« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
“Pooh, child, I came in Mr. Nelson's green chaise. Here is the postilion who can tell you so. I and my master came in that chaise. It was my master that was reading, as you say, and it was he that threw the money out to you. He is going to bed ; he is tired, and can't see you himself. He desires that you will give me the sovereign.”
Paul was too honest to suspect that this man was telling them a falsehood, and he now readily produced the bright sovereign, and delivered it into the servant's hands.
“Here's sixpence apiece for you, children,” said he, “and good night to you.” He pushed them towards the door ; but the basket woman whispered to them, as they went out, “Wait in the street till I come to you.”
“Pray, Mrs. Landlady,” cried this gentleman's servant, addressing himself to the landlady, who just then came out of the room where some company were at supper—“pray, Mrs. Landlady, please let me have some roasted larks for my supper. You are famous for larks at Dunstable ; and I make it a rule to taste the best of everything wherever I go; and, waiter, let me have
I a bottle of claret. Do you hear?”
“Larks and claret for his supper,” said the basket woman to herself, as she looked at him from head to foot. The postilion was still waiting as if to speak to him, and she observed them afterwards whispering and laughing together. “No bad hit," was a sentence from the servant, pronounced several times.
Now it occurred to the basket woman that this man had cheated the children out of the sovereign to pay for the larks and claret, and she thought that perhaps she could discover the truth. She waited quietly in the passage.
“ Waiter! Joe! Joe!” cried the landlady ; “why don't you carry in the sweetmeat puffs and the tarts here to the company in the best parlour ?”
“Coming, ma'am," answered the waiter; and with a large dish of tarts and puffs the waiter came from the bar. The landlady threw open the door of the best parlour to let him in, and the basket woman had now a full view of a cheerful company, and amongst them several children, sitting round a supper table.
“Ay," whispered the landlady, as the door closed after the waiter and the tarts, “there are customers enough, I warrant, for
you in that room, if you had but the luck to be called in. Pray what would you have the conscience, I wonder now, to charge me for these here half-dozen little mats, to put under my dishes ?”
“A trifle, ma'am,” said the basket woman. She let the landlady have the mats cheap, and then the landlady said she would step in, and see if the company in the best parlour had done supper. “When they come to their wine,” added she, “ I'll speak a good word for you, and get you called in before the children are sent to bed.”
The landlady, after the usual speech of, “I hope the supper and everything is to your liking, ladies and gentlemen,” began with, “If any of the young gentlemen or ladies would have the curiosity to see any of our famous Dunstable straw work, there is a decent body without who would, I daresay, be proud to show them her pincushion boxes, and her baskets and slippers, and other curiosities.”
The eyes of the children all turned towards their mother. Their mother smiled ; and immediately their father called in the basket woman, and desired her to produce her curiosities.
The children gathered round her large pannier, as it opened ; but they did not touch any of her things.
“Oh, papa!" cried a little rosy girl, “ here's a pair of straw slippers that would just fit you, I think. But would not straw shoes wear out very soon ? and would not they let in the wet ?”
“Yes, my dear,” said her father.
“But these slippers are meant for dressing-slippers,” said the basket woman.
“And will you buy them, papa ?”
I must make amends,” said he, laughing, "for my carelessness; and as I threw away a sovereign to-day, I must endeavour to save sixpence, at least.”
“Ah, the sovereign you threw by mistake in the little girl's hat, as we were coming up Chalk hill. Mamma, I wonder that the little girl did not take notice of its being a sovereign, and that she did not run after the chaise to give it back again. I should think, if she had been an honest girl, she would have returned it.”
“Miss—ma’am—sir !” said the basket woman; “if it would
not be impertinent, may I speak a word? A little boy and girl have just been here inquiring for a gentleman who gave them a sovereign instead of a halfpenny by mistake; and not five minutes ago I saw the boy give the sovereign to a gentleman's servant, who is there outside, and who said his master desired it should be returned to him."
“There must be some mistake or some trick in this,” said the gentleman. “Are the children gone ? I must see them. Send after them."
“ I'll go for them myself,” said the good-natured basket woman. “I bid them wait in the street yonder, for my mind misgave me that the man who spoke so short to them was a cheat—with his larks and his claret."
Paul and Anne were speedily summoned and brought back by their friend the basket woman; and Anne, the moment she saw the gentleman, knew that he was the very person who smiled upon her, and admired her brother's scotcher, and who threw the handful of halfpence into the hat; but she could not be certain, she said, that she had received the sovereign from him. She only thought it was most likely that she did.
“But I can be certain whether the sovereign you returned be mine or no,” said the gentleman. “I marked the sovereign-it was a light one—the only light sovereign I had, which I put in my waistcoat pocket this morning.”
He rang the bell, and desired the waiter to let the gentleman who was in the room opposite to him know that he wished to see him.
“The gentleman in the white parlour, sir, do you mean ?”
“I mean the master of the servant who received the sovereign from this child.”
“He is a Mr. Pembroke, sir,” said the waiter.
Mr. Pembroke came, and as soon as he knew what had happened he desired the waiter to show him to the room where his servant was at supper.
The dishonest servant, who was supping upon larks and claret, knew nothing of what was going on; but his knife and fork dropped from his hand, and he overturned a bumper of claret as he started up from the table in great surprise and terror, when his master came in with a face of indignation, and demanded
“ The sovereign—the sovereign, sir! that you got from this child; that sovereign which you said I ordered you to ask for from this child.”
The servant, confounded and half-intoxicated, could only stammer out that he had more sovereigns than one about him, and that he really did not know which it was. He pulled his money out, and spread it on the table with trembling hands. The marked sovereign appeared. His master instantly turned him out of his service with strong expressions of contempt.
“And now, my little honest girl," said the gentleman who had admired her brother's scotcher, turning to Anne, “and now tell me who you are, and what you and your brother want or wish for most in the world.”
In the same moment, Paul and Anne exclaimed, “ The thing we wish for most in the world is a blanket for our grandmother.”
She is not our grandmother, in reality, I believe, sir,” said Paul, “but she is as good to us, and taught me to read, and taught Anne to knit, and taught us both that we should be honest, so she
and I wish she had a new blanket before next winter, to keep her from the cold and the rheumatism. She had the rheumatism sadly last winter, sir; and there is a blanket in this street that would be just the thing for her.”
“She shall have it, then; and,” continued the gentleman, “I will do something more for you. Do you like to be employed or to be idle best?”
“We like to have something to do always, if we could, sir," said Paul; “but we are forced to be idle sometimes, because grandmother has not always things for us to do that we can do well.”
“Should you like to learn how to make such baskets as these ?” said the gentleman, pointing to one of the Dunstable straw baskets.
“O, very much,” said Paul. “Very much,” said Anne.
Then I should like to teach you how to make them,” said the basket woman; "for I'm sure of one thing, that you'd behave honestly to me."
The gentleman put a sovereign into the good-natured basket woman's hand, and told her that he knew she could not afford to
teach them her trade for nothing. “ I shall come through Dunstable again in a few months,” added he; “and I hope to see that you and your
scholars are going on well. If I find that they are, I will do something more for you.” “ But,” said Anne, “.
we must tell all this to grandmother, and ask her about it; and I'm afraid—though I'm very happy-that it is getting very late, and that we should not stay here any longer.”
“ It is a fine moonlight night,” said the basket woman," and it is not far—I'll walk with you, and see you safe home myself.”
The gentleman detained them a few minutes longer, till a messenger whom he had despatched to purchase the muchwished-for blanket had returned.
“ Your grandmother will sleep well under this good blanket, I hope,” said he, as he gave it into Paul's opened arms. “ It has been obtained for her by the honesty of her adopted children.”
Poems to be Remembered.
THE INFLUENCE OF BEAUTY.
The poet here wishes to teach us that Beauty is not a luxury but a necessity. God has made all things beautiful ; and we should day by day learn to admire and love what is truly beautiful, and learn to dislike the false glitter of that which only seems beautiful Tennyson says “ that the tender grace of a day that is gone
will never come back to me; ” but the common experience of men testifies that such is not wholly the case. We are pleased when we look back on pleasant days past and pleasant sights seen; we seem, so to speak, to live them over again. If it were not for this “flowery band, binding us to the earth,” life would, as the poet states, be past endurance.
THING of beauty is a joy for ever ;
Pass into nothingness, but still will keep