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Passing of the Third Floor Back

"Funny," added the constable, gazing after the retreating figure of the stranger. "Seen
plenty of the other sex as looked young behind and old in front. This cove looks young in
front and old behind. Guess he'll look old all round if he stops long at mother
Pennycherry's: stingy old cat."
Constables whose beat included Bloomsbury Square had their reasons for not liking Mrs.
Pennycherry. Indeed it might have been difficult to discover any human being with
reasons for liking that sharp-featured lady. Maybe the keeping of second-rate boarding
houses in the neighbourhood of Bloomsbury does not tend to develop the virtues of
generosity and amiability.
Meanwhile the stranger, proceeding npon his way, had rung the bell of Number Forty-
eight. Mrs. Pennycherry, peeping from the area and catching a glimpse, above the
railings, of a handsome if somewhat effeminate masculine face, hastened to readjust her
widow's cap before the looking-glass while directing Mary Jane to show the stranger,
should he prove a problematical boarder, into the dining-room, and to light the gas.
"And don't stop gossiping, and don't you take it upon yourself to answer questions. Say
I'll be up in a minute," were Mrs. Pennycherry's further instructions, "and mind you hide
your hands as much as you can."
***
"What are you grinning at?" demanded Mrs. Pennycherry, a couple of minutes later, of
the dingy Mary Jane.
"Wasn't grinning," explained the meek Mary Jane, "was only smiling to myself."
"What at?"
"Dunno," admitted Mary Jane. But still she went on smiling.
"What's he like then?" demanded Mrs. Pennycherry.
"'E ain't the usual sort," was Mary Jane's opinion.
"Thank God for that," ejaculated Mrs. Pennycherry piously.
"Says 'e's been recommended, by a friend."
"By whom?"
"By a friend. 'E didn't say no name." Mrs. Pennycherry pondered. "He's not the funny
sort, is he?"
Not that sort at all. Mary Jane was sure of it.
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