Study Guide

Our Mutual Friend Book 1, Part 4, Chapter 12

By Charles Dickens

Book 1, Part 4, Chapter 12

The Sweat of an Honest Man's Brow

  • Mortimer Lightwood and his partner Eugene sit down for dinner in Mortimer's office. They've decided to set up a new law practice in an old cottage on the Thames River.
  • Turns out that Eugene's dad has found a wife for Eugene, and this woman has a good chunk of money coming with her. Eugene isn't impressed. He claims he can't get married because he gets bored too easily.
  • At this point, Lightwood turns to the door and finds a man standing there. The guy is none other than the pesky Riderhood, and he has come to swear that Gaffer Hexam is responsible for the murder of John Harmon.
  • Lightwood is understandably skeptical because Riderhood has no proof other than his word, and his word doesn't count for much because he has a terrible reputation. Riderhood invents a big elaborate story of how Gaffer Hexam told him about killing Harmon, and he includes all kinds of details that might be true. But the fact remains that he has no proof.
  • Eugene asks whether Riderhood is accusing Hexam's daughter Lizzie of knowing about the crime as well. Riderhood says that Lizzie didn't know, which seems to satisfy Eugene.
  • They all go to Gaffer's house and peek inside. Only Lizzie is at home, so they turn and head for the police station.
  • The inspector wants to go bring Hexam in, but he's worried the guy will bolt if he suspects an arrest. The inspector makes a big show of heading to the bar with Eugene and Mortimer and pretending to talk about some phony business deal while they hatch a plan for Gaffer. Eugene and Mortimer get a real kick out of the situation.