A week after the Colonel's disappearance, Mrs. Griggs entered his room. She did so armed with a candlestick, which happened to be the nearest object at hand, and a wary expression, expecting him to spring out from some hiding place or to be hanging grotesquely from a chandelier. (The absence of such a refinement in the rather shabby room at the end of the hall in no way lessened the possibility of the picture in her mind's eye. Mrs. Griggs, as do we all, bent the world this way and that, to suit her nature.) But there was nothing. No evidence of abscondment, as such. He certainly would not have left behind his trunk, nor the florid necktie that so disquieted her. The entire tableau suggested interruption more than flight. Yet he was gone. She inventoried his property, calculating what she could get for it. Precious little, perhaps a third of what he owed. The police ought to be summoned, but that she did not fancy. For all her self-righteousness, Mrs. Griggs had actually had some nasty run-ins with the constabulary in her youth; had, at one point, nearly found herself bound for Australia. No. No police. She would sell his possessions, air the room, and put out the To Let sign. A nice young clerk was what she wanted. Quiet. Who played the violin evenings.
"And who don't smoke," she grunted, settling herself down on the bed. Still the mark of his head on the pillow. She mechanically plumped it and felt something hard underneath. A heart-shaped locket, on a chain, not gold but brass. She tried to open it, but the catch was jammed. Well this would sweeten the pot a bit.
At the Jew's shop, down on Harcourt Road, the skinny man in the apron lifted each object from the trunk carefully, with both hands, set it on the counter as if conducting an auction, then pronounced a price. Sometimes Mrs. Griggs would squawk, get a few pennies more out of him, but not too often. She had had to pay just to have the trunk hauled here and certainly wasn't about to take it back.
"Those boots," she did protest, surprised at the Colonel's words coming back to her. "Genuine Argentinean leather, silver buckles. Cost thirty guineas."
The old man shrugged. When he did speak it was with the thick accent of Middle Europe.
"I think pigskin, not leather." She noted now he was holding them by the soles only, careful not to touch the hide. "And silver, yes. Plate silver."
"They were my sainted husband's," she said, sobbing with genuine remorse. How she had mistreated Mr. Griggs during their marriage. "Wore those boots on our honeymoon, he did. A walking tour of the Potteries."
"I say four pounds fourpence for the lot," the old man offered, not wishing to prolong the scene.
"Four pounds!" she wailed, taking out a handkerchief. "Is that all thirty years of memories is worth? And him being taken so cruelly, with the diphtheria and all."
"You are a widow?" he asked dubiously, looking at her white uniform.