Just what was it about Mr Mauritius that made him seem so dapper? It was difficult to pin it down. His clothes were worn. Very worn. His shirt showed through the thinning elbows of his jacket, the ends of his trousers badly frayed – enough to make any gent look unkempt. And yet he did not.
The suit fitted him perfectly. His hair was neatly trimmed and combed into a fashionable style. His battered boots polished. He made an effort, people said, when others would simply have given up. See him there – a jaunty mauve mallow-flower in his buttonhole, picked from the roadside on his way to the market, and contrasting elegantly with his dark grey attire. He was simply a naturally stylish person. And at no time would you catch him looking sorry for himself. Sprightly was the word for Mr Mauritius, ragged clothing or no.
He was scrupulously polite, too, raising his hat and wishing a good day to everyone he met, of whatever station in life, and being particularly careful to pay the most dashing compliments to all the ladies.
The aggregated result of this appearance and behaviour was that everybody felt at ease with him. Everyone agreed he was ‘one of us’; he was ragged, yet he was a gent; he was a friendly fella, yet he had an elegant turn of phrase. Mr Mauritius fitted in with everyone, changing like a chameleon to suit the company.
And for that reason everyone seemed to have forgotten that he had only been in the district for a few weeks. In that short span of time he had become part of the town’s furniture.
So it came as something of a shock when he disappeared. Overnight, without a word. Good grief, people said, he owes me money! It appeared Mr Mauritius had run up debts, small debts, all over the town. Debts of the ‘I will gladly repay you on Tuesday’ variety. And now, on Wednesday, he was gone.
But when they looked into it, compared notes, they found that all the borrowed money had gone back into the town. He had used small loans to buy people a drink at the inn; or to buy food for the town’s beggars; modest bunches of flowers had been thoughtfully given to spinster ladies, and little gifts to children. Almost every penny was thus accounted for, and almost everyone in the town had benefited in a small way. He had arrived with nothing, and had left with nothing more.
“Well, well,” said the innkeeper, not a man known for his generosity of spirit, “I suppose, all round, the fellow did no real harm. The money is still in the town – just redistributed a little. I shall miss him. He made life happier for us all while he was here.”
In such strange guises, in rags and tatters, are angels sometimes sent to earth.
This story was first published in my short fiction collection Mr Muggington’s Discovery and Other Stories. Paperback copies are available from Amazon at £4.95, but the e-book is free. If you’d like one, leave me a message on the Contact page of this site and I’ll email a copy to you.