It was a bitterly cold morning with a reluctant, grey light. Hastings, the housemaid, did not knock at the morning-room door because there was no reason for her to expect any member of the family to be inside at six o'clock. She nearly dropped her coal bucket therefore when she suddenly caught sight of the rear half of Mr Fitzgerald, still clad in evening dress. He was on his hands and knees behind the heavy brocade sofa. His front half rapidly appeared and he explained that he had been up all night searching for his latest manuscript. Hastings listened politely to this and then turned as soon as she could to attend to the grate. As she lifted out her papers to light it, Mr Fitzgerald seized upon them with delight.
How they had found their way into the kindling box was never discovered.
The family took breakfast at eight o'clock as usual, in their customary convivial silence, each immersed in their reading matter of choice. The smells of kidneys, smoked kippers and slightly burned porridge mingled with coal dust, and the only sounds were of silver against china and the crackles from the well-established coal fire. Mr Fitzgerald spread his pages out around his end of the table and nearly but not quite avoided getting marmelade on them. Before he had finished ordering them, Hastings knocked to say that his cab had arrived.
He gathered up the manuscript and his leather attache case, and out in the cold hall shrugged his shoulders into his great-coat. Hastings handed him his umbrella and hat, and opened the door.
The driver lent down to open the hansom cab door for him and he swung himself up into the red padded interior. There was an overwhelming smell of pipe tobacco from a previous occupant, and he lowered the window, but the rain immediately blew in so he hoisted it shut again. The cab rolled across the cobbles with the rhythmic swing of the horse's gait, and very shortly Mr Fitzgerald was sleeping soundly. His papers slipped down from his grasp to lodge behind the upholstery of the seat.
After a quarter of an hour the cab drew to a halt and the driver announced their arrival. It was only when he tapped with his whip against the door that his passenger awoke with a start and hurriedly sprang out, handed him a generous fare and eagerly ascended the steps of his publisher's premises. The cab moved off again down the street, and along with it went the manuscript.
The cab's next passenger, an elderly curate, read the first two pages and declared it to the driver to be a heathen abomination. The driver deduced the identity of the manuscript's owner without difficulty and retraced his route in the confident expectation of a tip that would be very handsome indeed, and in this he was not disappointed.