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STORY OF PEGGY DICKSON. M YY, HAT a neat-looking girl Peggy Dickson was when U we first saw her, a great many years ago : active,

V sprightly, and obliging, every body thought well of O p her, and said she deserved to be happy. Peggy

was brought up as a domestic servant from about her To twelfth year, when she had the misfortune to lose both To her parents, and in the course of time she went through a { number of respectable places.

Peggy had received little or no education, but she possessed good principles, and was liked by her employers. In more than one of her situations she might have lived for any length of time in a state of comfort, being kindly treated, and receiving the highest wages that were paid; but, like many others in her class, Peggy was a little too fond of changes. She never liked to stay long in any place; fidgetted about from term to term, always seeking better situations, or leaving those she was in, from the most trifling excuses. In one house she was not allowed to let a number of acquaintances call upon her; in another she was scolded for spending time needlessly when sent on errands; and in a third she was only allowed to have every alternate Sunday evening, not the whole day, to herself. These, and the like of these, she considered sufficient reasons to shift her situation, with a view to bettering her condition. Peggy's fate verified the old proverb, that " an unhappy fish often gets an unhappy bait." By one of these luckless removes, she got into

No. 163.

a situation where she had the liberty of going out every alternate Sunday from morning till night; this seemed to her a. most delightful arrangement, for it permitted her to carry on a more extensive system of gossiping with persons in her own rank of life at houses where servants are in the habit of meeting each other, to talk over their own affairs and those of the families with whom they are connected; by which practice a steadyflowing under-stream of scandal is kept up through society. Whatever may have been the pleasure derived at the time from these gossipings, they paved the way to a very serious disaster, which was neither more nor less than Peggy's marriage with a workman in the town, Peter Yellowlees by name. This would have been a commendable and prudent enough step, had she taken a little care to ascertain beforehand that her proposed husband was a man of steady industrious habits and sound moral principles. But this never entered into her mind; like too many women in humble life, she persuaded herself that it was her fate to marry the person who thus addressed her, and therefore neither sought advice, nor made any kind of investigation whatever.

Behold Peggy Dickson now transformed into Mrs Yellowlees, and her residence in a gentleman's family exchanged for a house of her own, consisting of a single apartment in an upper storey in one of the meaner kind of back streets! Peggy was, however, a girl of some taste and tidiness; and although her domicile was humble, she did everything in her power to make it agreeable and acceptable to her husband. To the small stock of furniture she made some useful additions, and both by her exertions and her good - will, promised to make a really excellent housewife with the limited means at her command. But most unfortunately she had married a person who in no respect appreciated her efforts. Her husband was a man not decidedly bad; he would do nothing that would bring him within the scope of judicial punishment. But a man may be an utter wretch, and yet avoid the chance of coming under the hands of even the police. Peter was one of this description. He was addicted to indulge with companions in taprooms, and to loiter away his time with associates at the corners of the streets, or in anyway that did not involve anything like steady labour. In short, he was an idle, dissolute person, who married Peggy for what he considered a tolerably large fortune - something that would minister to his abominable gratifications. Peggy's dowry was, alas! but a small affair to have tempted any one to destroy her comfort for life. It consisted of about twelve pounds sterling, saved from her half-yearly wages, besides a blue painted trunk containing a tolerable wardrobe, not to speak of a brown silk bonnet with a veil worth five-and-twenty or thirty shillings. All this appeared an inexhaustible mine of wealth to Peter, who was not long in developing his real character.

For two or three weeks all went smoothly on, and he attended pretty regularly to his employment; but towards the end of the fourth week, his propensities could no longer be restrained. On the pretence of purchasing some articles necessary for their personal comfort, he wheedled Peggy out of the remains of her little savings. He went forth with some seven or eight pounds in his pocket-more riches than he had ever before had in his possession at one time and did not make his appearance for a fortnight. This was a dreadful blow to Peggy's expectations of happiness in wedded life. It opened her eyes to the horrors of the condition she had brought herself into; but it is somehow difficult for a woman all at once to give up her attachment to the object who has gained her affections. A good and discreet wife will submit to a lengthened repetition of contumelies and ill-usage before she can think seriously of parting from a husband whom she has vowed to love, cherish, and obey, whatever may be his errors, however great may be his crimes. The idea always predominates in her mind, that his follies are but temporary, that he will repent of his misdeeds, and again be the worthy being which she once pictured him to be in her imagination. This is a delusion—a hope that is rarely realised. Few badly-disposed husbands are ever altogether reclaimed, or become better than they have been. Such at least was the case in the present instance. Peggy's silent tears, and bosom heaving with distress, her pitying and beseeching looks, or her few words of remonstrance, were alike disregarded. In a short space of time her husband abandoned all regular employment, abstracting from her little household any portable article he could carry off from time to time, to pledge at the nearest pawnbroker's for an insignificant sum, and which he squandered on liquor in the company of his reckless associates. In the meantime want pressed upon the humble dwelling, and Peggy only saved herself from starvation by making her necessities known to some of the families whom she had previously served, and who commiserated her deplorable fate. At length, in the midst of her distresses, she brought an infant into the world, to share in her sufferings, and to call upon her to put forth additional exertions for the family's support. But for the kindness of a lady who had known her in better days, she must now inevitably have sunk under her calamities; this benevolent individual, however, interested herself so far, as to procure some employment for her, for which she expressed her thankfulness in terms of untutored eloquence. Poor Peggy, however, still clung to her home, miserable and desolate as it was; and still, in the warmth and sincerity of her unfortunately-placed affections, continued to hope that her heartless husband would see the folly and wickedness of his ways, and would return to her and her child a penitent and reclaimed man. Vain hope! Idle anticipation!

One evening, as she was sitting by her little carefully-econo:

mised fire nursing her little one-on whom, to add to her misery, the hand of sickness was pressing heavily — sometimes reflecting on the painful contrast which her present and former condition presented, sometimes brooding over disappointed prospects and vanished dreams of happiness, mingled - for when will hope desert us ?-with visions of future felicity, grounded on à fond anticipation of her husband's amendment-one evening, as we said, while thus employed, she was startled by a loud and boisterous knocking at the door. Her heart leaped from its place with terror, and in an instant her face grew deadly pale. She knew who it was that knocked — she knew it was her husband; but this, instead of allaying, only served to increase her fears; for she knew also, from the rudeness with which the wretched man assailed the door, that he was in that state when neither reason nor sympathy can reach the brutalised heart; she knew that he was intoxicated. The unhappy woman, however, obeyed the ruffian's summons. She opened the door, and Peter staggered into the middle of the apartment. Partly through fear, and partly from a feeling of affection for the lost man, which even his infamous conduct towards her could not entirely subdue, Peggy addressed him in the language of kindness, and endeavoured to soothe and allay the sullen and ferocious spirit which she saw gleaming in his reeling eye; for he was not in the last helpless stage of drunkenness, but just so far as to give energy and remorselessness to the demon spirit which the liquor he had swallowed had raised within him. “ Peter,” she said kindly, and making a feeble attempt to smile as she spoke“ Peter, you're all wet, my man; sit down here near the fire,” and she placed a chair for him with one hand, while she supported her child with the other, “ and I'll put on some more coals," she went on, “ and bring you dry clothes, and get some supper ready for you, for I'm sure you must be hungry. Poor little Bobby's very unwell, Peter,” she added. .

“ I don't care whether he's well or ill,” roared out the drunken wretch; “ nor do I want clothes from you, nor a supper either! I want money," he shouted out at the top of his voice; " and money I must have!

6 Money, Peter!" replied the terrified wife in a gentle tone; “ you know I have no money. There's not a farthing in the house, nor has there been for many a day."

Well, though you have no money, you have a shawl, which we can soon turn into money." Saying this, he forthwith went to a chest of drawers, and endeavoured to pull out that in which he knew the article he wanted was deposited; but the drawer was locked. This, however, was but a trilling obstacle. He seized a poker, smashed in the polished mahogany front of the drawer, and in an instant had his prey secured beneath his jacket, and was in the act of leaving the house with it, when his unfortunate wife, having laid her sick child down on the bed for

a moment, flew towards him, flung her arms about his neck, burst into a flood of tears, and imploringly besought him to think of her and her infant's condition, and not to leave the house, or deprive her of the only remaining piece of decent apparel that was left to her. And what was the reply of the monster to this affecting appeal? His only reply was a violent blow on the breast, by which he stretched his unfortunate wife senseless on the floor! Having performed this dastardly and villanous feat, he rushed out of the house, hastened to a pawnbroker's shop, and from thence to the taproom, to rejoin the abandoned associates whom he had left there, until, as he himself said, he should " raise the wind."

Leaving the heartless ruffian in the midst of the fierce debauch which the basely-acquired means he now possessed enabled him to resume, we return to his miserable wite. Extended on the floor by the hand that ought to have protected her, the unhappy woman lay for a considerable time without either sense or motion, until recalled to consciousness by the piercing cries of her helpless infant, who lay struggling on the bed where she had placed him. But the consequences of the cowardly blow did not terminate with the restoration of her faculties. On the day following, she became alarmed by the acutely painful sensations she felt in the breast on which the ruffian's blow had alighted. This pain gradually increased from day to day, until it at length became so serious, and exhibited symptoms so alarming, that the unfortunate woman, urged by her neighbours, submitted her case to a surgeon at one of those friendly medical dispensaries which are established in different parts of the town. But it was too late-not, however, to save her life, but to save her from mutilation ; for a dangerous cancer was already at work on her frame. Unwilling to expose her husband, she had delayed too long. Cancer had taken place, and had already made fearful progress in her breast.

The surgeon who attended her recommended her instant removal to the infirmary, whither she accordingly went; and in two or three days after she entered that beneficent institution, the unfortunate woman, as the only means of saving her life, was subjected to the appalling operation of having her breast amputated. In six weeks afterwards, Peggy, with a dreadfully shattered constitution and emaciated form, left the infirmary, and returned to her own cold and desolate home, now ten times more desolate than it was before; for the callous brute, to whom in an evil hour she had united her destiny, instead of soothing her bed of affliction, had availed himself of her absence to strip the house of every article of the smallest value it contained, and with the money thus raised, had continued in an uninterrupted course of dissipation during the whole time of his wife's confinement in the infirmary. During all that time, too, he had never once visited her, or ever once inquired after either her or his

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