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“I have only half a minute to spare, but I wanted to speak to you about-Mary Brooker. I saw her portrait in your room-you remember? She's what is called a criminal lunatic, and she's escaped from Broadmoor. Let me see, I think it was a week to-day—and just about this time—no, it's now a quarter to nine ; it was just after nine.” He slipped my watch into his waistcoat pocket. “She's still at large, you know. They're on the look-out for her all over England, but she's still at large. They say she's a lunatic. There are lunatics at Broadmoor, but she's not one. She's no more a lunatic than you or I !”
He touched me lightly on the chest. Such was my extreme disgust at being brought into physical contact with him that even before the slight pressure of his fingers my legs gave way from under me, and I sank back into my chair.
“You're not asleep?”.
Even in my stupefied condition I was conscious of a desire to leap up and take him by the throat. Nothing of this, however, was portrayed upon my face. Or, at any rate, he showed no sign of being struck hy it.
“She's a misunderstood genius, that's what Mary Brooker is. She has her tastes and people do not understand them. She likes to kill—to kill! One of these days she means to kill herself, but in the meantime she takes a pleasure in killing others.”
Seating himself on a corner of the table at my side, allowing one foot to rest upon the ground, he swung the other in the air.
“She's a bit of an actress, too. She wanted to go upon the stage, but they said that she was mad. They were jealous, that's what it was. She's the finest actress in the world. Her acting would deceive the devil himself—they allowed that even at Broadmoor. But she only uses her powers for acting to gratify her taste--for killing. It was only the other day she bought this knife.”
He took, apparently out of the bosom of his vest, a long, glittering, cruel-looking knife.
“It's sharp. Feel the point-and the edge."
He held it out towards me. I did not attempt to touch it. It is probable that I should not have succeeded even if I had attempted.
“ You won't? Well, perhaps you're right. It's not much fun killing people with a knife. A knife's all very well to use for cutting them up afterwards, but she likes to do the actual killing with her own hands and nails. I shouldn't be surprised if, one of these days, she were to kill you. Perhaps to-night. It is a long time since she killed anyone, and she is hungry. Sorry I can't stay. But this day
week she escaped from Broadmoor as the clocks had finished striking nine, and it only wants ten minutes, you see.”
He looked at my watch-even holding it out for me to see. “Good night!”
With a careless nod he moved across the room, holding the glittering knife in his hand. When he reached the bedroom door he turned and smiled. Raising the knife, he waved it towards me in the air. Then he disappeared into the inner room.
I was again alone-possibly for a minute or more ; but this time it seemed to me that my solitude continued only for a few fleeting seconds. Perhaps the time went faster because I felt, or thought I felt, that the pressure on my brain was giving way; that I only had to make an effort of sufficient force to be myself again and free. The power of making such an effort was temporarily absent, but something within seemed to tell me that at any moment it might return. The bedroom door-that door which, even as look back, seems to have been really and truly a door in some unpleasant dream-reopened. Mrs. Jaynes came out. With rapid strides she swept across the room. She had something in her right hand which she threw upon the table.
“Well,” she cried, “what do you think of the secret of the mask ?” “ The secret of the mask ?"
Although my limbs were powerless throughout it all, I retained to a certain extent the control of my own voice.
“See here, it is such a little thing." She picked up the two objects which she had thrown upon the table. One of them was the preparation of some sort of skin which she had shown to me before. “These are the masks. You would not think that they were perfect representations of the human face-that masterpiece of creative artand yet they are. All the world would be deceived by them as you have been. This is an old woman's face, this is the face of a young man.” As she held them up I could see, though stiil a little dimly, that the objects which she dangled before my eyes, as she said, were veritable masks. “So perfect are they, they might have been skinned from the fronts of living creatures. They are such little things, yet I have made them with what toil. They have been the work of years, these two, and just one other. You see nothing satisfied me but perfection. I have made hundreds to make these two. People could not make out what I was doing. They thought that I was making toys. I told them that I was. They smiled at me. They thought that it was a new phase of madness. If that be so, then in madness there is more cool, enduring, unconquerable resolution than in all your sanity. I meant to conquer, and I did. Failure did not dishearten me.
I went straight on. I had a purpose to fulfil ; I would have
fulfilled it even though I should have had first to die. Well, it is fulfilled.”
Turning, she Aung the masks into the fire. They were immediately in flames. She pointed to them as they burned.
“The labour of the years is soon consumed. But I should not have triumphed had I not been endowed with genius—the genius of the actor's art. I told myself that I would play certain parts-parts which would fit the masks—and that I would be the parts I played. Not only across the footlights, not only with a certain amount of space between my audience and me, not only for the passing hour, but, if I chose, for ever and for aye. So all through the years I rehearsed these parts when I was not engaged upon the masks. That, they thought, was madness in another phase. One of the parts,” she came closer to me; her voice became shriller—"one of the parts was that of an old woman. Have you seen her? She is in the fire.” She jerked her thumb in the direction of the fireplace. “Her part is played-she had to see that the tea was drunk. Another of the parts was that of a young gentleman. Think of my playing the man! Absurd. For there is that about a woman which is not to be disguised. She always reveals her sex when she puts on men's clothes. You noticed it, did you not-when, before dinner, he came to you ; when you saw him in the corridor this morning ; when yesterday he spent an hour with you in the train? I know you noticed it because of these." She drew out of her pocket a handful of things.
There were my links, my studs, my watch and chain, other properties of mine. Although the influence of the drug which had been administered to me in the tea was passing off, I felt, even more than ever, as though I were an actor in a dream.
“The third part which I chose to play was the part of—Mrs.
Clasping her hands behind her back, she posed in front of me in an attitude which was essentially dramatic.
“Look at me well. Scan all my points. Appraise me. You said that I was beautiful. I saw that you admired my hair, which flows loose upon my shoulders ”-she unloosed the fastenings of her hair so that it did flow loose upon her shoulders—“the bloom upon my cheeks, the dimple in my chin, my face in its entirety. It is the secret of the mask, my friend, the secret of the mask ! You ask me why I have watched, and toiled, and schemed to make the secret mine." She stretched out her hand with an uncanny gesture. “ Because I wished to gratify my taste for killing. Yesterday ! might have killed you ; to-night I will,”
She did something to her head and dress. There was a rustle of drapery. It was like a conjurer's change. Mrs. Jaynes had gone, and instead there stood before me the creature with, as I had described it to Davis, the face of a devil—the face I had seen in the train. Thé transforination in its entirety was wonderful. Mrs. Jaynes was a fine, stately woman with a swelling bust and in the prime of life. This was a lank, scraggy creature, with short, grey hair-fifty if a day. The change extended even to the voice. Mrs. Jaynes had the soft, cultivated accents of a lady. This creature shrieked rather than spoke.
“I," she screamed, “ am Mary Brooker. It is a week to-day since I won freedom. The bloodhounds are everywhere upon my track. They are drawing near. But they shall not have me till I have first of all had you."
She came closer, crouching forward, glaring at me with a maniac's eyes. From her lips there came that hideous
half yelp, which had haunted me since the day before I had heard it in my stupor in the train.
“I scratched you yesterday. I bit you. I sucked your blood. Now I will suck it dry, for you are mine.”
She reckoned without her host. I had only sipped the tea. I had not, as I had doubtless been intended to do, emptied the cup. I was again master of myself; I was only awaiting a favourable opportunity to close. I meant to fight for life.
She came nearer to me and nearer, uttering all the time that . blood-curdling sound which was so like the frenzied cry of some maddened animal. When her extended hands were all but touching me I rose up and took her by the throat. She had evidently supposed that I was still under the influence of the drug because when I seized her she gave a shriek of astonished rage. I had taken her
I had her over on her back. But I soon found that I had undertaken more than I could carry through. She had not only the face of a devil ; she had the strength of one. She flung me off as easily as though I were a child. In her turn she had me down upon my back. Her fingers closed about my neck. I could not shake her off. She was strangling me.
She would have strangled me--she nearly did. When, attracted by the creature's hideous cries, which were heard from without, they forced their way into the room, they found me lying unconscious, and, as they thought, dead, upon the floor. For days I hung between life and death. When life did come back again Mary Brooker was once more an inmate of Her Majesty's house of detention at Broadmoor.
LOUTH GRAMMAR SCHOOL.
HE old Grammar School of Louth, Lincolnshire, some forty
years ago, was, both in its external form and in its inner life, so capital a representative of what an old English grammar school often used to be, that some account of it ought to be placed on record for the benefit of posterity. The class to which it belonged, once most numerous, is rapidly decaying. Education has turned or is turning over a new leaf. The old schoolhouses are demolished. Their queer old furniture has been knocked down by the auctioneer's hammer, or destroyed. Their quaint customs have been abandoned. Of course, there are many persons that are well qualified, both by experience and literary skill, to be chroniclers of these old institutions. The image of one or other of them rises before the mind of many a grave Paterfamilias as he thinks of his early years. When he falls a-dreaming of that extraordinary period when he, now so staid and well-established a householder, was a noisy schoolboy, he finds himself in an old room of the style of Edward VI.'s time, and perhaps is aroused from his trance by the vividness with which he recollects certain peculiarities of the method that was, for the most part, adopted in such timehonoured buildings. Meanwhile, I will in some sort essay the chronicler's part. Let me relate fragments of the vision I see when I throw myself back in my chair, and bid Memory entertain me with the pictures of the old days which she has collected.
I need not describe my old school-room at any great length. It formed the second story of a fair-sized two-storied red brick building. The side walls were fringed with long, much-carved desks, intermitted, on the one hand, to make room for a huge old fire-place ; on the other, for the usher's official seat. At the one end of the room
1 The interest felt just now in everything associated with the late Poet-Laureate will, it is hoped, justify the reprinting of the following paper, written some twentyfour years ago, under the title of “ An Old Grammar School.” The school described was, in fact, Louth, as the new title declares ; and of Louth school Tennyson was a member for some four years-from the beginning of 1817 to the end of 1820.-J. W. H.