“Good heavens. Is it…slavers?”

“We don’t know, Mr. Carrick,” my employer answered. “We have only just been hired. Cyrus Barker, at your service.”

“Stephen,” his wife said, “was the girl in the picture you took of the C.O.S.?”

“I think so. It should be in the display book there.”

There was a large counter in the middle of the room, and Mrs. Carrick moved behind it and began flipping through an album of photographs.

The wailing in the next room reached a crescendo.

Carrick and his wife looked through the photographs, leaving me to form impressions. I had seldom seen a more mismatched couple than the Carricks. Next to her plainness, her husband was a regular Apollo. He could have been a stage actor, so well built and favored as he was, while his wife looked like a charwoman beside him. Yet they genuinely seemed to care for each other. It left me wondering over the vagaries of love and attraction.

“Here it is!” Rose Carrick cried triumphantly, pulling a photograph from the fittings of the album. “And she’s right there, as I said she was.”

Gwendolyn DeVere was at the end of a large group of people standing formally in front of the Charity Organization Society. Miss Hill was in the center, flanked by Miss Levy and her friend on one side, and Mrs. DeVere and Mrs. Carrick on the other. They were accompanied by wealthy-looking men and women whom I took to be donors. There, at the far right end, looking forlorn and out of place, was the missing girl, Gwendolyn DeVere.

She was a pretty little thing. Her father had described her hair as blond, and she was Nordic looking, like her mother. Her shoulders were slumped and her face solemn, leaving me to hope that the parents had better photographs of the girl at home. I myself would have hated to leave this one image to posterity.

“How well do you gentlemen know Bethnal Green?” Carrick asked.

“I have had several cases that brought me here but none that centered in the area. I don’t believe my assistant has been here at all.”

“Perhaps I could give you a brief tour of the area.”

“But you’re photographing a child,” Mrs. Carrick objected.

“Why don’t you take him, dear? I’m afraid I can’t do a thing with him. You know you’re much better with babies than I.” Carrick kissed her on the cheek and reached for a bowler hat and a stick on the stand by the door. “Thanks, love. Won’t be a tick.”

He herded us out the front door and lit a cigarette once he was in the street, sucking in the smoke like it was fresh air. The child inside was still in full cry.

“Liberation,” Carrick pronounced. “Come this way, gentlemen.”


“Shall we head north, sirs? Bethnal Green is roughly triangular, bordered on the north by Victoria Park, on the south by the Mile End Workhouse, and on the west by the old Jewish burial ground. The gasworks is only a few streets away from here.”

Carrick led us up Cambridge Road. “This district was in its heyday at the end of the last century, when the famous boxer Daniel Mendoza lived here,” he said between puffs. “This used to be the center of the silk-weaving trade. Things went to seed after trade with China opened up, and the old place has become rather run-down. Land is cheap here, and plenty of young families have moved to the Green. The Tower Hamlets Council is making an attempt at renovation. It seemed the perfect place to open a photographic emporium.”

“You strike me as an educated man, Mr. Carrick,” Barker noted. “You’ve had some time at university.”

“Not much gets by you, does it, Mr. Barker? Yes, I had a year or two at Christ Church in the seventies, under Dodgson. It was he that awakened my interest in photography. My father thought it all a waste of time, however, and cut me off. I’ve been fending for myself ever since.”

I could understand Carrick’s tale of woe. If anything, my own was even worse. Oxford could be an uncommonly hard place if one does not conform to its standards.

Carrick pointed out the market gardens, the Jewish cemetery, and other sites around the area. Finally, we made our way back up to the Old Ford Road and the emporium.

“How shall you gentlemen proceed?” Carrick asked. “I mean, if Miss DeVere really has been taken by someone.”

“For now,” Barker said, “we are like spies in the land of Canaan, getting the lay of the land.”

“Then I hope, sirs, for both your sakes, that you do not encounter any giants. Best of luck finding little Miss DeVere.”

“Impressions?” Barker asked, after Carrick had returned to his emporium.

“They’re an unusual couple,” I stated, “but then, Bethnal Green probably doesn’t have the sort of standards Kensington does. His story is not much different from my own.”

“Who is Dodgson?”

“He’s a mathematician and an author. I’ve heard he has an interest in photography.”

“What sort of thing has he written?”

“You’re jesting, aren’t you? He writes as Lewis Carroll. Alice in Wonderland?”

“Never heard of it.”

“It’s a book for children.”

“There you are, then. I haven’t any.”

“What shall we do now, sir?” I asked, hoping he would suggest a cafe or tearoom. I needed a restorative and a good rest before venturing out again.

“We’ve searched the perimeter, now we must search all the streets in between.”

“That will take hours,” I said.

“Yes, it will. We’d best not dawdle.”

“What are we looking for, sir?” I dared ask. “She’s not going to suddenly appear in the street; and if she’s been taken by someone, they’ve got her drugged or tied up and hidden away somewhere.”

“I’ll admit that walking these streets tonight is more for the DeVeres’ benefit than my own. It lets them see that we are working. I can as easily think and plan while I am walking as I can in my office, so no harm is being done.”

“But harm is being done. I’m sorry sir. This is just so maddening. I can’t believe someone would actually take and sell a child into slavery. There has to be a special place in hell for such people.”

“There is,” Barker said. “Matthew eighteen-six says, ‘But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.’”

“How do you know she hasn’t been spirited out of the area already?”

“I don’t,” he admitted. “It is an arbitrary boundary, but one must look somewhere.”

“For all we know, she could be on her way to Brighton or Dover.”

Barker frowned and then thumped me soundly on the shoulder. “Ha! Good lad. Come.”

He led me into Brady Street, where he stopped in front of a telegraph office.

“I’m going to send a telegram or two. You stay outside and keep your eyes open for a street arab. If you find one, tell him I want Soho Vic in the Green. Got it?”

“Yes, sir.”

He went in, and I leaned against the doorframe, out of sight of passersby. I’d never caught a street boy before, but it couldn’t be too different from catching trout barehanded as I had as a child in the rivers of Gwent. All one had to do was be inconspicuous, pounce at the last moment, and hold on for dear life.

It took ten minutes before I spotted one. I saw him running along, watching citizens for a bulging pocket or a hanging chain. He passed me unknowingly, and I stepped out and seized him fast by the back of his oversized waistcoat.

“Take your bleedin’ mitts off, you toff,” he demanded, struggling in my grip.

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