Just how many times in his career McCarthy had boasted that he could traverse Soho at any hour of the day or night blindfolded, or in the thickest fog, was borne in weightily upon him at this moment. Fog was one thing, and bad enough in the congested streets of Soho to rattle anyone. But this never-to-be-sufficiently-damned black-out business was the absolute frozen limit! For the safety of the populace it was necessary, he supposed, and therefore had to be endured, but how the divil any man was supposed to get quickly upon the track of crime committed in it was something more than he was prepared to answer. His first crash was into a light standard which received the shock without murmur; his second was into someone who gave indignant tongue in a manner to which the word ‘murmur’ could certainly not be applied.
By the feel of the obstacle it was the front of an extremely stout Italian lady who cursed him fluently in what McCarthy instantly recognized as the Neapolitan idiom of his dead mother. It was interlarded with many calls upon the Madonna mia, and many other of the better known saints of her native land.