She had brought his clothes—dry, folded, and possibly wearable—back into he_edroom. She had found nothing in the pockets of the suit except som_igarette-card portraits of famous footballers, a charred pipe, three Frenc_ous, and a broken jack-knife. These articles, the raiment, and a pair o_attered shoes which she had pushed under the bed and forgotten, seemed to b_ll that Joe had to show for more than twenty years of strenuous and dangerou_ife on earth—much less even than Elsie could show. The paucity of hi_ossessions did not trouble her, and scarcely surprised her, for she knew tha_ery many unmarried men, with no incentive to accumulate what they coul_mmediately squander in personal use, had no more reserves than Joe; but th_bsence of the sacred "papers" disturbed her. Every man in her world could,
when it came to the point, produce papers of some sort from somewhere—army-
discharge, pension documents, testimonials, birth-certificate, etc., etc. Eve_he tramps who flitted in and out of Rowton House had their papers to whic_hey rightly attached the greatest importance. No man in Elsie's world coul_et far along without papers, unless specially protected by heaven; and,
sooner or later—generally sooner than later—heaven grew tired of protecting.
All day Elsie had been awaiting an opportunity to speak to Joe about hi_apers. The opportunity had now come. Mr. Earlforward could be left for a_our or so. Joe was apparently in less pain. The two bedrooms were tidied up.
Both men had been fed. Joe had had more quinine. She could not sponge hi_gain till the morrow. She herself had drunk two cups of tea, and eaten th_ast contents of the larder. She had lighted a new candle—the last candle—i_he candle-stick. She had brought coal and mended the fire. The next mornin_he would have a great deal to do and to arrange—getting money, marketing,
seeing the doctor and Mrs. Belrose, discussing the funeral with Mr.
Earlforward— terrible anxieties—but for the present she was free.
Joe made no answer. He seemed to be trying to frame sentences. She encourage_im with a repetition
"Where's your papers? I can't find 'em nowhere. You haven't lost them, hav_e?" Her brow contracted in apprehension.
"I sold 'em," said Joe, in his deep, vibrating and yet feeble voice. He looke_way.
"Sold 'em, Joe? Ye never sold 'em!"
"Yes I have, I tell ye. I sold 'em yesterday morning."
"I sold 'em yesterday morning to a man as came to meet a man as came out o_entonville same time as me."
"Pentonville Joe, d'ye mean ye've been to prison?" He nodded. "What a shame!"
she exclaimed in protest, not at his having done anything wicked enough t_end him to prison, but at the police having been wicked enough to send him t_rison. She assumed instinctively and positively that he was an innocen_ictim of the ruthless blue men whom some people know only as pilots o_erambulators across busy streets.
"There was no option, ye know, so I had fourteen days."
She dropped on her knees at the bedside, and put her left arm under his nec_nd threw her right arm over his waist, and with it felt again the familia_hape of his waist through the bedclothes, and gazed into his homely, ugl_ace upon which soft, dark hair—a beard on the chin—was sprouting. This fait_nd tenderness made Joe cry.
"Tell me," she murmured, scarcely hoping that he would succeed in an_arrative.
"Oh, it's nothin'," Joe replied gloomily. "Armistice Day, ye know. I had m_fternoon, and I went out."
"Were ye in a place, Joe?"
"I had a part-time place in Oxford Street—carrying coal upstairs, and cleanin_rasses and sweeping and errands. And a bed. Yes, in the basement. Sort of _atchman. Doctor he give me a testimonial. Least, he sent it me when I wrot_nd asked him." (No doubt whatever that she had been unjust to that doctor!) "
I went down to Piccadilly to see the sights, and when it was about dark I se_ur old divisional general in a damn big car with two young ladies. There wa_ block, ye see, in Piccadilly Circus, and he was stopped by the kerb wher_hem flower-girls are, ye know, by the fountain, and I was standing there a_lose as I am to you, Elsie. We used to call him the Slaughterer. That was ho_e called him. We never called him nothin' else. And there he was with his tw_ows o' ribbons and his flash women, perhaps they weren't flash, and I didn'_ike the look of his face—hard, ye know. Cruel. We knowed him, we did. An_hen I thought of the two minutes' silence, and hats off and stand at
'tention, and the Cenotaph, and it made me laugh. I laughed at him through th_lass. And he didn't like it, he didn't. I was as close to him as I am to you,
ye see. And he lets down the glass and says something about insultin'
behaviour to these ladies, and I put my tongue out to him. That tore it, tha_id. That fair put the lid on. I felt something coming over me—ye know. The_here was a crowd, and I caught a policeman one on the shoulder. Oh, the_arched me off, three of 'em! The doctor at the station said I was drunk, m_s hadn't had a drop for three days! Next morning the beak he said he'd trea_e lenient because it was Armistice Day, and I'd had some and I'd fought fo_he old country, but assaulting an officer of the law, he couldn't let tha_ass. No option for that, so he give me fourteen days."
"But yer master, Joe?"
"It was an old woman."
"No, she wouldn't," said Joe roughly. "And another thing, I didn't go bac_here either, afterwards."
"Did ye leave yer things there?"
"Yes. A bag and some things. And I shan't fetch it either."
" _I_ shall!" said Elsie resolutely. "I won't let 'er have 'em. I shall tel_er you was taken ill, and I shall bring 'em away."
Joe offered no remark.
"But why did ye sell yer papers, Joe?"
"He give me four-and-six for 'em. I was on me uppers; he give me four-and-six,
and then we went and had a meal after all that skilly and cocoa and dry bread.
No good me going back. I'd left without notice, I had."
"But why didn't ye come to me straight, Joey?"
Joe didn't answer. After all this inordinate loquacity of his, he had resume_is great silence.
Elsie still gazed at him. The candle light went down and up. A burst of heav_raffic shook the bed. And now Elsie had a desire to tell Joe all about he_wn story, all about Mr. Earlforward and the death of Mrs. Earlforward, an_he troubles awaiting her in the morning. She wanted to be confidential, an_he wanted to discuss with him a plan for putting him on his feet again afte_e was better—for she was sure she could restore his self-respect to him, an_im to his proper position in the world. But he did not seem interested i_nything, not even in herself. He was absorbed in his aches and pains an_ever. And she was very tired. So, without moving her arms, she just laid he_ead on his breast, and was indignant against the whole of mankind on hi_ehalf, and regarded her harsh, pitiless self as the author of all hi_isfortunes and loved him.