JOHN CRUMB FALLS INTO TROUBLE
Too Long; Didn't ReadIt was on a Friday evening, an inauspicious Friday, that poor Ruby Ruggles had insisted on leaving the security of her Aunt Pipkin's house with her aristocratic and vicious lover, in spite of the positive assurance made to her by Mrs. Pipkin that if she went forth in such company she should not be allowed to return. "Of course you must let her in," Mrs. Hurtle had said soon after the girl's departure. Whereupon Mrs. Pipkin had cried. She knew her own softness too well to suppose it to be possible that she could keep the girl out in the streets all night; but yet it was hard upon her, very hard, that she should be so troubled. "We usen't to have our ways like that when I was young," she said, sobbing. What was to be the end of it? Was she to be forced by circumstances to keep the girl always there, let the girl's conduct be what it might? Nevertheless she acknowledged that Ruby must be let in when she came back. Then, about nine o'clock, John Crumb came; and the latter part of the evening was more melancholy even than the first. It was impossible to conceal the truth from John Crumb. Mrs. Hurtle saw the poor man and told the story in Mrs. Pipkin's presence.
"She's headstrong, Mr. Crumb," said Mrs. Hurtle.
"She is that, ma'am. And it was along wi' the baro-nite she went?"
"It was so, Mr. Crumb."
"Baro-nite! Well;—perhaps I shall catch him some of these days;—went to dinner wi' him, did she? Didn't she have no dinner here?"
Then Mrs. Pipkin spoke up with a keen sense of offence. Ruby Ruggles had had as wholesome a dinner as any young woman in London,—a bullock's heart and potatoes,—just as much as ever she had pleased to eat of it. Mrs. Pipkin could tell Mr. Crumb that there was "no starvation nor yet no stint in her house." John Crumb immediately produced a very thick and admirably useful blue cloth cloak, which he had brought up with him to London from Bungay, as a present to the woman who had been good to his Ruby. He assured her that he did not doubt that her victuals were good and plentiful, and went on to say that he had made bold to bring her a trifle out of respect. It was some little time before Mrs. Pipkin would allow herself to be appeased;—but at last she permitted the garment to be placed on her shoulders. But it was done after a melancholy fashion. There was no smiling consciousness of the bestowal of joy on the countenance of the donor as he gave it, no exuberance of thanks from the recipient as she received it. Mrs. Hurtle, standing by, declared it to be perfect;—but the occasion was one which admitted of no delight. "It's very good of you, Mr. Crumb, to think of an old woman like me,—particularly when you've such a deal of trouble with a young 'un."