In Accordance With the Evidence
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It seems strangely like old times to me to be making these jottings in Pitman's shorthand. I was surprised to find I remembered as much of it as I do, for I dropped it suddenly when Archie Merridew died, and Archie's clear, high-pitched voice was the last that ever dictated to me for speed, while I myself have not dictated since Archie took down his last message from my reading. That will be?say a dozen years or more ago next August. It may be a little more, or a little less. Nor, since I do not keep it as an anniversary, does the day of the month matter.
Either in my rooms or his, we had a good deal of this sort of practise together about that time, young Archie and I?reading aloud, taking down and transcribing. I am wrong in speaking of my "rooms" though; I had only one, a third-floor bedroom near the very noisiest corner of King's Cross. It was just opposite one of these running electric advertisements that changed from green to red and from red to green three times every minute; you know them; there are plenty of them now, but they were new then. The street was narrow; this horrible thing was at a rounded corner not more than five and twenty yards away; and even when my lamp was lighted it still tinged my ceiling and the upper part of the wall above my bed, red and green, red and green?for I had only a little muslin, half-curtain and no blind, and if I wanted to read in bed I had either to turn my lamp out until I had undressed or else to undress in a corner by the window side of the room, because of being overlooked from across the way. I don't think there were any other lodgers in the house. It was a "pub," the "Coburg," but I could get on to the staircase without going through the bars on the ground floor, and always did so. The rather sour smell of these lower parts of my abode reached me up my three flights of stairs, but I had got used to that. It was the noise that was the worst (except, of course, that red and green fiend of an advertisement)?the noise that greeted me when I woke of a morning, awaited me when I came back from Rixon Tebb & Masters' at night, and often became maddening when, at half-past twelve, they clashed to the iron gates of the public-house and turned the topers out into the street, to fraternise or quarrel for half-an-hour or more beneath my window.