Passing of the Third Floor Back HTML version
Passing of the Third Floor Back
The neighbourhood of Bloomsbury Square towards four o'clock of a November afternoon
is not so crowded as to secure to the stranger, of appearance anything out of the common,
immunity from observation. Tibb's boy, screaming at the top of his voice that she was his
honey, stopped suddenly, stepped backwards on to the toes of a voluble young lady
wheeling a perambulator, and remained deaf, apparently, to the somewhat personal
remarks of the voluble young lady. Not until he had reached the next corner--and then
more as a soliloquy than as information to the street--did Tibb's boy recover sufficient
interest in his own affairs to remark that he was her bee. The voluble young lady herself,
following some half-a-dozen yards behind, forgot her wrongs in contemplation of the
stranger's back. There was this that was peculiar about the stranger's back: that instead of
being flat it presented a decided curve. "It ain't a 'ump, and it don't look like kervitcher of
the spine," observed the voluble young lady to herself. "Blimy if I don't believe 'e's taking
'ome 'is washing up his back."
The constable at the corner, trying to seem busy doing nothing, noticed the stranger's
approach with gathering interest. "That's an odd sort of a walk of yours, young man,"
thought the constable. "You take care you don't fall down and tumble over yourself."
"Thought he was a young man," murmured the constable, the stranger having passed him.
"He had a young face right enough."
The daylight was fading. The stranger, finding it impossible to read the name of the street
upon the corner house, turned back.
"Why, 'tis a young man," the constable told himself; "a mere boy."
"I beg your pardon," said the stranger; "but would you mind telling me my way to
"This is Bloomsbury Square," explained the constable; "leastways round the corner is.
What number might you be wanting?"
The stranger took from the ticket pocket of his tightly buttoned overcoat a piece of paper,
unfolded it and read it out: "Mrs. Pennycherry. Number Forty-eight."
"Round to the left," instructed him the constable; "fourth house. Been recommended
"By--by a friend," replied the stranger. "Thank you very much."
"Ah," muttered the constable to himself; "guess you won't be calling him that by the end
of the week, young--"