'Very 'appy, I'm sure, to make your acquaintance,' said Jim, and he extended his fat hand across the counter. 'You and my partner are, I 'ear, going to take this 'ere 'ouse off my hands. Well, you ought to make a good thing of it. There's always room for a 'ouse that supplies good liquor. What can I hoffer you, madam? Some of our whisky 'as been fourteen years in bottle; or, being a lady, perhaps you'd like to try some of our best unsweetened.'

Esther declined, but William said they could not leave without drinking the health of the house.

'Irish or Scotch, ma'am? Mr. Latch drinks Scotch.'

Seeing that she could not avoid taking something, Esther decided that she would try the unsweetened. The glasses were clinked across the counter, and William whispered, 'This isn't what we sell to the public; this is our own special tipple. You didn't notice, perhaps, but he took the bottle from the third row on the left.'

At that moment Esther's cabman came in and wanted to know if he was to have the box taken down. William said it had better remain where it was.

'I don't think I told you I'm not living here; my partner has the upper part of the house, but he says he'll be ready to turn out at the end of the week. I'm living in lodgings near Shaftesbury Avenue, so we'd better keep the cab on.'


THE 'King's Head' was a humble place in the old-fashioned style, the floor some inches lower than the street and the ceiling hardly more than a couple of feet above the head of a tall man. There were three bars. The private was in Dean Street; a few swells came over from the theatre to call for brandies and sodas, and Esther served them between the little shelves of the little mahogany what-not on the counter.


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Esther Waters


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