Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes

Part 4 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.6 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

the impression made on me by the inquest, and by any statements
made during its course."

Even when her husband had come in with the tray Mrs. Bunting had
gone on reading, only lifting up her eyes for a moment. At last he
said rather crossly, "Put down that paper, Ellen, this minute! The
omelette I've cooked for you will be just like leather if you don't
eat it."

But once his wile had eaten her breakfast--and, to Bunting's
mortification, she left more than half the nice omelette untouched
--she took the paper up again. She turned over the big sheets,
until she found, at the foot of one of the ten columns devoted to
The Avenger and his crimes, the information she wanted, and then
uttered an exclamation under her breath.

What Mrs. Bunting had been looking for--what at last she had found
--was the time and place of the inquest which was to be held that
day. The hour named was a rather odd time--two o'clock in the
afternoon, but, from Mrs. Bunting's point of view, it was most

By two o'clock, nay, by half-past one, the lodger would have had
his lunch; by hurrying matters a little she and Bunting would have
had their dinner, and--and Daisy wasn't coming home till tea-time.

She got up out of her husband's chair. "I think you're right," she
said, in a quick, hoarse tone. "I mean about me seeing a doctor,
Bunting.' I think I will go and see a doctor this very afternoon."

"Wouldn't you like me to go with you?" he asked.

"No, that I wouldn't. In fact I wouldn't go at all you was to go
with me."

"All right," he said vexedly. "Please yourself, my dear; you know

"I should think I did know best where my own health is concerned."

Even Bunting was incensed by this lack of gratitude. "'Twas I said,
long ago, you ought to go and see the doctor; 'twas you said you
wouldn't!" he exclaimed pugnaciously.

"Well, I've never said you was never right, have I? At any rate,
I'm going."

"Have you a pain anywhere?" He stared at her with a look of real
solicitude on his fat, phlegmatic face.

Somehow Ellen didn't look right, standing there opposite him. Her
shoulders seemed to have shrunk; even her cheeks had fallen in a
little. She had never looked so bad--not even when they had been
half starving, and dreadfully, dreadfully worked.

"Yes," she said briefly, "I've a pain in my head, at the back of
my neck. It doesn't often leave me; it gets worse when anything
upsets me, like I was upset last night by Joe Chandler."

"He was a silly ass to come and do a thing like that!" said Bunting
crossly. "I'd a good mind to tell him so, too. But I must say,
Ellen, I wonder he took you in--he didn't me!"

"Well, you had no chance he should--you knew who it was," she said

And Bunting remained silent, for Ellen was right. Joe Chandler had
already spoken when he, Bunting, came out into the hall, and saw
their cleverly disguised visitor.

"Those big black moustaches," he went on complainingly, "and that
black wig--why, 'twas too ridic'lous--that's what I call it!"

"Not to anyone who didn't know Joe," she said sharply.

"Well, I don't know. He didn't look like a real man--nohow. If
he's a wise lad, he won't let our Daisy ever see him looking like
that!" and Bunting laughed, a comfortable laugh.

He had thought a good deal about Daisy and young Chandler the last
two days, and, on the whole, he was well pleased. It was a dull,
unnatural life the girl was leading with Old Aunt. And Joe was
earning good money. They wouldn't have long to wait, these two
young people, as a beau and his girl often have to wait, as he,
Bunting, and Daisy's mother had had to do, for ever so long before
they could be married. No, there was no reason why they shouldn't
be spliced quite soon--if so the fancy took them. And Bunting
had very little doubt that so the fancy would take Joe, at any rate.

But there was plenty of time. Daisy wouldn't be eighteen till the
week after next. They might wait till she was twenty. By that
time Old Aunt might be dead, and Daisy might have come into quite
a tidy little bit of money.

"What are you smiling at?" said his wife sharply.

And he shook himself. "I--smiling? At nothing that I knows of."
Then he waited a moment. "Well, if you will know, Ellen, I was
just thinking of Daisy and that young chap Joe Chandler. He is
gone on her, ain't he?"

"Gone?" And then Mrs. Bunting laughed, a queer, odd, not unkindly
laugh. "Gone, Bunting?" she repeated. "Why, he's out o' sight
--right, out of sight!"

Then hesitatingly, and looking narrowly at her husband, she went on,
twisting a bit of her black apron with her fingers as she spoke:--
"I suppose he'll be going over this afternoon to fetch her? Or--or
d'you think he'll have to be at that inquest, Bunting?"

"Inquest? What inquest?" He looked at her puzzled.

"Why, the inquest on them bodies found in the passage near by King's

"Oh, no; he'd have no call to be at the inquest. For the matter o'
that, I know he's going over to fetch Daisy. He said so last night
--just when 'you went up to the lodger."

"That's just as well." Mrs. Bunting spoke with considerable
satisfaction. "Otherwise I suppose you'd ha' had to go. I wouldn't
like the house left--not with us out of it. Mr. Sleuth would be
upset if there came a ring at the door."

"Oh, I won't leave the house, don't you be afraid, Ellen--not while
you're out"

"Not even if I'm out a good while, Bunting."

"No fear. Of course, you'll be a long time if it's your idea to see
that doctor at Ealing?"

He looked at her questioningly, and Mrs. Bunting nodded. Somehow
nodding didn't seem as bad as speaking a lie.


Any ordeal is far less terrifying, far easier to meet with courage,
when it is repeated, than is even a milder experience which is
entirely novel.

Mrs. Bunting had already attended an inquest, in the character of a
witness, and it was one of the few happenings of her life which was
sharply etched against the somewhat blurred screen of her memory.

In a country house where the then Ellen Green had been staying for
a fortnight with her elderly mistress, there had occurred one of
those sudden, pitiful tragedies which occasionally destroy the
serenity, the apparent decorum, of a large, respectable household.

The under-housemaid, a pretty, happy-natured girl, had drowned
herself for love of the footman, who had given his sweetheart cause
for bitter jealousy. The girl had chosen to speak of her troubles
to the strange lady's maid rather than to her own fellow-servants,
and it was during the conversation the two women had had together
that the girl had threatened to take her own life.

As Mrs. Bunting put on her outdoor clothes, preparatory to going
out, she recalled very clearly all the details of that dreadful
affair, and of the part she herself had unwillingly played in it.

She visualised the country inn where the inquest on that poor,
unfortunate creature had been held.

The butler had escorted her from the Hall, for he also was to give
evidence, and as they came up there had been a look of cheerful
animation about the inn yard; people coming and going, many women
as well as men, village folk, among whom the dead girl's fate had
aroused a great deal of interest, and the kind of horror which those
who live on a dull countryside welcome rather than avoid.

Everyone there had been particularly nice and polite to her, to
Ellen Green; there had been a time of waiting in a room upstairs in
the old inn, and the witnesses had been accommodated, not only with
chairs, but with cake and wine.

She remembered how she had dreaded being a witness, how she had
felt as if she would like to run away from her nice, easy place,
rather than have to get up and tell the little that she knew of the
sad business.

But it had not been so very dreadful after all. The coroner had
been a kindly-spoken gentleman; in fact he had complimented her on
the clear, sensible way she had given her evidence concerning the
exact words the unhappy girl had used.

One thing Ellen Green had said, in answer to a question put by
an inquisitive juryman, had raised a laugh in the crowded,
low-ceilinged room. "Ought not Miss Ellen Green," so the man had
asked, "to have told someone of the girl's threat? If she had done
so, might not the girl have been prevented from throwing herself
into the lake?" And she, the witness, had answered, with some
asperity--for by that time the coroner's kind manner had put her
at her ease--that she had not attached any importance to what the
girl had threatened to do, never believing that any young woman
could be so silly as to drown herself for love!


Vaguely Mrs. Bunting supposed that the inquest at which she was
going to be present this afternoon would be like that country
inquest of long ago.

It had been no mere perfunctory inquiry; she remembered very well
how little by little that pleasant-spoken gentleman, the coroner,
had got the whole truth out--the story, that is, of how that
horrid footman, whom she, Ellen Green, had disliked from the first
minute she had set eyes on him, had, taken up with another young
woman. It had been supposed that this fact would not be elicited
by the coroner; but it had been, quietly, remorselessly; more, the
dead girl's letters had been read out--piteous, queerly expressed
letters, full of wild love and bitter, threatening jealousy. And
the jury had censured the young man most severely; she remembered
the look on his face when the people, shrinking back, had made a
passage for him to slink out of the crowded room.

Come to think of it now, it was strange she had never told Bunting
that long-ago tale. It had occurred years before she knew him, and
somehow nothing had ever happened to make her tell him about it.

She wondered whether Bunting had ever been to an inquest. She longed
to ask him. But if she asked him now, this minute, he might guess
where she was thinking of going.

And then, while still moving about her bedroom, she shook her head
--no, no, Bunting would never guess such a thing; he would never,
never suspect her of telling him a lie.

Stop--had she told a lie? She did mean to go to the doctor after
the inquest was finished--if there was time, that is. She wondered
uneasily how long such an inquiry was likely to last. In this case,
as so very little had been discovered, the proceedings would surely
be very formal--formal and therefore short.

She herself had one quite definite object--that of hearing the
evidence of those who believed they had seen the murderer leaving
the spot where his victims lay weltering in their still flowing
blood. She was filled with a painful, secret, and, yes, eager
curiosity to hear how those who were so positive about the matter
would describe the appearance of The Avenger. After all, a lot of
people must have seen him, for, as Bunting had said only the day
before to young Chandler, The Avenger was not a ghost; he was a
living man with some kind of hiding-place where he was known, and
where he spent his time between his awful crimes.

As she came back to the sitting-room, her extreme pallor struck her

"Why, Ellen," he said, "it is time you went to the doctor. You
looks just as if you was going to a funeral. I'll come along with
you as far as the station. You're going by train, ain't you? Not
by bus, eh? It's a very long way to Ealing, you know."

"There you go! Breaking your solemn promise to me the very first
minute!" But somehow she did not speak unkindly, only fretfully
and sadly.

And Bunting hung his head. "Why, to be sure I'd gone and clean
forgot the lodger! But will you be all right, Ellen? Why not wait
till to-morrow, and take Daisy with you?"

"I like doing my own business in my own way, and not in someone
else's way!" she snapped out; and then more gently, for Bunting
really looked concerned, and she did feel very far from well, "I'll
be all right, old man. Don't you worry about me!"

As she turned to go across to the door, she drew the black shawl
she had put over her long jacket more closely round her.

She felt ashamed, deeply ashamed, of deceiving so kind a husband.
And yet, what could she do? How could she share her dreadful burden
with poor Bunting? Why, 'twould be enough to make a man go daft.
Even she often felt as if she could stand it no longer--as if she
would give the world to tell someone--anyone--what it was that she
suspected, what deep in her heart she so feared to be the truth.

But, unknown to herself, the fresh outside air, fog-laden though it
was, soon began to do her good. She had gone out far too little the
last few days, for she had had a nervous terror of leaving the house
unprotected, as also a great unwillingness to allow Bunting to come
into contact with the lodger.

When she reached the Underground station she stopped short. There
were two ways of getting to St. Pancras--she could go by bus, or
she could go by train. She decided on the latter. But before
turning into the station her eyes strayed over the bills of the
early afternoon papers lying on the ground.

Two words,


stared up at her in varying type.

Drawing her black shawl yet a little closer about her shoulders,
Mrs. Bunting looked down at the placards. She did not feel inclined
to buy a paper, as many of the people round her were doing. Her eyes
were smarting, even now, from their unaccustomed following of the
close print in the paper Bunting took in.

Slowly she turned, at last, into the Underground station.

And now a piece of extraordinary good fortune befell Mrs. Bunting.

The third-class carriage in which she took her place happened to be
empty, save for the presence of a police inspector. And once they
were well away she summoned up courage, and asked him the question
she knew she would have to ask of someone within the next few minutes.

"Can you tell me," she said, in a low voice, "where death inquests
are held "--she moistened her lips, waited a moment, and then
concluded--"in the neighbourhood of King's Cross?"

The man turned and, looked at her attentively. She did not look at
all the sort of Londoner who goes to an inquest--there are many
such--just for the fun of the thing. Approvingly, for he was a
widower, he noted her neat black coat and skirt; and the plain
Princess bonnet which framed her pale, refined face.

"I'm going to the Coroner's Court myself." he said good-naturedly.
"So you can come along of me. You see there's that big Avenger
inquest going on to-day, so I think they'll have had to make other
arrangements for--hum, hum--ordinary cases." And as she looked
at him dumbly, he went on, "There'll be a mighty crowd of people at
The Avenger inquest--a lot of ticket folk to be accommodated, to
say nothing of the public."

"That's the inquest I'm going to," faltered Mrs. Bunting. She could
scarcely get the words out. She realised with acute discomfort,
yes, and shame, how strange, how untoward, was that which she was
going to do. Fancy a respectable woman wanting to attend a murder

During the last few days all her perceptions had be come sharpened
by suspense and fear. She realised now, as she looked into the
stolid face of her unknown friend, how she herself would have
regarded any woman who wanted to attend such an inquiry from a
simple, morbid feeling of curiosity. And yet--and yet that was
just what she was about to do herself.

"I've got a reason for wanting to go there," she murmured. It was
a comfort to unburden herself this little way even to a stranger.

"Ah!" he said reflectively. "A--a relative connected with one of
the two victims' husbands, I presume?"

And Mrs. Bunting bent her head.

"Going to give evidence?" he asked casually, and then he turned and
looked at Mrs. Bunting with far more attention than he had yet done.

"Oh, no!" There was a world of horror, of fear in the speaker's voice.

And the inspector felt concerned and sorry. "Hadn't seen her for
quite a long time, I suppose?"

"Never had, seen her. I'm from the country." Something impelled
Mrs. Bunting to say these words. But she hastily corrected herself,
"At least, I was."

"Will he be there?"

She looked at him dumbly; not in the least knowing to whom he was

"I mean the husband," went on the inspector hastily. "I felt sorry
for the last poor chap--I mean the husband of the last one--he
seemed so awfully miserable. You see, she'd been a good wife and a
good mother till she took to the drink."

"It always is so," breathed out Mrs. Bunting.

"Aye." he waited a moment. "D'you know anyone about the court?" he

She shook her head.

"Well, don't you worry. I'll take you in along o' me. You'd never
get in by yourself."

They got out; and oh, the comfort of being in some one's charge, of
having a determined man in uniform to look after one! And yet even
now there was to Mrs. Bunting something dream-like, unsubstantial
about the whole business.

"If he knew--if he only knew what I know!" she kept saying over
and over again to herself as she walked lightly by the big, burly
form of the police inspector.

"'Tisn't far--not three minutes," he said suddenly. "Am I walking
too quick for you, ma'am?"'

"No, not at all. I'm a quick walker."

And then suddenly they turned a corner and came on a mass of people,
a densely packed crowd of men and women, staring at a mean-looking
little door sunk into a high wall.

"Better take my arm," the inspector suggested. "Make way there!
Make way!" he cried authoritatively; and he swept her through the
serried ranks which parted at the sound of his voice, at the sight
of his uniform.

"Lucky you met me," he said, smiling. "You'd never have got
through alone. And 'tain't a nice crowd, not by any manner of

The small door opened just a little way, and they found themselves
on a narrow stone-flagged path, leading into a square yard. A few
men were out there, smoking.

Before preceding her into the building which rose at the back of
the yard, Mrs. Bunting's kind new friend took out his watch.
"There's another twenty minutes before they'll begin," he said.
"There's the mortuary"--he pointed with his thumb to a low room
built out to the right of the court. "Would you like to go in and
see them?" he whispered.

"Oh, no!" she cried, in a tone of extreme horror. And he looked
down at her with sympathy, and with increased respect. She was a
nice, respectable woman, she was. She had not come here imbued
with any morbid, horrible curiosity, but because she thought it
her duty to do so. He suspected her of being sister-in-law to
one of The Avenger's victims.

They walked through into a big room or hall, now full of men
talking in subdued yet eager, animated tones.

"I think you'd better sit down' here," he said considerately, and,
leading her to one of the benches that stood out from the whitewashed
walls--"unless you'd rather be with the witnesses, that is."

But again she said, "Oh, no!" And then, with an effort, "Oughtn't
I to go into the court now, if it's likely to be so full?"

"Don't you worry," he said kindly. "I'll see you get a proper place.
I must leave you now for a minute, but I'll come back in good time
and look after you."

She raised the thick veil she had pulled down over her face while
they were going through that sinister, wolfish-looking crowd outside,
and looked about her.

Many of the gentlemen--they mostly wore tall hats and good overcoats
--standing round and about her looked vaguely familiar. She picked
out one at once. He was a famous journalist, whose shrewd, animated
face was familiar to her owing to the fact that it was widely
advertised in connection with a preparation for the hair--the
preparation which in happier, more prosperous days Bunting had had
great faith in, and used, or so he always said, with great benefit to
himself. This gentleman was the centre of an eager circle; half a
dozen men were talking to him, listening deferentially when he spoke,
and each of these men, so Mrs. Bunting realised, was a Somebody.

How strange, how amazing, to reflect that from all parts of London,
from their doubtless important avocations, one unseen, mysterious
beckoner had brought all these men here together, to this sordid
place, on this bitterly cold, dreary day. Here they were, all
thinking of, talking of, evoking one unknown, mysterious personality
--that of the shadowy and yet terribly real human being who chose
to call himself The Avenger. And somewhere, not so very far away
from them all The Avenger was keeping these clever, astute, highly
trained minds--aye, and bodies, too--at bay.

Even Mrs. Bunting, sitting here unnoticed, realised the irony of her
presence among them.


It seemed to Mrs. Bunting that she had been sitting there a long
time--it was really about a quarter of an hour--when her official
friend came back.

"Better come along now," he whispered; "it'll begin soon."

She followed him out into a passage, up a row of steep stone steps,
and so into the Coroner's Court.

The court was big, well-lighted room, in some ways not unlike a
chapel, the more so that a kind of gallery ran half-way round, a
gallery evidently set aside for the general public, for it was now
crammed to its utmost capacity.

Mrs. Bunting glanced timidly towards the serried row of faces. Had
it not been for her good fortune in meeting the man she was now
following, it was there that she would have had to try and make her
way. And she would have failed. Those people had rushed in the
moment the doors were opened, pushing, fighting their way in a way
she could never have pushed or fought.

There were just a few women among them, set, determined-looking
women, belonging to every class, but made one by their love of
sensation and their power of forcing their way in where they wanted
to be. But the women were few; the great majority of those standing
there were men--men who were also representative of every class of

The centre of the court was like an arena; it was sunk two or three
steps below the surrounding gallery. Just now it was comparatively
clear of people, save for the benches on which sat the men who were
to compose the jury. Some way from these men, huddled together in
a kind of big pew, stood seven people--three women and four men.

"D'you see the witnesses?" whispered the inspector, pointing these
out to her. He supposed her to know one of them with familiar
knowledge, but, if that were so, she made no sign.

Between the windows, facing the whole room, was a kind of little
platform, on which stood a desk and an arm-chair. Mrs. Bunting
guessed rightly that it was there the coroner would sit. And to
the left of the platform was the witness-stand, also raised
considerably above the jury.

Amazingly different, and far, far more grim and awe-inspiring than
the scene of the inquest which had taken place so long ago, on that
bright April day, in the village inn. There the coroner had sat on
the same level as the jury, and the witnesses had simply stepped
forward one by one, and taken their place before him.

Looking round her fearfully, Mrs. Bunting thought she would surely
die if ever she were exposed to the ordeal of standing in that
curious box-like stand, and she stared across at the bench where sat
the seven witnesses with a feeling of sincere pity in her heart.

But even she soon realised that her pity was wasted. Each woman
witness looked eager, excited, and animated; well pleased to be the
centre of attention and attraction to the general public. It was
plain each was enjoying her part of important, if humble, actress
in the thrilling drama which was now absorbing the attention of all
London--it might almost be said of the whole world.

Looking at these women, Mrs. Bunting wondered vaguely which was
which. Was it that rather draggle-tailed-looking young person who
had certainly, or almost certainly, seen The Avenger within ten
seconds of the double crime being committed? The woman who, aroused
by one of his victims' cry of terror, had rushed to her window and
seen the murderer's shadowy form pass swiftly by in the fog?

Yet another woman, so Mrs. Bunting now remembered, had given a most
circumstantial account of what The Avenger looked like, for he, it
was supposed, had actually brushed by her as he passed.

Those two women now before her had been interrogated and
cross-examined again and again, not only by the police, but by
representatives of every newspaper in London. It was from what they
had both said--unluckily their accounts materially differed--that
that official description of The Avenger had been worked up--that
which described him as being a good-looking, respectable young fellow
of twenty-eight, carrying a newspaper parcel.

As for the third woman, she was doubtless an acquaintance, a boon
companion of the dead.

Mrs. Bunting looked away from the witnesses, and focused her gaze
on another unfamiliar sight. Specially prominent, running indeed
through the whole length of the shut-in space, that is, from the
coroner's high dais right across to the opening in the wooden barrier,
was an ink-splashed table at which, when she had first taken her
place, there had been sitting three men busily sketching; but now
every seat at the table was occupied by tired, intelligent-looking
men, each with a notebook, or with some loose sheets of paper,
before him.

"Them's the reporters," whispered her friend. "They don't like
coming till the last minute, for they has to be the last to go.
At an ordinary inquest there are only two--maybe three--attending,
but now every paper in the kingdom has pretty well applied for a
pass to that reporters' table."

He looked consideringly down into the well of the court. "Now let
me see what I can do for you--"

Then he beckoned to the coroner's officer: "Perhaps you could put
this lady just over there, in a corner by herself? Related to a
relation of the deceased, but doesn't want to be--" He whispered
a word or two, and the other nodded sympathetically, and looked at
Mrs. Bunting with interest. "I'll put her just here," he muttered.
"There's no one coming there to-day. You see, there are only seven
witnesses--sometimes we have a lot more than that."

And he kindly put her on a now empty bench opposite to where the
seven witnesses stood and sat with their eager, set faces, ready
--aye, more than ready--to play their part.

For a moment every eye in the court was focused on Mrs. Bunting, but
soon those who had stared so hungrily, so intently, at her, realised
that she had nothing to do with the case. She was evidently there
as a spectator, and, more fortunate than most, she had a "friend at
court," and so was able to sit comfortably, instead of having to
stand in the crowd.

But she was not long left in isolation. Very soon some of the
important-looking gentlemen she had seen downstairs came into the
court, and were ushered over to her seat while two or three among
them, including the famous writer whose face was so familiar that
it almost seemed to Mrs. Bunting like that of a kindly acquaintance,
were accommodated at the reporters' table.

"Gentlemen, the Coroner."

The jury stood up, shuffling their feet, and then sat down again;
over the spectators there fell a sudden silence.

And then what immediately followed recalled to Mrs. Bunting, for the
first time, that informal little country inquest of long ago.

First came the "Oyez! Oyez!" the old Norman-French summons to all
whose business it is to attend a solemn inquiry into the death
--sudden, unexplained, terrible--of a fellow-being.

The jury--there were fourteen of them--all stood up again. They
raised their hands and solemnly chanted together the curious words
of their oath.

Then came a quick, informal exchange of sentences 'twixt the coroner
and his officer.

Yes, everything was in order. The jury had viewed the bodies--he
quickly corrected himself--the body, for, technically speaking, the
inquest just about to be held only concerned one body.

And then, amid a silence so absolute that the slightest rustle could
be heard through the court, the coroner--a clever-looking gentleman,
though not so old as Mrs. Bunting thought he ought to have been to
occupy so important a position on so important a day--gave a little
history, as it were, of the terrible and mysterious Avenger crimes.

He spoke very dearly, warming to his work as he went on.

He told them that he had been present at the inquest held on one of
The Avenger's former victims. "I only went through professional
curiosity," he threw in by way of parenthesis, "little thinking,
gentlemen, that the inquest on one of these unhappy creatures would
ever be held in my court."

On and on, he went, though he had, in truth, but little to say, and
though that little was known to every one of his listeners.

Mrs. Bunting heard one of the older gentlemen sitting near her
whisper to another: "Drawing it out all he can; that's what he's
doing. Having the time of his life, evidently!" And then the other
whispered back, so low that she could only just catch the words,
"Aye, aye. But he's a good chap--I knew his father; we were at
school together. Takes his job very seriously, you know--he does
to-day, at any rate."


She was listening intently, waiting for a word, a sentence, which
would relieve her hidden terrors, or, on the other hand, confirm
them. But the word, the sentence, was never uttered.

And yet, at the very end of his long peroration, the coroner did
throw out a hint which might mean anything--or nothing.

"I am glad to say that we hope to obtain such evidence to-day as
will in time lead to the apprehension of the miscreant who has
committed, and is still committing, these terrible crimes."

Mrs. Bunting stared uneasily up into the coroner's firm,
determined-looking face. What did he mean by that? Was there any
new evidence--evidence of which Joe Chandler, for instance, was
ignorant? And, as if in answer to the unspoken question, her heart
gave a sudden leap, for a big, burly man had taken his place in the
witness-box--a policeman who had not been sitting with the other

But soon her uneasy terror became stilled. This witness was simply
the constable who had found the first body. In quick, business-like
tones he described exactly what had happened to him on that cold,
foggy morning ten days ago. He was shown a plan, and he marked it
slowly, carefully, with a thick finger. That was the exact place
--no, he was making a mistake--that was the place where the other
body had lain. He explained apologetically that he had got rather
mixed up between the two bodies--that of Johanna Cobbett and Sophy

And then the coroner intervened authoritatively: "For the purpose
of this inquiry," he said, "we must, I think, for a moment consider
the two murders together."

After that, the witness went on far more comfortably; and as he
proceeded, in a quick monotone, the full and deadly horror of
The Avenger's acts came over Mrs. Bunting in a great seething flood
of sick fear and--and, yes, remorse.

Up to now she had given very little thought--if, indeed, any thought
--to the drink-sodden victims of The Avenger. It was he who had
filled her thoughts,--he and those who were trying to track him down.
But now? Now she felt sick and sorry she had come here to-day. She
wondered if she would ever be able to get the vision the policeman's
words had conjured up out of her mind--out of her memory.

And then there, came an eager stir of excitement and of attention
throughout the whole court, for the policeman had stepped down out of
the witness-box, and one of the women witnesses was being conducted to
his place.

Mrs. Bunting looked with interest and sympathy at the woman,
remembering how she herself had trembled with fear, trembled as that
poor, bedraggled, common-looking person was trembling now. The woman
had looked so cheerful, so--so well pleased with herself till a
minute ago, but now she had become very pale, and she looked round
her as a hunted animal might have done.

But the coroner was very kind, very soothing and gentle in his
manner, just as that other coroner had been when dealing with Ellen
Green at the inquest on that poor drowned girl.

After the witness had repeated in a toneless voice the solemn words
of the oath, she began to be taken, step by step, though her story.
At once Mrs. Bunting realised that this was the woman who claimed
to have seen The Avenger from her bedroom window. Gaining confidence,
as she went on, the witness described how she had heard a long-drawn,
stifled screech, and, aroused from deep sleep, had instinctively
jumped out of bed and rushed to her window.

The coroner looked down at something lying on his desk. "Let me
see! Here is the plan. Yes--I think I understand that the house
in which you are lodging exactly faces the alley where the two crimes
were committed?"

And there arose a quick, futile discussion. The house did not face
the alley, but the window of the witness's bedroom faced the alley.

"A distinction without a difference," said the coroner testily.
"And now tell us as clearly and quickly as you can what you saw when
you looked out."

There fell a dead silence on the crowded court. And then the woman
broke out, speaking more volubly and firmly than she had yet done.
"I saw 'im!" she cried. "I shall never forget it--no, not till my
dying day!" And she looked round defiantly.

Mrs. Bunting suddenly remembered a chat one of the newspaper men had
had with a person who slept under this woman's room. That person
had unkindly said she felt sure that Lizzie Cole had not got up that
night--that she had made up the whole story. She, the speaker, slept
lightly, and that night had been tending a sick child. Accordingly,
she would have heard if there had been either the scream described
by Lizzie Cole, or the sound of Lizzie Cole jumping out of bed.

"We quite understand that you think you saw the"--the coroner
hesitated--"the individual who had just perpetrated these terrible
crimes. But what we want to have from you is a description of him.
In spite of the foggy atmosphere about which all are agreed, you
say you saw him distinctly, walking along for some yards below your
window. Now, please, try and tell us what he was like."

The woman began twisting and untwisting the corner of a coloured
handkerchief she held in her hand.

"Let us begin at the beginning," said the coroner patiently. "What
sort of a hat was this man wearing when you saw him hurrying from
the passage?"

"It was just a black 'at" said the witness at last, in a husky,
rather anxious tone.

"Yes--just a black hat. And a coat--were you able to see what
sort of a coat he was wearing?"

"'E 'adn't got no coat" she said decidedly. "No coat at all! I
remembers that very perticulerly. I thought it queer, as it was
so cold--everybody as can wears some sort o' coat this weather!"

A juryman who had been looking at a strip of newspaper, and
apparently not attending at all to what the witness was saying, here
jumped up and put out his hand.

"Yes?" the coroner turned to him.

"I just want to say that this 'ere witness--if her name is Lizzie
Cole, began by saying The Avenger was wearing a coat--a big, heavy
coat. I've got it here, in this bit of paper."

"I never said so!" cried the woman passionately. "I was made to
say all those things by the young man what came to me from the
Evening Sun. Just put in what 'e liked in 'is paper, 'e did--not
what I said at all!"

At this there was some laughter, quickly suppressed.

"In future," said the coroner severely, addressing the juryman, who
had now sat down again, "you must ask any question you wish to ask
through your foreman, and please wait till I have concluded my
examination of the witness."

But this interruption, this--this accusation, had utterly upset
the witness. She began contradicting herself hopelessly. The man
she had seen hurrying by in the semi-darkness below was tall--no,
he was short. He was thin--no, he was a stoutish young man. And
as to whether he was carrying anything, there was quite an
acrimonious discussion.

Most positively, most confidently, the witness declared that she had
seen a newspaper parcel under his arm; it had bulged out at the back
--so she declared. But it was proved, very gently and firmly, that
she had said nothing of the kind to the gentleman from Scotland Yard
who had taken down her first account--in fact, to him she had
declared confidently that the man had carried nothing--nothing at
all; that she had seen his arms swinging up and down.

One fact--if fact it could be called--the coroner did elicit.
Lizzie Cole suddenly volunteered the statement that as he had passed
her window he had looked up at her. This was quite a new statement.

"He looked up at you?" repeated the coroner. "You said nothing of
that in your examination."

"I said nothink because I was scared--nigh scared to death!"

"If you could really see his countenance, for we know the night was
dark and foggy, will you please tell me what he was like?"

But the coroner was speaking casually, his hand straying over his
desk; not a creature in that court now believed the woman's story.

"Dark!" she answered dramatically. "Dark, almost black! If you can
take my meaning, with a sort of nigger look."

And then there was a titter. Even the jury smiled. And sharply the
coroner bade Lizzie Cole stand down.

Far more credence was given to the evidence of the next witness.

This was an older, quieter-looking woman, decently dressed in black.
Being the wife of a night watchman whose work lay in a big warehouse
situated about a hundred yards from the alley or passage where the
crimes had taken place, she had gone out to take her husband some
food he always had at one in the morning. And a man had passed her,
breathing hard and walking very quickly. Her attention had been
drawn to him because she very seldom met anyone at that hour, and
because he had such an odd, peculiar look and manner.

Mrs. Bunting, listening attentively, realised that it was very much
from what this witness had said that the official description of The
Avenger had been composed--that description which had brought such
comfort to her, Ellen Bunting's, soul.

This witness spoke quietly, confidently, and her account of the
newspaper parcel the man was carrying was perfectly clear and

"It was a neat parcel," she said, "done up with string."

She had thought it an odd thing for a respectably dressed young man
to carry such a parcel--that was what had made her notice it. But
when pressed, she had to admit that it had been a very foggy night
--so foggy that she herself had been afraid of losing her way,
though every step was familiar.

When the third woman went into the box, and with sighs and tears
told of her acquaintance with one of the deceased, with Johanna
Cobbett, there was a stir of sympathetic attention. But she had
nothing to say throwing any light on the investigation, save that
she admitted reluctantly that "Anny" would have been such a nice,
respectable young woman if it hadn't been for the drink.

Her examination was shortened as much as possible; and so was that
of the next witness, the husband of Johanna Cobbett. He was a very
respectable-looking man, a foreman in a big business house at Croydon.
He seemed to feel his position most acutely. He hadn't seen his
wife for two years; he hadn't had news of her for six months. Before
she took to drink she had been an admirable wife, and--and yes,

Yet another painful few minutes, to anyone who had a heart, or
imagination to understand, was spent when the father of the murdered
woman was in the box. He had had later news of his unfortunate
daughter than her husband had had, but of course he could throw no
light at all on her murder or murderer.

A barman, who had served both the women with drink just before the
public-house closed for the night, was handled rather roughly. He
had stepped with a jaunty air into the box, and came out of it
looking cast down, uneasy.

And then there took place a very dramatic, because an utterly
unexpected, incident. It was one of which the evening papers made
the utmost much to Mrs. Bunting's indignation. But neither coroner
nor jury--and they, after all, were the people who mattered--
thought a great deal of it.

There had come a pause in the proceedings. All seven witnesses had
been heard, and a gentleman near Mrs. Bunting whispered, "They are
now going to call Dr. Gaunt. He's been in every big murder case for
the last thirty years. He's sure to have something interesting to
say. It was really to hear him I came."

But before Dr. Gaunt had time even to get up from the seat with
which he had been accommodated close to the coroner, there came a
stir among the general public, or, rather, among those spectators
who stood near the low wooden door which separated the official
part of the court from the gallery.

The coroner's officer, with an apologetic air, approached the
coroner, and banded him up an envelope. And again in an instant,
there fell absolute silence on the court.

Looking rather annoyed, the coroner opened the envelope. He glanced
down the sheet of notepaper it contained. Then he looked up.

"Mr.--" then he glanced down again. "Mr.--ah--Mr.--is it Cannot?"
he said doubtfully, "may come forward."

There ran a titter though the spectators, and the coroner frowned.

A neat, jaunty-looking old gentleman, in a nice fur-lined overcoat,
with a fresh, red face and white side-whiskers, was conducted from
the place where he had been standing among the general public, to
the witness-box.

"This is somewhat out of order, Mr.--er--Cannot," said the
coroner severely. "You should have sent me this note before the
proceedings began. This gentleman," he said, addressing the jury,
"informs me that he has something of the utmost importance to
reveal in connection with our investigation."

"I have remained silent--I have locked what I knew within my own
breast"--began Mr. Cannot in a quavering voice, "because I am so
afraid of the Press! I knew if I said anything, even to the police,
that my house would be besieged by reporters and newspaper men. . . .
I have a delicate wife, Mr. Coroner. Such a state of things--the
state of things I imagine--might cause her death--indeed, I hope
she will never read a report of these proceedings. Fortunately, she
has an excellent trained nurse--"

"You will now take the oath," said the coroner sharply. He already
regretted having allowed this absurd person to have his say.

Mr. Cannot took the oath with a gravity and decorum which had been
lacking in most of those who had preceded him.

"I will, address myself to the jury," he began.

"You will do nothing of the sort," broke in the coroner. "Now,
please attend to me. You assert in your letter that you know who
is the--the--"

"The Avenger," put in Mr. Cannot promptly.

"The perpetrator of these crimes. You further declare that you met
him on the very night he committed the murder we are now

"I do so declare," said Mr. Cannot confidently. "Though in the best
of health myself,"--he beamed round the court, a now amused,
attentive court--"it is my fate to be surrounded by sick people, to
have only ailing friends. I have to trouble you with my private
affairs, Mr. Coroner, in order to explain why I happened to be out
at so undue an hour as one o'clock in the morning--"

Again a titter ran through the court. Even the jury broke into
broad smiles.

"Yes," went on the witness solemnly, "I was with a sick friend--in
fact, I may say a dying friend, for since then he has passed away.
I will not reveal my exact dwelling-place; you, sir, have it on my
notepaper. It is not necessary to reveal it, but you will understand
me when I say that in order to come home I had to pass through a
portion of the Regent's Park; and it was there--to be exact, about
the middle of Prince's Terrace--when a very peculiar-looking
individual stopped and accosted me."

Mrs. Bunting's hand shot up to her breast. A feeling of deadly fear
took possession of her.

"I mustn't faint," she said to herself hurriedly. "I mustn't faint!
Whatever's the matter with me?" She took out her bottle of
smelling-salts, and gave it a good, long sniff.

"He was a grim, gaunt man, was this stranger, Mr. Coroner, with a
very odd-looking face. I should say an educated man--in common
parlance, a gentleman. What drew my special attention to him was
that he was talking aloud to himself--in fact, he seemed to be
repeating poetry. I give you my word, I had no thought of The
Avenger, no thought at all. To tell you the truth, I thought this
gentleman was a poor escaped lunatic, a man who'd got away from his
keeper. The Regent's Park, sir, as I need hardly tell you, is a
most quiet and soothing neighbourhood--"

And then a member of the general public gave a loud guffaw.

"I appeal to you; sir," the old gentleman suddenly cried out "to
protect me from this unseemly levity! I have not come here with
any other object than that of doing my duty as a citizen!"

"I must ask you to keep to what is strictly relevant" said the
coroner stiffly. "Time is going on, and I have another important
witness to call--a medical witness. Kindly tell me, as shortly as
possible, what made you suppose that this stranger could possibly
be--" with an effort he brought out for the first time since the
proceedings began, the words, "The Avenger?"

"I am coming to that!" said Mr. Cannot hastily. "I am coming to
that! Bear with me a little longer, Mr. Coroner. It was a foggy
night, but not as foggy as it became later. And just when we were
passing one an-other, I and this man, who was talking aloud to
himself--he, instead of going on, stopped and turned towards
me. That made me feel queer and uncomfortable, the more so that
there was a very wild, mad look on his face. I said to him, as
soothingly as possible, 'A very foggy night, sir.' And he said,
'Yes--yes, it is a foggy night, a night fit for the commission of
dark and salutary deeds.' A very strange phrase, sir, that--'dark
and salutary deeds.'" He looked at the coroner expectantly--

"Well? Well, Mr. Cannot? Was that all? Did you see this person
go off in the direction of--of King's Cross, for instance?"

"No." Mr. Cannot reluctantly shook his head. "No, I must honestly
say I did not. He walked along a certain way by my side, and then
he crossed the road and was lost in the fog."

"That will do," said the coroner. He spoke more kindly. "I thank
you, Mr. Cannot, for coming here and giving us what you evidently
consider important information."

Mr. Cannot bowed, a funny, little, old-fashioned bow, and again some
of those present tittered rather foolishly.

As he was stepping down from the witness-box, he turned and looked
up at the coroner, opening his lips as he did so. There was a
murmur of talking going on, but Mrs. Bunting, at any rate, heard
quite distinctly what it was that he said:

"One thing I have forgotten, sir, which may be of importance. The
man carried a bag--a rather light-coloured leather bag, in his left
hand. It was such a bag, sir, as might well contain a long-handled

Mrs. Bunting looked at the reporters' table. She remembered suddenly
that she had told Bunting about the disappearance of Mr. Sleuth's bag.
And then a feeling of intense thankfulness came over her; not a
single reporter at the long, ink-stained table had put down that last
remark of Mr. Cannot. In fact, not one of them had heard it.

Again the last witness put up his hand to command attention. And
then silence did fall on the court.

"One word more," he said in a quavering voice. "May I ask to be
accommodated with a seat for the rest of the proceedings? I see
there is some room left on the witnesses' bench." And, without
waiting for permission, he nimbly stepped across and sat down.

Mrs. Bunting looked up, startled. Her friend, the inspector, was
bending over her.

"Perhaps you'd like to come along now," he said urgently.--"I
don't suppose you want to hear the medical evidence. It's always
painful for a female to hear that. And there'll be an awful rush
when the inquest's over. I could get you away quietly now."

She rose, and, pulling her veil down over her pale face, followed
him obediently.

Down the stone staircase they went, and through the big, now empty,
room downstairs.

"I'll let you out the back way," he said. "I expect you're tired,
ma'am, and will like to get home to a cup o' tea."

"I don't know how to thank you!" There were tears in her eyes.
She was trembling with excitement and emotion. "You have been good
to me."

"Oh, that's nothing," he said a little awkwardly. "I expect you
went though a pretty bad time, didn't you?"

"Will they be having that old gentleman again?" she spoke in a
whisper, and looked up at him with a pleading, agonised look.

"Good Lord, no! Crazy old fool! We're troubled with a lot of
those sort of people, you know, ma'am, and they often do have funny
names, too. You see, that sort is busy all their lives in the City,
or what not; then they retires when they gets about sixty, and
they're fit to hang themselves with dulness. Why, there's hundreds
of lunies of the sort to be met in London. You can't go about at
night and not meet 'em. Plenty of 'em!"

"Then you don't think there was anything in what he said?" she

"In what that old gent said? Goodness--no!" he laughed
good-naturedly. "But I'll tell you what I do think. If it wasn't
for the time that had gone by, I should believe that the second
witness had seen that crafty devil--" he lowered his voice. "But,
there, Dr. Gaunt declares most positively--so did two other medical
gentlemen--that the poor creatures had been dead hours when they
was found. Medical gentlemen are always very positive about their
evidence. They have to be--otherwise who'd believe 'em? If we'd
time I could tell you of a case in which--well, 'twas all because
of Dr. Gaunt that the murderer escaped. We all knew perfectly well
the man we caught did it, but he was able to prove an alibi as to
the time Dr. Gaunt said the poor soul was killed."


It was not late even now, for the inquest had begun very punctually,
but Mrs. Bunting felt that no power on earth should force her to go
to Ealing. She felt quite tired out and as if she could think of

Pacing along very slowly, as if she were an old, old woman, she
began listlessly turning her steps towards home. Somehow she felt
that it would do her more good to stay out in the air than take the
train. Also she would thus put off the moment--the moment to which
she looked forward with dread and dislike--when she would have to
invent a circumstantial story as to what she had said to the doctor,
and what the doctor had said to her.

Like most men and women of his class, Bunting took a great interest
in other people's ailments, the more interest that he was himself so
remarkably healthy. He would feel quite injured if Ellen didn't
tell him everything that had happened; everything, that is, that the
doctor had told her.

As she walked swiftly along, at every corner, or so it seemed to her,
and outside every public-house, stood eager boys selling the latest
edition of the afternoon papers to equally eager buyers. "Avenger
Inquest?" they shouted exultantly. "All the latest evidence!" At
one place, where there were a row of contents-bills pinned to the
pavement by stones, she stopped and looked down. "Opening of the
Avenger Inquest. What is he really like? Full description." On yet
another ran the ironic query: "Avenger Inquest. Do you know him?"

And as that facetious question stared up at her in huge print, Mrs.
Bunting turned sick--so sick and faint that she did what she had
never done before in her life--she pushed her way into a
public-house, and, putting two pennies down on the counter, asked
for, and received, a glass of cold water.

As she walked along the now gas-lit streets, she found her mind
dwelling persistently--not on the inquest at which she had been
present, not even on The Avenger, but on his victims.

Shudderingly, she visualised the two cold bodies lying in the
mortuary. She seemed also to see that third body, which, though
cold, must yet be warmer than the other two, for at this time
yesterday The Avenger's last victim had been alive, poor soul--
alive and, according to a companion of hers whom the papers had
already interviewed, particularly merry and bright.

Hitherto Mrs. Bunting had been spared in any real sense a vision of
The Avenger's victims. Now they haunted her, and she wondered
wearily if this fresh horror was to be added to the terrible fear
which encompassed her night and day.

As she came within sight of home, her spirit suddenly lightened.
The narrow, drab-coloured little house, flanked each side by others
exactly like it in every single particular, save that their front
yards were not so well kept, looked as if it could, aye, and would,
keep any secret closely hidden.

For a moment, at any rate, The Avenger's victims receded from her
mind. She thought of them no more. All her thoughts were
concentrated on Bunting--Bunting and Mr. Sleuth. She wondered what
had happened during her absence--whether the lodger had rung his
bell, and, if so, how he had got on with Bunting, and Bunting with

She walked up the little flagged path wearily, and yet with a
pleasant feeling of home-coming. And then she saw that Bunting must
have been watching for her behind the now closely drawn curtains,
for before she could either knock or ring he had opened the door.

"I was getting quite anxious about you," he exclaimed. "Come in,
Ellen, quick! You must be fair perished a day like now--and you
out so little as you are. Well? I hope you found the doctor all
right?" He looked at her with affectionate anxiety.

And then there came a sudden, happy thought to Mrs. Bunting. "No,"
she said slowly, "Doctor Evans wasn't in. I waited, and waited, and
waited, but he never came in at all. 'Twas my own fault," she added
quickly. Even at such a moment as this she told herself that though
she had, in a sort of way, a kind of right to lie to her husband,
she had no sight to slander the doctor who had been so kind to her
years ago. "I ought to have sent him a card yesterday night," she
said. "Of course, I was a fool to go all that way, just on chance
of finding a doctor in. It stands to reason they've got to go out
to people at all times of day."

"I hope they gave you a cup of tea?" he said.

And again she hesitated, debating a point with herself: if the
doctor had a decent sort of servant, of course, she, Ellen Bunting,
would have been offered a cup of tea, especially if she explained
she'd known him a long time.

She compromised. "I was offered some," she said, in a weak, tired
voice. "But there, Bunting, I didn't feel as if I wanted it. I'd
be very grateful for a cup now--if you'd just make it for me over
the ring."

"'Course I will," he said eagerly. "You just come in and sit down,
my dear. Don't trouble to take your things off now--wait till
you've had tea."

And she obeyed him. "Where's Daisy?" she asked suddenly. "I thought
the girl would be back by the time I got home."

"She ain't coming home to-day"--there was an odd, sly, smiling look
on Bunting's face.

"Did she send a telegram?" asked Mrs. Bunting.

"No. Young Chandler's just come in and told me. He's been over
there and,--would you believe it, Ellen?--he's managed to make
friends with Margaret. Wonderful what love will do, ain't it? He
went over there just to help Daisy carry her bag back, you know,
and then Margaret told him that her lady had sent her some money
to go to the play, and she actually asked Joe to go with them this
evening--she and Daisy--to the pantomime. Did you ever hear o'
such a thing?"

"Very nice for them, I'm sure," said Mrs. Bunting absently. But
she was pleased--pleased to have her mind taken off herself. "Then
when is that girl coming home?" she asked patiently.

"Well, it appears that Chandler's got to-morrow morning off too--
this evening and to-morrow morning. He'll be on duty all night,
but he proposes to go over and bring Daisy back in time for early
dinner. Will that suit you, Ellen?"

"Yes. That'll be all right," she said. "I don't grudge the girl
her bit of pleasure. One's only young once. By the way, did the
lodger ring while I was out?"

Bunting turned round from the gas-ring, which he was watching to
see the kettle boil. "No," he said. "Come to think of it, it's
rather a funny thing, but the truth is, Ellen, I never gave Mr.
Sleuth a thought. You see, Chandler came in and was telling me all
about Margaret, laughing-like, and then something else happened
while you was out, Ellen."

"Something else happened?" she said in a startled voice. Getting
up from her chair she came towards her husband: "What happened?
Who came?"

"Just a message for me, asking if I could go to-night to wait at a
young lady's birthday party. In Hanover Terrace it is. A waiter
--one of them nasty Swiss fellows as works for nothing--fell out
just at the last minute and so they had to send for me."

His honest face shone with triumph. The man who had taken over his
old friend's business in Baker Street had hitherto behaved very
badly to Bunting, and that though Bunting had been on the books for
ever so long, and had always given every satisfaction. But this new
man had never employed him--no, not once.

"I hope you didn't make yourself too cheap?" said his wife jealously.

"No, that I didn't! I hum'd and haw'd a lot; and I could see the
fellow was quite worried--in fact, at the end he offered me
half-a-crown more. So I graciously consented!"

Husband and wife laughed more merrily than they had done for a long

"You won't mind being alone, here? I don't count the lodger--he's
no good--" Bunting looked at her anxiously. He was only prompted
to ask the question because lately Ellen had been so queer, so
unlike herself. Otherwise it never would have occurred to him that
she could be afraid of being alone in the house. She had often been
so in the days when he got more jobs.

She stared at him, a little suspiciously. "I be afraid?" she echoed.
"Certainly not. Why should I be? I've never been afraid before.
What d'you exactly mean by that, Bunting?"

"Oh, nothing. I only thought you might feel funny-like, all alone
on this ground floor. You was so upset yesterday when that young
fool Chandler came, dressed up, to the door."

"I shouldn't have been frightened if he'd just been an ordinary
stranger," she said shortly. "He said something silly to me--just
in keeping with his character-like, and it upset me. Besides, I
feel better now."

As she was sipping gratefully her cup of tea, there came a noise
outside, the shouts of newspaper-sellers.

"I'll just run out," said Bunting apologetically, "and see what
happened at that inquest to-day. Besides, they may have a clue
about the horrible affair last night. Chandler was full of it--
when he wasn't talking about Daisy and Margaret, that is. He's
on to-night, luckily not till twelve o'clock; plenty of time to
escort the two of 'em back after the play. Besides, he said
he'll put them into a cab and blow the expense, if the panto'
goes on too long for him to take 'em home."

"On to-night?". repeated Mrs. Bunting. "Whatever for?"

"Well, you see, The Avenger's always done 'em in couples, so to
speak. They've got an idea that he'll have a try again to-night.
However, even so, Joe's only on from midnight till five o'clock.
Then he'll go and turn in a bit before going off to fetch Daisy,
Fine thing to be young, ain't it, Ellen?"

"I can't believe that he'd go out on such a night as this!"

"What do you mean?" said Bunting, staring at her. Ellen had spoken
so oddly, as if to herself, and in so fierce and passionate a tone.

"What do I mean?" she repeated--and a great fear clutched at her
heart. What had she said? She had been thinking aloud.

"Why, by saying he won't go out. Of course, he has to go out.
Besides, he'll have been to the play as it is. 'Twould be a pretty
thing if the police didn't go out, just because it was cold!"

"I--I was thinking of The Avenger," said Mrs. Bunting. She looked
at her husband fixedly. Somehow she had felt impelled to utter
those true words.

"He don't take no heed of heat nor cold," said Bunting sombrely.
"I take it the man's dead to all human feeling--saving, of
course, revenge."

"So that's your idea about him, is it?" She looked across at her
husband. Somehow this dangerous, this perilous conversation between
them attracted her strangely. She felt as if she must go on with it.
"D'you think he was the man that woman said she saw? That young
man what passed her with a newspaper parcel?"

"Let me see," he said slowly. "I thought that 'twas from the bedroom
window a woman saw him?"

"No, no. I mean the other woman, what was taking her husband's
breakfast to him in the warehouse. She was far the most
respectable-looking woman of the two," said Mrs. Bunting impatiently.

And then, seeing her husband's look of utter, blank astonishment,
she felt a thrill of unreasoning terror. She must have gone suddenly
mad to have said what she did! Hurriedly she got up from her chair.
"There, now," she said; "here I am gossiping all about nothing when
I ought to be seeing about the lodger's supper. It was someone in
the train talked to me about that person as thinks she saw The

Without waiting for an answer, she went into her bedroom, lit the
gas, and shut the door. A moment later she heard Bunting go out to
buy the paper they had both forgotten during their dangerous

As she slowly, languidly took off her nice, warm coat and shawl,
Mrs. Bunting found herself shivering. It was dreadfully cold, quite
unnaturally cold even for the time of year.

She looked longingly towards the fireplace. It was now concealed
by the washhand-stand, but how pleasant it would be to drag that
stand aside and light a bit of fire, especially as Bunting was going
to be out to-night. He would have to put on his dress clothes, and
she didn't like his dressing in the sitting-room. It didn't suit
her ideas that he should do so. How if she did light the fire here,
in their bedroom? It would be nice for her to have bit of fire to
cheer her up after he had gone.

Mrs. Bunting knew only too well that she would have very little
sleep the coming night. She looked over, with shuddering distaste,
at her nice, soft bed. There she would lie, on that couch of little
ease, listening--listening. . . .

She went down to the kitchen. Everything was ready for Mr. Sleuth's
supper, for she had made all her preparations before going out so
as not to have to hurry back before it suited her to do so.

Leaning the tray for a moment on the top of the banisters, she
listened. Even in that nice warm drawing-room, and with a good
fire, how cold the lodger must feel sitting studying at the table!
But unwonted sounds were coming through the door. Mr. Sleuth was
moving restlessly about the room, not sitting reading, as was his
wont at this time of the evening.

She knocked, and then waited a moment.

There came the sound of a sharp click, that of the key turning in
the lock of the chiffonnier cupboard--or so Mr. Sleuth's landlady
could have sworn.

There was a pause--she knocked again.

"Come in," said Mr. Sleuth loudly, and she opened the door and
carried in the tray.

"You are a little earlier than usual, are you not Mrs. Bunting?"
he said, with a touch of irritation in his voice.

"I don't think so, sir, but I've been out. Perhaps I lost count of
the time. I thought you'd like your breakfast early, as you had
dinner rather sooner than usual."

"Breakfast? Did you say breakfast, Mrs. Bunting?"

"I beg your pardon, sir, I'm sure! I meant supper." He looked at
her fixedly. It seemed to Mrs. Bunting that there was a terrible
questioning look in his dark, sunken eyes.

"Aren't you well?" he said slowly. "You don't look well, Mrs.

"No, sir," she said. "I'm not well. I went over to see a doctor
this afternoon, to Ealing, sir."

"I hope he did you good, Mrs. Bunting"--the lodger's voice had
become softer, kinder in quality.

"It always does me good to see the doctor," said Mrs. Bunting

And then a very odd smile lit up Mr. Sleuth's face. "Doctors are a
maligned body of men," he said. "I'm glad to hear you speak well of
them. They do their best, Mrs. Bunting. Being human they are liable
to err, but I assure you they do their best."

"That I'm sure they do, sir "--she spoke heartily, sincerely.
Doctors had always treated her most kindly, and even generously.

And then, having laid the cloth, and put the lodger's one hot dish
upon it, she went towards the door. "Wouldn't you like me to bring
up another scuttleful of coals, sir? it's bitterly cold--getting
colder every minute. A fearful night to have to go out in--" she
looked at him deprecatingly.

And then Mr. Sleuth did something which startled her very much.
Pushing his chair back, he jumped up and drew himself to his full

"What d'you mean?" he stammered. "Why did you say that, Mrs.

She stared at him, fascinated, affrighted. Again there came an
awful questioning look over his face.

"I was thinking of Bunting, sir. He's got a job to-night. He's
going to act as waiter at a young lady's birthday party. I was
thinking it's a pity he has to turn out, and in his thin clothes,
too"--she brought out her words jerkily.

Mr. Sleuth seemed somewhat reassured, and again he sat down. "Ah!"
he said. "Dear me--I'm sorry to hear that! I hope your husband
will not catch cold, Mrs. Bunting."

And then she shut the door, and went downstairs.


Without telling Bunting what she meant to do, she dragged the heavy
washhand-stand away from the chimneypiece, and lighted the fire.

Then in some triumph she called Bunting in.

"Time for you to dress," she cried out cheerfully, "and I've got a
little bit of fire for you to dress by."

As he exclaimed at her extravagance, "Well, 'twill be pleasant for
me, too; keep me company-like while you're out; and make the room
nice and warm when you come in. You'll be fair perished, even
walking that short way," she said.

And then, while her husband was dressing, Mrs. Bunting went upstairs
and cleared away Mr. Sleuth's supper.

The lodger said no word while she was so engaged--no word at all.

He was sitting away from the table, rather an unusual thing for him
to do, and staring into the fire, his hands on his knees.

Mr. Sleuth looked lonely, very, very lonely and forlorn. Somehow, a
great rush of pity, as well as of horror, came over Mrs. Bunting's
heart. He was such a--a--she searched for a word in her mind, but
could only find the word "gentle"--he was such a nice, gentle
gentleman, was Mr. Sleuth. Lately he had again taken to leaving his
money about, as he had done the first day or two, and with some
concern his landlady had seen that the store had diminished a good
deal. A very simple calculation had made her realise that almost the
whole of that missing money had come her way, or, at any rate, had
passed through her hands.

Mr. Sleuth never stinted himself as to food, or stinted them, his
landlord and his landlady, as to what he had said he would pay.
And Mrs. Bunting's conscience pricked her a little, for he hardly
ever used that room upstairs--that room for which he had paid extra
so generously. If Bunting got another job or two through that nasty
man in Baker Street,--and now that the ice had been broken between
them it was very probable that he would do so, for he was a very
well-trained, experienced waiter--then she thought she would tell
Mr. Sleuth that she no longer wanted him to pay as much as he was
now doing.

She looked anxiously, deprecatingly, at his long, bent back.

"Good-night, sir," she said at last.

Mr. Sleuth turned round. His face looked sad and worn.

"I hope you'll sleep well, sir."

"Yes, I'm sure I shall sleep well. But perhaps I shall take a
little turn first. Such is my way, Mrs. Bunting; after I have been
studying all day I require a little exercise."

"Oh, I wouldn't go out to-night," she said deprecatingly. "'Tisn't
fit for anyone to be out in the bitter cold."

"And yet--and yet"--he looked at her attentively--"there will
probably be many people out in the streets to-night."

"A many more than usual, I fear, sir."

"Indeed?" said Mr. Sleuth quickly. "Is it not a strange thing,
Mrs. Bunting, that people who have all day in which to amuse
themselves should carry their revels far into the night?"

"Oh, I wasn't thinking of revellers, sir; I was thinking"--she
hesitated, then, with a gasping effort Mrs. Bunting brought out the
words, "of the police."

"The police?" He put up his right hand and stroked his chin two or
three times with a nervous gesture. "But what is man--what is man's
puny power or strength against that of God, or even of those over
whose feet God has set a guard?"

Mr. Sleuth looked at his landlady with a kind of triumph lighting up
his face, and Mrs. Bunting felt a shuddering sense of relief. Then
she had not offended her lodger? She had not made him angry by that,
that--was it a hint she had meant to convey to him?

"Very true, sir," she said respectfully. "But Providence means us
to take care o' ourselves too." And then she closed the door behind
her and went downstairs.

But Mr. Sleuth's landlady did not go on, down to the kitchen. She
came into her sitting-room, and, careless of what Bunting would think
the next morning, put the tray with the remains of the lodger's meal on
her table. Having done that, and having turned out the gas in the
passage and the sitting-room, she went into her bedroom and closed the

The fire was burning brightly and clearly. She told herself that
she did not need any other light to undress by.

What was it made the flames of the fire shoot up, shoot down, in
that queer way? But watching it for awhile, she did at last doze
off a bit.

And then--and then Mrs. Bunting woke with a sudden thumping of her
heart. Woke to see that the fire was almost out--woke to hear a
quarter to twelve chime out--woke at last to the sound she had been
listening for before she fell asleep--the sound of Mr. Sleuth,
wearing his rubber-soled shoes, creeping downstairs, along the
passage, and so out, very, very quietly by the front door.

But once she was in bed Mrs. Bunting turned restless. She tossed
this way and that, full of discomfort and unease. Perhaps it was
the unaccustomed firelight dancing on the walls, making queer shadows
all round her, which kept her so wide awake.

She lay thinking and listening--listening and thinking. It even
occurred to her to do the one thing that might have quieted her
excited brain--to get a book, one of those detective stories of
which Bunting had a slender store in the next room, and then,
lighting the gas, to sit up and read.

No, Mrs. Bunting had always been told it was very wrong to read in
bed, and she was not in a mood just now to begin doing anything that
she had been told was wrong. . . .


It was a very cold night--so cold, so windy, so snow-laden was the
atmosphere, that everyone who could do so stayed indoors.

Bunting, however, was now on his way home from what had proved a
really pleasant job. A remarkable piece of luck had come his way
this evening, all the more welcome because it was quite unexpected!
The young lady at whose birthday party he had been present in
capacity of waiter had come into a fortune that day, and she had had
the gracious, the surprising thought of presenting each of the hired
waiters with a sovereign!

This gift, which had been accompanied by a few kind words, had gone
to Bunting's heart. It had confirmed him in his Conservative
principles; only gentlefolk ever behaved in that way; quiet,
old-fashioned, respectable, gentlefolk, the sort of people of whom
those nasty Radicals know nothing and care less!

But the ex-butler was not as happy as he should have been.
Slackening his footsteps, he began to think with puzzled concern of
how queer his wife had seemed lately. Ellen had become so nervous,
so "jumpy," that he didn't know what to make of her sometimes. She
had never been really good-tempered--your capable, self-respecting
woman seldom is--but she had never been like what she was now. And
she didn't get better as the days went on; in fact she got worse.
Of late she had been quite hysterical, and for no reason at all!
Take that little practical joke of young Joe Chandler. Ellen knew
quite well he often had to go about in some kind of disguise, and yet
how she had gone on, quite foolish-like--not at all as one would
have expected her to do.

There was another queer thing about her which disturbed him in more
senses than one. During the last three weeks or so Ellen had taken
to talking in her sleep. "No, no, no!" she had cried out, only the
night before. "It isn't true--I won't have it said--it's a lie!"
And there had been a wail of horrible fear and revolt in her usually
quiet, mincing voice.


Whew! it was cold; and he had stupidly forgotten his gloves.

He put his hands in his pockets to keep them warm, and began walking
more quickly.

As h& tramped steadily along, the ex-butler suddenly caught sight
of his lodger walking along the opposite side of the solitary street
--one of those short streets leading off the broad road which
encircles Regent's Park.

Well! This was a funny time o' night to be taking a stroll for
pleasure, like!

Glancing across, Bunting noticed that Mr. Sleuth's tall, thin figure
was rather bowed, and that his head was bent toward the ground. His
left arm was thrust into his long Inverness tape, and so was quite
hidden, but the other side of the cape bulged out, as if the lodger
were carrying a bag or parcel in the hand which hung down straight.

Mr. Sleuth was walking rather quickly, and as he walked he talked
aloud, which, as Bunting knew, is not unusual with gentlemen who live
much alone. It was clear that he had not yet become aware of the
proximity of his landlord.

Bunting told himself that Ellen was right. Their lodger was
certainly a most eccentric, peculiar person. Strange, was it not,
that that odd, luny-like gentleman should have made all the
difference to his, Bunting's, and Mrs. Bunting's happiness and
comfort in life?

Again glancing across at Mr. Sleuth, he reminded himself, not for
the first time, of this perfect lodger's one fault--his odd dislike
to meat, and to what Bunting vaguely called to himself, sensible food.

But there, you can't have everything! The more so that the lodger
was not one of those crazy vegetarians who won't eat eggs and cheese.
No, he was reasonable in this, as in everything else connected with
his dealings with the Buntings.

As we know, Bunting saw far less of the lodger than did his wife.
Indeed, he had been upstairs only three or four times since Mr.
Sleuth had been with them, and when his landlord had had occasion
to wait on him the lodger had remained silent. Indeed, their
gentleman had made it very clear that he did not like either the
husband or wife to come up to his rooms without being definitely
asked to do so.

Now, surely, would be a good opportunity for a little genial
conversation? Bunting felt pleased to see his lodger; it increased
his general comfortable sense of satisfaction.

So it was that the butler, still an active man for his years,
crossed over the road, and, stepping briskly forward, began trying
to overtake Mr. Sleuth. But the more he hurried along, the more the
other hastened, and that without ever turning round to see whose
steps he could hear echoing behind him on the now freezing pavement.

Mr. Sleuth's own footsteps were quite inaudible--an odd circumstance,
when you came to think of it--as Bunting did think of it later,
lying awake by Mrs. Bunting's side in the pitch darkness. What it
meant of course, was that the lodger had rubber soles on his shoes.
Now Bunting had never had a pair of rubber-soled shoes sent down to
him to dean. He had always supposed the lodger had only one pair of
outdoor boots.

The two men--the pursued and the pursuer--at last turned into the
Marylebone Road; they were now within a few hundred yards of home.
Plucking up courage, Bunting called out, his voice echoing freshly
on the still air:

"Mr Sleuth, sir? Mr. Sleuth!"

The lodger stopped and turned round.

He had been walking so quickly, and he was in so poor a physical
condition, that the sweat was pouring down his face.

"Ah! So it's you, Mr. Bunting? I heard footsteps behind me, and
I hurried on. I wish I'd known that it was you; there are so many
queer characters about at night in London."

"Not on a night like this, sir. Only honest folk who have business
out of doors would be out such a night as this. It is cold, sir!"

And then into Bunting's slow and honest mind there suddenly crept
the query as to what on earth Mr. Sleuth's own business out could be
on this bitter night.

"Cold?" the lodger repeated; he was panting a little, and his words
came out sharp and quick through his thin lips. "I can't say that
I find it cold, Mr. Bunting. When the snow falls, the air always
becomes milder."

"Yes, sir; but to-night there's such a sharp east wind. Why, it
freezes the very marrow in one's bones! Still, there's nothing like
walking in cold weather to make one warm, as you seem to have found,

Bunting noticed that Mr. Sleuth kept his distance in a rather strange
way; he walked at the edge of the pavement, leaving the rest of it,
on the wall side, to his landlord.

"I lost my way," he said abruptly. "I've been over Primrose Hill to
see a friend of mine, a man with whom I studied when I was a lad,
and then, coming back, I lost my way."

Now they had come right up to the little gate which opened on the
shabby, paved court in front of the house--that gate which now was
never locked.

Mr. Sleuth, pushing suddenly forward, began walking up the flagged
path, when, with a "By your leave, sir," the ex-butler, stepping
aside, slipped in front of his lodger, in order to open the front
door for him.

As he passed by Mr. Sleuth, the back of Bunting's bare left hand
brushed lightly against the long Inverness cape the lodger was
wearing, and, to Bunting's surprise, the stretch of cloth against
which his hand lay for a moment was not only damp, damp maybe from
stray flakes of snow which had settled upon it, but wet--wet and

Bunting thrust his left hand into his pocket; it was with the other
that he placed the key in the lock of the door.

The two men passed into the hail together.

The house seemed blackly dark in comparison with the lighted-up
road outside, and as he groped forward, closely followed by the
lodger, there came over Bunting a sudden, reeling sensation of
mortal terror, an instinctive, assailing knowledge of frightful
immediate danger.

A stuffless voice--the voice of his first wife, the long-dead
girl to whom his mind so seldom reverted nowadays--uttered into
his ear the words, "Take care!"

And then the lodger spoke. His voice was harsh and grating,
though not loud.

"I'm afraid, Mr. Bunting, that you must have felt something dirty,
foul, on my coat? It's too long a story to tell you now, but I
brushed up against a dead animal, a creature to whose misery some
thoughtful soul had put an end, lying across a bench on Primrose

"No, sir, no. I didn't notice nothing. I scarcely touched you,

It seemed as if a power outside himself compelled Bunting to utter
these lying words. "And now, sir, I'll be saying good-night to you,"
he said.

Stepping back he pressed with all the strength that was in him
against the wall, and let the other pass him. There was a pause,
and then--"Good-night," returned Mr. Sleuth, in a hollow voice.
Bunting waited until the lodger had gone upstairs, and then,
lighting the gas, he sat down there, in the hall. Mr. Sleuth's
landlord felt very queer--queer and sick.

He did not draw his left hand out of his pocket till he heard Mr.
Sleuth shut the bedroom door upstairs. Then he held up his left
hand and looked at it curiously; it was flecked, streaked with
pale reddish blood.

Taking off his boots, he crept into the room where his wife lay
asleep. Stealthily he walked across to the wash-hand-stand, and
dipped a hand into the water-jug.

"Whatever are you doing? What on earth are you doing?" came a
voice from the bed, and Bunting started guiltily.

"I'm just washing my hands."

"Indeed, you're doing nothing of the sort! I never heard of such
a thing--putting your hand into the water in which I was going to
wash my face to-morrow morning!"

"I'm very sorry, Ellen," he said meekly; "I meant to throw it away.
You don't suppose I would have let you wash in dirty water, do you?"

She said no more, but, as he began undressing himself, Mrs. Bunting
lay staring at him in a way that made her husband feel even more
uncomfortable than he was already.

At last he got into bed. He wanted to break the oppressive silence
by telling Ellen about the sovereign the young lady had given him,
but that sovereign now seemed to Bunting of no more account than if
it had been a farthing he had picked up in the road outside.

Once more his wife spoke, and he gave so great a start that it shook
the bed.

"I suppose that you don't know that you've left the light burning in
the hall, wasting our good money?" she observed tartly.

He got up painfully and opened the door into the passage. It was as
she had said; the gas was flaring away, wasting their good money--or,
rather, Mr. Sleuth's good money. Since he had come to be their lodger
they had not had to touch their rent money.

Bunting turned out the light and groped his way back to the room, and
so to bed. Without speaking again to each other, both husband and
wife lay awake till dawn.

The next morning Mr. Sleuth's landlord awoke with a start; he felt
curiously heavy about the limbs, and tired about the eyes.

Drawing his watch from under his pillow, he saw that it was seven
o'clock. Without waking his wife, he got out of bed and pulled the
blind a little to one side. It was snowing heavily, and, as is the
way when it snows, even in London, everything was strangely,
curiously still. After he had dressed he went out into the passage.
As he had at once dreaded and hoped, their newspaper was already
lying on the mat. It was probably the sound of its being pushed
through the letter-box which had waked him from his unrestful

He picked the paper up and went into the sitting-room then,
shutting the door behind him carefully, he spread the newspaper
wide open on the table, and bent over it.

As Bunting at last looked up and straightened himself, an expression
of intense relief shone upon his stolid face. The item of news he
had felt certain would be printed in big type on the middle sheet
was not there.


Feeling amazingly light-hearted, almost light-headed, Bunting lit
the gas-ring to make his wife her morning cup of tea.

While he was doing it, he suddenly heard her call out:

"Bunting!" she cried weakly. "Bunting!" Quickly he hurried in
response to her call. "Yes," he said. "What is it, my dear? I
won't be a minute with your tea." And he smiled broadly, rather

She sat up and looked at him, a dazed expression on her face.

"What are you grinning at?" she asked suspiciously.

"I've had a wonderful piece of luck," he explained. "But you was
so cross last night that I simply didn't dare tell you about it."

"Well, tell me now," she said in a low voice.

"I had a sovereign given me by the young lady. You see, it was her
birthday party, Ellen, and she'd come into a nice bit of money, and
she gave each of us waiters a sovereign."

Mrs. Bunting made no comment. Instead, she lay back and closed her

"What time d'you expect Daisy?" she asked languidly. "You didn't
say what time Joe was going to fetch her, when we was talking about
it yesterday."

"Didn't I? Well, I expect they'll be in to dinner."

"I wonder, how long that old aunt of hers expects us to keep her?"
said Mrs. Bunting thoughtfully. All the cheer died out of Bunting's
round face. He became sullen and angry. It would be a pretty thing
if he couldn't have his own daughter for a bit--especially now that
they were doing so well!

"Daisy'll stay here just as long as she can," he said shortly.
"It's too bad of you, Ellen, to talk like that! She helps you all
she can; and she brisks us both up ever so much. Besides, 'twould
be cruel--cruel to take the girl away just now, just as she and
that young chap are making friends-like. One would suppose that
even you would see the justice o' that!"

But Mrs. Bunting made no answer.

Bunting went off, back into the sitting-room. The water was boiling
now, so he made the tea; and then, as he brought the little tray in,
his heart softened. Ellen did look really ill--ill and wizened.
He wondered if she had a pain about which she wasn't saying anything.
She had never been one to grouse about herself.

"The lodger and me came in together last night," he observed
genially. "He's certainly a funny kind of gentleman. It wasn't
the sort of night one would have chosen to go out for a walk, now
was it? And yet he must'a been out a long time if what he said
was true."

"I don't wonder a quiet gentleman like Mr. Sleuth hates the
crowded streets," she said slowly. "They gets worse every day--
that they do! But go along now; I want to get up."

He went back into their sitting-room, and, having laid the fire
and put a match to it, he sat down comfortably with his newspaper.

Deep down in his heart Bunting looked back to this last night with
a feeling of shame and self-rebuke. Whatever had made such horrible
thoughts and suspicions as had possessed him suddenly come into his
head? And just because of a trifling thing like that blood. No
doubt Mr. Sleuth's nose had bled--that was what had happened;
though, come to think of it, he had mentioned brushing up against
a dead animal.

Perhaps Ellen was right after all. It didn't do for one to be
always thinking of dreadful subjects, of murders and such-like. It
made one go dotty--that's what it did.

And just as he was telling himself that, there came to the door a
loud knock, the peculiar rat-tat-tat of a telegraph boy. But before
he had time to get across the room, let alone to the front door,
Ellen had rushed through the room, clad only in a petticoat and

"I'll go," she cried breathlessly. "I'll go, Bunting; don't you

He stared at her, surprised, and followed her into the hall.

She put out a hand, and hiding herself behind the door, took the
telegram from the invisible boy. "You needn't wait," she said.
"If there's an answer we'll send it out ourselves." Then she tore
the envelope open--"Oh!" she said with a gasp of relief. "It's
only from Joe Chandler, to say he can't go over to fetch Daisy this
morning. Then you'll have to go."

She walked back into their sitting-room. "There!" she said.
"There it is, Bunting. You just read it."

"Am on duty this morning. Cannot fetch Miss Daisy as arranged.--

"I wonder why he's on duty?" said Bunting slowly, uncomfortably.
"I thought Joe's hours was as regular as clockwork--that nothing
could make any difference to them. However, there it is. I suppose
it'll do all right if I start about eleven o'clock? It may have
left off snowing by then. I don't feel like going out again just
now. I'm pretty tired this morning."

"You start about twelve," said his wife quickly.

"That'll give plenty of time."

The morning went on quietly, uneventfully. Bunting received a
letter from Old Aunt saying Daisy must come back next Monday, a
little under a week from now. Mr. Sleuth slept soundly, or, at
any rate, he made no sign of being awake; and though Mrs. Bunting
often, stopped to listen, while she was doing her room, there
came no sounds at all from overhead.

Scarcely aware that it was so, both Bunting and his wife felt more
cheerful than they had done for a long time. They had quite a
pleasant little chat when Mrs. Bunting came and sat down for a bit,
before going down to prepare Mr. Sleuth's breakfast.

"Daisy will be surprised to see you--not to say disappointed!" she
observed, and she could not help laughing a little to herself at
the thought. And when, at eleven, Bunting got up to go, she made
him stay on a little longer. "There's no such great hurry as that,"
she said good-temperedly. "It'll do quite well if you're there by
half-past twelve. I'll get dinner ready myself. Daisy needn't help
with that. I expect Margaret has worked her pretty hard."

But at last there came the moment when Bunting had to start, and
his wife went with him to the front door. It was still snowing,
less heavily, but still snowing. There were very few people coming
and going, and only just a few cabs and carts dragging cautiously
along through the slush.

Mrs. Bunting was still in the kitchen when there came a ring and a
knock at the door--a now very familiar ring and knock. "Joe thinks
Daisy's home again by now!" she said, smiling to herself.

Before the door was well open, she heard Chandler's voice. "Don't
be scared this time, Mrs. Bunting!" But though not exactly scared,
she did give a gasp of surprise. For there stood Joe, made up to
represent a public-house loafer; and he looked the part to perfection,
with his hair combed down raggedly over his forehead, his
seedy-looking, ill-fitting, dirty clothes, and greenish-black pot hat.

"I haven't a minute," he said a little breathlessly. "But I thought
I'd just run in to know if Miss Daisy was safe home again. You got

Book of the day: