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The Last Tenant By B. L. Farjeon Characters: 4324

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

"Sir: From inquiries I have made I am enabled to give you certain information respecting the matter you placed in my hands.

"The uncompleted term of the lease of the house, 79 Lamb's Terrace, was transferred, about nine years ago (not six or seven as you gave me to understand), to a gentleman of the name of Nisbet. At the time that this transfer was made the principal landlord was abroad--I believe in Australia--and his business affairs were in the hands of a firm of solicitors whose address I have not taken the trouble to ascertain, as it does not come within the limit of my instructions. Any information you wish upon this, or any other points which you did not mention in our interview, I shall be happy to obtain for you.

"Mr. Nisbet's family, at the time he entered into possession of 79 Lamb's Terrace consisted of himself and his stepdaughter Beatrice--he being her mother's second husband. Beatrice's mother died four months after her marriage with Mr. Nisbet, and by her will she left the bulk of her fortune to her daughter, and only a small portion of it to her husband. He was appointed guardian to Beatrice, and in the event of her death her fortune was to revert to him.

"Should you desire to become acquainted with the precise terms and phraseology of the will, you can do so at Somerset House.

"The young lady inherited £60,000 invested in consols. From the interest of this sum Mr. Nisbet was to receive £1000 a year for his guardianship of his stepdaughter; and £200 per annum was apportioned to the young lady for pin money. The remaining portion of the interest was to accumulate until the young lady was twenty-one years of age, when she was to come into possession of it and the original capital. I have glanced through the will, and it appears to be carefully and sensibly worded, and devoid of complications.

"According to my information, Mr. Nisbet was deeply affected by the death of his wife, and he sought consolation in foreign travel. The consequence was that he and his stepdaughter spent much of their time abroad, and the house in Lamb's Terrace was occupied but a few weeks every year. About four years ago

they returned to London, with the intention, as I learn, of remaining here some time.

"Their domestic affairs, however, do not appear to have gone on smoothly; they had difficulties with servants, and after a while were left with only one, a young woman who, I should judge, was willing to make herself generally useful, and was rather more amiable than the majority of her class; otherwise she would not have remained. Keeping house under such circumstances presented few attractions, and they were contemplating taking up their permanent residence on the Continent when a calamity occurred which frustrated this intention and broke up the establishment.

"The young lady, going to bed, turned off the gas in her room, as she supposed, and went to sleep.

"Certain conjectures must be taken into account. If she had turned out the light and taken away her hand at once, there would have been no escape of gas. Whether, after the light was out, she carelessly or willfully turned on the tap again, or whether she got up in the night and did so, cannot be proved at this distance of time, because there was no witness of the incident with the exception of herself. Next morning she was found dead in her bed, having been suffocated by the fumes of the escaped gas.

"There was an inquest, and the evidence given of the cause of death was accepted as conclusive. Mr. Nisbet shut up the house in Lamb's Terrace, and left England. Having no instructions to ascertain where he is at the present time, I have made no inquiries.

"By the terms of his wife's will he came into possession of his stepdaughter's fortune.

"I inclose a newspaper, containing an account of the inquest, and I shall be happy to prosecute the inquiry in any further direction you desire.

"Yours obediently,

"James Dickson."

Although this report was not so full as I expected it to be, I had no cause of complaint against Mr. Dickson. He had kept strictly within the limit of his instructions, which he had taken down in writing from my lips, and he had lost no time; I had, therefore, reason to be satisfied with him. I turned my attention to the account of the inquest.

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