Page images
PDF
EPUB

pathy for her sex, followed the unhappy lady with her eyes, and as the broad glare of the lamps fell upon her countenance, discovered that she was both young

and beautiful. Little time, however, was left her for admiration. In a few seconds the vehicle whirled away; but ere it plunged down the steep slope of the hill, which presently concealed it from view, one long piercing cry of anguish rose

upon the blast.

Mrs. Bennet now found herself in a new predicament. Some confused feelings of maternity began to bubble up in her breast; she pressed the infant's warm cheek to hers, and listened with curious pleasure to catch its scarcely audible breathing. Notwithstanding all that had passed it slept soundly, and Betty felt with something like pride, the furs and satins in which it was wrapped. Sweet perfumes, also, hitherto strangers to her olfactory nerves, lent their aid in working upon her imagination. She began to consider herself somebody, and plunged so deeply into the stream of castle building, that it was not until Tom had hemmed thrice, and whistled as often, that she was made sensible of the presence of her husband.

Goodman,” said she, “we are made for ever.”

Made !” cried Tom. " What dost mean? 'Tis true, I've driv a main good bargin' with them Irish varmint, but not so as to make us. "Twill

ax a many more sich bouts, to bring that to pass; and that's the instigation of the thing.”

“ Stuff,” cried his wife, “ I'm not tellin' of thy bargins, but mine. Here, I've got a child for thee, dressed in silks, and smelling like a musk rat, as Miss Davis the milliner says.'

“Ha! ha! ha!” laughed the smuggler. “Is that the instigation of the thing? Why children be as plenty as blackberries, and ha' ruined precious many people ; but a' never heard of 'em making any

But speak out, old girl, what's thy meanin'; for I don't take thee exactly."

“Why, numskull, my meanin's this. Here, I've a fine child gi'en me, with a power of money to keep 'un fine with ; and it comes of sich grand folks. They'll make us gentlemen and ladies 'afore we die.”

“ Pish !” cried the husband, “ where's the

one.

money ?”

Why, in this 'ere paper, to be sure.”
“ Hast thee seen it ?”
“No; but I know 'tis there."

“How dost know? Perhaps it's nothing but paper; and thou'st been made a fool of at thy age. Why, thou’rt a ninny, Betty. Divel fetch me, but some 'farnal baggage has made an ass of thee; and that's the instigation of the thing.”

" Ass !” cried Mrs. Bennet, who by this time

was not altogether without her secret misgivings, “ I think as how 'tis thou'rt the ass. If thou had'st seen the carriage, and the gentleman, and the lady, thouds't ha' said some’at. All gold and jewels, and fine colours !”

“ Well, well,” said Tom, “no great harm done. There's grub enough at home. If't be a boy, he'll lend me a hand by and by, and if’t be a girl, why then she'll stir the porridge pot for thee. But here, let me put the kegs on Dobbin. I must be off to the Grange; and thou can'st go home and suckle thy child.”

Betty gave her husband a box on the ear, half in jest, half in earnest, and being impatient to examine and discuss the contents of the packet easily prevailed on him to suspend all further operations for that night, and return straight home.

On arriving they put the child to bed, and then with beating heart and high-wrought expectation, opened the packet. Tom's eyes glistened as he caught a glimpse of the corner of a bank-note ; with trembling hand he spread out the roll; tens, twenties, fifties, two thousand pounds in all.

Now, ye blockhead,” quoth Betty, “ have I made a bad bargin' or not ?"

“ Ha! what is this ?” cried the husband, paying no attention to her question, “a gold chain ! and—let me see—a picture !—Dang it! what a sweet wench! Why, I never seed sich eyes ’afore ! And then her skin!

-Zounds ! 'tis whiter than the foam in the milk-pail.”

They now found, in short, that in addition to the money, the packet contained a number of beautiful trinkets, after admiring which for some time, they deposited the whole in a safe place, and then, taking a candle in their hands, crept softly up stairs to the bedside to examine the features of the child. It still slept tranquilly; a smile of inexpressible beauty played upon its lips ; its features, but for the slight movement caused by the act of breathing, might have been mistaken for those of a marble cherub; dark silken lashes shaded the eyes, and the eyebrows, already distinctly visible, expanded in arches along the base of a lofty and ample forehead. It was about five months old, and a cloud of serene loveliness appeared to rest upon its countenance. There is in fact a beauty in childhood which scarcely belongs to earth ; the clay that wraps the spirit seems as yet without taint; no passion has disturbed, no transgression soiled it ; scarcely in its delicate lineaments do we recognise a single trace of the fall. The very spirit of God, which brooded before creation on the face of the waters, appears still to brood over infancy in its sleep; it is the best image we know of Heaven, which, according to highest authority, is peopled with beings

of which children are the types and symbols. Some thing of this charm was felt by the rude pair, who now bent in admiration over the slumbering babe. Presently they slumbered beside it, enacting over again in dreams the adventures of the night.

« PreviousContinue »