Our Mutual Friend
3. The Same Respected Friend In More Aspects Than
In sooth, it is Riderhood and no other, or it is the outer husk and shell of
Riderhood and no other, that is borne into Miss Abbey's first-floor bedroom.
Supple to twist and turn as the Rogue has ever been, he is sufficiently rigid now;
and not without much shuffling of attendant feet, and tilting of his bier this way
and that way, and peril even of his sliding off it and being tumbled in a heap over
the balustrades, can he be got up stairs.
'Fetch a doctor,' quoth Miss Abbey. And then, 'Fetch his daughter.' On both of
which errands, quick messengers depart.
The doctor-seeking messenger meets the doctor halfway, coming under convoy
of police. Doctor examines the dank carcase, and pronounces, not hopefully, that
it is worth while trying to reanimate the same. All the best means are at once in
action, and everybody present lends a hand, and a heart and soul. No one has
the least regard for the man; with them all, he has been an object of avoidance,
suspicion, and aversion; but the spark of life within him is curiously separable
from himself now, and they have a deep interest in it, probably because it IS life,
and they are living and must die.
In answer to the doctor's inquiry how did it happen, and was anyone to blame,
Tom Tootle gives in his verdict, unavoidable accident and no one to blame but
the sufferer. 'He was slinking about in his boat,' says Tom, 'which slinking were,
not to speak ill of the dead, the manner of the man, when he come right athwart
the steamer's bows and she cut him in two.' Mr Tootle is so far figurative,
touching the dismemberment, as that he means the boat, and not the man. For,
the man lies whole before them.
Captain Joey, the bottle-nosed regular customer in the glazed hat, is a pupil of
the much-respected old school, and (having insinuated himself into the chamber,
in the execution of the impontant service of carrying the drowned man's neck-
kerchief) favours the doctor with a sagacious old-scholastic suggestion that the
body should be hung up by the heels, 'sim'lar', says Captain Joey, 'to mutton in a
butcher's shop,' and should then, as a particularly choice manoeuvre for
promoting easy respiration, be rolled upon casks. These scraps of the wisdom of
the captain's ancestors are received with such speechless indignation by Miss
Abbey, that she instantly seizes the Captain by the collar, and without a single
word ejects him, not presuming to remonstrate, from the scene.
There then remain, to assist the doctor and Tom, only those three other regular
customers, Bob Glamour, William Williams, and Jonathan (family name of the