Wednesday, 18th June, 1873
I awoke, for the second time, on Wednesday morning with a sore toe.
I raised my head a fraction from the pillow and squinted in the direction of the window, where the pale grey light of a
My toe throbbed painfully and so, gingerly, I poked my foot out from beneath the layered blankets in order to examine the extent of the injury. My initial impression was that my big toe looked altogether too big for my liking; this was an impression reinforced by the way in which it throbbed painfully when I made even the most tentative attempts at flexing it.
The end of a piece of white string was looped loosely around my toe and led out of the bed, across the dusty floorboards and, from there, up to the handle of my bedroom door where the opposing end of the afore mentioned string was similarly attached. I must admit, I was toying with the notion that tying my big toe to the bedroom door had not, on the face of it, been one of my better ideas.
I lay back on the pillow and blinked tiredly up at the ceiling; mulling that, if it weren’t for the fact that I had tied my big toe to the door this would be the first time I woke on Wednesday morning. Although, equally, if it weren’t for the fact that I had tied my big toe to the door I would have likely awoken to find that the scant few possessions I could still count as my own had mysteriously disappeared in much the same way as had my pocket watch, my silver comb, my best pair of shoes, two good white shirts, a pair of black socks and my only pair of cufflinks.
Ever since I had taken up lodgings with the, quite frankly fearsome, Mrs Avery it appeared that my belongings had developed a life of their own. In my previous occupancy, if I were to leave a shirt in a drawer then I could be quite confident that it would still be there waiting for me when I got back. Now, however, it seemed that my belongings had developed the desire to wander.
“Forgetfulness,” scowled Mrs Avery, when I nervously broached the idea of installing a lock on my bedroom door the day before. “I think you’ll find that you are just forgetful, Mr. Beckworth.”
Since Mrs Avery stood at least four inches taller than me and had the build of a navvy (with an armful of tattoos to match) I simply bobbed my head in agreement and assured her that I had certainly not even given consideration to the idea that one of my fellow lodgers could have been responsible for my missing items.
At this Mrs Avery had scowled even more harshly, her huge face reddening and her already large eyes almost popping from her head, and I was forced to quickly revise my statement in order to convince her that I fully accepted her explanation that the other three gentlemen in the house were not lodgers, but were merely occasional guests.
Indeed, I had swallowed Mrs Avery’s lie about this with little hesitation when I came to view the property at
I communicated that this seemed certainly to be agreeable; after all I surely would not wish to stand in the way of either guests or the occasional professional visitor. Mrs Avery had beamed a crooked smile at me and then, as if the fact had completely failed to cross her mind beforehand, belatedly remembered that Mr. Winters, a legal gentleman, also had an agreement to use a room, usually no more than one night in a fortnight.
This all seemed perfectly acceptable to me; a friend, a banker and a legal gentlemen who, in total, seemed to spend no more than a few nights per month in the property surely would not be a problem and the price for lodgings was far lower than anything else I had been able to find in the City.
On my first night in my new lodgings it transpired that, as luck would have it, Mr. Douglas was also going to be staying; and while I cannot vouch for the fact that he is a close family friend, I can vouch for the fact that he is an extremely poor singer when drunk, although what he lacks in musicality he attempts to make up for with both stamina and volume.
Suitably exhausted the next morning I laboured down to the kitchen and prepared myself a plate of morning vittles from the meagre supplies on offer; it was there that I encountered a thick set man with a flat nose, cauliflower ears and a crop of short grey hair entering the property through the back door.
I, of course, introduced myself as the lodger of the property and was a little surprised to find in return that I was meeting Mr. Murphy, the gentleman that Mrs Avery had described as a banker. Now, while I would not, by any means, consider myself an expert in the clothing styles of banking professionals, I must confess that I had never before encountered a banker who wears moleskin trousers, scuffed hobnail boots and a shirt with sleeves rolled up to the elbow, exposing forearms like slabs of meat. Nor had I ever before met a banker who carried a, clearly well used, black leather sap with him to work.
Mr Murphy indicated that he was returning from a hard night’s work and proceeded to sit down in the place I had set myself at the kitchen table and began to eat the food which I had just spent time preparing for myself. Perhaps it was the presence of the leather sap dangling from his belt, perhaps it was his beady black eyes that held all the emotion of a dead fish, but there was something about Mr. Murphy that persuaded me to allow him to tuck into my breakfast without registering a single complaint.
Our conversation that morning was brief, and mainly one sided, but I was able to determine that that Mr. Murphy had what would be considered a tenuous connection to the banking profession; namely that he collected outstanding debts for a local money lender by the name of O’Riley.
More than a little appalled by the motley crew who were currently sharing a house with me (and indeed who seemed to be far more consistent visitors than I had been initially informed) I was lucky enough to be out of the house for the first four days of my stay and, despite the garbled singing of Mr. Douglas at night and the propensity of Mr. Murphy to eat my food at his convenience, I began to think that, perhaps, I could manage to adjust to my housemates. Unfortunately, that was before the arrival of