'This is a confoundedly out-of-the-way place,' said Mortimer, slipping over the stones and refuse on the shore, as the boy turned the corner sharp.
'Here's my father's, sir; where the light is.'
The low building had the look of having once been a mill. There was a rotten wart of wood upon its forehead that seemed to indicate where the sails had been, but the whole was very indistinctly seen in the obscurity of the night. The boy lifted the latch of the door, and they passed at once into a low circular room, where a man stood before a red fire, looking down into it, and a girl sat engaged in needlework. The fire was in a rusty brazier, not fitted to the hearth; and a common lamp, shaped like a hyacinth- root, smoked and flared in the neck of a stone bottle on the table. There was a wooden bunk or berth in a corner, and in another corner a wooden stair leading above--so clumsy and steep that it was little better than a ladder. Two or three old sculls and oars stood against the wall, and against another part of the wall was a small dresser, making a spare show of the commonest articles of crockery and cooking-vessels. The roof of the room was not plastered, but was formed of the flooring of the room above. This, being very old, knotted, seamed, and beamed, gave a lowering aspect to the chamber; and roof, and walls, and floor, alike abounding in old smears of flour, red-lead (or some such stain which it had probably acquired in warehousing), and damp, alike had a look of decomposition.
'The gentleman, father.'
The figure at the red fire turned, raised its ruffled head, and looked like a bird of prey.
'You're Mortimer Lightwood Esquire; are you, sir?'
'Mortimer Lightwood is my name. What you found,' said Mortimer, glancing rather shrinkingly towards the bunk; 'is it here?'
''Tain't not to say here, but it's close by. I do everything reg'lar. I've giv' notice of the circumstarnce to the police, and the police have took possession of it. No time ain't been lost, on any hand. The police have put into print already, and here's what the print says of it.'
Taking up the bottle with the lamp in it, he held it near a paper on the wall, with the police heading, BODY FOUND. The two friends read the handbill as it stuck against the wall, and Gaffer read them as he held the light.
'Only papers on the unfortunate man, I see,' said Lightwood, glancing from the description of what was found, to the finder.
Here the girl arose with her work in her hand, and went out at the door.
'No money,' pursued Mortimer; 'but threepence in one of the skirt- pockets.'
'Three. Penny. Pieces,' said Gaffer Hexam, in as many sentences.
'The trousers pockets empty, and turned inside out.'
Gaffer Hexam nodded. 'But that's common. Whether it's the wash of the tide or no, I can't say. Now, here,' moving the light to another similar placard, 'HIS pockets was found empty, and turned inside out. And here,' moving the light to another, 'HER pocket was found empty, and turned inside out. And so was this one's. And so was that one's. I can't read, nor I don't want to it, for I know 'em by their places on the wall. This one was a sailor, with two anchors and a flag and G. F. T. on his arm. Look and see if he warn't.'
'This one was the young woman in grey boots, and her linen marked with a cross. Look and see if she warn't.'
'This is him as had a nasty cut over the eye. This is them two young sisters what tied themselves together with a handkecher. This the drunken old chap, in a pair of list slippers and a nightcap, wot had offered--it afterwards come out--to make a hole in the water for a quartern of rum stood aforehand, and kept to his word for the first and last time in his life. They pretty well papers the room, you see; but I know 'em all. I'm scholar enough!'
He waved the light over the whole, as if to typify the light of his scholarly intelligence, and then put it down on the table and stood behind it looking intently at his visitors.