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House-boat Arcadia
Scrymgeour had a house-boat called, of course, the _Arcadia...

Early Victorian Days
Scent to match thy rich perfume Chemic art did ne'er...

Primus
Primus is my brother's eldest son, and he once spent his Ea...

Marriot
I have hinted that Marriot was our sentimental member. H...

The Murder In The Inn
Sometimes I think it is all a dream, and that I did not rea...

English-grown Tobacco
Pettigrew asked me to come to his house one evening and tes...

How Heroes Smoke
On a tiger-skin from the ice-clad regions of the sunless no...

My Smoking-table
Had it not been for a bootblack at Charing Cross I shoul...

Matrimony And Smoking Compared
The circumstances in which I gave up smoking were these: ...

Smoking In The Twentieth Century
Sweet when the morn is grey; Sweet, when they've cle...

Pettigrew's Dream
My dream (said Pettigrew) contrasts sadly with those of my ...

When My Wife Is Asleep And All The House Is Still
Perhaps the heading of this paper will deceive some read...

The Ghost Of Christmas Eve
A few years ago, as some may remember, a startling ghost...

Gilray's Dream
Conceive me (said Gilray, with glowing face) invited to wri...

Gilray
Gilray is an actor, whose life I may be said to have str...

Gilray's Flower-pot
I charge Gilray's unreasonableness to his ignoble passion f...

Smoking Unfashionable: Later Georgian Days
Says the Pipe to the Snuff-box, I can't understand ...

Smoking Unfashionable: Early Georgian Days
Lord Fopling smokes not--for his teeth afraid; Sir T...

My Pipes
In a select company of scoffers my brier was known as the M...

Jimmy's Dream
I see before me (said Jimmy, savagely) a court, where I, Ja...



The Murder In The Inn








Sometimes I think it is all a dream, and that I did not really murder
the waits. Perhaps they are living still. Yet the scene is very vivid
before me, though the affair took place--if it ever did take place--so
long ago that I cannot be expected to remember the details. The time
when I must give up smoking was drawing near, so that I may have been
unusually irritable, and determined, whatever the cost, to smoke my last
pound-tin of the Arcadia in peace. I think my brier was in my mouth when
I did it, but after the lapse of months I cannot say whether there were
three of them or only two. So far as I can remember, I took the man with
the beard first.

The incident would have made more impression on me had there been any
talk about it. So far as I could discover, it never got into the papers.
The porters did not seem to think it any affair of theirs, though one of
them must have guessed why I invited the waits upstairs. He saw me open
the door to them; he was aware that this was their third visit in a
week; and only the night before he had heard me shout a warning to them
from my inn window. But of course the porters must allow themselves a
certain discretion in the performance of their duties. Then there was
the pleasant gentleman of the next door but two, who ran against me
just as I was toppling the second body over the railing. We were not
acquainted, but I knew him as the man who had flung a water-jug at the
waits the night before. He stopped short when he saw the body (it had
rolled out of the sofa-rug), and looked at me suspiciously. He is one
of the waits, I said. I beg your pardon, he replied, I did not
understand. When he had passed a few yards he turned round. Better
cover him up, he said; our people will talk. Then he strolled away,
an air from The Grand Duchess lightly trolling from his lips. We
still meet occasionally, and nod if no one is looking.

I am going too fast, however. What I meant to say was that the murder
was premeditated. In the case of a reprehensible murder I know this
would be considered an aggravation of the offence. Of course, it is
an open question whether all the murders are not reprehensible; but
let that pass. To my own mind I should have been indeed deserving of
punishment had I rushed out and slain the waits in a moment of fury. If
one were to give way to his passion every time he is interrupted in his
work or his sleep by bawlers our thoroughfares would soon be choked with
the dead. No one values human life or understands its sacredness more
than I do. I merely say that there may be times when a man, having stood
a great deal and thought it over calmly, is justified in taking the law
into his own hands--always supposing he can do it decently, quietly, and
without scandal. The epidemic of waits broke out early in December, and
every other night or so these torments came in the still hours and burst
into song beneath my windows. They made me nervous. I was more wretched
on the nights they did not come than on the nights they came; for I had
begun to listen for them, and was never sure they had gone into another
locality before four o'clock in the morning. As for their songs, they
were more like music-hall ditties than Christmas carols. So one
morning--it was, I think, the 23d of December--I warned them fairly,
fully, and with particulars, of what would happen if they disturbed me
again. Having given them this warning, can it be said that I was to
blame--at least, to any considerable extent?

Christmas eve had worn into Christmas morning before the waits arrived
on that fateful occasion. I opened the window--if my memory does not
deceive me--at once, and looked down at them. I could not swear to their
being the persons whom I had warned the night before. Perhaps I should
have made sure of this. But in any case these were practised waits.
Their whine rushed in at my open window with a vigor that proved them no
tyros. Besides, the night was a cold one, and I could not linger at an
open casement. I nodded pleasantly to the waits and pointed to my door.
Then I ran downstairs and let them in. They came up to my chambers with
me. As I have said, the lapse of time prevents my remembering how many
of them there were; three, I fancy. At all events, I took them into my
bedroom and strangled them one by one. They went off quite peaceably;
the only difficulty was in the disposal of the bodies. I thought of
laying them on the curb-stone in different passages; but I was afraid
the police might not see that they were waits, in which case I might be
put to inconvenience. So I took a spade and dug two (or three) large
holes in the quadrangle of the inn. Then I carried the bodies to the
place in my rug, one at a time, shoved them in, and covered them up.
A close observer might have noticed in that part of the quadrangle, for
some time after, a small mound, such as might be made by an elbow under
the bed-clothes. Nobody, however, seems to have descried it, and yet
I see it often even now in my dreams.





Next: The Perils Of Not Smoking

Previous: Pettigrew's Dream



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