He is gaunt, sombre, bony, dirty, and dressed in a black suit which a beggar would hardly care to pick out of the dust.
This ill-looking man nodded to her as he stepped on the road.
“I don’t know you,” she said.
He nodded again.
“I never sid ye neyawheere,” she exclaimed sternly.
“Fine evening, Mother Carke,” he says, and holds his snuff-box toward her.
She widened the distance between them by a step or so, and said again sternly and pale,
“I hev nowt to say to thee, whoe’er thou beest.”
“You know Laura Silver Bell?”
“That’s a byneyam; the lass’s neyam is Laura Lew,” she answered, looking straight before her.
“One name’s as good as another for one that was never christened, mother.”
“How know ye that?” she asked grimly; for it is a received opinion in that part of the world that the fairies have power over those who have never been baptised.
The stranger turned on her a malignant smile.
“There is a young lord in love with her,” the stranger says, “and I’m that lord. Have her at your house to-morrow night at eight o’clock, and you must stick cross pins through the candle, as you have done for many a one before, to bring her lover thither by ten, and her fortune’s made. And take this for your trouble.”
He extended his long finger and thumb toward her, with a guinea temptingly displayed.
“I have nowt to do wi’ thee. I nivver sid thee afoore. Git thee awa’! I earned nea goold o’ thee, and I’ll tak’ nane. Awa’ wi’ thee, or I’ll find ane that will mak’ thee!”
The old woman had stopped, and was quivering in every limb as she thus spoke.
He looked very angry. Sulkily he turned away at her words, and strode slowly toward the wood from which he had come; and as he approached it, he seemed to her to grow taller and taller, and stalked into it as high as a tree.
“I conceited there would come something o’t”, she said to herself. “Farmer Lew must git it done nesht Sunda’. The a’ad awpy!”
Old Farmer Lew was one of that sect who insist that baptism shall be but once administered, and not until the Christian candidate had attained to adult years. The girl had indeed for some time been of an age not only, according to this theory, to be baptised, but if need be to be married.
Her story was a sad little romance. A lady some seventeen years before had come down and paid Farmer Lew for two rooms in his house. She told him that her husband would follow her in a fortnight, and that he was in the mean time delayed by business in Liverpool.
In ten days after her arrival her baby was born, Mall Carke acting as sage femme on the occasion; and on the evening of that day the poor young mother died. No husband came; no wedding-ring, they said, was on her finger. About fifty pounds was found in her desk, which Farmer Lew, who was a kind old fellow and had lost his two children, put in bank for the little girl, and resolved to keep her until a rightful owner should step forward to claim her.