“But what are you doing in this miserable spot, so far from home?” queried the detective.
“It’s Bank Holiday,” Mrs. Drabdump reminded him in tones of acute surprise. “I always make a hexcursion on Bank Holiday.”
The New Year drew Mrs. Drabdump a new lodger. He was an old gentleman with a long grey beard. He rented the rooms of the late Mr. Constant, and lived a very retired life. Haunted rooms—or rooms that ought to be haunted if the ghosts of those murdered in them had any self-respect—are supposed to fetch a lower rent in the market. The whole Irish problem might be solved if the spirits of “Mr. Balfour’s victims” would only depreciate the value of property to a point consistent with the support of an agricultural population. But Mrs. Drabdump’s new lodger paid so much for his rooms that he laid himself open to a suspicion of a special interest in ghosts. Perhaps he was a member of the Psychical Society. The neighbourhood imagined him another mad philanthropist, but as he did not appear to be doing any good to anybody it relented and conceded his sanity. Mortlake, who occasionally stumbled across him in the passage, did not trouble himself to think about him at all. He was too full of other troubles and cares. Though he worked harder than ever, the spirit seemed to have gone out of him. Sometimes he forgot himself in a fine rapture of eloquence—lashing himself up into a divine resentment of injustice or a passion of sympathy with the sufferings of his brethren—but mostly he plodded on in dull, mechanical fashion. He still made brief provincial tours, starring a day here and a day there, and everywhere his admirers remarked how jaded and overworked he looked. There was talk of starting a subscription to give him a holiday on the Continent—a luxury obviously unobtainable on the few pounds allowed him per week. The new lodger would doubtless have been pleased to subscribe, for he seemed quite to like occupying Mortlake’s chamber the nights he was absent, though he was thoughtful enough not to disturb the hard-worked landlady in the adjoining room by unseemly noise. Wimp was always a quiet man.
Meantime the twenty-first of the month approached, and the East-end was in excitement. Mr. Gladstone had consented to be present at the ceremony of unveiling the portrait of Arthur Constant, presented by an unknown donor to the Bow Break o’ Day Club, and it was to be a great function. The whole affair was outside the lines of party politics, so that even Conservatives and Socialists considered themselves justified in pestering the committee for tickets. To say nothing of ladies! As the committee desired to be present themselves, nine-tenths of the applications for admission had to be refused, as is usual on these occasions. The committee agreed among themselves to exclude the fair sex altogether as the only way of disposing of their womankind, who were making speeches as long as Mr. Gladstone’s. Each committeeman told his sisters, female cousins, and aunts, that the other committeemen had insisted on divesting the function of all grace; and what could a man do when he was in a minority of one?