Imágenes de páginas

tion, like a rabid cur, that vagabond, to a suspicious world, dyed in murderous blood, was the trim, handsome-to her, how beautiful !-young fellow walking at her side ; and now and then smiling so kindly upon her that her heart seemed to grow too big with the blessing? `And oh-extravagant excess of happiness !he was to be her fellow-servant ! IIe would dwell under the same roof with her! Now she was steeped in bliss ; and now, a shadow fell


her. Yes: it could not be. The happiness was too full ; all too complete to endure.

And yet the bliss continued-nay, increased. Mrs. Snipeton, that creature of goodness; that angel of Becky's morning dreams

- gave smiling welcome to her new handmaid ; greeted her with kindest words ; and, more than all, looked cordially on St. Giles, who could not remain outside, but sidled into the room to pay his duty to his handsome mistress. The sweetness with which slie spoke to both seemed to the heart of Becky to unite both. The girl's affection for St. Giles—until that moment, unknown to her in its strength-appeared sanctioned by the equal smiles of her lady.

At this juncture, a new visitor—with a confidence which he was wont to wear, as though it mightily became him-entered the room, passing before the slow domestic, leisurely bent upon heralding his coming Mr. ('rossbone was again in presence of his patient; again had his finger on her pulse ; again looked with professional anxiety in Mrs. Snipeton's face; as though his only thought, his only mission in this world was to continually act the part of her healing angel. * Better, much better, my dear Alrs. Snipeton. Yes ; we shall be all right, now ; very soon all right. And I have brought you the best medicine in the world. Bless me!”—and Crossbone stared at Becky—“the little wench from the Dog and Moon.'

“ Lamb and Star, sir,” said Becky. " Wonder you've forgot the house, sir ; wonder you 've forgot Mrs. Blick and all the babies.”

“I think it was the Lamb and Star,” said Crossbone ; but when we consider that the apothecary had already promised himself a carriage in London, can we wonder that he should have forgotten the precise sign ; that he should have forgotten the poor children (weeds that they were) who owed to him an introduction into this over-peopled world ? - You are a fortunate young woman, that

you have been promoted from such a place to your present service. One always has one's doubts of the lower orders ; nevertheless, I hope you'll be grateful." And the apothecary looked the patron.

as she

66 She may


“I hope she ool,” said Dorothy, with a sneer ;

and turned from the room, she went muttering along - She was born in the workhouse, and to be put over my head.”

“ I have great faith in Becky ; she 'll be a good, a prudent girl ; I am sure of it. You may go now, child, to Dorothy. Bear with her temper a little, and soon she'll be your friend.” And with this encouragement, Becky left her mistress, seeking the kitchen, hopeful and happy, as pilgrims seek a shrine. In a moment she had resolved with herself to be a wonder of fidelity and patience. And then for Dorothy, though the girl could not promise herself to love her very much, nevertheless, she determined to be to her a pattern of obedience. walk over me if she likes, and I won't say nothing," was Becky's resolution ; should Dorothy, from the capriciousness of illtemper, resolve upon such enjoyment; walking over people, giving at times, it must be owned, a strange satisfaction to the tyranny the human heart. Now Becky, though she had at least nine thousand out of the nine thousand and three good qualities that, according to the calculation of an anonymous philosopher, fall, a natural dower, to the lot of woman, was not ordinarily so much distinguished by meekness as by any other of the nameless crowd of good gifts. Ordinarily, any attempt “ to walk over her,” would have been a matter of extreme difficulty to the stoutest pedestrian; but Becky was mollified, subdued. Her heart was newly opened, and gushed with tenderness. She felt herself soothed to any powers of endurance. The house was made such a happy, solemn place to her by the presence of St. Giles. He would live there : he would be her daily sight ; her daily music ; and with that thought, all the world might walk over her, and she would not complain the value of a single word. She was astonished at her own determined meekness ; she could never have believed it. I“ And Mr. Snipeton-excellent man !--has hired you

?And Crossbone looked up and down at St. Giles.

- I trust, young man, you'll do no discredit to my good word. It's a risk, a great risk, at any time to answer for folks of your condition ; but I have ventured for the sake of—of your poor father.” St. Giles winced. “ I hope you 'll show yourself worthy of that honest man. Though he was one of the weeds of the world, nevertheless, I don't know how it was, but I'd have trusted him with untold gold. So, you 'll be sober and attentive in this house ; study the interests of your master, the wishes of your excellent mistress who

your mother.

stands before you ; and, yes, you 'll also continue to be kind to

And now, you'd better go and look to the horse that I 've left at the garden gate." St. Giles, glad of the dismissal, hurried from the room. IIc had coloured and looked confused, and shifted so uneasily where he stood, that he feared his mistress might note liis awkwardness; and thus suspect him for the lies of the apothecary--for whom St. Giles, in the liberality of his shamefacedness, blushed exceedingly. Great, however, was the serenity of Crossbone on all such occasions. Indeed, he took the same pleasure in falsehool as an epicure receives from a wellseasoned dish. He looked upon lies as the pepper, the spices of daily life ; they gave a relish to what would otherwise be flat and insipid. Hence, he would now and then smack his lips at a bouncing flam, as though throughout his whole moral and physical anatomy, he hugely cnjoyed it : flourished, and grew fat upon it.

“ And now, my dear lrs. Snipeton-Mrs. Wilton, with your leave, I 'll talk a little with my patient,” and Crossbone, with an imperious smile, waved his hand towards the door. Mrs. Wilton stirred not from her sewing ; said not a word ; but looked full in the face of her daughter.

· Oh no; certainly not,” said ('larissa ; " Mrs. Wilton has had too much trouble with her invalid, to refuse to listen to any

further complaints ; though, indeed, sir,” said Clarissa significantly, “I fear 'tis your anxiety alone that makes them so very—very dangerous. 56 IIa ! my

dear madam. You are not aware of it-patients arn’t aware of it- perhaps it is wisely ordered so -but the


of the true doctor can see, madam-can see.”

Pray go on, sir,” said Clarissa ; and, Crossbone, a little puzzled, needed such encouragement.

“Why, at this moment, madam”—said the apothecary, suddenly breaking new ground—" at this moment, were you turned to glass, to transparent glass, I could not more plainly observe the symptoms that, as you say,


exaggerate. And in fact, to the true physician, the human anatomy is glass-nothing but glass ; though, of course, we must not to the timid and delicate reveal every disease as we behold it. However, I have brought with me the most certain remedy. Safe and speedy, I assure you.”

And with such erudite discourse did Crossbone strive to entertain his patient ; who endured, with fullest female resignation, the learning of the doctor.

[ocr errors]

St. Giles, leaving the house, hurried through the garden to take charge of the horse. Arrived at the gate, he saw the animal led by a man down the road, at a greater distance from the house, than was necessary for mere exercise. Immediately he ran off, calling to the fellow who led the animal ; but the man, although he slackened his pace, never turned his head or answered a syllable. Hallo, my man ! cried St. Giles, “where are you leading that ? ”-and then he paused; for Tom Blast slowly turned himself about, and letting the bridle fall in his arms, stared at the speaker.

Why, what's the matter, mate? I'm only taking care o the gentleman's horse ; jest walking him that he mayn't catch cold. You don't think I'd steal him, do you ? ” asked Blast, winking

“What—what brings you here again, Blast ?" stammered St. Giles, scarce knowing what he said.

" What brings me here? Why, bread brings me here. Bread o' any sort, or any colour ; dry bread at the best ; for I can't get it buttered like some folks. Well, it's like the world. No respect for old age, when it walks arm in arm with want ; no honour or nothin' o' that sort paid to grey hairs,—when there's no silver in the pocket. Well

, I must say it, I can't help it, tho' it goes to my art to say it, but the sooner I'm out o’this world the better, for I'm sick of men. Men! They're wipers with legs," and the inimitable hypocrite spoke with so much passion, so much seeming sincerity, that St. Giles was for a moment confounded by à vague sense of ingratitude ; for a moment he ceased to remember that the old crime-grained man before him had been the huckster of his innocence, his liberty, -had made him the banned creature that he was, breathing a life of doubt and terror. “What do you want? What will satisfy you?

asked St. Giles despairingly.

“Ha! now you talk with some comfort in your woice. What will satisfy me? There is some sense in that. Now me of a little boy that was the apples of my eyes, and would have been the

very likes o' you, but--well, I won't talk of that, for it always makes

my throat burn, and makes the world spin round me like a top. I don't want much. No: I've outlived all the rubbish and gingerbread of life, and care for nothing but the simple solids. It's a wonder, young man, what time does with us. How, as I

[ocr errors]

you remind

[ocr errors]

may say, it puts spectacles to our eyes, and makes us look into mill-stones. What will satisfy me? Well, I do think I could go) to the grave decent on a guinea a week.”

Very likely; I should think so," said St. Giles.

A guinea a-Week, paid reglar on Saturdays. For reglarity doubles tlie sum. I might ha' saved as much for


age, for the money that's been through my hands in my time. Only the drawback upon thieving is this, there's nothing certain in it. No man, let him be as steady as old times, no man as is a thief

“Ilush! somebody may hear you,” cried St. Giles, looking terrified about him.

“ I'm speakin' of a man's misfortum, not his fault, cried the immovable Blast; no man as is a thief can lay up for a decent old

age. Ilave what luck we will, that's where the honest fellars get the better on us. And so you see, instead o' having nothin to do but smoke my pipe and go to the public-house, I'm obligated in niy old

age to crawl about and hold horses, and do anything ; and anything is always the worst paid work a man can take money for. Now, with a guinca a week, wouldn't I be a happy, quiet, nice old gentleman! Don't you think it's in me, eh, young man?'

“I wish you had it,” said St. Giles. “ I wish so with all my heart. But give me the bridle.” • By no means,

said Blast. “llow do I know you was sent for the horse ? How do I know you mightn't want to steal it?

Steal it !” cried St. Giles, and the thought of the past made him quiver with indignation.

Why, horses are stole,” observed Mr. Blast, with the serenity of a philosophical demonstrator. “ Look here, now: if I was to give up this horse, what hinders you—I don't say you would do it

—but what hinders you from taking a quiet gallop to Smithfield, and when you get there, selling him to some old gentleman anda

“Silence ! Devil! beast ! * exclaimed St. Giles, raising his fist at the tormentor. No, no ; you don't mean it,”—said Blast—"


wouldn't hit a old man like

I know


wouldn't. 'Cause if you was only to knock me down, I know I should call out, I couldn't help myself. And then, somebody might come up; p'raps a constable; and then-oh! I'm as close as a cockle with a secret, I am, when I'm not put upon, but when my blood 's up,-bless your soul, I

« AnteriorContinuar »