Part 5 out of 5
my telegram all right? I couldn't send no other kind of message."
"She's not back yet. Her father hasn't been gone long after her."
Then, struck by a look in his eyes, "Joe, what's the matter?" she
There came a thrill of suspense in her voice, her face grew drawn,
while what little colour there was in it receded, leaving it very
"Well," he said. "Well, Mrs. Bunting, I've no business to say
anything about it--but I will tell you !"
He walked in and shut the door of the sitting-room carefully behind
him. "There's been another of 'em!" he whispered. "But this time
no one is to know anything about it--not for the present, I mean,"
he corrected himself hastily. "The Yard thinks we've got a clue--
and a good clue, too, this time."
"But where--and how?" faltered Mrs. Bunting.
"Well, 'twas just a bit of luck being able to keep it dark for the
present"--he still spoke in that stifled, hoarse whisper. "The
poor soul' was found dead on a bench on Primrose Hill. And just by
chance 'twas one of our fellows saw the body first. He was on his
way home, over Hampstead way. He knew where he'd be able to get an
ambulance quick, and he made a very clever, secret job of it. I
'spect he'll get promotion for that!"
"What about the clue?" asked Mrs. Bunting, with dry lips. "You said
there was a clue?"
"Well, I don't rightly understand about the clue myself. All I
knows is it's got something to do with a public-house, 'The Hammer
and Tongs,' which isn't far off there. They feels sure The Avenger
was in the bar just on closing-time."
And then Mrs. Bunting sat down. She felt better now. It was natural
the police should suspect a public-house loafer. "Then that's why you
wasn't able to go and fetch Daisy, I suppose?"
He nodded. "Mum's the word, Mrs. Bunting! It'll all be in the last
editions of the evening newspapers--it can't be kep' out. There'd be
too much of a row if 'twas!"
"Are you going off to that public-house now?" she asked.
"Yes, I am. I've got a awk'ard job--to try and worm something out
of the barmaid."
"Something out of the barmaid?" repeated Mrs. Bunting nervously.
"Why, whatever for?"
He came and stood close to her. "They think 'twas a gentleman," he
Mrs. Bunting stared at Chandler with a scared expression. "Whatever
makes them think such a silly thing as that?"
"Well, just before closing-time a very peculiar-looking gent, with a
leather bag in his hand, went into the bar and asked for a glass of
milk. And what d'you think he did? Paid for it with a sovereign!
He wouldn't take no change--just made the girl a present of it!
That's why the young woman what served him seems quite unwilling to
give him away. She won't tell now what he was like. She doesn't
know what he's wanted for, and we don't want her to know just yet.
That's one reason why nothing's being said public about it. But
there! I really must be going now. My time'll be up at three
o'clock. I thought of coming in on the way back, and asking you for
a cup o' tea, Mrs. Bunting."
"Do," she said. "Do, Joe. You'll be welcome," but there was no
welcome in her tired voice.
She let him go alone to the door, and then she went down to her
kitchen, and began cooking Mr. Sleuth's breakfast.
The lodger would be sure to ring soon; and then any minute Bunting
and Daisy might be home, and they'd want something, too. Margaret
always had breakfast even when "the family" were away, unnaturally
As she bustled about Mrs. Bunting tried to empty her mind of all
thought. But it is very difficult to do that when one is in a state
of torturing uncertainty. She had not dared to ask Chandler what
they supposed that man who had gone into the public-house was really
like. It was fortunate, indeed, that the lodger and that inquisitive
young chap had never met face to face.
At last Mr. Sleuth's bell rang--a quiet little tinkle. But when
she went up with his breakfast the lodger was not in his sitting-room.
Supposing him to be still in his bedroom, Mrs. Bunting put the cloth
on the table, and then she heard the sound of his footsteps coming
down the stairs, and her quick ears detected the slight whirring
sound which showed that the gas-stove was alight. Mr. Sleuth had
already lit the stove; that meant that he would carry out some
elaborate experiment this afternoon.
"Still snowing?" he said doubtfully. "How very, very quiet and
still London is when under snow, Mrs. Bunting. I have never known
it quite as quiet as this morning. Not a sound, outside or in. A
very pleasant change from the shouting which sometimes goes on in
the Marylebone Road."
"Yes," she said dully. "It's awful quiet to-day--too quiet to my
thinking. 'Tain't natural-like."
The outside gate swung to, making a noisy clatter in the still air.
"Is that someone coming in here?" asked Mr. Sleuth, drawing a quick,
hissing breath. "Perhaps you will oblige me by going to the window
and telling me who it is, Mrs. Bunting?"
And his landlady obeyed him.
"It's only Bunting, sir--Bunting and his daughter."
"Oh! Is that all?"
Mr. Sleuth hurried after her, and she shrank back a little. She
had never been quite so near to the lodger before, save on that
first day when she had been showing him her rooms.
Side by side they stood, looking out of the window. And, as if
aware that someone was standing there, Daisy turned her bright face
up towards the window and smiled at her stepmother, and at the
lodger, whose face she could only dimly discern.
"A very sweet-looking young girl," said Mr. Sleuth thoughtfully.
And then he quoted a little bit of poetry, and this took Mrs.
Bunting very much aback.
"Wordsworth," he murmured dreamily. "A poet too little read
nowadays, Mrs. Bunting; but one with a beautiful feeling for nature,
for youth, for innocence."
"Indeed, sir?" Mrs. Bunting stepped back a little. "Your breakfast
will be getting cold, sir, if you don't have it now."
He went back to the table, obediently, and sat down as a child
rebuked might have done.
And then his landlady Left him.
"Well?" said Bunting cheerily. "Everything went off quite all right.
And Daisy's a lucky girl--that she is! Her Aunt Margaret gave her
But Daisy did not look as pleased as her father thought she ought
"I hope nothing's happened to Mr. Chandler," she said a little
disconsolately. "The very last words he said to me last night was
that he'd be there at ten o'clock. I got quite fidgety as the time
went on and he didn't come."
"He's been here," said Mrs. Bunting slowly.
"Been here?" cried her husband. "Then why on earth didn't he go and
fetch Daisy, if he'd time to come here?"
"He was on the way to his job," his wife answered. "You run along,
child, downstairs. Now that you are here you can make yourself
And Daisy reluctantly obeyed. She wondered what it was her
stepmother didn't want her to hear.
"I've something to tell you, Bunting."
"Yes?" He looked across uneasily. "Yes, Ellen?"
"There's been another o' those murders. But the police don't want
anyone to know about it--not yet. That's why Joe couldn't go over
and fetch Daisy. They're all on duty again."
Bunting put out his hand and clutched hold of the edge of the
mantelpiece. He had gone very red, but his wife was far too much
concerned with her own feelings and sensations to notice it.
There was a long silence between them. Then he spoke, making a
great effort to appear unconcerned.
"And where did it happen?" he asked. "Close to the other one?"
She hesitated, then: "I don't know. He didn't say. But hush!"
she added quickly. "Here's Daisy! Don't let's talk of that horror
in front of her-like. Besides, I promised Chandler I'd be mum."
And he acquiesced.
"You can be laying the cloth, child, while I go up and clear away
the lodger's breakfast." Without waiting for an answer, she hurried
Mr. Sleuth had left the greater part of the nice lemon sole untouched.
"I don't feel well to-day," he said fretfully. "And, Mrs. Bunting?
I should be much obliged if your husband would lend me that paper I
saw in his hand. I do not often care to look at the public prints,
but I should like to do so now."
She flew downstairs. "Bunting," she said a little breathlessly,
"the lodger would like you just to lend him the Sun."
Bunting handed it over to her. "I've read it through," he observed.
"You can tell him that I don't want it back again."
On her way up she glanced down at the pink sheet. Occupying a third
of the space was an irregular drawing, and under it was written, in
rather large characters:
"We are glad to be able to present our readers with an authentic
reproduction of the footprint of the half-worn rubber sole which
was almost certainly worn by The Avenger when he committed his
double murder ten days ago."
She went into the sitting-room. To her relief it was empty.
"Kindly put the paper down on the table," came Mr. Sleuth's muffled
voice from the upper landing.
She did so. "Yes, sir. And Bunting don't want the paper back
again, sir. He says he's read it." And then she hurried out of
All afternoon it went on snowing; and the three of them sat there,
listening and waiting--Bunting and his wife hardly knew for what;
Daisy for the knock which would herald Joe Chandler.
And about four there came the now familiar sound.
Mrs. Bunting hurried out into the passage, and as she opened the
front door she whispered, "We haven't said anything to Daisy yet.
Young girls can't keep secrets."
Chandler nodded comprehendingly. He now looked the low character
he had assumed to the life, for he was blue with cold, disheartened,
and tired out.
Daisy gave a little cry of shocked surprise, of amusement, of
welcome, when she saw how cleverly he was disguised.
"I never!" she exclaimed. "What a difference it do make, to be
sure! Why, you looks quite horrid, Mr. Chandler."
And, somehow, that little speech of hers amused her father so much
that he quite cheered up. Bunting had been very dull and quiet
all that afternoon.
"It won't take me ten minutes to make myself respectable again,"
said the young man rather ruefully.
His host and hostess, looking at him eagerly, furtively, both came
to the conclusion that he had been unsuccessful--that he had failed,
that is, in getting any information worth having. And though, in a
sense, they all had a pleasant tea together, there was an air of
constraint, even of discomfort, over the little party.
Bunting felt it hard that he couldn't ask the questions that were
trembling on his lips; he would have felt it hard any time during
the last month to refrain from knowing anything Joe could tell him,
but now it seemed almost intolerable to be in this queer kind of
half suspense. There was one important fact he longed to know,
and at last came his opportunity of doing so, for Joe Chandler rose
to leave, and this time it was Bunting who followed him out into
"Where did it happen?" he whispered. "Just tell me that, Joe?"
"Primrose Hill," said the other briefly. "You'll know all about it
in a minute or two, for it'll be all in the last editions of the
evening papers. That's what's been arranged."
"No arrest I suppose?"
Chandler shook his head despondently. "No," he said, "I'm inclined
to think the Yard was on a wrong tack altogether this time. But one
can only do one's best. I don't know if Mrs. Bunting told you I'd
got to question a barmaid about a man who was in her place just
before closing-time. Well, she's said all she knew, and it's as
clear as daylight to me that the eccentric old gent she talks about
was only a harmless luny. He gave her a sovereign just because she
told him she was a teetotaller!" He laughed ruefully.
Even Bunting was diverted at the notion. "Well, that's a queer
thing for a barmaid to be!" he exclaimed. "She's niece to the people
what keeps the public," explained Chandler; and then he went out of
the front door with a cheerful "So long!"
When Bunting went back into the sitting-room Daisy had disappeared.
She had gone downstairs with the tray. "Where's my girl?" he said
"She's just taken the tray downstairs."
He went out to the top of the kitchen stairs, and called out sharply,
"Daisy! Daisy, child! Are you down there?"
"Yes, father," came her eager, happy voice.
"Better come up out of that cold kitchen."
He turned and came back to his wife. "Ellen, is the lodger in? I
haven't heard him moving about. Now mind what I says, please! I
don't want Daisy to be mixed up with him."
"Mr. Sleuth don't seem very well to-day," answered Mrs. Bunting
quietly. "'Tain't likely I should let Daisy have anything to do
with him. Why, she's never even seen him. 'Tain't likely I should
allow her to begin waiting on him now."
But though she was surprised and a little irritated by the tone in
which Bunting had spoken, no glimmer of the truth illumined her mind.
So accustomed had she become to bearing alone the burden of her awful
secret, that it would have required far more than a cross word or
two, far more than the fact that Bunting looked ill and tired, for
her to have come to suspect that her secret was now shared by another,
and that other her husband.
Again and again the poor soul had agonised and trembled at the
thought of her house being invaded by the police, but that was only
because she had always credited the police with supernatural powers
of detection. That they should come to know the awful fact she kept
hidden in her breast would have seemed to her, on the whole, a
natural thing, but that Bunting should even dimly suspect it appeared
beyond the range of possibility.
And yet even Daisy noticed a change in her father. He sat cowering
over the fire--saying nothing, doing nothing.
"Why, father, ain't you well?" the girl asked more than once.
And, looking up, he would answer, "Yes, I'm well enough, nay girl,
but I feels cold. It's awful cold. I never did feel anything like
the cold we've got just now."
* * *
At eight the now familiar shouts and cries began again outside.
"The Avenger again!" "Another horrible crime!" "Extra speshul
edition!"--such were the shouts, the exultant yells, hurled through
the clear, cold air. They fell, like bombs into the quiet room.
Both Bunting and his wife remained silent, but Daisy's cheeks grew
pink with excitement, and her eye sparkled.
"Hark, father! Hark, Ellen! D'you hear that?" she exclaimed
childishly, and even clapped her hands. "I do wish Mr. Chandler
had been here. He would 'a been startled!"
"Don't, Daisy!" and Bunting frowned.
Then, getting up, he stretched himself. "It's fair getting on my
mind," he said, "these horrible things happening. I'd like to get
right away from London, just as far as I could--that I would!"
"Up to John-o'-Groat's?" said Daisy, laughing. And then, "Why,
father, ain't you going out to get a paper?"
"Yes, I suppose I must."
Slowly he went out of the room, and, lingering a moment in the hall,
he put on his greatcoat and hat. Then he opened the front door,
and walked down the flagged path. Opening the iron gate, he stepped
out on the pavement, then crossed the road to where the newspaper-boys
The boy nearest to him only had the Sun--a late edition of the paper
he had already read. It annoyed Bunting to give a penny for a
ha'penny rag of which he already knew the main contents. But there
was nothing else to do.
Standing under a lamp-post, he opened out the newspaper. It was
bitingly cold; that, perhaps, was why his hand shook as he looked
down at the big headlines. For Bunting had been very unfair to the
enterprise of the editor of his favourite evening paper. This
special edition was full of new matter--new matter concerning
First, in huge type right across the page, was the brief statement
that The Avenger had now committed his ninth crime, and that he had
chosen quite a new locality, namely, the lonely stretch of rising
ground known to Londoners as Primrose Hill.
"The police." so Bunting read, "are very reserved as to the
circumstances which led to the finding of the body of The Avenger's
latest victim. But we have reason to believe that they possess
several really important clues, and that one of them is concerned
with the half-worn rubber sole of which we are the first to reproduce
an outline to-day. (See over page.)"
And Bunting, turning the sheet round about, saw the irregular outline
he had already seen in the early edition of the Sun, that purporting
to be a facsimile of the imprint left by The Avenger's rubber sole.
He stared down at the rough outline which took up so much of the
space which should have been devoted to reading matter with a queer,
sinking feeling of terrified alarm. Again and again criminals had
been tracked by the marks their boots or shoes had made at or near
the scenes of their misdoings.
Practically the only job Bunting did in his own house of a menial
kind was the cleaning of the boots and shoes. He had already
visualised early this very afternoon the little row with which he
dealt each morning--first came his wife's strong, serviceable
boots, then his own two pairs, a good deal patched and mended, and
next to his own Mr. Sleuth's strong, hardly worn, and expensive
buttoned boots. Of late a dear little coquettish high-heeled pair
of outdoor shoes with thin, paperlike soles, bought by Daisy for
her trip to London, had ended the row. The girl had worn these
thin shoes persistently, in defiance of Ellen's reproof and advice,
and he, Bunting, had only once had to clean her more sensible
country pair, and that only because the others had become wet though
the day he and she had accompanied young Chandler to Scotland Yard.
Slowly he returned across the road. Somehow the thought of going
in again, of hearing his wife's sarcastic comments, of parrying
Daisy's eager questions, had become intolerable. So he walked
slowly, trying to put off the evil moment when he would have to tell
them what was in his paper.
The lamp under which he had stood reading was not exactly opposite
the house. It was rather to the right of it. And when, having
crossed over the roadway, he walked along the pavement towards his
own gate, he heard odd, shuffling sounds coming from the inner side
of the low wall which shut off his little courtyard from the pavement.
Now, under ordinary circumstances Bunting would have rushed forward
to drive out whoever was there. He and his wife had often had
trouble, before the cold weather began, with vagrants seeking shelter
there. But to-night he stayed outside, listening intently, sick
with suspense and fear.
Was it possible that their place was being watched--already? He
thought it only too likely. Bunting, like Mrs. Bunting, credited
the police with almost supernatural powers, especially since he
had paid that visit to Scotland Yard.
But to Bunting's amazement, and, yes, relief, it was his lodger who
suddenly loomed up in the dim light.
Mr. Sleuth must have been stooping down, for his tall, lank form
had been quite concealed till he stepped forward from behind the
low wall on to the flagged path leading to the front door.
The lodger was carrying a brown paper parcel, and, as he walked
along, the new boots he was wearing creaked, and the tap-tap of
hard nail-studded heels rang out on the flat-stones of the narrow
Bunting, still standing outside the gate, suddenly knew what it was
his lodger had been doing on the other side of the low wall. Mr.
Sleuth had evidently been out to buy himself another pair of new
boots, and then be had gone inside the gate and had put them on,
placing his old footgear in the paper in which the new pair had
The ex-butler waited--waited quite a long time, not only until Mr.
Sleuth had let himself into the house, but till the lodger had had
time to get well away, upstairs.
Then he also walked up the flagged pathway, and put his latchkey in
the door. He lingered as long over the job of hanging his hat and
coat up in the hall as he dared, in fact till his wife called out
to him. Then he went in, and throwing the paper down on the table,
he said sullenly: "There it is! You can see it all for yourself--
not that there's very much to see," and groped his way to the fire.
His wife looked at him in sharp alarm. "Whatever have you done to
yourself?" she exclaimed. "You're ill--that's what it is, Bunting.
You got a chill last night!"
"I told you I'd got a chill," he muttered. "'Twasn't last night,
though; 'twas going out this morning, coming back in the bus.
Margaret keeps that housekeeper's room o' hers like a hothouse--
that's what she does. 'Twas going out from there into the biting
wind, that's what did for me. It must be awful to stand about in
such weather; 'tis a wonder to me how that young fellow, Joe Chandler,
can stand the life--being out in all weathers like he is."
Bunting spoke at random, his one anxiety being to get away from what
was in the paper, which now lay, neglected, on the table.
"Those that keep out o' doors all day never do come to no harm,"
said his wife testily. "But if you felt so bad, whatever was you
out so long for, Bunting? I thought you'd gone away somewhere!
D'you mean you only went to get the paper?"
"I just stopped for a second to look at it under the lamp," he
"That was a silly thing to do!"
"Perhaps it was," he admitted meekly.
Daisy had taken up the paper. "Well, they don't say much," she
said disappointedly. "Hardly anything at all! But perhaps Mr.
Chandler 'll be in soon again. If so, he'll tell us more about it."
"A young girl like you oughtn't to want to know anything about
murders," said her stepmother severely. "Joe won't think any the
better of you for your inquisitiveness about such things. If I
was you, Daisy, I shouldn't say nothing about it if he does come in
--which I fair tell you I hope he won't. I've seen enough of that
young chap to-day."
"He didn't come in for long--not to-day," said Daisy, her lip
"I can tell you one thing that'll surprise you, my dear"--Mrs.
Bunting looked significantly at her step-daughter. She also wanted
to get away from that dread news--which yet was no news.
"Yes?" said Daisy, rather defiantly. "What is it, Ellen?"
"Maybe you'll be surprised to hear that Joe did come in this morning.
He knew all about that affair then, but he particular asked that
you shouldn't be told anything about it."
"Never!" cried Daisy, much mortified.
"Yes," went on her stepmother ruthlessly. "You just ask your father
over there if it isn't true."
"'Tain't a healthy thing to speak overmuch about such happenings,"
said Bunting heavily.
"If I was Joe," went on Mrs. Bunting, quickly pursuing her advantage,
"I shouldn't want to talk about such horrid things when I comes in
to have a quiet chat with friends. But the minute he comes in that
poor young chap is set upon--mostly, I admit, by your father," she
looked at her husband severely. "But you does your share, too,
Daisy! You asks him this, you asks him that--he's fair puzzled
sometimes. It don't do to be so inquisitive."
And perhaps because of this little sermon on Mrs. Bunting's part
when young Chandler did come in again that evening, very little was
said of the new Avenger murder.
Bunting made no reference to it at all, and though Daisy said a
word, it was but a word. And Joe Chandler thought he had never
spent a pleasanter evening in his life--for it was he and Daisy
who talked all the time, their elders remaining for the most part
Daisy told of all that she had done with Aunt Margaret. She
described the long, dull hours and the queer jobs her aunt set her
to do--the washing up of all the fine drawing-room china in a big
basin lined with flannel, and how terrified she (Daisy) had been
lest there should come even one teeny little chip to any of it.
Then she went on to relate some of the funny things Aunt Margaret
had told her about "the family."
There came a really comic tale, which hugely interested and delighted
Chandler. This was of how Aunt Margaret's lady had been taken in by
an impostor--an impostor who had come up, just as she was stepping
out of her carriage, and pretended to have a fit on the doorstep.
Aunt Margaret's lady, being a soft one, had insisted on the man
coming into the hall, where he had been given all kinds of
restoratives. When the man had at last gone off, it was found that
he had "wolfed" young master's best walking-stick, one with a fine
tortoise-shell top to it. Thus had Aunt Margaret proved to her lady
that the man had been shamming, and her lady had been very angry--
near had a fit herself!
"There's a lot of that about," said Chandler, laughing.
"Incorrigible rogues and vagabonds--that's what those sort of people
And then he, in his turn, told an elaborate tale of an exceptionally
clever swindler whom he himself had brought to book. He was very
proud of that job, it had formed a white stone in his career as a
detective. And even Mrs. Bunting was quite interested to hear about
Chandler was still sitting there when Mr. Sleuth's bell rang. For
awhile no one stirred; then Bunting looked questioningly at his wife.
"Did you hear that?" he said. "I think, Ellen, that was the lodger's
She got up, without alacrity, and went upstairs.
"I rang," said Mr. Sleuth weakly, "to tell you I don't require any
supper to-night, Mrs. Bunting. Only a glass of milk, with a lump
of sugar in it. That is all I require--nothing more. I feel very
very far from well"--and he had a hunted, plaintive expression on
his face. "And then I thought your husband would like his paper
back again, Mrs. Bunting."
Mrs. Bunting, looking at him fixedly, with a sad intensity of gaze
of which she was quite unconscious, answered, "Oh, no, sir!
Bunting don't require that paper now. He read it all through."
Something impelled her to add, ruthlessly, "He's got another paper
by now, sir. You may have heard them come shouting outside. Would
you like me to bring you up that other paper, sir?"
And Mr. Sleuth shook his head. "No," he said querulously. "I much
regret now having asked for the one paper I did read, for it
disturbed me, Mrs. Bunting. There was nothing of any value in it--
there never is in any public print. I gave up reading newspapers
years ago, and I much regret that I broke though my rule to-day."
As if to indicate to her that he did not wish for any more
conversation, the lodger then did what he had never done before in
his landlady's presence. He went over to the fireplace and
deliberately turned his back on her.
She went down and brought up the glass of milk and the lump of
sugar he had asked for.
Now he was in his usual place, sitting at the table, studying the
When Mrs. Bunting went back to the others they were chatting
merrily. She did not notice that the merriment was confined to the
two young people.
"Well?" said Daisy pertly. "How about the lodger, Ellen? Is he
"Yes," she said stiffly. "Of course he is!"
"He must feel pretty dull sitting up there all by himself--awful
lonely-like, I call it," said the girl.
But her, stepmother remained silent.
"Whatever does he do with himself all day?" persisted Daisy.
"Just now he's reading the Bible," Mrs. Bunting answered, shortly
"Well, I never! That's a funny thing for a gentleman to do!"
And Joe, alone of her three listeners, laughed--a long hearty peal
"There's nothing to laugh at," said Mrs. Bunting sharply. "I should
feel ashamed of being caught laughing at anything connected with the
And poor Joe became suddenly quite serious. This was the first time
that Mrs. Bunting had ever spoken really nastily to him, and he
answered very humbly, "I beg pardon. I know I oughtn't to have
laughed at anything to do with the Bible, but you see, Miss Daisy
said it so funny-like, and, by all accounts, your lodger must be a
queer card, Mrs. Bunting."
"He's no queerer than many people I could mention," she said quickly;
and with these enigmatic words she got up, and left the room.
Each hour of the days that followed held for Bunting its full meed
of aching fear and suspense.
The unhappy man was ever debating within himself what course he
should pursue, and, according to his mood and to the state of his
mind at any particular moment, he would waver between various
widely-differing lines of action.
He told himself again and again, and with fretful unease, that the
most awful thing about it all was that he wasn't sure. If only he
could have been sure, he might have made up his mind exactly what
it was he ought to do.
But when telling himself this he was deceiving himself, and he was
vaguely conscious of the fact; for, from Bunting's point of view,
almost any alternative would have been preferable to that which to
some, nay, perhaps to most, householders would have seemed the only
thing to do, namely, to go to the police. But Londoners of Bunting's
class have an uneasy fear of the law. To his mind it would be ruin
for him and for his Ellen to be mixed up publicly in such a terrible
affair. No one concerned in the business would give them and their
future a thought, but it would track them to their dying day, and,
above all, it would make it quite impossible for them ever to get
again into a good joint situation. It was that for which Bunting,
in his secret soul, now longed with all his heart.
No, some other way than going to the police must be found--and he
racked his slow brain to find it.
The worst of it was that every hour that went by made his future
course more difficult and more delicate, and increased the awful
weight on his conscience.
If only he really knew! If only he could feel quite sure! And
then he would tell himself that, after all, he had very little to
go upon; only suspicion--suspicion, and a secret, horrible
certainty that his suspicion was justified.
And so at last Bunting began to long for a solution which he knew
to be indefensible from every point of view; he began to hope, that
is, in the depths of his heart, that the ledger would again go out
one evening on his horrible business and be caught--red-handed.
But far from going out on any business, horrible or other, Mr.
Sleuth now never went out at all. He kept upstairs, and often spent
quite a considerable part of his day in bed. He still felt, so he
assured Mrs. Bunting, very far from well. He had never thrown off
the chill he had caught on that bitter night he and his landlord
had met on their several ways home.
Joe Chandler, too, had become a terrible complication to Daisy's
father. The detective spent every waking hour that he was not on
duty with the Buntings; and Bunting, who at one time had liked him
so well and so cordially, now became mortally afraid of him.
But though the young man talked of little else than The Avenger,
and though on one evening he described at immense length the
eccentric-looking gent who had given the barmaid a sovereign,
picturing Mr. Sleuth with such awful accuracy that both Bunting and
Mrs. Bunting secretly and separately turned sick when they listened
to him, he never showed the slightest interest in their lodger.
At last there came a morning when Bunting and Chandler held a strange
conversation about The Avenger. The young fellow had come in earlier
than usual, and just as he arrived Mrs. Bunting and Daisy were
starting out to do some shopping. The girl would fain have stopped
behind, but her stepmother had given her a very peculiar, disagreeable
look, daring her, so to speak, to be so forward, and Daisy had gone
on with a flushed, angry look on her pretty face.
And then, as young Chandler stepped through into the sitting-room,
it suddenly struck Bunting that the young man looked unlike himself
--indeed, to the ex-butler's apprehension there was something almost
threatening in Chandler's attitude.
"I want a word with you, Mr. Bunting," he began abruptly, falteringly.
"And I'm glad to have the chance now that Mrs. Bunting and Miss Daisy
Bunting braced himself to hear the awful words--the accusation of
having sheltered a murderer, the monster whom all the world was
seeking, under his roof. And then he remembered a phrase, a
horrible legal phrase--"Accessory after the fact." Yes, he had
been that, there wasn't any doubt about it!
"Yes?" he said. "What is it, Joe?" and then the unfortunate man
sat down in his chair. "Yes?" he said again uncertainly; for young
Chandler had now advanced to the table, he was looking at Bunting
fixedly--the other thought threateningly. "Well, out with it,
Joe! Don't keep me in suspense."
And then a slight smile broke over the young man's face. "I don't
think what I've got to say can take you by surprise, Mr. Bunting."
And Bunting wagged his head in a way that might mean anything--yes
or no, as the case might be.
The two men looked at one another for what seemed a very, very long
time to the elder of them. And then, making a great effort, Joe
Chandler brought out the words, "Well, I suppose you know what it
is I want to talk about. I'm sure Mrs. Bunting would, from a look
or two she's lately cast on me. It's your daughter--it's Miss
And then Bunting gave a kind of cry, 'twixt a sob and a laugh.
"My girl?" he cried. "Good Lord, Joe! Is that all you wants to
talk about? Why, you fair frightened me--that you did!"
And, indeed, the relief was so great that the room swam round as
he stared across it at his daughter's lover, that lover who was
also the embodiment of that now awful thing to him, the law. He
smiled, rather foolishly, at his visitor; and Chandler felt a sharp
wave of irritation, of impatience sweep over his good-natured soul.
Daisy's father was an old stupid--that's what he was.
And then Bunting grew serious. The room ceased to go round. "As
far as I'm concerned," he said, with a good deal of solemnity, even
a little dignity, "you have my blessing, Joe. You're a very likely
young chap, and I had a true respect for your father."
"Yes," said Chandler, "that's very kind of you, Mr. Bunting. But
how about her--her herself?"
Bunting stared at him. It pleased him to think that Daisy hadn't
given herself away, as Ellen was always hinting the girl was doing.
"I can't answer for Daisy," he said heavily. "You'll have to ask
her yourself--that's not a job any other man can do for you, my lad."
"I never gets a chance. I never sees her, not by our two selves,"
said Chandler, with some heat. "You don't seem to understand, Mr.
Bunting, that I never do see Miss Daisy alone," he repeated. "I
hear now that she's going away Monday, and I've only once had the
chance of a walk with her. Mrs. Bunting's very particular, not to
say pernickety in her ideas, Mr. Bunting--"
"That's a fault on the right side, that is--with a young girl,"
said Bunting thoughtfully.
And Chandler nodded. He quite agreed that as regarded other young
chaps Mrs. Bunting could not be too particular.
"She's been brought up like a lady, my Daisy has," went on Bunting,
with some pride. "That Old Aunt of hers hardly lets her out of her
"I was coming to the old aunt," said Chandler heavily. "Mrs.
Bunting she talks as if your daughter was going to stay with that
old woman the whole of her natural life--now is that right? That's
what I wants to ask you, Mr. Bunting,--is that right?"
"I'll say a word to Ellen, don't you fear," said Bunting abstractedly.
His mind had wandered off, away from Daisy and this nice young chap,
to his now constant anxious preoccupation. "You come along
to-morrow," he said, "and I'll see you gets your walk with Daisy.
It's only right you and she should have a chance of seeing one
another without old folk being by; else how's the girl to tell
whether she likes you or not! For the matter of that, you hardly
knows her, Joe--" He looked at the young man consideringly.
Chandler shook his head impatiently. "I knows her quite as well as
I wants to know her," he said. "I made up my mind the very first
time I see'd her, Mr. Bunting."
"No! Did you really?" said Bunting. "Well, come to think of it,
I did so with her mother; aye, and years after, with Ellen, too.
But I hope you'll never want no second, Chandler,"
"God forbid!" said the young man under his breath. And then he
asked, rather longingly, "D'you think they'll be out long now, Mr.
And Bunting woke up to a due sense of hospitality. "Sit down, sit
down; do!" he said hastily. "I don't believe they'll be very long.
They've only got a little bit of shopping to do."
And then, in a changed, in a ringing, nervous tone, he asked, "And
how about your job, Joe? Nothing new, I take it? I suppose you're
all just waiting for the next time?"
"Aye--that's about the figure of it." Chandler's voice had also
changed; it was now sombre, menacing. "We're fair tired of it--
beginning to wonder when it'll end, that we are!"
"Do you ever try and make to yourself a picture of what the master's
like?" asked Bunting. Somehow, he felt he must ask that.
"Yes," said Joe slowly. "I've a sort of notion--a savage,
fierce-looking devil, the chap must be. It's that description that
was circulated put us wrong. I don't believe it was the man that
knocked up against that woman in the fog--no, not one bit I don't.
But I wavers, I can't quite make up my mind. Sometimes I think it's
a sailor--the foreigner they talks about, that goes away for eight
or nine days in between, to Holland maybe, or to France. Then,
again, I says to myself that it's a butcher, a man from the Central
Market. Whoever it is, it's someone used to killing, that's flat."
"Then it don't seem to you possible--?" (Bunting got up and walked
over to the window.) "You don't take any stock, I suppose, in that
idea some of the papers put out, that the man is"--then he
hesitated and brought out, with a gasp--"a gentleman?"
Chandler looked at him, surprised. "No," he said deliberately.
"I've made up my mind that's quite a wrong tack, though I knows that
some of our fellows--big pots, too--are quite sure that the fellow
what gave the girl the sovereign is the man we're looking for. You
see, Mr. Bunting, if that's the fact--well, it stands to reason the
fellow's an escaped lunatic; and if he's an escaped lunatic he's got
a keeper, and they'd be raising a hue and cry after him; now,
"You don't think," went on Bunting, lowering his voice, "that he
could be just staying somewhere, lodging like?"
"D'you mean that The Avenger may be a toff, staying in some
West-end hotel, Mr. Bunting? Well, things almost as funny as that
'ud be have come to pass." He smiled as if the notion was a funny
"Yes, something o' that sort," muttered Bunting.
"Well, if your idea's correct, Mr. Bunting--"
"I never said 'twas my idea," said Bunting, all in a hurry.
"Well, if that idea's correct then, 'twill make our task more
difficult than ever. Why, 'twould be looking for a needle in a
field of hay, Mr. Bunting! But there! I don't think it's
anything quite so unlikely as that--not myself I don't." He
hesitated. "There's some of us"--he lowered his voice--"that
hopes he'll betake himself off--The Avenger, I mean--to another
big city, to Manchester or to Edinburgh. There'd be plenty of
work for him to do there," and Chandler chuckled at his own grim
And then, to both men's secret relief, for Bunting was now
mortally afraid of this discussion concerning The Avenger and
his doings, they heard Mrs. Bunting's key in the lock.
Daisy blushed rosy-red with pleasure when she saw that young
Chandler was still there. She had feared that when they got home
he would be gone, the more so that Ellen, just as if she was doing
it on purpose, had lingered aggravatingly long over each small
"Here's Joe come to ask if he can take Daisy out for a walk,"
blurted out Bunting.
"My mother says as how she'd like you to come to tea, over at
Richmond," said Chandler awkwardly, "I just come in to see whether
we could fix it up, Miss Daisy." And Daisy looked imploringly at
"D'you mean now--this minute?" asked Mrs. Bunting tartly.
"No, o' course not"--Bunting broke in hastily. "How you do go on,
"What day did your mother mention would be convenient to her?"
asked Mrs. Bunting, looking at the young man satirically.
Chandler hesitated. His mother had not mentioned any special day
--in fact, his mother had shown a surprising lack of anxiety to
see Daisy at all. But he had talked her round.
"How about Saturday?" suggested Bunting. "That's Daisy's' birthday.
'Twould be a birthday treat for her to go to Richmond, and she's
going back to Old Aunt on Monday."
"I can't go Saturday," said Chandler disconsolately. "I'm on duty
"Well, then, let it be Sunday," said Bunting firmly. And his wife
looked at him surprised; he seldom asserted himself so much in her
"What do you say, Miss Daisy?" said Chandler.
"Sunday would be very nice," said Daisy demurely. And then, as the
young man took up his hat, and as her stepmother did not stir, Daisy
ventured to go out into the hall with him for a minute.
Chandler shut the door behind them, and so was spared the hearing
of Mrs. Bunting's whispered remark: "When I was a young woman folk
didn't gallivant about on Sunday; those who was courting used to
go to church together, decent-like--"
Daisy's eighteenth birthday dawned uneventfully. Her father gave
her what he had always promised she should have on her eighteenth
birthday--a watch. It was a pretty little silver watch, which
Bunting had bought secondhand on the last day he had been happy--
it seemed a long, long time ago now.
Mrs. Bunting thought a silver watch a very extravagant present but
she was far too wretched, far too absorbed in her own thoughts, to
trouble much about it. Besides, in such matters she had generally
had the good sense not to interfere between her husband and his
In the middle of the birthday morning Bunting went out to buy
himself some more tobacco. He had never smoked so much as in the
last four days, excepting, perhaps, the week that had followed on
his leaving service. Smoking a pipe had then held all the exquisite
pleasure which we are told attaches itself to the eating of forbidden
His tobacco had now become his only relaxation; it acted on his
nerves as an opiate, soothing his fears and helping him to think.
But he had been overdoing it, and it was that which now made him
feel so "jumpy," so he assured himself, when he found himself
starting at any casual sound outside, or even when his wife spoke
to him suddenly.
Just now Ellen and Daisy were down in the kitchen, and Bunting
didn't quite like the sensation of knowing that there was only
one pair of stairs between Mr. Sleuth and himself. So he quietly
slipped out of the house without telling Ellen that he was going
In the last four days Bunting had avoided his usual haunts; above
all, he had avoided even passing the time of day to his
acquaintances and neighbours. He feared, with a great fear, that
they would talk to him of a subject which, because it filled his
mind to the exclusion of all else, might make him betray the
knowledge--no, not knowledge, rather the--the suspicion--that
dwelt within him.
But to-day the unfortunate man had a curious, instinctive longing
for human companionship--companionship, that is, other than that
of his wife and of his daughter.
This longing for a change of company finally led him into a small,
populous thoroughfare hard by the Edgeware Road. There were more
people there than usual just now, for the housewives of the
neighbourhood were doing their Saturday marketing for Sunday. The
ex-butler turned into a small old-fashioned shop where he generally
bought his tobacco.
Bunting passed the time of day with the tobacconist, and the two
fell into desultory talk, but to his customer's relief and surprise
the man made no allusion to the subject of which all the
neighbourhood must still be talking.
And then, quite suddenly, while still standing by the counter, and
before he had paid for the packet of tobacco he held in his hand,
Bunting, through the open door, saw with horrified surprise that
Ellen, his wife, was standing, alone, outside a greengrocer's shop
Muttering a word of apology, he rushed out of the shop and across
"Ellen!" he gasped hoarsely, "you've never gone and left my little
girl alone in the house with the lodger?"
Mrs. Bunting's face went yellow with fear. "I thought you was
indoors," she cried. "You was indoors! Whatever made you come out
for, without first making sure I'd stay in?"
Bunting made no answer; but, as they stared at each other in
exasperated silence, each now knew that the other knew.
They turned and scurried down the crowded street. "Don't run," he
said suddenly; "we shall get there just as quickly if we walk fast.
People are noticing you, Ellen. Don't run."
He spoke breathlessly, but it was breathlessness induced by fear
and by excitement, not by the quick pace at which they were walking.
At last they reached their own gate, and Bunting pushed past in
front of his wife.
After all, Daisy was his child; Ellen couldn't know how he was
He seemed to take the path in one leap, then fumbled for a moment
with his latchkey.
Opening wide the door, "Daisy!" he called out, in a wailing voice,
"Daisy, my dear! where are you?"
"Here I am, father. What is it?"
"She's all right." Bunting turned a grey face to his wife. "She's
all right, Ellen."
He waited a moment, leaning against the wall of the passage. "It
did give me a turn," he said, and then, warningly, "Don't frighten
the girl, Ellen."
Daisy was standing before the fire in their sitting room, admiring
herself in the glass.
"Oh, father," she exclaimed, without turning round, "I've seen the
lodger! He's quite a nice gentleman, though, to be sure, he does
look a cure. He rang his bell, but I didn't like to go up; and so
he came down to ask Ellen for something. We had quite a nice
little chat--that we had. I told him it was my birthday, and he
asked me and Ellen to go to Madame Tussaud's with him this
afternoon." She laughed, a little self-consciously. "Of course,
I could see he was 'centric, and then at first he spoke so funnily.
'And who be you?' he says, threatening-like. And I says to him,
'I'm Mr. Bunting's daughter, sir.' 'Then you're a very fortunate
girl '--that's what he says, Ellen--'to 'ave such a nice
step-mother as you've got. That's why,' he says, 'you look such
a good, innocent girl.' And then he quoted a bit of the Prayer
Book. 'Keep innocency,' he says, wagging his head at me. Lor'!
It made me feel as if I was with Old Aunt again."
"I won't have you going out with the lodger--that's flat."
Bunting spoke in a muffled, angry tone. He was wiping his forehead
with one hand, while with the other he mechanically squeezed the
little packet of tobacco, for which, as he now remembered, he had
forgotten to pay.
Daisy pouted. "Oh, father, I think you might let me have a treat
on my birthday! I told him that Saturday wasn't a very good day--
at least, so I'd heard--for Madame Tussaud's. Then he said we
could go early, while the fine folk are still having their dinners."
She turned to her stepmother, then giggled happily. "He particularly
said you was to come, too. The lodger has a wonderful fancy for you,
Ellen; if I was father, I'd feel quite jealous!"
Her last words were cut across by a tap-tap on the door.
Bunting and his wife looked at each other apprehensively. Was it
possible that, in their agitation, they had left the front door
open, and that someone, some merciless myrmidon of the law, had
crept in behind them?
Both felt a curious thrill of satisfaction when they saw that it
was only Mr. Sleuth--Mr. Sleuth dressed for going out; the tall
hat he had worn when he had first come to them was in his hand, but
he was wearing a coat instead of his Inverness cape.
"I heard you come in"--he addressed Mrs. Bunting in his high,
whistling, hesitating voice--"and so I've come down to ask you if
you and Miss Bunting will come to Madame Tussaud's now. I have
never seen those famous waxworks, though I've heard of the place
all my life."
As Bunting forced himself to look fixedly at his lodger, a sudden
doubt bringing with it a sense of immeasurable relief, came to
Mr. Sleuth's landlord.
Surely it was inconceivable that this gentle, mild-mannered
gentleman could be the monster of cruelty and cunning that Bunting
had now for the terrible space of four days believed him to be!
He tried to catch his wife's eye, but Mrs. Bunting was looking away,
staring into vacancy. She still, of course, wore the bonnet and
cloak in which she had just been out to do her marketing. Daisy
was already putting on her hat and coat.
"Well?" said Mr. Sleuth. Then Mrs. Bunting turned, and it seemed
to his landlady that he was looking at her threateningly. "Well?"
"Yes, sir. We'll come in a minute," she said dully.
Madame Tussaud's had hitherto held pleasant memories for Mrs. Bunting.
In the days when she and Bunting were courting they often spent there
part of their afternoon-out.
The butler had an acquaintance, a man named Hopkins, who was one of
the waxworks staff, and this man had sometimes given him passes for
"self and lady." But this was the first time Mrs. Bunting had been
inside the place since she had come to live almost next door, as it
were, to the big building.
They walked in silence to the familiar entrance, and then, after
the ill-assorted trio had gone up the great staircase and into the
first gallery, Mr. Sleuth suddenly stopped short. The presence of
those curious, still, waxen figures which suggest so strangely death
in life, seemed to surprise and affright him.
Daisy took quick advantage of the lodger's hesitation and unease.
"Oh, Ellen," she cried, "do let us begin by going into the Chamber
of Horrors! I've never been in there. Old Aunt made father promise
he wouldn't take me the only time I've ever been here. But now that
I'm eighteen I can do just as I like; besides, Old Aunt will never
Mr. Sleuth looked down at her, and a smile passed for a moment over
his worn, gaunt face.
"Yes," he said, "let us go into the Chamber of Horrors; that's a
good idea, Miss Bunting. I've always wanted to see the Chamber of
They turned into the great room in which the Napoleonic relics were
then kept, and which led into the curious, vault-like chamber where
waxen effigies of dead criminals stand grouped in wooden docks.
Mrs. Bunting was at once disturbed and relieved to see her husband's
old acquaintance, Mr. Hopkins, in charge of the turnstile admitting
the public to the Chamber of Horrors.
"Well, you are a stranger," the man observed genially. "I do believe
that this is the very first time I've seen you in here, Mrs. Bunting,
since you was married!"
"Yes," she said, "that is so. And this is my husband's daughter,
Daisy; I expect you've heard of her, Mr. Hopkins. And this"--she
hesitated a moment--"is our lodger, Mr. Sleuth."
But Mr. Sleuth frowned and shuffled away. Daisy, leaving her
stepmother's side, joined him.
Two, as all the world knows, is company, three is none. Mrs.
Bunting put down three sixpences.
"Wait a minute," said Hopkins; "you can't go into the Chamber of
Horrors just yet. But you won't have to wait more than four or
five minutes, Mrs. Bunting. It's this way, you see; our boss is
in there, showing a party round." He lowered his voice. "It's
Sir John Burney--I suppose you know who Sir John Burney is?"
"No," she answered indifferently, "I don't know that I ever heard
She felt slightly--oh, very sightly--uneasy about Daisy. She
would have liked her stepdaughter to keep well within sight and
sound, but Mr. Sleuth was now taking the girl down to the other
end of the room.
"Well, I hope you never will know him--not in any personal sense,
Mrs. Bunting." The man chuckled. "He's the Commissioner of Police
--the new one--that's what Sir John Burney is. One of the
gentlemen he's showing round our place is the Paris Police boss--
whose job is on all fours, so to speak, with Sir John's. The
Frenchy has brought his daughter with him, and there are several
other ladies. Ladies always likes horrors, Mrs. Bunting; that's
our experience here. 'Oh, take me to the Chamber of Horrors '--
that's what they say the minute they gets into this here building!"
Mrs. Bunting looked at him thoughtfully. It occurred to Mr. Hopkins
that she was very wan and tired; she used to look better in the old
days, when she was still in service, before Bunting married her.
"Yes," she said; "that's just what my stepdaughter said just now.
'Oh, take me to the Chamber of Horrors'--that's exactly what she
did say when we got upstairs."
A group of people, all talking and laughing together; were advancing,
from within the wooden barrier, toward the turnstile.
Mrs. Bunting stared at them nervously. She wondered which of them
was the gentleman with whom Mr. Hopkins had hoped she would never be
brought into personal contact; she thought she could pick him out
among the others. He was a tall, powerful, handsome gentleman, with
a military appearance.
Just now he was smiling down into the face of a young lady.
"Monsieur Barberoux is quite right," he was saying in a loud,
cheerful voice, "our English law is too kind to the criminal,
especially to the murderer. If we conducted our trials in the
French fashion, the place we have just left would be very much
fuller than it is to-day. A man of whose guilt we are absolutely
assured is oftener than not acquitted, and then the public taunt
us with 'another undiscovered crime!"'
"D'you mean, Sir John, that murderers sometimes escape scot-free?
Take the man who has been committing all these awful murders this
last month? I suppose there's no doubt he'll be hanged--if he's
ever caught, that is!"
Her girlish voice rang out, and Mrs. Bunting could hear every word
that was said.
The whole party gathered round, listening eagerly. "Well, no."
He spoke very deliberately. "I doubt if that particular murderer
ever will be hanged."
"You mean that you'll never catch him?" the girl spoke with a touch
of airy impertinence in her clear voice.
"I think we shall end by catching him--because"--he waited a moment,
then added in a lower voice--"now don't give me away to a newspaper
fellow, Miss Rose--because now I think we do know who the murderer
in question is--"
Several of those standing near by uttered expressions of surprise and
"Then why don't you catch him?" cried the girl indignantly.
"I didn't say we knew where he was; I only said we knew who he was,
or, rather, perhaps I ought to say that I personally have a very
strong suspicion of his identity."
Sir John's French colleague looked up quickly. "De Leipsic and
Liverpool man?" he said interrogatively.
The other nodded. "Yes, I suppose you've had the case turned up?"
Then, speaking very quickly, as if he wished to dismiss the subject
from his own mind, and from that of his auditors, he went on:
"Four murders of the kind were committed eight years ago--two in
Leipsic, the others, just afterwards, in Liverpool,--and there were
certain peculiarities connected with the crimes which made it clear
they were committed by the same hand. The perpetrator was caught,
fortunately for us, red-handed, just as he was leaving the house of
his last victim, for in Liverpool the murder was committed in a
house. I myself saw the unhappy man--I say unhappy, for there is
no doubt at all that he was mad "--he hesitated, and added in a
lower tone--"suffering from an acute form of religious mania.
I myself saw him, as I say, at some length. But now comes the really
interesting point. I have just been informed that a month ago this
criminal lunatic, as we must of course regard him, made his escape
from the asylum where he was confined. He arranged the whole
thing with extraordinary cunning and intelligence, and we should
probably have caught him long ago, were it not that he managed, when
on his way out of the place, to annex a considerable sum of money
in gold, with which the wages of the asylum staff were about to be
paid. It is owing to that fact that his escape was, very wrongly,
He stopped abruptly, as if sorry he had said so much, and a moment
later the party were walking in Indian file through the turnstile,
Sir John Burney leading the way.
Mrs. Bunting looked straight before her. She felt--so she
expressed it to her husband later--as if she had been turned to
Even had she wished to do so, she had neither the time nor the power
to warn her lodger of his danger, for Daisy and her companion were
now coming down the room, bearing straight for the Commissioner of
Police. In another moment Mrs. Bunting's lodger and Sir John Burney
were face to face.
Mr. Sleuth swerved to one side; there came a terrible change over
his pale, narrow face; it became discomposed, livid with rage and
But, to Mrs. Bunting's relief--yes, to her inexpressible relief
--Sir John Burney and his friends swept on. They passed Mr. Sleuth
and the girl by his side, unaware, or so it seemed to her, that
there was anyone else in the room but themselves.
"Hurry up, Mrs. Bunting," said the turnstile-keeper; "you and your
friends will have the place all to yourselves for a bit." From an
official he had become a man, and it was the man in Mr. Hopkins that
gallantly addressed pretty Daisy Bunting: "It seems strange that a
young lady like you should want to go in and see all those 'orrible
frights," he said jestingly.
"Mrs. Bunting, may I trouble you to come over here for a moment?"
The words were hissed rather than spoken by Mr. Sleuth's lips.
His landlady took a doubtful step towards him.
"A last word with you, Mrs. Bunting." The lodger's face was still
distorted with fear and passion. "Do not think to escape the
consequences of your hideous treachery. I trusted you, Mrs. Bunting,
and you betrayed me! Put I am protected by a higher power, for
I still have much to do." Then, his voice sinking to a whisper, he
hissed out "Your end will be bitter as wormwood and sharp as a
two-edged sword. Your feet shall go down to death, and your steps
take hold on hell."
Even while Mr. Sleuth was muttering these strange, dreadful words,
he was looking round, glancing this way and that, seeking a way of
At last his eyes became fixed on a small placard placed above a
curtain. "Emergency Exit" was written there. Mrs. Bunting thought
he was going to make a dash for the place; but Mr. Sleuth did
something very different. Leaving his landlady's side, he walked
over to the turnstile, he fumbled in his pocket for a moment, and
then touched the man on the arm. "I feel ill," he said, speaking
very rapidly; "very ill indeed! It is the atmosphere of this place.
I want you to let me out by the quickest way. It would be a pity
for me to faint here--especially with ladies about."
His left hand shot out and placed what he had been fumbling for in
his pocket on the other's bare palm. "I see there's an emergency
exit over there. Would it be possible for me to get out that way?"
"Well, yes, sir; I think so."
The man hesitated; he felt a slight, a very sight, feeling of
misgiving. He looked at Daisy, flushed and smiling, happy and
unconcerned, and then at Mrs. Bunting. She was very pale; but
surely her lodger's sudden seizure was enough to make her feel
worried. Hopkins felt the half-sovereign pleasantly tickling his
palm. The Paris Prefect of Police had given him only half-a-crown
--mean, shabby foreigner!
"Yes, sir; I can let you out that way," he said at last, "and p'raps
when you're standing out in the air, on the iron balcony, you'll feel
better. But then, you know, sir, you'll have to come round to the
front if you wants to come in again, for those emergency doors only
"Yes, yes," said Mr. Sleuth hurriedly. "I quite understand! If I
feel better I'll come in by the front way, and pay another shilling
--that's only fair."
"You needn't do that if you'll just explain what happened here."
The man went and pulled the curtain aside, and put his shoulder
against the door. It burst open, and the light, for a moment,
blinded Mr. Sleuth.
He passed his hand over his eyes. "Thank you," he muttered, "thank
you. I shall get all right out there."
An iron stairway led down into a small stable yard, of which the
door opened into a side street.
Mr. Sleuth looked round once more; he really did feel very ill--
ill and dazed. How pleasant it would be to take a flying leap over
the balcony railing and find rest, eternal rest, below.
But no--he thrust the thought the temptation, from him. Again a
convulsive look of rage came over his face. He had remembered his
landlady. How could the woman whom he had treated so generously have
betrayed him to his arch-enemy?--to the official, that is, who had
entered into a conspiracy years ago to have him confined--him, an
absolutely sane man with a great avenging work to do in the world--
in a lunatic asylum.
He stepped out into the open air, and the curtain, falling-to behind
him, blotted out the tall, thin figure from the little group of
people who had watched him disappear.
Even Daisy felt a little scared. "He did look bad, didn't he, now?"
she turned appealingly to Mr. Hopkins.
"Yes, that he did, poor gentleman--your lodger, too?" he looked
sympathetically at Mrs. Bunting.
She moistened her lips with her tongue. "Yes," she repeated dully,
In vain Mr. Hopkins invited Mrs. Bunting and her pretty stepdaughter
to step through into the Chamber of Horrors. "I think we ought to
go straight home," said Mr. Sleuth's landlady decidedly. And Daisy
meekly assented. Somehow the girl felt confused, a little scared by
the lodger's sudden disappearance. Perhaps this unwonted feeling of
hers was induced by the look of stunned surprise and, yes, pain, on
her step-mother's face.
Slowly they made their way out of the building, and when they got
home it was Daisy who described the strange way Mr. Sleuth had been
"I don't suppose he'll be long before he comes home," said Bunting
heavily, and he cast an anxious, furtive look at his wife. She
looked as if stricken in a vital part; he saw from her face that
there was something wrong--very wrong indeed.
The hours dragged on. All three felt moody and ill at ease. Daisy
knew there was no chance that young Chandler would come in to-day.
About six o'clock Mrs. Bunting went upstairs. She lit the gas in
Mr. Sleuth's sitting-room and looked about her with a fearful glance.
Somehow everything seemed to speak to her of the lodger, there lay
her Bible and his Concordance, side by side on the table, exactly
as he had left them, when he had come downstairs and suggested that
ill-starred expedition to his landlord's daughter. She took few
steps forward, listening the while anxiously for the familiar sound
of the click in the door which would tell her that the lodger had
come back, and then she went over to the window and looked out.
What a cold night for a man to be wandering about, homeless,
friendless, and, as she suspected with a pang, with but very little
money on him!
Turning abruptly, she went into the lodger's bedroom and opened the
drawer of the looking-glass.
Yes, there lay the much-diminished heap of sovereigns. If only he
had taken his money out with him! She wondered painfully whether he
had enough on his person to secure a good night's lodging, and then
suddenly she remembered that which brought relief to her mind. The
lodger had given something to that Hopkins fellow--either a sovereign
or half a sovereign, she wasn't sure which.
The memory of Mr. Sleuth's cruel words to her, of his threat, did
not disturb her overmuch. It had been a mistake--all a mistake.
Far from betraying Mr. Sleuth, she had sheltered him--kept his awful
secret as she could not have kept it had she known, or even dimly
suspected, the horrible fact with which Sir John Burney's words had
made her acquainted; namely, that Mr. Sleuth was victim of no
temporary aberration, but that he was, and had been for years, a
madman, a homicidal maniac.
In her ears there still rang the Frenchman's half careless yet
confident question, "De Leipsic and Liverpool man?"
Following a sudden impulse, she went back into the sitting-room,
and taking a black-headed pin out of her bodice stuck it amid the
leaves of the Bible. Then she opened the Book, and looked at the
page the pin had marked:--
"My tabernacle is spoiled and all my cords are broken . . .
There is none to stretch forth my tent any more and to set up my
At last leaving the Bible open, Mrs. Bunting went downstairs, and
as she opened the door of her sitting-room Daisy came towards her
"I'll go down and start getting the lodger's supper ready for you,"
said the girl good-naturedly. "He's certain to come in when he gets
hungry. But he did look upset, didn't he, Ellen? Right down bad--
that he did!"
Mrs. Bunting made no answer; she simply stepped aside to allow Daisy
to go down.
"Mr. Sleuth won't never come back no more," she said sombrely, and
then she felt both glad and angry at the extraordinary change which
came over her husband's face. Yet, perversely, that look of relief,
of right-down joy, chiefly angered her, and tempted her to add,
"That's to say, I don't suppose he will."
And Bunting's face altered again; the old, anxious, depressed look,
the look it had worn the last few days, returned.
"What makes you think he mayn't come back?" he muttered.
"Too long to tell you now," she said. "Wait till the child's gone
And Bunting had to restrain his curiosity.
And then, when at last Daisy had gone off to the back room where
she now slept with her stepmother, Mrs. Bunting beckoned to her
husband to follow her upstairs.
Before doing so he went down the passage and put the chain on the
door. And about this they had a few sharp whispered words.
"You're never going to shut him out?" she expostulated angrily,
beneath her breath.
"I'm not going to leave Daisy down here with that man perhaps
walking in any minute."
"Mr. Sleuth won't hurt Daisy, bless you! Much more likely to hurt
me," and she gave a half sob.
Bunting stared at her. "What do you mean?" he said roughly.
"Come upstairs and tell me what you mean."
And then, in what had been the lodger's sitting-room, Mrs. Bunting
told her husband exactly what it was that had happened.
He listened in heavy silence.
"So you see," she said at last, "you see, Bunting, that 'twas me
that was right after all. The lodger was never responsible for
his actions. I never thought he was, for my part."
And Bunting stared at her ruminatingly. "Depends on what you call
responsible--" he began argumentatively.
But she would have none of that. "I heard the gentleman say myself
that he was a lunatic," she said fiercely. And then, dropping, her
voice, "A religious maniac--that's what he called him."
"Well, he never seemed so to me," said Bunting stoutly. "He simply
seemed to me 'centric--that's all he did. Not a bit madder than
many I could tell you of." He was walking round the room restlessly,
but he stopped short at last. "And what d'you think we ought to do
Mrs. Bunting shook her head impatiently. "I don't think we ought
to do nothing," she said. "Why should we?"
And then again he began walking round the room in an aimless fashion
that irritated her.
"If only I could put out a bit of supper for him somewhere where he
would get it! And his money, too? I hate to feel it's in there."
"Don't you make any mistake--he'll come back for that," said Bunting,
But Mrs. Bunting shook her head. She knew better. "Now," she said,
"you go off up to bed. It's no use us sitting up any longer."
And Bunting acquiesced.
She ran down and got him a bedroom candle--there was no gas in the
little back bedroom upstairs. And then she watched him go slowly up.
Suddenly he turned and came down again. "Ellen," he said, in an
urgent whisper, "if I was you I'd take the chain off the door, and
I'd lock myself in--that's what I'm going to do. Then he can sneak
in and take his dirty money away."
Mrs. Bunting neither nodded nor shook her head. Slowly she went
downstairs, and there she carried out half of Bunting's advice.
She took, that is, the chain off the front door. But she did not
go to bed, neither did she lock herself in. She sat up all night,
waiting. At half-past seven she made herself a cup of tea, and
then she went into her bedroom.
Daisy opened her eyes.
"Why, Ellen," she said, "I suppose I was that tired, and slept so
sound, that I never heard you come to bed or get up--funny,
"Young people don't sleep as light as do old folks," Mrs. Bunting
"Did the lodger come in after all? I suppose he's upstairs now?"
Mrs. Bunting shook her head. "It looks as if 'twould be a fine
day for you down at Richmond," she observed in a kindly tone.
And Daisy smiled, a very happy, confident little smile.
That evening Mrs. Bunting forced herself to tell young Chandler
that their lodger had, so to speak, disappeared. She and Bunting
had thought carefully over what they would say, and so well did
they carry out their programme, or, what is more likely, so full
was young Chandler of the long happy day he and Daisy had spent
together, that he took their news very calmly.
"Gone away, has he?" he observed casually. "Well, I hope he paid
up all right?"
"Oh, yes, yes," said Mrs. Bunting hastily. "No trouble of that sort."
And Bunting said shamefacedly, "Aye, aye, the lodger was quite an
honest gentleman, Joe. But I feel worried, about him. He was such
a poor, gentle chap--not the sort o' man one likes to think of as
wandering about by himself."
"You always said he was 'centric," said Joe thoughtfully.
"Yes, he was that," said Bunting slowly. "Regular right-down queer.
Leetle touched, you know, under the thatch," and, as he tapped his
head significantly, both young people burst out laughing.
"Would you like a description of him circulated?" asked Joe
Mr. and Mrs. Bunting looked at one another.
"No, I don't think so. Not yet awhile at any rate. 'Twould upset
him awfully, you see."
And Joe acquiesced. "You'd be surprised at the number o' people
who disappears and are never heard of again" he said cheerfully.
And then he got up, very reluctantly.
Daisy, making no bones about it this time, followed him out into
the passage, and shut the sitting-room door behind her.
When she came back she walked over to where her father was sitting
in his easy chair, and standing behind him she put her arms round
Then she bent down her head. "Father," she said, "I've a bit of
news for you!"
"Yes, my dear?"
"Father, I'm engaged! Aren't you surprised?"
"Well, what do you think?" said Bunting fondly. Then he turned
round and, catching hold of her head, gave her a good, hearty kiss.
"What'll Old Aunt say, I wonder?" he whispered.
"Don't you worry about Old Aunt," exclaimed his wife suddenly.
"I'll manage Old Aunt! I'll go down and see her. She and I have
always got on pretty comfortable together, as you knows well, Daisy."
"Yes," said Daisy a little wonderingly. "I know you have, Ellen."
Mr. Sleuth never came back, and at last after many days and many
nights had gone by, Mrs. Bunting left off listening for the click
of the lock which she at once hoped and feared would herald her
As suddenly and as mysteriously as they had begun the "Avenger"
murders stopped, but there came a morning in the early spring when
a gardener, working in the Regent's Park, found a newspaper in which
was wrapped, together with a half-worn pair of rubber-soled shoes,
a long, peculiarly shaped knife. The fact, though of considerable
interest to the police, was not chronicled in any newspaper, but
about the same time a picturesque little paragraph went the round
of the press concerning a small boxful of sovereigns which had been
anonymously forwarded to the Governors of the Foundling Hospital.
Meanwhile Mrs. Bunting had been as good as her word about "Old Aunt,"
and that lady had received the wonderful news concerning Daisy in a
more philosophical spirit than her great-niece had expected her to
do. She only observed that it was odd to reflect that if gentlefolks
leave a house in charge of the police a burglary is pretty sure to
follow--a remark which Daisy resented much more than did her Joe.
Mr. Bunting and his Ellen are now in the service of an old
lady, by whom they are feared as well as respected, and whom they
make very comfortable.