The Flitting of Maurice Crane

The Flitting of Mr. Maurice Crane  (1909) 
by Herbert Jenkins

Extracted from Hutchinson's Story Magazine, August 1909, pp. 341–349. Title illustration may be omitted. Included in Bindles on the Rocks (1924)

The Flitting of
Mr. Maurice Crane


Author of "Bindle," "The Night
Club," "Adventures of Bindle,"
"John Dene of Toronto," etc


" CAN you keep yer mouth shut?" demanded the yard-foreman of the Victoria Depository and Furniture Removing Company, as he looked at Bindle with the air of one who has already made up his mind negatively upon the subject.

"If you'd lived a matter o' twenty years with Mrs. B., ole sport," replied Bindle, "you'd be able to give an oyster ten yards in the 'undred an' beat 'im every time."

"Well, there ain't got to be no blabbin' over this 'ere job," announced the foreman, a heavily-built man with a drink-swollen face, a bald head, and a soured temper.

"Shootin' the moon?" enquired Bindle innocently.

"Don't you worry what it's about, cockie," said the foreman surlily; "you jest do what yer told, and keep yer ruddy mouth shut."

Bindle eyed the man with disfavour.

"Pleasant way you got o' putting things, Tawny," he remarked amiably.

The foreman's hair was of a strangely sun-dried tint, which had earned for him the name of Tawny. He disliked the familiarity, preferring to be called Mr. Hitch. Instead he was invariably called Tawny to his face, and Ole 'Itch-an'-Scratch-It' behind his back.

"You got to take the steam van and trailer to 18, Vanstorn Road, Balham, load up, then telephone 'ere and you'll get the address where you're to go. It's in the country. You'll be away two days. You'll draw ten bob a day, exes. Be 'ere at seven."

"In the country?" queried Bindle. "What part of the country?"

"Never you mind what part of the country," said the foreman malevolently. "You jest obey orders, and keep that ugly mouth o' yours closed, then people won't know what blinkin' bad teeth you got. Stevens'll be engineer, you can take Huggles and Wilkes. Send 'em back when you've loaded up. There'll be men at the other end to 'elp unload. Got it?"

"Wot a wonderful chap you are, Tawny, for explaining things"—Bindle gazed at him in mock admiration—"and yer language too, since you joined that Sunday school wot took the tint out of yer complexion. Wonderful face you got for peepin' round an 'arp."

"One o' these days you'll get a thick ear, Jo Bindle," said the foreman angrily.

"Well, well," said Bindle philosophically, "better a thick ear than a thick 'ead."

"It's about fifty miles away," continued the foreman. "You got to be there at six, so you can put up for a couple of hours on the road, and get a kip. Now 'op it, and if you says a ruddy word of where you've been or where yer goin' to, I'll cut yer pinkish liver out. I've 'ad my blinkin' eye on you some time," added the foreman darkly; "you an' yer stutterin' tricks."

"Where you learns it all does me," said Bindle good-humouredly, as he turned away; then, as a sudden inspiration struck him, he added, "No one couldn't 'ave their eye long on a face like yours without blinkin', Tawny. So-long."

Bindle always enjoyed getting the last word.


"Mrs. B.," remarked Bindle that evening, as he leaned back contentedly after a particularly successful supper of sheep's heart stuffed with sage-and-onions, in the preparation of which Mrs. Bindle was an adept. "Mrs. B., there are them wot appreciates your ole man."

Mrs. Bindle sniffed scornfully, and, rising from the table, proceeded to draw out of the oven a rhubarb tart, which she banged upon the table. To Mrs. Bindle emphasis was the salt of life. As Bindle had once remarked, "My missis does everythink as if she meant it. She cooks like giddy-o, talks like a bust drain, an' prays like 'ell."

"What's the matter now?" she snapped, curiosity overcoming her scorn of all things relating to her spouse.

"I got to go away on a secret service mission," he announced through a mouthful of rhubarb tart.

"Where are you going?" she demanded suspiciously.

"I ain't allowed to say," was the response. "It 'ud be quod if I did. Ole Tawny calls me up this afternoon and says, 'Bindle,' 'e says, 'there ain't a stouter 'eart than yours in the British Empire.' Of course I jest looks down and says, 'Bow-wow!'"

"If you want me to listen you'd better talk sense."

Mrs. Bindle slashed out another V of pie-crust, tipped it on to the plate that Bindle held towards her, and proceeded to dab rhubarb beside it.

"Sense it is, Mrs. B.," he said. "I got to go away for two days. Now mind you don't get up to——"

"Where are you going?" demanded Mrs. Bindle.

"That's a secret. Nobody ain't permitted to know."

For some moments Mrs. Bindle eyed him suspiciously.

"You're going to the races!" There was grim conviction in her tones. "Don't deny it," she added, "I know."

"It ain't no use trying to keep things from you, Lizzie," said Bindle with a grin. "'Earty didn't want me to tell you; still, if you've found out, it can't be 'elped, can it?"

"Mr. Hearty?" interrogated Mrs. Bindle.

"Terrible goin's on." Bindle shook his head with gloomy foreboding. "Been putting things on horses for months, 'e 'as—cokernuts, pineapples, bags of potatoes—an' now 'e's goin' to Epsom to put 'is shirt on."

"Bindle, don't be disgusting. What do you mean about Mr. Hearty?"

"Well, you jest nip round and ask 'im," said Bindle. "If I'm going to the races to-morrow so is 'Earty. That was a damn fine tart, Mrs. B.," he added as he rose from the table. "I got to be down at the yard to-morrow at seven," he announced, as he walked towards the door.

"Where are you going to?"

"The place where they don't play billiards," he hummed as, picking up his cap from the dresser, he went out, leaving Mrs. Bindle a prey to jealousy and suspicion.


"I shall miss you when you're gone, 'Uggles," said Bindle, "jest as I shall miss ole Wilkie's cough." He was seated on the tailboard of the trailer-pantechnicon between his two associates, Huggles and Wilkes—Huggles grinning vacuously, Wilkes coughing intermittently. "You ain't bad sorts as 'umpers[1] go; but I'd 'ave to be bloomin' drunk to see you two with wings and 'arps. Wot they're goin' to do in 'eaven with your cough, Wilkie, and your complexion, 'Uggles—well, it does me."

As he spoke the pantechnicon and trailer turned at a generous angle into the Vanstorn Road, Balham. A minute later they drew up in front of Number 18, a modern, semi-detached villa of the "studiodious" type.

"Here we are, my little love-birds," said Bindle, leisurely tumbling off the tailboard.

As they passed through the gate of Number 18, the front door was opened by a smooth, puffy little man with an unhealthy skin and a pompous manner. He was wearing a snuff-coloured suit of painful newness, a pink shirt, a white satin tie with a diamond pin, and white spats. Across his waistcoat was drawn a massive gold chain, whilst on his fingers were several rings. His scanty black hair was well greased across an unintellectual forehead.

"Blinkin' profiteer," muttered Huggles with unusual eloquence, as they walked up the path.

Bindle turned and looked at him with interest.

"It ain't often you speaks, 'Uggles," he remarked, "but when you does, it's a bull every time."

"Are you the moving-men?" demanded he of the brown suit, in a tone that some men seem to think necessary to adopt to their social inferiors.

"Regular Sherlock 'Olmes you are, sir," said Bindle cheerfully.

"I am Mr. Crane, Mr. Maurice Crane. Which is the foreman?"

"Now, need you ask, sir?" said Bindle reproachfully. "Look at these two ole reprobates, do they look——?"

"I want to speak to you," interrupted Mr. Crane, and turning on his heel he led the way into the house.

"'E's a dook right enough," said Bindle, addressing Wilkes and Huggles. "'E's so polite"; and he passed into the dining-room, Mr. Crane carefully closing the door behind him.

"You understand that this is an—er——" he paused.

"It's all right, sir," said Bindle reassuringly, "nothing ain't going to be said to nobody."

"There's no name on the van?" went on Mr. Crane.

Bindle looked out of the window.

"Not so much as a number, sir."

"And you don't know where you are going."

"Well, sir," said Bindle cheerfully, "'Earty and Mrs. B. seems pretty sure it's 'ell; but——"

"Don't be impertinent." Mr. Crane looked at Bindle severely. "You don't know your destination, where you are taking the—er—furniture?"

"'Aven't a notion, sir," was the response. "I got to 'phone up the office soon as we're loaded up, then I'll 'ear."

Mr. Crane nodded approvingly.

"The neighbours," began Mr. Crane. Again he paused. He was obviously nervous.

"You leave them to me, sir," said Bindle confidentially. "I can tell the tale."

"And you understand," said Mr. Crane, putting his hand in his pocket and jingling his money seductively.

"When the V.D. gets a job like this 'ere, sir, they always sends me. 'Joe Bindle,' says the manager to me yesterday afternoon, 'if it wasn't for you,' 'e says, 'Gawd knows wot would 'ave 'appened to the British Empire.' You see, sir," he continued, "I'm married myself," and he winked knowingly.

Mr. Crane started violently.

"You—I—what do you mean?" he demanded, fear and suspicion in his eyes.

"Don't you worry, sir, you jest leave it all to me. I'll see you through, safe as 'ouses."

"I'm going down by train to——" began Mr. Crane—and again he hesitated—"to where you're coming to," he concluded.

"There ain't no trains runnin' to where I'm goin'," murmured Bindle with mournful conviction. "An' now I'll get on with the job, sir, if you please"; and with that he turned and walked to the door and went out.

For some time Mr. Crane watched the work of dismantling his home. His early inclination to interfere Bindle had discouraged.

"Now, you jest set down an' watch, sir," he had said, "or you'll get them pretty duds o' yours all messed up, an' wot'll she say then?"

Soon after ten Mr. Crane departed, having given explicit instructions to Bindle not to divulge a secret with which he was unacquainted. Mr. Crane did not seem to see the inconsistency of the request.

Contrary to Bindle's expectations and those of Mr. Crane, the neighbours evinced no very particular interest as to where the furniture from Number 18 was going. They gazed from behind their curtains and from their front doors according to the state of their presentability; but nothing more. A few of the tradespeople from time to time took up strong strategical positions, and watched the proceedings.

The most persistent of these itinerants was a telegraph-girl, who seemed to have the whole morning before her. A perky, diminutive little creature with a scrap of fair hair tied behind with a pink ribbon, she stood drinking in the scene, her jaws moving continuously in the process of chewing gum. At length, as if to assure herself of the correctness of her own deductions, she turned to Bindle as he was returning to the house.

"Moving?" she enquired indifferently, nodding her head in the direction of the house.

"No, darling, we're doin' it to make our 'air grow. We puts everythink in the van, then we takes it all back into the 'ouse again, and we feels better. Gives us a sort of appetite for supper."

"Funny, ain't you?" she retorted, quite unmoved, as she continued her chewing.

At noon Bindle and his mates knocked off for dinner, locking the doors of the vans and also of the house. At one o'clock they were back again.

As Bindle turned into the garden he caught sight of a lady standing at the front door. She was a little slip of a thing, brown hair, brown eyes, brown dress, with very red lips and an almost childish expression of countenance. Her hands were trembling violently, and her large brown eyes looked as if they would start from her head. As Bindle approached she took a step towards him.

"What—what are you doing with my furniture?" she cried in an unsteady voice.

"Your furniture, mum?" repeated Bindle as if he were not quite sure that he had heard aright.

"You mustn't take it away, oh, you mustn't!"

She clasped her trembling hands together, and looked at him beseechingly. There was in her voice the note of a child who sees a cherished toy in danger of destruction.

"We're takin' it away accordin' to orders, mum," said Bindle, forgetful of his instructions in his sympathy for the pathetic figure before him.

"But—but whose orders?"

"Fat little chap 'e was, mum, with jewels all over 'im, an' black 'air all smarmed down, enough to cause a grease shortage."

"That was my husband," she replied. "I am Mrs. Crane."

She was now trembling violently, and swayed slightly as if about to collapse.

"Look 'ere, mum," said Bindle, solicitously, "you better come in and set down, you ain't fit to stand out 'ere."

Opening the door with the key he held in his hand, he led the way into one of the rooms where a large, chintz-covered easy-chair stood near the door. Bindle jerked his thumb to indicate to Mrs. Crane that she was to sit there. With a sigh that was half a sob, she collapsed into its capacious depths, which seemed to emphasise the slightness of her figure.

"Where—where are you taking——" she paused.

"I ain't allowed to say, mum. I'm sorry," said Bindle sympathetically. "As a matter of fact, I don't know myself till we're loaded up, then I gets my orders."

"Oh, Maurice! how could you?" she moaned. Then, suddenly turning to Bindle, she cried: "You mustn't, you won't, will you? It's my home, you see, and—and——" she broke off, sobbing.

Bindle stood before her, cap in hand, the picture of embarrassment and indecision.

Presently the storm of weeping subsided, and she looked up at him through her tears, a pitiable figure of despair.

"He—he sent me away, and—and—it isn't his fault; it's that dreadful woman. Oh! you won't take them away, will you? Please—please say you won't."

"Look 'ere, mum," said Bindle with sudden decision, "you an' me's got to have a little talk about this 'ere"; and he seated himself on the edge of a chair opposite.

When Bindle left the house to continue the work of removal, there was a grim set about his jaw and a strange look in his eyes. For the rest of the day his habitual good-humour seemed to have forsaken him. The work proceeded without the usual quips and jokes, and Huggles and Wilkes missed them. From time to time they gazed at their comrade and then at each other, as if puzzled to account for the change.


"'Ere, steady, ole sports," cried Bindle, "gently does it. Valuable little bit o' stuff this 'ere."

Three men were toiling laboriously with a large, double-doored oak cabinet of Jacobean design and dubious antiquity. Bindle was dodging from side to side in an endeavour to prevent damage.

"Pleasant little canary-cage," he murmured, during a brief rest, as he wiped his forehead with a large khaki-coloured handkerchief.

"Where's she going?" enquired one of the men.

"Dinin'-room," replied Bindle. "Keep her upright, there's things inside," he added by way of explanation. "Mustn't upset the bird-seed."

On arriving that morning at six o'clock at the address in Brighton given him the night before, Bindle had found three men waiting to help unload the van. Stevens, the engineer, had gone to get a sleep, whilst Bindle had immediately set to work. During the journey to Brighton he had slept fairly comfortably on a heap of matting on top of the trailer.

After infinite labour and much grumbling and blowing on the part of the men, the cabinet was planted in the dining-room opposite the fireplace.

"That finishes the dining-room," murmured Bindle. "Now, then, you ole warriors," he called after the men as they trooped out of the room, "put your backs into it, an' you shall 'ave a drink of milk and a bun if you're good boys. Ah! 'ere you are, sir," as Mr. Crane bustled into the house.

"So you got here safely?" he enquired, still anxious and furtive. "No one——" He paused.

"No one said nothink, sir, nor asked nothink."

"You are quite sure."

"Sure as sure, sir," said Bindle reassuringly.

"You were not followed," persisted Mr. Crane.

"Nothink followed us along the road, sir, an' I didn't 'ear an aeroplane."

Mr. Crane drew a deep sigh of relief.

"We've got the drawin'-room an' the dinin'-room done, sir, an' now we'll get on with the other rooms."

Mr. Crane looked about him, apparently pleasantly surprised at the progress that had been made during the last three hours.

"There's a—er—er—a lady coming," he said. "You had—er—better call me."

"Right-o, sir," said Bindle cheerfully, as he walked down the passage towards the door, whistling, "My Wife won't let me."

Mr. Crane gazed after him with a look of doubt on his face.

A few minutes later Bindle was back in the dining-room examining the oak cabinet, apparently to see that it had suffered no damage.

"Where's Mr. Crane?"

Bindle span round on his heel and stood regarding a flamboyantly dressed girl with puffy features, full hips, and startling yellow hair. Her manner was supercilious, and her diction that of Bow.

"'E was 'ere a moment ago, mum, or miss," said Bindle, when he had taken stock of the stranger. "Did you want 'im?"

"Tell him I'm here," said the girl, as she proceeded to peel off her gloves.

Bindle noticed a broad circle of gold upon the third finger of her left hand. He winked knowingly at a portrait of a pale, narrow-headed man, looking like a half-ripe banana.

"Very good, miss—mum, I mean. Who shall I say?" Bindle gave a covert glance in the direction of the oak cabinet.

"Mrs. Crane," she replied indifferently.

"Right-o, miss, I'll go an' fetch 'im."

As he turned towards the door Mr. Crane entered; at the sight of the girl his customary nervousness seemed to increase. He fluttered across to her with a forced, rather sickly smile.

"The drawing-room is quite ready, my dear," he said, looking at her anxiously, as if uncertain of her mood.

"That'll have to be moved," she announced, pointing to the cabinet, and without any attempt at greeting, by which Bindle decided in his own mind that they had parted only a short time before.

"Moved, my dear?" interrogated Mr. Crane.

"I don't like it. It's hideous. You'll have to sell it."

"I—er——" began Mr. Crane.

"What's inside—shelves?" she demanded.

"It's—er—there's nothing inside," said Mr. Crane. "It's just an ornament."

"Ornament!" she cried scornfully, going over to it and turning the handle. "Where's the key?" she demanded over her shoulder.

"The key ought to be in it," said Mr. Crane, turning and looking interrogatingly at Bindle.

"I got the key, sir," said Bindle, rummaging in his trousers pocket. "I took it out when we was bringin' it in, for fear it might catch up against somethink."

With a grin he handed the key to the girl, who proceeded to insert it in the lock. Indolently and indifferently she opened the right-hand door, then with a cry started back. Mr. Crane turned to see the cause of the cry. His eyes became fixed, almost bulging out of his head.

"Good morning, Maurice."

Out of the oak cabinet stepped the diminutive form of the real Mrs. Crane, perfectly self-possessed and smiling.

The effect of the greeting upon Mr. Crane was curious. His hands fell to his sides, his jaw dropped, and his thick, pursy lips gaped. His face became an ashen colour, and in his eyes was terror, as he gazed at the neat and self-possessed figure of his wife.

"Won't you introduce me to your friend, Maurice?" enquired Mrs. Crane sweetly, looking from one to the other.

Mr. Crane swallowed twice laboriously, at the end of each effort his lips parting again in a silly gape. He blinked his eyes rapidly; but speech was denied him.

Bindle stood in the background, all the satisfaction of a successful impresario depicted upon his features.

Seeing that nothing was to be got from her husband, Mrs. Crane turned to the fair-haired, flamboyantly dressed girl, who had stood the picture of dazed stupidity.

"Won't you sit down?"

Mrs. Crane's honied sweetness seemed to goad the girl to madness. She laughed a sneering, insolent laugh.

"You damn fool!" she cried, turning to the now trembling figure of Mr. Crane. "They've tricked you, or else"—her eyes suddenly blazed—"you've done it on purpose. You mealy-mouthed, chicken-hearted swine!" And a stream of obscene vituperation poured from her lips.

Bindle took a step forward; but the girl did not wait.

With a fresh volley of abuse she flounced out of the room, Mrs. Crane following her into the hall as if to assure herself that her visitor had really left the house. When she returned she stood for a moment regarding her husband, who had sunk into a chair, the picture of dejection and despair.

"Please—please have the furniture put back into the van."

Bindle turned round from the window where he had been watching the departure of the vanquished "bit o' fluff." For a moment he hesitated, then, dashing forward, was just in time to catch Mrs. Crane as she fell.

"Well, I'm blowed, what would Mrs. B. say now?" he mumbled. "'Ere, look 'ere, sir, this is your job," he cried, looking across at where Mr. Crane sat, a moist and beaten man. Seeing that no help was to be expected from Mr. Crane, Bindle gently lowered his wife to the floor and, placing a hassock beneath her head, bolted out of the room in search of water. When he returned, after having told the men to wait by the van, he found Mr. Crane kneeling by his wife's side, the picture of helpless misery.

As Bindle knelt down beside her, a cup of water in his hand, Mrs. Crane opened her eyes. After looking at him for a moment with a puzzled expression, she smiled.

Lifting her head gently, Bindle placed the cup to her lips. She drank a little, then with a motion of her head signed to him to take it away. She sighed deeply and looked enquiringly at her husband, who was still on his knees gazing down at her with unseeing eyes.

"Now," said Bindle, "you jest lift 'er into that chair, an' she'll be all right in two ticks."

Mr. Crane seemed grateful for something to do. Stooping down, he lifted the slight form of his wife and placed her in a chair.

For some minutes Bindle and Mr. Crane stood gazing down at Mrs. Crane. Presently she appeared to gather herself together, and, looking from one to the other, she smiled.

"I'm all right now," she said weakly. "You—you mustn't bother any more."

"Well, mum, if you don't mind bein' left alone for a minute or two, me an' 'im's got one or two little things to settle." He indicated Mr. Crane with his thumb. "You're sure you'll be all right?" he asked anxiously.

Mrs. Crane nodded and smiled wanly.

"Now, sir," said Bindle, addressing Mr. Crane, "we'll go into the kitchen."

There was a grimness about Bindle's tone that caused Mr. Crane to look apprehensively in the direction of his wife; but her eyes were closed. Bindle's air, as he stood holding open the door, was so determined that, after a momentary hesitation, Mr. Crane passed through it into the kitchen, as if compelled by sheer force of personality. Carefully closing the door, Bindle stood before it facing his victim.

"Now, look 'ere, sir," he said. "I met some queer coves in my time, coves wot wasn't over particular wot they did; but you're about the damnedest and dirtiest tyke I ever see without a muzzle." He paused, as if to give Mr. Crane an opportunity of resenting or denying the charge. As he did neither, Bindle continued:

"I ain't been brought up in a young ladies' school, an' I seen some pretty dirty things done by men an' women an' 'orses; but I'm blowed if this ain't the dirtiest I ever 'eard of."

Again he paused and looked at Mr. Crane, who stood clutching with both hands the corner of the kitchen table, as if unable to support himself with his own legs. His face was a ghastly grey, his lips dry, and in his eyes was fear.

"I 'eard all about it from your missus, 'ow you got 'er to go away to see 'er mother while you nipped orf with the sticks an' that there bit o' fluff wot jest got it in the neck. I brought 'er down in that there black cupboard o' yours—your missus, I mean. Such goin's-on didn't ought to be allowed. Now, you can lose me my job by reportin' me, or you can 'ave it out in the back-yard man to man. Which is it to be?"

Bindle looked eagerly at the quaking figure before him. Twice Mr. Crane swallowed noisily. He made several ineffectual efforts to moisten his lips. Finally he blinked his eyes; but no sound came from him.

"If you could make it the back-yard, I'd be kind o' grateful," said Bindle. "I want to 'it you badly; but I can't do it while you looks like that. You're bigger'n wot I am, an' you ain't so old, an' I wouldn't mind betting two to one you ain't got various veins in yer legs, so I'm givin' away a lot of things besides weight. Now, do take orf yer coat," he said persuasively.

And then Mr. Crane did a strange thing. His knees seemed slowly to double up beneath him, and he sank down, still clutching with both hands the edge of the table. Burying his face in his arms, he sobbed the hard, dry sobs of a man who is alone with his soul.

"Well, I'm blowed," muttered Bindle, his eyes upon the light patch on the back of Mr. Crane's head. "If this ain't It"; and he walked over to the table and stood gazing down at the sobbing man, as if he had been some new and strange animal.

"Please leave us now," said a quiet voice behind him. He turned swiftly to find Mrs. Crane standing just inside the kitchen door, a new light in her eyes. "Get the furniture back in the van, please; I will settle up everything with your employers. You have been very, very kind to me. I shall never forget it. I will thank you later." And she looked up into Bindle's face with a tremulous little smile.

A moment later Bindle was blowing his nose violently in the passage.

"Well, I'm blowed," he muttered, as he made his way into the dining-room. "Jest fancy 'er wantin' 'im back, an' me gettin' mixed up in—'ere, you ole reprobates," he shouted out of the window, "we got to load up again. Now, look slippy. Been a little family scrap 'ere," he said a moment later, by way of explanation, to the men as they trooped into the room. "Now, then, Charlie Chaplin," this to a large man enveloped in a voluminous pair of trousers, "up Guards an' at 'em." The men grinned; they had a fairly clear idea of what had taken place.

"Well, I'm blowed," said Bindle, when they were all at work again, as he scratched his head through his cap. "If this ain't the rummest go I ever——"

"So you've come back." Mrs. Bindle proceeded to splosh Irish stew from a saucepan into a large, buff-coloured pie-dish.

"The tired ole 'orse returns to 'is stable," said Bindle with a grin, as he walked over to the sink for the evening rinse.

"Depend on you to come home when your stomach's empty. About the only time you ever do come home," she snapped. "Where've you been?"

"I been seein' life," said Bindle through the roller-towel, with which he was polishing his face, "an' I'm tired. Two nights I've slept on top of a van a-singin', 'Twinkle, twinkle, little star,' an' thinkin' of you, Lizzie. I'll tell yer all about it when I taken the edge orf a little appetite I got."

Mrs. Bindle sniffed and proceeded to fill Bindle's plate. For twenty minutes he ate with noisy enjoyment; finally he leaned back in his chair with a sigh of relief and repletion.

"Now, Mrs. B., for the story," he said, as he filled and lighted his pipe. When it was drawing to his entire satisfaction, he started to tell Mrs. Bindle of the happenings of the last two days. In her interest she forgot to clear away the supper-things.

"Jezebel!" was her comment when Bindle had concluded his account of the discomfiture of the pseudo Mrs. Crane.

"That might 'ave been 'er name; but she didn't 'appen to mention it."

"And what happened afterwards?" enquired Mrs. Bindle eagerly.

Bindle explained his interview with Mr. Crane in the kitchen, and how it had been interrupted.

"When they come out of the kitchen," he concluded, "they was like love-birds: jest like you an' me, Lizzie. Now, wot does a woman like 'er see in that bit o' kidney sooet dressed up like a nob? That's wot does me."

Mrs. Bindle drew in her lips with the air of a woman who knows, but will not tell.

"Now they're back in Balham as 'appy as 'appy. It was a pity," he added reminiscently, "that 'e didn't come into the back-yard. I did want to 'it 'im."

Mrs. Bindle nodded her head approvingly, much to Bindle's surprise.

"And did she give you anything?" demanded Mrs. Bindle.

"She offered it; but you don't take money for doin' things like that," said Bindle simply.

Again Mrs. Bindle nodded her head.

"You done right for once, Joe Bindle," she remarked grudgingly; whereat Bindle gazed at her in mute astonishment, for he remembered that he had repeated the language he had used to Mr. Crane.

"Wot I don't understand," he said, "is why she wanted 'im back, 'im wot 'ad done the dirty on 'er like that, an' 'e wasn't a rose-show to look at. Seemed to think it was all the other gal, she did. Funny things, women," he muttered, "funny as funny."

"He was her husband," said Mrs. Bindle sententiously, "and in the eyes of the Lord——"

"If 'e'd come out into that back-yard," said Bindle grimly, "'e'd 'ave been the funniest sight for the eyes——"


"An' us gettin' on so well too." Bindle grinned. "Suppose I'd nipped orf with our sticks an' a little bit o' fluff," queried Bindle as he moved towards the door, "would you 'ave taken me back?"

"Don't be disgusting, Bindle."

"But would you?" Bindle's hand was on the handle of the door.

"You try it and see!"—there was a world of grim meaning in the retort.

"Well, if women ain't the funniest things that ever was," Bindle muttered, as he closed the door behind him, bent on taking a little stroll before turning in. "They beats silkworms, an' they was pretty difficult to get the 'ang of."

  1. Furniture-removing men

This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.