I saw “her” coming down the room. There was no mistaking her. She wasn’t that sort.
I sat with my eyes coming out of my head till she was close to me, and then I says:
“Carrots!” I says, in a whisper like. That was the name that come to me.
“‘Carrots’ it is,” she says, and down she sits just opposite to me, and then she laughs.
I could not speak, I could not move, I was that took aback, and the more frightened I looked the more she laughed till “Kipper” comes into the room. There was nothing ghostly about him. I never see a man look more as if he had backed the winner.
“Why, it’s ’Enery,” he says; and he gives me a slap on the back, as knocks the life into me again.
“I heard you was dead,” I says, still staring at her. “I read it in the paper—’death of the Marchioness of Appleford.’”
“That’s all right,” she says. “The Marchioness of Appleford is as dead as a door-nail, and a good job too. Mrs. Captain Kit’s my name, nee ‘Carrots.’”
“You said as ’ow I’d find someone to suit me ’fore long,” says “Kipper” to me, “and, by Jove! you were right; I ’ave. I was waiting till I found something equal to her ladyship, and I’d ’ave ’ad to wait a long time, I’m thinking, if I ’adn’t come across this one ’ere”; and he tucks her up under his arm just as I remember his doing that day he first brought her into the coffee-shop, and Lord, what a long time ago that was!
* * * * *
That is the story, among others, told me by Henry, the waiter. I have, at his request, substituted artificial names for real ones. For Henry tells me that at Capetown Captain Kit’s First-class Family and Commercial Hotel still runs, and that the landlady is still a beautiful woman with fine eyes and red hair, who might almost be taken for a duchess—until she opens her mouth, when her accent is found to be still slightly reminiscent of the Mile-End Road.
“It is just the same with what you may call the human joints,” observed Henry. He was in one of his philosophic moods that evening. “It all depends upon the cooking. I never see a youngster hanging up in the refrigerator, as one may put it, but I says to myself: ’Now I wonder what the cook is going to make of you! Will you be minced and devilled and fricasseed till you are all sauce and no meat? Will you be hammered tender and grilled over a slow fire till you are a blessing to mankind? Or will you be spoilt in the boiling, and come out a stringy rag, an immediate curse, and a permanent injury to those who have got to swallow you?’