THE MEAGER FAMILY.
Too Long; Didn't ReadOn the day after the committal a lady, who had got out of a cab at the corner of Northumberland Street, in the Marylebone Road, walked up that very uninviting street, and knocked at a door just opposite to the deadest part of the dead wall of the Marylebone Workhouse. Here lived Mrs. and Miss Meager,—and also on occasions Mr. Meager, who, however, was simply a trouble and annoyance in the world, going about to race-courses, and occasionally, perhaps, to worse places, and being of no slightest use to the two poor hard-worked women,—mother and daughter,—who endeavoured to get their living by letting lodgings. The task was difficult, for it is not everybody who likes to look out upon the dead wall of a workhouse, and they who do are disposed to think that their willingness that way should be considered in the rent. But Mr. Emilius, when the cruelty of his wife's friends deprived him of the short-lived luxury of his mansion in Lowndes Square, had found in Northumberland Street a congenial retreat, and had for a while trusted to Mrs. and Miss Meager for all his domestic comforts. Mr. Emilius was always a favourite with new friends, and had not as yet had his Northumberland Street gloss rubbed altogether off him when Mr. Bonteen was murdered. As it happened, on that night,—or rather early in the day, for Meager had returned to the bosom of his family after a somewhat prolonged absence in the provinces, and therefore the date had become specially remarkable in the Meager family from the double event,—Mr. Meager had declared that unless his wife could supply him with a five-pound note he must cut his throat instantly. His wife and daughter had regretted the necessity, but had declared the alternative to be out of the question. Whereupon Mr. Meager had endeavoured to force the lock of an old bureau with a carving-knife, and there had been some slight personal encounter,—after which he had had some gin and had gone to bed. Mrs. Meager remembered the day very well indeed, and Miss Meager, when the police came the next morning, had accounted for her black eye by a tragical account of a fall she had had against the bed-post in the dark. Up to that period Mr. Emilius had been everything that was sweet and good,—an excellent, eloquent clergyman, who was being ill-treated by his wife's wealthy relations, who was soft in his manners and civil in his words, and never gave more trouble than was necessary. The period, too, would have been one of comparative prosperity to the Meager ladies,—but for that inopportune return of the head of the family,—as two other lodgers had been inclined to look out upon the dead wall, or else into the cheerful back-yard; which circumstance came to have some bearing upon our story, as Mrs. Meager had been driven by the press of her increased household to let that good-natured Mr. Emilius know that if "he didn't mind it" the latch-key might be an accommodation on occasions. To give him his due, indeed, he had, when first taking the rooms, offered to give up the key when not intending to be out at night.