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may say of the old woman and the boy what you please, they do not belong to me; but as for the coach, it is my coach, and I would have you to know, bears as good a reputation as any on the road, perhaps a better than your own; so I would not advise you for to go for to slurify the character of those who are saying nothing against yours : but as for you, my dear, you must come out," continued be, taking the boy by the arm, “ since this here gentlewoman insists upon it."
“ By no means," said Mrs. Barnet; “ let the child remain, and the woman also : there is room for us all.”
So saying, slic stepped into the coach ; the maid followed, and the coachinan drove on.
This arrangement was highly disagreeable to the maid, who seemed greatly mortified at being seated near a woman so meanly dressed.
Mrs. Barnet, on the other hand, was pleased with the op. portunity of accommodating the poor woman and the boy ; for this lady was of a benevolent disposition ; and although she was likewise most uncominonly free from vanity, yet if all the maid's stock bad been divided between them, the mistress and maid together would have made a couple of very vain women.
Mrs. Barnet was in rather low spirits, owing to her being separated now, for the first time in her life, from her daughter; the old woman, on the contrary, being delighted with her situation in the coach, was in high spirits, and much disposed to share thein with all the company.
She made repeated attempts to draw Mrs. Barnet into conversation but without success; for although from a civility of disposition which never forsook her, she answered with aitability all the woman's questions, she always relapsed into pensive silence.
The old woman was surprised, as well as disappointed, at this; she never in the course of her life had met with so silent a woman, and thinking it next to impossible that she should stumble upon two on the same day, in the same coach, of the same disposition, she ventured to address the maid, in spite of her repulsive looks, saying, “ Pray, mis. tress, as the sun begins to break out, do you not think it will turn out a good day?"
In this attempt to lead the maid into conversation, she was still more unsuccessful than she had been with the mistress ; for although the former did not partake of the latter's dejection of spirits, and had no kind of aversion in
general to talking, yet she deemed a person dressed as this poor woman was, far beneath her answering: therefore, surveying the woman's russet gown with contempt, and at the same time brushing the dust from the sleeves of her own, which was of silk, with an elevated nose, and projected under lip, she turned her disdainful eyes to the other side, without making the poor woman any answer.
Baffled in all her attempts to provoke a conversation, and quite unable to hold her tongue, as a last resource, the old woman began to talk with the boy.
His prattle soon disturbed the meditations, and attracted the attention of Mrs. Barnet, who at length asked the old woman what relation the boy was to her?
Pleased with this opportunity of giving freedom to her tongue, she answered with great rapidity, and almost in one breath, “ Relation to ine! All my relations are dead, please your ladyship, except my nephew, the pawnbroker, in Shug-lane, who is grown so rich and so proud, that he hardly speaks to me; but as for that there boy, I never saw him in my life, till this here blessed day, when I received him from the overseers of the workhouse, to take him to my own house in the country ; where I already have six children, all boarded at the rate of poor three shillings a week, which your ladyship must acknowledge is too little in all conscience for my trouble and expense; but the hearts of those who take care of the poor of some parishes are as hard as the very church walls. Now, please your ladyship, this poor child, it seems, was lately ill of the afHuenza, and cannot be put out to a trade till he grows stronger. And so they gave hin to me with the other children, for the benefice of country air ; which I do assure your ladyship does quite and clean the contrary of doctors' drugs, for it recovers the healih of the children, and gives thein all a monstrous devouring appetite, as I am sure I finds to my costand somit so be as
" Pray who are his parents :” said Mrs. Barnet, interrupting the old woman's Auency, which she saw was inex haustible.
“ The Lord above, he only knows," replied the old woman; “ for they told me he was brought to the work house when he was only a few months old ; the parish officers received bin from a poor woman, who said she was not his mother, but his name was Edward Evelin; but who was his mother was difficult to tell; and still more, who was his real father, as your ladyship well knows, for they bave never been found out; but it stands to reason that he must have had both, for I never heard of any body who had neither father nor mother, except Michael Hisendeck, of whom the parson of our parish preached last Sunday; but Michael lived in the Bible days, which is different from these here times; so this boy's parents must be persons unknown ; but be who they will, I suspect that they were no better than they should be: in which case it is pretty clear, that this here boy, saving your ladyship presence, is neither more nor less than an unnatural child; for if he had been born in the natural way of marriage, it stands to reason that his parents would have owned him long ago.”
Mrs. Barnet, affected with the condition of this boy; who began life under such unfavourable auspices, said, “ Are you not sorry, my dear, to leave home ?"
"No," answered be; “ I don't care.”
“ Is there not somebody at home whom you are sorry to leave ?" resumed she.
“ No," replied the boy; “ I am not sorry to leave any body.” “What, not those who are good to you?" rejoined she.
Nobody was ever good to me,” said the boy. Mrs. Barnet was touched with the child's answers, which strongly painted his helpless lot, and the cruel indifference of the world. She thought of her own child now, for the first time, left to the care of strangers, and the tear stood
My poor little fellow,” said she, after a short pause, “ was nobody ever good to you?"
"No,"answered he; “they are good only to the mistress' son."
“ And have you no friend, my dear?” added she, with a sigh.
“ No, for old Robin the footman died last week." “ Was he your friend.”
“Yes, that he was," replied the boy; “ he once gave me a piece of gingerbread."
Mrs Barnet could not help smiling at the expressive simplicity of the answer, and felt herself so much interested in: him, and so much affected at seeing so fine a child thrown as it were at random on the world, that while she yet smiled, the tears flowed from her eyes, which the boy observing, and mistaking their cause, said, “I fell a crying myself, when I heard that poor old Robin was dead."
“ That was like a good boy,” said Mrs. Barnet.
in her eye.
“ No, 'twas like a naughty boy,” said he; “ and the matron whipt me for it.”
“My poor dear little fellow,” exclaimed Mrs. Barnet, " that was hard indeed !"
“ It is very right, howsomever, madam,” said the old woman, “ that children should be whipt for crying; if I did not make that a constant rule at my house, there would be nothing but squalling from morning to night-for I'll tell you as how I always serves them there little chits, whenever they begin to make a noise--I takes them
Here the old woman was interrupted by the stopping of the coach at the part of the common where she was to get out and walk to her own house.
Mrs. Barnet warmly recommended the boy to her care, putting at the same time a guinea into her hand, and adding, ihat she would perhaps call upon her sometimes, and would reward her more liberally, if she found that the boy was treated with kindness.
The old woman having promised to treat him kindly, led him away, and the coach drove on.
The forlorn condition of this poor boy, destitute of father, mother, relation, or protector, so strongly awakened the humane feelings of Mrs. Barnet, that her thoughts were divided between him and her own child for the remainder of the way; and when she arrived at her own house, after giving her husband a particular account of every thing reJative to the establishinent of his daughter, she began the history of the workhouse boy; but she had not proceeded far, when Mr. Barnet hastily rung the bell, to know whether dinner was nearly ready, saying, “That he had eaten little or nothing since his breakfast, and indeed not a great deal then, owing to the carelessness of the maid, who had not put butter enough upon the toast.”
Why did you not order her to make some with more, my dear?” said Mrs. Barnet.
“ Because," replied he," I did not observe it till I could eat no more; so that, upon the whole, I made a very un. comfortable breakfast."
“I am sorry for it,” said Mrs. Barnet,“ but I hope you have had something since."
“ Very little,” replied he; “ for I was put so out of humour with the toast, that I have had liule or no appetite until now.'"
“ That is provoking indeed,” said Mrs. Barnet, in a syin. pathizing tone of voice. “But here comes the dinner, and dear.”
I trust you will now be able to make up for the loss of your breakfast.”
“I wish, my dear, the fish bę not overdone,” cried Mr. Barnet, fixing an alarmed look on the dish.
“ Pray do not terrify yourself,” replied Mrs. Barnet: “the fish is done to a moment; and the veal, as well as the beans and bacon, seem admirable-allow me to help you.”
Mrs. Barnet accordingly helped her husband to every thing she knew he liked, which, he being a man of few. words, particularly at meals, accepted in silent complacency. After having amply indempified himself for tlie misfortunes of the breakfast, and baving attempted, in vain, to swallow another morsel, he looked with benignity at his wife, and said, “I really wish you would eat a little bit yourself, my
“I believe the parting with our sweet girl has entirely deprived me of appetite; it is not in my power 10 eat much; but, if you please, I will drink a glass of wine with
“I will just take one draught more of ale first; I believe there is but one oiber draught in the tankard.”.
Mr. Barnet having finished his ale, “ Upon my word" said he “this ale is excellent, and now, my dear, I am ready to join you in a glass of wine.--Here, my dear, is your very good health, with all my heart, not forgetting our dear Louisa."
After Mr. Barnet had drank a few glasses more, and praised the port as sound and stomachic, and of a good body, “ I am glad to see you here again, my dear,” said he; " they may talk of the comforts and conveniences of London as they please, but I think there is no place where one finds every thing so veat, and so clean, and so comfortable, as in one's own house here, and at one's own good, warm, snug fireside."
Mrs. Barnet, desirous of interesting her husband in the poor boy, thought this a good opportunity, and after expressing her own satisfaction in the thoughts of his finding home so agreeable, she proceeded in the following terms “ Yet, my dear, in the midst of those comforts which Providence has so bountifully bestowed upon us, it is impossible not to feel uneasiness in reflecting on the numbers of our fellow-creatures, who, instead of those conveniences which we enjoy, are fain, after fatigue and labour, to seek a little refreshmeni, and repose upon straw, in cold uncomfortable habitations, and from scanty provisions! The fing