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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, “ Arę you not sorry, my dear, to leave home?"
No," answered he; “ 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 fell herself so much interested in. him, and so much affected at seeing so five 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, that 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 everything relative 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 uncomfortable 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 sym. pathizing tone of voice. “But here comes the dinner, and I trust you will now be able to make up for the loss of your breakfast.”
“I wish, my dear, the fish be 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 husbond 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 indemnified himself for the 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 dear.”
“I believe the parting with our sweet girl has entirely deprived me of appetite; it is not in my power to eat much; but, if you please, I will drink a glass of wine with you."
“I will just take one draught more of ale first; I believe there is but one other 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 ibe 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 fine 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 fouod 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 company 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 seryant 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.i;
She soon observed him sitting on a stone before the old woman's door, apart from the other children, who were play: ing 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."
46 That he has, indeed, inadam," said the old woman, who came out of the hovel, 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
« 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 tola 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 fadyship 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 ihe 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 hè, rejecting the cake, and looking mourofully at Mrs. Barnet.
“ I will come and see you again, my dear," said Mrs. Barnet, tapping his cheek; " but I am obliged to go al present; pray be a good boy."
“I cannoř be a good boy," résumed 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;“ but I fear I cannot."