Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

boy, whom I already mentioned, was going from a workhouse to the miserable cottage of a wretched old woman, who had no natural interest in him, and—”.

Here Mrs, Barnet stopped, because she perceived that her husband had fallen asleep.

The following day they had visitors, and Mrs. Barnet found no proper opportunity of mentioning to her husband the boy in whom she felt so strong an interest. The day after, she was again prevented by the following accident: A large coinpany were invited to dine on turtle, at an inn in the village. This dinner was given by a gentleman whose interest in the country Mr. Barnet opposed, of course he was not invited to the feast; but the innkeeper, who had private reasons for cultivating the good will of Mr. Barnet, and knew by what means that was to be most effectually obtained, gave him to know that a copious basin of the turtle should be sent to him.

Mr. Barnet having prepared himself for the occasion by a longer airing than usual, was waiting with impatience for the accomplishment of the innkeeper's promise, when he was informed, that in conveying the soup from the inn, the servant had stumbled, and spilt the rich cargo on the ground. This melancholy accident affected Mr. Barnet so deeply, that his wife plainly perceived it would be vain to expect that he should, for that day at least, think of any body's misfortune but his own.

The following morning, Mrs. Barnet, on the pretext of paying an early visit, drove to the old woman's cottage, to enquire after the poor boy,

She soon observed him sitting on a stone before the old woman's door, apart from the other children, who were playing on the heath.

He sprung, with extended arms, toward Mrs. Barnet, as soon as he saw her.

“Why are you not playing with the other children ?" said she.

“ Because,” said he, “you promised to come and see me, and I have watched for you ever since;

“ That he has, indeed, inadam," said the old woman, who came out of the hoyel, when she saw the carriage stop; "he has been constantly on the look-out from morning to-night, although I told him, you silly fool, said I, do you think that that there fine lady will take the trouble to come to see such a poor little wretch as you—and what does your ladyship think he answered !" b 18

N N

« What did he answer?" said Mrs. Barnet.

Yes, I do think it, says he: for she promised to do so, says he; and the parson of the workhouse school told as that good folks always kept their promise, says he. And I am sure," continued the old woman, " that your ladyship always will, particularly to me, whereof your ladyship must remember that you promised to reward me, if so be I treated this boy kindly, which God he knows I have done, as in duty bound.”

“Have you had any breakfast, my dear?" said Mrs. Barnet to the boy.

“ I was just going to give him some," answered the old woman, “when your ladyship arrived—Was I not, child ?"

« I don't know," said the boy.

“ He does not understand politeness as yet, please your ladyship,” said the old woman; " but I will soon teach him in time; for indeed I was just going to give him some breakfast, as in duty bound.

Mrs. Barnet continued to talk with the boy for à considerable time, and was highly pleased with all he said. She then gave some money to the woman, repeating her injunctions, that she should be careful and attentive to the boy; “And now my dear, here is something for you," added she, presenting him with a large sweet cake.

" Are you going away already?" said the boy, with a sorrowful look.

Yes, my dear, I must go," replied she. “There,” said the boy, giving the cake to the old woman, you may divide that among the children.”

First take some yourself,” rejoined the old woman, tearing off a piece, and offering it to the boy.

“ No," said he; “I do not like it now."

“ You cannot choose but like it," said she, taking a large bite of the cake herself. “ Here, here,” resumed she, as soon as she could articulate, “ I assure you it is very nice; so there is a piece for you."

“ I cannot eat it now,” replied he, rejecting the cake, and looking inournfully at Mrs. Barnet.

“ I will come and see you again, my dear," said Mrs. Barnet, tapping his cheek; " but I am obliged to go at present; pray be a good boy."

"I cannoč be a good boy," resumed he, ready to cry, « when you are going away:

"I will soon return,” said she," but pray be good." “I will try," said the boy, with a sob;“bul I fear I cannot." Mrs. Barnet had not only a warm benevolent heart, bat also something of a warm imagination. The accidental manner in which she had met with this boy, and the sudden and growing interest which his appearance, behaviour, and forlorn condition, created in her breast, she considered as the impulse of Providence urging her to save a fine boy from vice, infamy, and ruin.

Fraught with this idea, she returned to her own house a little before her husband arose; and by the time he was dressed, she had every thing arranged for his breakfast.

Mr. Barnet entered the parlour with a newspaper in his hand, and, what was seldom the case, with a cheerful countenance,

." I fancy you have good news to communicate,” said Mrs. Barnet.

Why, yes,” said he, “ I find stocks have risen one and a half per cent. by which I shall gain a pretty round som.”;

“ I am glad to hear it,” said she, presenting him with a basin of tea.

I do not see why we should not have a dish of johndories for dinner to-day, let them cost what they will," resumed he.

"You shall have it, my dear,” said Mrs. Barnet ; " I will give orders about it directly."

While Mrs. Barnet was giving the orders, her husband helped bimself very plentifully to the toast, which he found buttered to his taste. He continued to eat, with every appearance of satisfaction, for a considerable time after his wife returned; and when he could eat no more, he presented her a plate of toast, with his usual phrase on like occasions

-"I really wish you would eat a little bit yourself, my dear.”

“ With all my heart,” said Mrs. Barnet," for I rejoice to see you look so cheerful and well this morning.'

"Why truly,” said he, stroking his belly," I do feel myself pretty comfortable.”

Mrs. Barnet, thinking this the lucky moment for resuming the story of the poor boy, described his fine looks and helpless condition in such eloquent and pathetic terms, that her husband, in spite of his natural indifference to every thing which did not personally regard himself, seemed a little affected. Mrs. Barnet perceiving this, continued :

“I do assure you, my dear, that you never saw a prettier boy." « I make no manner of doubt of it," said Mr. Barnet;

t but as for the old woman,"resumed his wife," she seemed to be an uofeeling creature, and sinelt of gin."

“ I make no manper of doubt of it,” said Mr. Barnet; " for I have known several old women sınell of gin.”

I am sure she will neglect the poor boy," resumed she.

Well, my dear, since you are persuaded of that, I think we must send for the old woman, and advise her to take care of himn; and I am willing to give her a few shillings out of my pocket, for so doing,” said Mr. Barnet.

“ That would make her promise to take care of him," said Mrs. Barnet," and make her appear very kind to him when you and I are with her; but what will become of the poor child when we are not present ?"

* Why, be most take his chance, like other children," said the husband.

" The other children have all some relation to enquire about them,” said Mrs. Barnet; " but this poor boy is quite destitute of relation, friend, or protector. The poor creature himself told me that the only friend he ever had died last week."

“ And who was he?" said Mr. Barnet.
A poor old footman," replied his wife.

And are you making all this fuss, Jane, about a little friendless vagabond, whom nobody knows ?” said Mr. Barnet.

“If this poor boy were known, and had friends, he would not stand in need of our protection," replied Mrs. Barnet.

“ That is very true,” said Mr. Barnet,“ but on the other hand, it is very hard on us to be the only protectors of friendless vagabond boys."

" This is but one boy,” replied Mrs. Barnet; “ perhaps Providence will never throw another so particularly in our way.

Why truly, Jane, you surprise me," said the husband; "you seem to be as much concerned about this boy, as if he were your own."

“ So would you, if you had only seen him; he is a most bewitching titile fellow, and although he is somewhat pale and emaciated, I never in my life beheld a boy with finer features, and a more interesting countenance; he brought to my remembrance our own poor George, who is dead and gone."-Here she burst into tears, and was unable to speak for a few ininutes.

Pray do not afflict yourself for what cannot be helped,” said Mr. Barnet; " you know, my dear, we did all we could

poor

for George, and the apothecary did all he could also: he could not have prescribed a greater number of dranghts; and cordials, and jalaps, to the only son of a duke; for his bill was as long as a spit; so there is no cause for sorrow or reflection. And as for this hospital-boy, although he is nothing to me, yet since he bears such a resemblance to George, I am willing to make a weekly allowance out of my own pocket to the old woman, to inake her careful of him."

Mrs. Barnet shook her head.

Why, what would you have me do ?" resumed the husband : you would not surely have me take him quite out of the hands of the old woman, and be at the whole burden of his maintenance myself.”.

Mrs. Barnet smiled, with a nod of assent.

Good gracious, my dear! You do not reflect," added the husband,“ how sirange a thing it would be for us to take a poor miserable wretch of a boy, perhaps the son of a footman, under our care, and be at the whole expense of maintaining him. I should be glad to know who would thank us for it?"

Our own hearts," said Mrs. Barnet.

“ My heart never' thanked me for any such thing since I was born," said Mr. Barnet; " and I ain sare all our acquaintances would laugh at us, and turn us into ridicale."

“ All the laughter in the world cannot turn benevolence into ridicule," said Mrs. Barnet: “ and the narrow-minded may be hurt to see you do what they cannot imitate; but malice itself can neither prevent the pleasure which a charitable action will afford to your own breast, my dear, nor the respect which will attend it.”

So your drift is,” replied the husband, < to tease me till I take this boy into the house."

My drift has never been to tease you, but always to make you happy, my dear. I own I am affected with the friendless condition of this poor orphan, and struck with his resemblance to the child who was torn from us at the same age; as for the poor young creature's maintenance, it will be a mere trifle io us, but of infinite importance to him; it may save him from vice and the worst kind of ruin. The reflection of having done so charitable an office to a lovely boy, like your own departed son, would no doubt afford you constant satisfaction : but," continued she, perceiving ihat ber busband began to be affected, “ I desire you to do nothing which is not prompted by the generous feelings of your own heart; for of this I am certain, that your acting

« AnteriorContinuar »