“I ’ope you’re satisfied,” she said. “And you won’t forget what you promised—that I shouldn’t get into trouble?”
“I’ll see to that,” Jimmie replied. “It can be easily managed. I trust that what you have told me will lead to the acquittal of my friend. Here are ten pounds for you, and, if all goes well, I shall probably add to it at another time.”
The landlady thrust the bank notes into her broad bosom. She was overpowered by the munificence of the gift, and poured out her gratitude copiously.
“I’ve just recollected something,” she went on. “There’s a secret closet in the room where the pore woman lodged, an’ last spring I ’appened to show it to ’er. It sort of took ’er fancy, and—”
“Did the police find it or examine it?” cried Jimmie.
“No, sir. I forgot to speak of it.”
“Let me see it, please! It may lead to something of importance.”
Mrs. Rickett willingly conducted her visitor through the hall and up the staircase. A sense of the recent tragedy seemed to haunt the room, with its drawn curtains and tawdry furnishings, and the dark stain on the floor. The landlady shuddered, and glanced fearfully around. She made haste to open a narrow closet, and to slide open a disguised panel at the back of it, which disclosed a small recess. Jimmie, who was at her shoulder, uttered a cry of surprise. He saw a gleam of white, and reached for it quickly. He drew out an envelope, unaddressed and sealed, with contents of a bulky nature.
“Bless me! She did ’ide something!” gasped Mrs. Rickett. “What can it be?”
“Writing, perhaps,” replied Jimmie. “Will you permit me to have this, Mrs. Rickett? I will examine it at my leisure, and tell you about it later.”
“I’ve no objections, sir,” the landlady replied, as another five-pound note was slipped into her hand. “Take it and welcome!”
Jimmie thanked her, and pocketed the envelope.
“I will see you again,” he said, “and tell you whether I succeed or fail. And, meanwhile, I must ask you to keep my visit a strict secret—to inform no one of what you have told me. And don’t breathe a whisper in regard to anything being found in the murdered woman’s room. Keep your own counsel.”
“I’ll do that, sir, never fear. I’m a close-mouthed woman, and know how to hold my tongue, which there ain’t many females can say the same. And I’m sure you’ll do the right thing by me.”
“I will, indeed,” Jimmie promised. “You shan’t have cause to regret your confidence. And if I can clear my friend through the assistance you have given me, I will be more liberal than I have been on this occasion.”
“Thank you, sir, and I ’ope with all my ’eart you’ll find the guilty man,” Mrs. Rickett declared, vehemently. “I never did think Mr. Vernon murdered that pore creature. Ah, but it’s a wicked world!”
She accompanied her visitor to the door, showered further effusive gratitude upon him, and gazed after him till he had turned the corner. Overjoyed by his unexpected success, hopeful of achieving great results, Jimmie strode down Regent street, amid the lights and the crowds. The crisp, cold air had dried the pavements, and the stars shone from a clear sky.