Part 7 out of 8
considered as an omen. She said she had dreamed about the race, but her
dream was only a lot of foolish rubbish without head or tail. Ketley
argued earnestly against this view of a serious subject, and in the hope
of convincing her of her error offered to walk as far as Oxford Street
with her and put her into her 'bus. But on the following evening all her
interest was centered in Mr. Journeyman, who declared that he could prove
that according to the weight it seemed to him to look more and more like a
certainty. He had let the horse in at six stone ten pounds, the official
handicapper had only given him six stone seven pounds.
"They is a-sending of him along this week, and if the leg don't go it is a
hundred pound to a brass farthing on the old horse."
"How many times will they gallop him?" Sarah asked.
"He goes a mile and a 'arf every day now.... The day after to-morrow
they'll try him, just to see that he hasn't lost his turn of speed, and if
he don't break down in the trial you can take it from me that it will be
"When will you know the result of the trial?"
"I expect a letter on Friday morning," said Stack. "If you come in in the
evening I'll let you know about it."
"Thank you very much, Mr. Stack. I must be getting home now."
"I'm going your way, Miss Tucker.... If you like, we'll go together, and
I'll tell you," he whispered, "all about the 'orse."
When they had left the bar the conversation turned on racing as an
occupation for women.
"Fancy my wife making a book on the course. I bet she'd overlay it and
then turn round and back the favourite at a shorter price than she'd been
"I don't know that we should be any foolisher than you," said Esther;
"don't you never go and overlay your book? What about Syntax and the 'orse
you told me about last week?"
William had been heavily hit last week through overlaying his book against
a horse he didn't believe in, and the whole bar joined in the laugh
"I don't say nothing about bookmaking," said Journeyman; "but there's a
great many women nowadays who is mighty sharp at spotting a 'orse that the
handicapper had let in pretty easy."
"This one," said Ketley, jerking his thumb in the direction that Stack and
Sarah had gone, "seems to 'ave got hold of something."
"We must ask Stack when he comes back," and Journeyman winked at William.
"Women do get that excited over trifles," old John remarked,
sarcastically. "She ain't got above 'alf-a-crown on the 'orse, if that.
She don't care about the 'orse or the race--no woman ever did; it's all
about some sweetheart that's been piling it on."
"I wonder if you're right," said Esther, reflectively. "I never knew her
before to take such an interest in a horse-race."
On the day of the race Sarah came into the private bar about three
o'clock. The news was not yet in.
"Wouldn't you like to step into the parlour; you'll be more comfortable?"
"No thank you, dear; it is not worth while. I thought I'd like to know
which won, that's all."
"Have you much on?"
"No, five shillings altogether.... But a friend of mine stands to win a
good bit. I see you've got a new dress, dear. When did you get it?"
"I've had the stuff by me some time. I only had it made up last month. Do
you like it?"
Sarah answered that she thought it very pretty. But Esther could see that
she was thinking of something quite different.
"The race is over now. It's run at half-past two."
"Yes, but they're never quite punctual; there may be a delay at the post."
"I see you know all about it."
"One never hears of anything else."
Esther asked Sarah when her people came back to town, and was surprised at
the change of expression that the question brought to her friend's face.
"They're expected back to-morrow," she said. "Why do you ask?"
"Oh, nothing; something to say, that's all."
The conversation paused, and the two women looked at each other. At that
moment a voice coming rapidly towards them was heard calling, "Win-ner,
"I'll send out for the paper," said Esther.
"No, no... Suppose he shouldn't have won?"
"Well, it won't make any difference."
"Oh, Esther, no; some one will come in and tell us. The race can't be over
yet; it is a long race, and takes some time to run."
By this time the boy was far away, and fainter and fainter the terrible
word, "Win-ner, win-ner, win-ner."
"It's too late now," said Sarah; "some one'll come in presently and tell
us about it.... I daresay it ain't the paper at all. Them boys cries out
anything that will sell."
"Win-ner, win-ner." The voice was coming towards them.
"If he has won, Bill and I is to marry.... Somehow I feel as if he
"We shall soon know." Esther took a halfpenny from the till.
"Don't you think we'd better wait? It can't be printed in the papers, not
the true account, and if it was wrong--" Esther didn't answer; she gave
Charles the halfpenny; he went out, and in a few minutes came back with
the paper in his hand. "Tornado first, Ben Jonson second, Woodcraft
third," he read out. "That's a good thing for the guv'nor. There was very
few what backed Tornado.... He's only lost some place-money."
"So he was only second," said Sarah, turning deadly pale. "They said he
was certain to win."
"I hope you've not lost much," said Esther. "It wasn't with William that
you backed him."
"No, it wasn't with William. I only had a few shillings on. It don't
matter. Let me have a drink."
"What will you have?"
Sarah drank it neat. Esther looked at her doubtfully.
The bars would be empty for the next two hours; Esther wished to utilize
this time; she had some shopping to do, and asked Sarah to come with her.
But Sarah complained of being tired, and said she would see her when she
Esther went out a little perplexed. She was detained longer than she
expected, and when she returned Sarah was staggering about in the
bar-room, asking Charles for one more drink.
"All bloody rot; who says I'm drunk? I ain't... look at me. The 'orse did
not win, did he? I say he did; papers all so much bloody rot."
"Oh, Sarah, what is this?"
"Who's this? Leave go, I say."
"Mr. Stack, won't you ask her to come upstairs?... Don't encourage her."
"Upstairs? I'm a free woman. I don't want to go upstairs. I'm a free
woman; tell me," she said, balancing herself with difficulty and staring
at Esther with dull, fishy eyes, "tell me if I'm not a free woman? What do
I want upstairs for?"
"Oh, Sarah, come upstairs and lie down. Don't go out."
"I'm going home. Hands off, hands off!" she said, slapping Esther's hands
from her arm.
"'For every one was drunk last night,
And drunk the night before;
And if we don't get drunk to-night,
We don't get drunk no more.
"'Now you will have a drink with me,
And I will drink with you;
For we're the very rowdiest lot
Of the rowdy Irish crew.'
"That's what we used to sing in the Lane, yer know; should 'ave seen the
coster gals with their feathers, dancing and clinking their pewters.
Rippin Day, Bank 'oliday, Epping, under the trees--'ow they did romp,
"'We all was roaring drunk last night,
And drunk the night before;
And if we don't get drunk to-night,
We won't get drunk no more.'
"Girls and boys, you know, all together."
"Sarah, listen to me."
"Listen! Come and have a drink, old gal, just another drink." She
staggered up to the counter. "One more, just for luck; do yer 'ear?"
Before Charles could stop her she had seized the whisky that had just been
served. "That's my whisky," exclaimed Journeyman. He made a rapid
movement, but was too late. Sarah had drained the glass and stood vacantly
looking into space. Journeyman seemed so disconcerted at the loss of his
whisky that every one laughed.
A few moments after Sarah staggered forward and fell insensible into his
arms. He and Esther carried her upstairs and laid her on the bed in the
"She'll be precious bad to-morrow," said Journeyman.
"I don't know how you could have gone on helping her," Esther said to
Charles when she got inside the bar; and she seemed so pained that out of
deference to her feelings the subject was dropped out of the conversation.
Esther felt that something shocking had happened. Sarah had deliberately
got drunk. She would not have done that unless she had some great trouble
on her mind. William, too, was of this opinion. Something serious must
have happened. As they went up to their room Esther said--
"It is all the fault of this betting. The neighbourhood is completely
ruined. They're losing their 'omes and their furniture, and you'll bear
the blame of it."
"It do make me so wild to hear you talkin' that way, Esther. People will
bet, you can't stop them. I lays fair prices, and they're sure of their
money. Yet you says they're losin' their furniture, and that I shall have
to bear the blame."
When they got to the top of the stairs she said--
"I must go and see how Sarah is."
"Where am I? What's happened?... Take that candle out of my eyes.... Oh,
my head is that painful." She fell back on the pillow, and Esther thought
she had gone to sleep again. But she opened her eyes. "Where am I?
...That's you, Esther?"
"Yes. Can't you remember?"
"No, I can't. I remember that the 'orse didn't win, but don't remember
nothing after.... I got drunk, didn't I? It feels like it."
"The 'orse didn't win, and then you took too much. It's very foolish of
you to give way."
"Give way! Drunk, what matter? I'm done for."
"Did you lose much?"
"It wasn't what I lost, it was what I took. I gave Bill the plate to
pledge; it's all gone, and master and missis coming back tomorrow. Don't
talk about it. I got drunk so that I shouldn't think of it."
"Oh, Sarah, I didn't think it was as bad as that. You must tell me all
"I don't want to think about it. They'll come soon enough to take me away.
Besides, I cannot remember nothing now. My mouth's that awful--Give me a
drink. Never mind the glass, give me the water-bottle."
She drank ravenously, and seemed to recover a little. Esther pressed her
to tell her about the pledged plate. "You know that I'm your friend. You'd
better tell me. I want to help you out of this scrape."
"No one can help me now, I'm done for. Let them come and take me. I'll go
with them. I shan't say nothing."
"How much is it in for? Don't cry like that," Esther said, and she took
out her handkerchief and wiped Sarah's eyes. "How much is it in for?
Perhaps I can get my husband to lend me the money to get it out."
"It's no use trying to help me.... Esther, I can't talk about it now; I
shall go mad if I do."
"Tell me how much you got on it."
It took a long time to undress her. Every now and then she made an effort,
and another article of clothing was got off. When Esther returned to her
room William was asleep, and Esther took him by the shoulder.
"It is more serious than I thought," she shouted. "I want to tell you
"What about it?" he said, opening his eyes.
"She has pledged the plate for thirty pounds to back that 'orse."
"He broke down at the bushes. If he hadn't I should have been broke up.
The whole neighbourhood was on him. So she pledged the plate to back him.
She didn't do that to back him herself. Some one must have put her up to
"Yes, it was Bill Evans."
"Ah, that blackguard put her up to it. I thought she'd left him for good.
She promised us that she'd never speak to him again."
"You see, she was that fond of him that she couldn't help herself. There's
many that can't."
"How much did they get on the plate?"
William blew a long whistle. Then, starting up in the bed, he said, "She
can't stop here. If it comes out that it was through betting, it won't do
this house any good. We're already suspected. There's that old sweetheart
of yours, the Salvation cove, on the lookout for evidence of betting being
"She'll go away in the morning. But I thought that you might lend her the
money to get the plate out."
"What! thirty pounds?"
"It's a deal of money, I know; but I thought that you might be able to
manage it. You've been lucky over this race."
"Yes, but think of all I've lost this summer. This is the first bit of
luck I've had for a long while."
"I thought you might be able to manage it."
Esther stood by the bedside, her knee leaned against the edge. She seemed
to him at that moment as the best woman in the world, and he said--
"Thirty pounds is no more to me than two-pence-halfpenny if you wish it,
"I haven't been an extravagant wife, have I?" she said, getting into bed
and taking him in her arms. "I never asked you for money before. She's my
friend--she's yours too--we've known her all our lives. We can't see her
go to prison, can we, Bill, without raising a finger to save her?"
She had never called him Bill before, and the familiar abbreviation
touched him, and he said--
"I owe everything to you, Esther; everything that's mine is yours. But,"
he said, drawing away so that he might see her better, "what do you say if
I ask something of you?"
"What are you going to ask me?"
"I want you to say that you won't bother me no more about the betting. You
was brought up to think it wicked. I know all that, but you see we can't
do without it."
"Do you think not?"
"Don't the thirty pounds you're asking for Sarah come out of betting?"
"I suppose it do."
"Most certainly it do."
"I can't help feeling, Bill, that we shan't always be so lucky as we have
"You mean that you think that one of these days we shall have the police
down upon us?"
"Don't you sometimes think that we can't always go on without being
caught? Every day I hear of the police being down on some betting club or
"They've been down on a great number lately, but what can I do? We always
come back to that. I haven't the health to work round from race-course to
race-course as I used to. But I've got an idea, Esther. I've been thinking
over things a great deal lately, and--give me my pipe--there, it's just by
you. Now, hold the candle, like a good girl."
William pulled at his pipe until it was fully lighted. He threw himself on
his back, and then he said--
"I've been thinking things over. The betting 'as brought us a nice bit of
trade here. If we can work up the business a bit more we might, let's say
in a year from now, be able to get as much for the 'ouse as we gave....
What do you think of buying a business in the country, a 'ouse doing a
steady trade? I've had enough of London, the climate don't suit me as it
used to. I fancy I should be much better in the country, somewhere on the
South Coast. Bournemouth way, what do you think?"
Before Esther could reply William was taken with a fit of coughing, and
his great broad frame was shaken as if it were so much paper.
"I'm sure," said Esther, when he had recovered himself a little, "that a
good deal of your trouble comes from that pipe. It's never out of your
mouth.... I feel like choking myself."
"I daresay I smoke too much.... I'm not the man I was. I can feel it plain
enough. Put my pipe down and blow out the candle.... I didn't ask you how
"Very bad. She was half dazed and didn't tell me much."
"She didn't tell you where she had pledged the plate?"
"No, I will ask her about that to-morrow morning." Leaning forward she
blew out the candle. The wick smouldered red for a moment, and they fell
asleep happy in each other's love, seeming to find new bonds of union in
pity for their friend's misfortune.
"Sarah, you must make an effort and try to dress yourself."
"Oh, I do feel that bad, I wish I was dead!"
"You must not give way like that; let me help you put on your stockings."
Sarah looked at Esther. "You're very good to me, but I can manage." When
she had drawn on her stockings her strength was exhausted, and she fell
back on the pillow.
Esther waited a few minutes. "Here're your petticoats. Just tie them round
you; I'll lend you a dressing-gown and a pair of slippers."
William was having breakfast in the parlour. "Well, feeling a bit poorly?"
he said to Sarah. "What'll you have? There's a nice bit of fried fish. Not
feeling up to it?"
"Oh, no! I couldn't touch anything." She let herself drop on the sofa.
"A cup of tea'll do you good," said Esther. "You must have a cup of tea,
and a bit of toast just to nibble. William, pour her out a cup of tea."
When she had drunk the tea she said she felt a little better.
"Now," said William, "let's 'ear all about it. Esther has told you, no
doubt, that we intend to do all we can to help you."
"You can't help me.... I'm done for," she replied dolefully.
"I don't know about that," said William. "You gave that brute Bill Evans
the plate to pawn, so far as I know."
"There isn't much more to tell. He said the horse was sure to win. He was
at thirty to one at that time. A thousand to thirty. Bill said with that
money we could buy a public-house in the country. He wanted to settle
down, he wanted to get out of--I don't want to say nothing against him. He
said if I would only give him this chance of leading a respectable life,
we was to be married immediately after."
"He told you all that, did he? He said he'd give you a 'ome of your own, I
know. A regular rotter; that man is about as bad as they make 'em. And you
believed it all?"
"It wasn't so much what I believed as what I couldn't help myself. He had
got that influence over me that my will wasn't my own. I don't know how it
is--I suppose men have stronger natures than women. I 'ardly knew what I
was doing; it was like sleep-walking. He looked at me and said, 'You'd
better do it.' I did it, and I suppose I'll have to go to prison for it.
What I says is just the truth, but no one believes tales like that. How
long do you think they'll give me?"
"I hope we shall be able to get you out of this scrape. You got thirty
pounds on the plate. Esther has told you that I'm ready to lend you the
money to get it out."
"Will you do this? You're good friends indeed.... But I shall never be
able to pay you back such a lot of money."
"We won't say nothing about paying back; all we want you to do is to say
that you'll never see that fellow again."
A change of expression came over Sarah's face, and William said, "You're
surely not still hankering after him?"
"No, indeed I'm not. But whenever I meets him he somehow gets his way with
me. It's terrible to love a man as I love him. I know he don't really care
for me--I know he is all you say, and yet I can't help myself. It is
better to be honest with you."
William looked puzzled. At the end of a long silence he said, "If it's
like that I don't see that we can do anything."
"Have patience, William. Sarah don't know what she's saying. She'll
promise not to see him again."
"You're very kind to me. I know I'm very foolish. I promised before not to
see him, and I couldn't keep my promise."
"You can stop with us until you get a situation in the country," said
Esther, "where you'll be out of his way."
"I might do that."
"I don't like to part with my money," said William, "if it is to do no one
any good." Esther looked at him, and he added, "It is just as Esther
wishes, of course; I'm not giving you the money, it is she."
"It is both of us," said Esther; "you'll do what I said, Sarah?"
"Oh, yes, anything you say, Esther," and she flung herself into her
friend's arms and wept bitterly.
"Now we want to know where you pawned the plate," said William.
"A long way from here. Bill said he knew a place where it would be quite
safe. I was to say that my mistress left it to me; he said that would be
sufficient.... It was in the Mile End Road."
"You'd know the shop again?" said William.
"But she's got the ticket," said Esther.
"No, I ain't got the ticket; Bill has it."
"Then I'm afraid the game's up."
"Do be quiet," said Esther, angrily. "If you want to get out of lending
the money say so and have done with it."
"That's not true, Esther. If you want another thirty to pay him to give up
the ticket, you can have it."
Esther thanked her husband with one quick look. "I'm sorry," she said, "my
temper is that hasty. But you know where he lives," she said, turning to
the wretched woman who sat on the sofa pale and trembling.
"Yes, I know where he lives--13 Milward Square, Mile End Road."
"Then we've no time to lose; we must go after him at once."
"No, William dear; you must not; you'd only lose your temper, and he might
do you an injury."
"An injury! I'd soon show him which was the best man of the two."
"I'll not hear of it, Sarah. He mustn't go with you."
"Come, Esther, don't be foolish. Let me go."
He had taken his hat from the peg. Esther got between him and the door.
"I forbid it," she said; "I will not let you go--perhaps to have a fight,
and with that cough."
William was coughing. He had turned pale, and he said, leaning against the
table, "Give me something to drink, a little milk."
Esther poured some into a cup. He sipped it slowly. "I'll go upstairs,"
she said, "for my hat and jacket. You've got your betting to attend to."
William smiled. "Sarah, mind, he's not to go with you."
"You forget what you said last night about the betting."
"Never mind what I said last night about the betting; what I say now is
that you're not to leave the bar. Come upstairs, Sarah, and dress
yourself, and let's be off."
Stack and Journeyman were waiting to speak to him. They had lost heavily
over old Ben and didn't know how they'd pull through; and the whole
neighbourhood was in the same plight; the bar was filled with gloomy
And as William scanned their disconcerted faces--clerks, hair-dressers,
waiters from the innumerable eating houses--he could not help thinking
that perhaps more than one of them had taken money that did not belong to
them to back Ben Jonson. The unexpected disaster had upset all their
plans, and even the wary ones who had a little reserve fund could not help
backing outsiders, hoping by the longer odds to retrieve yesterday's
losses. At two the bar was empty, and William waited for Esther and Sarah
to return from Mile End. It seemed to him that they were a long time away.
But Mile End is not close to Soho; and when they returned, between four
and five, he saw at once that they had been unsuccessful. He lifted up the
flap in the counter and all three went into the parlour.
"He left Milward Square yesterday," Esther said. "Then we went to another
address, and then to another; we went to all the places Sarah had been to
with him, but no tidings anywhere."
Sarah burst into tears. "There's no more hope," she said. "I'm done for;
they'll come and take me away. How much do you think I'll get? They won't
give me ten years, will they?"
"I can see nothing else for you to do," said Esther, "but to go straight
back to your people and tell them the whole story, and throw yourself on
"Do you mean that she should say that she pawned the plate to get money to
back a horse?"
"Of course I do."
"It will make the police more keen than ever on the betting houses."
"That can't be helped."
"She'd better not be took here," said William; "it will do a great deal of
harm.... It don't make no difference to her where she's took, do it?"
Esther did not answer.
"I'll go away. I don't want to get no one into trouble," Sarah said, and
she got up from the sofa.
At that moment Charles opened the door, and said, "You're wanted in the
William went out quickly. He returned a moment after. There was a scared
look on his face. "They're here," he said. He was followed by two
policemen. Sarah uttered a little cry.
"Your name is Sarah Tucker?" said the first policeman.
"You're charged with robbery by Mr. Sheldon, 34, Cumberland Place."
"Shall I be taken through the streets?"
"If you like to pay for it, you can go in a cab," the police-officer
"I'll go with you, dear," Esther said. William plucked her by the sleeve.
"It will do no good. Why should you go?"
The magistrate of course sent the case for trial, and the thirty pounds
which William had promised to give to Esther went to pay for the defence.
There seemed at first some hope that the prosecution would not be able to
prove its case, but fresh evidence connecting Sarah with the abstraction
of the plate was forthcoming, and in the end it was thought advisable that
the plea of not guilty should be withdrawn. The efforts of counsel were
therefore directed towards a mitigation of sentence. Counsel called Esther
and William for the purpose of proving the excellent character that the
prisoner had hitherto borne; counsel spoke of the evil influence into
which the prisoner had fallen, and urged that she had no intention of
actually stealing the plate. Tempted by promises, she had been persuaded
to pledge the plate in order to back a horse which she had been told was
certain to win. If that horse had won, the plate would have been redeemed
and returned to its proper place in the owner's house, and the prisoner
would have been able to marry. Possibly the marriage on which the prisoner
had set her heart would have turned out more unfortunate for the prisoner
than the present proceedings. Counsel had not words strong enough to
stigmatise the character of a man who, having induced a girl to imperil
her liberty for his own vile ends, was cowardly enough to abandon her in
the hour of her deepest distress. Counsel drew attention to the trusting
nature of the prisoner, who had not only pledged her employer's plate at
his base instigation, but had likewise been foolish enough to confide the
pawn-ticket to his keeping. Such was the prisoner's story, and he
submitted that it bore on the face of it the stamp of truth. A very sad
story, but one full of simple, foolish, trusting humanity, and, having
regard to the excellent character the prisoner had borne, counsel hoped
that his lordship would see his way to dealing leniently with her.
His Lordship, whose gallantries had been prolonged over half a century,
and whose betting transactions were matters of public comment, pursed up
his ancient lips and fixed his dead glassy eyes on the prisoner. He said
he regretted that he could not take the same view of the prisoner's
character as learned counsel had done. The police had made every effort to
apprehend the man Evans who, according to the prisoner's story, was the
principal culprit. But the efforts of the police had been unavailing; they
had, however, found traces of the man Evans, who undoubtedly did exist,
and need not be considered to be a near relative of our friend Mrs.
Harris. And the little joke provoked some amusement in the court; learned
counsel settled their robes becomingly and leant forward to listen. They
were in for a humorous speech, and the prisoner would get off with a light
sentence. But the grim smile waxed duller, and it was clear that lordship
was determined to make the law a terror to evil-doers. Lordship drew
attention to the fact that during the course of their investigations the
police had discovered that the prisoner had been living for some
considerable time with the man Evans, during which time several robberies
had been effected. There was no evidence, it was true, to connect the
prisoner with these robberies. The prisoner had left the man Evans and had
obtained a situation in the house of her present employers. When the
characters she had received from her former employers were being examined
she had accounted for the year she had spent with the man Evans by saying
that she had been staying with the Latches, the publicans who had given
evidence in her favour. It had also come to the knowledge of the police
that the man Evans used to frequent the "King's Head," that was the house
owned by the Latches; it was probable that she had made there the
acquaintance of the man Evans. The prisoner had referred her employers to
the Latches, who had lent their sanction to the falsehood regarding the
year she was supposed to have spent with them, but which she had really
spent in cohabitation with a notorious thief. Here lordship indulged in
severe remarks against those who enabled not wholly irreproachable
characters to obtain situations by false pretences, a very common habit,
and one attended with great danger to society, one which society would do
well to take precautions to defend itself against.
The plate, his Lordship remarked, was said to have been pawned, but there
was nothing to show that it had been pawned, the prisoner's explanation
being that she had given the pawn-ticket to the man Evans. She could not
tell where she had pawned the plate, her tale being that she and the man
Evans had gone down to Whitechapel together and pawned it in the Mile End
Road. But she did not know the number of the pawnbroker's, nor could she
give any indications as to its whereabouts--beyond the mere fact that it
was in the Mile End Road she could say nothing. All the pawnbrokers in the
Mile End Road had been searched, but no plate answering to the description
furnished by the prosecution could be found.
Learned counsel had endeavoured to show that it had been in a measure
unpremeditated, that it was the result of a passing but irresistible
temptation. Learned counsel had endeavoured to introduce some element of
romance into the case; he had described the theft as the outcome of the
prisoner's desire of marriage, but lordship could not find such purity of
motive in the prisoner's crime. There was nothing to show that there was
any thought of marriage in the prisoner's mind; the crime was the result,
not of any desire of marriage, but rather the result of vicious passion,
concubinage. Regarding the plea that the crime was unpremeditated, it was
only necessary to point out that it had been committed for a distinct
purpose and had been carried out in conjunction with an accomplished
"There is now only one more point which I wish to refer to, and that is
the plea that the prisoner did not intend to steal the plate, but only to
obtain money upon it to enable her and the partner in her guilt to back a
horse for a race which they believed to be--" his Lordship was about to
say a certainty for him; he stopped himself, however, in time--"to be, to
be, which they believed him to be capable of winning. The race in question
is, I think, called the Cesarewitch, and the name of the horse (lordship
had lost three hundred on Ben Jonson), if my memory serves me right (here
lordship fumbled amid papers), yes, the name is, as I thought, Ben Jonson.
Now, the learned counsel for the defence suggested that, if the horse had
won, the plate would have been redeemed and restored to its proper place
in the pantry cupboards. This, I venture to point out, is a mere
hypothesis. The money might have been again used for the purpose of
gambling. I confess that I do not see why we should condone the prisoner's
offence because it was committed for the sake of obtaining money for
gambling purposes. Indeed, it seems to me a reason for dealing heavily
with the offence. The vice among the poorer classes is largely on the
increase, and it seems to me that it is the duty of all in authority to
condemn rather than to condone the evil, and to use every effort to stamp
it out. For my part I fail to perceive any romantic element in the vice of
gambling. It springs from the desire to obtain wealth without work, in
other words, without payment; work, whether in the past or the present, is
the natural payment for wealth, and any wealth that is obtained without
work is in a measure a fraud committed upon the community. Poverty,
despair, idleness, and every other vice spring from gambling as naturally,
and in the same profusion, as weeds from barren land. Drink, too, is
gambling's firmest ally."
At this moment a certain dryness in his Lordship's throat reminded him of
the pint of excellent claret that lordship always drank with his lunch,
and the thought enabled lordship to roll out some excellent invective
against the evils of beer and spirits. And lordship's losses on the horse
whose name he could hardly recall helped to a forcible illustration of the
theory that drink and gambling mutually uphold and enforce each other.
When the news that Ben Jonson had broken down at the bushes came in,
lordship had drunk a magnum of champagne, and memory of this champagne
inspired a telling description of the sinking feeling consequent on the
loss of a wager, and the natural inclination of a man to turn to drink to
counteract it. Drink and gambling are growing social evils; in a great
measure they are circumstantial, and only require absolute legislation to
stamp them out almost entirely. This was not the first case of the kind
that had come before him; it was one of many, but it was a typical case,
presenting all the familiar features of the vice of which he had therefore
spoken at unusual length. Such cases were on the increase, and if they
continued to increase, the powers of the law would have to be
strengthened. But even as the law stood at present, betting-houses,
public-houses in which betting was carried on, were illegal, and it was
the duty of the police to leave no means untried to unearth the offenders
and bring them to justice. Lordship then glanced at the trembling woman in
the dock. He condemned her to eighteen months' hard labour, and gathering
up the papers on the desk, dismissed her for ever from his mind.
The court adjourned for lunch, and Esther and William edged their way out
of the crowd of lawyers and their clerks. Neither spoke for some time.
William was much exercised by his Lordship's remarks on betting
public-houses, and his advice that the police should increase their
vigilance and leave no means untried to uproot that which was the curse
and the ruin of the lower classes. It was the old story, one law for the
rich, another for the poor. William did not seek to probe the question any
further, this examination seemed to him to have exhausted it; and he
remembered, after all that the hypocritical judge had said, how difficult
it would be to escape detection. When he was caught he would be fined a
hundred pounds, and probably lose his licence. What would he do then? He
did not confide his fears to Esther. She had promised to say no more about
the betting; but she had not changed her opinion. She was one of those
stubborn ones who would rather die than admit they were wrong. Then he
wondered what she thought of his Lordship's speech. Esther was thinking of
the thin gruel Sarah would have to eat, the plank bed on which she would
have to sleep, and the miserable future that awaited her when she should
be released from gaol.
It was a bright winter's day; the City folk were walking rapidly, tightly
buttoned up in top-coats, and in a windy sky a flock of pigeons floated on
straightened wings above the telegraph wires. Fleet Street was full of
journalists going to luncheon-bars and various eating-houses. Their hurry
and animation were remarkable, and Esther noticed how laggard was
William's walk by comparison, how his clothes hung loose about him, and
that the sharp air was at work on his lungs, making him cough. She asked
him to button himself up more closely.
"Is not that old John's wife?" Esther said.
"Yes, that's her," said William. "She'd have seen us if that cove hadn't
given her the shilling.... Lord, I didn't think they was as badly off as
that. Did you ever see such rags? and that thick leg wrapped up in that
The morning had been full of sadness, and Mrs. Randal's wandering rags had
seemed to Esther like a foreboding. She grew frightened, as the cattle do
in the fields when the sky darkens and the storm draws near. She suddenly
remembered Mrs. Barfield, and she heard her telling her of the unhappiness
that she had seen come from betting. Where was Mrs. Barfield? Should she
ever see her again? Mr. Barfield was dead, Miss May was forced to live
abroad for the sake of her health; all that time of long ago was over and
done with. Some words that Mrs. Barfield had said came back to her; she
had never quite understood them, but she had never quite forgotten them;
they seemed to chime through her life. "My girl," Mrs. Barfield had said,
"I am more than twenty years older than you, and I assure you that time
has passed like a little dream; life is nothing. We must think of what
"Cheer up, old girl; eighteen months is a long while, but it ain't a
lifetime. She'll get through it all right; and when she comes out we'll
try to see what we can do for her."
William's voice startled Esther from the depth of her dream; she looked at
him vaguely, and he saw that she had been thinking of something different
from what he had suspected. "I thought it was on account of Sarah that you
was looking so sad."
"No," she said, "I was not thinking of Sarah."
Then, taking it for granted that she was thinking of the wickedness of
betting, his face darkened. It was aggravating to have a wife who was
always troubling about things that couldn't be helped. The first person
they saw on entering the bar was old John; and he sat in the corner of the
bar on a high stool, his grey, death-like face sunk in the old unstarched
shirt collar. The thin, wrinkled throat was hid with the remains of a
cravat; it was passed twice round, and tied according to the fashions of
fifty years ago. His boots were broken; the trousers, a grey, dirty brown,
were torn as high up as the ankle; they had been mended and the patches
hardly held together; the frock coat, green with age, with huge flaps over
the pockets, frayed and torn, and many sizes too large, hung upon his
starveling body. He seemed very feeble, and there was neither light nor
expression in his glassy, watery eyes.
"Eighteen months; a devil of a stiff sentence for a first offence," said
"I just dropped in. Charles said you'd sure to be back. You're later than
"We stopped to have a bit of lunch. But you heard what I said. She got
"Who got eighteen months?"
"Ah, Sarah. She was tried to-day. So she got eighteen months."
"What's the matter? Wake up; you're half asleep. What will you have to
"A glass of milk, if you've got such a thing."
"Glass of milk! What is it, old man--not feeling well?"
"Not very well. The fact is, I'm starving."
"Starving! ...Then come into the parlour and have something to eat. Why
didn't you say so before?"
"I didn't like to."
He led the old chap into the parlour and gave him a chair. "Didn't like to
tell me that you was as hard up as all that? What do you mean? You didn't
use to mind coming round for half a quid."
"That was to back a horse; but I didn't like coming to ask for
food--excuse me, I'm too weak to speak much."
When old John had eaten, William asked how it was that things had gone so
badly with him.
"I've had terrible bad luck lately, can't get on a winner nohow. I have
backed 'orses that 'as been tried to win with two stone more on their
backs than they had to carry, but just because I was on them they didn't
win. I don't know how many half-crowns I've had on first favourites. Then
I tried the second favourites, but they gave way to outsiders or the first
favourites when I took to backing them. Stack's tips and Ketley's omens
was all the same as far as I was concerned. It's a poor business when
you're out of luck."
"It is giving way to fancy that does for the backers. The bookmaker's
advantage is that he bets on principle and not on fancy."
Old John told how unlucky he had been in business. He had been dismissed
from his employment in the restaurant, not from any fault of his own, he
had done his work well. "But they don't like old waiters; there's always a
lot of young Germans about, and customers said I smelt bad. I suppose it
was my clothes and want of convenience at home for keeping one's self
tidy. We've been so hard up to pay the three and sixpence rent which we've
owed, that the black coat and waistkit had to go to the pawnshop, so even
if I did meet with a job in the Exhibition places, where they ain't so
particular about yer age, I should not be able to take it. It's terrible
to think that I should have to come to this and after having worked round
the table this forty years, fifty pounds a year and all found, and
accustomed always to a big footman and page-boy under me. But there's
plenty more like me. It's a poor game. You're well out of it. I suppose
the end of it will be the work'us. I'm pretty well wore out, and--"
The old man's voice died away. He made no allusion to his wife. His
dislike to speak of her was part and parcel of his dislike to speak of his
private affairs. The conversation then turned on Sarah; the severity of
the sentence was alluded to, and William spoke of how the judge's remarks
would put the police on the watch, and how difficult it would be to
continue his betting business without being found out.
"There's no doubt that it is most unfortunate," said old John.
"The only thing for you to do is to be very particular about yer
introductions, and to refuse to bet with all who haven't been properly
"Or to give up betting altogether," said Esther.
"Give up betting altogether!" William answered, his face flushed, and he
gradually worked himself into a passion. "I give you a good 'ome, don't I?
You want for nothing, do yer? Well, that being so, I think you might keep
your nose out of your husband's business. There's plenty of
prayer-meetings where you can go preaching if you like."
William would have said a good deal more, but his anger brought on a fit
of coughing. Esther looked at him contemptuously, and without answering
she walked into the bar.
"That's a bad cough of yours," said old John.
"Yes," said William, and he drank a little water to pass it off. "I must
see the doctor about it. It makes one that irritable. The missis is in a
pretty temper, ain't she?"
Old John did not reply; it was not his habit to notice domestic
differences of opinion, especially those in which women had a share--queer
cattle that he knew nothing about. The men talked for a long time
regarding the danger the judge's remarks had brought the house into; and
they considered all the circumstances of the case. Allusion was made to
the injustice of the law, which allowed the rich and forbade the poor to
bet; anecdotes were related, but nothing they said threw new light on the
matter in hand, and when Old John rose to go William summed up the
situation in these few words--
"Bet I must, if I'm to get my living. The only thing I can do is to be
careful not to bet with strangers."
"I don't see how they can do nothing to you if yer makes that yer
principle and sticks to it," said old John, and he put on the huge-rimmed,
greasy hat, three sizes too large for him, looking in his square-cut
tattered frock-coat as queer a specimen of humanity as you would be likely
to meet with in a day's walk. "If you makes that yer principle and sticks
to it," thought William.
But practice and principle are never reduced to perfect agreement. One is
always marauding the other's territory; nevertheless for several months
principle distinctly held the upper hand; William refused over and over
again to make bets with comparative strangers, but the day came when his
principle relaxed, and he took the money of a man whom he thought was all
right. It was done on the impulse of the moment, but the two half-crowns
wrapped up in the paper, with the name of the horse written on the paper,
had hardly gone into the drawer than he felt that he had done wrong. He
couldn't tell why, but the feeling came across him that he had done wrong
in taking the man's money--a tall, clean-shaven man dressed in broadcloth.
It was too late to draw back. The man had finished his beer and had left
the bar, which in itself was suspicious.
Three days afterwards, between twelve and one, just the busiest time, when
the bar was full of people, there came a cry of "Police!" An effort was
made to hide the betting plant; a rush was made for the doors. It was all
too late; the sergeant and a constable ordered that no one was to leave
the house; other police were outside. The names and addresses of all
present were taken down; search was made, and the packets of money and the
betting books were discovered. Then they all had to go to Marlborough
Next day the following account was given in most of the daily
papers:--"Raid on a betting man in the West End. William Latch, 35,
landlord of the 'King's Head,' Dean Street, Soho, was charged that he,
being a licensed person, did keep and use his public-house for the purpose
of betting with persons resorting thereto. Thomas William, 35, billiard
marker, Gaulden Street, Battersea; Arthur Henry Parsons, 25, waiter,
Northumberland Street, Marylebone; Joseph Stack, 52, gentleman; Harold
Journeyman, 45, gentleman, High Street, Norwood; Philip Hutchinson,
grocer, Bisey Road, Fulham; William Tann, piano-tuner, Standard Street,
Soho; Charles Ketley, butterman, Green Street, Soho; John Randal, Frith
Street, Soho; Charles Muller, 44, tailor, Marylebone Lane; Arthur Bartram,
stationer, East Street Buildings; William Burton, harness maker, Blue Lion
Street, Bond Street, were charged with using the 'King's Head' for the
purpose of betting. Evidence was given by the police regarding the room
upstairs, where a good deal of drinking went on after hours. There had
been cases of disorder, and the magistrate unfortunately remembered that a
servant-girl, who had pledged her master's plate to obtain money to back a
horse, had been arrested in the 'King's Head.' Taking these facts into
consideration, it seemed to him that he could not do less than inflict a
fine of L100. The men who were found in Latch's house he ordered to be
Who had first given information? That was the question. Old John sat
smoking in his corner. Journeyman leaned against the yellow-painted
partition, his legs thrust out. Stack stood square, his dark,
crimson-tinted skin contrasting with sallow-faced little Ketley.
"Don't the omens throw no light on this 'ere matter?" said Journeyman.
Ketley started from his reverie.
"Ah," said William, "if I only knew who the b---- was."
"Ain't you got no idea of any sort?" said Stack.
"There was a Salvation chap who came in some months ago and told my wife
that the betting was corrupting the neighbourhood. That it would have to
be put a stop to. It may 'ave been 'e."
"You don't ask no one to bet with you. They does as they like."
"Does as they like! No one does that nowadays. There's a temperance party,
a purity party, and a hanti-gambling party, and what they is working for
is just to stop folk from doing as they like."
"That's it," said Journeyman.
Stack raised his glass to his lips and said, "Here's luck."
"There's not much of that about," said William. "We seem to be losing all
round. I'd like to know where the money goes. I think it is the 'ouse;
it's gone unlucky, and I'm thinking of clearing out."
"We may live in a 'ouse a long while before we find what its luck really
is," said Ketley. "I've been in my old 'ouse these twenty years, and it
ain't nothing like what I thought it."
"You are that superstitious," said Journeyman. "If there was anything the
matter with the 'ouse you'd've know'd it before now."
"Ain't you doing the trade you was?" said Stack.
"No, my butter and egg trade have fallen dreadful lately."
The conversation paused. It was Stack who broke the silence.
"Do you intend to do no more betting 'ere?" he asked.
"What, after being fined L100? You 'eard the way he went on about Sarah,
and all on account of her being took here. I think he might have left
"It warn't for betting she took the plate," said Journeyman; "it was
'cause her chap said if she did he'd marry her."
"I wonder you ever left the course," said Stack.
"It was on account of my 'ealth. I caught a dreadful cold at Kempton,
standing about in the mud. I've never quite got over that cold."
"I remember," said Ketley; "you couldn't speak above a whisper for two
"Two months! more like three."
"Fourteen weeks," said Esther.
She was in favour of disposing of the house and going to live in the
country. But it was soon found that the conviction for keeping a
betting-house had spoiled their chance of an advantageous sale. If,
however, the licence were renewed next year, and the business did not in
the meantime decline, they would be in a position to obtain better terms.
So all their energies should be devoted to the improvement of their
business. Esther engaged another servant, and she provided the best meat
and vegetables that money could buy; William ordered beer and spirits of a
quality that could be procured nowhere else in the neighbourhood; but all
to no purpose. As soon as it became known that it was no longer possible
to pass half a crown or a shilling wrapped up in a piece of paper across
the bar, their custom began to decline.
At last William could stand it no longer, and he obtained his wife's
permission to once more begin book-making on the course. His health had
begun to improve with the spring weather, and there was no use keeping him
at home eating his heart out with vexation because they were doing no
business. So did Esther reason, and it reminded her of old times when he
came back with his race-glasses slung round his shoulder. "Favourites all
beaten today; what have you got for me to eat, old girl?" Esther forgot
her dislike of racing in the joy of seeing her husband happy, if he'd only
pick up a bit of flesh; but he seemed to get thinner and thinner, and his
food didn't seem to do him any good.
One day he came home complaining that the ring was six inches of soft mud;
he was wet to the skin, and he sat shivering the whole evening, with the
sensation of a long illness upon him. He was laid up for several weeks,
and his voice seemed as if it would never return to him again. There was
little or no occupation for him in the bar; and instead of laying he began
to take the odds. He backed a few winners, it is true; but they could not
rely on that. Most of their trade had slipped from them, so it did not
much matter to them if they were found out. He might as well be hung for
an old sheep as a lamb, and surreptitiously at first, and then more
openly, he began to take money across the bar, and with every shilling he
took for a bet another shilling was spent in drink. Custom came back in
ripples, and then in stronger waves, until once again the bar of the
"King's Head" was full to overflowing. Another conviction meant ruin, but
they must risk it, so said William; and Esther, like a good wife,
acquiesced in her husband's decision. But he took money only from those
whom he was quite sure of. He required an introduction, and was careful to
make inquiries concerning every new backer. "In this way," he said to
Ketley, "so long as one is content to bet on a small scale, I think it can
be kept dark; but if you try to extend your connection you're bound to
come across a wrong 'un sooner or later. It was that room upstairs that
did for me."
"I never did think much of that room upstairs," said Ketley. "There was a
something about it that I didn't like. Be sure you never bet in that jug
and bottle bar, whatever you do. There's just the same look there as in
the room upstairs. Haven't you noticed it?"
"Can't say I've, nor am I sure that I know exactly what you mean."
"If you don't see it, you don't see it; but it's plain enough to me, and
don't you bet with nobody standing in that bar. I wouldn't go in there for
William laughed. He thought at first that Ketley was joking, but he soon
saw that Ketley regarded the jug and bottle entrance with real suspicion.
When pressed to explain, he told Journeyman that it wasn't that he was
afraid of the place, he merely didn't like it. "There's some places that
you likes better than others, ain't they?" Journeyman was obliged to
confess that there were.
"Well, then, that's one of the places I don't like. Don't you hear a voice
talking there, a soft, low voice, with a bit of a jeer in it?"
On another occasion he shaded his eyes and peered curiously into the
"What are you looking at?" asked Journeyman.
"At nothing that you can see," Ketley answered; and he drank his whisky as
if lost in consideration of grave and difficult things. A few weeks later
they noticed that he always got as far from the jug and bottle entrance as
possible, and he was afflicted with a long story concerning a danger that
awaited him. "He's waiting; but nothing will happen if I don't go in
there. He can't follow me; he is waiting for me to go to him."
"Then keep out of his way," said Journeyman. "You might ask your bloody
friend if he can tell us anything about the Leger."
"I'm trying to keep out of his way, but he's always watching and
a-beckoning of me."
"Can you see him now?" asked Stack.
"Yes," said Ketley; "he's a-sitting there, and he seems to say that if I
don't come to him worse will happen."
"Don't say nothing to him," William whispered to Journeyman. "I don't
think he's quite right in 'is 'ead; he's been losing a lot lately."
One day Journeyman was surprised to see Ketley sitting quite composedly in
the jug and bottle bar.
"He got me at last; I had to go, the whispering got so loud in my head as
I was a-coming down the street. I tried to get out into the middle of the
street, but a drunken chap pushed me across the pavement, and he was at
the door waiting, and he said, 'Now, you'd better come in; you know what
will happen if you don't.'"
"Don't talk rot, old pal; come round and have a drink with us."
"I can't just at present--I may later on."
"What do he mean?" said Stack.
"Lord, I don't know," said Journeyman. "It's only his wandering talk."
They tried to discuss the chances of the various horses they were
interested in, but they could not detach their thoughts from Ketley, and
their eyes went back to the queer little sallow-faced man who sat on a
high stool in the adjoining bar paring his nails.
They felt something was going to happen, and before they could say the
word he had plunged the knife deep into his neck, and had fallen heavily
on the floor. William vaulted over the counter. As he did so he felt
something break in his throat, and when Stack and Journeyman came to his
assistance he was almost as white as the corpse at his feet. Blood flowed
from his mouth and from Ketley's neck in a deep stream that swelled into a
great pool and thickened on the sawdust.
"It was jumping over that bar," William replied, faintly.
"I'll see to my husband," said Esther.
A rush of blood cut short his words, and, leaning on his wife, he walked
feebly round into the back parlour. Esther rang the bell violently.
"Go round at once to Doctor Green," she said; "and if he isn't in inquire
which is the nearest. Don't come back without a doctor."
William had broken a small blood-vessel, and the doctor said he would have
to be very careful for a long time. It was likely to prove a long case.
But Ketley had severed the jugular at one swift, keen stroke, and had died
almost instantly. Of course there was an inquest, and the coroner asked
many questions regarding the habits of the deceased. Mrs. Ketley was one
of the witnesses called, and she deposed that he had lost a great deal of
money lately in betting, and that he went to the "King's Head" for the
purpose of betting. The police deposed that the landlord of the "King's
Head" had been fined a hundred pounds for keeping a betting-house, and the
foreman of the jury remarked that betting-houses were the ruin of the
poorer classes, and that they ought to be put a stop to. The coroner added
that such places as the "King's Head" should not be licensed. That was the
simplest and most effectual way of dealing with the nuisance.
"There never was no luck about this house," said William, "and what there
was has left us; in three months' time we shall be turned out of it neck
and crop. Another conviction would mean a fine of a couple of hundred, or
most like three months, and that would just about be the end of me."
"They'll never license us again," said Esther, "and the boy at school and
doing so well."
"I'm sorry, Esther, to have brought this trouble on you. We must do the
best we can, get the best price we can for the 'ouse. I may be lucky
enough to back a few winners. That's all there is to be said--the 'ouse
was always an unlucky one. I hate the place, and shall be glad to get out
Esther sighed. She didn't like to hear the house spoken ill of, and after
so many years it did seem a shame.
Esther kept William within doors during the winter months. If his health
did not improve it got no worse, and she had begun to hope that the
breakage of the blood-vessel did not mean lung disease. But the harsh
winds of spring did not suit him, and there was business with his lawyer
to which he was obliged to attend. A determined set was going to be made
against the renewal of his licence, and he was determined to defeat his
opponents. Counsel was instructed, and a great deal of money was spent on
the case. But the licence was nevertheless refused, and the north-east
wind did not cease to rattle; it seemed resolved on William's death, and
with a sick husband on her hands, and all the money they had invested in
the house irreparably lost, Esther began to make preparations for moving.
William had proved a kind husband, and in the seven years she had spent in
the "King's Head" there had been some enjoyment of life. She couldn't say
that she had been unhappy. She had always disapproved of the betting. They
had tried to do without it. There was a great deal in life which one
couldn't approve of. But Ketley had never been very right in his head, and
Sarah's misfortune had had very little to do with the "King's Head." They
had all tried to keep her from that man; it was her own fault. There were
worse places than the "King's Head." It wasn't for her to abuse it. She
had lived there seven years; she had seen her boy growing up--he was
almost a young man now, and had had the best education. That much good the
"King's Head" had done. But perhaps it was no longer suited to William's
health. The betting, she was tired thinking about that; and that constant
nipping, it was impossible for him to keep from it with every one asking
him to drink with them. A look of fear and distress passed across her
face, and she stopped for a moment....
She was rolling up a pair of curtains. She did not know how they were to
live, that was the worst of it. If they only had back the money they had
sunk in the house she would not so much mind. That was what was so hard to
bear; all that money lost, just as if they had thrown it into the river.
Seven years of hard work--for she had worked hard--and nothing to show
for it. If she had been doing the grand lady all the time it would have
been no worse. Horses had won and horses had lost--a great deal of trouble
and fuss and nothing to show for it. That was what stuck in her throat.
Nothing to show for it. She looked round the dismantled walls, and
descended the vacant staircase. She would never serve another pint of beer
in that bar. What a strong, big fellow he was when she first went to live
with him! He was sadly changed. Would she ever see him strong and well
again? She remembered he had told her that he was worth nearly L3000. She
hadn't brought him luck. He wasn't worth anything like that to-day.
"How much have we in the bank, dear?"
"A bit over six hundred pounds. I was reckoning of it up yesterday. But
what do you want to know for? To remind me that I've been losing. Well, I
have been losing. I hope you're satisfied."
"I wasn't thinking of such a thing."
"Yes, you was, there's no use saying you wasn't. It ain't my fault if the
'orses don't win; I do the best I can."
She did not answer him. Then he said, "It's my 'ealth that makes me
irritable, dear; you aren't angry, are you?"
"No, dear, I know you don't mean it, and I don't pay no attention to it."
She spoke so gently that he looked at her surprised, for he remembered her
quick temper, and he said, "You're the best wife a man ever had."
"No, I'm not, Bill, but I tries to do my best."
The spring was the harshest ever known, and his cough grew worse and the
blood-spitting returned. Esther grew seriously alarmed. Their doctor spoke
of Brompton Hospital, and she insisted on his going there to be examined.
William would not have her come with him; and she did not press the point,
fearing to irritate him, but sat at home waiting anxiously for him to
return, hoping against hope, for their doctor had told her that he feared
very long trouble. And she could tell from his face and manner that he had
bad news for her. All her strength left her, but she conquered her
weakness and said--
"Now tell me what they said. I've a right to know; I want to know."
"They said it was consumption."
"Oh, did they say that?"
"Yes, but they don't mean that I'm going to die. They said they hoped they
could patch me up; people often live for years with only half a lung, and
it is only the left one that's gone."
He coughed slightly and wiped the blood from his lips. Esther was quite
"Now, don't look like that," he said, "or I shall fancy I'm going to die
"They said they thought that they could patch you up?"
"Yes; they said I might go on a long while yet, but that I would never be
the man I was."
This was so obvious she could not check a look of pity.
"If you're going to look at me like that I'd sooner go into the hospital
at once. It ain't the cheerfulest of places, but it will be better than
"I'm sorry it was consumption. But if they said they could patch you up,
it will be all right. It was a great deal for them to say."
Her duty was to overcome her grief and speak as if the doctors had told
him that there was nothing the matter that a little careful nursing would
fail to put right. William had faith in the warm weather, and she resolved
to put her trust in it. It was hard to see him wasting away before her
eyes and keep cheerful looks in her face and an accent of cheerfulness in
heir voice. The sunshine which had come at last seemed to suck up all the
life that was in him; he grew paler, and withered like a plant. Then
ill-luck seemed to have joined in the hunt; he could not "touch" a winner,
and their fortune drained away with his life. Favourites and outsiders, it
mattered not; whatever he backed lost; and Esther dreaded the cry
"Win-ner, all the win-ner!" He sat on the little balcony in the sunny
evenings looking down the back street for the boy to appear with the
"special." Then she had to go and fetch the paper. On the rare occasions
when he won, the spectacle was even more painful. He brightened up, his
thin arm and hand moved nervously, and he began to make projects and
indulge in hopes which she knew were vain.
She insisted, however, on his taking regularly the medicine they gave him
at the hospital, and this was difficult to do. For his irritability
increased in measure as he perceived the medicine was doing him no good;
he found fault with the doctors, railed against them unjustly, and all the
while the little; cough continued, and the blood-spitting returned at the
end of cruel intervals, when he had begun to hope that at least that
trouble was done with. One morning he told his wife that he was going to
ask the doctors to examine him again. They had spoken of patching up; but
he wanted to know whether he was going to live or die. There was a certain
relief in hearing him speak so plainly; she had had enough of the torture
of hope, and would like to know the worst. He liked better to go to the
hospital alone, but she felt that she could not sit at home counting the
minutes for him to return, and begged to be allowed to go with him. To her
surprise, he offered no opposition. She had expected that her request
would bring about quite a little scene, but he had taken it so much as a
matter of course that she should accompany him that she was doubly glad
that she had proposed to go with him; if she hadn't he might have accused
her of neglecting him. She put on her hat; the day was too hot for a
jacket; it was the beginning of August; the town was deserted, and the
streets looked as if they were about to evaporate or lie down exhausted,
and the poor, dry, dusty air that remained after the season was too poor
even for Esther's healthy lungs; it made William cough, and she hoped the
doctors would order him to the seaside.
From the top of their omnibus they could see right across the plateau of
the Green Park, dry and colourless like a desert; as they descended the
hill they noticed that autumn was already busy in the foliage; lower down
the dells were full of fallen leaves. At Hyde Park Corner the blown dust
whirled about the hill-top; all along St. George's Place glimpses of the
empty Park appeared through the railings. The wide pavements, the Brompton
Road, and a semi-detached public-house at the cross-roads, announced
suburban London to the Londoner.
"You see," said William, "where them trees are, where the road turns off
to the left. That 'ouse is the 'Bell and Horns.' That's the sort of house
I should like to see you in."
"It's a pity we didn't buy it when we had the money."
"Buy it! That 'ouse is worth ten thousand pounds if it's worth a penny."
"I was once in a situation not far from here. I like the Fulham Road; it's
like a long village street, ain't it?"
Her first service was with Mrs. Dunbar, in Sydney Street, and she
remembered the square church tower at the Chelsea end; a little further on
there was the Vestry Hall in the King's Road, and then Oakley Street on
the left, leading down to Battersea. Mrs. Dunbar used to go to some
gardens at the end of the King's Road. Cremorne Gardens, that was the
name; there used to be fire-works there, and she often spent the evening
at the back window watching the rockets go up. That was just before Lady
Elwin had got her the situation as kitchen-maid at Woodview. She
remembered the very shops--there was Palmer's the butterman, and there was
Hyde's the grocer's. Everything was just as she had left it. How many
years ago? Fifteen or sixteen. So enwrapped was she in memories that
William had to touch her. "Here we are," he said; "don't you remember the
She remembered very well that great red brick building, a centrepiece with
two wings, surrounded by high iron railings lined with gloomy shrubs. The
long straight walks, the dismal trees arow, where pale-faced men walked or
rested feebly, had impressed themselves on her young mind--thin, patient
men, pacing their sepulchre. She had wondered who they were, if they would
get well; and then, quick with sensation of lingering death, she had
hurried away on her errands. The low wooden yellow-painted gates were
unchanged. She had never before seen them open, and it was new to her to
see the gardens filled with bright sunshine and numerous visitors. There
were flowers in the beds, and the trees were beautiful in their leafage. A
little yellow was creeping through, and from time to time a leaf fell
exhausted from the branches.
William, who was already familiar with the custom of the place, nodded to
the porter and was let pass without question. He did not turn to the
principal entrance in the middle of the building, but went towards a side
entrance. The house physician was standing near it talking with a young
man whom Esther recognised as Mr. Alden. The thought that he, too, might
be dying of consumption crossed her mind, but his appearance and his
healthy, hearty laugh reassured her. A stout, common girl, healthy too,
came out of the building with a child, a little thing of twelve or
thirteen, with death in her face. Mr. Alden stopped her, and in his
cheerful, kind manner hoped the little one was better. She answered that
she was. The doctor bade him good-bye and beckoned William and Esther to
follow him. Esther would have liked to have spoken to Mr. Alden. But he
did not see her, and she followed her husband, who was talking with the
doctor, through the doorway into a long passage. At the end of the passage
there were a number of girls in print dresses. The gaiety of the dresses
led Esther to think that they must be visitors. But the little cough
warned her that death was amongst them. As she went past she caught sight
of a wasted form in a bath-chair. The thin hands were laid on the knees,
on a little handkerchief, and there were spots on the whiteness deeper
than the colour of the dress. They passed down another passage, meeting a
sister on their way; pretty and discreet she was in her black dress and
veil, and she raised her eyes, glancing affectionately at the young
doctor. No doubt they loved each other. The eternal love-story among so
Esther wished to be present at the examination, but a sudden whim made
William say that he would prefer to be alone with the doctor, and she
returned to the gardens. Mr. Alden had not yet gone. He stood with his
back turned to her. The little girl she had seen him speaking to was
sitting on a bench under the trees; she held in her hands a skein of
yellow worsted which her companion was winding into a ball. Two other
young women were with them and all four were smiling and whispering and
looking towards Mr. Alden. They evidently sought to attract his attention,
and wished him to come and speak to them. Just the natural desire of women
to please, and moved by the pathos of this poor coquetting, he went to
them, and Esther could see that they all wanted to talk to him. She too
would have liked to have spoken to him; he was an old friend. And she
walked up the grounds, intending to pass by him as she walked back. His
back was still turned to her, and they were all so interested that they
gave no heed to anything else. One of the young women had an exceedingly
pretty face. A small oval, perfectly snow-white, and large blue eyes
shaded with long dark lashes; a little aquiline nose; and Esther heard her
say, "I should be well enough if it wasn't for the cough. It isn't no
better since--" The cough interrupted the end of the sentence, and
affecting to misunderstand her, Mr. Alden said--
"No better than it was a week ago."
"A week ago!" said the poor girl. "It is no better since Christmas."
There was surprise in her voice, and the pity of it took Mr. Alden in the
throat, and it was with difficulty that he answered that "he hoped that
the present fine weather would enable her to get well. Such weather as
this," he said, "is as good as going abroad."
This assertion was disputed. One of the women had been to Australia for
her health, and the story of travel was interspersed by the little coughs,
terrible in their apparent insignificance. But it was Mr. Alden that the
others wished to hear speak; they knew all about their companion's trip to
Australia, and in their impatience their eyes went towards Esther. So Mr.
Alden became aware of a new presence, and he turned.
"What! is it you, Esther?"
"But there doesn't seem much the matter with you. You're all right."
"Yes, I'm all right, sir; it's my husband."
They walked a few yards up the path.
"Your husband! I'm very sorry."
"He's been an out-door patient for some time; he's being examined by the
"Whom did you marry, Esther?"
"William Latch, a betting man, sir."
"You married a betting man, Esther? How curiously things do work out! I
remember you were engaged to a pious young man, the stationer's foreman.
That was when you were with Miss Rice; you know, I suppose, that she's
"No, sir, I didn't know it. I've had so much trouble lately that I've not
been to see her for nearly two years. When did she die, sir?"
"About two months ago. So you married a betting man! Miss Rice did say
something about it, but I don't think I understood that he was a betting
man; I thought he was a publican."
"So he was, sir. We lost our licence through the betting."
"You say he's being examined by the doctor. Is it a bad case?"
"I'm afraid it is, sir."
They walked on in silence until they reached the gate.
"To me this place is infinitely pathetic. That little cough never silent
for long. Did you hear that poor girl say with surprise that her cough is
no better than it was last Christmas?"
"Yes, sir. Poor girl, I don't think she's long for this world."
"But tell me about your husband, Esther," he said, and his face filled
with an expression of true sympathy. "I'm a subscriber, and if your
husband would like to become an in-door patient, I hope you'll let me
"Thank you, sir; you was always the kindest, but there's no reason why I
should trouble you. Some friends of ours have already recommended him, and
it only rests with himself to remain out or go in."
He pulled out his watch and said, "I am sorry to have met you in such sad
circumstances, but I'm glad to have seen you. It must be seven years or
more since you left Miss Rice. You haven't changed much; you keep your
He laughed at her embarrassment and walked across the road hailing a
hansom, just as he used to in old times when he came to see Miss Rice. The
memory of those days came back upon her. It was strange to meet him again
after so many years. She felt she had seen him now for the last time. But
it was foolish and wicked, too, to think of such things; her husband
dying.... But she couldn't help it; he reminded her of so much of what was
past and gone. A moment after she dashed these personal tears aside and
walked open-hearted to meet William. What had the doctor said? She must
know the truth. If she was to lose him she would lose everything. No, not
everything; her boy would still remain to her, and she felt that, after
all, her boy was what was most real to her in life. These thoughts had
passed through her mind before William had had time to answer her
"He said the left lung was gone, that I'd never be able to stand another
winter in England. He said I must go to Egypt."
"Egypt," she repeated. "Is that very far from here?"
"What matter how far it is! If I can't live in England I must go where I
"Don't be cross, dear. I know it's your health that makes you that
irritable, but it's hard to bear at times."
"You won't care to go to Egypt with me."
"How can you think that, Bill? Have I ever refused you anything?"
"Quite right, old girl, I'm sorry. I know you'd do anything for me. I've
always said so, haven't I? It's this cough that makes me sharp tempered
and fretful. I shall be different when I get to Egypt."
"When do we start?"
"If we get away by the end of October it will be all right. It will cost a
lot of money; the journey is expensive, and we shall have to stop there
six months. I couldn't think of coming home before the end of April."
Esther did not answer. They walked some yards in silence. Then he said--
"I've been very unlucky lately; there isn't much over a hundred pounds in
"How much shall we want?"
"Three or four hundred pounds at least. We won't take the boy with us, we
couldn't afford that; but I should like to pay a couple of quarters in
"That won't be much."
"Not if I have any luck. The luck must turn, and I have some splendid
information about the Great Ebor and the Yorkshire Stakes. Stack knows of
a horse or two that's being kept for Sandown. Unfortunately there is not
much doing in August. I must try to make up the money: it's a matter of
life and death."
It was for his very life that her husband was now gambling on the
race-course, and a sensation of very great wickedness came up in her mind,
but she stifled it instantly. William had noticed the look of fear that
appeared in her eyes, and he said--
"It's my last chance. I can't get the money any other way; and I don't
want to die yet awhile. I haven't been as good to you as I'd like, and I
want to do something for the boy, you know."
He had been told not to remain out after sundown, but he was resolved to
leave no stone unturned in his search for information, and often he
returned home as late as nine and ten o'clock at night coughing--Esther
could hear him all up the street. He came in ready to drop with fatigue,
his pockets filled with sporting papers, and these he studied, spreading
them on the table under the lamp, while Esther sat striving to do some
needlework. It often dropped out of her hands, and her eyes filled with
tears. But she took care that he should not see these tears; she did not
wish to distress him unnecessarily. Poor chap! he had enough to put up
with as it was. Sometimes he read out the horses' names and asked her
which she thought would win, which seemed to her a likely name. But she
begged of him not to ask her; they had many quarrels on this subject, but
in the end he understood that it was not fair to ask her. Sometimes Stack
and Journeyman came in, and they argued about weights and distances, until
midnight; old John came to see them, and every day he had heard some new
tip. It often rose to Esther's lips to tell William to back his fancy and
have done with it; she could see that these discussions only fatigued him,
that he was no nearer to the truth now than he was a fortnight ago.
Meanwhile the horse he had thought of backing had gone up in the betting.
But he said that he must be very careful. They had only a hundred pounds
left; he must be careful not to risk this money foolishly--it was his very
life-blood. If he were to lose all this money, he wouldn't only sign his
own death warrant, but also hers. He might linger on a long while--there
was no knowing, but he would never be able to do any work, that was
certain (unless he went out to Egypt); the doctor had said so, and then it
would be she who would have to support him. And if God were merciful
enough to take him off at once he would leave her in a worse plight than
he had found her in, and the boy growing up! Oh, it was terrible! He
buried his face in his hands, and seemed quite overcome. Then the cough
would take him, and for a few minutes he could only think of himself.
Esther gave him a little milk to drink, and he said--
"There's a hundred pounds left, Esther. It isn't much, but it's something.
I don't believe that there's much use in my going to Egypt. I shall never
get well. It is better that I should pitch myself into the river. That
would be the least selfish way out of it."
"William, I will not have you talk in that way," Esther said, laying down
her work and going over to him. "If you was to do such a thing I should
never forgive you. I could never think the same of you."
"All right, old girl, don't be frightened. I've been thinking too much
about them horses, and am a bit depressed. I daresay it will come out all
right. I think that Mahomet is sure to win the Great Ebor, don't you?"
"I don't think there's no better judge than yourself. They all say if he
don't fall lame that he's bound to win."
"Then Mahomet shall carry my money. I'll back him to-morrow."
Now that he had made up his mind what horse to back his spirits revived.
He was able to dismiss the subject from his mind, and they talked of other
things, of their son, and they laid projects for his welfare. But on the
day of the race, from early morning, William could barely contain himself.
Usually he took his winnings and losings very quietly. When he had been
especially unlucky he swore a bit, but Esther had never seen any great
excitement before a race was run. The issues of this race were
extraordinary, and it was heart-breaking to see him suffer; he could not
remain still a moment. A prey to all the terrors of hope, exhausted with
anticipation, he rested himself against the sideboard and wiped drops of
sweat from his forehead. A broiling sunlight infested their window-panes,
the room grew oven-like, and he was obliged at last to go into the back
parlour and lie down. He lay there in his shirt sleeves quite exhausted,
hardly able to breathe; the arm once so strong and healthy was shrunken to
a little nothing. He seemed quite bloodless, and looking at him Esther
could hardly hope that any climate would restore him to health. He just
asked her what the time was, and said, "The race is being run now." A few
minutes after he said, "I think Mahomet has won. I fancied I saw him get
first past the post." He spoke as if he were sure, and said nothing about
the evening paper. If he were disappointed, Esther felt that it would kill
him, and she knelt down by the bedside and prayed that God would allow the
horse to win. It meant her husband's life, that was all she knew. Oh, that
the horse might win! Presently he said, "There's no use praying, I feel
sure it is all right. Go into the next room, stand on the balcony so that
you may see the boy coming along."
A pale yellow sky rose behind the brick neighbourhood, and with agonised
soul the woman viewed its plausive serenity. There seemed to be hope in
its quietness. At that moment the cry came up, "Win-ner, Win-ner." It came
from the north, from the east, and now from the west. Three boys were
shouting forth the news simultaneously. Ah, if it should prove bad news!
But somehow she too felt that the news was good. She ran to meet the boy.
She had a half-penny ready in her hand; he fumbled, striving to detach a
single paper from the quire under his arm. Seeing her impatience, he said,
"Mahomet's won." Then the pavement seemed to slide beneath her feet, and
the setting sun she could hardly see, so full was her heart, so burdened
with the happiness that she was bringing to the poor sick fellow who lay
in his shirt sleeves on the bed in the back room. "It's all right," she
said. "I thought so too; it seemed like it." His face flushed, life seemed
to come back. He sat up and took the paper from her. "There," he said,
"I've got my place-money, too. I hope Stack and Journeyman come in
tonight. I'd like to have a chat about this. Come, give me a kiss, dear.
I'm not going to die, after all. It isn't a pleasant thing to think that
you must die, that there's no hope for you, that you must go under
The next thing to do was to pick the winner of the Yorkshire Handicap. In
this he was not successful, but he backed several winners at Sandown Park,
and at the close of the week had made nearly enough to take him to Egypt.
The Doncaster week, however, proved disastrous. He lost most of his
winnings, and had to look forward to retrieving his fortunes at Newmarket.
"The worst of it is, if I don't make up the money by October, it will be
no use. They say the November fogs will polish me off."
Between Doncaster and Newmarket he lost a bet, and this bet carried him
back into despondency. He felt it was no use struggling against fate.
Better remain in London and be taken away at the end of November or
December; he couldn't last much longer than that. This would allow him to
leave Esther at least fifty pounds to go on with. The boy would soon be
able to earn money. It would be better so. No use wasting all this money
for the sake of his health, which wasn't worth two-pence-three-farthings.
It was like throwing sovereigns after farthings. He didn't want to do any
betting; he was as hollow as a shell inside, he could feel it. Egypt could
do nothing for him, and as he had to go, better sooner than later. Esther
argued with him. What should she have to live for if he was taken from
her. The doctors had said that Egypt might set him right. She didn't know
much about such things, but she had always heard that it was extraordinary
how people got cured out there.
"That's true," he said. "I've heard that people who couldn't live a week
in England, who haven't the length of your finger of lung left, can go on
all right out there. I might get something to do out there, and the boy
might come out after us."
"That's the way I like to hear you talk. Who knows, at Newmarket we might
have luck! Just one big bet, a winner at fifty to one, that's all we
"That's just what has been passing in my mind. I've got particular
information about the Cesarewitch and Cambridgeshire. I could get the
price you speak of--fifty to one against the two, Matchbox and
Chasuble--the double event, you know. I'm inclined to go it. It's my last
When Matchbox galloped home the winner of the Cesarewitch by five lengths,
William was lying in his bed, seemingly at death's door. He had remained
out late one evening, had caught cold, and his mouth was constantly filled
with blood. He was much worse, and could hardly take notice of the good
news. When he revived a little he said, "It has come too late." But when
Chasuble was backed to win thousands at ten to one, and Journeyman and
Stack assured him that the stable was quite confident of being able to
pull it off, his spirits revived. He spoke of hedging. "If," he said to
Esther, "I was to get out at eight or nine to one I should be able to
leave you something, you know, in case of accidents." But he would not
entrust laying off his bet to either Stack of Journeyman; he spoke of a
cab and seeing to it himself. If he did this the doctor assured him that
it would not much matter whether Chasuble won or lost. "The best thing he
could do," the doctor said, "would be to become an in-door patient at
once. In the hospital he would be in an equable temperature, and he would
receive an attention which he could not get at home."
William did not like going into the hospital; it would be a bad omen. If
he did, he felt sure that Chasuble would not win.
"What has going or not going to the hospital to do with Chasuble's chance
of winning the Cambridgeshire?" said the doctor. "This window is loose in
its sash, a draught comes under the door, and if you close out the
draughts the atmosphere of the room becomes stuffy. You're thinking of
going abroad; a fortnight's nice rest is just what you want to set you up
for your journey."
So he allowed himself to be persuaded; he was taken to the hospital, and
Esther remained at home waiting for the fateful afternoon. Now that the
dying man was taken from her she had no work to distract her thought. The
unanswerable question--would Chasuble win?--was always before her. She saw
the slender greyhound creatures as she had seen them at Epsom, through a
sea of heads and hats, and she asked herself if Chasuble was the brown
horse that had galloped in first, or the chestnut that had trotted in
last. She often thought she was going mad--her head seemed like it--a
sensation of splitting like a piece of calico.... She went to see her boy.
Jack was a great tall fellow of fifteen, and had happily lost none of his
affection for his mother, and great sweetness rose up within her. She
looked at his long, straight, yellow-stockinged legs; she settled the
collar of his cloak, and slipped her fingers into his leathern belt as
they walked side by side. He was bare-headed, according to the fashion of
his school, and she kissed the wild, dark curls with which his head was
run over; they were much brighter in colour when he was a little
boy--those days when she slaved seventeen hours a day for his dear life!
But he paid her back tenfold for the hardship she had undergone.
She listened to the excellent report his masters gave of his progress, and
walked through the quadrangles and the corridors with him, thinking of the
sound of his voice as he told her the story of his classes and his
studies. She must live for him; though for herself she had had enough of
life. But, thank God, she had her darling boy, and whatever unhappiness
there might be in store for her she would bear it for his sake. He knew
that his father was ill, but she refrained and told him no word of the
tragedy that was hanging over them. The noble instincts which were so
intrinsically Esther Waters' told her that it were a pity to soil at the
outset a young life with a sordid story, and though it would have been an
inexpressible relief to her to have shared her trouble with her boy, she
forced back her tears and courageously bore her cross alone, without once
allowing its edge to touch him.
And every day that visitors were allowed she went to the hospital with the
newspaper containing the last betting. "Chasuble, ten to one taken,"
William read out. The mare had advanced three points, and William looked
at Esther inquiringly, and with hope in his eyes.
"I think she'll win," he said, raising himself in his cane chair.
"I hope so, dear," she murmured, and she settled his cushions.
Two days after the mare was back again at thirteen to one taken and
offered; she went back even as far as eighteen to one, and then returned
for a while to twelve to one. This fluctuation meant that something was
wrong, and William began to lose hope. But on the following day the mare
was backed to win a good deal of money at Tattersall's, and once more she
stood at ten to one. Seeing her back at the old price made William look so
hopeful that a patient stopped as he passed down the corridor, and
catching sight of the _Sportsman_ on William's lap, he asked him if he was
interested in racing. William told him that he was, and that if Chasuble
won he would be able to go to Egypt.
"Them that has money can buy health as well as everything else. We'd all
get well if we could get out there."
William told him how much he stood to win.
"That'll keep you going long enough to set you straight. You say the
mare's backed at ten to one--two hundred to twenty. I wonder if I could
get the money. I might sell up the 'ouse."
But before he had time to realise the necessary money the mare was driven
back to eighteen to one, and he said--
"She won't win. I might as well leave the wife in the 'ouse. There's no
luck for them that comes 'ere."
On the day of the race Esther walked through the streets like one daft,
stupidly interested in the passers-by and the disputes that arose between
the drivers of cabs and omnibuses. Now and then her thoughts collected,
and it seemed to her impossible that the mare should win. If she did they
would have L2,500, and would go to Egypt. But she could not imagine such a
thing; it seemed so much more natural that the horse should lose, and that
her husband should die, and that she should have to face the world once
more. She offered up prayers that Chasuble might win, although it did not
seem right to address God on the subject, but her heart often felt like
breaking, and she had to do something. And she had no doubt that God would
forgive her. But now that the day had come she did not feel as if he had
granted her request. At the same time it did not seem possible that her
husband was going to die. It was all so hard to understand.
She stopped at the "Bell and Horns" to see what the time was, and was
surprised to find it was half-an-hour later than she had expected. The
race was being run, Chasuble's hoofs were deciding whether her husband was
to live or die. It was on the wire by this time. The wires were distinct
upon a blue and dove-coloured sky. Did that one go to Newmarket, or the
The red building came in sight, and a patient walked slowly up the walk,
his back turned to her; another had sat down to rest. Sixteen years ago
patients were walking there then, and the leaves were scattering then just
as now.... Without transition of thought she wondered when the first boy
would appear with the news. William was not in the grounds; he was
upstairs behind those windows. Poor fellow, she could fancy him sitting
there. Perhaps he was watching for her out of one of those windows. But
there was no use her going up until she had the news; she must wait for
the paper. She walked up and down listening for the cry. Every now and
then expectation led her to mistake some ordinary cry for the terrible
"Win-ner, all the win-ner," with which the whole town would echo in a few
minutes. She hastened forward. No, it was not it. At last she heard the
word shrieked behind her. She hastened after the boy, but failed to
overtake him. Returning, she met another, gave him a half-penny and took a
paper. Then she remembered she must ask the boy to tell her who won. But
heedless of her question he had run across the road to sell papers to some
men who had come out of a public-house. She must not give William the
paper and wait for him to read the news to her. If the news were bad the
shock might kill him. She must learn first what the news was, so that her
face and manner might prepare him for the worst if need be. So she offered
the paper to the porter and asked him to tell her. "Bramble, King of
Trumps, Young Hopeful," he read out.
"Are you sure that Chasuble hasn't won?"
"Of course I'm sure, there it is."
"I can't read," she said as she turned away.
The news had stunned her; the world seemed to lose reality; she was
uncertain what to do, and several times repeated to herself, "There's
nothing for it but to go up and tell him. I don't see what else I can do."
The staircase was very steep; she climbed it slowly, and stopped at the
first landing and looked out of the window. A poor hollow-chested
creature, the wreck of a human being, struggled up behind her. He had to
rest several times, and in the hollow building his cough sounded loud and
hollow. "It isn't generally so loud as that," she thought, and wondered
how she could tell William the news. "He wanted to see Jack grow up to be
a man. He thought that we might all go to Egypt, and that he'd get quite
well there, for there's plenty of sunshine there, but now he'll have to
make up his mind to die in the November fogs." Her thoughts came strangely
clear, and she was astonished at her indifference, until a sudden
revulsion of feeling took her as she was going up the last flight. She
couldn't tell him the news; it was too cruel. She let the patient pass
her, and when alone on the landing she looked down into the depth. She
thought she'd like to fall over; anything rather than to do what she knew
she must do. But her cowardice only endured for a moment, and with a firm
step she walked into the corridor. It seemed to cross the entire building,
and was floored and wainscotted with the same brown varnished wood as the
staircase. There were benches along the walls; and emaciated and worn-out
men lay on the long cane chairs in the windowed recesses by which the
passage was lighted. The wards, containing sometimes three, sometimes six
or seven beds, opened on to this passage. The doors of the wards were all
open, and as she passed along she started at the sight of a boy sitting up
in bed. His head had been shaved and only a slight bristle covered the
crown. The head and face were a large white mass with two eyes. At the end
of the passage there was a window; and William sat there reading a book.
He saw her before she saw him, and when she caught sight of him she
stopped, holding the paper loose before her between finger and thumb, and
as she approached she saw that her manner had already broken the news to
"I see that she didn't win," he said.
"No, dear, she didn't win. We wasn't lucky this time: next time--"
"There is no next time, at least for me. I shall be far away from here
when flat racing begins again. The November fogs will do for me, I feel
that they will. I hope there'll be no lingering, that's all. Better to
know the worst and make up your mind. So I have to go, have I? So there's
no hope, and I shall be under ground before the next meeting. I shall
never lay or take the odds again. It do seem strange. If only that mare
had won. I knew damned well she wouldn't if I came here."
Then, catching sight of the pained look on his wife's face, he said, "I
don't suppose it made no difference; it was to be, and what has to be has
to be. I've got to go under ground. I felt it was to be all along. Egypt
would have done me no good; I never believed in it--only a lot of false
hope. You don't think what I say is true. Look 'ere, do you know what book
this is? This is the Bible; that'll prove to you that I knew the game was
up. I knew, I can't tell you how, but I knew the mare wouldn't win. One
always seems to know. Even when I backed her I didn't feel about her like
I did about the other one, and ever since I've been feeling more and more
sure that it wasn't to be. Somehow it didn't seem likely, and to-day
something told me that the game was up, so I asked for this book....
There's wonderful beautiful things in it."
"There is, indeed, Bill; and I hope you won't get tired of it, but will go
on reading it."
"It's extraordinary how consoling it is. Listen to this. Isn't it
beautiful; ain't them words heavenly?"
"They is, indeed. I knew you'd come to God at last."
"I'm afraid I've not led a good life. I wouldn't listen to you when you
used to tell me of the lot of harm the betting used to bring on the poor
people what used to come to our place. There's Sarah, I suppose she's out
of prison by this. You've seen nothing of her, I suppose?"
"There was Ketley."
"No, Bill, don't let's think about it. If you're truly sorry, God will
"Do you think He will--and the others that we know nothing about? I