Barbara on Her Own
Barbara on Her Own
BARBARA came through the door leading to the cells, clutching a white paper in her hand, and with the last words of Mr Maber ringing through her mind.
"Give him ten pounds-I haven't any money."
Dimly she realised that the "him" referred to was the little lawyer by her side. He was a thin and tiny man; his clothes were shabby and rusty; his collar had been left over from last week's wash; and obviously he had not met a razor, except socially, for days and days. Hollow-eyed, hollow-cheeked, he smiled up at her.
"You won't want me to send you a bill, Miss Storr?" he said, and murmured something about "keeping his books clear." "Jolly old boy!" he said enthusiastically as she groped in her bag. "You can't be old if your heart's young. Married, miss?"
"I? Certainly not!"
"Not you, miss-old cherry-face-what a lad!"
"Mr Maber is a bachelor, so far as I know," said Barbara, more intent upon finding the money than Mr Maber's blessed state.
She had more than sufficient money in her bag. She was paid well, and it was the beginning of the week.
"Guineas," said Mr Hammett rather sadly.
He took the money and slipped it into his trousers pocket with a sidelong glance at the door.
"Any little service I can render you, Miss Storr, will you be kind enough to communicate with me?"
He handed her a dingy card, and glancing at it she saw, to her surprise, that the address was Lambeth. The phone number had been scratched out.
"Temporarily out of order," he said airily, following her eyes. "These telephones are always going wrong."
Barbara, who knew that telephones went wrong easiest when the quarterly fees were not promptly settled, gave him a smile and a handshake. With a flourish of his silk hat he made for the street. A young man who had been evidently waiting for him stepped up as he came abreast.
"Excuse me, Mr Hammett," he said. "You are Mr Hammett?"
"That is my name, boy," said Hammett, a little haughtily.
"Sorry," said the youth, and passed him a folded blue paper.
Mr Hammett raised his eyebrows, glanced at the superscription and thrust the offending document into his pocket.
"You can tell your principal that this matter will be settled today," he said with great severity.
The inspector was standing at the door of his room, a beaming spectator of the comedy.
"Come inside, miss," he said. "I'm sorry your governor got Hammett, but I suppose he did all he wanted."
"Who is he?" asked Barbara, who was now in a new world.
"He's a solicitor, I suppose," said the inspector. "At any rate, he's never been struck off the rolls. One of the old snide lawyers that tout the South London police court. We always get him up here after Boat Race night, and as a rule he's picked up a client or two. I'm sorry about Mr Maber," he went on in a more serious tone. "I know him well. He's been very good to my old mother, who lives in Ilchester. You come from there, miss, don't you? I've seen you there time and time again."
"Yes," said the girl in surprise, and then: "Did he really bite anybody?"
"Mr Maber? I don't know; they say he did," said the inspector. "But, Lord bless your life! What's a bite? May have been done playfully."
The tall, cadaverous constable who had come for her was standing in the inspector's room. He was evidently employed on messenger duty.
"I wonder you don't have a couple of policemen down at your place, miss," said the inspector. "Attermans have got them. They've three or four."
"Can you employ policemen?" she asked, open-eyed.
The inspector laughed.
"Why, yes, miss, with permission from the Commissioner. You have to pay for them, of course, but a big store can generally have as many as they want at sale time."
To think, with Barbara, was to act.
"I'll buy one," she said. "H