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"Well," she said, looking up with a sullen scowl, " what do you want? No preachin'. I won't stand none o'that ; I'd send yer down stairs quicker than yer come up if yer 'tempt it."
She looked capable of fulfilling her threat, for she was tall and muscularly made, possessing indeed the thews and sinews of a man developed and strengthened by fighting; the priest had the advantage in height, but certainly at a first glance did not look a match for the powerful virago ; but he answered simply, “I am not come to preach ; I am come to ask you a question relative to a little girl, who I believe is not your child, and whom I have only known as Curly-nut."
The sweet voice, the gentle manner had little effect on this unhappy woman.
"Have you been gettin' 'old of her, the little brat?” she said fiercely, “What's come of her, d’yer know ?”
“I do not know where she is at this moment; she has been to my school, but she is now entirely without a home.”
Mary Apne seemed a little mollified; she instantly jumped to the conclusion that the “parson” was going to ask her to take the child back again, and answered sulkily, "She's a riglar little hussy, and ain't none o' mine neither, but you know she's 'andsome, and her sellin' things and beggin' helped to make the pot boil, yer see; she cut an' run jest 'cause I whacked her for tellin' a lie.”
you know who she is ?" said the priest. Mary Anne gave a short laugh ; "Lawks! she's jest a chance brat, that's all, plain as day,” she said; “look ye here, sir ; there was a woman lodged up in Hatty Street near here, and one night a lady came to her place. Sally Marks, (that's the woman I mean,) told me all this. Í don't know how the lady got in these parts, she must a' lost her way or summut. She jest fainted outside Sally's door ; well, Sal picked her up and tuk her in ; she was a real lady, only very ragged and 'adn't got nothin' 'bout her to show who she was, but she was very 'andsome. Well, that little 'un was born that 'ere night, and the lady died; the workus buried her, I fancy; she never said
a word ever after she fainted, so nobody ever knew who she was.
Sal tuk the brat, and said she'd take care on her; I was livin' next door to her then ; but one night when that 'ere Curly-nut was 'bout a year old may be, Sal got killed-got a whack in a fight that did for her, and so I jest took the little un, for she was so 'andsome, I used to take her about and folk ’ud give to me 'cause of her yer know. That's all I knows on her, or any one else I 'spect."
“And no one but Sally Marks ever saw this lady ?"
“No one as I knows on; what d'yer want to know all that 'ere for? I s'pose you're a-goin' to let me 'ave the brat agin?”
“I do not say that; I did not come bere for that purpose,” said the priest quietly, “the child, you say, is not yours, and in that case you have no right over her or claim to her.”
“ You think I haven't! yer want to put her into one o your orphan places or summut,” said Mary Anne, rising truculently, “I know yer tricks, you parsons. I'll go before any magistrit and swear she's my child, I will, yer'd better give her up now," and she marched up close to him and lifted her huge fist.
A low human being assimilates humiliatingly to the brute creation ; a threat of violence in return for attempted violence on her part would have had no effect upon her, but rather fanned the flame of her wrath, but the stern steady fearless glance she met subdued her as it would have done a savage dog or an angry bull; the virago shrank back and dropped her hand, and her eye wandered unsteadily.
“ You will not strike me," said the priest, calmly; “ let me leave you in the hope that you will allow me to come another day.”
“ Not to be cantin'," interrupted the woman. “I won't ’ave none o' that." “God forbid ! Have I your promise ?"
Ι Few could have resisted the winning voice and manner; but the nature debased by long years of vice and recklessness, is not easily touched or aroused; it sleeps a deep and heavy sleep, and“ like the deaf adder stoppeth
its ears and will not listen to the voice of the charmer, charm he never so wisely.”. Mary Anne was for the moment tamed as a dog might have been, but she was not softened; she simply lapsed from objective to subjective ferocity.
“You'd best clear out,” she said, " and not come agin, we don't want none o' you parsons comin' round; there wasn't never no good in 'em. There ain't no sort o' use in splash coves like you a-preachin' to us and tellin' us what's right and what ain't; you don't want gin to keep the life in you, and we does ; think yerself lucky I didn't turn yer out afore, and be scarce now, I won't 'ear nothin' more," and with that she flopped herself down on the tub from which she had risen, and the priest without another word turned and quitted the room. He knew well that it was impossible to deal at once with creatures like this; nothing but the slow dropping of water will wear away the hard rock, the 'sudden flood would only rush over the surface, leaving no trace of its passage, and with a sigh Angelo Stewart turned his steps from Old Pigeon Court, and took his way back again towards London Wall.
"HERE's a letter for you, please, sir," said the slatternly maid-servant, entering Halifax's apartment and laying a letter on the table. The writer was not alone. Hannington, the editor of the “Parthenon,” sat in the balcony smoking a cigar, and a tall lank personage with a sallow complexion and curled moustache lounged in an arm-chair, making himself quite at home. This personago was not a gentleman as one glance would show;
good fellow," the manager of a large metropolitan theatre which shall be nameless. He had known Halifax for two or three years, liked him very much, (a feeling which was not reciprocated by the fastidious littérateur,) and pushed his interests when they did not interfere with his own, and upon the strength of that friendliness he considered Halifax's apartments
but he was a
almost as his own; he was not insolent or wittingly intrusive; he was simply selfish, good-natured, and decidedly underbred, and Halifax could not afford to give him his congé from his society. He was one of those human lichens to whom a man struggling with the world must submit, for we cannot quarrel with the hand that helps us on our onward path.
“Is that a reminder from Johnson ?” asked this gentleman, removing his cigar; "you were expecting one."
“It is not from him," returned Halifax; “it is from my friend, Mr. Stewart.”
“ About Alford, may I ask ?” said Hannington, leaning eagerly forwards.
Yes,” said Halifax, who had opened the letter and ran his eye rapidly over its contents ; "this is very kind; he forwards me a most flattering introduction to Barnes from Alford.” “Stewart," said the manager," hadn't I the pleasure
, of meeting him here by chance one day-a clergyman, isn't he pas
“Yes," returned Halifax, rather coldly; "here are the letters, Hannington, if you would like to see them.”
“ Thank you ; short and to the point Mr. Stewart's letter is,” said the editor of the “ Parthenon,” smiling, “ but I suppose he has more to do than he well knows how to get through. Let's see what Alford says. Flattery! it's only the truth ; it's a very kind letter; he has never seen you, Halifax. Has he?"
“Not that I am aware of, unless he has had the hon. our of seeing me without knowing who I am; he is a friend of Stewart's and I believe would speak well of any one whom Stewart asked him to help.”..
“He can do so with a clear conscience in this instance," said Hannington; "well, you know what my good wishes are, I need not repeat them.”
Thank you, I know them of old, Hannington ; I will just call upon Barnes to-morrow, and see if I cannot persuade him that there never was a book written like mine."
“ You may find him hard to persuade," observed the manager of
theatre; " by the way, Halifax, have
you considered the proposition that I made to you last Thursday ?"
"The proposition over which you got so enthusiastic in S. James' Park, to the astonishment of the nursery maids ?"
“What an inveterate jester you are! yes."
"I have thought of it,” said Halifax, laging his hand caressingly on the head of the faithful setter, who was as usual at his side, “but I am afraid I must decline
“ Decline it! my dear Halifax, bave you thought over it well ? it would be a firstrate thing-pay like wildfire, I assure you."
"That might be; firstly, however, I am not so thoroughly convinced of that, and secondly, I am afraid play-writing is not my forte.”
“My dear fellow, you can write anything that you like to put your hand to, and sensation plays take wonderfully now; you don't want me to tell
such a play now as I was speaking of in S. James' Park. Hannington and I were talking it over yesterday.".
"And what did Hannington say?" asked Halifax, smiling
"Well, you know," said Hannington, entering the room and taking a seat near the window for the better convenience of hearing and being heard, "it's seldom very easy for one man to decide for another. I don't think that style of writing is your forte by any meanshistory and politics are your line; still, as I said to Brooks, what he proposes would pay well if it succeeded, and with the present taste it would be almost sure to do so."
“What can be your objections ?” urged Brooks. Halifax paused a moment. Few things place a man of refined mind and high principles in a more painful position than that of being obliged to associate with and partly gain his bread by men of a coarser mould, who look upon all professions as a means merely of “getting on," to be bent and twisted and prostituted to anything which may gain money at the expense of conviction or of rectitude