Scouts Out

“AND so, Miss Wren,” said Mr. Eugene Wrayburn, “I cannot persuade you to dress me a doll?”

“No,” replied Miss Wren snappishly; “if you want one, go and buy one at the shop.”

“And my charming young goddaughter,” said Mr. Wrayburn plaintively, “down in Hertfordshire —”

(“Humbugshire you mean, I think,” interposed Miss Wren.)

“ — is to be put upon the cold footing of the general public, and is to derive no advantage from my private acquaintance with the Court Dressmaker?”

“If it’s any advantage to your charming godchild — and oh, a precious godfather she has got!” — replied Miss Wren, pricking at him in the air with her needle, “to be informed that the Court Dressmaker knows your tricks and your manners, you may tell her so by post, with my compliments.”

Miss Wren was busy at her work by candle-light, and Mr. Wrayburn, half amused and half vexed, and all idle and shiftless, stood by her bench looking on. Miss Wren’s troublesome child was in the corner in deep disgrace, and exhibiting great wretchedness in the shivering stage of prostration from drink.

“Ugh, you disgraceful boy!” exclaimed Miss Wren, attracted by the sound of his chattering teeth, “I wish they’d all drop down your throat and play at dice in your stomach! Boh, wicked child! Bee- baa, black sheep!”

On her accompanying each of these reproaches with a threatening stamp of the foot, the wretched creature protested with a whine. “Pay five shillings for you indeed!” Miss Wren proceeded; “how many hours do you suppose it costs me to earn five shillings, you infamous boy? — Don’t cry like that, or I’ll throw a doll at you. Pay five shillings fine for you indeed. Fine in more ways than one, I think! I’d give the dustman five shillings, to carry you off in the dust cart.”

“No, no,” pleaded the absurd creature. “Please!”

“He’s enough to break his mother’s heart, is this boy,” said Miss Wren, half appealing to Eugene. “I wish I had never brought him up. He’d be sharper than a serpent’s tooth, if he wasn’t as dull as ditch water. Look at him. There’s a pretty object for a parent’s eyes!”

Assuredly, in his worse than swinish state (for swine at least fatten on their guzzling, and make themselves good to eat), he was a pretty object for any eyes.

“A muddling and a swipey old child,” said Miss Wren, rating him with great severity, “fit for nothing but to be preserved in the liquor that destroys him, and put in a great glass bottle as a sight for other swipey children of his own pattern, — if he has no consideration for his liver, has he none for his mother?”

“Yes. Deration, oh don’t!” cried the subject of these angry remarks.

“Oh don’t and oh don’t,” pursued Miss Wren. “It’s oh do and oh do. And why do you?”

“Won’t do so any more. Won’t indeed. Pray!”

“There!” said Miss Wren, covering her eyes with her hand. “I can’t bear to look at you. Go up stairs and get me my bonnet and shawl. Make yourself useful in some way, bad boy, and let me have your room instead of your company, for one half minute.”

Obeying her, he shambled out, and Eugene Wrayburn saw the tears exude from between the little creature’s fingers as she kept her hand before her eyes. He was sorry, but his sympathy did not move his carelessness to do anything but feel sorry.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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