A Rogue's Life
As soon as I was alone, I took from my pocket one of the handbills which my
excitable fellow-traveler had presented to me, so as to have it ready for Mrs.
Baggs the moment we stood face to face. Armed with this ominous letter of
introduction, I kicked a chair down against the folding-doors, by way of giving a
preliminary knock to arouse the housekeeper's attention. The plan was
immediately successful. Mrs. Baggs opened the doors of communication
violently. A slight smell of spirits entered the room, and was followed close by the
housekeeper herself, with an indignant face and a disordered head-dress.
"What do you mean, sir? How dare you--" she began; then stopped aghast,
looking at me in speechless astonishment.
"I have been obliged to make a slight alteration in my personal appearance,
ma'am," I said. "But I am still Frank Softly."
"Don't talk to me about personal appearances, sir," cried Mrs. Baggs recovering.
"What do you mean by being here? Leave the house immediately. I shall write to
the doctor, Mr. Softly, this very night."
"He has no address you can direct to," I rejoined. "If you don't believe me, read
that." I gave her the handbill without another word of preface.
Mrs. Baggs looked at it--lost in an instant some of the fine color plentifully
diffused over her face by sleep and spirits--sat down in the nearest chair with a
thump that seemed to threaten the very foundations of Number Two, Zion Place--
and stared me hard in the face; the most speechless and helpless elderly female
I ever beheld.
"Take plenty of time to compose yourself ma'am," I said. "If you don't see the
doctor again soon, under the gallows, you will probably not have the pleasure of
meeting with him for some considerable time."
Mrs. Baggs smote both her hands distractedly on her knees, and whispered a
devout ejaculation to herself softly.
"Allow me to deal with you, ma'am, as a woman of the world," I went on. "If you
will give me half-an-hour's hearing, I will explain to you how I come to know what
I do; how I got here; and what I have to propose to Miss Alicia and to you."