Marie Adelaide Belloc Lowndes.

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"Any of us might knock up against him any minute. I don't suppose
The Avenger's in any way peculiar-looking - in fact we know he ain't."

"Then you think that woman as says she saw him did see him?" asked
Bunting hesitatingly.

"Our description was made up from what she said," answered the other
cautiously. "But, there, you can't tell! In a case like that it's
groping - groping in the dark all the time - and it's just a lucky
accident if it comes out right in the end. Of course, it's upsetting
us all very much here. You can't wonder at that!"

"No, indeed," said Bunting quickly. "I give you my word, I've hardly
thought of anything else for the last month."

Daisy had disappeared, and when her father joined her in the passage
she was listening, with downcast eyes, to what Joe Chandler was

He was telling her about his real home, of the place where his mother
lived, at Richmond - that it was a nice little house, close to the
park. He was asking her whether she could manage to come out there
one afternoon, explaining that his mother would give them tea, and
how nice it would be.

"I don't see why Ellen shouldn't let me," the girl said rebelliously.
"But she's that old-fashioned and pernickety is Ellen - a regular
old maid! And, you see, Mr. Chandler, when I'm staying with them,
father don't like for me to do anything that Ellen don't approve of.
But she's got quite fond of you, so perhaps if you ask her - ?"
She looked at him, and he nodded sagely.

"Don't you be afraid," he said confidently. "I'll get round Mrs.
Bunting. But, Miss Daisy" - he grew very red - "I'd just like to
ask you a question - no offence meant - "

"Yes?" said Daisy a little breathlessly. "There's father close to
us, Mr. Chandler. Tell me quick; what is it?"

"Well, I take it, by what you said just now, that you've never
walked out with any young fellow?"

Daisy hesitated a moment; then a very pretty dimple came into her
cheek. "No," she said sadly. "No, Mr. Chandler, that I have not."
In a burst of candour she added, "You see, I never had the chance!"

And Joe Chandler smiled, well pleased.


By what she regarded as a fortunate chance, Mrs. Bunting found
herself for close on an hour quite alone in the house during her
husband's and Daisy's jaunt with young Chandler.

Mr. Sleuth did not often go out in the daytime, but on this
particular afternoon, after he had finished his tea, when dusk was
falling, he suddenly observed that he wanted a new suit of clothes,
and his landlady eagerly acquiesced in his going out to purchase it.

As soon as he had left the house, she went quickly up to the
drawing-room floor. Now had come her opportunity of giving the two
rooms a good dusting; but Mrs. Bunting knew well, deep in her heart,
that it was not so much the dusting of Mr. Sleuth's sitting-room she
wanted to do - as to engage in a vague search for - she hardly knew
for what.

During the years she had been in service Mrs. Bunting had always
had a deep, wordless contempt for those of her fellow-servants who
read their employers' private letters, and who furtively peeped
into desks and cupboards in the hope, more vague than positive, of
discovering family skeletons.

But now, with regard to Mr. Sleuth, she was ready, aye, eager, to
do herself what she had once so scorned others for doing.

Beginning with the bedroom, she started on a methodical search. He
was a very tidy gentleman was the lodger, and his few things,
under-garments, and so on, were in apple-pie order. She had early
undertaken, much to his satisfaction, to do the very little bit of
washing he required done, with her own and Bunting's. Luckily he
wore soft shirts.

At one time Mrs. Bunting had always had a woman in to help her with
this tiresome weekly job, but lately she had grown quite clever at
it herself. The only things she had to send out were Bunting's
shirts. Everything else she managed to do herself.

From the chest of drawers she now turned her attention to the

Mr. Sleuth did not take his money with him when he went out, he
generally left it in one of the drawers below the old-fashioned
looking-glass. And now, in a perfunctory way, his landlady pulled
out the little drawer, but she did not touch what was lying there;
she only glanced at the heap of sovereigns and a few bits of silver.
The lodger had taken just enough money with him to buy the clothes
he required. He had consulted her as to how much they would cost,
making no secret of why he was going out, and the fact had vaguely
comforted Mrs. Bunting.

Now she lifted the toilet-cover, and even rolled up the carpet a
little way, but no, there was nothing there, not so much as a scrap
of paper. And at last, when more or less giving up the search, as
she came and went between the two rooms, leaving the connecting door
wide open, her mind became full of uneasy speculation and wonder as
to the lodger's past life.

Odd Mr. Sleuth must surely always have been, but odd in a sensible
sort of way, having on the whole the same moral ideals of conduct
as have other people of his class. He was queer about the drink - one
might say almost crazy on the subject - but there, as to that, he
wasn't the only one! She, Ellen Bunting, had once lived with a
lady who was just like that, who was quite crazed, that is, on the
question of drink and drunkards - She looked round the neat
drawing-room with vague dissatisfaction. There was only one place
where anything could be kept concealed - that place was the
substantial if small mahogany chiffonnier. And then an idea
suddenly came to Mrs. Bunting, one she had never thought of before.

After listening intently for a moment, lest something should suddenly
bring Mr. Sleuth home earlier than she expected, she went to the
corner where the chiffonnier stood, and, exerting the whole of her
not very great physical strength, she tipped forward the heavy piece
of furniture.

As she did so, she heard a queer rumbling sound, - something rolling
about on the second shelf, something which had not been there before
Mr. Sleuth's arrival. Slowly, laboriously, she tipped the chiffonnier
backwards and forwards - once, twice, thrice - satisfied, yet strangely
troubled in her mind, for she now felt sure that the bag of which the
disappearance had so surprised her was there, safely locked away by
its owner.

Suddenly a very uncomfortable thought came to Mrs. Bunting's mind.
She hoped Mr. Sleuth would not notice that his bag had shifted inside
the cupboard. A moment later, with sharp dismay, Mr. Sleuth's
landlady realised that the fact that she had moved the chiffonnier
must become known to her lodger, for a thin trickle of some
dark-coloured liquid was oozing out though the bottom of the little
cupboard door.

She stooped down and touched the stuff. It showed red, bright red,
on her finger.

Mrs. Bunting grew chalky white, then recovered herself quickly. In
fact the colour rushed into her face, and she grew hot all over.

It was only a bottle of red ink she had upset - that was all! How
could she have thought it was anything else?

It was the more silly of her - so she told herself in scornful
condemnation - because she knew that the lodger used red ink.
Certain pages of Cruden's Concordance were covered with notes written
in Mr. Sleuth's peculiar upright handwriting. In fact in some places
you couldn't see the margin, so closely covered was it with remarks
and notes of interrogation.

Mr. Sleuth had foolishly placed his bottle of red ink in the
chiffonnier - that was what her poor, foolish gentleman had done;
and it was owing to her inquisitiveness, her restless wish to know
things she would be none the better, none the happier, for knowing,
that this accident had taken place.

She mopped up with her duster the few drops of ink which had fallen
on the green carpet and then, still feeling, as she angrily told
herself, foolishly upset she went once more into the back room.

It was curious that Mr. Sleuth possessed no notepaper. She would
have expected him to have made that one of his first purchases - the
more so that paper is so very cheap, especially that rather
dirty-looking grey Silurian paper. Mrs. Bunting had once lived with
a lady who always used two kinds of notepaper, white for her friends
and equals, grey for those whom she called "common people." She,
Ellen Green, as she then was, had always resented the fact. Strange
she should remember it now, stranger in a way because that employer
of her's had not been a real lady, and Mr. Sleuth, whatever his
peculiarities, was, in every sense of the word, a real gentleman.
Somehow Mrs. Bunting felt sure that if he had bought any notepaper
it would have been white - white and probably cream-laid - not
grey and cheap.

Again she opened the drawer of the old-fashioned wardrobe and lifted
up the few pieces of underclothing Mr. Sleuth now possessed.

But there was nothing there - nothing, that is, hidden away. When
one came to think of it there seemed something strange in the notion
of leaving all one's money where anyone could take it, and in locking
up such a valueless thing as a cheap sham leather bag, to say nothing
of a bottle of ink.

Mrs. Bunting once more opened out each of the tiny drawers below the
looking-glass, each delicately fashioned of fine old mahogany. Mr.
Sleuth kept his money in the centre drawer.

The glass had only cost seven-and-sixpence, and, after the auction
a dealer had come and offered her first fifteen shillings, and then
a guinea for it. Not long ago, in Baker Street, she had seen a
looking-glass which was the very spit of this one, labeled
"Chippendale, Antique. £21 5s 0d."

There lay Mr. Sleuth's money - the sovereigns, as the landlady well
knew, would each and all gradually pass into her's and Bunting's
possession, honestly earned by them no doubt but unattainable - in
act unearnable - excepting in connection with the present owner of
those dully shining gold sovereigns.

At last she went downstairs to await Mr. Sleuth's return.

When she heard the key turn in the door, she came out into the

"I'm sorry to say I've had an accident, sir," she said a little
breathlessly. "Taking advantage of your being out I went up to
dust the drawing-room, and while I was trying to get behind the
chiffonnier it tilted. I'm afraid, sir, that a bottle of ink that
was inside may have got broken, for just a few drops oozed out,
sir. But I hope there's no harm done. I wiped it up as well as
I could, seeing that the doors of the chiffonnier are locked."

Mr. Sleuth stared at her with a wild, almost a terrified glance.
But Mrs. Bunting stood her ground. She felt far less afraid now
than she had felt before he came in. Then she had been so
frightened that she had nearly gone out of the house, on to the
pavement, for company.

"Of course I had no idea, sir, that you kept any ink in there."

She spoke as if she were on the defensive, and the lodger's brow

"I was aware you used ink, sir," Mrs. Bunting went on, "for I have
seen you marking that book of yours - I mean the book you read
together with the Bible. Would you like me to go out and get you
another bottle, sir?"

"No," said Mr. Sleuth. "No, I thank you. I will at once proceed
upstairs and see what damage has been done. When I require you I
shall ring."

He shuffled past her, and five minutes later the drawing-room bell
did ring.

At once, from the door, Mrs. Bunting saw that the chiffonnier was
wide open, and that the shelves were empty save for the bottle of
red ink which had turned over and now lay in a red pool of its own
making on the lower shelf.

"I'm afraid it will have stained the wood, Mrs. Bunting. Perhaps I
was ill-advised to keep my ink in there."

"Oh, no, sir! That doesn't matter at all. Only a drop or two fell
out on to the carpet, and they don't show, as you see, sir, for it's
a dark corner. Shall I take the bottle away? I may as well."

Mr. Sleuth hesitated. "No," he said, after a long pause, "I think
not, Mrs. Bunting. For the very little I require it the ink
remaining in the bottle will do quite well, especially if I add a
little water, or better still, a little tea, to what already
remains in the bottle. I only require it to mark up passages which
happen to be of peculiar interest in my Concordance - a work, Mrs.
Bunting, which I should have taken great pleasure in compiling
myself had not this - ah - this gentleman called Cruden, been before."


Not only Bunting, but Daisy also, thought Ellen far pleasanter in
her manner than usual that evening. She listened to all they had
to say about their interesting visit to the Black Museum, and did
not snub either of them - no, not even when Bunting told of the
dreadful, haunting, silly-looking death-masks taken from the hanged.

But a few minutes after that, when her husband suddenly asked her
a question, Mrs. Bunting answered at random. It was clear she had
not heard the last few words he had been saying.

"A penny for your thoughts!" he said jocularly. But she shook her

Daisy slipped out of the room, and, five minutes later, came back
dressed up in a blue-and-white check silk gown.

"My!" said her father. "You do look fine, Daisy. I've never seen
you wearing that before."

"And a rare figure of fun she looks in it!" observed Mrs. Bunting
sarcastically. And then, "I suppose this dressing up means that
you're expecting someone. I should have thought both of you must
have seen enough of young Chandler for one day. I wonder when that
young chap does his work - that I do! He never seems too busy to
come and waste an hour or two here."

But that was the only nasty thing Ellen said all that evening. And
even Daisy noticed that her stepmother seemed dazed and unlike
herself. She went about her cooking and the various little things
she had to do even more silently than was her wont.

Yet under that still, almost sullen, manner, how fierce was the
storm of dread, of sombre anguish, and, yes, of sick suspense,
which shook her soul, and which so far affected her poor, ailing
body that often she felt as if she could not force herself to
accomplish her simple round of daily work.

After they had finished supper Bunting went out and bought a penny
evening paper, but as he came in he announced, with a rather rueful
smile, that he had read so much of that nasty little print this
last week or two that his eyes hurt him.

"Let me read aloud a bit to you, father," said Daisy eagerly, and he
handed her the paper.

Scarcely had Daisy opened her lips when a loud ring and a knock
echoed through the house.


It was only Joe. Somehow, even Bunting called him "Joe" now, and no
longer "Chandler," as he had mostly used to do.

Mrs. Bunting had opened the front door only a very little way.
She wasn't going to have any strangers pushing in past her.

To her sharpened, suffering senses her house had become a citadel
which must be defended; aye, even if the besiegers were a mighty
horde with right on their side. And she was always expecting that
first single spy who would herald the battalion against whom her
only weapon would be her woman's wit and cunning.

But when she saw who stood there smiling at her, the muscles of her
face relaxed, and it lost the tense, anxious, almost agonised look
it assumed the moment she turned her back on her husband and

"Why, Joe," she whispered, for she had left the door open behind
her, and Daisy had already begun to read aloud, as her father had
bidden her. "Come in, do! It's fairly cold to-night."

A glance at his face had shown her that there was no fresh news.

Joe Chandler walked in, past her, into the little hall. Cold?
Well, he didn't feel cold, for he had walked quickly to be the
sooner where he was now.

Nine days had gone by since that last terrible occurrence, the
double murder which had been committed early in the morning of
the day Daisy had arrived in London. And though the thousands of
men belonging to the Metropolitan Police - to say nothing of the
smaller, more alert body of detectives attached to the Force -
were keenly on the alert, not one but had begun to feel that
there was nothing to be alert about. Familiarity, even with
horror, breeds contempt.

But with the public it was far otherwise. Each day something
happened to revive and keep alive the mingled horror and interest
this strange, enigmatic series of crimes had evoked. Even the
more sober organs of the Press went on attacking, with gathering
severity and indignation, the Commissioner of Police; and at the
huge demonstration held in Victoria Park two days before violent
speeches had also been made against the Home Secretary.

But just now Joe Chandler wanted to forget all that. The little
house in the Marylebone Road had become to him an enchanted isle
of dreams, to which his thoughts were ever turning when he had a
moment to spare from what had grown to be a wearisome, because an
unsatisfactory, job. He secretly agreed with one of his pals who
had exclaimed, and that within twenty-four hours of the last double
crime, "Why, 'twould be easier to find a needle in a rick o' hay
than this - bloke!"

And if that had been true then, how much truer it was now - after
nine long, empty days had gone by?

Quickly he divested himself of his great-coat, muffler, and low hat.
Then he put his finger on his lip, and motioned smilingly to Mrs.
Bunting to wait a moment. From where he stood in the hall the
father and daughter made a pleasant little picture of contented
domesticity. Joe Chandler's honest heart swelled at the sight.

Daisy, wearing the blue-and-white check silk dress about which her
stepmother and she had had words, sat on a low stool on the left
side of the fire, while Bunting, leaning back in his own comfortable
arm-chair, was listening, his hand to his ear, in an attitude - as
it was the first time she had caught him doing it, the fact brought
a pang to Mrs. Bunting - which showed that age was beginning to
creep over the listener.

One of Daisy's duties as companion to her great-aunt was that of
reading the newspaper aloud, and she prided herself on her

Just as Joe had put his finger on his lip Daisy had been asking,
"Shall I read this, father?" And Bunting had answered quickly,
"Aye, do, my dear."

He was absorbed in what he was hearing, and, on seeing Joe at the
door, he had only just nodded his head. The young man was becoming
so frequent a visitor as to be almost one of themselves.

Daisy read out:

"The Avenger: A - "

And then she stopped short, for the next word puzzled her greatly.
Bravely, however, she went on. "A the-o-ry."

"Go in - do!" whispered Mrs. Bunting to her visitor. "Why should
we stay out here in the cold? It's ridiculous."

"I don't want to interrupt Miss Daisy," whispered Chandler back,
rather hoarsely.

"Well, you'll hear it all the better in the room. Don't think
she'll stop because of you, bless you! There's nothing shy about
our Daisy!"

The young man resented the tart, short tone. "Poor little girl!"
he said to himself tenderly. "That's what it is having a stepmother,
instead of a proper mother." But he obeyed Mrs. Bunting, and then
he was pleased he had done so, for Daisy looked up, and a bright
blush came over her pretty face.

"Joe begs you won't stop yet awhile. Go on with your reading,"
commanded Mrs. Bunting quickly. "Now, Joe, you can go and sit over
there, close to Daisy, and then you won't miss a word."

There was a sarcastic inflection in her voice, even Chandler noticed
that, but he obeyed her with alacrity, and crossing the room he went
and sat on a chair just behind Daisy. From there he could note with
reverent delight the charming way her fair hair grew upwards from
the nape of her slender neck.


began Daisy again, clearing her throat.

"DEAR Sir - I have a suggestion to put forward for which I think
there is a great deal to be said. It seems to me very probable
that The Avenger - to give him the name by which he apparently
wishes to be known - comprises in his own person the peculiarities
of Jekyll and Hyde, Mr. Louis Stevenson's now famous hero.

"The culprit, according to my point of view, is a quiet,
pleasant-looking gentleman who lives somewhere in the West End of
London. He has, however, a tragedy in his past life. He is the
husband of a dipsomaniac wife. She is, of course, under care, and
is never mentioned in the house where he lives, maybe with his
widowed mother and perhaps a maiden sister. They notice that he
has become gloomy and brooding of late, but he lives his usual life,
occupying himself each day with some harmless hobby. On foggy
nights, once the quiet household is plunged in sleep, he creeps out
of the house, maybe between one and two o'clock, and swiftly makes
his way straight to what has become The Avenger's murder area.
Picking out a likely victim, he approaches her with Judas-like
gentleness, and having committed his awful crime, goes quietly home
again. After a good bath and breakfast, he turns up happy, once
more the quiet individual who is an excellent son, a kind brother,
esteemed and even beloved by a large circle of friends and
acquaintances. Meantime, the police are searching about the scene
of the tragedy for what they regard as the usual type of criminal

"I give this theory, Sir, for what it is worth, but I confess that
I am amazed the police have so wholly confined their inquiries to
the part of London where these murders have been actually committed.
I am quite sure from all that has come out - and we must remember
that full information is never given to the newspapers - The Avenger
should be sought for in the West and not in the East End of London
- Believe me to remain, Sir, yours very truly - "

Again Daisy hesitated, and then with an effort she brought out the
word "Gab-o-ri-you," said she.

"What a funny name!" said Bunting wonderingly.

And then Joe broke in: "That's the name of a French chap what wrote
detective stories," he said. "Pretty good, some of them are, too!"

"Then this Gaboriyou has come over to study these Avenger murders,
I take it?" said Bunting.

"Oh, no," Joe spoke with confidence. "Whoever's written that silly
letter just signed that name for fun."

"It is a silly letter," Mrs. Bunting had broken in resentfully. "I
wonder a respectable paper prints such rubbish."

"Fancy if The Avenger did turn out to be a gentleman!" cried Daisy, in
an awe-struck voice. "There'd be a how-to-do!"

"There may be something in the notion," said her father thoughtfully.
"After all, the monster must be somewhere. This very minute he must
be somewhere a-hiding of himself."

"Of course he's somewhere," said Mrs. Bunting scornfully.

She had just heard Mr. Sleuth moving overhead. 'Twould soon be time
for the lodger's supper.

She hurried on: "But what I do say is that - that - he has nothing
to do with the West End. Why, they say it's a sailor from the Docks
- that's a good bit more likely, I take it. But there, I'm fair
sick of the whole subject! We talk of nothing else in this house.
The Avenger this - The Avenger that - "

"I expect Joe has something to tell us new to-night," said Bunting
cheerfully. "Well, Joe, is there anything new?"

"I say, father, just listen to this!" Daisy broke in excitedly.
She read out:


"Bloodhounds?" repeated Mrs. Bunting, and there was terror in her
tone. "Why bloodhounds? That do seem to me a most horrible idea!"

Bunting looked across at her, mildly astonished. "Why, 'twould be
a very good idea, if 'twas possible to have bloodhounds in a town.
But, there, how can that be done in London, full of butchers' shops,
to say nothing of slaughter-yards and other places o' that sort?"

But Daisy went on, and to her stepmother's shrinking ear there
seemed a horrible thrill of delight; of gloating pleasure, in her
fresh young voice.

"Hark to this," she said:

"A man who had committed a murder in a lonely wood near Blackburn
was traced by the help of a bloodhound, and thanks to the sagacious
instincts of the animal, the miscreant was finally convicted and

"La, now! Who'd ever have thought of such a thing?" Bunting
exclaimed, in admiration. "The newspapers do have some useful
hints in sometimes, Joe."

But young Chandler shook his head. "Bloodhounds ain't no use," he
said; "no use at all! If the Yard was to listen to all the
suggestions that the last few days have brought in - well, all I
can say is our work would be cut out for us - not but what it's

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Online LibraryMarie Adelaide Belloc LowndesThe Lodger → online text (page 7 of 18)