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86. CHAPTER LXXXVI
And now I must bring my story to a close.
The preceding chapter was written soon after the events it records-- that is to say in the spring of 1867. By that time my story had been written up to this point; but it has been altered here and there from time to time occasionally. It is now the autumn of 1882, and if I am to say more I should do so quickly, for I am eighty years old and though well in health cannot conceal from myself that I am no longer young. Ernest himself is forty-seven, though he hardly looks it.
He is richer than ever, for he has never married and his London and North-Western shares have nearly doubled themselves. Through sheer inability to spend his income he has been obliged to hoard in self-defence. He still lives in the Temple in the same rooms I took for him when he gave up his shop, for no one has been able to induce him to take a house. His house, he says, is wherever there is a good hotel. When he is in town he likes to work and to be quiet. When out of town he feels that he has left little behind him that can go wrong, and he would not like to be tied to a single locality. "I know no exception," he says, "to the rule that it is cheaper to buy milk than to keep a cow."
As I have mentioned Mrs Jupp, I may as well say here the little that remains to be said about her. She is a very old woman now, but no one now living, as she says triumphantly, can say how old, for the woman in the Old Kent Road is dead, and presumably has carried her secret to the grave. Old, however, though she is, she lives in the same house, and finds it hard work to make the two ends meet, but I do not know that she minds this very much, and it has prevented her from getting more to drink than would be good for her. It is no use trying to do anything for her beyond paying her allowance weekly, and absolutely refusing to let her anticipate it. She pawns her flat iron every Saturday for 4d., and takes it out every Monday morning for 4.5d. when she gets her allowance, and has done this for the last ten years as regularly as the week comes round. As long as she does not let the flat iron actually go we know that she can still worry out her financial problems in her own hugger-mugger way and had better be left to do so. If the flat iron were to go beyond redemption, we should know that it was time to interfere. I do not know why, but there is something about her which always reminds me of a woman who was as unlike her as one person can be to another--I mean Ernest's mother.
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