Mrs. Bunting woke up the next morning feeling happier than she had felt for _ery, very long time.
For just one moment she could not think why she felt so different —and the_he suddenly remembered.
How comfortable it was to know that upstairs, just over her head, lay, in th_ell-found bed she had bought with such satisfaction at an auction held in _aker Street house, a lodger who was paying two guineas a week! Somethin_eemed to tell her that Mr. Sleuth would be "a permanency." In any case, i_ouldn't be her fault if he wasn't. As to his—his queerness, well, there'_lways something funny in everybody. But after she had got up, and as th_orning wore itself away, Mrs. Bunting grew a little anxious, for there cam_o sound at all from the new lodger's rooms. At twelve, however, the drawing- room bell rang. Mrs. Bunting hurried upstairs. She was painfully anxious t_lease and satisfy Mr. Sleuth. His coming had only been in the nick of time t_ave them from terrible disaster.
She found her lodger up, and fully dressed. He was sitting at the round tabl_hich occupied the middle of the sitting-room, and his landlady's large Bibl_ay open before him.
As Mrs. Bunting came in, he looked up, and she was troubled to see how tire_nd worn he seemed.
"You did not happen," he asked, "to have a Concordance, Mrs. Bunting?"
She shook her head; she had no idea what a Concordance could be, but she wa_uite sure that she had nothing of the sort about.
And then her new lodger proceeded to tell her what it was he desired her t_uy for him. She had supposed the bag he had brought with him to contai_ertain little necessaries of civilised life—such articles, for instance, as _omb and brush, a set of razors, a toothbrush, to say nothing of a couple o_ightshirts—but no, that was evidently not so, for Mr. Sleuth required al_hese things to be bought now.
After having cooked him a nice breakfast Mrs. Bunting hurried out to purchas_he things of which he was in urgent need.
How pleasant it was to feel that there was money in her purse again—not onl_omeone else's money, but money she was now in the very act of earning s_greeably.
Mrs. Bunting first made her way to a little barber's shop close by. It wa_here she purchased the brush and comb and the razors. It was a funny, rathe_melly little place, and she hurried as much as she could, the more so tha_he foreigner who served her insisted on telling her some of the strange, peculiar details of this Avenger murder which had taken place forty-eigh_ours before, and in which Bunting took such a morbid interest.
The conversation upset Mrs. Bunting. She didn't want to think of anythin_ainful or disagreeable on such a day as this.
Then she came back and showed the lodger her various purchases. Mr. Sleuth wa_leased with everything, and thanked her most courteously. But when sh_uggested doing his bedroom he frowned, and looked quite put out.
"Please wait till this evening," he said hastily. "It is my custom to stay a_ome all day. I only care to walk about the streets when the lights are lit.
You must bear with me, Mrs. Bunting, if I seem a little, just a little, unlik_he lodgers you have been accustomed to. And I must ask you to understand tha_ must not be disturbed when thinking out my problems—" He broke off short, sighed, then added solemnly, "for mine are the great problems of life an_eath."
And Mrs. Bunting willingly fell in with his wishes. In spite of her pri_anner and love of order, Mr. Sleuth's landlady was a true woman —she had, that is, an infinite patience with masculine vagaries and oddities.
When she was downstairs again, Mr. Sleuth's landlady met with a surprise; bu_t was quite a pleasant surprise. While she had been upstairs, talking to th_odger, Bunting's young friend, Joe Chandler, the detective, had come in, an_s she walked into the sitting-room she saw that her husband was pushing hal_ sovereign across the table towards Joe.
Joe Chandler's fair, good-natured face was full of satisfaction: not at seein_is money again, mark you, but at the news Bunting had evidently been tellin_im—that news of the sudden wonderful change in their fortunes, the coming o_n ideal lodger.
"Mr. Sleuth don't want me to do his bedroom till he's gone out!" sh_xclaimed. And then she sat down for a bit of a rest.
It was a comfort to know that the lodger was eating his good breakfast, an_here was no need to think of him for the present. In a few minutes she woul_e going down to make her own and Bunting's dinner, and she told Joe Chandle_hat he might as well stop and have a bite with them.
Her heart warmed to the young man, for Mrs. Bunting was in a mood which seldo_urprised her—a mood to be pleased with anything and everything. Nay, more.
When Bunting began to ask Joe Chandler about the last of those awful Avenge_urders, she even listened with a certain languid interest to all he had t_ay.
In the morning paper which Bunting had begun taking again that very day thre_olumns were devoted to the extraordinary mystery which was now beginning t_e the one topic of talk all over London, West and East, North and South.
Bunting had read out little bits about it while they ate their breakfast, an_n spite of herself Mrs. Bunting had felt thrilled and excited.
"They do say," observed Bunting cautiously, "They do say, Joe, that the polic_ave a clue they won't say nothing about?" He looked expectantly at hi_isitor. To Bunting the fact that Chandler was attached to the detectiv_ection of the Metropolitan Police invested the young man with a kind o_inister glory—especially just now, when these awful and mysterious crime_ere amazing and terrifying the town.
"Them who says that says wrong," answered Chandler slowly, and a look o_nease, of resentment came over his fair, stolid face. "'Twould make a goo_it of difference to me if the Yard had a clue."
And then Mrs. Bunting interposed. "Why that, Joe?" she said, smilin_ndulgently; the young man's keenness about his work pleased her. And in hi_low, sure way Joe Chandler was very keen, and took his job very seriously. H_ut his whole heart and mind into it.
"Well, 'tis this way," he explained. "From to-day I'm on this business myself.
You see, Mrs. Bunting, the Yard's nettled—that's what it is, and we're all o_ur mettle—that we are. I was right down sorry for the poor chap who was o_oint duty in the street where the last one happened—"
"No!" said Bunting incredulously. "You don't mean there was a policeman there, within a few yards?"
That fact hadn't been recorded in his newspaper.
Chandler nodded. "That's exactly what I do mean, Mr. Bunting! The man is nea_ff his head, so I'm told. He did hear a yell, so he says, but he took n_otice—there are a good few yells in that part o' London, as you can guess.
People always quarrelling and rowing at one another in such low parts."
"Have you seen the bits of grey paper on which the monster writes his name?"
inquired Bunting eagerly.
Public imagination had been much stirred by the account of those three- cornered pieces of grey paper, pinned to the victims' skirts, on which wa_oughly written in red ink and in printed characters the words "The Avenger."
His round, fat face was full of questioning eagerness. He put his elbows o_he table, and stared across expectantly at the young man.
"Yes, I have," said Joe briefly.
"A funny kind of visiting card, eh!" Bunting laughed; the notion struck him a_ownright comic.
But Mrs. Bunting coloured. "It isn't a thing to make a joke about," she sai_eprovingly.
And Chandler backed her up. "No, indeed," he said feelingly. "I'll neve_orget what I've been made to see over this job. And as for that grey bit o_aper, Mr. Bunting—or, rather, those grey bits of paper"—he corrected himsel_astily—"you know they've three of them now at the Yard—well, they gives m_he horrors!"
And then he jumped up. "That reminds me that I oughtn't to be wasting my tim_n pleasant company—"
"Won't you stay and have a bit of dinner?" said Mrs. Bunting solicitously.
But the detective shook his head. "No," he said, "I had a bite before I cam_ut. Our job's a queer kind of job, as you know. A lot's left to ou_iscretion, so to speak, but it don't leave us much time for lazing about, _an tell you."
When he reached the door he turned round, and with elaborate carelessness h_nquired, "Any chance of Miss Daisy coming to London again soon?"
Bunting shook his head, but his face brightened. He was very, very fond of hi_nly child; the pity was he saw her so seldom. "No," he said, "I'm afraid no_oe. Old Aunt, as we calls the old lady, keeps Daisy pretty tightly tied t_er apron-string. She was quite put about that week the child was up with u_ast June."
"Indeed? Well, so long!"
After his wife had let their friend out, Bunting said cheerfully, "Joe seem_o like our Daisy, eh, Ellen?"
But Mrs. Bunting shook her head scornfully. She did not exactly dislike th_irl, though she did not hold with the way Bunting's daughter was bein_anaged by that old aunt of hers—an idle, good-for-nothing way, very differen_rom the fashion in which she herself had been trained at the Foundling, fo_rs. Bunting as a little child had known no other home, no other family tha_hose provided by good Captain Coram.
"Joe Chandler's too sensible a young chap to be thinking of girls yet awhile,"
she said tartly.
"No doubt you're right," Bunting agreed. "Times be changed. In my young day_haps always had time for that. 'Twas just a notion that came into my head, hearing him asking, anxious-like, after her."
About five o'clock, after the street lamps were well alight, Mr. Sleuth wen_ut, and that same evening there came two parcels addressed to his landlady.
These parcels contained clothes. But it was quite clear to Mrs. Bunting's eye_hat they were not new clothes. In fact, they had evidently been bought i_ome good second-hand clothes-shop. A funny thing for a real gentleman lik_r. Sleuth to do! It proved that he had given up all hope of getting back hi_ost luggage.
When the lodger had gone out he had not taken his bag with him, of that Mrs.
Bunting was positive. And yet, though she searched high and low for it, sh_ould not find the place where Mr. Sleuth kept it. And at last, had it no_een that she was a very clear-headed woman, with a good memory, she woul_ave been disposed to think that the bag had never existed, save in he_magination.
But no, she could not tell herself that! She remembered exactly how it ha_ooked when Mr. Sleuth had first stood, a strange, queer-looking figure of _an, on her doorstep.
She further remembered how he had put the bag down on the floor of the to_ront room, and then, forgetting what he had done, how he had asked he_agerly, in a tone of angry fear, where the bag was —only to find it safel_odged at his feet!
As time went on Mrs. Bunting thought a great deal about that bag, for, strang_nd amazing fact, she never saw Mr. Sleuth's bag again. But, of course, sh_oon formed a theory as to its whereabouts. The brown leather bag which ha_ormed Mr. Sleuth's only luggage the afternoon of his arrival was almos_ertainly locked up in the lower part of the drawing-room chiffonnier. Mr.
Sleuth evidently always carried the key of the little corner cupboard abou_is person; Mrs. Bunting had also had a good hunt for that key, but, as wa_he case with the bag, the key disappeared, and she never saw either the on_r the other again.