Imágenes de páginas


Mr. Gum went through the market, and through street after street, and threaded two or three courts, the girl looking now impatient, now distrustful. At length Ralph paused. “My dear, if I havn't left something at my aunt's! In that house, there ; just step in a minute, while I call for it.'

“No, I shan't,” answered the wench, with a determination that somewhat startled Mr. Gum. “I shan't go into any house at all, afore I come to Mary Axe. And if you don't show me the way directly, I 'll scream.”

“ Why, what a little sweet-briar you are! Don't I tell you, my aunt lives there? A nice, good old soul, as would be glad to see you-glad to see anybody I brought to her. I tell you what, now, if I must say the truth, I told her what a nice girl you was; and how you was waiting for me ; and the good old 'oman began to scold me ; and asked me why I didn't bring you here. I shan't stop a minute—not a minute.

The girl looked up in Ralph's face ; looked up so trustingly, and again so innocently placed her arm in his, that that great-hearted footman must have felt subdued and honoured by the confidence of his companion. And so he was about to hand her across his aunt's threshold-he was about to bring her face to face with that venerable, experienced, yet most mild woman, when, suddenly, he felt his right ear seized as by a pair of iron pincers, and the next moment he felt himself spinning round and round ; and the very next moment he lay tumbled in a heap upon the pavement. His heart bursting with indignation, he looked up, and—somehow, again he felt another tumble, for he saw in his assailant Bright Jem, his mother's brother-in-law ; the meddlesome, low fellow, that had always taken it upon himself to talk to him. distant, too, was Mr. Whistle, Bow-street officer, serenely turning his flower between his lips, and with both his hands in his pockets, looking down upon the footman as though he was of no more account than a toadstool. Of course, the girl screamed as the assault was committed ; of course, for a few moments her rage against the ruffian,—the ugly man who had, and so like his impudence, spoken to her at the Brown Bear,—was deep and womanly. But suddenly the face of Mr. Gum grew even a little darker ; and the wench, though no scholar, read treason in every black line. Hence, with growing calmness she beheld Mr. Gum elaborately rub himself, as he slowly rose from the pavement.

“ Who spoke to you? What did you do that for ?" Such was

A few paces

[merged small][graphic][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

the poor platitude that the smitten footman uttered : for guilt was at his heart ; detection weighed upon him, and he could not crow. “ Doesn't his aunt live here ?” cried the girl.

6. He said it was his aunt that wanted to see me?''

“ The only aunt he ever had,” said Bright Jem, 6 is in heaven; and—I know it-she's a blushing for him this very minute. I say, Whistle, couldn't we help him to a little Bridewell for all this?”

Mr. Whistle, shifting his flower to the corner of his mouth, was about to say something ; but it was clear that Mr. Gum . had not at the moment either taste or leisure to attend to legal opinions. He therefore took to his heels ; and he never ran so fast, because, perhaps, he never felt so little as he ran. “ Now, wasn't I right, Whistle ? And didn't I


that there was mischief in him?

And wasn't it lucky we followed him from the Bear ? Well, he has a nice crop of early wickedness, hasn't he?” Thus spoke Bright Jem, with a face of wonder. Mr. istle, however, was in no way disconcerted or astonished. He was one of those unfortunate people—though he himself considered his happy superiority to arise from the circumstancewho had seen so much wickedness, that any amount or eccentricity of evil failed to surprise him. He therefore twirled the flower in his mouth, and remarked a little plaintively-"Why was you so quick? If you 'd only had patience, we might have sent him to Bridewell; and now, you've spoilt it all-spoilt it all.” With these words, and a brief shadow of disappointment on his brow, the officer departed.

“Poor little soul!” cried Jem, taking the girl's hand, and looking paternally in her face" where did you come from-and where are you going to ? Come, you 'll answer me, now, wont



“I come from Kent, and I'm going to Mary Axe. That young man, I thought, was taking me the way”.

Poor little lamb! You wouldn't think he was old enough for so big a villain ; but somehow, he's been reared in a hot-bed, and has spindled up 'stonishingly. He's my wife's sister's child, and I will say this for his father ; he was as good and as honest a nigger as ever a Christian white man stole to turn a penny with. But we can't send goodness down from father to son ; it can't be willed away, like the family spoons. · Virtue,' as Mr. Capstick says, “like vice, doesn't always descend in a right line ; but often goes in a zigzag.'

[ocr errors]


The girl was an attentive listener ; but we fear did not very perfectly understand the uttered philosophy. She, however, felt that she had been snatched from peril by the interference of the odd and ugly-looking man before her, and gratitude and confidence stirred in her woman's heart. “ Bless you, sir; I was very uncivil, but I thought—that is—I 'm in such a tremble-can you take me to Mary Axe? I'm going to a place. Perhaps you know the gentleman-Wr. Snipeton ? I mean Mrs. Snipeton, his beautiful


wife ?” Jem stared, and marvelled at the strangeness of the accident. He, however, owned to no acquaintance with the fortunate owner of the lady “ Take my arm,” he said, and I 'll leave you at the very door.” With this Jem proceeded onward, and at length turned into Long Acre. Passing the door of Capstick — for we believe we have already informed the reader that the member for Liquorish had taken humble lodgings in that district -- the door opened, and the senator himself, with no less a person than Mr. Tangle, attorney-at-law, advanced to the threshold.

“ Eh, Jem! What's this? A thing from the buttercups ? Where did you pick it up?" cried Capstick. Now the wench was no grammarian, yet she seemed to have a born knowledge that "it" applied to one of the female gender was alike a violation of grammar and good-breeding. Therefore she echoed “it” between her teeth, with of course a significant tossing of the head.

Jem observed the working of the feminine mind, and immediately whispered to the girl—“ Ile's my master and a member of Parliament; but the best cretur in the world.” Jem then in a bold voice informed the senator that the young ’oman was come up from the country to go to service at Mr. Snipeton's.'

“ Bless me! what a very strange accident ! Come to Mr. Snipeton's, eh? IIow very odd !” cried Tangle, feeling that he ought to speak.

In the meantime Bright Jem, with commendable brevity, whispered to Capstick the history of his meeting with the gentle wayfarer. “Well, and she looks an innocent thing,” said Capstick, his face scarlet with indignation at Jem's story. “She looks innocent ; but after all, she's a woman, Jem ; and women can look whatever they like. They ’ve a wonderful way of passing pocket-pieces for virgin gold. I don't believe any of 'em ; nevertheless, Jem, run for a coach ; and as Mr. Tangle and myself are going to Snipeton's, we can all go together. I dare say, young

« AnteriorContinuar »