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The Best British Short Stories of 1922

The Pensioner
By WILLIAM CAINE
(From The Graphic)
1922
Miss Crewe was born in the year 1821. She received a sort of education, and at the age of
twenty became the governess of a little girl, eight years old, called Martha Bond. She was
Martha's governess for the next ten years. Then Martha came out and Miss Crewe went to
be the governess of somebody else. Martha married Mr. William Harper. A year later she
gave birth to a son, who was named Edward. This brings us to the year 1853.
When Edward was six, Miss Crewe came back, to be his governess. Four years later he
went to school and Miss Crewe went away to be the governess of somebody else. She
was now forty-two years old.
Twelve years passed and Mrs. Harper died, recommending Miss Crewe to her husband's
care, for Miss Crewe had recently been smitten by an incurable disease which made it
impossible for her to be a governess any longer.
Mr. Harper, who had passionately loved his wife, gave instructions to his solicitor to pay
Miss Crewe the sum of one hundred and fifty pounds annually. He had some thoughts of
buying her an annuity, but she seemed so ill that he didn't. Edward was now twenty-two.
In the year 1888, Mr. Harper died after a very short illness. He had expected Miss Crewe
to die any day during the past thirteen years, but since she hadn't he thought it proper now
to recommend her to Edward's care. This is how he did it.
"That confounded old Crewe, Eddie. You'll have to see to her. Let her have her money as
before, but for the Lord's sake don't go and buy her an annuity now. If you do, she'll die
on your hands in a week!" Shortly afterwards the old gentleman passed away.
Edward was now thirty-five. Miss Crewe was sixty-seven and reported to be in an almost
desperate state. Edward followed his father's advice. He bought no annuity for Miss
Crewe. Her one hundred and fifty pounds continued to be paid each year into her bank;
but by Edward, not by his late father's solicitors.
Edward had his own ideas of managing the considerable fortune which he had inherited.
These ideas were unsound. The first of them was that he should assume the entire
direction of his own affairs. Accordingly he instructed his solicitors to realise all the
mortgages and railway-stock and other admirable securities in which his money was
invested and hand over the cash to him. He then went in for the highest rate of interest
which anyone would promise him. The consequence was that, within twelve years, he
was almost a poor man, his annual income having dwindled from about three thousand to
about four hundred pounds.
 
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