Edgar Jepson.

Pollyooly; a romance of long felt wants and the red haired girl who filled them online

. (page 3 of 16)
Online LibraryEdgar JepsonPollyooly; a romance of long felt wants and the red haired girl who filled them → online text (page 3 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

When Pollyooly brought him his bacon, he said,
"So you have established yourselves in your new
quarters, Pollyooly?"


"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir," said Pollyooly; and
her eyes shone on him gratefully.

He gazed at her with a considerable pleasure, few-
he was not one of those on whose aesthetic sensi-
bilities the possession of an angel child as Temple
laundress could pall.

Then he said, "On consideration, Pollyooly, I
have come to the conclusion that, now that you have
become my resident housekeeper, you can no longer
be truly reckoned a Temple laundress."

"No, sir," said Pollyooly.

The Honorable John Ruffin surveyed her gravely
for a minute ; then he went on, "Moreover I do not
think that the name 'Pollyooly' is quite the name for
the housekeeper of a gentleman of of shall we
say, rank and fashion. It is a position of dignity,
you know."

"Yes, sir," said Pollyooly gravely.

"And naturally the holder of a position of dignity
should have a dignified name."

"Yes, sir," said Pollyooly.

"Therefore I shall call you 'Mrs. Hooley/ " said
the Honorable John Rufftn.
k ".Yes, sir," said Pollyooly. "But my name isn't


'Hooley,' sir. It's Bride like Aunt Hannah's; and
my other name's 'Mary.' '

"The deuce it is !" said the Honorable John Ruffin
in no little surprise. "I'd made up my mind that it
was Hooley pronounced ' 'Ooley' in the metropol-
itan fashion."

"No, sir. They always called me Pollyooly in-
stead of plain Polly," said Pollyooly in a somewhat
apologetic tone.

"Ah, I see : the 'ooly' is a diminutive affix express-
ive of affection," said the Honorable John Ruffin
with an air of enlightenment.

"Yes, sir," said Pollyooly politely, though she
knew neither what a diminutive nor an affix was.

"Mary Bride Mary Bride," said the Honorable
John Ruffin in a tone of thoughtful approval. "It's
an incredibly appropriate name for an angel child.
Well, I shall call you 'Mrs. Bride.' "

"Aren't I rather young to be called 'Mrs.,' sir?"
said Pollyooly in a doubtful tone.

"Undoubtedly. But housekeepers are always
'Mrs.' in the best families. We must follow the
custom and ignore your youth," said the Honorable
John Ruffin firmly.


"Yes, sir," said Polly ooly.

The Honorable John Ruffin surveyed her thought-
fully; then he said in a somewhat rueful tone, "I
feel that something ought to be done in the matter
of your dress. But, alas! the exchequer (not the
public exchequer, of which I intend to be one day
chancellor), but my own private exchequer is

Pollyooly looked ruefully down at her oft- washed
blue print frock, which had grown uncommonly
short in the skirt; and, a faint flush mantled her

"Mrs. Brown is going to make me a new frock,
sir, when I get the stuff," she said.

"I must get the stuff as soon as something in the
nature of a ship comes home," said the Honorable
John Ruffin. "My mother used to give all the maids
what, I believe, are called 'dress-lengths,' every
Christmas ; and we must not let the fact that Christ-
mas has stolen several months' march on us cause
any breach of a time-honored custom. Only the time
is not yet."

"Thank you, sir," said Pollyooly. "And in the
afternoon, sir, when I have done my work and you


have visitors, I can wear my new black frock, the
one that came out of the burial-money."

"Good," said the Honorable John Ruffin. "That
will tide us over the present crisis."

He found no reason to regret that he had estab-
lished Pollyooly and the Lump in his attic. He had
been right in supposing that the Lump had gained
his name from the enjoyment of a pacific nature.
He never heard his voice raised in a wail or a whim-
per. Indeed, he seemed a noiseless child. It also
pleased the Honorable John Ruffin greatly that he
should be an authentic, but red-haired, cherub, the
perfect match of his angel sister. The Honorable
John Ruffin had a very strong sense of the fitness of
things ; and he would not for the world have had it

Pollyooly was considerably surprised by his mak-
ing, or rather trying to make, a change in his diet.
At least once a week he would order in a cold roast
chicken or a tongue, from Messrs. Spiers and Pond,
with whom, for some quite inexplicable reason, his
credit was good, and eat a scrap of it after his eggs
at breakfast.

Always he said, as he laid down his knife and


fork : "It is no use, Pollyooly. In vain I try to train
myself to become a fine old English gentleman, one
of the olden time. I can not bring myself to devour
these solid meats at breakfast. Do not let my appe-
tite be weakened by the sight of this severe dish
again. Take it away and eat it up at the hours at
which it is appropriate."

Pollyooly always thanked him gratefully. She
needed to spend no money at all on solid foods, only
on the Lump's milk. She found herself growing af-
fluent in the midst of luxury.

She contrived to see very little of Mrs. Meeken.
It was not only that she disliked the scent with
which the air round that old-time type of English
womanhood was laden, but also she shunned her be-
cause she brought back the painful memory of her
dark hour. Sometimes Mr. Gedge-Tomkins passed
her on the stairs, drawing aside the skirt of his bar-
rister's robe, as if he feared it would be contam-
inated by brushing against her. That Pollyooly did
not mind at all. She had never respected Mr. Gedge-
Tomkins. Besides she was quite sure that were the
deception to be practised again, for the Lump's sake
she would practise it again.


She had been established some ten days in her new
home, when one morning Mr. Gedge-Tomkins and
the Honorable John Ruffin came out of the doors
of their respective chambers at the same moment, on
their way to the Law Courts. They greeted each
other amicably enough, though either enjoyed some-
thing of the contempt for the other of the ant for the
butterfly and of the butterfly for the ant Neither
contempt was really well-grounded, for there was
more of the ant in the Honorable John Ruffin and
more of the butterfly in Mr. Gedge-Tomkins than
either of them dreamed.

They walked down the stairs in the dignified fash-
ion their robes demanded, talking, with the English-
man's passionate interest, of the weather.

But as they were crossing the King's Bench Walk,
Mr. Gedge-Tomkins said, "I see that you've kept on
that dishonest little girl, in spite of the way she
tricked us about her aunt's death, as your laun-

"No, not my laundress; she is my housekeeper
my resident housekeeper," said the Honorable John
Ruffin coldly.

"Well, all I can say is, it's putting a premium on


dishonesty," said Mr. Gedge-Tomkins in a firmly
moral tone.

"I am quite sure that Pollyooly is as honest as the
day," said the Honorable John Ruffin; and his eyes

"Well, on deception then," said Mr. Gedge-Tom-

"As long as they do their work and do not rob
him a gentleman has no concern whatever with the
morals of his servants. I leave that kind of thing to
the middle classes," said the Honorable John Ruffin

"The morals of our servants concern us very
deeply," said Mr. Gedge-Tomkins ponderously.
"And mark my words : you'll live to regret having
that child about the deceitful little minx!"

"Evidently you have never come across a real
minx, or you wouldn't call Pollyooly one. I hope
you'll come across one very soon. She'd do you a
world of good," said the Honorable John Ruffin

"That child will rob you to a dead certainty," said
Mr. Gedge-Tomkins with solemn conviction.

"Well, if she does not that I believe for an in-


stant she will I shall never know it. Pollyooly is
very intelligent," said the Honorable John Ruffin
flippantly. "At any rate she 1 is not a perpetual tor-
ture to my olfactory nerve. She doesn't smell like
ail Indian village at Earl's Court."

"I attach far more importance to honesty," said
Mr. Gedge-Tomkins even more ponderously.

"I hope you've got it," said the Honorable John
Ruffin in a tone of considerable doubt. Then he
added warmly, "Why, hang it all! If Pollyooly
hadn't tried to keep her little brother out of the
workhouse by concealing the fact that a black-
guardly road-hog had run over her unfortunate
aunt, I should have thought very poorly of her in-

"Ah, you're one of our unmoral aristocracy,"
said Mr. Gedge-Tomkins in a tone of sad indul-
gence. "I'm a plain Englishman."

"And you've got a plain Englishwoman a devil-
ish plain Englishwoman for housekeeper. So if
you're not happy, you ought to be," said the Honor-
able John Ruffin in the tone of one closing a dis-

But though he had so firmly deprecated the re-


tention of Pollyooly after her lack of openness, it is
to be doubted that Mrs. Meeken brought true happi-
ness to Mr. Gedge-Tomkins. The impression,
though he was no expert in the matter, that his
rooms were not so clean as in the days of Pollyooly,
was growing stronger and stronger in his mind.
Also he had not failed to perceive the aroma which
Mrs. Meeken diffused into the ambient air of the
King's Bench Walk. The Honorable John Ruffin's
reference to it had the effect of making his nostrils
grow more sensitive to it; and he learned that it was
a lingering aroma loath to leave a haunt so proper to
it as his blackening chambers. Other matters also
troubled him at times; but, absorbed in his work, he
could give them but little attention.

It was a full ten days after he had so solemnly
warned the Honorable John Ruffin. against Polly-
ooly that, one morning as she was on the very point
of setting the rashers of the Honorable John Ruffin
to grill, she heard a loud roaring from the cham-
bers of Mr. Gedge-Tomkins. It was a sound of a
surprising volume; and she hastily opened the door
of the Honorable John Ruffin's chambers, to dis-
cover what it meant, just in time to see Mrs. Meeken


scuttle forth from the opposite doorway with all the
appearance of a panic-stricken, but aromatic, hen.

Mr. Gedge-Tomkins stood, four-square and
dreadful, in the doorway from which she had flut-
tered. His large face was flushed; and his eyes
glowed with a volcanic indignation.

"Go!" he bellowed in a terrible voice. "My
weekly bill has gone up seven shillings ! My rooms
are 1 filthy! You have stolen half my underlinen!
You have not only stolen my whisky, but you have
watered what you left watered it watered it! Go!
and never come near the place again."

"I wants a week's wages instead of notice. I
knows my rights," cried Mrs. Meeken, quavering,
but shrill.

"Not a penny ! Not a penny ! Go, or I'll throw
you down the stairs," bellowed Mr. Gedge-Tomkins,
with a quite extraordinary air of meaning what he

He was plainly past the chivalrous stage; and
Mrs. Meeken did not wait She shuffled down the
stairs as fast as her feet could slop there is no
other word for their curious action. As she went
her voice rose in shrill lamentation: this was what


she got for slaving her life out for "ha 'ulkin'
brute" . . . never again as long as she lived
would she rescue a stranger from "hartful 'uzzies"
. . . Oh, how mistaken she had been in ever
reckoning Mr. Gedge-Tomkins a gentleman !

Mr. Gedge-Tomkins stood in his doorway, breath-
ing heavily, his heart still sore from his unsatis-
fying encounter with watered whisky the night be-
fore. The lament of Mrs. Meeken came up fainter
from the well of the staircase. An angelic smile
wreathed the lips of Pollyooly who had been a grave
spectator of the distressing scene.

The eyes of Mr. Gedge-Tomkins rested on her
thoughtfully. His work must not be interrupted
again by watered whisky; he shrank from the
trouble of seeking a new laundress.

"You can come back at once. Get my breakfast,"
he said in the surly tone of one who reluctantly
yields under the pressure of circumstances.

Pollyooly's heart leaped with joy at this sudden,
unexpected doubling of her income. It was on the
tip of her tongue to accept the offer. But she
checked herself, and gazed at Mr. Gedge-Tomkins
with a cold eye;


"I couldn't come back for less than six shillings a
week, sir," she said firmly. "It would take me
ever so long to get your rooms clean again after
that dirty old woman. Besides, you said I told lies."

Mr. Gedge-Tomkins scowled darkly at her. With-
out a word he turned round, went back into his
chambers, and slammed the door. Pollyooly's face
fell at this sudden fortune's sudden flight. But a
quarter of an hour later his door opened again, and
out he came.

He walked across the landing and said heavily,
"I'll pay you six shillings a week. After all, with
you I know the worst that is to be known, and you
do not drink whisky. Get my breakfast."

"Thank you, sir," said Pollyooly, with an angel
smile ; and she dropped a curtsey.



FOR a while life moved smoothly and affluently
for Pollyooly in the chambers of the Honor-
able John Ruffin. On his suggestion and with his
aid she opened an account with the Post-Office
Savings Bank and enjoyed the felicity of seeing the
balance to her credit increase every week. For his
part, the Honorable John Ruffin was no less content :
his bacon was grilled entirely to his liking; his
rooms were dustless; and he had to hand an intelli-
gent messenger who relieved him of many small,
but tiresome, errands. Mr. Gedge-Tomkins was
content : his weekly bills had shrunk to their natural
size; his whisky was unwatered save by his own
firm hand.

The discontented one was Mr. Montague Fitz-
gerald. In the course of his predatory life in the
jungle of the Money-lending Acts he had grown



well used to rebuffs ; but he liked them none the bet-
ter for that. But that the Honorable John Ruffin
should have been the one to rebuff him filled him
with a resentment bitter beyond all words.

It was a shock to his faith in human nature. He
had always looked upon him as the model client, a
striking type of the great body of the amiable whom
a kindly Providence has provided to be the prey of
sharks, the model client who pays sixty per cent.,
not without a murmur indeed, not even without
pressure, but pays it. It was no wonder that he
was filled with an extraordinary bitterness by this
favorite client's revolt against the specious, but ini-
quitous, bond with which he had tricked his inex-

Besides this natural resentment at having been
mistaken in his client, Mr. Montague Fitzgerald
was wounded to the quick by the thought that he
was going to lose forty per cent, of the sixty he had
been expecting. He could not act on the Honorable
John Ruffin's suggestion and take the case to the
High Court because he would lose it in a fashion
which would injure his lately injured business yet
more. At one fell blow, and that from the hand of


a favorite client, he had lost his faith in human na-
ture and forty per cent.

Mr. Montague Fitzgerald forgot the stern busi-
ness principles which had hitherto governed his,
from a business point of view, exemplary career,
and allowed himself to become a mere human be-
ing burning for revenge.

His vengeance lay ready to his hand in the form
most congenial to his spirit. He had made it his
business to acquire an exact knowledge of the Hon-
orable John Ruffin's position, a far more exact
knowledge of it indeed than the Honorable John
Ruffin had ever possessed himself. He knew to a
penny the amount of the Oxford debts which the
Honorable John Ruffin was paying off by instal-
ments; he bought them up with the intention of
making his life a burden to him by setting the law
at work to make him pay them forthwith.

Thus it came about that just before breakfast one
morning, what time Pollyooly, her angel brow puck-
ered by an anxious frown, was carefully grilling his
bacon, the Honorable John Ruffin stood on his
hearth-rug, his brow puckered by a yet more anx-
ious frown, reading a letter from the lawyer who


did the almost invariably dirty work for Mr. Mon-
tague Fitzgerald, a letter threatening him with the
unpleasant processes of the law unless he paid forth-
with the sum of seven hundred and fifty-four

Pollyooly gave the bacon a last, carefully consid-
ered turn, carefully drained the grease from each
slice, put them on a carefully warmed dish, and
carried it into the sitting-room. The face of the
Honorable John Ruffin, usually so careless and se-
rene, was set in a gloomy frown which filled her
with surprise and a sympathetic uneasiness; but it
cleared somewhat at the sight of bacon; and he came
briskly to the table, sat down, and began to eat it,
while Pollyooly set about her regular morning task
of collecting the garments with which, in the course
of selecting his apparel for the day, he had bestrewn
the room.

He ate two slices of bacon; then he said in a
gloomy voice, "The evil day is upon us, Pollyooly."

"Yes, sir," said Pollyooly in a tone of respectful

It moved the Honorable John Ruffin to unbosom
himself; and he went on: "Do you remember a


rogue of the name of Montague Fitzgerald who
came to see me one morning?"

"Yes, sir. His hair shone like his hat, and he was
very angry when he went away," said Pollyooly
with a gentle smile of pleased remembrance.

"He does shine, the greasy usurer," said the Hon-
orable John Ruffin with vindictive conviction. "But
I made him rather too angry by refusing to pay his
confounded loan twice over. He has bought up
all my Oxford debts, and is going to writ me for the
whole amount. You do not know what Oxford
debts are, being, fortunately for yourself, of the
sheltered, but overwhelming, female sex; and you
don't know what writting is, since you are a happy
English, child. But both are -very unpleasant things.
I was paying those debts comfortably, or rather un-
comfortably, by instalments. You know what in-
stalments are, Pollyooly ?"

"Burial-money," said Pollyooly, after a little
thoughtful consideration.

"Instalments are the curse of the British Empire;
and whole amounts are worse," said the Honorable
John Ruffin in a tone of genuine feeling. "Well, I


can't pay the whole amount at present, so we must
stave off the evil day."

"Yes, sir," said Pollyooly.

"I must not be writted. That is the first evil day
to stave off. I must have time. Time, Pollyooly, is
a wonderful thing."

"Yes, sir," said Pollyooly.

"With time I can set about arranging to get the
money to pay this abominable whole amount I
must, Pollyooly, strain my credit."

"Yes, sir," said Pollyooly, moving toward the
bedroom with an armful of assorted trousers.

"Have you ever reflected what a weakly thing
credit is how easily it is strained?" said he.

"No, sir," said Pollyooly, pausing.

"It is a weakling indeed alas, that it should be
so !" said the Honorable John Ruffin very sadly.

Pollyooly said nothing ; but she gazed at him with
the limpid, sympathetic eyes of a sorrowing angel.

The Honorable John Ruffin paused, considering.
Pollyooly carried the armful of trousers into the
bedroom and restored them to their presses.

When she came back into the sitting-room, the


Honorable John Ruffin said, "Well, you see, Polly-
ooly, the first thing to do is to postpone the pain of
being writted. Till I am writted the law is power-
less paralyzed. Therefore I proclaim a state of
siege. Do you know what a state of siege is, Polly-

"No, sir," said Pollyooly.

"It means that no stranger must be let into my
rooms between daybreak and after dark, when the
king's writ ceases to run. Fortunately the king's
writ is not a night-bird. We shall have to shut
ourselves in."

"Do you mean all day, sir?" said Pollyooly knit-
ting her brow.

"I fear so," said the Honorable John Ruffin.
"From daybreak till after dark."

"But how am I to get Mr. Gedge-Tomkins'
breakfast?" said Pollyooly anxiously.

"That's a difficulty," said the Honorable John
Ruffin, frowning. Then he said cheerfully : "How-
ever, it's no good meeting trouble half-way; when
the time comes we shall find a plan. You and the
Lump can always steal out early in the morning,
take up your abode in the chambers of Mr. Gedge-


Tomkins, and return after the king's writ has
ceased its baneful activity for the day, and stopped
running. I can get my own breakfast"

"But you can't cook your bacon, sir," said Polly-
ooly in a tone of dismayed conviction.

"I must be content with cold ham," said the Hon-
orable John Ruffin sadly. "I think I could boil my


"I think you'd boil them hard, sir," said Pollyooly

"There's no saying. I might get into it," said the
Honorable John Ruffin hopefully.

Pollyooly shook her head sadly; and her face
showed no hopefulness at all as she carried the
other garments she had carefully collected into his

For the next half-hour, and for the next few days,
when she happened to think of the danger which
threatened the quiet peace of their little household,
Pollyooly wore a grave air. The Honorable John
Ruffin on the other hand, whom that danger chiefly
concerned, showed himself entirely serene. He was
even cheerful. He talked freely and frequently of
the slow approach of the besiegers, with the im-


personal interest of one regarding the evil fortune
of an acquaintance.

On the morning on which he reckoned that the
lawyer of Mr. Montague Fitzgerald, having re-
ceived no answer to his demand for the sum of
seven hundred and fifty-four pounds, would set the
law in motion by issuing a writ, he proclaimed the
state of siege.

Then he said, "The object, Mrs. Bride, of this
state of siege in which we are now living, is to pre-
vent the common bailiff from presenting me with a
blue document purporting to come from his Gra-
cious Majesty the King, but really coming from a
most unpleasant little greasy shark in Bloomsbury."

"Yes, sir," said Pollyooly gravely.

"Well, I'm relying very much on you to prevent a
common bailiff from entering my presence. Do
you know what a common bailiff is like ?"

"No, sir," said Pollyooly.

"Well, a common bailiff is a very respectable man
with a quite inconsistently red nose. He wears
either a black frock-coat of ancient fashion, or a
morning coat of the same shape as I wear at the
Courts. But whether he wears a frock-coat or a


morning coat, the elbows of that coat are shiny, and
in places it will be green."

He looked at Pollyooly to see whether she was
grasping these important details and found her re-
garding him with an air of grave and concentrated

He gathered that she was grasping them, and
went on, "His trousers are nearly sure to be of the
hue which colorists describe as pepper and salt
dark speckled trousers, Mrs. Bride. His cravat will
be a flat, black plaster, slightly greenish ; and he will
wear a bowler hat. Do you think you will know
one when you see him?"

"Oh, yes, sir," said Pollyooly with assured con-

"Well, then, you keep the oak always shut; and
when any one knocks on it, you go to it gently, and
peep at them through the slit of the letter-box.
When you see a common bailiff on the landing, you
leave him there. If I'm at home you tell me; and
if I'm not at home, and he waits for me on the
landing, you hang a towel out of my bedroom win-
dow, and, like Orion, I slope slowly to the West and
remain there till the shades of night have fallen fast,


and the king's writ has ceased its baneful activity
for the day. Do you understand ?"

"Yes, sir quite," said Pollyooly with assurance.

"Well, it's a considerable burden to lay on such
little shoulders," said the Honorable John Ruffin
with a sigh. "But if my furniture were seized and
I were hauled away to the darkest dungeons of Hol-
loway, I don't know what I could do for you and
the Lump."

"I don't mind, sir. I shall like doing it very,
much," said Pollyooly quickly ; and she smiled a rav-
ishing smile.

The Honorable John Ruffin sighed again: "I
can't fly with you and the Lump, for I haven't the
money at the moment," he said. "Besides, there's my
work. But I do hope it will be another lesson to
me not to be swindled so easily. I doubt if I had a
hundred pounds' worth of goods for that seven hun-

1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Online LibraryEdgar JepsonPollyooly; a romance of long felt wants and the red haired girl who filled them → online text (page 3 of 16)