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nessing their sweet, innocent sports, and tak. ing me by the arm, hastened to the scene of action. When we arrived at the field, the lads and lasses were so engaged in their wild revels, that it was some time before they even perceived us; when they did, one or two of the boldest of the louts came up and desired us to give them something to drink.
“Simple creatures,” said my mistress to me, “how unlike the sturdy beggar in the streets. These humble-minded rustics are thirsty, and all they ask is a draught to quench their thirst, My good lads," she continued, addressing the country fellows, “you have my full leave to come to the crystal fountain in my garden, whenever you are thirsty, and these fair maidens shall always be at liberty to wait upon you. I wish it were nectar for your sakes. Adieu! When your rustic sports are ended,” she added, addressing the blowzy Honor and Patience, “return to the bower, where we shall be awaiting your return to prepare our evening re
She then turned away, while a loud shout of
derisive laughter burst from the sylvan throng, and at the same time one or two voices bawled after us, “Well! you be a rum ’un. Water, indeed; that's a likely story. If you wor a lady, you'd give us something better than that. Howsomedever, we'll pay you off for this trick, missus, you may depend on’t.”
I tried to hurry my kind, but very foolish, mistress away from this ill-mannered group ; and when we reached the bower, we perceived that some one had been there during our absence, and had walked off with all the teaspoons.
When Reuben returned, whom we had left in the house when we went to the hayfield, I mentioned the circumstance to him, and fancying that he looked very conscious, I took an early opportunity of speaking to my mistress, and informing her of my suspicions. She would not, however, listen to me for a moment, declaring that she was convinced in her own mind, that some infamous London thief had watched us go out, and was the robber, not the quiet, countrified, and simple-hearted Reuben.
The next day, however, when the little ugly man (Mr. Sharpe) called as he had promised, we mentioned to him what had occurred, when he instantly declared he would find out the thief; and calling Mr. Reuben from the garden, told him to deliver up to him immediately the stolen spoons, or he would send for the constable. It was in vain that Miss Nettleton implored Mr. Sharpe not to accuse the innocent rustic, and that the two damsels loaded Mr. Sharpe with abuse—he knew his man well, and though Reuben, seeing how well he was supported, assumed a more assured and insolent tone, Mr. Sharpe persisted in searching his box. At the bottom of it, wrapped up in a worsted stocking, were the lost spoons and two silver forks. At this discovery, the sulky thief fell on his kness, begging Miss Nettleton not to hang him. He was suffered to depart, to the great sorrow of Honor and Patience, who declared to me afterwards that Mr. Sharpe was "the most ill-naturedest, interferingest fellow as ever lived.”
He certainly did prove to be one of the most interfering, officious, impertinent, prying, yet useful rogues I ever met with. Once introduced into the premises, it was quite impossible to get rid of him. He never suffered any one to cheat Miss Nettleton-except himself. He saved us a great deal of trouble by procuring every thing for us, and by which, I found, he made a pretty profit. As to Honor and Patience, he soon contrived to get rid of them, which I was not sorry for, as they were two most lazy, wasteful, bold, and ignorant creatures. They were replaced, however, by two of Sharpe's protegées, very little better than their predecessors.
In the mean time Miss Nettleton had made the acquaintance of the curate, the Rev. Mr. Arlington, and his pretty young wife. They were really a great acquisition if she could have appreciated it; but she was so absorbed in her admiration of rusticity, that she could not see any thing to like even in a po
lished, well-informed gentleman, and his ladylike and most agreeable wife.
They had one sweet little girl, about three years of age; their income was extremely small, being only eighty pounds a year and the use of the rectory house, and twenty pounds per annum of Mrs. Arlington's. Yet they were expected to keep up a respectable appearance. It often struck me as extraordinary that Miss Nettleton should be so blind to the merits, as well as to the wants, of this amiable couple, as to bestow, I should rather say lavish, her favours upon the most worthless and idle of the country people, while she hardly ever noticed Mrs. Arlington's dear little girl.
Miss Nettleton would employ me whole days in making up fanciful Swiss costumes, for a set of idle, dirty, impudent children, that they might look picturesque whilst they were weeding, or rather pretending to weed, in her garden.
At other times she would pass whole days in endeavouring to teach these same unruly, vulgar