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.