“Was her blunt hid in her hump?” said the hoarse voice of a match-boy, a hideous and repulsive specimen of precocious depravity.
This sally was received with laughter, shouts, and hooting, which served to complete the sewing-girl’s dismay and terror. She was hardly able to answer, in a feeble voice, as the policeman handed her the two pieces of silver: “This money, sir, is not mine.”
“You lie,” said the other officer, approaching; “a respectable lady saw it drop from your pocket.”
“I assure you, sir, it is not so,” answered Mother Bunch, trembling.
“I tell you that you lie,” resumed the officer; “for the lady, struck with your guilty and frightened air, said to me: ’Look at yonder little hunchback, running away with that large parcel, and letting her money fall without even stopping to pick it up—it is not natural.’”
“Bobby,” resumed the match-vendor in his hoarse voice, “be on your guard! Feel her hump, for that is her luggage-van. I’m sure that you’ll find boots, and cloaks, and umbrellas, and clocks in it—for I just heard the hour strike in the bend of her back.”
Then came fresh bursts of laughter and shouts and hooting, for this horrible mob has no pity for those who implore and suffer. The crowd increased more and more, and now they indulged in hoarse cries, piercing whistles, and all kinds of horse play.
“Let a fellow see her; it’s free gratis.”
“Don’t push so; I’ve paid for my place!”
“Make her stand up on something, that all may have a look.”
“My corns are being ground: it was not worth coming.”
“Show her properly—or return the money.”
“That’s fair, ain’t it?”
“Give it us in the ‘garden’ style.”
“Trot her out in all her paces! Kim up!”
Fancy the feelings of this unfortunate creature, with her delicate mind, good heart, and lofty soul, and yet with so timid and nervous a character, as she stood alone with the two policemen in the thick of the crowd, and was forced to listen to all these coarse and savage insults.
But the young sempstress did not yet understand of what crime she was accused. She soon discovered it, however, for the policeman, seizing the parcel which she had picked up and now held in her trembling hands, said to her rudely: “What is there in that bundle?”
“Sir—it is—I am going—” The unfortunate girl hesitated—unable, in her terror, to find the word.
“If that’s all you have to answer,” said the policeman, “it’s no great shakes. Come, make haste! turn your bundle inside out.”
So saying, the policeman snatched the parcel from her, half opened it, and repeated, as he enumerated the divers articles it contained: “The devil!—sheets—a spoon and fork—a silver mug—a shawl—a blanket—you’re a downy mot! it was not so bad a move. Dressed like a beggar, and with silver plate about you. Oh, yes! you’re a deep ’un.”