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Chapter 4

  • 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.