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Francis Hopkinson Smith
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 183 pages of information about The Veiled Lady and Other Men and Women.
yielding to his influence.  Stories that had lain quiet in our minds for months for lack of a willing or appreciative ear, or had been told behind our hands,—­small pipings most of them of club and social gossip, now became public property, some being bowled along the table straight at the new boarder, who sent his own rolling back in exchange, his big, sonorous voice filling the room as he replied with accounts of his life in Poland among the peasants; of his experiences in the desert; of a shipwreck off the coast of Ceylon in which he was given up for lost; of a trip he made across the Russian steppes in a sleigh—­each adventure ending in some strangely humorous situation which put the table in a roar.

None of these narratives, however, solved the mystery of his identity or of his occupation.  All our good landlady knew was that he had driven up in a hack one afternoon, bearing a short letter of introduction from a former lodger—­a man who had lived abroad for the previous ten years—­introducing Mr. Norvic Bing; that after its perusal she had given him the second-story front room, at that moment empty—­a fact that had greatly influenced her—­and that he had at once moved in.  His trunks—­there were two of them—­had, she remembered, been covered with foreign labels (and still were)—­all of which could be verified by any one who had a right to know and who would take the trouble to inspect his room when he was out, which occurred every day between ten in the morning and six in the afternoon, and more often between six in the afternoon and ten the next morning.  The slight additional information she possessed came from the former lodger’s letter, which stated that the bearer, Mr. Norvic Bing, was a native of Denmark, that he was visiting America for the first time, and that, desiring a place where he could live in complete retirement, the writer had recommended Miss Buffum’s house.

As to who he was in his own country—­and he certainly must have been some one of importance, judging from his appearance—­and what the nature of his business, these things did not concern the dear lady in the least.  He was courteous, treated her with marked respect, was exceedingly agreeable, and had insisted—­and this she stated was the one particular thing that endeared him to her—­had insisted on paying his board a month in advance, instead of waiting until the thirty days had elapsed.  His excuse for this unheard-of idiosyncrasy was that he might some day be suddenly called away, too suddenly even to notify her of his departure, and that he did not want either his belongings or his landlady’s mind disturbed during his absence.

Miss Buffum’s summing up of Bing’s courtesy and affability was shared by every one at my end of the table, although some of them differed as regarded his origin and occupation.

“Looks more like an Englishman than a Dane,” said the bank clerk; “although I don’t know any Danes.  But he’s a daisy, anyhow, and ought to have his salary raised for being so jolly.”

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