my friend in loud tones. At other times we dined
at different hours. On Sundays he was supposed
to be asleep when I was in church. There is no
landlady in the world to whom the idea would have occurred
that one man was troubling himself to be two (and
to pay for two, including washing). I worked
up the idea of Roxdal’s flight, asked Polly to
go with me, manufactured that feminine letter that
arrived on the morning of my disappearance. As
Tom Peters I mixed with a journalistic set. I
had another room where I kept the gold and notes till
I mistakenly thought the thing had blown over.
Unfortunately, returning from here on the night of
my disappearance, with Roxdal’s clothes in a
bundle I intended to drop into the river, it was stolen
from me in the fog, and the man into whose possession
it ultimately came appears to have committed suicide.
What, perhaps, ruined me was my desire to keep Clara’s
love, and to transfer it to the survivor. Everard
told her I was the best of fellows. Once married
to her, I would not have had much fear. Even if
she had discovered the trick, a wife cannot give evidence
against her husband, and often does not want to.
I made none of the usual slips, but no man can guard
against a girl’s nightmare after a day up the
river and a supper at the Star and Garter. I
might have told the judge he was an ass, but then
I should have had penal servitude for bank robbery,
and that is worse than death. The only thing
that puzzles me, though, is whether the law has committed
murder or I suicide.
* * * *
My First Novel.
The Trail of the serpent.
By miss M. E. Braddon.
Illustrations by miss F. L. Fuller.
My first novel! Far back in the distinctness
of childish memories I see a little girl who has lately
learnt to write, who has lately been given a beautiful
brand new mahogany desk, with a red velvet slope, and
a glass ink bottle, such a desk as might now be bought
for three and sixpence, but which in the forties cost
at least half-a-guinea. Very proud is the little
girl, with the Kenwigs pigtails, and the Kenwigs frills,
of that mahogany desk, and its infinite capacities
for literary labour, above all, gem of gems, its stick
of variegated sealing-wax, brown, speckled with gold,
and its little glass seal with an intaglio representing
two doves—Pliny’s doves perhaps, famous
in mosaic, only the little girl had never heard of
Pliny, or his Laurentine Villa.
[Illustration: Lichfield house, Richmond.]
Armed with that desk and its supply of stationery,
Mary Elizabeth Braddon—very fond of writing
her name at full-length, and her address also at full-length,
though the word “Middlesex” offered difficulties—began
that pilgrimage on the broad high road of fiction,
which was destined to be a longish one. So much
for the little girl of eight years old, in the third
person, and now to become strictly autobiographical.