Nearly Lost but Dearly Won

Theodore P. Wilson
Nearly Lost but Dearly Won
by the Reverend T.P. Wilson, M.A.
Certainly, Mr Tankardew was not a pattern of cleanliness, either in his
house or his person. Someone had said of him sarcastically, "that there
was nothing clean in his house but his towels;" and there was a great
deal of truth in the remark. He seemed to dwell in an element of
cobwebs; the atmosphere in which he lived, rather than breathed, was
apparently a mixture of fog and dust. Everything he had on was faded--
everything that he had about him was faded--the only dew that seemed
to visit the jaded-looking shrubs in the approach to his dwelling was
mildew. Dilapidation and dinginess went hand-in-hand everywhere: the
railings round the house were dilapidated--some had lost there points,
others came to an abrupt conclusion a few inches above the stone-work
from which they sprang; the steps were dilapidated--one of them
rocked as you set your foot upon it, and the others sloped inwards so as
to hold treacherous puddles in wet weather to entrap unwary visitors;
the entrance hall was dilapidated; if ever there had been a pattern to the
paper, it had now retired out of sight and given place to irregular stains,
which looked something like a vast map of a desolate country, all
moors and swamps; the doors were dilapidated, fitting so badly, that
when the front door opened a sympathetic clatter of all the lesser ones
rang through the house; the floors were dilapidated, and afforded ample
convenience for easy egress and ingress to the flourishing colonies of
rats and mice which had established themselves on the premises; and
above all, Mr Tankardew himself was dilapidated in his dress, and in
his whole appearance and habits--his very voice was dilapidated, and
his words slipshod and slovenly.
And yet Mr Tankardew was a man of education and a gentleman, and

you knew it before you had been five minutes in his company. He was
the owner of the house he lived in, on the outskirts of the small town of
Hopeworth, and also of considerable property in the neighbourhood.
Amongst other possessions, he was the landlord of two houses of some
pretensions, a little out in the country, which were prettily situated in
the midst of shrubberies and orchards. In one of these houses lived a
Mr Rothwell, a gentleman of independent means; in the other a Mrs
Franklin, the widow of an officer, with her daughter Mary, now about
fifteen years of age.
Mr Tankardew had settled in his present residence some ten years since.
Why he bought it nobody knew, nor was likely to know; all that people
were sure of was that he had bought it, and pretty cheap too, for it was
not a house likely to attract any one who appreciated comfort or
liveliness; moreover, current report said that it was haunted. Still, it was
for sale, and it passed somehow or other into Mr Tankardew's hands,
and Mr Tankardew's hands and whole person passed into it; and here he
was now with his one old servant, Molly Gilders, a shade more dingy
and dilapidated than himself. Several persons put questions to Molly
about her master, but found it a very discouraging business, so they
gave up the attempt as hopeless, and it remained an unexplained
mystery why Mr Tankardew came to Hopeworth, and where he came
from. As for questioning the old gentleman himself, no one had the
hardihood to undertake it; and indeed he gave them little opportunity,
as he very rarely showed his face out of his own door; so rumour had to
say what it pleased, and among other things, rumour said that the old
dressing-gown in which he was ordinarily seen was never off duty,
either day or night.
Mr Tankardew employed no agent, but collected his own rents; which
he required to be paid to himself half-yearly, in the beginning of
January and July, at his own residence.
It was on one crisp, frosty, cheery January morning that Mr Rothwell,
and his son Mark, a young lad of eighteen, were ushered into Mr
Tankardew's sitting-room; if that could be properly called a sitting-
room, in which nobody seemed ever to sit, to judge by the deep

unruffled coating of dust which reposed on every article, the chairs
included. Respect for their own garments caused father and son to stand
while they waited for their landlord; but, before he made his
appearance, two more visitors were introduced, or rather let into the
room by old Molly, who, considering her duty done when she had
given them an entrance into the apartment, never troubled herself as to
their further comfort and accommodation.
A strange contrast were these visitors to the old room and its furniture.
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