THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE: THE LANDLADY AND THE POETSPECIAL COLLECTOR'S EDITION
Written by Diane N. Tran
- To the attentive yet long-suffering landladies of Baker Street, you are not forgotten in my books.
It was a bitterly frozen December evening, and the snow from the many days still collected deep upon the ground, shimmering brightly in the winter moon. Down the centre of Baker Street, it had been ploughed into brown crumbly bands by traffic; but at either side and on the heaped-up edges of the footpaths, it still lay as white as when it fell. The grey pavement had been cleaned and scraped, but was still dangerously slippery, so there were fewer passengers than usual.
It began to snow again as the landlady of Lower 221B closed the scarlet curtains over the ice-panned window. She blew into her hands for some warmth after touching the frigid glass and rubbed her arms, heading for the fireplace. The woman toiled with the coal and wood with a steel poker, and returning the fire-gate to its previous position. The lone landlady took out a dust-cloth from her apron pocket and swept the grime from the mantelpiece, cleaning between the news article pinned to the timber of the ledge.
She was stout creature, corpulent in shape. She wore a large white bonnet, which sat like a round-pillowed crown whose trimmings hung like fringe upon her undersized brow. Her features were, for the most part, soft and petite, a pair of soothing eyes where cruel lines shadow beneath the lids, a demure nose which perched a pair of thin spectacles, curved with a thin sweetly pressed mouth, supported by now plump dimpled cheeks. Her hands were delicate; her feet, slight. Her dress was a deep attractive navy; her upper sleeves bunched in a modest fashion upon her shoulders as the shape tighten the slight shape of her arms from the elbows with white cuffs. Her collar-wings were white centred, with a bronze-coloured cameo, tied lastly with a white apron about her neck and waist.
She had been the owner of the Baker Street lodgings for some time, whose tenants came and went rapidly, each of them unable to tolerant the noise and danger that loomed heavily over the human tenant above. She had some months ago acquired a young and more permanent tenant, who moved from Montague Street to here. This tenant was a freelance detective, a very untidy one at that, and was out scurrying about some case, no doubt. During these such outings were one of the few times the landlady was able to do any proper cleaning about in the lodgings. All the better for to-night, she was to expect a favoured guest this evening, a poet a friend of the detective.
Returning from the kitchen, she set a silver savour with a china pot of tea, three cups, and a dish of cheese crumpets upon the table, next to an armchair. The wind gusted against the window with a screeching howl. The landlady clutched her dust-cloth tightly, rubbing her arm again. As age has it, the bitterness of winter wearied her further and further by each passing year. She glances at the clock, he was late. Of course, he was always late, yet the weather was dreadful. Perhaps he could not come?
The bell-pull rung. Twisting the lock, the door swung against her shoulder in a burst. The snow and ice blew out from the entrance into eyes, burning viciously. Her weight against the pushing door, she squinted through its opened crack and she felt the cold gnaw like knifes on her face. Everything was distorted and she strained her eyes into the darkness, uncertain if she could make out any form of figure.
"Halloa? Is anyone there?"
"Ah, my dear Lady!" came a rich tenor-like voice. "How wonderful it is to see you again!"
She blinked rapidly, squinting her eyelids tightly together. The scorch from her eyes grew more intense. If there was a figure, she could not make it out.
"Pardon? Who is this?"
"Oh, forgotten me already? Very well then, I might as well take advantage of this opportunity: You may address me as Colonel Bogey." The voice paused to chuckle to himself and continued politely, "I was just wondering if I may come in, Lady Judson, it is sweltering out here, you know."
"Oh my! It's you, Sir!" cried landlady, widening the door quickly. "Come in! Come in quickly before the frost gets in."
The rhythm of soft steps passed her by; again the frost gusted furiously at the door, nearly knocking her down. The landlady pushed her weight for the door to close, but the wind grew stronger, her heels scrapped the floor as the wooden door rattled to nature's force.
"Here," came the voice, "if I may be of assistance?"
She felt a fur-trimmed sleeve stretched aside of her, the soft fibers quietly gracing her cheek, and pushed the door further to a close. With a click, she twisted the lock and spun her back to the door and her sights towards the visitor. Her eyelids tried to flicker open, but could not.
"Warm yourself by the fire," she answered, "there is tea set up upon the table. Help yourself." She started to rub her eyes frantically.
"Don't open them," called the same voice from the door.
A fabric-gloved hand graced down upon her eyelids, shielding them closed; a warm arm hugged her shoulder.
"I can't see! I can't see!" shouted the landlady.
"Shhh, calm yourself now and come with me."
She stepped slowly forward as the pain pierced in further; tears begin to sweat down. The visitor led her quietly down the steps, seating her down upon an armchair next to the warmness of the fireplace.
"Sit right here," he came again, "and keep your eyes shut. I shall return in a few seconds."
The landlady nodded her head; she swept in a deep breath and swallowed, her heart pounding hysterically between her breast, as visions of random memories flashed rapidly through her mind. It felt like hot daggers, ramming into the surface of her tear-flooded eyes. She felt her spectacles remove softly from the brim of her nose, a hand raised her plump chin, and a soft, lukewarm handkerchief wetted one of her eyes. The warmth soften her tears and pain began lift gently away. Her breath began to soften and her frantic heart started to sooth, as the other eye was wetted. The most alluring aroma of a cologne tickled the end of her nose, a luxurious motley scent of Fougère Royale de Houbigant. It was crisp, accented with sweet virile lushness of lavender and oakmoss; it surrounded her senses softly but momentary like a stain of hot breath upon a glass. By the time the handkerchief was lifted way, so was the pain. The sore tears were dried as the handkerchief caressed her dimpled cheeks with the utmost gentleness, a gentleness she has not felt in a very long time.
"Now, Lady," cooed the voice, "try opening them now. Tell me what sights you see."
Her lids flickered open as she replaced her spectacles, adjusting her vision to the light, the blurs before her sharpened into a familiar face, kneeling aside her. With a weary sigh, she managed a relieving smile, the face smiled kindly in return. It was the poet.
"Ah, there we go," sang the young poet, but his sadden eyes betrayed his feelings of concern; "Is it better now?"
She nodded and managed a smile. He stood up, with a sigh of relief, glancing at the snowflakes on the heavy over-coat sleeve, he dusted them off and began to remove his white gloves. She noticed his hat was thrown against the opposite chair sloppily, his white cotton handkerchief and the fingertips of his gloves freshly stained with tea. The poet was of careful dresser by nature and, at such a rescue, she could not help but be touched by his uncharacteristic disrespect to his own very fashionable and very expensive accessories.
Returning his attention to her, he began his compliments: "Still as lovely, I see, as lovely as early blooming lilies kissed with the diamond lights of fresh dew upon its delicate pink petals. You should have a bouquet of those very blooms adorned before your feet."
The landlady rolled her eyes playfully at his proses. "Lilies are out of season, Sir," puffed she, rubbing her eye slightly, "and so am I."
"Nonsense," the poet returned. "They are blooming entirely well at the floral shops of Regent's. I have just been there earlier."
She raised a dubious eyebrow. "And I am certain they are as weary in the stems as I am."
"With branches of steel, I hear."
"Their dry leaves withering."
"A pristine delicacy of the beauty in which they withhold, I fancy."
"Awaiting to be fainted dead by the slightest frost."
"Oh, I had figured that was my duty. I grow jealous of the frost now."
"Are you going to continue labouring on like this?"
The poet flashed a playful grin. "Until I win you over, yes."
She smiled in return.
The game, of course, she could never forget the game? It started the instant he walked up to the open door.
When and how the game started was, and is, irrelevant; the game developed gradually, progressing further from conversation to conversation, gathering from time to time. They never addressed the game by any specific name or any official ruling; it was intuitively understood that it existed and that it is to be performed. The rule of the game was a very simple one: The one who had the last word, the last witty remark, wins simple by and far in suggestion.
Yet for the challenger to be that of the great poet, it was a demanding but amusing sport. He was the master of the game : a silver-tongued wizard of witticism : a true prince of paradoxes! Conceivably, it was an unfair advantage, a fluent poet and a lumbering landlady, but there was no trophy to claim, no need of boasting a non-existent title, nothing of importance to prove, therefore what did winning matter? There was not a rhyme nor a reason that motivated such a game to be engaged so continuously nor did she care for one.
The landlady held her head for a moment, smiling coyly. "We'll just see about that," entered the landlady decisively; "Oh, do let me take your coat and your hat."
"Thank you," replied he.
He had calm and cool composure, the poet, a towering creature and very curious in appearance. One might mistake him as a giant, though clearly he was a disciple of dandyism. The gentleness of his face was an awkward contrast from the largeness of his body. The poet picked up his black wide-brimmed hat, which he had thrown it against the armchair; after briefly inspecting its damages, he dropped his cotton-white gloves inside, and setting it next to a white stick resembling that of a tall conductor's wand. His hair was a thick sepia-brown, overgrown but neatly groomed, its length waved the curve of his grey cheeks and droopy ears, and his fringe combed aside of his large sad eyes with an undersized nose. Removing his long ebony fur-trimmed over-coat, the poet laid the massive thing upon the rest of the armchair across from hers, which was strangely bulkier from last she seen it. He wore a white byronic-winged collar roped an elegant black neck-tie, held down with a single diamond pin. The waist-coat was deep black, shimmering with a surrounding garland of flowery embroidery with white buttons and gold watch-chain. His deep rouge jacket, which hugged his broad shoulders, settled around a massive barrel chest that hung to his narrow hips and his brawny thighs, styled with a white rose buttonhole. His trousers were rouge as well, but were unusually snug upon his stately legs, with patent black leather boots, and the costume was topped up with a gold scarab ring, with emerald-stoned eyes, circled on the third finger of his right hand.
"Mr. Basil has been expecting you, Sir," she came, "but he's not here at the moment."
He stood his back facing an empty armchair, across from hers, with his hands clasped behind, smiling pleasantly. "When will he return?"
"Shortly, I suppose," answered she, standing up. "I shall make certain that your coat and hat are properly dried."
"I am much obliged. However," raising a pair of halting hands as the landlady reached for his coat, "I certainly hope you will join me, Lady Judson, in tea. We certainly need to have a little chirper, we have not chirped in years."
The landlady arched an eyebrow. "Sir, the last you came was here three weeks ago."
"Oh, three lifetimes over!" he came in mock amazement. "How tragic that we larks have not sung our sweet songs again. Please sit, in hopes of I entertaining you," motioning her back to her chair.
"Entertain me?" the landlady questioned with a sort of relish, looking up at him with reseating herself to the armchair.
"I can certainly entertain myself as well as yourself, Lady. You know very well how awfully multi-talented I am," smiled the poet, clattering with the tea set on the table set next to her chair.
"You do know, Sir, it is usually the custom for the hostess to entertain the guest?"
"I was never one for proprieties, Lady Judson," assured the poet, pouring tea in one of the cups. "Do you find my entertaining you rude?"
"Do you find I sharing a cup of tea with you vile?"
"Have I done anything as of yet which is you would consider vulgar?"
"Then my only excuse for my most wretched behaviour is that I am utterly incorrigible. I am just one of those horridly eloquent chaps who like to make charming women smile. What criminals we are! What sins we do! Sugar?"
She giggled slightly at the sudden come of the question. "Yes, please."
The poet lifted up to the inside of his rouge coat, pulling out a small tin whiskey flask. He glanced at it mischievously for a few seconds, then turned to the landlady with a great grin. The landlady's eyes came at the tin flask; the poet knew her blood was terribly vulnerable to the chill of winter, whiskey was often a solution to for bodily warmth. She smiled impishly at it and licked her dry lips.
"I never knew you carried one on your person?" teased the landlady, glancing up at him.
"Only when the weather is so blisteringly hot that my nerves can't stand it," winked the poet, sportively. "One cube or two?"
The poet arched an inspired eyebrow at her.
"I do like my tea sweet, Sir," jested she.
"Of course," smiled he, unscrewing the metal cap of the tin container. He poured nips of the whiskey into the porcelain bowl of the teacups, first in hers then in his. Replacing the top, he returned the tin to the pocket of his coat. "I really should tell the old boy to add a bit more colour to this place," continued he, tinkering with the cup-spoons. "It's rather dreary. Perhaps a bit of emerald? Or azure? Or a Japanese vase?"
"Ha!" laughed the landlady. "He'd use that vase for his target practice in an instant! It's tedious enough cleaning up after Mr. Basil as it is, let alone re-decorate! Just last week, he purchased a marble bust for £40, and just when he brought it here, he took a hammer and smashed it to piece like a madman! And of course, who cleaned it up?"
"Was it a pretty bust?" asked the poet, handing her a cup and saucer gingerly.
The landlady accepted it with a vein of curiosity. "What does its prettiness matter?"
"A great deal, Lady Judson, a great deal." The poet seated himself upon the armchair across, swirling a small spoon in his cup and continued on, "It is through art, and through art only, that we can realise our perfection; through art, and through art only, that we can shield ourselves from the sordid perils of actual existence. The less we see of bitterness and pain the better life we would live."
"Better no art than bad art, eh?"
"How well you phrase it," smirked he, sipping.
"I bet you would be cheering him on if he were to smash the statues in Westminster!"
"Only the bad ones."
"Oh, you have a list prepared already?" chuckled she, sipping her cup.
"Not yet, but if my dear friend is up to it when he returns, I will certainly furnish a few obliging suggestions."
The tea, which had been affectionately spiced by the poet, she had been drinking had indeed warmed her blood at last; her fingers not longer trembled with its former chill. Her eyes drooped day-dreamily as the stream danced gracefully from its brim, heating her round cheeks with type of calmness and soothingness that matched the poet's voice. She glanced up at the poet for moment. His smiled softly at the warm cup, watching the heat wafted the air like morning mist. They sipped their tea quietly in the silence of the moment, the only sounds being the crackling of the fire and blowing of the frost against the window, and the occasionally chime of the cup upon saucer.
"Mind if I suggest a few in?" entered she, finally.
He looked up from his cup with some fond amazement. "My dearest Lady, I would not have it any other way. I do like it when you are wicked; it's quite becoming on you. You really should be wicked more often."
"As wicked as yourself?"
"I have often been labeled as such," shrugged he. "I shan't go out of my way to contradict it."
"Are you as wicked as they say?"
He shrugged in a false innocence. "Ah, lovely thing, gossip," chirped he graciously, holding his saucer and cup upon his lap. "It is quite amazing what people say behind one's back that is utterly and absolutely true."
"So you admit it?"
"I admit nothing except my genius."
"You young persons always think your so clever, do you not?" scoffed the landlady.
The poet smiled proudly and nodded with agreement.
"Do you always consider yourself so highly, Sir?"
"I do it on principle."
"Is there anything you consider higher than yourself?"
"Yes, Beauty is a form of Genius; correction, it is higher than Genius for Beauty needs no explanation. Philosophies fall away like sand, and creeds follow one another like the withered leaves of autumn; but what is beautiful is joy for all seasons and a possession for all eternity."
"But surely you value Genius higher than Beauty?"
"It is a sad thing to think about, I confess, Genius lasts longer than Beauty. That accounts for the fact that we mortals take such great pains to over-educate ourselves."
"And what of Life, Sir? Certainly you value that higher?"
"The desire for the Beauty is merely a heightened form of the desire for Life, Lady. Beauty is the only thing that time cannot age. What is beautiful before is still beautiful to-day."
"I would not say that, costume changes all the time."
"No no, Fashion is merely a from of Ugliness that is so awful it must be changed every six months. Fashion is Style, not Beauty."
She laughed marvelously. "Ah," entered the landlady, "but age before beauty generally does not apply to fruit."
He laughed delightedly at her wit. "True, but it does apply to wine as I hear."
"You and Mr. Basil are the same age, are you not? Twenty-three. Or is it twenty-four?"
The poet, who had a notorious fear of aging, seemed to be taken aback for a second in some horror. "Lady, I have scarce seen but one-and-twenty summers," cried he, somewhat offended.
"Oh, don't fib that way; you are the same age as he. Why don't you settle down, Sir? Shower some heartache on some lucky girl?"
The young poet turned his head away at her words, trying to camouflage the sudden flush from his cheeks, and trying to shield his simper and chuckles with his teacup. "Oh, you are not going to try marrying me off as well, are you?" he came irrevocably, shaking his head. "I'm having enough pressure about it all. If I wanted to see another matchmaker, I would have called in on my mother. Now even you wish to rid of me! I am hurt, Lady Judson! Very, very hurt!"
"Nay, Sir. You'd be a right good husband."
"I fear not."
"You fear love?"
"No, I embrace Love, in fact, in all its divine splendour. I cannot live without the atmosphere of Love: whatever price we may pay for it. All love is a tragedy. Love is the sacrament of life, passion with a holy name. One should always be in love, my dear Lady, which is why one should never marry."
"Well, perhaps so. People do seem to be happier before marriage. It is a mystery of the universe, I suppose."
"Perhaps our missing host should look into this business, then."
"Don't you weasel yourself out of this subject," the landlady warned with a laugh. "He's a lost case!"
"Oh, be sure not to spread that about, Lady," smiled he; "It may ruin his reputation."
She laughed again. "Oh, certainly you've had thoughts of it sometime or another?"
"I have," nodded he, "and I am quite confident that they'll drown away in a few days."
"There are a great many respectable girls out there, Sir."
"How tragic for them," sighed the poet.
She smiled kindly. "Many of them are awfully nice, Sir."
"Yes, I suppose," shrugged he, sighing somewhat. "But nice is such a nasty word."
She arched an eyebrow. "Oh, really?"
"Yes..." His voice drifted absently and boringly.
"Then tell me, Sir, since you have an answer for everything," entered she, lying back in the cushions of her chair. "Is there a nice word for nasty?"
The poet's mouth open causally, he waited an instant and let the words flow out. But for the moment, his breath came still with no response. His lips closed palely and his eyebrows rose in some surprise. Craning his neck back for a moment in mixed thoughts, his dark-coloured eyes blinked blankly for some long seconds. He then gazed up to the seated landlady.
She smiled. Yes, by heaven, did she smile! Her soft eyes twinkled with a saucy proudness of no other, her curved smiling lips glowed upon her countenance, her dimpled cheeks quite pink and merry! How brilliantly pleased she was! How confident! How proud! And she had all the right because for once, and perhaps only once in this eminent game they had played, the poet was in a lost for words.
He bit his lip, yet grinned a fantastic grin. The poet rested down his cup upon his lap, and his hand clapped together in applause. "Brava, dear Lady," came he gently, in almost a breathless whisper, "Brava..."
The head of the landlady bowed graciously and very proudly to the poet's praise. Their smiles were exchanged with a great warm-heartedness that was akin to both. "You know, Sir," replied she, "I never could talk like this with Mr. Basil."
"The poor boy," mourned he, with sadden eyes, "he doesn't know what he's missing, does he?"
The landlady deferred her head down, staring at her cup, her cheeks flushed in a sudden bright roseate. Her eyes peered up and the poet's eyes were upon her, his lips in tender and generous smile.
Her mouth opened slightly, but her words were cut by a sudden booming fling of the wooden door! The frosty wind gushed in, the flames of the gaslights and the fireplace cowered. The couple sprung up from their chairs in a fright. The tea-cup in the landlady's hand quivered instantly at the touch of chill. The poet's hands seem to leap up swiftly to embrace that shaken hand into his, taking the saucer and cup and settling it down upon the table before it could spill.
A snow-covered figure dashed in and shut the wooden door with a snarl. The flakes from his heavy coat floated down and vanished as it hit warmer floorboards, the figure tore the large, sodden over-coat from his shoulders, and tossed it and his hat wetly upon the steps of the stairs. It was the detective : tenant of the landlady : friend of the poet.
The young detective yet again removed his slightly damp brown travelling-cloak, and flung it also atop the large over-coat left upon the steps. He sneezed with a chill and mumbled his curses about the weather to himself. Blowing some heat into his clasped nervous hands, he rubbed his pale long fingers together vigorously with an edgy sniffle.
The detective had a hyper-anxious composure, which was unlike his friend's. His short flaxen hair crowned smartly upon an intelligent brow, his auburn-tipped nose gutted outward, large and sharp, outlined with a characteristic pale-coloured muzzle between two hazel-green-coloured eyes, which twinkled with mischief and betrayed great mental keenness. He combed his flaxen hair back and walked towards a red-velvet dressing gown, with ebony trim upon its softly folded collar and cuffs, pinned by a dart on the wall. He quickly slipped it on comfortably and tied its ebony cord in a knot about his slender waist, and with a feverish sniff, flung the dart to the centre of the target. He wore a white flying collar roped neatly in a flowing virescent neck-tie, the ends of his fawn-coloured trousers were slightly drenched and hugged his ankles, his ashen spats were flat and long, tipped fashionably with a sepia-brown. He was a towering creature as well as tall as the poet; but nowhere as bulky, he resembled more of a rod, thin and very lean. He headed rapidly for a stack of thick hardbound books upon a crowded wooden table; its counter-top blotched randomly with chemical stains. He was thinner than usual, both the landlady and the poet noted this; he must have not have eaten all day.
The poet broke the silence. "Is it of any disadvantage to you, Lady Judson, to prepare a light supper?"
"No, Sir," replied the landlady. "Supper for two."
"Three," entreated he, with a smile, "if it is at all possible?"
"Two, Sir," she smiled at him. "I have my duties to perform."
"I see," came he, gloomily.
"I suppose there is no way I can convince you out of those beastly duties?" questioned the poet to her, with sad eyes.
"No," smiled the landlady softly, "but if you did try, my excuse will then be that my ears have gone deaf with age."
He laughed in a thwarted tone.
"Oscar, would you come here, please?" boomed the detective. His keen nose buried in one of his index books, flipping the pages agitatedly with his long fingers. "That is" glancing up briefly with a furrow in his young brow, "after you stop flirting with Mrs. Judson and be serious."
"How dare you, Sherringford? How dare you think of such a thing?" cried the poet in mock offense and surprise. "I? Serious? Never heard of anything so absurd!"
The detective rolled his eyes, flipping the leaves of his index book again. "Are you quite finish?" puffed the detective impatiently. "I'd like to show you something."
"A few minutes, if you please?" gambled the poet.
"One minute!" stated the detective, with a warning finger.
The poet shrugged. "Yes, mother."
The detective gave him a nasty look in response to the remark, yet the poet took no notice for his attention was still upon the landlady.
"Supper for two, Sir?" questioned the landlady again.
"Yes," confirmed the poet. "Thank you, Lady. We shall unfortunately continue our chirping another time soon. I hope," he smiled kindly. "Congratulations, by the bye," recalling her play at the game.
She curtsied triumphantly, returning to her a gracious bow. They departed slowly, she went to fetch the wet coats dropped by both gentlemen, and he ventured finally to the company of his old school colleague.
"Took you long enough," scoffed the detective under his index book.
"My compliments to the season to you also, Sherri," chaffed the poet. "Your patience does touch me so very much."
He peered away from the dusty pages of the index book with a slight guilty expression. There was a pause of silence. The detective was more than less than enthusiastic about the coming of holidays. He treated most days much in the same matter; as celebrated the day may or may not be to others, the detective periodically failed to see any difference from a wintry day from another wintry day, save if it were the scheduling of the trains and other such technicalities.
"Um, well," stuttered the detective, biting his bottom lip. "Light a cigarette for me, would you, Oscar?"
The poet removed a small shiny golden case from his inside coat-pocket and extracted two gold-tipped, Egyptian cigarettes and a singlestick match from the ivory ribbon-band. He tapped the ends of the sticks upon the metallic lid and placed the two of them between his lips. Replacing the case in his coat again, he struck the match upon the side-grain of the table; hovering his grey hand over the light shimmer of the match-flame like a shadow, the poet lit the tips languidly.
As the young poet puffed, wafting the match-light out, the violet smoke dancing upward, the poet watched the landlady from the corner of his eye as she collected the outfits upon the floor, where the detective left, and upon the armchair, where the poet had left.
Indeed, the fur-trimmed over-coat was not only bulkier than the landlady last recollected it, certainly heavier! Perhaps it was due to the dampness, she thought. The poet watched as she lifted the over-coat to the clothing pile in her arms, he smirked to himself. Removing the right-lit cigarette and lowing it to his friend, whose eye peered into the lenspiece of a microscope, the detective accepted the cigarette, nipping its stump quickly between his lips, muttering an abrupt gratitude.
The landlady stumbled to the door that led to the back into the small but tidy kitchen area, where the tiny iron stove bubbled a kettle of boiling water for the tea she lain out previously. She pulled a rack from the corner of the room close to the warm stove and started hanging the coats, one by one on each on the wooden hooks. As she hooked up the final coat, the young poet's heavy coat, something fell out. She jumped aback and her heart leaped for a still moment not knowing what it was. However, whatever it was, it was light and did not bruise.
She opened her eyes cautiously and looked down upon the floor and, in surprise, nestled at her feet, was a bouquet of delicate, white lilies wrapped in a thin, pale lemon-yellow tissue-paper and clear cellophane. Wet dew clung to the petals from the melted snow. They were as beautiful, strong stemmed and freshly bloomed as the poet praised. A small, butter-cream tag was attached to one of the fully bloomed lilies; the handwriting was distinctively the poet's hand large, sloppy but bold and it simply read:
- THE HAPPIEST CHRISTMAS TO YOU, LADY JUDSON;
FROM YOUR DEVOTED ADMIRER IN THE NEXT ROOM,