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A DOMESTIC NOVEL.
BY THE EDITOR.
swollen with weeping
Our Uncle Rumbold, though fierce of aspect and manner, was not absolutely hard-hearted; and his pride relented considerably when he saw the maid-of-all-work come down stairs, with her eyes red and
But his apologies were disclaimed. wasn't the searching her box,” she said, “ she didn't mind that, nor the being suspected, that made her cry, but the sight of her dear mother's hair,
who died, poor soul! of a bilious calculation.”
Calculus,” said my father, “ calculus. But come, brother-inlaw, let us inspect the premises, and have the constable’s opinion of
The trio accordingly repaired to the kitchen, where they minutely inspected the window and its fastenings, from which it appeared that a piece had been cut out of the shutter, so as to allow of the removal of the bolt, the sill was scratched and soiled with clay, and the ground, on the outside, bore in several places the imprint of a man's shoe or boot, thickly studded with hobnails. There was no doubt of the manner in which the entrance had been effected; and the parties having come to an unanimous conclusion on the subject, the constable was despatched to take the necessary steps for the discovery and apprehension of the offender or offenders.' Uncle Rumbold undertook to order the printing and issue of the handbills, whilst my father, with a heavy heart, proceeded to his escritoire in the parlour, with a JAN. 1845. - NO. 1. VOL. III.
task before him which, to a man who disliked letter-writing in general, was a heavy infliction — seeing that he had to indite three several epistles, all on subjects of the most painful and disagreeable nature, namely, to the Board, with his resignation of office; to Mr. Ruffy, communicating the fate of his presentation tankard ; and to the curate, conveying the loss of the silver-gilt salts. It would have moved a heart of nether millstone to have seen how he spoiled pen after pen, and sheet after sheet of paper, vainly turning his eyes for inspiration from the mirror, with its bird and ball, to the ceiling or the floor, the wall or the window, the poplar-tree, and the blue sky. Oh, if my father ever envied a rich or great man, it was then, just then, for the sake of his private secretary
To add to his distress, his usual resource in such emergencies was unavailable. In reply to his application for help, Mr. Postle had excused himself, under the pretence of urgent business in the surgery; but, in reality, the assistant was indisposed with a fit of spleen. He had heard of the affair of the search-warrant; and after indignantly asking of the jar of conserve of roses why Mrs. Prideaux had not been suspected instead of Kezia, had solemnly promised the pestle and mortar to pluck old Rumbold, at the very first opportunity, by the beard a threat he would probably have put in execution but for a positive injunction from the injured maid, who overheard him pledging himself to the same effect to the bottle of leeches.
“ No, Mr. Postle,” she said, “ you will do no such thing. It's a heathen fashion, to be sure, and makes him look more like a satire of the woods than a Christian: but when you consider what hangs on it, namely, the future prospects in life of our poor helpless innocent twins, you'll respect his beard as if it belonged to Moses or Aaron. As for my being suspected, it comes natural to a servant, and, like a part of her work, to clear up her character sometimes, as well as her kitchen: and as regards the searching of my box, it's nothing to the rummaging of one's thoughts and feelings, which I have had to undergo in other places. But so long as master, and missis, and you don't suspect me, I can bear it from any one else. So, for the sake of the dear twins, you must let the matter drop, and not offend Mr. Rumbold by look, or word, or deed, and especially by touching his beard, which would be cutting off young heirs with a shilling."
Having extorted a promise to this pacific effect, Kezia repaired to the nursery, where she relieved her full heart and excited feelings by a good cry and a hearty fondling of the precious babes. But, beyond this solace, she had a secret project of her own, in accordance with which she addressed herself to the genteel nurse.
“Oh, Mrs. Prideaux, isn't it a shocking thing to see a family like our's, for no fault of their own, coming step by step, deeper and deeper, into misfortune and misery! First, that dreadful supper, and then the robbery, and then the loss of the parish — it reminds me of one of my own runs of bad luck, when first I was knocked down by a runaway horse, and then picked up by a pickpocket, and then sent home in a hackney-coach that had just carried a patient to the hospital with a putrid fever."
"The planets,” said the nurse, are decidedly sinister.”
“ Then you think,” said Kezia, delighted with the astrological turn of the conversation, “that it is our ill stars are in fault ?”
Of course," said the nurse. “ The aspects of the planets, at this juncture, and as affects this house, are particularly malignant."
“They must be, indeed!” said Kezia, with a melancholy shake of her head. According to the Almanac, their bad influences affect sometimes one part and sometimes another, and at different times ; but here they are, as I may say, smiting us back and belly, hip and thigh, all at once!”
“The natural effect," said the nurse, "of the planetary configurations, and especially of the position of Saturn."
“Ah! with his ring!” exclaimed Kezia. “Mr. Postle once showed him to me through his refractory telescope.”
" A refracting one, I presume,” said the nurse. “I believe it was,” said Kezia ; “and it brought down the moon till it looked as big as a silver waiter. Talking of which reminds me of the stolen plate; and which it is my private notion that you
know as much or more about than any one else.”
“ That I do!” exclaimed the nurse, with a slight start, and fixing her keen eyes on the face of the maid-of-all-work as if she would read her very
soul. “ That I know who stole the plate!” “Yes,” said Kezia,“ by means of the heavenly bodies. I have heard of many persons recovering their lost things through star-gazers and fortune-tellers ; and of course, as you can cast nativities, you can do the other."
This was the very point at which she had been aiming ; but the answer of the nurse put an extinguisher on her hopes.
“Between ourselves,” she said, “I have cast some figures on purpose ; but there is a mystery in the matter that defies my art."
" The more's the pity,” said Kezia ; " for I made sure that you could discover the thief. And then that lost sheet, as was found in the churchyard, - how it was abstracted from a press to which nobody but ourselves had access: I own to thoughts, and suspicions, and misgivings about it, that make me shudder!” " Then do you really suppose,” asked the
" that was guilty of stealing the dead child ?”
“ The Lord forbid !” exclaimed Kezia. “I would as soon suspect him of kidnapping live ones for the Plantations! No, I was not thinking of him, but of a treacherous, deceitful being, whom to think of under the same roof, and in the same room with one, makes my very blood in a curdle."
The nurse again fixed one of her scrutinizing looks on Kezia ; but the latter was thinking of quite another personage, as implied by her next question.
“What is your real opinion, Mrs. Prideaux, of supernatural agency ?” “The same as your own," was the prompt answer of the nurse.
“In that case," said Kezia, “I don't mind saying it's my belief that our sheet was purloined away by Satan himself, whose delight is in
casting down the good and the godly, and for the express purpose of ruining my poor master.”
“ It is quite possible,” said the nurse, who seemed to take delight in pampering the credulity of her simple-minded and single-hearted companion. “ Such an act would be perfectly in unison with the diabolical character. My belief coincides with your own.
But remember, Kezia, the age is a sceptical age, and its infidels especially repudiate astrology and demonology ; so that the less we say of our own convictions the better. Indeed, it would cost me my bread were it known that I had cast the nativity of those dear twins."
“But it never shall be,” cried Kezia —"never! Do you think I would break the solemn oath you made me take on the Testament?”
“No, I know that you would not,” said the nurse, in her sweetest tone; "for if you did, there are lightnings to burn your body, and other fires to scorch your soul for the perjury.” And so the conference ended.
My father, meanwhile, had toiled on at his irksome task in the parlour – blotting, blundering, erasing, correcting, tearing up, and beginning de novo, in a way that a corresponding clerk would have gone crazy to witness; for if my parent's sustenance had depended on the exercise of his pen, he must have died of starvation.
At last, after infinite trouble, he had completed the whole of the missives, and was just in the act of drawing that long sigh of satisfaction with which a weary man is apt to hail the accomplishment of his labour, when
my mother entered the room, drew a chair beside him, seated herself, and laid her hand on his arm. There was nothing in her face to indicate any interruption of the mental repose and relief which my father had promised himself; her looks were as cheerful as the tone with which she uttered her preluding monosyllable. “ George!"
My dear!” “ Can you forgive me for keeping from you a little secret ?” “Of course I can,” replied my father, with his old smile.
But will your own sex for being so unwomanly ?”
“No matter for them,” said my mother. “I meant to have hoarded it up for an agreeable surprise ; but with such troubles as have come upon us, it seems only fair that you should share in any comfort which I am enjoying myself. You remember the 201. note that you gave me last week ?"
for Mr. Lobb.” “ Ah, Mr. Lobb must wait a bit,” said my mother.
“ That note went quite a different way, and for another purpose. Up to London, George, and for a purchase. Can you guess ?
“For winter clothing, perhaps,” said my father, “or a fresh stock of household linen."
“ For winter wealth, George,” said my mother, “and a stock of good luck. What do you think of a lottery ticket?”
My father made no reply – he was confounded by this new blow. “ Do you hear, George,” cried my mother a lottery ticket ! “ Yes, twenty pounds gone,” murmured my father.