And that is how Jaffery without money or luggage or even an overcoat travelled from London to Nice, for no other purpose than to save Doria’s sacred little body from being profaned by the touch of ruder hands.
Having carried her at every stage beginning with the transfer from train to steamer at Folkestone and ending with a triumphant march up the stairs to the third floor of the Cimiez hotel, he took the first train back straight through to London.
He returned the same old grinning giant, without a shadow of grumpiness on his jolly face.
About this time a bolt came from the blue or a bomb fell at our feet—the metaphor doesn’t matter so long as it conveys a sense of an unlooked-for phenomenon. True, in relation to cosmic forces, it was but a trumpery bolt or a squib-like bomb; but it startled us all the same. The admirable Mrs. Considine got married. A retired warrior, a recent widower, but a celibate of twenty years standing owing to the fact that his late wife and himself had occupied separate continents (on avait fait continent a part, as the French might say) during that period, a Major-General fresh from India, an old flame and constant correspondent, had suddenly swooped down upon the boarding-house in Queen’s Gate and, in swashbuckling fashion, had abducted the admirable and unresisting lady. It was a matter of special license, and off went the tardily happy pair to Margate, before we had finished rubbing our eyes.
It was grossly selfish on the part of Mrs. Considine, said Barbara. She thought her—no; perhaps she didn’t think her—God alone knows the convolutions of feminine mental processes—but she proclaimed her anyhow—an unscrupulous woman.
“There’s Liosha,” she said, “left alone in that boarding-house.”
“My dear,” said I, “Mrs. Jupp—I admit it’s deplorable taste to change a name of such gentility as Considine for that of Jupp, but it isn’t unscrupulous—Mrs. Jupp did not happen to be charged with a mission from on High to dry nurse Liosha for the rest of her life.”
“That’s where you’re wrong,” Barbara retorted. “She was. She was the one person in the world who could look after Liosha. See what she’s done for her. It was her duty to stick to Liosha. As for those two old faggots marrying, they ought to be ashamed of themselves.”
Whether they were ashamed of themselves or not didn’t matter. Liosha remained alone in the boarding-house. Not all Barbara’s indignation could turn Mrs. Jupp into the admirable Mrs. Considine and bring her back to Queen’s Gate. What was to be done? We consulted Jaffery, who as Liosha’s trustee ought to have consulted us. Jaffery pulled a long face and smiled ruefully. For the first time he realised—in spite of tragic happenings—the comedy aspect of his position as the legal guardian of two young, well-to-do and attractive widows. He was the last man in the world to whom one would have expected such a fate to befall. He too swore lustily at the defaulting duenna.