A Piece of Invective
On dodging in from the rain-swept street, I exchanged a smile and a glance with Miss Blank in the bar of the Three Crows. This exchange was effected with extreme propriety. Its a shock to think that, if still alive, Miss Blank must be something over sixty now. How the time flies!
Noticing my gaze directed inquiringly at the partition of glass and varnished wood, Miss Blank was good enough to say encouragingly:
Only Mr Jermyn and Mr Stone in the parlour, with a gentleman Ive never seen before.
I moved toward the parlour door. A voice discoursing on the other side (it was but a match-board partition) rose so loudly that the concluding words became quite plain in all their atrocity:
That fellow Wilmot fairly dashed her brains out, and a good job, too!
This inhuman sentiment, since there was nothing profane or improper in it, failed to so much as check the slight yawn Miss Blank was achieving behind her hand. And she remained gazing fixedly at the window-panes, which streamed with rain.
As I opened the parlour door the same voice went on in the same cruel strain:
I was glad when I heard she got the knock from somebody at last. Sorry enough for poor Wilmot, though. That man and I used to be chums at one time. Of course, that was the end of him. A clear case, if there ever was one. No way out of itnone at all.
The voice belonged to the gentleman Miss Blank had never seen before. He straddled his long legs on the hearthrug. Jermyn, learning forward, held his pocket handkerchief spread out before the grate. He looked back dismally over his shoulder, and as I slipped behind one of the little wooden tables I nodded to him. On the other side of the fire, imposingly calm and large, sat Mr Stone, jammed tight into a capacious Windsor armchair.* There was nothing small about him but his short white side-whiskers. Yards and yards of extra superfine pilot-cloth (made up into an overcoat) lay piled up on a chair by his side. And he must just have brought some liner from sea, because another chair was smothered under his black water-proof, made of threefold oiled silk, doublestitched throughout. A mans hand-bag of the usual size reposing on the floor was dwarfed to a childs toy by the striking proportions of his boots.
I did not nod to him. He was too big to be nodded to in that parlour. He was a senior Trinity* pilot, and condescended to take his turn in the cutter only during the summer months. He had been many times in charge of royal yachts, in and out of Port Victoria.* Besides, its no use nodding to a monument. And he was like one. He didnt speak, he didnt blink, he didnt budge. He just sat there, holding his handsome old head up, immovable and almost bigger than life. It was extremely fine. Mr Stones presence reduced poor old Jermyn to a mere shabby wisp of a man, and made the talkative stranger in tweeds on the hearth-rug look absurdly boyish. This last must have been a few years over thirty, and was certainly not the sort of individual that gets abashed at the sound of his own voice, because, gathering me in, as it were, by a friendly glance, he kept it going without a check.
I was glad of it, he repeated emphatically. You may be surprised at it, but then, you havent gone through the experience Ive had of her. I can tell you, it was something to remember. Of course, I got off scot- free,as you can see,though she did her best to break up my pluck for me. She jolly near drove as fine a fellow as ever lived into a madhouse. What do you say to thateh?
Not an eyelid twitched in Mr Stones enormous face. Monumental! The speaker looked straight into my eyes.
It used to make me sick to think of her going about the world murdering people.
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