“Ye must go to bed this minute,” said he.
“But he’s in bed,” cried Mrs Machin.
“I mean yerself,” said Dr Stirling.
She was very nearly at the end of her resources. And the proof was that she had no strength left to fight Dr Stirling. She did go to bed. And shortly afterwards Denry got up. And a little later, Rose Chudd, that prim and efficient young widow from lower down the street, came into the house and controlled it as if it had been her own. Mrs Machin, whose constitution was hardy, arose in about a week, cured, and duly dismissed Rose with wages and without thanks. But Rose had been. Like the Signal’s burglars, she had “effected an entrance.” And the house had not been turned upside down. Mrs Machin, though she tried, could not find fault with the result of Rose’s uncontrolled activities.
One morning—and not very long afterwards, in such wise did Fate seem to favour the young at the expense of the old—Mrs Machin received two letters which alarmed and disgusted her. One was from her landlord, announcing that he had sold the house in which she lived to a Mr Wilbraham of London, and that in future she must pay the rent to the said Mr Wilbraham or his legal representatives. The other was from a firm of London solicitors announcing that their client, Mr Wilbraham, had bought the house, and that the rent must be paid to their agent, whom they would name later.
Mrs Machin gave vent to her emotion in her customary manner: “Bless us!”
And she showed the impudent letters to Denry.
“Oh!” said Denry. “So he has bought them, has he? I heard he was going to.”
“Them?” exclaimed Mrs Machin. “What else has he bought?”
“I expect he’s bought all the five—this and the four below, as far as Downes’s. I expect you’ll find that the other four have had notices just like these. You know all this row used to belong to the Wilbrahams. You surely must remember that, mother?”
“Is he one of the Wilbrahams of Hillport, then?”
“Yes, of course he is.”
“I thought the last of ’em was Cecil, and when he’d beggared himself here he went to Australia and died of drink. That’s what I always heard. We always used to say as there wasn’t a Wilbraham left.”
“He did go to Australia, but he didn’t die of drink. He disappeared, and when he’d made a fortune he turned up again in Sydney, so it seems. I heard he’s thinking of coming back here to settle. Anyhow, he’s buying up a lot of the Wilbraham property. I should have thought you’d have heard of it. Why, lots of people have been talking about it.”
“Well,” said Mrs Machin, “I don’t like it.”
She objected to a law which permitted a landlord to sell a house over the head of a tenant who had occupied it for more than thirty years. In the course of the morning she discovered that Denry was right—the other tenants had received notices exactly similar to hers.