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   Chapter 2 LITTLE MISS JOY.

Little Miss Joy By Emma Marshall Characters: 10131

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

Little Miss Joy was the pride of the row, and always seemed to bring a ray of sunshine with her.

She lived with an old man she called "Uncle Bobo," who kept a curiously mixed assortment of wares, in the little dark shop where he had lived, man and boy, for fifty years.

He was professedly a dealer in nautical instruments, the manufacture of which was carried on in Birmingham or Sheffield. Every now and then a large packing-case would excite the inhabitants of the row, as it was borne on one of the Yarmouth carts constructed on purpose for the convenience of passing through the rows, and dropped down with a tremendous thud on the pavement opposite Mr. Boyd's door.

No wheels but the wheels of these carts were ever heard in the row, unless it were a wheelbarrow or a truck. And none of these were welcome, as it was difficult for foot-passengers to pass if one of these vehicles stopped the way.

The nautical instruments by no means represented all Mr. Boyd's stock-in-trade. Compasses and aneroids and ship's lamps were the superior articles to be sold. But there were endless odds and ends-"curiosities"-bits of carving, two or three old figure-heads of ships, little ship-lanthorns, and knives of all shapes and sizes, balls of twine, rolls of cable, and all packed into the narrow limits of the tiny shop.

"Uncle Bobo" was coming home one night-a Christmas night-a few years before the time my story opens, when he heard a wailing cry as he fitted the latch-key into his own door.

The cry attracted him, and looking down on the threshold of his home he saw-a bundle, as it seemed to him, tightly tied up in a handkerchief. Stooping to pick it up, the faint wailing cry was repeated, and Uncle Bobo nearly let the bundle fall.

"It's a child-it's an infant!" he exclaimed. "Where's it dropped from? Here, Susan!" he called to his faithful old servant, "here's a Christmas-box for you; look alive!"

Susan, who had appeared with a light, groped through the various articles in the shop, and received the bundle from her master's hand.

"Dear life, Mr. Boyd, what are you going to do with it then?"

"Can't say," was the answer, as Mr. Boyd rolled into the parlour, where a bright fire was burning and the kettle singing on the hob. "Unpack the parcel, Sue, and let's have a look."

Susan untied many knots and unrolled fold after fold of the long scarf-shawl of black and white check in which the child was wrapped: and then out came, like a butterfly out of a chrysalis, a little dainty girl of about two years old, who, looking up at Mr. Boyd, said, "Dad-da!"

There was no sign of ill-usage about the child. She was neatly dressed, and round her waist a purse was tied. Mr. Boyd fitted his large black-rimmed spectacles on his nose, and while Susan sat with the child on her knee, warming her pink toes in the ruddy blaze, he untied the ribbon with which the purse was fastened to the child's waist, and opened it.

It was an ordinary purse, with pockets, and within the centre one, fastened by a little spring, was one sovereign and a bit of paper, on which was written:

"It is the last money I have in the world Take care of the bearer till you hear more. Keep her for me."

Eight years had gone by since that Christmas night, and nothing more had ever been heard about this "Christmas-box;" but Uncle Bobo never repented that he had kept the child. She had been the interest and delight of his old age, and he had fondly called her "My little Joy."

The neighbours wondered a little, and some looked severely on this deed of kindness of Mr. Boyd's.

The person who looked most severely at it was Miss Amelia Pinckney, who kept a small haberdasher's and milliner's shop opposite Mr. Boyd's. Now neighbours in the Yarmouth rows, especially opposite neighbours, are very near neighbours indeed; and if it was almost possible to shake hands over the heads of the passers-by from the upper windows, it was quite possible to hear what was said, especially in summer, when the narrow casements were thrown open to admit what air was stirring.

Thus Miss Pinckney's voice, which was neither soft nor low, reached many ears in the near vicinity, and Mr. Boyd was well aware that she had called him "a foolish old fellow," adding that "the workhouse was the place for the child, and that she had no patience with his folly."

Truth to tell, Miss Pinckney had but little patience with any one. She had, as she conceived, done a noble deed by allowing her stepsister and her boy to take up their abode with her. But for this deed she took out very heavy interest; and poor Mrs. Harrison, who was, as her sister continually reminded her, "worse than a widow"-a deserted wife-had to pay dearly for the kindness which had been done her. Many a time she had determined to leave the uncongenial roof, and go forth to face the world alone; but then she was penniless, and although she worked, and worked hard too, to keep herself and her boy, by executing all Miss Pinckney's millinery orders, and acting also as general serv

ant as well as shopwoman of the establishment, still she was never allowed to forget that she was under an obligation to her sister, and that she ought to be "thankful for all her mercies!"

"It is not as if it was only yourself, Patience. Think what it is to have a boy like yours! Enough to drive one mad, with his monkey tricks and his impudence. I don't say that I regret taking you in. Blood is thicker than water, and you are my poor father's child, though he had cause to rue the day he married your silly mother-he never had a day's peace after that."

Such sentiments, expressed with freedom and without intermission, were a trial in themselves; but lately things had assumed a far more serious aspect.

Jack had been a mere baby when first he and his mother had been taken in by Miss Pinckney. But eleven years had changed the baby of two years old into a strong, self-willed boy of thirteen, impatient of control, setting all his aunt's rules at defiance, and coming in from school every day, more antagonistic, and more determined, as he said, to "pay the old auntie back in her own coin."

In vain Mrs. Harrison had remonstrated; in vain she had striven to keep the peace. For ever before her eyes was the dread that Jack would carry his oft-repeated threat into execution, and go to sea. Then, indeed, the light of her stricken life would finally go from her, and she would have nothing left to live for!

Jack was a boy likely, in spite of all his faults, to fill a mother's heart with pride. He was the picture of merry, happy boyhood, with a high spirit, which was like a horse without a bridle, and carried him away beyond all bounds of tongue and temper. But to his mother he could be gentle and penitent, acknowledging his faults, and showing real sorrow at having grieved her by warfare with his aunt. There was an excellent boys' school in Yarmouth, where he made good progress with his lessons, and was a favourite with his school-fellows; and the master, though often irritated by his tricks and carelessness, found it hard to be angry with him, or to inflict the punishment he deserved.

It is possible that Jack would have been able to get on more peaceably at home, had there not been another person frequently at his aunt's home with whom he waged a perpetual warfare. This person was a tall, meagre-looking young man, a clerk in an Excise office, who made great profession of being better than his neighbours.

He was always coming into Miss Pinckney's to tea or supper, and invariably, when listening to the aunt's stories of Jack's misdemeanours, talked of the bad end to which naughty boys were brought, and of the sins of disobedience bringing their sure reward.

Mr. Skinner had the disagreeable habit of uttering truths in the most unpleasant manner. A great deal that he said was correct; but somehow his words seemed to have no effect on those whom he addressed. There was a dash of unreality about Mr. Skinner, and a certain want of candour, which Jack's eyes were quick to detect.

He suspected that Mr. Skinner came to Miss Pinckney's "for what he could get," that he liked a chair by her fire in the back parlour, and that the glass of hot gin and water, sweetened to his taste, with a bit of lemon floating on the top, was his grand attraction.

The smell of this glass of spirit and water was odious to Jack; and he naturally felt aggrieved, when on one occasion Mr. Skinner, coming in to tea, devoured the whole plate of hot buttered toast or muffins, and talked of the duty of thankfulness, and how much more any of us had than we deserved-Jack meantime having slices of very stale bread scraped with a little salt butter. The contrast between his own share of the fare and Mr. Skinner's was sufficiently provoking. Then too of late Jack had been conscious that both Mr. Skinner and his aunt had been doing their best to bring his mother round to their view-that he was "the worse-behaved and most ill-conditioned boy that ever lived."

That last great outbreak of temper, when he had rushed off, and left his mother to pass a sleepless and tearful night, had been caused not so much by the shower of reproaches heaped on him, as by his aunt's bitter words: "If you go on like this, you'll break your mother's heart. Even she is getting sick of you, and you would be a good riddance!"

He knew well enough it was not true. He knew that if all the world were against him, his mother would never give him up. But, stung to the quick, he had poured out a torrent of angry words; and addressing his aunt as "an old cat, who shouldn't have the chance of setting her claws into him again!" he had rushed off and left his mother miserable.

As soon as the house was quiet and Miss Pinckney's long tirade against "spoilt wicked boys" had ceased, Patience Harrison had crept downstairs again, and, slipping the bolt off the door, had taken up her position there. And there George Paterson had found her, pale and worn with sleepless sorrow, and with an aching sense of loss which was well-nigh hopeless.

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