+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

between them what seemed to me to be a dead
girl, and that girl Mary! I caught hold of
her and gave a scream that must have
alarmed the whole house; for, frightened
people came crowding down-stairs in their
night-dresses. There was a dreadful
confusion and noise of loud talking, but I heard
nothing, and saw nothing, till I had got her
into my room, and laid on my bed. I stooped
down, frantic-like, to kiss her, and saw an
awful mark of a blow on her left temple, and
felt, at the same time, a feeble flutter of her
breath on my cheek. The discovery that she
was not dead seemed to give me back my
senses again. I told one of the policemen
where the nearest doctor was to be found,
and sat down by the bedside while he was
gone, and bathed her poor head with cold
water. She never opened her eyes, or moved,
or spoke; but she breathed, and that was
enough for me, because it was enough for

The policeman left in the room was a big,
thick-voiced, pompous man, with a horrible
unfeeling pleasure in hearing himself talk
before an assembly of frightened, silent
people. He told us how he had found her,
as if he had been telling a story in a tap-
room, and began with saying, "I don't think
the young woman was drunk." Drunk! My
Mary, who might have been a born lady for
all the spirits she ever toucheddrunk! I
could have struck the man for uttering the
word, with her lying, poor suffering angel, so
white and still and helpless before him. As
it was, I gave him a look; but he was too
stupid to understand it, and went droning
on, saying the same thing over and over
again in tlie same words. And yet the story
of how they found her was, like all the sad
stories I have ever heard told in real life, so
very, very short. They had just seen her
lying along on the kerb-stone, a few streets
off, and had taken her to the station-house.
There she had been searched, and one of my
cards, that I give to ladies who promise me
employment, had been found in her pocket,
and so they had brought her to our house.
This was all the man really had to tell.
There was nobody near her when she was
found, and no evidence to show how the
blow on her temple had been inflicted.

What a time it was before the doctor came,
and how dreadful to hear him say, after he
had looked at her, that he was afraid all the
medical men in the world could be of no use
here! He could not get her to swallow
anything ; and the more he tried to bring her
back to her senses, the less chance there
seemed of his succeeding. He examined the
blow on her temple, and said he thought she
must have fallen down in a fit of some sort,
and struck her head against the pavement,
and so have given her brain what he was
afraid was a fatal shake. I asked what was
to be done if she showed any return to sense
in the night. He said, "Send for me
directly; " and stopped for a little while afterwards
stroking her head gently with his
hand, and whispering to himself, "Poor
girl, so young and so pretty!" I had felt,
some minutes before, as if I could have
struck the policeman; and I felt now as if I
could have thrown my arms round the
doctor's neck and kissed him. I did put out
my hand, when he took up his hat, and he
shook it in the friendliest way. "Don't hope,
my dear," he said, and went out.

The rest of the lodgers followed him, all
silent and shocked, except the inhuman
wretch who owns the house, and lives in
idleness on the high rents he wrings from
poor people like us. "She's three weeks in
my debt," says he, with a frown and an oath.
"Where the devil is my money to come from
now?" Brute! brute!

I had a long cry alone with her that seemed
to ease my heart a little. She was not the
least changed for the better when I had
wiped away the tears, and could see her
clearly again. I took up her right hand,
which lay nearest to me. It was tight
clenched. I tried to unclasp the fingers, and
succeeded after a little time. Something
dark fell out of the palm of her hand as I
straightened it. I picked the thing up, and
smoothed it out, and saw that it was an end
of a man's cravat.

A very old, rotten, dingy strip of black
silk, with thin lilac lines, all blurred and
deadened with dirt, running across and across
the stuff in a sort of trellis-work pattern.
The small end of the cravat was hemmed in the
usual way, butthe other end was all jagged, as if
the morsel then in my hands had been torn off
violently from the rest of the stuff. A chill
ran all over me as I looked at it; for that
poor, stained, crumpled end of a cravat
seemed to be saying to me, as though it had
been in plain words, "If she dies, she has
come to her death by foul means, and I am
the witness of it."

I had been frightened enough before, lest
she should die suddenly and quietly without
my knowing it, while we were alone together;
but I got into a perfect agony now for fear
this last worst affliction should take me by
surprise. I don't suppose five minutes passed
all that woeful night through, without my
getting up and putting my cheek close to her
mouth, to feel if the faint breaths still
fluttered out of it. They came and went just
the same as at first, though the fright I was
in often made me fancy they were stilled for
ever. Just as the church clocks were striking
four, I was startled by seeing the room door
open. It was only Dusty Sal (as they call
her in the house) the maid-of-all-work. She
was wrapped up in the blanket off her bed;
her hair was all tumbled over her face; and
her eyes were heavy with sleep, as she came
up to the bedside where I was sitting.

"I've two hours good before I begin to
work," says she, in her hoarse, drowsy voice,