Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
John Harmon is thought to have been murdered soon after he left the ship upon his return to England to marry Bella Wilfer in compliance with the conditions of his father’s will; a body found by Gaffer Hexam is identified as Harmon’s. Actually, Harmon has not died; fearing for his life and shrinking from the forced marriage, he assumes the name of Julius Handford, then that of John Rokesmith.
As Rokesmith, Harmon becomes a secretary to Mr. Boffin, who inherited the estate of Harmon’s father after young John Harmon was pronounced dead. Before that, Mr. Boffin, who never learned to read, began to employ a street peddler named Wegg to read to him such books as took his fancy. Mr. and Mrs. Boffin enjoy their new wealth and leisure, but they both regret that the son and disinherited daughter of old Harmon did not live to enjoy the fortune that has come to them. They try to find a little orphan whom they can rear, hoping to provide a boy with some of the advantages little John Harmon did not have. The Boffins also bring Bella Wilfer to live with them in their grand new house, wishing to provide her with the kind of life she might have had as John Harmon’s wife.
Bella, who is beautiful but mercenary, intends to make a good match. When Harmon, in his role as Rokesmith, declares his love for her, she rejects him with disdain. When, much later, Mr. Boffin hears that Rokesmith had aspired to her hand, a bitter scene ensues in which he charges...
(The entire section is 922 words.)
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Part 1, Chapters 1-4 Summary
Gaffer Hexam and his daughter, Lizzie, row across the surface of the Thames River in London, looking for corpses. On finding one, Lizzie stops the boat while Gaffer digs first through the pockets, finding several coins, before tying it to the stern. Lizzie does not want to be close to the body, but her father harshly admonishes her for hating the river, which gives her money enough for food and provisions. They are interrupted by another boater, who identifies himself as Gaffer's "pardner," but Gaffer denies this. The "pardner" then hints that Gaffer hastens the deaths of the people whose bodies he retrieves. Done for the night, a relieved Lizzie rows them back to shore, pulling the corpse behind.
Mr. and Mrs. Veneering are newlyweds who are newly rich. Their home is new, as are their friends. Twemlow is their oldest acquaintance and regularly appears at all their dinner parties, though he is often confused and overwhelmed by all the new people. At one dinner, a Lady Tippin flirts with all the gentlemen. Another guest, Mortimer Lightwood, tells the party the story of the Man from Somewhere, who was the son of the rich Dust contractor named Harmon. Mr. Harmon, Senior, had disowned his daughter because she failed to marry the man he had selected for her, marrying instead “Another.” The daughter soon died, as did Another. The son, who was at school in Brussels, was thus the sole heir of the fortune, but only if he married the woman whom Mr. Harmon had selected for him. If he did not, the Harmon fortune would go to an old servant. Mr. Harmon died recently, and the son was returning to claim his inheritance. A message arrives just as Mortimer finishes the story, stating that this son had drowned.
Mortimer, along with Eugene Wrayburn, leaves the dinner party and follows the messenger, who is Charley Hexam, the son of Gaffer. Their intention is to examine the body that has been identified by the steward of the ship on which it arrived as John Harmon. A stranger also arrives to see the body, but he is horrified at the sight and cannot. He gives his name as Julius Hanford. Charley goes home to his sister, Lizzie, and they imagine pictures of their past in the coals of the fire. At the inquest, it is determined that the decayed and disfigured body is that of John Harmon, the victim of murder.
Bella Wilfer is the woman whom Mr. Harmon had ordered his son to marry, and she now resents that she must wear mourning clothes...
(The entire section is 475 words.)
Part 1, Chapters 5-7 Summary
Silas Wegg, an errand runner and street corner salesman, sets up his wares at the corner near Cavendish Square. He believes himself to be in the employ of an imaginary family of an empty house. Nicodemus (Nick, or Noddy) Boffin, the uneducated servant who has inherited the Harmon estate after John Harmon’s presumed drowning, hires Wegg to be his personal reader. Boffin has bought a set of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (though he mistakenly refers to it as the Russian Empire) and would like Wegg to come to his new home, Boffin’s Bower (formerly Harmony Jail), to read it to him. Wegg agrees and arrives at Boffin’s Bower to be greeted by Mrs. Boffin. After managing to get fed by the Boffins, Wegg begins reading, stumbling over most of the unfamiliar Roman names.
At the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters, Miss Abbey Potterson reigns behind the bar. She tells the customers when it is time for them to go home, much as a mother would. Riderhood, a former partner of Gaffer Hexam, is told by Miss Potterson that he is no longer allowed in the tavern because of his trade of picking the pockets of corpses found in the river. Riderhood resents that Gaffer is still allowed in when he is in the same trade, so he insinuates that Gaffer murders his victims for the purpose of picking their pockets after they are dead. Miss Potterson throws Riderhood out and says that Gaffer Hexam is no longer allowed either. She sends for Lizzie Hexam and tells her that she has to get away from her father and take no more part in his “trade.” She shares the suspicion that Gaffer is a murderer, but Lizzie swears it is only Riderhood’s revenge for Gaffer's severing their partnership. Lizzie goes home and tells her brother Charley that he must escape and go to school. She gives him money and sends him out the door. When she tells her father where Charley has gone, Gaffer exclaims that he is now disowned. As he speaks, he stabs his knife in the air, which terrifies Lizzie. She begs him not to use his knife, and he is overcome by the fear that he has caused his daughter.
On his way home from reading to Mr. Boffin, Silas Wegg stops at Mr. Venus’s shop. Mr. Venus is a taxidermist and an “articulator of human bones.” Mr. Venus has acquired Wegg’s amputated leg, and Wegg is interested in purchasing it, but Mr. Venus doesn’t deal. He is very sad and confesses to Wegg that he has been refused by the woman he wants to marry because of...
(The entire section is 452 words.)
Part 1, Chapters 8-10 Summary
Mr. Boffin keeps an appointment with his lawyer, Mr. Lightwood, wanting to create a “tight” will to ensure that all his fortune (estimated at 100,000 pounds) will be left absolutely to Mrs. Boffin. He tells Mr. Lightwood that he is offering a reward of ten thousand pounds to the person who solves the murder of John Harmon, but Mr. Lightwood warns that this large amount may bring out more misinformation from scoundrels than the truth. Mr. Boffin tells of the last time he saw John Harmon, when John was a young boy being sent abroad to school. As he is leaving the lawyer’s office, Eugene Wrayburn enters. Mr. Lightwood introduces the two gentlemen. Outside of the office, a stranger approaches Mr. Boffin, explaining that he had been pointed out to him on the streets and has wished to speak with him. He introduces himself as Rokesmith and mentions that he is lodging with the Wilfers. Mr. Boffin knows Bella Wilfer. Rokesmith offers his services as a secretary to Mr. Boffin, who is not sure exactly what kind of services a secretary would provide, explaining to Rokesmith that he already has Mr. Wegg as his “literary man.” Mr. Rokesmith suggests that they meet further, to which Mr. Boffin agrees in a week or two.
On arriving home, Mr. Boffin is greeted by Mrs. Boffin’s announcement that they must begin to live up to their new position in society. She proposes offering a home to Bella Wilfer, who tragically lost her future husband. She also would like to adopt an orphan boy, rename him John Harmon, and bring him up as a tribute to their late employer’s son. Mr. Boffin agrees to all this, and the Boffins go to the home of the Reverend Mr. Milvey, who promises to find a suitable orphan for them. Mr. and Mrs. Boffin then go to the Wilfer home and make their proposal to Bella. Mrs. Wilfer feels herself superior to the former servants. She calls in Bella to let her decide. Her other daughter, Lavinia, also arrives along with her gentleman friend, George Sampson. After some acrimonious conversation among the Wilfers, Bella agrees to the Boffins’ proposal. Mr. Boffin asks about their lodger, Mr. Rokesmith, to whom he refers as “Our Mutual Friend.” As they leave, Mr. Rokesmith arrives. He is startled when he hears Mrs. Boffin tell Bella that she will soon be introduced to little John Harmon. She explains her plans for adoption to Rokesmith.
Two friends of the Veneerings, Alfred Lammle and Sophronia Akershem, are married,...
(The entire section is 477 words.)
Part 1, Chapters 11-13 Summary
Mr. and Mrs. Podsnap decide that they must have a dinner for their daughter’s eighteenth birthday. Mr. Podsnap, a friend of the Veneerings, has contempt for all countries except England. At the dinner, Podsnap has a conversation with a foreign gentleman in which he constantly corrects the latter’s English pronunciation. Podsnap begs Mr. Veneering to tell the party about the night they learned of the Harmon murder during a dinner at the Veneering home. Mr. and Mrs. Lammle are also present and decide that they will begin their deception of the world with the Podsnaps. Mrs. Lammle befriends Miss Georgiana Podsnap, who is painfully shy. Georgiana is angered by her mother’s bringing over men to dance with her, which she says that she does very badly. Mrs. Lammle assures her and wishes to be her friend. Georgiana does not see why anyone would want to be her friend, but she is agreeable. On the way home, Mr. Lammle tells his wife to make sure to stay close to “that idiot girl,” foreseeing that there may be money made out of this “friendship.”
Mortimer Lightwood and Eugene Wrayburn take lodgings together, being old school friends. Wrayburn tells Lightwood of his father’s plans for each of his sons. Wrayburn has become the barrister that his father intended, but not a married man. The men are interrupted by Roger Riderhood, who walks in without knocking. He has come to give information about the Harmon murder and demands that his “Alfred David” (affidavit) be taken. He tells them that Gaffer Hexam, his former partner, confessed to him that he was the person who killed John Harmon. Since then, he broke off his partnership, he says, because it so weighed on his mind. Wrayburn thinks it interesting that it weighed on his mind in secret until the ten thousand–pound reward was offered. Riderhood offers to go with them to the police station. The police inspector tells Lightwood and Wrayburn that Riderhood is a notorious character himself and might have been an accessory but stayed distant in order to get any reward. The inspector and the two friends go to Limehouse, where Gaffer lives.
Lightwood and Wrayburn take on the identities of lime merchants and hang around the Six Jolly Fellowships and wait for Gaffer to return. Wrayburn checks on Gaffer’s home and observes Lizzie Hexam calling for her father. After waiting a long time, Riderhood goes out looking for Gaffer and returns with the news that he has found...
(The entire section is 431 words.)
Part 1, Chapters 14-17 Summary
Riderhood suggests that since they cannot find Gaffer, they should go and apprehend his daughter, Lizzie. Wrayburn contemptuously puts this idea down. He and Lightwood go with Riderhood to drag the boat in and are shocked to discover Gaffer’s body tied behind it. The inspector takes charge of the body, and Lightwood suggests that they go tell Lizzie of her father’s death. He turns to talk to Wrayburn and finds that he has disappeared. He returns home and goes to bed after his long night. When he awakens, he finds that Wrayburn has returned home as well, explaining that he had had enough of the investigation and had gone for a walk.
Mr. Boffin attempts to understand what Mr. Rokesmith meant when he offered to be his secretary, thinking it was the article of furniture. At Mr. Rokesmith’s clarification, Mr. Boffin, encouraged by Mrs. Boffin, readily agrees. He tells Rokesmith that he is planning on moving to a new and bigger home and wishes Rokesmith to take charge of the business of managing the redecorating. He plans to keep Boffin’s Bower as a memorial to his late employer. He reassigns Wegg from literary man to caretaker of Boffin’s Bower, not wanting Wegg to have his stall perched in front of his new mansion. Mrs. Boffin tells her husband that she has seen the ghosts of old Mr. Harmon and his two children in the house, but she takes some comfort that they have returned to their old home.
Mr. Rokesmith makes it his business to know everything about Mr. Boffin’s finances. His thoroughness does not attract the suspicion of Mr. Boffin, since he appreciates someone else's taking over that area of his affairs. Rokesmith’s only condition is that he does not want to have any face-to-face connection with Mortimer Lightwood, Mr. Boffin’s solicitor. He has no objection to writing to him, but does not want to meet him because of a past conflict about which Mr. Lightwood knows nothing. Mr. and Mrs. Boffin continue their search for an orphan and finally find one in the grandson of Mrs. Betty Higden through Mr. Rokesmith’s endeavors. Arrangements are made, giving Mrs. Higden some relief in knowing her grandson will receive the life that she is no longer able to give him. Mr. Rokesmith meets Bella Wilfer and informs her that Mrs. Boffin will be ready to receive her into her home in a week or two. Rokesmith remarks to himself that her personality is unpleasant, but her appearance is pretty.
Mr. and Mrs....
(The entire section is 484 words.)
Part 2, Chapters 1-3 Summary
At his new school, Charley Hexam requests permission to visit his sister Lizzie. His schoolmaster, Bradley Headstone, suggests that it would be better to distance himself from his sister as a connection to his unsavory past. When Charley insists, Mr. Headstone declares that he will accompany him. Charley resists, not wanting Mr. Headstone to see Lizzie’s living conditions, as he himself wants to put his past behind him. On the way, they are stopped by Miss Peecher, a teacher at a girls’ school, who is interested in Mr. Headstone. Mr. Headstone is indifferent to her, and he and Charley continue until they come to Lizzie’s lodgings. They are welcomed by Fanny Cleaver (who is called Jenny Wren), a thirteen-year-old girl who has “a bad back and queer legs.” Despite being crippled, she takes care of her drunken father and makes doll clothes. When Lizzie arrives, Charley introduces Mr. Headstone. Talking to Lizzie alone, Charley urges her to find better lodgings, but Lizzie wants to stay close to the river. On the way back to school, Charley sees Eugene Wrayburn walking in the direction of Lizzie’s home. He worries that Wrayburn is going to see his sister.
Eugene Wrayburn is indeed going to see Lizzie. He suggests to her that he come regularly and give her instruction so as to better her conditions. He points out that it would benefit Jenny as well. Jenny hints that it is time for him to leave, since it is Saturday night and her father will be coming home drunk soon. Wrayburn leaves and runs into Cleaver, Jenny’s drunken father. When Cleaver arrives home, Jenny makes him give her all his money to avoid spending all of it on alcohol.
Mr. Veneering decides to campaign for a spot in Parliament. He pays five thousand pounds to run as the member from Pocket-Breaches. Mrs. Veneering gets to work on getting her friends, specifically, Lady Tippins, to help. Mr. Veneering goes to his “oldest friend” Twemlow to ask if his cousin Lord Snigsworth would lend his name to the campaign, but Twemlow refuses, thinking that his relative would not be interested. Mr. Veneering makes the rounds of his other friends and acquires the services of electioneers, but he never meets with any of his constituents. Mrs. Veneering says that she received an omen of Mr. Veneering’s success. She watched her baby fold his hands together and smile in his sleep, which leads Mrs. Veneering to conclude that the fairies are sending the message that...
(The entire section is 433 words.)
Part 2, Chapters 4-6 Summary
The Lammles still live in Alfred’s bachelor lodgings, saying to their friends that they are looking for a larger home. This invites everyone to suggest places, which do not seem to satisfy the Lammles. Mrs. Lammle intensifies her efforts to make friends with Miss Podsnap. Over tea one day, Miss Podsnap says that Mr. Lammle is her idea of the perfect lover, though she assures Mrs. Lammle that she has no romantic notions about her husband. Alfred Lammle arrives and suggests that Miss Podsnap has an admirer in “Fascination” Fledgeby, a lanky, insecure youth who is even more shy than Miss Podsnap. He has arranged for Fledgeby to join Miss Podsnap and the Lammles for dinner and the opera the following day, which horrifies Miss Podsnap. When the quartet meets together, Fledgeby and Miss Podsnap avoid looking at and talking to each other, despite the Lammles' best efforts to get them to connect. After the opera, Mrs. Lammle chides her husband for finding such an idiot as Fledgeby. Mr. Lammle states that it will work out, assuring his wife that it must, as both of their “friends” have money.
The next morning, Mr. Lammle asks Fledgeby his opinion of Miss Podsnap, but Fledgeby refuses to give it. Fledgeby views Miss Podsnap as not being violent in the sense of standing up to anyone. After a quarrel over this, Fledgeby says he does not want to be an object of manipulation by the Lammles and leaves. He goes to his money-lending office in Pubsey and Co., where he finds his front man, Riah, to whom he shows contempt for being Jewish. Riah takes Fledgeby to his roof garden, where Lizzie Hexam and Jenny Wren are waiting. Jenny mysteriously tells Fledgeby to “Come up and be dead!” This haunts Fledgeby as he goes home.
Mortimer Lightwood asks Eugene Wrayburn his intentions toward Lizzie Hexam. Wrayburn denies that there is anything. As they are speaking, Charley Hexam and his schoolmaster, Bradley Headstone, arrive. Charley also demands to know why Wrayburn is seeing his sister. He knows that Wrayburn is supposedly tutoring Lizzie, but he is outraged that it seems that Wrayburn himself is paying for the education. Charley warns Wrayburn to stay away from his sister and leaves, waiting on the stairs for Mr. Headstone. The schoolmaster also confronts Wrayburn, who refuses to give any answers and questions whether Mr. Headstone also has designs on Lizzie. After Headstone leaves, Lightwood drags the truth out of Wrayburn. He...
(The entire section is 437 words.)
Part 2, Chapters 7-10 Summary
Mr. Boffin frequently shows up at Boffin’s Bower, which upsets Mr. Wegg, who thinks that he is being watched. Mr. Venus arrives at the Bower with Mr. Wegg’s leg, which Mr. Wegg says is his by law anyway. Mr. Venus is still in low spirits from being disappointed in love when his marriage proposal was rejected. Mr. Wegg shares with Mr. Venus his resentment at being passed over by Old Mr. Harmon in favor of the Boffins, having spoken to Mr. Harmon on several occasions. The two men discuss the possibility of starting a partnership, searching through the dust around the Bower for articles of any value. They agree to this proposal when Mr. Rokesmith arrives with a message for Mr. Wegg. He tells him that Mr. Boffin does not want Mr. Wegg to feel that he has to stay at home during the evenings in anticipation of Mr. Boffin’s arrival. This increases Mr. Wegg’s resentment, especially since the Boffins have moved into the house where Mr. Wegg’s imaginary family lived.
Mr. Boffin is confused as to Mr. Rokesmith’s refusal to be seen in society. The only person he will see is Bella, who will not go to see her family, much preferring her new life at the Boffins’. After Mr. Rokesmith questions her about this, Bella goes to her old home. She, her mother, and her sister Lavinia immediately begin to argue, with the result that all of them are in tears. Mr. Rokesmith picks Bella up and gives her a package from Mr. Boffin, which contains a purse with fifty pounds in it. She goes to pick up her father and convinces him to go with her to dinner. Bella supplements her father’s wardrobe, seeing his shabby appearance with new eyes. She gives him the money left over and tells him that she is determined to marry a rich man. On her way home, she regrets for the first time that John Harmon is dead.
Sloppy, a boy cared for by Betty Higden, comes to tell the Boffins that Johnny, the boy they had hoped to adopt, was ill. The Boffins and Mr. Rokesmith go to Mrs. Higden’s home and take Johnny to the Children’s Hospital. The doctor says that he was brought too late, and it is not long before Johnny dies. On hearing of the boy’s death, Mr. Wegg chuckles and dances with glee. The Boffins decide that it would be best to give up the idea of adopting a boy and calling him John Harmon, since the name does not seem to bring luck. They decide to turn their attentions to Sloppy and see what they can do for him.
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Part 2, Chapters 11-13 Summary
Miss Peecher questions her pupil, Mary Anne, about Charley Hexam’s sister. Mary Anne tells her where Lizzie lives, and soon Mr. Headstone comes to Miss Peecher’s home. Miss Peecher makes it clear that she knows Mr. Headstone is going to Lizzie’s home, but Mr. Headstone neither confirms nor denies. At Lizzie’s home, Mr. Headstone is quizzed by Jenny Wren until Lizzie arrives. Mr. Headstone tells Lizzie that she should end her relationship with Eugene Wrayburn, but Lizzie does not take his advice. Mr. Headstone says he has something else to tell her, but he cannot bring himself to do so and asks for another interview.
Pleasant Riderhood, the daughter of Gaffer’s former partner, Rogue, is visited by a strange man who wants to know where her father is. He seems to know Rogue’s true nature and his work on the river. Rogue arrives soon to talk with the stranger and sees him holding a knife that he recognizes as belonging to George Radfoot, a sailor friend of his. He demands to know where the stranger got the knife as well as Radfoot’s coat that he is wearing. The stranger tells Rogue that Radfoot is dead. Rogue suspects the stranger of killing Radfoot, but the stranger is vague. The stranger confronts Rogue with the truth about John Harmon’s murder and the innocence of Gaffer Hexam. He says that he will come soon with a statement to that effect for Rogue to sign.
The stranger leaves and looks out over the river. Through internal dialogue, he reveals himself to be Julius Hanford, the man who had come the night of John Harmon’s murder to identify the body. He also reveals himself to be John Rokesmith, the secretary of Mr. Boffin, who has inherited the Harmon fortune. And at last, he is John Harmon himself, the presumed-dead heir of Old Mr. Harmon. John Harmon remembers his arrival in London, unhappy about the conditions of his father’s will. He had befriended George Radfoot, and the two agreed to dress like common sailors and observe Bella Wilfer. On a wet night, Radfoot exchanged clothes with Harmon, who went to a coffee house frequented by Rogue Riderhood, who was looking to murder a sailor and take his money. Riderhood put poison in John Harmon’s coffee, but it did not kill him. He fell into the river but was rescued and taken to a tavern, where he recovered. Soon he learned of the body found in the river. Fearing the worst, he examined the body and saw that it was indeed Radfoot. Over the next few days, he...
(The entire section is 501 words.)
Part 2, Chapters 14-16 Summary
Mr. Rokesmith continues to “bury” John Harmon ever deeper, now that Bella Wilfer has rejected him as a poor man, rather than as John Harmon the rich man she has decided she must marry. Mrs. Betty Higden comes to the Boffins’ and tells Rokesmith that she is running away from Sloppy, who thinks that he can live with both the Boffins and her at the same time. She wants to remove herself to make his new life easier. She also complains of a deadness coming over her since Johnny’s death. She wants to borrow money from the Boffins to outfit a sewing basket so that she may travel around the country as a seamstress. While the Boffins regret losing her and would do more for her if she let them, Rokesmith encourages them to allow the old woman her independence. Bella helps her think of materials to buy and sends her off.
Rokesmith sends for Bradley Headstone to arrange for Sloppy’s schooling. He asks about Lizzie and the possibility that she is discriminated against because of her father’s involvement in the Harmon murder. Headstone shares with Rokesmith his disdain for Eugene Wrayburn and his doubtful intentions toward Lizzie.
Bradley Headstone and Charley Hexam arrange to run into Lizzie away from the influence of Jenny Wren. Bradley confesses that she has been the ruin of him and asks her to marry him. Lizzie refuses and is offended that he has even asked. He accuses her of being in the thrall of Eugene Wrayburn. When he grabs her arm, she becomes frightened and escapes. Charley runs after her and demands to know why she refuses to raise herself up from the lower class. He feels that she is dragging him down when he is working so hard to establish himself at a respectable level. He renounces her and leaves. While Lizzie sits weeping, Mr. Riah comes across her and begins to take her to his home to recuperate when Eugene Wrayburn arrives. He expresses his anti-Semitism to Mr. Riah and insists that he will be the one to take Lizzie home, even though she tells him to leave her to the care of Mr. Riah. In the end, both of them walk her home, and Wrayburn speculates about where his involvement with Lizzie will next take him.
At the Lammles’ first-anniversary dinner, Mr. Twemlow is told that he will be introduced to Fledgeby, who is his distant relation. The main topic of conversation at the dinner is the disappearance of Lizzie Hexam. Mrs. Lammle draws Twemlow aside and warns him that Mr. Lammle is intending to...
(The entire section is 453 words.)
Part 3, Chapters 1-4 Summary
On a foggy morning, Riah, the Jewish debt collector, goes to the offices of Pubsey and Co., awakening Fascination Fledgeby, even though it is after ten o’clock. He presents his accounts of debts to Fledgeby, who notes that “Queer Street is full of lodgers” (meaning, many people are deeply in debt). Alfred Lammle arrives and shows Fledgeby a note from Podsnap requesting that the Lammles stay away from Georgiana. Lammle and Fledgeby argue, blaming each other for the failure of their plans of having Fledgeby marry Georgiana for her money. After peace is made, Fledgeby warns Lammle never to fall into the hands of Pubsey and Co. as far as unpaid debts are concerned. Lammle is unsettled by this and leaves. Fledgeby muses to himself that he has never liked Lammle. He charges Riah with buying up bad debts. He asks Riah where the missing Lizzie Hexam is, but Riah refuses to say. Riah has arranged for her to leave London to escape Headstone’s and Wrayburn’s unwanted attentions.
Riah goes to see Jenny Wren. They tease each other, taking the roles of Cinderella and her Fairy Godmother. Jenny is desolate without Lizzie. She tries to keep busy dressing her dolls. They go to the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters to show Abbey Potterson the document signed by Rogue Riderhood absolving Gaffer Hexam of any guilt in the death of John Harmon. Miss Potterson confesses that she did wrong in barring Gaffer from her tavern, but her belief in Riderhood as a villain is strengthened. They are interrupted by sounds of a commotion—someone on the river has been run down by a steamer. The body is brought into the tavern. It is Rogue Riderhood.
The doctor arrives and does what he can to resuscitate Riderhood. His daughter, Pleasant, waits anxiously to see some signs of life, but also notices that for the first time, people are concerned for her father. Slowly, Riderhood begins to breathe once again. Now that Riderhood is safely brought back to life, everyone’s contempt for him returns. Being reminded that Riderhood has been barred from the tavern, Pleasant coldly promises to remove her unwanted father as soon as he has sufficiently recovered. Now fully conscious, Riderhood vows to “have the law” on the steamer that ran him down. He is upset to find that his rescuers did not also rescue his cap.
Mr. and Mrs. Wilfer give a dinner in honor of their wedding anniversary, though it is a gloomy affair. Bella decides that since her mother...
(The entire section is 568 words.)
Part 3, Chapters 5-7 Summary
Mr. Boffin is finally ready to talk wages with Mr. Rokesmith. He offers his secretary two hundred pounds a year, which Rokesmith views as fair. Mr. Boffin tells Rokesmith that he “buys” him on a round-the-clock basis. Mrs. Boffin thinks that he has been too strict with Rokesmith. Mr. Boffin tells Bella that her good looks will make money for her, and he urges her to use them to her own advantage. This also bothers Mrs. Boffin, as it does Bella, despite having told herself the same thing. In the following days, Mr. Boffin has Bella buy him books on the lives of misers. She notices that Mr. Boffin is becoming a miser himself. Sophronia Lammle becomes captivated by Bella, now that she has stopped her husband’s machinations of Georgiana Podsnap. Bella confides in her concerning Rokesmith and his rejected marriage proposal, though Bella questions her own motives. Mr. Boffin complains to Rokesmith that he is spending too much of Mr. Boffin’s money. He orders Rokesmith to leave his separate lodgings and move into the Boffin home so he may always be available. Mrs. Boffin becomes upset at the change in her husband.
Mr. Boffin does not show up at the Bower for the usual historical readings with Mr. Wegg. Mr. Venus arrives, however, and Wegg welcomes him in. Mr. Boffin arrives after all, carrying several books on the lives of misers to replace Wegg’s histories. Wegg reads a chapter titled “The Treasures of a Dunghill,” as well as others on the same theme, reminding Wegg and Venus of their secret business of finding valuables in the dust heaps. Mr. Boffin is inspired to go out alone to examine the dust heaps. Wegg watches him anxiously, especially when Boffin finds a bottle in the dust. Boffin returns to tell Wegg that he is selling the dust heaps, and they will be carted off the following day. Wegg wants to follow Mr. Boffin and snatch the bottle back, but Mr. Venus struggles with him and keeps him from doing so. Finally calm, Wegg tells Venus that he found a cash box in the dust heap. Inside was a parchment labeled “My Will, John Harmon, Temporarily Deposited Here.” The will stipulates that Boffin is to receive the little dust heap, and the rest of the estate will go to the Crown. Wegg found out that this will is more recent that that by which Boffin received the whole estate. The two men go to Venus’s shop to examine the will, lest Mr. Boffin return to the Bower. Venus decides he will keep the will, not trusting Wegg to...
(The entire section is 466 words.)
Part 3, Chapters 8-10 Summary
Betty Higden continues on her journey, though the Boffins receive no news of her. Her life has not been easy, and she struggles to maintain her independence. She travels up along the River Thames, fearful of “falling into the hands of Charity.” One day, sitting on a bench in a village marketplace, she faints. The villagers try to help her, asking her if she has anyone nearby to care for her. Betty tells them she does and escapes as quickly as she can. Another incident involves her seeing her dead children and grandchildren riding on a canal barge. The canal attendant questions her, believing her to be a vagrant. She shows him the Boffins’ letter, but he cannot read. He talks her into giving him all her money in exchange for letting her go, rather than turning her into the Charity authorities. She continues on, feeling that her life is slowly slipping away. She checks to see that the money to pay for her funeral is still sewn inside her gown. She sits under a tree and waits to die. She is found near death by Lizzie Hexam.
Betty Higden is buried, attended by the Reverend Frank Milvey. The mourners consist of Mrs. Milvey, John Rokesmith, Bella Wilfer, Lizzie Hexam, and Sloppy. Lizzie had contacted Rokesmith on Betty’s death, and arranged for the funeral with the help of Riah. Mrs. Milvey is concerned that Riah might convert her. Lizzie tells her that Riah and his wife have never questioned her about her religion and never talked about their own. Bella and Rokesmith talk together, sharing their observations of the sadness of Lizzie Hexam as well as their promise to keep her location a secret. Bella confesses her feeling of uselessness, but Rokesmith tells her that no one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it for anyone else. They speak of the change in Mr. Boffin brought about by his financial success and the suffering of Mrs. Boffin because of it. Bella and Lizzie speak of the secrecy of the person who caused the accusation against Gaffer to be dropped. Deciding to become friends with Bella, Lizzie tells her about her fear of Bradley Headstone, specifically, his threat against Eugene Wrayburn. On the way back to London, Bella tells Rokesmith that she has changed since meeting Lizzie.
Eugene Wrayburn comes to Jenny Wren under the pretense of wanting to buy a doll for his goddaughter, but Jenny know he really wants to find out where Lizzie is....
(The entire section is 532 words.)
Part 3, Chapters 11-14 Summary
Headstone watches outside Wrayburn’s lodgings. He suspects that Lizzie may be in Wrayburn’s chambers. The watchman lets him in and he listens at the door, hearing voices but not a woman’s.
Leaving, Headstone runs into Riderhood, who is there on business and explains that he is seeking damages from the steamer that ran him down as well as requesting a job as a Lock-keeper. Headstone asks Riderhood when he last saw Lizzie. Riderhood responds that it was the day Gaffer’s body was pulled from the river, which is also the only time he saw her with Wrayburn. Headstone gives Riderhood money and asks him to tell him if he should ever see Lizzie.
At breakfast, Mrs. Lammle remarks that the only income they have is from her annuity. Mr. Lammle reminds his wife that they are in league together by agreement. He also has used their furnishing as collateral for a loan from Riah, although Fledgeby warned him against it.
Mrs. Lammle points to Mr. Boffin as their next best hope, although Rokesmith stands in their way. If he could be gotten rid of, they might be able to arrange for Mr. Lammle to take his place as secretary. She devises a plan to tell Mr. Boffin about Rokesmith’s proposal to Bella, thus forming a breach between the two men.
Fledgeby arrives and Mr. Lammle begs him to convince Riah to give them more time to pay off their debt. Fledgeby agrees to try, but in fact he tells Riah to foreclose on the Lammles immediately.
While Fledgeby waits in the offices of Pubsey & Co., Jenny Wren and Twemlow both come to see Riah. Fledgeby pretends to have no connection to the business, but Jenny knows better. Fledgeby proclaims his disgust that Riah is foreclosing on the Lammles and offers to support Twemlow in his own dealings with Riah.
When Mr. Riah finally arrives, he tells Fledgeby that he has put up the Lammles’ property for auction. He also says he is calling Twemlow’s loan. Jenny tells Riah that he is a "Wolf in the Forest."
Mr. Venus, who still has old Mr. Harmon’s will, regularly attends Wegg’s readings to Mr. Boffin. He gives Mr. Boffin his card with a note requesting a meeting with him.
Mr. Boffin comes to Mr. Venus’s shop the next evening. Mr. Venus tells him of his agreement with Wegg, which he now regrets, and of the discovery of the will. Mr. Boffin offers Mr. Venus money to throw the will in the fire, but Mr. Venus refuses....
(The entire section is 505 words.)
Part 3, Chapters 15-17 Summary
Tensions increase between Mr. Boffin and Mr. Rokesmith. After Mrs. Lammle tells him about Rokesmith’s proposal to Bella, Mr. Boffin confronts his secretary, stating that it was sheer insolence on Rokesmith’s part to approach a woman so far above his station. Bella objects to Mr. Boffin’s attack on Mr. Rokesmith for her sake, but Mr. Boffin dismisses her objections. Bella begs Mr. Rokesmith’s forgiveness for the manner of her rejection of his proposal.
Mr. Boffin dismisses Rokesmith without letting him resign. Before he leaves, Rokesmith repeats his love for Bella, which has not lessened since her rejection. Mr. Boffins asks him how he can say he loves Bella when he would subject her to a life of poverty instead of stepping aside and letting her live a life of luxury by marrying a wealthy man. Bella angrily rejects Boffin and his money, apologizing to Rokesmith for being the cause of his downfall. Bella leaves the Boffin home, although Mr. Boffin warns her that if she does, she can never come back.
Bella arrives at her father’s office at the counting house to inform him that she has left the Boffins’ home and financial support. Mr. Rokesmith arrives, having assumed that Bella would run to her father immediately. Bella tells him that she is his if he will still have her.
Mr. Wilfer concludes that both Bella and Rokesmith have left Mr. Boffin. The three of them join together for a meal of milk and a cottage loaf, causing Bella to compare the trio to the three nursery hobgoblins at their house in the forest.
Mr. Wilder tries to prepare Bella for her mother and sister’s reactions to her return home. Mrs. Wilfer greets Bella with an “I told you so” attitude, but Bella refuses to be drawn into an argument. Lavinia archly announces to Bella that she and George Sampson are engaged. Although Bella refuses to argue, Mrs. Wilfer and Lavinia start to quarrel, as is their habit.
When the Lammles’ possessions are put up for auction, the Veneerings suddenly discover that the Lammles are not their oldest and dearest friends after all. They decide that they must give a dinner party for their real oldest and dearest friends.
Mrs. Lammle visit Mr. Twemlow to express her regret at involving him in her plot against Fledgeby and Georgiana Podsnap and informs him that it is Fledgeby rather than Riah who instigated both Twemlow’s and the Lammles’ financial downfall. She also...
(The entire section is 478 words.)
Part 4, Chapters 1-4 Summary
Rogue Riderhood is now the lock-keeper of Plashwater Weir-Mill Lock. Eugene Wrayburn comes through the lock, rowing a small boat. Not long after Wrayburn passes, Bradley Headstone appears, disguised as a bargeman. Riderhood recognizes him, however, and also knows that he is following Wrayburn.
Headstone tells Riderhood that he is sure that Wrayburn is going to Lizzie, who evidently must be nearby, and that is why he is following him. After Headstone leaves, Riderhood puts on a red neckerchief.
Headstone returns for a few hours of rest before returning to the pursuit. He observes closely the red neckerchief that Riderhood is wearing, as Riderhood intended him to. The next day, Headstone continues his chase and returns, announcing that he spotted Lizzie and Wrayburn together. As Headstone sleeps, Riderhood sees that he is wearing a red neckerchief.
Mr. and Mrs. Lammle come to see the Boffins at breakfast one morning but have difficulty in drawing them out into conversation. Their efforts to obtain positions with Mr. Boffin are met with uncomfortable silence. Mr. Boffin hands them an envelope containing one hundred pounds for their services in exposing Rokesmith, refusing them their desire to replace Rokesmith and Bella.
Georgiana Podsnap bursts into the room and throws herself on Mrs. Lammle, expressing her sorrow at the Lammles’ sudden poverty. She gives them fifteen pounds that she has saved along with a necklace. After Georgiana leaves, Mr. Boffin tells the Lammles that he will see that the money and the necklace are returned to Georgiana.
Mr. Boffin and Mr. Venus encounter each other on their way to see Wegg. They discuss both their plan concerning Wegg and Wegg’s plan concerning Mr. Boffin. Wegg immediately confronts Mr. Boffin with great disrespect, refusing to be subservient to him anymore, and demands the majority of Boffin’s wealth.
Boffin asks to see the will, so the three of them go to Mr. Venus’s shop. When Mr. Boffin reads the will, he pretends to be overcome. Wegg tells him that he must be under inspection until the money is divided. When he reaches his home, Boffin begins to laugh.
Bella, sneaking away from the rest of the family with her father, talks of her childhood and how unpleasant she used to be. They meet Mr. Rokesmith at Greenwich and then proceed to a church, where Bella Wilfers and John Rokesmith become man and wife.
(The entire section is 451 words.)
Part 4, Chapters 5-7 Summary
Mr. Wilfer returns home, pretending that he knows nothing of Bella’s whereabouts. Mrs. Wilfer, who has received the letter, tells him that he no longer has a daughter because Bella has married a mendicant (poor beggar).
Lavinia resents Bella for having jeopardized her relationship with George Sampson by running off and getting married. While Mrs. Wilfer and her daughter argue, Mr. Wilfer is content to stand to one side and avoid involvement. He tells his wife that, no matter her disapproval, both Bella and Rokesmith will be welcome in the Wilfer home.
A few weeks later, the Rokesmiths come to a very uncomfortable tea. On their walk home, Rokesmith asks Bella if she would rather that he were as rich as Mr. Boffin. Bella points out that neither she nor Boffin was better because of his wealth. This is a subject that Rokesmith brings up repeatedly as they adjust to married life. Mr. Wilfer frequently visits them without the rest of the family. Soon, Bella announces that she is going to have a baby.
In the village where she is hiding, Lizzie meets Wrayburn by the riverside. She begs him to go away and leave her alone. She leaves after Wrayburn promises not to follow her back to the village.
Wrayburn realizes that she does love him, even though she has requested him to forget her. He thinks of Lightwood’s remark that Wrayburn’s infatuation with Lizzie was a “bad business.” He passes a man carrying an object. He greets the man, but he makes no reply.
Suddenly, Wrayburn is struck repeatedly. He catches sight of a red neckerchief as his blood flows. He grabs at his assailant and they fall into the river.
Lizzie hears blows and a splash. She runs to the river, rows out, and drags a body back to the shore. The face has been beaten and disfigured so severely that she is unable to recognize him. She carries him to the house and calls surgeons in. They attend to the head wounds and the broken arms with little hope of recovery.
Bradley Headstone awakens Rogue Riderhood to open the door. Riderhood lets him in, saying that he was concerned about his disappearance and even thinking of advertising in the papers. Headstone goes to get to get some sleep and Riderhood notices that his clothes are torn and bloodied.
When he wakes up, Headstone eats dinner, supposedly accidentally cutting himself and shaking blood on Riderhood’s clothes. At sunset he leaves,...
(The entire section is 485 words.)
Part 4, Chapters 8-11 Summary
Jenny Wren, having discovered the hypocrisy of Riah, gets scraps for her doll clothes elsewhere, but she does not tell Lizzie what she has learned.
Fledgeby comes to see Jenny since she no longer comes to Pubsey and Co. He asks about Lizzie’s whereabouts, but Jenny will not tell him. He says that Riah has “dark motives” concerning Lizzie that he would like to prevent. Jenny agrees to meet him the following day.
The next morning, Jenny waits while Fledgeby meets with Alfred Lammle, who is leaving the country. Mr. Lammle soon comes downstairs and hands Jenny a broken cane for her to return to Fledgeby.
Jenny goes up to find Fledgeby writhing on the floor. Besides beating him with the cane, Lammle also shoved salt and snuff up his nose and down his throat. Jenny applies vinegar and brown paper, having added some pepper, to Fledgeby’s wounds.
Jenny visits Riah, declaring that he has changed back from being the Wolf to the Godmother, and asks his forgiveness for deserting him. Riah tells her that he has resigned from Pubsey and Co. He is thinking of going to help Fledgeby care for his wounds when a letter from Fledgeby arrives, telling him to leave immediately. Released, Riah tells Jenny that he is going to join Lizzie, but Jenny urges him to stay with her for a while.
A drunken Mr. Dolls goes to Covent Garden Market, where he is beaten by ruffians. He then staggers to the Temple, where he is carted off just as Riah and Jenny pass. Riah sees that Mr. Dolls is dying, so he is taken to the nearest doctor where he is pronounced dead.
Jenny, who always referred to her father as her “bad child,” states that things would have turned out differently if he had been brought up better. Mortimer Lightwood brings Jenny a message from Lizzie that Eugene Wrayburn is dying and has asked to see her.
Jenny arrives at Wrayburn’s bedside but he is too insensible to speak. After four days, Wrayburn requests that Jenny stay by his side while he is dying. He asks Lightwood never to bring his murderer to justice since it would harm Lizzie’s reputation. He insists it was not Bradley Headstone.
Wrayburn begs Lightwood to shield Lizzie. He lingers for days. Lightwood, at Jenny’s suggestion, asks Wrayburn if he wants to make Lizzie his wife, which Wrayburn affirms.
Lightwood returns to London to ask the Rokesmiths to the wedding. John Rokesmith, who...
(The entire section is 490 words.)
Part 4, Chapters 12-14 Summary
Bella gives birth to a baby girl, and John asks her again if she would like to be rich. After a few months, Bella notices that John seems uneasy, but he will not tell her why. He keeps asking her if she would like to be rich, but she always answers that she would not.
As they are out walking, they unexpectedly meet Lightwood, who recognizes John as Julius Handford from before he became John Rokesmith. Bella is shocked, knowing that Julius Handford was wanted for questioning in the death of Gaffer Hexam. Lightwood points out that John’s avoidance of him increases the suspicion of his involvement in Gaffer’s murder.
At home, John tells Bella, who has asked no questions, that the mystery soon will be over. Bella assures him that she has perfect faith in him even though he is suspected as the murderer of John Harmon.
Mr. Inspector soon arrives to question John. He, Bella, and John go to the police station and then to the Six Jolly Fellowship-Porters. Bella faints from the strain, so John takes her home.
The next day, John tells her that he has left his job at the China house and that they are moving to a new home. They drive across town to the Boffin house, where Mr. and Mrs. Boffin beam and welcome them home.
Mr. and Mrs. Boffin are overjoyed to welcome John and Bella back home. Mrs. Boffin explains how she found out John’s true identity. After Bella rejected his proposal, John was sitting by the fire. Mrs. Boffin immediately recognized him in that light, having seen him sit so as a child in the Bower when he was John Harmon.
Both the Boffins then became involved in the plot to test Bella’s love for John rather than for money, even to the point that Mr. Boffin pretends to be a miser and throws John out, since Bella had become obsessed with marrying a rich man. He intended to show her the corrupting influence of money rather than the source of happiness she thought it to be.
John escorts his wife through her new home. The dust mounds are finally removed, but no valuables turn up. Mr. Venus arrives and announces that Pleasant Riderhood has changed her mind and will marry him the following Monday. Wegg tells him that the time has come to finish off Boffin.
The next morning, Mr. Venus meets Wegg at Boffin’s doorstep. Wegg is shown in, maintaining his arrogance by refusing to take off his hat, which John Harmon smacks off his head and throws out the...
(The entire section is 517 words.)
Part 4, Chapters 15-17 Summary
Bradley Headstone is haunted by the fear of being caught for his attempted murder of Eugene Wrayburn as well as the realization that his attempt to separate Wrayburn and Lizzie had in fact brought them together.
One day, Rogue Riderhood shows up at his school while he is teaching class. He asks for Wrayburn, and Headstone nervously says he will tell him to meet Riderhood at the lock. Riderhood asks the pupils what is found in a river and answers his own question: a bundle of clothes, which he reveals under his arm.
After Riderhood leaves, Headstone falls into another fit, knowing that Riderhood knows he murdered Wrayburn. The next day, Headstone walks up to the Lock, where he meets Riderhood.
The lock-keeper demands money and Headstone’s silver watch, which he left back with Miss Peecher. As Riderhood and Headstone are walking back to London to retrieve the watch and the money, Headstone grabs Riderhood and falls into the river, where they both drown.
John and Bella rectify many areas of their lives that had suffered by John’s “death and resurrection.” Mortimer Lightwood gives them legal help; Fledgeby’s victims are given relief.
Mrs. Wilfer, Lavinia, and George Sampson go to see Bella’s new home, arguing all the way there. George feels that he is inadequate now that Bella has gained a secure financial position. Mrs. Wilfer goes through the visit stiffly, refusing to be impressed by Bella’s new wealth.
Jenny and Sloppy meet and become good friends, with the hint of something more. Sloppy, who has become a cabinet maker now that he is no longer in the service of Silas Wegg, offers to make a work chest for Jenny as well as a decorative new head for her cane, although he gallantly says that it does not appear to him to be necessary.
Eugene Wrayburn, who is on the road to recovery, and Lizzie come to see John and Bella in London. Lightwood visits Wrayburn and learns that he has made peace with his family now that he is married.
Wrayburn tells Lightwood that he has thought of taking Lizzie and going to one of the colonies but decides it would be like sneaking off with a wife who might not be accepted by Society. He intends to fight for her against his old friends.
Mortimer Lightwood receives an invitation to a dinner at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Veneering. It will not be long, however, before the Veneerings go bankrupt and go to...
(The entire section is 494 words.)