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gloomy fancies had the plumes of a hearse moved waving before her sight. It seemed as though there were some truth in the theory, that the events of distant periods of our lives are linked together by associations, the touching of one extremity of which opens up, before our mental vision, some obscure glimpses of the occurrences, good or evil, which are to be unfolded when we shall have passed over the varied track of years. Presently, as with trembling eagerness she continued gazing, two brilliant lights, brought suddenly into view by a sharp turn in the road, enabled her to give more definite shape to her surmises. The carriage was in fact close at hand, and its lamps seemed so luminous, and cast so broad and powerful a stream of light upon the hedges as they swept along, that Betty verily persuaded herself the travellers within might, if so disposed, count the very hairs on her mule's back. She would consequently have retreated had sufficient time been allowed her. But such a movement was now altogether out of the question ; for, on came the horses with the speed of thought, a broad glare fell upon her figure, a head was projected through the carriage window, and she distinctly heard a stifled shriek within. However, persons travelling in so splendid an equipage could have no business with her. She scarcely doubted that they would proceed on their way without condescending to interrupt the current of her affairs; and to her extreme delight the vehicle rolled on full fifty yards or more.
Mrs. Bennet congratulated herself with having escaped, she knew not what. Still, it struck her that the postilions, whom, however, she could discern but very indistinctly, had eyed her curiously as they passed, while the thrusting forth of the head from the window seemed a circumstance yet more sinister. While her mind was swarming with these and other reflections, the mysterious object of her solicitude stopped ; a servant descending, speedily threw open the door, and a tall figure wrapped in a military cloak leaped forth into the road. Mrs. Bennet now thought it was all over with her, particularly when she observed the stranger making right for the spot where she stood. Accustomed as she was to the rude accidents of life, it had not been her lot to be engaged in many adventures with persons belonging to the upper ranks of society, who are always regarded by ignorance with a species of awe. Her limbs, therefore, trembled violently as the traveller drew nearer and nearer, and could she have mustered sufficient strength there can be little doubt that she would have bolted. Her terror, however, was somewhat allayed when the gentleman, coming up, said to her in a low pleasant voice:
“My good woman, I will make your fortune, if—”
Here he paused, as though uncertain in what way to terminate the sentence. There was something in his manner which entirely restored Mrs. Bennet's self-possession.
“What, Sir,” inquired she, “can I do for ye? Be it anything in the way of brandy or hollands ?”
The gentleman's mind appeared to be too full of his own thoughts to permit him very accurately to comprehend Mrs. Bennet's drift. Without noticing, therefore, her ludicrous question. “ Have you many children ?” he demanded.
Why, what is it to him,” thought Betty, “whether I have or not?” She had often, by her goodnatured and considerate neighbours been taunted on her sterility, and this, therefore, was rather a sore point with her. Feeling, however, that the present was not a time for giving way to indignation, which, to say the truth, fear would scarcely have permitted her to indulge, she replied to her interrogator's question in the negative.
“Become a mother then to one,” said he; "and he shall bring along with him, into your house, the means of comfort and independence.”
“For that matter,” cried Betty, “I've long wished for a child"
She would have proceeded, but the gentleman was evidently little disposed to listen to her. His mind seemed to be in a state of extreme excitement. He muttered unintelligibly to himself, and motioning her to follow him, returned towards the carriage, in which, on drawing nigh, she could hear loud groans and sobs. The stranger reentered for a moment; a short sharp colloquy succeeded, only the concluding words of which, “It must be done,” reached Mrs. Bennet's ears. There was then a struggle. With no small degree of violence he wrested a child from the hands of his companion, and again descending with a bound into the road, hastened to deliver it to the smuggler's wife, who had remained standing timidly at the distance of some few yards.
The scene presented at this moment by the group assembled on that solitary highway was very remarkable : the carriage splashed with mud; the four horses, heated by furious driving, sending up from their panting sides a thick steam, which the brilliance of the lamps rendered clearly visible; the postilions, turned half round in their saddles, and staring with wondering eyes at what was going forward; while a swarthy domestic, with long drooping moustachios, stood respectfully a little on one side, appearing to take more interest than he desired to show in the proceedings of his master and mistress, whom motives, not, perhaps, altogether unintelligible to him, impelled to part with what was, doubtless, their offspring, in this strange manner.
“Here,” cried the father, delivering his charge into the hands of Betty, “take this infant; be kind to it-be its mother; and in this packet you will find your reward.”
He would have proceeded, but at that moment a lady clad in white sprang from the carriage, and rushing to the spot where they stood, fell on her knees before the perplexed and astonished Mrs. Bennet. With a voice broken by sobs, the big drops streaming down her cheeks, she endeavoured to address the new guardian of her child; but her words for a moment were choked in the utterance. Then grasping Betty's hand, and, pressing it to her lips she bathed it in scalding tears, beseeching and conjuring her, in the most passionate and imploring tone, to be kind to her little one. The next moment rising with a sudden effort, she snatched back the child, as if resolved not after all to part with it, and having imprinted many kisses on its lips, uttered an hysteric shriek, and dropped senseless on the ground. Her companion, extricating the baby from her convulsive grasp, delivered it once more into Betty's keeping, and bore the lady back to the carriage.
Our worthy smuggler, whom the circumstances of a hard life had not entirely deprived of sym