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Jacob's Ladder by E. Phillips Oppenheim




With Frontispiece by F. Vaux Wilson

Boston Little, Brown, and Company 1921

Copyright, 1921, By Little, Brown, and Company.

All rights reserved

Published February, 1921

The Colonial Press C. H. Simonds Co., Boston, U. S. A.




Seated at breakfast on that memorable July morning, Jacob Pratt presented all the appearance of a disconsolate man. His little country sitting-room was as neat and tidy as the capable hands of the inimitable Mrs. Harris could make it. His coffee was hot and his eggs were perfectly boiled. Through the open windows stretched a little vista of the many rows of standard roses which had been the joy of his life. Yet blank misery dwelt in the soul of this erstwhile cheerful little man, and the spirit of degradation hung like a gloomy pall over his thoughts and being. Only the day before he had filed his petition in bankruptcy.

The usual morning programme was carried out, only, alas! in different fashion. Five and twenty minutes before the departure of the train, Mrs. Harris--but not the Mrs. Harris of customary days--presented herself, bearing his hat and stick. Her cheerful smile had departed. There were traces of something very much like tears in her eyes. She carried a small article in her hand, which she spent most of the time trying to conceal behind her apron.

"You'll be home at the usual time, sir?" she asked.

"So far as I know, Mrs. Harris," was the listless reply.

His landlady looked at the practically undisturbed breakfast table and gathered strength of purpose.

"Me and Harris, sir," she declared, "we offers our respects and we hopes nothing ain't going to be changed here."

"You are very good--both of you," Jacob said, with a weak smile. "For the present I don't think that I could live cheaper anywhere else, nor, I am sure, as comfortably. I have had quite a decent situation offered me. The only thing is I may be away a little more."

"That's good news, sir, anyway," the woman replied heartily. "I mean to say," she added, "it's good news about your staying on here. And me and Harris," she went on, "having no children, so to speak, and you having paid liberal and regular for the last four years, we seem to have a bit of money we've no use for," she added, producing at last that bulging purse, "and we thought maybe you might do us the honour--"

Jacob took her by the shoulders and shook her.

"For God's sake, don't, Mrs. Harris!" he broke in. "If I want it, I'll come to you. And--God bless you!"

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