Symud i'r prif gynnwys
Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

24 erthygl ar y dudalen hon



OUB SHORT SiOBY. I I A POLICEMAN'S STORY. I I ctm an ex-polieeman-whioh fact will account for, and, I hope, excuse, the ruggedness of style and want of polish noticeable in the following story--a true story, too, and one as strange as any that you read in books. I have only taken the liberty to give fictitious names. It wts the last night of the Old Year. A dense fog hung like a pall over Leeds, and the smoke of the tall factory chimneys of Hunslet and Holbeok deepened and intensified it. The street lamps were burning at midday but their sickly, splut- tering light only served to warn the wayfarer against knocking his nose against the posts on which they were perched. The long row of cabs on the Briggate stand loomed through the gloom like so many hearses about to otart on a funeral procession. Still, the streets were thonged with Imarketing folk, and the "publics" apparently did a brisk trade, to judge from the number of muffled figures that continually dived down the narrow, ill-odoured passages shooting off Brig- gate and Boar-lane—for many of our oldest- established Leeds "pubs" hide shamefacedly away from the public gaze, up blind courts a.nd suspicious-looking entries. This day I was on the Briggate beat. I spent most of my time at tne corner of Boar-lane, watching the misty tide of humanity surge along. l am not inj,ich of a philo- sopher still I could not help pondering on the amount of joy and sorrow, hope and ambition- ay, and crime, too-that floated along on that restless life current. I was standing in a door- way, in a brown study, from which I was aroused as a dozing man is when a lamp-light is sud- Z, denly fla.shed on his half-closed eyes. What was it that awakened me? you ask. Only a woman's face—and a face, too, I had never seen before. The Old Year was dying in noisy sobs, for !;he wind had begun to blow gustily, lashing heavy rain-clouds across the sky. It was neti:,rig twelve o'clock, and the streets were becomvig quite deserted. I was crouched in a doorway out of the rain, again in a brown study, this time saddened by the memory of the spectral face, when, to my astonishment., the owner of the face herself stood right before me, as though she had just risen from the ground. "Oh, sir, poor baby's is so very ill," she plain- tively exclaimed. "Do let him nest on this step while I run across to the doctor; and God bless you. No feeling man could resist the plaintive voice and sad, appealing eyes. Instead of allow- ing her to place the child on the cold steps, I wrapped it up in my cape, and cuddled the tiny thing to my breast to keep it warm. Twelve o'clock boomed out in deep pulsations from the Town Hall clock. The doctor's house was right opposite but after waiting fully five minutes I thought it strange that I did not see the door open. I waited ten minutes, half an hour, an hour, and still no signs of the woman's return. "Strange," I thought; "what must have become of her?" At last I ventured across the street, and rang the night-bell. The doctor popped his night-capped head out of the window, and asked my business. "Has a. woman been here just now, doctor, for medicine for a sick child?" "No!" And the window went down with a snap. Here was a. fix! A policeman cuddling a baby, which had come from nobody knows where, and belonged to nobody knows whom How my comrades would jeer if they saw my predicament; or the street scamps I had so often "run in." I opened my cape under the lamp, and gazed down into the little creature's face. A sweet, bonny face, and tne black, bead-like eyes looked up so trustingly into mine that I resolved from that moment to adopt i™, if the mother did not return. But what would wife say? Half a dozen young rascals appeared quite as many as I could pro- vide for. "No matter," I said, "God will pro- vide." And when relieved off my beat I made some plausible excuse about my bundle, an (^pro- ceeded home with my New Year's gift. The wife was waiting for me by the fire. "A. happy New Year, George." The same to you, dear. And I have good news for you. The best friend you ever had in this world has sent you a New Year's gift." "lvho, George?" HGod." And I placed the baby in her arms. The next day a woman's lifeless body was fished up out of the muddy waters of the Aire. I knew the pale, ghostly face at a glance, and, strange as it may seem, thanaed God that now the baby was really my own. » Years passed, and the shadow of great sorrow rested, it seemed permanently, on our little home. One by one our children were snatched away from us. When Death once knocks at a door he always returns, like the Indian, in his own footprints. Our foundling was now our only comfort. We called him, Christian and surname, after myself—George King. He was tall, dark, and handsome—quite distinguished-looking, in fact, and wife often said he was sure to turn out the son of some great man, like the little castaways, who became princes in the fairy tales. We gave George a good education and when nineteen he received an appointment as clerk in Sir William Hatfield's office. I ought to state that Sir William, although Yorkshire born, had only lately come to reside among us. < When George was about six months in; his situation, the quick eye of my wife detected a change in him, and drew sage conclusions from the fact. A woman can detect anything but her own little failings. George, though never slovenly in attire, suddenly became almost foolishly fastidious as to his personal appear- ance. Besides, he lost his appetite—a sure sign that a lost heart had preceded the lest appetite. Now, in my courting days, I was never much afflicted with the raptures and pains and anxieties of love. It was all plain sailing to port with me, and pretty quick sailing, too, for from the day I first, set eyes on my intended wife to the day of our marriage was little better than two months, so that I could not be expected to sympathise much with George's injured appetite and dreamy musings.' But a little incident hap- pened. about this time that set me seriously thinking. One afternoon, when taking a volume from the, a photograph fell out, on. the back of which some gushing love verses were written in George's handwriting. "Poor lad," I thought, after examining the card, "he has run his bark amid rocks and whirlpools at the very start." I resolved to try and talk him out of this love madness—for the photogranh was that of Miss Ada Grahame, the niece of Sir William Hatfield. That very night I called George aride into our back room. "George, it will not do." I held the tell-tale photo so that he might see it. "It will never do, lad. You might as wisely try to pluck a star from the sky. She is quite as far away from you, md just as hard to secure. Who is she? Sir William's niece, and the prospective owner of something- like tii-ety thousand a year, while you are "Oh! stop! stan! I know who I am! I'm nobodv's child but I know she loves me!" And the poor fellow flung himself on the sofa in a naroxvsm of tears. "Hufih. hush, lad-vou are my child; a-nd it's because I love you I speak; and a. choking feeline came up in mv own throat. Isaidnomore, and George lived on his madness like the bee on its honey store. The love romance got whispered about, ns mif!ht have been expected from Miss Grnhnme's undisguised love for the fatherless lad. Matters came to a crisis at last, as I knew they would, and as I had often forewarned George. One evening, about six o'clock, Sir William's coachman rode up to the door and handed me a note containing a request, very lik,e a command, that myself and "son" would wait on him at Vs private residence "in an hour's time." We followed the coachman, and were ushered into a, room to await Sir William's summons. When I entered—George was told to remain outside— Sir William and Lady Hatfield were seated I together in solemn anger, nursing thunderbolts. "Policeman, read this And he angrily fluttered into my hand an intercepted love epistle of George's. While I was pretending to read, madame blurted out, "your presumptuous son is dismissed from our employ with a bad character." "He is not my son, my lady, and he is not a bad character," I answered. "Whose son is he?" asked Sir William, with the thunder-clouds darkening on his brow. "I don't know, Sir William, neither does the bov." The thunder-clouds exploded in a torrent of rage. He tugged at the bell, and summoned Miss Ada. As she came in. George, prouder and handsomer than ever, also entered by the opnosito door. "Ada," Rpoklo Sir William, "aware that you have taken my advice of this morning, I have sent for you that this man—nobody's son, he now turn out—may learn from your own lips how you despise him. It will cure his infatua- tion." "Oh! but I love him, uncle!" And the little heroine, with flashing eyes, stood proudly erect, like an'uplifted lance. I have seen tragedy queens in theatres in their grandest moments, but never one so queenly as, Ada was at that instant. But there were scenes within scenes. While this was taking place, Lady Hatfield was slowly, dreamily advancing to George, her eyes staringly fixed on his hand- some face. She suddenly clutched him like one demented, and, dragging him right under the blaze of the chandelier, tore open hits-shirt- front. Throwing herself on the lad, she shrieked, "Oh, Sir William, the vine leaf! the vine leaf!—my long-lost darling What a moment that was. Sir William and Miss Ada looked dazed and stupefied. Lady Hatfield had found her son, and had identified him from a purple mark the exact shape of a vine leaf, on the lad's left breast—I knew the mark well— but more through her deep mother's love. Other marks of identification were found. But now that the mist had cleared, we all saw the won- derful likeness between mother and ,son-the same dark eyes, the same haughty air, the very same trickery of facial expression. The reader can fill in the remainder of my story. George married Miss Ada; but he still remains a good son to us—a real God's gift. Why or how the baby was stolen has never been revealed. That secret was buriod with the poor suicide under the waters of tho Aire.






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-A I OVER, X100,000 MISSING.








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