“A key!” exclaimed Wood eagerly. “I lost a very valuable one some time ago. What’s it like, Joan?”
“It’s a small key, with curiously-fashioned wards.”
“It’s mine, I’ll be sworn,” rejoined Wood. “Well, who’d have thought of finding it in this unexpected way!”
“Don’t be too sure till you see it,” said the widow. “Shall I fetch it for you, Sir?”
“By all means.”
“I must trouble you to hold the child, then, for a minute, while I run up to the garret, where I’ve hidden it for safety,” said Mrs. Sheppard. “I think I may trust him with you, Sir,” added she, taking up the candle.
“Don’t leave him, if you’re at all fearful, my dear,” replied Wood, receiving the little burthen with a laugh. “Poor thing!” muttered he, as the widow departed on her errand, “she’s seen better days and better circumstances than she’ll ever see again, I’m sure. Strange, I could never learn her history. Tom Sheppard was always a close file, and would never tell whom he married. Of this I’m certain, however, she was much too good for him, and was never meant to be a journeyman carpenter’s wife, still less what is she now. Her heart’s in the right place, at all events; and, since that’s the case, the rest may perhaps come round,—that is, if she gets through her present illness. A dry cough’s the trumpeter of death. If that’s true, she’s not long for this world. As to this little fellow, in spite of the Dutchman, who, in my opinion, is more of a Jacobite than a conjurer, and more of a knave than either, he shall never mount a horse foaled by an acorn, if I can help it.”
The course of the carpenter’s meditations was here interrupted by a loud note of lamentation from the child, who, disturbed by the transfer, and not receiving the gentle solace to which he was ordinarily accustomed, raised his voice to the utmost, and exerted his feeble strength to escape. For a few moments Mr. Wood dandled his little charge to and fro, after the most approved nursery fashion, essaying at the same time the soothing influence of an infantine melody proper to the occasion; but, failing in his design, he soon lost all patience, and being, as we have before hinted, rather irritable, though extremely well-meaning, he lifted the unhappy bantling in the air, and shook him with so much good will, that he had well-nigh silenced him most effectually. A brief calm succeeded. But with returning breath came returning vociferations; and the carpenter, with a faint hope of lessening the clamour by change of scene, took up his lantern, opened the door, and walked out.
The Old Mint.