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rested on the fishponds in front of the Hall. The smoke curled up from the chimneys against the face of the down; but the house was hidden from him. When he lost sight of those who were approaching it through the plantations, Lewis entered the widow's cottage.
The poor creature was quite cast down by the calamity which had recently fallen upon her; but she had still some compassion to bestow upon Maggie and her children.
"The Lord help them!" she said, "for except the kind ladies spoke a word to Sir Frederick, she was afraid that worse troubles than any they had gone through were coming upon them."
"Does your honour know what do be come of Josh ?" she enquired, very respectfully, of Lewis. "He hasn't been at home these three nights; and folks say there's a gang of poaching people come down from London, and my fear is that Josh is mighty thick with them. It's a poor return for sitting up at nights with
his wife, to lose my bits of cabbages and brocoli. I could ha' sworn to 'em in Forrington Market. But so it is to have a bad neighbour; and Maggie, poor soul, is a'most beside herself. Couldn't ye say something, out of the Scriptures, that would make him see the sin of his ways, Sir? There's many in this place that has turned from wickedness at your bidding; and you know there's warrant to say, 'Cursed is he that robbeth the widow and the fatherless.'
Lewis said that he feared the case was almost a hopeless one; but he would seek the man out, and try to bring him back to his family.
"And just speak a word about the greens, Sir! It's all I have to get the children clothes for the winter; and he'll listen to you, if he will to any one :" pursued the widow, curtseying. Maggie says, if an angel was to come down, Josh wouldn't heed him. He's right down mad since he was took up for laying
traps in the woods for the young pheasants; though Sir Frederick let him off when he heard how bad his wife and children were. But he was mortal angry, and said, if he caught any of your brother's people on his land again, to prison they should go, and bide there as long as the law decreed. I don't know that it wouldn't be the best thing that could happen to him. Maggie do be worse off a deal, she says, than me that has no one to look to, and her husband earning, what with piece work and harvest time, nine shillings a week. But then she says, 'Jenny, see what it is to have a man to confound ye! For all that, there's most times the grist, and furze for baking. He can't drink that out any how."
The old woman went on grumbling, as she gathered her flowers, and made them up in bunches to carry over to Fordington in the morning.
"I'd have picked some cresses for the ladies' breakfast, if I'd thought the servants at the
Place would take them in:" she observed; "but they're a deal more high and mighty than the gentlefolks. Ten to one, they'd throw them out in the street, and say, 'what makes you bring such rubbish to our ladies, you old fool ?"-or shut the door in my face. I'd rather speak to Sir Frederick than the steward, about the place being mended; but he seldom comes this way, more's the pity! If he'd just condescend to step in, and see the light shining through the cracks in my old door,-and it's a'most all the light that does come into the house, he'd see to its being put to rights."
The condition of the door of the forlorn dwelling spoke for itself; and the small window was set so deep under the thatch, that, as the poor creature sat by the fire, in a nook at the end of the crazy cottage, not a ray of daylight penetrated to her dismal resting-place. The dwelling was of one story, and the mudfloor and unceiled room looked miserably damp and gloomy.
"Be quiet!" the grandmother continued, as Lewis made his way, with some difficulty, in the darkness, to the hard bed in a close inner room, which was occupied by the two moaning, feverish children. "Night and day, they' do be going on, till my poor head be like to split with their noise. What is it I can do to ease your pain, darlings ?" she said, giving them the yellowest summer apples from the garden, and a few currants in a leaf. "Here's the minister be come to read to ye the blessed word of God, which makes it light in the dark places, and smoothes the innocent's pillow. Can't ye bide still a bit, and listen ?"
She had lighted a rushlight, while she spoke, and reverently moved her husband's large Bible from a box covered with a clean cloth, near the bed of the sick boys. Wretched as the place was, the scanty furniture was neatly cared for; and some of her finest wall-flowers were placed in a mug, and freshened the air of the ill-ventilated chamber.