Jem was following my grandfather, with the oars over his shoulder. I came last, with that little bundle in my arms.
The child had stopped crying now, and seemed to be asleep, it was so still. Mrs. Millar wanted to take it from me, and to undo the blanket, but my grandfather said ’Bide your time, Mary; bring the child into the house, my lass; it’s bitter cold out here.’
So we all went up through the field, and through our garden and the court. The blanket was tightly fastened round the child, except at the top, where room had been left for it to breathe, and I could just see a little nose and two closed eyes, as I peeped in at the opening.
The bundle was a good weight, and before I reached the house I was glad of Mrs. Millar’s help to carry it. We came into our little kitchen, and Mrs. Millar took the child on her knee and unfastened the blanket.
‘Bless her,’ she said, as her tears fell fast, ‘it’s a little girl!’
‘Ay,’ said my grandfather, ‘so it is; it’s a bonnie wee lassie!’
I do not think I have ever seen a prettier face than that child’s. She had light brown hair, and round rosy cheeks, and the bluest of blue eyes.
She awoke as we were looking at her, and seeing herself amongst strangers, she cried bitterly.
‘Poor little thing!’ said Mrs. Millar. ‘She wants her mother.’
‘Mam—ma! Ma—ma!’ cried the little girl, as she caught the word.
Mrs. Millar fairly broke down at this, and sobbed and cried as much as the child.
‘Come, my lass,’ said her husband, ’cheer up! Thee’ll make her worse, if thee takes on so.’
But Mrs. Millar could do nothing but cry. ’Just think if it was our Polly!’ was all that she could say. ’Oh, Jem, just think if it was our Polly that was calling for me!’
My grandfather took the child from her, and put her on my knee. ’Now, Mary,’ he said, ’get us a bit of fire and something to eat, there’s a good woman! The child’s cold and hungered, and we’re much about the same ourselves.’
Mrs. Millar bustled about the house, and soon lighted a blazing fire; then she ran in next door to see if her children, whom she had left with a little servant girl, were all right, and she brought back with her some cold meat for our breakfast.
I sat down on a stool before the fire, with the child on my knee. She seemed to be about two years old, a strong, healthy little thing. She had stopped crying now, and did not seem to be afraid of me; but whenever any of the others came near she hid her face in my shoulder.
Mrs. Millar brought her a basin of bread and milk, and she let me feed her.
She seemed very weary and sleepy, as if she could hardly keep her eyes open. ‘Poor wee lassie!’ said my grandfather; ’I expect they pulled her out of her bed to bring her on deck. Won’t you put her to bed?’