'What would I have? Dead, I have found the true friends of my
lifetime still as true as tender and as faithful as when I was alive,
and making my memory an incentive to good actions done in my
name. Dead, I have found them when they might have slighted
my name, and passed greedily over my grave to ease and wealth,
lingering by the way, like single-hearted children, to recall their
love for me when I was a poor frightened child. Dead, I have
heard from the woman who would have been my wife if I had
lived, the revolting truth that I should have purchased her, caring
nothing for me, as a Sultan buys a slave.
'What would I have? If the dead could know, or do know, how
the living use them, who among the hosts of dead has found a
more disinterested fidelity on earth than I? Is not that enough for
me? If I had come back, these noble creatures would have
welcomed me, wept over me, given up everything to me with joy.
I did not come back, and they have passed unspoiled into my
place. Let them rest in it, and let Bella rest in hers.
'What course for me then? This. To live the same quiet Secretary
life, carefully avoiding chances of recognition, until they shall
have become more accustomed to their altered state, and until the
great swarm of swindlers under many names shall have found
newer prey. By that time, the method I am establishing through
all the affairs, and with which I will every day take new pains to
make them both familiar, will be, I may hope, a machine in such
working order as that they can keep it going. I know I need but
ask of their generosity, to have. When the right time comes, I will
ask no more than will replace me in my former path of life, and
John Rokesmith shall tread it as contentedly as he may. But John
Harmon shall come back no more.
'That I may never, in the days to come afar off, have any weak
misgiving that Bella might, in any contingency, have taken me for
my own sake if I had plainly asked her, I WILL plainly ask her:
proving beyond all question what I already know too well. And
now it is all thought out, from the beginning to the end, and my
mind is easier.'
So deeply engaged had the living-dead man been, in thus
communing with himself, that he had regarded neither the wind
nor the way, and had resisted the former instinctively as he had
pursued the latter. But being now come into the City, where there
was a coach-stand, he stood irresolute whether to go to his
lodgings, or to go first to Mr Boffin's house. He decided to go
round by the house, arguing, as he carried his overcoat upon his
arm, that it was less likely to attract notice if left there, than if
taken to Holloway: both Mrs Wilfer and Miss Lavinia being
ravenously curious touching every article of which the lodger
Arriving at the house, he found that Mr and Mrs Boffin were out,
but that Miss Wilfer was in the drawing-room. Miss Wilfer had
remained at home, in consequence of not feeling very well, and
had inquired in the evening if Mr Rokesmith were in his room.
'Make my compliments to Miss Wilfer, and say I am here now.'
Miss Wilfer's compliments came down in return, and, if it were
not too much trouble, would Mr Rokesmith be so kind as to come
up before he went?
It was not too much trouble, and Mr Rokesmith came up.
Oh she looked very pretty, she looked very, very pretty! If the
father of the late John Harmon had but left his money
unconditionally to his son, and if his son had but lighted on this
loveable girl for himself, and had the happiness to make her loving
as well as loveable!
'Dear me! Are you not well, Mr Rokesmith?'
'Yes, quite well. I was sorry to hear, when I came in, that YOU
'A mere nothing. I had a headache--gone now--and was not quite
fit for a hot theatre, so I stayed at home. I asked you if you were
not well, because you look so white.'
'Do I? I have had a busy evening.'
She was on a low ottoman before the fire, with a little shining
jewel of a table, and her book and her work, beside her. Ah! what
a different life the late John Harmon's, if it had been his happy
privilege to take his place upon that ottoman, and draw his arm
about that waist, and say, 'I hope the time has been long without
me? What a Home Goddess you look, my darling!'
But, the present John Rokesmith, far removed from the late John
Harmon, remained standing at a distance. A little distance in
respect of space, but a great distance in respect of separation.
'Mr Rokesmith,' said Bella, taking up her work, and inspecting it
all round the corners, 'I wanted to say something to you when I
could have the opportunity, as an explanation why I was rude to
you the other day. You have no right to think ill of me, sir.'
The sharp little way in which she darted a look at him, half
sensitively injured, and half pettishly, would have been very much
admired by the late John Harmon.
'You don't know how well I think of you, Miss Wilfer.'
'Truly, you must have a very high opinion of me, Mr Rokesmith,
when you believe that in prosperity I neglect and forget my old
'Do I believe so?'
'You DID, sir, at any rate,' returned Bella.
'I took the liberty of reminding you of a little omission into which
you had fallen--insensibly and naturally fallen. It was no more
'And I beg leave to ask you, Mr Rokesmith,' said Bella, 'why you
took that liberty?--I hope there is no offence in the phrase; it is
your own, remember.'
'Because I am truly, deeply, profoundly interested in you, Miss
Wilfer. Because I wish to see you always at your best. Because
I--shall I go on?'
'No, sir,' returned Bella, with a burning face, 'you have said more
than enough. I beg that you will NOT go on. If you have any
generosity, any honour, you will say no more.'
The late John Harmon, looking at the proud face with the down-
cast eyes, and at the quick breathing as it stirred the fall of bright
brown hair over the beautiful neck, would probably have
'I wish to speak to you, sir,' said Bella, 'once for all, and I don't
know how to do it. I have sat here all this evening, wishing to
speak to you, and determining to speak to you, and feeling that I
must. I beg for a moment's time.'
He remained silent, and she remained with her face averted,
sometimes making a slight movement as if she would turn and
speak. At length she did so.
'You know how I am situated here, sir, and you know how I am
situated at home. I must speak to you for myself, since there is no
one about me whom I could ask to do so. It is not generous in
you, it is not honourable in you, to conduct yourself towards me
as you do.'
'Is it ungenerous or dishonourable to be devoted to you; fascinated
'Preposterous!' said Bella.
The late John Harmon might have thought it rather a
contemptuous and lofty word of repudiation.
'I now feel obliged to go on,' pursued the Secretary, 'though it
were only in self-explanation and self-defence. I hope, Miss
Wilfer, that it is not unpardonable--even in me--to make an honest
declaration of an honest devotion to you.'
'An honest declaration!' repeated Bella, with emphasis.
'Is it otherwise?'
'I must request, sir,' said Bella, taking refuge in a touch of timely
resentment, 'that I may not be questioned. You must excuse me if
I decline to be cross-examined.'
'Oh, Miss Wilfer, this is hardly charitable. I ask you nothing but
what your own emphasis suggests. However, I waive even that
question. But what I have declared, I take my stand by. I cannot
recall the avowal of my earnest and deep attachment to you, and I
do not recall it.'
'I reject it, sir,' said Bella.
'I should be blind and deaf if I were not prepared for the reply.
Forgive my offence, for it carries its punishment with it.'
'What punishment?' asked Bella.
'Is my present endurance none? But excuse me; I did not mean to
cross-examine you again.'
'You take advantage of a hasty word of mine,' said Bella with a
little sting of self-reproach, 'to make me seem--I don't know what.
I spoke without consideration when I used it. If that was bad, I
am sorry; but you repeat it after consideration, and that seems to
me to be at least no better. For the rest, I beg it may be
understood, Mr Rokesmith, that there is an end of this between us,
now and for ever.'
'Now and for ever,' he repeated.
'Yes. I appeal to you, sir,' proceeded Bella with increasing spirit,
'not to pursue me. I appeal to you not to take advantage of your
position in this house to make my position in it distressing and
disagreeable. I appeal to you to discontinue your habit of making
your misplaced attentions as plain to Mrs Boffin as to me.'
'Have I done so?'
'I should think you have,' replied Bella. 'In any case it is not your
fault if you have not, Mr Rokesmith.'
'I hope you are wrong in that impression. I should be very sorry to
have justified it. I think I have not. For the future there is no
apprehension. It is all over.'
'I am much relieved to hear it,' said Bella. 'I have far other views
in life, and why should you waste your own?'
'Mine!' said the Secretary. 'My life!'
His curious tone caused Bella to glance at the curious smile with
which he said it. It was gone as he glanced back. 'Pardon me,
Miss Wilfer,' he proceeded, when their eyes met; 'you have used
some hard words, for which I do not doubt you have a justification
in your mind, that I do not understand. Ungenerous and
dishonourable. In what?'
'I would rather not be asked,' said Bella, haughtily looking down.
'I would rather not ask, but the question is imposed upon me.
Kindly explain; or if not kindly, justly.'
'Oh, sir!' said Bella, raising her eyes to his, after a little struggle to
forbear, 'is it generous and honourable to use the power here
which your favour with Mr and Mrs Boffin and your ability in
your place give you, against me?'
'Is it generous and honourable to form a plan for gradually
bringing their influence to bear upon a suit which I have shown
you that I do not like, and which I tell you that I utterly reject?'
The late John Harmon could have borne a good deal, but he would
have been cut to the heart by such a suspicion as this.
'Would it be generous and honourable to step into your place--if
you did so, for I don't know that you did, and I hope you did not--
anticipating, or knowing beforehand, that I should come here, and
designing to take me at this disadvantage?'
'This mean and cruel disadvantage,' said the Secretary.
'Yes,' assented Bella.
The Secretary kept silence for a little while; then merely said,
'You are wholly mistaken, Miss Wilfer; wonderfully mistaken. I
cannot say, however, that it is your fault. If I deserve better
things of you, you do not know it.'
'At least, sir,' retorted Bella, with her old indignation rising, 'you
know the history of my being here at all. I have heard Mr Boffin
say that you are master of every line and word of that will, as you
are master of all his affairs. And was it not enough that I should
have been willed away, like a horse, or a dog, or a bird; but must
you too begin to dispose of me in your mind, and speculate in me,
as soon as I had ceased to be the talk and the laugh of the town?
Am I for ever to be made the property of strangers?'
'Believe me,' returned the Secretary, 'you are wonderfully
'I should be glad to know it,' answered Bella.
'I doubt if you ever will. Good-night. Of course I shall be careful
to conceal any traces of this interview from Mr and Mrs Boffin, as
long as I remain here. Trust me, what you have complained of is
at an end for ever.'
'I am glad I have spoken, then, Mr Rokesmith. It has been painful
and difficult, but it is done. If I have hurt you, I hope you will
forgive me. I am inexperienced and impetuous, and I have been a
little spoilt; but I really am not so bad as I dare say I appear, or as
you think me.'
He quitted the room when Bella had said this, relenting in her
wilful inconsistent way. Left alone, she threw herself back on her
ottoman, and said, 'I didn't know the lovely woman was such a
Dragon!' Then, she got up and looked in the glass, and said to her
image, 'You have been positively swelling your features, you little
fool!' Then, she took an impatient walk to the other end of the
room and back, and said, 'I wish Pa was here to have a talk about
an avaricious marriage; but he is better away, poor dear, for I
know I should pull his hair if he WAS here.' And then she threw
her work away, and threw her book after it, and sat down and
hummed a tune, and hummed it out of tune, and quarrelled with it.
And John Rokesmith, what did he?
He went down to his room, and buried John Harmon many
additional fathoms deep. He took his hat, and walked out, and, as
he went to Holloway or anywhere else--not at all minding where--
heaped mounds upon mounds of earth over John Harmon's grave.
His walking did not bring him home until the dawn of day. And so
busy had he been all night, piling and piling weights upon weights
of earth above John Harmon's grave, that by that time John
Harmon lay buried under a whole Alpine range; and still the
Sexton Rokesmith accumulated mountains over him, lightening his
labour with the dirge, 'Cover him, crush him, keep him down!'