Part 2 out of 4
stormy winter's night," one would describe it, were one writing mere
romance. It came to the lonely cottage of Madame Lavigne on the
edge of the moor that surrounds the sunken village of Aven-a-Christ.
Madame Lavigne, who was knitting stockings--for she lived by
knitting stockings--heard, as she thought, a passing of feet, and
what seemed like a tap at the door. She dismissed the idea, for who
would be passing at such an hour, and where there was no road? But
a few minutes later the tapping came again, and Madame Lavigne,
taking her candle in her hand, went to see who was there. The
instant she released the latch a gust of wind blew out the candle,
and Madame Lavigne could see no one. She called, but there was no
answer. She was about to close the door again when she heard a
faint sound. It was not exactly a cry. It was as if someone she
could not see, in the tiniest of voices, had said something she
could not understand.
Madame Lavigne crossed herself and muttered a prayer, and then she
heard it again. It seemed to come from close at her feet, and
feeling with her hands--for she thought it might be a stray cat--she
found quite a large parcel, It was warm and soft, though, of course,
a bit wet, and Madame Lavigne brought it in, and having closed the
door and re-lit her candle, laid it on the table. And then she saw
it was the tiniest of babies.
It must always be a difficult situation. Madame Lavigne did what
most people would have done in the case. She unrolled the
wrappings, and taking the little thing on her lap, sat down in front
of the dull peat fire and considered. It seemed wonderfully
contented, and Madame Lavigne thought the best thing to do would be
to undress it and put it to bed, and then go on with her knitting.
She would consult Father Jean in the morning and take his advice.
She had never seen such fine clothes. She took them off one by one,
lovingly feeling their texture, and when she finally removed the
last little shift and the little white thing lay exposed, Madame
Lavigne sprang up with a cry and all but dropped it into the fire.
For she saw by the mark that every Breton peasant knows that it was
not a child but a fairy.
Her proper course, as she well knew, was to have opened the door and
flung it out into the darkness. Most women of the village would
have done so, and spent the rest of the night on their knees. But
someone must have chosen with foresight. There came to Madame
Lavigne the memory of her good man and her three tall sons, taken
from her one by one by the jealous sea, and, come what might of it,
she could not do it. The little thing understood, that was clear,
for it smiled quite knowingly and stretched out its little hands,
touching Madame Lavigne's brown withered skin, and stirring
forgotten beatings of her heart.
Father Jean--one takes him to have been a tolerant, gently wise old
gentleman--could see no harm. That is, if Madame Lavigne could
afford the luxury. Maybe it was a good fairy. Would bring her
luck. And certain it is that the cackling of Madame's hens was
heard more often than before, and the weeds seemed fewer in the
little patch of garden that Madame Lavigne had rescued from the
Of course, the news spread. One gathers that Madame Lavigne rather
gave herself airs. But the neighbours shook their heads, and the
child grew up lonely and avoided. Fortunately, the cottage was far
from other houses, and there was always the great moor with its deep
hiding-places. Father Jean was her sole playmate. He would take
her with him on his long tramps through his scattered district,
leaving her screened among the furze and bracken near to the
solitary farmsteads where he made his visitations.
He had learnt it was useless: all attempt of Mother Church to scold
out of this sea and moor-girt flock their pagan superstitions. He
would leave it to time. Later, perhaps opportunity might occur to
place the child in some convent, where she would learn to forget,
and grow into a good Catholic. Meanwhile, one had to take pity on
the little lonely creature. Not entirely for her own sake maybe; a
dear affectionate little soul strangely wise; so she seemed to
Father Jean. Under the shade of trees or sharing warm shelter with
the soft-eyed cows, he would teach her from his small stock of
knowledge. Every now and then she would startle him with an
intuition, a comment strangely unchildlike. It was as if she had
known all about it, long ago. Father Jean would steal a swift
glance at her from under his shaggy eyebrows and fall into a
silence. It was curious also how the wild things of the field and
wood seemed unafraid of her. At times, returning to where he had
left her hidden, he would pause, wondering to whom she was talking,
and then as he drew nearer would hear the stealing away of little
feet, the startled flutter of wings. She had elfish ways, of which
it seemed impossible to cure her. Often the good man, returning
from some late visit of mercy with his lantern and his stout oak
cudgel, would pause and listen to a wandering voice. It was never
near enough for him to hear the words, and the voice was strange to
him, though he knew it could be no one else. Madame Lavigne would
shrug her shoulders. How could she help it? It was not for her to
cross the "child," even supposing bolts and bars likely to be of any
use. Father Jean gave it up in despair. Neither was it for him
either to be too often forbidding and lecturing. Maybe the cunning
tender ways had wove their web about the childless old gentleman's
heart, making him also somewhat afraid. Perhaps other distractions!
For Madame Lavigne would never allow her to do anything but the
lightest of work. He would teach her to read. So quickly she
learnt that it seemed to Father Jean she must be making believe not
to have known it already. But he had his reward in watching the joy
with which she would devour, for preference, the quaint printed
volumes of romance and history that he would bring home to her from
his rare journeyings to the distant town.
It was when she was about thirteen that the ladies and gentlemen
came from Paris. Of course they were not real ladies and gentlemen.
Only a little company of artists seeking new fields. They had
"done" the coast and the timbered houses of the narrow streets, and
one of them had suggested exploring the solitary, unknown inlands.
They came across her seated on an old grey stone reading from an
ancient-looking book, and she had risen and curtsied to them. She
was never afraid. It was she who excited fear. Often she would
look after the children flying from her, feeling a little sad. But,
of course, it could not be helped. She was a fairy. She would have
done them no harm, but this they could not be expected to
understand. It was a delightful change; meeting human beings who
neither screamed nor hastily recited their paternosters, but who,
instead, returned one's smile. They asked her where she lived, and
she showed them. They were staying at Aven-a-Christ; and one of the
ladies was brave enough even to kiss her. Laughing and talking they
all walked down the hill together. They found Madame Lavigne
working in her garden. Madame Lavigne washed her hands of all
responsibility. It was for Suzanne to decide. It seemed they
wanted to make a picture of her, sitting on the grey stone where
they had found her. It was surely only kind to let them; so next
morning she was there again waiting for them. They gave her a five-
franc piece. Madame Lavigne was doubtful of handling it, but Father
Jean vouched for it as being good Republican money; and as the days
went by Madame Lavigne's black stocking grew heavier and heavier as
she hung it again each night in the chimney.
It was the lady who had first kissed her that discovered who she
was. They had all of them felt sure from the beginning that she was
a fairy, and that "Suzanne" could not be her real name. They found
it in the "Heptameron of Friar Bonnet. In which is recorded the
numerous adventures of the valiant and puissant King Ryence of
Bretagne," which one of them had picked up on the Quai aux Fleurs
and brought with him. It told all about the White Ladies, and
therein she was described. There could be no mistaking her; the
fair body that was like to a willow swayed by the wind. The white
feet that could pass, leaving the dew unshaken from the grass. The
eyes blue and deep as mountain lakes. The golden locks of which the
sun was jealous.
It was all quite clear. She was Malvina, once favourite to
Harbundia, Queen of the White Ladies of Brittany. For reasons--
further allusion to which politeness forbade--she had been a
wanderer, no one knowing what had become of her. And now the whim
had taken her to reappear as a little Breton peasant girl, near to
the scene of her past glories. They knelt before her, offering her
homage, and all the ladies kissed her. The gentlemen of the party
thought their turn would follow. But it never did. It was not
their own shyness that stood in their way: one must do them that
justice. It was as if some youthful queen, exiled and unknown
amongst strangers, had been suddenly recognised by a little band of
her faithful subjects, passing by chance that way. So that, instead
of frolic and laughter, as had been intended, they remained standing
with bared heads; and no one liked to be the first to speak.
She put them at their ease--or tried to--with a gracious gesture.
But enjoined upon them all her wish for secrecy. And so dismissed
they seem to have returned to the village a marvellously sober
little party, experiencing all the sensations of honest folk
admitted to their first glimpse of high society.
They came again next year--at least a few of them--bringing with
them a dress more worthy of Malvina's wearing. It was as near as
Paris could achieve to the true and original costume as described by
the good Friar Bonnet, the which had been woven in a single night by
the wizard spider Karai out of moonlight. Malvina accepted it with
gracious thanks, and was evidently pleased to find herself again in
fit and proper clothes. It was hidden away for rare occasions where
only Malvina knew. But the lady who had first kissed her, and whose
speciality was fairies, craving permission, Malvina consented to
wear it while sitting for her portrait. The picture one may still
see in the Palais des Beaux Arts at Nantes (the Bretonne Room). It
represents her standing straight as an arrow, a lone little figure
in the centre of a treeless moor. The painting of the robe is said
to be very wonderful. "Malvina of Brittany" is the inscription, the
date being Nineteen Hundred and Thirteen.
The next year Malvina was no longer there. Madame Lavigne, folding
knotted hands, had muttered her last paternoster. Pere Jean had
urged the convent. But for the first time, with him, she had been
frankly obstinate. Some fancy seemed to have got into the child's
head. Something that she evidently connected with the vast treeless
moor rising southward to where the ancient menhir of King Taramis
crowned its summit. The good man yielded, as usual. For the
present there were Madame Lavigne's small savings. Suzanne's wants
were but few. The rare shopping necessary Father Jean could see to
himself. With the coming of winter he would broach the subject
again, and then be quite firm. Just these were the summer nights
when Suzanne loved to roam; and as for danger! there was not a lad
for ten leagues round who would not have run a mile to avoid
passing, even in daylight, that cottage standing where the moor dips
down to the sealands.
But one surmises that even a fairy may feel lonesome. Especially a
banished fairy, hanging as it were between earth and air, knowing
mortal maidens kissed and courted, while one's own companions kept
away from one in hiding. Maybe the fancy came to her that, after
all these years, they might forgive her. Still, it was their
meeting place, so legend ran, especially of midsummer nights. Rare
it was now for human eye to catch a glimpse of the shimmering robes,
but high on the treeless moor to the music of the Lady of the
Fountain, one might still hear, were one brave enough to venture,
the rhythm of their dancing feet. If she sought them, softly
calling, might they not reveal themselves to her, make room for her
once again in the whirling circle? One has the idea that the
moonlight frock may have added to her hopes. Philosophy admits that
feeling oneself well dressed gives confidence.
If all of them had not disappeared--been kissed three times upon the
lips by mortal man and so become a woman? It seems to have been a
possibility for which your White Lady had to be prepared. That is,
if she chose to suffer it. If not, it was unfortunate for the too
daring mortal. But if he gained favour in her eyes! That he was
brave, his wooing proved. If, added thereto, he were comely, with
kind strong ways, and eyes that drew you? History proves that such
dreams must have come even to White Ladies. Maybe more especially
on midsummer nights when the moon is at its full. It was on such a
night that Sir Gerylon had woke Malvina's sister Sighile with a
kiss. A true White Lady must always dare to face her fate.
It seems to have befallen Malvina. Some told Father Jean how he had
arrived in a chariot drawn by winged horses, the thunder of his
passing waking many in the sleeping villages beneath. And others
how he had come in the form of a great bird. Father Jean had heard
strange sounds himself, and certain it was that Suzanne had
Father Jean heard another version a few weeks later, told him by an
English officer of Engineers who had ridden from the nearest station
on a bicycle and who arrived hot and ravenously thirsty. And Father
Jean, under promise of seeing Suzanne on the first opportunity,
believed it. But to most of his flock it sounded an impossible
rigmarole, told for the purpose of disguising the truth.
So ends my story--or rather the story I have pieced together from
information of a contradictory nature received. Whatever you make
of it; whether with the Doctor you explain it away; or whether with
Professor Littlecherry, LL.D., F.R.S., you believe the world not
altogether explored and mapped, the fact remains that Malvina of
Brittany has passed away. To the younger Mrs. Raffleton, listening
on the Sussex Downs to dull, distant sounds that make her heart
beat, and very nervous of telegraph boys, has come already some of
the disadvantages attendant on her new rank of womanhood. And yet
one gathers, looking down into those strange deep eyes, that she
would not change anything about her, even if now she could.
THE STREET OF THE BLANK WALL.
I had turned off from the Edgware Road into a street leading west,
the atmosphere of which had appealed to me. It was a place of quiet
houses standing behind little gardens. They had the usual names
printed on the stuccoed gateposts. The fading twilight was just
sufficient to enable one to read them. There was a Laburnum Villa,
and The Cedars, and a Cairngorm, rising to the height of three
storeys, with a curious little turret that branched out at the top,
and was crowned with a conical roof, so that it looked as if wearing
a witch's hat. Especially when two small windows just below the
eaves sprang suddenly into light, and gave one the feeling of a pair
of wicked eyes suddenly flashed upon one.
The street curved to the right, ending in an open space through
which passed a canal beneath a low arched bridge. There were still
the same quiet houses behind their small gardens, and I watched for
a while the lamplighter picking out the shape of the canal, that
widened just above the bridge into a lake with an island in the
middle. After that I must have wandered in a circle, for later on I
found myself back in the same spot, though I do not suppose I had
passed a dozen people on my way; and then I set to work to find my
way back to Paddington.
I thought I had taken the road by which I had come, but the half
light must have deceived me. Not that it mattered. They had a
lurking mystery about them, these silent streets with their
suggestion of hushed movement behind drawn curtains, of whispered
voices behind the flimsy walls. Occasionally there would escape the
sound of laughter, suddenly stifled as it seemed, and once the
sudden cry of a child.
It was in a short street of semi-detached villas facing a high blank
wall that, as I passed, I saw a blind move half-way up, revealing a
woman's face. A gas lamp, the only one the street possessed, was
nearly opposite. I thought at first it was the face of a girl, and
then, as I looked again, it might have been the face of an old
woman. One could not distinguish the colouring. In any case, the
cold, blue gaslight would have made it seem pallid.
The remarkable feature was the eyes. It might have been, of course,
that they alone caught the light and held it, rendering them
uncannily large and brilliant. Or it might have been that the rest
of the face was small and delicate, out of all proportion to them.
She may have seen me, for the blind was drawn down again, and I
There was no particular reason why, but the incident lingered with
me. The sudden raising of the blind, as of the curtain of some
small theatre, the barely furnished room coming dimly into view, and
the woman standing there, close to the footlights, as to my fancy it
seemed. And then the sudden ringing down of the curtain before the
play had begun. I turned at the corner of the street. The blind
had been drawn up again, and I saw again the slight, girlish figure
silhouetted against the side panes of the bow window.
At the same moment a man knocked up against me. It was not his
fault. I had stopped abruptly, not giving him time to avoid me. We
both apologised, blaming the darkness. It may have been my fancy,
but I had the feeling that, instead of going on his way, he had
turned and was following me. I waited till the next corner, and
then swung round on my heel. But there was no sign of him, and
after a while I found myself back in the Edgware Road.
Once or twice, in idle mood, I sought the street again, but without
success; and the thing would, I expect, have faded from my memory,
but that one evening, on my way home from Paddington, I came across
the woman in the Harrow Road. There was no mistaking her. She
almost touched me as she came out of a fishmonger's shop, and
unconsciously, at the beginning, I found myself following her. This
time I noticed the turnings, and five minutes' walking brought us to
the street. Half a dozen times I must have been within a hundred
yards of it. I lingered at the corner. She had not noticed me, and
just as she reached the house a man came out of the shadows beyond
the lamp-post and joined her.
I was due at a bachelor gathering that evening, and after dinner,
the affair being fresh in my mind, I talked about it. I am not
sure, but I think it was in connection with a discussion on
Maeterlinck. It was that sudden lifting of the blind that had
caught hold of me. As if, blundering into an empty theatre, I had
caught a glimpse of some drama being played in secret. We passed to
other topics, and when I was leaving a fellow guest asked me which
way I was going. I told him, and, it being a fine night, he
proposed that we should walk together. And in the quiet of Harley
Street he confessed that his desire had not been entirely the
pleasure of my company.
"It is rather curious," he said, "but today there suddenly came to
my remembrance a case that for nearly eleven years I have never
given a thought to. And now, on top of it, comes your description
of that woman's face. I am wondering if it can be the same."
"It was the eyes," I said, "that struck me as so remarkable."
"It was the eyes that I chiefly remember her by," he replied.
"Would you know the street again?"
We walked a little while in silence.
"It may seem, perhaps, odd to you," I answered, "but it would
trouble me, the idea of any harm coming to her through me. What was
"You can feel quite safe on that point," he assured me. "I was her
counsel--that is, if it is the same woman. How was she dressed?"
I could not see the reason for his question. He could hardly expect
her to be wearing the clothes of eleven years ago.
"I don't think I noticed," I answered. "Some sort of a blouse, I
suppose." And then I recollected. "Ah, yes, there was something
uncommon," I added. "An unusually broad band of velvet, it looked
like, round her neck."
"I thought so," he said. "Yes. It must be the same."
We had reached Marylebone Road, where our ways parted.
"I will look you up to-morrow afternoon, if I may," he said. "We
might take a stroll round together."
He called on me about half-past five, and we reached the street just
as the one solitary gas-lamp had been lighted. I pointed out the
house to him, and he crossed over and looked at the number.
"Quite right," he said, on returning. "I made inquiries this
morning. She was released six weeks ago on ticket-of-leave."
He took my arm.
"Not much use hanging about," he said. "The blind won't go up
to-night. Rather a clever idea, selecting a house just opposite a
He had an engagement that evening; but later on he told me the
story--that is, so far as he then knew it.
* * *
It was in the early days of the garden suburb movement. One of the
first sites chosen was off the Finchley Road. The place was in the
building, and one of the streets--Laleham Gardens--had only some
half a dozen houses in it, all unoccupied save one. It was a
lonely, loose end of the suburb, terminating suddenly in open
fields. From the unfinished end of the road the ground sloped down
somewhat steeply to a pond, and beyond that began a small wood. The
one house occupied had been bought by a young married couple named
The husband was a good-looking, pleasant young fellow. Being
clean-shaven, his exact age was difficult to judge. The wife, it
was quite evident, was little more than a girl. About the man there
was a suggestion of weakness. At least, that was the impression
left on the mind of the house-agent. To-day he would decide, and
to-morrow he changed his mind. Jetson, the agent, had almost given
up hope of bringing off a deal. In the end it was Mrs. Hepworth
who, taking the matter into her own hands, fixed upon the house in
Laleham Gardens. Young Hepworth found fault with it on the ground
of its isolation. He himself was often away for days at a time,
travelling on business, and was afraid she would be nervous. He had
been very persistent on this point; but in whispered conversations
she had persuaded him out of his objection. It was one of those
pretty, fussy little houses; and it seemed to have taken her fancy.
Added to which, according to her argument, it was just within their
means, which none of the others were. Young Hepworth may have given
the usual references, but if so they were never taken up. The house
was sold on the company's usual terms. The deposit was paid by a
cheque, which was duly cleared, and the house itself was security
for the rest. The company's solicitor, with Hepworth's consent,
acted for both parties.
It was early in June when the Hepworths moved in. They furnished
only one bedroom; and kept no servant, a charwoman coming in every
morning and going away about six in the evening. Jetson was their
nearest neighbour. His wife and daughters called on them, and
confess to have taken a liking to them both. Indeed, between one of
the Jetson girls, the youngest, and Mrs. Hepworth there seems to
have sprung up a close friendship. Young Hepworth, the husband, was
always charming, and evidently took great pains to make himself
agreeable. But with regard to him they had the feeling that he was
never altogether at his ease. They described him--though that, of
course, was after the event--as having left upon them the impression
of a haunted man.
There was one occasion in particular. It was about ten o'clock.
The Jetsons had been spending the evening with the Hepworths, and
were just on the point of leaving, when there came a sudden, clear
knock at the door. It turned out to be Jetson's foreman, who had to
leave by an early train in the morning, and had found that he needed
some further instructions. But the terror in Hepworth's face was
unmistakable. He had turned a look towards his wife that was almost
of despair; and it had seemed to the Jetsons--or, talking it over
afterwards, they may have suggested the idea to each other--that
there came a flash of contempt into her eyes, though it yielded the
next instant to an expression of pity. She had risen, and already
moved some steps towards the door, when young Hepworth had stopped
her, and gone out himself. But the curious thing was that,
according to the foreman's account, Hepworth never opened the front
door, but came upon him stealthily from behind. He must have
slipped out by the back and crept round the house.
The incident had puzzled the Jetsons, especially that involuntary
flash of contempt that had come into Mrs. Hepworth's eyes. She had
always appeared to adore her husband, and of the two, if possible,
to be the one most in love with the other. They had no friends or
acquaintances except the Jetsons. No one else among their
neighbours had taken the trouble to call on them, and no stranger to
the suburb had, so far as was known, ever been seen in Laleham
Until one evening a little before Christmas.
Jetson was on his way home from his office in the Finchley Road.
There had been a mist hanging about all day, and with nightfall it
had settled down into a whitish fog. Soon after leaving the
Finchley Road, Jetson noticed in front of him a man wearing a long,
yellow mackintosh, and some sort of soft felt hat. He gave Jetson
the idea of being a sailor; it may have been merely the stiff,
serviceable mackintosh. At the corner of Laleham Gardens the man
turned, and glanced up at the name upon the lamp-post, so that
Jetson had a full view of him. Evidently it was the street for
which he was looking. Jetson, somewhat curious, the Hepworths'
house being still the only one occupied, paused at the corner, and
watched. The Hepworths' house was, of course, the only one in the
road that showed any light. The man, when he came to the gate,
struck a match for the purpose of reading the number. Satisfied it
was the house he wanted, he pushed open the gate and went up the
But, instead of using the bell or knocker, Jetson was surprised to
hear him give three raps on the door with his stick. There was no
answer, and Jetson, whose interest was now thoroughly aroused,
crossed to the other corner, from where he could command a better
view. Twice the man repeated his three raps on the door, each time
a little louder, and the third time the door was opened. Jetson
could not tell by whom, for whoever it was kept behind it.
He could just see one wall of the passage, with a pair of old naval
cutlasses crossed above the picture of a three-masted schooner that
he knew hung there. The door was opened just sufficient, and the
man slipped in, and the door was closed behind him. Jetson had
turned to continue his way, when the fancy seized him to give one
glance back. The house was in complete darkness, though a moment
before Jetson was positive there had been a light in the ground
It all sounded very important afterwards, but at the time there was
nothing to suggest to Jetson anything very much out of the common.
Because for six months no friend or relation had called to see them,
that was no reason why one never should. In the fog, a stranger may
have thought it simpler to knock at the door with his stick than to
fumble in search of a bell. The Hepworths lived chiefly in the room
at the back. The light in the drawing-room may have been switched
off for economy's sake. Jetson recounted the incident on reaching
home, not as anything remarkable, but just as one mentions an item
of gossip. The only one who appears to have attached any meaning to
the affair was Jetson's youngest daughter, then a girl of eighteen.
She asked one or two questions about the man, and, during the
evening, slipped out by herself and ran round to the Hepworths. She
found the house empty. At all events, she could obtain no answer,
and the place, back and front, seemed to her to be uncannily silent.
Jetson called the next morning, something of his daughter's
uneasiness having communicated itself to him. Mrs. Hepworth herself
opened the door to him. In his evidence at the trial, Jetson
admitted that her appearance had startled him. She seems to have
anticipated his questions by at once explaining that she had had
news of an unpleasant nature, and had been worrying over it all
night. Her husband had been called away suddenly to America, where
it would be necessary for her to join him as soon as possible. She
would come round to Jetson's office later in the day to make
arrangements about getting rid of the house and furniture.
The story seemed to reasonably account for the stranger's visit, and
Jetson, expressing his sympathy and promising all help in his power,
continued his way to the office. She called in the afternoon and
handed him over the keys, retaining one for herself. She wished the
furniture to be sold by auction, and he was to accept almost any
offer for the house. She would try and see him again before
sailing; if not, she would write him with her address. She was
perfectly cool and collected. She had called on his wife and
daughters in the afternoon, and had wished them good-bye.
Outside Jetson's office she hailed a cab, and returned in it to
Laleham Gardens to collect her boxes. The next time Jetson saw her
she was in the dock, charged with being an accomplice in the murder
of her husband.
* * *
The body had been discovered in a pond some hundred yards from the
unfinished end of Laleham Gardens. A house was in course of
erection on a neighbouring plot, and a workman, in dipping up a pail
of water, had dropped in his watch. He and his mate, worrying round
with a rake, had drawn up pieces of torn clothing, and this, of
course, had led to the pond being properly dragged. Otherwise the
discovery might never have been made.
The body, heavily weighted with a number of flat-irons fastened to
it by a chain and padlock, had sunk deep into the soft mud, and
might have remained there till it rotted. A valuable gold repeater,
that Jetson remembered young Hepworth having told him had been a
presentation to his father, was in its usual pocket, and a cameo
ring that Hepworth had always worn on his third finger was likewise
fished up from the mud. Evidently the murder belonged to the
category of crimes passionel. The theory of the prosecution was
that it had been committed by a man who, before her marriage, had
been Mrs. Hepworth's lover.
The evidence, contrasted with the almost spiritually beautiful face
of the woman in the dock, came as a surprise to everyone in court.
Originally connected with an English circus troupe touring in
Holland, she appears, about seventeen, to have been engaged as a
"song and dance artiste" at a particularly shady cafe chantant in
Rotterdam, frequented chiefly by sailors. From there a man, an
English sailor known as Charlie Martin, took her away, and for some
months she had lived with him at a small estaminet the other side of
the river. Later, they left Rotterdam and came to London, where
they took lodgings in Poplar, near to the docks.
It was from this address in Poplar that, some ten months before the
murder, she had married young Hepworth. What had become of Martin
was not known. The natural assumption was that, his money being
exhausted, he had returned to his calling, though his name, for some
reason, could not be found in any ship's list.
That he was one and the same with the man that Jetson had watched
till the door of the Hepworths' house had closed upon him there
could be no doubt. Jetson described him as a thick-set,
handsome-looking man, with a reddish beard and moustache. Earlier
in the day he had been seen at Hampstead, where he had dined at a
small coffee-shop in the High Street. The girl who had waited on
him had also been struck by the bold, piercing eyes and the curly
red beard. It had been an off-time, between two and three, when he
had dined there, and the girl admitted that she had found him a
"pleasant-spoken gentleman," and "inclined to be merry." He had
told her that he had arrived in England only three days ago, and
that he hoped that evening to see his sweetheart. He had
accompanied the words with a laugh, and the girl thought--though, of
course, this may have been after-suggestion--that an ugly look
followed the laugh.
One imagines that it was this man's return that had been the fear
constantly haunting young Hepworth. The three raps on the door, it
was urged by the prosecution, was a pre-arranged or pre-understood
signal, and the door had been opened by the woman. Whether the
husband was in the house, or whether they waited for him, could not
be said. He had been killed by a bullet entering through the back
of the neck; the man had evidently come prepared.
Ten days had elapsed between the murder and the finding of the body,
and the man was never traced. A postman had met him coming from the
neighbourhood of Laleham Gardens at about half-past nine. In the
fog, they had all but bumped into one another, and the man had
immediately turned away his face.
About the soft felt hat there was nothing to excite attention, but
the long, stiff, yellow mackintosh was quite unusual. The postman
had caught only a momentary glimpse of the face, but was certain it
was clean shaven. This made a sensation in court for the moment,
but only until the calling of the next witness. The charwoman
usually employed by the Hepworths had not been admitted to the house
on the morning of Mrs. Hepworth's departure. Mrs. Hepworth had met
her at the door and paid her a week's money in lieu of notice,
explaining to her that she would not be wanted any more. Jetson,
thinking he might possibly do better by letting the house furnished,
had sent for this woman, and instructed her to give the place a
thorough cleaning. Sweeping the carpet in the dining-room with a
dustpan and brush, she had discovered a number of short red hairs.
The man, before leaving the house, had shaved himself.
That he had still retained the long, yellow mackintosh may have been
with the idea of starting a false clue. Having served its purpose,
it could be discarded. The beard would not have been so easy. What
roundabout way he may have taken one cannot say, but it must have
been some time during the night or early morning that he reached
young Hepworth's office in Fenchurch Street. Mrs. Hepworth had
evidently provided him with the key.
There he seems to have hidden the hat and mackintosh and to have
taken in exchange some clothes belonging to the murdered man.
Hepworth's clerk, Ellenby, an elderly man--of the type that one
generally describes as of gentlemanly appearance--was accustomed to
his master being away unexpectedly on business, which was that of a
ships' furnisher. He always kept an overcoat and a bag ready packed
in the office. Missing them, Ellenby had assumed that his master
had been called away by an early train. He would have been worried
after a few days, but that he had received a telegram--as he then
supposed from his master--explaining that young Hepworth had gone to
Ireland and would be away for some days. It was nothing unusual for
Hepworth to be absent, superintending the furnishing of a ship, for
a fortnight at a time, and nothing had transpired in the office
necessitating special instructions. The telegram had been handed in
at Charing Cross, but the time chosen had been a busy period of the
day, and no one had any recollection of the sender. Hepworth's
clerk unhesitatingly identified the body as that of his employer,
for whom it was evident that he had entertained a feeling of
affection. About Mrs. Hepworth he said as little as he could.
While she was awaiting her trial it had been necessary for him to
see her once or twice with reference to the business. Previous to
this, he knew nothing about her.
The woman's own attitude throughout the trial had been quite
unexplainable. Beyond agreeing to a formal plea of "Not guilty,"
she had made no attempt to defend herself. What little assistance
her solicitors had obtained had been given them, not by the woman
herself, but by Hepworth's clerk, more for the sake of his dead
master than out of any sympathy towards the wife. She herself
appeared utterly indifferent. Only once had she been betrayed into
a momentary emotion. It was when her solicitors were urging her
almost angrily to give them some particulars upon a point they
thought might be helpful to her case.
"He's dead!" she had cried out almost with a note of exultation.
"Dead! Dead! What else matters?"
The next moment she had apologised for her outburst.
"Nothing can do any good," she had said. "Let the thing take its
It was the astounding callousness of the woman that told against her
both with the judge and the jury. That shaving in the dining-room,
the murdered man's body not yet cold! It must have been done with
Hepworth's safety-razor. She must have brought it down to him,
found him a looking-glass, brought him soap and water and a towel,
afterwards removing all traces. Except those few red hairs that had
clung, unnoticed, to the carpet. That nest of flat-irons used to
weight the body! It must have been she who had thought of them.
The idea would never have occurred to a man. The chain and padlock
with which to fasten them. She only could have known that such
things were in the house. It must have been she who had planned the
exchange of clothes in Hepworth's office, giving him the key. She
it must have been who had thought of the pond, holding open the door
while the man had staggered out under his ghastly burden; waited,
keeping watch, listening to hear the splash.
Evidently it had been her intention to go off with the murderer--to
live with him! That story about America. If all had gone well, it
would have accounted for everything. After leaving Laleham Gardens
she had taken lodgings in a small house in Kentish Town under the
name of Howard, giving herself out to be a chorus singer, her
husband being an actor on tour. To make the thing plausible, she
had obtained employment in one of the pantomimes. Not for a moment
had she lost her head. No one had ever called at her lodgings, and
there had come no letters for her. Every hour of her day could be
accounted for. Their plans must have been worked out over the
corpse of her murdered husband. She was found guilty of being an
"accessory after the fact," and sentenced to fifteen years' penal
That brought the story up to eleven years ago. After the trial,
interested in spite of himself, my friend had ferreted out some
further particulars. Inquiries at Liverpool had procured him the
information that Hepworth's father, a shipowner in a small way, had
been well known and highly respected. He was retired from business
when he died, some three years previous to the date of the murder.
His wife had survived him by only a few months. Besides Michael,
the murdered son, there were two other children--an elder brother,
who was thought to have gone abroad to one of the colonies, and a
sister who had married a French naval officer. Either they had not
heard of the case or had not wished to have their names dragged into
it. Young Michael had started life as an architect, and was
supposed to have been doing well, but after the death of his parents
had disappeared from the neighbourhood, and, until the trial, none
of his acquaintances up North ever knew what had become of him.
But a further item of knowledge that my friend's inquiries had
elicited had somewhat puzzled him. Hepworth's clerk, Ellenby, had
been the confidential clerk of Hepworth's father! He had entered
the service of the firm as a boy; and when Hepworth senior retired,
Ellenby--with the old gentleman's assistance--had started in
business for himself as a ships' furnisher! Nothing of all this
came out at the trial. Ellenby had not been cross-examined. There
was no need for it. But it seemed odd, under all the circumstances,
that he had not volunteered the information. It may, of course,
have been for the sake of the brother and sister. Hepworth is a
common enough name in the North. He may have hoped to keep the
family out of connection with the case.
As regards the woman, my friend could learn nothing further beyond
the fact that, in her contract with the music-hall agent in
Rotterdam, she had described herself as the daughter of an English
musician, and had stated that both her parents were dead. She may
have engaged herself without knowing the character of the hall, and
the man, Charlie Martin, with his handsome face and pleasing sailor
ways, and at least an Englishman, may have seemed to her a welcome
She may have been passionately fond of him, and young Hepworth-
-crazy about her, for she was beautiful enough to turn any man's
head--may in Martin's absence have lied to her, told her he was
dead--lord knows what!--to induce her to marry him. The murder may
have seemed to her a sort of grim justice.
But even so, her cold-blooded callousness was surely abnormal! She
had married him, lived with him for nearly a year. To the Jetsons
she had given the impression of being a woman deeply in love with
her husband. It could not have been mere acting kept up day after
"There was something else." We were discussing the case in my
friend's chambers. His brief of eleven years ago was open before
him. He was pacing up and down with his hands in his pockets,
thinking as he talked. "Something that never came out. There was a
curious feeling she gave me in that moment when sentence was
pronounced upon her. It was as if, instead of being condemned, she
had triumphed. Acting! If she had acted during the trial,
pretended remorse, even pity, I could have got her off with five
years. She seemed to be unable to disguise the absolute physical
relief she felt at the thought that he was dead, that his hand would
never again touch her. There must have been something that had
suddenly been revealed to her, something that had turned her love to
"There must be something fine about the man, too." That was another
suggestion that came to him as he stood staring out of the window
across the river. "She's paid and has got her receipt, but he is
still 'wanted.' He is risking his neck every evening he watches for
the raising of that blind."
His thought took another turn.
"Yet how could he have let her go through those ten years of living
death while he walked the streets scot free? Some time during the
trial--the evidence piling up against her day by day--why didn't he
come forward, if only to stand beside her? Get himself hanged, if
only out of mere decency?"
He sat down, took the brief up in his hand without looking at it.
"Or was that the reward that she claimed? That he should wait,
keeping alive the one hope that would make the suffering possible to
her? Yes," he continued, musing, "I can see a man who cared for a
woman taking that as his punishment."
Now that his interest in the case had been revived he seemed unable
to keep it out of his mind. Since our joint visit I had once or
twice passed through the street by myself, and on the last occasion
had again seen the raising of the blind. It obsessed him--the
desire to meet the man face to face. A handsome, bold, masterful
man, he conceived him. But there must be something more for such a
woman to have sold her soul--almost, one might say--for the sake of
There was just one chance of succeeding. Each time he had come from
the direction of the Edgware Road. By keeping well out of sight at
the other end of the street, and watching till he entered it, one
might time oneself to come upon him just under the lamp. He would
hardly be likely to turn and go back; that would be to give himself
away. He would probably content himself with pretending to be like
ourselves, merely hurrying through, and in his turn watching till we
Fortune seemed inclined to favour us. About the usual time the
blind was gently raised, and very soon afterwards there came round
the corner the figure of a man. We entered the street ourselves a
few seconds later, and it seemed likely that, as we had planned, we
should come face to face with him under the gaslight. He walked
towards us, stooping and with bent head. We expected him to pass
the house by. To our surprise he stopped when he came to it, and
pushed open the gate. In another moment we should have lost all
chance of seeing anything more of him except his bent back. With a
couple of strides my friend was behind him. He laid his hand on the
man's shoulder and forced him to turn round. It was an old,
wrinkled face with gentle, rather watery eyes.
We were both so taken aback that for a moment we could say nothing.
My friend stammered out an apology about having mistaken the house,
and rejoined me. At the corner we burst out laughing almost
simultaneously. And then my friend suddenly stopped and stared at
"Hepworth's old clerk!" he said. "Ellenby!"
* * *
It seemed to him monstrous. The man had been more than a clerk.
The family had treated him as a friend. Hepworth's father had set
him up in business. For the murdered lad he had had a sincere
attachment; he had left that conviction on all of them. What was
the meaning of it?
A directory was on the mantelpiece. It was the next afternoon. I
had called upon him in his chambers. It was just an idea that came
to me. I crossed over and opened it, and there was his name,
"Ellenby and Co., Ships' Furnishers," in a court off the Minories.
Was he helping her for the sake of his dead master--trying to get
her away from the man. But why? The woman had stood by and watched
the lad murdered. How could he bear even to look on her again?
Unless there had been that something that had not come out--
something he had learnt later--that excused even that monstrous
callousness of hers.
Yet what could there be? It had all been so planned, so
cold-blooded. That shaving in the dining-room! It was that seemed
most to stick in his throat. She must have brought him down a
looking-glass; there was not one in the room. Why couldn't he have
gone upstairs into the bathroom, where Hepworth always shaved
himself, where he would have found everything to his hand?
He had been moving about the room, talking disjointedly as he paced,
and suddenly he stopped and looked at me.
"Why in the dining-room?" he demanded of me.
He was jingling some keys in his pocket. It was a habit of his when
cross-examining, and I felt as if somehow I knew; and, without
thinking--so it seemed to me--I answered him.
"Perhaps," I said, "it was easier to bring a razor down than to
carry a dead man up."
He leant with his arms across the table, his eyes glittering with
"Can't you see it?" he said. "That little back parlour with its
fussy ornaments. The three of them standing round the table,
Hepworth's hands nervously clutching a chair. The reproaches, the
taunts, the threats. Young Hepworth--he struck everyone as a weak
man, a man physically afraid--white, stammering, not knowing which
way to look. The woman's eyes turning from one to the other. That
flash of contempt again--she could not help it--followed, worse
still, by pity. If only he could have answered back, held his own!
If only he had not been afraid! And then that fatal turning away
with a sneering laugh one imagines, the bold, dominating eyes no
longer there to cower him.
"That must have been the moment. The bullet, if you remember,
entered through the back of the man's neck. Hepworth must always
have been picturing to himself this meeting--tenants of garden
suburbs do not carry loaded revolvers as a habit--dwelling upon it
till he had worked himself up into a frenzy of hate and fear. Weak
men always fly to extremes. If there was no other way, he would
"Can't you hear the silence? After the reverberations had died
away! And then they are both down on their knees, patting him,
feeling for his heart. The man must have gone down like a felled
ox; there were no traces of blood on the carpet. The house is far
from any neighbour; the shot in all probability has not been heard.
If only they can get rid of the body! The pond--not a hundred yards
He reached for the brief, still lying among his papers; hurriedly
turned the scored pages.
"What easier? A house being built on the very next plot.
Wheelbarrows to be had for the taking. A line of planks reaching
down to the edge. Depth of water where the body was discovered four
feet six inches. Nothing to do but just tip up the barrow.
"Think a minute. Must weigh him down, lest he rise to accuse us;
weight him heavily, so that he will sink lower and lower into the
soft mud, lie there till he rots.
"Think again. Think it out to the end. Suppose, in spite of all
our precautions, he does rise? Suppose the chain slips? The
workmen going to and fro for water--suppose they do discover him?
"He is lying on his back, remember. They would have turned him over
to feel for his heart. Have closed his eyes, most probably, not
liking their stare.
"It would be the woman who first thought of it. She has seen them
both lying with closed eyes beside her. It may have always been in
her mind, the likeness between them. With Hepworth's watch in his
pocket, Hepworth's ring on his finger! If only it was not for the
beard--that fierce, curling, red beard!
"They creep to the window and peer out. Fog still thick as soup.
Not a soul, not a sound. Plenty of time.
"Then to get away, to hide till one is sure. Put on the mackintosh.
A man in a yellow mackintosh may have been seen to enter; let him be
seen to go away. In some dark corner or some empty railway carriage
take it off and roll it up. Then make for the office. Wait there
for Ellenby. True as steel, Ellenby; good business man. Be guided
He flung the brief from him with a laugh.
"Why, there's not a missing link!" he cried. "And to think that not
a fool among us ever thought of it!"
"Everything fitting into its place," I suggested, "except young
Hepworth. Can you see him, from your description of him, sitting
down and coolly elaborating plans for escape, the corpse of the
murdered man stretched beside him on the hearthrug?"
"No," he answered. "But I can see her doing it, a woman who for
week after week kept silence while we raged and stormed at her, a
woman who for three hours sat like a statue while old Cutbush
painted her to a crowded court as a modern Jezebel, who rose up from
her seat when that sentence of fifteen years' penal servitude was
pronounced upon her with a look of triumph in her eyes, and walked
out of court as if she had been a girl going to meet her lover.
"I'll wager," he added, "it was she who did the shaving. Hepworth
would have cut him, even with a safety-razor."
"It must have been the other one, Martin," I said, "that she
loathed. That almost exultation at the thought that he was dead," I
"Yes," he mused. "She made no attempt to disguise it. Curious
there having been that likeness between them." He looked at his
watch. "Do you care to come with me?" he said.
"Where are you going?" I asked him.
"We may just catch him," he answered. "Ellenby and Co."
* * *
The office was on the top floor of an old-fashioned house in a
cul-de-sac off the Minories. Mr. Ellenby was out, so the lanky
office-boy informed us, but would be sure to return before evening;
and we sat and waited by the meagre fire till, as the dusk was
falling, we heard his footsteps on the creaking stairs.
He halted a moment in the doorway, recognising us apparently without
surprise; and then, with a hope that we had not been kept waiting
long, he led the way into an inner room.
"I do not suppose you remember me," said my friend, as soon as the
door was closed. "I fancy that, until last night, you never saw me
without my wig and gown. It makes a difference. I was Mrs.
Hepworth's senior counsel."
It was unmistakable, the look of relief that came into the old, dim
eyes. Evidently the incident of the previous evening had suggested
to him an enemy.
"You were very good," he murmured. "Mrs. Hepworth was overwrought
at the time, but she was very grateful, I know, for all your
I thought I detected a faint smile on my friend's lips.
"I must apologise for my rudeness to you of last night," he
continued. "I expected, when I took the liberty of turning you
round, that I was going to find myself face to face with a much
"I took you to be a detective," answered Ellenby, in his soft,
gentle voice. "You will forgive me, I'm sure. I am rather short-
sighted. Of course, I can only conjecture, but if you will take my
word, I can assure you that Mrs. Hepworth has never seen or heard
from the man Charlie Martin since the date of"--he hesitated a
moment--"of the murder."
"It would have been difficult," agreed my friend, "seeing that
Charlie Martin lies buried in Highgate Cemetery."
Old as he was, he sprang from his chair, white and trembling.
"What have you come here for?" he demanded.
"I took more than a professional interest in the case," answered my
friend. "Ten years ago I was younger than I am now. It may have
been her youth--her extreme beauty. I think Mrs. Hepworth, in
allowing her husband to visit her--here where her address is known
to the police, and watch at any moment may be set upon her--is
placing him in a position of grave danger. If you care to lay
before me any facts that will allow me to judge of the case, I am
prepared to put my experience, and, if need be, my assistance, at
His self-possession had returned to him.
"If you will excuse me," he said, "I will tell the boy that he can
We heard him, a moment later, turn the key in the outer door; and
when he came back and had made up the fire, he told us the beginning
of the story.
The name of the man buried in Highgate Cemetery was Hepworth, after
all. Not Michael, but Alex, the elder brother.
From boyhood he had been violent, brutal, unscrupulous. Judging
from Ellenby's story, it was difficult to accept him as a product of
modern civilisation. Rather he would seem to have been a throwback
to some savage, buccaneering ancestor. To expect him to work, while
he could live in vicious idleness at somebody else's expense, was
found to be hopeless. His debts were paid for about the third or
fourth time, and he was shipped off to the Colonies. Unfortunately,
there were no means of keeping him there. So soon as the money
provided him had been squandered, he returned, demanding more by
menaces and threats. Meeting with unexpected firmness, he seems to
have regarded theft and forgery as the only alternative left to him.
To save him from punishment and the family name from disgrace, his
parents' savings were sacrificed. It was grief and shame that,
according to Ellenby, killed them both within a few months of one
Deprived by this blow of what he no doubt had come to consider his
natural means of support, and his sister, fortunately for herself,
being well out of his reach, he next fixed upon his brother Michael
as his stay-by. Michael, weak, timid, and not perhaps without some
remains of boyish affection for a strong, handsome, elder brother,
foolishly yielded. The demands, of course, increased, until, in the
end, it came almost as a relief when the man's vicious life led to
his getting mixed up with a crime of a particularly odious nature.
He was anxious now for his own sake to get away, and Michael, with
little enough to spare for himself, provided him with the means, on
the solemn understanding that he would never return.
But the worry and misery of it all had left young Michael a broken
man. Unable to concentrate his mind any longer upon his profession,
his craving was to get away from all his old associations--to make a
fresh start in life. It was Ellenby who suggested London and the
ship furnishing business, where Michael's small remaining capital
would be of service. The name of Hepworth would be valuable in
shipping circles, and Ellenby, arguing this consideration, but
chiefly with the hope of giving young Michael more interest in the
business, had insisted that the firm should be Hepworth and Co.
They had not been started a year before the man returned, as usual
demanding more money. Michael, acting under Ellenby's guidance,
refused in terms that convinced his brother that the game of
bullying was up. He waited a while, and then wrote pathetically
that he was ill and starving. If only for the sake of his young
wife, would not Michael come and see them?
This was the first they had heard of his marriage. There was just a
faint hope that it might have effected a change, and Michael,
against Ellenby's advice, decided to go. In a miserable
lodging-house in the East End he found the young wife, but not his
brother, who did not return till he was on the point of leaving. In
the interval the girl seems to have confided her story to Michael.
She had been a singer, engaged at a music-hall in Rotterdam. There
Alex Hepworth, calling himself Charlie Martin, had met her and made
love to her. When he chose, he could be agreeable enough, and no
doubt her youth and beauty had given to his protestations, for the
time being, a genuine ring of admiration and desire. It was to
escape from her surroundings, more than anything else, that she had
consented. She was little more than a child, and anything seemed
preferable to the nightly horror to which her life exposed her.
He had never married her. At least, that was her belief at the
time. During his first drunken bout he had flung it in her face
that the form they had gone through was mere bunkum. Unfortunately
for her, this was a lie. He had always been coolly calculating. It
was probably with the idea of a safe investment that he had seen to
it that the ceremony had been strictly legal.
Her life with him, so soon as the first novelty of her had worn off,
had been unspeakable. The band that she wore round her neck was to
hide where, in a fit of savagery, because she had refused to earn
money for him on the streets, he had tried to cut her throat. Now
that she had got back to England she intended to leave him. If he
followed and killed her she did not care.
It was for her sake that young Hepworth eventually offered to help
his brother again, on the condition that he would go away by
himself. To this the other agreed. He seems to have given a short
display of remorse. There must have been a grin on his face as he
turned away. His cunning eyes had foreseen what was likely to
happen. The idea of blackmail was no doubt in his mind from the
beginning. With the charge of bigamy as a weapon in his hand, he
might rely for the rest of his life upon a steady and increasing
Michael saw his brother off as a second-class passenger on a ship
bound for the Cape. Of course, there was little chance of his
keeping his word, but there was always the chance of his getting
himself knocked on the head in some brawl. Anyhow, he would be out
of the way for a season, and the girl, Lola, would be left. A month
later he married her, and four months after that received a letter
from his brother containing messages to Mrs. Martin, "from her
loving husband, Charlie," who hoped before long to have the pleasure
of seeing her again.
Inquiries through the English Consul in Rotterdam proved that the
threat was no mere bluff. The marriage had been legal and binding.
What happened on the night of the murder, was very much as my friend
had reconstructed it. Ellenby, reaching the office at his usual
time the next morning, had found Hepworth waiting for him. There he
had remained in hiding until one morning, with dyed hair and a
slight moustache, he had ventured forth.
Had the man's death been brought about by any other means, Ellenby
would have counselled his coming forward and facing his trial, as he
himself was anxious to do; but, viewed in conjunction with the
relief the man's death must have been to both of them, that loaded
revolver was too suggestive of premeditation. The isolation of the
house, that conveniently near pond, would look as if thought of
beforehand. Even if pleading extreme provocation, Michael escaped
the rope, a long term of penal servitude would be inevitable.
Nor was it certain that even then the woman would go free. The
murdered man would still, by a strange freak, be her husband; the
murderer--in the eye of the law--her lover.
Her passionate will had prevailed. Young Hepworth had sailed for
America. There he had no difficulty in obtaining employment--of
course, under another name--in an architects office; and later had
set up for himself. Since the night of the murder they had not seen
each other till some three weeks ago.
* * *
I never saw the woman again. My friend, I believe, called on her.
Hepworth had already returned to America, and my friend had
succeeded in obtaining for her some sort of a police permit that
practically left her free.
Sometimes of an evening I find myself passing through the street.
And always I have the feeling of having blundered into an empty
theatre--where the play is ended.
HIS EVENING OUT.
The evidence of the park-keeper, David Bristow, of Gilder Street,
Camden Town, is as follows:
I was on duty in St. James's Park on Thursday evening, my sphere
extending from the Mall to the northern shore of the ornamental
water east of the suspension bridge. At five-and-twenty to seven I
took up a position between the peninsula and the bridge to await my
colleague. He ought to have relieved me at half-past six, but did
not arrive until a few minutes before seven, owing, so he explained,
to the breaking down of his motor-'bus--which may have been true or
may not, as the saying is.
I had just come to a halt, when my attention was arrested by a lady.
I am unable to explain why the presence of a lady in St. James's
Park should have seemed in any way worthy of notice except that, for
certain reasons, she reminded me of my first wife. I observed that
she hesitated between one of the public seats and two vacant chairs
standing by themselves a little farther to the east. Eventually she
selected one of the chairs, and, having cleaned it with an evening
paper--the birds in this portion of the Park being extremely
prolific--sat down upon it. There was plenty of room upon the
public seat close to it, except for some children who were playing
touch; and in consequence of this I judged her to be a person of
I walked to a point from where I could command the southern
approaches to the bridge, my colleague arriving sometimes by way of
Birdcage Walk and sometimes by way of the Horse Guards Parade. Not
seeing any signs of him in the direction of the bridge, I turned
back. A little way past the chair where the lady was sitting I met
Mr. Parable. I know Mr. Parable quite well by sight. He was
wearing the usual grey suit and soft felt hat with which the
pictures in the newspapers have made us all familiar. I judged that
Mr. Parable had come from the Houses of Parliament, and the next
morning my suspicions were confirmed by reading that he had been
present at a tea-party given on the terrace by Mr. Will Crooks. Mr.
Parable conveyed to me the suggestion of a man absorbed in thought,
and not quite aware of what he was doing; but in this, of course, I
may have been mistaken. He paused for a moment to look over the
railings at the pelican. Mr. Parable said something to the pelican
which I was not near enough to overhear; and then, still apparently
in a state of abstraction, crossed the path and seated himself on
the chair next to that occupied by the young lady.
From the tree against which I was standing I was able to watch the
subsequent proceedings unobserved. The lady looked at Mr. Parable
and then turned away and smiled to herself. It was a peculiar
smile, and, again in some way I am unable to explain, reminded me of
my first wife. It was not till the pelican put down his other leg
and walked away that Mr. Parable, turning his gaze westward, became
aware of the lady's presence.
From information that has subsequently come to my knowledge, I am
prepared to believe that Mr. Parable, from the beginning, really
thought the lady was a friend of his. What the lady thought is a
matter for conjecture; I can only speak to the facts. Mr. Parable
looked at the lady once or twice. Indeed, one might say with truth
that he kept on doing it. The lady, it must be admitted, behaved
for a while with extreme propriety; but after a time, as I felt must
happen, their eyes met, and then it was I heard her say:
"Good evening, Mr. Parable."
She accompanied the words with the same peculiar smile to which I
have already alluded. The exact words of Mr. Parable's reply I
cannot remember. But it was to the effect that he had thought from
the first that he had known her but had not been quite sure. It was
at this point that, thinking I saw my colleague approaching, I went
to meet him. I found I was mistaken, and slowly retraced my steps.
I passed Mr. Parable and the lady. They were talking together with
what I should describe as animation. I went as far as the southern
extremity of the suspension bridge, and must have waited there quite
ten minutes before returning eastward. It was while I was passing
behind them on the grass, partially screened by the rhododendrons,
that I heard Mr. Parable say to the lady:
"Why shouldn't we have it together?"
To which the lady replied:
"But what about Miss Clebb?"
I could not overhear what followed, owing to their sinking their
voices. It seemed to be an argument. It ended with the young lady
laughing and then rising. Mr. Parable also rose, and they walked
off together. As they passed me I heard the lady say:
"I wonder if there's any place in London where you're not likely to
Mr. Parable, who gave me the idea of being in a state of growing
excitement, replied quite loudly:
"Oh, let 'em!"
I was following behind them when the lady suddenly stopped.
"I know!" she said. "The Popular Cafe."
The park-keeper said he was convinced he would know the lady again,
having taken particular notice of her. She had brown eyes and was
wearing a black hat supplemented with poppies.
* * *
Arthur Horton, waiter at the Popular Cafe, states as follows:
I know Mr. John Parable by sight. Have often heard him speak at
public meetings. Am a bit of a Socialist myself. Remember his
dining at the Popular Cafe on the evening of Thursday. Didn't
recognise him immediately on his entrance for two reasons. One was
his hat, and the other was his girl. I took it from him and hung it
up. I mean, of course, the hat. It was a brand-new bowler, a
trifle ikey about the brim. Have always associated him with a soft
grey felt. But never with girls. Females, yes, to any extent. But
this was the real article. You know what I mean--the sort of girl
that you turn round to look after. It was she who selected the
table in the corner behind the door. Been there before, I should
I should, in the ordinary course of business, have addressed Mr.
Parable by name, such being our instructions in the case of
customers known to us. But, putting the hat and the girl together,
I decided not to. Mr. Parable was all for our three-and-six-penny
table d'hote; he evidently not wanting to think. But the lady
wouldn't hear of it.
"Remember Miss Clebb," she reminded him.
Of course, at the time I did not know what was meant. She ordered
thin soup, a grilled sole, and cutlets au gratin. It certainly
couldn't have been the dinner. With regard to the champagne, he
would have his own way. I picked him out a dry '94, that you might
have weaned a baby on. I suppose it was the whole thing combined.
It was after the sole that I heard Mr. Parable laugh. I could
hardly credit my ears, but half-way through the cutlets he did it
There are two kinds of women. There is the woman who, the more she
eats and drinks, the stodgier she gets, and the woman who lights up
after it. I suggested a peche Melba between them, and when I
returned with it, Mr. Parable was sitting with his elbows on the
table gazing across at her with an expression that I can only
describe as quite human. It was when I brought the coffee that he
turned to me and asked:
"What's doing? Nothing stuffy," he added. "Is there an Exhibition
anywhere--something in the open air?"
"You are forgetting Miss Clebb," the lady reminded him.
"For two pins," said Mr. Parable, "I would get up at the meeting and
tell Miss Clebb what I really think about her."
I suggested the Earl's Court Exhibition, little thinking at the time
what it was going to lead to; but the lady at first wouldn't hear of
it, and the party at the next table calling for their bill (they had
asked for it once or twice before, when I came to think of it), I
had to go across to them.
When I got back the argument had just concluded, and the lady was
holding up her finger.
"On condition that we leave at half-past nine, and that you go
straight to Caxton Hall," she said.
"We'll see about it," said Mr. Parable, and offered me half a crown.
Tips being against the rules, I couldn't take it. Besides, one of
the jumpers had his eye on me. I explained to him, jocosely, that I
was doing it for a bet. He was surprised when I handed him his hat,
but, the lady whispering to him, he remembered himself in time.
As they went out together I heard Mr. Parable say to the lady:
"It's funny what a shocking memory I have for names."
To which the lady replied:
"You'll think it funnier still to-morrow." And then she laughed.
Mr. Horton thought he would know the lady again. He puts down her
age at about twenty-six, describing her--to use his own piquant
expression--as "a bit of all right." She had brown eyes and a
taking way with her.
* * *
Miss Ida Jenks, in charge of the Eastern Cigarette Kiosk at the
Earl's Court Exhibition, gives the following particulars:
From where I generally stand I can easily command a view of the
interior of the Victoria Hall; that is, of course, to say when the
doors are open, as on a warm night is usually the case.
On the evening of Thursday, the twenty-seventh, it was fairly well
occupied, but not to any great extent. One couple attracted my
attention by reason of the gentleman's erratic steering. Had he
been my partner I should have suggested a polka, the tango not being
the sort of dance that can be picked up in an evening. What I mean
to say is, that he struck me as being more willing than experienced.
Some of the bumps she got would have made me cross; but we all have
our fancies, and, so far as I could judge, they both appeared to be
enjoying themselves. It was after the "Hitchy Koo" that they came
The seat to the left of the door is popular by reason of its being
partly screened by bushes, but by leaning forward a little it is
quite possible for me to see what goes on there. They were the
first couple out, having had a bad collision near the bandstand, so
easily secured it. The gentleman was laughing.
There was something about him from the first that made me think I
knew him, and when he took off his hat to wipe his head it came to
me all of a sudden, he being the exact image of his effigy at Madame
Tussaud's, which, by a curious coincidence, I happened to have
visited with a friend that very afternoon. The lady was what some
people would call good-looking, and others mightn't.
I was watching them, naturally a little interested. Mr. Parable, in
helping the lady to adjust her cloak, drew her--it may have been by
accident--towards him; and then it was that a florid gentleman with
a short pipe in his mouth stepped forward and addressed the lady.
He raised his hat and, remarking "Good evening," added that he hoped
she was "having a pleasant time." His tone, I should explain, was
The young woman, whatever else may be said of her, struck me as
behaving quite correctly. Replying to his salutation with a cold
and distant bow, she rose, and, turning to Mr. Parable, observed
that she thought it was perhaps time for them to be going.
The gentleman, who had taken his pipe from his mouth, said--again in
a sarcastic tone--that he thought so too, and offered the lady his
"I don't think we need trouble you," said Mr. Parable, and stepped
To describe what followed I, being a lady, am hampered for words. I
remember seeing Mr. Parable's hat go up into the air, and then the
next moment the florid gentleman's head was lying on my counter
smothered in cigarettes. I naturally screamed for the police, but
the crowd was dead against me; and it was only after what I believe
in technical language would be termed "the fourth round" that they
appeared upon the scene.
The last I saw of Mr. Parable he was shaking a young constable who
had lost his helmet, while three other policemen had hold of him
from behind. The florid gentleman's hat I found on the floor of my
kiosk and returned to him; but after a useless attempt to get it on
his head, he disappeared with it in his hand. The lady was nowhere
to be seen.
Miss Jenks thinks she would know her again. She was wearing a hat
trimmed with black chiffon and a spray of poppies, and was slightly
* * *
Superintendent S. Wade, in answer to questions put to him by our
representative, vouchsafed the following replies:
Yes. I was in charge at the Vine Street Police Station on the night
of Thursday, the twenty-seventh.
No. I have no recollection of a charge of any description being
preferred against any gentleman of the name of Parable.
Yes. A gentleman was brought in about ten o'clock charged with
brawling at the Earl's Court Exhibition and assaulting a constable
in the discharge of his duty.
The gentleman gave the name of Mr. Archibald Quincey, Harcourt
No. The gentleman made no application respecting bail, electing to
pass the night in the cells. A certain amount of discretion is
permitted to us, and we made him as comfortable as possible.
Yes. A lady.
No. About a gentleman who had got himself into trouble at the
Earl's Court Exhibition. She mentioned no name.
I showed her the charge sheet. She thanked me and went away.
That I cannot say. I can only tell you that at nine-fifteen on
Friday morning bail was tendered, and, after inquiries, accepted in
the person of Julius Addison Tupp, of the Sunnybrook Steam Laundry,
That is no business of ours.
The accused who, I had seen to it, had had a cup of tea and a little
toast at seven-thirty, left in company with Mr. Tupp soon after ten.
Superintendent Wade admitted he had known cases where accused
parties, to avoid unpleasantness, had stated their names to be other
than their own, but declined to discuss the matter further.
Superintendent Wade, while expressing his regret that he had no more
time to bestow upon our representative, thought it highly probable
that he would know the lady again if he saw her.
Without professing to be a judge of such matters, Superintendent
Wade thinks she might be described as a highly intelligent young
woman, and of exceptionally prepossessing appearance.
* * *
From Mr. Julius Tupp, of the Sunnybrook Steam Laundry, Twickenham,
upon whom our representative next called, we have been unable to
obtain much assistance, Mr. Tupp replying to all questions put to
him by the one formula, "Not talking."
Fortunately, our representative, on his way out through the drying
ground, was able to obtain a brief interview with Mrs. Tupp.
Mrs. Tupp remembers admitting a young lady to the house on the
morning of Friday, the twenty-eighth, when she opened the door to
take in the milk. The lady, Mrs. Tupp remembers, spoke in a husky
voice, the result, as the young lady explained with a pleasant
laugh, of having passed the night wandering about Ham Common, she
having been misdirected the previous evening by a fool of a railway
porter, and not wishing to disturb the neighbourhood by waking
people up at two o'clock in the morning, which, in Mrs. Tupp's
opinion, was sensible of her.
Mrs. Tupp describes the young lady as of agreeable manners, but
looking, naturally, a bit washed out. The lady asked for Mr. Tupp,
explaining that a friend of his was in trouble, which did not in the
least surprise Mrs. Tupp, she herself not holding with Socialists
and such like. Mr. Tupp, on being informed, dressed hastily and
went downstairs, and he and the young lady left the house together.
Mr. Tupp, on being questioned as to the name of his friend, had
called up that it was no one Mrs. Tupp would know, a Mr. Quince--it
may have been Quincey.
Mrs. Tupp is aware that Mr. Parable is also a Socialist, and is
acquainted with the saying about thieves hanging together. But has
worked for Mr. Parable for years and has always found him a most
satisfactory client; and, Mr. Tupp appearing at this point, our
representative thanked Mrs. Tupp for her information and took his
* * *
Mr. Horatius Condor, Junior, who consented to partake of luncheon in
company with our representative at the Holborn Restaurant, was at
first disinclined to be of much assistance, but eventually supplied
our representative with the following information:
My relationship to Mr. Archibald Quincey, Harcourt Buildings,
Temple, is perhaps a little difficult to define.
How he himself regards me I am never quite sure. There will be days
together when we will be quite friendly like, and at other times he
will be that offhanded and peremptory you might think I was his
blooming office boy.
On Friday morning, the twenty-eighth, I didn't get to Harcourt
Buildings at the usual time, knowing that Mr. Quincey would not be
there himself, he having arranged to interview Mr. Parable for the
Daily Chronicle at ten o'clock. I allowed him half an hour, to be
quite safe, and he came in at a quarter past eleven.
He took no notice of me. For about ten minutes--it may have been
less--he walked up and down the room, cursing and swearing and
kicking the furniture about. He landed an occasional walnut table
in the middle of my shins, upon which I took the opportunity of
wishing him "Good morning," and he sort of woke up, as you might
"How did the interview go off?" I says. "Got anything interesting?"
"Yes," he says; "quite interesting. Oh, yes, decidedly
He was holding himself in, if you understand, speaking with horrible
slowness and deliberation.
"D'you know where he was last night?" he asks me.
"Yes," I says; "Caxton Hall, wasn't it?--meeting to demand the
release of Miss Clebb."
He leans across the table till his face was within a few inches of
"Guess again," he says.
I wasn't doing any guessing. He had hurt me with the walnut table,
and I was feeling a bit short-tempered.
"Oh! don't make a game of it," I says. "It's too early in the
"At the Earl's Court Exhibition," he says; "dancing the tango with a
lady that he picked up in St. James's Park."
"Well," I says, "why not? He don't often get much fun." I thought
it best to treat it lightly.
He takes no notice of my observation.
"A rival comes upon the scene," he continues--"a fatheaded ass,
according to my information--and they have a stand-up fight. He
gets run in and spends the night in a Vine Street police cell."
I suppose I was grinning without knowing it.
"Funny, ain't it?" he says.
"Well," I says, "it has its humorous side, hasn't it? What'll he
"I am not worrying about what HE is going to get," he answers back.
"I am worrying about what _I_ am going to get."
I thought he had gone dotty.
"What's it got to do with you?" I says.
"If old Wotherspoon is in a good humour," he continues, "and the
constable's head has gone down a bit between now and Wednesday, I
may get off with forty shillings and a public reprimand.
"On the other hand," he goes on--he was working himself into a sort
of fit--"if the constable's head goes on swelling, and old
Wotherspoon's liver gets worse, I've got to be prepared for a month
without the option. That is, if I am fool enough--"
He had left both the doors open, which in the daytime we generally
do, our chambers being at the top. Miss Dorton--that's Mr.
Parable's secretary--barges into the room. She didn't seem to
notice me. She staggers to a chair and bursts into tears.
"He's gone," she says; "he's taken cook with him and gone."
"Gone!" says the guv'nor. "Where's he gone?"
"To Fingest," she says through her sobs--"to the cottage. Miss
Bulstrode came in just after you had left," she says. "He wants to
get away from everyone and have a few days' quiet. And then he is
coming back, and he is going to do it himself."
"Do what?" says the guv'nor, irritable like.
"Fourteen days," she wails. "It'll kill him."
"But the case doesn't come on till Wednesday," says the guv'nor.
"How do you know it's going to be fourteen days?"
"Miss Bulstrode," she says, "she's seen the magistrate. He says he
always gives fourteen days in cases of unprovoked assault."
"But it wasn't unprovoked," says the guv'nor. "The other man began
it by knocking off his hat. It was self-defence."
"She put that to him," she says, "and he agreed that that would
alter his view of the case. But, you see," she continues, "we can't
find the other man. He isn't likely to come forward of his own
"The girl must know," says the guv'nor--"this girl he picks up in
St. James's Park, and goes dancing with. The man must have been
some friend of hers."
"But we can't find her either," she says. "He doesn't even know her
name--he can't remember it."
"You will do it, won't you?" she says.
"Do what?" says the guv'nor again.
"The fourteen days," she says.
"But I thought you said he was going to do it himself?" he says.
"But he mustn't," she says. "Miss Bulstrode is coming round to see
you. Think of it! Think of the headlines in the papers," she says.
"Think of the Fabian Society. Think of the Suffrage cause. We
mustn't let him."
"What about me?" says the guv'nor. "Doesn't anybody care for me?"
"You don't matter," she says. "Besides," she says, "with your
influence you'll be able to keep it out of the papers. If it comes
out that it was Mr. Parable, nothing on earth will be able to."
The guv'nor was almost as much excited by this time as she was.
"I'll see the Fabian Society and the Women's Vote and the Home for
Lost Cats at Battersea, and all the rest of the blessed bag of
I'd been thinking to myself, and had just worked it out.
"What's he want to take his cook down with him for?" I says.
"To cook for him," says the guv'nor. "What d'you generally want a
"Rats!" I says. "Does he usually take his cook with him?"
"No," answered Miss Dorton. "Now I come to think of it, he has
always hitherto put up with Mrs. Meadows."
"You will find the lady down at Fingest," I says, "sitting opposite
him and enjoying a recherche dinner for two."
The guv'nor slaps me on the back, and lifts Miss Dorton out of her
"You get on back," he says, "and telephone to Miss Bulstrode. I'll
be round at half-past twelve."
Miss Dorton went out in a dazed sort of condition, and the guv'nor
gives me a sovereign, and tells me I can have the rest of the day to
Mr. Condor, Junior, considers that what happened subsequently goes
to prove that he was right more than it proves that he was wrong.
Mr. Condor, Junior, also promised to send us a photograph of himself
for reproduction, but, unfortunately, up to the time of going to
press it had not arrived.
* * *
From Mrs. Meadows, widow of the late Corporal John Meadows, V.C.,
Turberville, Bucks, the following further particulars were obtained
by our local representative:
I have done for Mr. Parable now for some years past, my cottage
being only a mile off, which makes it easy for me to look after him.
Mr. Parable likes the place to be always ready so that he can drop
in when he chooses, he sometimes giving me warning and sometimes
not. It was about the end of last month--on a Friday, if I remember
rightly--that he suddenly turned up.
As a rule, he walks from Henley station, but on this occasion he
arrived in a fly, he having a young woman with him, and she having a
bag--his cook, as he explained to me. As a rule, I do everything
for Mr. Parable, sleeping in the cottage when he is there; but to
tell the truth, I was glad to see her. I never was much of a cook
myself, as my poor dead husband has remarked on more than one
occasion, and I don't pretend to be. Mr. Parable added, apologetic
like, that he had been suffering lately from indigestion.
"I am only too pleased to see her," I says. "There are the two beds
in my room, and we shan't quarrel." She was quite a sensible young
woman, as I had judged from the first look at her, though suffering
at the time from a cold. She hires a bicycle from Emma Tidd, who
only uses it on a Sunday, and, taking a market basket, off she
starts for Henley, Mr. Parable saying he would go with her to show
her the way.
They were gone a goodish time, which, seeing it's eight miles,
didn't so much surprise me; and when they got back we all three had
dinner together, Mr. Parable arguing that it made for what he called
"labour saving." Afterwards I cleared away, leaving them talking
together; and later on they had a walk round the garden, it being a
moonlight night, but a bit too cold for my fancy.
In the morning I had a chat with her before he was down. She seemed
a bit worried.
"I hope people won't get talking," she says. "He would insist on my
"Well," I says, "surely a gent can bring his cook along with him to
cook for him. And as for people talking, what I always say is, one
may just as well give them something to talk about and save them the
trouble of making it up."
"If only I was a plain, middle-aged woman," she says, "it would be
"Perhaps you will be, all in good time," I says, but, of course, I
could see what she was driving at. A nice, clean, pleasant-faced
young woman she was, and not of the ordinary class. "Meanwhile," I
says, "if you don't mind taking a bit of motherly advice, you might
remember that your place is the kitchen, and his the parlour. He's
a dear good man, I know, but human nature is human nature, and it's
no good pretending it isn't."
She and I had our breakfast together before he was up, so that when
he came down he had to have his alone, but afterwards she comes into
the kitchen and closes the door.
"He wants to show me the way to High Wycombe," she says. "He will
have it there are better shops at Wycombe. What ought I to do?"
My experience is that advising folks to do what they don't want to
do isn't the way to do it.
"What d'you think yourself?" I asked her.
"I feel like going with him," she says, "and making the most of
And then she began to cry.
"What's the harm!" she says. "I have heard him from a dozen
platforms ridiculing class distinctions. Besides," she says, "my
people have been farmers for generations. What was Miss Bulstrode's
father but a grocer? He ran a hundred shops instead of one. What
difference does that make?"
"When did it all begin?" I says. "When did he first take notice of
"The day before yesterday," she answers. "He had never seen me
before," she says. "I was just 'Cook'--something in a cap and apron
that he passed occasionally on the stairs. On Thursday he saw me in
my best clothes, and fell in love with me. He doesn't know it
himself, poor dear, not yet, but that's what he's done."
Well, I couldn't contradict her, not after the way I had seen him
looking at her across the table.
"What are your feelings towards him," I says, "to be quite honest?
He's rather a good catch for a young person in your position."
"That's my trouble," she says. "I can't help thinking of that. And
then to be 'Mrs. John Parable'! That's enough to turn a woman's
"He'd be a bit difficult to live with," I says.
"Geniuses always are," she says; "it's easy enough if you just think
of them as children. He'd be a bit fractious at times, that's all.
Underneath, he's just the kindest, dearest--"
"Oh, you take your basket and go to High Wycombe," I says. "He
might do worse."
I wasn't expecting them back soon, and they didn't come back soon.
In the afternoon a motor stops at the gate, and out of it steps Miss
Bulstrode, Miss Dorton--that's the young lady that writes for
him--and Mr. Quincey. I told them I couldn't say when he'd be back,
and they said it didn't matter, they just happening to be passing.
"Did anybody call on him yesterday?" asks Miss Bulstrode, careless
"No," I says; "you are the first as yet."
"He's brought his cook down with him, hasn't he?" says Mr. Quincey.
"Yes," I says, "and a very good cook too," which was the truth.
"I'd like just to speak a few words with her," says Miss Bulstrode.
"Sorry, m'am," I says, "but she's out at present; she's gone to
"Gone to Wycombe!" they all says together.
"To market," I says. "It's a little farther, but, of course, it
stands to reason the shops there are better."
They looked at one another.
"That settles it," says Mr. Quincey. "Delicacies worthy to be set
before her not available nearer than Wycombe, but must be had.
There's going to be a pleasant little dinner here to-night."
"The hussy!" says Miss Bulstrode, under her breath.
They whispered together for a moment, then they turns to me.
"Good afternoon, Mrs. Meadows," says Mr. Quincey. "You needn't say
we called. He wanted to be alone, and it might vex him."
I said I wouldn't, and I didn't. They climbed back into the motor
and went off.
Before dinner I had call to go into the woodshed. I heard a
scuttling as I opened the door. If I am not mistaken, Miss Dorton
was hiding in the corner where we keep the coke. I didn't see any
good in making a fuss, so I left her there. When I got back to the
kitchen, cook asked me if we'd got any parsley.
"You'll find a bit in the front," I says, "to the left of the gate,"
and she went out. She came back looking scared.
"Anybody keep goats round here?" she asked me.
"Not that I know of, nearer than Ibstone Common," I says.
"I could have sworn I saw a goat's face looking at me out of the
gooseberry bushes while I was picking the parsley," she says. "It
had a beard."
"It's the half light," I says. "One can imagine anything."
"I do hope I'm not getting nervy," she says.
I thought I'd have another look round, and made the excuse that I
wanted a pail of water. I was stooping over the well, which is just
under the mulberry tree, when something fell close to me and lodged
upon the bricks. It was a hairpin. I fixed the cover carefully
upon the well in case of accident, and when I got in I went round
myself and was careful to see that all the curtains were drawn.
Just before we three sat down to dinner again I took cook aside.
"I shouldn't go for any stroll in the garden to-night," I says.
"People from the village may be about, and we don't want them
gossiping." And she thanked me.
Next night they were there again. I thought I wouldn't spoil the
dinner, but mention it afterwards. I saw to it again that the
curtains were drawn, and slipped the catch of both the doors. And
just as well that I did.
I had always heard that Mr. Parable was an amusing speaker, but on
previous visits had not myself noticed it. But this time he seemed
ten years younger than I had ever known him before; and during
dinner, while we were talking and laughing quite merry like, I had
the feeling more than once that people were meandering about
outside. I had just finished clearing away, and cook was making the
coffee, when there came a knock at the door.
"Who's that?" says Mr. Parable. "I am not at home to anyone."
"I'll see," I says. And on my way I slipped into the kitchen.
"Coffee for one, cook," I says, and she understood. Her cap and
apron were hanging behind the door. I flung them across to her, and
she caught them; and then I opened the front door.
They pushed past me without speaking, and went straight into the
parlour. And they didn't waste many words on him either.
"Where is she?" asked Miss Bulstrode.
"Where's who?" says Mr. Parable.
"Don't lie about it," said Miss Bulstrode, making no effort to
control herself. "The hussy you've been dining with?"
"Do you mean Mrs. Meadows?" says Mr. Parable.
I thought she was going to shake him.
"Where have you hidden her?" she says.
It was at that moment cook entered with the coffee.
If they had taken the trouble to look at her they might have had an
idea. The tray was trembling in her hands, and in her haste and
excitement she had put on her cap the wrong way round. But she kept
control of her voice, and asked if she should bring some more
"Ah, yes! You'd all like some coffee, wouldn't you?" says Mr.
Parable. Miss Bulstrode did not reply, but Mr. Quincey said he was
cold and would like it. It was a nasty night, with a thin rain.
"Thank you, sir," says cook, and we went out together.
Cottages are only cottages, and if people in the parlour persist in
talking loudly, people in the kitchen can't very well help
There was a good deal of talk about "fourteen days," which Mr.
Parable said he was going to do himself, and which Miss Dorton said
he mustn't, because, if he did, it would be a victory for the
enemies of humanity. Mr. Parable said something about "humanity,"
which I didn't rightly hear, but, whatever it was, it started Miss
Dorton crying; and Miss Bulstrode called Mr. Parable a "blind
Samson," who had had his hair cut by a designing minx who had been
hired to do it.
It was all French to me, but cook was drinking in every word, and
when she returned from taking them in their coffee she made no bones
about it, but took up her place at the door with her ear to the
It was Mr. Quincey who got them all quiet, and then he began to
explain things. It seemed that if they could only find a certain
gentleman and persuade him to come forward and acknowledge that he
began a row, that then all would be well. Mr. Quincey would be
fined forty shillings, and Mr. Parable's name would never appear.
Failing that, Mr. Parable, according to Mr. Quincey, could do his
fourteen days himself.
"I've told you once," says Mr. Parable, "and I tell you again, that
I don't know the man's name, and can't give it you."
"We are not asking you to," says Mr. Quincey. "You give us the name
of your tango partner, and we'll do the rest."
I could see cook's face; I had got a bit interested myself, and we
were both close to the door. She hardly seemed to be breathing.
"I am sorry," says Mr. Parable, speaking very deliberate-like, "but
I am not going to have her name dragged into this business."
"It wouldn't be," says Mr. Quincey. "All we want to get out of her
is the name and address of the gentleman who was so anxious to see
"Who was he?" says Miss Bulstrode. "Her husband?"