+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

master says he never saw such a smile for
gladdening the heart. But may be it's not
looks you 're asking about. The best thing I
can say of her looks is, that she's just one a
stranger would stop in the street to ask help
from if he needed it. All the little childer
creeps as close as they can to her; she 'll
have as many as three or four hanging to her
apron all at once.'

'Is she cocket at all?'

'Cocket, bless you! you never saw a creature
less set up in all your life. Her father's
cocket enough. No! she's not cocket any
way. You 've not heard much of Susan Palmer,
I reckon, if you think she's cocket. She's just
one to come quietly in, and do the very thing
most wanted; little things, maybe, that any
one could do, but that few would think on, for
another. She'll bring her thimble wi' her,
and mend up after the childer o' nights,—and
she writes all Betty Harker's letters to her
grandchild out at service,—and she's in
nobody's way, and that's a great matter, I take
it. Here's the childer running past! School
is loosed. You 'll find her now, missus, ready
to hear and to help. But we none on us frab
her by going near her in school-time.'

Poor Mrs. Leigh's heart began to beat, and
she could almost have turned round and gone
home again. Her country breeding had made
her shy of strangers, and this Susan Palmer
appeared to her like a real born lady by all
accounts. So, she knocked with a timid feeling
at the indicated door, and when it was
opened, dropped a simple curtsey without
speaking. Susan had her little niece in her
arms, curled up with fond endearment against
her breast, but she put her gently down to
the ground, and instantly placed a chair in
the best comer of the room for Mrs. Leigh,
when she told her who she was. 'It's not Will
as has asked me to come,' said the mother,
apologetically, 'I'd a wish just to speak to
you myself!'

Susan coloured up to her temples, and
stooped to pick up the little toddling girl.
In a minute or two Mrs. Leigh began again.

'Will thinks you would na respect us if
you knew all; but I think you could na help
feeling for us in the sorrow God has put upon
us; so I just put on my bonnet, and came off
unknownst to the lads. Every one says you're
very good, and that the Lord has keeped you
from falling from his ways; but maybe you 've
never yet been tried and tempted as some is.
I'm perhaps speaking too plain, but my
heart's welly broken, and I can't be choice in
my words as them who are happy can. Well
now! I 'll tell you the truth. Will dreads
you to hear it, but I'll just tell it you. You
mun know,'—but here the poor woman's
words failed her, and she could do nothing
but sit rocking herself backwards and
forwards, with sad eyes, straight-gazing into
Susan's face, as if they tried to tell the tale of
agony which the quivering lips refused to utter.
Those wretched stony eyes forced the tears
down Susan's cheeks, and, as if this sympathy
gave the mother strength, she went on in a
low voice, 'I had a daughter once, my heart's
darling. Her father thought I made too
much on her, and that she'd grow marred
staying at home; so he said she mun go
among strangers, and learn to rough it. She
were young, and liked the thought of seeing
a bit of the world; and her father heard on
a place in Manchester. Well! I 'll not weary
you. That poor girl were led astray; and
first thing we heard on it, was when a letter
of her father's was sent back by her missus,
saying she'd left her place, or, to speak right,
the master had turned her into the street
soon as he had heard of her conditionand
she not seventeen!'

She now cried aloud; and Susan wept too.
The little child looked up into their faces,
and, catching their sorrow, began to whimper
and wail. Susan took it softly up, and hiding
her face in its little neck, tried to restrain her
tears, and think of comfort for the mother.
At last she said:

'Where is she now?'

'Lass! I dunnot know,' said Mrs. Leigh,
checking her sobs to communicate this addition
to her distress. 'Mrs. Lomax telled me
she went'——

'Mrs. Lomaxwhat Mrs. Lomax?'

'Her as lives in Brabazon-street. She
telled me my poor wench went to the
workhouse fra there. I'll not speak again the
dead; but if her father would but ha' letten
me,—but he were one who had no notion
no, I 'll not say that; best say nought. He
forgave her on his death-bed. I dare say I
did na go th' right way to work.'

'Will you hold the child for me one instant?'
said Susan.

"Ay, if it will come to me. Childer used
to be fond on me till I got the sad look on
my face that scares them, I think.'

But the little girl clung to Susan; so she
carried it upstairs with her. Mrs. Leigh sat
by herselfhow long she did not know.

Susan came down with a bundle of far-worn

'You must listen to me a bit, and not think
too much about what I 'm going to tell you.
Nanny is not my niece, nor any kin to me
that I know of. I used to go out working by
the day. One night, as I came home, I thought
some woman was following me; I turned to
look. The woman, before I could see her face
(for she turned it to one side), offered me
something. I held out my arms by instinct:
she dropped a bundle into them with a bursting
sob that went straight to my heart. It
was a baby. I looked round again; but the
woman was gone. She had run away as
quick as lightning. There was a little
packet of clothesvery fewand as if they
were made out of its mother's gowns, for
they were large patterns to buy for a baby.
I was always fond of babies; and I had
not my wits about me, father says; for it