June 6, 2010

Mrs Moonan, Nuvoletta, Cadwan, Cadwallon and Cadwalloner

Also residing under Mrs. Matchless's roof were the boarders of the establishment, of whom there were four - or five, depending on how one viewed that fifth lodger, who was something of a special case.

There was a Miss Rivers, a young woman of character and refinement. She had russety locks, a creamy face given to blushing, and quenched-looking bashful eyes, like a Little Bo-Peep in a nursery-book. Miss Rivers was partial to all things tortoiseshell - tortoiseshell combs, tortoiseshell spectacles, tortoiseshell hair-brushes, tortoiseshell handbags, tortoiseshell cats. She could have been a walking testimonial to the tortoiseshell trade, but she hardly ever went out. She had a small independence worth £120 per annum, with which she devoted herself to the consumption of novels and exotic teas.

There was a Mr. Kix, a narrow, peevish, old-maidish sort of mustached bachelor. Mr. Kix was a man who looked always on the worst side of things, a grouch who thought the world a very dark place and the town little better. And there was his exact opposite, Mr. Lovibond, a plump, pink, full-bodied personage with a clean chin, a ready smile, and a bald head. Mr. Lovibond, too, was a bachelor - irretrievably single - but unlike the grouchy Kix he was always happy, hardly ever peevish, certainly never old-maidish, which annoyed Mr. Kix no end. Despite their differences the two were often in each other's company, the better to remind the other of his imperfections. Both subsisted on the income from annuities, which made them easy and spared them the trouble and inconvenience of engaging in the work-a-day world.

Mr. Frobisher was the fourth lodger in the house. He was a dark man of some attraction, in a rangy, cagey sort of way. His age was no more than five-and-twenty, and he passed most of his time out of doors, though as to the nature of his avocation no one had the least clue. Like Mr. Kix, he had a mustache, one which well suited his flowing hair, lustrous eyes, and lean good looks. The youthful Frobisher was a newcomer to the house, and had yet to accommodate his habits to that regimen of predictability which guided the lives of his fellow inmates.

The special case to which we have made mention was the fifth and final boarder. This was a Miss O'Guppy, who unlike the regular boarders resided in the attic rooms with the servants. She was rather a quaint young woman, very delicate of face and limb, with a nervous constitution that was - not to put too fine a point on it - rather delicate, too. In short, there were some who thought her a little unhinged.

Miss O'Guppy was an accomplished violinist, or fiddler as she liked to say. She was in great demand in the front-parlor, where she often accompanied Miss Rivers at the cottage piano. An habitual reader of the cards, she believed she could divine the future and predict the fortunes of those who consulted her in this capacity. More than this she saw and heard things only she could see and hear, and claimed to remember what she called a "morning time" before her own birth, a sort of earlier life unlinked to her present earthly existence - which was partly the basis for some persons' thinking her mad.

Strange Cargo, by Jeffrey Barlough