The Wrong House
My brother Ralph, who now lived with me on the edge of Ham Common, had
come home from Australia with a curious affection of the eyes, due to long
exposure to the glare out there, and necessitating the use of clouded spectacles
in the open air. He had not the rich complexion of the typical colonist, being
indeed peculiarly pale, but it appeared that he had been confined to his berth for
the greater part of the voyage, while his prematurely gray hair was sufficient
proof that the rigors of bush life had at last undermined an originally tough
constitution. Our landlady, who spoilt my brother from the first, was much
concerned on his behalf, and wished to call in the local doctor; but Ralph said
dreadful things about the profession, and quite frightened the good woman by
arbitrarily forbidding her ever to let a doctor inside her door. I had to apologize to
her for the painful prejudices and violent language of "these colonists," but the
old soul was easily mollified. She had fallen in love with my brother at first sight,
and she never could do too much for him. It was owing to our landlady that I took
to calling him Ralph, for the first time in our lives, on her beginning to speak of
and to him as "Mr. Raffles."
"This won't do," said he to me. "It's a name that sticks."
"It must be my fault! She must have heard it from me," said I self-reproachfully.
"You must tell her it's the short for Ralph."
"But it's longer."
"It's the short," said he; "and you've got to tell her so."
Henceforth I heard as much of "Mr. Ralph," his likes and dislikes, what he would
fancy and what he would not, and oh, what a dear gentleman he was, that I often
remembered to say "Ralph, old chap," myself.