BOOK THE THIRD: A LONG LANE
Chapter 3: The Same Respected Friend in More Aspects Than One
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
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.