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Title: Great Porter Square, v. 1 - A Mystery.
Author: Farjeon, Benjamin Leopold
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Great Porter Square, v. 1 - A Mystery." ***

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  GREAT PORTER SQUARE:
  A MYSTERY.

  BY
  B. L. FARJEON,

  _Author of "Grif," "London's Heart," "The House of White
  Shadows," etc._


  _IN THREE VOLUMES._

  VOLUME I.


  LONDON:
  WARD AND DOWNEY,
  12, YORK STREET, COVENT GARDEN.
  1885.
  [ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.]



  PRINTED BY
  KELLY AND CO., GATE STREET, LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS
  AND KINGSTON-ON-THAMES.



CONTENTS.


   CHAP.                                                        PAGE

      I.--Introduces Mrs. James Preedy; hints at the trouble
           into which she has fallen; and gives an insight into
           her social position                                     1

     II.--What was printed on the quarto bill: a proclamation
           by her Majesty's Government                            19

    III.--Extracted from the "Evening Moon"                       25

     IV.--The examination of Mrs. Preedy, continued from the
           "Evening Moon"                                         33

      V.--Contains further extracts from the "Evening Moon"
           relating to the Great Porter Square mystery            50

     VI.--The "Evening Moon" speaks its mind                      56

    VII.--In which the "Evening Moon" continues to speak its
           mind                                                   62

   VIII.--The "Evening Moon" postpones its statement
           respecting Antony Cowlrick                             88

     IX.--In which the "Evening Moon" relates the adventures of
           its Special Correspondent                              90

      X.--The Special Reporter of the "Evening Moon" makes the
           acquaintance of a little match girl                   121

     XI.--The "Evening Moon" for a time takes leave of the case
           of Antony Cowlrick                                    142

    XII.--Mrs. Preedy has dreadful dreams                        147

   XIII.--Mrs. Preedy's young man lodger                         154

    XIV.--In which Becky commences a letter to a friend in the
           country                                               167

     XV.--In which Becky continues her letter, and relates how
           she obtained the situation at No. 118                 175

    XVI.--In which Becky writes a second letter to her friend
           in the country, and gives a woman's reason for not
           liking Richard Manx                                   183

   XVII.--In which Becky, continuing her letter, relates her
           impressions of Mrs. Preedy's young man lodger         193

  XVIII.--The "Evening Moon" reopens the subject of the Great
           Porter Square murder, and relates a romantic story
           concerning the murdered man and his widow             219

    XIX.--The "Evening Moon" continues its account of the
           tragedy, and describes the shameful part enacted by
           Mr. Frederick Holdfast in his father's house          244



GREAT PORTER SQUARE:

A MYSTERY.



CHAPTER I.

  INTRODUCES MRS. JAMES PREEDY; HINTS AT THE TROUBLE INTO WHICH SHE
    HAS FALLEN; AND GIVES AN INSIGHT INTO HER SOCIAL POSITION.


Mrs. James Preedy, lodging-house keeper, bred and born in the vocation,
and consequently familiar with all the moves of that extensive class of
persons in London that has no regular home, and has to be cooked for,
washed for, and generally done for, sat in the kitchen of her house,
No. 118, Great Porter Square. This apartment was situated in the
basement, and here Mrs. Preedy received her friends and "did" for her
lodgers, in so far as the cooking for them can be said to be included
in that portentous and significant term. The floor of the kitchen was
oil-clothed, with, in distinguished places, strips of carpet of various
patterns and colours, to give it an air. Over the mantelpiece was a
square looking-glass in a mahogany frame, ranged on each side of which
were faded photographs of men, women, and children, and of one gentleman
in particular pretending to smoke a long pipe. This individual, whose
face was square, whose aspect was frowning, and whose shirt sleeves were
tucked up in an exceedingly free and easy fashion, was the pictorial
embodiment of Mrs. Preedy's deceased husband. While he lived he was "a
worryer, my dear," to quote Mrs. Preedy--and to do the lady justice, he
looked it; but being gone to that bourne from which no lodging-house
keeper ever returns, he immediately took his place in the affections of
his widow as "the dear departed" and a "blessed angel." Thus do we often
find tender appreciation budding into flower even at the moment the
undertaker nails the lid upon the coffin, and Mr. Preedy, when the
breath was out of his body, might (spiritually) have consoled himself
with the reflection that he was not the only person from whose grave
hitherto unknown or unrecognised virtues ascend. The weapons of the dead
warrior, two long and two short pipes, were ranged crosswise on the wall
with mathematical tenderness. When her day's work was over, and Mrs.
Preedy, a lonely widow, sat by herself in the kitchen, she was wont to
look regretfully at those pipes, wishing that he who had smoked them
were alive to puff again as of yore; forgetting, in the charity of her
heart, the crosses and vexations of her married life, and how often she
had called her "blessed angel" a something I decline to mention for
defiling the kitchen with his filthy smoke.

The other faded photographs of men, women, and children, represented
three generations of Mrs. Preedy's relations. They were not a handsome
family; family portraits, as a rule, when the sun is the painter, are
not remarkable for beauty, but these were a worse lot than usual. In
their painful anxiety to exhibit themselves in a favourable light, Mrs.
Preedy's relations had leered and stared to such a degree that it must
have been no easy matter for them to get their features back into their
natural shape after the photographer in the City Road was done with
them. To make things worse, they were in their Sunday clothes, and if
they had just been going into the penitentiary they could not have
looked more unhappy and uncomfortable.

On the mantelpiece, also, were two odd broken lustres which, in the
course of their chequered career, had lost half their crystal drops;
two fat vases, with a neat device of cabbage roses painted on them;
an erratic clock, whose vagaries supplied a healthy irritant to its
mistress; and a weather indicator, in the shape of an architectural
structure representing two rural bowers, in one of which, suspended on
catgut, dwelt an old wooden farmer, and in the other, also suspended on
catgut, a young wooden woman. When the weather was going to be stormy,
the wooden old farmer swung out, and with an assumption of preternatural
wisdom stared vacantly before him; when it was going to be fine,
the wooden young woman made her appearance, with a smirk and a leer
indicative of weak brains. They never appeared together; when one was in
the other was out; and that they were more frequently wrong than right
in their vaticinations concerning the weather (being out when they ought
to have been in, and in when they ought to have been out: which, in an
odd way, has a political signification) did not in the slightest degree
affect the wooden impostors. In this respect they were no worse than
other impostors, not made of wood, who set themselves up as prophets
(announcing, for instance, from time to time, the end of the world),
and exhibit no sense of shame at the continual confounding of their
predictions.

The other furnishings of the room were in keeping. The kitchen range;
the dresser, with its useful array of plates and dishes, and pots and
pans; the sideboard, with its obstinate drawers, which, when they did
allow themselves to be pulled out, gave way with a suddenness which
brought confusion on the operator; the six odd chairs, one of black
horsehair, bits of which peeped up, curious to see what was going
on; one very sad, of green rep, representing faded gentility; two of
wood and two of cane, and all of different breeds; the sofa, with a
treacherous sinking in its inside, indicative of spasms and rickets; the
solid, useful kitchen table, upon which many a pudding had been made,
and many a slice cut from lodger's joints; the what-not of walnut wood,
utterly useless, despite its pretension; the old-fashioned high-backed
piano, with very little music in it, which had been taken for a debt
from two old maiden sisters who had seen better days, and who had
drifted, drifted, till they had drifted to Great Porter Square; the
extraordinary production in water colours, which might have been a ship
on fire, or a cornfield in a fit, or a pig cut open, or a castle on a
sunlit mountain, or the "last-day," or a prairie of wild buffaloes,
executed by one of Mrs. Preedy's nephews, and regarded as a triumph of
art; the two coloured prints, one of the Queen, the other of Prince
Albert; the six odd volumes of books, all tattered and torn, like the
man in the nursery rhyme;--these were the elegant surroundings which set
the stamp upon Mrs. Preedy's social standing in the neighbourhood of
Great Porter Square.

There were four doors in the kitchen--one leading into the passage which
communicated with the upper portion of the house, another affording
an entrance into Mrs. Preedy's bedchamber, another disclosing a dark
cupboard, apparently about four feet square, but which, being used as a
bedroom by the maid-of-all-work, must have been slightly larger, and the
last conducting to the scullery, which opened into the area, through the
iron grating of which in the pavement above, human nature monotonously
presented itself in a panoramic prospect of definite and indefinite
human legs and ankles. Here, also, glimpses of a blissful earthly
paradise were enjoyed by the various maids-of-all-work who came and went
(for none stopped long at No. 118), through the medium of the baker, and
the butcher, and even of the scavenger who called to collect the dust.
Many a flirtation had been carried on in that dark nook. Beneath area
railings, as in the fragrant air of fashionable conservatories, Love is
lord of all.

Mrs. Preedy was alone. Not a soul was in the kitchen but herself. In the
dark cupboard the maid-of-all-work was enjoying, apparently, a sleep as
peaceful and noiseless as the sleep of a flower. It was nearly twelve
o'clock at night, and not a sound was to be heard but Mrs. Preedy's
heavy breathing, as, with many a sigh, she read, in the columns of a
much-thumbed newspaper, an item of news in the shape of a police report,
which must have possessed a singular magnetic power, inasmuch as she had
read it so often that she ought to have known it by heart. Nevertheless,
upon the present occasion, she did not miss a single word. Spectacles
on nose, she followed the report line by line, keeping faithful mark
with her forefinger until she reached the end; and then she commenced it
all over again, and inflicted what was evidently a serious mortification
upon herself. For it was not to be doubted, from the various shades of
inquietude and distress which passed over her face as she proceeded,
that the subject matter was exceedingly distasteful to her. It would
have been the dryest of dry work but for the glass of gin and water from
which Mrs. Preedy occasionally took a sip--moistening her grief, as it
were. The liquid might have been supposed to have some kind of sympathy
for her, exciting her to tears, which flowed the more freely the more
she sipped.

Once, treading very softly, she crept out of the room into the passage,
and looked up the dark staircase. As she did so, she was seized with
a fit of trembling, and was compelled to cling to the balustrade for
support. She crept upstairs to the street door, at which she listened
for a familiar sound. With her hand on the handle she waited until
she heard the measured tread of a policeman; then she opened the door
suddenly. It was a complaining, querulous door, and as she opened it a
jarring sound escaped from its hinges. This sound produced an effect
upon the policeman. He started back in affright, and with one leap
placed himself outside the kerb of the pavement. No cause for reasonable
alarm presenting itself, he looked up, and saw Mrs. Preedy standing upon
the threshhold.

"O, it's you, Mrs. Preedy?" he said, half-questioning.

"Yes," she replied, "it's me."

"You startled me," he said, coming close to her. "As the door opened
it sounded like a smothered cry for 'Help,' and I won't deny that it
startled me."

"I don't wonder at it," said Mrs. Preedy; "sometimes the least sound
sends my 'eart into my mouth."

By one impulse they both looked at the house next door, No. 119 Great
Porter Square. The next moment they turned their heads away from the
house.

"Will you have a glass of gin?" asked Mrs. Preedy.

"I've no objections," replied the guardian of the night.

He stepped inside the passage, and waited while Mrs. Preedy went
downstairs--now with a brisker step--and returned with a glass of
liquor, which he emptied at a gulp. Thus refreshed, he gave the usual
policeman's pull at his belt, and with a "thank 'ee," stepped outside
the street door.

"A fine night," he said.

"Yes," said Mrs. Preedy.

"But dark."

"Yes," acquiesced Mrs. Preedy, with a slight shudder, "but dark. 'As
anythink been discovered?" with another shrinking glance at No. 119.

"Nothing."

"'As nobody been took up?" she asked.

"No," replied the policeman. "One man come to the station last night
and said he done it; but he had the delirium trimmings very bad, and we
found out this morning that he was in Margate at the time. So of course
it could'nt have been him."

"No," said Mrs. Preedy, "but only to think of it--though it's more than
two months ago--sends the cold shivers over me."

"Well, don't you be frightened more than you can help. _I'll_ look after
you."

"Thank you," she said.

"Good night."

"Good night."

She closed the door and crept down to her kitchen, and sat down once
more to a perusal of the newspaper.

There were other papers on the table at which she occasionally glanced,
and also a quarto bill printed in large type, with a coat of arms at the
top, which caused her to shudder when her eyes lighted on it; but this
one paper which she read and re-read in anguish and tribulation of soul,
appeared to enchain her sole attention and sympathy. The quarto bill
was carefully folded, and what was printed thereon was concealed from
view; but its contents were as vivid in Mrs. Preedy's sight as they
would have been if they had been printed in blood.

The truth was, Mrs. Preedy was in trouble. A terrible misfortune had
fallen upon her, and had occasioned a shock to her nervous system from
which she declared she could never recover. But even this affliction
might have been borne (as are many silent griefs from which, not
unfrequently, the possessors contrive to extract a sweet and mournful
consolation), had it not been accompanied by a trouble of a more
practical nature. Mrs. Preedy's means of livelihood were threatened,
and she was haunted by grim visions of the workhouse.

The whole of the upper part of her lodging-house--the dining rooms, the
drawing rooms, the second and third floors, and the garrets or attics,
the boards of which were very close to the roof--were ordinarily let to
lodgers in various ranks and stations of life, none apparently above
the grade of the middle class, and some conspicuously below it. Many
strange tenants had that house accommodated. Some had come "down" in
life; some had been born so low that there was no lower depth for them;
some had risen from the gutters, without adding to their respectability
thereby; some had floated from green lanes on the tide which is ever
flowing from country to city. How beautiful is the glare of lights, seen
from afar! "Come!" they seem to say; "we are waiting for you; we are
shining for you. Why linger in the dark, when, with one bold plunge, you
can walk through enchanted streets? See the waving of the flags! Listen
to the musical murmur of delight and happiness! Come then, simple ones,
and enjoy! It is the young we want, the young and beautiful, in this
city of the wise, the fair, the great!" How bright, even in fragrant
lanes and sweet-smelling meadows, are the dreams of the great city
in the minds of the young! How bewitching the panorama of eager
forms moving this way and that, and crossing each other in restless
animation! Laughter, the sound of silver trumpets, the rustle of silken
dresses, the merry chink of gold, all are there, waiting to be enjoyed.
The low murmur of voices is like the murmur of bees laden with sweet
pleasure. Distance lends enchantment, and the sound of pain, the cry of
agony, the wail and murmur of those who suffer, are not heard; the rags,
the cruelty, the misery, the hollow cheeks and despairing eyes, are not
seen. So the ships are fully freighted, and on the bosom of the tide
innocence sails to shame, and bright hope to disappointment and despair.

But it mattered not to Mrs. Preedy what kind of lives those who lodged
with her followed. In one room a comic singer in low music-halls; in
another a betting man; in another a needle-woman and her child; in
another a Frenchman who lay abed all day and kept out all night; in
another a ballet girl, ignorant and pretty; in another the poor young
"wife" of a rich old city man; and a hundred such, in infinite variety.
Mrs. Preedy had but one positive test of the respectability of her
lodgers--the regular payment of their rent. Never--except, indeed,
during the last few weeks to one person--was a room let in her house
without a deposit. When a male lodger settled his rent to the day, he
was "quite a gentleman;" when a female lodger did the same, she was
"quite a lady." Failing in punctuality, the man was "a low feller," and
the woman "no better than she should be, my dear."

At the present time the house was more than half empty, and Mrs. Preedy,
therefore, was not in an amiable mood. Many times lately had she said
to neighbour and friend that she did not know what would become of
her; and more than once in the first flush of her trouble, she had
been heard to declare that she did not know whether she stood on her
head or her heels. If the declaration were intended to bear a literal
interpretation, it was on the face of it ridiculous, for upon such a
point Mrs. Preedy's knowledge must have been exact; but at an important
period she had persisted in it, and, as the matter was a public one,
her words had found their way into the newspapers in a manner not
agreeable or complimentary to her. Indeed, in accordance with the
new spirit of journalism which is now all the fashion, three or four
smartly-conducted newspapers inserted personal and quizzical leading
articles on the subject, and Mrs. Preedy was not without good-natured
friends who, in a spirit of the greatest kindness, brought these
editorial pleasantries to her notice. She read them in fear and
trembling at first, then with tears and anger, and fright and
indignation. She did not really understand them. All that she did
understand was that the cruel editors were making fun of the misfortunes
of a poor unprotected female. Curious is it to record that the departed
Mr. James Preedy came in for a share of her indignation for being dead
at this particular juncture. He ought to have been alive to protect her.
Had the "blessed angel" been in the flesh, he would have had a warm time
of it; as it was, perhaps, he was having---- But theological problems
had best be set aside.

Mrs. Preedy read and read, and sipped and sipped. Long habit had endowed
her with a strength of resistance to the insidious liquid, and, although
her senses were occasionally clouded, she was never inebriated. She
read so long and sipped so frequently, that presently her eyes began
to close. She nodded and nodded, bringing her nose often in dangerous
proximity with the table, but invariably, at the critical moment, a
violent and spasmodic jerk upwards was the means of saving that feature
from fracture, though at the imminent risk of a dislocation of the
slumberer's neck.

While she nods in happy unconsciousness, an opportunity is afforded of
looking over the newspapers, especially that which so closely concerns
herself, and the quarto bill, printed in large type, the contents of
which she so carefully conceals from sight.



CHAPTER II.

  WHAT WAS PRINTED ON THE QUARTO BILL: A PROCLAMATION BY HER MAJESTY'S
    GOVERNMENT.


Have you ever observed and studied the expressions on the faces of the
people who congregate before the "Murder" proclamations pasted up in
Scotland Yard, and on the dead walls of the poor neighbourhoods in
England? Have you ever endeavoured, by a mental process, to discover the
characters of some of these gaping men and women who read the bills and
linger before them with a horrible fascination? Appropriate, indeed,
that such announcements of mysterious murders should be pasted on _dead_
walls! Come with me, and mingle for a few moments with this little
group, gathered before a Government proclamation in Parliament-street,
offering a reward for the discovery of a murderer. Here is a
respectable-looking workman, with his basket of tools over his shoulder,
running his eyes swiftly down the bill, and taking in its purport with
rapid comprehension. He knows already about the murder, as indeed all
London does, having read the particulars in the newspapers. "They've
offered a reward at last," he thinks, with a scornful smile: "they ought
to have done it a month ago. Too late, now. This is another added to
the list. How many undiscovered murders have been committed in the last
twelve months? Temple of intellect, Scotland Yard!" As he walks away to
his work, he looks with a kind of contempt at the policeman sauntering
lazily along. Here is a young woman, without a bonnet, reading the bill
very slowly; she can read quicker if she likes, but as the words pass
before her eyes, she thinks of her own life and the drunken brute of a
man she is living with. She would leave him to-day, this very moment,
but she is afraid. "Do!" the brute has frequently exclaimed, when she
has threatened to run away from him; "and say your prayers! As sure as
you stand there I'll kill yer, my beauty! I don't mind being 'ung for
yer!" And in proof of his fondness for her, he gives her, for the
hundredth time, a taste of his power by striking her to the earth. "Git
up!" he cries, "and never cheek me agin, or it'll be worse for yer." "I
wonder," the young woman is now thinking as she reads the particulars of
the murder, "whether there'll ever be a bill like that out about _me_;
for Jack's a cunning one!" Here is an errand boy reading the bill, with
his eyes growing larger and larger. Murders will be committed in his
dreams to-night. But before night comes an irresistible fascination will
draw him to the neighbourhood in which the murder was committed, and he
will feast his eyes upon the house. Here is an old woman spelling out
the words, wagging her head the while. It is as good as a play to her.
She lives in Pye Street, Westminster, and is familiar with crime in its
every aspect. She is drunk--she has not been sober a day for thirty
years. Well, she was born in a thief's den, and her mother died in a
delirium of drink. Here is a thief, who has lived more than half his
life in prison, reading the bill critically, with a professional eye.
It would be a pleasure to him to detect a flaw in it. There is in his
mind a certain indignation that some person unknown to himself or his
friends should have achieved such notoriety. "I'd like to catch 'im," he
thinks, "and pocket the shiners." He wouldn't peach on a pal, but, for
such a reward, he would on one who was not "in the swim." Here is a
dark-visaged man reading the bill secretly, unaware that he is casting
furtive glances around to make sure that he is not being watched. There
is guilt on the soul of this man; a crime undiscovered, which haunts him
by day and night. He reads, and reads, and reads; and then slinks into
the nearest public-house, and spends his last twopence in gin. As he
raises the glass to his lips he can scarcely hold it, his hand trembles
so. How sweet must life be to the man who holds it on such terms; and
how terrible the fears of death! Here is another man who reads the bill
with an assumption of indifference, and even compels himself to read it
slowly a second time, and then walks carelessly away. He walks, with
strangely steady steps, along Parliament Street, southwards, and turns
to Westminster Bridge, holding all the way some strong emotion in
control. Difficult as it is, he has a perfect mastery over himself, and
no sound escapes him till he reaches the bridge; then he leans over,
and gives vent to his emotion. It takes the form of laughter--horrible
laughter--which he sends downwards into the dark waters of the Thames,
hiding his face the while! What secret lies concealed in his brain? Is
he mad--or worse?

Many small knots of people had lately gathered before the bills posted
on London walls, of which one was in the possession of Mrs. James
Preedy:


[Illustration]

MURDER.

£100 REWARD.

_Whereas, on the morning of Thursday, the 10th of July, the Dead Body of
a_ MAN _was found on the premises, No. 119, Great Porter Square, London,
under such circumstances as prove that he was Murdered. An Inquest
has been held on the Body, and the Coroner's Jury having returned a_
"VERDICT OF WILFUL MURDER AGAINST SOME PERSON OR PERSONS UNKNOWN," _the
above Reward will be paid to any Person (other than a Person belonging
to a Police Force in the United Kingdom) who shall give such Information
as shall lead to the Discovery and Conviction of the Murderer or
Murderers; and the Secretary of State for the Home Department will
advise the Grant of her Majesty's Gracious_

PARDON

_to any Accomplice not being the Person who actually committed the
Murder who shall give such evidence as shall lead to a like result._

_Evidence to be given, to the Director of Criminal Investigators, Great
Scotland Yard, or at any Police station._



CHAPTER III.

EXTRACTED FROM THE "EVENING MOON."


The _Evening Moon_ was an enterprising little paper, which gave all
the news of the day in a fashion so entertaining that it was a success
from its first appearance. Between noon and night a dozen editions were
published, and were hawked about the streets by regiments of ragged boys
and girls (irregular infantry), whose vivacity and impudence added to
the circulation, if they did not to the dignity, of the journal. Beneath
the heading of the paper was a representation of the moon with the man
in it looking at a spade--to which was tacked the legend: "What do
you call this?" "A spade." "Then I shall call it a spade." Despite
this declaration it delighted in word-painting, and its reports of
police-court proceedings, highly coloured in many instances and
unwarrantably but agreeably spiced with romance, were read with avidity.
The _Evening Moon_ of the 19th of August contained the following report
of the police-court proceedings in

THE GREAT PORTER SQUARE MYSTERY.

"The inquiry into the awful and mysterious murder in Great Porter Square
was resumed this morning at the Martin Street Police Court, before the
resident magistrate, Mr. Reardon. The accused person, Antony Cowlrick,
who presented a woe-begone appearance, was brought up in charge of the
warders. The case has been adjourned four times, and this was the fifth
appearance of Antony Cowlrick in the dock. The police preserve a strict
silence with regard to him--a silence against which we protest. Arrested
upon suspicion, without warrant, and without, so far we can learn, a
shadow of evidence against him, nothing but injustice and wrong can
accrue from the course pursued by the Scotland Yard officials. Antony
Cowlrick is unmistakably a poor and miserable man. All that was found
upon him when he was arrested were a stale crust of bread and a piece of
hard cheese, which he had thrust into his pocket as he was flying from
the pursuit of an enterprising constable. His very name--the name he
gave at the lock-up on the night of his arrest--may be false, and, if
our information is correct, the police have been unable to discover
a single person who is acquainted with, or can give any information
concerning him. The rumour that Antony Cowlrick is not quite right in
his mind certainly receives some confirmation from his haggard and
wandering looks; a more wretched and forlorn man has seldom been seen
in a magistrate's court, suggestive as such a place is of misery and
degradation. He was carefully guarded, and a strict watch was kept upon
his movements, the theory of the police being that he is a dangerous and
cunning character, whose sullen demeanour is assumed to defeat the ends
of justice. Mr. White Lush, on the part of the Treasury, conducted
the inquiry. The interest taken by the public in the case is still
unabated, and the court--if a close, abominably-ventilated room fourteen
feet square can be so denominated--was crowded to excess.

On the calling of the case, the magistrate inquired if the accused man
was still undefended, and the police replied that no one appeared for
him. The answer was scarcely given when Mr. Goldberry (of the firm of
Goldberry, Entwistle, and Pugh), rose and said that he was there to
represent the accused.

Magistrate: Have you been instructed?

Mr. Goldberry: No, your worship. A couple of hours ago I endeavoured to
confer with the prisoner, but the police refused me permission to see
him.

Inspector Fleming explained that when Mr. Goldberry sought an interview
with the prisoner, the prisoner was asked whether he wished to see him;
his answer was that he wished to see no one.

Mr. Goldberry: Still, it cannot but be to the prejudice of the prisoner
that he should be unrepresented, and I am here to watch the case in his
interest.

Magistrate: Perhaps you had better confer with him now.

A few minutes were allowed for this purpose, at the end of which Mr.
Goldberry said, although it was impossible to obtain anything like
satisfaction from the accused, that he did not object to the appearance
of a solicitor on his behalf. "He seems," added Mr. Goldberry, "to be
singularly unmindful as to what becomes of him."

Magistrate: The case can proceed.

Mr. White Lush: Call Mrs. Preedy.

The witness presented herself, and was sworn.

Mr. White Lush: Your name is Anna Maria Preedy?

Witness: Yes, sir.

Mr. White Lush: You are a widow?

Witness: Yes, sir, worse luck. 'Is name was James, poor dear!

Mr. White Lush: You live at No. 118, Great Porter Square?

Witness: Yes, sir.

Mr. White Lush: How long have you occupied your house?

Witness: Four and twenty year, come Michaelmas.

Mr. White Lush: What kind of a house is yours?

Witness (with spirit): I defy you or any gentleman to say anythink agin
its character.

Mr. White Lush: You keep a lodging-house?

Witness: I'm none the worse for that, I suppose?

Mr. White Lush: Answer my question. You keep a lodging-house?

Witness: I do, sir.

Mr. White Lush: Do you remember the night of the 9th of last month?

Witness: I've got reason to.

Mr. White Lush: What reason?

Witness: Two of my lodgers run away without paying their rent.

Mr. White Lush: That circumstance fixes the night in your mind?

Witness: It'd fix it in yours if you kep' a lodging-house. (Laughter.)

Mr. White Lush: No doubt. There were other circumstances, independent of
the running away of your lodgers, which serve to fix that night in your
mind?

Witness: There was, sir.

Mr. White Lush: The night was Wednesday?

Witness: It were, sir.

Mr. White Lush: How and at what time did you become aware that your
lodgers had run away?

Witness: When the last post come in. I got a letter, and the turn it
gave me----

Mr. White Lush: That is immaterial. Have you the letter with you?

Witness: The way the perlice 'as been naggin' at me for that letter----

Mr. White Lush: Have you the letter with you?

Witness: It's lost, sir.

Mr. White Lush: Let me impress upon you that this letter might be an
important link in the case. It is right and proper that the police
should be anxious about it. Do you swear positively that you have lost
it?

Witness: I do, sir.

Mr. White Lush: How did it happen?

Witness: It were a fortnight after the body was found in No. 119. I 'ad
the letter in my 'and, and was lookin' at it. I laid it down on the
kitchen table, and went to answer the street door. When I come back the
letter was gone.

Mr. White Lush: Was any person in the kitchen when you left it?

Witness: Not as I am aware on, sir. There was a 'igh wind on, and I left
the kitchen door open, and when I come back I noticed a blaze in the
fire, as though a bit of paper had been blown into it.

Mr. White Lush: Then your presumption is that the letter is burnt?

Witness: It air, sir.

Mr. White Lush: You have searched for it since?

Witness: I've 'unted 'igh and low, sir, without ever settin' eyes on
it.



CHAPTER IV.

THE EXAMINATION OF MRS. PREEDY, CONTINUED FROM THE "EVENING MOON."


Mr. White Lush: You are quite confident in your own mind that the letter
is no longer in existence.

Witness: I can't swear to that, sir.

Mr. White Lush: You swear that you know nothing of it whatever?

Witness: Yes, sir.

Mr. White Lush: Now, what were the contents of the letter?

Witness: It were to inform me that the droring-rooms had bolted----

Magistrate: Bolted?

Witness: Run away, and wasn't coming back, and that I might 'elp myself
to what was in the trunk to pay my bill.

Mr. White Lush: Did you help yourself?

Witness: The meanness! I went up to the droring-room, and opened the
trunk.

Mr. White Lush: Was it locked?

Witness: It were, sir.

Mr. White Lush: How did you open it?

Witness: With a poker.

Mr. White Lush: What did you find in it?

Witness: Bricks.

Mr. White Lush: Nothing else?

Witness: Not a blessed thing.

Mr. White Lush: What occurred then?

Witness: I were overcome with a 'orrid suspicion.

Mr. White Lush: Concerning what?

Witness: My second floorer.

Magistrate: Is that a poetical image, Mr. Lush?

Mr. White Lush (smiling): I really cannot say. This is a case with very
little poetry in it. (To witness): Your second floorer? Do you mean your
tenant on the second floor?

Witness: That were my meaning, sir.

Mr. White Lush: And acting on your horrid suspicion, you----

Witness: Run up stairs as fast as my legs would carry me.

Mr. White Lush: What did you discover? That your second floorer had run
away?

Witness (very solemnly): He 'ad, sir.

Mr. White Lush: Did you open his trunk?

Witness: I did, sir.

Magistrate: With your universal key--the poker?

Witness: Yes, sir.

Mr. White Lush: That trunk, surely, was not also full of bricks?

Witness: I am sorry to inform you, sir, it were.

Magistrate: A singular coincidence.

Mr. White Lush: The witness's two lodgers were evidently regular bricks.
(Great laughter.) Were your drawing rooms and your second floorer on
terms of intimacy?

Witness: Not as I was aware on, sir.

Mr. White Lush: What did you do then?

Witness: I went out to speak to a neighbour.

Mr. White Lush: To tell her of your misfortunes?

Witness: Yes, sir.

Mr. White Lush: At what time did you return to your house?

Witness: It were eleven o'clock, sir--striking as I opened the door. I
stood on the steps, and counted the strokes: One--Two--Three----

Mr. White Lush: That will do. We will imagine the clock has struck.
While you were out, did you observe anything unusual in the next house,
No. 119?

Witness: Nothink, sir.

Mr. White Lush: You saw no strangers prowling about?

Witness: I did not, sir. Somebody pushed agin me--

Mr. White Lush: Yes?

Witness: It were Mr. Simpson, dining room, three doors off, in his usual
condition. He always comes 'ome so.

Mr. White Lush: Did he speak to you?

Witness: He growled at me.

Mr. White Lush: What did you do then?

Witness: I went down to the kitchen, and fell into a doze.

Mr. White Lush: For how long did you doze?

Witness: I can't rightly say, sir. About arf-an-hour, perhaps.

Mr. White Lush: Was there a candle alight in the kitchen when you fell
asleep?

Witness: Yes, sir.

Mr. White Lush: Was it a whole candle?

Witness: No, sir, it were arf burnt down.

Mr. White Lush: What kind of candles do you burn in your kitchen?

Witness: Taller dips, sir--twelves.

Mr. White Lush: For about how long will one of these tallow dips burn?

Witness: Three hours and more.

Mr. White Lush: Was the candle you left burning on your kitchen table
when you fell into a doze alight when you awoke?

Witness: It were, sir, and it burnt blue.

Mr. White Lush: What do you mean by that?

Witness: I don't know, sir. It burnt blue. There was something
mysterious about it.

Magistrate: Perhaps the witness smelt sulphur also.

Mr. White Lush: Did you smell sulphur?

Witness: Not as I'm aware on, sir.

Mr. White Lush: When you awoke, was it a natural awaking, or were you
suddenly aroused?

Witness: I were suddenly woke, and I was all of a tremble.

Mr. White Lush: You were frightened by something?

Witness: I were, sir, and I were not.

Mr. White Lush: I do not understand you. Was there anybody or anything
in the room besides yourself?

Witness: I didn't see nothink--not even a mouse.

Mr. White Lush: Then what were you frightened at?

Witness: It were a fancy, perhaps--or a dream that I couldn't remember;
and all at once I 'eerd a scream.

Mr. White Lush: From what direction?

Witness: From the next house, No. 119.

Mr. White Lush: You heard a scream proceeding from 119, the house in
which the murder was committed?

Witness: As near as I can remember, sir.

Mr. White Lush: That is not what I want. You possess the usual number of
senses, I suppose?

Witness: I defy anybody to say anything to the contrairy.

Mr. White Lush: You look like a sensible woman. (Here the witness made
an elaborate curtsey to Mr. White Lush, which occasioned much laughter.)
Your hearing is good?

Witness: It air, sir. Mrs. Beale was saying to me only yesterday
morning, 'Mrs. Preedy,' says she----

Mr. White Lush: Never mind what Mrs. Beale was saying to you. Listen to
what I am saying to you. On the occasion we are speaking of, you heard a
scream?

Witness (after a long pause, during which she seemed to be mentally
asking questions of herself): I think I may wenture to say, sir, I did.

Mr. White Lush: Ah, that is more satisfactory. Now, Mrs. Preedy, attend
to me.

Witness: I'm a-doing of it, sir.

Mr. White Lush: Thank you. Did the scream proceed from a man or a woman?

Witness (with energy): I couldn't tell you, sir, if you went down on
your bended knees.

Mr. White Lush: Reflect a little; take time. You have heard hundreds of
men's and women's voices----

Witness: Thousands, sir.

Mr. White Lush: And a woman of your discernment must have perceived a
difference between them. Women's tones are soft and dulcet; men's,
gruffer and more resonant. It is important we should know whether it was
a man's or a woman's voice you heard?

Witness: It ain't possible for me to say, sir.

Mr. White Lush: Is that really the only answer you can give?

Witness: I'd give you another if I could, sir. It's true I've 'eerd
thousands of men's and women's voices, but I've not been in the 'abit
of 'aving thousands of men and women screaming at me.

Mr. White Lush: Was it a loud scream?

Witness: There was a brick wall between us, and it must 'ave been a loud
scream, or I couldn't have 'eerd it.

Mr. White Lush: What followed?

Witness: Music. Almost on the top of the scream, as a body might say, I
'eerd music.

Mr. White Lush: What instrument was being played upon?

Witness: The pianner, sir. I 'eerd the pianner playing.

Mr. White Lush: That is to say you heard a man or woman playing the
piano?

Witness: I wouldn't swear, sir.

Mr. White Lush: Or a child?

Witness: I wouldn't swear, sir.

Mr. White Lush: But you have sworn. You say that you heard the sound of
a piano?

Witness: I did 'ear it, sir. The pianner was playing.

Mr. White Lush: A piano can't play of itself. You heard a man, or a
woman, or a child, playing the piano?

Witness: Wild 'orses sha'n't tear it from me, sir. It might 'ave been a
spirit.

Mr. White Lush: What do you say to a cat?

Witness: No, sir, it ain't reasonable.

Mr. White Lush: You stick to the spirit, then?

Witness: It might 'ave been.

Mr. White Lush: You believe in spirits?

Witness: I do, sir.

Mr. White Lush: Out of a bottle? (Laughter.)

Magistrate: The witness has the bottle-imp in her mind, perhaps?
(Renewed laughter.)

Mr. White Lush: Very likely. (To witness): Did the spirit you heard
playing come out of a bottle?

Witness (with dignity): I am not in the habit of making a beast of
myself.

Mr. White Lush: But a little drop now and then, eh, Mrs. Preedy?

Witness: As a medicine, sir, only as a medicine. I suffer a martyrdom
from spasms. (Laughter.)

Mr. White Lush: A common complaint, Mrs. Preedy. I suffer from them
myself.

Witness: You look like it, sir. (Screams of laughter.)

Mr. White Lush: For how long a time did the music continue?

Witness: For five or six minutes, perhaps.

Mr. White Lush: Are you sure it did not last for a longer time--or a
shorter?

Witness: No, sir, I am not sure. I was in that state that everythink
seemed mixed up.

Mr. White Lush: The music might have lasted for half-an-hour?

Witness: It might, sir.

Mr. White Lush: Or for only a minute?

Witness: Yes, sir.

Mr. White Lush: When the music stopped, what occurred?

Witness: If you was to feed me on bread and water for the next twenty
years I couldn't tell you.

Mr. White Lush: Why couldn't you tell me?

Witness: Because I don't know whether I was standing on my 'ead or my
'eels. (Roars of laughter.)

Mr. White Lush: Nonsense, Mrs. Preedy, you do know.

Witness: Beggin' your pardon, sir, I do not know. I ought to know
whether I don't know.

Mr. White Lush: Are you standing on your head or your heels at the
present moment?

Witness did not reply.

Magistrate: Do you mean to tell the court seriously that you are not
aware whether, at the time referred to, you were standing on your head
or your heels?

Witness: I wouldn't swear to it, my lordship, one way or another.

Mr. White Lush: What did you do when the music stopped?

Witness: I flopped.

Mr. White Lush: Did you flop on your head or your heels?

Witness: I couldn't take it upon myself to say, sir.

Mr. White Lush: And this is all you know of the murder?

Witness: If you was to keep me 'ere for a month, sir, you couldn't get
nothink else out of me.

Mr. White Lush: I have done with you.

Mr. Goldberry: I shall not detain you long, Mrs. Preedy. Look
attentively at the prisoner. Do you know him?

Witness: No, sir.

Mr. Goldberry: Have you ever seen him in Great Porter Square?

Witness: Neither there or nowheres else. This is the first time I ever
set eyes on 'im.

Mr. Goldberry: You swear that, positively.

Witness: If it were the last word I ever spoke, it's the truth.

Mr. Goldberry: That will do.

Mrs. Preedy left the witness box in a state of great agitation, amid the
tittering of the spectators.

Mr. Goldberry, addressing the Bench, said that he saw in the Court
three of the constables who had been instrumental in arresting the
prisoner, one being the officer who had first observed the prisoner in
Great Porter Square. It was well known that the prisoner had declined
to put a single question to one of the witnesses called on behalf of
the Treasury. He asked to be allowed to exercise the privilege of
cross-examining these constables, and he promised to occupy the court
but a very short time.

No objection being raised, Police-constable Richards entered the witness
box.

Mr. Goldberry: Before you helped to arrest the prisoner in Great Porter
Square, had you ever seen him before?

Witness: It's hard to say.

Mr. Goldberry: It is not hard to say. You would find no difficulty in
replying to such a question if it were to tell against the prisoner
instead of in his favour? I must have an answer. Had you ever seen him
before that night?

Witness: I can't call to mind that I have.

Mr. Goldberry: Do you know anything of him, in his favour or against
him, at this present moment?

Witness: I do not.

Mr. Goldberry: Call constable Fleming. (Constable Fleming stepped into
the box.) Before the night of the prisoner's arrest had you ever seen
him?

Witness: I can only speak to the best of my knowledge----

Mr. Goldberry: You are not expected to speak from any other knowledge.
You are aware, if that man is put on his trial, that it will be for his
life. I insist upon fair play for him. Had you ever seen him before that
night?

Witness: Not as far as I can remember.

Mr. Goldberry: You have taken a lesson from Mrs. Preedy. Do you know
anything against him now?

Witness: No.

Mr. Goldberry: Call Constable Dick. (Constable Dick stepped into the
box). You have heard the questions I put to the last two witnesses.
They are what I shall substantially put to you. Before the night of the
prisoner's arrest had you ever seen him?

Witness: No.

Mr. Goldberry: Do you know anything of him at the present moment?

Witness: No.

Mr. Goldberry then addressed the bench. The inquiry had already been
adjourned four times, and not a tittle of evidence had been brought
forward to connect the prisoner with the dreadful crime. He was utterly
unknown to the police, who had instigated the charge against him,
and who, being unable to identify him, were deprived the pleasure of
testifying that he belonged to the dangerous classes of society. It
was partly because of this singular aspect of the case that he, Mr.
Goldberry, had voluntarily come forward to defend a man who, upon the
face of the evidence, was innocent of the charge so wildly brought
against him. It appeared to him that liberty of the person was in
danger. It was monstrous that such a power should be exercised by the
police. To be poor, as the accused evidently was, was no crime; to be
forlorn and wretched, as the accused appeared to be, was no crime; but
the police evidently regarded these misfortunes as proofs of guilt. He
applied for the prisoner's discharge.

Mr. White Lush said it was scarcely necessary to say a word in defence
of the police, who, in the exercise of their arduous duties, generally
acted with fair discretion. To discharge the prisoner at this stage
of the proceedings would not unlikely defeat the ends of justice. He
understood that the police were on the track of some important evidence
regarding the prisoner in connection with the crime, and he asked for an
adjournment for a week.

The prisoner, who, during the entire proceedings, had not uttered a
word, was remanded, and the case was adjourned until this day week.



CHAPTER V.

  CONTAINS FURTHER EXTRACTS FROM THE "EVENING MOON" RELATING TO THE
    GREAT PORTER SQUARE MYSTERY.


Yesterday the inquiry into the Great Porter Square mystery was resumed
at the Martin Street Police Court, before Mr. Reardon. The court was
again crowded, and the prisoner, Antony Cowlrick, was brought in
handcuffed. His appearance was, if possible, more forlorn-looking and
wretched than on the previous occasions, and his face bore the marks
of a scuffle. Mr. White Lush again appeared for the Treasury, and Mr.
Goldberry for the prisoner. As a proof of the public feeling respecting
the conduct of the police in this case we have to record that during
his progress down Martin Street towards the Magistrate's Court, Mr.
Goldberry, who has so generously come forward on behalf of the prisoner,
was loudly cheered.

Mr. White Lush rose, and stated that he was not prepared to offer any
further evidence, in consequence of the inquiries of the police not
being concluded. He applied for another adjournment of a week.

A buzz of astonishment and indignation ran through the court, which was
quickly suppressed.

Mr. Reardon: I was not prepared for this application. It is my duty to
do everything in my power to assist the course of justice, but I cannot
shut my eyes to the fact that the prisoner has now been brought before
me six times, and that on the occasion of every adjournment the police
have promised to produce evidence affecting the prisoner which up to the
present moment is not forthcoming. If it is my duty to further the ends
of justice, it is equally the duty of the police to see that it does not
lag. A suspected person--suspected with cause and reason--should not be
allowed the opportunity of escape; but some protection must be given to
a man who is presumably innocent. Since last week I have carefully gone
over and considered the evidence presented in this court with respect to
this awful and mysterious murder; and I am hardly inclined to allow the
accused to remain any longer in prison on this charge. What has Mr.
Goldberry to say?

Mr. Goldberry: I am glad--as I am sure the public will be--to hear the
expression of your worship's sentiments in the matter. It is not my
wish to excite false sympathy for the prisoner, but I would draw your
worship's attention, and the attention of the police, to the reasonable
presumption that while they are wildly hunting for evidence against an
innocent man, the criminal is being allowed every opportunity to escape
the hands of justice. It would almost seem--far be it from me to assert
that it is so, for I am sure it would be untrue--but it would almost
seem as if they were playing into the hands of the real criminal. The
only excuse that can be found for the police is, that a murder having
been committed, somebody had to be arrested and charged with its
committal, and, with this end in view, Cowlrick was indiscriminately
taken up and so charged. Zeal is a fine quality, but, when misapplied,
frequently leads to grave consequences. In my defence of the prisoner I
have had great difficulties to contend with. He has not assisted me in
the slightest degree. It is no breach of professional confidence to say
that, in my interviews with him, he has doggedly refused to give me
any information concerning himself; but as I have before asserted that
poverty and wretchedness were not to be accepted as marks of guilt, so I
now declare that the prisoner's strange reticence concerning himself is
also no crime. Nor is eccentricity a crime. I have had no opportunity
of conversing with the prisoner this morning, or of seeing him before
I entered the court a few minutes since, and I have to ask the meaning
of those marks upon his face--to which I direct your worship's
attention--and of his being handcuffed.

The police explained that on his way to Martin Street police court the
prisoner had attempted to escape, and that a struggle had taken place,
during which a constable and the prisoner had received several blows.

Mr. Goldberry asked if the constable who had been struck was present,
and the answer was given that he was not; he was on duty in another
place.

Mr. Goldberry: I will not comment upon the occurrence; in the marks upon
the prisoner's face, and in the absence of the constable who is said
to have been struck, it speaks for itself. I strenuously oppose the
application for a remand, and I demand the prisoner's discharge on the
plain grounds that there is no evidence against him.

Mr. White Lush: In the interests of justice, I ask for a further remand.

Mr. Reardon: Am I to understand that if I remand the prisoner until this
day week, you will be prepared to bring forward evidence which will
justify not only his present but his past detention?

Mr. White Lush: I am informed that such evidence will be forthcoming.

Mr. Reardon: Upon that understanding the prisoner is remanded until this
day week.

[Decoration]



CHAPTER VI.

THE "EVENING MOON" SPEAKS ITS MIND.


Yesterday, at the Martin Street Police Court, Antony Cowlrick was
brought up for the seventh time, on the charge of being concerned in
the mysterious murder which took place at No. 119, Great Porter Square.
The remarks we have from time to time made upon this case and upon
the arrest of Antony Cowlrick have been justified by the result. The
prisoner was finally discharged. All that was wanted to complete the
tragical farce was a caution from the magistrate to the prisoner not to
do it again.

We now intend to speak plainly; and the strong interest the case has
excited will be our excuse if our comments are more lengthy than those
in which we generally indulge in our editorial columns. The elements
of mystery surrounding the awful murder were sufficiently complicated
without the assistance of the police. Their proceedings with respect
to the man calling himself Antony Cowlrick have rendered the task of
bringing the murderer to justice one of enormous difficulty.

Our business at present is not so much with the murder itself as it is
with Antony Cowlrick and the police; but a brief recapitulation of the
circumstances of the murder is necessary for the proper understanding of
what is to follow.

On Tuesday, the 1st of July, a gentleman engaged a back room on the
first floor of the house No. 119, Great Porter Square. There was a piano
in the room. The landlady of that house, who has undergone more than one
lengthy examination, has stated that she "reckoned him up" as a man who
had just come from a voyage, and that there was something superior "in
the looks of him." When she asked him for his name he said it did not
matter, and he handed her four weeks' rent, telling her at the same time
not to trouble herself about a receipt. This was sufficient for the
landlady; she received the stranger as a tenant, and he took possession
of the room.

He led a remarkably quiet life. He did not trouble the landlady to cook
a meal for him, although "attendance" was included in the sum charged
for the rent of the room. He had but one visitor, a lady, who came so
closely veiled that no person in the house caught a glimpse of her face.
She called three times, and when the street door was opened, asked for
"the gentleman on the first floor," and went up to him without waiting
for an answer. This lady has not come forward, and she has not been
tracked. After the 10th of July no female resembling in the slightest
the vague description given of her has called at No. 119, Great Porter
Square.

It happened, singularly enough, that on the 9th of July the house was
almost empty. The landlady's niece was married on that day, and the
landlady was at the wedding; there was to be a dance in the evening, and
she did not expect to be home until very late. Invitations had not only
been given to the landlady, but to three of her lodgers, two of whom
were married. Another lodger, a violin player, was engaged for the
music. It was a kind of happy family affair, arranged by Fate. Only the
general servant and the stranger were left.

The servant was human, and took advantage of the golden opportunity. If
we had been in her place, and had "a young man," we should probably have
done the same. She did not have many holidays, and knowing that her
services would not be required, and that her mistress and the lodger
would not be home till early in the morning, she made an appointment
with her "young man," who treated her to the Alhambra. When the
performances at the Alhambra were concluded, this young person and her
young man indulged in supper, and, tempted to daring by the opportunity,
she did not return to the house until an hour past midnight. She noticed
nothing unusual when she entered; conscience-stricken at the late hour
she did not light a candle, but thankful that her mistress had not
returned, she crept down to her bedroom in the basement, and went to
bed in the dark. She fell asleep at once, and we have the testimony of
her mistress that the girl is an exceedingly heavy sleeper, and most
difficult to wake. We ourselves have a servant--a most desirable
creature, whom we are ready to part with on moderate terms--similarly
afflicted. Thus it may be said that, for many mysterious hours, the
only occupant of the house was the stranger who occupied the front
drawing-room.

It was nearly four in the morning before the wedding guests, jaded with
pleasure, found themselves in Great Porter Square. The wedding had been
a jolly affair, and dancing had been prolonged beyond the anticipated
hour of breaking up. Jaded as they were, the spirits of the little knot
of merrymakers were not quite exhausted, and as they paused before the
door of No. 119, with the morning's sweet fresh light upon them, they
laughed and sang, and so inspired the musician that he took his violin
from its green baize bag and struck up a jig. With their tired feet
moving to the measure they entered the house, the door of which was
opened by the landlady with her private key; they tripped up the steps
and lingered in the passage, dancing to the music. Exhilarated by the
occasion they wound in and out along the narrow passage, until the wife
of one of the lodgers suddenly uttered a shriek which drove the colour
from their flushed faces.

"My God!" shrieked the terrified woman, "we are dancing in blood!"

[Decoration]



CHAPTER VII.

IN WHICH THE "EVENING MOON" CONTINUES TO SPEAK ITS MIND.


It was fatally true. They were dancing in blood. The woman who made the
awful discovery had white satin shoes on. As she uttered the appalling
words she looked down at her feet, and, with a wild shudder, sank into
her husband's arms. He, overwrought with excitement, had scarcely
sufficient strength to support her, and he would have allowed her to
slip to the floor had he not, also, cast his eyes earthwards. Quickly he
caught her to his breast, and, trembling violently, proceeded upstairs.
The weight of his burden compelled him to hold on to the balustrade;
but the moment he placed his hand on the polished rail, he screamed,
"There's been Murder done here!" And, shaking like a leaf, he retreated
in haste till he reached the street door. Flinging it open, he rushed
with his wife into the Square, and stood in the light of the sunrise, a
picture of terror.

The other actors in the scene had borne appropriate parts in the tragic
situation. For a little while they were paralyzed, and incapable of
action. The streaming in of the daylight aroused them, and they looked
about timidly. On the floor, stairs, and balustrade were marks of blood
not yet quite dried, and they traced the crimson stains to the end of
the passage, where it dipped into the narrow staircase which led to the
basement. There being no natural means of lighting the stairway, this
part of the house was usually lit up by a thin, funereal jet of gas,
which burnt as sadly as if its home were a tomb. At present it was in
darkness, the gas being turned off.

The thought that had been put into words by the man who had rushed out
of the house now took its place in the minds of those who remained
within. There had been murder done. But who was murdered, and where was
the murderer?

"That comes," said the violinist to the landlady, "of letting a man into
the house who refuses to give his name."

The landlady wrung her hands. She saw ruin staring her in the face.

"He's off, of course," continued the violinist, "and Mary" (the name of
the servant) "lies downstairs, murdered in cold blood."

A sound sleeper, indeed, must Mary have been to have slept through
the music, and the dancing, and the cries of terror. The silence that
reigned below was confirmation of the violinist's assumption. Of all
suppositions, it was the most reasonable. Who would go downstairs to
corroborate it? Not one had sufficient courage.

Meanwhile, events progressed in front of the house. A policeman,
attracted by the sounds of music, was drawn thitherwards, and, seeing
a man kneeling on the pavement, supporting a woman, he quickened his
steps.

"What's up?" demanded the policeman.

"Murder! murder!" gasped the man.

The woman's white shoes, bedabbled in blood, met the policeman's eye.

"There! there!" cried the man, pointing to the passage.

The policeman was immediately encompassed by the other frightened faces.

"You're just in time," said the violinist. "There's been murder done."

"Who's been murdered?" asked the policeman.

"That's to be found out," was the answer. "It's a girl, we believe."

"Ah," remarked the policeman, with a certain thoughtfulness; "the last
was a girl--an unfortunate girl--and _he's_ not been caught."

Cautiously they re-entered the house, the policeman with his truncheon
drawn, and ascended the stairs to the drawing-room. No person, dead or
alive, was found.

"_It's_ downstairs," said the violinist.

They crept downstairs in a body, keeping close together. There, an awful
sight met their eyes. On the floor of the kitchen lay the body of the
stranger who, on the 1st of July, had engaged a room on the first floor,
and had paid a month's rent in advance. He had been foully murdered.
The servant girl was sound asleep in her bed. It is strange, when she
returned home from the Alhambra, and crept through the passage and the
kitchen to bed, that she did not herself make the discovery, for the
soles of her boots were stained with the evidences of the crime, and
she must have passed within a foot or two of the lifeless body; but
satisfactory explanations have since been given, with which and with the
details of the murder, as far as they are known, the public have already
been made fully acquainted through our columns.

Our business now is with Antony Cowlrick.

So profound was the impression produced by the murder that, from the day
it was discovered, no person could be induced to lodge or sleep in the
house in which it was committed. The tenants all left without giving
notice, and the landlady, prostrated by the blow, has not dared, since
that awful night, to venture inside the door. The house is avoided,
shunned, and dreaded by all. Any human being bold enough to take it
could have it for a term of years on a very moderate rental--for the
first year, probably, for a peppercorn; but practical people as we are,
with our eyes on the main chance, we are imbued with sentiments which
can never be eradicated. The poorest family in London could not, at the
present time, be induced to occupy the house. The stain of blood is on
those floors and stairs, and _it can never be washed out_! The Spirit
of Murder lurks within the fatal building, and when night falls, the
phantom holds terrible and undisputed sway over mind and heart. A
shapeless shadow glides from room to room--no features are visible but
eyes which never close, and which shine only in the dark. And in the
daylight, which in this house is robbed of its lustre, its presence is
manifest in the echo of every step that falls upon the boards. Appalling
spectre! whose twin brother walks ever by the side of the undiscovered
murderer! Never, till justice is satisfied, shall it leave him. As he
stole from the spot in which he took the life of a fellow-creature, it
touched his heart with its spiritual hand, and whispered, "I am the
shadow of thy crime! Thou and I shall never part!" He looks into the
glass, and it peers over his shoulder; maddened, he flies away, and when
he stops to rest, he feels the breath of the Invisible on his cheek. He
slinks into his bed, and hiding his head in the bedclothes, lies there
in mortal terror, knowing that the shadow is close beside him. It brings
awful visions upon him. He looks over the bridge into the river upon
which the sun is shining. How bright is the water! How clear! How
pure! Surely over that white surface the shadow can have no power! But
suddenly comes a change, and the river is transformed into a river of
blood. An irresistible fascination draws him to the river again in
the night, when the moon is shining on the waters, and, as he gazes
downwards, he sees the ghastly body of his victim, its face upturned,
floating on a lurid tide. He cannot avoid it; whichever way he turns
it is before him. He walks through country lanes, and trembles at the
fluttering of every leaf. Rain falls; it is red; and as he treads along,
it oozes up and up till it reaches his eyes, and, resting there, tinges
everything that meets his sight with the colour of blood. Water he
cannot drink, its taste is so horrible. He must have gin, brandy--any
poison that will help him to forget. Vain hope! He shall never forget!
And the shadow of his crime shall never leave until he falls at the feet
of outraged justice, and pays the penalty. Then, _and then only_, there
may be hope for him--for God is merciful!

Among the measures adopted by the police for the discovery of the Great
Porter Square murderer was that of having the house, No. 119, watched
day and night by policemen in private clothes. There are not many
persons in the kingdom who, in a murder case which has thrilled the
public heart and filled it with horror, would accuse the police of want
of zeal; but there are many who, with justice, would accuse them of want
of tact.

A week after the murder was committed, Policeman X (as it is not of
an individual, but of a system, we complain, we will not make this
particular constable's name more prominent than it has already
become)--a week then after the murder was committed, Policeman X, in
private clothes, saw lurking in the vicinity of Great Porter Square, a
man: as he might see to-night other men lurking in the vicinity of any
and every square in London. It is a peculiarity of policemen in private
clothes that they are always ready to suspect, and that in their eyes
every poor-looking person with whose face they are not familiar is a
disreputable character. Policeman X watched this man for a few moments,
and took the opportunity of brushing past him when they were near a
lamp-post. The man's face was unknown to him; it was haggard and pale,
and his clothes betokened poverty. These were terrible signs, and
Policeman X at once set himself the task of stealthily following the
man, who walked leisurely towards the house, No. 119, in which the
murder was committed. The house was deserted and untenanted, as it is at
the present time. Now, would the suspected man pass the house, or would
he linger near it? Much depended upon this.

The man reached the house, peered around (according to Policeman X's
statement) to make sure that he was not observed, and then cast his eyes
to the dark windows. He lingered, as though in indecision, for a few
moments, and standing before the door, appeared to be studying the
number. Then he strolled away. It cannot be said that there was anything
criminating in these movements, but Policeman X, determined not to lose
sight of his man, followed him at a cautious but convenient distance.
The man sauntered round the Square, and presently commenced to munch
some stale bread and cheese, portions of which were afterwards found
upon him. He completed the circuit of the Square, and for the second
time paused before No. 119. Again he studied the number on the door,
and again he looked up at the dark windows. Not satisfied with his
inspection in that direction, he stooped down to the grating above the
area, and appeared to listen. Still not satisfied, he ascended the two
steps which led to the street door, and tried the handle.

Nothing more was needed. "I have the murderer!" thought Policeman X,
with a thrill of satisfaction; and without further hesitation, he walked
quickly up, clapped his hand on the man's shoulder, and said--

"What are you doing here?"

The sudden appearance of a human being out of the shadows probably so
startled the suspected man that he did not know what to reply. He thrust
his head forward in the endeavour to distinguish the features of the
questioner. The next words uttered by Policeman X had more meaning in
them. With his hand still on the man's shoulder, he said, sternly--

"Come with me!"

The reply given to the invitation was the reply which the writer, or any
of the readers of this article, would have given on the impulse of the
moment. It is to be borne in mind that the policeman was in private
clothes, and might, as far as appearances went, himself have been a
murderer in the eyes of another man dressed in private clothes, who, in
his turn (for what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander) might
himself have been a policeman.

"Come with me!" exclaimed Policeman X.

Antony Cowlrick--if that is his proper name, which we doubt--had as much
reason to suspect Policeman X as Policeman X had to suspect Antony
Cowlrick. Not only did he decline the invitation in words decidedly
rude (really, Mr. Cowlrick, you should have been more courteous to this
policeman in private clothes!), but he had the temerity to fling not
only Policeman X's hand from his shoulder, but the policeman's entire
body from his person. Not long did Policeman X lie upon the ground--for
just time enough to come to the conclusion that such resistance on the
part of a poor man, raggedly dressed, was strong evidence of guilt. For,
if not guilty of the murder, why should the man resist? Picking himself
up briskly, Policeman X sprang his rattle.

The precise effect produced upon the mind of Antony Cowlrick by the
sound of this rattle must be mere matter of conjecture, and we will
leave its consideration to a future article; its outward and visible
effect was the taking to his heels by Antony Cowlrick.

The mental condition of Antony Cowlrick at this exact moment presents an
interesting study. Its variety, its colour, its turmoil of possibilities
and consequences, its sequence of private and personal circumstance, are
almost sufficiently tempting to induce us instantly to wander into a
psychological treatise utterly unfit for the columns of our little
newspaper, and conducive, therefore, to its immediate decline in
popularity. We resist the temptation. We adhere to our programme; stern
Reality--pictures of life as they naturally present themselves in all
their beauty or deformity; the truth, THE TRUTH, in its naked sweetness
or hideousness! The highest efforts of imagination cannot equal the
pictures which are for ever being painted upon the canvas of Reality.

Antony Cowlrick took to his heels: what more conclusive evidence than
that he was the murderer did murderer ever give? He took to his heels
and ran, self-convicted. The evidence was complete. After him, springing
his rattle and dreaming of promotion, raced Policeman X. The magic sound
caused windows to be thrown open and heads to be thrust out; caused
ordinary wayfarers to stop and consider; caused idlers to stray in its
direction; caused old hands with the brand of thief upon them to smile
contemptuously, and young ones to slink timidly into the shadow of the
wall. To the "force" it was a call to arms. It summoned from the north
an angry, fierce, and blustering policeman; from the south a slow,
envious, dallying policeman; from the east a nipping, sharp, and sudden
policeman; from the west a brisk, alert, and eager policeman;--and all
of them converging upon the hapless form of Antony Cowlrick, he was
caught in the toils of Fate's compass, and lay, gasping and exhausted,
beneath the blaze of five bull's-eye lamps, which glowed upon him with
stern and baneful intention.

Helpless and bewildered lay Antony Cowlrick upon the flagstones of Great
Porter Square. Over him, in a circle, stood the five policemen. These
guardians of the law were tasting one of the sweetest pleasures in
existence--for to our imperfect nature, the hunting down of any living
creature, whether human or animal, is a rare enjoyment.

Policeman X wipes the mud from his brow.

"Did he strike you?" asks a comrade.

"You see," answers Policeman X, pointing to his face.

Policemen are ready of belief in such matters. They see without seeing,
and sometimes swear to the truth of a circumstance which is introduced
to them second-hand.

"Now then," says Policeman X, of the prostrate man, caught in the
toils, "will you come quietly?"

Expectancy reigned in the hearts of the constables. We do not wish to be
harsh in our judgment of them, when we say that, as a rule, they prefer
a slight resistance on the part of a prisoner. To some extent it
enhances the value of their services, and the extra exertion necessary
in the conveying of their man to the lock-up, shows that they are doing
something for their insufficient stipend. For our own part, we see much
enjoyment in a policeman's life, and were we not tied to the editorial
desk, we would joyfully exchange the quill for the rattle.

"Will you come quietly?" demands Policeman X.

Antony Cowlrick is too exhausted to reply, and accepting his silence as
a challenge, his pursuers gave him no grace. They haul him to his feet,
and proceed to deal with him in their usual humane fashion. This causes
faint murmurs of remonstrance to proceed from him, and causes him, also,
to hold his arms before his face in protection, and to ask faintly,

"What have I done?"

"Ah!" say the four policemen, with a look of enquiry at him whose rattle
summoned them to the battlefield.

The proud official--it is in truth a proud moment for him--utters but
two words; but they are sufficient to animate the policemen's breasts
with excess of ardour.

"The murderer!" he whispers.

The murderer! Had he spoken for an hour he could not have produced a
more thrilling effect; and be sure that he was as conscious of the value
of this dramatic point as the most skilful actor on our stage. A light
was instantly thrown upon the drama of the crime, and the unfortunate
man, in their eyes, was damned beyond hope of redemption. The murderer!
Blood swam before their eyes. Delightful moments!

But the ears of the prisoner had caught the words.

"What!" he screamed, making a violent attempt to wrench himself from
the grasp of his captors. Poor fool! He was one to five, and was soon
reduced to physical submission. The rough usage he received in the
course of the struggle appeared to tame him inwardly as well as
outwardly; when he spoke again his voice was calmer.

"Do you accuse me of the murder of that man?" he asked, turning his face
towards 119, Great Porter Square.

He was most surely condemning himself.

"Yon know best whether you did it," observed Policeman X.

"Yes," he replied, "I know best."

"What were you doing there?" was the next enquiry.

The man looked at them slowly, in detail, as though to fix their faces
in his memory, and then, opening his lips, smiled, but did not speak.
Nothing more exasperating could well have been imagined than the strange
smile of this wretched man--a smile which seemed to say, "You will learn
nothing from me."

It was late in the night, but a crowd had already assembled, and the
whisper went round that the murderer of the man who was found so cruelly
murdered in No. 119, Great Porter Square, had been caught. Short shrift
would have been his, even in this law-loving city, if the excited
knot of persons could have had their way; but it was the duty of the
constables to protect their prisoner.

"Will you come quietly?" they asked of him.

"Why not?" he asked in return. "I shall be the gainer."

So, carefully guarded and held as in a vice, the man walked to the
police-court with his captors, followed by the crowd. It was almost
a gala night, and the persons who hung at the heels of the supposed
murderer and his captors were vehement in speech and florid in action
as they explained to every new-comer the cause of the gathering.

"What is the charge?" asked the inspector.

Who should answer but the prisoner himself? Strange fancy of his to take
the words from the tongues of his accusers--to steal, as it were, the
very bread from their mouths!

"Murder," he cried, with a bitter laugh.

An almost imperceptible quiver agitated the eyelids of the inspector,
but it was in a quiet voice he repeated "Murder!" and held his pen
suspended over the book in which the charges were set down.

"No. 119, Great Porter Square," added Policeman X, not willing to be
robbed of every one of his perquisites.

The inspector's agitation was now more clearly exhibited. The murder was
a notable one--all London was ringing with it. His eyes wandered slowly
over the prisoner's form.

The man's clothes were ragged, mudded, and shabby, but were without a
patch; his boots showed signs of travel; his face had been unshaven for
days.

"Search him," said the inspector.

The man resisted, his face flushing up at the order; he was not aware
that every fresh resistance to every fresh indignity was additional
confirmation of guilt. The web was closing round him, and he was
assisting to spin it. They found on him some stale bread and cheese.

"Take care of it," he said tauntingly.

They continued their search, and found nothing else--not a scrap of
paper, not a card, not a penny piece, not a knife even. It was most
perplexing and annoying.

"Your name?" asked the inspector.

The man laughed again bitterly.

"Your name," repeated the inspector.

"My name!" echoed the man, and then appeared to consider what answer it
was best to give. "What do you say to Antony Cowlrick?"

"Is that the name you give?" inquired the inspector.

"Take it," said the man defiantly, "in place of a better!"

"Where do you live?"

"Under the sky."

No answers of a satisfactory nature could be obtained from him, and he
was taken to his cell, and orders were given that he should be watched
through the night.

As Antony Cowlrick, the man was brought before the magistrate the next
morning, charged with the commission of the dreadful crime, and was
formally remanded for the production of evidence.

We beg our readers not to be led away by the idea that we are writing
a romance; we are stating plain facts. Without a tittle of evidence to
implicate or connect him with the crime, the man Antony Cowlrick has
been brought up no fewer than seven times, and has been a prey to the
vulgar curiosity of eager crowds thronging to catch a glimpse of a
monster whose hands were dyed with the blood of a fellow-creature.
He has been treated as though he had already been found guilty--and,
indeed, in the minds of thousands of persons he _was_ found guilty; all
that was needed was to fix the day, and prepare the scaffold. Rumours,
false statements, columns of fiction, all tending to establish his guilt
and to eliminate from the breasts of his fellow-men every spark of pity
or mercy, have been freely and shamefully circulated. Our columns alone
have not been degraded by this cruelty and this injustice; from the
first we refused to believe in Antony Cowlrick's guilt, for the simple
reason that nothing could be adduced against him; and the course we have
pursued has been justified by the result. Antony Cowlrick is innocent.
But for weeks he has been confined in prison, and treated with
contumely. Yesterday he was brought before Mr. Reardon, at the Martin
Street Police Court, and, on the police stating that they had no further
evidence to offer, Antony Cowlrick was discharged.

We do not say that he owes his release entirely to the generous advocacy
of Mr. Goldberry, but he is certainly indebted to that gentleman for an
earlier release from prison than the police would have been willing to
accord him. For if prisons were not filled there would be no need of
constables, and the common law of self-preservation induces all men
instinctively to adopt that course which will preserve and lengthen
their existence. Therefore, we say again, the prisons must be filled,
and in the performance of this duty the police assert the necessity of
their being.

Now, how stands the case at the present moment? What is the position of
the Great Porter Square mystery? An innocent man has been arrested and
charged with the crime; after a detention of eight weeks he has been
discharged; and, during the whole of this interval, the police have been
following a wrong scent. That they knew absolutely nothing of the man
they falsely accused--that it is unknown where he has been lodging, and
how long he has been in London--that not a friend has come forward to
speak a word in his behalf, and that he himself has chosen to preserve a
strange and inexplicable silence about himself--these circumstances add
to the mystery.

A startling coincidence presents itself; the man who was murdered is
unknown; the only man whom the police have arrested for the murder is
unknown. But it would be odd if, in such a city as London, with its
millions of human beings and its myriad of circumstances, strange and
startling coincidences did not frequently occur.

There shall be no misconception of our meaning; there have been too
many instances lately of wrong done to individuals by false or reckless
swearing on the part of the police. The case of Frost and Smith,
condemned by Mr. Justice Hawkins respectively to fifteen and twelve
years' penal servitude, on the testimony of the police, for a crime they
did not commit, is fresh in the memory of our readers. The men are now
released, after undergoing two years' imprisonment--released, not by the
efforts of the police who swore away their liberty, nor by the jury who
condemned them, nor by the judge who sentenced them, but by means of
an anonymous letter and the arrest of the real criminals for another
crime--released really by an accident which, while it restores them to
liberty, cannot remove from them the taint of the gaol. But, it may be
urged, they have Her Gracious Majesty's Pardon. Sweet consolation!
A pardon for a crime they did not commit! Never was a word with a
gracious meaning to it more bitterly parodied than this; the use of the
word "pardon" by Home Secretaries, as applied to the men Frost and
Smith, is not only an unpardonable mockery, but a shameful insult.
Truly, red-tapeism, like charity, is made to cover a multitude of sins,
but it cannot cover this.

We trust that the police have restored to Antony Cowlrick the
property--the only property--they found upon his person at the time
of his arrest; the pieces of stale bread and cheese. According to
appearance it is all he has to fight the world with. It is worthy of
note that Cowlrick made no application to the magistrate for relief.

We have opened a subscription for the unfortunate man, and have already
two sovereigns in our possession, which we shall be happy to hand to
this last "victim of justice," if he will call at our office.

To-morrow we shall have something more, something perhaps of the
greatest interest, to say with respect to Antony Cowlrick.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE "EVENING MOON" POSTPONES ITS STATEMENT RESPECTING ANTONY COWLRICK.


We hinted to our readers yesterday that we should have something of
great interest to lay before them to-day with respect to Antony
Cowlrick. For reasons which we shall in due time explain, we postpone
the statement until we can present it in a complete and satisfactory
form. We append a list of subscriptions which have been sent to us in
response to our announcement that we were ready to receive contributions
in aid of the unfortunate man. The signatures of some of the donors are
suggestive:--"One who was Wrongfully Convicted" sends 1s. 6d.; "A Poor
Widow, whose little boy, nine years of age, was lately sentenced to
three months' hard labour for breaking a window," sends a penny postage
stamp; "A man whose life was almost sworn away by the police" sends 6d.;
"One who has been there" sends 2s.; four "Lovers of Justice" send small
sums; "A Reformed Detective" sends 8d.; "A Poor Old Moke" sends 2d.; the
Secretary of a "Mutual Protection Society for the Education of Burglars'
Children" sends 5s.; "M.P.," who intends to ask a question when the
House meets, sends £3 3s.; and sundry others. The total amount now in
our hands is £23 4s. 7d., which we hold at the disposal of Antony
Cowlrick, who, despite his apparent poverty, has not thought fit to
call at our office to claim it.

[Decoration]



CHAPTER IX.

IN WHICH THE "EVENING MOON" RELATES THE ADVENTURES OF ITS SPECIAL
CORRESPONDENT.


We have now to place before our readers an account of our proceedings
respecting Antony Cowlrick, falsely accused of the murder of a man (name
unknown) at No. 119, Great Porter Square. It is lengthy, but we have
resolved not to curtail it, and we shall continue it in our editions
to-day and to-morrow until it is completed.

We preface our statement with an assurance that in the steps we took we
were actuated no less by a feeling of pity for Antony Cowlrick and a
wish to clear him completely in the eyes of the public, than by our
desire to obtain information which might aid in throwing light upon the
circumstances surrounding this mysterious murder. Fully conscious as we
are of the requirements of that advanced journalism which purists openly
censure and privately patronise, and which is an absolute necessity
of the age, we have been careful to keep within the circle of our
legitimate right and duty, and not to abuse the liberty of the press.

It is not to be denied that there exists a growing desire to probe more
closely the life amongst which we live and move, and to lay bare the
arteries of a social system in which we one and all act our parts. Thus
it is that many persons (chiefly women), who a few years ago would never
have been heard of by the public, are now the theme of comment and
discussion in all classes of society--that their portraits are exposed
for sale in shop-windows--and that they are stared at and pointed at in
the theatres and other places of public resort. The greater number of
these poor creatures see no distinction between the terms notoriety and
celebrity; notorious, shamefully notorious--they certainly are; worthily
celebrated they can never become, let them pose as they will on the
stage or in the private rooms of the photographer. These and other new
aspects of society are a condition of the times. We are not now content
in the columns of our newspapers to deal with public matters in the
abstract; we insist upon knowing something of the character and motives
of those whose good or bad fortune it is to be prominently concerned
in the wonderful and varied drama of To-Day. Thus there is open to the
journalist a new and interesting province for his labours, and he who
does not shrink from his duty, and does his spiriting gently and with
discretion, will be the most likely to be followed and appreciated by
that greatest of all critics--the Public.

Anticipating the release of Antony Cowlrick, we detailed a Special
Reporter to seek an interview with him when he left the Martin Street
Police Court, and to endeavour to obtain such information respecting
himself as might prove interesting to our readers. The task was a
delicate and difficult one, and we entrusted it to a gentleman, a member
of our staff, whose generous instincts and sympathetic nature have won
for him an unusual meed of respect. It has not yet become the fashion
for newspaper writers in England to append their names to their
contributions. The question whether the time has arrived for the
introduction of this system is worthy of serious consideration. By
the present system of anonymity, not only is opportunity afforded
for slandering and stabbing in the dark, but undoubted injustice is
inflicted upon many a conscientious and enthusiastic worker, who brings
to his labours such study, education, and culture, as in any other
department of life would make his name famous. Those behind the scenes
are familiar with the names of journalists whose knowledge of character,
quickness of comprehension, and readiness to seize the salient and most
striking features in the pictures of life they are employed to portray,
are little less than marvellous. Such workers as these are the true
painters and historians of the day, and supply more food for the mental
life of the world than the combined efforts of the labourers in every
other department of art and science. But the world knows them not; they
are deprived of the highest reward an art-worker can receive.

"You are discharged," said the magistrate to Antony Cowlrick.

The gaolers fell back. Antony Cowlrick mechanically passed his hands
over his wrists. There was a certain pathos in the action. The handcuffs
were no longer there, but they had left upon the wrists a degradation
that would not soon be forgotten.

"I ask your worship to say," said Mr. Goldberry, addressing the
magistrate, "that this man, falsely accused, leaves the court without a
stain upon his character."

"I cannot say that," replied the magistrate; "we know nothing of his
character."

"Nothing has been proved against him," persisted Mr. Goldberry.

"Nothing has been proved in his favour," said the magistrate. "Had you
proved that the accused had led a reputable and respectable life--had
a reasonable explanation been given of his presence in Great Porter
Square and of his motive in ascending the steps leading to the
street door of the house in which the murder was committed, and
trying the handle--had anything creditable as to his antecedents been
established--I should not have objected to some such expression of
opinion as you desire. But as the accused has chosen to surround himself
with mystery, he must be content with being discharged without the
solace of official sympathy. I do not approve of the action of the
police in this matter; neither do I approve of the course adopted by the
accused. He is discharged."

Antony Cowlrick listened impatiently to this dialogue. For a moment
or two he lingered, as though he had a desire himself to speak to the
magistrate, but if he had any such intention he speedily relinquished
it, and with a slight shrug of his shoulders he pushed open the door of
the dock and stepped into the body of the court.

Outside the police-court, Antony Cowlrick did not pause to look around
him: he scarcely seemed to be conscious of the eager faces of the
people who had waited to catch a glimpse of him. Taking advantage of an
opening in the crowd, he darted through it, and walked swiftly away. The
people walked swiftly after him, some running before to look up into his
face. This impelled him to walk still more swiftly, until presently he
began to run as if for a wager.

These movements, especially the last, acted magnetically on the men,
women, and children congregated in Martin Street. As though animated by
one magical impulse they flew after him, shouting as they ran. There was
here presented the singular spectacle of a man just pronounced innocent
by the law being hunted down, immediately after his acquittal, by an
indiscriminate crowd, without reason or motive.

He scarcely seemed to know the way he was flying. Through some of the
narrow turnings intersecting Drury Lane and Covent Garden, then westward
into the labyrinths of Soho, doubling back again towards Leicester
Square, raced Antony Cowlrick, in his endeavour to get rid of the
hunters, until those persons at a distance from Martin Street who were
drawn into the hunt by the contagion of the excitement began to scream
out, "Stop thief!" In an instant a chorus of voices took up the cry,
and "Stop thief! stop thief!" issued from a hundred throats. When that
sound reached Antony Cowlrick's ears he stopped--as suddenly as he had
fled--and confronted his pursuers. He found himself surrounded by a
multitude of excited faces, and within a couple of yards stood an
uninformed policeman, who stepped forward to take him into custody. But
Antony Cowlrick raised his arm threateningly, and the hunted man and the
constable glared at each other. Serious consequences might have ensued
had it not been for our Reporter, who worked his way to the front, and
stood by Antony Cowlrick's side.

"There is a mistake, policeman," said our Reporter; "this man has done
nothing."

The policeman immediately prepared to take our Reporter into custody
for obstructing him in the exercise of his duty, but he was baulked by
the appearance of two other policemen who, acting under instructions,
had followed the discharged prisoner, and by Mr. Goldberry, who had
accompanied them without consent.

"It's all right," said the newly-arrived policeman. "Come--move along
there!"

It is not to be supposed that they were animated by particularly
friendly feelings towards Antony Cowlrick; but if he belonged to anybody
he belonged to them, and they would not allow any interference with
their property.

The crowd slowly dispersed, by no means in good humour; it really
appeared as though some among them were of the opinion that Antony
Cowlrick had inflicted a personal injury upon them by not having
committed a theft and allowing himself to be taken into custody.

"Now, you," said one of the policemen to Antony Cowlrick, stretching
towards him an ominous forefinger, "had better mind what you are about,
or you'll be getting yourself into trouble."

"Perhaps you will assist me in getting into it," replied Antony
Cowlrick. "You have, up till to-day, done your best, it must be
admitted."

These were the first words our Reporter had heard Antony Cowlrick utter,
and they produced a singular impression upon him. The manner of their
utterance was that of a gentleman. There was a distinct refinement in
the voice and bearing of Antony Cowlrick which strangely contrasted with
his miserable appearance.

The policeman had but one answer to this retort.

"Move on!"

"When it suits me," said Antony Cowlrick. "I am one man, alone
and unknown--that hurts you, probably. I am not obstructing the
thoroughfare; I am not begging; I am not hawking without a licence; I am
doing nothing unlawful. When it suits me to move on, I will move on. In
the meantime," he exclaimed, in an authoritative tone, "move you on!"

The audacity of this order staggered the policemen, and they could find
no words to reply.

Antony Cowlrick proceeded:

"If a fresh crowd gathers round us--it is beginning to do so, I
perceive--it is you who are collecting it. You have no more right to
order me to move on than your comrades had--you are all alike, blue
coats, rattles, and truncheons--to arrest me in Great Porter Square."

The policemen looked at one another, in a state of indecision; then
looked at our Reporter; then at Mr. Goldberry. They were evidently
perplexed, the right being clearly on Antony Cowlrick's side. Happily
for them, their eyes fell simultaneously upon the crowd of idlers
surrounding them, and, without more ado, they plunged wildly in,
and scattered the curiosity-mongers in all directions. Having thus
vindicated the majesty of the law, they moved reluctantly away, and
left the victor, Antony Cowlrick, upon the field.

It happened that among the crowd was a woman who, taken unaware by the
sudden onslaught of the police, was roughly dealt with. Unable to stem
the rush of the dispersion, she was knocked about, and almost thrown
down. Saved by a helping hand, she escaped without injury, but she was
exhausted, and sat down upon a door-step to recover herself. There was
nothing especially noticeable in this incident, but it will be presently
seen that it has a singular bearing upon our narrative.

A group of three persons, comprising our Reporter, Mr. Goldberry, and
Antony Cowlrick, standing together in Leicester Square, and a woman
sitting on a doorstep--these are the individuals in whom we are at
present interested. A policeman idles to and fro, at some distance,
with his eyes occasionally turned towards the group, but he does not
interfere.

It was noon, and, as usual, a strange quietude reigned in Leicester
Square. This is its normal condition in the day-time, and is the more
remarkable because of the contiguity of the Square to the most infamous
thoroughfare in London--the Haymarket--wherein vice in its most
shameless and degrading aspects openly parades itself for sixteen hours
out of the twenty-four.

"Can I be of any assistance to you?" asked Mr. Goldberry, of Antony
Cowlrick.

"No," replied Antony Cowlrick, abruptly, and then, observing who it was
that spoke, added: "Your pardon! You are the gentleman who defended me?"
Mr. Goldberry nodded. "What was your motive?"

"Compassion."

Antony Cowlrick cast his eyes upon his ragged clothes, and passed his
hand over his face, upon which a two months' beard was growing.

"I look a fit object of compassion. But I am not grateful to you.
I should have been discharged, some time or other, without your
assistance. There was no evidence, you see; and, after all, I may be
guilty of the murder."

"I do not think you are," said Mr. Goldberry.

"It is scarcely worth arguing about," remarked Antony Cowlrick. "He is
not the first, and will not be the last."

"He! Who?" quickly asked Mr. Goldberry.

"The man who was murdered in Great Porter Square."

"Do you know anything of him?"

"What should I know? Some interesting particulars concerning him will no
doubt one day be brought to light." Cowlrick paused a moment. "You are a
lawyer, and therefore a decent member of society. You go to church, and,
of course, believe in God."

"Well?"

"Well!" echoed Antony Cowlrick. "Do you think God will allow the guilty
to escape, or that He needs the assistance of a lawyer to punish the man
who sheds his brother's blood?"

"His brother's blood!" exclaimed Mr. Goldberry.

"Are we not all brothers!" said Antony Cowlrick with bitter emphasis.
"Do we not all live in charity with one another? Enough. I have no
desire to prolong this conversation; it can lead to no good result. But
I felt bound to answer you civilly, as it is barely possible, when you
rose in the police-court to defend me, that you were in part animated by
a kindly sentiment for an unfortunate man. On the other hand, you may
have been wholly impelled by a desire to advertise your name in an
important case of murder. But you shall have the benefit of the doubt.
Give me your card. If at any time I should need you, I will call upon or
send for you."

It was with an air of patronage that this beggarly man spoke to the
well-to-do lawyer; but Mr. Goldberry, with admirable equanimity,
accepted the position, and handed Antony Cowlrick his card.

"Can I do nothing more for you?" he asked.

"Nothing more."

Mr. Goldberry, before he took his departure, drew our Reporter aside.

"You appear to be interested in the man?" he said.

Our Reporter enlightened him.

"I am a journalist, on the staff of the _Evening Moon_."

"And on the look-out for paragraphs. You will find Antony Cowlrick worth
studying."

"You believed in his innocence when you defended him. Do you believe in
it now?"

Mr. Goldberry laughed.

"I am not prepared to be interviewed. One thing is certain. There is a
mystery here, and I should like to obtain a clue to it. You may be more
successful than I."

"He speaks like a gentleman."

"We live in levelling times. There is no telling who is who. I have
heard a gentleman speak like a costermonger."

This confidential communication between our Reporter and Mr. Goldberry
escaped the ears, but not the eyes, of Antony Cowlrick, and when Mr.
Goldberry left and our Reporter remained, he was the first to speak.

"Has the lawyer deputed you to watch me?"

"No," replied our Reporter. "I am a newspaper man, and should be glad if
you can give me any information for my paper?"

"Information about what?"

"Yourself."

"Haven't the newspapers had enough of me? I haven't read one for many
weeks, but I guess their columns must have been filled with reports of
the proceedings at the Magistrate's Court."

"You guess right. The murder committed in Great Porter Square was most
horrible, and the public have been much excited about it. The paper I am
on, the _Evening Moon_, was the only one which from the first declared
you to be innocent of the charge brought against you. Perhaps you would
like to read what we have written on the subject."

Antony Cowlrick took the packet of papers which our Reporter had
prepared in anticipation of the emergency.

"I have unknown friends, it seems."

"It is a question of fair play, and, being a public matter, comes
within our province. See, here is yesterday's paper, stating that a
subscription is opened at our office for you."

"You have taken an unwarrantable liberty in holding me forth as an
object of charity."

"What has been done," said our Reporter, "has been done with good
intent. There was no desire to hurt your feelings, but you appeared,
and appear, to be in poverty."

"Will you lend me a sovereign?"

"Willingly. There were two at the office for you yesterday, and when I
left this morning not less than ten pounds had been received for the
subscription list."

"A queer world we live in, do we not, with a public that one moment is
ready to tear a man to pieces, and the next to surfeit him with sweets?
I decline to accept your money. I would not touch it, though I am
really in want of a meal. I suppose, if you were to leave me this
instant, or I were to refuse to hold any further converse with you, you
would consider it your duty to write a flaming article about me for the
next edition of your paper?"

"I should narrate what has passed, in fair and temperate language, I
hope."

"I beg you," said Antony Cowlrick, earnestly, "to do me a great favour.
Do not drag me before the public to-day. Nay, nor to-morrow. Give me
three days' grace. It will be of service to me, and may help the cause
of justice."

The last words were spoken with an air of hesitation.

"If I promise to do this--providing my Chief consents, and I think he
will--you must allow me in return to become better acquainted with you."

"Pick up what scraps you can, my literary Autolycus. Examine me well.
Describe my appearance, manners, and bearing. Say that I belie my
looks, and that I do not speak exactly like a ruffian. In all that,
shrewd as you may be, you can only see the outside of me. Understand,
if you please, that I shall not help you."

"All right. Where do you intend to sleep to-night?"

"God knows! I do not."

"How are you going to live? Have you a trade?"

Antony Cowlrick held out his hands.

"Do these look like hands accustomed to hard work?"

They were dirty with prison dirt, and were as soft and pliable as the
hands of a lady. At this point, as he stood with his hand in the hand
of our Reporter, the woman who had been knocked about by the crowd rose
from the doorstep.

Our Reporter felt a nervous twitching in the hand he held, and, looking
up into the face of Antony Cowlrick, saw with surprise that it was
agitated by a sudden and powerful emotion. Antony Cowlrick's eyes were
fixed upon the woman, who was walking slowly away.

She was young and fair, and in her movements there was an aimlessness
which did not speak well for her character. But, as Mr. Goldberry
observed, we live in levelling times, and it is hard to judge accurately
of a person's social position from dress and manner. The locality was
against this young and pretty woman; her being young and pretty was
against her; her apparent want of occupation was against her. But she
spoke to no one, looked at no one.

Antony Cowlrick hastened after her. Our Reporter did not follow him. He
was not acting the part of a detective. What he did was in pursuance
of his duty, and it is not in his nature to give offence. Therefore he
stood where Antony Cowlrick left him, and waited for events.

When Antony Cowlrick reached the woman's side, he touched her arm, and
spoke to her. She did not reply, but glanced carelessly at him, and,
averting her eyes with a gesture of repugnance, pursued her way. Before
she had taken three steps, Antony Cowlrick was again by her side.
Again he touched her arm and addressed her; and this time, instead of
attempting to avoid him, she turned and looked up at him. For a moment
doubt was expressed in her face--only for a moment. As though a sudden
and wonderful light had entered her soul, her face became illumined with
joy. She was pretty before; now she was beautiful.

Some words of delight struggled to her lips, but died in their
utterance. Antony Cowlrick placed his hand on her mouth so that they
should not be spoken aloud--directing his eyes at the same time towards
the spot occupied by our Reporter.

The woman pressed her hand upon the man's hand, still at her lips, and
kissed it passionately.

Then she and Antony Cowlrick conversed hurriedly. Evidently questions
were being asked and answered--questions upon which much depended. The
last question asked by Antony Cowlrick was answered by the woman with a
sad shake of her head. He held her fingers in his hand, and seemed to
look at them inquiringly. Did he expect to find rings there which he
could convert into money? Her fingers were bare of ornament. He looked
at her ears, then at the bosom of her dress. She possessed neither
ear-rings nor brooch.

Under such circumstances as these, speech was not needed for the
understanding of what was passing between the haggard, unshaven,
poverty-stricken man and the equally poor and beautiful woman.

Antony Cowlrick did not hesitate long. A dozen strides brought him to
our Reporter.

"I have found a friend," he said.

"So I perceive," replied our Reporter.

"You offered awhile ago to lend me a sovereign. I refused to accept it.
Will you lend it me now?"

Our Reporter gave it to him instantly, without a word.

The swift graciousness of the response appeared to touch Antony
Cowlrick, and an expression of gratitude dwelt on his features.

"I thank you. My gratitude will remain ever as a debt. I appreciate your
delicacy in not intruding upon my interview with my friend."

"She is not a new friend," observed our Reporter.

"No, indeed," was the reply.

"It seems to me that she might have appeared at the police-court to give
evidence in your favour."

"Supposing she could say anything _in_ my favour."

"It is evident that she would say nothing to harm you. Her joy at
meeting you was too palpable."

"You have a trick of keen observation. Perhaps she did not know of my
awkward position."

"How could she help knowing it when your name has been so prominent in
the papers for weeks?"

"My name? Ah, I forgot. But I cannot offer you a satisfactory
explanation. More than ever now will unnecessary and immediate publicity
be likely to injure me. You will keep your promise--for three days you
will not write about me?"

"I will keep my promise. At the end of three days I shall simply publish
what has passed between ourselves and Mr. Goldberry."

"It seems to me to be singularly devoid of interest."

"You are mistaken. Newspaper readers peruse such details as these with
eagerness. You must not forget that you are in some way, near or remote,
connected with an atrocious crime."

"You foil me at every point. Good-day."

"Good-day!" exclaimed our Reporter. "Shall I not see you again?"

"You will, if you play the spy upon me."

"I shall not do that. But you promised to afford me an opportunity of
becoming better acquainted with you."

"That is true. Wait a moment."

He rejoined the woman, and after exchanging a few words with her,
returned to our Reporter.

"You will not publish the address I am about to give you?"

"Not if you do not wish it."

"I do not wish it. We must not play with reputations--especially with
the reputation of a woman. Have you pencil and paper? Thank you. Call
to-night at ten o'clock at this address."

He wrote an address in our Reporter's note-book, and, directly
afterwards, left Leicester Square with his newly-found friend. As he
turned in the direction of Piccadilly, he hailed a cab, into which he
and his companion hastily scrambled.

By ten o'clock that night our Reporter paused before the door of the
house in which he expected to find Antony Cowlrick, and debated with
himself whether he should inquire for the man by name. It was quite
natural, he thought, that a person who had been placed in a position
so unpleasant as Antony Cowlrick should wish to avoid the disagreeable
curiosity of prying eyes and vulgar tongues, and that in a new lodging
he should give another name than his own. The house was situated in one
of the lowest neighbourhoods, where only the poorest people dwell. There
were at least half-a-dozen small bells on the right hand side of the
door, and our Reporter fell into deep disgrace by pulling them one after
another, and bringing down persons whose faces were strange to him.

He felt himself in a difficulty, when, giving a description of the
man and the woman he wished to see, one lodger said, "O, it's the
second-floor back;" and another said, "Oh, it's the third-floor front;"
and another said, "What do yer mean by comin' 'ere at this time o' night
rousing up people as want to be abed and asleep?" Now, this last rebuke
was not taken in good part by our Reporter, whose knowledge of the slums
of London, being somewhat extensive, had led him to the belief that
householders and lodgers in these localities seldom go to bed before
the public-house lights are put out. Sad, indeed, is it to reflect that
the Gin-shop is the Church of the Poor, and that it is open from early
morn till midnight to lead poverty and ignorance to lower and lower
depths, in which it is impossible for purity and innocence to find a
resting place!

At length, in despair, our Reporter, having no alternative, inquired
of a woman in the house whether a person of the name of Cowlrick was
within. The woman looked suspiciously at our Reporter, and said she
would call "her man." Her man came, and our Reporter repeated his
question.

"Cowlrick!" cried the man. "Send I may live if that ain't the name of
the feller as was up at the perlice court for the murder in Great Porter
Square! Yer don't mean to say that it's 'im you've come to inquire for
at a respectable 'ouse?"

"Shut the door in his face, Jim!" called out the woman, from the top of
the stairs.

No sooner said than done. The door was slammed in our Reporter's face,
and he was "left out in the cold," as the saying is.

What, now, was our Reporter to do? He had no intention of giving up his
search; the woof of his nature is strong and tough, and difficulties
rather inspire than depress him. Within a stone's throw from a weak
hand there were six public-houses; within a stone's throw from any
one of these were half-a-dozen other public-houses. It was as though
a huge pepper-box, filled with public-houses, had been shaken over
the neighbourhood. There was a certain peculiarity in the order and
arrangement of their fall. Most of them had fallen into the corners of
the courts and narrow streets. There must be a Providence in this--a
Providence which, watching over the welfare of brewers and distillers,
has conferred upon them and upon their heirs and assigns an inalienable
right in the corners of every street and lane in the restless Babylonian
City.

Our Reporter made the rounds of these public-houses, ordered liquor in
every one of them, and poured it on the floor--to the indignation of
many topers, who called it "sinful waste;" especially to the indignation
of one blear-eyed, grey-haired, old woman, with three long strong hairs
sticking out of her chin. This old creature, who looked as if she had
just stepped away from the witches' cauldron in Macbeth (the brew there
not being strong enough), screamed out to our Reporter, "You'll come to
want! You'll come to want! For Gawd's sake, don't spill it, my dear!
Give it to me--give it to me!" and struggled with him for the liquor.

Within half-an-hour of midnight our Reporter found himself once more
before the house in which he supposed Antony Cowlrick would sleep
that night. But he was puzzled what to do. To ring the bells again was
hazardous. He determined to wait until a lodger entered the house; then
he himself would enter and try the chamber doors.

The minutes passed. No guardian angel of a lodger came to his aid. But
all at once he felt a tug at his trousers. He looked down. It was a
little girl. A very mite of a girl.

"If yer please, sir----"

"Yes, little one," said our Reporter.

"Will yer pull the blue bell, and knock five times? I can't reach."

[Decoration]



CHAPTER X.

  THE SPECIAL REPORTER OF THE "EVENING MOON" MAKES THE ACQUAINTANCE OF
    A LITTLE MATCH GIRL.


Pull the blue bell, and knock five times!

The request was not to be denied. That the small party who made it could
_not_ "reach" was self-evident, for she was scarcely three feet and a
half in height. But to say, "pull the blue bell" was one thing, and to
pull the blue bell was another. Our Reporter had pulled every bell on
the door, as he believed, and he looked in vain for a blue one.

"I don't see the blue bell, little girl," he said.

"Yes, yer do," replied the little girl, with audacious effrontery. "Not
where yer looking! It's all by itself on the other side."

Our Reporter found the bell, "all by itself," on the left hand side of
the door, where bells usually are not, and he pulled it, and knocked
five times slowly.

"That ain't right!" cried the little girl; her voice came as loud and
shrill as if it proceeded from the throat of a canary. "Yer must knock
like a postman, and a little 'un in--rat-tat, rat-tat, tat!"

Our Reporter obeyed, fully expecting to be assaulted for kicking up such
a row so late in the night; but no one took any notice of him, and no
one answered the ring and the knocks.

The little girl waited patiently, much more patiently than our Reporter,
who rang and knocked again with the air of a man who was engaged in a
contest and was getting the worst of it.

"Must I give it up?" he mentally asked himself, and answering
immediately, "No, I will see Antony Cowlrick to-night, or I'll know the
reason why." Then he looked down at the form of the little girl, and
called, "Little girl!"

The little girl did not reply. She was leaning against the door-post in
a state of perfect contentment. The particular house with which our
Reporter might be said to be wrestling was in the shade; there was no
lamp-post within twenty yards of it, and the night was dark.

"Little girl!" repeated our Reporter, in a louder voice.

Still no reply.

He leant down, and placed his hands on her shoulders. She did not move.
He stooped lower, and looked into her face. She was fast asleep.

Even in the dark he saw how much she was to be pitied. Her poor wan face
was dirty, and traces of tears were on it; her hair hung in thick knots
over her forehead; her hands were begrimed; her clothes were rags; on
her feet were a pair of what once were dancing shoes, and had twinkled
in the ballet. They were half-a-dozen sizes too large for the little
feet, and were tied to her ankles with pieces of twine. Their glory was
gone indeed, and, though they had once been satin, they were fit only
for the rag-bag or the dust-hole.

"Poor child!" sighed our Reporter. "It is easy to see what you are
growing up into!"

He whispered in her ear, "Wake up, little one! I've knocked loud enough
to raise the dead, and no one answers. Wake up!"

As she made no movement, he shook her, gently and with tenderness,
whereupon she murmured some words, but so indistinctly that he did not
gather their import.

"Eh?" he said, placing his ear to her lips. "What did you say?"

"Two boxes a penny," she murmured. "Please buy a box!--starving mother
at 'ome!"

A woman shuffled along the street, and stopped before the house, with
the supper beer in a brown jug. As she opened the door with the
latch-key, she glanced at the sleeping child.

"Why, it's little Fanny!" she cried.

"Who asked me," added our Reporter, "to pull the blue bell, and knock
five times?"

"Yes," observed the woman. "Third-floor back."

"The young woman," said our Reporter, taking up the cue, and slipping
sixpence into the woman's hand--(when do our poor refuse alms?)--"the
young woman in the third-floor back--is she at home?"

"Goodness only knows," replied the woman, who, having accepted the
money, felt that she must earn it; "she's that quiet, is Blanche, that
there's no telling when she's in or when she's out."

"Let me see," said our Reporter, pretending to consider, "how long has
Blanche lived in the house?"

"About three months, I should say. Pretty, ain't she?"

"Very. Young, too, to be the mother of little Fanny here."

"Lord love you!" exclaimed the woman; "little Fanny's no relation of
her'n. She's a single woman is Blanche. I thought you was a friend."

"So I am. But this is the first time I've been here to see her."

"You're the first I've ever seen come after her."

"She has not many friends, then?"

"Not one that I know of."

"She has had an old friend with her to-day," said our Reporter, thinking
he might by this question obtain some information of Antony Cowlrick.

"Has she? I'm glad to hear it. I've wondered a good deal about the girl,
and so has all of us in the street. She don't mix with us free like. Not
that she ain't affable! But she keeps herself to herself. I must go in
now," said the woman, with a giggle, "or my old man'll think I've run
off with somebody."

She entered the house, and our Reporter, with little Fanny asleep in his
arms, followed. On the first floor the woman vanished, and he pursued
his way to the third. The stairs were in utter darkness, and he had
to exercise great care to save his shins and to avoid disturbing the
lodgers in the house. In due time he reached the third floor, and struck
a match. There were only two doors on the landing, and he saw at once
which of the two led to the back room. He knocked, and received no
response; and then he tried the handle of the door. It gave way, and he
was in the room, in utter darkness.

"I beg your pardon," he said, addressing, as he believed, the occupant,
"but as no one answered"----

He did not finish the sentence, for the stillness of the room affected
him. His position was certainly a perplexing one. He listened for the
breathing of some person, but heard none.

"Antony Cowlrick," he thought, "have you been playing me a trick?"

He struck another match, and lit a candle which was on a small table.
Then he looked around. The room was empty.

"Now," thought our Reporter, "if this is not the room in which Antony
Cowlrick led me to expect he would receive me, and the tenant proper
_him_self or _her_self should suddenly appear, I shall scarcely be
prepared to offer a reasonable excuse for my intrusion."

No articles of clothing were in sight to enlighten him as to the sex of
the tenant of this third-floor back. There was a bed in decent order,
and he laid little Fanny upon it. Having done this, he noticed that food
was on the table--the remains of a loaf cut in slices, with a scraping
of butter on them, a small quantity of tea screwed up in paper, and a
saucer with about an ounce of brown sugar in it.

"Not exactly a Rothschild," mused our Reporter, "but quite as happy
perhaps."

For our Reporter has his own views of things, and contends that more
happiness is to be found among the poor than among the rich.

Continuing his investigations, our Reporter was not long before he made
an important discovery. Exactly in front of the slice of bread and
butter on the table was a chair, upon which the person who appeared to
be invited to the frugal supper would naturally sit, and exactly behind
the bread and butter was a piece of paper, set up on end, upon which was
written:

"Dear little Fanny. Good-bye. If ever I am rich I will try and find you.
Look on the mantelshelf."

There was a peculiarity in the writing. The letters forming the name
"Fanny" were traced in large capital letters, such as a child who could
not read fine writing might be able to spell; the rest was written in
small hand.

Our reporter argued the matter logically thus: The little girl asleep on
the bed could not read, but understood the large letters in which her
name was written. The supper on the table was set out for her. Preparing
to partake of it, her eyes would fall on the paper, and she would see
her name upon it. Curiosity to know what else was written would impel
her to seek a lodger in the house--perhaps the landlady--who would read
the message aloud to her, and would look on the mantelshelf.

Why should not our Reporter himself read the message to little Fanny,
and why should he not look on the mantelshelf?

He did the latter without further cogitation. Upon the mantelshelf he
found two unsealed envelopes, with writing on them. Each contained
money.

One was addressed "For Fanny." It contained a shilling. On the other was
written: "Mrs. Rogers, landlady. If a gentleman engaged upon a newspaper
calls to see Blanche and a friend whom she met in Leicester Square
to-day, please give him the enclosed. Blanche is not coming back. Her
rent is paid up to next Saturday. Good-bye."

He had not, then, entered the wrong apartment. This room had been
occupied by Antony Cowlrick's fair friend, and the enclosure was for our
Reporter.

He took it out; it was a sealed letter. He opened it, and read, as a
sovereign fell to the floor:--

  "SIR,--I am enabled thus soon to repay you the sovereign you so
  generously lent me to-day. Had it been out of my power to do so
  to-night you would most probably have seen me as you expected. It is
  better as it is, for I have nothing to communicate which I desire to
  make public. I shall ever retain a lively sense of your kindness,
  and I depend upon the fulfilment of your promise not to write about
  me in your paper for three days. If you do not know what else to do
  with the money received by your paper in response to its appeal for
  subscriptions on my behalf, I can tell you. Give it to the
  poor.--Your faithful servant,

  "ANTONY COWLRICK."

The handwriting was that of an educated man, and the mystery surrounding
Antony Cowlrick was deepened by the last proceeding.

A voice from the bed aroused our Reporter from his meditations. Little
Fanny was awake, and was calling for Blanche.

"Blanche is not in yet," said our Reporter. "Come and eat your supper."

The little girl struggled to her feet, and approached the table. The
curiosity of our Reporter was strongly excited, and before giving Fanny
the message and the shilling left for her by Blanche, he determined to
question her. Thereupon the following colloquy ensued:--

Our Reporter: This _is_ your supper, Fanny.

Fanny (carefully spreading the brown sugar over her bread): Yes. Blanche
never forgits me.

Our Reporter: Sugar every night?

Fanny: Yes, I likes it.

Our Reporter: Blanche is not your mother?

Fanny (with her mouth full): Lor! No.

Our Reporter: Is she your aunt or your cousin?

Fanny: Lor! No. She ain't nothink to me but a---- a----

Our Reporter (prompting, seeing that Fanny was in a difficulty): Friend?

Fanny: More nor that. A brick!

Our Reporter: She is good to you?

Fanny: There ain't nobody like her.

Our Reporter: What are you?

Fanny (laughing): Wot am I? A gal.

Our Reporter: Do you go to school?

Fanny (with a cunning shake of her head): Ketch me at it!

Our Reporter: What do you do?

Fanny: I sells matches--two boxes a penny--and I falls asleep on purpose
in front of the Nacheral Gallery.

Our Reporter: The National Gallery. In Trafalgar Square, where the
fountains are?

Fanny: That's the place--where the little man without legs plays the
accorgeon.

Our Reporter: Why do you fall asleep there?

Fanny (with a sad, wistful smile): That's mother's little game. She
makes me.

Our Reporter: Mother's little game! Then you have a mother?

Fanny (shuddering): Raythur.

Our Reporter: Where does she live?

Fanny: At the pub round the corner, mostly--the Good Sir Mary Tun--till
they turns her out.

Our Reporter: The Good Samaritan. But why does your mother make you fall
asleep on purpose in front of the National Gallery?

Fanny: Don't yer see? It's a dodge. Mother gives me twelve boxes o'
matches, and I've got to sell 'em. If I don't, I gits toko! Well, I
don't always sell 'em, though I try ever so 'ard. Then I falls down
on the pavement up agin the wall, or I sets down on the church steps
oppersite, with the boxes o' matches in my 'and, and I goes to sleep.
Pretends to, yer know; I'm wide awake all the time, I am. A lady and
gent comin' from the theaytre, stops and looks at me. "Poor little
thing!" _she_ ses. "Come along!" _he_ ses. Sometimes the lady won't
come along, and she bends over, and puts 'er 'and on my shoulder. "Why
don't yer go 'ome?" she ses. "I can't, mem," I ses, "till I've sold my
matches." Then she gives me a copper, but don't take my matches; and
other gents and ladies as stops to look gives me somethink--I've 'ad as
much as a shillin' give me in a lump, more nor once. When they're gone,
mother comes, and wrenches my 'and open, and takes the money, and ses,
"Go to sleep agin you little warmint, or I'll break every bone in yer
body!" Then I shuts my eyes, and the game's played all over agin.

Our Reporter: Is your mother near you all the while, Fanny, that she
comes and takes the money from you?

Fanny: Lor! No! That would spoil the game. She's watchin' on the other
side of Trafalgar Square. She knows 'er book, does mother! Sometimes I'm
so tired that I falls asleep in real earnest, and then I ketches
it--'ot!

Our Reporter: Does she beat you?

Fanny: Does she miss a chance?

The child hitches her shoulder out of her ragged frock, and our
Reporter sees on the poor thin back, the bladebones of which stick
up like knives, the marks of welts and bruises. There is room in our
literature for another kind of book on "The Mothers of England" than
that written by a celebrated authoress many years ago. Fanny's poor
little back is black and blue, and when our Reporter, with gentle
finger, touches one of the bruises, the child quivers with pain.

Our Reporter: Altogether, Fanny, your life is not a rosy one?

Fanny: O, I 'ave lots of larks with the boys! And I've got some 'air.

Our Reporter (very much puzzled): Some what?

Fanny: Some 'air. I'll show yer.

She jumps from her chair, creeps under the bed, and emerges presently,
her face flushed and excited, with something wrapped in a piece of old
newspaper. She displays her treasure to our astonished Reporter. It is
a chignon, apparently made of tow, which she fixes proudly on her head.
The colour is many shades lighter than Fanny's own hair, which is a
pretty dark brown, but that is of the smallest consequence to the child,
who evidently believes that the chignon makes a woman of fashion of her.

Fanny: I wears it on Sundays, when I goes to the Embankment. Mother
don't know I've got it. If she did, she'd take it from me, and wear it
'erself. I say--ain't it splendid, the Embankment?

Our Reporter: It is a fine place, Fanny. So you have larks with the
boys?

Fanny: Yes. We goes to the play on the sly. 'Tain't a month ago since
Bob the Swell comes and ses, "Fanny, wot do yer say to goin' and seein'
'Drink' at the Princesses? Give us a kiss, and I'll treat yer!" My! I
was ready to jump out of my skin! He 'ad two other gals with 'im. He
ses, ses Bob, "This is a lady's party. It's a wim of mine"--I don't know
wot he means by that, but he ses--"it's a wim of mine. I wos allus a
lady's man, wosn't I, Fan?" (And he is, a regular one!) "I've got three
young women to my own cheek, all a-growin' and a-blowin'! Let's trot."
Wot a night we 'ad! He takes us to a 'Talian ice-shop in Williers
Street, and we 'as penny ices, and then we goes to the Princesses--to
the best part of the theaytre, 'igh up, where you can look down on
all the other people. 'Ave you seen 'Drink?' Prime--ain't it? But I
shouldn't like to be one o' them gals as throws pails of water over each
other. And when Coop-o falls from the scaffoldin'--ain't it nacheral! I
almost cried my eyes out when he was 'aving dinner with 'is little gal.
Then he gits the trembles, and goes on awful. I never seed one so bad as
that! When the play's over Bob takes us to a pub'----

Our Reporter (shocked): Fanny!

Fanny: Wot's the matter?

Our Reporter: You don't drink, I hope?

Fanny: Yes, I does--but not what Bob the Swell drinks. I likes water
with raspberry jam in it, stirred up. I 'ad some white satin once, but
it made me sick. That night Bob drinks beer, and the other gals too. I
was genteel; I 'ad lemonade. I got a wollopin' when I got 'ome. Mother
was waitin' for me outside the Good Sir Mary Tun; I tried to dodge 'er,
but it was no go; she caught me and give it me. "That'll teach yer," she
said, "to leave your pore mother with a throat as dry as a salt 'erring,
while you go gallivantin' about with a parcel of boys!" I didn't mind;
it was worth the wollopin'.

Our Reporter: Now, let us talk about Blanche.

Fanny: Yes. 'Ow late she is to-night!

Our Reporter: Have you known her long, Fanny?

Fanny: Ever since she's bin 'ere.

Our Reporter: About three months?

Fanny: I can't count. It was a 'ot night--late, and I was cryin'; I
couldn't help it--I wos 'ungry, and mother 'ad been givin' it to me.
Blanche comes up, and arks a lot of questions--just the same as you've
been doin'; then she brings me 'ome 'ere, and I've slept with 'er ever
since.

Our Reporter: Does she work?

Fanny: I never seed 'er. She don't do nothink.

Our Reporter: And no one comes to see her?

Fanny: Not as I knows on. Look 'ere! You don't want to 'urt 'er, do you?

Our Reporter: No, Fanny. I would like to be a good friend to her, but I
am afraid she has put it out of my power. You would be sorry if she went
away from you?

Fanny (slowly, after a pause): I don't know what I should do if she did.
Are yer makin' game of me? Who are yer?

Our Reporter: A friend of yours, Fanny, if you like. Do you see this
paper? It was left for you.

Fanny: There's my name on it. I can read _that_. Wot else does it say?

Our Reporter: Listen. (He reads.) "Dear little Fanny. Good bye. If ever
I am rich I will try and find you. Look on the mantelshelf." You were
asleep, Fanny, and I looked on the mantel shelf. This was there for you.
(He gives her the shilling.)

Fanny (turning the shilling over and over in her hand): I don't know wot
it means. Please read it agin--the fust part.

Our Reporter (after reading the farewell again): It means, Fanny, that
Blanche is gone, and that if she is fortunate she will be kind to you
by-and-bye.

Fanny's head sinks on the table, and her little body is shaken with
sobs. In vain does our Reporter attempt to comfort her, and at length he
is compelled to leave her alone in the humble room in which poor Fanny
has learnt a lesson of love which will abide with her, and, let us hope,
will purify her days.

[Decoration]



CHAPTER XI.

THE "EVENING MOON" FOR A TIME TAKES LEAVE OF THE CASE OF ANTONY
COWLRICK.


We have but little to add to the graphic statement of our Special
Reporter. He paid altogether three visits to the house in which Antony
Cowlrick's female friend, Blanche, rented a room; the last visit was
paid at noon of this day. His desire was to obtain some information
relating to the young woman's history; he has been unsuccessful.
Nothing is known of her history; she made her first appearance in the
neighbourhood about three months ago, took a furnished room, lived a
quiet life, and did not mix with the neighbours. She was never seen in
public-houses, and had no visitors. All that is known of her relates
to the little match girl, Fanny, her kindness to whom is the theme of
admiration and praise. Her name was Blanche--simply Blanche; she gave
and was asked for no other. The police have nothing to say against
her. There are few single young women living alone in the locality in
which Blanche resided against whom the tongue of scandal is not busy,
generally, it must be admitted, with sufficient reason; but nothing has
been elicited to the discredit of Blanche. Thus far, her record is a
good one.

Nothing has been seen of Antony Cowlrick; he has vanished utterly from
the sight of the police, who, although he was acquitted of the charge
they brought against him, had determined to keep their eye on him. He
has proved himself more than their match. The description given of him
by our Special Reporter is that of a man of medium height, probably
five feet eight inches, with spare frame, lithe and sinewy. His hair
is auburn, and appeared to grow freely. This free growth, and the
circumstance of his having been unshaved for weeks, render it difficult
to describe his features; all that can be said on this point is that
his face was haggard and distressed, and that there dwelt upon it an
expression which denoted deep trouble and perplexity. Every person who
has followed this case in our columns, and who has carefully read the
accounts we have presented to our readers, must feel a deep interest in
the man. The impression he made upon our Special Reporter--the prompt
repayment of the sovereign he borrowed--his language and manners--even
the collateral evidence supplied by what is known of his friend
Blanche--all tell in his favour. And stronger than every circumstance
combined are the concluding words of his letter to our Special Reporter.
"If you do not know what else to do with the money received by your
paper in response to its appeal for subscriptions on my behalf, I can
tell you--give it to the poor." There spoke a man in whose bosom beats
the true pulse of a lofty humanity. Antony Cowlrick, who, without
doubt, since his release, has read all that has appeared in our columns
concerning him, is aware that our last edition of yesterday contained a
full list of subscriptions sent to our office for him, the total amount
being £68 17s. It is a sum worth having, and might be supposed to be
especially acceptable to a man in Antony Cowlrick's apparently destitute
condition--a man upon whose person, when he was arrested, was found some
stale bread and cheese, and not a penny of money. In the face of this
evidence of poverty, Antony Cowlrick has not called for the handsome sum
we hold in trust for him, and has instructed us to give it to the poor.
We shall do so in a week from this date, unless Antony Cowlrick presents
himself at our office to receive it; or unless those who have subscribed
object. We trust they will not withdraw their subscriptions, which we
promise shall be faithfully and worthily applied in charity's cause.

Here, then, for the present, we leave the subject which has occupied so
large a portion of our space. The man murdered in the house, No. 119
Great Porter Square, lies in his grave, and his murderer is still at
large. Any of our readers may have come in contact with him this very
day; we ourselves may have walked elbow to elbow with him in the crowded
thoroughfares; and he will, of a certainty, if he be in England, read
to-night the words we are now writing. Tremble, thou unspeakable
monster! Though thou escape thy doom at the bar of earthly justice,
God's hand lies heavy upon thee, and shall weigh thee down until the
Judgment Day, when thou and thy victim shall stand face to face before
the eternal throne!

[Decoration]



CHAPTER XII.

MRS. PREEDY HAS DREADFUL DREAMS.


So profound was the sleep of Mrs. Preedy, lodging-house keeper, whom we
left slumbering in the first chapter of our story, that we have been
able, without disturbing her, to make the foregoing extracts from the
copies of the _Evening Moon_ which lay on the table immediately beneath
her nose. Deep as were her slumbers, they were not peaceful. Murder
was in her brain, and it presented itself to her in a thousand hideous
and grotesque shapes. Overwhelming, indeed, was her trouble. Only that
morning had she said to Mrs. Beale, a bosom friend and neighbour on the
other side of the Square--

"I shall never rest easy in my mind till the man's caught and hung!"

Dreams, it is said, "go by contrary." If you dream of a marriage, it
means death; if you dream of death, it means marriage. Happy augury,
then, that Mrs. Preedy should dream that her dead and buried husband,
her "blessed angel," was alive, that he had committed the murder, and
that she was putting on her best black to see him hanged. Curious to
say, in her unconscious state, this otherwise distressing dream was
rather enjoyable, for through the tangled threads of the crime and
its punishment ran the refrain of a reproach she used to hurl at her
husband, when fortune went against him, to the effect that she always
knew he would come to a bad end. So altogether, it was a comfortable
hanging--Mr. Preedy being dead and out of the reach of danger, and Mrs.
Preedy being alive to enjoy it.

A more grotesque fancy was it to dream that the wooden old impostor
in the weather indicator on her mantelshelf was the murderer. This
antiquated farmer, who was about four inches in height, unhooked himself
from his catgut suspender, slid down to the ground, and stood upon the
floor of the kitchen, with Murder in his Liliputian carcase. With no
sense of wonder did the dreamer observe the movements of this incredible
dwarf-man. He looked around warily, his wooden finger at his wooden
lips. All was quiet. He walked to the wall, covering about a quarter
of an inch at every step, and rapped at it. A small hole appeared; he
vanished through it. The opening was too small for Mrs. Preedy's body,
and the current of her fancies carried her to a chair, upon which she
sat and waited for the murderer's return. The opening in the wall led to
the next house, No. 119, and the sleeper knew that, as she waited, the
dreadful deed was being done. The wooden old impostor returned, with
satisfaction in his face and blood on his fingers, which he wiped on
Mrs. Preedy's apron. He slid up to his bower in the weather indicator,
and re-hooked himself on to his catgut suspender, and stood "trembling
in the balance," but perfectly easy in his mind, predicting foul
weather.

"Ah, my man," said Mrs. Preedy, in her sleep, shaking her fist at him,
"it will be foul weather for you to-morrow, when I have you taken up and
hanged for it!"

Then came another fancy, that he had murdered the wooden young woman
in her bower (so that she should not appear as a witness), and that it
would never be fine weather any more.

These and other fancies faded and were blotted out, as though they had
never been, and a dread silence fell upon the soul of the slumbering
woman.

She was alone in a room, from which there was no outlet but a door
which was locked on the outside. No person was within hail. She was cut
off from the world, and from all chance of help. She had been asleep,
dreaming of an incident in her childhood's days. A dream within a dream.

From the inner dream she was suddenly awakened. Still asleep, and
nodding over the table, upon which lay the copies of the _Evening Moon_,
she believed herself to be awake. What had roused her? A footfall upon
the stairs in the upper part of the house.

It was a deserted house, containing no other occupant but herself. The
door was locked; it was impossible to get out. The very bed in which she
lay was a prison; she could not move from it. Afraid almost to breathe,
she listened in fear to the sound which had fallen on her sleeping
senses.

She knew exactly how the house was built--was familiar with every room
and every stair. Another footfall--another--a long pause between each.
The man, who was creeping down to her chamber to murder her, was
descending the staircase which led from the third to the second floor.
He reached it, and paused again.

There was no doubt about his intention. In her dream, it appeared as if
she knew the whole history of this murderer, and that he was the terror
of every householder in London. He worked in secret, and always with
fatal, deadly effect. He left nothing to chance. And Mrs. Preedy was to
be his next victim.

She could not avert her doom; she could only wait for it.

From the second floor to the first, step by step, she followed him
in her imagination. Slow and sure was his progress. Frantic were her
efforts to escape from the bed, but the sheets held her tight, like
sheets of steel.

       *       *       *       *       *

In reality a man _was_ descending the stairs to the kitchen. There was
something stealthy in his movements which curiously contrasted with a
certain air of bravado, which, if it were assumed, was entirely thrown
away, as no eye was on him as he crept from the top of the house to the
bottom.

       *       *       *       *       *

In her dream, influenced as dreams are in an excited brain by any sound,
however light, Mrs. Preedy accompanied this man in his slow progress
from his attic to her kitchen. He reached the landing, which led this
way to the street door, and that to the room in which Mrs. Preedy lay in
her nightmare of terror. Which direction would he take?

Downwards!--to the bed in which she was imprisoned. Her last moments
were approaching.

She strove to think of a prayer, but her tongue clave to the roof of her
mouth. Closer--closer--he came. He opened the door, and stood upon the
threshold. The louder sound than the sound of his steps aroused her to
full consciousness, and, opening her eyes, she confronted him with a
face white with fear.

[Decoration]



CHAPTER XIII.

MRS. PREEDY'S YOUNG MAN LODGER.


The door of the kitchen opened outwards into the passage, and the man,
turning the handle with his right hand, stood upon the threshold with
his left raised and resting, for support, upon the framework. In Mrs.
Preedy's imagination, the concealed hand held the deadly weapon with
which she was to be murdered. There was, however, nothing very murderous
in the intruder's face, and when he advanced a step and his arms fell
peaceably by his sides, Mrs. Preedy saw, with a sigh of relief, that his
hands were empty. This sigh of relief was accompanied by a recognition
of the man, in whom she beheld a lodger named Richard Manx, who had
been her tenant for exactly three weeks, and was exactly three weeks
in arrear of his rent. Mrs Preedy called him her young man lodger.

He was probably younger than he looked, for his complexion was dark and
his black hair was thick and long. His eyes were singularly bright, and
had a cat-like glare in them--so that one might be forgiven the fancy
that, like a cat's, they would shine in the dark. He spoke with a
slightly foreign accent, and his mode of expression may be described
as various, affording no clue to his nationality.

Mrs. Preedy was re-assured. The frightful impressions produced by her
dream died away, and the instincts of the professional landlady asserted
themselves. "My young man lodger has come to pay his rent," was her
first thought, and a gracious and stereotyped smile appeared on her
lips. The sweet illusion swiftly vanished, and her second thought was,
"He is drunk." This, also, did not hold its ground, and Mrs. Preedy then
practically summed up the case: "He has come to beg--a candle, a piece
of bread, a lump of soap--somethink he is in want of, and ain't got
money to pay for. And his excuse is that he is a foringer, or that all
the shops are shut. I don't believe he's got a penny in his pocket. You
don't deceive me, young man; I wasn't born yesterday!"

Mrs. Preedy glanced towards the clock, and her glance was arrested on
its way by the weather indicator, with the old wooden farmer in full
view. Grotesque and improbable as were the fancies in which he had
played a tragic part, Mrs. Preedy could not resist the temptation of
ascertaining with her own eyes whether the young wooden woman, whom she
dreamt he had murdered, was in existence; and she rose and pushed the
old farmer into his bower. Out sailed the young woman, with her vacant
face and silly leer, as natural as life, and an impetus having been
given to the machinery, she and her male companion who had lived under
the same roof for years, and yet were absolute strangers to each other
(a striking illustration of English manners), swung in and out, in and
out, predicting fair weather foul weather, fair weather foul weather,
with the most reckless indifference of consequences. In truth, without
reference to the mendacious prophets, the weather gave every indication
of being presently very foul indeed. Thunder was in the air; the wind
was sobbing in the Square, and a few heavy drops of rain had fallen with
thuds upon roof and pavement.

The hands of the clock pointed to twelve.

"A nice time," thought Mrs. Preedy, "to come creeping downstairs into my
kitchen! I never did like them foringers! But I'd give anything to get
my 'ouse full--whether the lodgers paid or not for a week or two. Did
the young man expect to find me out, or asleep? Is there anything goin'
on atween 'im and Becky?"

This dark suspicion recommended itself to her mind, and she readily gave
it admittance. It is to be feared that Mrs. Preedy's experiences had not
led her to a charitable opinion of maids-of-all-work. Becky, as Mrs.
Preedy called her servant, was a new girl, and had been in her service
for nearly a fortnight. Mrs. Preedy had been agreeably disappointed in
the girl, whom she did not expect to stay in the house a week. Since the
murder at No. 119, she had had eight different servants, not one of whom
stayed for longer than a few days--two had run away on the second day,
declaring that the ghost of the murdered man had appeared to them on the
first night, and that they wouldn't sleep another in such a place for
"untold gold." But Becky remained.

"Is there anything goin' on atween 'im and Becky?" was Mrs. Preedy's
thought, as she looked at the clock.

Richard Manx's eyes followed hers.

"It is--a--what you call wrong," he muttered.

"Very wrong," said Mrs. Preedy, aloud, under the impression that he
had unwittingly answered her thought, "and you ought to be ashamed of
yourself. You may do what you like in your own country, but I don't
allow such goings on in my 'ouse."

"I was--a--thinking of your watch-clock," said Richard Manx. "It is
not--a--right. Five, ten, fifteen minutes are past, and I counted twelve
by the church bells. Midnight, that is it--twelve of the clock."

"It's time for all decent people to be abed and asleep," remarked Mrs.
Preedy.

"In bed--ah!--but in sleep--that is not the same thing. _You_ are not
so."

"I've got my business to look after," retorted Mrs. Preedy. "I suppose
you 'aven't come to pay your rent?"

"To pay? Ah, money! It is what you call it, tight. No, I have not come
money to pay."

"And 'ow am I to pay _my_ rent, I should like to know, if you don't pay
yours? Can you tell me that, young man?"

"I cannot--a--tell you. I am not a weezard."

Although Mrs. Preedy had fully regained her courage she could not think
of a fitting rejoinder to this remark; so for a moment she held her
tongue.

She had occupied her house for thirty years, living, until a short time
since, in tolerable comfort upon the difference between the rent she
received from her lodgers and the rent she paid to the agent of the
estate upon which Great Porter Square was situated. It was a great and
wealthy estate. Mrs. Preedy had never seen her aristocratic landlord,
who owned not only Great Porter Square but a hundred squares and streets
in the vicinity, in addition to lovely tracts of woodland and grand
mansions in the country. The income of this to-be-envied lord was
said to be a sovereign a minute. London, in whose cellars and garrets
hundreds of poor wretches yearly die of starvation, contains many such
princes.

Richard Manx rented a room in the garret of Mrs. Preedy's house, for
which he had to pay three shillings a week. It was furnished, and the
rent could not be considered unreasonable. Certainly there was in the
room nothing superfluous. There were a truckle bed, with a few worn-out
bed clothes, a japanned chest of drawers, so ricketty that it had to be
propped up with bits of paper under two of its corners, a wreck of a
chair, an irregular piece of looking-glass hooked on to the wall, an old
fender before the tiniest fire-place that ever was seen, a bent bit of
iron for a poker, an almost bottomless coal scuttle, a very small trunk
containing Richard Manx's personal belongings, a ragged towel, and a
lame washstand with toilet service, every piece of which was chipped
and broken. In an auction the lot might have brought five shillings;
no broker in his senses would have bid higher for the rubbish.

"If you 'aven't come to pay your rent," demanded Mrs. Preedy, "what
_'ave_ you come for?"

Richard Manx craned his neck forward till his face was at least six
inches in advance of his body, and replied in a hoarse whisper:

"I have--a--heard it once more again!"

The effect of these words upon Mrs. Preedy was extraordinary. No sooner
had they escaped her lodger's lips than she started from her chair,
upsetting her glass of gin in her excitement, and, pulling him into the
room, shut the door behind him. Then she opened the door of the little
cupboard in which the servant slept, and called softly:

"Becky!" and again, "Becky! Becky!"

The girl must have been a sound sleeper, for even when her mistress
stepped to her bedside, and passed her hand over her face, she did not
move or speak. Returning to the kitchen, Mrs. Preedy closed the door of
the sleeping closet, and said to Richard Manx:

"Look 'ere, young man, I don't want none of your nonsense, and, what's
more, I won't stand none!" And instantly took the heart out of her
defiance by crying, in an appealing tone: "Do you want to ruin me?"

"What think you of me?" asked Richard Manx, in return. "No, I wish not
to ruin. But attend. You call your mind back to--a--one week from now.
It is Wednesday then--it is Wednesday now. I sit up in my garret in the
moon. I think--I smoke. Upon my ear strikes a sound. I hear scratching,
moving. Where? At my foot? No. In my room? No; I can nothing see. Where,
after that? In this house? Who can say? In the next to this? Ah! I
think of what is there done, three months that are past. My blood--that
is it--turn cold. I cannot, for a some time, move. You tell me, you,
that there is no--a--man, or--a--woman, or--a--child in the apartment
under-beneath where I sit. I am one myself _in_ that room--no wife,
no--a--child. I speak myself to--I answer myself to. No-- I am
not--a--right. Something there is that to me speaks. The wind, the
infernal--like a voice, it screams, and whistles, and what you call,
sobs. That is it. Like a child, or a woman, or a man for mercy calling!
Ah! it make my hair to rise. Listen you. It speaks once more again!"

It was the wind in the streets that was moaning and sobbing; and during
the pause, a flash of lightning darted in, causing Richard Manx to start
back with the manner of a man upon whom divine vengeance had suddenly
fallen. It was followed, in a little while, by a furious bursting of
thunder, which shook the house. They listened until the echoes died
away, and even then the spirit of the sound remained in their ears with
ominous portent.

"It is an angry night," said Richard Manx. "I will--a--continue what I
was saying. It is Wednesday of a week past. I in my garret sit and I
smoke. I hear the sound. It is what you call--a--secret. To myself I
think there is in that house next to this the blood of a man murdered.
Why shall there not be in this house, to-morrow that rises, the blood of
one other man murdered. And that man! Who shall it be? Myself--I. So I
rouse my courage up, and descend from my garret in the moon to the door
of the street. Creeping--is that so, your word?--creeping after me a
spirit comes--not for me to see, not for me to touch--but to hear with
my ears. All is dark. In the passage appear you, and ask me what? I
tell you, and you laugh--but not laugh well, it is like a cry--and
you say, it is--a fancy; it is nothing I hear. And you, with hands
so"--(clasping his hands together, somewhat tragically)--"beg of me not
to any speak of what I hear. I consent; I say, I will not of it speak."

"And you 'aven't?" inquired Mrs. Preedy, anxiously.

Richard Manx laid his hand on his breast. "On my honour, no; I speak
not of it. I think myself, 'The lady of the house is--a--right. I hear
only--a--fancy. I will not trouble. I will let to-morrow come.' It come,
and another to-morrow, and another, and still another. Nothing I hear.
But to-night--again! I am smoking myself in bed. Be not afraid--I shall
not put your house in a fire. It would not be bad. You are what they
call insured?" Mrs. Preedy nodded. "Listen you--comes the rain. Ah--and
the wind. God in heaven! that fire-flash!"

It blinded them for a moment or two. Then, after the briefest
interval, pealed the thunder, with a crash which almost deafened them.
Instinctively, Richard Manx drew nearer to Mrs. Preedy, and she also
moved closer to him. At such times as this, when nature appears to
be warring against mortals, the human craving for companionship and
visible, palpable sympathy most strongly asserts itself.

Either the breaking of the storm, or some other cause, had produced a
strange effect upon Becky, whom Mrs. Preedy supposed to be sleeping in
the little room adjoining the kitchen; for the girl in her night-dress
was kneeling on the ground, with her head close to the door, listening,
with her heart and soul in her ears, to the conversation between her
mistress and the young man lodger. It would have astonished Mrs. Preedy
considerably had she detected her maid-of-all-work in such a position.

The thunder and lightning continued for quite five minutes, and then
they wandered into the country and awoke the echoes there, leaving the
rain behind them, which poured down like a deluge over the greater part
of the city.



CHAPTER XIV.

IN WHICH BECKY COMMENCES A LETTER TO A FRIEND IN THE COUNTRY.


On the following evening, Becky, the maid-of-all-work, having received
a reluctant permission from her mistress to go out until ten o'clock,
wrote and posted the following letter:--

       *       *       *       *       *

MY DARLING FRED,--I will now give you an account of all that has passed
since I saw your dear face. I could not write to you before to-day, for
the reason that I did not get an address until this morning, when I
received your dear letter. It was short, but I was overjoyed when the
man at the post office gave it to me. He looked at me suspiciously,
having a doubt whether I was the person I represented myself to be. I
dare say this remark makes you wonder a little; but you would wonder
more if you had seen me when I asked for your letter. Now, be patient,
and you will soon learn why.

Patient! Have you not been patient? What other man in the world would
have borne what you have borne with such fortitude and courage?
None--no, not one! But it is for my sake as well as your own, that,
instead of taking your revenge upon the wretches who have persecuted
you, you schooled yourself to the endurance of their cruelty, in the
hope that the day would come when they would be compelled to set you
free. And it came--and you are free! O, my dear! I pray day and night
that all will come right in the end.

It seems as if this were going to be a long, long letter, but I cannot
help it. I must wander on in my own way, and I have got more than three
hours, all to myself.

What have I been doing since you went away? That is what you are asking
yourself? Prepare for wonders. I would give you ten thousand guesses,
and you would not come near the truth.

You shall be told without guessing. I found it very dull in the lodging
you took for me; the days dragged on _so_ slowly, and I thought the
nights would never end.

What did I want? Something to do.

Now, with this in my mind, an inspiration fell upon me one night, and
the moment it did so I could not help thinking myself a selfish, idle
little woman for not having thought of it before. That sounds rather
confused, but you will understand it.

So the very next morning I set about it. How, do you think? And about
what?

I went to a poor little shop in a lane in Chelsea, where they sell
second-hand clothes, and I bought two common frocks, and some common
petticoats, and everything else--boots, cloak, hat--such a hat!--and a
bunch of false hair. The clothes were very cheap. I do not know how the
woman could have sold them for the money except that the poor creatures
who sold them to _her_ must have been so near starvation's door that
they were compelled to part with them at any price.

I took them home to my lodgings, and dressed myself in them, put on
my false hair, and smudged my face. I looked exactly like the part I
intended to play--a servant-of-all-work, ready to go on the stage.

You are burning to know in what theatre I intended to play the part. I
will tell you. Don't start. Great Porter Square.

Of all places in the world (I hear you say) the one place I should wish
my little woman to avoid. Your little woman thought differently--thinks
differently.

This is what I said to myself: Here is my darling working day and night
to get at the heart of a great mystery in which he is involved. He
endures dreadful hardships, suffers imprisonment and cruel indignities,
and travels hundreds and hundreds of miles, in his endeavour to unravel
the mystery which affects his peace and mine--his future and mine--his
honour and mine! And here am I, with nothing to do, living close to the
very spot where the fearful crime was committed, sitting down in wicked
idleness, without making the slightest attempt to assist the man for
whom I would cheerfully die, but for whom I would much more cheerfully
live. Why should I not go and live in Great Porter Square, assuming such
a disguise as would enable me to hear everything that was going on--all
the tittle-tattle--all the thousand little things, and words, and
circumstances which have never been brought to light--and which might
lead to a clue which would help the man I would much more cheerfully
live for than die for?

There was no impropriety in what I determined to do, and in what I have
done. I must tell you that there is in me a more determined, earnest
spirit than you ever gave me credit for. Now that I am actively engaged
in this adventure, I know that I am brave and strong and cunning, and a
little bird whispers to me that I shall discover something--God alone
knows what--which will be of importance to you.

Do you think I shall be debarred by fear of ghosts? I am not frightened
of ghosts.

Now you know how it is I arrived at my resolution. Do not blame me for
it, and do not write to me to give it up. I do not think I could, even
if you commanded me.

I did not make a move until night came. Fortunately, it was a dark
night. I watched my opportunity, and when nobody was on the stairs, I
glided down in my disguise, slipped open the street door, and vanished
from the neighbourhood.

I had never been in Great Porter Square, but it seemed to me as if I
_must_ know where it was, and when I thought I was near the Square I
went into a greengrocer's shop and inquired. It was quite close, the
woman said, just round the corner to the left.

The Square, my dear, as you know, is a very dismal-looking place. There
are very few gas lamps in it, and the inclosure in the centre, which
they call a garden, containing a few melancholy trees and shrubs, does
not add to its attractiveness. When I came to 119, I crossed the road
and looked up at the windows. They were quite dark, and there was a bill
in one, "To Let." It had a very gloomy appearance, but the other houses
were little better off in that respect. There was not one which did
not seem to indicate that some person was lying dead in it, and that
a funeral was going to take place to-morrow.

There were a great many rooms to let in Great Porter Square, especially
in the houses near to No. 119. No. 118 appeared to be almost quite
empty, for, except in a room at the very top of the house, and in the
basement, there was not a light to be seen. I did not wonder at it.

Well, my dear, my walk round the Square did not help me much, so what
did I do but walk back to the greengrocer's shop. You know the sort of
shop. The people sell coals, wood, gingerbeer, and lemonade, the day
before yesterday's bunches of flowers, and the day before yesterday's
cabbages and vegetables.

"Didn't you find it?" asked the woman.

"O, yes," I replied, "but I didn't find what I was looking for. I heard
that a servant was wanted in one of the houses, and I have forgotten the
number."

"There's a house in the Square," said the woman, "where they want a
servant bad, but they can't get one to stop."

"What's the number?" I asked.

"No. 118," the woman answered. "Next to--but perhaps you don't know."

"Don't know what?" I inquired.

"That it's next door to the house where a murder was committed," she
said.

"What is that to me?" I said. "_I_ didn't do it."

The woman looked at me admiringly. "Well," she said, "you've got a
nerve! And you don't look it, neither. You look delicate."

"Don't you go by looks," I said, "I'm stronger than you think."

Then I thanked her, and went to No. 118 Great Porter Square, and knocked
at the door.



CHAPTER XV.

  IN WHICH BECKY CONTINUES HER LETTER AND RELATES HOW SHE OBTAINED THE
    SITUATION AT NO. 118.


I had to wait a little while before my knock was answered, and then I
heard, in a woman's voice,

"Who's there?"

"A girl," I replied. "I heard you were in want of one."

"Are you alone?"

"Yes."

The street-door was thrown suddenly open, and a woman appeared on the
doorstep, with a lighted candle in her hand, which the wind instantly
blew out. The woman was Mrs. Preedy, lodging-house keeper, my present
mistress. She tried to see my face, but the night was too dark.

"Wait a minute," she said; "stand where you are."

Upon my word, my dear, I believe she was afraid of poor little me.

She retreated into the passage, and re-lit the candle. Shading and
protecting it with her hand, she bade me walk in, but not to shut the
street-door. I obeyed her, and she examined me, seeming to measure
whether she was a match for me in strength.

"How did you know I wanted a servant?" she asked.

"They told me at the greengrocer's round the corner," I said.

"Where did you live last?"

I replied promptly, "I have never been in service. But I am sure I
should suit you. I am strong and willing, and I don't mind what I do
so long as the place is comfortable."

"It's comfortable enough," she said. "Are you a London girl?"

"No, I come from the country."

"What made you leave the country?"

I cast down my eyes. "I had a quarrel with my young man."

Just reflect for a moment, my dear, upon my boldness!

"It ain't the thing to take a girl without a character," said Mrs.
Preedy.

Upon this I delivered a master-stroke.

"You can consider it in the wages," I said.

It had an effect upon the woman. "How much do you expect?" she asked.

"I'm not particular," I answered; "all I want is a comfortable home."

There were plenty more questions and answers. Mrs. Preedy must have been
in a desperate plight for a domestic, or I should have stood a poor
chance of being engaged; but engaged I was at £8 a year, "all found,"
and I commenced my new life at once by following my mistress into
the kitchen, and washing up the plates and dishes, and cleaning the
candlesticks. Mrs. Preedy's eye was on me.

"It's easy to see," she said, "that you've never been in service before.
But I dare say you'll do. Mind! I make my girls pay for all they
break!"

I can't help laughing when I think of her words. Reckoning up the things
I have already let slip--(they _will_ do it; I can't prevent them;
really I believe they are alive)--I have arrived at the conclusion
that the whole of my first month's wages will be presented to me in
broken crockery. My cheerfulness over my misfortunes is a source of
considerable astonishment to my mistress.

When I finished washing up the things, I was sent out to "The Green
Dragon" for the supper beer, and upon my return, took possession of
my very small bedroom, and, unpacking my bundle of clothes (which had
already been untied and examined by Mrs. Preedy while I was fetching the
supper beer--artful woman!) I went to bed. Mrs. Preedy had no need to
tell me to be up early in the morning. I was awake all night, but I was
not unhappy, for I thought of you and of the likelihood that I might be
able to help you.

My name, my dear, is Becky.

So behold me fairly launched on my adventure. And let me entreat of
you, once and for all, not to distress yourself about me. I am very
comfortable, and as the house is almost empty there is not much to do.
It is astonishing how easily we accustom ourselves to circumstances.

Mrs. Preedy had only one lodger when I entered her service--a bedridden
old lady, Mrs. Bailey, who has not left her bed for more than three
years. She lives on the first floor in a back room, and is the widow
of a soldier who bequeathed to her half-a-dozen medals, and a small
annuity, upon which she just manages to live. This is what the old lady
herself declares; she has "barely enough--barely enough; not a penny to
spare!" But Mrs. Preedy is firm in the belief--popularly shared by every
householder in Great Porter Square--that the old lady is very rich, and
has a hoard of gold hidden in her apartment, the exact locality being
the mattress upon which she lies. As she never leaves her bed, the
demonstration of this suspicion is not practicable without violence to
the old lady's bones and feelings. She pays Mrs. Preedy twelve shillings
a week for her room and two meals a day, and she occasionally takes a
fancy to a little delicacy, which may cost her about eighteenpence more
a week, so it is not difficult to calculate the amount of the annuity.

The days of Mrs. Bailey's existence should pass wearily enough in all
conscience, but she appears to enjoy herself, her chief source of
amusement being two birds, a linnet which never sings a note, and a
bullfinch that looks as old as Methuselah. Their cages hang on the wall
at the foot of the old lady's bed. They never catch a glimpse of the
sun, and their movements have scarcely in them the brisk movement of
feathered things. Their hops are languid, and the bullfinch mopes
dreadfully.

The old lady was an object of interest to me at once. One by one,
shortly after the murder next door was committed, Mrs. Preedy's lodgers
left her. Only Mrs. Bailey remained, the apparent reason being that
she was helpless. She appears to have but one friend in the world (not
taking her birds into account), a sister older than herself, who comes
to spend an afternoon with her once in every month, who is very deaf,
almost blind, and who cannot walk without the assistance of a thick
stick. The old creature, whose name I do not know, takes snuff, and
inspires me with a fear that she will one day suddenly fall all to
pieces--in the way that I once saw harlequin in a pantomime do. I have
no hope that, if such a dreadful thing happens, she will have a clown at
her elbow, as the harlequin had, who in the most marvellous manner put
the pieces together and brought them to life again. To see these two old
ladies, as I saw them a few days ago, with the languid linnet and the
moping bullfinch, is a sight not easy to forget.

Although I have written such a long letter, I have not told you half
I intended. To-morrow I will send you another, which I will write
to-night, while Mrs. Preedy is asleep. If you think I have nothing to
say which has the slightest bearing upon the murder, you are mistaken;
but you must restrain your impatience till to-morrow.

My darling, I write in a light vein, I know, but my feeling is deep and
earnest. I want to cheer you, if I can, and win a smile from you. Before
we met in Leicester Square, on the day you were released, I was serious
enough, and in deep trouble; but the moment we were together again, hope
entered my heart, and, with that bright angel, a little of the gaiety of
spirits in which you used to take delight. Hope is with me now. Receive
it from me, if you are despondent. I kiss it into this letter, and send
you my heart with it. No--how can I do that, when you have my heart
already! And if, with that in your possession, you do not now and then
see a ray of light in the midst of your anxieties, I shall call you
ungrateful. Adieu, my love for a few hours.

  For ever and ever your own,
  BECKY.



CHAPTER XVI.

  IN WHICH BECKY WRITES A SECOND LETTER TO HER FRIEND IN THE COUNTRY,
    AND GIVES A WOMAN'S REASON FOR NOT LIKING RICHARD MANX.


MY OWN DARLING,--It is nearly two o'clock in the morning. Everything is
quiet in the house, and I can write in my little cupboard of a bedroom,
the door of which leads into the kitchen, without fear of being
disturbed.

Where did I leave off in my letter? Oh, about our old lady lodger, Mrs.
Bailey, and her poor old sister.

She was the only lodger in the house when I first came, and I made
myself so agreeable to the old lady that in a few days she would not be
satisfied unless I waited upon her entirely. I heard her say to Mrs.
Preedy, as I was in the passage outside the door--quite by accident, of
course; I had my broom in my hand, you may be sure--I heard her say--

"Why didn't you send Becky up? I like Becky--I like Becky!"

I have no doubt, if she had had a parrot in the room, that it would have
learned to say--

"I like Becky!--I like Becky!"

But I took no notice until Mrs. Preedy said to me--

"Becky, Mrs. Bailey's taken quite a fancy to you."

"I'm glad to hear it, mum," I replied.

You should hear me say "mum." I have made quite a study of the word.

From that time I have waited upon Mrs. Bailey pretty regularly. Mrs.
Preedy has not failed to impress upon me, if anything happens to the old
lady, if she is "took ill" (she has an idea that the old lady will "go
off sudden") while I am in her room, that I am to run down for her
"immediate."

"I should like to do what is proper by the old lady," said Mrs. Preedy.

But my idea is that she wants to be the first to see what treasure is
concealed in the old lady's mattrass.

One day I ventured to speak to the old lady about the murder in No. 119,
and I elicited from her that two detectives had paid her a visit, to
ascertain whether she had heard anything from the next house on the
night the dreadful deed was committed.

"They didn't get anything out of me, Becky," said the old lady; "I
didn't hear anything, Becky--eh? I told them as much as I
heard--nothing--eh, Becky?"

There was something odd in the old lady's manner, and I felt convinced
she knew more than she said. The old lady is spasmodic, and speaks very
slowly, gasping at each word, with a long pause between.

"Of course," I said, with a knowing look, "you didn't hear anything, so
you couldn't tell them anything! I should have done just the same."

"Would you, Becky? Would you--eh?"

"Certainly," I replied. "I wouldn't run the chance of being taken from
my comfortable bed to appear in a police court, and catch my death of
cold, and have everybody staring and pointing at me."

"You're a clever girl, Becky," said Mrs. Bailey, "a clever girl--eh?
And I'm a clever old woman--eh? Very good--very good! Catch my death of
cold, indeed! So I should--eh?" Then suddenly, "Becky, can you keep a
secret--eh?"

"That you told me!" I said. "Nothing could tear it from me."

"I did hear something, Becky."

"Did you?" I asked, with a smile which was intended to invite complete
confidence.

"Yes, Becky."

"What was it?"

"Two voices--as if there was a quarrel going on--a quarrel, Becky, eh?"

"Ah!" said I, "it is a good job you kept it to yourself. The detectives,
and the magistrates, and the lawyers would have put you to no end of
trouble. Were they men's voices?"

"Yes, men's voices."

"It was put in the papers," I said, "that there was a scream. Mrs.
Preedy, downstairs, heard that, but she could not say whether it was
from a man or a woman."

"I heard it, too, Becky. It was a man--I could swear to it. Why, if you
lie on this bed, with your head to the wall, and it's quiet as it was
then, you can hear almost everything that goes on in the next house. Try
it, Becky."

I lay down beside her, and although no sound at that time came to
my ears, it was easy to believe that she was not labouring under a
delusion.

"Could you hear what the men said to each other?" I asked.

"Not when they spoke low," she replied, "only when they raised their
voices, and I wasn't awake all the time. Somebody was playing on the
piano, now and then--playing softly--and between whiles there was talk
going on. One said, 'You won't, won't you?' And the other said, 'No--not
if I die for it!' Then there was the sound of a blow--O, Becky! it made
me tremble all over. And then came the scream that Mrs. Preedy heard.
And almost directly afterwards, the piano played that loud that I
believe you could have heard it in the next street. The music went on
for a long time, and then everything was quiet. That was all."

"Did neither of the men speak after that?" I asked.

"No, or if they did, it was so low that it didn't reach me."

My dear, to hear this woman, who is very, very old, and quite close
to death's door, relate the dreadful story, with scarcely a trace of
feeling in her voice, and with certainly no compassion, would have
shocked you--as it did me; but I suppressed my emotion.

There is something of still greater importance to be told before I bring
the story of my adventure to the present day. I am on the track of a
mystery which appears to me to be in some strange way connected with the
crime. Heaven only knows where it will lead me, but I shall follow it up
without flinching, whatever the consequences may be.

A week after I entered Mrs. Preedy's service she said to me;

"Becky, we've got another lodger."

"Goodness be praised," I cried. "The sight of so many empty rooms in the
house is dreadful. And such a loss to you!"

"You may well say that Becky," said Mrs. Preedy, with a woeful sigh;
"it's hard to say what things will come to if they go on much longer
like this."

"I hope it's more than _one_ lodger," I observed; "I hope it's a
family."

"No, Becky," she replied, "it's only one--a man; he's taken the attic
at three shillings a week, and between you and me and the post, I shall
reckon myself lucky if I get it. I can't say I like the looks of him,
but I can't afford to be too nice."

When I saw the man, who gives himself out as Richard Manx, I liked the
looks of him as little as my mistress. He is dark-complexioned, and has
long black hair; there is a singular and most unnatural look in his
eyes--they are cat's eyes, and shift from side to side stealthily--not
to be trusted, not for a moment to be trusted! He has black whiskers and
a black moustache; and he has large, flat feet. The moment I saw him he
inspired me with an instinctive repugnance towards him; I regarded him
with an aversion which I did not trouble myself to examine and justify.
I believe in first impressions.

So strong was my feeling that I said to Mrs. Preedy I hoped I should not
have to wait upon him.

"He does not require waiting upon," said Mrs. Preedy, "he has taken the
garret, without attendance. He says that he will not even trouble us to
make his bed or sweep out his room."

"So much the better," thought I, and I did my best not to meet him. I
must do him the justice to say that he appeared as anxious to avoid me
as I was to avoid him; and for a fortnight we did not exchange a word.

And now, my dear, prepare for an inconsistency, and call me a bundle of
contradictions.

I have made up my mind no longer to avoid Richard Manx; I have made up
my mind to worm myself, if I can, in his confidence; I have made up my
mind not to lose sight of him, unless, indeed, he suddenly disappears
from the house and the neighbourhood, and so puts it out of my power to
watch his movements.

"Why?" I hear you ask. "Have you discovered that your first impressions
are wrong, and, having done an injustice to an unfortunate man, are you
anxious to atone for it?" Not a bit of it! I am more than ever confirmed
in my prejudices with regard to Richard Manx. I shall watch his
movements, and no longer avoid him--not for his sake--for yours, for
mine! An enigma, you say. Very well. Wait!

I am tired; my fingers are cramped, and my head aches a little; I must
get two or three hours' rest, or I shall be fit for nothing to-morrow.

Good night, dear love. Heaven shield you and guard you, and help you.

Yours, in good and bad fortune, with steadfast love,

  BECKY.

[Decoration]



CHAPTER XVII.

  IN WHICH BECKY, CONTINUING HER LETTER, RELATES HER IMPRESSIONS OF
    MRS. PREEDY'S YOUNG MAN LODGER.


MY OWN DEAR FRED,--Once more I am in my little cupboard of a bedroom,
writing to you. Again it is past twelve o'clock, and Mrs. Preedy is
asleep.

I will now tell you why I have altered my mind with regard to Richard
Manx, and why I have determined to watch his movements. The seal to this
resolution was fixed the night before last.

Mrs. Preedy was sitting up, as usual, drinking her regular allowance of
gin and water. I was in my bedroom, supposed to be asleep, but really
very wide awake. Peeping through a chink in my bedroom door, I saw Mrs.
Preedy thus engaged, and engaged also in reading an account of the
police-court proceedings in which you were so cruelly implicated. There
was nothing interesting in this picture of Mrs. Preedy, and I crept into
bed again. I was dozing off, when I was roused by the sound of Mrs.
Preedy leaving the kitchen, and going up-stairs to the street-door,
which she opened. I ventured out into the passage, and listened. She was
talking to a policeman. Presently she came down-stairs and mixed a glass
of gin and water, which she took up to him. Then after a little further
chat, she came down again, and resumed her melancholy occupation. After
that, I fell asleep.

Changes have taken place in me, my dear. Once I was nervous; now I am
bold. Once I could not sleep without a light in my room; now I can sleep
in the dark. Once I was a sound sleeper, and was not easily awakened;
now the slightest sound arouses me. The dropping of a pin would be
almost sufficient to cause me to start up in bed.

On the occasion I refer to, it was something more than the dropping of
a pin that aroused me. It was the sound of voices in the kitchen--Mrs.
Preedy's voice and the voice of a man. What man? I peeped through the
chink. It was Richard Manx, our new lodger.

He was standing on the threshold of the kitchen door; from where I knelt
I could not obtain a good view of his face, but I saw Mrs. Preedy's, and
it seemed to me as if she had received a fright.

Richard Manx, in reply to an observation made by Mrs. Preedy, said her
clock on the mantelpiece was wrong, and that he had heard twelve o'clock
strike a quarter of an hour ago. Mrs. Preedy asked him if he had come to
pay his rent. No, he said, he had not come to pay his rent. Then Mrs.
Preedy very naturally inquired what he _had_ come for, and Richard Manx,
in a voice resembling that of a raven with a bad cold, said,

"I have--a--heard it once more again!"

My dear, the moment he uttered these strange words, Mrs. Preedy rushed
at him, pulled him into the kitchen, and then flew to my bedroom door.
I was in bed before she got there, and when she opened it and called my
name, I was, of course, fast asleep. She made sure of this by coming
into my little cupboard, and passing her hand over my face. My heart
beat quickly, but she herself was too agitated to notice it. When she
left my room, I thought it prudent to remain in bed for awhile, so as to
avoid the risk of discovery. My mind was in a whirl. Richard Manx had
heard _it_ once more again! What had he heard?

I rose quietly, and listened. Richard Manx was speaking of a sound in
the empty house next door, No. 119. He had heard it twice--a week ago,
and again on this night. He said that he was in the habit of smoking in
bed, and asked if Mrs. Preedy was insured. He was interrupted by the
breaking of a storm, which appeared to frighten them both very much. I
will not attempt to repeat, word for word, all that passed between them.
Its substance is now what I am going to relate.

Eight nights ago, Richard Manx, sitting in his attic, was startled (so
he says) by the sound of a tapping or scratching in the house next
door, in which the murder was committed. Being, according to his
own declaration, of a nervous nature, he left his attic, and crept
downstairs. In the passage below he met Mrs. Preedy, and related to her
what he had heard. She endeavoured to persuade him that his fancy had
been playing him tricks.

"How is it possible," she asked him, "that you could have heard any
sound in the next house when there's nobody there?"

A convincing question, my dear, which carries its own convincing answer.

Richard Manx wavers, and promises her not to speak to the neighbours of
his distressing impression. He says he will wait "till it comes again."
It comes again on this night the events of which I am describing, and in
great fear (which may or may not be real) he creeps downstairs to Mrs.
Preedy to inform her of it. He says the noise may not be made by a
mortal; it may be made by a spirit. So much the worse. A man or a woman
one can meet and hold, and ask questions of, but a spirit!----the very
idea is enough to make one's hair stand on end.

It did not make my hair stand on end, nor did Richard Manx's suggestion
frighten me in the least. It excited me almost to fever heat, but
there was no fear in my excitement. Expectation, hope, painful
curiosity--these were the feelings which animated me.

What if Richard Manx were, for some reason of his own, inventing this
story of strange noises in an empty house, the boards of which are
stained with the blood of a murdered man? The idea did not dawn upon me;
it flashed upon me in a certain expression which dwelt upon Richard
Manx's face while Mrs. Preedy's back, for a moment, was turned to him.

When they were sitting opposite each other at the kitchen table, the man
was timid, confiding, humble; but when Mrs. Preedy turned towards the
dresser for the sugar basin, there stole into his face the expression
I have referred to. What did it denote? Cunning, ferocity, triumph,
duplicity. It was but for a moment; upon Mrs. Preedy confronting him
again, he relapsed into humbleness and timidity.

What was the meaning of this sudden change? That the man was playing a
part? Clearly. Then behind his systematic acting was hidden a motive.
What motive?

He had accepted Mrs. Preedy's invitation to a glass of gin and water,
and had asked for sugar. It was while she was getting the sugar that he
had allowed the mask to slip from his false face.

"If it gets known," she said, "I'm a ruined woman!"

"Ah," said Richard Manx, "I comprehend what you mean by ruined. A house
with a shadow--a spirit ghost in it, would be--a--horrible! Listen you.
This house is likewise." Mrs. Preedy shuddered. "Well," he continued,
"I will say--a--nothing." He placed his hand on his heart and leered
at her. "On my honour. But be you positive--what I have heard is
not--a--fancy. It is veritable."

He said a great deal more to the same effect, and I never saw a woman
more completely prostrated.

Richard Manx speaks imperfect English, and I cannot make up my mind
whether he is a Frenchman, or a German, or an Italian, or an Impostor.
I am not only suspicious of the man, I am suspicious of his broken
English.

What I wanted now to ascertain was whether any person had heard the
tapping or the scratching in No. 119, and the person I fixed upon to
settle this point was Mrs. Bailey, our old lady lodger on the first
floor. If anything was going on in the next house it could scarcely have
escaped her ears.

Yesterday morning while I was tidying up her room, I broached the
subject.

"I wonder," I said, "whether the next house will ever be let."

"_I_ wouldn't take it," said Mrs. Bailey, "if they offered it to me for
nothing a-year--eh?"

"It wouldn't be a pleasant place to live in certainly," I remarked. "I
should be afraid of ghosts."

"Do you believe in them, eh, Becky?"

"I've never seen one," I replied, "but I can't help believing in them--a
little. There's one comfort--they don't trouble people who haven't
wronged them. So _we're_ all right."

"Yes, Becky, yes--they wouldn't come through brick walls to scare a poor
old woman, eh?"

"No," I said, "and I've never read of a ghost speaking or making a noise
of any kind. Have you?"

"Not that I can remember," replied the old lady.

"Mrs. Bailey," I said, "since the night of the murder you have not heard
anything going on next door?"

"Not a sound, Becky. It's been as still as a mouse."

"As a mouse," I repeated; "ah, but mice scratch at walls sometimes."

"So they do; but there can't be any mice next door, or I should have
heard them. Nothing for them to eat, Becky--eh? Mice can't eat
ghosts--eh?"

"No, indeed," I said. "I hope you are sleeping well, Mrs. Bailey."

"No, I am not, Becky. As night comes on I get a pain in my side, and it
keeps me awake for hours."

"What a shame!" I exclaimed. "I'll come and rub it for you, if you like,
when my work's done. Were you awake last night, Mrs. Bailey?"

"I didn't close my eyes till past two this morning; too bad, eh, Becky?"

"Indeed it is. I hope you were not disturbed."

"Only my side, Becky; nothing else."

This conversation convinced me that Richard Manx had not heard any such
sound as he stated. What was his purpose in endeavouring to deceive Mrs.
Preedy?

The same day I was sent out to the greengrocer's, and the woman said to
me that she supposed I was not going to stop much longer in my place.

"Why not?" I asked.

"There isn't one girl in a thousand," said the woman, "as had live
willingly in a haunted house. Why, Becky, it's the talk of the
neighbourhood!"

"All I can say is," I replied, "that I have heard nothing of it, and I
don't think Mrs. Preedy has, either."

"Ah," remarked the woman, "they say you must go abroad if you want to
hear any news about yourself."

My dear, the woman in the greengrocer's shop spoke the truth. Before the
day was out, it was the talk of the neighbourhood, that both houses,
Nos. 118 and 119 Great Porter Square, were haunted. When I went out
last evening to write my first letter to you, I was told of it by
half-a-dozen people, and the policeman himself (they are all friends
of mine) made inquiries as to the time and shapes in which the ghostly
visitants presented themselves. And to-day I have observed more than a
dozen strangers stop before our house and point up to it, shaking their
heads mysteriously.

Mrs. Preedy opened the subject to me this evening.

"Becky," she said, "there is no end to the wickedness of people."

"That there isn't, mum," I replied, sympathetically.

"Why, Becky," she exclaimed, "have _you_ heard what they are saying
about the house?"

"O, yes," I said, "everybody says its haunted."

"Do _you_ believe it, Becky?"

"Not me, mum!" (Observe my grammar, my dear.) "Not me! Who should know
better than those that live in a house whether it's haunted or not?"

"That's it, Becky," cried Mrs. Preedy, excitedly; "that's it. Who should
know better than us? And I'm sure _I've_ never seen anything nor heard
anything. Nor you either, Becky."

"Nor me, neither," I replied. "But the worst of it is, mum, mud sticks.
Give a dog a bad name, and you may as well hang him at once."

Now, who spread this rumour about our house being haunted? Somebody, for
sure, who has a motive in giving the place a bad reputation. There is
never smoke without a fire. Shall I tell you who is the cause of all
this? Richard Manx.

What leads me to this conclusion? you ask. Instinct, my dear. It is an
important quality in animals; why not in human beings? What possible
motive _can_ Richard Manx have in spreading such a report? you ask next.
A just Heaven only knows, my dear. But I will find out his motive, as I
am a living and loving woman.

You are not acquainted with Richard Manx, you may say. Nor am I. But
is it certain that it is his true name? You are not the only person in
the world who has concealed his true name. You concealed yours for an
innocent reason. Richard Manx may conceal his for a guilty one. Then
think of me, known simply as Becky. Why, my dearest, the world is a
perfect medley! Shall I tell you something else about him? My dear, he
paints. I hear you, in your unsophisticated innocence, exclaim, "O, he
is an artist!" He is, in one sense. His canvass is the human skin. He
paints his face.

What will you ask now? Of course, your question will be, "How on earth
do you know that he paints his face?" My dear, here I am your superior.
Trust a woman to know a natural from an artificial colour. These few
last questions trouble your soul. "Does _she_ paint, then?" you mutter.
"No, my dear," I answer, "my complexion _is my own_!"

Twice have I seen Richard Manx to-day, and I have not avoided him. I
looked at him. He looked at me.

"You are Becky," he said; and if ever a foreigner spoke like an
Englishman, Richard Manx did when he said, "You are Becky."

"Yes, if you please, sir," I replied, coyly.

"You are a--what you call maid-of-all work here," he said.

Maid-of-all-work! What do real, genuine foreigners know of English
maids-of-all-work? The very use of the term was, in my judgment, an
argument against him.

"Yes," I replied.

"And a very pretty maid-of-all-work," he said, with a smile.

"There's missus calling!" I cried, and I ran downstairs.

In that short interview I had convinced myself that he painted, and I
had made up my mind that he wore a wig. Think of that, my dear! Our
innocent, timid, humble young man lodger, with a false head of hair! I
blush.

The meaning of all this is, that Richard Manx is no chance lodger.
He came here designedly. He has not paid his rent. It is part of his
design. He would be more likely to attract attention as a man with
plenty of money than as a man with none. There are so many poor people
in the world, and they are comparatively so unimportant? He has spread
a rumour that the house he lodges in and the next house are haunted. It
is part of his design. To bring the houses into disrepute will cause
people to avoid them, will lessen the chance of their being occupied.
The better opportunity for him to carry out, without being observed, any
scheme he may have in his false and wicked mind.

I have but one thing more to relate, and that will bring the history of
your adventurous little woman up to the present moment of writing. It is
an important incident, and has a direct bearing upon all that has gone
before. At nine o'clock to-night the street door was opened and closed.
My mistress and I were in the kitchen.

"It is Mr. Manx," said Mrs. Preedy.

"I didn't know he had a latch key," I observed.

"I gave him one to-day," said Mrs. Preedy. "He is looking for a
situation, poor young man, and asked me for a latch key, as he might
have to keep out late at night, and didn't like to disturb me."

"Very considerate of him," I said. "What kind of situation is he after?
Is he anything at all?"

"He is a professor of languages, Becky, and a musician besides."

"What kind of musician?" I asked, scornfully. "A trombone player?"

"I can't say, Becky."

"Does he play the cornet, or the fiddle," I continued, with a certain
recklessness which overcame me for a few moments, "or the harp, or the
flute, or the piano?" And as I said "or the piano?" a dish I was wiping
slipped clean out of my hands, and was broken to pieces.

"What a careless girl you are, Becky!" cried my mistress. "That makes
the third you have broken since you've been here."

"Never mind," I said, "I have had a legacy left me."

She stared at me, and cried "A legacy!" And, upon my word, my dear,
until she repeated the words, I scarcely knew what it was I _had_ said.
However, I was committed to it now, and was bound to proceed.

"Yes; a legacy. That is what I really went about last night."

The information so staggered her that her voice became quite
deferential.

"Is it much, Becky?"

"A clear three hundred pounds," I replied, "and perhaps a little more.
I shall know for a certainty in a week or two."

"You'll be giving me notice presently, I daresay, Becky, now you've
come into money."

"Not unless you want to get rid of me," I replied.

"Becky," said Mrs. Preedy, graciously, "I am very satisfied with you.
You can remain with me as long as you like, and when we part I hope we
shall part friends."

"I hope so too, mum; and I hope you'll think none the worse of me
because I've been so fortunate. I should like to hear of _your_ having
such a slice of luck."

"Thank you, Becky," said my mistress, meekly, "but _I_ wasn't born with
a silver spoon in my mouth."

"Ah," said I, wisely, "it isn't always the most deserving as gets the
best rewarded."

Do you know, my dear, so strong is the force of example and association,
that I sometimes catch myself speaking exactly as if I had been born in
that station of life which I am at present occupying in Mrs. Preedy's
service.

Here a bell rang. "That's Mrs. Bailey's bell," I said; "shall I go up to
her, or will you?"

"You go, Becky," said Mrs. Preedy; "she likes you best."

Up I went, and found Mrs. Bailey writhing in bed; she was evidently in
pain.

"My side, Becky, my side!" moaned the old creature. "You promised to rub
it for me?"

"Wait a minute," I said, "I'll go and fetch some liniment."

I ran downstairs, and took from my little bedroom a bottle of liniment
which I had bought at the chemist's in expectation of such an emergency
as this. Then I rubbed the old lady's side, and soon afforded her
relief.

"What a soft hand you've got!" she said, "It's almost like a lady's
hand."

I sighed. "I haven't been a common servant all my life," I said. "But
never mind me. Do you feel easier?"

"I am another woman, dear," she replied. "O dear, O dear!"

And the old creature began to cry, and moan, and shake. I pitied her
most truly at that moment.

"What are you crying for?" I asked.

"O dear, O dear!" she repeated. "I had a daughter once, who might have
looked after me in my old days. My Lizzie! my Lizzie!" She continued to
weep in the most distressing manner, calling upon her Lizzie in touching
tones. I asked tenderly if her daughter was dead, and her reply was--

"God only knows!"

And then she related to me, often stopping to sob and moan in grief, a
sad, sad story of a girl who had left her home, and had almost broken
her parents' hearts. I cannot stop now to tell you the story as this
lonely woman told it to me, for my fingers are beginning to pain me
with the strain of this long letter, and I have still something more to
say which more nearly concerns ourselves.

Bear in mind that from the time Richard Manx had entered the house, no
other persons had entered or left it. Had the street door been opened I
should for a certainty have remarked it.

Mrs. Bailey had told the whole of the sad story of her daughter's shame
and desertion, and was lying in tears on her bed. I was sitting by her
side, animated by genuine sympathy for the lonely old lady. Suddenly an
expression of alarm appeared on her face, which gradually turned quite
white.

"Becky!" she cried.

I leant over her, my heart beating quick, for she had startled me. I
feared that her last hour had arrived. I was mistaken. It was fear of
another kind which had aroused her from the contemplation of her special
sorrow.

"Don't you hear?" she asked, presently.

"What?" I exclaimed, following her looks and words in an agony of
expectation.

"The next house," she whispered, "where the man was murdered! The empty
house! Something is moving there!"

I threw myself quickly on the bed, and lay by the old lady's side.

"There, Becky! Do you hear it now?"

"Hush," I whispered. "Don't speak or stir! Let us be sure."

It was not possible that both of us could be dreaming the same dream
at the same moment. There _was_ a sound as of some person moving in
No. 119.

"Answer me in a whisper," I said, with my mouth close to Mrs. Bailey's
ear. "The room in which the murder was committed is on a level with
this?"

"Yes," she replied, in a whisper, as I had directed.

"Do you think the sounds are in that room?"

"I am sure of it, Becky."

I lay still for about the space of a another minute. Then I rose from
the bed.

"What are you going to do, Becky?" asked Mrs. Bailey; "Don't leave me!"

"I must," I said, firmly. "For about five minutes. I will come back.
I promise you faithfully I will come back. Are you afraid to be left
alone?"

"Somebody--or _something_--might come into the room while you are away,"
said the old lady, shuddering. "If you _must_ go, lock me in, and take
the key with you. But don't be longer than five minutes, if you have a
spark of pity for a poor, deserted old woman!"

I acted upon her suggestion. I locked her in and went---- Where?
Upstairs or down? Up, to Richard Manx's room.

I reached his door and listened. No sound came to my ears--no sound of
a waking or sleeping inmate of the room. I retreated down half-a-dozen
stairs with a heavy tread. No one appeared at the attic door to inquire
the meaning of the noise. I ascended the stairs again, and, with a
woman's touch, placed my hand on the handle of the door. It yielded. I
looked into the room. No person was there. I ventured boldly in. The
room was empty!

Assuring myself of this, I left the room as quickly as I had entered it.
I did not pause at Mrs. Bailey's room on the first floor. I went down
to the street door, and quietly put up the door chain. _Now_, no person
could possibly enter or leave the house without my knowledge.

Then I went down to Mrs. Preedy in the kitchen, and said that Mrs.
Bailey was unwell, and wished me to stop with her for a little while.

"Stop, and welcome, Becky," said Mrs. Preedy, with the sweetest smile.

What a power is money! My fanciful legacy of a paltry three hundred
pounds had placed this woman and me on an equality, and she was the
first to acknowledge it.

I ascended to Mrs. Bailey's room, and unlocked her door. I had really
not been absent for more than five minutes, but she said it seemed like
thirty. I remained with her for over an hour, during which time the
muffled sounds in the next house continued. I convinced myself that they
could not be heard in any other room by going out, now and again, for
a few moments, and listening in other rooms on the first and second
floors. At length the sound ceased, and after waiting a quarter of an
hour longer without it being renewed, I bade Mrs. Bailey good night,
telling her, in a cheerful voice, that she was mistaken in supposing
there were no mice in the empty house next door.

"Are you sure it is mice, Becky?" she asked, anxiously.

"Am I sure?" I repeated, laughing. "Why, you nervous old creature, what
else can it be? Let us make a bargain to say nothing about it except to
each other, or we shall have everybody laughing at us. And what would be
worse, the detectives might appear again."

The bargain was made, and I kissed the old lady, and left her.

I went straight upstairs, cautiously, as before. Richard Manx was in his
room!

I went down to the street door. The chain was up! A convincing proof
that it was this very Richard Manx, our young man lodger--the man who
paints and wears a wig, and who is flat-footed--whose movements I had
heard through the wall which divides Mrs. Bailey's room from the room
in which the murder was committed.

I am too tired to write a minute longer. This is the longest letter I
have ever written. Good night, dear love. God bless and guard you!

  Your ever devoted,
  BECKY.

[Decoration]



CHAPTER XVIII.

  THE "EVENING MOON" RE-OPENS THE SUBJECT OF THE GREAT PORTER SQUARE
    MURDER, AND RELATES A ROMANTIC STORY CONCERNING THE MURDERED MAN
    AND HIS WIDOW.


A few hours before Becky wrote this last letter to the man she loved,
the _Evening Moon_ presented its readers with a Supplement entirely
devoted to particulars relating to the murder in No. 119, Great Porter
Square. The Supplement was distinguished by a number of sensational
headings which the street news-vendors industriously circulated with
the full force of their lungs:--

  THE MURDER IN GREAT PORTER SQUARE.

  A ROMANCE IN REAL LIFE.

  A HUNDRED THOUSAND POUNDS.

  WEALTH, BEAUTY, AND LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT.

After a lapse of several weeks, we re-open the subject of the murder in
Great Porter Square. Although the murderer is still at large, the affair
has advanced another and most important stage, and one element of
mystery in connection with it is satisfactorily cleared up. We are about
to disclose the name of the murdered man, and at the same time to lay
before our readers certain interesting information relating to him which
without doubt will be eagerly read. For this information we are again
indebted to the Special Reporter, whose graphic account of the trial and
of his subsequent adventures in relation to Antony Cowlrick, the person
accused of the murder, has been circulated far and wide.

Until now, the murder in Great Porter Square has been distinguished by
two unsatisfactory features. The first and most important is that the
murderer was undiscovered. Unhappily no light has been thrown upon this
part of the affair. The second, and most interesting feature, was that
the man who was murdered was unknown. We do not remember a parallel
case. But the murdered man is now identified, and his widow is lamenting
his cruel and untimely death. Before our readers reach the end of our
article, which, for the purpose of better description, we throw into
narrative form, they will indeed admit that truth is stranger than
fiction.

There lived in the West of London, near to one of our most fashionable
parks, a gentleman of the name of Holdfast. He was a widower, having
lost his wife a year before the commencement of our narrative. He had
but one child, a son named Frederick, who was at Oxford, with a liberal
allowance. The son is described as a young gentleman with engaging
manners, and of a lively disposition; it was whispered also, that he was
given to dissipation, and had made his father's purse suffer to a woeful
extent. There is nothing extraordinary in this. What are rich fathers
good for in this world if they send their sons to college and keep their
pockets buttoned? Money lenders _must_ live, and they take especial
good care to thrive and grow fat. Young gentlemen _must_ see life, and
they take especial good care to drink deep of the intoxicating cup,
and to sow a plentiful crop of wild oats. It is an old story, and our
readers will have no difficulty in supplying certain accessories in
the shape of pretty women, late suppers, horse racing, gambling, kite
flying, post obits, and the thousand and one other commonplace but
important elements in the younger days of manhood in the life of an
only son.

The death of Mr. Holdfast's wife was a severe blow to him; his son was
left to him, truly; but what comfort to the bereaved father could a
son have been who was endowed with vicious tastes, and whose career
of dissipation was capped by a depraved association with degraded
women--especially with one with whom he formed a close connection, which
would have broken his father's heart, had that father himself not been
of a self-sustaining, proud, and high-minded disposition. The news
of his son's disgraceful connection, although it did not break the
father's heart, was the means of effecting a breach between the father
and son which was destined never to be healed. Before, however, this
severance took place, an important change occurred in Mr. Holdfast's
household. Mr. Holdfast married again, a very lovely woman, whose name,
before she became Mrs. Holdfast, was Lydia Wilson.

The lady was young, and an orphan. Her relatives were far away in the
country, and she was alone in London. Her entire wealth amounted to
about five hundred pounds in United States bonds. It was while she was
on a visit to the City, with the intention of converting these bonds
into English money, that she and Mr. Holdfast first met. The Royal
Exchange does not suggest itself as the most likely place in the world
in which a gentleman of Mr. Holdfast's age and character would fall in
love at first sight. It happened, however. He saw the young lady looking
about her, perplexed and bewildered by the bustling throng of clerks,
brokers, and speculators; it was the busiest time of the day, and it
could not escape Mr. Holdfast's notice, his attention having been first
arrested by the loveliness of her face and figure, that she was utterly
unused to the busy scene in which she found herself. The young lady made
an attempt to cross the road between the Mansion House and the Royal
Exchange; she became confused amid the bewildering tangle of vehicles,
and was in danger of being run over, when Mr. Holdfast hastened to her
rescue. The road safely crossed, she looked into Mr. Holdfast's face
and thanked him. So there, in the midst of the world's busiest mart,
the story of a romance was commenced which might serve novelists with a
tempting theme. For the particulars of the story we are now relating we
are indebted to the lady herself, still young and beautiful, but plunged
into the deepest grief by the murder of her husband. It is difficult for
us to appropriately describe her modesty and innocent confidence in the
interview between her and our Reporter. It is not that she is beautiful,
and one of England's fairest daughters, but it is that truth dwells in
her face and eyes. Her voice is peculiarly soft and sweet, and to doubt
her when she speaks is an impossibility.

Nothing was more natural than that Mr. Holdfast, having thus far
assisted the young lady, should inquire if he could be of any further
use to her. Miss Lydia Wilson really was in quest of a broker, to whom
she had been recommended to negotiate the sale of her bonds, but in
her confusion and terror she had forgotten both name and address.
Ascertaining the nature of her mission, Mr. Holdfast offered to
introduce her to a respectable firm; she accepted his offer, and they
walked together to the broker's office. On the way they conversed, and
Mr. Holdfast learnt, among other particulars, that the young lady was an
orphan, and that these bonds represented all that she had in the world
to depend upon. In the broker's office the young lady produced her
securities and gave them to the principal of the firm. He sent out at
once to ascertain the exact price of the market; the clerk departed,
with the bonds in his possession, and was absent longer than he was
expected to be. At length he returned, and requested a private interview
with his employer. The interview took place, and the broker presently
returned, and inquired of Miss Wilson how she became possessed of the
bonds.

The lady replied haughtily that she was not in a broker's office to be
catechised by a stranger about her private affairs; and upon that Mr.
Holdfast also spoke warmly in the lady's behalf. The broker rejoined
that Miss Lydia Wilson was as much a stranger to him as he was to her.
Again, Mr. Holdfast, seeing that the lovely woman who had been thrown
upon his protection was agitated by the broker's manner, interposed.

"You forget," he said, "that it was I who introduced this lady to your
firm. Is not my introduction a sufficient guarantee?"

"Amply sufficient," said the broker. "But business is business; such
securities as these cannot easily be disposed of."

"Why?" inquired Mr. Holdfast.

"Because," said the broker, "they are forgeries."

"Then I am ruined!" cried the young lady.

"No," said Mr. Holdfast. "If the bonds _are_ forgeries, you shall not be
the loser--that is, if you will confer upon me the honour of accepting
me as your banker."

The young lady could not continue so delicate a conversation in the
presence of a man who seemed to doubt her. She rose to leave the
broker's office, and when she and Mr. Holdfast were again in the open
air, he said:

"Allow me to know more of you. I shall undoubtedly be able to assist
you. You cannot conceal from me that the unexpected discovery of
this forgery is likely to deeply embarrass you. Do not consider me
impertinent when I hazard the guess that you had an immediate use for
some part of the money you expected to receive from the sale of these
securities."

"You guess rightly," said the young lady; "I wished to discharge a few
trifling debts." Her lips trembled, and her eyes were filled with tears.

"And--asking you to pardon my presumption--your purse is not too heavily
weighted."

"I have just," said the young lady, producing her purse, and opening it,
"three shillings and sixpence to live upon."

Now, although this was a serious declaration, the young lady, when she
made it, spoke almost merrily. Her lips no longer trembled, her eyes
were bright again. These sudden changes of humour, from sorrow to
gaiety, from pensiveness to light-heartedness, are not her least
charming attributes. Small wonder that Mr. Holdfast was captivated by
them and by her beauty!

"What a child you are!" he exclaimed. "Three shillings and sixpence is
not sufficient to keep you for half a day."

"Is it not?" asked the young lady, with delightful simplicity. "What a
pity it is that we cannot live like fairies."

"My dear young lady," remarked Mr. Holdfast, taking her hand in his,
"you sadly need a protector. Have you really any objection to letting
me hear the story of these bonds?"

She related it to him without hesitation. It was simple enough. Some
years ago, being already motherless, her father died, and left her in
the care of his sister, a married woman with a family. The orphan girl
had a guardian who, singular to say, she never saw. He lived in London,
she in the country. The guardian, she understood from her father's last
words, held in trust for her a sum of money, represented by bonds,
which she would receive when she became twenty-one years of age. In
the meantime she was to live with her aunt, who was to be paid from
the money due from time to time for interest on the bonds. The payment
for her board and lodging was forwarded regularly by the young lady's
guardian, and she looked forward impatiently to the time when she would
become her own mistress. She was unhappy in the house of her aunt, who
treated her more like a dependent than a relative and a lady.

"I think," said Mrs. Holdfast to our Reporter, "that she was
disappointed the money had not been left to her instead of me, and
that she would have been glad if I had died, so that she might obtain
possession of it as next of kin. It would not have benefited her, the
bonds being of no value, for it was hardly likely she would have met
with such a friend as Mr. Holdfast proved to me--the best, the most
generous of men! And I have lost him! I have lost him!"

Bursts of grief such as this were frequent during the interview, which
we are throwing into the form of a narrative, with no more licence, we
hope, than we are entitled to use.

The story went on to its natural end. The young lady's position in the
house to which her father confided her became almost unendurable, but
she was compelled to suffer in silence. A small allowance for pocket
money was sent to her by her guardian, and the best part of this she
saved to defray the expenses to London and to enable her to live for
a while; for she was resolved to leave her aunt on the very day she
reached the age of twenty-one.

"Do I look older?" she asked of our Reporter.

He replied, with truth and gallantry, that he would have scarcely taken
her for that.

"You flatter me," she said, with a sad smile; "I feel as if I were
fifty. This dreadful blow has made an old woman of me!"

To conclude the story she related to Mr. Holdfast, the day before she
was twenty-one she received a packet from her guardian in London, and a
letter saying that he was going abroad, to America she believed, perhaps
never to return, and that he completed the trust imposed upon him by
her father by sending her her little fortune. It was contained in the
packet, and consisted of the United States bonds which had that day been
declared to be forgeries. The departure of her guardian did not cause
her to waver in her determination to leave her aunt's home the moment
she was entitled to do so. Her life had been completely wretched and
unhappy, and her only desire was to place a long distance between
herself and her cruel relative, so that the woman could not harass her.
The day arrived, and with a light heart, with her fortune in her pocket,
Lydia Wilson, without even wishing her aunt good-bye or giving the
slightest clue as to the direction of her flight, left her home, and
took a railway ticket to London. "Not all the way to London first,"
said the young lady; "I broke the journey half-way, so that if my aunt
followed me, she would have the greater difficulty in discovering me."
The young lady arrived in London, and took a modest lodging in what
she believed to be a respectable part of the City. When she met Mr.
Holdfast, she had been in London five weeks, and the little money she
had saved was gone, with the exception of three shillings and sixpence.
Then she fell back upon the bonds, and considered herself as rich as a
princess.

"But even this money," said Mr. Holdfast to her, "would not last for
ever."

"O, yes, it would," insisted the young lady; "I would have made it last
for ever!"

What was to be done with so impracticable and charming a creature, with
a young lady, utterly alone and without resources, and whose tastes, as
she herself admits, were always of an expensive kind?

Mr. Holdfast saw the danger which beset her, and determined to shield
her from harm. To have warned her of the pitfalls and traps with which
such a city as London is dotted would have been next to useless. To such
an innocent mind as hers, the warning itself would have seemed like a
trap to snare the woman it was intended to save.

"Have you any objection," said Mr. Holdfast, when the young lady's story
was finished, "to my endeavouring to find the guardian who has wronged
you? America is now a near land, and I could enlist the services of men
who would not fail to track the scoundrel."

But to this proposition the young lady would not consent. The bonds
might have been given to her guardian by her dead father. In that case,
the honour of a beloved parent might be called into question. Anything
in preference to that; poverty, privation, perhaps an early death! Mr.
Holdfast was touched to his inmost soul by the pathos of this situation.

"I will keep the bonds," he said, "and shall insist upon your accepting
the offer of my friendship."

"Promise me, then," said the young lady, conquered by his earnestness
and undoubted honesty of intention, "that you will take no steps to
compromise the honoured name of my dear father. Promise me that you will
not show the bonds to strangers."

"No eye but mine shall see them," said Mr. Holdfast, opening his safe
and depositing the prized securities in a secret drawer. "And now,"
he continued, "you bank with me, and you draw from me fifty pounds,
represented by eight five-pound notes and ten sovereigns in gold. Here
they are. Count them. No? Very well. Count them when you get home, and
take great care of them. You little know the roguery of human nature.
There's not a day that you cannot read in the London papers accounts of
ladies having their pockets picked and their purses stolen. Let me see
your purse. Why, it is a fairy purse! You cannot get half of this money
into it. My dear young lady, we _cannot_ live like the fairies. Human
creatures are bound to be, to some small extent, practical. Take my
purse--it is utterly unfit for your delicate hands, but it will answer
its present purpose. See. I pack the money safely in it; take it home
and put it in a place of safety."

"How can I repay you?" asked the young lady, impressed no less by this
gentleman's generosity than by his wonderful kindness of manner.

"By saying we are friends," he replied, "and by promising to come to see
me soon again."

"Of course, I must do that," she said, gaily, "to see that my banker
does not run away."

The next thing he asked for was her address, but she was not inclined,
at first, to give it to him; he appreciated the reason for her
disinclination, and said that he had no intention of calling upon her,
and that he wanted the address to use only in the event of its being
necessary to write to her.

"I can trust you," she said, and complied with his wish.

To his surprise and gratification the young lady, of her own accord,
paid him a visit on the following day. She entered his office with a
smiling face, causing, no doubt, quite a flutter in the hearts of Mr.
Holdfast's clerks and bookkeepers. It is not often so fair a vision is
seen in a London's merchant's place of business.

From the young lady's appearance Mr. Holdfast was led to believe that
she had news of a joyful nature to communicate, and he was therefore
very much astonished when she said, in the pleasantest manner:

"I have lost your purse."

"With the money in it?" he inquired, his tone expressing his
astonishment.

"Yes, I am sorry to say," she replied, laughing at his consternation,
"with the money in it. I did not like to come back yesterday, for fear
you would scold me."

"You lost it yesterday, then?"

"Yes, within an hour of my leaving your office."

"How on earth did it happen?"

"In the simplest manner possible. You were quite right, Mr. Holdfast, in
saying that I did not know the roguery of human nature. I was standing
at a cake shop, looking in at the window--I am so fond of cakes!--and
two little girls and a woman were standing by my side. The children were
talking--they would like this cake, they would like that--and such a
many round O's fell from their lips that I could not help being amused.
Poor little things! They looked very hungry, and I quite pitied them.
Some one tapped my left shoulder, and I turned round to see who it
was--when, would you believe it?--your purse, which was in my right
hand, was snatched from me like lightning. And the extraordinary part of
the affair is, that I saw no one behind me, nor any person except the
woman and two children within yards of me!"

She related the particulars of the robbery as though it had not happened
to her and did not affect her, but some stranger who had plenty of
money, and would not feel the loss.

"What did you do?" asked Mr. Holdfast.

"I laughed. I couldn't help it--it was so clever! Of course I looked
about me, but that did not bring back your purse. Then I took the poor
children into the cake shop, and treated them to cakes, and had some
myself, and gave them what money remained of my three shillings and
sixpence, and sent them home quite happy."

"And left yourself without a penny?" said Mr. Holdfast, almost overcome
with delight, as he afterwards told her, at her childish innocence,
simplicity and kindness.

"Yes," she replied, overjoyed that he did not scold her, "I left myself
without a penny."

"You will have to buy me another purse," he said.

The young lady exhibited her own little fairy porte-monnaie, and turned
it out--there was not a sixpence in it. "You must give me some money to
do it with," she said.

"You are not fit to be trusted with money," he said; "I really am
puzzled what to do with you."

Upon this she burst into tears; her helpless position, and his goodness
and tenderness, overcame her.

"If you cry like that," he said softly, "I shall never forgive myself."

Her depression vanished; her sunny look returned; and they conversed
together thereafter as though they had known each other for years--as
though he had been her father's friend, and had nursed her on his knee
when she was a child. Needless to say, he made matters right with this
simple, innocent, confiding young lady, and that from that time there
existed between them a bond which was destined to ripen into the closest
and most binding tie which man and woman can contract. At first she
looked upon him as her second father, but insensibly there dawned upon
her soul a love as sweet and strong as if he had been a twenty years
younger man than he was. When he asked her to be his wife, telling
her that he most truly loved her, that he would devote himself to her
and make her the happiest woman in the world, she raised a thousand
objections.

"One objection would be sufficient," he said, sadly, "if you cannot
forget it. My age."

She declared, indeed, that that was not an obstacle--that she looked up
to him as she could to no other man--that he was the noblest being who
had ever crossed her path of life, and that she could never, never
forget him. Mr. Holdfast urged her then to explain to him in plain terms
the precise nature of her objections.

"I can make you happy," he said.

"You could make any woman happy," she replied.

"And I should be the happiest man--you would make me so."

"I would try," she replied, softly.

"Then tell me why you raise cruel obstacles in the way of our happiness.
I will marry you by force if you are not candid with me."

"You know nothing of my family," she said; "my parents are dead, and the
few relatives I have I would not allow to darken the threshold of your
door."

"Nor shall they. You shall be the mistress and the master of my house,
and I will be your slave."

"For shame to talk in that way to a foolish girl like me--to a girl who
is almost nameless, and who has not a shilling to her fortune!"

"Have I not more than enough? Do you wish to make me believe that you do
not understand my character?"

"No; I do understand it, and if you were poor like me, or I were rich
like you-- But even then there would be an obstacle hard to surmount.
Your son is but a few years older than myself--he might be my brother.
I should be ashamed to look him in the face. He would say I married you
for your money. Before the wedding day, were he to say a word to me,
were he to give one look, to touch my pride, I would run away, and you
would never, never find me. Ah! let us say good-bye--let us shake hands
and part! It is best so. Then I shall never have anything to reproach
myself with. Then I should not be made to suffer from the remarks of
envious people that I tricked you into a marriage with a penniless,
friendless girl!"

"As God is my judge," he cried, "you shall be my wife, and no other
man's! I will not let you escape me! And to make matters sure, we will
give neither my son--who would bring my name to shame--nor envious
people the power to say a word to hurt your feelings. We will be married
privately, by the registrar. Leave all to me. I look upon you as my wife
from this day. Place your hand in mine, and say you will marry me, or I
will never more believe in woman's truth."

His impetuosity carried the day--he spoke with the fire of a young man
of twenty-five. She placed her hand in his, and said,

"I am yours."

Three weeks afterwards, Lydia Wilson became Mr. Holdfast's wife, and his
son Frederick was in ignorance that he had married again. The date of
the marriage was exactly two years to the day before the fatal night
upon which Mr. Holdfast was found murdered in No. 119 Great Porter
Square.

[Decoration]



CHAPTER XIX.

  THE "EVENING MOON" CONTINUES ITS ACCOUNT OF THE TRAGEDY, AND
    DESCRIBES THE SHAMEFUL PART ENACTED BY MR. FREDERICK HOLDFAST IN
    HIS FATHER'S HOUSE.


When a man of Mr. Holdfast's age and wealth marries, for love, a lady
thirty years younger than himself, his friends generally regard him with
pity, and predict that the day must arrive when he will awake from his
infatuated dream. "Warm-blooded May and cold-blooded December," say
Mrs. Grundy and her family; "what can be expected?" They are much more
uncharitable towards the lady, if she happen to be poor, as in such
cases she is almost certain to be. It is not possible for her to awake
from her dream, for she is judged as having been very wide awake, and
as having entrapped the poor man with wiles most artfully designed and
carried out, fooling the doting old lover to the top of his bent, her
eyes and heart set upon nothing but his money.

The judgment is too often correct. Beauty sacrificing itself at the
altar of Mammon is no new subject for writer or painter whose satires
are drawn from truth and nature. But an arrow tipped with these feathers
of false feeling, and aimed at Mr. Holdfast and his lovely bride, would
have fallen short of its mark. Their match, despite the disparity of
age, was in the best sense of the word a love-match. On Mr. Holdfast's
side there could be no doubt of it; and as little doubt could there be
of a creature so guileless as Lydia Wilson, who had been brought up in
the most delightful ignorance of the value of money.

"We loved each other to the last," says the innocent and much-wronged
widow. "To have saved my dear husband's life I would have sacrificed my
own--willingly, joyfully have sacrificed it!"

By what strange roads, then, had so fair a commencement been conducted
to so foul and tragic an end?

Reference has already been made to Mr. Holdfast's son Frederick, and the
sketch we have given of his character will be a sufficient indication
of the kind of man he was. We speak of him in the past tense, for he is
dead.

Shortly after Mr. Holdfast's second marriage, he communicated to his
son the news of his having chosen a beautiful and amiable woman as a
companion. In his letter the father expressed a hope that his son, who
had already done so much to wound a father's heart, would not add to
his misconduct by behaving other than dutifully and respectfully to his
second mother. The son wrote back that he had no second mother, and
would acknowledge none; but that he would soon be in London to embrace
his father and shake hands with his father's wife. Attention is directed
to the terms of this expression of feeling. His father he would embrace,
his father's wife he would shake hands with. To one he would exhibit
affection, to the other coldness. There was here at once struck the
keynote to many strange family events (in one of which the affections
were made to play a monstrous part), leading, there is reason to
believe, to the untimely death of a father who sinned only on the side
of indulgence and love.

"I had, from the first," said the widow of the murdered man, "a
mysterious foreboding about Frederick Holdfast. Do not ask me to account
for it, for it is out of my power. I am a creature of feeling and fancy,
but I am seldom wrong. I sometimes shudder when I pass a stranger in the
street, and I know--something whispers within me--that that stranger has
committed a crime, or is about to commit a crime. I sometimes feel glad
when I meet a person for the first time, as I have met you"--(she was
addressing our Reporter)--"and then I know that that person is an
honourable man, and that I can confide in him. I had a foreboding for
ill when I first heard the name of Mr. Frederick Holdfast. I shuddered
and turned as cold as ice; and that was even before I knew that his
father and he were not upon friendly terms. I tried to shake off the
feeling, asking myself how was it possible there could be any real
wickedness in the son of a man so noble as my dear lost husband? Alas!
I have lived to discover that my foreboding of evil was but too true!"

Mr. Frederick Holdfast came to London, and made the acquaintance of his
stepmother. He had rooms in his father's house, but his habits were very
irregular. He seldom dined with his father and his father's wife, as
he insisted upon calling her: he would not accompany them to ball or
party--for, from the date of his second marriage, Mr. Holdfast led a new
and happier life. He gave balls and parties at home, of which his wife
was the queen of beauty; he went into society; the gloom which had been
habitual with him departed from his heart. But the son would not share
this happiness; he was the thorn in the side of the newly-married
couple. We continue the narrative in the widow's words.

"I did everything in my power," she said, with touching plaintiveness,
"to reconcile father and son. I made excuses for Frederick. I said,
'Perhaps Frederick is in debt; it troubles him; you are rich.' There
was no occasion for me to say another word to such a generous gentleman
as my husband. The very next day he told me that he had had a serious
conversation with Frederick, who had confessed to him that he was deeply
in debt. How much? Thousands. He showed me a list, but I scarcely looked
at it. 'Shall I pay these debts?' my husband asked. 'Of course,' I
replied; 'pay them immediately, and fill Frederick's pockets with
money.' 'I have done that very thing,' said Mr. Holdfast, 'a dozen times
already, and he has always promised me he would reform.' 'Never mind,' I
said, 'perhaps he will keep his word this time. Pay his debts once more,
and let us all live happily together.' That was my only wish--that we
should all be friends, and that Frederick should have no excuse to
reproach me for having married his father. The debts were paid, and Mr.
Holdfast brought his son to me, and said to him 'Frederick, you have to
thank this angel'--(pray, pray do not think I am saying a word that is
not true! My husband was only too kind to me, and loved me so much that
he would often pay me extravagant compliments)--'You have to thank this
angel,' said Mr. Holdfast to his son, 'for what has been done this day.
You can now hold up your head with honour. Let bye-gones be bye-gones.
Kiss Mrs. Holdfast, and promise to turn over a new leaf.' I held out my
cheek to him, and he looked at me coldly and turned away. I was scarlet
with shame. Was it not enough to rouse a woman's animosity?--such
treatment! But it did not rouse mine--no; I still hoped that things
would come right. Mr. Holdfast did not relate to me the particulars of
the interview between himself and his son, and I did not inquire. Why
should I pry into a young man's secrets? And what right had I to do
anything but try and make peace between my husband and my husband's
son? Frederick had been wild, but so have plenty of other college men.
Many of them have turned out well afterwards; I have heard of some who
were very bad young men, and afterwards became Judges and Members of
Parliament. Why should not Frederick do the same--why should he not
reform, and become a Judge or a Member of Parliament? My great wish
was that Mr. Holdfast should keep his son with him, and that Frederick
should marry some good girl, and settle down. I had tried to bring it
about. I had given parties, and had invited pretty girls; but Frederick
seldom made his appearance at my assemblies, and when he did, stopped
only for a few minutes. On the very evening of the day upon which my
husband, at my intercession, paid Frederick's debts, I had a ball at my
house. Is it wrong to be fond of parties and dancing? If it is, you will
blame me very much, for I am very fond of dancing. With a good partner I
could waltz all night, and not feel tired. Mr. Holdfast did not dance,
but he had no objection to my enjoying myself in this way. On the
contrary, he encouraged it. He would sit down to his whist, and when
the ball was over I would tell him all the foolish things my partners
had said to me. Well, on this night we were to have a grand ball, and I
very much wished Frederick to be present, for I wanted to introduce him
to some pretty girls I had invited. But in the morning he had insulted
me, and had refused to kiss me as a sign of reconciliation. Upon
thinking it over I said to myself that perhaps he did not think it
proper to kiss me, because I was young and----well, not exactly
bad-looking. I was always trying to make excuses for him in my mind.
Though there could really be no harm in kissing one's mother--do you
believe there is?--even if your mother _is_ younger than yourself! If
_I_ were a young man, _I_ should have no objection! So I determined to
ask Frederick to come to my ball, and bind him to it. He was to dine
with us, and, for a wonder, he did not disappoint us. Over dinner I
said, 'Frederick, I should like you very, very particularly to come to
my ball to-night.' Contrary to his usual custom of pleading an excuse
of another engagement--it was generally to meet some friend at his
club--he said, quite readily, 'I will come.' I was surprised. 'You have
promised before,' I said, 'but you have almost always disappointed me. I
shall take your promise now as a gentleman's promise, and shall expect
you to keep it. And you must not only come; you must stop and dance.' He
replied, without the slightest hesitation, 'I will come, and I will stop
and dance.' 'Now,' I said, so glad at his amiability, 'I will make it
hard for you to forget. Here is my programme. You may dance two dances
with me. I am sure you would not keep a lady waiting. Behave to me as
you would to any other lady in society.' I gave him my card, and he
wrote upon it, and handed it back to me. I did not look to see the
dances he had engaged; I was too pleased at my success. His father,
also, was very much pleased, and our dinner on this evening was the
pleasantest we had ever enjoyed together. Three hours later, my guests
began to arrive. While I was dressing, one of my maids brought in the
loveliest bouquet I had ever seen. From Mr. Holdfast? No. From his son,
Frederick. Was not that a sign of perfect reconciliation, and had I
not every reason to be happy? O, if I had known! I would have cast the
flowers to the ground, and have trodden them under my feet! But we can
never tell, can we, what is going to happen to us? I dressed, and went
down to the ball room. I wore a pale blue silk, with flounces of lace,
caught up here and there with forget-me-nots, and I had pearls in my
hair. Mr. Holdfast said I looked bewitching. I was in the best of
spirits, and felt sure that this was going to be one of the happiest
evenings in my life. How shall I tell you what happened? I am ashamed
and horrified when I think of it! But it was not my fault, and I did
everything I could to lead Frederick away from his dreadful, sinful
infatuation."

Our Reporter himself takes up the narrative, and relates what followed
in his own words. The beautiful widow was overcome by shame at the
revelation she had to make, and it was only by considerate and skilful
persuasion that our representative was able to elicit from her the full
particulars of what she rightly called a dreadful, sinful infatuation.

The ball was a perfect success; there were many beautiful women among
the guests, but the most beautiful of all was the hostess herself. A
gentleman asked her to dance, and she handed him her card.

"How annoying!" he exclaimed. "You are engaged for every waltz."

"No," she replied, "only for two."

"But look," said the gentleman.

She glanced at her card, and found that Frederick had placed his name
against every one of the six waltzes comprised in the programme.

"The foolish fellow!" she cried, "I promised him two, and he has
appropriated six!"

"In that case," observed the gentleman, "as you are much too precious to
be monopolised, I may take the liberty of erasing Mr. Frederick
Holdfast's name from one waltz at least, and writing my own in its
place."

"Yes," said Mrs. Holdfast, "I will promise you one."

Just as the gentleman had made the alteration in the card Frederick came
up, and protested against being deprived of the waltz.

"You made me promise to stop and dance," he said, "and I will dance with
no other lady in the room but you."

"Why," said Mrs. Holdfast, "there are fifty pretty girls here, who will
be delighted to dance with you."

"I have no eyes for any lady but yourself," he said, offering her his
arm. "You wear the crown of beauty."

Surprised as she was at this sudden change in him, it was so much better
than the systematically cold manner in which he had hitherto treated
her, that she humoured him and was quite disposed to yield to his
caprices. He told her during the evening that he was jealous of any
person dancing with her but himself; he paid her a thousand compliments;
he was most devoted in his attentions.

"Frederick is a changed man," she said to her husband, when he came from
the whist to inquire how she was enjoying herself; "he has been the most
attentive of cavaliers."

Mr. Holdfast expressed his satisfaction to his son.

"You have commenced your new leaf well, Frederick," he said; "I hope you
will go on as you have begun."

"I intend to do so, sir," replied Frederick.

Had Mr. Holdfast understood the exact meaning of these words, his
advice to his son would have been of a precisely opposite nature, and
on that very night the severance of father and son would have been
complete.

The evening progressed; music, pretty women, gallant men, brilliant
lights, flowers, a sumptuous supper, a fascinating and charming hostess,
formed the sum of general happiness. The ball was spoken of as the
most successful of the season. In an interval between the dances Mrs.
Holdfast found herself alone with Frederick in a conservatory. She had
a difficulty in fastening one of the buttons of her glove. Frederick
offered his assistance; she held out her white arm; his fingers trembled
as he clumsily essayed to fasten the button.

"You seem agitated," she said to him, with a smile.

"I have behaved to you like a brute," he muttered.

"Don't think of the past," she said sweetly, "we commence from this
night."

"It will be the commencement of heaven or hell to me!" he said, in a
voice almost indistinct, with contrition as she supposed. "My father
was right in calling you an angel. When I reflect upon my conduct this
morning I can't help thinking I must have been mad. To refuse to kiss
a beautiful woman like you! Let me kiss you now, in token of my
repentance."

She offered him her cheek, and he seized her in his arms, and kissed her
lips.

"I love you! I love you!" he whispered, and before she could release
herself he had kissed her a dozen times. "That will make amends for my
rudeness this morning," he said, as he rushed from her presence.

She scarcely knew what to think; she was bewildered by his strange
behaviour, but she was too pure-minded to put any but an innocent
construction upon it. Poor lady! she had had no experience of that kind
of man in whose eyes a woman's good name is a thing to trifle with and
destroy, and who afterwards exults in the misery he has brought upon an
unsuspecting, confiding heart. She lived to learn the bitter lesson. Too
soon did she learn it! Too soon did the horrible truth force itself upon
her soul that her husband's son loved her, or professed to love her--and
that he was using all his artifices to prevail upon her to accept him
as her secret lover. At first she refused to credit it; she had read of
such things, but had never believed they could exist. To the pure all
things are pure, and so for a time she cast away the suspicion which
intruded itself that the heart of this young man could harbour such
treachery towards a father too ready to forgive the errors which stain
a man's name with dishonour. Her position was most perplexing. Instead
of absenting himself from home, Frederick was unremitting in his
attendance upon her. When he came down to breakfast in the morning he
kissed her, but never before his father. When he went out of the house
he kissed her--but his father never saw the embrace. In private, when no
one else was by, he called her "Lydia," or "dear Lydia"; when his father
or strangers were present, he addressed her as Mrs. Holdfast. He was so
subtle in his devices that he wove around her and himself a chain of
secrecy which caused her the greatest misery. She was no match for him.
He was a man of the world; she, a young and innocent girl brought, for
the first time, face to face with deliberate villainy. Her position
was rendered the more embarrassing by the pleasure which Frederick's
outward conduct afforded her husband. He expressed his pleasure to her
frequently. "Our union," he said to her, "has brought happiness to me in
more ways than one. Frederick has reformed; he is all I wish him to be;
and I owe it to you that I can look forward now with satisfaction to his
future." How could she undeceive the fond father? She contemplated with
shudders the effect of the revelation it was in her power to make. Could
she not in some way avoid the exposure? Could she not bring the son to a
true sense of his shameful and unmanly conduct? She would try--she would
try; innocence and a good intent would give her strength and courage.
She was not aware of the difficulty of the task she had set herself.

In its execution private interviews between Frederick and herself were
necessary, and she had to solicit them. The eagerness with which he
acceded to her request to speak with him in the absence of her husband
should have been a warning to her--but she saw nothing but the possible
success of a worthy design which was to save her husband from bitter
grief. She spoke to Frederick seriously; she endeavoured to show him
not only the wickedness but the folly of his passion for her; she told
him that she loved his father, and that if he did not conquer his mad
infatuation for her, an exposure must ensue which would cover him with
shame. And the result of her endeavour to bring the young man to reason
was a declaration on his part, repeated again and again, that he loved
her more than ever. He had the cunning to hint to her that she was
already compromised, and that she could not defend herself successfully
against an imputation of guilt. Appearances were all against her; the
very interviews which she herself had planned and solicited were proofs
against her. These infamous arguments convinced her of the hopelessness
of her task, and with grief she relinquished it. She had no alternative
but to appeal for protection to her husband. We doubt whether in the
annals of social life a more delicate and painful situation could be
found.

She faced her duty bravely. She had full confidence in the honour and
justice of her husband, and her confidence was not misplaced. Suffering
most deeply himself, he pitied her for the suffering she experienced
in being the innocent cause of what could not fail to be a life-long
separation between himself and his son. "You have done your duty," he
said, "and I will do mine. I am not only your husband and lover; I
am your protector." He called his son to him and they were closeted
together for hours. What passed between them, the wife never knew. Upon
that subject husband and wife maintained perfect silence. At the end
of the interview Frederick Holdfast left his father's house, never to
return. The echo of the banished son's footsteps still lingered in Lydia
Holdfast's ears when her husband called her into his study. His pale
face showed traces of deep suffering. Upon the writing table was a small
Bible, with silver clasps.

"Lydia," said Mr. Holdfast, "this Bible was given to me by my first
wife. Two children she bore me--first, the man who has but now left
my house, and will not enter it again; then a girl, who died before
she could prattle. It were better that my son had so died, but it
was otherwise willed. In this Bible I wrote the record of my first
marriage--my own name, the maiden name of my wife, the church in which
we were married, and the date. It is here; and beneath it the record of
my marriage with you. Upon a separate page I wrote the date of the birth
of my son Frederick; beneath it, that of my second child, Alice, dead.
That page is no longer in the sacred Book. I have torn it out and
destroyed it; and as from this Bible I tore the record of my son's
birth, so from my life I have torn and destroyed his existence. He lives
no longer for me. I have now no child; I have only you!" He paused
awhile, and continued. "It is I, it seems," he said, pathetically, "who
have to turn over a new leaf. With the exception of yourself--my first
consideration--there is but one engrossing subject in my mind; the
honour of my name. I must watch carefully that it is not dragged in
the mud. From such a man as my son has grown into--heaven knows by
what means, for neither from myself nor from his mother can he have
inherited his base qualities--I am not safe for a moment. Between to-day
and the past, let there be a door fast closed, which neither you nor I
will ever attempt to open."

Then this man, whose nature must have been very noble, kissed his young
wife, and asked that she would not disturb him for the remainder of
the day. "Only one person," he said, "is to be admitted to see me--my
lawyer." In the course of the afternoon that gentleman presented
himself, and did not leave until late in the night. His business is
explained by the date of a codicil to Mr. Holdfast's will, whereby the
son is disinherited, and Mr. Holdfast's entire fortune--amounting to not
less than one hundred thousand pounds--is left unreservedly to his wife.

To avoid the tittle-tattle of the world, and the scandal which any open
admission of social disturbances would be sure to give rise to, Mr.
Holdfast insisted that his wife should mingle freely in the gaieties
of society. She would have preferred to have devoted herself to her
husband, and to have endeavoured, by wifely care and affection, to
soften the blow which had fallen upon him. But he would not allow her to
sacrifice herself. "My best happiness," he said, "is to know that you
are enjoying yourself." Therefore she went more frequently into society,
and fêted its members in her own house with princely liberality. When
people asked after Mr. Holdfast's son, the answer--dictated by the
father himself--was that he had gone abroad on a tour. It appeared,
indeed, that the compact between father and son was that the young man
should leave England. In this respect he kept his word. He went to
America, and his father soon received news of him. His career in the
States was disgraceful and dissipated; he seemed to have lost all
control over himself, and his only desire appeared to be to vex his
father's heart, and dishonour his father's name. Events so shaped
themselves that the father's presence was necessary in America to
personally explain to the heads of firms with whom he had for years
transacted an extensive business, the character of the son who, by
misrepresentations, was compromising his credit. When he communicated
to his wife his intention of leaving her for a short time, she begged
him not to go, or, if it were imperative that the journey should be
undertaken, to allow her to accompany him. To this request he would not
consent; he would not subject her to the discomfort of the voyage; and
he pointed out to her that her presence might be a hindrance instead of
a help to him.

"Not only," he said, "must I set myself right with my agents in America,
but I must see my son. I will make one last appeal to him--I will speak
to him in the name of his dead mother! It is my duty, and I will perform
it. The wretched man, hearing of my arrival, may fly from the cities
in which it is necessary that I shall present myself. I must follow
him until we are once more face to face. Cannot you see that I must be
alone, and entirely free, to bring my mission to a successful issue."

Mournfully, she was compelled to confess that he was right, and that it
was imperative his movements should not be hampered. She bade him an
affectionate farewell, little dreaming, as he drove away from the house,
that she had received his last kiss.

He wrote regularly--from Queenstown, from ship-board, from New York. His
letters were filled with expressions of affection; of his business he
merely said, from time to time, that matters were not so serious as they
were represented to be. As he had suspected, his son flew before him,
and, resolute in his intention of having a last interview with him, he
followed the young man from city to city, from State to State. Weeks,
months were occupied in this pursuit, and it happened, on more than one
occasion, that Mrs. Holdfast was a considerable time without a letter
from her husband. She wrote to him again and again, entreating him to
give up the pursuit and come home, but strong as was his affection for
her, she could not shake his resolve. In one of his letters he hinted
that his son was not alone--that he was in company with a woman of more
than doubtful character; in another that this woman, having deserted the
misguided young man, had appealed to Mr. Holdfast himself for assistance
to enable her to return to England. "I did not refuse her," he wrote; "I
was only too happy to break the connection between her and Frederick. I
supplied her with money, and by the time you receive this she is most
probably in her native land." Actions such as this denoted the kindness
of his heart, and there is no doubt, had his son thrown himself at his
father's feet, and, admitting the errors of the past, promised amendment
in the future, that Mr. Holdfast would have helped him to commence a new
and better career. Mr. Holdfast spoke of this in his letters. "There are
other lands than England and America," he said, "where a man may build
up a name that shall be honoured, and live a life of usefulness and
happiness. In one of the Australian colonies, or in New Zealand, he may
work out his repentance, under conditions which offer almost a certainty
of a bright and honourable future."

This was the father's aim--a wise and merciful design, altogether too
good in its intentions for the man it was to benefit.

At length a letter arrived conveying the intelligence that Mr. Holdfast
had tracked his son to Minnesota, one of the Western States of America,
and was journeying onward in pursuit of him. This letter was not in Mr.
Holdfast's writing; it was written by a stranger, at his dictation, and
a satisfactory explanation of this circumstance was given. "Although I
am wearied in spirit," it said, "and sometimes feel that but for you I
would give up the world and its trials with thankfulness, I am not
really ill. My right hand has been wounded by the shutting of the door
of a railroad car, and I am unable to use it. For this reason you must
not feel uneasy if you do not hear from me for some time. I do not care
to entrust, even to a stranger, the particulars of my private troubles.
Good bye, and God bless you! Be happy!" These tender words were the last
she ever received from him. When she read them she was oppressed by an
ominous foreboding, and a voice within her whispered: "You will never
see him more!" But for one thrilling circumstance, nothing in the world
could have prevented her from taking instant passage to America to nurse
and comfort her dear husband. She was about to become a mother. Now,
indeed, she could not risk the perils of the voyage and the feverish
travelling in the States. Another and a dearer life claimed her care and
love.

Within a week of the receipt of this last letter she learnt, from a
newspaper forwarded to her from a small town in Minnesota, that her
husband's quest was over. On the banks of the laughing waters of
Minne-haha the dead body of a stranger was found. He had not met his
death by drowning; from marks upon the body it was certain that he had
been killed--most likely in a drunken brawl. A gentleman travelling
through the district identified the body as that of Frederick Holdfast,
with whom he was well acquainted in Oxford. The occurrence excited
no comment, and simply supplied the text for an ordinary newspaper
paragraph. The body was buried, and in that distant part of the world
the man was soon forgotten. Thus was ended the shameful life of
Frederick Holdfast, a young man to whom fortune held out a liberal hand,
and whose career was marred by a lack of moral control.

Shocked as Mrs. Holdfast was by the tragic news, she could not but feel
happy in the thought of the calmer future which lay before her. "My
husband will soon be home!" she thought, and her heart beat with glad
anticipation.


_END OF VOLUME I._



Transcriber's note


Words in italics have been surrounded by _underscores_ and small
capitals have been changed to all capitals.

Punctuation errors have been corrected silently. Also the
following corrections have been made, on page

   12 "could'nt" changed to "couldn't" (So of course it couldn't have
      been)
   19 "facination" changed to "fascination" (with a horrible
      fascination)
  187 "And" changed to "and" (raised their voices, and I wasn't awake)
  211 "writhin" changed to "writhing" (Mrs. Bailey writhing in bed)
  247 "But" changed to "but" (feeling and fancy, but I am seldom
      wrong)
  257 "herelf" changed to "herself" (how she was enjoying herself;)
  257 "have" added (his advice to his son would have been).

Otherwise the original has been preserved, including inconsistent
spelling and hyphenation.





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