« PreviousContinue »
door; but I could hear them speakin' to ane anither, though no the words they said. But ae thing pat me sair about. I saw the leddy was in the family way, and this was a notion I couldna bide; for wbat did I ken but they michtna be married? Hooever, I couldna help it now, and she was sae kind-lookin' and innocent, that I hoped that it was a' richt.
“Whan Thamas cam hame, I telt him the hale story, wi' the exception o' my last suspicion, and he was pleased wi' the thocht that we had got sic a nice lodger. Weel, days passed on, and I fand the leddy, Mrs Smith, as she ca'd hersel', a thing that I thocht at first. She was the sweetest-tempered, kindest-hearted, blithest body ever I met in wi', never sad por dooncast, but merry, hopefu', and happy. For a time, the gentleman cam every day to see her, and then his visits stoppit; and letters cam, and O how she did grip these letters, and rin wi' them into the bed-room ! Then for hours she was sit, and I kenned she was answerin' them, for she wad aye come oot wi' her bannet and shawl on, and I suspected, to the Post Office. In aboot a month, she had a little ane; and on the very day it was born, the gentleman cam at nicht and saw her; and frae the way he dandled and kissed the baby, I saw he was its faither. Whan he gaed awa, I wad fain hae questioned him, but durstna; and he said naething to me, only telt me to look weel after the leddy, and pat a five-pound note into my hand.
“The bairn was a very healthy ane, and Mrs Smith soon recovered; and, if possible, she seemed happier than ever, divertin' .hersel' wi' her little son frae morbin' to nicht. Months passed awa, and a' that time the gentleman visited her often, but never stayin' lang. My doots as to them no bein' married stayed wi' me; but sae dearly did I come to love the leddy and the bairn, that they ceased to distress me, and Thamas himsel didna ken what to dae to mak' them comfortable. The laddie was named Henry, and a brisk, speerity thing he was. He scorned to greet like other bairns, and his bit crawin' laugh soonded cheerily through the hoose. Nae sooner was the guidman within the door, than he gaed wild to be till him, and there wad the twa play for hoors, while the mother and mysel lookit on, my heart naist as fu' as hers o pride and affection.
“But I needna lengthen the story this way. Aboot nine or ten months after Henry was born, ae day, I mind it weel-mind it, ay, I'll never forget it I was in the kitchen washin' the dishes after dinner. Thamas had just gaen awa to his wark, and left the Courant lyin' on the table. Mrs Smith, after puttin' Henry to bed, cam butt for the paper, to sit beside him, and read while she watched. She took it awa, and I was left by mysel'. The gentleman hadna been here for a guid while, and I noticed that our
lodger was mair dull and dowie than her usual; but the bairn keepit ber frae wearyin' sae muckle as she wad bae done. No very lang, maybe a half-an-hour after she had left me, I heard a cry sae lood and shrill, sae fu' o' mortal agony. The like o't I never heard afore nor since, and I hope to the God o' mercy
I never wull again. And then after the cry, a sound as o' somebody fa'in', and then a' was silent.
Wi' terror I ran ben to the room; and, oh the sicht that met my een! There was puir Mrs Smith lyin' a' her length on the floor, wi' the paper in her hand, and the bluid rivnin' oot o' her mooth. I
sprang forrit, and lifted her head into my lap. Her face was white as paper, and her eyes shut; but even then, it had an expression o' despair maist pitiable to see. I spak’ to her: ! poured cauld water on her face, and did every thing I could think o' to bring her aboot, but it had nae effect. Then I laid her gently doon again, and ran for a doctor. He cam alang wi' me that minute; and what was my horror to hear him say, that she was dead! I couldna, I wudna believe it; but, alas ! alas ! it was ower true. A' our efforts couldna bring her back to life, and wi' a sair heart we gied them up in despair. I canna picture to you the grief into which baith Thamas and me were plunged. We didna ken what to dae, indeed, we could dae naething; for we keptna wha the leddy, was, nor whar her friends were to be found. The tall, weel-faured gentleman was the only ane we ken’d her to be acquaint wi'; but wba he was, or whar he lived, was a secret; and if he didna cast up by chance, he wudna ken what had happened. Weel, we keepit her as lang as we could, though Thamas was resolved to gie her a decent funeral, and at last had to tak’and lay her in the Canongate kirkyard, where she lies, at this moment, a stranger in a strango place.
" It was a sair sicht to see the bairn wauken up, and look for his mother; and it was as muckle as 'Thamas and me could dae, to haud him frae greetin' his little heart oot. But, wae's me, young,
folk gune forget their sorrows, and in less than a week he was as blithe and canty as ever. Up to that time, neither my busband nor me had said a word aboot what was to come o' him, as it cam' oot after, we we were feared to speak; for though ilk ane o' us wanted to keep the bairn, we thocht the ither
But ae nicht, as I was sittin' wi' him on my knee, Thamas says, “ Puir little lamb, what will come owre him?' I said naething, but lookit earnest like at him, and the tear cam' into my ee. • Dae ye want to dae it, then?' says • If ye will alloo me,' says I. He cam' owre and gied me a kies, and pressed baith me and the bairn to his heart.
if naebody comes to claim him," he said, he'll just be to us as if be were oor ain.'
And so the matter was settled, and Henry stayed wi' us, for he never was askit for; and frae that day to this wo hinna seen the tall gentleman."
“ Did you not examine the newspaper which was in the lady's hand ?" asked Richard, who had been deeply interested by Mrs Ford's narration.
“ Yes; we examined it, but could see naething to explain the awfu' event,” answered the landlady.
• Depend upon it, it was something which she read there that caused the sad circumstance; probably the announcement of the gentleman's marriage, for I doubt not it was a case of seduction and desertion. He must have been a villain--a despicable, heartless villain."
“I canna think that either," rejoined Mrs Ford, musingly. “To a' appearance, he was a kind, generous man, and I'm shure he loved her maist tenderly. It's a mystery, and a mystery it's likely to remain."
“Did she leave no papers or property of any kind?” asked
“Naething o' consequence. The only thing that she broc
" Ahl was that bureau hers?” said Richard, looking at it with
"Weel, to tell you the truth, I fancy that there are sic things aboot it, frae something that I ance saw. It was, I think, the very last time the gentleman was here. He cam' unexpectedly, for Mrs Smith had been sittin' a' the forenoon writin' a letter, and had just gotten it dune whan he cam' in. I followed him ben to the room, to ask if he had gotten his denner, and heard her
“It will have them, though, I should think,” said Richard.
“Weel, years passed on, and Henry grew into a fine callant. I
In time we almost fancied that he was oor ain bairn; and shure I am we couldna hae loved him better if he had. We pat him to schule
as sune as he could gang, and keepit him there till be was a grand
“ This narrative is honourable alike to you and to him," exclaimed
“Guid guide us! what ails the laddie?” cried Mrs Ford, starting up, and running towards the youth.
Henry spoke not; but, sinking into a chair, he laid his head on his knees and sobbed, while his whole frame shook with emotion.
“ Henry, Hevry, laddie, what's the matter wi' ye?" repeated the landlady, intensely alarmed.
Still no reply came from the agonized youth. Indeed, her
He grew calmer at lengtlı, and, lifting up his face, gazed first at
look of sad appeal; and, throwing her arms about his neck, she
“My puir bairn, what is it that troubles ye sae sair? Dinna think shame to tell me. Am I richt in thinkin' that it's connected wi' Diamond Hunter?" she whispered tenderly in his ear.
Richard rose to leave the room, thinking that his presence might be a barrier to the outpouring of that confidence which he observed was so necessary; but Henry, holding out his hand and smiling faintly, caused him to stay.
“ Do not leave us, Mr Everly. You are the two truest friends I have in the world, and I desire to have nothing secret from you. Mrs Ford, you have rightly guessed the cause of my sorrow. Diamondlove her with all my heart-and I am not ashamed of the passion. To-night, I asked her to become my wife, aud
" And what?" interrupted Mrs Ford, breathlessly. “She didna refuse ?"
"Alas! yes," replied Henry, again hiding his face in his hands to conceal his agitation.
“Weel, I never heard the like o' that!" ejaculated the landlady, in a somewhat indignant tone. “I'm shure sic' an offer she'll never get again; and if she prefers anither to you, I think she has puir taste and little prudence.”
"Stop, stop; do not blame Diamond," said Henry, hastily. "She may be wrong, and I think she is; but she is not worthy of blame. She has told me that I am the only one she loves." “ And what
way will she no marry ye, then?" asked Mrs Ford, in amazement.
" Because she is a foundling, and believes she is a child of shame," was the low, sorrowful reply.
6 What nonsense!" observed Mrs Ford. “I thocht Diamond wad hae mair sense than that. Houts, but cheer up, Henry, lad. This storm will blaw by, and afure a week's owre yer head, Diamond will promise to be yours.”
"Never, never," answered Henry, shaking his head. “Right or wrong, the idea has become a fixed principle of her nature, and even I would not urge it to be violated."
* Right, my dear friend," said Richard, laying his hand kindly on his shoulder. “ Whoever this girl is, she is full of genuine womanly nobility. Her resolution to sacrifice herself--for I doubt not her rejection of you to-night is the sacrifice of all her earthly hope and joy--evinces the nobility of her nature. It is a resolution worthy of all honour, and can only be the result of the most exalted views of moral purity. It bespeaks a deep, clear insight into the law of human happiness; for the doubt which, it seems, rests on her birth, would to fine minds prove destructive. Henry, you may be proud of having gained the love of such a woman as this; and though it
may be that you can never possess her, you will have the consolation of knowing that your heart was set on a worthy object, and that it forfeited its happiness in obedience to a holy and sacred idea. It is still a trial, and I doubt not a severe one, and I accord you my warmest sympathy; but it does admit of alleviation, and, my dear young friend, there are trials in this world, sharp and sore as this one, which can in no way be lightened. I have had such to bear, and for your instruction will give you a sketch of my past history. Do not leave us, Mrs Ford. I also wish you to know something of what I am."
They sat beside him while he narrated the leading incidents of former Chapters, and were at once awed, solemnized, and horrified by the suffering, the cruelty, and the bereavement to which he had been subjected. As Henry thought of what Richard had to bear, and contrasted this with his own disappointment, he felt how much lighter was his load.