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a year back,” replied the boy, with a sigh; “and, having no friends, we are obliged to go from house to house to play and sing, for a bit of bread, or a penny, which the farmers' wives, God bless them, very readily give us, and lets us sleep in their barns; which I think main kind, and makes me very thankful on Patty's account, because my mother used to be careful of she, because she was sickly."
“ From 'what part do you come?”
“ If your are honest you need not fear to declare the truth; which, if you do, we may assist you."
“ Indeed, Sir," answered the boy, “I don't fear to tell the truth on my own account, but on poor Patty's, whom I could not bear to leave; besides, my mother, not a minute before she died, as we both kissed her cheeks, that were even then as cold as any stone, desired me to remember, that as I was the oldest and strongest, I must do all I could for she.”
Well, tell me," said Mr. Richardson,
father was, where he lived, and how long you have gained a livelihood in this manner. Again I bid you speak without fear; I may assist, but will not injure, you.”
The boy, thus assured, assumed more courage.-"God bless you, Sir,” said he; “I will tell you the whole truth: for tho' we did run away we be honest. My father was a weaver, and lived within a mile of Warwick, and made shift to maintain us very decently till the war broke out, when business got so slack that we began to grow very poor, and instead of boiling the great pot twice a week, we sometimes could not afford to put it on for a whole month; however my father struggled all he could, and my mother spun, and used to tell him to keep up his spirits : for when things were at the worst they must mend. But all would not do ; my father, from a fat likely man, grew quite thin and yellow with fretting; and at last got such a bad cough, that people said he was in a galloping consumption. In this dis
tress our landlord seized for half a year's rent, which my father could by no means raise; so, Sir, our goods were sold, and we were all forced to go to the parish. I am sure I shall never forget that day as long as I live: my father had then got so weak that he could not walk without help, so my mother took one arm and I the other, while my sister held by her apron crying; our old dog, Shock, that my father had from a puppy, following after us. When we came to the workhouse they took us all in but Shock, who was shut on the outside ; where he stood whining so as to have made any body's heart ache, but a parish officer's.
“ My poor father died in four days, praying for us with his last breath; and was buried the next morning but one by the parish. My mother had been ill ever since the second day after she came into the workhouse, though she tried to hide it; but she got so bad after his death, that she could not go to the burying, and Patty and I went alone, crying so bitterly that we never saw poor Shock following us : for he had lain about the workhouse ever since we went in. Oh, Sir! I thought my heart would have burst when they let my father's coffin down into the grave; Patty screamed and called on her daddy, the dog howled, the sexton scolded; till at last the men that had carried the coffin kicked the dog, and drove us both back to the workhouse.
“When we returned, the doctor had been to see the poor folks, and said how my mother had got a fever ; so, Sir, she got worse and worse, for three or four days, and then she said she should die, and talked a great deal to Patty and me, whenever she was a moment free from being light headed ; and she gave me my father's flageolet to keep for his sake, for it happened by chance to be in his pocket! - then bid me to be honest and sober, or she should not rest in her grave; to learn to labour, and to love my sister, and, God would bless us; for he loved the poor, and was the father of orphans. Don't cry, Patty,” said he, interrupting his story to comfort his sister, — “don't cry ; it's rude before gentry,” - the big tears falling from his own eyes on his tattered waistcoat, and, for a moment, choking his utterance. _“I beg pardon, Sir," resumed he, “but sister always will cry when we talk about mother. -So, Sir, she told Patty to be a good girl, or she would never prosper, but die upon a dunghill. God knows, I could not help thinking when she said so, that she ought to have been better off; for I am sure she was good, and always, said her prayers night and morning; then while we had it, she never sent beggars away with empty bellies. — But I remember she used to say, the smaller the reward in this world, the greater in the next; and that God had a right to dispose of his creatures as he thought best. — She then, Sir, gave her prayer-book to Patty, and bid her not forget her reading: and talked to us till she was so weak she could not talk any longer.