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The Wanderer (Volume 5 of 5) by Burney Fanny

VOLUME V

CHAPTER LXXVII

The final purposes for which man is ordained to move in this nether sphere, will for ever remain disputable, while the doubts to which it gives rise can be answered only by fellow-doubters: but that the basis of his social comfort is confidence, is an axiom that waits no revelation, requires no logic, and dispenses with mathematical accuracy for proof: it is an axiom that comes home, straight forward and intuitively, to our 'business and bosoms;'--there, with life, to lodge.

Juliet, therefore, in this rustic abode, surrounded by the clinging affection of instinctive partiality, felt a sense of security, more potent in its simplicity, than she could have owed to any engagement, even of honour, even of law, even of duty. And, while to the fond mother and her little ones, she was every moment newly endeared, she experienced herself, in their favour, an increase of regard, that excited in her an ardent desire to make this her permanent dwelling, till she could procure tidings from Gabriella.

The night-scene, nevertheless, hung upon her with perplexity. The good dame never reverted to it, evidently not imagining that it had been observed; and persuaded that the entrance, at that moment, of her guest, had been accidental. She constantly evaded to speak of her husband, or of his affairs; while all her happiness, and almost her very existence, seemed wrapt up in her children.

Unable to devise any better method of arriving at the subject, Juliet, at length, determined upon relating the story of the hut. She watched for an opportunity, when the little boy and girl, whom she would not risk frightening, were asleep; and then, while occupied at her needle, began detailing every circumstance of that affair.

The narrative of the place, and of the family, sufficed to draw, at once, from the dame the exclamation, 'O, you been gone, then, to Nat Mixon's? That be just he; and her, too. They be none o' the koindest, that be sure, poor folk!'

But at the history of the calling up in the night; the rising, passing, and precautions; the dame changed colour, and, with palpable disturbance, enquired upon what day of the week this had happened: she revived, however, upon being answered that it was Thursday, simply saying, 'Mercy be proised! that be a day as can do me no harm.'

But, at the description of the sack, the lumpish sound, and the subsequent appearance of a clot of blood, the poor woman turned pale; and, blessing herself, said, 'The La be good unto me! Nat Mixon wull be paid, at last, for all his bad ways! for, sure and sure, the devil do owe un a grudge, or a would no ha' let a straunger in, to bear eye sight to's goings on! 'T be a mercy 't be no worse, for an if 't had bin a Friday--'

She checked herself, but looked much troubled. Juliet, affrighted by her own conjectures, would have stopt; the dame, however, begged her to go on: but when she mentioned the cupboard, and the door smeared with blood, the poor woman, unable to contain her feelings, caught her guest by the arm, and exclaimed, 'You wull no' inform against un, wull you?'

'Indeed, I should be most reluctant,' answered Juliet, 'to inform against people who, be they what they may, admitted me to a night's lodging, when I was in distress: nevertheless--what am I to think of these appearances? Meetings in the dead of the night, so dark, private, and clandestine?'

'But, who could 't be as did call up Nat?' interrupted Dame Fairfield; 'for my husband do go only o' the Friday.--' and then, giving a loud scream, 'La be good unto me!' she continued, 'if an't be last month, 't be my husband for sure! for a could no' go o' the Friday, being the great fair!'


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