Ghosts! They were plentiful enough. There was the skin-dresser—his fingers still yellow with the dye of the pith. Things were bad in Bermondsey. The master had gone bankrupt, the American had filched away his trade. No one could find him work. He was sober enough except at holiday time and an odd Saturday—a good currier—there might be a chance for him in the country, but how was he to get there? And in any case now, how could he? His wife had broken down, lay at home with no disease that a hospital would take her in for, sinking for want of good food, worn out with hard work, toiling early and late to get food for the children until her man should get a job. There was the workhouse, but it meant separation, perhaps for ever, and they were man and wife, as much needed the one by the other, perhaps more, as their prototype in the world of plenty. Again Brooks smiled. He must have seen Flitch, a capital chap Flitch, making up that parcel in the grocery department and making an appointment for three days’ time. And Menton, too, the young doctor, as keen on the work as Brooks himself, but paid for his evenings under protest, overhears the address—why, it was only a yard or two. He would run back with the man and have a look at his wife. He had some physic—he felt sure it was just what she wanted. So out into the street together, and no wonder the yellow-stained fingers that grasped the string of the parcel shook, and the man felt an odd lump in his throat, and a wave of thankfulness as he passed a flaring public-house when half-an-hour ago he had almost plunged madly in to find pluck for the river—devil’s pluck. The woman. Nothing the matter with her but what rest and good food would cure. Another case for that little cottage. Lucky there were others being made ready.
“What sort of ghosts, Mr. Brooks?” Selina asked, a little more sharply.
He started, and withdrew his eyes at last.
“Ah, Miss Bullsom,” he answered, “just the ghosts we all carry with us, you know, the ghosts of our thoughts, living and dead, good and evil.”
“How funny you are, Mr. Brooks,” she exclaimed.
A NEW DON QUIXOTE
Brooks reached London the next evening to find himself famous. The evening papers, one of which he had purchased en route, were one and all discussing his new charitable schemes. He found himself held up at once to ridicule and contempt—praised and blamed almost in the same breath. The Daily Gazette, in an article entitled “The New Utopia,” dubbed him the “Don Quixote of philanthropy” the St. James’s made other remarks scarcely so flattering. He drove at once to Stepney, and found his headquarters besieged by a crowd which his little staff of helpers was wholly unable to cope with, and half-a-dozen reporters waiting to snatch a word with him. Mary watched his entrance with a little sigh of relief.