He went to the river's edge, and flung it in as far, and yet as lightly as he could (p. 299) —​ James Mahoney's fifty-first illustration for Dickens's Our Mutual Friend, Household Edition, 1875, has the same caption in both the New York and London printings. Wood engraving by the Dalziels, 9.3 cm high x 13.3 cm wide. The composite wood-engraving concerns the aftermath of Bradley Headstone's attempted murder of Eugene Wrayburn, when he endeavours (as he had undopubtedly planned before committing the crime) to dispose of the bloody clothing which he wore during the assault. The scene is the upper Thames, not far from Rogue Riderhood's look-keeper's hut on Plashwater Weir. The picture lays the basis for Riderhood's attempting to blackmail Headstone, and that initiative's fatal consequences for both villains.

Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL.]

Passage Realised

"By George and the Draggin!" cried Riderhood, "if he ain't a going to bathe!"

"He had passed back, on and among the trunks of trees again, and has passed on to the water-side and had begun undressing on the grass. For a moment it had a suspicious look of suicide, arranged to counterfeit accident. "But you wouldn't have fetched a bundle under your arm, from among that timber, if such was your game!" said Riderhood. Nevertheless it was a relief to him when the bather after a plunge and a few strokes came out. "For I shouldn't," he said in a feeling manner, "have liked to lose you till I had made more money out of you neither."

Prone in another ditch (he had changed his ditch as his man had changed his position), and holding apart so small a patch of the hedge that the sharpest eyes could not have detected him, Rogue Riderhood watched the bather dressing. And now gradually came the wonder that he stood up, completely clothed, another man, and not the Bargeman.

"Aha!" said Riderhood. "Much as you was dressed that night. I see. You're a taking me with you, now. You're deep. But I knows a deeper."

When the bather had finished dressing, he kneeled on the grass, doing something with his hands, and again stood up with his bundle under his arm. Looking all around him with great attention, he then went to the river's edge, and flung it in as far, and yet as lightly as he could. It was not until he was so decidedly upon his way again as to be beyond a bend of the river and for the time out of view, that Riderhood scrambled from the ditch.

"Now," was his debate with himself, "shall I foller you on, or shall I let you loose for this once, and go a fishing?" The debate continuing, he followed, as a precautionary measure in any case, and got him again in sight. "If I was to let you loose this once," said Riderhood then, still following, "I could make you come to me agin, or I could find you out in one way or another. If I wasn't to go a fishing, others might. — I'll let you loose this once, and go a fishing!" With that, he suddenly dropped the pursuit and turned. — Book Four, Ch. 7, "Better to be Cain than Abel," p. 298-299.

Commentary: Bradley Headstone and Rogue Riderhood

Early reviewers noted the neurotic nature of the schoolmaster, and that he is what we today would call a "stalker," shadowing both Lizzie Hexam and Eugene Wrayburn; here, the stalker becomes the prey as Rogue Riderhood (now lock-keeper at Plashwater Weir Lock) determines to get to the bottom of Bradley Headstone's odd behaviour, including his wearing clothing exactly like Riderhood's. Riderhood in his new situation has had ample opportunity to observe the comings and goings of the young lawyer ("T' other governor") on his frequent visits to Lizzie, who works at the paper-mill, and "The Governor," their patient stalker. School holidays have given Headstone the freedom to observe the pair, for which activity he has adopted a disguise — clothing matching Riderhood's own. Although all of these characters are what one contemporary reviewer termed "mere supernumeraries in the drama" (cited in Grass, 244), readers of the final numbers were apparently fascinated by how Dickens utilised the surveillance conducted by the lock-keeper as a means of coherently developing the love-triangle that has likely led to murder.

Mahoney does not attempt to describe the assault itself, for doing so would render the climactic wrestling scene on the lock, Mahoney's penultimate illustration, a repetition of this earlier violent episode. Nor does he merely ignore it, as Dickens's own serial illustrator, Marcus Stone did in the monthly number for September 1865, in which he prepares the reader for the setting and circumstances of the assault but does not forewarn the reader that Headstone's shadowing Wrayburn will result in attempted murder. He then provides this second, followup illustration in which Headstone attempts to cover his tracks, again strongly suggestive of the crime's premeditated nature, a scene developed from the perspective of Riderhood so that the reader is, as it were, at Riderhood's shoulder. The other approach by the third significant illustrator of the text, Harry Furniss's, is as successful as Mahoney's "book-end" approach at generating suspense, and is equally dramatic. Again the illustrator realises a significant moment in the chapter "A Cry for Help" without giving away the fact that the young attorney will survive the attack.

The present Mahoney plate most closely resembles the frontispiece for volume four in the 1866 "Household" Edition, in which Felix Octavius Carr Darley depicts Rogue Riderhood following Bradley Headstone as he attempts to destroy the clothing he wore during the assault — the clothing that Riderhood retrieves from the river in order to blackmail the schoolmaster. Whereas Darley had focussed in the frontispiece on Rogue Riderhood's surveillance of Headstone in On the Track, the crime-and-detection aspect of the novel, Mahoney and Furniss seized upon one of the most suspenseful sequences in the final movement of the story. Furniss's illustration Lizzie Hexam to the Rescue shifts the emphasis significantly from the rivalry between the male admirers of Lizzie towards an appreciation of her pivotal role in Eugene's escaping drowning and being recalled to life.

As in the text, in the present Mahoney illustration Riderhood peers out from behind a bramble-hedge at the figure standing on the shore, beyond some felled trees. Mahoney effectively presents "a solitary spot run wild in nettles, briers, and brambles, and encumbered with scathed trunks of a whole hedge-row of felled trees" (298), a backdrop psychologically appropriate to Headstone's tormented mentality as depicted in the Marcus Stone illustration Better to be Cain than Abel (September 1865). In this Mahoney illustration, Riderhood, however, does not appear to be in a ditch, although Mahoney uses the top-hat worn by the distant Headstone to suggest that he has reverted to his own, professional garb, and that the bargeman's clothing is now a mere bundle. The picture therefore continues the novel's surveillance motif that runs through so many of the plot-lines.

The relevant illustrations in the original and later editions, 1865-1910

Left: F. O. C. Darley's frontispiece On the Track (1866), in which Headstone attempts to destroy the clothing he wore when he attacked Wrayburn. Centre: Marcus Stone's September 1865 serial illustration of Bradley Headstone in the throes of dementia or guilt, Better to be Cain than Abel.​Right: Clayton J. Clarke's character study of the shiftless water-rat without his signature fur-hat, Rogue Riderhood (1910). [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Above: Marcus Stone's interpretation of the emotional scene on the river bank when Lizzie attempts to break off her relationship with Eugene, The Parting by the River (September 1865). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Above: Harry Furniss's Lizzie Hexam to the Rescue. (1910). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]


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Last modified 12 January 2016