Imatges de pÓgina

which materially affected my views as to delightfully impudent.' But the most requestions of this sort, and, indeed, as to markable thing about this small protégé of matters of sentiment generally.

mine was decidedly his hair. It was in a Some years ago-fifteen or eighteen, I tangled mass all over his head, and not should say, at least—I was living-an old very familiar with comb or brush, but it maid then, as I am now—in the immediate was of a colour so exceedingly rich and neighbourhood of Sloane-street.

I was

uncommon that it was impossible not to be very much then what I am now. I was struck by its beauty. The artists who fond of the society of my friends, fond of were in the habit of coming to see me having things comfortable and neat about always used to rave about the child's hair, me, particular about my tea, much more saying that it was of that particular hue sentimental than I am now, rather ad- which is a modification of red without being

a dicted to routine, but very fairly happy, actually red, and which Titian and Gioras I believe a prodigious number of old gione loved to paint. I must confess that maids—when once they have made up their I believe that this Giorgione tint had a minds to accept the situation-are. I have great deal to do with my patronage of the said that I was living in the neighbourhood little rascal, and not only with mine, but of Sloane-street, and I confess I do not see with that of a great many ladies, old and why I should not state at once that the young both, who lived about the neighbourexact locality in which I had taken up my

hood. abode was that queer, old-fashioned, in- “All the time that I lived in Hans-place, consistent, half-secluded, half-frequented I used to pass this small urchin's crossing bit of the world which goes by the name two or three times a day, and generally, I of Hans-place. Not far from this parti-think, gave him something-any halfpence cular thoroughfare,' there was a certain I might have got in change from the tradescorner which I passed at least twice every people—or sometimes even a threepennyday of my life, and sometimes much oftener, bit or a sixpence. Not unfrequently, too, and here, my dear, there used generally to I would direct the servants to give him be assembled a little group of street urchins, some broken victuals on the door-step, and very much like those from whom we have he was even, on one or two occasions, ad. just escaped, and who, like them, depended mitted inside the house to partake of a for a living on what is generally called good meal; but that was when I was popular benevolence. There were no Echoes making a picture of the Infant St. John to sell in those days, but there were matches the Baptist, for which I made him sit to and cigar-lights, and there were sometimes me, but which, somehow or other, I never horses to be held—much oftener for some could finish quite to


satisfaction. reason than seems to be the case now- “ It was no doubt a bad thing for little and then there were omnibuses travelling Mike'—that was the name he went byup and down Sloane-street, alongside of when the time came for my breaking up which it was quite competent for these my abode in Hans-place. The move made little creatures to run, turning somersaults, a great change in all my arrangements, and and converting themselves temporarily into one difference which it caused was that I catharine-wheels, with a view of inducing rarely set eyes on my young St. John the those who were riding outside to fling any Baptist. At last I went abroad for a conloose coppers they might have to spare siderable time, and when I came back to into the road; besides which, it was always London, after being away the best part of possible to get hold of the stump of a broom, two years, I found that he had disappeared and pretend to sweep a crossing, like your altogether, and that nobody could tell me little friend just now.

anything about him. “Well, my dear, there was one special “ You must suppose now, my dear, that little ragamuffin belonging to this gang a considerable time-some years, in factof which I have been speaking, of whom, went by. Of course it was not likely that whenever I went out, I used almost in such a lapse of time could take place variably to take some sort of notice. He without bringing about all sorts of changes, was a pretty little rascal, neatly and well both in the small events of my somewhat made, uncommonly nimble and active, with monotonous life, and in the opinions and bright mischievous blue eyes, and a face feelings to which these events gave birth. which we instinctively set down as belong. With regard to the first—the circumstances ing to the Irish type. In addition to all of my life during this interval-I need not which he was, as you said just now, 'most trouble you, more especially as they are in

I was

the main known to you already; while as policemen who stood about, in less time to the last—the changes of opinion which than it takes me to relate what happened. those circumstances brought about– I need “ I need not tell you, who know me so only mention one: a strong conviction, well, how much I was disturbed and aginamely, of the enormous importance of tated by this unpleasant affair. I was not training in very early life, and of the used to adventures, and this one might organisation of some system for the rescu- have upset anybody much more accustomed ing of young children from the bad in- to stirring incidents than I was. fluences to which, when left to go adrift in horribly upset, and should have given in the London streets, they must necessarily be altogether but for my nephew, who, howexposed. This impression was one which ever, could not stay with me. All he could every day's experience served to confirm do was to see me safely out of the crowd, and strengthen ; and a certain incident, the after which he went off to attend to the telling of which will bring this narration to entering of the charge at the police station. a conclusion, was all that was wanting to When he came back I found, to my horror, convert strong impressions into absolute that it would be necessary for me, as well conviction.

as my nephew, to appear at the magistrate's “One day, my dear, something less than court next day to give my evidence. a year ago, it was on the occasion of the “Now, if there is one thing that I dread queen's opening the Royal Albert Hall- more than another in this world, it is I left my sister's home at Brompton about coming forward in public and making eleven o'clock in the forenoon, intending myself conspicuous in any way whatsoever. to take my accustomed stroll in Kensing- That night I did not sleep a single wink ton Gardens. I was not alone, for my sailor for thinking what was in store for me, nephew, Sam, who happened to be in town and when I came down in the morning I for a short time, on leave from his ship at had almost made up my mind that I Devonport, had come out with me to smoke would let the whole thing pass and not his cigar, intending to give me the advan- appear to give evidence in the case at all. tage of his escort as far as the gates of If I had known what was coming I am the gardens. Our line of route from quite certain that I should have stopped Brompton lay along one of those great new away; but I didn't know, and when I thoroughfares which lie on each side of began to hint at my feelings at breakfast the Horticultural Gardens, and it very soon time, I was met by such a volley of argubrought us into the midst of the crowd ments from my sister and her son, that I which had assembled in the neighbourhood was fairly beaten at the first onslaught, of the Albert Hall, with a view of seeing and constrained to give in, and face what all that might be seen of the day's pageant was before me with what courage

I might. from the road outside the amphitheatre. Both


sister and my nephew were very “I have a great dread of a crowd, and strong on its being a public duty, this that as soon as I saw we were becoming in- I had to perform, and both said that if I volved in one, was for turning back, but neglected it, I should be guilty of nothing my nephew would not hear of it, and less than a gross offence against the public, pledged himself to bring me through it and I don't know what besides. I have safely, and so he did, as far as my personal always felt that I have been much too insecurity was concerned.

different about what are called public mat"Well, my dear, we had not been long ters, public losses, public gains, public fighting our way through the mob—for it rejoicings, and so on, limiting my interest was nothing less—when, just as all eyes too much to my own small circle and its were directed to the Queen's carriage, belongings, so now I thought to myself that which was passing at the moment, I felt a I was going to suffer for my selfishness, and distinct tug at my watch-chain, and look- that here was an opportunity of making ing round saw a very ill-looking fellow, who amends in a sort of way. I didn't like had been standing close beside me, making the prospect before me a bit better after off with my watch in his hand. The coming to this conclusion, I must confess. involuntary exclamation which burst from · How

any one is got to accept the post me attracted my nephew's attention, and of magistrate, and to sit in a police court he, catching sight of the thief almost at all day long examining into the dreadful the same moment that I did, dashed off cases which come up for trial, is more than after him, and had collared him, and I am able to conceive. There were one handed him over to one of the numerous or two other cases to be disposed of before


mine came on, and my heart positively cumstance, and that was, that whoever ached as I sat and listened to the miserable was speaking — whether the magistrate details of paltry roguery, and cheating, questioning the witnesses, or my nephew and theft, and at the wretched aspect of asserting the prisoner's identity, or the the half-developed, imperfect creatures who policeman describing how he had taken were implicated in them. Poor, servile, the charge—this repulsive-looking fellow degraded wretches, what could be expected throughout kept his eyes fixed on me, and of beings who really, for the most part, on me alone, and never took them off me seemed hardly a degree removed from the to look at any other person whatever. I condition of the lowest specimens of the suffered a good deal under this scrutiny, brute creation ?

and once or twice was on the point of in“By the time my case was called on quiring what it could possibly mean, but I I was reduced to a condition of the very abstained from doing so, from that dread lowest despondency by all that I had seen of publicity which I have already spoken and heard, and felt more thar ever the wish of, and which caused me to shrink from that it might have been possible for me to drawing on myself any larger share of have evaded, by any means in the world, public attention than fell to me inevitably this dreadful public duty which was being in consequence of my unenviably prominent forced upon me.

Oh, dear! Here was I position. actually going to appear against one of “ These being my feelings, it may be those miserable creatures for whom I had imagined in some degree what my sensabeen feeling so much compunction. Was tions were when the prisoner, after being there no way out of it ?

fully committed for trial, just as he was “None. There was my culprit—even about to be removed from the dock, turned while the thought was in my mind-being round towards the magistrate, and said, in shuffled into the place just vacated by a a loud and distinct voice, “If you please, wretched woman who had got her “ three your worship, I've something I want to months” for shop-lifting. There he was, say before I go something to say to that and here I was, and the ordeal must be lady as has just gave her evidence against gone through. He was a very ill-looking me, and he pointed with his hand to the fellow, of, I should say, about thirty years place where I was standing. of age, and distinguished by a certain hang- “To that lady?' said the magistrate. dog aspect, which seemed to pervade him 'What can you possibly have to say to her?' from head to foot. A big, powerful, sturdy You have heard her evidence, and you can't man, with large, blue eyes, somewhat gainsay it, can you ?' evasive, but quite the best part of him, and “ I don't want for to gainsay it,' the hair of peculiar reddish hue, which re- man answered; but what I do want for minded me of—of something that had hap- to say is that she,' and he pointed at me pened long ago, but what it was I could not again, and the like of she, have helped to define or remember. The case was a very bring me to this here condition, and have simple one, only too simple, in short. I brought me to it, too, as sure as you're a had seen the prisoner snatch at my chain, sitting there upon the bench and I'm a and my nephew had caught him with the standing in this here dock.' watch in his hand. As to the question of “ Is the prisoner known to you, madam ? identity there was, unhappily, no doubt. I said the magistrate, addressing me. was eagerly on the look-out for any loop- “I looked at the man more attentively hole of escape that might suggest itself, than I had done before, but could not get but I could find none. It was not possible hold of anything stronger than a faint sugfor me to help admitting that I was able to gestion that something about him dimly identify the prisoner, and as to my nephew, called to mind some bygone memory of his conviction amounted to positive cer- past days. tainty. He would know him by his hair, “It is barely possible,' I replied after Sam said, if by nothing else, and could a pause, “that I may have seen him before, swear to him anywhere on the strength of but even if I have I cannot say when or its peculiar colour. His hair-where was where, nor under what circumstances.' it that I had seen hair like that? What " Seen me before,' the man broke out. was it that it reminded me of ?

'Seen me before. I should rayther think “Now, all the time that the examination you had seen me before. What, don't you of the prisoner was going on, I could not remember the little cove that used to sell help being particularly struck by one cir- matches and sweep the crossing at the



[ocr errors]



corner where you lived, just by ’Ans-place, ain't likely, so far as I can see, to be the and that you used to take notice of, and last.' give money to, and pat him on the 'ed, and 6. Why it ain't common sense,' the man say what honest eyes he'd got, and what a continued, 'to do as you done. Why don't hopen look ? Ah, you remember, I see, fast you think what you're doing, all on you ? enough. You remember, for I'm that very Why don't you use your reason and your same boy, and what do you think of me hintellects? What can come of letting a now, and how would you like to pat my lot of little beggars run wild about the 'ed now, and how about the hopen look, streets pretending to sell things, and never and the honest eyes that caught sight of getting into the way of doing somethink your watch-chain the other day in the for their living. Why you're just breedcrowd ?'

ing up a set of young thieves and tramps, “ • What, little Mike!' I faltered, almost as careful as if you'd set about it a purmechanically, “are you—

pose.' ** Yes, little Mike—big Mike now that “And now,governor,'theman concluded, I've grow'd up, and a precious grow up addressing the policeman who stood beside I've made of it. But what I want to tell him, 'we'll move off if you're agreeable. you, and him,' pointing to the magistrate, I've said what I'd got to say, and I'm and all the rest on you, is, that what I've ready to go back to my old apartments at grow'd to is only just what might have Millbank, or wherever it is, and I hope I been expected and looked for.'

shall find the lining aired and heverythink "I glanced towards the magistrate, half comf'able.' expecting that he would put a stop to this address. I believe that I rather hoped he And now, my dear,” the old lady conwould, for though I should have been will cluded, “ I've brought my story to an end. ing to hear what my old acquaintance had My friend is still undergoing his sentence to say in private, this public expostulation -after his trial at the Old Bailey he was was almost more than I could bear. The committed to prison for twelve monthsmagistrate, however, seemed in a certain but when he comes out I shall certainly way interested in the man's address and did make an endeavour to find the means of not interfere.

giving him a fresh start of some kind or " Yes, it's your own doings,' the prisoner another. For I do hold that to a certain went on.

Why did you go for to en- extent he was right in his accusation, and courage me?' And he again addressed him that a certain measure of responsibility self especially to unhappy me.


attaches to me for having helped to start think it was kindness ? It would 'a been him in about the most hopeless way of life a precious sight kinder if you'd just cotched in which any human creature could possibly old of me by the ’air that you was so fond be embarked.” of-though carrots was the best name I got for it from the other boys--and walked me off to a prison, or a school, or some place

CASTAWAY. or another were I might have been kep' out BY THE AUTHOR OF "BLACK SHEEP,” of mischief and been learnt a trade, and how to get a living otherways than off the streets. That's what would have been real

BOOK III. kindness, instead of praising of my good

CHAPTER XII. THE LONDON LAWYER. looks, and giving me sixpences and 'ot The rector stepped softly into the dinners on the doorstep, all for running darkened room, and closing the door bealongside of you with a stump of a broom hind him advanced towards the bed, and in my hand, and grinning and flattering of seated himself in a chair by its side. Madge you hup. Yes, and then what do you do? lay with her head propped up by pillows, Why you gets tired of me after a time and over which her long brown hair, here and won't ’ave nothink to say to me, and calls there clotted with a deep dark stain, and me impudent and troublesome, and then I damp from the fomentations which had ain't long finding out that there's other been applied, lay streaming. Her head was ways of scraping a living besides cadging turning restlessly from side to side, and a abont with a broom, and so I gets from one cry of agony, not sharp, not broken, but one thing to another, till it comes to something low-pitched, long-continued wail, in which like this 'ere. For this ain't the first time, her acute suffering often expressed itself, mind

you, that I've been in trouble, nor it | broke from her lips. At first she seemed not

[ocr errors]

· Did


PORT," &c. &c.

[ocr errors]

to notice that any one had entered the room, The rector bowed his head. “If I reand it was not until the rector had first fuse to answer any question you may put, lightly touched her hand, and then taken or stop in the midst of my recital, you will it gently between his own, that she ceased understand, Margaret, that it is solely on moaning, and, calming herself by a great your own account.” effort, saw her friend seated by her side. “I understand," she replied; then in. Even then she seemed either not to recog- voluntarily sinking her voice, she asked, nise him, or to forget the circumstances “Sir Geoffry—is he—is he dead ?”

-under which he was present, for she pressed “ He is.” the hand that was free hard upon her fore- As the rector spoke, he felt a convulsive head, and closed her eyes again for some thrill in the hand that lay within his own, moments before she spoke.

and the pallor of Madge's face grew yet Then she said, “I know now why you more intense and ghastly, but she evinced are here."

no other sign of emotion. “You sent for me,” said the rector, in “Tell me all about it," she murmured. his gentlest tone; “you told th servant Mr. Drage once more hesitated, until you wished to see me.

prompted by a nervous hand clasp. “When “Yes,” she said, “I recollect it all the servants, whose attention had been now. My mind is a little confused, I am aroused by the sound of the struggle and afraid, and when I first saw you sitting the crashing of the overturned furniture there and holding my hand just as you used and the broken glass, collected their senses to do in the old days when I had the fever, sufficiently to rush in a body to the library, I thought that time had come back again, they found a man bending over Sir and wondered whether all the things which Geoffry's dead body, and endeavouring to have occurred in the interval had been seen raise it from the ground on which it lay by me in a dream. I wish they had, oh, to the couch; your presence on the spot how I wish they had !”

was not noticed for some moments, not, Your strength is not yet sufficiently indeed, until the man had been secured returned to enable you to think, much less and removed into the hall." to speak of anything which is certain to “Secured, do

you say

? Is the man, then, excite your brain,” said the rector, bending in custody, and is he known ?”. over her. “Margaret,” he added, as if re- “He is; he was recognised by Riley on plying to an impatient gesture on her part, the instant; by a servant who had seen " I must speak plainly to you; your state him on the occasion of the previous visit; is most critical, and if you excite yourself, finally, by Captain Cleethorpe, who spoke your life, or, what is perhaps worse, your to you about him in the afternoon, when reason, is in imminent peril.”

you expressed your dread lest he should “You mean that I shall go mad,” said come toMadge, turning her eyes upon him and "Ah, my God!" screamed Madge, supclutching his hand. “If I do, it will be porting herself on both hands, and drawing from reticence, not from speaking. You herself towards him. “Of whom are you have been often pleased to praise my com- speaking ?” mon sense; believe me it has never been “Of Sir Geoffry's son, George Heriot." more active or more capable of doing me But at that instant Madge's strength gave service than at the present moment. I way, and she fell prone on her face with must know from you what has occurred outstretched arms, and hands working conthis night; you must tell me all without vulsively. attempting to suppress or disguise anything. The rector gently raised her, and laid Do you

hear me? you must, I say! her back upon the pillow. He was about The rector hesitated a moment before he to ring the bell to summon assistance, when said, “Will you not wait until Dr. Che- he saw her eyes open and her lips move. noweth, who is coming up again to-night, “Stay," she murmured, " for pity's sake.

” has seen and spoken to you ?”

This is now a matter of life and death, which * This is no matter for doctor's decision. must be talked out at once between you and You, best of all men in the world, can judge me alone; don't fear for me, I am strong how I can bear up against illness and enough; but I could not let things rest trouble; you alone in the world know the thus, even if I knew that to speak of them story of my life, and what I have gone would kill me. What proofs are there through. I tell you I must hear of to- against this young man ?” night's occurrence at once and from you !" “Many and various, and most con

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]


« AnteriorContinua »