The Uncollected Short Stories of Duncan Campbell Scott

By Duncan Campbell Scott, edited by Tracy Ware



John Scantleberry, Working Merchant Tailor, Great Specialty of Pantaloons



    There was something so peculiarly unprofessional about the painting and wording of John Scantleberry’s sign that a passer-by would usually carry away some remembrance of it. It was so because John Scantleberry was a tailor, not a painter. He had elaborated the wording and arrangement of his sign with much thought, and when he produced his conception the result was unusual and quaint. Ignoring the existing literature of sign writers, the legend which he chose to describe his employment embodied in an obscure way the peculiar cast of his personality. This would not be evident until a close observation had been rewarded by some glimpse of his character, and therefore to the majority of persons this secret in the wording would remain forever hidden.
    
“John Scantleberry, working merchant tailor, a great specialty of pantaloons.” As if to emphasize this declaration there hung from the upper edge of the square of tin, upon which the letters were painted, a dwarf pair of pantaloons. They were of careful workmanship, and might have been a perfect fit for some pigmy of fashionable tastes and graceful figure.
    
The tailor had, perhaps, spent more time on the sign than he had on the pantaloons,—cutting the letters out of posters on the walls, trimming them finely with his shears, pencilling their outline on the tin, which had first received a coat of white, and then filling in the letters with black paint. That was done some years before the incident happened, which might have made him famous; but although he had moved and removed his quarters, living in all parts of the city and in every conceivable sort of apartment; and, although the diminutive pair of trousers had been many times renewed, yet the sign remained the same. Every morning, rain or shine, wherever he happened to be, the first act of his renewed life was to hang out his tin sign, and when the labours of his day were ended he returned it to its place on the bed-post. I dare say that many an imp, with designs of the dreams of some innocent sleeper, has happened on the couch where he lay stretched, with his name and title hung at his feet, like no common mortal; [Page 27] and I doubt not that the intruder has read the same, and trying on the pair of trousers, which would fit him to a nicety, has envied the race which wore such garments, and has left its benefactor with untroubled visions.
    To say John Scantleberry was an uncommon mortal is perhaps not quite so near the truth as to say that he was an uncommon tailor. It is not the custom of these workmen to set up each his separate shop, and to carry on a business with such a show of independence. It is not their habit to change their place of abode as often as the fit seizes them, without regard to the interests of their trade or the convenience of their customers, and it is certainly not their prevalent characteristic to refuse to enlarge the circle of their patrons. But all these peculiarities centered in John Scantleberry; he moved his shop with an irregularity and unreasonableness, which surprised his landlords, and he often refused to deal with a stranger, for whom he happened to conceive a sudden suspicious dislike.
    If John Scantleberry could have narrated the story of his past life, it might have been possible to account for his oddities, for his ignorant independence, for his shyness and reticence, for his blind hatred of restraint; but he had no memory, and all the incidents of his childhood and youth were as darkness to him. His mental scenery had no vistas, no distances ending in glamour and haze; he walked from one room of life into the next, and knew only the four walls and the floor; he never looked up to the ceiling. He did not even remember to whom he owed the knowledge of his trade, and he went from one of his lodgings to the other, as an Indian moves his camp. Although he could read he took no comfort from it, and only used his knowledge in perusing some old newspaper, which had wrapped a bundle, or sometimes a torn scrap, blown by the wind within reach of his hand. Of friends he had not one. If he ever felt the need of companionship he was warned by the distress of his mind that some past experience had been disastrous, and he would allow the feeling to lapse.
    That dim recollection of his may be sharpened to give some idea of the suspicious shyness of his mind. At a time when his wanderings had led him down into the outskirts of the city, he was established in an upstairs chamber of a certain house there. It suited him well; he had no view from the window and no great noise to disturb him, only the ringing and tapping of a tinsmith’s shop underneath. Occasionally in the evenings he would go down and walk along the wide shaky platform, in front of the house, in his bare feet. The tinsmith was a bachelor, like himself, and extremely chary of speech. Scantleberry may have been attracted by this, and he in turn may have expected something from the tailor’s look of innocent intelligence. However it was, they occasionally might have been sitting some distance [Page 28] apart in the tinsmith’s shop,—he on a high stool, beside a higher desk, his bushy eyebrows and protruding lips strongly illumined by a coal-oil lamp, and his visitor somewhere below him, in the shadow, clasping his knees and looking mildly at the silly tins, bright with reflected light. Their conversation was, on the one side laconic and on the other shy, but they were both satisfied, and if the tinsmith had not been a singer their acquaintance might have hardened into a sort of dumb friendship. But on Saturday nights this vocal tinsmith completed the muddling of his accounts and accompanied the same with music. The first Saturday he had contented himself with humming, and although John Scantleberry had felt uneasy on his chair and had glanced furtively under the desk at the tinsmith’s legs, as if he thought he might somehow be making the noise with them against the stool, he did not actively resent the gentle humming. The next Saturday night he was not there, and the solitary tinsmith roared over his additions and multiplications, and had all the tin pans vibrating like so many cymbals. This indulgence made him forgetful, and the next Saturday night, as Scantleberry was unsuspectingly below him, he burst into a flood of sacred song. John looked up sideways, his face expressing incredulity and protest. The smith in the flush of his multiplication had forgotten him, the lamp glared in his face, he had drawn down his bushy eyebrows with immense earnestness, and was shooting his lips out with the vigour of his song.

    Remember sinful youth
(“Two tins for two-pence four-pence)
    That you must die.
(“Two pans for a yorker)
    That you must die.
(“One watering can for Philemon Thomson; that’ll never be
paid for; God have mercy on his soul.”)

Then with renewed vigour and volume,

Remember sinful youth
That you must die.”

    Disturbed in his ecstasy by some movement of rising, the alarmed tinsmith looked down obliquely with an expression of inquiry and shamefacedness. John Scantleberry had passed through all the stages from surprise to personal application. He resented that he should be asked to remember that he was a sinful youth and must die. His rising had disturbed the flow of song and calculation, and he drifted out upon the shaky [Page 29] sidewalk amid a silence so perfect that the tinsmith, whose hearing became abnormally acute, could distinguish the dying vibration of his own pans. The next morning the tailor was gone.
    Sooner or later as it seemed, for one reason or another, he would leave every room where he set his foot. Wayfarers who, on Monday morning, saw him stretched on his board asleep, curling his toes when the flies walked up and down his bare soles, might not see him there on Saturday night.
    But at last it seemed as if, after all his experiments, he had found a spot to his liking, and his astonished customers returned once and twice to find his sign on the same doorway. For a whole year he had remained the sole occupant of the topmost flat of the “Globe Building,” in Newth street, which is given over to second rate offices and obscure brokers’ dens. The region was so unpopular that the offices never passed the second story. Once a broken-down lawyer was forced up into the third, but this was only caused by a temporary pressure, which was soon relieved by a bailiff’s seizure of the effects of one of the second floorers. In fact, a comparison might be made between the building and a spider’s web full of unfortunate flies, with a bailiff spider dropping in every now and then to seize a new victim. But as these melancholy visitations never occurred above the second flat, John Scantleberry remained unaffected by them. He was the sole possessor of a whole empty flat, with another empty flat below him, and in the large back room, where there was no noise, no great light, and no stretch of view to alarm him, he was contented to stay. Moreover, he could drop in at the office and pay his rent to a clerk, who asked no questions, and who was neither friendly nor solicitous.
    As it was in this room that he passed through the great crisis of his life it might be well to describe it. It was not quite square, as one of the partitions ran obliquely to allow for a passage[;] there was one window to the north, which admitted no sunshine; the floor was irregular and full of holes, where the knots had dropped through; there were also holes where the rats had gnawed the surbase, which were mostly plugged up with round stones. The walls had been covered with paper, exhibiting repetitions of a mountain, with a loaded donkey and two Spaniards in short cloaks coming down the slope, but it was mostly shredded away when John Scantleberry took possession, and he carefully removed every trace of it. His furniture was scanty; his board, a coal oil stove on which to heat his irons and warm food, his bed, his trunk, and a set of shelves with a web or two of cloth. Here John Scantleberry made his last great stand for happiness, fighting his [Page 30] few enemies with what desperation and cunning he could muster, and conquering after a fashion with the aid of fate.
    It was only necessary for John to have tasted the approximate happiness his high chamber had brought him, to rebel against those troubles which he was before content to endure. Among his customers was one old man, by name, J.B. Dagon. Regularly, twice a year, this old man presented himself before the tailor and demanded a suit of clothes, and no money ever passed between them, but only great talk on old Dagon’s part about interest and principal, of which John did not understand a single word. The tailor was the soul of honour; in all his countless flittings he never left a landlord to mourn his departure. Upon one unfortunate occasion, driven to desperation by some unbearable annoyance, he had rushed into the clutches of old Dagon, borrowed money of him, paid the rent and departed. And ever since then he had been in bondage to the money-lender, loaded with the chains of interest, which grew heavier and heavier every year. When he was constantly in trouble from other causes the apparition of his master demanding clothes for interest did not give him any great distress. But so soon as these conditions were removed, and he was so favourably settled, he began to chafe under his one infliction.
    To return to the former simile, caught in the top strands of the web, he was visited by his own particular spider, who refused to eat him, but only drew a little blood each time. He commenced to reflect, so far as his limited power would allow, that there was no reason why this thing should not continue forever,—why Mr. J.B. Dagon might not come into his room, year after year, and extract his suits of clothes. He had no imagination, and it was the labour of weeks for his mind to advance from the stand-point of vague distrust to the fixed conclusion that he was unalterably in the power of the object of his hatred. When he had mastered his thought it possessed him with a perfect tyranny, and sometimes filled his mind with such terrible and unusual distinctness, that he would give a little moan of surprise and wipe his wet forehead.
    Old Mr. Dagon was a short man, with a stoutish figure; he had rather a benevolent face, perfectly smooth, with a bland satisfied expression. His fleshiness gave one an impression of unwholesomeness; there was something puffy and unsubstantial about it; although his face was round and full, it was not firm, and had a disagreeable sallowness, like greasy ivory. His eyes were light blue and watery.
    This was the figure that presented itself, panting and exuding moisture, before the horrified tailor. “God bless my soul,” he cried, in a loose phlegmy voice, “God bless my soul and body, where next! Up in the attic, [Page 31] down in the cellar, up stairs and down stairs, and in my ladie’s chamber. Scantlingberry, you’re a sly dog, a deep dog, with your dodgings and your doublings. It’s as much as I can do to keep track of you, but I do—I do keep track of you; if you’re a sly dog I’m a long winded one, don’t you see, Scantlingberry, and here we are again.” Puffing as if he was a short winded dog indeed, old Dagon gathered the moisture off his face with a handkerchief. “Blast your stairs,” he broke out again after a pause, “why don’t you get an elevator? I’m perfectly used up and done for.” “But,” he continued, with malicious slowness, dropping into a gurgling distinctness, “if you think you’re going to get rid of me and my lawful rights by dodging into the eaves-troughs you’re mistaken; I know you, Scantlingberry, I know you for a deep, slippery, dodging rascal, but I have the whip hand of you.”
    John looked up at him with that look of mild intelligence and listened to his discourse, measured him, and heard him go softly down stairs. But when he was gone something strange happened; he went into a sort of paroxysm, and fell, reeling over toward his bed, clutching the air, and flinging down heavily, where he lay, making a feeble meaningless moan. After about an hour of uneasy drowsing, he recovered and went on with his work, dazed and troubled.
    The next week, when he had already cut out Mr. Dagon’s coat, and was putting it together, he was suddenly alarmed by hearing a soft foot on the stairs and the familiar wheezing. He dropped his needle and listened; there were voices on the landing, and he felt relieved to hear a more positive step; when they moved along the hall he shuffled over to the door and listened. He did not notice how his knees trembled, or how numb his hands were. It was the janitor showing someone the rooms; he could hear him say: “Nobody up here but a cracked tailor.” A voice replied, “lots of room to fling round in,” and they both went down stairs.
    John had held himself at a terrible tension, and when he tried to turn away from the door he struggled to keep his footing, reached toward his bed, caught at his collar, reeled and plunged down against his board, carrying the stand and the coal-oil stove with him. When he recovered he sat up amid the confusion his fall had caused. The coal-oil stove had gone out; a goose had fallen on his shears, breaking one blade, and had rested against his leg, burning his trousers and blistering his flesh. He got up as well as he could and lay down on his bed, where he slept the night through. In the morning, as he set things to rights, he noticed that Mr. Dagon’s coat was pinned firmly to the floor with the unbroken blade of the shears. He pulled it out and blind-stitched the rent, but something in the look of the steel in the cloth haunted him, and he put the blade aside. [Page 32]
    Mr. Dagon came and got his clothes, and the new lodger came and took possession of one of the vacant rooms. He was the driver of an express-waggon, and came in late at night and went out early in the morning. He caused John no uneasiness until Sunday, when he banged about a good deal, and smoked.    
    But in the meantime, from that obscure memory of the steel through the cloth into the floor, John Scantleberry had filled in a picture of old Mr. Dagon inside the coat and of the blade through the cloth—into what? From such a seed sown in the darkness of his mind, this wan unnatural plant had sprung and was growing up, spreading its bloodless and terrible shoot toward the light. As yet his own figure was not in the picture, and it was only after he had once struck manfully for himself that he drew it in.
    One Sunday the driver had been very noisy, and, toward evening, the liquor that he had been drinking all day got thorough control of him. He threw his door open, and sitting, doubled up on the floor, his back against one post, his toes against the other, he spat down the well of the stairs and roared one line of a song over and over. John stood it as long as he could and then, setting his door ajar, he seized a cocoanut shell, in which he kept water standing to wet his seams, and advanced into the hall. It was dark, but, judging by the glimmer from the driver’s door, he flung the shell with all his force. It was set into a lead foot to keep it steady, and flew through the air with great force and struck the express-man on the head. He jumped up with an oath and felt around through the darkness. The tailor, frightened out of his life, skipped up the step-ladder that led to the roof. As the infuriated driver struck the ladder he thought he was discovered, and putting forth all his strength he raised the trap-door and stepped out upon the roof. The oaths went silent on an instant; looking up suddenly John Scantleberry saw, stretched limitless above him, the profound deeps of night trembling with innumerable stars. He drew his breath in sharply through his teeth, as if the sight pained him. He dropped his head and pinched his eyes tight shut, asking himself the question: “Where have I seen this before?” And now his memory achieved one miracle, and struck sharp out of the dimness of his mind this perfect impression: on a road at night, dry coolness, white dust, someone crying, the words “dear little boy;” then, as he threw his face up in the cool air, the limitless heavens and the flashing stars. That was all; a vision of some moment in childhood passed and was gone forever. He shivered slightly, and then looking up again he said softly to himself: "“It[’]s like a cushion full of pins.” He was the working merchant tailor once more, but even as he subsided his mind threw off the only simile that [Page 33] ever occurred to it. When he went down the driver was quiet, and the next day he took himself off bag and baggage.
    John Scantleberry had struck a bold stroke with his cocoanut bowl, and slowly he sketched himself into the picture, slowly and carefully, until so distinct did his figure become that he took the long shear-blade out of his trunk and went up on the roof. There, night after night, he wore it against the rough stones of the chimney, making it sharp and dagger-like. To such a fearful thing had the plant grown in the darkness of his mind, stretching up, striving to bear its terrible fruit.
    But as if his quiet was never to be left quite undisturbed, a new and more unbearable noise arose from the court,—the intermittent screaming of a child. Looking down into this court or yard he could see it partitioned by fences into irregular divisions; in one of these the earth, deprived of the sun, had broken out into a green eruption,—one was piled high with boxes, and another was the outlet to the kitchen of a new restaurant, which had opened on the next street. From this yard, or from the adjoining lane, the wailing arose, sometimes in fretful whinings, sometimes in frantic shrieks of rage or pain. For long spaces the little girl, who tormented him, would be happy, and would leave him happy, for her innocent prattle to her rag-doll, or her confidences with the sticks she gathered and played with, did not reach his window. He thought she must go away in these intervals of peace, but on looking out he discovered her picking the squeezed lemons out of a tub of refuse and arranging them in little piles. He could not hear her animated conversation with the empty skins, he only heard her mournful wail, as an elderly woman, in a striped jacket, snatched her out of the lane.
    Watching closely, endeavouring to maintain the peace of his abode, he observed that she was often thrust out in the same fashion, and it was then that her shrieks arose, painful and unheeded. All his efforts for weeks were to find some means to stop this noise, and if he had not been prompted by an accident he might have failed and sought rest elsewhere. He had gone around and examined the restaurant. “Bohemian Restaurant,” the sign said, “by Calixe Bellemare; meals at all hours of the day and night; try our fried oysters, by Madame Bellemare; omelette belgique, by Maddle. Bellemare; steaks and chops by the chef,” and so on, exactly like a play-bill. He was too timid to approach the enemy from that quarter, but the next time he thrust his head out of the window, to learn the cause of the clamour which had disturbed him, he knocked an empty spool off the window-ledge, and it fell in front of the unfortunate child. She stopped crying, attracted by the bright red object, picked it up and fell to playing with it. [Page 34]
    In a few days John had formed a plan of action, and one evening, when his work was done, he went out and bought a small basket and some sugar-candy. When he returned to his room he fastened a long piece of cord to the handle. When, on the following day, the familiar cries arose, John put a stick of barley-sugar into the basket and lowered it to the ground. It rested in front of the child, she saw the candy, picked it out, broke a bit off, stopped crying, and looked away up to heaven, where she was sure it came from. John dodged in, but the child had caught a glimpse of him. Thus he commenced to play angel, and, as he had before triumphed by force over the driver, he now secured himself by a dull cunning.
    Little by little a curious feeling of interest sprang up in John Scantleberry’s heart for the little mortal for whom he played angel. Lowering away his sweets, day after day, he began to draw up in return pebbles, bits of coloured glass, lemon skins, a door knob, the label of a ginger-ale bottle, scraps of newspaper, and whatever else the busy thankful little girl could gather. He fell to thinking what would come up next, and one morning, as he saw the child unwrap the half of a stale tart, saved from her scanty supper, place it in the basket, and watch him draw it up with her hands clasped in wonder at the greatness of her own sacrifice, John Scantleberry’s eyes were moistened for the first time in years, and something stirred warmly at his heart. So, strangely enough, a sweet human feeling had taken root there, and was striving for life; while in the gloom of his mind he was nourishing that noxious pallid plant. Night after night, as he sat rubbing his callous ankles, he would trim it and water it until, behold! what terrible fruit was coming to maturity, for his shear-blade was as keen and eager as a dagger, and he had wrapped the thumb-hole with cloth for a firmer hold.
    And as the days go by interest is heaping up, and at last brings Mr. J.B. Dagon, the particular spider, to the top strands of the web, ready for the feast. “Here we are again, Scantlingberry, steady as a clock, about run down though with your beastly stairs; my wind pinches my throat and I wheeze as if I was foundered. You’ll be going up a smoke-stack next, but you don’t catch me,—up I go in a balloon, and if you go into a coal mine down I go in the basket.” He burst into a perspiration instead of laughing at his own joke. John looked confidently at him with his sober, innocent expression. He might have been a new convert, receiving a call from his class-leader, so wistful was he, so benevolent was Mr. Dagon.
    He did not speak for a moment, then he said: “Mr. Dagon, have you come for a suit?” Mr. Dagon stopped wiping up the perspiration. “Heavens and earth, what a question; of course I’ve come for a suit. Would I climb up here to see you? Why, I own you, body and bones; I could sell you out [Page 35] of house and home, and I believe I will some day, and wring your neck into the bargain, to make you a little more civil.” “Mr. Dagon,” said the tailor mildly, “it is very hard work to live; I have to give you two whole suits every year.” “Give me,—listen to the man,—Give me,” cried Mr. Dagon, “when you don’t pay me a cent of principal or interest; I rate you with them, you dog, every one. Come, show up some of your shoddy.” Scantleberry rose and took down his cloth. “What colour will I have this time?” “Black, I think,” said John. “Black, why black?” “Because it is more suitable.” “More suitable; you think I’m going to die? Well by ginger, you think death is going to cut in and close up the transaction?” He caught his breath, and nervously rolled his handkerchief into a ball. “My God, Scantlingberry, I think you’re more than half right; my breath is shorter every day. Something will happen to me sure. I’m afraid—I’ll tell you—there’s nothing between us, man to man—I’m afraid that apoplexy, or heart disease, or some confounded thing or another, will choke the life out of me.” He was terribly in earnest, and the sweat was like dew fallen on his face. John did not say a word. His usual look of mild intelligence was just troubled by a consciousness of the truth in Mr. Dagon’s words; the glance of his eye took flight to his bed, under the mattress of which lurked the curious implement designed to fulfil Mr. Dagon’s prophecy.
    The old man chose his cloth, and set the day of the next week when he should come to try his coat on. John held the door ajar, and heard him go flopping from step to step like a great toad, and in his innermost heart he laughed, and his mouth was even curled by a satisfied smile. He had overcome the rage of his hate, and no longer fainted under it,—calmness and settled assurance had taken its place, and day after day he worked contentedly, if a little feverish, at his task. This unusual haste left him with his coat basted, ready to try on, before the time. Strange, too, he had forgotten something; or had he forgotten it? Was it a new kind of garment that he was designing for Mr. Dagon, or had that gentleman himself ordered the left breast to remain unwadded? However it was, John considered his task finished, for he took to letting the hours slip by while he sat quietly, looking as full of heavy thought as a sphinx; or sluggishly observing how Mons. Bellemare, in a paper cap and white over-apron, whisked custards in the yard below; or the rats dart and sneak about the piled boxes in the express yard. Now and again he would drop his basket into the yard with some little gift, and not always to induce silence. Such a well of human kindness had that come to be to him.
    But at last one night of sleep would bring him into his great day, and his long excitement would be over. On that night strange and unaccountable [Page 36] things visited his slumbers; calls and troubled noises; and running on the stairs and in the streets; and great hurried passages of wind or of men; and large smooth sounds that fell away into almost silence; and then, toward grey dawn, bell strokes that prolonged themselves with sweet continuousness.
    He took a long time to get stirring in the morning, moving about slowly, shivering sharply now and then. He made a little tea, but only half drank what he poured out, and chewed a dry crust of bread. It seemed to him that no time had transpired when he heard Mr. Dagon’s spongy step on the stairs. He whirled about, making his preparations with his heart straining and choking his throat. Something long and shining he thrust under a fold of cloth beside him on the bench, and when Mr. Dagon opened the door he was fussing with a skein of thread.
    The old man looked horribly pale and puffy, and his breath caught noisily in his throat. He sat down, cursing at the stairs and throwing out disjointed complaints on his uncertain breath. John felt a ringing in his ears, as if his head had been struck, and was vibrating into silence. He rose without a word, handing up the new coat. His action seemed to say: why wait, why these common moments, when everything is ready. The old man got upon his feet slowly; he laid off his coat and stood up in his shirt sleeves, working his neck in his collar. John eased his arm with the new coat-sleeve, and smoothed the coat along his shoulders. Then he faced him, and pinned it across the chest. He went behind again, pulling at the skirt all around. His moment had arrived. Dropping on one knee he took the blade lightly in his right hand and rose up. Every nerve was so intensely strung that he seemed to float away from the floor. Thrusting his hand under the left arm he felt the heart beat where Mr. Dagon was obligingly inflating his chest. It would be the work of an instant to snatch away that hand, cover the old man’s mouth with it, and at the same moment strike down with his right arm. It was just done; he towered over his victim; the blade hung above, ready for the sweeping stroke, when, as vivid and fierce as lightning cuts the dead night, a cry sprang upon the silence.
    John’s head rang with it; he lost his sense of lightness, and felt his knees and the floor under him, and he faltered away weakly, hiding the blade under his coat. The shriek did not sound over-loud to Mr. Dagon, but he looked over his shoulder with a nervous suspicious smile. “Good God, what’s the matter with the man;” he cried, viewing his shrunken faltering figure. Scantleberry had slunk to the window, and down what seemed a dizzy depth, full of light and shot with flashes of fire, he saw the child [Page 37] clinging madly to one of the garbage barrels and being rent away by the Chef himself, Mons. Bellemare.
    Getting back into the room again, and holding his arms tight on his breast, to conceal the weapon, he tottered to his bed and rolled over there. Old Mr. Dagon came and stood over him in the basted coat; “By ginger, Scantlingberry, this’ll never do. You’re enough to frighten the wits out of a man with your infernal carryings on. The devil will snap you up like a parched pea some day if you don’t mend your ways.” John moaned at him. “Go away, Mr. Dagon, go away; come tomorrow or the next day, or whenever you like, only go away now.”
    Mr. Dagon went away, cursing soundly; and John lay there for the rest of the day, dozing and starting out of his dozes, trying to rise, and failing, through weakness, for he had eaten hardly anything for days, as if he was preparing for a sacrament. Over and over again, as he would float up through his depth of sleep to the surface of waking, he would imagine the deed done, and would pull himself on his elbow only to see the coat lying where Mr. Dagon had flung it. Then he would ask the question—why had he failed? He remembered now, something must have struck him and jerked his hand down. But something,—what something? Yes, yes, it was the little girl called him. He had not counted on that. But never mind, there would be another chance. Mr. Dagon would come again; he would shut the window and everything would be all right.
    The next day he took some food, and he managed to work along through the week in a dull frozen way. Mr. Dagon did not return, and he waited for him in his sluggish way, without interest. He did not notice the absence of noises from the yard, but along towards the end of the second week he noticed that the string of his basket hung outside the window; he had forgotten when or why he had let it down.
    It contained a battered brass brooch, wrapped in a scrap of newspaper. He turned the worthless ornament over in his hand and then smoothed out the paper. He read it according to his custom, and one word startled him into interest.

“SUDDEN DEATH.—We regret to record the sudden death of Mr. John Boyd Dagon, one of our most useful and respected citizens. He was stricken with apoplexy at the Globe Building, just as he was about to visit a poor tailor, to whom he had been extremely kind. The deceased was highly esteemed for his many good qualities, and he leaves a large circle of friends and acquaintances to mourn his loss.” [Page 38]

    Thus had the journal softened the character and reversed the public judgment on Mr. J.B. Dagon.
    That evening, walking in the street, John Scantleberry noticed that the enticing signs of the Bohemian Restaurant were gone, that there was a notice of a bailiff’s sale in the window, and that the Bellemares had fled. Going back to his high room, he took his shear-blade, went up on the roof, and let it drop down the chimney. The basket, the cord and the trinkets he threw into the yard; the coat he sold to another customer, so that nothing remained to recall that violent time. As the days went by he sank into his old lethargy, his mind was dead and numb, his great passion-time had passed. Like a poor instrument, which the hand of a master has crashed down upon and shattered with irresistible power, his soul lies broken and unresponsive. Only at times, when he chances to hear the cry of a child, a light flames up in some blind alley of his heart, and casts a moving glamour and shadow on the darkness. [Page 39]