MISS SALLY BREAKS THE DOORS.
“And to shew Thy pity upon all prisoners and captives.”—THE LITANY
Mr. Hucks sat in his counting-house, counting out his money—or so much of it as he had collected from his tenantry on his Saturday rounds. It amounted to 12 pounds 2 shillings and 9 pence in cash; but to this must be added a caged bullfinch, a pair of dumb-bells, a down mattress and an ophicleide. He had coveted the ophicleide for weeks; but he knew how to wait, and in the end it had fallen to his hand—if the simile may be permitted—like a ripe peach.
The clock at the Great Brewery struck ten, the hour at which the banks opened. Mr. Hucks whistled to himself softly, but out of tune—sure sign that he was in a good humour—as he closed the neck of his money-bag and tied the string with a neat knot. Just as he was reaching, however, for coat and walking-stick, someone knocked at the door.
“Come in!” he called, and resumed his seat as a lady entered—a stranger to him. At first glance he guessed she might be the wife of some impecunious musician, come to plead for restitution of an instrument. Such things happened now and again on Monday mornings; nor was the mistake without excuse in Miss Sally’s attire. When travelling without her maid she had a way of putting on anything handy, and in the order more or less as it came to hand. Without specifying, it may be said that two or three articles usually ranked as underclothing had this morning partially worked their way up to the top stratum, and that by consequence her person presented more than one example of what geologists call a “fault”—though it is actually rather a misfortune. As for her hat, she had started by putting it on sideways, and then, since it would not “sit,” and she had mislaid her hat-pins, had bound it boldly in place with a grey woollen comforter, and knotted the ends under her chin. What gave Mr. Hucks pause was, first, the brusqueness of her entry, and next, the high clear tone of her accost.
“Mr. Christopher Hucks?”
“At your service, ma’am.”
“I hope so, because I want your help.”
“As for that, ma’am, I don’t know who sent you; but it ain’t generally reckoned in my line.”
Miss Sally glanced round the counting-house.
“You have the materials for doing quite a lot of miscellaneous good in the world. But I’m not come to borrow money, if that makes you easier—”
“It do, ma’am.”
“—and I don’t know a note of music.”
“Me either,” murmured Mr. Hucks regretfully.
“That being so, we’ll come to business. May I take a seat?”
“Where you—” He was going to say “please,” but substituted “choose”
“Thank you. My name’s Breward—Sally Breward, and I live at a place called Culvercoombe, on the Devon and Somerset border. My business is that I’m interested in a couple of children, about whom you know something. They broke out, some days ago, from an Orphanage kept here by one Glasson; and I gather that you gave them a helping hand.”