Part 2 out of 10
little Jem immediately recollected, and scarcely dared lift his eyes to
look at the boy on horseback. "Good God!" said he to himself, "it must
be--yet surely it can't be Lawrence!" The footman rode on as fast as the
people would let him. The boy's hat was slouched, and his head hung
down, so that nobody could see his face.
At this instant there was a disturbance in the crowd. A man who was half
drunk pushed his way forwards, swearing that nobody should stop him; that
he had a right to see--and he WOULD see. And so he did; for, forcing
through all resistance, he staggered up to the footman just as he was
lifting down the boy he had carried before him. "I WILL--I tell you I
WILL see the thief!" cried the drunken man, pushing up the boy's hat. It
was his own son. "Lawrence!" exclaimed the wretched father. The shock
sobered him at once, and he hid his face in his hands.
There was an awful silence. Lawrence fell on his knees, and in a voice
that could scarcely be heard made a full confession of all the
circumstances of his guilt.
"Such a young creature so wicked!" the bystanders exclaimed; "what could
put such wickedness in your head?"
"Bad company," said Lawrence.
"And how came you--what brought you into bad company?"
"I don't know, except it was idleness."
While this was saying the farmer was emptying Lazy Lawrence's pockets;
and when the money appeared, all his former companions in the village
looked at each other with astonishment and terror. Their parents grasped
their little hands closer, and cried, "Thank God! he is not my son. How
often when he was little we used, as he lounged about, to tell him that
idleness was the root of all evil."
As for the hardened wretch, his accomplice, everyone was impatient to
have him sent to gaol. He put on a bold, insolent countenance, till he
heard Lawrence's confession; till the money was found upon him; and he
heard the milk-woman declare that she would swear to the silver penny
which he had dropped. Then he turned pale, and betrayed the strongest
signs of fear.
"We must take him before the justice," said the farmer, "and he'll be
lodged in Bristol gaol."
"Oh!" said Jem, springing forwards when Lawrence's hands were going to be
tied, "let him go--won't you?--can't you let him go?"
"Yes, madam, for mercy's sake," said Jem's mother to the lady, "think
what a disgrace to his family to be sent to gaol."
His father stood by wringing his hands in an agony of despair. "It's all
my fault," cried he; "I brought him up in idleness."
"But he'll never be idle any more," said Jem; "won't you speak for him,
"Don't ask the lady to speak for him," said the farmer; "it's better he
should go to Bridewell now, than to the gallows by-and-by."
Nothing more was said; for everybody felt the truth of the farmer's
Lawrence was eventually sent to Bridewell for a month, and the stable-boy
was sent for trial, convicted, and transported to Botany Bay.
During Lawrence's confinement, Jem often visited him, and carried him
such little presents as he could afford to give; and Jem could afford to
be GENEROUS, because he was INDUSTRIOUS. Lawrence's heart was touched by
his kindness, and his example struck him so forcibly that, when his
confinement was ended, he resolved to set immediately to work; and, to
the astonishment of all who knew him, soon became remarkable for
industry. He was found early and late at his work, established a new
character, and for ever lost the name of "Lazy Lawrence."
THE FALSE KEY.
Mr. Spencer, a very benevolent and sensible man, undertook the education
of several poor children. Among the rest was a boy of the name of
Franklin, whom he had bred up from the time he was five years old.
Franklin had the misfortune to be the son of a man of infamous character;
and for many years this was a disgrace and reproach to his child. When
any of the neighbours' children quarrelled with him, they used to tell
him that he would turn out like his father. But Mr. Spencer always
assured him that he might make himself whatever he pleased; that by
behaving well he would certainly, sooner or later, secure the esteem and
love of all who knew him, even of those who had the strongest prejudice
against him on his father's account.
This hope was very delightful to Franklin, and he showed the strongest
desire to learn and to do everything that was right; so that Mr. Spencer
soon grew fond of him, and took great pains to instruct him, and to give
him all the good habits and principles which might make him a useful,
respectable and happy man.
When he was about thirteen years of age, Mr. Spencer one day sent for him
into his closet; and as he was folding up a letter which he had been
writing, said to him, with a very kind look, but in a graver tone than
usual, "Franklin, you are going to leave me."
"Sir!" said Franklin.
"You are now going to leave me, and to begin the world for yourself. You
will carry this letter to my sister, Mrs. Churchill, in Queen's Square.
You know Queen's Square?" Franklin bowed. "You must expect," continued
Mr. Spencer, "to meet with several disagreeable things, and a great deal
of rough work, at your first setting out; but be faithful and obedient to
your mistress, and obliging to your fellow-servants, and all will go
well. Mrs. Churchill will make you a very good mistress, if you behave
properly; and I have no doubt but you will."
"Thank you, sir."
"And you will always--I mean, as long as you deserve it--find a friend in
"Thank you, sir--I am sure you are--" There Franklin stopped short, for
the recollection of all Mr. Spencer's goodness rushed upon him at once,
and he could not say another word.
"Bring me a candle to seal this letter," said his master; and he was very
glad to get out of the room. He came back with the candle, and, with a
stout heart, stood by whilst the letter was sealing; and, when his master
put it into his hand, said, in a cheerful voice, "I hope you will let me
see you again, sir, sometimes."
"Certainly; whenever your mistress can spare you, I shall be very glad to
see you; and remember, if ever you get into any difficulty, don't be
afraid to come to me. I have sometimes spoken harshly to you; but you
will not meet with a more indulgent friend." Franklin at this turned
away with a full heart; and, after making two or three attempts to
express his gratitude, left the room without being able to speak.
He got to Queen's Square about three o'clock. The door was opened by a
large, red-faced man, in a blue coat and scarlet waistcoat, to whom he
felt afraid to give his message, lest he should not be a servant.
"Well, what's your business, sir?" said the butler.
"I have a letter for Mrs. Churchill, sir," said Franklin, endeavouring to
pronounce his "sir" in a tone as respectful as the butler's was insolent.
The man having examined the direction, seal, and edges of the letter,
carried it upstairs, and in a few minutes returned, and ordered Franklin
to rub his shoes well and follow him. He was then shown into a handsome
room, where he found his mistress--an elderly lady. She asked him a few
questions, examining him attentively as she spoke; and her severe eye at
first, and her gracious smile afterwards, made him feel that she was a
person to be both loved and feared. "I shall give you in charge," said
she, ringing a bell, "to my housekeeper, and I hope she will have no
reason to be displeased with you."
The housekeeper, when she first came in, appeared with a smiling
countenance; but the moment she cast her eyes on Franklin, it changed to
a look of surprise and suspicion. Her mistress recommended him to her
protection, saying, "Pomfret, I hope you will keep this boy under your
own eye." And she received him with a cold "Very well, ma'am," which
plainly showed that she was not disposed to like him. In fact, Mrs.
Pomfret was a woman so fond of power, and so jealous of favour, that she
would have quarrelled with an angel who had got so near her mistress
without her introduction. She smothered her displeasure, however, till
night; when, as she attended her mistress' toilette, she could not
refrain from expressing her sentiments. She began cautiously: "Ma'am,
is not this the boy Mr. Spencer was talking of one day--that has been
brought up by the VILLAINTROPIC SOCIETY, I think they call it?"
"Philanthropic Society; yes," said her mistress; "and my brother gives
him a high character: I hope he will do very well."
"I'm sure I hope so too," observed Mrs. Pomfret; "but I can't say; for my
part, I've no great notion of those low people. They say all those
children are taken from the very lowest DRUGS and REFUGES of the town,
and surely they are like enough, ma'am, to take after their own fathers
"But they are not suffered to be with their parents," rejoined the lady;
"and therefore cannot be hurt by their example. This little boy, to be
sure, was unfortunate in his father, but he has had an excellent
"Oh, EDICATION! to be sure, ma'am, I know. I don't say but what
edication is a great thing. But then, ma'am, edication can't change the
NATUR that's in one, they say; and one's that born naturally bad and low,
they say, all the edication in the world won't do no good; and, for my
part, ma'am, I know you knows best; but I should be afraid to let any of
those Villaintropic folks get into my house; for nobody can tell the
natur of them aforehand. I declare it frights me."
"Pomfret, I thought you had better sense: how would this poor boy earn
his bread? he would be forced to starve or steal, if everybody had such
Pomfret, who really was a good woman, was softened at this idea, and
said, "God forbid he should starve or steal, and God forbid I should say
anything PREJUDICIARY of the boy; for there may be no harm in him."
"Well," said Mrs. Churchill, changing her tone, "but, Pomfret, if we
don't like the boy at the end of the month, we have done with him; for I
have only promised Mr. Spencer to keep him a month upon trial: there is
no harm done."
"Dear, no, ma'am, to be sure; and cook must put up with her
disappointment, that's all."
"About her nephew, ma'am; the boy she and I was speaking to you for."
"The day you called her up about the almond pudding, ma'am. If you
remember, you said you should have no objections to try the boy; and upon
that cook bought him new shirts; but they are to the good, as I tell
"But I did not promise to take her nephew."
"O, no ma'am, not at all; she does not think to SAY THAT, else I should
be very angry; but the poor woman never let fall a word, any more than
frets that the boy should miss such a good place."
"Well, but since I did say that I should have no objection to try him, I
shall keep my word; let him come to-morrow. Let them both have a fair
trial, and at the end of the month I can decide which I like best, and
which we had better keep."
Dismissed with these orders, Mrs. Pomfret hastened to report all that had
passed to the cook, like a favourite minister, proud to display the
extent of her secret influence. In the morning Felix, the cook's nephew,
arrived; and, the moment he came into the kitchen, every eye, even the
scullion's, was fixed upon him with approbation, and afterwards glanced
upon Franklin with contempt--contempt which Franklin could not endure
without some confusion, though quite unconscious of having deserved it;
nor, upon the most impartial and cool self-examination, could he
comprehend the justice of his judges. He perceived indeed--for the
comparisons were minutely made in audible and scornful whispers--that
Felix was a much handsomer, or as the kitchen maid expressed it, a much
more genteeler gentlemanly looking like sort of person than he was; and
he was made to understand, that he wanted a frill to his shirt, a cravat,
a pair of thin shoes, and, above all, shoe strings, besides other
nameless advantages, which justly made his rival the admiration of the
kitchen. However, upon calling to mind all that his friend Mr. Spencer
had ever said to him, he could not recollect his having warned him that
shoe strings were indispensable requisites to the character of a good
servant; so that he could only comfort himself with resolving, if
possible, to make amends for these deficiencies, and to dissipate the
prejudices which he saw were formed against him, by the strictest
adherence to all that his tutor had taught him to be his duty. He hoped
to secure the approbation of his mistress by scrupulous obedience to all
her commands, and faithful care of all that belonged to her. At the same
time he flattered himself he should win the goodwill of his fellow
servants by showing a constant desire to oblige them. He pursued this
plan of conduct steadily for nearly three weeks, and found that he
succeeded beyond his expectations in pleasing his mistress; but
unfortunately he found it more difficult to please his fellow servants,
and he sometimes offended when he least expected it. He had made great
progress in the affections of Corkscrew, the butler, by working indeed
very hard for him, and doing every day at least half his business. But
one unfortunate night the butler was gone out; the bell rang: he went
upstairs; and his mistress asking where Corkscrew was, he answered that
he was gone out. "Where to!" said his mistress. "I don't know,"
answered Franklin. And, as he had told exactly the truth, and meant to
do no harm, he was surprised, at the butler's return, when he repeated to
him what had passed, at receiving a sudden box on the ear, and the
appellation of a mischievous, impertinent, mean-spirited brat.
"Mischievous, impertinent, mean!" repeated Franklin to himself; but,
looking in the butler's face, which was a deeper scarlet than usual, he
judged that he was far from sober, and did not doubt but that the next
morning, when he came to the use of his reason, he would be sensible of
his injustice, and apologize for his box of the ear. But no apology
coming all day, Franklin at last ventured to request an explanation, or
rather, to ask what he had best do on the next occasion.
"Why," said Corkscrew, "when mistress asked for me, how came you to say I
was gone out?"
"Because, you know, I saw you go out."
"And when she asked you where I was gone, how came you to say that you
did not know?"
"Because, indeed, I did not."
"You are a stupid blockhead! could you not say I was gone to the
"But WERE you?" said Franklin.
"Was I?" cried Corkscrew, and looked as if he would have struck him
again; "how dare you give me the lie, Mr. Hypocrite? You would be ready
enough, I'll be bound, to make excuses for yourself. Why are not
mistress' clogs cleaned? Go along and blacken 'em, this minute, and send
Felix to me."
From this time forward Felix alone was privileged to enter the butler's
pantry. Felix became the favourite of Corkscrew; and, though Franklin by
no means sought to pry into the mysteries of their private conferences,
nor ever entered without knocking at the door, yet it was his fate once
to be sent of a message at an unlucky time; and, as the door was half
open, he could not avoid seeing Felix drinking a bumper of red liquor,
which he could not help suspecting to be wine; and, as the decanter,
which usually went upstairs after dinner, was at this time in the
butler's grasp, without any stopper in it, he was involuntarily forced to
suspect they were drinking his mistress' wine.
Nor were the bumpers of port the only unlawful rewards which Felix
received: his aunt, the cook, had occasion for his assistance, and she
had many delicious douceurs in her gift. Many a handful of currants,
many a half-custard, many a triangular remnant of pie, besides the choice
of his own meal at breakfast, dinner and supper, fell to the share of the
favourite Felix; whilst Franklin was neglected, though he took the utmost
pains to please the cook in all honourable service, and, when she was
hot, angry, or hurried, he was always at hand to help her; and in the
hour of adversity, when the clock struck five, and no dinner was dished,
and no kitchen maid with twenty pair of hands was to be had, Franklin
would answer to her call, with flowers to garnish her dishes, and
presence of mind to know, in the midst of the commotion, where everything
that was wanting was to be found; so that, quick as lightning, all
difficulties vanished before him. Yet when the danger was over, and the
hour of adversity had past, the ungrateful cook would forget her
benefactor, and, when it came to his supper time, would throw him, with a
carelessness that touched him sensibly, anything which the other servants
were too nice to eat. All this Franklin bore with fortitude; nor did he
envy Felix the dainties which he ate, sometimes close beside him: "For,"
said he to himself, "I have a clear conscience, and that is more than
Felix can have. I know how he wins cook's favour too well, and I fancy I
know how I have offended her; for since the day I saw the basket, she has
done nothing but huff me."
The history of the basket was this. Mrs. Pomfret, the housekeeper, had
several times, directly and indirectly, given the world below to
understand that she and her mistress thought there was a prodigious
quantity of meat eaten of late. Now, when she spoke, it was usually at
dinner time; she always looked, or Franklin imagined that she looked,
suspiciously at him. Other people looked more maliciously; but, as he
felt himself perfectly innocent, he went on eating his dinner in silence.
But at length it was time to explain. One Sunday there appeared a
handsome sirloin of beef, which before noon on Monday had shrunk almost
to the bare bone, and presented such a deplorable spectacle to the
opening eyes of Mrs. Pomfret that her long smothered indignation burst
forth, and she boldly declared she was now certain there had been foul
play, and she would have the beef found, or she would know why. She
spoke, but no beef appeared, till Franklin, with a look of sudden
recollection, cried, "Did not I see something like a piece of beef in a
basket in the dairy?--I think--"
The cook, as if somebody had smote her a deadly blow, grew pale; but,
suddenly recovering the use of her speech, turned upon Franklin, and,
with a voice of thunder, gave him the lie direct; and forthwith, taking
Mrs. Pomfret by the ruffle, led the way to the dairy, declaring she could
defy the world--"that so she could, and would." "There, ma'am," said she
kicking an empty basket which lay on the floor--"there's malice for you.
Ask him why he don't show you the beef in the basket."
"I thought I saw--" poor Franklin began.
"You thought you saw!" cried the cook, coming close up to him with
kimboed arms, and looking like a dragon; "and pray, sir, what business
has such a one as you to think you see? And pray, ma'am, will you be
pleased to speak--perhaps, ma'am, he'll condescend to obey you--ma'am,
will you be pleased to forbid him my dairy? for here he comes prying and
spying about; and how, ma'am, am I to answer for my butter and cream, or
anything at all? I'm sure it's what I can't pretend to, unless you do me
the justice to forbid him my places."
Mrs. Pomfret, whose eyes were blinded by her prejudices against the folks
of the "Villaintropic Society," and also by her secret jealousy of a boy
whom she deemed to be a growing favourite of her mistress', took part
with the cook, and ended, as she began, with a firm persuasion that
Franklin was the guilty person. "Let him alone, let him alone!" said
she; "he has as many turns and windings as a hare; but we shall catch him
yet, I'll be bound, in some of his doublings. I knew the nature of him
well enough, from the first time I ever set my eyes upon him; but
mistress shall have her own way, and see the end of it."
These words, and the bitter sense of injustice, drew tears at length fast
down the proud cheek of Franklin, which might possibly have touched Mrs.
Pomfret, if Felix, with a sneer, had not called them CROCODILE TEARS.
"Felix, too!" thought he; "this is too much." In fact, Felix had till
now professed himself his firm ally, and had on his part received from
Franklin unequivocal proofs of friendship; for it must be told that every
other morning, when it was Felix's turn to get breakfast, Felix never was
up in decent time, and must inevitably have come to public disgrace if
Franklin had not got all the breakfast things ready for him, the bread
and butter spread, and the toast toasted; and had not, moreover,
regularly, when the clock struck eight, and Mrs. Pomfret's foot was heard
overhead, run to call the sleeping Felix, and helped him constantly
through the hurry of getting dressed one instant before the housekeeper
came downstairs. All this could not but be present to his memory; but,
seeming to reproach him, Franklin wiped away his crocodile tears, and
preserved a magnanimous silence.
The hour of retribution was, however, not so far off as Felix imagined.
Cunning people may go on cleverly in their devices for some time; but
although they may escape once, twice, perhaps ninety-nine times, what
does that signify?--for the hundredth time they come to shame, and lose
all their character. Grown bold by frequent success, Felix became more
careless in his operations; and it happened that one day he met his
mistress full in the passage, as he was going on one of the cook's secret
"Where are you going, Felix?" said his mistress.
"To the washerwoman's, ma'am," answered he, with his usual effrontery.
"Very well," said she. "Call at the bookseller's in--stay, I must write
down the direction. Pomfret," said she, opening the housekeeper's room
door, "have you a bit of paper?" Pomfret came with the writing-paper,
and looked very angry to see that Felix was going out without her
knowledge; so, while Mrs. Churchill was writing the direction, she stood
talking to him about it; whilst he, in the greatest terror imaginable,
looked up in her face as she spoke; but was all the time intent on
parrying on the other side the attacks of a little French dog of his
mistress', which, unluckily for him, had followed her into the passage.
Manchon was extremely fond of Felix, who, by way of pleasing his
mistress, had paid most assiduous court to her dog; yet now his caresses
were rather troublesome. Manchon leaped up, and was not to be rebuffed.
"Poor fellow--poor fellow--down! down! poor fellow!" cried Felix, and
put him away. But Manchon leaped up again, and began smelling near the
fatal pocket in a most alarming manner. "You will see by this direction
where you are to go," said his mistress. "Manchon, come here--and you
will be so good as to bring me--down! down! Manchon, be quiet!" But
Manchon knew better--he had now got his head into Felix's pocket, and
would not be quiet till he had drawn from thence, rustling out of its
brown paper, half a cold turkey, which had been missing since morning.
"My cold turkey, as I'm alive!" exclaimed the housekeeper, darting upon
it with horror and amazement.
"What is all this?" said Mrs. Churchill, in a composed voice.
"I don't know, ma'am," answered Felix, so confused that he knew not what
to say; "but--"
"But what?" cried Mrs. Pomfret, indignation flashing from her eyes. "But
what?" repeated his mistress, waiting for his reply with a calm air of
attention, which still more disconcerted Felix; for, though with an angry
person he might have some chance of escape, he knew that he could not
invent any excuse in such circumstances, which could stand the
examination of a person in her sober senses. He was struck dumb.
"Speak," said Mrs. Churchill, in a still lower tone; "I am ready to hear
all you have to say. In my house everybody shall have justice; speak--
"BUT," stammered Felix; and, after in vain attempting to equivocate,
confessed that he was going to take the turkey to his cousin's; but he
threw all the blame upon his aunt, the cook, who, he said, had ordered
him upon this expedition.
The cook was now summoned; but she totally denied all knowledge of the
affair, with the same violence with which she had lately confounded
Franklin about the beef in the basket; not entirely, however, with the
same success; for Felix, perceiving by his mistress' eye that she was on
the point of desiring him to leave the house immediately; and not being
very willing to leave a place in which he had lived so well with the
butler, did not hesitate to confront his aunt with assurance equal to her
own. He knew how to bring his charge home to her. He produced a note in
her own handwriting, the purport of which was to request her cousin's
acceptance of "some DELICATE COLD TURKEY," and to beg she would send her,
by the return of the bearer, a little of her cherry-brandy.
Mrs. Churchill coolly wrote upon the back of the note her cook's
discharge, and informed Felix she had no further occasion for his
services, but, upon his pleading with many tears, which Franklin did not
call CROCODILE TEARS, that he was so young, that he was under the
dominion of his aunt, he touched Mrs. Pomfret's compassion, and she
obtained for him permission to stay till the end of the month, to give
him yet a chance of redeeming his character.
Mrs. Pomfret now seeing how far she had been imposed upon, resolved, for
the future, to be more upon her guard with Felix, and felt that she had
treated Franklin with great injustice, when she accused him of
malpractices about the sirloin of beef.
Good people, when they are made sensible that they have treated anyone
with injustice, are impatient to have an opportunity to rectify their
mistake; and Mrs. Pomfret was now prepared to see everything which
Franklin did in the most favourable point of view; especially as the next
day she discovered that it was he who every morning boiled the water for
her tea, and buttered her toast--services for which she had always
thought she was indebted to Felix. Besides, she had rated Felix's
abilities very highly, because he made up her weekly accounts for her;
but unluckily once, when Franklin was out of the way, and she brought a
bill in a hurry to her favourite to cast up, she discovered that he did
not know how to cast up pounds, shillings and pence, and he was obliged
to confess that she must wait till Franklin came home.
But, passing over a number of small incidents which gradually unfolded
the character of the two boys, we must proceed to a more serious affair.
Corkscrew frequently, after he had finished taking away supper, and after
the housekeeper was gone to bed, sallied forth to a neighbouring alehouse
to drink with his friends. The alehouse was kept by that cousin of
Felix's, who was so fond of "DELICATE cold turkey," and who had such
choice cherry-brandy. Corkscrew kept the key of the house door, so that
he could return home whenever he thought proper; and, if he should by
accident be called for by his mistress after supper, Felix knew where to
find him, and did not scruple to make any of those excuses which poor
Franklin had too much integrity to use.
All these precautions taken, the butler was at liberty to indulge his
favourite passion, which so increased with indulgence, that his wages
were by no means sufficient to support him in this way of life. Every
day he felt less resolution to break through his bad habits; for every
day drinking became more necessary to him. His health was ruined. With
a red, pimpled, bloated face, emaciated legs, and a swelled, diseased
body, he appeared the victim of intoxication. In the morning, when he
got up, his hands trembled, his spirits flagged, he could do nothing
until he had taken a dram--an operation which he was obliged to repeat
several times in the course of the day, as all those wretched people MUST
who once acquire this habit.
He had run up a long bill at the alehouse which he frequented; and the
landlord, who grew urgent for his money, refused to give further credit.
One night, when Corkscrew had drunk enough only to make him fretful, he
leaned with his elbow surlily upon the table, began to quarrel with the
landlord, and swore that he had not of late treated him like a gentleman.
To which the landlord coolly replied, "That as long as he had paid like a
gentleman, he had been treated like one, and that was as much as anyone
could expect, or, at any rate, as much as anyone would meet with in this
world." For the truth of this assertion he appealed, laughing, to a
party of men who were drinking in the room. The men, however, took part
with Corkscrew, and, drawing him over to their table, made him sit down
with them. They were in high good-humour, and the butler soon grew so
intimate with them, that, in the openness of his heart, he soon
communicated to them, not only all his own affairs, but all that he knew,
and more than all that he knew, of his mistress'.
His new friends were by no means uninterested by his conversation, and
encouraged him as much as possible to talk; for they had secret views,
which the butler was by no means sufficiently sober to discover.
Mrs. Churchill had some fine old family plate; and these men belonged to
a gang of housebreakers. Before they parted with Corkscrew, they engaged
him to meet them again the next night; their intimacy was still more
closely cemented. One of the men actually offered to lend Corkscrew
three guineas towards the payment of his debt, and hinted that, if he
thought proper, he could easily get the whole cleared off. Upon this
hint, Corkscrew became all attention, till, after some hesitation on
their part, and repeated promises of secrecy on his, they at length
disclosed their plans to him. They gave him to understand, that if he
would assist in letting them into his mistress' house, they would let him
have an ample share in the booty. The butler, who had the reputation of
being an honest man, and indeed whose integrity had hitherto been proof
against everything but his mistress' port, turned pale, and trembled at
this proposal; drank two or three bumpers to drown thought; and promised
to give an answer the next day.
He went home more than half-intoxicated. His mind was so full of what
had passed, that he could not help bragging to Felix, whom he found awake
at his return, that he could have his bill paid off at the alehouse
whenever he pleased; dropping, besides, some hints, which were not lost
In the morning Felix reminded him of the things which he had said; and
Corkscrew, alarmed, endeavoured to evade his questions, by saying that he
was not in his senses when he talked in that manner. Nothing, however,
that he could urge made any impression upon Felix, whose recollection on
the subject was perfectly distinct, and who had too much cunning himself,
and too little confidence in his companion, to be the dupe of his
dissimulation. The butler knew not what to do when he saw that Felix was
absolutely determined either to betray their scheme, or to become a
sharer in the booty.
The next night came, and he was now to make a final decision; either to
determine on breaking off entirely with his new acquaintances, or taking
Felix with him to join in the plot.
His debt, his love of drinking, the impossibility of indulging it without
a fresh supply of money, all came into his mind at once, and conquered
his remaining scruples. It is said by those whose fatal experience gives
them a right to be believed, that a drunkard will sacrifice anything,
everything, sooner than the pleasure of habitual intoxication.
How much easier is it never to begin a bad custom than to break through
it when once formed!
The hour of rendezvous came, and Corkscrew went to the alehouse, where he
found the housebreakers waiting for him, and a glass of brandy ready
poured out. He sighed--drank--hesitated--drank again--heard the landlord
talk of his bill, saw the money produced which would pay it in a moment--
drank again--cursed himself, and, giving his hand to the villain who was
whispering in his ear, swore that he could not help it, and must do as
they would have him. They required of him to give up the key of the
house door, that they might get another made by it. He had left it with
Felix, and was now obliged to explain the new difficulty which had
arisen. Felix knew enough to ruin them, and must therefore be won over.
This was no very difficult task; he had a strong desire to have some
worked cravats, and the butler knew enough of him to believe that this
would be a sufficient bribe. The cravats were bought and shown to Felix.
He thought them the only things wanting to make him a complete, fine
gentleman; and to go without them, especially when he had once seen
himself in the glass with one tied on in a splendid bow, appeared
impossible. Even this paltry temptation, working upon his vanity, at
length prevailed with a boy whose integrity had long been corrupted by
the habits of petty pilfering and daily falsehood. It was agreed that,
the first time his mistress sent him out on a message, he should carry
the key of the house door to his cousin's, and deliver it into the hands
of one of the gang, who were there in waiting for it. Such was the
Felix, the night after all this had been planned, went to bed, and fell
fast asleep; but the butler, who had not yet stifled the voice of
conscience, felt, in the silence of the night, so insupportably
miserable, that, instead of going to rest, he stole softly into the
pantry for a bottle of his mistress' wine, and there drinking glass after
glass, he stayed till he became so far intoxicated, that, though he
contrived to find his way back to bed, he could by no means undress
himself. Without any power of recollection, he flung himself upon the
bed, leaving his candle half hanging out of the candlestick beside him.
Franklin slept in the next room to him, and presently awaking, thought he
perceived a strong smell of something burning. He jumped up, and seeing
a light under the butler's door, gently opened it, and to his
astonishment, beheld one of the bed curtains in flames. He immediately
ran to the butler, and pulled him with all his force, to rouse him from
his lethargy. He came to his senses at length, but was so terrified, and
so helpless, that, if it had not been for Franklin, the whole house would
soon inevitably have been on fire. Felix, trembling and cowardly, knew
not what to do; and it was curious to see him obeying Franklin, whose
turn it now was to command. Franklin ran upstairs to awaken Mrs.
Pomfret, whose terror of fire was so great that she came from her room
almost out of her senses, whilst he, with the greatest presence of mind,
recollected where he had seen two large tubs of water, which the maids
had prepared the night before for their washing, and seizing the wet
linen which had been left to soak, he threw them upon the flames. He
exerted himself with so much good sense, that the fire was presently
Everything was now once more safe and quiet. Mrs. Pomfret, recovering
from her fright, postponed all inquiries till the morning, and rejoiced
that her mistress had not been awakened, whilst Corkscrew flattered
himself that he should be able to conceal the true cause of the accident.
"Don't you tell Mrs. Pomfret where you found the candle when you came
into the room," said he to Franklin.
"If she asks me, you know I must tell the truth," replied he.
"Must!" repeated Felix, sneeringly; "what, you MUST be a tell-tale!"
"No, I never told any tales of anybody, and I should be very sorry to get
anyone into a scrape; but for all that I shall not tell a lie, either for
myself or anybody else, let you call me what names you will."
"But if I were to give you something that you would like," said
Corkscrew--"something that I know you would like!" repeated Felix.
"Nothing you can give me will do," answered Franklin, steadily, "so it is
useless to say any more about it--I hope I shall not be questioned."
In this hope he was mistaken; for the first thing Mrs. Pomfret did in the
morning was to come into the room to examine and deplore the burnt
curtains, whilst Corkscrew stood by, endeavouring to exculpate himself by
all the excuses he could invent.
Mrs. Pomfret, however, though sometimes blinded by her prejudices, was no
fool; and it was absolutely impossible to make her believe that a candle,
which had been left on the hearth, where Corkscrew protested he had left
it, could have set curtains on fire which were at least six feet distant.
Turning short round to Franklin, she desired that he would show her where
he found the candle when he came into the room. He took up the
candlestick; but the moment the housekeeper cast her eye upon it, she
snatched it from his hands; "How did this candlestick come here? This
was not the candlestick you found here last night," cried she. "Yes,
indeed it was," answered Franklin. "That is impossible," retorted she,
vehemently, "for I left this candlestick with my own hands last night, in
the hall, the last thing I did, after you," said she, turning to the
butler, "was gone to bed--I'm sure of it--Nay, don't you recollect my
taking this JAPANNED CANDLESTICK out of your hand, and making you to go
up to bed with the brass one, and I bolted the door at the stair-head
This was all very true; but Corkscrew had afterwards gone down from his
room by a back staircase, unbolted that door, and, upon his return from
the alehouse, had taken the japanned candlestick by mistake upstairs, and
had left the brass one in its stead upon the hall table.
"Oh, ma'am," said Felix, "indeed you forget; for Mr. Corkscrew came into
my room to desire me to call him betimes in the morning, and I happened
to take particular notice, and he had the japanned candlestick in his
hand, and that was just as I heard you, bolting the door. Indeed, ma'am
"Indeed, sir," retorted Mrs. Pomfret, rising in anger, "I do not forget;
I'm not come to be SUPPERANNUATED yet, I hope. How do you dare to tell
me I forget?"
"Oh, ma'am," cried Felix, "I beg your pardon, I did not--I did not mean
to say you forgot, but only I thought, perhaps, you might not
particularly remember; for if you please to recollect--"
"I won't please to recollect just whatever you please, sir! Hold your
tongue; why should you poke yourself into this scrape; what have you to
do with it, I should be glad to know?"
"Nothing in the world, oh nothing in the world; I'm sure I beg your
pardon, ma'am," answered Felix, in a soft tone; and, sneaking off, left
his friend Corkscrew to fight his own battle, secretly resolving to
desert in good time, if he saw any danger of the alehouse transactions
coming to light.
Corkscrew could make but very blundering excuses for himself and,
conscious of guilt, he turned pale, and appeared so much more terrified
than butlers usually appear when detected in a lie, that Mrs. Pomfret
resolved, as she said, to sift the matter to the bottom. Impatiently did
she wait till the clock struck nine, and her mistress' bell rang, the
signal for her attendance at her levee.
"How do you find yourself this morning, ma'am?" said she, undrawing the
"Very sleepy, indeed," answered her mistress in a drowsy voice; "I think
I must sleep half an hour longer--shut the curtains."
"As you please, ma'am; but I suppose I had better open a little of the
window shutter, for it's past nine."
"But just struck."
"Oh dear, ma'am, it struck before I came upstairs, and you know we are
twenty minutes slow--Lord bless us!" exclaimed Mrs. Pomfret, as she let
fall the bar of the window, which roused her mistress. "I'm sure I beg
your pardon a thousand times--it's only the bar--because I had this great
key in my hand."
"Put down the key, then, or you'll knock something else down; and you may
open the shutters now; for I'm quite awake."
"Dear me! I'm so sorry to think of disturbing you," cried Mrs. Pomfret,
at the same time throwing the shutters wide open; "but, to be sure,
ma'am, I have something to tell you, which won't let you sleep again in a
hurry. I brought up this here key of the house door for reasons of my
own, which I'm sure you'll approve of; but I'm not come to that part of
my story yet. I hope you were not disturbed by the noise in the house
last night, ma'am."
"I heard no noise."
"I am surprised at that, though," continued Mrs. Pomfret, and proceeded
to give a most ample account of the fire, of her fears, and her
suspicions. "To be sure, ma'am, what I say IS, that, without the spirit
of prophecy, one can nowadays account for what has passed. I'm quite
clear in my own judgment, that Mr. Corkscrew must have been out last
night after I went to bed; for, besides the japanned candlestick, which
of itself I'm sure is strong enough to hang a man, there's another
circumstance, ma'am, that certifies it to me--though I have not mentioned
it, ma'am, to no one yet," lowering her voice--"Franklin, when I
questioned him, told me, that he left the lantern in the outside porch in
the court last night, and this morning it was on the kitchen table. Now,
ma'am, that lantern could not come without hands; and I could not forget
about that, you know; for Franklin says, he's sure he left the lantern
"And do you believe HIM?" inquired her mistress.
"To be sure, ma'am--how can I help believing him? I never found him out
in the least symptom of a lie since ever he came into the house; so one
can't help believing in him, like him or not."
"Without meaning to tell a falsehood, however," said the lady, "he might
make a mistake."
"No, ma'am, he never makes mistakes; it is not his way to go gossiping
and tattling; he never tells anything till he's asked, and then it's fit
he should. About the sirloin of beef, and all, he was right in the end,
I found, to do him justice; and I'm sure he's right now about the
lantern--he's ALWAY'S RIGHT"
Mrs. Churchill could not help smiling.
"If you had seen him, ma'am, last night in the midst of the fire--I'm
sure we may thank him that we were not burned alive in our beds--and I
shall never forget his coming to call me. Poor fellow! he that I was
always scolding and scolding, enough to make him hate me. But he's too
good to hate anybody; and I'll be bound I'll make it up to him now."
"Take care that you don't go from one extreme into another, Pomfret;
don't spoil the boy."
"No, ma'am, there's no danger of that; but I'm sure if you had seen him
last night yourself, you would think he deserved to be rewarded."
"And so he shall be rewarded," said Mrs. Churchill; "but I will try him
more fully yet."
"There's no occasion, I think, for trying him any more, ma'am," said Mrs.
Pomfret, who was as violent in her likings as in her dislikes.
"Pray desire," continued her mistress, "that he will bring up breakfast
this morning; and leave the key of the house-door, Pomfret, with me."
When Franklin brought the urn into the breakfast-parlour, his mistress
was standing by the fire with the key in her hand. She spoke to him of
his last night's exertions in terms of much approbation. "How long have
you lived with me?" said she, pausing; "three weeks, I think?"
"Three weeks and four days, madam."
"That is but a short time; yet you have conducted yourself so as to make
me think I may depend upon you. You know this key?"
"I believe, madam, it is the key of the house-door."
"It is; I shall trust it in your care. It is a great trust for so young
a person as you are." Franklin stood silent, with a firm but modest
look. "If you take the charge of this key," continued his mistress,
"remember it is upon condition that you never give it out of your own
hands. In the daytime it must not be left in the door. You must not
tell anybody where you keep it at night; and the house-door must not be
unlocked after eleven o'clock at night, unless by my orders. Will you
take charge of the key upon these conditions?"
"I will, madam, do anything you order me," said Franklin, and received
the key from her hands.
When Mrs. Churchill's orders were made known, they caused many secret
marvellings and murmurings. Corkscrew and Felix were disconcerted, and
dared not openly avow their discontent; and they treated Franklin with
the greatest seeming kindness and cordiality.
Everything went on smoothly for three days. The butler never attempted
his usual midnight visits to the alehouse, but went to bed in proper
time, and paid particular court to Mrs Pomfret, in order to dispel her
suspicions. She had never had any idea of the real fact, that he and
Felix were joined in a plot with house-breakers to rob the house, but
thought he only went out at irregular hours to indulge himself in his
passion for drinking.
Thus stood affairs the night before Mrs. Churchill's birthday.
Corkscrew, by the housekeeper's means, ventured to present a petition
that he might go to the play the next day, and his request was granted.
Franklin came into the kitchen just when all the servants had gathered
round the butler, who, with great importance, was reading aloud the play-
bill. Everybody present soon began to speak at once, and with great
enthusiasm talked of the playhouse, the actors, and actresses; and then
Felix, in the first pause, turned to Franklin, and said, "Lord, you know
nothing of all this! YOU never went to a play, did you?"
"Never," said Franklin, and felt, he did not know why, a little ashamed;
and he longed extremely to go to one.
"How should you like to go to the play with me to-morrow?" said
"Oh," exclaimed Franklin, "I should like it exceedingly."
"And do you think mistress would let you if I asked?"
"I think maybe she would, if Mrs. Pomfret asked her."
"But then you have no money, have you?"
"No," said Franklin, sighing.
"But stay," said Corkscrew, "what I am thinking of is, that if mistress
will let you go, I'll treat you myself, rather than that you should he
Delight, surprise and gratitude appeared in Franklin's face at these
words. Corkscrew rejoiced to see that now, at least, he had found a most
powerful temptation. "Well then, I'll go just now and ask her. In the
meantime, lend me the key of the house door for a minute or two."
"The key!" answered Franklin, starting; "I'm sorry, but I can't do that,
for I've promised my mistress never to let it out of my own hands."
"But how will she know anything of the matter? Run, run, and get it for
"No, I CANNOT," replied Franklin, resisting the push which the butler
gave his shoulder.
"You can't?" cried Corkscrew, changing his tone; "then, sir, I can't take
you to the play."
"Very well, sir," said Franklin, sorrowfully, but with steadiness.
"Very well, sir," said Felix, mimicking him, "you need not look so
important, nor fancy yourself such a great man, because you're master of
"Say no more to him," interrupted Corkscrew: "let him alone to take his
own way. Felix, you would have no objection, I suppose, to going to the
play with me?"
"Oh, I should like it of all things, if I did not come between anybody
else. But come, come!" added the hypocrite, assuming a tone of friendly
persuasion, "you won't be such a blockhead, Franklin, as to lose going to
the play for nothing; it's only just obstinacy. What harm can it do, to
lend Mr. Corkscrew the key for five minutes? he'll give it to you back
again safe and sound."
"I don't doubt THAT," answered Franklin.
"Then it must be all because you don't wish to oblige Mr. Corkscrew."
"No, but I can't oblige him in this; for, as I told you before, my
mistress trusted me. I promised never to let the key out of my own
hands, and you would not have me break my trust. Mr. Spencer told me
that was worse than ROBBING."
At the word ROBBING both Corkscrew and Felix involuntarily cast down
their eyes, and turned the conversation immediately, saying, that he did
very right; that they did not really want the key, and had only asked for
it just to try if he would keep his word. "Shake hands," said Corkscrew,
"I am glad to find you out to be an honest fellow!"
"I am sorry you did not think me an honest fellow before, Mr. Corkscrew,"
said Franklin, giving his hand rather proudly, and he walked away.
"We shall make no hand of this prig," said Corkscrew.
"But we'll have the key from him in spite of all his obstinacy," said
Felix; "and let him make his story good as he can afterwards. He shall
repent of these airs. To-night I'll watch him, and find out where he
hides the key; and when he's asleep we'll get it without thanking him."
This plan Felix put into execution. They discovered the place where
Franklin kept the key at night, stole it whilst he slept, took off the
impression in wax, and carefully replaced it in Franklin's trunk, exactly
where they found it.
Probably our young readers cannot guess what use they could mean to make
of this impression of the key in wax. Knowing how to do mischief is very
different from wishing to do it: and the most innocent persons are
generally the least ignorant. By means of the impression, which they had
thus obtained, Corkscrew and Felix proposed to get a false key made by
Picklock, a smith who belonged to their gang of house-breakers; and with
this false key knew they could open the door whenever they pleased.
Little suspecting what had happened, Franklin, the next morning went to
unlock the house door, as usual; but finding the key entangled in the
lock, he took it out to examine it, and perceived a lump of wax sticking
in one of the wards. Struck with this circumstance, it brought to his
mind all that had passed the preceding evening, and being sure that he
had no wax near the key, he began to suspect what had happened; and he
could not help recollecting what he had once heard Felix say, that "give
him but a halfpenny worth of wax, and he could open the strongest lock
that ever was made by hands."
All these things considered, Franklin resolved to take the key just as it
was, with the wax sticking to it, to his mistress.
"I was not mistaken when I thought I might trust YOU with this key," said
Mrs. Churchill, after she had heard his story. "My brother will be here
to-day, and I shall consult him. In the meantime, say nothing of what
Evening came, and after tea Mr. Spencer sent for Franklin upstairs. "So,
Mr. Franklin," said he, "I'm glad to find you are in such high TRUST in
this family." Franklin bowed. "But you have lost, I understand, the
pleasure of going to the play to-night."
"I don't think anything--much, I mean, of that, sir," answered Franklin,
"Are Corkscrew and Felix GONE to the play?"
"Yes; half an hour ago, sir."
"Then I shall look into his room, and examine the pantry and the plate
that is under his care."
When Mr. Spencer came to examine the pantry, he found the large salvers
and cups in a basket behind the door, and the other things placed so as
to be easily carried off. Nothing at first appeared in Corkscrew's
bedchamber, to strengthen their suspicions, till, just as they were going
to leave the room, Mrs. Pomfret exclaimed, "Why, if there is not Mr.
Corkscrew's dress coat hanging up there! and if here isn't Felix's fine
cravat that he wanted in such a hurry to go to the play! Why, sir, they
can't be gone to the play. Look at the cravat. Ah! upon my word I am
afraid they are not at the play. No, sir, you may be sure that they are
plotting with their barbarous gang at the alehouse; and they'll certainly
break into the house to-night. We shall all be murdered in our beds, as
sure as I'm a living woman, sir; but if you'll only take my advice--"
"Pray, good Mrs. Pomfret," Mr. Spencer observed, "don't be alarmed."
"Nay, sir, but I won't pretend to sleep in the house, if Franklin isn't
to have a blunderbuss, and I a BAGGONET."
"You shall have both, indeed, Mrs. Pomfret; but don't make such a noise,
for everybody will hear you."
The love of mystery was the only thing which could have conquered Mrs.
Pomfret's love of talking. She was silent, and contented herself the
rest of the evening with making signs, looking ominous, and stalking
about the house like one possessed with a secret.
Escaped from Mrs. Pomfret's fears and advice, Mr. Spencer went to a shop
within a few doors of the alehouse, which he heard Corkscrew frequented,
and sent to beg to speak to the landlord. He came; and, when Mr. Spencer
questioned him, confessed that Corkscrew and Felix were actually drinking
in his house with two men of suspicious appearance; that, as he passed
through the passage, he heard them disputing about a key; and that one of
them said, "Since we've got the key, we'll go about it to-night." This
was sufficient information. Mr. Spencer, lest the landlord should give
them information of what was going forwards, took him along with him to
A constable and proper assistance was sent to Mrs. Churchill's. They
stationed themselves in a back parlour which opened on a passage leading
to the butler's pantry, where the plate was kept. A little after
midnight they heard the hall door open. Corkscrew and his accomplices
went directly to the pantry; and there Mr. Spencer and the constable
immediately secured them, as they were carrying off their booty.
Mrs Churchill and Pomfret had spent the night at the house of an
acquaintance in the same street. "Well, ma'am," said Mrs. Pomfret, who
had heard all the news in the morning, "the villains are all safe, thank
God. I was afraid to go to the window this morning; but it was my luck
to see them all go by to gaol. They looked so shocking! I am sure I
never shall forget Felix's look to my dying day! But poor Franklin!
ma'am; that boy has the best heart in the world. I could not get him to
give a second look at them as they passed. Poor fellow! I thought he
would have dropped; and he was so modest, ma'am, when Mr. Spencer spoke
to him, and told him he had done his duty."
"And did my brother tell him what reward I intend for him?"
"No, ma'am, and I'm sure Franklin thinks no more of REWARD than I do."
"I intend," continued Mrs. Churchill, "to sell some of my old useless
plate, and to lay it out in an annuity for Franklin's life."
"La, ma'am!" exclaimed Mrs. Pomfret, with unfeigned joy, "I'm sure you
are very good; and I'm very glad of it."
"And," continued Mrs. Churchill, "here are some tickets for the play,
which I shall beg you, Pomfret, to give him, and to take him with you."
"I am very much obliged to you, indeed, ma'am; and I'll go with him with
all my heart, and choose such plays as won't do no prejudice to his
morality. And, ma'am," continued Mrs. Pomfret, "the night after the fire
I left him my great Bible and my watch, in my will; for I never was more
mistaken at the first in any boy in my born days; but he has won me by
his own DESERTS, and I shall from this time forth love all the
VILLAINTROPIC folks for his sake."
Waked as her custom was, before the day,
To do the observance due to sprightly May.
In a retired hamlet on the borders of Wales, between Oswestry and
Shrewsbury, it is still the custom to celebrate the 1st of May.
The children of the village, who look forward to this rural festival with
joyful eagerness, usually meet on the last day of April to make up their
nosegays for the morning and to choose their queen. Their customary
place of meeting is at a hawthorn, which stands in a little green nook,
open on one side to a shady lane, and separated on the other side by a
thick sweet-brier and hawthorn hedge from the garden of an attorney.
This attorney began the world with nothing, but he contrived to scrape
together a good deal of money, everybody knew how. He built a new house
at the entrance of the village, and had a large, well fenced garden, yet,
notwithstanding his fences, he never felt himself secure. Such were his
litigious habits, and his suspicious temper, that he was constantly at
variance with his simple and peaceable neighbours. Some pig, or dog, or
goat, or goose was for ever trespassing. His complaints and his
extortions wearied and alarmed the whole hamlet. The paths in his fields
were at length unfrequented, his stiles were blocked up with stones or
stuffed with brambles and briers, so that not a gosling could creep
under, or a giant get over them. Indeed, so careful were even the
village children of giving offence to this irritable man of the law, that
they would not venture to fly a kite near his fields lest it should
entangle in his trees, or fall upon his meadow.
Mr. Case, for this was the name of our attorney, had a son and a
daughter, to whose education he had not time to attend, as his whole soul
was intent upon accumulating for them a fortune. For several years he
suffered his children to run wild in the village; but suddenly, on his
being appointed to a considerable agency, he began to think of making his
children a little genteel. He sent his son to learn Latin; he hired a
maid to wait upon his daughter Barbara; and he strictly forbade her
thenceforward to keep company with any of the poor children, who had
hitherto been her playfellows. They were not sorry for this prohibition,
because she had been their tyrant rather than their companion. She was
vexed to observe that her absence was not regretted, and she was
mortified to perceive that she could not humble them by any display of
airs and finery.
There was one poor girl, amongst her former associates, to whom she had a
peculiar dislike,--Susan Price, a sweet tempered, modest, sprightly,
industrious lass, who was the pride and delight of the village. Her
father rented a small farm, and, unfortunately for him, he lived near
Barbara used often to sit at her window, watching Susan at work.
Sometimes she saw her in the neat garden raking the beds, or weeding the
borders; sometimes she was kneeling at her beehive with fresh flowers for
her bees; sometimes she was in the poultry yard, scattering corn from her
sieve amongst the eager chickens; and in the evening she was often seated
in a little honeysuckle arbour, with a clean, light, three-legged deal
table before her, upon which she put her plain work.
Susan had been taught to work neatly by her good mother, who was very
fond of her, and to whom she was most gratefully attached.
Mrs. Price was an intelligent, active, domestic woman; but her health was
not robust. She earned money, however, by taking in plain work; and she
was famous for baking excellent bread and breakfast cakes. She was
respected in the village, for her conduct as a wife and as a mother, and
all were eager to show her attention. At her door the first branch of
hawthorn was always placed on May morning, and her Susan was usually
Queen of the May.
It was now time to choose the Queen. The setting sun shone full upon the
pink blossoms of the hawthorn, when the merry group assembled upon their
little green. Barbara was now walking in sullen state in her father's
garden. She heard the busy voices in the lane, and she concealed herself
behind the high hedge, that she might listen to their conversation.
"Where's Susan?" were the first unwelcome words which she overheard.
"Ay, where's Susan?" repeated Philip, stopping short in the middle of a
new tune that he was playing on his pipe. "I wish Susan would come! I
want her to sing me this same tune over again; I have not it yet."
"And I wish Susan would come, I'm sure," cried a little girl, whose lap
was full of primroses. "Susan will give me some thread to tie up my
nosegays, and she'll show me where the fresh violets grow; and she has
promised to give me a great bunch of her double cowslips to wear to-
morrow. I wish she would come."
"Nothing can be done without Susan! She always shows us where the nicest
flowers are to be found in the lanes and meadows," said they. "She must
make up the garlands; and she shall be Queen of the May!" exclaimed a
multitude of little voices.
"But she does not come!" said Philip.
Rose, who was her particular friend, now came forward to assure the
impatient assembly, "that she would answer for it Susan would come as
soon as she possibly could, and that she probably was detained by
business at home."
The little electors thought that all business should give way to theirs,
and Rose was dispatched to summon her friend immediately.
"Tell her to make haste," cried Philip. "Attorney Case dined at the
Abbey to-day--luckily for us. If he comes home and finds us here, maybe
he'll drive us away; for he says this bit of ground belongs to his
garden: though that is not true, I'm sure; for Farmer Price knows, and
says, it was always open to the road. The Attorney wants to get our
playground, so he does. I wish he and his daughter Bab, or Miss Barbara,
as she must now be called, were a hundred miles off, out of our way, I
know. No later than yesterday she threw down my nine-pins in one of her
ill-humours, as she was walking by with her gown all trailing in the
"Yes," cried Mary, the little primrose-girl, "her gown is always
trailing. She does not hold it up nicely, like Susan; and with all her
fine clothes she never looks half so neat. Mamma says she wishes I may
be like Susan, when I grow up to be a great girl, and so do I. I should
not like to look conceited as Barbara does, if I was ever so rich."
"Rich or poor," said Philip, "it does not become a girl to look
conceited, much less BOLD, as Barbara did the other day, when she was at
her father's door without a hat upon her head, staring at the strange
gentleman who stopped hereabout to let his horse drink. I know what he
thought of Bab by his looks, and of Susan, too; for Susan was in her
garden, bending down a branch of the laburnum-tree, looking at its yellow
flowers, which were just come out; and when the gentleman asked her how
many miles it was from Shrewsbury, she answered him so modest!--not
bashful, like as if she had never seen nobody before--but just right; and
then she pulled on her straw hat, which was fallen back with her looking
up at the laburnum, and she went her ways home; and the gentleman says to
me, after she was gone, 'Pray, who is that neat, modest girl--?' But I
wish Susan would come," cried Philip, interrupting himself,
Susan was all this time, as her friend Rose rightly guessed, busy at
home. She was detained by her father's returning later than usual. His
supper was ready for him nearly an hour before he came home; and Susan
swept up the ashes twice, and twice put on wood to make a cheerful blaze
for him; but at last, when he did come in, he took no notice of the blaze
or of Susan; and when his wife asked him how he did, he made no answer,
but stood with his back to the fire, looking very gloomy. Susan put his
supper upon the table, and set his own chair for him; but he pushed away
the chair and turned from the table, saying--"I shall eat nothing, child!
Why have you such a fire to roast me at this time of the year?"
"You said yesterday, father, I thought, that you liked a little cheerful
wood fire in the evening; and there was a great shower of hail; your coat
is quite wet, we must dry it."
"Take it, then, child," said he, pulling it off--"I shall soon have no
coat to dry--and take my hat, too," said he, throwing it upon the ground.
Susan hung up his hat, put his coat over the back of a chair to dry, and
then stood anxiously looking at her mother, who was not well; she had
this day fatigued herself with baking; and now, alarmed by her husband's
moody behaviour, she sat down pale and trembling. He threw himself into
a chair, folded his arms, and fixed his eyes upon the fire.
Susan was the first who ventured to break silence. Happy the father who
has such a daughter as Susan!--her unaltered sweetness of temper, and her
playful, affectionate caresses, at last somewhat dissipated her father's
He could not be prevailed upon to eat any of the supper which had been
prepared for him; however, with a faint smile, he told Susan that he
thought he could eat one of her guinea-hen's eggs. She thanked him, and
with that nimble alacrity which marks the desire to please, she ran to
her neat chicken-yard; but, alas!, her guinea-hen was not there--it had
strayed into the attorney's garden. She saw it through the paling, and
timidly opening the little gate, she asked Miss Barbara, who was walking
slowly by, to let her come in and take her guinea-hen. Barbara, who was
at this instant reflecting, with no agreeable feelings, upon the
conversation of the village children, to which she had recently listened,
started when she heard Susan's voice, and with a proud, ill-humoured look
and voice, refused her request.
"Shut the gate," said Barbara, "you have no business in our garden; and
as for your hen, I shall keep it; it is always flying in here, and
plaguing us, and my father says it is a trespasser; and he told me I
might catch it and keep it the next time it got in, and it is in now."
Then Barbara called to her maid, Betty, and bid her catch the mischievous
"Oh, my guinea-hen! my pretty guinea-hen!" cried Susan, as they hunted
the frightened, screaming creature from corner to corner.
"Here we have got it!" said Betty, holding it fast by the legs.
"Now pay damages, Queen Susan, or good-bye to your pretty guinea-hen,"
said Barbara, in an insulting tone.
"Damages! what damages?" said Susan; "tell me what I must pay."
"A shilling," said Barbara.
"Oh, if sixpence would do!" said Susan; "I have but sixpence of my own in
the world, and here it is."
"It won't do," said Barbara, turning her back.
"Nay, but hear me," cried Susan; "let me at least come in to look for its
eggs. I only want ONE for my father's supper; you shall have all the
"What's your father, or his supper to us? is he so nice that he can eat
none but guinea-hen's eggs?" said Barbara. "If you want your hen and
your eggs, pay for them, and you'll have them."
"I have but sixpence, and you say that won't do," said Susan with a sigh,
as she looked at her favourite, which was in the maid's grasping hands,
struggling and screaming in vain.
Susan retired disconsolate. At the door of her father's cottage she saw
her friend Rose, who was just come to summon her to the hawthorn bush.
"They are all at the hawthorn, and I am come for you. We can do nothing
without YOU, dear Susan," cried Rose, running to meet her, at the moment
she saw her. "You are chosen Queen of the May--come, make haste. But
what is the matter? why do you look so sad?"
"Ah!" said Susan, "don't wait for me; I can't come to you, but," added
she, pointing to the tuft of double cowslips in the garden, "gather those
for poor little Mary; I promised them to her, and tell her the violets
are under a hedge just opposite the turnstile, on the right as we go to
church. Good-bye! never mind me; I can't come--I can't stay, for my
father wants me."
"But don't turn away your face; I won't keep you a moment; only tell me
what's the matter," said her friend, following her into the cottage.
"Oh, nothing, not much," said Susan; "only that I wanted the egg in a
great hurry for father, it would not have vexed me--to be sure I should
have clipped my guinea-hen's wings, and then she could not have flown
over the hedge; but let us think no more about it, now," added she,
twinkling away a tear.
When Rose, however, learnt that her friend's guinea-hen was detained
prisoner by the attorney's daughter, she exclaimed, with all the honest
warmth of indignation, and instantly ran back to tell the story to her
"Barbara! ay; like father, like daughter," cried Farmer Price, starting
from the thoughtful attitude in which he had been fixed, and drawing his
chair closer to his wife.
"You see something is amiss with me, wife--I'll tell you what it is." As
he lowered his voice, Susan, who was not sure that he wished she should
hear what he was going to say, retired from behind his chair. "Susan,
don't go; sit you down here, my sweet Susan," said he, making room for
her upon his chair; "I believe I was a little cross when I came in first
tonight; but I had something to vex me, as you shall hear.
"About a fortnight ago, you know, wife," continued he, "there was a
balloting in our town for the militia; now at that time I wanted but ten
days of forty years of age; and the attorney told me I was a fool for not
calling myself plump forty. But the truth is the truth, and it is what I
think fittest to be spoken at all times come what will of it. So I was
drawn for a militiaman; but when I thought how loth you and I would be to
part, I was main glad to hear that I could get off by paying eight or
nine guineas for a substitute--only I had not the nine guineas--for, you
know, we had bad luck with our sheep this year, and they died away one
after another--but that was no excuse, so I went to Attorney Case, and,
with a power of difficulty, I got him to lend me the money; for which, to
be sure, I gave him something, and left my lease of our farm with him, as
he insisted upon it, by way of security for the loan. Attorney Case is
too many for me. He has found what he calls a flaw in my lease; and the
lease, he tells me, is not worth a farthing, and that he can turn us all
out of our farm to-morrow if he pleases; and sure enough he will please,
for I have thwarted him this day, and he swears he'll be revenged of me.
Indeed, he has begun with me badly enough already. I'm not come to the
worst part of my story yet--"
Here Farmer Price made a dead stop; and his wife and Susan looked up in
his face, breathless with anxiety.
"It must come out," said he, with a short sigh; "I must leave you in
three days, wife."
"Must you?" said his wife, in a faint, resigned voice. "Susan, love,
open the window." Susan ran to open the window, and then returned to
support her mother's head. When she came a little to herself she sat up,
begged that her husband would go on, and that nothing might be concealed
from her. Her husband had no wish indeed to conceal anything from a wife
he loved so well; but, firm as he was, and steady to his maxim, that the
truth was the thing the fittest to be spoken at all times, his voice
faltered, and it was with great difficulty that he brought himself to
speak the whole truth at this moment.
The fact was this. Case met Farmer Price as he was coming home,
whistling, from a new ploughed field. The attorney had just dined at The
Abbey. The Abbey was the family seat of an opulent baronet in the
neighbourhood, to whom Mr. Case had been agent. The baronet died
suddenly, and his estate and title devolved to a younger brother, who was
now just arrived in the country, and to whom Mr. Case was eager to pay
his court, in hopes of obtaining his favour. Of the agency he flattered
himself that he was pretty secure; and he thought that he might assume
the tone of command towards the tenants, especially towards one who was
some guineas in debt, and in whose lease there was a flaw.
Accosting the farmer in a haughty manner, the attorney began with, "So,
Farmer Price, a word with you, if you please. Walk on here, man, beside
my horse, and you'll hear me. You have changed your opinion, I hope,
about that bit of land--that corner at the end of my garden?"
"As how, Mr. Case?" said the farmer.
"As how, man! Why, you said something about its not belonging to me,
when you heard me talk of inclosing it the other day."
"So I did," said Price, "and so I do."
Provoked and astonished at the firm tone in which these words were
pronounced, the attorney was upon the point of swearing that he would
have his revenge; but, as his passions were habitually attentive to the
LETTER of the law, he refrained from any hasty expression, which might,
he was aware, in a court of justice, be hereafter brought against him.
"My good friend, Mr. Price," said he, in a soft voice, and pale with
suppressed rage. He forced a smile. "I'm under the necessity of calling
in the money I lent you some time ago, and you will please to take
notice, that it must be paid to-morrow morning. I wish you a good
evening. You have the money ready for me, I daresay."
"No," said the farmer, "not a guinea of it; but John Simpson, who was my
substitute, has not left our village yet. I'll get the money back from
him, and go myself, if so be it must be so, into the militia--so I will."
The attorney did not expect such a determination, and he represented, in
a friendly, hypocritical tone to Price, that he had no wish to drive him
to such an extremity; that it would be the height of folly in him TO RUN
HIS HEAD AGAINST A WALL FOR NO PURPOSE. "You don't mean to take the
corner into your own garden, do you, Price?" said he.
"I?" said the farmer, "God forbid! it's none of mine, I never take what
does not belong to me."
"True, right, very proper, of course," said Mr. Case; "but then you have
no interest in life in the land in question?"
"Then why so stiff about it, Price? All I want of you to say--"
"To say that black is white, which I won't do, Mr. Case. The ground is a
thing not worth talking of; but it's neither yours nor mine. In my
memory, since the NEW lane was made, it has always been open to the
parish; and no man shall inclose it with my good-will. Truth is truth,
and must be spoken; justice is justice, and should be done, Mr.
"And law is law, Mr. Farmer, and shall have its course, to your cost,"
cried the attorney, exasperated by the dauntless spirit of this village
Here they parted. The glow of enthusiasm, the pride of virtue, which
made our hero brave, could not render him insensible. As he drew nearer
home, many melancholy thoughts pressed upon his heart. He passed the
door of his own cottage with resolute steps, however, and went through
the village in search of the man who had engaged to be his substitute.
He found him, told him how the matter stood; and luckily the man, who had
not yet spent the money, was willing to return it; as there were many
others drawn for the militia, who, he observed, would be glad to give him
the same price, or more, for his services.
The moment Price got the money, he hastened to Mr. Case's house, walked
straight forward into his room, and laying the money down upon his desk,
"There, Mr. Attorney, are your nine guineas; count them; now I have done
"Not yet," said the attorney, jingling the money triumphantly in his
hand. "We'll give you a taste of the law, my good sir, or I'm mistaken.
You forgot the flaw in your lease, which I have safe in this desk."
"Ah, my lease," said the farmer, who had almost forgot to ask for it till
he was thus put in mind of it by the attorney's imprudent threat. "Give
me my lease, Mr. Case. I've paid my money; you have no right to keep the
lease any longer, whether it is a bad one or a good one."
"Pardon me," said the attorney, locking his desk, and putting the key
into his pocket, "possession, my honest friend," cried he, striking his
hand upon the desk, "is nine points of the law. Good night to you. I
cannot in conscience return a lease to a tenant in which I know there is
a capital flaw. It is my duty to show it to my employer; or, in other
words, to your new landlord, whose agent I have good reasons to expect I
shall be; you will live to repent your obstinacy, Mr. Price. Your
Price retired with melancholy feelings, but not intimidated. Many a man
returns home with a gloomy countenance, who has not quite so much cause
When Susan heard her father's story, she quite forgot her guinea-hen, and
her whole soul was intent upon her poor mother, who, notwithstanding her
utmost exertion, could not support herself under this sudden stroke of
In the middle of the night Susan was called up; her mother's fever ran
high for some hours; but towards morning it abated, and she fell into a
soft sleep with Susan's hand locked fast in hers.
Susan sat motionless, and breathed softly, lest she should disturb her.
The rushlight, which stood beside the bed, was now burnt low; the long
shadow of the tall wicker chair flitted, faded, appeared, and vanished,
as the flame rose and sunk in the socket. Susan was afraid that the
disagreeable smell might waken her mother; and, gently disengaging her
hand, she went on tiptoe to extinguish the candle. All was silent: the
grey light of the morning was now spreading over every object; the sun
rose slowly, and Susan stood at the lattice window, looking through the
small leaded, cross-barred panes at the splendid spectacle. A few birds
began to chirp; but, as Susan was listening to them, her mother started
in her sleep, and spoke unintelligibly. Susan hung up a white apron
before the window to keep out the light, and just then she heard the
sound of music at a distance in the village. As it approached nearer,
she knew that it was Philip playing upon his pipe and tabor. She
distinguished the merry voices of her companions "carolling in honour of
the May," and soon she saw them coming towards her father's cottage, with
branches and garlands in their hands. She opened quick, but gently, the
latch of the door, and ran out to meet them.
"Here she is!--here's Susan!" they exclaimed, joyfully. "Here's the
Queen of the May." "And here's her crown!" cried Rose, pressing forward;
but Susan put her finger upon her lips, and pointed to her mother's
window. Philip's pipe stopped instantly.
"Thank you," said Susan, "my mother is ill; I can't leave her, you know."
Then gently putting aside the crown, her companions bid her say who
should wear it for her.
"Will you, dear Rose?" said she, placing the garland upon her friend's
head. "It's a charming May morning," added she, with a smile; "good-bye.
We sha'n't hear your voices or the pipe when you have turned the corner
into the village; so you need only stop till then, Philip."
"I shall stop for all day," said Philip: "I've no mind to play any
"Good-bye, poor Susan. It is a pity you can't come with us," said all
the children; and little Mary ran after Susan to the cottage door.
"I forgot to thank you," said she, "for the double cowslips; look how
pretty they are, and smell how sweet the violets are in my bosom, and
kiss me quick, for I shall be left behind." Susan kissed the little
breathless girl, and returned softly to the side of her mother's bed.
"How grateful that child is to me, for a cowslip only! How can I be
grateful enough to such a mother as this?" said Susan to herself, as she
bent over her sleeping mother's pale countenance.
Her mother's unfinished knitting lay upon a table near the bed, and Susan
sat down in her wicker arm-chair, and went on with the row, in the middle
of which her hand stopped the preceding evening. "She taught me to knit,
she taught me everything that I know," thought Susan, "and the best of
all, she taught me to love her, to wish to be like her."
Her mother, when she awakened, felt much refreshed by her tranquil sleep,
and observing that it was a delightful morning, said, "that she had been
dreaming she heard music; but that the drum frightened her, because she
thought it was the signal for her husband to be carried away by a whole
regiment of soldiers, who had pointed their bayonets at him. But that
was but a dream, Susan; I awoke, and knew it was a dream, and I then fell
asleep, and have slept soundly ever since."
How painful it is to awake to the remembrance of misfortune. Gradually
as this poor woman collected her scattered thoughts, she recalled the
circumstances of the preceding evening. She was too certain that she had
heard from her husband's own lips the words, "I MUST LEAVE YOU IN THREE
DAYS"; and she wished that she could sleep again, and think it all a
"But he'll want, he'll want a hundred things," said she, starting up. "I
must get his linen ready for him. I'm afraid it's very late. Susan, why
did you let me lie so long?"
"Everything shall be ready, dear mother; only don't hurry yourself," said
Susan. And indeed her mother was ill able to bear any hurry, or to do
any work this day. Susan's affectionate, dexterous, sensible activity
was never more wanted, or more effectual. She understood so readily, she
obeyed so exactly; and when she was left to her own discretion, judged so
prudently, that her mother had little trouble and no anxiety in directing
her. She said that Susan never did too little, or too much.
Susan was mending her father's linen, when Rose tapped softly at the
window, and beckoned to her to come out. She went out. "How does your
mother do, in the first place?" said Rose.
"Better, thank you."
"That's well, and I have a little bit of good news for you besides--
here," said she, pulling out a glove, in which there was money, "we'll
get the guinea-hen back again--we have all agreed about it. This is the
money that has been given to us in the village this May morning. At
every door they gave silver. See how generous they have been--twelve
shillings, I assure you. Now we are a match for Miss Barbara. You won't
like to leave home; I'll go to Barbara, and you shall see your guinea-hen
in ten minutes."
Rose hurried away, pleased with her commission, and to accomplish her
business. Miss Barbara's maid Betty was the first person that was
visible at the attorney's house. Rose insisted upon seeing Miss Barbara
herself, and she was shown into a parlour to the young lady, who was
reading a dirty novel, which she put under a heap of law papers as they
"Dear, how you STARTLED me! Is it only you?" said she to her maid; but
as soon as she saw Rose behind the maid, she put on a scornful air.
"Could not ye say I was not at home, Betty? Well, my good girl, what
brings you here? Something to borrow or beg, I suppose."
May every ambassador--every ambassador in as good a cause--answer with as
much dignity and moderation as Rose replied to Barbara upon the present
occasion. She assured her, that the person from whom she came did not
send her either to beg or borrow; that she was able to pay the full value
of that for which she came to ask; and, producing her well filled purse,
"I believe that this is a very good shilling," said she. "If you don't
like it, I will change it, and now you will be so good as to give me
Susan's guinea-hen. It is in her name I ask for it."
"No matter in whose name you ask for it," replied Barbara, "you will not
have it. Take up your shilling, if you please. I would have taken a
shilling yesterday, if it had been paid at the time properly; but I told
Susan, that if it was not paid then, I should keep the hen, and so I
shall, I promise her. You may go back, and tell her so."
The attorney's daughter had, whilst Rose opened her negotiation, measured
the depth of her purse with a keen eye; and her penetration discovered
that it contained at least ten shillings. With proper management she had
some hopes that the guinea-hen might be made to bring in at least half
Rose, who was of a warm temper, not quite so fit a match as she had
thought herself for the wily Barbara, incautiously exclaimed, "Whatever
it costs us, we are determined to have Susan's favourite hen; so, if one
shilling won't do, take two; and if two won't do, why, take three."
The shillings sounded provoking upon the table, as she threw them down
one after another, and Barbara coolly replied, "Three won't do."
"Have you no conscience, Miss Barbara? Then take four." Barbara shook
her head. A fifth shilling was instantly proffered; but Bab, who now saw
plainly that she had the game in her own hands, preserved a cold, cruel
silence. Rose went on rapidly, bidding shilling after shilling, till she
had completely emptied her purse. The twelve shillings were spread upon
the table. Barbara's avarice was moved, she consented for this ransom to
liberate her prisoner.
Rose pushed the money towards her; but just then, recollecting that she
was acting for others more than for herself, and doubting whether she had
full powers to conclude such an extravagant bargain, she gathered up the
public treasure, and with newly-recovered prudence observed that she must
go back to consult her friends. Her generous little friends were amazed
at Barbara's meanness, but with one accord declared that they were most
willing, for their parts, to give up every farthing of the money. They
all went to Susan in a body, and told her so. "There's our purse," said
they; "do what you please with it." They would not wait for one word of
thanks, but ran away, leaving only Rose with her to settle the treaty for
There is a certain manner of accepting a favour, which shows true
generosity of mind. Many know how to give, but few know how to accept a
gift properly. Susan was touched, but not astonished, by the kindness of
her young friends, and she received the purse with as much simplicity as
she would have given it.
"Well," said Rose, "shall I go back for the guinea-hen?"
"The guinea-hen!" said Susan, starting from a reverie into which she had
fallen, as she contemplated the purse. "Certainly I DO long to see my
pretty guinea-hen once more; but I was not thinking of her just then--I
was thinking of my father."
Now Susan had heard her mother often, in the course of this day, wish
that she had but money enough in the world to pay John Simpson for going
to serve in the militia instead of her husband. "This, to be sure, will
go but a little way," thought Susan; "but still it may be of some use to
my father." She told her mind to Rose, and concluded by saying,
decidedly, that "if the money was given to her to dispose of as she
pleased, she would give it to her father."
"It is all yours, my dear, good Susan," cried Rose, with a look of warm
approbation. "This is so like you--but I'm sorry that Miss Bab must keep
your guinea-hen. I would not be her for all the guinea-hens, or guineas
either, in the whole world. Why, I'll answer for it, the guinea-hen
won't make her happy, and you'll be happy EVEN without; because you are
good. Let me come and help you to-morrow," continued she, looking at
Susan's work, "if you have any more mending work to do--I never liked
work till I worked with you. I won't forget my thimble or my scissors,"
added she, laughing--"though I used to forget them when I was a giddy
girl. I assure you I am a great hand at my needle, now--try me."
Susan assured her friend that she did not doubt the powers of her needle,
and that she would most willingly accept of her services, but that
UNLUCKILY she had finished all the needle work immediately wanted.
"But do you know," said she, "I shall have a great deal of business to-
morrow; but I won't tell you what it is that I have to do, for I am
afraid I shall not succeed; but if I do succeed, I'll come and tell you
directly, because you will be so glad of it."
Susan, who had always been attentive to what her mother taught her, and
who had often assisted her when she was baking bread and cakes for the
family at the Abbey, had now formed the courageous, but not presumptuous
idea, that she could herself undertake to bake a batch of bread. One of
the servants from the Abbey had been sent all round the village in the
morning in search of bread, and had not been able to procure any that was
tolerable. Mrs. Price's last baking failed for want of good barm. She
was not now strong enough to attempt another herself; and when the
brewer's boy came with eagerness to tell her that he had some fine fresh
yeast, she thanked him, but sighed, and said it would be of no use to
her. Accordingly she went to work with much prudent care, and when her
bread the next morning came out of the oven, it was excellent; at least
her mother said so, and she was a good judge. It was sent to the Abbey;
and as the family there had not tasted any good bread since their arrival
in the country, they also were earnest and warm in its praise. Inquiries
were made from the housekeeper, and they heard, with some surprise, that
this excellent bread was made by a young girl only twelve years old.
The housekeeper, who had known Susan from a child, was pleased to have an
opportunity in speaking in her favour. "She is the most industrious
little creature, ma'am, in the world," said she to her mistress. "Little
I can't so well call her now, since she's grown tall and slender to look
at; and glad I am she is grown up likely to look at; for handsome is that
handsome does; she thinks no more of her being handsome than I do myself;
yet she has as proper a respect for herself, ma'am, as you have; and I
always see her neat, and with her mother, ma'am, or fit people, as a girl
should be. As for her mother, she dotes upon her, as well she may; for I
should myself if I had half such a daughter; and then she has two little
brothers; and she's as good to them, and, my boy Philip says, taught 'em
to read more than the school-mistress, all with tenderness and good
nature; but, I beg your pardon, ma'am, I cannot stop myself when I once
begin to talk of Susan."
"You have really said enough to excite my curiosity," said her mistress;
"pray send for her immediately; we can see her before we go out to walk."
The benevolent housekeeper despatched her boy Philip for Susan, who never
happened to be in such an UNTIDY state as to be unable to obey a summons
without a long preparation. She had, it is true, been very busy; but
orderly people can be busy and neat at the same time. She put on her
usual straw hat, and accompanied Rose's mother, who was going with a
basket of cleared muslin to the Abbey.
The modest simplicity of Susan's appearance and the artless propriety of
the answers she gave to all the questions that were asked her, pleased
the ladies at the Abbey, who were good judges of character and manners.
Sir Arthur Somers had two sisters, sensible, benevolent women. They were
not of that race of fine ladies who are miserable the moment they come to
THE COUNTRY; nor yet were they of that bustling sort, who quack and
direct all their poor neighbours, for the mere love of managing, or the
want of something to do. They were judiciously generous; and whilst they
wished to diffuse happiness, they were not peremptory in requiring that
people should be happy precisely their own way. With these dispositions,
and with a well informed brother, who, though he never wished to direct,
was always willing to assist in their efforts to do good, there were
reasonable hopes that these ladies would be a blessing to the poor
villagers amongst whom they were now settled.
As soon as Miss Somers had spoken to Susan, she inquired for her brother;
but Sir Arthur was in his study, and a gentleman was with him on
Susan was desirous of returning to her mother, and the ladies therefore
would not detain her. Miss Somers told her, with a smile, when she took
leave, that she would call upon her in the evening at six o'clock.
It was impossible that such a grand event as Susan's visit to the Abbey
could long remain unknown to Barbara Case and her gossiping maid. They
watched eagerly for the moment of her return, that they might satisfy
their curiosity. "There she is, I declare, just come into her garden,"
cried Bab; "I'll run in and get it all out of her in a minute."
Bab could descend, without shame, whenever it suited her purposes, from
the height of insolent pride to the lowest meanness of fawning
Susan was gathering some marigolds and some parsley for her mother's
"So, Susan," said Bab, who came close up to her before she perceived it,
"how goes the world with you to-day?"
"My mother is rather better to-day, she says, ma'am--thank you," replies
Susan, coldly but civilly.
"MA'AM! dear, how polite we are grown of a sudden!" cried Bab, winking at
her maid. "One may see you've been in good company this morning--hey,
Susan? Come, let's hear about it."
"Did you see the ladies themselves, or was it only the housekeeper sent
for you?" said the maid.
"What room did you go into?" continued Bab. "Did you see Miss Somers, or
"La! she saw Miss Somers! Betty, I must hear about it. Can't you stop
gathering those things for a minute, and chat a bit with us, Susan?"
"I can't stay, indeed, Miss Barbara; for my mother's broth is just
wanted, and I'm in a hurry." Susan ran home.
"Lord, her head is full of broth now," said Bab to her maid; "and she has
not a word for herself, though she has been abroad. My papa may well
call her Simple Susan; for simple she is, and simple she will be, all the
world over. For my part, I think she's little better than a downright
simpleton. But, however, simple or not, I'll get what I want out of her.
She'll be able to speak, maybe, when she has settled the grand matter of
the broth. I'll step in and ask to see her mother, that will put her in
a good humour in a trice."
Barbara followed Susan into the cottage, and found her occupied with the
grand affair of the broth. "Is it ready?" said Bab, peeping into the pot
that was over the fire. "Dear, how savoury it smells! I'll wait till
you go in with it to your mother; for I must ask her how she does
"Will you please to sit down then, miss," said Simple Susan, with a
smile; for at this instant she forgot the guinea-hen; "I have but just
put the parsley into the broth; but it soon will be ready."
During this interval Bab employed herself, much to her own satisfaction,
in cross-questioning Susan. She was rather provoked indeed that she
could not learn exactly how each of the ladies was dressed, and what
there was to be for dinner at the Abbey; and she was curious beyond
measure to find out what Miss Somers meant, by saying that she would call
at Mr. Price's cottage at six o'clock in the evening. "What do you think
she could mean?"
"I thought she meant what she said," replied Susan, "that she would come
here at six o'clock."
"Ay, that's as plain as a pike-staff," said Barbara; "but what else did
she mean, think you? People, you know, don't always mean exactly,
downright, neither more nor less than what they say."
"Not always," said Susan, with an arch smile, which convinced Barbara
that she was not quite a simpleton.
"NOT ALWAYS," repeated Barbara colouring,--"oh, then I suppose you have
some guess at what Miss Somers meant."
"No," said Susan, "I was not thinking about Miss Somers, when I said not
"How nice that broth does look," resumed Barbara, after a pause.
Susan had now poured the broth into a basin, and as she strewed over it
the bright orange marigolds, it looked very tempting. She tasted it, and
added now a little salt, and now a little more, till she thought it was
just to her mother's taste.
"Oh! _I_ must taste it," said Bab, taking the basin up greedily.
"Won't you take a spoon?" said Susan, trembling at the large mouthfuls
which Barbara sucked up with a terrible noise.
"Take a spoonful, indeed!" exclaimed Barbara, setting down the basin in
high anger. "The next time I taste your broth you shall affront me, if
you dare! The next time I set my foot in this house, you shall be as
saucy to me as you please." And she flounced out of the house, repeating
"TAKE A SPOON, PIG, was what you meant to say."
Susan stood in amazement at the beginning of this speech; but the
concluding words explained to her the mystery.
Some years before this time, when Susan was a very little girl, and could
scarcely speak plain, as she was eating a basin of bread and milk for her
supper at the cottage door, a great pig came up, and put his nose into
the basin. Susan was willing that the pig should have some share of the
bread and milk; but as she ate with a spoon and he with his large mouth,
she presently discovered that he was likely to have more than his share;
and in a simple tone of expostulation she said to him, "Take a POON,
pig."* The saying become proverbial in the village. Susan's little
companions repeated it, and applied it upon many occasions, whenever
anyone claimed more than his share of anything good. Barbara, who was
then not Miss Barbara, but plain Bab, and who had played with all the
poor children in the neighbourhood, was often reproved in her unjust
methods of division by Susan's proverb. Susan, as she grew up, forgot
the childish saying; but the remembrance of it rankled in Barbara's mind,
and it was to this that she suspected Susan had alluded, when she
recommended a spoon to her, whilst she was swallowing the basin of broth.
*This is a true anecdote.
"La, miss," said Barbara's maid, when she found her mistress in a passion
upon her return from Susan's, "I only wondered you did her the honour to
set your foot within her doors. What need have you to trouble her for
news about the Abbey folks, when your own papa has been there all the
morning, and is just come in, and can tell you everything?"
Barbara did not know that her father meant to go to the Abbey that
morning, for Attorney Case was mysterious even to his own family about
his morning rides. He never chose to be asked where he was going, or
where he had been; and this made his servants more than commonly
inquisitive to trace him.
Barbara, against whose apparent childishness and real cunning he was not
sufficiently on his guard, had often the art of drawing him into
conversation about his visits. She ran into her father's parlour; but
she knew, the moment she saw his face, that it was no time to ask
questions; his pen was across his mouth, and his brown wig pushed oblique
upon his contracted forehead. The wig was always pushed crooked whenever
he was in a brown or rather, a black study. Barbara, who did not, like
Susan, bear with her father's testy humour from affection and gentleness
of disposition, but who always humoured him from artifice, tried all her
skill to fathom his thoughts, and when she found that it would not do,
she went to tell her maid so, and to complain that her father was so
cross there was no bearing him.
It is true that Attorney Case was not in the happiest mood possible; for
he was by no means satisfied with his morning's work at the Abbey. Sir
Arthur Somers, the NEW MAN, did not suit him, and he began to be rather
apprehensive that he should not suit Sir Arthur. He had sound reasons
for his doubts.
Sir Arthur Somers was an excellent lawyer, and a perfectly honest man.
This seemed to our attorney a contradiction in terms; in the course of
his practice the case had not occurred; and he had no precedents ready to
direct his proceedings. Sir Arthur was also a man of wit and eloquence,
yet of plain dealing and humanity. The attorney could not persuade
himself to believe that his benevolence was anything but enlightened
cunning, and his plain dealing he one minute dreaded as the masterpiece
of art, and the next despised as the characteristic of folly. In short,
he had not yet decided whether he was an honest man or a knave. He had
settled accounts with him for his late agency, and had talked about
sundry matters of business. He constantly perceived, however, that he
could not impose upon Sir Arthur; but the idea that he could know all the
mazes of the law, and yet prefer the straight road, was incomprehensible.
Mr. Case, having paid Sir Arthur some compliments on his great legal
abilities, and his high reputation at the bar, he coolly replied, "I have
left the bar." The attorney looked in unfeigned astonishment, that a man
who was actually making 3,OOO pounds per annum at the bar should leave
"I am come," said Sir Arthur, "to enjoy that kind of domestic life in the
country which I prefer to all others, and amongst people whose happiness
I hope to increase." At this speech the attorney changed his ground,
flattering himself that he should find his man averse to business, and
ignorant of country affairs. He talked of the value of land, and of new
Sir Arthur wished to enlarge his domain, and to make a ride round it. A
map of it was lying upon the table, and Farmer Price's garden came
exactly across the new road for the ride. Sir Arthur looked
disappointed; and the keen attorney seized the moment to inform him that
"Price's whole land was at his disposal."
"At my disposal! how so?" cried Sir Arthur, eagerly; "it will not be out
of lease, I believe, these ten years. I'll look into the rent roll
again; perhaps I am mistaken."
"You are mistaken, my good sir, and you are not mistaken," said Mr. Case,
with a shrewd smile. "In one sense, the land will not be out of lease
these ten years, and in another it is out of lease at this present time.
To come to the point at once, the lease is, ab origine, null and void. I
have detected a capital flaw in the body of it. I pledge my credit upon
it, sir, it can't stand a single term in law or equity."
The attorney observed, that at these words Sir Arthur's eye was fixed
with a look of earnest attention. "Now I have him," said the cunning
tempter to himself.
"Neither in law nor equity," repeated Sir Arthur, with apparent
incredulity. "Are you sure of that, Mr. Case?"
"Sure! As I told you before, sir, I'd pledge my whole credit upon the
thing--I'd stake my existence."
"THAT'S SOMETHING," said Sir Arthur, as if he was pondering upon the
The attorney went on with all the eagerness of a keen man, who sees a
chance at one stroke of winning a rich friend, and of ruining a poor
enemy. He explained, with legal volubility and technical amplification,
the nature of the mistake in Mr. Price's lease. "It was, sir," said he,
"a lease for the life of Peter Price, Susanna his wife, and to the
survivor or survivors of them, or for the full time and term of twenty
years, to be computed from the first day of May then next ensuing. Now,
sir, this, you see, is a lease in reversion, which the late Sir Benjamin
Somers had not, by his settlement, a right to make. This is a curious
mistake, you see, Sir Arthur; and in filling up those printed leases
there's always a good chance of some flaw. I find it perpetually; but I
never found a better than this in the whole course of my practice."
Sir Arthur stood in silence.
"My dear sir," said the attorney, taking him by the button, "you have no
scruple of stirring in this business?"
"A little," said Sir Arthur.
"Why, then, that can be done away in a moment. Your name shall not
appear in it at all. You have nothing to do but to make over the lease
to me. I make all safe to you with my bond. Now, being in possession, I
come forward in my own proper person. SHALL I PROCEED?"
"No--you have said enough," replied Sir Arthur.
"The case, indeed, lies in a nutshell," said the attorney, who had by
this time worked himself up to such a pitch of professional enthusiasm,
that, intent upon his vision of a lawsuit, he totally forgot to observe
the impression his words made upon Sir Arthur.
"There's only one thing we have forgotten all this time," said Sir
"What can that be, sir?"
"That we shall ruin this poor man."
Case was thunderstruck at these words, or rather, by the look which
accompanied them. He recollected that he had laid himself open before he
was sure of Sir Arthur's REAL character. He softened, and said he should
have had certainly more CONSIDERATION in the case of any but a litigious,
pig-headed fellow, as he knew Price to be.
"If he be litigious," said Sir Arthur, "I shall certainly be glad to get
him fairly out of the parish as soon as possible. When you go home, you
will be so good, sir, as to send me his lease, that I may satisfy myself
before we stir in this business."
The attorney, brightening up, prepared to take leave; but he could not
persuade himself to take his departure without making one push at Sir
Arthur about the agency.
"I will not trouble you, Sir Arthur, with this lease of Price's," said
Case; "I'll leave it with your agent. Whom shall I apply to?"
"TO MYSELF, sir, if you please," replied Sir Arthur.
The courtiers of Louis the Fourteenth could not have looked more
astounded than our attorney, when they received from their monarch a
similar answer. It was this unexpected reply of Sir Arthur's which had
deranged the temper of Mr. Case, and caused his wig to stand so crooked
upon his forehead, and which had rendered him impenetrably silent to his
inquisitive daughter Barbara.
After having walked up and down his room, conversing with himself, for
some time, the attorney concluded that the agency must be given to
somebody when Sir Arthur should have to attend his duty in Parliament;
that the agency, even for the winter season, was not a thing to be
neglected; and that, if he managed well, he might yet secure it for
himself. He had often found that small timely presents worked
wonderfully upon his own mind, and he judged of others by himself. The
tenants had been in the reluctant but constant practice of making him
continual petty offerings; and he resolved to try the same course with
Sir Arthur, whose resolution to be his own agent, he thought, argued a
close, saving, avaricious disposition. He had heard the housekeeper at
the Abbey inquiring, as he passed through the servants, whether there was