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The Dive from the Roof


[ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.] The Dive from the Roof BY FRANCIS GJITBBLE, Auhcr of "The T: ia-s that Matter," "The Dream of Pcace," &c. No one who mcJ: Katie Brendon in middle- age would have r- that she had ever teen the heroine of any passionate, tragic, or romantic episode. She was, when I knew her, of such mat; appearance as- became the mother of five urchins. Her hus- nand assisted a gi\ ■ igrocer in the City-road; tut he was more pi porous than most green- grocers' assistants, i .ring an interest in the business, which he Lsaked forward to pur- chasing. He was a solemn man, who never smiled in public, but of strong, athletic build. Katie li- was not Katie Brendon ;1 those davs, but Mrs. Orridgo—let lodgings in Gibbon-square; Islington: and I, for a period, occupied her drawing-room floor. One of the ornaments on my mantelpiece Was a plush-framed ppr-rait of -Nirs.e in her youth. As it was a somewhat heLd pho'ograph, and as I had no reason to be in- quisitive, it was some time before I recog- nised that it" was liers. At If,t, fic,ever, I did perceive the likeness, -and realised ttat Mrs. Orridge must have been a very good- looking girl—dark, and with large., lustrous eyes. In fact, now that I came to think of it, she still had very tine eyes, though, as -'lie had lost bovh her coquetry and her figure, my attention lird never been specially drawn to them. Nor should I, I suppose, ever t: "e felt the faintest interest in my landlady's history, if it had nut been for the coiivcr. tion of a fellow lodger, who occupied the din- ing-room, and wifh wkom I occasion." L'y smoked a sociable pipe, and drank a sock1 ie glass of whisky. He hiid known Mrs. ridge as a girl, and presumed on the circum- stance to speak of her p.s Katie. It was one night when Mrs, Orridge, being temporarily wilhout a servant, had brought up the glasses, that he bt-gan to talk. Katie's altered a good deal," he said, gazing contemplatively at the photograph. "Evidently," I said, "unless that i.:Lkeiiess lla ttcrcel her very grossly." "No, I don't think it did," he answered, "Not more than photographs generally flatter women. Men used to run after Katie > •qitiie a lot-, r'.out fifteen pars ago." j > "He 'hesitated. Considering1 apparently | 'whether he would be guilty of any breach of confidence if lis told me the story which he had in his mind.. lie seemed to decide that he would not; for he went on, after a "I suppose you remember the old Royal Emporium. They pulled it down some time ago to build a block of flats nd a Wesleyan chapel on the site; but they used to givo rather decent shows there at one time. I ought to know, for I had the run of the place,' being a clerk in the manager's office." Of course I remembered. There could b3 few Londoners of my standing who had not occasionally spent an evening at Hie Royul Emporium, listening to music, looking at performing dogs, promenading, purchasing superfluities at absurd prices from the young women at the fancy si tills. "Do you remember the dive from the roof there? It the moit sensational 'turn' they ever had." That also I rememberedfor it had ii- deed been a thrilling sensation. High up, in some rcccss in Iho roof, in visible to any one not standing I, cl ii e-I vi u, c j I -I c a a hanging platform, reached by ladders, was erected. A daring performer was there tied up in a sack. There was a call for siljJuo; and then, in a s-illmss in which you could have heard a pin drop, a voice v. as J^eartl counting "one !.v>o and the sack with i's human c-ouion's came hurtling through the air. You saw it turning soinc:- saurs as it fell, and the fall ended in a tank Of contrived in the I-><ly of the flail. There Was a •.•esouinling -:pia.:Ij. The water Was dashed over the doilies, and into the faces of the spectator. and then the diver emerged, tearing his way out of the sack, like. Monte Cri-o in Dumas' story. An at- tendant helped him to step out of the tank, and threw a do k over him, and he disap- peared, while the organist played, "See the Conquering hero (-o?ii( "Yes, I remember it well," I replied. "If I remember rightly, there was an accident, and the Home Oiiice stopped the perform- ance." "Yes," said the dining-room lodger. "But they'd have had to stop it anyhow, whether the Government interfered or not." "Naturally. It might ,have been difficult to find anyone else willing to take the risk. Falling into a tank in a sack isn't a job that any man can take up just becaus_ he happens to be out of work, Hut what on earth has all this got. to do with •" "Wirh the Orridges? I thought you were going to ask that. Well, Orridge was tiio inan. You don't mean to say so?" "I do. Orridge was the man, sir, and Katie Was the girl." o "The girl? What girl? There was no girl Concerned \n the performance, surely!" "In the performance, no! But in the acei-i dent, yes." "in the accident: I don't understand." "No. 1 don't supne-s-. you do. The rights of the story never got info the papers. 'there Were plenty of newspaper- people about • but they hadn't the sense to piece two and two together. But Orridge knows, and Katie /knows, and I know." But what, had Mrs. Orridge "What was Katie doing there? Oh, I see I forgot to tell you. Katie was one of the girls at the stalls. I saw a good deal of her because I had to do with the letting of the stalls— arranging where they should stand, and col- acting the rent for them, and all that sort of thing. t hey were mostly pretty girls at Royal i^nporiurn st you know. Men only buy things from ^them for the sake of talking to th, so it's a sort of business an ugly girl cant make much of a living at; and"'as a ruifc, sue knows it, and has the sense-, not to A"yhow, Katie was generally con- i ,ere^ the prettiest girl in the room, and a«'8 °i 1were after her. She was as good too—which is more than a good manv Of them were; bul. of eourse. the manners of th" ■- Emporium were not exactlyN like °l a Mayfair drawi.-g-room, and there's doubt that Katie used .to flirt with the en who came to buy her match boxes. fe»jran ,I,iature being what it is, she wouldn't »ave sold many match-boxes if she hadn't. there was one young fellow in particular 1- ,wa.s after her. His name was Hol- la T*y'i Jl 110 connection with the pills so far he j d10\ wasn't a gentleman, though ebit of money. He was a loafer, £ j:x been kicked out of decent berth in the diHnu'i lie drank like a fish, though Katie A, know it at first, and as mad as a March —<w » hatter. He boVght one of Katie'a „ match-boxes every night of his life, and about twice a week he bought a cigarette case too; and then he used to take her round to the re- I freshnient-rooin to have an ice or a glass of wine. "Katie didn't care for him, I'm sure, but I I suppose he thought she did. He was fool enough to thin anything, and she was too sweet-tempered to snub anybody-especlaliy a regular customer for match-boxes. So this young Hoiloway was as pleased as Punch, and thought he was making all the running, until Orridge came along with the high dive trick." 0 "Orridge?" I repeated. "But surely that wasn't the high diver's name." "His real name was Orridge right enough, though his professional name was Signer Diavolo," explained my interlocutor. "First he'd been a sailor, and then he been a Covent Garden porter; but he found high div- ing was better business than either of the others. We were paying him P.40 a week for his turn, and he was worth it; but that's nothing to do with the story. "As you may guess, all the Emporium girls were after him; but, as it happened, he'd nothing to say to any of them except Katie, and there it was a clear case. He was over head and ears in love with her, and so was she with him; and, of course, she was frigh- tened out of her life every time he came splashing into the tank, just in front of her stall. She begged and prayed him to give it up; and he did all he knew to persuade her that it wasn't really dangerous." "But it was, wasn't it?" I ventured to ask. I "Well, it would have been for you or me, but I don't know that it was for him. You see the trick of the thing was to dive into the water instead of flopping into it, and he could dive against any man in the world. He couldn't see where he was, of course, being shut up in the sack, but could calculate by the length of time that he'd been falling. He counted one, two, three' slowly. When lie came to three,' he knew that he was clos-e to the water, and made the movement to dive, and he always got through all right. That's how it was done; but, of course, it isn't sur- prising that Katie didn't feel very happy about it. Every night of her life, when he came round to see her, she begged him not to do it again; and at last he promised that he'd give it up as soon as he'd saved £ "01) and another man had been trained to take his place. That made her a bit easier in her mind; but even so she didn't feel really com- fortable, and I suppose one couldn't expect her to. » I supposed not, "But how," I asked, "about this other young man-Holloway I think you said his name was?" "That's what I was coming to. He was such a fool that it was quite a time before he understood which way the wind was blowing. When he did, however, he was furiously jealous. He didn't dare say anything to Or- ridge. Orridge wasn't given to violence. He was always just that quiet, silent fellow that lie is now; and he never would have made a row if he could have helped it. But he was strong enough to knock Holloway into the middle of next week if he was obliged to, and Hollowav knew it. All the row he made he made with Katie, and Katie didn't dare to tell, for fear of what Orridge might do. So Hoiloway continued to hang round, getting more and more savage, threatening to cut his throat, or blow his brains out, and telling Katie she was driving him to drink and des- pair, "Perhaps she had not far to drive him?" I suggested. "Not so far as the drink was concerned, certainly; but, still, one could notice the difference. Instead of drinking like a fish, he drank like a whole shoal of fishes. He looked such a maudlin, miserable object that I made up my mind to talk to him about it. I knew how the land lay, you see, and so, though I was only a young fellow, I talked to him like a father, getting him in a quiet coiner of the. refreshment room while he was still comparatively sober. He seemed quite manageable, though there was a wild look in his eye that I didn't exactly like. you've got to do, old man,' I said, 'is to buck up, and pull yourself to- gether. When a girl shows that she doesn't care for you, the best plan is to show that you don't care for her; and the best way of show- ing that you don't care for her is to get out of her way and keep out of it. There are plenty of pretty girls about, and they're all much of a muchness. If I can get on with- out worrying about Katie Brendon, why on earth.can't you?'" "A sound argument," I said; "but I ex- pect Mr. Holloway didn't see the force of it." "Well, no, he didn't. He said I had never known what it was to be in love, and, it Katie threw him over, he didn't care what became of him, and a lot more nonsense of that sort; but I kept on talking to him all the same. 'Rubbish, man,' I said. 'You've got money. You're not tied to London, are you?' 'No, I suppose not,' he answered. Then go and travel,' I said. You've never been further than Margate in your life, I ex- pect.' Oh, yes, I have,' he answered. I once took a day trip to Boulogne on the Mar- guerite.' 'What's the use of that?' I said. What- you want is to go right away. Go to South America; go to New Zealand; go to British Columbia; take a voyage round the world. That'll make a man of you. You'll pick up another girl on tire way; and when you come back, you'll wonder what you ever saw in Katie. That was how I taiked. It was the right thing to say to him, wasn't it?" "Undoubtedly. But how did he take it?" "Better than I expected. He seemed quite impressed, and said he'd think it over. If only I'd known of a boat starting for any- where that night, I do really think I could have got him on board of it. He did even get as far as asking for pamphlets in the offices of the steamship companies in Cock- spur-street. Odyhe always found some ex- cuse, at the last minute, for not booking his passage; and, in the meantime, he continued to hang round ihtr Eiuporiu-, with tnat wild look in his eye." "What waøb,9 doing, there?" "Drinking most of th. time. But that dive from the roof fascinated him. Every night of his life he came to see it, watched till it was over, and then slunk away to the refrcsh- ment-room.. To anyone' who knew the facts, it was clear enough what was in his mind. It looked a dangerous show; there always seemed to be the off-chance of an accident; he was waiting for the accident to happen." "If it hadn't been for that, you think he'd have started for his voyage round the world?", "I haven't a doubt of it. In fact, I taxed Him with it, and he owned up. Then I told him how the trick was done—about the count- ing < one, two, three/ you know and how much less dangerous it was than it seemed to be; and that seemed to impress him too, es- pecially when I offered to bet him. any reason- able sum that Orridge wouldn't come to an-, harm ir., the few days that remained before his engagement ended and the new man too? his place. fIir that case,' he said, 'I reh,. UL ''OJDL 'Wfcect' I asked, wishing to maa« ,1 .a:t!fj. sure. 'Well, this is Saturday,' he said. 'I can't do anything before Monday, but I'll go up to Cockspur-street the first thing on Mon- day, and buy my ticket.' I slapped him on the back, and stood him a drink to keep him up to the scratch; for he seemed to mean what he said; and I fully believe he'd have done it, if it hadn't been for what happened trt the Sunday." "On the Sunday? But the Emporium never utied to be open on Sundays." ^No, but on Sundays, Orridge used to drive Katie out somewhere into the country in a dog-cart. On this particular Sunday he drove her to the Star and Garter at Rich- mond and, as it happened, young Holloway went down there too, and saw them, and somehow or other there was a row between the two men. It couldn't have been Katie's fault, for she never was the sort of girl that wants men to fight about her; and it couldn't have been Orridge's fault,, for he was an easy- going creature, who wanted nothing except to be left to make love to Katie in peace. Only I daresay they made love rather publicly in those days, and Holloway, of course, had been drinking something stronger than lemonade, and plenty of it. He wouldn't have had the pluck to say or do anything otherwise; but, as it was, he went up to them, and picked a quarrel. There was a bit of a scuffle you would hardly call it a, fight. Orridge didn't hurt Holloway any more than he was obliged, but he couldn't help hurting him a little. In fact, he hit out at him, and cut his lip; and before Holloway could fly at him again, the attendants had separated them, and Hol- loway was led away to wash his face, swear- ing horribly, and vowing vengeance. Never mind about the language, which isn't fit to re- peat. It was the threats that frightened Katie. H I'll be even with you. I'll make you pay for this. I'll have your life for it. "Katie was terrified, and it was all that Orridge could do to keep her quiet on the drive home. Gracious!' he srid. What is there to be afraid of. A little whipper-snapper liko that! I've let him down as gently as I could, but I could crack him like a. nut if I wanted tO.' "That, of course, was true enough; but Katie was hardly re-assnred. No doubt she had seen the wild look in young. Hoiloway's eyes, and had a vague idea that he might, do Something desperate '—she didn't exactly know what. she said, 'I'm so glad you're going to give up the diving. Which is the last night r' I'll don't know for certain," Orridge told her. 'It depends i ui wlier the new man is ready. But "i think it will be next Saturday at the latest.' "'I wish it was Saturday now,' saicLj Katie. 'I shan't breathe freely till then.' J "Not that she had any real premonition o* what was going to happen; but she had heard the old story of the performer on the flying trapeze who came to grief because some jealous rival had tampered with the rope; and she had it in her mind that per- haps Hoiloway might tamper with Orridge's platform in the same way, sawing half through some of the planks, so that it might give way when he stepped on to it. But Or- ridge found out "o was thinking of, and laughed at the notion. '"Why, he'd be run m as a suspicious character if he even came near the things, he assured Katie. "It was true, and 110 thought of that kind had even entered young Hoiloway's head. But he was nursing his anger an the same, and Htrnking out a plan of avenging himself. "For days he never came near the Em- porium, and I quite thought he'd done as he promised me, and booked his p .sage to Aus- tralia. On the Saturday evening, however, I saw him again. His eyes looked wilder than ever, and he'd evidently been drinking' hard. I marked him down, meaning to have a talk with him later, but for the moment I was too busy to do more than nod to him. I saw, however, that he went up to talk to Katie at her stall, and that Katie asked him to go away; and 1 then he went off to the bar to have a drink. "I was on the point of following him, but something prevented me. A messenger came to me from the manager, and I had to go up to his room. It was a thousand pities. If only I'd had five minutes conversation with Holloway then, the thing that happened wouldn't have occurred. I knew and I should have been sure to tell him but no matter. I mustn't anticipate. "The manager kept me about half an hour. When I got back in'o the Hall it was about five minutes to ten—the time when Orridge's tnrn came on. The place waa crowded, as it always was at that hour. pie attendants uncovered the tank, and rigged up a railing, and pressed the spectators buck behind it. I looked round involuntarily to see if ypung Holloway was anywhere near, and I saw that he was standing a little way out of the crush, close behind Katie's stall, which had been covered up with tarpaulin, so that the water might not be splashed over it. He still had that wild look in his eyes which had frightened Katie; and he was craning his neck to gaze up at the roof, where the sack was being drawn over the head of the diver as he stood upon his hanging platform. I "Then came the call for silence, and all the talking and even the shuffling of feet stopped. We heard the voice from far above | us loudly counting, 'one—two—three.' We saw the man in the sack rhythmically sway- ing his body in preparation for his plunge. And then- # "Yes, then, just as he was letting himself go—just as it was too late for him to stop himself—I happened to turn my head, and there I saw young Holloway put his hands to his mouth and yell like a madman in the midst of the expectant hush: "'Stop, man! Wait a minute! "You can, guess what" happened then. The diver had been startled, and his dive was queered. He was not diving at; all, but had just lost his balance and fallen. It was no use for him now to count his 'one two —three' in the sack. He never knew how near he was to the water, but he flopped into it anyhow. There was a splash, and then a thud, and when they lifted the body out-" "Good God!" I interrupted. "You don't mean to tell me that Orridge "It wasn't Orridge after all. It was the understudy. For some reason or other he'd come on a night sooner than had been in- tended, and Holloway had murdered the wrong man by mistake. Katie and I were the only two persons in the Hall who knew." "And Holloway?" I asked. "He was running for his life, and the crowd were after him. They caught him be- fore he got to the door, and you may guess it was only a battered remnant ofL him that the police rescued and carried off to the police- station. I believe he's in Broadmoor now. But that, at any rate, is the true story of the last high dive at the Royal Emporium. The ooroner's jury, of course, brought in a ridet about dangerous exhibitions,' but tlier# was hardly any need of that. The Em- porium might have advertised for another 'J blt,i ) diver for a long time before it would have found- one; and Orridge, at any rate, was never likely to want to perform the feat again, even if Katie would have let him."