The Lion and the Unicorn by Richard Harding Davis

The Lion and the Unicorn

And Other Stories

subjects: Adventure Fiction, Short Stories

Description

Prentiss had a long lease on the house, and because it stood in Jermyn Street the upper floors were, as a matter of course, turned into lodgings for single gentlemen; and because Prentiss was a Florist to the Queen, he placed a lion and unicorn over his flowershop, just in front of the middle window on the first floor. By stretching a little, each of them could see into the window just beyond him, and could hear all that was said inside; and such things as they saw and heard during the reign of Captain Carrington, who moved in at the same time they did! By day the table in the centre of the room was covered with maps, and the Captain sat with a box of pins, with different-colored flags wrapped around them, and amused himself by sticking them in the maps and measuring the spaces in between, swearing meanwhile to himself.

Excerpt

Prentiss had a long lease on the house, and because it stood in Jermyn Street the upper floors were, as a matter of course, turned into lodgings for single gentlemen; and because Prentiss was a Florist to the Queen, he placed a lion and unicorn over his flowershop, just in front of the middle window on the first floor. By stretching a little, each of them could see into the window just beyond him, and could hear all that was said inside; and such things as they saw and heard during the reign of Captain Carrington, who moved in at the same time they did! By day the table in the centre of the room was covered with maps, and the Captain sat with a box of pins, with different–colored flags wrapped around them, and amused himself by sticking them in the maps and measuring the spaces in between, swearing meanwhile to himself. It was a selfish amusement, but it appeared to be the Captain’s only intellectual pursuit, for at night, the maps were rolled up, and a green cloth was spread across the table, and there was much company and popping of soda–bottles, and little heaps of gold and silver were moved this way and that across the cloth. The smoke drifted out of the open windows, and the laughter of the Captain’s guests rang out loudly in the empty street, so that the policeman halted and raised his eyes reprovingly to the lighted windows, and cabmen drew up beneath them and lay in wait, dozing on their folded arms, for the Captain’s guests to depart. The Lion and the Unicorn were rather ashamed of the scandal of it, and they were glad when, one day, the Captain went away with his tin boxes and gun–cases piled high on a four–wheeler.

Prentiss stood on the sidewalk and said: “I wish you good luck, sir.” And the Captain said: “I’m coming back a Major, Prentiss.” But he never came back. And one day—the Lion remembered the day very well, for on that same day the newsboys ran up and down Jermyn Street shouting out the news of “a ‘orrible disaster” to the British arms. It was then that a young lady came to the door in a hansom, and Prentiss went out to meet her and led her upstairs. They heard him unlock the Captain’s door and say, “This is his room, miss,” and after he had gone they watched her standing quite still by the centre table. She stood there for a very long time looking slowly about her, and then she took a photograph of the Captain from the frame on the mantel and slipped it into her pocket, and when she went out again her veil was down, and she was crying. She must have given Prentiss as much as a sovereign, for he called her “Your ladyship,” which he never did under a sovereign.

And she drove off, and they never saw her again either, nor could they hear the address she gave the cabman. But it was somewhere up St. John’s Wood way.