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"Senex Corycius " of Kingston, might for taste and smell have come from the gardens of the Hesperides. E. WALFORD.


I HAVE a kind old friend in Westburnia, with whom I'generally manage to stop on the rare occasions of my having to remain a few days in town. He is a plain-going fellow in his ways, and so we are exactly suited as companions. His wife knew mine when they were girls, and I knew him when we were boys, and thus we have a never-failing source of reminiscences on which to fall back. It saddens one to think how few of these antique friendships survive the bereavements of time: he and I stand alone of our contemporaries.


Understand then that we are intimate friends, and that I go to his house just as I would to an hotel; with as little scruple, that is to say, though with ten times the sense of enjoyment. I am accustomed to be welcomed on arrival by the whole posse comitatus. little ones jump at my neck, and the big girls expect to be kissed, and the jolly old fellow shakes hands in a style to make my rheumatic shoulder-joint suffer for it; so that, on the whole, there is very fair compensation for the nuisance of having to pack up my carpet-bag and bid adieu for a few days to my own household gods.

This was my case the other day. The post had brought one of the well-known foolscap envelopes with the Lincoln's Inn post-mark. I was wanted by my lawyer about an old matter of trust administration, and was requested to be at his office to meet certain other parties concerned, in the forenoon of the next day but one. Of course I grumbled a little, as all thoroughly domesticated elderly gentlemen are likely to do under such circumstances. Of course it was a great bore to be constantly mixed up with law business of which I understood nothing, and to have to leave the garden just then, of all times in the year, when the bedding-out of last year's cuttings was going on. But I will honestly confess that I was all the while conscious of a wish that I might never have any worse subject for grumbling. I was not altogether sorry to have an excuse for a run up to town, for it was some time since my last visit, and there were plenty of things I wanted to see, among the rest this ghost, that seems to have taken up all the exhibition room in London. I should have been ashamed to make the journey on purpose, and my housekeeper, Deborah, is far too sharp to allow of my sneaking off under false pretences.

It was therefore with only a moderate assumption of the air of a victimised person that I gave my farewell directions to Deborah, and the gardener. They both do pretty much as they choose when I am absent (or present, for the matter of that), but it looks well to enter into particulars, and I like saving appearances; so George was told how far to proceed with his bedding, and promised the aid of any hints as to the arrangements of colour that I might be able to pick up at the Crystal Palace. Deborah was charged in general terms to keep all safe and see that nothing went wrong, and both were practically left to their own devices till they should see me again.

On arriving at the house in Bayswater I was received by the mistress of the establishment, who told me that her husband had been most inopportunely summoned into Cornwall. Had he known that I was coming, which, not being a prophet, he, of course, could not have known, some excuse might have been forthcoming, and he might have managed to stop in town. "And I only wish he had, I only wish he had known," said Mrs. Tomkins.


There was an uncommon fervour about her expression, which left no room to doubt that she meant what she said. I looked upon her as being at the moment under the influence of excess of hospitality, and thanked her accordingly. She knew how delighted I should have been to find the whole party at home, including Dick from the West Indies, and little Tom from school. The more the merrier in that house. "But," said I, "we must make the best of it, and rub on under difficulties. Here are you as large as life; you haven't been summoned into Cornwall, no more has Lucy there, nor little Dick."

"No, we haven't," she replied; “but I almost wish we had been. To tell you the honest truth, I do believe that had it not been for your visit, I should have packed up our things and been off this very day."

This sounded queer, and but for the perfect frankness of our intimacy, would have been perhaps rude. I won't say that it did not make me a little uncomfortable. "This comes," thought I," of doing things in a hurry. What an ass I was not to have left time for an answer. "But then I never did leave time for an answer on these occasions; so all I could do was to make a resolution, with a mental note thereof at the moment, never again so to commit myself to the tender mercies of contingencies.

And then again, what could be the pressing business calling on them both to leave London just at that time? I knew their affairs pretty well, and was perfectly aware of the nature of

the call into Cornwall, and that it was what did not in the least require the presence of the wife. And yet it would take a good pull to get her so far from home: she was not much given to roaming about the country.

I fancy that I stared at hearing her speech, and eyed her open-mouthed for something like that brief space of time that is defined as being "the twinkling of a bed-post." I thought she looked queer. There was unusual excitement in her eye, and her cheek was flushed. I looked from mother to daughters. Flora, the eldest, looked conscious and amused; Mary, the second, looked frightened; and the young fry much as they always did, bursting with uproarious merriment: but so they would in a beleaguered town, or a foundering ship.

I could not be wrong in leaving them to act as though unfettered by my presence.

"You shall go," I said, "if you really want to go, not one minute later on my account. Get your things ready, and I'll see you off to the station at once.

“Oh, yes, mamma, do go," cried Mary. "Nonsense, mamma, don't think of such a thing," said Flora.

"Girls, be quiet, do," said the mother. "How am I to know whether I am standing on my head or my feet if you pull me to pieces in this way? This is how they have been going on all the morning," said she, turning to me; one says one thing and the other says another, till really I'm in that state that I'd thank anyone to order me what I am to do."


"Well," said I, "I'll soon do that. Pack up your things and be off to your husband, and on our way down to the station you shall tell me what it's all about-that is to say, if you desire so to do, and if I can be of any use to you.'

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66 'No, that will never do. Jack (that was her husband) would not forgive me in a hurry if I were to leave you to an empty house, and what's more, I could not forgive myself.”

"There would be the children," I replied; "we should get on capitally. Besides, there's plenty of room for me elsewhere in London." "Oh, no," shouted the little ones in chorus. "You must not go elsewhere, you must stop here."

"Do stop," said Polly; "and mamma, do you go, it would be such fun, I should be mistress."

"Oh, no, mamma, pray," cried Flora, as though in actual terror, "you must not go; or if you do, we must go too."

"We will none of us go," said mamma. "Here we are, and here we will stop. you little ones be off to the school-room.


Polly and Flora, may remain, and amongst us we will try to explain our mystery, and perhaps from amongst the multitude of counsellors we may manage to get a little wisdom."

The little ones vanished, and the rest of us proceeded, with a degree of tormality that really was awe-inspiring, to open séance. We took seats close to one another round the fire; Polly tittered a little, but the mother and Flora looked solemn enough to frighten one.

"Read this," said Mrs. Tomkins, taking out of her pocket a letter. "Goodness gracious, what have I done that people should send me such letters?"

It ran thus :


A sincere well-wisher desires to give you timely notice of mischief that will happen to you if you do not take care. Enemies are about you. Trust no one, and remember thieves !"

"No signature," I observed; "do you recognise the hand?"

"Not the least in the world: but that was hardly to be expected, for of course it is disguised."

"I know who it is," said Polly, "it's a trick of Sally Temple's, and it's just like her; she knows papa is away, and so thinks she can frighten poor dear mamma out of her senses."

"No such thing," said Mrs. Tomkins, "it's the kind of letter they send in Tipperary before they shoot the landlords, only your papa is not a landlord, that's one comfort."

"Not to the tenants, mamma," rejoined Polly; "for I'm sure it would be a comfort to them to have such a nice landlord as he would be."

"What's the post-mark on the envelope?" I asked.

None," was the reply. It was handed in at the door, and the messenger took himself off, saying there was no answer.

"Well, then, of course your plan is to put it in the hands of the police; they will scent out the conspiracy, if conspiracy there be."

"But haven't you seen what is written on the other side; there, read that."

I looked at the reverse of the sheet, and I found this postscript appended to the body of the letter:

"N.B. If you go to the police do not show this letter, as it might get those into trouble that you would not like to injure."

"Well," said I, "and do you mean to respect this request?"


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'Polly, you silly child, be quiet," said mamma, laughing, however, in spite of herself; it really is no laughing matter, and I am seriously terrified."

We regarded one another with gravity enough for the wise men of Gotham, but nothing very bright in the shape of an idea seemed to be forthcoming. I pitied my poor friend, though I cannot say that I was seriously alarmed on her account; I think it was rather in the light of an annoyance that I regarded the affair. The case seemed one of practical joking; ill-timed, no doubt, and in bad taste, but hardly alarming. Still, occurring in the absence of the husband, it was calculated to frighten the feminine community.

I must be constitutionally slow, for in all cases of emergency I find others flying off to do something before I have made up my mind as to what ought to be done. A French novelist has devised a character whose golden rule is, in all such cases to do nothing, but to let difficulties solve themselves. I think I must be a cousin of that gentleman's, for such is very much my line of action. There were one or two bright ideas that did present themselves to me on this occasion, and the wonder is that I did not speak them out, but I suppose the girls were too quick for me. One doesn't like to commit oneself in a hurry, and there would have been no revoking such a step as appealing to the police, or sending to the Wellington Barracks to request the loan of a file or two of soldiers.

I think I first tried my hand (when at last I did speak) at a little general consolation. We were, thank goodness, not in a land of ribbandism and threatening letters; we had policemen and bolts and bars, with all the newest improvements. Moreover, they were no longer in the unhappy state of unprotected womanhood, for there was I to protect them, to share their dangers, and scare away evildoers.

be sure," said Mrs. Tomkins; "a man's always a man; but the letter warns us against people who live about us, and any such people would know that you are not very young, nor strong."

"Well, then, let us examine our dangerous ground; let us take all the persons in and about this place, and try whether we can hit on any one subject. If we really can find no way out of this perplexity except by aid of the police, you must not sacrifice your peace and quiet to a vain scruple about a person unknown."

We proceeded to review the establishment. First, there was the man Robert, who used to come in to clean boots and knives; he had been in the house but a short time, but he was so backed up with unexceptionable references, and besides, so well known to a personal friend, that it was not possible to suspect him. The cook was an elderly person, who had entered their service as a girl; there was no mistake about her. Then came Jane, the name was new to me. "Who was Jane?"

"Oh, did I not know Jane? That was owing to her absence down at St. Leonards at the time of my last visit. She had been ill, poor thing, and they had given her six weeks' change of air at the sea-side. She was quite beyond suspicion, for if signs and tokens were to be worth anything, there was not one of their household so attached to them as was Jane."

It seemed that she was the housemaid, upper housemaid you might say, as there was a younger girl under her. She had come with high recommendations from a lady in Suffolk, and from the first moment of her entering the house had taken to them uncommonly. They, too, had been much pleased with her, and circumstances had so turned out as to afford them opportunity of being kind to her. Her health had failed, and they had nursed her, and eventually sent her down to St. Leonards, where she had recovered strength.

"But not her cheerfulness," added Mrs. Tomkins, "I never saw a girl more changed in this respect. She has been wonderfully depressed for some time now, though I never was more struck by it than immediately after her return from St. Leonards. I think you may put her out of the question so far as this matter is concerned; besides, I am sorry to say that she has given me warning, and what's more, she obstinately refuses to tell me why." The wicked little Polly was evidently laugh- I was interested in this account of the ing in her sleeve as I spoke. Was she think- housemaid, and asked a good many questions ing of my silvery head and gouty foot? Was about her. I saw that Mrs. Tomkins was she thinking "non tali auxilio?" seriously hurt at the girl's reticence, consider"It's a great thing having you with us, to ing it a symptom of ingratitude. Moreover,

it was an unfortunate juncture for a change in the household, and for replacing by a stranger one whom they regarded as a faithful and even affectionate servant. The girl was not even disposed to wait for the customary period of warning, but wanted to go at once.

"And refuses to say why or wherefore," said my friend. "I've almost gone down on my knees to her, but nothing that I can say or do seems to have any effect."

"Does she know that you have received a threatening letter?"

"I've never told her, but perhaps she may have heard us talking. I've sometimes fancied it must be so, and that she is afraid of remaining."

It seemed a pity that a poor girl should lose a comfortable place for such a silly reason, and inconvenience everybody about her needlessly; to say nothing of the misery to herself of yielding up herself to nervous terror. I volunteered to talk to her, and in Tomkins's absence, as an old family friend, bring her to reason if I could. It was just possible, too, that she might know something about the threatened danger, and have better grounds for her apprehension than we supposed. So this was the point of our investigation at which we cried our first halt. Jane was to be sent up to me, and in order that I might have a fair field for my inquisitorial functions, the rest were to get out of the way.

Up she came, a good-looking girl as you would wish to see, neatly dressed, clean and proper in her person, staid in her demeanour. As I looked carefully into her face, I perceived marks of the nervous agitation for which I had been disposed to give her credit. Not being a physiognomist or a physiologist, I could not exactly define what the symptoms were, but by the instinct of human sympathy I felt that. she was a soul in trouble.

"Come in, Jane," I began, "and shut the door." She obeyed, and advancing some couple of steps, stood looking at me.

"Jane," I said, "you know that I am a very old friend of the family, and can talk about their concerns almost as if it were your master himself. I have come unexpectedly to pay them a visit, and find them in some trouble; among other matters I find that you have determined to leave them, and at once. Is it so?"

It was so.

"Now then, you must tell me why you want to go in such a hurry."

No answer was forthcoming to this challenge, and her mouth was resolutely screwed up to the expression that no answer should be forthcoming.

I went through no end of suggestive questions. "Was she affronted at anything?" "Was the place too hard for her?" "Had anything or anybody gone wrong?"

My ingenuity was baffled at every point. Not one word of explanation could I elicit. According to her version nothing had gone wrong, and nobody had given her offence; everybody had been most kind to her, and she would do anything to serve them. This she asserted with suffused eyes.

"And yet, my good girl, you throw them all into tantrums by taking yourself off in this mysterious way, without a word explanatory of your motives. Do you think, Jane, this is a proper return for their kindness?"

She winced a little at this, and the tears began to flow, and she was still more moved as I proceeded to dwell on the fact that the family were in trouble, and in loneliness.

I then asked her whether she was afraid of anything, or had any idea of impending risk which she might avoid by quitting her present habitation. The supposition appeared to excite her indignation. She muttered words from which I collected that she only wished she could avert their dangers by sharing them, but she said nothing distinctly, and maintained her stubborn demeanour.

I told her, advancing thus step by step, that danger actually was, or at least appeared to be, impending over the family, and that, under the circumstances, for her to go away would be to withdraw a comfort from them.

But all was useless. She must go, and she would go, and "a happy thing " she muttered it would be for them when she was gone.

She insisted on being allowed to go at once, and turned a deaf ear to all my representations of the unkindness of leaving the family in distress for immediate attendance. Her resolution was evidently fixed, but at the same time I could see about her indications of such sorrow and distress, that I felt quite certain that some deep motive was at the bottom of her resolve.

Of course the girl could go if so she willed it, and certainly she had a right to keep her secret, if such were her determination. But I had begun to feel a deep interest in the case, and somehow had worked myself into the conviction that it was of importance that I should succeed in making her unfold her mystery. She was, besides, worth saving for her own sake. But what more could I do? What force of suasion remained in reserve?

None that I could call into requisition, but it appeared that there was a more powerful agent than myself. Little Minnie, who had been sent off to play in the school-room, burst in upon our tête-à-tête.

With a hop, skip, and a jump she was about the girl's neck, nearly upsetting her in her vehemence. "Jane," she cried, "dear Jane, you shall not go."

The child was crying abundantly, and spoke with all the inconsiderate vehemence of childhood. Somebody had told her that their favourite was going, and hither on the moment she had rushed. Children are generally pretty eager, and have but slight consideration for obstacles, but I think I never saw such a desperado for the moment as poor little


I should say the one and only talent, with which I am endowed; but this one power I do possess in an unusual degree. I saw in a mo. ment that it was Jane herself who had given the anonymous warning. Certain it is that my colour rose, or that I started, or did something else to prove that I was not a mere statue.

Jane's quick eye caught the sign in a moment, and putting down the child she made for the door, as though to escape. Her look had suddenly become that of detected guilt.

I stood between her and the door, and peremptorily motioned her back. As though

"Jane, you shall not go," sobbed she out; in defect of moral force she obeyed, and stood "promise me this minute, promise."

It was evident that the child's pleading was far from ineffective. I thought at the moment that it would not have moved me much under the circumstances, except to anger. I am afraid that I should have pushed her offgently, I hope, but still I think I should have pushed her off.

Like all

Jane, however, felt differently. kindly-hearted women, she retained, under all difficulties, her sympathy with childhood. She returned the child's caress, and began herself to sob; anon tears trickled down her cheeks, and gave hopes that her obstinacy was being shaken.

But it was not much she said when she did speak; a soothing word or two to the child was all that was forthcoming. She stuck to her text, and all that poor Minnie could get out of her was a promise that she would come and see them.

"Boo! hoo! oo!" sobbed Minnie, "but I want to go and see you too."

"No, miss, you cannot do that; it is too far."

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waiting the next act of the drama.

"Minnie," I said, “we are busy now, and you must go back to the school-room. I will take care of this address, so off with you." And I lifted her out, and shut the door. I turned to Jane, but before I could speak one single word to her, she had cowered beneath the altered expression of my face. Lower and lower sank her head, and more and more violently trembled her knees, till at last she fairly was kneeling on the floor, and this before I had spoken one single word.

After all, what did I know? Might not the letter have been written without guilty complicity? Perhaps the whole affair was merely the working of some morbid sensibility on the mind of the sick girl, a residuary symptom of her St. Leonards illness.

This was beyond my power to answer. One thing I did know, that with good or evil intent the two documents had been written by the same person, and that she was there in that room before me.

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As I knew, so I spoke. "Jane, you wrote that letter." "What letter?" she murmured with a poor attempt at non-comprehension.

"That letter which has thrown the family into trouble. You know you did, and you feel that I know you did, and that no attempt at evasion can succeed."

And evidently she did feel it. She writhed in anguish on the floor, and bitterly wrung her hands, but did not reiterate denial. Her pale lips, parting voiceless, moved me to compassion, and I advanced to ring the bell.

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