Pratchett so distinctly to understand my decision, that I broke her spirit as towards myself, then and there, and for good. Let not inconsistency be suspected on account of my mentioning Mrs. Pratchett as "Mrs.," and having formerly remarked that a waitress must not be married. Readers are respectfully requested to notice that Mrs. Pratchett was not a waitress, but a chambermaid. Now a chambermaid _may_ be married; if Head, generally is married,--or says so. It comes to the same thing as expressing what is customary. (N.B. Mr. Pratchett is in Australia, and his address there is "the Bush.")
Having took Mrs. Pratchett down as many pegs as was essential to the future happiness of all parties, I requested her to explain herself.
"For instance," I says, to give her a little encouragement, "who is Somebody?"
"I give you my sacred honour, Mr. Christopher," answers Pratchett, "that I haven't the faintest notion."
But for the manner in which she settled her cap-strings, I should have doubted this; but in respect of positiveness it was hardly to be discriminated from an affidavit.
"Then you never saw him?" I followed her up with.
"Nor yet," said Mrs. Pratchett, shutting her eyes and making as if she had just took a pill of unusual circumference,--which gave a remarkable force to her denial,--"nor yet any servant in this house. All have been changed, Mr. Christopher, within five year, and Somebody left his Luggage here before then."
Inquiry of Miss Martin yielded (in the language of the Bard of A.1.) "confirmation strong." So it had really and truly happened. Miss Martin is the young lady at the bar as makes out our bills; and though higher than I could wish considering her station, is perfectly well-behaved.
Farther investigations led to the disclosure that there was a bill against this Luggage to the amount of two sixteen six. The Luggage had been lying under the bedstead of 24 B over six year. The bedstead is a four-poster, with a deal of old hanging and valance, and is, as I once said, probably connected with more than 24 Bs,--which I remember my hearers was pleased to laugh at, at the time.
I don't know why,--when DO we know why?--but this Luggage laid heavy on my mind. I fell a wondering about Somebody, and what he had got and been up to. I couldn't satisfy my thoughts why he should leave so much Luggage against so small a bill. For I had the Luggage out within a day or two and turned it over, and the following were the items:--A black portmanteau, a black bag, a desk, a dressing-case, a brown-paper parcel, a hat-box, and an umbrella strapped to a walking-stick. It was all very dusty and fluey. I had our porter up to get under the bed and fetch it out; and though he habitually wallows in dust,--swims in it from morning to night, and wears a close-fitting waistcoat with black calimanco sleeves for the purpose,--it made him sneeze again, and his throat was that hot with it that it was obliged to be cooled with a drink of Allsopp's draft.
The Luggage so got the better of me, that instead of having it put back when it was well dusted and washed with a wet cloth,--previous to which it was so covered with feathers that you might have thought it was turning into poultry, and would by-and-by begin to Lay,--I say, instead of having it put back, I had it carried into one of my places down-stairs.