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First Love, v. 1

“Ye villain!” said she at last, with a strong Cumberland accent, and gasping for
breath, “it’s not the first time, is it? it’s not the first time I’ve beat you within an inch
of your life for this. But I’ll do for you this time: that I will! You shan’t be a burden to
me any longer, instead of a profit. If it wasn’t for the miserable looks of ye,” she
added, shaking him almost to atoms as she wheeled him round, “that sometimes
wrings a penny out of the folk, I’d ha’ finished ye long ago.” Then, with her great foot,
armed with an iron-rimmed wooden shoe, she gave him a violent kick on the
offending leg, continuing thus:—“Its
best break the shanks on ye at ance, ye whey-faced urchin ye! and then ye’ll tak te
yeer crutches without biddin’!”
Finding, however, that though he had staggered and fallen forward on both hands,
he had yet risen again, and still contrived to stand, she once more lifted her foot, to
repeat the kick with increased force: for she was as much intoxicated by drink as by
rage, and really seemed to intend to break the child’s leg; but her husband, a sort of
travelling tinker, coming up at the moment, and uttering a violent curse, struck her a
blow that, poised as she just then was on one foot, brought her to the ground.
During the scuffle which ensued, the poor little sufferer, who had occasioned it all,
crept through the hedge of a field by the road side, and hid himself under some
bushes. But the
woman, soon after pursuing in search of him, jumped the fence, and dropped among
the very brambles where he lay. She perceived him instantly, and shook her
clenched hand, which so paralysed him, that he did not dare to move, though she for
some time delayed seizing him. Finding that the inside of the hedge was covered
with clothes for bleaching, she thought it best, the first thing she did, to secure a
good bundle of so desirable a booty, and fling it over to her husband. She was just in
the act of so doing, when the owner of the linen came into the field, and immediately
set up the halloo of “Thieves! thieves!” upon which, dropping what she had
collected, and giving up all thoughts of carrying the child with her, she made the best
of her way, and disappeared not only from the spot, but from the neighbourhood.
About an hour after, when the poor boy, pressed by hunger, crept from his hiding
place, a girl, who was left to watch the clothes, spying him, cried out, “Ha! you little
spawn e—the devil! did she leave you to bring her the bundle?” And so saying, she
pursued and beat him, till she drove him out of the field, and into the adjoining
garden of an old woman, who was standing at the moment with a long pole in her
hand, endeavouring to beat down, as well as her failing sight would permit, the few
remaining apples from the topmost branches of her single apple -tree: the well laden
lower boughs of which had been robbed of their goodly winter store but the
preceding night.
On seeing a boy scramble through her hedge, she concluded, of course, that his
errand was to possess himself of the said remaining apples, and, accordingly,
uttering a yell of exe