On our return to home, I found Fritz Keller smoking his pipe in the walled garden at the
back of the house.
In those days, it may not be amiss to remark that merchants of the old-fashioned sort still
lived over their counting-houses in the city. The late Mr. Wagner's place of business
included two spacious houses standing together, with internal means of communication.
One of these buildings was devoted to the offices and warehouses. The other (having the
garden at the back) was the private residence.
Fritz advanced to meet me, and stopped, with a sudden change in his manner. "Something
has happened," he said--"I see it in your face! Has the madman anything to do with it?"
"Yes. Shall I tell you what has happened, Fritz?"
"Not for the world. My ears are closed to all dreadful and distressing narratives. I will
imagine the madman--let us talk of something else."
"You will probably see him, Fritz, in a few weeks' time."
"You don't mean to tell me he is coming into this house?"
"I am afraid it's likely, to say the least of it."
Fritz looked at me like a man thunderstruck. "There are some disclosures," he said, in his
quaint way, "which are too overwhelming to be received on one's legs. Let us sit down."
He led the way to a summer-house at the end of the garden. On the wooden table, I
observed a bottle of the English beer which my friend prized so highly, with glasses on
either side of it.
"I had a presentiment that we should want a consoling something of this sort," said Fritz.
"Fill your glass, David, and let out the worst of it at once, before we get to the end of the
I let out the best of it first--that is to say, I told him what I have related in the preceding
pages. Fritz was deeply interested: full of compassion for Jack Straw, but not in the least
converted to my aunt's confidence in him.
"Jack is supremely pitiable," he remarked; "but Jack is also a smoldering volcano--and
smoldering volcanos burst into eruption when the laws of nature compel them. My only
hope is in Mr. Superintendent. Surely he will not let this madman loose on us, with
nobody but your aunt to hold the chain? What did she really say, when you left Jack, and
had your private talk in the reception-room? One minute, my friend, before you begin,"
said Fritz, groping under the bench upon which we were seated. "I had a second
presentiment that we might want a second bottle--and here it is! Fill your glass; and let us