‘And then it will all come out?’
‘Certainly it will come out.’
The sailor flushed with anger.
’What sort of proposal is that to make a man? I know enough of law to understand that Mary would be held as accomplice. Do you think I would leave her alone to face the music while I slunk away? No, sir, let them do their worst upon me, but for heaven’s sake, Mr. Holmes, find some way of keeping my poor Mary out of the courts.’
Holmes for a second time held out his hand to the sailor.
’I was only testing you, and you ring true every time. Well, it is a great responsibility that I take upon myself, but I have given Hopkins an excellent hint, and if he can’t avail himself of it I can do no more. See here, Captain Crocker, we’ll do this in due form of law. You are the prisoner. Watson, you are a British jury, and I never met a man who was more eminently fitted to represent one. I am the judge. Now, gentleman of the jury, you have heard the evidence. Do you find the prisoner guilty or not guilty?’
‘Not guilty, my lord,’ said I.
’Vox populi, vox Dei. You are acquitted, Captain Crocker. So long as the law does not find some other victim you are safe from me. Come back to this lady in a year, and may her future and yours justify us in the judgment which we have pronounced this night!’
THE PRIZE LODGER
By George Gissing
(Human Odds and Ends/Stories and Sketches, London: Lawrence and Bullen Ltd, 1898)
The ordinary West-End Londoner—who is a citizen of no city at all, but dwells amid a mere conglomerate of houses at a certain distance from Charing Cross—has known a fleeting surprise when, by rare chance, his eye fell upon the name of some such newspaper as the Battersea Times, the Camberwell Mercury, or the Islington Gazette. To him, these and the like districts are nothing more than compass points of the huge metropolis. He may be in practice acquainted with them; if historically inclined, he may think of them as old-time villages swallowed up by insatiable London; but he has never grasped the fact that in Battersea, Camberwell, Islington, there are people living who name these places as their home; who are born, subsist, and die there as though in a distinct town, and practically without consciousness of its obliteration in the map of a world capital.
The stable element of this population consists of more or less old-fashioned people. Round about them is the ceaseless coming and going of nomads who keep abreast with the time, who take their lodgings by the week, their houses by the month; who camp indifferently in regions old and new, learning their geography in train and tram-car. Abiding parishioners are wont to be either very poor or established in a moderate prosperity; they lack enterprise, either for good or ill: if comfortably off, they owe it, as a rule, to some predecessor’s exertion. And for the most part, though little enough endowed with the civic spirit, they abundantly pride themselves on their local permanence.