Page images
PDF
EPUB

intrepid, that either from fear or respect, or a mingling of both, I arose from my seat; he interpreted the action to a desire to see his wife, and preceded me to the room.

The pale mother attempted to support herself on her elbow, but could not; I drew near to her; she grasped my hand, and kissed it fervently. I laid my small offerings of food and clothing on the bed; and the little infant, whose cry had ceased, looked with its large eyes into my face. I could not forbear turning round to the old storyteller, and saying-" What a prettily-furnished sty!"

She appeared angry and sulky; but the young man spoke for her,

“If I was caught this night in Wexford, I'd be hung as high as the steeple in a month."

“Michael !" said Milly, in a tone of trembling terror.

“ Whisht, honey-whisht-I'll tell the truth, for I mind hearing onct that a lie is the devil's bait to catch fresh sins; and I've enough ould ones left. Well, that fear has been over me for as good as three weeks; and God in heaven knows we had a purty good spell of starvation afore that. When I begged, I was tould to work, but no one would employ me, because — " * Michael !" interrupted my poor patient.

“There, darlint, I'll not tell-lay easy, for God's sake!-well, there was a ship that agreed to wait off Cape Forlorn, to take me an five others beyant seas, if we'd do the work of the ship for nothing, and these three weeks we've been waitin for it; and she used to come in and beg, and gather what she could in the town all day, and in the night steal down to us, where I was hidden, with it; but I little thought how my jewil had reduced herself to keep the bit and the sup to me, while I stayed on this cursed ground; and last night we got word how the ship would be there to-morrow at day-break, and when she was laving me as I thought for good, till I could send for her out, as I passed my arm over the cloak round her, I thought she felt thin o'clothes, and I tould her so; but she turned it off, as she always turned the throuble away from me. 'I'm not bare as ye think,' says she, ‘only the weather's warm, and I hav'n't strength to carry much clothes ;' and now for me to see that the wales in her bleedin' feet are deep enough to bury my finger in—but oh! the wales in my heart are deeper, to think I brought her to this !” The tears and sobs of a strong man are terrible to look upon and hear; he covered his face with his hands, to hide his emotion.

“ Michael! Michael !" repeated Milly, “ trust in God! Don't ye see the friend to the fore, that was sent me from a far country. Oh! but it's worse to me than the sore feet to see ye take on so!”

“ And if ye plaze, my lady, I'd never ha' said the lie about the pigs, only ye bothered me with the sharp questions and looks, and Mich wouldn't lave Milly till the last, for I thought she was going, and sent for him," said the crone, with a still lower curtsey than she had greeted me with at first. “ And I hope yer honour won't let on that he's been here?"

The first gun !exclaimed a hoarse voice through a broken window at the head of the miserable bed.

“ Then I must go : the ship’s in sight; that's our word,” returned Michael. The poor sufferer fainted in the last, perhaps the very last,

embrace of her husband. “ I'l} lave her so: if I was to stay I couldn't now save her from starvation !” said the wretched man: but, lady, pity her still. If I'd took the advice of that poor heart-broken girl, I shouldn't now

“Mammy! mammy!" shouted a bare-footed urchin, rushing into the cabin, and who had doubtless been set on the watch ; “ there's three Peelers coming down the street; and one has gone round Martin Clay's

park !”

Michael glared fiercely round the room, and seized a pitchfork that had fallen with the wattles.

“ Fool!” said the old ready-witted story-teller," what's the good of that? Crawl under the bed, and we'll make it out.” He did as he was desired; and I never experienced till that moment the desperate anxiety which it is possible to feel to defeat the ends of justice;

the man might have been a murderer,-it was all the same to me. “ Sit down,” said the crone to the scout,

“ and be gettin' yer

lesson." The brat, in the twinkling of an eye, had obeyed her orders; and, with his finger resting on the greasy page, was seated on “a boss” in the chimney corner. I was about to administer some restoratives to poor Milly, but the more judicious woman whispered

“ For God's sake let her alone; if she comes to, and they here, she'll begin screetchin' for her husband.”

The policemen entered. They were both civil, though they turned over the wattles, and one of them even poked his staff beneath the bed.

“ Sit down on the bed, a lannan,” whispered the director to me;

they won't disturb a lady, though they'd think little about ’tossicating the poor."

After muttering something to each other they went out; remaining, however, near the door.

They're on the watch, Devil's curse to them !” exclaimed the woman. “ Padeen,” she added, calling so loudly to the child that they could not avoid hearing her; “ Padeen, lay by yer lesson, good boy, and go down for a farthin' light to Mrs. Gralaher. And harkee, take the broken Chany cup for a drop of vinigar for the sick woman.” As she spoke, she beckoned the boy to her, and whispered, “ Tell Mrs. Gralaher, for her soul's sake, to set on a make-b’live fight. She knows the ould trick. To do it this minute, or it 'ill be no good; and screetch murder and fire; and burn the house if there's nothing else for it, till these devils lave the street,—which she can see from the back windy."

The young rascal nodded his head, and paddled off with the cup in his hand; and so swiftly did he do his errand, that, in less ten minutes, there was a riot in the street that effectually called off the police and enabled the rapparee to escape ; not, however, before he had again embraced his wife, who did not recover her consciousness for more than an hour.

Poor Milly was not likely again to require friends: whatever her husband's crimes might have been, she had no participation in aught but his love; and instead of wanting, she hardly knew what to do with the treasures that were heaped upon her.

When we were leaving Wexford, the “story-teller" made her way

through the usual crowd of beggars, and, on the plea of old acquaintanceship, pressed closely to my side.He's safe off, a bouchla,- out o' the harbour and all; and she's got a scratch of a pen from him to say so! And it's to my thinkin' she'll be soon after him,—and why not? But ye'll see herself presently at the ould tree, andStand back," she said, addressing the crowd who pressed upon us ; stand back, and let me spake to the gentlewoman; it isn't charity I'm askin', so ye needn't keep starin',-chokin' with the envy like a pack o' sea-gulls over a cockle-bed. And what I was saying is, that, upon my soul, if ye come fifty times to Wexford (as pray God ye may), I'll never tell ye another lie! -troth I won't;-and there's not many as good a storyteller as myself would say that same.”

I perfectly agreed with her; and we proceeded on our journey until we arrived at the old tree, beneath whose shadow stood poor Milly. While somewhat farther on the little shoeless, stockingless scout was, as he expressed it, “ playing at cuttin' throats” with a still younger reprobate-a nondescript, as to age or sex.

Milly was not a person of many words: true sorrow is not eloquent except in its silence.

I thought I had never seen a picture of more calm and placid beauty, but it was rather the beauty of a statue than of a living woman.

Her hair was shaded back, and the thin snowy throat appeared hardly sufficient to sustain the small head upon its slender pedestal. Her cloak was still drawn up in front over her child, and though the infant retained the anxious expression attendant upon starvation, it crowed at the motion of its own fingers, and was evidently gaining strength.

She came close to the window of the carriage, and said,
“ Will I never see ye all again? Are ye going away entirely?”
Her lip faltered, and her eyes were swimming in tears.

Going, Milly; but perhaps not for ever." " For ever for me -for ever for me; for I shall be gone far, far before you come back. But God in heaven, who hears my prayer, will bless you wherever you go! May none belonging to you ever know sin or shame! But, lady dear, he wasn't as bad as people think-oh no! indeed he wasn't. God bless you more and more! but don't think hard of him. 'Twas the drink, and the bad company—but 'twasn't himself. And sure what'll ail him now, when he has taken an oath against the drink, and is out of the way of temptation, to be as good as he is kind; and, though I say it, handsome !"

How much better I love women than men ! how disinterested and self-denying are my own dear sex! The worthless rapparee! who deserved transportation at the very least, was so idolized by that pure and innocent creature, that the entire desire of her heart was, not that I should grant her any further relief, but that I should think well of her good-for-nothing husband.

“ 'Twas the drink and the bad company, but 'twasn't himself!"

There was a distinction !--none but a loving woman could have ever made such !

[blocks in formation]

We stand among the fallen leaves,

Young children at our play-
And laugh to see the yellow things

Go rustling on their way:
Right merrily we hunt them down,

The autumn winds and we;
Nor pause to gaze where snow-drifts lie,

Or sunbeams gild the tree. With dancing feet we leap along

Where wither'd boughs are strown;
Nor past nor future checks our song-

The present is our own.
We stand among the fallen leaves

In youth's enchanted spring-
When Hope (who wearies at the last)

First spreads her eagle wing.
We tread with steps of conscious strength

Beneath the leafless trees,
And the colour kindles on our cheek

As blows the winter breeze;
While, gazing towards the cold grey sky,

Clouded with snow and rain, We wish the old year all past by,

And the young spring come again. We stand among the fallen leaves

In manhood's haughty prime-
When first our pausing hearts begin

To love " the olden time;
And, as we gaze, we sigh to think

How many a year hath pass'd
Since 'neath those cold and faded trees

Our footsteps wandered last ;
And old companions--now perchance

Estranged, forgot, or dead-
Come round us, as those autumn leaves

Are crush'd beneath our tread.
We stand among the fallen leaves

In our own autumn day-
And, tott'ring on with feeble steps,

Pursue our cheerless way.
We look not back-too long ago

Hath all we loved been lost;
Nor forward--for we may not live

To see our new hope crossd:
But on we go-the sun's faint heam

A feeble warmth imparts-
Childhood without its joy returns-

The present fills our hearts !

DESTRUCTION OF THE HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT.

Praise be to Economy, exulted the “ Globe” the other day, the antiquated machinery of the Exchequer has ceased to exist,—the old tallies will make capital firewood. So far, very well; but out spoke the Spirit of Economy again, in the shape of the Court of Bankruptcy. We want another room—that in which you have lodged your firewood is the very thing for us; carry off the tallies, and let us have it. Forth came an order, then, from the Board of Works, to burn the tallies at once. Mark what followed. A curious old gentleman, hearing the fate that awaited these venerable bits of wood, applied to purchase them. The "Herald” is unkind enough to whisper that he had something like a sordid motive in this ; that it was not altogether out of generous sympathy for the reverses of official sticks; that, in fact, he had acted on some private intimation " that persons curious in such matters would like to purchase bundles of them for museums and collections.” Be this as it may, the application was refused. Mark, still, the vicissitudes that herald in great events. The worthy Mr. Milne of the Board of Works having issued further directions for the removal of the devoted tallies into some especial burning place, an inferior officer took on himself to consider thereupon how much more economical it would be to burn them on the spot. Economy again! On the spot accordingly they were burned, and with themthe two Houses of Parliament! Economy has cost the country three hundred thousand pounds.

We are quite aware that this event is not a matter of pleasantry; but though the levity that can never be grave

is a very gross affectation, and a thing that we abhor, every one must admit that this fire is not one of the gravities that may not be lightened. It has had its points of instruction. It is impossible, for instance, not to see, after this, that a time may come when swamping expedients will do nothing for the House of Lords. It is vain, too, after this, to say that there was not too great an abundance of combustible materials in the old Houses, and that the new ones should not try to dispense with them. It would be ridiculous not to mark some special providence in the fact, that the fire got into the Court of Chancery, burnt the Lord Chancellor's judicial wig, and then escaped as it had entered. Nothing can get through the Court of Chancery; lucky is the fire, or anything else, that, once in, can escape out of it. We hold none of these things, as a witty contemporary might, to be types of political perils; for, in a matter of this sort, we have nothing to say to politics. We mention them only as curious matters. We

may be allowed to add, from personal observation, that mischievous Acts of Parliament make capital smoke. The Poor-Law Amendment Bill, and the Bill against the Chimney-sweeps, particularly distinguished themselves in this way.

But the House of Lords and the House of Commons are both destroyed! That is certainly a grave circumstance. It was in Drurylane Theatre we first heard of the destruction having com

mmenced, and we are ashamed to say, we did not believe a word of it. It was not till we saw almost every one about us talking each with his neighbour-till we observed the excited faces that occasionally came into the house, and the excitable ones that in numbers went out of it-it was not in fact till

« PreviousContinue »