Here, in an alley of crooked ugly houses lighted dimly by one dismal gas-jet, resided the Widow Purdie, Alfred's landlady. Paulina drew a deep breath as they stepped into the narrow foggy hall. Mrs. Purdie filled her with a strange apprehension.
She at once appeared to greet them, a vast overfed pinkish woman with brass-bright hair and a frilled cap, and little shrewish eyes half-buried in layers of fat.
"Well, Alfred. I sent Polly to fetch you."
"Well, what is all this, anyhow?"
She answered coyly: "My brother Ted got back from foreign parts to-day, and I said to Ted, I said, reely I must have a supper for him, and I'll ask Mr. V. and his little girl, and then that Nurdo's back for a week, but I said to Ted, I said upon my word I'll not ask that goodfor-nothing juggling fellow because reely sometimes he gives me the creeps."
"A supper," said Varley sheepishly. "Well, well, that's good news, I'm sure, Mrs. Purdie."
"There's Welsh rarebit and a nice goose and a drop of something to keep out the cold—my brother Ted's seen to that." Then in a new sharp voice: "Put on your apron, Polly, to help in the kitchen. She can't expect to be waited on like a queen, can she, Alfred?"
"Of course not, to be sure. Do as you're bid, Polly. So Nurdo's back, is he?"
Paulina vanished silently.
She was hungry, she passionately desired warm food, but her intense dislike and fear of Mrs. Purdie made 11 Mott Street, Kennington, resemble nothing so much as a witch's den. Mrs. Purdie was determined to acquire Mr. Varley, and Paulina was tolerably certain that this evening had been selected for the moment of actual capture. In any case, they would both get drunk, and Mrs. Purdie would permit Mr. Varley all manner of familiari-