Dickory Dock - Part 2

Part 2

'Yes, yes, that was it, and 10 was the number of the house. I don't forget the number 'cause I asked mother, and she said it was 10. O Peter, that's where our lady lives, and I do think it would be better to give her d.i.c.kory. There, Peter, bless her! she's sneezing again. I'm sure we had better take her to the lady.'

'All right,' answered Peter, 'I'll be a termagant again when she's gone; see if I won't. I'll get up an awful racking cough at night, and I'll worry that nasty Mr Martin much more than d.i.c.kory has worried him, see if I don't; and I'll sing on the stairs, and I'll whistle awful loud, and I'll buy a Jew's-harp with one of my pennies. I'll turn into a horrid boy! but I suppose you are right about d.i.c.kory, Flossy. Here, let's go back as fast as we can to that house you were so 'cute as to take the number of. I'm mis'rible, and I mean to be mis'rible, so don't you expect nothing cheerful from me, Flossy.'

'Very well, Peter,' said Flossy meekly.

And then the little party, slowly and painfully, for Flossy was very, very tired, and poor Peter's arms ached fearfully, retraced their steps.

The baby had ceased crying and was asleep, and after about two hours'

patient walking and asking their way, the children found themselves in Bevington Square.

'I'd better go up first to the door,' said Flossy, 'and ask her if she'd like a baby. You might stand round there, Peter, and you might keep Snip- snap with you.'

'You needn't press her about it,' said Peter; 'if she don't seem quite delighted we won't give up d.i.c.kory on no account; and kiss her before you go, Flossy, for of course the lady will take her; and in a few minutes she won't be our d.i.c.kory no more.'

Peter unfastened a corner of the old tartan shawl, and Flossy imprinted a grave kiss on the baby's forehead. Then, with great solemnity, and with the air of one engaged on an important mission, she went up the steps of the great house and rang the bell. Flossy was an attractive little child, her hair was really beautiful, and she had a very wistful and taking manner.

'Please,' she said now to the tall, powdered footman, 'I know the lady what cried is here; please can I see her? I've brought her a little baby, and I want to see her about it.'

Flossy did not look quite like a common child, and her face wore a very sweet expression when she spoke of the baby; nevertheless the footman only stared at her, and would have certainly shut the door in her face, had not the lady of the house at that moment come into the hall. Flossy saw her, and quick as thought she darted past the servant and up to the lady.

'Please, lady,' she said, 'I've often thought of you, and I'm so very sorry for you. Please, I've brought you another little baby instead of the one you put into the ground in the pretty place where the flowers and trees are. She's a dear little baby, and when you have her you won't cry no more.'

Flossy's voice was very earnest, and her eyes looking up full into the lady's face were full of the most intense sympathy. Those pretty eyes of hers were too much for the poor bereaved mother: she put her handkerchief to her own eyes, and there and then burst into fits of fresh weeping.

'Come away, little girl, at once,' said the indignant footman; but the lady put out one of her hands and took Flossy's.

'Leave the child with me,' she said to the man. 'I'll be better in a moment, little girl,' she continued, 'and then you shall tell me what you mean; but you have upset me talking about babies: it is not long since I buried my child, my only child.'

'I saw you,' said Flossy, nodding her bright head. 'I was in the cemetery and I saw you. Oh, didn't you cry bitter! but you needn't cry no more now, for G.o.d has sent you another little baby.'

'No, my little girl,' said the lady, 'He has not. I have asked Him, but it is not His will.'

'I guessed you'd want another baby,' said Flossy. 'I knew quite well you would, and she's waiting for you round the corner with Peter and Snip- snap. You put on your bonnet and come and look at her; she's a real beauty; she's got a dimple, and her name is d.i.c.kory.'

'I'll come,' said the lady in an excited voice. 'It's the very strangest thing I ever heard. A child coming to me like that. We'll slip out, little girl. James need not open the door for us.'

Flossy wondered who James was.

'Give me your hand, little girl,' continued the lady. 'And take me to the baby; I'll look at her anyhow.'

Peter was standing in a very sulky att.i.tude at the corner where the railings were. In his heart of hearts he was extremely anxious that Flossy's mission should fail. It seemed to him that every bit of the niceness, all the interest would go out of his life if he hadn't d.i.c.kory.

In some ways he considered that d.i.c.kory was more to him than she was to Flossy. He wondered how Flossy could even talk of parting with her. He hoped sincerely she would fail in winning the lady's pity.

But no, there they were both coming to meet him, the tall lady in deep black, and little eager wistful Flossy.

'This is the lady what cried,' she said to Peter. 'She have come out to see our baby. Show her our baby, Peter.'

In solemn gloomy silence Peter unfolded a morsel of the tartan shawl which covered the baby's face.

'Let me have her in my arms, please,' said the lady.

She took the baby tenderly, peeped once again at its small wee face, felt a sudden glow coming back into empty arms and more empty heart, and then turned again to the children.

{She took the baby tenderly: p47.jpg}

'I must be mad to do such a thing,' she said. 'Two little waifs in the street come and offer me a baby, and I don't refuse it! There, baby,'

for d.i.c.kory began to cry again, 'there, baby--hush, sweet--hush, dear little baby, hush.'

This lady's voice had quite a new tone for d.i.c.kory, a sweeter tone even than Peter's or Flossy's. She stopped crying at once.

'Our baby takes to you, ma'am,' said Flossy, in a voice of thrilling interest.

Peter, very pale, and still silent, drew a step nearer.

'Well, children,' said the lady, 'I have made up my mind. I'll take this baby home for the night. My husband will think me mad--anyone in their senses would think me mad, but I'm nearly wild with mother-hunger, and that little mite there,' pointing to Flossy, 'guessed it, and she brought me the baby, and I say G.o.d bless her for it, whether she's a ragam.u.f.fin or not. Yes, I have made up my mind. I shall take the baby home for to- night at least. In the morning I shall make inquiries, but for to-night the baby is mine.'

'Half milk, half water in her bottle,' said Peter in a very grave reproachful voice. 'Half milk, half water, and a little sugar, and a pinch of salt, and d.i.c.kory likes her feet kept werry warm. Come home, Flossy.'

'And we are not ragam.u.f.fins, please lady,' said Flossy. 'Our name is Franklin, and we live in 24 Montfiore Square. We lets lodgings, please lady, and it was Mr Martin what turned so crusty about baby.'

'Tell your mother I will come and see her to-morrow,' said the lady. 'You have a mother, I suppose?'

'Yes, oh yes. She wanted to send the baby to the workhouse.'

'I don't think that will be necessary. My name is Ross. Tell your mother to expect me to-morrow.'


It is one thing to feel very angry about a baby, and another to wish that helpless little atom of humanity positive ill. Mr Martin was an old bachelor, and even mothers could scarcely blame him for objecting to having his first sweet sleep disturbed by the wailings of a child who was cutting its teeth. Mr Martin meant what he said when he proposed to change lodgings.

'Some one else can have my present room,' he remarked. 'It would be preposterous to send that infant to the workhouse. A less sensitive person than I am can occupy my present parlour and bedroom; comfortable rooms, too.' He sighed as he went out.

He was a man who disliked change, and he felt that he had been treated badly. Mrs Franklin had no right to bring a wailing niece of a few weeks old into the house where he lived, and it was unfair and inconsiderate.

Well, there was no help for it; the baby had come and could not be displaced, and now there was nothing for it but for him to engage the rooms opposite, which were certainly not nearly so nice, nor so much to his taste. He had promised Mrs Franklin that he would give her a short time to consider, but in his heart of hearts he was quite certain that he must take the detested step.

Mr Martin was a retired merchant. He had plenty of money, and his working days were over. He generally went to his club in the morning, and he always returned about one o'clock in the day to a comfortable mid- day repast. Always sharp as the clock struck one, Martha placed upon Mr Martin's board a smoking steak done to perfection. He had the same lunch every day--he drank a gla.s.s of ale with his steak. He required this simple meal to be served with regularity. He insisted that his steak should always be tender and properly cooked--that was all--he would not have stayed a week in any lodgings where the landlady could not provide him with his steak and gla.s.s of beer as he liked them, sharp at one o'clock.

To-day he returned as usual, sighing a little as he entered the square.

What a troublesome baby that was! What a nuisance it would be to move!

He doubted very much if the people opposite knew how to cook steak. He let himself into the house with his latchkey, hung up his coat and hat in the hall--he was a most methodical old gentleman--and turned into his parlour. He expected the usual scene to meet his eyes, the fire burning brightly, a snowy cloth on the table, and Martha in the act of placing an appetising covered dish on the board. This homely and domestic scene, however, was not destined to meet him to-day. The fire in the grate was out, there were no preparations for lunch on the table, and taking up the greater part of the light from one of the windows might have been seen the portly form of Mrs Potts.

Mrs Potts was the drawing-room lodger, and Mr Martin both dreaded and detested her. He shrank back a step or two. What was she doing in his room? The absence of lunch was bad enough, but this unexpected and undesired company was insult on injury.

Mr Martin bowed, cleared his throat, and prepared to make an elaborate speech. Mrs Potts interrupted him fiercely.