“Well, it was nice of you to think of your poor old aunt,” she repeated again and again; and then she remarked on the good fortune which had caused the vacation of the front room over the parlour, her grievance against the lady of the handsome clock quite forgotten.
“It’s a nice airy room,” she said; and then she began planning how she might best arrange it for his comfort.
“Dear little aunt,” said Henry, taking the little wisp of a woman into his arms, “you’re the salt of the earth.”
* * * * *
“Why ever didn’t I think of it before!” exclaimed Aunt Tipping, presently. “I’ve got the very gentleman to help you with your writing.”
“Indeed,” said Henry, somewhat sceptical.
“Yes; he’s down there in the back parlour. They say he’s a great writer,” continued Aunt Tipping; “but he’s not very well the last day or two, and doesn’t see anybody. To tell the truth, poor gentleman,” she confided, lowering her voice, “he’s just a little too fond of his glass. But he’s as good and kind a gentleman as ever stepped, and always regular with his rent every Monday morning.”
There was usually something mysterious about Aunt Tipping’s lodgers. At their best, she had known them as elaborately wronged bye-products of aristocracy. Many of them were lawful expectants of illegally delayed fortunes, and at the very least they always drank romantically.
Thus it was that to the somewhat amused surprise of his family, Henry came to take up his abode for a while with Aunt Tipping, and that his books and the cast of Dante, and the sketch of the young Dante done in sepia by Myrtilla Williamson’s own fair hand, came to find themselves in the incongruous environment of Tichborne Street.
THE LITERARY GENTLEMAN IN THE BACK PARLOUR
Aunt Tipping proved not so ludicrously out of it after all in regard to the literary gentleman in the back parlour. Henry had hardly known what to expect; but certainly he had pictured no one so interesting as Ashton Gerard proved to be. For a dark den smelling strongly of whisky and water, and some slovenly creature of the under-world crouched in a dirty armchair over the fire, he found instead a pleasant little room, very neatly kept, with books, two or three good pictures,