Page:Hopkinson Smith--In Dickens's London.djvu/151

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.


"There is whispering and wondering all day, strict search of every corner, careful tracing of steps, and careful noting of the disposition of every article of furniture. All eyes look up at the Roman, and all voices murmur, 'If he could only tell what he saw!'

"He is pointing at a table, with a bottle (nearly full of wine) and a glass upon it, and two Candles that were blown out suddenly, soon after being lighted. He is pointing at an empty chair, and at a stain upon the ground before it that might be almost covered with a hand.… For, Mr. Tulkinghorn's time is over for evermore; and the Roman pointed at the murderous hand uplifted against his life, and pointed helplessly at him, from night to morning, lying face downward on the floor, shot through the heart."

Years of soot and dust, due to the movings in and movings out of many "maggots" in their changing of "nuts," followed by a liberal use of friendly whitewash, have obliterated all traces of the "Roman" and "the outstretched hand" and "flowers" and "clouds," but the façade of the grim dignified old house is still as Charles Dickens knew it. All the more wonderful when I realise that the stealthy fingers of modern greed are within reach of its door-step. Indeed, when I last saw it in June, 1913, several ghouls, in the shape of portable boilers and erectable derricks, were squatted in a circle about it, waiting for the signal to pounce in and tear.

To-day, as I write, they may be quarrelling over its rafter bones, or drawing lots for choice bits of mantel, sash, and door.