The figure rose to its full height of five foot one and came forward slowly.

Over a tight-fitting garibaldi of blue silk, excessively décolleté, it wore what once had been a boy’s pepper- and-salt jacket. A worsted comforter wound round the neck still left a wide expanse of throat showing above the garibaldi. Below the jacket fell a long, black skirt, the train of which had been looped up about the waist and fastened with a cricket-belt.

“Who are you? What do you want?” asked Mr. Peter Hope.

For answer, the figure, passing the greasy cap into its other hand, stooped down and, seizing the front of the long skirt, began to haul it up.

“Don’t do that!” said Mr. Peter Hope. “I say, you know, you——”

But by this time the skirt had practically disappeared, leaving to view a pair of much-patched trousers, diving into the right-hand pocket of which the dirty hand drew forth a folded paper, which, having opened and smoothed out, it laid upon the desk.

Mr. Peter Hope pushed up his spectacles till they rested on his eyebrows, and read aloud—“ ‘Steak and Kidney Pie, 4d.; Do. (large size), 6d.; Boiled Mutton——’ ”

“That’s where I’ve been for the last two weeks,” said the figure,—“Hammond’s Eating House!”

The listener noted with surprise that the voice—though it told him as plainly as if he had risen and drawn aside the red rep curtains, that outside in Gough Square the yellow fog lay like the ghost of a dead sea—betrayed no Cockney accent, found no difficulty with its aitches.

“You ask for Emma. She’ll say a good word for me. She told me so.”

“But, my good——” Mr. Peter Hope, checking himself, sought again the assistance of his glasses. The glasses being unable to decide the point, their owner had to put the question bluntly:

“Are you a boy or a girl?”

“I dunno.”

“You don’t know!”

“What’s the difference?”

Mr. Peter Hope stood up, and taking the strange figure by the shoulders, turned it round slowly twice, apparently under the impression that the process might afford to him some clue. But it did not.

“What is your name?”


“Tommy what?”

“Anything you like. I dunno. I’ve had so many of ’em.”

“What do you want? What have you come for?”

“You’re Mr. Hope, ain’t you, second floor, 16, Gough Square?”

“That is my name.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.