A Rogue's Life
"If you have the feelings of a man, sir," said Mrs. Baggs, shaking her head and
raising her eyes to heaven, "you will remember that I have nerves, and will not
presume upon them."
As the old lady uttered the last words, I thought I saw her eyes turn from heaven,
and take the earthly direction of the sofa in the front parlor. It struck me also that
her lips looked rather dry. Upon these two hints I spoke.
"Might I suggest some little stimulant?" I asked, with respectful earnestness. "I
have heard my grandmother (Lady Malkinshaw) say that, 'a drop in time saves
"You will find it under the sofa pillow," said Mrs. Baggs, with sudden briskness. "
'A drop in time saves nine'--my sentiments, if I may put myself on a par with her
ladyship. The liqueur-glass, Mr. Softly, is in the backgammon-board. I hope her
ladyship was well the last time you heard from her? Suffers from her nerves,
does she? Like me, again. In the backgammon-board. Oh, this news, this awful
I found the bottle of brandy in the place indicated, but no liqueur-glass in the
backgammon-board. There was, however, a wine-glass, accidentally left on a
chair by the sofa. Mrs. Baggs did not seem to notice the difference when I
brought it into the back room and filled it with brandy.
"Take a toothful yourself," said Mrs. Baggs, lightly tossing off the dram in a
moment. " 'A drop in time'--I can't help repeating it, it's so nicely expressed. Still,
with submission to her ladyship's better judgment, Mr. Softly, the question seems
now to arise, whether, if one drop in time saves nine, two drops in time may not
save eighteen." Here Mrs. Baggs forgot her nerves and winked. I returned the
wink and filled the glass a second time. "Oh, this news, this awful news!" said
Mrs. Baggs, remembering her nerves again.
Just then I thought I heard footsteps in front of the house, but, listening more
attentively, found that it had begun to rain, and that I had been deceived by the
pattering of the first heavy drops against the windows. However, the bare
suspicion that the same stranger who had called already might be watching the
house now, was enough to startle me very seriously, and to suggest the absolute
necessity of occupying no more precious time in paying attention to the vagaries
of Mrs. Baggs' nerves. It was also of some importance that I should speak to her
while she was sober enough to understand what I meant in a general way.
Feeling convinced that she was in imminent danger of becoming downright drunk
if I gave her another glass, I kept my hand on the bottle, and forthwith told my
story over again in a very abridged and unceremonious form, and without
allowing her one moment of leisure for comment on my narrative, whether it
might be of the weeping, winking, drinking, groaning, or ejaculating kind. As I had