‘Nurse!’ he cried out, in a thin, weak voice.
She was by his side directly, but not before he had lost consciousness again.
The following morning he managed with infinite labour to scrawl a few lines:
’You will be surprised but not glad to get this letter. I’m done for, and you will never see me again. I’m sorry for what I’ve done, and how I’ve treated you, but it’s no use saying anything now. If Pater had only lived he might have kept me in order. But you were too kind, you know. You’ve had a hard struggle these last six years, and I hope Arthur and Dick will stand by you better than I did, now they are growing up. Give them my love, and kiss little Fannie for me.
He got no further with the address.
By some turn of the wheel, Darkey gathered several shillings during the next day or two, and, feeling both elated and benevolent, he called one afternoon at the hospital, ‘just to inquire like.’ They told him the man was dead.
’By the way, he left a letter without an address. Mrs. Hancock—here it is.’
’That’ll be his mother; he did tell me about her—lived at Knype, Staffordshire, he said. I’ll see to it.’
They gave Darkey the letter.
‘So his name’s Hancock,’ he soliloquized, when he got into the street. ’I knew a girl of that name—once. I’ll go and have a pint of four-half.’
At nine o’clock that night Darkey was still consuming four-half, and relating certain adventures by sea which, he averred, had happened to himself. He was very drunk.
‘Yes,’ he said, ‘and them five lil’ gals was lying there without a stitch on ’em, dead as meat; ’s ’true as I’m ’ere. I’ve seen a thing or two in my time, I can tell ye.’
‘Talking about these Anarchists—’ said a man who appeared anxious to change the subject.
‘An—kists,’ Darkey interrupted. ‘I tell ye what I’d do with that muck.’
He stopped to light his pipe, looked in vain for a match, felt in his pockets, and pulled out a piece of paper—the letter.
‘I tell you what I’d do. I’d—’
He slowly and meditatively tore the letter in two, dropped one piece on the floor, thrust the other into a convenient gas-jet, and applied it to the tobacco.
’I’d get ’em ‘gether in a heap, and I’d—Damn this pipe!’
He picked up the other half of the letter, and relighted the pipe.
‘After you, mate,’ said a man sitting near, who was just biting the end from a cigar.