Our Mutual Friend
13. 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