Dark are the shadows that cross the poor man’s path, and few and far between are the glimpses of hope that come to lighten them. The Eternal in his wisdom has ordained that such should be—but Oh! woe! woe! ten thousand times ten thousand woes, does he deserve who oppresses where he should relieve, who becomes the destroyer where he should have been the comforter; and yet there exist ten thousand such who thrive and roll in luxury, while human hearts are bursting in their agony.
The poor man’s home.
Standing a little aloof from the other cottages, as if conscious of its poor appearance, was a shed; it could hardly be called any thing else, for it appeared originally to have been nothing more than an out-house belonging to another building, and such in fact it had been. The roof was decayed in many places, and covered partly with rank moss. It was situated in a hollow, and the marshy soil around bore evident proof that it was subject to be overflowed in rainy weather. Four or five squalid, ragged children, with pinched features and thin limbs, sat huddled in a heap on the muddy ground, watching the road with anxious eyes—eyes so bright with hunger that they seemed like those of so many rats. The youngest—it was not two years old, cried—the elder beat it. Start not, reader, it is human nature. The little creature hid her wizen face in her withered little hands and sobbed. A man rode by just then. It was the agent on his way to the castle, for this was the morning of Curly Tom’s escape. Instinctively the children drew closer together and shuddered. They did not know why, but they knew their father feared him. He passed on, and the little faces seemed to brighten for a moment; the eldest was but seven. Long ere the dawn their father had started for the market town, some five miles off, in the vain hope that an old friend there would help him. Ah, poor children! there they sat from the first ray of daylight, and the bright sun was now glittering high above their heads, shining upon their desolation and upon the castle turrets, wherein dwelt in luxury their oppressor. The events we have described as taking place at the castle were still in progress, when a female was seen slowly coming along the road, bearing a basket on her arm that seemed too heavy for her.
‘That is Mary Walters,’ said the eldest, ’and she will give us something to eat—I am sure she will. Jenny, dear, don’t cry,’ and the urchin wiped the little face she had struck before, and tenderly took her in her own spare little arms. The child was not much weight. Gentle Mary Waters! who that gazed upon thy placid face, as thou earnest on thine errand of mercy—who that saw thee as thou ministered to the necessities of those poor desolate children, would not have loved thee—who that had seen thee in the first blush of thy beauty, when thy foot was as elastic