This etext was prepared from the 1894 Chapman and Hall "Christmas
Stories" edition by David Price, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Mrs. Lirriper's Legacy
CHAPTER I--MRS. LIRRIPER RELATES HOW SHE WENT ON, AND WENT OVER
Ah! It's pleasant to drop into my own easy-chair my dear though a
little palpitating what with trotting up-stairs and what with
trotting down, and why kitchen stairs should all be corner stairs is
for the builders to justify though I do not think they fully
understand their trade and never did, else why the sameness and why
not more conveniences and fewer draughts and likewise making a
practice of laying the plaster on too thick I am well convinced
which holds the damp, and as to chimney-pots putting them on by
guess-work like hats at a party and no more knowing what their
effect will be upon the smoke bless you than I do if so much, except
that it will mostly be either to send it down your throat in a
straight form or give it a twist before it goes there. And what I
says speaking as I find of those new metal chimneys all manner of
shapes (there's a row of 'em at Miss Wozenham's lodging-house lower
down on the other side of the way) is that they only work your smoke
into artificial patterns for you before you swallow it and that I'd
quite as soon swallow mine plain, the flavour being the same, not to
mention the conceit of putting up signs on the top of your house to
show the forms in which you take your smoke into your inside.
Being here before your eyes my dear in my own easy-chair in my own
quiet room in my own Lodging-House Number Eighty-one Norfolk Street
Strand London situated midway between the City and St. James's--if
anything is where it used to be with these hotels calling themselves
Limited but called unlimited by Major Jackman rising up everywhere
and rising up into flagstaffs where they can't go any higher, but my
mind of those monsters is give me a landlord's or landlady's
wholesome face when I come off a journey and not a brass plate with
an electrified number clicking out of it which it's not in nature
can be glad to see me and to which I don't want to be hoisted like
molasses at the Docks and left there telegraphing for help with the
most ingenious instruments but quite in vain--being here my dear I
have no call to mention that I am still in the Lodgings as a
business hoping to die in the same and if agreeable to the clergy
partly read over at Saint Clement's Danes and concluded in Hatfield
churchyard when lying once again by my poor Lirriper ashes to ashes
and dust to dust.
Neither should I tell you any news my dear in telling you that the
Major is still a fixture in the Parlours quite as much so as the
roof of the house, and that Jemmy is of boys the best and brightest
and has ever had kept from him the cruel story of his poor pretty
young mother Mrs. Edson being deserted in the second floor and dying
in my arms, fully believing that I am his born Gran and him an
orphan, though what with engineering since he took a taste for it
and him and the Major making Locomotives out of parasols broken iron
pots and cotton-reels and them absolutely a getting off the line and
falling over the table and injuring the passengers almost equal to
the originals it really is quite wonderful. And when I says to the
Major, "Major can't you by ANY means give us a communication with
the guard?" the Major says quite huffy, "No madam it's not to be
done," and when I says "Why not?" the Major says, "That is between
us who are in the Railway Interest madam and our friend the Right
Honourable Vice-President of the Board of Trade" and if you'll
believe me my dear the Major wrote to Jemmy at school to consult him
on the answer I should have before I could get even that amount of
unsatisfactoriness out of the man, the reason being that when we
first began with the little model and the working signals beautiful
and perfect (being in general as wrong as the real) and when I says
laughing "What appointment am I to hold in this undertaking
gentlemen?" Jemmy hugs me round the neck and tells me dancing, "You
shall be the Public Gran" and consequently they put upon me just as
much as ever they like and I sit a growling in my easy-chair.
My dear whether it is that a grown man as clever as the Major cannot
give half his heart and mind to anything--even a plaything--but must
get into right down earnest with it, whether it is so or whether it
is not so I do not undertake to say, but Jemmy is far out-done by
the serious and believing ways of the Major in the management of the
United Grand Junction Lirriper and Jackman Great Norfolk Parlour
Line, "For" says my Jemmy with the sparkling eyes when it was
christened, "we must have a whole mouthful of name Gran or our dear
old Public" and there the young rogue kissed me, "won't stump up."
So the Public took the shares--ten at ninepence, and immediately
when that was spent twelve Preference at one and sixpence--and they
were all signed by Jemmy and countersigned by the Major, and between
ourselves much better worth the money than some shares I have paid
for in my time. In the same holidays the line was made and worked
and opened and ran excursions and had collisions and burst its
boilers and all sorts of accidents and offences all most regular
correct and pretty. The sense of responsibility entertained by the
Major as a military style of station-master my dear starting the
down train behind time and ringing one of those little bells that
you buy with the little coal-scuttles off the tray round the man's
neck in the street did him honour, but noticing the Major of a night
when he is writing out his monthly report to Jemmy at school of the
state of the Rolling Stock and the Permanent Way and all the rest of
it (the whole kept upon the Major's sideboard and dusted with his
own hands every morning before varnishing his boots) I notice him as
full of thought and care as full can be and frowning in a fearful
manner, but indeed the Major does nothing by halves as witness his
great delight in going out surveying with Jemmy when he has Jemmy to
go with, carrying a chain and a measuring-tape and driving I don't
know what improvements right through Westminster Abbey and fully
believed in the streets to be knocking everything upside down by Act
of Parliament. As please Heaven will come to pass when Jemmy takes
to that as a profession!
Mentioning my poor Lirriper brings into my head his own youngest
brother the Doctor though Doctor of what I am sure it would be hard
to say unless Liquor, for neither Physic nor Music nor yet Law does
Joshua Lirriper know a morsel of except continually being summoned
to the County Court and having orders made upon him which he runs
away from, and once was taken in the passage of this very house with
an umbrella up and the Major's hat on, giving his name with the
door-mat round him as Sir Johnson Jones, K.C.B. in spectacles
residing at the Horse Guards. On which occasion he had got into the
house not a minute before, through the girl letting him on the mat
when he sent in a piece of paper twisted more like one of those
spills for lighting candles than a note, offering me the choice
between thirty shillings in hand and his brains on the premises
marked immediate and waiting for an answer. My dear it gave me such
a dreadful turn to think of the brains of my poor dear Lirriper's
own flesh and blood flying about the new oilcloth however unworthy
to be so assisted, that I went out of my room here to ask him what
he would take once for all not to do it for life when I found him in
the custody of two gentlemen that I should have judged to be in the
feather-bed trade if they had not announced the law, so fluffy were
their personal appearance. "Bring your chains, sir," says Joshua to
the littlest of the two in the biggest hat, "rivet on my fetters!"
Imagine my feelings when I pictered him clanking up Norfolk Street
in irons and Miss Wozenham looking out of window! "Gentlemen," I
says all of a tremble and ready to drop "please to bring him into
Major Jackman's apartments." So they brought him into the Parlours,
and when the Major spies his own curly-brimmed hat on him which
Joshua Lirriper had whipped off its peg in the passage for a
military disguise he goes into such a tearing passion that he tips
it off his head with his hand and kicks it up to the ceiling with
his foot where it grazed long afterwards. "Major" I says "be cool
and advise me what to do with Joshua my dead and gone Lirriper's own
youngest brother." "Madam" says the Major "my advice is that you
board and lodge him in a Powder Mill, with a handsome gratuity to
the proprietor when exploded." "Major" I says "as a Christian you
cannot mean your words." "Madam" says the Major "by the Lord I do!"
and indeed the Major besides being with all his merits a very
passionate man for his size had a bad opinion of Joshua on account
of former troubles even unattended by liberties taken with his
apparel. When Joshua Lirriper hears this conversation betwixt us he
turns upon the littlest one with the biggest hat and says "Come sir!
Remove me to my vile dungeon. Where is my mouldy straw?" My dear
at the picter of him rising in my mind dressed almost entirely in
padlocks like Baron Trenck in Jemmy's book I was so overcome that I
burst into tears and I says to the Major, "Major take my keys and
settle with these gentlemen or I shall never know a happy minute
more," which was done several times both before and since, but still
I must remember that Joshua Lirriper has his good feelings and shows
them in being always so troubled in his mind when he cannot wear
mourning for his brother. Many a long year have I left off my
widow's mourning not being wishful to intrude, but the tender point
in Joshua that I cannot help a little yielding to is when he writes
"One single sovereign would enable me to wear a decent suit of
mourning for my much-loved brother. I vowed at the time of his
lamented death that I would ever wear sables in memory of him but
Alas how short-sighted is man, How keep that vow when penniless!"
It says a good deal for the strength of his feelings that he
couldn't have been seven year old when my poor Lirriper died and to
have kept to it ever since is highly creditable. But we know
there's good in all of us,--if we only knew where it was in some of
us,--and though it was far from delicate in Joshua to work upon the
dear child's feelings when first sent to school and write down into
Lincolnshire for his pocket-money by return of post and got it,
still he is my poor Lirriper's own youngest brother and mightn't
have meant not paying his bill at the Salisbury Arms when his
affection took him down to stay a fortnight at Hatfield churchyard
and might have meant to keep sober but for bad company.
Consequently if the Major HAD played on him with the garden-engine
which he got privately into his room without my knowing of it, I
think that much as I should have regretted it there would have been
words betwixt the Major and me. Therefore my dear though he played
on Mr. Buffle by mistake being hot in his head, and though it might
have been misrepresented down at Wozenham's into not being ready for
Mr. Buffle in other respects he being the Assessed Taxes, still I do
not so much regret it as perhaps I ought. And whether Joshua
Lirriper will yet do well in life I cannot say, but I did hear of
his coming, out at a Private Theatre in the character of a Bandit
without receiving any offers afterwards from the regular managers.
Mentioning Mr. Baffle gives an instance of there being good in
persons where good is not expected, for it cannot be denied that Mr.
Buffle's manners when engaged in his business were not agreeable.
To collect is one thing, and to look about as if suspicious of the
goods being gradually removing in the dead of the night by a back
door is another, over taxing you have no control but suspecting is
voluntary. Allowances too must ever be made for a gentleman of the
Major's warmth not relishing being spoke to with a pen in the mouth,
and while I do not know that it is more irritable to my own feelings
to have a low-crowned hat with a broad brim kept on in doors than
any other hat still I can appreciate the Major's, besides which
without bearing malice or vengeance the Major is a man that scores
up arrears as his habit always was with Joshua Lirriper. So at last
my dear the Major lay in wait for Mr. Buffle, and it worrited me a
good deal. Mr. Buffle gives his rap of two sharp knocks one day and
the Major bounces to the door. "Collector has called for two
quarters' Assessed Taxes" says Mr. Buffle. "They are ready for him"
says the Major and brings him in here. But on the way Mr. Buffle
looks about him in his usual suspicious manner and the Major fires
and asks him "Do you see a Ghost sir?" "No sir" says Mr. Buffle.
"Because I have before noticed you" says the Major "apparently
looking for a spectre very hard beneath the roof of my respected
friend. When you find that supernatural agent, be so good as point
him out sir." Mr. Buffle stares at the Major and then nods at me.
"Mrs. Lirriper sir" says the Major going off into a perfect steam
and introducing me with his hand. "Pleasure of knowing her" says
Mr. Buffle. "A--hum!--Jemmy Jackman sir!" says the Major
introducing himself. "Honour of knowing you by sight" says Mr.
Buffle. "Jemmy Jackman sir" says the Major wagging his head
sideways in a sort of obstinate fury "presents to you his esteemed
friend that lady Mrs. Emma Lirriper of Eighty-one Norfolk Street
Strand London in the County of Middlesex in the United Kingdom of
Great Britain and Ireland. Upon which occasion sir," says the
Major, "Jemmy Jackman takes your hat off." Mr. Buffle looks at his
hat where the Major drops it on the floor, and he picks it up and
puts it on again. "Sir" says the Major very red and looking him
full in the face "there are two quarters of the Gallantry Taxes due
and the Collector has called." Upon which if you can believe my
words my dear the Major drops Mr. Buffle's hat off again. "This--"
Mr. Buffle begins very angry with his pen in his mouth, when the
Major steaming more and more says "Take your bit out sir! Or by the
whole infernal system of Taxation of this country and every
individual figure in the National Debt, I'll get upon your back and
ride you like a horse!" which it's my belief he would have done and
even actually jerking his neat little legs ready for a spring as it
was. "This," says Mr. Buffle without his pen "is an assault and
I'll have the law of you." "Sir" replies the Major "if you are a
man of honour, your Collector of whatever may be due on the
Honourable Assessment by applying to Major Jackman at the Parlours
Mrs. Lirriper's Lodgings, may obtain what he wants in full at any
When the Major glared at Mr. Buffle with those meaning words my dear
I literally gasped for a teaspoonful of salvolatile in a wine-glass
of water, and I says "Pray let it go no farther gentlemen I beg and
beseech of you!" But the Major could be got to do nothing else but
snort long after Mr. Buffle was gone, and the effect it had upon my
whole mass of blood when on the next day of Mr. Buffle's rounds the
Major spruced himself up and went humming a tune up and down the
street with one eye almost obliterated by his hat there are not
expressions in Johnson's Dictionary to state. But I safely put the
street door on the jar and got behind the Major's blinds with my
shawl on and my mind made up the moment I saw danger to rush out
screeching till my voice failed me and catch the Major round the
neck till my strength went and have all parties bound. I had not
been behind the blinds a quarter of an hour when I saw Mr. Buffle
approaching with his Collecting-books in his hand. The Major
likewise saw him approaching and hummed louder and himself
approached. They met before the Airy railings. The Major takes off
his hat at arm's length and says "Mr. Buffle I believe?" Mr. Buffle
takes off HIS hat at arm's length and says "That is my name sir."
Says the Major "Have you any commands for me, Mr. Buffle?" Says Mr.
Buffle "Not any sir." Then my dear both of 'em bowed very low and
haughty and parted, and whenever Mr. Buffle made his rounds in
future him and the Major always met and bowed before the Airy
railings, putting me much in mind of Hamlet and the other gentleman
in mourning before killing one another, though I could have wished
the other gentleman had done it fairer and even if less polite no
Mr. Buffle's family were not liked in this neighbourhood, for when
you are a householder my dear you'll find it does not come by nature
to like the Assessed, and it was considered besides that a one-horse
pheayton ought not to have elevated Mrs. Buffle to that height
especially when purloined from the Taxes which I myself did consider
uncharitable. But they were NOT liked and there was that domestic
unhappiness in the family in consequence of their both being very
hard with Miss Buffle and one another on account of Miss Buffle's
favouring Mr. Buffle's articled young gentleman, that it WAS
whispered that Miss Buffle would go either into a consumption or a
convent she being so very thin and off her appetite and two close-
shaved gentlemen with white bands round their necks peeping round
the corner whenever she went out in waistcoats resembling black
pinafores. So things stood towards Mr. Buffle when one night I was
woke by a frightful noise and a smell of burning, and going to my
bedroom window saw the whole street in a glow. Fortunately we had
two sets empty just then and before I could hurry on some clothes I
heard the Major hammering at the attics' doors and calling out
"Dress yourselves!--Fire! Don't be frightened!--Fire! Collect your
presence of mind!--Fire! All right--Fire!" most tremenjously. As I
opened my bedroom door the Major came tumbling in over himself and
me, and caught me in his arms. "Major" I says breathless "where is
it?" "I don't know dearest madam" says the Major--"Fire! Jemmy
Jackman will defend you to the last drop of his blood--Fire! If the
dear boy was at home what a treat this would be for him--Fire!" and
altogether very collected and bold except that he couldn't say a
single sentence without shaking me to the very centre with roaring
Fire. We ran down to the drawing-room and put our heads out of
window, and the Major calls to an unfeeling young monkey, scampering
by be joyful and ready to split "Where is it?--Fire!" The monkey
answers without stopping "O here's a lark! Old Buffle's been
setting his house alight to prevent its being found out that he
boned the Taxes. Hurrah! Fire!" And then the sparks came flying
up and the smoke came pouring down and the crackling of flames and
spatting of water and banging of engines and hacking of axes and
breaking of glass and knocking at doors and the shouting and crying
and hurrying and the heat and altogether gave me a dreadful
palpitation. "Don't be frightened dearest madam," says the Major,
"--Fire! There's nothing to be alarmed at--Fire! Don't open the
street door till I come back--Fire! I'll go and see if I can be of
any service--Fire! You're quite composed and comfortable ain't
you?--Fire, Fire, Fire!" It was in vain for me to hold the man and
tell him he'd be galloped to death by the engines--pumped to death
by his over-exertions--wet-feeted to death by the slop and mess--
flattened to death when the roofs fell in--his spirit was up and he
went scampering off after the young monkey with all the breath he
had and none to spare, and me and the girls huddled together at the
parlour windows looking at the dreadful flames above the houses over
the way, Mr. Buffle's being round the corner. Presently what should
we see but some people running down the street straight to our door,
and then the Major directing operations in the busiest way, and then
some more people and then--carried in a chair similar to Guy Fawkes-
-Mr. Buffle in a blanket!
My dear the Major has Mr. Buffle brought up our steps and whisked
into the parlour and carted out on the sofy, and then he and all the
rest of them without so much as a word burst away again full speed
leaving the impression of a vision except for Mr. Buffle awful in
his blanket with his eyes a rolling. In a twinkling they all burst
back again with Mrs. Buffle in another blanket, which whisked in and
carted out on the sofy they all burst off again and all burst back
again with Miss Buffle in another blanket, which again whisked in
and carted out they all burst off again and all burst back again
with Mr. Buffle's articled young gentleman in another blanket--him a
holding round the necks of two men carrying him by the legs, similar
to the picter of the disgraceful creetur who has lost the fight (but
where the chair I do not know) and his hair having the appearance of
newly played upon. When all four of a row, the Major rubs his hands
and whispers me with what little hoarseness he can get together, "If
our dear remarkable boy was only at home what a delightful treat
this would be for him!"
My dear we made them some hot tea and toast and some hot brandy-and-
water with a little comfortable nutmeg in it, and at first they were
scared and low in their spirits but being fully insured got
sociable. And the first use Mr. Buffle made of his tongue was to
call the Major his Preserver and his best of friends and to say "My
for ever dearest sir let me make you known to Mrs. Buffle" which
also addressed him as her Preserver and her best of friends and was
fully as cordial as the blanket would admit of. Also Miss Buffle.
The articled young gentleman's head was a little light and he sat a
moaning "Robina is reduced to cinders, Robina is reduced to
cinders!" Which went more to the heart on account of his having got
wrapped in his blanket as if he was looking out of a violinceller
case, until Mr. Buffle says "Robina speak to him!" Miss Buffle says
"Dear George!" and but for the Major's pouring down brandy-and-water
on the instant which caused a catching in his throat owing to the
nutmeg and a violent fit of coughing it might have proved too much
for his strength. When the articled young gentleman got the better
of it Mr. Buffle leaned up against Mrs. Buffle being two bundles, a
little while in confidence, and then says with tears in his eyes
which the Major noticing wiped, "We have not been an united family,
let us after this danger become so, take her George." The young
gentleman could not put his arm out far to do it, but his spoken
expressions were very beautiful though of a wandering class. And I
do not know that I ever had a much pleasanter meal than the
breakfast we took together after we had all dozed, when Miss Buffle
made tea very sweetly in quite the Roman style as depicted formerly
at Covent Garden Theatre and when the whole family was most
agreeable, as they have ever proved since that night when the Major
stood at the foot of the Fire-Escape and claimed them as they came
down--the young gentleman head-foremost, which accounts. And though
I do not say that we should be less liable to think ill of one
another if strictly limited to blankets, still I do say that we
might most of us come to a better understanding if we kept one
another less at a distance.
Why there's Wozenham's lower down on the other side of the street.
I had a feeling of much soreness several years respecting what I
must still ever call Miss Wozenham's systematic underbidding and the
likeness of the house in Bradshaw having far too many windows and a
most umbrageous and outrageous Oak which never yet was seen in
Norfolk Street nor yet a carriage and four at Wozenham's door, which
it would have been far more to Bradshaw's credit to have drawn a
cab. This frame of mind continued bitter down to the very afternoon
in January last when one of my girls, Sally Rairyganoo which I still
suspect of Irish extraction though family represented Cambridge,
else why abscond with a bricklayer of the Limerick persuasion and be
married in pattens not waiting till his black eye was decently got
round with all the company fourteen in number and one horse fighting
outside on the roof of the vehicle,--I repeat my dear my ill-
regulated state of mind towards Miss Wozenham continued down to the
very afternoon of January last past when Sally Rairyganoo came
banging (I can use no milder expression) into my room with a jump
which may be Cambridge and may not, and said "Hurroo Missis! Miss
Wozenham's sold up!" My dear when I had it thrown in my face and
conscience that the girl Sally had reason to think I could be glad
of the ruin of a fellow-creeter, I burst into tears and dropped back
in my chair and I says "I am ashamed of myself!"
Well! I tried to settle to my tea but I could not do it what with
thinking of Miss Wozenham and her distresses. It was a wretched
night and I went up to a front window and looked over at Wozenham's
and as well as I could make it out down the street in the fog it was
the dismallest of the dismal and not a light to be seen. So at last
I save to myself "This will not do," and I puts on my oldest bonnet
and shawl not wishing Miss Wozenham to be reminded of my best at
such a time, and lo and behold you I goes over to Wozenham's and
knocks. "Miss Wozenham at home?" I says turning my head when I
heard the door go. And then I saw it was Miss Wozenham herself who
had opened it and sadly worn she was poor thing and her eyes all
swelled and swelled with crying. "Miss Wozenham" I says "it is
several years since there was a little unpleasantness betwixt us on
the subject of my grandson's cap being down your Airy. I have
overlooked it and I hope you have done the same." "Yes Mrs.
Lirriper" she says in a surprise, I have." "Then my dear" I says "I
should be glad to come in and speak a word to you." Upon my calling
her my dear Miss Wozenham breaks out a crying most pitiful, and a
not unfeeling elderly person that might have been better shaved in a
nightcap with a hat over it offering a polite apology for the mumps
having worked themselves into his constitution, and also for sending
home to his wife on the bellows which was in his hand as a writing-
desk, looks out of the back parlour and says "The lady wants a word
of comfort" and goes in again. So I was able to say quite natural
"Wants a word of comfort does she sir? Then please the pigs she
shall have it!" And Miss Wozenham and me we go into the front room
with a wretched light that seemed to have been crying too and was
sputtering out, and I says "Now my dear, tell me all," and she
wrings her hands and says "O Mrs. Lirriper that man is in possession
here, and I have not a friend in the world who is able to help me
with a shilling."
It doesn't signify a bit what a talkative old body like me said to
Miss Wozenham when she said that, and so I'll tell you instead my
dear that I'd have given thirty shillings to have taken her over to
tea, only I durstn't on account of the Major. Not you see but what
I knew I could draw the Major out like thread and wind him round my
finger on most subjects and perhaps even on that if I was to set
myself to it, but him and me had so often belied Miss Wozenham to
one another that I was shamefaced, and I knew she had offended his
pride and never mine, and likewise I felt timid that that Rairyganoo
girl might make things awkward. So I says "My dear if you could
give me a cup of tea to clear my muddle of a head I should better
understand your affairs." And we had the tea and the affairs too
and after all it was but forty pound, and--There! she's as
industrious and straight a creeter as ever lived and has paid back
half of it already, and where's the use of saying more, particularly
when it ain't the point? For the point is that when she was a
kissing my hands and holding them in hers and kissing them again and
blessing blessing blessing, I cheered up at last and I says "Why
what a waddling old goose I have been my dear to take you for
something so very different!" "Ah but I too" says she "how have I
mistaken YOU!" "Come for goodness' sake tell me" I says "what you
thought of me?" "O" says she "I thought you had no feeling for such
a hard hand-to-mouth life as mine, and were rolling in affluence."
I says shaking my sides (and very glad to do it for I had been a
choking quite long enough) "Only look at my figure my dear and give
me your opinion whether if I was in affluence I should be likely to
roll in it? "That did it? We got as merry as grigs (whatever THEY
are, if you happen to know my dear--I don't) and I went home to my
blessed home as happy and as thankful as could be. But before I
make an end of it, think even of my having misunderstood the Major!
Yes! For next forenoon the Major came into my little room with his
brushed hat in his hand and he begins "My dearest madam--" and then
put his face in his hat as if he had just come into church. As I
sat all in a maze he came out of his hat and began again. "My
esteemed and beloved friend--" and then went into his hat again.
"Major," I cries out frightened "has anything happened to our
darling boy?" "No, no, no" says the Major "but Miss Wozenham has
been here this morning to make her excuses to me, and by the Lord I
can't get over what she told me." "Hoity toity, Major," I says "you
don't know yet that I was afraid of you last night and didn't think
half as well of you as I ought! So come out of church Major and
forgive me like a dear old friend and I'll never do so any more."
And I leave you to judge my dear whether I ever did or will. And
how affecting to think of Miss Wozenham out of her small income and
her losses doing so much for her poor old father, and keeping a
brother that had had the misfortune to soften his brain against the
hard mathematics as neat as a new pin in the three back represented
to lodgers as a lumber-room and consuming a whole shoulder of mutton
And now my dear I really am a going to tell you about my Legacy if
you're inclined to favour me with your attention, and I did fully
intend to have come straight to it only one thing does so bring up
another. It was the month of June and the day before Midsummer Day
when my girl Winifred Madgers--she was what is termed a Plymouth
Sister, and the Plymouth Brother that made away with her was quite
right, for a tidier young woman for a wife never came into a house
and afterwards called with the beautifullest Plymouth Twins--it was
the day before Midsummer Day when Winifred Madgers comes and says to
me "A gentleman from the Consul's wishes particular to speak to Mrs.
Lirriper." If you'll believe me my dear the Consols at the bank
where I have a little matter for Jemmy got into my head, and I says
"Good gracious I hope he ain't had any dreadful fall!" Says
Winifred "He don't look as if he had ma'am." And I says "Show him
The gentleman came in dark and with his hair cropped what I should
consider too close, and he says very polite "Madame Lirrwiper!" I
says, "Yes sir. Take a chair." "I come," says he "frrwom the
Frrwench Consul's." So I saw at once that it wasn't the Bank of
England. "We have rrweceived," says the gentleman turning his r's
very curious and skilful, "frrwom the Mairrwie at Sens, a
communication which I will have the honour to rrwead. Madame
Lirrwiper understands Frrwench?" "O dear no sir!" says I. "Madame
Lirriper don't understand anything of the sort." "It matters not,"
says the gentleman, "I will trrwanslate."
With that my dear the gentleman after reading something about a
Department and a Marie (which Lord forgive me I supposed till the
Major came home was Mary, and never was I more puzzled than to think
how that young woman came to have so much to do with it) translated
a lot with the most obliging pains, and it came to this:- That in
the town of Sons in France an unknown Englishman lay a dying. That
he was speechless and without motion. That in his lodging there was
a gold watch and a purse containing such and such money and a trunk
containing such and such clothes, but no passport and no papers,
except that on his table was a pack of cards and that he had written
in pencil on the back of the ace of hearts: "To the authorities.
When I am dead, pray send what is left, as a last Legacy, to Mrs.
Lirriper Eighty-one Norfolk Street Strand London." When the
gentleman had explained all this, which seemed to be drawn up much
more methodical than I should have given the French credit for, not
at that time knowing the nation, he put the document into my hand.
And much the wiser I was for that you may be sure, except that it
had the look of being made out upon grocery paper and was stamped
all over with eagles.
"Does Madame Lirrwiper" says the gentleman "believe she rrwecognises
her unfortunate compatrrwiot?"
You may imagine the flurry it put me into my dear to he talked to
about my compatriots.
I says "Excuse me. Would you have the kindness sir to make your
language as simple as you can?"
"This Englishman unhappy, at the point of death. This compatrrwiot
afflicted," says the gentleman.
"Thank you sir" I says "I understand you now. No sir I have not the
least idea who this can be."
"Has Madame Lirrwiper no son, no nephew, no godson, no frrwiend, no
acquaintance of any kind in Frrwance?"
"To my certain knowledge" says I "no relation or friend, and to the
best of my belief no acquaintance."
"Pardon me. You take Locataires?" says the gentleman.
My dear fully believing he was offering me something with his
obliging foreign manners,-- snuff for anything I knew,--I gave a
little bend of my head and I says if you'll credit it, "No I thank
you. I have not contracted the habit."
The gentleman looks perplexed and says "Lodgers!"
"Oh!" says I laughing. "Bless the man! Why yes to be sure!"
"May it not be a former lodger?" says the gentleman. "Some lodger
that you pardoned some rrwent? You have pardoned lodgers some
"Hem! It has happened sir" says I, "but I assure you I can call to
mind no gentleman of that description that this is at all likely to
In short my dear, we could make nothing of it, and the gentleman
noted down what I said and went away. But he left me the paper of
which he had two with him, and when the Major came in I says to the
Major as I put it in his hand "Major here's Old Moore's Almanac with
the hieroglyphic complete, for your opinion."
It took the Major a little longer to read than I should have
thought, judging from the copious flow with which he seemed to be
gifted when attacking the organ-men, but at last he got through it,
and stood a gazing at me in amazement.
"Major" I says "you're paralysed."
"Madam" says the Major, "Jemmy Jackman is doubled up."
Now it did so happen that the Major had been out to get a little
information about railroads and steamboats, as our boy was coming
home for his Midsummer holidays next day and we were going to take
him somewhere for a treat and a change. So while the Major stood a
gazing it came into my head to say to him "Major I wish you'd go and
look at some of your books and maps, and see whereabouts this same
town of Sens is in France."
The Major he roused himself and he went into the Parlours and he
poked about a little, and he came back to me and he says, "Sens my
dearest madam is seventy-odd miles south of Paris."
With what I may truly call a desperate effort "Major," I says "we'll
go there with our blessed boy."
If ever the Major was beside himself it was at the thoughts of that
journey. All day long he was like the wild man of the woods after
meeting with an advertisement in the papers telling him something to
his advantage, and early next morning hours before Jemmy could
possibly come home he was outside in the street ready to call out to
him that we was all a going to France. Young Rosycheeks you may
believe was as wild as the Major, and they did carry on to that
degree that I says "If you two children ain't more orderly I'll pack
you both off to bed." And then they fell to cleaning up the Major's
telescope to see France with, and went out and bought a leather bag
with a snap to hang round Jemmy, and him to carry the money like a
little Fortunatus with his purse.
If I hadn't passed my word and raised their hopes, I doubt if I
could have gone through with the undertaking but it was too late to
go back now. So on the second day after Midsummer Day we went off
by the morning mail. And when we came to the sea which I had never
seen but once in my life and that when my poor Lirriper was courting
me, the freshness of it and the deepness and the airiness and to
think that it had been rolling ever since and that it was always a
rolling and so few of us minding, made me feel quite serious. But I
felt happy too and so did Jemmy and the Major and not much motion on
the whole, though me with a swimming in the head and a sinking but
able to take notice that the foreign insides appear to be
constructed hollower than the English, leading to much more
tremenjous noises when bad sailors.
But my dear the blueness and the lightness and the coloured look of
everything and the very sentry-boxes striped and the shining
rattling drums and the little soldiers with their waists and tidy
gaiters, when we got across to the Continent--it made me feel as if
I don't know what--as if the atmosphere had been lifted off me. And
as to lunch why bless you if I kept a man-cook and two kitchen-maids
I couldn't got it done for twice the money, and no injured young
woman a glaring at you and grudging you and acknowledging your
patronage by wishing that your food might choke you, but so civil
and so hot and attentive and every way comfortable except Jemmy
pouring wine down his throat by tumblers-full and me expecting to
see him drop under the table.
And the way in which Jemmy spoke his French was a real charm. It
was often wanted of him, for whenever anybody spoke a syllable to me
I says "Non-comprenny, you're very kind, but it's no use--Now
Jemmy!" and then Jemmy he fires away at 'em lovely, the only thing
wanting in Jemmy's French being as it appeared to me that he hardly
ever understood a word of what they said to him which made it
scarcely of the use it might have been though in other respects a
perfect Native, and regarding the Major's fluency I should have been
of the opinion judging French by English that there might have been
a greater choice of words in the language though still I must admit
that if I hadn't known him when he asked a military gentleman in a
gray cloak what o'clock it was I should have took him for a
Before going on to look after my Legacy we were to make one regular
day in Paris, and I leave you to judge my dear what a day THAT was
with Jemmy and the Major and the telescope and me and the prowling
young man at the inn door (but very civil too) that went along with
us to show the sights. All along the railway to Paris Jemmy and the
Major had been frightening me to death by stooping down on the
platforms at stations to inspect the engines underneath their
mechanical stomachs, and by creeping in and out I don't know where
all, to find improvements for the United Grand Junction Parlour, but
when we got out into the brilliant streets on a bright morning they
gave up all their London improvements as a bad job and gave their
minds to Paris. Says the prowling young man to me "Will I speak
Inglis No?" So I says "If you can young man I shall take it as a
favour," but after half-an-hour of it when I fully believed the man
had gone mad and me too I says "Be so good as fall back on your
French sir," knowing that then I shouldn't have the agonies of
trying to understand him, which was a happy release. Not that I
lost much more than the rest either, for I generally noticed that
when he had described something very long indeed and I says to Jemmy
"What does he say Jemmy?" Jemmy says looking with vengeance in his
eye "He is so jolly indistinct!" and that when he had described it
longer all over again and I says to Jemmy "Well Jemmy what's it all
about?" Jemmy says "He says the building was repaired in seventeen
hundred and four, Gran."
Wherever that prowling young man formed his prowling habits I cannot
be expected to know, but the way in which he went round the corner
while we had our breakfasts and was there again when we swallowed
the last crumb was most marvellous, and just the same at dinner and
at night, prowling equally at the theatre and the inn gateway and
the shop doors when we bought a trifle or two and everywhere else
but troubled with a tendency to spit. And of Paris I can tell you
no more my dear than that it's town and country both in one, and
carved stone and long streets of high houses and gardens and
fountains and statues and trees and gold, and immensely big soldiers
and immensely little soldiers and the pleasantest nurses with the
whitest caps a playing at skipping-rope with the bunchiest babies in
the flattest caps, and clean table-cloths spread everywhere for
dinner and people sitting out of doors smoking and sipping all day
long and little plays being acted in the open air for little people
and every shop a complete and elegant room, and everybody seeming to
play at everything in this world. And as to the sparkling lights my
dear after dark, glittering high up and low down and on before and
on behind and all round, and the crowd of theatres and the crowd of
people and the crowd of all sorts, it's pure enchantment. And
pretty well the only thing that grated on me was that whether you
pay your fare at the railway or whether you change your money at a
money-dealer's or whether you take your ticket at the theatre, the
lady or gentleman is caged up (I suppose by government) behind the
strongest iron bars having more of a Zoological appearance than a
Well to be sure when I did after all get my precious bones to bed
that night, and my Young Rogue came in to kiss me and asks "What do
you think of this lovely lovely Paris, Gran?" I says "Jemmy I feel
as if it was beautiful fireworks being let off in my head." And
very cool and refreshing the pleasant country was next day when we
went on to look after my Legacy, and rested me much and did me a
deal of good.
So at length and at last my dear we come to Sens, a pretty little
town with a great two-towered cathedral and the rooks flying in and
out of the loopholes and another tower atop of one of the towers
like a sort of a stone pulpit. In which pulpit with the birds
skimming below him if you'll believe me, I saw a speck while I was
resting at the inn before dinner which they made signs to me was
Jemmy and which really was. I had been a fancying as I sat in the
balcony of the hotel that an Angel might light there and call down
to the people to be good, but I little thought what Jemmy all
unknown to himself was a calling down from that high place to some
one in the town.
The pleasantest-situated inn my dear! Right under the two towers,
with their shadows a changing upon it all day like a kind of a
sundial, and country people driving in and out of the courtyard in
carts and hooded cabriolets and such like, and a market outside in
front of the cathedral, and all so quaint and like a picter. The
Major and me agreed that whatever came of my Legacy this was the
place to stay in for our holiday, and we also agreed that our dear
boy had best not be checked in his joy that night by the sight of
the Englishman if he was still alive, but that we would go together
and alone. For you are to understand that the Major not feeling
himself quite equal in his wind to the height to which Jemmy had
climbed, had come back to me and left him with the Guide.
So after dinner when Jemmy had set off to see the river, the Major
went down to the Mairie, and presently came back with a military
character in a sword and spurs and a cocked hat and a yellow
shoulder-belt and long tags about him that he must have found
inconvenient. And the Major says "The Englishman still lies in the
same state dearest madam. This gentleman will conduct us to his
lodging." Upon which the military character pulled off his cocked
hat to me, and I took notice that he had shaved his forehead in
imitation of Napoleon Bonaparte but not like.
We wont out at the courtyard gate and past the great doors of the
cathedral and down a narrow High Street where the people were
sitting chatting at their shop doors and the children were at play.
The military character went in front and he stopped at a pork-shop
with a little statue of a pig sitting up, in the window, and a
private door that a donkey was looking out of.
When the donkey saw the military character he came slipping out on
the pavement to turn round and then clattered along the passage into
a back yard. So the coast being clear, the Major and me were
conducted up the common stair and into the front room on the second,
a bare room with a red tiled floor and the outside lattice blinds
pulled close to darken it. As the military character opened the
blinds I saw the tower where I had seen Jemmy, darkening as the sun
got low, and I turned to the bed by the wall and saw the Englishman.
It was some kind of brain fever he had had, and his hair was all
gone, and some wetted folded linen lay upon his head. I looked at
him very attentive as he lay there all wasted away with his eyes
closed, and I says to the Major
"I never saw this face before."
The Major looked at him very attentive too, and he says "I never saw
this face before."
When the Major explained our words to the military character, that
gentleman shrugged his shoulders and showed the Major the card on
which it was written about the Legacy for me. It had been written
with a weak and trembling hand in bed, and I knew no more of the
writing than of the face. Neither did the Major.
Though lying there alone, the poor creetur was as well taken care of
as could be hoped, and would have been quite unconscious of any
one's sitting by him then. I got the Major to say that we were not
going away at present and that I would come back to-morrow and watch
a bit by the bedside. But I got him to add--and I shook my head
hard to make it stronger--"We agree that we never saw this face
Our boy was greatly surprised when we told him sitting out in the
balcony in the starlight, and he ran over some of those stories of
former Lodgers, of the Major's putting down, and asked wasn't it
possible that it might be this lodger or that lodger. It was not
possible, and we went to bed.
In the morning just at breakfast-time the military character came
jingling round, and said that the doctor thought from the signs he
saw there might be some rally before the end. So I says to the
Major and Jemmy, "You two boys go and enjoy yourselves, and I'll
take my Prayer Book and go sit by the bed." So I went, and I sat
there some hours, reading a prayer for him poor soul now and then,
and it was quite on in the day when he moved his hand.
He had been so still, that the moment he moved I knew of it, and I
pulled off my spectacles and laid down my book and rose and looked
at him. From moving one hand he began to move both, and then his
action was the action of a person groping in the dark. Long after
his eyes had opened, there was a film over them and he still felt
for his way out into light. But by slow degrees his sight cleared
and his hands stopped. He saw the ceiling, he saw the wall, he saw
me. As his sight cleared, mine cleared too, and when at last we
looked in one another's faces, I started back, and I cries
"O you wicked wicked man! Your sin has found you out!"
For I knew him, the moment life looked out of his eyes, to be Mr.
Edson, Jemmy's father who had so cruelly deserted Jemmy's young
unmarried mother who had died in my arms, poor tender creetur, and
left Jemmy to me.
"You cruel wicked man! You bad black traitor!"
With the little strength he had, he made an attempt to turn over on
his wretched face to hide it. His arm dropped out of the bed and
his head with it, and there he lay before me crushed in body and in
mind. Surely the miserablest sight under the summer sun!
"O blessed Heaven," I says a crying, "teach me what to say to this
broken mortal! I am a poor sinful creetur, and the Judgment is not
As I lifted my eyes up to the clear bright sky, I saw the high tower
where Jemmy had stood above the birds, seeing that very window; and
the last look of that poor pretty young mother when her soul
brightened and got free, seemed to shine down from it.
"O man, man, man!" I says, and I went on my knees beside the bed;
"if your heart is rent asunder and you are truly penitent for what
you did, Our Saviour will have mercy on you yet!"
As I leaned my face against the bed, his feeble hand could just move
itself enough to touch me. I hope the touch was penitent. It tried
to hold my dress and keep hold, but the fingers were too weak to
I lifted him back upon the pillows and I says to him:
"Can you hear me?"
He looked yes.
"Do you know me?"
He looked yes, even yet more plainly.
"I am not here alone. The Major is with me. You recollect the
Yes. That is to say he made out yes, in the same way as before.
"And even the Major and I are not alone. My grandson--his godson--
is with us. Do you hear? My grandson."
The fingers made another trial to catch my sleeve, but could only
creep near it and fall.
"Do you know who my grandson is?"
"I pitied and loved his lonely mother. When his mother lay a dying
I said to her, 'My dear, this baby is sent to a childless old
woman.' He has been my pride and joy ever since. I love him as
dearly as if he had drunk from my breast. Do you ask to see my
grandson before you die?"
"Show me, when I leave off speaking, if you correctly understand
what I say. He has been kept unacquainted with the story of his
birth. He has no knowledge of it. No suspicion of it. If I bring
him here to the side of this bed, he will suppose you to be a
perfect stranger. It is more than I can do to keep from him the
knowledge that there is such wrong and misery in the world; but that
it was ever so near him in his innocent cradle I have kept from him,
and I do keep from him, and I ever will keep from him, for his
mother's sake, and for his own."
He showed me that he distinctly understood, and the tears fell from
"Now rest, and you shall see him."
So I got him a little wine and some brandy, and I put things
straight about his bed. But I began to be troubled in my mind lest
Jemmy and the Major might be too long of coming back. What with
this occupation for my thoughts and hands, I didn't hear a foot upon
the stairs, and was startled when I saw the Major stopped short in
the middle of the room by the eyes of the man upon the bed, and
knowing him then, as I had known him a little while ago.
There was anger in the Major's face, and there was horror and
repugnance and I don't know what. So I went up to him and I led him
to the bedside, and when I clasped my hands and lifted of them up,
the Major did the like.
"O Lord" I says "Thou knowest what we two saw together of the
sufferings and sorrows of that young creetur now with Thee. If this
dying man is truly penitent, we two together humbly pray Thee to
have mercy on him!"
The Major says "Amen!" and then after a little stop I whispers him,
"Dear old friend fetch our beloved boy." And the Major, so clever
as to have got to understand it all without being told a word, went
away and brought him.
Never never never shall I forget the fair bright face of our boy
when he stood at the foot of the bed, looking at his unknown father.
And O so like his dear young mother then!
"Jemmy" I says, "I have found out all about this poor gentleman who
is so ill, and he did lodge in the old house once. And as he wants
to see all belonging to it, now that he is passing away, I sent for
"Ah poor man!" says Jemmy stepping forward and touching one of his
hands with great gentleness. "My heart melts for him. Poor, poor
The eyes that were so soon to close for ever turned to me, and I was
not that strong in the pride of my strength that I could resist
"My darling boy, there is a reason in the secret history of this
fellow-creetur lying as the best and worst of us must all lie one
day, which I think would ease his spirit in his last hour if you
would lay your cheek against his forehead and say, 'May God forgive
"O Gran," says Jemmy with a full heart, "I am not worthy!" But he
leaned down and did it. Then the faltering fingers made out to
catch hold of my sleeve at last, and I believe he was a-trying to
kiss me when he died.
* * *
There my dear! There you have the story of my Legacy in full, and
it's worth ten times the trouble I have spent upon it if you are
pleased to like it.
You might suppose that it set us against the little French town of
Sens, but no we didn't find that. I found myself that I never
looked up at the high tower atop of the other tower, but the days
came back again when that fair young creetur with her pretty bright
hair trusted in me like a mother, and the recollection made the
place so peaceful to me as I can't express. And every soul about
the hotel down to the pigeons in the courtyard made friends with
Jemmy and the Major, and went lumbering away with them on all sorts
of expeditions in all sorts of vehicles drawn by rampagious cart-
horses,--with heads and without,--mud for paint and ropes for
harness,--and every new friend dressed in blue like a butcher, and
every new horse standing on his hind legs wanting to devour and
consume every other horse, and every man that had a whip to crack
crack-crack-crack-crack-cracking it as if it was a schoolboy with
his first. As to the Major my dear that man lived the greater part
of his time with a little tumbler in one hand and a bottle of small
wine in the other, and whenever he saw anybody else with a little
tumbler, no matter who it was,--the military character with the
tags, or the inn-servants at their supper in the courtyard, or
townspeople a chatting on a bench, or country people a starting home
after market,--down rushes the Major to clink his glass against
their glasses and cry,--Hola! Vive Somebody! or Vive Something! as
if he was beside himself. And though I could not quite approve of
the Major's doing it, still the ways of the world are the ways of
the world varying according to the different parts of it, and
dancing at all in the open Square with a lady that kept a barber's
shop my opinion is that the Major was right to dance his best and to
lead off with a power that I did not think was in him, though I was
a little uneasy at the Barricading sound of the cries that were set
up by the other dancers and the rest of the company, until when I
says "What are they ever calling out Jemmy?" Jemmy says, "They're
calling out Gran, Bravo the Military English! Bravo the Military
English!" which was very gratifying to my feelings as a Briton and
became the name the Major was known by.
But every evening at a regular time we all three sat out in the
balcony of the hotel at the end of the courtyard, looking up at the
golden and rosy light as it changed on the great towers, and looking
at the shadows of the towers as they changed on all about us
ourselves included, and what do you think we did there? My dear, if
Jemmy hadn't brought some other of those stories of the Major's
taking down from the telling of former lodgers at Eighty-one Norfolk
Street, and if he didn't bring 'em out with this speech:
"Here you are Gran! Here you are godfather! More of 'em! I'll
read. And though you wrote 'em for me, godfather, I know you won't
disapprove of my making 'em over to Gran; will you?"
"No, my dear boy," says the Major. "Everything we have is hers, and
we are hers."
"Hers ever affectionately and devotedly J. Jackman, and J. Jackman
Lirriper," cries the Young Rogue giving me a close hug. "Very well
then godfather. Look here. As Gran is in the Legacy way just now,
I shall make these stories a part of Gran's Legacy. I'll leave 'em
to her. What do you say godfather?"
"Hip hip Hurrah!" says the Major.
"Very well then," cries Jemmy all in a bustle. "Vive the Military
English! Vive the Lady Lirriper! Vive the Jemmy Jackman Ditto!
Vive the Legacy! Now, you look out, Gran. And you look out,
godfather. I'LL read! And I'll tell you what I'll do besides. On
the last night of our holiday here when we are all packed and going
away, I'll top up with something of my own."
"Mind you do sir" says I.
CHAPTER II--MRS. LIRRIPER RELATES HOW JEMMY TOPPED UP
Well my dear and so the evening readings of those jottings of the
Major's brought us round at last to the evening when we were all
packed and going away next day, and I do assure you that by that
time though it was deliciously comfortable to look forward to the
dear old house in Norfolk Street again, I had formed quite a high
opinion of the French nation and had noticed them to be much more
homely and domestic in their families and far more simple and
amiable in their lives than I had ever been led to expect, and it
did strike me between ourselves that in one particular they might be
imitated to advantage by another nation which I will not mention,
and that is in the courage with which they take their little
enjoyments on little means and with little things and don't let
solemn big-wigs stare them out of countenance or speechify them
dull, of which said solemn big-wigs I have ever had the one opinion
that I wish they were all made comfortable separately in coppers
with the lids on and never let out any more.
"Now young man," I says to Jemmy when we brought our chairs into the
balcony that last evening, "you please to remember who was to 'top
"All right Gran" says Jemmy. "I am the illustrious personage."
But he looked so serious after he had made me that light answer,
that the Major raised his eyebrows at me and I raised mine at the
"Gran and godfather," says Jemmy, "you can hardly think how much my
mind has run on Mr. Edson's death."
It gave me a little check. "Ah! it was a sad scene my love" I says,
"and sad remembrances come back stronger than merry. But this" I
says after a little silence, to rouse myself and the Major and Jemmy
all together, "is not topping up. Tell us your story my dear."
"I will" says Jemmy.
"What is the date sir?" says I. "Once upon a time when pigs drank
"No Gran," says Jemmy, still serious; "once upon a time when the
French drank wine."
Again I glanced at the Major, and the Major glanced at me.
"In short, Gran and godfather," says Jemmy, looking up, "the date is
this time, and I'm going to tell you Mr. Edson's story."
The flutter that it threw me into. The change of colour on the part
of the Major!
"That is to say, you understand," our bright-eyed boy says, "I am
going to give you my version of it. I shall not ask whether it's
right or not, firstly because you said you knew very little about
it, Gran, and secondly because what little you did know was a
I folded my hands in my lap and I never took my eyes off Jemmy as he
went running on.
"The unfortunate gentleman" Jemmy commences, "who is the subject of
our present narrative was the son of Somebody, and was born
Somewhere, and chose a profession Somehow. It is not with those
parts of his career that we have to deal; but with his early
attachment to a young and beautiful lady."
I thought I should have dropped. I durstn't look at the Major; but
I know what his state was, without looking at him.
"The father of our ill-starred hero" says Jemmy, copying as it
seemed to me the style of some of his story-books, "was a worldly
man who entertained ambitious views for his only son and who firmly
set his face against the contemplated alliance with a virtuous but
penniless orphan. Indeed he went so far as roundly to assure our
hero that unless he weaned his thoughts from the object of his
devoted affection, he would disinherit him. At the same time, he
proposed as a suitable match the daughter of a neighbouring
gentleman of a good estate, who was neither ill-favoured nor
unamiable, and whose eligibility in a pecuniary point of view could
not be disputed. But young Mr. Edson, true to the first and only
love that had inflamed his breast, rejected all considerations of
self-advancement, and, deprecating his father's anger in a
respectful letter, ran away with her."
My dear I had begun to take a turn for the better, but when it come
to running away I began to take another turn for the worse.
"The lovers" says Jemmy "fled to London and were united at the altar
of Saint Clement's Danes. And it is at this period of their simple
but touching story that we find them inmates of the dwelling of a
highly-respected and beloved lady of the name of Gran, residing
within a hundred miles of Norfolk Street."
I felt that we were almost safe now, I felt that the dear boy had no
suspicion of the bitter truth, and I looked at the Major for the
first time and drew a long breath. The Major gave me a nod.
"Our hero's father" Jemmy goes on "proving implacable and carrying
his threat into unrelenting execution, the struggles of the young
couple in London were severe, and would have been far more so, but
for their good angel's having conducted them to the abode of Mrs.
Gran; who, divining their poverty (in spite of their endeavours to
conceal it from her), by a thousand delicate arts smoothed their
rough way, and alleviated the sharpness of their first distress."
Here Jemmy took one of my hands in one of his, and began a marking
the turns of his story by making me give a beat from time to time
upon his other hand.
"After a while, they left the house of Mrs. Gran, and pursued their
fortunes through a variety of successes and failures elsewhere. But
in all reverses, whether for good or evil, the words of Mr. Edson to
the fair young partner of his life were, 'Unchanging Love and Truth
will carry us through all!'"
My hand trembled in the dear boy's, those words were so wofully
unlike the fact.
"Unchanging Love and Truth" says Jemmy over again, as if he had a
proud kind of a noble pleasure in it, "will carry us through all!
Those were his words. And so they fought their way, poor but
gallant and happy, until Mrs. Edson gave birth to a child."
"A daughter," I says.
"No," says Jemmy, "a son. And the father was so proud of it that he
could hardly bear it out of his sight. But a dark cloud overspread
the scene. Mrs. Edson sickened, drooped, and died."
"Ah! Sickened, drooped, and died!" I says.
"And so Mr. Edson's only comfort, only hope on earth, and only
stimulus to action, was his darling boy. As the child grew older,
he grew so like his mother that he was her living picture. It used
to make him wonder why his father cried when he kissed him. But
unhappily he was like his mother in constitution as well as in face,
and lo, died too before he had grown out of childhood. Then Mr.
Edson, who had good abilities, in his forlornness and despair, threw
them all to the winds. He became apathetic, reckless, lost. Little
by little he sank down, down, down, down, until at last he almost
lived (I think) by gaming. And so sickness overtook him in the town
of Sens in France, and he lay down to die. But now that he laid him
down when all was done, and looked back upon the green Past beyond
the time when he had covered it with ashes, he thought gratefully of
the good Mrs. Gran long lost sight of, who had been so kind to him
and his young wife in the early days of their marriage, and he left
the little that he had as a last Legacy to her. And she, being
brought to see him, at first no more knew him than she would know
from seeing the ruin of a Greek or Roman Temple, what it used to be
before it fell; but at length she remembered him. And then he told
her, with tears, of his regret for the misspent part of his life,
and besought her to think as mildly of it as she could, because it
was the poor fallen Angel of his unchanging Love and Constancy after
all. And because she had her grandson with her, and he fancied that
his own boy, if he had lived, might have grown to be something like
him, he asked her to let him touch his forehead with his cheek and
say certain parting words."
Jemmy's voice sank low when it got to that, and tears filled my
eyes, and filled the Major's.
"You little Conjurer" I says, "how did you ever make it all out? Go
in and write it every word down, for it's a wonder."
Which Jemmy did, and I have repeated it to you my dear from his
Then the Major took my hand and kissed it, and said, "Dearest madam
all has prospered with us."
"Ah Major" I says drying my eyes, "we needn't have been afraid. We
might have known it. Treachery don't come natural to beaming youth;
but trust and pity, love and constancy,--they do, thank God!"