Mrs. Lirriper's Lodgings by Charles Dickens


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Page 1

It is forty years ago since me and my poor Lirriper got married at St.
Clement's Danes, where I now have a sitting in a very pleasant pew with
genteel company and my own hassock, and being partial to evening service
not too crowded. My poor Lirriper was a handsome figure of a man, with a
beaming eye and a voice as mellow as a musical instrument made of honey
and steel, but he had ever been a free liver being in the commercial
travelling line and travelling what he called a limekiln road--"a dry
road, Emma my dear," my poor Lirriper says to me, "where I have to lay
the dust with one drink or another all day long and half the night, and
it wears me Emma"--and this led to his running through a good deal and
might have run through the turnpike too when that dreadful horse that
never would stand still for a single instant set off, but for its being
night and the gate shut and consequently took his wheel, my poor Lirriper
and the gig smashed to atoms and never spoke afterwards. He was a
handsome figure of a man, and a man with a jovial heart and a sweet
temper; but if they had come up then they never could have given you the
mellowness of his voice, and indeed I consider photographs wanting in
mellowness as a general rule and making you look like a new-ploughed
field.

My poor Lirriper being behindhand with the world and being buried at
Hatfield church in Hertfordshire, not that it was his native place but
that he had a liking for the Salisbury Arms where we went upon our
wedding-day and passed as happy a fortnight as ever happy was, I went
round to the creditors and I says "Gentlemen I am acquainted with the
fact that I am not answerable for my late husband's debts but I wish to
pay them for I am his lawful wife and his good name is dear to me. I am
going into the Lodgings gentlemen as a business and if I prosper every
farthing that my late husband owed shall be paid for the sake of the love
I bore him, by this right hand." It took a long time to do but it was
done, and the silver cream-jug which is between ourselves and the bed and
the mattress in my room up-stairs (or it would have found legs so sure as
ever the Furnished bill was up) being presented by the gentlemen engraved
"To Mrs. Lirriper a mark of grateful respect for her honourable conduct"
gave me a turn which was too much for my feelings, till Mr. Betley which
at that time had the parlours and loved his joke says "Cheer up Mrs.
Lirriper, you should feel as if it was only your christening and they
were your godfathers and godmothers which did promise for you." And it
brought me round, and I don't mind confessing to you my dear that I then
put a sandwich and a drop of sherry in a little basket and went down to
Hatfield church-yard outside the coach and kissed my hand and laid it
with a kind of proud and swelling love on my husband's grave, though
bless you it had taken me so long to clear his name that my wedding-ring
was worn quite fine and smooth when I laid it on the green green waving
grass.

I am an old woman now and my good looks are gone but that's me my dear
over the plate-warmer and considered like in the times when you used to
pay two guineas on ivory and took your chance pretty much how you came
out, which made you very careful how you left it about afterwards because
people were turned so red and uncomfortable by mostly guessing it was
somebody else quite different, and there was once a certain person that
had put his money in a hop business that came in one morning to pay his
rent and his respects being the second floor that would have taken it
down from its hook and put it in his breast-pocket--you understand my
dear--for the L, he says of the original--only there was no mellowness in
_his_ voice and I wouldn't let him, but his opinion of it you may gather
from his saying to it "Speak to me Emma!" which was far from a rational
observation no doubt but still a tribute to its being a likeness, and I
think myself it _was_ like me when I was young and wore that sort of
stays.

But it was about the Lodgings that I was intending to hold forth and
certainly I ought to know something of the business having been in it so
long, for it was early in the second year of my married life that I lost
my poor Lirriper and I set up at Islington directly afterwards and
afterwards came here, being two houses and eight-and-thirty years and
some losses and a deal of experience.

Girls are your first trial after fixtures and they try you even worse
than what I call the Wandering Christians, though why _they_ should roam
the earth looking for bills and then coming in and viewing the apartments
and stickling about terms and never at all wanting them or dreaming of
taking them being already provided, is, a mystery I should be thankful to
have explained if by any miracle it could be. It's wonderful they live
so long and thrive so on it but I suppose the exercise makes it healthy,
knocking so much and going from house to house and up and down-stairs all
day, and then their pretending to be so particular and punctual is a most
astonishing thing, looking at their watches and saying "Could you give me
the refusal of the rooms till twenty minutes past eleven the day after to-
morrow in the forenoon, and supposing it to be considered essential by my
friend from the country could there be a small iron bedstead put in the
little room upon the stairs?" Why when I was new to it my dear I used to
consider before I promised and to make my mind anxious with calculations
and to get quite wearied out with disappointments, but now I says
"Certainly by all means" well knowing it's a Wandering Christian and I
shall hear no more about it, indeed by this time I know most of the
Wandering Christians by sight as well as they know me, it being the habit
of each individual revolving round London in that capacity to come back
about twice a year, and it's very remarkable that it runs in families and
the children grow up to it, but even were it otherwise I should no sooner
hear of the friend from the country which is a certain sign than I should
nod and say to myself You're a Wandering Christian, though whether they
are (as I _have_ heard) persons of small property with a taste for
regular employment and frequent change of scene I cannot undertake to
tell you.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Sun 18th Aug 2019, 19:31