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I'd lost sight of her then for a bit, when one day
I met with a pal—limping Joe-
Which it staggered me like a blow.
She'd took some fruit for her poor sick kid,
In a sort of fit o' despair;
Of prison work and fare.
I see her again, in a little while,
Lookin' whiter and wuss than afore; But the weaker she grow'd, poor soul, she seem'd
To cling to her boy the more.
Now there came the “Peddlers' Hact” just then,
That has caused such a deal o' fuss ;A Hact for turnin' men into thieves,
And women into wuss!
“ Once a thief-allers a thief
Brand 'em an' stop their bread,
That's how the Hact's to be read !
When I heard as how they'd stopp'd her rounds,
And writ" convicted” agin her name,
heart was all aflame.
Well, I'd come one bitter night, dead-beat,
To a lodging crib I knew,
As only tramps can do.
I'd sot me down in a weary mood,
Sick of their oaths and lies,
To try and stop their noise.
A dyin' just over their head,
And coax her boy to bed.
“For God's sake, missis," I whisper'd hoarse,
“Show me this woman that's ill; For I think I know her of old, yer see,
Both her and her little Will."
“Come and see her, an' welcome," she said,
“For p'raps before she goes, It might be a comfort, like, to her,
To see a face she knows."
Yes, it was her ; the poor wrong'd gal,
Once pure, and bonnie, and blessed, With a far-off look in her great blue eyes,
Soon to close in their last long rest.
A woman was bathing her aching head,
Another walked to and fro,
And began to laugh and crow.
She looked up then, and saw me, and smiled
Such a weariful smile and drear;
“Oh, mother! Oh, mother, dear!”
“Poor soul!"_'twas the missis as whisper'd the words
"That's how she's been all through; She thinks o' nought but her mother and boy;
But I dunno what we can do.”
When the parson ask'd her name, she sobbed,
66 I've no name now to own; You see what I am, sir, a sinful girl,
That looks to Christ alone."
I fell on my knees afore them all,
By the side of her dyin' bed;
And this was what I said :
“My lass, I don't ask you who you are,
So you need'nt tremble and start;
And that you and your boy must part.
“Will you trust your pretty boy to me?
Ab, you shudder—and well you may; But I, too, had a dear mother once,
Who taught me how to pray.
“ And I'll shield him, ay, as a mother would,
From sorrow, and sin, and strife;
Shall sweeten and bless my life.
“So, if you can trust your boy to me,
Only make me a sign."
And I knew that the boy was mine.
She died next day, with a perfect trust
In Him who alone can save;
To his mother's parish grave.
The parson offer'd to take the boy; ;
He said as my heart was kind; But mine was hardly the sort o' life For a child to be consigned.
But I said “Look here, sir, I'm bad, no doubt,
Low, lazy, and drunken, and wild ;
For the sake o' this little child.”
So I took the boy, and I went my way
And I tried, and I kept my word; And in teaching them baby lips to pray, My own poor
heart was stirr'd. I got a place as a hostler fust,
At Grantham, in Linkunsheer,
To buy this horgan here.
And in decent houses lie;
To 'prentice him by and by.
And so we jogs on, my Willie and I,
I carries the horgan and plays,
While the women fondle and praise.
There! I must ha' tired you out, I'm 'fraid,
With my wearisome yarn and drawl; Come, Will, we must be off, my lad,
So, good night, gentlemen all!
THE OLD CARD-MAKER.
BY DOUGLAS JERROLD.
THE old card-maker's face was sharp and withered; and his nightcap half removed from his head showed a few short white hairs, like goose-down. The old man's face had in it nothing venerable: it was mere old age-mere decay, without that sweet, serene light which gives to years a halo of holiness. The young wife looked at her
sleeping mate in silence, and then a deep, deep sigh broke from her almost unconsciously. She retreated from the bedside as the man awoke.
“ Who's there? Devils again?” cried the sick man in a hoarse trembling voice.
The wife made no answer, and walked on tiptoe out of the room.
“Who's there?” again cried the card-maker; and then he mumbled: “Devils—devils—more devils. And I shall go among 'em-I must go among 'em-no help. Damned -damned-ha! ha!-damned.”
For an hour and more the old man raved, groaned, and muttered to himself.
He had, as I heard, committed no peculiar wickedness in life, but his imagination had caught a disease from a spiritual counsellor, who, in the anxiety of his soul for the dying man, felt it a duty to convince him that he must be damned. He had dealt in cards; he had made gold by the devil's tools, and there was no help for him; the devil must have him. This comfortable assurance Mr. Uriah Cloudy conceived it to be his Christian duty to pour once a day at least into the ears of the departing tradesman, who had such confidence in the authority of the Muggletonian—for Cloudy was said to be of that enlightened sect—that he gave himself up to inevitable perdition. Hence, to his crazed perception, his chamber was beset by devils, male and female; all of them wearing the faces, forms, and habits of the kings, queens, and knaves of cards; all of them, by such masquerade, torturing the remorseful spirit of the dying dealer.
“Oh! Ugh!” he groaned—“and there, peeping between the curtains—there's that cat, the Queen of Diamonds !” Then he sat bolt upright in his bed; and, throwing his nightcap into the room, he screamed, “ Jack of Clubs, my time's not up-I defy you!
At this moment Becky entered the room. “ Here's Mr. Cloudy come to see you,”
The name seemed to awaken new terror in the cardmaker, for he fell back in his bed, and howled like a wolf. In an instant the Muggletonian was at the bedside.