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Three Photographs
by [?]

“Well, it’s not nice to think of oneself going into the same camera he has been using on those wretched prisoners. It’s sentiment, I daresay; but I had the same feeling when he stuck up Harry’s photograph in his showcase at the railway station, among all kinds of objectionable persons, and I requested him to remove it.”

The Admiral laughed indulgently, being one of those men who find a charm, even a subtle flattery, in their wives’ silliness.

“I agree with you,” he said, “that it’s not pleasant to be exposed to public gaze among a crowd of people one would never think of knowing. I don’t suppose it would actually encourage familiarity; at the same time there’s an air of promiscuity about it–I won’t say disrespect– which, ahem! jars. But with the prisoners it’s different,–my attitude to them is scientific, if I may say so. I look upon them as a race apart, almost of another world, and as such I find them extremely interesting. The possibility of mixing with them on any terms of intimacy doesn’t occur. I am aware, my dear,” he wound up graciously, “that you women seldom understand this mental detachment, being by nature unscientific, and all the more charming for your prejudices.”

At the next meeting of Justices Smithers the photographer presented himself, and produced his prints with a curious air of diffidence.

“I have,” he explained, “brought three for your Worships’ selection, and can honestly assure your Worships that my pains have been endless. What puzzles me, however, is that although in all three the same portraits have been imposed, and in the same order, the results are surprisingly different. The cause of these differences I cannot detect, though I have gone over the process several times and step by step; but out of some two dozen experiments I may say that all the results answer pretty closely to one or another of these three types.” Mr. Smithers, who had spent much time in rehearsing this little speech, handed up photograph No. 1; and Sir Felix adjusted his spectacles.

“Villainous!” he exclaimed, recoiling.

The Canon and the Admiral bent over it together.

“Most repulsive!” said the Admiral.

“Here indeed,”–the Canon was more impressive,–“here indeed is an object-lesson in the effects of crime! Is it possible that to this Man’s passions can degrade his divinely inherited features? Were it not altogether too horrible, I would have this picture framed and glazed and hung up in every cottage home in the land.”

“My dear fellow,” interrupted Sir Felix, “we cannot possibly let this monstrosity go up to Whitehall as representative of the inmates of Tregarrick Gaol! It would mean an inquiry on the spot. It would even reflect upon us. Ours is a decent county, as counties go, and I protest it shall not, with my consent, be injured by any such libel.”

Mr. Smithers handed up photograph No. 2.

“This looks better,” began Sir Felix; and with that he gave a slight start, and passed the photograph to the Canon. The Canon, too, started, and stole a quick glance at Sir Felix: their eyes met.

“It certainly is singular”–stammered Sir Felix. “I fancied–without irreverence–But you detected it too?” he wound up incoherently.

“May I have a look?” The Admiral peered over the Canon’s hand, who, however, did not relinquish the photograph but turned on Smithers with sudden severity.

“I presume, sir, this is not an audacious joke?”

“I assure your Worship–” protested the photographer. “I had some thoughts of tearing it up, but thought it wouldn’t be honest.”

“You did rightly,” the Canon answered; “but, now that we have seen it, I have no such scruple.” He tore the print across, and across again. “Even in this,” he said, with a glance at the Admiral, who winced, “we may perhaps read a lesson, or at least a warning, that man’s presumption in extending the bounds of his knowledge–or, as I should prefer to call it, his curiosity–may–er–bring him face to face with–“