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The sun--the bright sun, that brings back, not light alone, but
new life, and hope, and freshness to man--burst upon the crowded
city in clear and radiant glory. Through costly-coloured glass
and paper-mended window, through cathedral dome and rotten
crevice, it shed its equal ray. It lighted up the room where the
murdered woman lay. It did. He tried to shut it out, but it
would stream in. If the sight had been a ghastly one in the dull
morning, what was it, now, in all that brilliant light!
He had not moved; he had been afraid to stir. There had been a
moan and motion of the hand; and, with terror added to rage, he
had struck and struck again. Once he threw a rug over it; but it
was worse to fancy the eyes, and imagine them moving towards him,
than to see them glaring upward, as if watching the reflection of
the pool of gore that quivered and danced in the sunlight on the
ceiling. He had plucked it off again. And there was the
body--mere flesh and blood, nor more--but such flesh, and so much
He struck a light, kindled a fire, and thrust the club into it.
There was hair upon the end, which blazed and shrunk into a light
cinder, and, caught by the air, whirled up the chimney. Even
that frightened him, sturdy as he was; but he held the weapon
till it broke, and then piled it on the coals to burn away, and
smoulder into ashes. He washed himself, and rubbed his clothes;
there were spots that would not be removed, but he cut the pieces
out, and burnt them. How those stains were dispersed about the
room! The very feet of the dog were bloody.
All this time he had, never once, turned his back upon the
corpse; no, not for a moment. Such preparations completed, he
moved, backward, towards the door: dragging the dog with him,
lest he should soil his feet anew and carry out new evidence of
the crime into the streets. He shut the door softly, locked it,
took the key, and left the house.
He crossed over, and glanced up at the window, to be sure that
nothing was visible from the outside. There was the curtain
still drawn, which she would have opened to admit the light she
never saw again. It lay nearly under there. HE knew that. God,
how the sun poured down upon the very spot!
The glance was instantaneous. It was a relief to have got free
of the room. He whistled on the dog, and walked rapidly away.
He went through Islington; strode up the hill at Highgate on
which stands the stone in honour of Whittington; turned down to
Highgate Hill, unsteady of purpose, and uncertain where to go;
struck off to the right again, almost as soon as he began to
descend it; and taking the foot-path across the fields, skirted
Caen Wood, and so came on Hampstead Heath. Traversing the hollow
by the Vale of Heath, he mounted the opposite bank, and crossing
the road which joins the villages of Hampstead and Highgate, made
along the remaining portion of the heath to the fields at North
End, in one of which he laid himself down under a hedge, and
Soon he was up again, and away,--not far into the country, but
back towards London by the high-road--then back again--then over
another part of the same ground as he already traversed--then
wandering up and down in fields, and lying on ditches' brinks to
rest, and starting up to make for some other spot, and do the
same, and ramble on again.
Where could he go, that was near and not too public, to get some
meat and drink? Hendon. That was a good place, not far off, and
out of most people's way. Thither he directed his
steps,--running sometimes, and sometimes, with a strange
perversity, loitering at a snail's pace, or stopping altogether
and idly breaking the hedges with a stick. But when he got
there, all the people he met--the very children at the
doors--seemed to view him with suspicion. Back he turned again,
without the courage to purchase bit or drop, though he had tasted
no food for many hours; and once more he lingered on the Heath,
uncertain where to go.
He wandered over miles and miles of ground, and still came back
to the old place. Morning and noon had passed, and the day was
on the wane, and still he rambled to and fro, and up and down,
and round and round, and still lingered about the same spot. At
last he got away, and shaped his course for Hatfield.
It was nine o'clock at night, when the man, quite tired out, and
the dog, limping and lame from the unaccustomed exercise, turned
down the hill by the church of the quiet village, and plodding
along the little street, crept into a small public-house, whose
scanty light had guided them to the spot. There was a fire in
the tap-room, and some country-labourers were drinking before it.
They made room for the stranger, but he sat down in the furthest
corner, and ate and drank alone, or rather with his dog: to whom
he cast a morsel of food from time to time.
The conversation of the men assembled here, turned upon the
neighboring land, and farmers; and when those topics were
exhausted, upon the age of some old man who had been buried on
the previous Sunday; the young men present considering him very
old, and the old men present declaring him to have been quite
young--not older, one white-haired grandfather said, than he
was--with ten or fifteen year of life in him at least--if he had
taken care; if he had taken care.
There was nothing to attract attention, or excite alarm in this.
The robber, after paying his reckoning, sat silent and unnoticed
in his corner, and had almost dropped asleep, when he was half
wakened by the noisy entrance of a new comer.
This was an antic fellow, half pedlar and half mountebank, who
travelled about the country on foot to vend hones, stops, razors,
washballs, harness-paste, medicine for dogs and horses, cheap
perfumery, cosmetics, and such-like wares, which he carried in a
case slung to his back. His entrance was the signal for various
homely jokes with the countrymen, which slackened not until he
had made his supper, and opened his box of treasures, when he
ingeniously contrived to unite business with amusement.
'And what be that stoof? Good to eat, Harry?' asked a grinning
countryman, pointing to some composition-cakes in one corner.
'This,' said the fellow, producing one, 'this is the infallible
and invaluable composition for removing all sorts of stain, rust,
dirt, mildew, spick, speck, spot, or spatter, from silk, satin,
linen, cambrick, cloth, crape, stuff, carpet, merino, muslin,
bombazeen, or woollen stuff. Wine-stains, fruit-stains,
beer-stains, water-stains, paint-stains, pitch-stains, any
stains, all come out at one rub with the infallible and
invaluable composition. If a lady stains her honour, she has
only need to swallow one cake and she's cured at once--for it's
poison. If a gentleman wants to prove this, he has only need to
bolt one little square, and he has put it beyond question--for
it's quite as satisfactory as a pistol-bullet, and a great deal
nastier in the flavour, consequently the more credit in taking
it. One penny a square. With all these virtues, one penny a
There were two buyers directly, and more of the listeners plainly
hesitated. The vendor observing this, increased in loquacity.
'It's all bought up as fast as it can be made,' said the fellow.
'There are fourteen water-mills, six steam-engines, and a
galvanic battery, always a-working upon it, and they can't make
it fast enough, though the men work so hard that they die off,
and the widows is pensioned directly, with twenty pound a-year
for each of the children, and a premium of fifty for twins. One
penny a square! Two half-pence is all the same, and four
farthings is received with joy. One penny a square!
Wine-stains, fruit-stains, beer-stains, water-stains,
paint-stains, pitch-stains, mud-stains, blood-stains! Here is a
stain upon the hat of a gentleman in company, that I'll take
clean out, before he can order me a pint of ale.'
'Hah!' cried Sikes starting up. 'Give that back.'
'I'll take it clean out, sir,' replied the man, winking to the
company, 'before you can come across the room to get it.
Gentlemen all, observe the dark stain upon this gentleman's hat,
no wider than a shilling, but thicker than a half-crown. Whether
it is a wine-stain, fruit-stain, beer-stain, water-stain,
paint-stain, pitch-stain, mud-stain, or blood-stain--'
The man got no further, for Sikes with a hideous imprecation
overthrew the table, and tearing the hat from him, burst out of
With the same perversity of feeling and irresolution that had
fastened upon him, despite himself, all day, the murderer,
finding that he was not followed, and that they most probably
considered him some drunken sullen fellow, turned back up the
town, and getting out of the glare of the lamps of a stage-coach
that was standing in the street, was walking past, when he
recognised the mail from London, and saw that it was standing at
the little post-office. He almost knew what was to come; but he
crossed over, and listened.
The guard was standing at the door, waiting for the letter-bag.
A man, dressed like a game-keeper, came up at the moment, and he
handed him a basket which lay ready on the pavement.
'That's for your people,' said the guard. 'Now, look alive in
there, will you. Damn that 'ere bag, it warn't ready night afore
last; this won't do, you know!'
'Anything new up in town, Ben?' asked the game-keeper, drawing
back to the window-shutters, the better to admire the horses.
'No, nothing that I knows on,' replied the man, pulling on his
gloves. 'Corn's up a little. I heerd talk of a murder, too,
down Spitalfields way, but I don't reckon much upon it.'
'Oh, that's quite true,' said a gentleman inside, who was looking
out of the window. 'And a dreadful murder it was.'
'Was it, sir?' rejoined the guard, touching his hat. 'Man or
woman, pray, sir?'
'A woman,' replied the gentleman. 'It is supposed--'
'Now, Ben,' replied the coachman impatiently.