"Who is it?" asked the Chief, "not one of my little friends, I suppose, eh, Marigold!"
"Dear me, no, sir," answered Mr. Marigold, chuckling, "it's one of old Mackwayte's music-hall pals, name o' Barney!"
CHAPTER V. THE MURDER AT SEVEN KINGS
"This is Mrs. Chugg, sir," said Mr. Marigold, "the charwoman who found the body!"
The Chief and Desmond stood at the detective's side in the Mackwaytes' little dining-room. The room was in considerable disorder. There was a litter of paper, empty bottles, overturned cruets and other debris on the floor, evidence of the thoroughness with which the burglar had overhauled the cheap fumed oak sideboard which stood against the wall with doors and drawers open. In the corner, the little roll-top desk showed a great gash in the wood round the lock where it had been forced. The remains of a meal still stood on the table.
Mrs. Chugg, a diminutive, white-haired, bespectacled woman in a rusty black cape and skirt, was enthroned in the midst of this scene of desolation. She sat in an armchair by the fire, her hands in her lap, obviously supremely content with the position of importance she enjoyed. At the sound of Mr. Marigold's voice, she bobbed up and regarded the newcomers with the air of a tragedy queen.
"Yus mister," she said with the slow deliberation of one who thoroughly enjoys repeating an oft-told tale, "I found the pore man and a horrid turn it give me, too, I declare! I come in early this morning a-purpose to turn out these two rooms, the dining-room and the droring-room, same as I always do of a Saturday, along of the lidy's horders and wishes. I come in 'ere fust, to pull up the blinds and that, and d'reckly I switches on the light 'Burglars!' I sez to meself, 'Burglars! That's wot it is!' seeing the nasty mess the place was in. Up I nips to Miss Mackwayte's room on the first floor and in I bursts. 'Miss,' sez I, 'Miss, there's been burglars in the house!' and then I sees the pore lamb all tied up there on 'er blessed bed! Lor, mister, the turn it give me and I ain't telling you no lies! She was strapped up that tight with a towel crammed in 'er mouth she couldn't 'ardly dror 'er breath! I undid 'er pretty quick and the fust thing she sez w'en I gets the towl out of her mouth, the pore dear, is 'Mrs. Chugg,' she sez all of a tremble as you might say, 'Mrs. Chugg' sez she, 'my father!" my father!' sez she. With that up she jumps but she 'adn't put foot to the floor w'en down she drops! It was along of 'er being tied up orl that time, dyer see, mister! I gets 'er back on the bed. 'You lie still, Miss,' says I, 'and I'll pop in and tell your pa to come in to you!' Well; I went to the old genelmun's room. Empty!"
Mrs. Chugg paused to give her narrative dramatic effect.