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"PADDINGTON! Paddington! Oxford-street!" exclaimed the loud voice of the conductor of a threepenny omnibus, as he paused for a mo. ment at the corner of the Strand to take up a passenger.
The last words were addressed to a young girl, meanly clad, who paused in doubt. It was just beginning to rain, and the poor girl, whom we shall call Mary Ilford, thought of the long, long walk to Paddington, and her thin, worn. out shoes, which would so soon get wet through; No. 86. FEB. 1852.
and then glancing at the money in her hand, and considering that it was all of her own earning, she came to the conclusion that she might afford herself a ride, just for once. Mary quietly sat herself in the furthest corner of the seat, blessed the first projector of threepenny omnibuses, and thought, in her simplicity, that he must have been a very good man indeed, to make so great a sacrifice, in order that the poor might now and then afford a drive.
“But for that,” thought the grateful Mary, “I might have been walking home now, wet and tired, all the way to Paddington, and most likely increased my cough, which is bad enough as it is." And as she reasoned thus, the rain beat against the glass windows, and rattled down upon the roof of the omnibus,
The conductor pulled up the collar of his coat, and pulled down the brim of his glazed hat, from which the wet rolled down in streams upon his shoulders; shaking himself every now and then like a water-dog. He had no need to exert his voice; the omnibus was soon full, and might bave been filled twice over. It would have been so, in fact, but for the stout opposition of several of the passengers, who were already half stifled with the heat and crowd, together with the necessity of having the windows up.
There was an old gentleman who took the conductor's part upon all occasions, and kept on declaring that there was room, and squeezing himself into the smallest possible space, in order to accommodate some dripping passenger. He was ready to hand every one in—to take charge of, and pass forward the children and parcels. He felt that there were many around
him who might not be able to afford sixpence. Perhaps, he c ald not have done so himself very well, for as the lamplight fell upon him, one might have observed that his loose black coat was much worn about the collar and cuffs, and looked as if the owner had grown strangely thin since it was first made.
The last person wliom the benevolent old gentleman and the omnibus conductor managed, from very opposite reasons, to make room for, was a young lady attired in a muslin dress, with no less than six flounces, (for Mary counted them,) a delicate crape bonnet, and gold bracelets on her arms, which glittered in the lamplight, and divided Mary's attention with the flounces. Gathering her dress together so as to avoid, as far as possible, its coming in contact with the coarser garments of her fellow-travellers, the lady settled herself as well as she could, paying but little regard to the comfort of others.
“It serves me right,” thought proud Mrs. Wilmot. “I should have ordered the fly to wait for me; but then, who would have dreamt of its turning out so wet? That stupid servant, not to be able to get a cab: and to think of her stopping a threepenny omnibus ; I do not see what business there has to be threepenny omnibuses ! Sixpence was little enough, and those who cannot afford to pay it ought to be made to walk. Oh, how hot! I should not wonder if I were to catch some horrible fever from these mean-looking people. I would get out at once if it were not for the rain, and I should be sorry to spoil my bonnet the first time of putting on."
We quite agree with Mrs. Wilmot: it was a very pretty bonnet, and it would have been a pity to spoil it; but not half so great a pity as it was to spoil the youthful countenance which it shaded, by the look of scorn with which she glanced around on her human brothers and sisters, whom God alone had made to differ. But Mrs. Wilmot was young and thoughtless, and her faults were those of education and habit.
After a time most of the passengers got out, the benevolent old gentleman among the number, until presently no one remained but Mary and Mrs. Wilmot, who began to shake out her ruffled flounces, and feel a little more comfortable. Mary was the last to leave the omnibus, and as she did so, she stumbled over something, which proved to be one of the glittering bracelets she had so much admired. There was a few moments' delay while she waited for change out of her sixpence; and when she again sprang forward, Mrs. Wilmot was out of sight. Mary ran up one street and down another, but not a glimpse of the delicate crape bonnet was to be seen. She would have consulted with the omnibus conductor, but when she got back he had driven off; and the girl returned at length, wet-footed, in spite of all her care, to her humble abode, taking the bracelet with her.
It seemed the most unlikely thing in the world that Mary Ilford and Mrs. Wilmot should ever meet again ; but, nevertheless, unlikely things do sometimes happen; and when unlikely things do happen thus, let us call them providences. A few weeks after the occur. rence which we have just related, Mrs. Wilmot
was stopped in the Edgware-road by a little pale, smiling girl, who expressed the greatest delight at the encounter.
Perhaps you do not remember me, ma’am?" said Mary, perceiving her astonishment. “No, indeed, how should I, when I never saw you in my life before, to my knowledge !" Not one evening ?” asked the simple Mary; just as if Mrs. Wilmot would think of noticing a poor girl like her.
“Not one wet evening, in a threepenny omnibus p"
“Yes, I recollect now, I did get into a threepenny omnibus once, in a mistake, and was deservedly punished by losing a valuable bracelet." Why punished P" thought Mary, who was now in her turn bewildered. Perhaps you know something of the bracelet ?” said Mrs. Wilmot.
Yes,” replied Mary, "I have it at home. I found it in the omnibus after you got out, and searched everywhere for you. "May I bring it to your house, or will you come back with me and fetch it? It is quite safe I am 80 thankful.” She paused, while a crimson flush passed over her pale face.
“What are you thankful for P" asked Mrs. Wilmot, who was much interested by Mary's appearance.
" That I did not take it out and sell it a few nights since. I would have starved myself sooner; but I could not bear to see her starve.":"But you did not sell it ?” No, ma'am, I hid it away out of sight, at the bottom of my box, for fear it might tempt others ; and God helped us in our distress. Thanks be to him, I am well enough to work again now."
“You do not look very strong to work,”