"This morning Arabel and I, and he with us," Miss Barrett wrote, "went in _ab to Vere Street where we had a little business, and he followed us as usua_nto a shop and out of it again, and was at my heels when I stepped up int_he carriage. Having turned, I said 'Flush,' and Arabel looked round fo_lush—there was no Flush! He had been caught up in that moment, from _under_he wheels, do you understand?" Mr. Browning understood perfectly well. Mis_arrett had forgotten the chain; therefore Flush was stolen. Such, in the yea_846, was the law of Wimpole Street and its neighbourhood.
Nothing, it is true, could exceed the apparent solidity and security o_impole Street itself. As far as an invalid could walk or a bath-chair coul_rundle nothing met the eye but an agreeable prospect of four-storeyed houses, plate-glass windows and mahogany doors. Even a carriage and pair, in th_ourse of an afternoon's airing, need not, if the coachman were discreet, leave the limits of decorum and respectability. But if you were not a_nvalid, if you did not possess a carriage and pair, if you were—and man_eople were—active and able-bodied and fond of walking, then you might se_ights and hear language and smell smells, not a stone's-throw from Wimpol_treet, that threw doubts upon the solidity even of Wimpole Street itself. S_r. Thomas Beames found when about this time he took it into his head to g_alking about London. He was surprised; indeed he was shocked. Splendi_uildings raised themselves in Westminster, yet just behind them were ruine_heds in which human beings lived herded together above herds of cows—"two i_ach seven feet of space." He felt that he ought to tell people what he ha_een. Yet how could one describe politely a bedroom in which two or thre_amilies lived above a cow-shed, when the cow-shed had no ventilation, whe_he cows were milked and killed and eaten under the bedroom? That was a task, as Mr. Beames found when he came to attempt it, that taxed all the resource_f the English language. And yet he felt that he ought to describe what he ha_een in the course of an afternoon's walk through some of the mos_ristocratic parishes in London. The risk of typhus was so great. The ric_ould not know what dangers they were running. He could not altogether hol_is tongue when he found what he did find in Westminster and Paddington an_arylebone. For instance, here was an old mansion formerly belonging to som_reat nobleman. Relics of marble mantelpieces remained. The rooms wer_anelled and the banisters were carved, and yet the floors were rotten, th_alls dripped with filth; hordes of half-naked men and women had taken u_heir lodging in the old banqueting-halls. Then he walked on. Here a_nterprising builder had pulled down the old family mansion. He had run up _erry-built tenement house in its place. The rain dripped through the roof an_he wind blew through the walls. He saw a child dipping a can into a bright- green stream and asked if they drank that water. Yes, and washed in it too, for the landlord only allowed water to be turned on twice a week. Such sight_ere the more surprising, because one might come upon them in the most sedat_nd civilised quarters of London—"the most aristocratic parishes have thei_hare." Behind Miss Barrett's bedroom, for instance, was one of the wors_lums in London. Mixed up with that respectability was this filth. But ther_ere certain quarters, of course, which had long been given over to the poo_nd were left undisturbed. In Whitechapel, or in a triangular space of groun_t the bottom of the Tottenham Court Road, poverty and vice and misery ha_red and seethed and propagated their kind for centuries without interference.
A dense mass of aged buildings in St. Giles's was "wellnigh a pena_ettlement, a pauper metropolis in itself." Aptly enough, where the poo_onglomerated thus, the settlement was called a Rookery. For there huma_eings swarmed on top of each other as rooks swarm and blacken tree-tops. Onl_he buildings here were not trees; they were hardly any longer buildings. The_ere cells of brick intersected by lanes which ran with filth. All day th_anes buzzed with half-dressed human beings; at night there poured back agai_nto the stream the thieves, beggars, and prostitutes who had been plyin_heir trade in the West End. The police could do nothing. No single wayfare_ould do anything except hurry through as fast as he could and perhaps drop _int, as Mr. Beames did, with many quotations, evasions and euphemisms, tha_ll was not quite as it should be. Cholera would come, and perhaps the hin_hat cholera would give would not be quite so evasive.
But in the summer of 1846 that hint had not yet been given; and the only saf_ourse for those who lived in Wimpole Street and its neighbourhood was to kee_trictly within the respectable area and to lead your dog on a chain. If on_orgot, as Miss Barrett forgot, one paid the penalty, as Miss Barrett was no_o pay it. The terms upon which Wimpole Street lived cheek by jowl with St.
Giles's were laid down. St. Giles's stole what St. Giles's could; Wimpol_treet paid what Wimpole Street must. Thus Arabel at once "began to comfort m_y showing how certain it was that I should recover him for ten pounds a_ost." Ten pounds, it was reckoned, was about the price that Mr. Taylor woul_sk for a cocker spaniel. Mr. Taylor was the head of the gang. As soon as _ady in Wimpole Street lost her dog she went to Mr. Taylor; he named hi_rice, and it was paid; or if not, a brown paper parcel was delivered i_impole Street a few days later containing the head and paws of the dog. Such, at least, had been the experience of a lady in the neighbourhood who had trie_o make terms with Mr. Taylor. But Miss Barrett of course intended to pay.
Therefore when she got home she told her brother Henry, and Henry went to se_r. Taylor that afternoon. He found him "smoking a cigar in a room wit_ictures"—Mr. Taylor was said to make an income of two or three thousand _ear out of the dogs of Wimpole Street—and Mr. Taylor promised that he woul_onfer with his "Society" and that the dog would be returned next day.
Vexatious as it was, and especially annoying at a moment when Miss Barret_eeded all her money, such were the inevitable consequences of forgetting i_846 to keep one's dog on a chain.
But for Flush things were very different. Flush, Miss Barrett reflected,
"doesn't know that we can recover him"; Flush had never mastered th_rinciples of human society. "All this night he will howl and lament, I kno_erfectly," Miss Barrett wrote to Mr. Browning on the afternoon of Tuesday, the 1st September. But while Miss Barrett wrote to Mr. Browning, Flush wa_oing through the most terrible experience of his life. He was bewildered i_he extreme. One moment he was in Vere Street, among ribbons and laces; th_ext he was tumbled head over heels into a bag; jolted rapidly across streets, and at length was tumbled out—here. He found himself in complete darkness. H_ound himself in chillness and dampness. As his giddiness left him he made ou_ few shapes in a low dark room—broken chairs, a tumbled mattress. Then he wa_eized and tied tightly by the leg to some obstacle. Something sprawled on th_loor—whether beast or human being, he could not tell. Great boots an_raggled skirts kept stumbling in and out. Flies buzzed on scraps of old mea_hat were decaying on the floor. Children crawled out from dark corners an_inched his ears. He whined, and a heavy hand beat him over the head. H_owered down on the few inches of damp brick against the wall. Now he coul_ee that the floor was crowded with animals of different kinds. Dogs tore an_orried a festering bone that they had got between them. Their ribs stood ou_rom their coats—they were half famished, dirty, diseased, uncombed, unbrushed; yet all of them, Flush could see, were dogs of the highes_reeding, chained dogs, footmen's dogs, like himself.
He lay, not daring even to whimper, hour after hour. Thirst was his wors_uffering; but one sip of the thick greenish water that stood in a pail nea_im disgusted him; he would rather die than drink another. Yet a majesti_reyhound was drinking greedily. Whenever the door was kicked open he looke_p. Miss Barrett—was it Miss Barrett? Had she come at last? But it was only _airy ruffian, who kicked them all aside and stumbled to a broken chair upo_hich he flung himself. Then gradually the darkness thickened. He coul_carcely make out what shapes those were, on the floor, on the mattress, o_he broken chairs. A stump of candle was stuck on the ledge over th_ireplace. A flare burnt in the gutter outside. By its flickering, coars_ight Flush could see terrible faces passing outside, leering at the window.
Then in they came, until the small crowded room became so crowded that he ha_o shrink back and lie even closer against the wall. These horribl_onsters—some were ragged, others were flaring with paint an_eathers—squatted on the floor; hunched themselves over the table. They bega_o drink; they cursed and struck each other. Out tumbled, from the bags tha_ere dropped on the floor, more dogs—lap dogs, setters, pointers with thei_ollars still on them; and a giant cockatoo that flustered and dashed its wa_rom corner to corner shrieking "Pretty Poll," "Pretty Poll," with an accen_hat would have terrified its mistress, a widow in Maida Vale. Then th_omen's bags were opened, and out were tossed on to the table bracelets an_ings and brooches such as Flush had seen Miss Barrett wear and Mis_enrietta. The demons pawed and clawed them; cursed and quarrelled over them.
The dogs barked. The children shrieked, and the splendid cockatoo—such a bir_s Flush had often seen pendant in a Wimpole Street window—shrieked "Prett_oll! Pretty Poll!" faster and faster until a slipper was thrown at it and i_lapped its great yellow-stained dove-grey wings in frenzy. Then the candl_oppled over and fell. The room was dark. It grew steadily hotter and hotter; the smell, the heat, were unbearable; Flush's nose burnt; his coat twitched.
And still Miss Barrett did not come.
Miss Barrett lay on her sofa in Wimpole Street. She was vexed; she wa_orried, but she was not seriously alarmed. Of course Flush would suffer; h_ould whine and bark all night; but it was only a question of a few hours. Mr.
Taylor would name his sum; she would pay it; Flush would be returned.
The morning of Wednesday the 2nd September dawned in the rookeries o_hitechapel. The broken windows gradually became smeared with grey. Light fel_pon the hairy faces of ruffians lying sprawled upon the floor. Flush wok_rom a trance that had veiled his eyes and once more realised the truth. Thi_as now the truth—this room, these ruffians, these whining, snapping, tightl_ethered dogs, this murk, this dampness. Could it be true that he had been i_ shop, with ladies, among ribbons, only yesterday? Was there such a place a_impole Street? Was there a room where fresh water sparkled in a purple jar; had he lain on cushions; had he been given a chicken's wing nicely roasted; and had he been torn with rage and jealousy and bitten a man with yello_loves? The whole of that life and its emotions floated away, dissolved, became unreal.
Here, as the dusty light filtered in, a woman heaved herself off a sack an_taggered out to fetch beer. The drinking and the cursing began again. A fa_oman held him up by his ears and pinched his ribs, and some odious joke wa_ade about him—there was a roar of laughter as she threw him on the floo_gain. The door was kicked open and banged to. Whenever that happened h_ooked up. Was it Wilson? Could it possibly be Mr. Browning? Or Miss Barrett?
But no—it was only another thief, another murderer; he cowered back at th_ere sight of those draggled skirts, of those hard, horny boots. Once he trie_o gnaw a bone that was hurled his way. But his teeth could not meet in ston_lesh and the rank smell disgusted him. His thirst increased and he was force_o lap a little of the green water that had been spilt from the pail. But a_ednesday wore on and he became hotter and more parched and still more sore, lying on the broken boards, one thing merged in another. He scarcely notice_hat was happening. It was only when the door opened that he raised his hea_nd looked. No, it was not Miss Barrett.
Miss Barrett, lying on the sofa in Wimpole Street, was becoming anxious. Ther_as some hitch in the proceedings. Taylor had promised that he would go dow_o Whitechapel on Wednesday afternoon and confer with "the Society." Ye_ednesday afternoon, Wednesday evening passed and still Taylor did not come.
This could only mean, she supposed, that the price was going to b_aised—which was inconvenient enough at the moment. Still, of course, sh_ould have to pay it. "I must have my Flush, you know," she wrote to Mr.
Browning. "I can't run any risk and bargain and haggle." So she lay on th_ofa writing to Mr. Browning and listening for a knock at the door. But Wilso_ame up with the letters; Wilson came up with the hot water. It was time fo_ed and Flush had not come.
Thursday the 3rd of September dawned in Whitechapel. The door opened and shut.
The red setter who had been whining all night beside Flush on the floor wa_auled off by a ruffian in a moleskin vest—to what fate? Was it better to b_illed or to stay here? Which was worse—this life or that death? The racket, the hunger and the thirst, the reeking smells of the place—and once, Flus_emembered, he had detested the scent of eau de cologne—were fast obliteratin_ny clear image, any single desire. Fragments of old memories began turning i_is head. Was that the voice of old Dr. Mitford shouting in the field? Wa_hat Kerenhappock gossiping with the baker at the door? There was a rattlin_n the room and he thought he heard Miss Mitford tying up a bunch o_eraniums. But it was only the wind—for it was stormy today—battering at th_rown paper in the broken window pane. It was only some drunken voice ravin_n the gutter. It was only the old hag in the corner mumbling on and on and o_s she fried a herring in a pan over a fire. He had been forgotten an_eserted. No help was coming. No voice spoke to him—the parrots cried "Prett_oll, Pretty Poll" and the canaries kept up their senseless cheeping an_hirping.
Then again evening darkened the room; the candle was stuck in its saucer; th_oarse light flared outside; hordes of sinister men with bags on their backs, of garish women with painted faces, began to shuffle in at the door and t_ling themselves down on the broken beds and tables. Another night had folde_ts blackness over Whitechapel. And the rain dripped steadily through a hol_n the roof and drummed into a pail that had been stood to catch it. Mis_arrett had not come.
Thursday dawned in Wimpole Street. There was no sign of Flush—no message fro_aylor. Miss Barrett was very much alarmed. She made enquiries. She summone_er brother Henry, and cross-examined him. She found out that he had tricke_er. "The archfield" Taylor had come according to his promise the nigh_efore. He had stated his terms—six guineas for the Society and half a guine_or himself. But Henry, instead of telling her, had told Mr. Barrett, with th_esult, of course, that Mr. Barrett had ordered him not to pay, and to concea_he visit from his sister. Miss Barrett was "very vexed and angry." She bad_er brother to go at once to Mr. Taylor and pay the money. Henry refused and
"talked of Papa." But it was no use talking of Papa, she protested. While the_alked of Papa, Flush would be killed. She made up her mind. If Henry woul_ot go, she would go herself: "… if people won't do as I choose, I shall g_own tomorrow morning, and bring Flush back with me," she wrote to Mr.
But Miss Barrett now found that it was easier to say this than to do it. I_as almost as difficult for her to go to Flush as for Flush to come to her.
All Wimpole Street was against her. The news that Flush was stolen and tha_aylor demanded a ransom was now public property. Wimpole Street wa_etermined to make a stand against Whitechapel. Blind Mr. Boyd sent word tha_n his opinion it would be "an awful sin" to pay the ransom. Her father an_er brother were in league against her and were capable of any treachery i_he interests of their class. But worst of all—far worse—Mr. Browning himsel_hrew all his weight, all his eloquence, all his learning, all his logic, o_he side of Wimpole Street and against Flush. If Miss Barrett gave way t_aylor, he wrote, she was giving way to tyranny; she was giving way t_lackmailers; she was increasing the power of evil over right, of wickednes_ver innocence. If she gave Taylor his demand, "… how will the poor owner_are who have not money enough for their dogs' redemption?" His imaginatio_ook fire; he imagined what he would say if Taylor asked him even for fiv_hillings; he would say, _"You_ are responsible for the proceedings of you_ang, and _you_ I mark—don't talk nonsense to me about cutting off heads o_aws. Be as sure as that I stand here and tell you, I will spend my whole lif_n putting you down, the nuisance you declare yourself—and by every imaginabl_eans I will be the death of you and as many of your accomplices as I ca_iscover—but _you_ I have discovered and will never lose sight of… ." So Mr.
Browning would have replied to Taylor if he had had the good fortune to mee_hat gentleman. For indeed, he went on, catching a later post with a secon_etter that same Thursday afternoon, "… it is horrible to fancy how all th_ppressors in their several ranks may, if they choose, twitch back to them b_he heartstrings after various modes the weak and silent whose secret the_ave found out." He did not blame Miss Barrett—nothing she did could b_nything but perfectly right, perfectly acceptable to him. Still, he continue_n Friday morning, "I think it lamentable weakness… ." If she encourage_aylor who stole dogs, she encouraged Mr. Barnard Gregory who stol_haracters. Indirectly, she was responsible for all the wretches who cut thei_hroats or fly the country because some blackmailer like Barnard Gregory too_own a directory and blasted their characters. "But why write this string o_ruisms about the plainest thing in the world?" So Mr. Browning stormed an_ociferated from New Cross twice daily.
Lying on her sofa, Miss Barrett read the letters. How easy it could have bee_o yield—how easy it would have been to say, "Your good opinion is worth mor_o me than a hundred cocker spaniels." How easy it would have been to sin_ack on her pillows and sigh, "I am a weak woman; I know nothing of law an_ustice; decide for me." She had only to refuse to pay the ransom; she ha_nly to defy Taylor and his society. And if Flush were killed, if the dreadfu_arcel came and she opened it and out dropped his head and paws, there wa_obert Browning by her side to assure her that she had done right and earne_is respect. But Miss Barrett was not to be intimidated. Miss Barrett took u_er pen and refuted Robert Browning. It was all very well, she said, to quot_onne; to cite the case of Gregory; to invent spirited replies to Mr.
Taylor—she would have done the same had Taylor struck her; had Gregory defame_er—would that they had! But what would Mr. Browning have done if the banditt_ad stolen her; had her in their power; threatened to cut off her ears an_end them by post to New Cross? Whatever he would have done, her mind was mad_p. Flush was helpless. Her duty was to him. "But Flush, poor Flush, who ha_oved me so faithfully; have I a right to sacrifice _him_ in his innocence, for the sake of any Mr. Taylor's guilt in the world?" Whatever Mr. Brownin_ight say, she was going to rescue Flush, even if she went down into the jaw_f Whitechapel to fetch him, even if Robert Browning despised her for doin_o.
On Saturday, therefore, with Mr. Browning's letter lying open on the tabl_efore her, she began to dress. She read his "one word more—in all this, _abour against the execrable policy of the world's husbands, fathers, brother_nd domineerers in general." So, if she went to Whitechapel she was sidin_gainst Robert Browning, and in favour of fathers, brothers and domineerers i_eneral. Still, she went on dressing. A dog howled in the mews. It was tie_p, helpless in the power of cruel men. It seemed to her to cry as it howled:
"Think of Flush." She put on her shoes, her cloak, her hat. She glanced at Mr.
Browning's letter once more. "I am about to marry you," she read. Still th_og howled. She left her room and went downstairs.
Henry Barrett met her and told her that in his opinion she might well b_obbed and murdered if she did what she threatened. She told Wilson to call _ab. All trembling but submissive, Wilson obeyed. The cab came. Miss Barret_old Wilson to get in. Wilson, though convinced that death awaited her, go_n. Miss Barrett told the cabman to drive to Manning Street, Shoreditch. Mis_arrett got in herself and off they drove. Soon they were beyond plate-glas_indows, the mahogany doors and the area railings. They were in a world tha_iss Barrett had never seen, had never guessed at. They were in a world wher_ows are herded under the bedroom floor, where whole families sleep in room_ith broken windows; in a world where water is turned on only twice a week, i_ world where vice and poverty breed vice and poverty. They had come to _egion unknown to respectable cab-drivers. The cab stopped; the driver aske_is way at a public-house. "Out came two or three men. 'Oh, you want to fin_r. Taylor, I daresay!'" In this mysterious world a cab with two ladies coul_nly come upon one errand, and that errand was already known. It was siniste_n the extreme. One of the men ran into a house, and came out saying that Mr.
Taylor "'wasn't at home! but wouldn't I get out?' Wilson, in an aside o_error, entreated me not to think of such a thing." A gang of men and boy_ressed round the cab. "Then wouldn't I see Mrs. Taylor?" the man asked. Mis_arrett had no wish whatever to see Mrs. Taylor; but now an immense fat woma_ame out of the house, "fat enough to have had an easy conscience all he_ife," and informed Miss Barrett that her husband was out: "might be in in _ew minutes, or in so many hours—wouldn't I like to get out and wait?" Wilso_ugged at her gown. Imagine waiting in the house of that woman! It was ba_nough to sit in the cab with the gang of men and boys pressing round them. S_iss Barrett parleyed with the "immense feminine bandit" from the cab. Sh_aid Mr. Taylor had her dog; Mr. Taylor had promised to restore her dog; woul_r. Taylor bring back her dog to Wimpole Street for certain that very day? "O_es, certainly," said the fat woman with the most gracious of smiles. She di_elieve that Taylor had left home precisely on that business. And she "poise_er head to right and left with the most easy grace."
So the cab turned round and left Manning Street, Shoreditch. Wilson was o_pinion that "we had escaped with our lives barely." Miss Barrett herself ha_een alarmed. "Plain enough it was that the gang was strong there. Th_ociety, the 'Fancy' … had their roots in the ground," she wrote. Her min_eemed with thoughts, her eyes were full of pictures. This, then, was what la_n the other side of Wimpole Street—these faces, these houses. She had see_ore while she sat in the cab at the public-house than she had seen during th_ive years that she had lain in the back bedroom at Wimpole Street. "The face_f those men!" she exclaimed. They were branded on her eyeballs. The_timulated her imagination as "the divine marble presences," the busts on th_ookcase, had never stimulated it. Here lived women like herself; while sh_ay on her sofa, reading, writing, they lived thus. But the cab was no_rundling along between four-storeyed houses again. Here were the familia_oors and windows: the avenue of pointed brick, the brass knockers, th_egular curtains. Here was Wimpole Street and number fifty. Wilson spran_ut—with what relief to find herself in safety can be imagined. But Mis_arrett, perhaps, hesitated a moment. She still saw "the faces of those men."
They were to come before her again years later when she was sitting on a sunn_alcony in Italy.[](footnotes.xml#footnote_5) They were to inspire the mos_ivid passages in _Aurora Leigh._ But now the butler had opened the door, and she went upstairs to her room again.
Saturday was the fifth day of Flush's imprisonment. Almost exhausted, almos_opeless, he lay panting in his dark corner of the teeming floor. Door_lammed and banged. Rough voices cried. Women screamed. Parrots chattered a_hey had chattered to widows in Maida Vale, but now evil old women merel_ursed at them. Insects crawled in his fur, but he was too weak, to_ndifferent to shake his coat. All Flush's past life and its man_cenes—Reading, the greenhouse, Miss Mitford, Mr. Kenyon, the bookcases, th_usts, the peasants on the blind—had faded like snowflakes dissolved in _auldron. If he still held to hope, it was to something nameless and formless; the featureless face of someone he still called "Miss Barrett." She stil_xisted; all the rest of the world was gone; but she still existed, thoug_uch gulfs lay between them that it was impossible, almost, that she shoul_each him still. Darkness began to fall again, such darkness as seemed almos_ble to crush out his last hope—Miss Barrett.
In truth, the forces of Wimpole Street were still, even at this last moment, battling to keep Flush and Miss Barrett apart. On Saturday afternoon she la_nd waited for Taylor to come, as the immensely fat woman had promised. A_ast he came, but he had not brought the dog. He sent up a message—Let Mis_arrett pay him six guineas on the spot, and he would go straight t_hitechapel and fetch the dog "on his word of honour." What "the archfiend"
Taylor's word of honour might be worth, Miss Barrett could not say; but "ther_eemed no other way for it"; Flush's life was at stake; she counted out th_uineas and sent them down to Taylor in the passage. But as ill luck woul_ave it, as Taylor waited in the passage among the umbrellas, the engravings, the pile carpet and other valuable objects, Alfred Barrett came in. The sigh_f the archfiend Taylor actually in the house made him lose his temper. H_urst into a rage. He called him "a swindler, and a liar and a thief."
Thereupon Mr. Taylor cursed him back. What was far worse, he swore that "as h_oped to be saved, we should never see our dog again," and rushed out of th_ouse. Next morning, then, the blood-stained parcel would arrive.
Miss Barrett flung on her clothes again and rushed downstairs. Where wa_ilson? Let her call a cab. She was going back to Shoreditch instantly. He_amily came running to prevent her. It was getting dark. She was exhauste_lready. The adventure was risky enough for a man in health. For her it wa_adness. So they told her. Her brothers, her sisters, all came round he_hreatening her, dissuading her, "crying out against me for being 'quite mad'
and obstinate and wilful—I was called as many names as Mr. Taylor." But sh_tood her ground. At last they realised the extent of her folly. Whatever th_isk might be they must give way to her. Septimus promised if Ba would retur_o her room "and be in good humour" that he would go to Taylor's himself an_ay the money and bring back the dog.
So the dusk of the 5th of September faded into the blackness of night i_hitechapel. The door of the room was once more kicked open. A hairy ma_auled Flush by the scruff of his neck out of his corner. Looking up into th_ideous face of his old enemy, Flush did not know whether he was being take_o be killed or to be freed. Save for one phantom memory, he did not care. Th_an stooped. What were those great fingers fumbling at his throat for? Was i_ knife or a chain? Stumbling, half blinded, on legs that staggered, Flush wa_ed out into the open air.
In Wimpole Street Miss Barrett could not eat her dinner. Was Flush dead, o_as Flush alive? She did not know. At eight o'clock there was a rap on th_oor; it was the usual letter from Mr. Browning. But as the door opened t_dmit the letter, something rushed in also: Flush. He made straight for hi_urple jar. It was filled three times over; and still he drank. Miss Barret_atched the dazed, bewildered dirty dog, drinking. "He was not so enthusiasti_bout seeing me as I expected," she remarked. No, there was only one thing i_he world he wanted—clean water.
After all, Miss Barrett had but glanced at the faces of those men and sh_emembered them all her life. Flush had lain at their mercy in their midst fo_ive whole days. Now as he lay on cushions once more, cold water was the onl_hing that seemed to have any substance, any reality. He drank continually.
The old gods of the bedroom—the bookcase, the wardrobe, the busts—seemed t_ave lost their substance. This room was no longer the whole world; it wa_nly a shelter; only a dell arched over by one trembling dock-leaf in a fores_here wild beasts prowled and venomous snakes coiled; where behind every tre_urked a murderer ready to pounce. As he lay dazed and exhausted on the sof_t Miss Barrett's feet the howls of tethered dogs, the screams of birds i_error still sounded in his ears. When the door opened he started, expecting _airy man with a knife—it was only Mr. Kenyon with a book; it was only Mr.
Browning with his yellow gloves. But he shrank away from Mr. Kenyon and Mr.
Browning now. He trusted them no longer. Behind those smiling, friendly face_ere treachery and cruelty and deceit. Their caresses were hollow. He dreade_ven walking with Wilson to the pillar-box. He would not stir without hi_hain. When they said, "'Poor Flush, did the naughty men take you away?' h_ut up his head and moaned and yelled." A whip cracking sent him bolting dow_he area-steps into safety. Indoors he crept closer to Miss Barrett on th_ofa. She alone had not deserted him. He still kept some faith in her.
Gradually some substance returned to her. Exhausted, trembling, dirty and ver_hin he lay on the sofa at her feet.
As the days passed and the memory of Whitechapel grew fainter, Flush, lyin_lose to Miss Barrett on the sofa, read her feelings more clearly than eve_efore. They had been parted; now they were together. Indeed they had neve_een so much akin. Every start she gave, every movement she made, passe_hrough him too. And she seemed now to be perpetually starting and moving. Th_elivery of a parcel even made her jump. She opened the parcel; with tremblin_ingers she took out a pair of thick boots. She hid them instantly in th_orner of the cupboard. Then she lay down as if nothing had happened; ye_omething had happened. When they were alone she rose and took a diamon_ecklace from a drawer. She took out the box that held Mr. Browning's letters.
She laid the boots, the necklace and the letters all in a carpet-box togethe_nd then—as if she heard a step on the stair—she pushed the box under the be_nd lay down hastily, covering herself with her shawl again. Such signs o_ecrecy and stealth must herald, Flush felt, some approaching crisis. Wer_hey about to fly together? Were they about to escape together from this awfu_orld of dog-stealers and tyrants? Oh, that it were possible! He trembled an_hined with excitement; but in her low voice Miss Barrett bade him be quiet, and instantly he was quiet. She was very quiet too. She lay perfectly still o_he sofa directly any of her brothers or sisters came in; she lay and talke_o Mr. Barrett as she always lay and talked to Mr. Barrett.
But on Saturday, the 12th of September, Miss Barrett did what Flush had neve_nown her do before. She dressed herself as if to go out directly afte_reakfast. Moreover, as he watched her dress, Flush knew perfectly well fro_he expression on her face that he was not to go with her. She was bound o_ecret business of her own. At ten Wilson came into the room. She also wa_ressed as if for a walk. They went out together; and Flush lay on the sof_nd waited for their return. An hour or so later Miss Barrett came back alone.
She did not look at him—she seemed to notice nothing. She drew off her glove_nd for a moment he saw a gold ring shine on one of the fingers of her lef_and. Then he saw her slip the ring from her hand and hide it in the darknes_f a drawer. Then she laid herself down as usual on the sofa. He lay by he_ide scarcely daring to breathe, for whatever had happened, and something ha_appened, it must at all costs be concealed.
At all costs the life of the bedroom must go on as usual. Yet everything wa_ifferent. The very movement of the blind as it drew in and out seemed t_lush like a signal. And as the lights and shadows passed over the busts the_oo seemed to be hinting and beckoning. Everything in the room seemed to b_ware of change; to be prepared for some event. And yet all was silent; al_as concealed. The brothers and sisters came in and out as usual; Mr. Barret_ame as usual in the evening. He looked as usual to see that the chop wa_inished, the wine drunk. Miss Barrett talked and laughed and gave no sig_hen anyone was in the room that she was hiding anything. Yet when they wer_lone she pulled out the box from under the bed and filled it hastily, stealthily, listening as she did so. And the signs of strain wer_nmistakable. On Sunday the church bells were ringing. "What bells are those?"
somebody asked. "Marylebone Church bells," said Miss Henrietta. Miss Barrett, Flush saw, went deadly white. But nobody else noticed anything.
So Monday passed, and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday. Over them all lay _lanket of silence, of eating and talking and lying still on the sofa a_sual. Flush, tossing in uneasy sleep, dreamt that they were couched togethe_nder ferns and leaves in a vast forest; then the leaves were parted and h_oke. It was dark; but in the darkness he saw Wilson come stealthily into th_oom, and take the box from beneath the bed and quietly carry it outside. Thi_as on Friday night, the 18th of September. All Saturday morning he lay as on_ies who knows that at any moment now a handkerchief may drop, a low whistl_ay sound and the signal will be given for death or for life. He watched Mis_arrett dress herself. At a quarter to four the door opened and Wilson cam_n. Then the signal was given—Miss Barrett lifted him in her arms. She ros_nd walked to the door. For a moment they stood looking round the room. Ther_as the sofa and by it Mr. Browning's armchair. There were the busts and th_ables. The sun filtered through the ivy leaves and the blind with peasant_alking blew gently out. All was as usual. All seemed to expect a million mor_uch moments to come to them; but for Miss Barrett and Flush this was th_ast. Very quietly Miss Barrett shut the door.
Very quietly they slipped downstairs, past the drawing-room, the library, th_ining-room. All looked as they usually looked; smelt as they usually smelt; all were quiet as if sleeping in the hot September afternoon. On the mat i_he hall Catiline lay sleeping too. They gained the front door and ver_uietly turned the handle. A cab was waiting outside.
"To Hodgson's," said Miss Barrett. She spoke almost in a whisper. Flush sat o_er knee very still. Not for anything in the whole world would he have broke_hat tremendous silence.