One evening the Major came into my little room to take a cup of tea and a morsel of buttered toast and to read Jemmy's newest letter which had arrived that afternoon (by the very same postman more than middle-aged upon the Beat now), and the letter raising him up a little I says to the Major:
"Major you mustn't get into a moping way."
The Major shook his head. "Jemmy Jackman Madam," he says with a deep sigh, "is an older file than I thought him."
"Moping is not the way to grow younger Major."
"My dear Madam," says the Major, "is there _any_ way of growing younger?"
Feeling that the Major was getting rather the best of that point I made a diversion to another.
"Thirteen years! Thir-teen years! Many Lodgers have come and gone, in the thirteen years that you have lived in the parlours Major."
"Hah!" says the Major warming. "Many Madam, many."
"And I should say you have been familiar with them all?"
"As a rule (with its exceptions like all rules) my dear Madam" says the Major, "they have honoured me with their acquaintance, and not unfrequently with their confidence."
Watching the Major as he drooped his white head and stroked his black mustachios and moped again, a thought which I think must have been going about looking for an owner somewhere dropped into my old noddle if you will excuse the expression.
"The walls of my Lodgings" I says in a casual way--for my dear it is of no use going straight at a man who mopes--"might have something to tell if they could tell it."
The Major neither moved nor said anything but I saw he was attending with his shoulders my dear--attending with his shoulders to what I said. In fact I saw that his shoulders were struck by it.
"The dear boy was always fond of story-books" I went on, like as if I was talking to myself. "I am sure this house--his own home--might write a story or two for his reading one day or another."
The Major's shoulders gave a dip and a curve and his head came up in his shirt-collar. The Major's head came up in his shirt-collar as I hadn't seen it come up since Jemmy went to school.
"It is unquestionable that in intervals of cribbage and a friendly rubber, my dear Madam," says the Major, "and also over what used to be called in my young times--in the salad days of Jemmy Jackman--the social glass, I have exchanged many a reminiscence with your Lodgers."
My remark was--I confess I made it with the deepest and artfullest of intentions--"I wish our dear boy had heard them!"
"Are you serious Madam?" asked the Major starting and turning full round.
"Why not Major?"
"Madam" says the Major, turning up one of his cuffs, "they shall be written for him."
"Ah! Now you speak" I says giving my hands a pleased clap. "Now you are in a way out of moping Major!"
"Between this and my holidays--I mean the dear boy's" says the Major turning up his other cuff, "a good deal may be done towards it."
"Major you are a clever man and you have seen much and not a doubt of it."
"I'll begin," says the Major looking as tall as ever he did, "to-morrow.