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Chapter 30 The Last.

  • Sitting alone in the breakfast parlour of The Rosebud, one morning in June,
  • Miss Stivergill read the following paragraph in her newspaper:— “ _ **Gallan_escue**_.—Yesterday forenoon a lady and her daughter, accompanied by _entleman, went to the landing-wharf at Blackfriars with the intention o_oing on board a steamer. There were some disorderly men on the wharf, and _ood deal of crowding at the time. As the steamer approached, one of the half-
  • drunk men staggered violently against the daughter above referred to, an_hrust her into the river, which was running rapidly at the time, the tid_eing three-quarters ebb. The gentleman, who happened to have turned toward_he mother at the moment, heard a scream and plunge. He looked quickly bac_nd missed the young lady. Being a tall powerful man, he dashed the crow_side, hurled the drunk man—no doubt inadvertently—into the river, sprang ove_is head, as he was falling, with a magnificent bound, and reached the wate_o near to the young lady that a few powerful strokes enabled him to grasp an_upport her. Observing that the unfortunate cause of the whole affair wa_ulling helplessly past him with the tide, he made a vigorous stroke or tw_ith his disengaged arm, and succeeded in grasping him by the nape of th_eck, and holding him at arm’s-length, despite his struggles, until a boa_escued them all. We believe that the gentleman who effected this doubl_escue is named Aspel, and that he is a city missionary. We have also bee_nformed that the young lady is engaged to her gallant deliverer, and that th_edding has been fixed to come off this week.”
  • Laying down the paper, Miss Stivergill lifted up her eyes and hands, purse_er mouth, and gave vent to a most unladylike whistle! She had barel_erminated this musical performance, and recovered the serenity of her aspect,
  • when Miss Lillycrop burst in upon her with unwonted haste and excitement.
  • “My darling Maria!” she exclaimed, breathlessly, flinging her bonnet on _hair and seizing both the hands of her friend, “I am _so_ glad you’re a_ome. It’s _such_ an age since I saw you! I came out by the early train o_urpose to tell you. I hardly know where to begin. Oh! I’m _so_ glad!”
  • “You’re not going to be married?” interrupted Miss Stivergill, whose ster_almness deepened as her friend’s excitement increased.
  • “Married? oh no! Ridiculous! but I think I’m going deranged.”
  • “That is impossible,” returned Miss Stivergill, “You have been deranged eve_ince I knew you. If there is any change in your condition it can only be a_ccess of the malady. Besides, there is no particular cause for joy in that.
  • Have you no more interesting news to give me?”
  • “More interesting news!” echoed Miss Lillycrop, sitting down on her bonnet,
  • “of course I have. Now, just listen: Peter Pax—of the firm of Blurt, Pax,
  • Jiggs, and Company, Antiquarians, Bird-Stuffers, Mechanists, Stamp-Collectors,
  • and I don’t know what else besides, to the Queen—is going to be marrie_o—whom do you think?”
  • “The Queen of Sheba,” replied Miss Stivergill, folding her hands on her la_ith a placid smile.
  • “To—Tottie Bones!” said Miss Lillycrop, with an excited movement that groun_ome of her bonnet to straw-powder.
  • Miss Stivergill did not raise her eyes or whistle at this. She merely put he_ead a little on one side and smiled.
  • “I knew it, my dear—at least I felt sure it would come to this, though it i_ooner than I expected. It is not written anywhere, I believe, that a boy ma_ot marry a baby, nevertheless—”
  • “But she’s not a baby,” broke in Miss Lillycrop.
  • “Tottie is seventeen now, and Pax is twenty-four. But this is not the half o_hat I have to tell you. Ever since Pax was taken into partnership by Mr Enoc_lurt the business has prospered, as you are aware, and our active littl_riend has added all kinds of branches to it—such as the preparation and sal_f entomological, and ichthyological, and other -ological specimens, and th_echanical parts of toy-engines; and that lad Jiggs has turned out such _plendid expounder of all these things, that the shop has become a sort o_errestrial heaven for boys. And dear old Fred Blurt has begun to recove_nder the influence of success, so that he is now able to get out frequentl_n a wheel-chair. But the strangest news of all is that Mister Enoch Blurt go_ new baby—a girl—and recovered his diamonds on the self-same day!”
  • “Indeed!” said Miss Stivergill, beginning to be influenced by these surprisin_evelations.
  • “Yes, and it’s a curious evidence of the energetic and successful way in whic_hings are managed by our admirable Post-Office—”
  • “What! the union of a new baby with recovered diamonds?”
  • “No, no, Maria, how stupid you are! I refer, of course, to the diamonds. Hav_ou not seen reference made to them in the papers?”
  • “No. I’ve seen or heard nothing about it.”
  • “Indeed! I’m surprised. Well, that hearty old letter-carrier, Solomon Flint,
  • sent that ridiculously stout creature whom he calls Dollops to me with th_ast Report of the Postmaster-General, with the corner of page eleven turne_own, for he knew I was interested in anything that might affect the Blurts.
  • But here it is. I brought it to read to you. Listen: ‘On the occasion of th_reck of the _Trident_ in Howlin’ Cove, on the west of Ireland, many year_go, strenuous efforts were made by divers to recover the Cape of Good Hop_ails, and, it will be recollected, they were partially successful, but _ortion which contained diamonds could not be found. Diving operations were,
  • however, resumed quite recently, and with most satisfactory results. One o_he registered-letter-bags was found. It had been so completely imbedded i_and, and covered by a heavy portion of the wreck, that the contents were no_ltogether destroyed, notwithstanding the long period of their immersion. O_eing opened in the Chief Office in London, the bag was found to contai_everal large packets of diamonds, the addresses on which had been partiall_bliterated, besides about seven pounds weight of loose diamonds, which,
  • having escaped from their covers, were mixed with the pulp in the bottom o_he bag. Every possible endeavour was used by the officers of the Departmen_o discover the rightful owners of those packets which were nearly intact, an_ith such success that they were all, with very little delay, duly delivered.
  • The remaining diamonds were valued by an experienced broker, and sold—th_mount realised being about 19,000 pounds. After very great trouble, and muc_orrespondence, the whole of the persons for whom the loose diamonds wer_ntended were, it is believed, ascertained, and this sum proved sufficient t_atisfy the several claimants to such an extent that not a single complain_as heard.’”
  • “How strange! Why did you not tell me of this before, Lilly?”
  • “Because Mr Blurt resolved to keep it secret until he was quite sure there wa_o mistake about the matter. Now that he has received the value of hi_iamonds he has told all his friends. Moreover, he has resolved to take _ouse in the suburbs, so that Fred may have fresh country air, fresh milk, an_resh eggs. Peter Pax, too, talks of doing the same thing, being bent, so h_ays, on devoting himself to the entomological department of his business, i_rder that he may renew his youth by hunting butterflies and beetles wit_ottie.”
  • “It never rains but it pours,” said Miss Stivergill. “Surprises don’t com_ingly, it appears.—Have you read _that_?” She handed her friend the newspape_hich recounted the “gallant rescue.”
  • Miss Lillycrop’s countenance was a study which cannot be described. The sam_ay be said of her bonnet. When she came to the name of Aspel her eyeball_ecame circular, and her eyebrows apparently attempted to reach the roots o_er hair.
  • “Maria dear!” she cried, with a little shriek, “this only reminds me that _ave still more news to tell. You remember Sir James Clubley? Well, he i_ead, and he has left the whole of his property to George Aspel! It seems tha_ir James went one night, secretly, as it were, to some low locality wher_spel was preaching to poor people, and was so affected by what he heard an_aw that he came forward at the close, signed the pledge along with a numbe_f rough and dirty men, and then and there became a total abstainer. This, _m told, occurred a considerable time ago, and he has been a helper of th_emperance cause ever since. Sir James had no near relatives. To the fe_istant ones he possessed he left legacies, and in his will stated that h_eft the rest of his fortune—which, although not large, is considerable—t_eorge Aspel, in the firm belief that by so doing he was leaving it to furthe_he cause of Christianity and Temperance.”
  • “Come, now, don’t stop there,” observed Miss Stivergill calmly, “go on to tel_e that Phil Maylands has also had a fortune left him, or become Postmaster-
  • General and got married, or is going to be.”
  • “Well, I can’t exactly tell you that,” returned Miss Lillycrop, “but I ca_ell you that he has had a rise in the Post-Office Savings Bank, with a_ncrease of salary, and that May declines to marry Aspel unless he agrees t_ive with her mother in the cottage at Nottinghill. Of course Aspel ha_onsented—all the more that it is conveniently situated near to a statio_hence he can easily reach the field of his missionary labours.”
  • “Does he intend to continue these now that he is rich?” asked Miss Stivergill.
  • “How can you ask such a question?” replied her friend, with a slightl_ffended look. “Aspel is not a man to be easily moved from his purpose. H_ays he will labour in the good cause, and devote health and means to it a_ong as God permits.”
  • “Good!” exclaimed Miss Stivergill with a satisfied nod.—“Now, Lilly,” sh_dded, with the decision of tone and manner peculiar to her, “I mean to mak_ome arrangements. The farmer next to me has a very pretty villa, as you ar_ware, on the brow of the hill that overlooks the whole country in th_irection of London. It is at present to let. Mr Blurt must take it. Beside i_tands a cottage just large enough for a new-married couple. I had alread_ented that cottage for a poor friend. He, however, knows nothing about th_atter. I will therefore have him put somewhere else, and sub-let the cottag_o Mr and Mrs Pax. Lastly, you shall give up your insane notion of livin_lone, come here, with all your belongings, and take up your abode with me fo_ver.”
  • “That’s a long time, dear Maria,” said Miss Lillycrop, with a little smile.
  • “Not _too_ long, by any means, Lilly. Now, clear that rubbish off th_hair—it’s well got rid of, I never liked the shape—go, put yourself t_ights, use one of my bonnets, and come out for a walk. To-morrow you shall g_nto town and arrange with Pax and Blurt about the villa and the cottage t_he best of your ability. It’s of no use attempting to resist me, Lilly—tel_hem that—for in this affair I have made up my mind that my will shall b_aw.”
  • Reader, what more need we add—except that Miss Stivergill’s will di_ventually become law, because it happened to correspond with the wishes o_ll concerned. It is due, also, to Solomon Flint to record that after his lon_ife of faithful service in the Post-Office he retired on a small bu_omfortable pension, and joined the “Rosebud Colony,” as Pax styled it, takin_is grandmother along with him. That remarkable piece of antiquity, when las_een by a credible witness, was basking in the sunshine under a rustic porc_overed with honeysuckle, more wrinkled, more dried-up, more tough, mor_miable—especially to her cat—and more stooped in the previous century tha_ver. Mr Bright, the energetic sorter, who visits Solomon whenever his posta_uties will allow, expresses his belief that the old lady will live to se_hem all out, and Mr Bright’s opinion carries weight with it; besides which,
  • Phil Maylands and May Aspel with her husband are more than half inclined t_gree with him. Time will show.
  • Pegaway Hall still exists, but its glory has departed, for although Mrs Squar_till keeps her one watchful eye upon its closed door, its walls and rafter_o longer resound with the eloquence, wit, and wisdom of Boy Telegrap_essengers, although these important servants of the Queen still continue—wit_heir friends the letter-carriers—to tramp the kingdom “post haste,” i_easeless, benignant activity, distributing right and left with impartia_ustice the varied contents of Her Majesty’s Mails.