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- A Girl Among the Anarchists - 34/34 -


unhealthy, repulsive face, I was overcome by a feeling of almost physical nausea. I realised fully how loathsome this gutter Iago had become to me during the past few months, during which I had had ample opportunity to note his pettifogging envy and jealousy, his almost simian inquisitiveness and prying curiosity. I felt I could not work with him; his presence had become intolerable to me. I realised that this was the _finale_, the destined end of the _Tocsin_ and of my active revolutionary propaganda. I had changed. Why not let the dead bury their dead?

At this moment the policeman who had opened the office door to me came up bringing a letter, which he handed to the inspector.

"It is for you, miss," that functionary said, reading the address, "but I have orders to open all correspondence. You will excuse my complying with them."

My heart stood still. Could it be from Kosinski or Giannoli? After a moment the inspector handed the note to me. It was from the landlord--a notice to quit. I walked up and showed it to Short.

"Well, what will you do?" he inquired. They were the first words we had exchanged that morning.

"I shall leave," I replied.

"And how about the paper? Do you think of starting it again?"

"No, I do not think so; not for the present at any rate."

"And the 'plant'?"

"I shall leave that too. You can look after it, you and the comrades!"

"Oh, the comrades!" sneered Short, and returned to his pipe.

I turned once more to the inspector. "I am free to leave, I suppose?" I inquired. "I cannot see that my presence here serves any purpose."

"Oh yes, miss, you can go if you like. The presence of the printer is sufficient for us. I understand he is one of the proprietors?"

"Oh yes, he is a proprietor," I replied, and turned on my heel. M'Dermott came up to me.

"Well, my dear," he said, "so you are leaving. Well, I don't blame you, nor wish you to remain. After all, it is no use trying to tinker up our rotten system, or to prop up society with such wretched supports as our friend here," and he pointed at Short. "What we need is to get round them by our insidious means, and then go in for wholesale assassination!"

I could not help smiling as the little man gave vent to this bloodthirsty sentiment in an undertone; he wrung my hand warmly, and we parted.

"What do you intend doing with those Italians who stay here?" I inquired of the inspector as the sound of a guitar proceeding from downstairs recalled my thoughts to them.

"I think it best to detain them here until I have finished searching the place thoroughly; then if I find nothing to incriminate them, they will be free. You need not worry about them, miss, they do not seem likely to suffer from depression."

The twanging of the guitar was now accompanied by Beppe's powerful baritone voice, whilst the others joined in the chorus:

"_Noi, profughi D'Italia...._"

I walked down the stairs.

"Good-bye, Comrades!"

"Good-bye, a rivederci!" and after giving one last look at the familiar scene, I walked out.

As I made my way down the yard leading to the street, I encountered Mrs. Wattles at the back door of her shop. She had now reached the maudlin stage of intoxication. Her eyes were bleary, her mouth tremulous, her complexion bloated and inflamed. There was something indefinite in her appearance, suggesting the idea that her face had been boiled, and that the features had run, losing all sharpness of outline and expression. She fixed me with her fishy eye, and dabbing her face with the corner of her apron began to blubber.

"S'elp me Gawd, miss," she began, "I never thought as I should come to this! To have them narks under my very roof, abrazenin' it out! I always knew as there was something wrong abart pore Mr. Janly, and many's the time I've said to 'im, 'Mr. Janly, sir,' I've said, 'do take a little something, yer look so pale.' But 'e always answered, 'No, Mrs. Wattles, no; you've been a mother to me, Mrs. Wattles, and I know you're right, but I can't do it. 'Ere's for 'alf a pint to drink my health, but I can't do it.' And I dare say as it were them temp'rance scrupils like as brought 'im to 'is end."

At these tender recollections of Giannoli the good lady quite broke down.

"To think that it was I as let you that very shop two years last Christmas, and that pore Mr. Cusings, as was sweet on you then--I've not seen 'im lately--and now the coppers are under my very roof! It seems a judgment on us, it really does. But I always told Wattles that if he went on treatin' of 'is wedded wife more like a 'eathen than a Christian woman, as a judgment would come on 'im, an' now my words is proved."

She seemed by now quite oblivious of my presence: a quivering shapeless mass of gin-drenched humanity she collapsed on to the doorstep. And with this for my last sight and recollection of the place which had witnessed so much enthusiasm, so many generous hopes and aspirations, and where so many illusions lay buried, I walked forth into the London street a sadder if a wiser woman.

THE END


A Girl Among the Anarchists - 34/34

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