The Baldwin Library
I 1 I I I
SRegular .1i//, I'
41st CLASS, S..S. |
M. TRAVIS, VISITon.
\ \ iI
"'I AN MOTHER BUNCH, SIR."
LITTLE BUNCH'S CHARGE
TRUE TO. TRUST
AUTHOR OF "TAMSIN ROSEWARNE AND HER BURDENS," ETC
S. W. PARTRIDGE & CO.
8 & 9, PATERNOSTER ROW
SEEKING A SITUATION 7
A GLANCE INTO THE PAST 12
" SPOTTY JIM". 17
Two DISMISSALS 27
NEW WAYS OF EARNING BREAD 34
A TEMPTING BAIT 41
A HINT .49
BUNCH RECEIVES A WARNING
"UNCLE TIB COMES FOR THE CHILDREN
BUNCH IS TAKEN TO THE HOSPITAL
A CLERGYMAN FROM BLECKLEY.
BUNCH HAS VISITORS
THE MISSING RELATIVE FOUND.
MOTHER BUNCH REGAINS HER CHILDREN
HAPPY CHANGES .
LITTLE BUNCH'S CHARGE.
SEEKING A SITUATION.
IT was eventide, and the gleams of the setting sun
lay like a benediction on the historic river of which
our Spencer sang, as a girl in a tattered frock hanging
from her sharp little shoulders sped along a lane-like
street fronting the Thames. She was a plain-featured
child, and her face, gaunt with hunger, looked out of
a large crape bonnet.
Having reached the end of the street, she stopped
before a fair-sized house with a large square window
in its lower story, in which was displayed a coffin.
Over the door hung a board on which was painted in
white letters, Joseph Home, Undertaker."
I reckon this is where Old Coffin lives," said
the child to herself, gazing up at the sign; and then,
slowly mounting the steps leading to the door, she rang
It was answered by a thin, melancholy-looking man,
with white hair surmounted by a canvas cap.
Your business ?" he asked, in a quiet, subdued
voice, as if afraid of hearing himself speak. "One of
those ? pointing to the coffin.
8 Little Bunch's Charge.
"No, sir," she cried, hurriedly.
Then have the goodness to tell me what you do
want, or be off," and the old man's shaggy white brows
twitched impatiently as he spoke in the same low
The wizened face under the gloomy bonnet looked
"Come," cried the old fellow, sharply, at last, his
impatience increasing, "my time is precious; I
cannot afford to stay here talking to a gal who can't
tell what she's come for," and he half shut the door.
The child's courage now returned, and bunching her
shoulders, she said quickly, her eyes fixed on her
gaping boots," If you please, Spotty Jim-the boy wot
brings the newspaper-told me you wanted somebody
to tell you when folks is likely to die, and 'vised me
to apply for the berth."
"Umph !" was the laconic answer.
"I'm sharp as a razor, and can run as fast as a
telegraph boy," said the" girl, lifting her eyes to the
One would never believe that, to look at you, and
I've never heard my newspaper boy speak of any
little gal," he said, eyeing her keenly. "Where do
you live, and whose little gal are you? "
I lives at No. 9, Lamb's Court," returned the child,
eagerly, again humping her shoulders, and I'm
"Nobody's gal!" echoed the man. "Then pray
who are you ?"
I am Mother Bunch, sir." This remarkable asser-
tion, considering her age, which, judging from her
appearance, could not have been more than ten or
eleven, coupled with the air of importance which she
assumed, made the old man stare at her. I 'ave been
a mother nearly three weeks, mister, and Tibbie and
Glory are my children," drawing herself to her full
height. Sweet little things they are too; I am wery
proud of 'em."
Seeking a Situation.
The child, in her eagerness and dignity of mother-
hood, forgot her shyness, and looked the still
astonished Mr. Horne triumphantly in the face. My
little Glory is just like a picter," she continued, her
dark eyes shining under the locks of hair that strayed
from beneath the overpowering bonnet, "and she 'as
'air all golden, and eyes-you should just see her eyes,
mister! Tibbie is pretty too, and such a love he is.
But, lor they eats awful, and I've got to feed 'em
some'ow; that's why I'm come to apply for the
situation. So do, please, give it me, sir."
The little creature in her intense earnestness was
Quite irresistible, and the brown eyes were so pleading
that the old man was touched in spite of himself.
"I will think it over," he said, shutting the door
several inches more. "Perhaps I'll look you up
and see if what you say is true. But let me
tell you that your story is very odd and difficult of
believing. Now be off! "
I'm going," returned the girl, her voice trembling
with hope and eagerness. "But, please, I want you
to know that Mrs. Bunt, the grocer's wife, in Dart
Street, is dying. I 'eard the doctor say as I was
passing that she can't live out the night."
"Ah is that so ? cried Mr. Home, thrusting his
canvas-crowned head round the door, and his face,
dull as parchment, showing indescribable interest.
Yes, 'tis true, cos' Doctor Harper said so," answered
Mother Bunch, delighted at the effect of her news.
" He never makes mistakes about folks going off the
hooks, I've heard people say.'
It is pleasant hearing," said the old man, his voice
scarcely above a whisper. I know the Bunts well;
have been to their shop often. Mrs. Bunt was a
cheerful soul, and as plump as a Christmas turkey.
Dear, dear, and now dying Truly 'in the midst of
life we are in death,' and then he sighed and looked
upward. Those Bunts will be good customers, if I
am fortunate enough to obtain their favour," he added,
10 Little Bunch's Charge.
after a silence of a minute;rubbing his long, thin hands
together. They will want her nicely turned out-
plated handles, hat-bands, and all the furnishings.' "
"Wot's furnishings ? asked Bunch, in a whisper,
her big bonnet on a level with his cap as he leaned out
"Fine things in the undertaking line, and which com-
forts mourners' hearts," he whispered back. '"People
always have them who think anything of themselves."
"The Bunts think no small bones of theirselves,"
said Mother Bunch, "cos the young ladies play the
planner near the window, and wear flowers and feathers
in their 'ats. And they are making a mint of money
by selling drinks over the counter," she added.
" Spotty Jim says that their place is as paying as a
You certainly are an observing and knowing little
person," said the man, giving vent to a chuckle,
"and I sha'n't mind your coming to see me now and
again-on business," and taking a coin out of his
pocket he slipped it into her hand.
Is Doctor Harper the only medical gent you know
in, this neighbourhood ?" he asked, as she pocketed the
"Law, no, sir. I knows 'em every one-the
hospital and parish doctors too."
"I have no dealings with parish doctors," said "Old
Coffin," with dignity. "I am not the parish under-
taker, little gal, and I never undertake for anyone
who cannot afford to pay."
Of course yer don't. You are a very swell under-
taker, I knows, and charges awful for what yer does,"
cried Bunch; then seeing, as she spoke, a look of
displeasure sweep over Mr. Horne's face, and feeling
that somehow she had put her foot into it, she
hurried on, "Yer buried my Tibbie and Glory's real
mother. Do you remember?"
"What do you mean? he asked, stiffly.
"Mrs. Trench, sir, late of No. 11, Lamb's Court.
Seeking a Situation. II
I was there when you put 'er into one of them," giving
a shuddering glance at the coffin in the window.
"I think I do remember the person you name,"
returned the old man, rubbing his chin reflectively.
A little lady with yellowy hair; and if my memory
"does not fail me, she was followed to her grave by a
pale-faced gal carrying a baby thing with hair all of
a shine, like the Thames at sundown, and leading
another little child."
That gal was me, and them little children was my
Glory and Tibbie, that poor Mrs. Trench axed me to
look arter until Uncle Tib comes," cried little Mother
Bunch, and the look of pride returned to her wizened
face. So yer don't undertake for folks who can't
pay ?" she asked, after a pause.
I certainly do not," replied Mr. Home, emphati-
cally. Keep your eyes open, and ears too," as the
child moved off the steps, "and never show your face
here unless on business. You clearly understand ? "
"Yes, mister. Then yer will let me tout for
If I find I can depend on you. But I must look
you up first.. *Now run away."
Little Mother Bunch ran down the steps and
vanished as the sun sank behind the tall masts of the
vessels on the Thames.
A GLANCE INTO THE PAST.
MOTHER BUNCH had a strange history, and sad as it
was strange. She was a London waif, cast upon the
misery of slum life when she was quite a little thing.
She had no knowledge of her parents, and believed,
poor little soul, that she had never had any When
she was a mere babe she was given to a drunken old
woman, known as Peggy Sot, to bring up. But
Peggy died when the child was in her seventh year,
and from that time she had taken care of herself, how,
she only could have told. It was said by Peggy's
cronies that the girl was the offspring of notorious
thieves, who were now paying the penalty of their
wrong-doing in Her Majesty's prisons. Be that as it
may, Bunch-as she was called from a trick she had of
bunching her shoulders when angry or excited-was
a friendless little creature, and lived very much like
the dogs of the street, foraging just as they did t'..r
food to eat. At the age of nine she was considered
capable of taking charge of young children whilst the
hard-worked mothers went out charming. Many a
family of little ones she had mothered for a day, and
thus earning for herself the name of little Mother
Bunch. Sometimes a garment-almost past wearing,
it was true, but still a garment-was given her, for
which she was most thankful.
A Glance into the Past.
When Bunch was eleven, a young woman, evi-
dently a lady, came to live in Lamb's Court where
Peggy Sot died, and where the child, if she did not
actually live there, spent most of her time. She
was a fair woman, sweet-voiced and gentle-man-
nered, and was of quite a different class from her
neighbours. Many were- the conjectures as to what
had brought her down to the necessity of living iii
such a poor locality as Lamb's Court. Mrs. Trench,
as she called herself, had very little to say to any-
one, and never went anywhere, except to a shop in
one of the better streets, where she took and fetched
needlework. On these errands she was generally
accompanied by two children, a boy of four and a girl
of three. They were both beautiful, the girl especially
so, and her exquisite little face in its setting of golden
hair was worth going miles to see; so at least Bunch
thought when she first saw her in her mother's arms.
Bunch was a very affectionate child, and it was
quite a natural thing that she should fall in love with
the pretty children, who were as clean and neatly
clad as they were pretty. She got into the habit of
following them whenever their mother took them out
of doors. More than once the mother stumbled over
her as she lay outside her door, whither she had come
for the simple pleasure of listening to the sweet
prattle of the little ones within.
The children soon learned to know her by sight,
and when the golden-haired girl first smiled at her,
the waif's whole being thrilled. From that day the
pretty child filled her heart, and it was her one
longing to kiss her. It was not, however, gratified
until Mrs. Trench was taken suddenly ill. The poor
young mother had noticed the waif's deep interest in
her children, and the worshipping glances she threw
them from time to time as she followed them through
court, lane, and street. She was glad, therefore, for
her help in the hour of her need, because she had
nobody else to whom she could turn.
14 Little Bunck's Charge.
Some children have the art of nursing born in them,
and Bunch was one of these. Her unchildlike life had
made her old before her years. She had often been
left in clirge of young children, as we have just
r,-,i;irke-l,. and it had developed her natural gifts,
and in.a measure had fitted her to be a sort of little
mother to Mrs. Trench's children. What the poor
young mother would have done without the girl it is
difficult to say. Of course she was unskilled, ,but
what she lacked in skill she made up in ardour. S.-
gave them their meals, washed them, amused them,
and prevailed on one of the nicest women of the court,
called Trigg, to come to and fro to the sick woman.
Mrs. Trench only lived a week after her break-
down, which the doctor said was from overwork and
semi-starvation, and most of the time she was in a
comatose state, and only became conscious a few hours
before her death; then the thought that her little
ones'would be left perhaps to the mercy of an un-
feeling world oppressed her terribly.
Bunch was helpless here except to tell her that
she would take care of them and be a mother to them.
The girl was very much in earnest, and did not
realize the full meaning of her promise. A waif with
nothing of her own to give save love, promising that
she would "mother" two little children not many years
'younger than herself Some such thought filled the
dying mother's mind, for she smiled sadly, and said,
"You have a tender heart and willing hands, but
you are only a child, and want someone to mother you.
God help me!" she cried, "and befriend my small
Then, as if a sudden inspiration possessed her, she
gathered up her remaining strength, and telling
Bunch to bring her ink and writing material from
the cupboard, she took the pen in her almost nerveless
hand and wrote a few faint lines. Having addressed
and sealed the letter, she gave it to the girl.
Post this at once," she said. It will, I hope, bring
A Glance into the Past.
my Uncle Tib to fetch my little children. He lives at
Bleckley in Berkshire, and as it is not far from
London, he may come, if not before I die, soon after.
In any case, I want you to stay here with ni,--dilinus
until he comes. I cannot bear the thought of their
being sent to the workhouse even for a day. I have
a few pounds put by which will meet the expenses
of my illness, and the rest will keep you and the
children here until their grand-uncle fetches them.
Mrs. Trigg will tell you what to do when I am gone.
Now, will you promise to stay with the children until
my uncle arrives?" and her dying eyes scanned
searchingly the little wizened face shining now with
love, as it bent over to catch what the woman said, for
the voice was hardly above a whisper.
I promise, ma'am," Bunch answered, struggling to
keep back her tears. I promise never to leave the
little 'uns and- be true to my trust till Uncle Tib
comes, and I will take care of 'em as if they was my
wery own. I won't let 'em go to the work'us," and
stretching out her hand she sobbed out, and 'ere's
me 'and on it, lady."
"Thank you, dear child," murmured the dying
woman, trying to press the small hand laid in hers,
"and may God reward you, and have you and my
precious children in His safe keeping."
As Bunch yet stood by the bed she heard Mrs. e
Trench whisper to One she in her great ignorance did
not know, Dear Lord, I am sure Uncle Tib will
come; for I have asked Thee to send him, and I also
know that Thou wilt make his heart very tender
towards my little ones, because Thou lovest them, and
hast forgiven me all my sin."
Bunch duly posted the letter, and on her return
found that Mrs Trench had again become unconscious;
and so she remained until the evening, when she
passed quietly away.
The kind-hearted woman who had nursed her went
to Mr. Horne, the undertaker, to arrange for the burial.
I5 Little Bunch's Charge.
She put off the funeral as long as she dared, hoping '
from what Bunch told her that the uncle would turn
up soon, but he did not, much to the disappointment
of everybody living in Lamb's Court. Bunch and the
children followed the poor mother to her last resting-
place, as did most of the inhabitants of the court.
Dying as she did amongst strangers, and the children
left as they were, had caused a great deal of interest
and sympathy on their behalf.
When Bunch returned to the lonely room, the little
ones clung to her and would not suffer her to go out
of their sight. They had already begun to call her
c :"Mother Bunch," from hearing Mrs. Trigg speak of
her by that name, and the girl felt herself a mother
indeed when she glanced at the children who had no
one to take care of them but her poor little self. No
mother could have showered more love on the little
creatures than did this poor waif, who had never
known a mother's love.
As day succeeded day and. no Uncle Tib arrived, the
interest in the children, as far as the people of Lamb's
Court were concerned, began to wane. The small
sum left after the doctor's bill and the funeral
expenses were paid soon dwindled away, and before
Mrs. Trench had lain in her grave a fortnight every
farthing of it was gone. The rent of the small room
becoming due, Bunch had to pawn some of the
furniture to meet it. The landlady of the house
where they lodged was the worst of her kind, and
seeing that the few things left would not fetch much
if taken to a pawnshop, told Bunch to clear out as
quickly as possible, and to take the children to that
very forgetful "Uncle Tib."
The girl could obey the first command, which she
did, but she certainly could not carry out the second.
For one reason, she had no money; and another, she
had no more idea where Bleckley was than the little
ones themselves .The hardhearted landlady could
not tell her, -i. ith 6.:r could Mrs. Trigg. Their know-
ledge of geography was very limited, and Berkshire
might be in Scotland or Wales, for aught they knew.
Two doors from No. 11 was a large cellar, un-
inhabited, save for rats and cockroaches, and the man
to whom it belonged, having no use for it just then,
allowed Bunch and the children to occupy it until he
Little Bunch's Charge.
required it. It was a miserable place, damp and dark,
the only light coming from a small opening far up in
the wall, which let in the wind and rain as well. But
wretched as it was, Bunch was very grateful for it, and
told the little ones it was better than having no place
at all. Mrs. Trigg helped Bunch to bring the few be-
longings of the children into the cellar, lighted a fire,
and made them as comfortable in the dingy place as
was possible. She was exceedingly poor herself, hav-
ing a large family of young children and a lazy hus-
band, who drank the greater part of her earnings. She
could not afford to give away even a crust, and Bunch
knew it, but out of her exceeding poverty she gave
the children half a loaf of bread, and went to bed
Even with this help Bunch felt very sorrowful
when she laid down beside her charges that night.
The wind howled all the night, and the rain beat into
the cellar, and thb rats scampered about. She lay
awake thinking how she was to supply two hungry
little children with food every day.
"Mrs. Trench said that God would reward me and
'ave us in His keeping," said the girl to herself.
"Wotever did she mean? I wish I knew. Does
keep mean hiding? I knows I keep away from the
perlice when I 'elps myself when I'm hungry."
The outlook did not seem any brighter when the
S day-dawned. The wind and the rain had departed
with the night, but the sunlight, dimly lighting the
darkness of the cellar, and shining on its mouldy
walls, only made her more miserable, for to her con-
sternation she found that the rats had eaten up the
bread the woman had given her the previous evening.
The children awoke at the usual time, and as usual
wanted their breakfast. Bunch had nothing to give
them to eat, and the little ones began to cry.
"Never mind, darlings; we'll go and search for
something to eat," she cried, wiping Glory's wet face,
and if we can't find aniythink, we'll twig a bit of
Spotty im." 19
something from somewhere. We mustn't let the
bobby see wot we does, or they'll pop us into jail."
Only naughty people doe dare," said Tibbie,
shaking his head. "We is good, Muvver Bunch."
Bunch laughed. I don't believe yer understand,
little 'un, except that yer wants yer breakfast, which
them nasty rats have eat."
The girl took from the children's scanty wardrobe
a small grey coat, red knitted cap, and a blue jacket
and hood, which she had seen them wear when out
with their mother. Her heart swelled with pride
when she dressed the boy in his cap and coat, and
Glory in her hood and jacket.
Tibbie looked bonnie in his outdoor garments. He
was a very handsome boy, as dark as his small sister
was fair, and the red cap only made his young
beauty all the more apparent. As for little Glory, she
was quite too lovely in her little jacket and hood to
be a real child, Bunch thought.
A proud mother, I am," said the girl, as she led
the little ones up the stone steps leading into the
court. There ain't their equal for beauty hereabouts,
I knows !"
The East-end sparrows were picking up their break-
fast in the gutters as Bunch and her charges sallied
forth in search of theirs.
In vain the children looked for food in the
neighbourhood of Lamb's Court, and Bunch, feeling
that nothing eatable was to be found there, made her
way to the Thames. She thought that the life on the
river would make the children forget their hunger-at
least, for a time.
It was a bright morning in early spring, and the sun-
beams glittered on the water, which in some parts was
crowded with shipping of all sorts and sizes, from the
East Indiaman down to the clumsy black river barge.
Tibbie was delighted, with all he saw, and his large
speaking eyes were as bright as the sunbeamed water;
and little Glory ut only stretched out her tiny hands
20 Little Bunch's Charge.
in. the sunshine, but smiled at everything and every-
body, to the delight of more than one old salt as he
rolled along the banks of the river.
In one of the streets leading down to the water,
Bunch stopped before an old-fashioned shop window.
The fresh air blowing up from the river had only
increased the children's hunger, and they had begun
again to cry for their breakfast. So, to divert their
thoughts, she had brought them to see the pictures in the
windows. One of them was a transcript of Sir Joshua
Reynolds' well-known picture, "Angels' Heads." She
had never seen a copy of this chef d'ouvre before,
and was gazing at one of the lovely little faces peeping
out of the cloud, when a rough, heavy hand was laid
on her shoulder. Turning round, she saw a big, loosely-
made lad of fifteen or sixteen, his red, pock-marked
face one big smile, standing at her side. He was a
very plain lad, without a redeeming feature, but with
all his ugliness and brick-red hair, he was kind-looking,
and his looks did not belie him. Like Bunch, he
was a waif, a wastrel he would have called himself,
having been driven by his inhuman mother from his
home at a very early age. He and Bunch had known
each other as far back as she could remember, and
he had often shared his crust with her, and fought
her battles when set upon by the quarrelsome little
people of the slums.
"It is Spotty Jim," cried Bunch.
"Right you are. I say, did yer steal that little bit
of a gal," looking at Glory, "out o' the picture in the
winder ? "
No," returned Bunch, laughing; "I had her given
to me, and this little man too," resting her hand on
Well, if that ain't the biggest crammer I've heard
for some time cried the lad, throwing back his head
and gazing at the three from under his half-closed eyes.
"Wot's yer game now? Thinking of tramping the
country with the handsome little critters P I'll go bail
S'I SAY, DID YER STEAL THAT LITTLE BIT OF A GAL?'
they'll get a fortune for yer. Got a fiddle or a
banjo ? You'll want one."
"'Tis hard times, Jim," said Bunch, regretfully, "and
one who has a family is glad to turn their 'and to
anything, even to play a fiddle, if I had one. I've got
to get bread for my little dears until Uncle Tib comes."
Who in the world is Uncle Tib ? asked the
I'm tired, and if yer wants to know about that
gent and how I corned by the children, we must go
over there and sit down," said Bunch, pointing to
some packing-cases lying on the river's bank.
I is so hungry," lisped Glory, fretfully, as the
children, Bunch, and Spotty Jim seated themselves on
one of the packing-cases.
So is I," cried Tibbie, ready to join in his sister's
Wot do the kids say ? "asked the lad.
"They ain't had their breakfast yet," answered the
girl. "You see, the wind from the river has made
them feel hungry."
Veddy hungry," broke in little Glory, her pretty
lips puckering for a howl.
Spotty Jim's small red eyes looked hard at Bunch,
and then, divining how matters were from her sad,
tear-filled eyes, he jumped up and disappeared into a
shop close by. In a moment he returned with three
large buns, which he tossed into Bunch's lap with the
I don't know 'ow yer corned by the little 'uns, but
they are far too pretty to be allowed to starve."
The children rejoiced at the sight of food, but
starving as they were, they did not put it to their
mouths until they had folded their hands, reverently
bowed their heads, and whispered a grace.
"I say, wot did the kids do that for ? asked Jim,
who was watching their every movement.
"I don't quite know," answered Bunch. '"They
never eats nothing and never goes to sleep without
Little Bunch's Charge.
whispering to Somebody I can't see. It made me feel
awful queer at first, but I am used to their little ways
now. I must tell you about Uncle Tib and how the
little dears came to be my wery own."
Mother Bunch, yer a brick I am proud of yer "
cried Jim, when the child had finished her little story.
Let me 'ave the honour of shaking yer fist," and
grasping her hand, he gave it such a grip that she
cried out with pain. I envy yer, and wish ye would
let me be yer pardner in the matter of the little kids.
But, dang it, I've been down on my luck lately, and
can't give much. Never mind; I'll do wot I can. If
you are in any trouble wotever, you jess come to me."
"'Tis nice to 'ave a pal like you to go to in
trouble, Jim," said Bunch, looking gratefully into the
lad's big red face.
Yer ain't attacked your bun yet," said the boy,
getting up to go. "I know yer trick," blinking at
her in a way all his own, and hitching up his trousers.
"You are keeping it for them little beauties.
'Tain't wise, little pardner. If yer starve herself and
make herself ill, the whole lot of yer will be trotted
off to the work'us. So eat yer bun, for the kids'
Bunch, who had put her bun behind her where
her hungry eyes could not see it, was fain to yield to
Jim's advice, and it brought a lump to his throat to
see how ravenously she ate it.
"Well, I can't stop here," he said; "'tis time I
was getting my papers."
I wish little gals could sell papers," said Bunch,
with a sigh, as she swallowed her last mouthful of
bun. "We've got to live, and the little 'uns don't
give me no opportunity to steal for 'em. You see, if
yer ain't precious careful, the bobby would be down
on yer like anything. I b'lieve they've got eyes all
over their 'eads."
"It's naughty to steal," put in Tibbie's sweet young
voice. "It would make God so sad if you did."
Spotty Jim. 24
Bunch and Jim exchanged glances.
You'll 'ave to be careful of yer morals now yer
are a mammy," cried the lad, treating Bunch to one
of his remarkable winks. The little gentleman don't
think it right of yer to pilfer, Mother Bunch."
The girl said nothing. She had never been taught
that stealing was a sin, and she only refrained from
stealing now from fear that she would be separated
from the children. Tibbie's remark puzzled her, and
turning it over in her mind later, she came to the
conclusion that stealing was a habit people like Mrs.
Trench did not indulge in, perhaps because they were
better born than dwellers in courts and alleys. Any-
way, if Tibbie objected to it, certainly his mother
would have, and so for their sakes she would steal
no more, unless driven to do so by starvation.
"I don't know wot yer will do, little pardner," said
Jim, kindly. "There ain't much a gal like you can
turn 'er 'and to except selling flowers, matches, and
that sort of thing, and you can't do much in that line
with two little kids hitched on to yer like a canal barge.
I hope that precious Uncle Tib will soon come along.
If Mrs. Trench didn't go off in the way she did, I
would swear you were tricked. Bunch, I wish I
could buy yer an instrument of music of some sort.
Yer might pick up a bob a week in that way then."
Then a thought struck him: "I suppose yer don't
know Old Coffin down in Ship Street? "
Bunch shook her head.
He is a rum old cove, but he ain't a bad sort if yer
once get into his ways. He wants somebody who ain't
got much to do to tout for 'im. Yer see, there is
competition-them is his own words-even in the
undertaking line, and he wants somebody to give him
the wink when anybody is dead or is going to die.
Yer only wants to be sharp and brisk when the
doctoring gents goes their rounds. The gal that
touted for Mr. Home-that's 'is proper name-took
the measles and died."
26 Little Bunch's Charge.
I knows Mr. Home," said Bunch, quickly. He
was the undertaker for my little 'uns, real mother.
Oh if he only would let me tout for him, Jim."
"Well, you can but ask him. He knows me. I
takes a newspaper to his house every Saturday, and
you can tell him I sent yer. You'll soon find out
where he lives. He has a big black board over his
shop door, and a coffin fixed up in the winder."
But I can't leave the children," said Bunch.
"I can 'elp you there," said Jim, "and will swing
round to Lamb's Court this afternoon sometime and
give an eye to the kids whilst you are gone," and
slipping a sixpenny-piece in Bunch's hand, he hastened
The girl gazed at the coin with bright, glad eyes,
and then spat on it for good luck.
"There is no fear of our starving to-day, nor to-
morrow, my pretties," she said, as she too got up to go
home. "'Twill be dinner-time soon, and I'll get
something tasty for our dinners."
True to his word, Spotty Jim turned up in the
course of the afternoon, and after he had made friends
with the children, Mother Bunch ventured to leave
them in his care, and putting on a crape bonnet some-
body had given her to wear at Mrs. Trench's funeral,
she went ti see Mr. Home, or Old Coffin, as he was
generally styled, with what result our readers already
Mr. Horne looked the children up the following
day, and finding that what Bunch had told him was
perfectly true, after having made a few inquiries,
he was not altogether displeased with her general
character, and appointed her his tout-in-chief.
SPRING is generally a most trying season, and there
was a great deal of sickness at the time Mother Bunch
was taken into Mr. Joseph Home's employment.
What with following the erratic movements of the
gentlemen of the medical profession, and reporting
the results to her employer, she had quite as much as
she could do. The girl was very active in her move-
ments, and being very intelligent, she soon became an
adept at reading the doctors' faces, and was also able
to judge of the state of the patient by the frequent
visits to a house. Whenever a patient did die and
Old Coffin was favoured with the undertaking, Bunch
was jubilant; and so was he in his soft, melancholy
way. In fact, Mr. Home could not help showing how
delighted he felt whenever the small white face
shadowed in the big bonnet showed itself at his door.
She certainly was the best tout he had ever
employed, for she had in a short time already brought
more custom to him than any tout ever did before.
So pleased was he that he paid her sixpence for every
Bunch felt that she was not only a person of
importance, but that she was actually growing rich-
so rich, that she sometimes treated Tibbie and Glory
to "tripe," and "trotters,"- and sweet cakes, and
Little Bunch's Charge.
hired one of Mrs. Trigg's children to look after the
little ones while she was out on business.
Spotty Jim came as often as he could the first ten
days after Bunch had succeeded in getting "the
berth," and he never came without bringing some-
thing for the children. He was so kind and good-
natured that they were quite as pleased to see him as
Mr. Home was to see Bunch, only they always showed
their joy in a different way.
A whole month went by, and May came, a cold,
wet May with little sunshine, and as yet there was no
abatement in the sickness and no sign of "that
slowcoach Uncle Tib," as Jim called him. Jim was
beginning to feel doubtful of that gentleman's exist-
ence, and said that if there were such a person "it
wasn't likely that he would want to be bothered with
two little kids." But Bunch, who had faith to believe
anything and everybody, said there was an Uncle Tib,
and that perhaps he was sick and would come when
he got well again. His failure to appear was not a
trouble to her now, for she and the children were able
to live, to quote Jim's expressive language, "like
May was half through, when Spotty Jim, for an
unknown reason, ceased coming to No. 9, and when
a whole week went by and he did not turn up, Bunch
began to fear that something dreadful had happened
One day as she was sitting on a kerbstone in one of
the streets facing the Thames to rest, after following
Dr. Harper's uncertain movements, her friend Jim
came slowly up the street. To her surprise, he was
dressed in a bargeman's suit, and his ungainly body
was rolling about like a ship in a storm.
Bunch had the children with her that day, for Mrs.
Trigg was sick, and her little girl had to stay at home
and look after her brothers and sisters.
Jim saw Bunch and the children, and came to them.
"Ah, there yer are, Mother Bunch! Ain't I a
swell ?" he asked, in a thick voice, so unlike his own
clear, ringing tones.
I jess think yer are," she answered, slowly, still
gazing at him, "and yer voice is thick as a fog.
'Ave yer got a cold, Jim ? "
The lad uttered a silly laugh, causing Bunch to open
her eyes wider than ever.
Wotever has come over yer ? she cried, in dismay.
"Yer breath is hot enough to set the Thames on fire, and
smells like the inside of a gin-shop. You ain't taken
to the drink, 'ave yer ? Wot is the cause of yer not
coming to see us these days past ?"
I've gived up selling newspapers, pardner,"
returned Jim, in the same thick, muddling voice, "and
I've turned waterman."
"Yer 'ave turned gin man, yer mean," said Bunch,
severely. "You sha'n't be a pal of mine if yer
take to the drink. Glory smells the drink too, and
don't 'prove of yer giving 'way to sich wickedness,"
as the little child pushed him from her with her tiny
hands when he stooped to kiss her. I thought yer
was a respectable, sober lad," continued Bunch, and
fit to be my pardner in the matter of my little
children," and she shot an angry glance at him from
her dark eyes.
"So I am," cried Jim. "But yer don't know
the world, my dear. A chap who 'as got promoted
must do as others do. I ain't had more than one
glass of grog to-day. My other pardner treated
me. So yer need not turn up that there stump of a
nose at a feller. You ain't so good that yer can afford
to cast stones at me. If yer don't drink yer tells lies,
and steals when yer gits the chance. 'Tis surprising
that them youngsters," leering at Tibbie and Glory,
"don't turn up their pretty little noses at you."
Bunch fixed her eyes on the tipsy lad with a fright-
ened gaze, and then, taking in the full meaning of his
words, her face went crimson. She was a good little
girl according to her lights.
Little Bunch's Charge.
"I only stole to satisfy my innards," she said,
lamely. "Yer know, Jim, that I wouldn't thieve if
wasn'tt to satisfy the beast inside of me, wot do bite
awful when I ain't got nothing to stop the hunger."
Spotty Jim either could not or would not reply to
what seemed to Bunch an all-convincing argument
in her favour, and a bargee, evidently his otherr
pardner," hailing him at that moment, he rolled
"He sha'n't be my pal no longer," she said to
herself, as she watched him get into a barge on the
river. "Uncle Tib, when he comes, wouldn't like to
see a boy what drinks loafing about his little nephew
and niece; and I hope he won't come agin to No. 9."
But a week later Jim came and brought with him a
small tambourine, which he struck and jingled, to
Tibbie's huge delight.
Bunch was at home, and although Jim was sober
enough now, she was true to her resolve, and received
him coldly. Thelad was amazed and displeased at
his reception, for he was fond of the little girl in his
honest boyish way, and loved the little ones almost as
much as she did. At first he laughed at Bunch's
stern, set face, and then, his slow wits taking in that
he was not wanted, he turned on her angrily.
i If that's yer game, yer good-for-nothing, ungrate-
ful little hussy," he cried, fiercely, encouraging a cove
to come to see yer one week and the next giving him
the cold shoulder, I'll be off, and won't come near yer
agin, mark my words," and flinging the tambourine on
the cellar floor, he rushed up the stone steps.
"'Tis all along o' Uncle Tib, who won't come,"
sobbed poor Bunch, when the lad's footsteps had died
away. "Wot we are going' to do without Jim's 'elp
when the folks don't go off the hooks, I don't know,
and they ain't goin' off like they did at first, and Old
Coffin is already beginning to look as black as 'is
coffins when I goes there now."
"Won't God take more care of us then, Muvver
Bunch?" asked Tibbie, drawing nearer to the girl
and gazing up into her troubled face.
"Wot do yer mean ? she asked, wiping her eyes.
"Him yer speaks softly to afore yer goes to sleep ?"
Tibbie nodded. I don't know nothing much about
Him, darlin'! Yer see, I never had no larnin'," she
added, as if to excuse her ignorance.
God loves little children," whispered Tibbie, still
gazing at Bunch. "Are you a little child?"
No," said Bunch, shaking her head, I never was
a little'un-to be cuddled and loved, I mean. I never
had anybody to love me-no God nor nobody,"
"Poor Muvver Bunch," cried the boy, flinging his
arms round her neck. I love you dearly, and Glory
Bunch's troubled face and tears had sorely worried
the dear little fellow, and he was anxious to comfort
her by telling her of God's beautiful love, with which
his mother had tried to console him when his little
heart was sad; but he was much too young to tell her
how full, and broad, and all-embracing that love was-
taking her and everybody in, even the most sinful and
the most degraded.
Bunch had indeed offended Spotty Jim, for he came
no more to Lamb's Court.
As the days slipped by the weather improved, and
before June the district where Mr. Horne lived was
able to show a clean bill of health. This was a grief
to Bunch, for it meant starvation to her and to her little
charges, and no work to Mr. Joseph Home. This
close-fisted old fellow no longer looked kindly at the
pale little face under the black bonnet, and buttoned
his coat over his lean old heart when the girl ventured
to say she was hungry. "No undertaking, no pay/"
was his grim reply.
One day Bunch took the children with her to Ship
Street, and Old Coffin at first glared at the little.
party, but when Glory did her best to make friends
with him by her coaxing little smiles, he.. muttered,-
Little Bunch's Charge.
I shouldn't like to put a beautiful little thing like
you into a coffin, although I do think that a little
white box with a babby inside it is the prettiest
sight in the world."
Bunch, knowing a great deal of Mr. Horne by this
time, felt that he had paid a great compliment to
Glory's lovely little face and winning ways, and told
herself that if she could soften the heart of Old Coffin
she could almost melt a stone.
But greater surprises still were in store for Bunch
that day. Mr. Horne actually asked them to come
into his room. She had never been invited to go
beyond the shop before, and could hardly believe she
had now, until she found herself in a small room
behind the shop.
The remains of a meal stood on the table, and Glory,
childlike, stretched out her hands at the sight of food.
The old man, however, took no notice of her tiny
appealing hands, nor of Tibbie's longing eyes, but
began to wash his cup and saucer.
You're growing stupid," he said, at length, looking
straight at Bunch. I shall have soon to shut up shop
and retire to the workhouse. A gal who has no
business capacity is no good to me. I have made no
end of them things like you see in the window, hop-
ing they would be soon wanted. You shall see for
yourself," and opening a door on his right, he revealed
to the children row after row of coffins.
I can't help it, mister, if people won't die," cried
poor Bunch. "'Tis so unkind on'em to get well when
there is a chance of their going off the hooks. We
all 'feels it, mister. I don't know 'ow me and the
children are going to keep out of the work'us neither.
Why, even the doctoring gents is beginning to look as
miserable as an 'undertaker.'"
"I should like to sleep in one of those things," broke
in Tibbie, looking under Mr. Horne's arm at the rows
of coffins; and the shavings would make a lovely
soft bed. Do rats live here?" he asked the old man.
"No but my cats do," was the gruff answer.
"I like tats," cried the boy, nowise abashed," and
so does my sister. We should like to tome here and
live wiff you very much. Our cellar is so dark, and
the rats squeak awfully. And I should like a big
piece of your nice take too, Mr. Toffin," pointingto
some cake on the table.
Umph you are not lacking in wants, if you are
in manners," said Mr. Horne, gruffly again, but he
walked to the table and cut the children .a large slice
of the cake, and watched them eat it with a grim
smile on his miserable-looking face.
When Bunch got up to go home the old man gave
a curious little cough, which made the girl look up at
My dear," he said, quickly, as you have brought
me no custom this last fortnight, I feel that I must
get another little gal to work for me. You see, I must
think of myself somewhat," as Bunch stared at him
Do yer mean, mister, that I am not to come here
on business again? "
I do," he said, hurriedly turning his back on her,
for he was not able to bear the look of mingled
surprise and entreaty in her small white face.
This abrupt dismissal was so unexpected and so
cruel that the poor child was quite stunned, and her
eyes were so blinded with tears, that she would have
stumbled as she went down the steps but for Tibbie's
"I 'spect I'm paid out for treating poor old Jim as I
did," she wailed. "Oh, I wish he would come back !"
SP'r'aps God will tell him to come, if you want him,
Muvver Bunch," said Tibbie, rubbing his soft, dark
cheek against her hand.
But the girl took no heed of his caress. She was
too much upset at her dismissal to receive comfort
from anybody just then.
NEW WAYS OF EARNING BREAD.
MATTERS were beginning to get desperate with little
Mother Bunch. She had again not only to starve
herself for the children, but had hardly any food to
appease their craving young appetites.
The less I has the more hungry they is," groaned
Bunch, three days'after Mr. Home had told her not to
come again; and in her distress at not being able to
give them bread, for which little Glory was begging
piteously, she actually smacked the poor mite, and then
flung herself on the cellar floor in a passion of tears.
Tibbie was alarmed at this sudden outburst, and
fearing he knew not what, caught up the tambourine
lying in a corner of the cellar, and began to thump
and shake it. As soon as the jingle of the tam-
bourine fell on the girl's ears, she sprang to her bare
little feet and shrieked out,-
Whyever didn't I think of that there tambourine
afore? i'll bet if we play in the streets, and dance
and sing, we'll get lots of coppers. Yer did beat out
the music beautiful, Tibbie," and she hugged the
children for very gladness.
An hour later found Bunch and the little children
in Basset Street. They began to dance and sing with
all their might to the beating and jingling on the
tambourine, which Tibbie handled quite skilfully, to
the delight of a small crowd which had quickly
"ITHEY BEGAN TO DANCE AND SING WITH ALL THEIR MIGnT."
New Ways of Earning Bread. 37
gathered around them. The children were bare-
headed-the day being very warm-and Glory's
beautiful hair gleamed in the sunlight, and her large
eyes were like twin blue stars of heaven." As for
Tibbie, his dark curls bobbed to the music and his
brown smooth young cheeks were as rich as a damask
rose with excitement.
The children were undoubtedly the attraction.
Bunch herself was not in the least attractive, and her
voice as she sang had no more music than a worn-out
When they had finished dancing and singing, she
sent Tibbie round with the tambourine, as she had
seen the street professionals do, and to her joy she
counted three pennies, six halfpennies, and about as
Why, Tibbie," she cried, "'tis worth being sent
away from Old Coffin's to get all this. Spotty Jim
said there was a fortune in yer, and there is. We
won't starve now, my pritties."
Whilst Tibbie had been collecting, Glory had begun
again to dance. She had caught up the hem of her little
blue frock as she had seen Bunch do, and her little
feet were moving to a tune of her own, when a low-
browed, dark-faced, evil-looking man, with a barrel
organ and a monkey on his back, came on the scene.
He stood watching the child several minutes, and
then walked quickly away, returning in a short time
accompanied by a woman dark and good-looking.
"With your training," he whispered, "that little
'un," pointing to Glory, who was still dancing,
"would be worth her weight in gold."
"' She would," the woman whispered back. She is
beautiful! Do not let them see us noticing her. I'll
keep them in sight."
They moved away, and the man, when he had
reached the end of the street, began to grind out
"Wait till the clouds roll by."
Bunch, meantime, being more than satisfied with
Little Bunc/'s Charge.
her takings, entered an eating-house, and ordered
buns and new milk for the children and a roll and a
cup of coffee for herself.
When they had had a good feed they turned into
the next street, and performed again with yet more
The children were very tired after their second
performance, for the want of food had weakened
them, and Bunch wisely thought that they had better
perform no more that day.
As they made their way back to their own court
through a series of alleys and lanes, they were accosted
by the woman whom the organ-grinder had brought
to see Glory dancing.
Do those little ones like lollipops ? she asked, in
a pleasant voice. They do look such little loves. I
was watching you dance just now, and thought how
well you did it. Have you been at it long ? "
"No," answered Bunch, her pinched little face
flushing with pleasure at the word of praise, unex-
pected as it was pleasing. "I never danced in the streets
before to-day. But I means to often now, 'cos it pays."
"It would pay you still better if you had a few
dancing lessons from a professional," said the woman;
and this sweet child," looking down into Glory's up-
lifted little face, "would learn to dance in no time if she
were properly taught, and would-soon have the streets
at her feet. She has music down to her dear little toes."
Bunch said nothing; in fact, poor waif, she did not
know what'to say.
"You are not related to those children, are you ?
* I thought not," as the girl shook her head. They are
both very handsome-brother and sister, I should say,
although one is as dark as a gipsy and the other as
fair as an angel. Are you looking after them for
their mother ? "
I'm their mother," said Bunch, shortly, resenting
the question. "I have to look after them till their
Uncle Tib comes."
New Ways of Earning Bread. 39
The woman gave Bunch a comprehensive look out
of her full dark eyes. "You mean the little ones are
orphans, and that you have been put in charge of
them till their friends turn up."
However did you know that ? cried the girl, the
woman's chance shot taking her by surprise.
A little bird whispered it to me," was the laugh-
ing rejoinder. Are you acquainted with Uncle Tib ?"
"Didn't that little bird tell yer nothing more about
us ? was the girl's evasive answer, giving the woman
a suspicious glance. For if it didn't, I sha'n't tellyou."
I am afraid you must think me inquisitive in
asking so many questions," said the woman, unmoved
at Bunch's rude reply. "I can perhaps explain my
interest in you by telling you I am a teacher of
dancing, and that I do not like to see real talent lie
hidden for want of bringing it to the front. I watched
you and this child," lettinglier handwander over Glory's
bright little head, dancing just now, as I told you, and
I followed you to make a suggestion and an offer."
Wot does yer mean ? asked Bunch.
"That I should like to give you and this little one
a few dancing lessons."
But we ain't got no money to pay yer," said the girl.
"I would disdain to take money from a poor child
like you, if you had any," said the woman. "I am
quite willing to teach both of you for nothing. I am
an orphan myself, and know what it is to suffer hunger.
I can feel for others," she continued, as Bunch stood
staring up at her, astonished both at the kindness and
the offer, and I love all children, especially when they
are pretty, as these little ones are. I once had a dear
golden-haired, violet-eyed little sister," she said, in a
low, sad voice, but the angels fetched her away."
"Like they did our own muvver," put in Tibbie's
clear young voice.
"Ah! you poor little darling," the woman ejacu-
lated, and the tears that had already sprung to her
eyes dropped on Glory's shining head.,
Little Bunch's Charge.
Three pairs of eyes large with pity gazed at this
sad-voiced stranger, and Bunch's lips trembled as she
said, I am ever so sorry for you. I should feel just
like you do if anybody was to take awaymy little dears."
The woman made no reply, but gave. the girl's hand
a sympathetic squeeze, and that expression of sym-
pathy won her warm young heart.
Well, then," said the woman, after a pause, "you
are going to accept my offer?"
"Oh, yes, ma'am," returned Bunch, gratefully. "But
we lives in a cellar, and the cellar is 'most as dark as
a chimney," troubled at the thought that she had no
fit place to invite this kind-hearted woman to come.
"That's rather unfortunate," said the woman, who
had not been slow to notice what an impression she had
made on this little waif of the London streets. "Never
mind; we must manage it somehow. You have some
friends, I suppose ?" giving her face a searching look.
Yes," answered Bunch; Mrs. Trigg, for one, and
there are lots of others in our court who would stick
up for my little dears, 'cos of their having only me for
a mother. Why does you ask? "
The woman smiled to herself, and bending her head
as if in deep thought, she said, "I think, dear, all
things considered, that it will be better for you to
come to me for your dancing lesson. I daresay we
live within walking distance of each other. I am at
present staying at No. 151, 1)arrow Street, St. George's.
When you come to see me, please ask for Beta. I
want you to come to-morrow afternoon at half-past
four. Be sure you do not forget to come and that the
number of the house is 151 ; mind, I shall expect you.
Now I must tear myself away, as I have a professional
engagement at six, and it is after five now. One
word before I go. Do not say anything to anybody
-not even to your friend Mrs. Trigg-of the little
kindness I am anxious to do you," and thrusting a
paper of sweets into little Glory's hands, she hurriedd
A TEMPTING BAIT.
DARROW STREET was some distance from where Bunch
lived, and a very wicked place it was; shut in by
narrow, dirty lanes and alleys, it was one of the
filthiest streets in the East-end.
In this place of wickedness and vice Bunch and the
children found themselves ten minutes before the time
appointed by the woman. It was a hot afternoon, and
the women of the street were in a very quarrelsome
mood. Some of them were fighting like fiends out-
side one of the public-houses, while others were hang-
ing about, and cries of their unhappy babies mingled
with the shrieks of the women. Men were lying about
drunk in every direction, and what was still more
awful, quite young lads and girls were sleeping the
heavy sleep of drunkards on doorsteps and in gutters,
and were the butt of swarms of almost naked children.
Sailors of all nationalities were to be seen inside and
outside the various public-houses and foreign cafes in
the street, which, although shut in by other streets,
was of considerable size, and Tibbie was not far from
tears as he heard some of them gibbering away in a,
language unknown to him, and saw their violent
Familiar as Bunch was with slum life, she was quite
,shocked at some of the sights she saw and things she
42 Little Bunch's Charge.
heard as she came up the street, and she wished she had
not brought the children. When she came to the house
where Beta told her she was staying, and found that.
it was a large public-house popularly known as the
-Ramblers' Rest, she felt inclined to turn back again,
and probably she would have done so had she known
that it bore a very ill name even in the neighbourhood
of Darrow Street, and was the rendezvous of all the
tramps and their kind in the parish of St. George's.
It must have been drawing near the tramps' supper
time when the children entered the long stone-flagged
passage of the Ramblers' Rest, for odours of beef-
steaks, mutton chops, herrings and haddocks, and
,-other dainties dear to the East Londoner pervaded
..he. place, and made the tired, hungry children feel
Wot little dears," ejaculated a man, whose face
bore the marks of drink, and was most brutal-looking.
Beta, ye're wanted," he shouted, in answer to
Bunch's inquiry for that individual.
"Ah, there you are !" said the woman, appearing
at the door of the general room, which was filled with
men and women of all sorts and conditions, some of
whom were dancing to the strains of a squeaking
fiddle. I thought you were a person of your word.
Go upstairs," she said in Bunch's ear, as scores of
inquiring eyes were turned on the children, and go
into the room on your right; I'll be up in a minute."
Bunch was only too glad to obey, and mounted the
stairs as quickly as she could, for she had Glory in
her arms, and Tibbie was clinging to her ragged
skirts. In her confusion, she turned to her left, and
found herself in a room about eight feet .square, in
which were the fixtures of what seemed a Punch-and-
Judy show. In front of the framework sat a care-
worn woman of about forty, who, as the children
entered, was intent on touching up Punch's faded
cheeks with vermilion. A growl from a pug dog at
her feet made their presence known,
A Tempting Bait.
What do you want ? she asked, looking up. Beta,
did you say ? The lady of that name has her room
the other side of the landing. Having a look at
Punch ?" noticing Tibbie's eyes glued on that inte-
resting gentleman. Mrs. Judy and her babies are on
the drum behind you."
"And the baby is in a little coffin," said Bunch,
turning round. "And there's the undertaker,"
looking downat a long-legged, black-coated doll, stuok
against the side of the drum. "Ain't he a cunning-
looking old cove-just like our Old Coffin, white wig,
,choker, and all."
"This is not the room on the right," said a voice at'
the door. "I am quite ready to give you your lesson,
ma chbre." .. ..
"You had better go quick," said the woman,"
pointing with her brush to the door. Beta and her
man are the cocks of the walk here, and she is not the
person to be kept waiting," she added, in a lower key,
as the children seemed reluctant to go. "You can
come in again and see Punch-and-Judy, if you like."
You should go where you are told," said Beta,
when they were seated in her room, which was rather
larger than the one they had just left, and there was
an ugly frown on her brow which did not improve
her appearance. My man will be up in a minute,"
she added, as Bunch did not speak.
"Dare is a monkey," exclaimed Tibbie, who let
very little escape his big brown eyes. What a dear
"Me 'faid," cried Glory, as the little beast, finding
himself noticed, made a grimace. "Me wants to doe
home, Muvver Bunch."
Jumbo won't hurt you, darling," said Beta, recover-
ing herself. Ah here comes my Billums," and a
man, the man who had brought the woman to see Glory
dance, entered the room, carrying a dish of smoking
beef-steaks, which he set on a small round table
already laid for a meal.
44 Little Bunch's Charge.
"Are these the dear young people of whom you
told me ? he asked, taking a long look at the children.
"Well," as Beta nodded, "if they will condescend to
sup with us, they will be as welcome as summer," and
he ducked his head in their direction.
Bunch's hungry eyes glistened at the sight of the
dish. She and the children needed no second invita-
tion,. and were soon seated at the table with well-
filled plates before them.
After they had cleared their plates, and were further
treated. to sponge cakes, the table was pushed into a
corner, the man took his place at the organ and com-
menced playing dancing-tune, fixing his eyes on Glory,
who as soon as the man began to play, moved her little
feet to the music. Beta watched the child for some
minutes, and then, being anxious to impress Bunch
with her accomplishments, she commenced to dance
in the most graceful style. So impressed was that
too impressionable child, that she was not only de-
lighted, but longed to become an accomplished dancer,
too, and when the woman had finished whirling round,
she was more than eager to receive her first dancing
Bunch's limbs were not at all pliant, and she was very
stupid at first, but Beta was patient-at least, outwardly
so-and told her when the lesson was over that she
did wonderfully well, considering, and would, she
believed, be able to dance as well, if not better, than
did her teacher, if she kept at it, which pleased and
c6mforted her for having brought the children to such
a house as the Ramblers' Rest.
"And now, duckie," Beta said, turning to little Glory,
and taking hold of her tiny hand, "you must have your
lessons in steps and positions," but to everybody's
vexation, she would not budge an inch. She was an
obstinate little creature when she liked, although, as
a rule, she was very sweet-tempered and obedient.
Beta, in despair of doing anything with the child
that day, asked the man, as a kindness to herself, to
A Tempting Bait. 45
give Tibbie a lesson in tumbling. He acquiesced
willingly enough-too willingly, an observing person
would have thought-and spread a square of red cloth
on the floor for the practising. Whether the boy was
possessed of the same spirit of perverseness as his
sister, or whether he was frightened, it is impossible
to say, but he would not consent to learn, and when
Bill insisted on his commencing, he began to howl. .
The man was exceedingly angry, and looked it, and
poor Bunch was distressed at the children's unaccount-
able behaviour, and said they had never been like it
"They ought to be whipped!" cried the man,
savagely, and from the heavy scowl on his face he
looked as though he would enjoy doing it.
"We ought not to expect much from such little
things the first day," said Beta, soothingly, seeing that
the girl was on the verge of tears. Mother Bunch,
as the children call her, made up for their ill-behaviour
and learnt her steps well and quickly; now, didn't she,
Bill ? a warning glance from the dark eyes flashing
across to the angry man.
Well, 'tis only fair to allow that she did," said the
man, in a less savage voice. But I can't help feeling
a bit vexed. Here you, who are a real professional,
earning no end of tin with yer teaching dancing, willing
and anxious to teach two little waifs for nothing, and
not one of 'em will do anything at all but stand up stiff
as a mast. Why, 'tis enough to make a parson swear.
But'tishard onthebig gal-I allowthat; and I declare,"
bringing down his hand with such force on the organ
that the poor little monkey was nearly frightened out
of his wits, and fled from his master the length of his
chain, "if Mother Bunch goes on as she 'as begun,
comes here regular for her lessons, practises her steps
and positions, I'll treat her to a fine frock against the
time she comes out as a full-fledged professional,"
and again he thumped on the organ, causing Jumbo
to bunch his back like Mother Bunch so often did.
Little Bunch's Charge.
That's my own Billums! cried Beta, patting the
man on the back. Your bark is always worse than
your bite. It was only this morning you were down
on me like a load of coal when I told you that I
was going to teach some poor little children to earn
their bread, and you have not only given them a nice
supper, but are now actually promising Mother Bunch
a fine frock. I know you," shaking her fist at him
playfully. You are trying to outdo my little
Only trying to push it on a bit, my sweetums,"
said the man, hanging his head as if ashamed of being
caught in a kind action. I don't see it is much use
of your teaching a gal to dance if she ain't got a bit of
finery to back it up when you've done with 'er. You
know as well as I do that people think as much of a
smart get-up as they do of the dancing. Thefal-lals
is half the show, and makes it successful."
"You are right, Bill; and if Glory ever allows her-
self to be taught the art of dancing, she will want a
pretty frock too," and she glanced at the child, who
was standing by the window immovable as a rock.
"You want me to fork out the chink (money) to
buy the little 'un a frock as well as the big 'un; I can
see by the look in your eyes," said the man, winking
his eye. But'tis no manner of use for you to hint; I
can't afford to give two frocks. Ain't you got a little
dress you can give the child?" and he looked at the
"I have a little frock," she returned, in a troubled
voice. But surely, Bill, you don't want me to give
away that one. Do you forget that it belonged to my
little angel-faced sister with hair like her's," pointing
at Glory, who.at that moment was a personification of
her name as she stood by the window, for the sun-
beams shining upon her brought out the brightness of
her hair and made it a nimbus of light round her
exquisite little face.
"I don't forget, and I understands your feelings,"
A Tempting Bait.
said Bill, slowly. "But-" and again he gave the
woman a peculiar look.
"You think me selfish," she said, in a voice that
seemed to betray the nearness of tears. But you
sha'n't have cause to think so badly of me again. I'll
pack up my little feelings, for Mother Bunch's sake,"
and going to a box, she took out a small frock, blue and.
spangled, and held it up before the children.
Bunch opened both her mouth and eyes. Never
before had she seen such a wonderful garment. "'Tis
all of a glitter, like broken glass when the sun shines
on it," she said to herself.
"When my man gives you the frock, Glory shall
have this one," said Beta, half smiling at the girl's
gaping admiration, that is, if you will teach her all
I teach you. I daresay you will be able to manage
the naughty little puss."
"That I will," cried delighted Bunch, humping her
shoulders. She will do anything I tell her when
we are by ourselves, and you'll see that by the time
we come here again she'll be able to do her steps and
positions better than me."
I hope she will," said the woman. You see, dear,"
folding up the frock, "that it is very uncertain how
long we stay in this neighbourhood; and now I have
begun to teach you my art, I am anxious to do what I
can for all of you. So unless you can help me, my
little kindness will be thrown away. You will be
nowhere without them. It is the children who
will be the attraction. People's hearts and purses
are generally open to the performances of little
"How soon must we come again ?" asked the girl,
when the smart little garment was put back into the
"To-day is Wednesday. You ought to have a
lesson twice a week to begin with. I shall be
disengaged on Saturday. So come to me on that day
at half-past three."
Little Bunch's Charge.
"Will their friends let 'em?" asked the man,
looking hard at Bunch from under his beetling brows.
"I'm me own missis,"'said the child, quickly, and
I can come whenever you want me."
"That is well," said the man, with a satisfied
smile. "You see, my dear," as Bunch's expressive
little countenance showed surprise, "we ain't so
fortunate'as you in being our own master. So 'tis a
good. thing for you that you can come when we are
Both he and Beta, for reasons of their own, accom-
panied the children out of Darrow Street, and Bunch
noticed with pride that quite a number of people cast
admiring glances at the two beautiful little ones as
they walked by the different public-houses and cafes.
BUONC was lifted out of herself at having had her
first lesson in dancing, and she not only practised her
steps and positions diligently, but taught little Glory,
who was now quite as willing to learn as the girl to
teach her, and being a perfect little mimic, she was
soon able to do her steps better than Bunch.
The children did not nowperform much in the streets,
in consequence of a hint they had received from Beta.
They danced until they had earned just enough to
satisfy the cravings of hunger. They all looked
forward, as only hungry children can, to another
good meal at the Ramblers' Rest.
They were not disappointed, for when they got
thereon Saturday and were climbing the stairs, Bill
came up behind them bearing a big dish of mutton
'Tis the land of Goshen here, ain't it?" he said,
with a laugh to Tibbie, who was watching him coming
"And better than Punch ?" said a voice from the
room on the left of the passage.
No," cried Tibbie, stoutly, looking round and
seeing the Punch-and-Judy show woman in her door-
way; "I like Mr. Punch."
Do you, dear'! There he is, then," pointing to the
Little Bunch's Charge.
show still standing in the centre of the room, and Mr.
Punch himself grinning from the square window.
We're having our show all fixed properly against
Henley Fair," she said, in answer to Bunch's
inquisitive glance. "Are you going to the fair,
Hurdy Gurdy Bill ?" as that individual was passing
her door; and are you coaching these angel-faced
little ones to take with you? They'll be worth a
good round sum to somebody when you have trained
them to your will, won't they ? "
The man swore to himself as he and the children
entered his room. "They Punch-and-Judy people
ain't no good," he said, earnestly, to Bunch. "Don't
you never go into their room. Their little dawg 'ave
got sharp teeth and bites awful, and the master of the
Punch show-the woman's husband-is more savage
than their little dawg, so-"
"The dog is a dear little thing," struck in Tibbie;
"and I like the Punch-and-Judy show woman; she
has a nice face, and I don't fink you have, 'cause
Glory won't kiss you."
But you will like the beautiful dinner we've got
for you, Tibbie," put in Beta, quickly, rising from her
chair to receive the children, distressed at the fearful
look on the man's face as he banged the dish on the
"Don't go upsetting a good dinner after taking
the trouble of cooking it, Bill," she said, putting a
staying hand on the dish, and from her manner of
speaking there was much more in her words than the
simple incident called for.
"I am a big fool," laughed he. Now, little 'uns,
fall to, and mind you clear up the whole dishful of
The children, did "fall to," and Tibbie, when he
could eat no more, said he should like to live with Bill
always, which put everybody, except Bunch, into a
Bunch was not herself. She was very quiet all
through the meal, and was exceedingly stupid over her
dancing lesson, which tried Beta's patience not a
little. Fortunately for her, little Glory more than
made up for her stupidity, and did her steps in the
prettiest way imaginable. It really was a charming
sight to see the child tip-toeing and making her
graceful little curtseys, and Beta and the man were
delighted with her, promising her, as they caressed
her, that she should soon have the lovely spangled
Tibbie also behaved better after his dinner, and
graciously consented to learn to be an acrobat. Bill
spread the square of cloth as before, and put his body
into all manner of indescribable attitudes for the
entertainment and instruction of the little fellow, who
at first was more alarmed than anything else. But he
was a boy of spirit, and did his best to copy his tutor,
and manfully kept back his tears whenever he came
down with a bang on the floor; and he had every
encouragement to be brave, for each time he hurt
himself Beta cried, Bravo and clapped, and Glory
shouted "Bravo! too, clapping her tiny hands in
the most fascinating manner. Even the surly man
grunted an approval. Bunch alone was silent and
The little ones were equal to anything that after-
noon, and Bill and Beta were so pleased with them
that she said she must put Glory into the spangled
frock, just to see how she looked in it, only she must
first have her hair brushed.
The child had a fair share of vanity, and stood with
a conscious look on her sweet face while the woman
combed out her tangled hair, which, when it was
carefully brushed, tumbled in rings of shining gold
all over her lovely little head and down the shapely
white neck. When she was robed in the dress, which,
although the material was coarse in texture, was just
the tint to set off the little one's fair beauty and
apple-blossom complexion, she looked so beautiful
Little Bunch's Charge.
that poor little Mother Bunch forgot her sulks, and
gazed at her with open-mouthed admiration.
"My little beauty," she cried, "yer are heaps
prittier than that' picture in the winder in Gravel
She is prettier than any picture I have ever seen,"
said smiling Beta. She is the prettiest little maiden
in London town and out of it. You're a very
fortunate little Mother Bunch. I quite envy you your
good luck in having such children. You will make
I am sure, Beta, you do not mind the great
sacrifice you ate making in giving that little frock,"
said the man. lifting his glittering eyes from the
beautiful litlr child to the woman's face.
"I am trying not to," was her answer, and she
turned away ostensibly to hide her emotion.
Glory was so pleased with her small self in the
spangled dress that she wept bitterly when it was
taken off, and was only consoled by being told that
she should have it on again the next time she came
to the Ramblers' Rest.
Bill and the woman went with them to the end of
Darrow Street as before, and as they were parting
told them they would be at home every day for the
next fortnight, and would like them to come every
afternoon at three o'clock.
"The oftener you get a lesson the sooner you will
be able to come out," Beta said, in the quiet, persuasive
way she had. And take my advice, dear (I speak
for your best interest), don't dance in the streets any
more until I give you permission."
"We can't live 'pon nothing," returned Bunch.
Of course you can't," the man put in, and here's
a bob for you to get wot you want in the eating
"You are kind," cried Bunch, gratefully, "If I
get on like this with so many little helps, I sha'n't
want Uncle Tib to come."
"When do you expect that old gentleman to turn
tip ? asked the man, with affected indifference.
"I don't know. Mrs. Trigg says he won't now
after all these weeks,"
He is the children's uncle, ain't he ? "
"Yes," the girl answered, "or great-uncle, which is
pretty much the same, Mrs. Trigg told me. Is
Bleckley a long. way from 'London?" she asked,
The man and Beta exchanged glances.
A fairish way," he answered. That's where.the
old uncle lives, ain't it ? 'Tis a village up the Thames.
You ain't thinking of tramping there, are you? as
No," returned Bunch.
"And a good thing too. Looking for Uncle Tib
in them parts would be like searching for a pin in a
load of hay. I suppose that old gentleman knows
where the little ones are living."
"Yes," returned Bunch, looking lovingly at the
children; "Mrs. Trench told him all about us,
"And that you lived at No. 11, Lamb's Court,
Shadwell," Beta chimed in.
Did that little bird o' yours tell yer that ? asked
Bunch, in surprise.
It was I who told.her," cried Tibbie. She asked
me lots of questions, didn't you, Beta ? lifting his
beautiful dark eyes to the woman's face.
Beta laughed and looked confused.
"I should think you were anything but anxious for
Uncle Tib to turn up," said the man, to hide her
confusion. If he came, 'tis as likely as not that you
and the children would have to part. You would not
like that, Mother Bunch ? "
Oh I shouldn't!" exclaimed the girl, tears spring-
ing to her eyes at the bare idea. I believe I should die
without my two dear little children," and she gripped
their hands very tightly as she led them away.
BUNCH RECEIVES A WARNING.
THE coming of Uncle Tib was no longer a pleasant
anticipation to poor Mother Bunch, and the more she
thought about his coming the more she dreaded it;
and since it was within the bounds of possibility-
although Mrs. Trigg again told her that she did not
believe he ever meant to come-she longed to take the
children somewhere where he would never find them.
But the little ones were not strong. Glory was
sometimes troubled with a cough, and she dared not
run the risk of letting them sleep in the open air
(as she, poor waif, had often done) whilst they could
have the shelter of the cellar, but she was determined
to keep away from Lamb's Court as much as she could.
Being flush of money through the kindness of Bill,
Bunch had very little to do except to practise her
dancing lessons, which she and little Glory did most
assiduously, generally in somebody's back yard,
where it was quiet and not overlooked by the public.
Going to Darrow Street and back took up a good
portion of the day, and they never failed to present
themselves there at the appointed hour, and were
always sure of a welcome and a good meal.
One afternoon, as they were on their way to St.
George's, they met Mr. Joseph Home, who by his
dejected appearance was still doing very badly.
Bunch Receives a Warning.
Hullo, mister was Bunch's greeting. "Is trade
looking up yet ?"
The old fellow shook his head dejectedly. "You are
looking flourishing," he said, eyeing the trio. "I
think the lot of you are getting quite fat."
Bunch laughed. We've had plenty of good
lickums, mister-mutton chops, tripe and trotters,
and all kinds of fatteners. We've been in luck's way
ever since you turned us going. We think that that
Somebody who my little dears," glancing down at the
children, "speak soft to every night and morning 'as
to do with our luck."
"Whatever do you mean, child ? cried Old Coffin.
His real name is GoD," returned Bunch, in a low,
reverent voice. "I can't tell yer much about Him,
mister, 'cept that He loves little 'ans and got His eye
'pon us. Do you happen to know Him ? she asked,
as Mr. Home looked at her in an odd, shamed sort of
way. "I and my little dears are going into the
Perfession," she added, as he did not answer; "we
really are, mister," as he stared at her, probably think-
ing from her talk that hunger and cold had turned her
brain. It will be a wery paying concern, I think, and
we are likely to make our fortunes and ride in a carriage
as fine as the Lord Mayor's or the Queen's. There is
no knowing, sir, and we may be able to give you a job
if your undertaking business don't brighten, and-"
But Mr. Joseph Home did not want to hear Bunch
finish her sentence, and was soon out of earshot.
When Bunch and the children reached the Ram-
blers' Rest, she found they were half an hour before
their usual time. Beta and her man were out, and as
their door was locked, she and the children seated
themselves on the stairs to await their arrival.
Tibbie soon grew tired of sitting still, and said he
must go and see how Mr. Punch was getting on, and
the next minute Bunch heard him cry, "Why, where
has the Punch-and-Judy show woman gone?"
She is on her way to Henley Fair, my little man,"
56 Little Bunch's Charge.
returned a voice, peculiarly low and sweet. Bunch's
curiosity being aroused, she got up and peeped
into the room, and saw a young girl sitting on a stool
writing with her toes. She had no arms, and her feet
had to serve her instead.
What! two children more?" she exclaimed,
catching sight of Bunch and Glory peeping in. "Walk
in walk in, and see the girl born without arms free
Bunch obeyed with alacrity, and gazed at this
curiosity for nearly a minute without uttering a word.
When you have done gaping, my child," said the
girl without arms, patronizingly, I'll have a good
look at those little ones. They are pretty-very," her
soft blue eyes travelling from Tibbie to Glory, and
from Glory to Tibbie. "I don't know which I shall
make a pet of-the dark or the fair. They are both
lovely and beautiful contrasts. I suppose they are the
children I've heard so much about, and are to be the
Infant Prodigies. My father may thank his stars
that they are to be attached to our concern. They'll
be the attraction at all the races and fairs. I hope,
little girl, that Bill intends giving you a big sum for
the dear little orphans."
Where are your arms ? demanded Tibbie, who had
been calmly looking at the girl. "Did God forget to
stick them on when He sent you down from the sky ?"
"You'll give me a fit, young man," said the girl,
shrieking with laughter. You're a caution, you are. I
shall have to pick up my wits when we travel together."
S"I 'spect God hadn't any arms to give that girl,"
said Tibbie, lifting his sweet, thoughtful eyes to
Bunch took no notice of the boy; she was looking
white and frightened.
The girl with no arms saw what was written on
the poor child's face, and she muttered to herself, I
shall be killed; I've let the cat out of the bag, there's
Bunch Receives a Warning.
Wot did you mean about my little dears belonging
to your concern, and travelling with you?" asked.
Bunch, fixing her steadfast eyes on the show girl's
face. We ain't going travelling with anybody.
The little 'uns ain't poor little orphans. They are
mine, and I ain't going to let anybody have 'em, and
I means to stick by 'em, so there !"
"Of course you are; I was only joking. Girls with
no arms must have their little jokes, as well as other
"What! got into the wrong room again ?" said a
voice at the door, and Beta thrust her head in. "I
don't like your going into any room in this house but
ours," said the woman, crossly, when her own door
closed on the children. It is a public-house, you
know, and it is often full of strange people, especially
after the Derby."
"I believe that that girl in there, who ain't got
arms, is a nasty thing," said Bunch, looking fierce and
resentful, "though she 'as got eyes as blue as Glory's,
and hair 'most as yeller," and she told Beta all the
girl had said.
The woman's face grew very grave. "'Tis a mercy
I warned you," she said, quietly. There are a lot of
tramps staying here at present, and she is one of them,
I daresay. It was just a pack of lies what she told
you. The little ones are of no money value except to
yourself, and then only for a few years. Children soon
grow out of their prettiness." Beta spoke so earnestly,
and with such apparent truthfulness, that Bunch's fears
were allayed, and whenever she came to the Ramblers'
Rest she was careful to shun every room save Beta's.
As day followed day, little Glory danced more
charmingly than ever, until it seemed to Bunch's
loving eyes that she could even foot it better than her
teacher; for the little one was willing enough to be.
taught by Beta herself now.
Tibbie was getting quite proficient in tumbling, and
would not only twist his little body into a hoop, but
Little Bunch's Charge.
could stand, without moving an eyelash, on Bill's out-
stretched hand. Bunch, too, was not quite so stupid
at dancing, but graceful she would never be, and she
was beginning to feel that she would never become a
In returning from Darrow Street one evening, they
were attracted to a square by the beating of a drum,
and entering it, they saw to their joy that it was a
Punch-and-Judy show. A crowd had already gathered,
and Bunch had to stand on its outskirts. She lifted
Sthe boy on to some railings, and held little Glory in
"'Tis oir Punch," whispered the little one in her
ear. I know it is."
I believe you're right, my lollipop," said the girl.
When the acting was over, Bunch felt a hand on
her shoulder, and looking round, saw the careworn,
gentle face of the Punch-and-Judy show woman.
"I want to give you a warning," she said, kindly.
"I don't know who you are, or anything about you, but
I do know a great deal about Hurdy Gurdy Bill and
Shis woman. They are regular sharpers, my dear, and
are at their old game again. I am anxious to give
you a bit of advice, if you're sensible enough to take
it. Whatever you do, don't let those wicked people
get those two little children into their clutches. I
gave you a hint as to the character of Bill and Beta
before I left the Ramblers' Rest, but you did not take
it. It was not so many years ago but what some
folks can remember that Bill was sentenced to a term
of imprisonment for stealing and ill-treating a little
child, not unlike that little beauty in your arms. Beta
was his accomplice, although it was never proved
against her-she was too clever for that-but she can
bite and snarl, in spite of her pussy cat ways. I love
children, although I never had any of my own, and I
should be sorry for them to fall into Hurdy Gurdy
Bill's hands, and if you will take a would-be friend's
advice, you will fight shy of Darrow Street and the
Bunch Receives a Warning. 59
Ramblers' Rest. I hope they have a mother or
somebody older than yourself to protect them, poor
little souls. My husband is beckoning me. Good-
bye, and God keep you," and the woman was gone.
Bunch was stunned, and how she got back to Lamb's
Court, she never knew. Her white, set face fright-
ened Tibbie, and Glory looked at her with big
wondering blue eyes.
The girl that 'as no arms didn't tell lies," Mother
Bunch burst out, when they were safe in their cellar;
" and, oh, I do wish Uncle Tib would come, or that He
who loves little children would hide us somewhere
where there ain't any wicked Bills and Betas."
Do you mean the dear Lord ?" asked Tibbie, draw-
ing close to the anxious little mother."
"I don't know," answered the poor child, putting
her lean little arms round both children, and weeping
bitterly. "I am such an ignorant little Mother Bunch."
"Our own muvver told me and Glory that the
Lord Jesus would take care of us always, and love
us," said Tibbie, in his comforting little way, which
was one of his charms.
Did she ?" said the girl, brightening. Do you
think that He who has got so many names knows
that you and Glory ain't safe from sharpers and
tramps, and bad wicked people ?"
"What do you mean, Muvver Bunch? asked the
little fellow, opening his eyes.
"That Bill and Beta ain't really kind, and want to
take you away from me."
They sha'n't," he cried, flinging his arms round
the girl's neck.
Then ask Him who you speaks soft to not to let
them steal yer from me. I should break me 'eart if
they were to, darling."
But Tibbie was too young to understand what Bunch
wanted him to do, and Bunch was too ignorant to
explain her fears more fully. So she lay down beside
the children with a heart full of misgivings.
UNCLE TIB COMES FOR THE CHILDREN.
BUNCH, being now fully alive to Bill and Beta's
intentions of robbing her of the children, went no
more to Darrow Street, and kept away from the parish
of St. George's. She still had a few pence left from
the last shilling the man had given her, and was de-
termined, before it was expended in food, to try her
lack again by'dancing in the streets. She looked with
dismay at her tattered frock, and wished she had
obtained the one Bill had promised her. But there,"
she said to herself, I don't believe he ever meant to
give it me. I see it all now," and the girl drew a
heavy sigh. "But I wish I could get a bit of finery
to put on the children," and she thought longingly of
the blue spangled frock.
Unfortunately there was very little clothing left,
Bunch having had to pawn most of it to buy food
for the children. Their clothes had got very faded
and dirty, and even their outdoor garments were not
decent, but the girl made them as respectable as
possible; and the second day after being warned by the
show woman, she took the tambourine and the chil-
dren in the direction of Smithfield. The weather was
not fine, and folks did not care to stand about in the
wet to watch two children performing; although Glory
danced beautifully, and Tibbie beat and shook the
tambourine in his best style, they did not attract many
THEYY A D OD
'THEY WERE ACCOSTED BY A qUAINTLY ATTIRED OLID GENTLEMAN."
Uncle Tib" Comes for the Children. 63
people, and the coins they received were not enough to
buy them a good meal. The third day they were even
more unfortunate, for it rained all day until the even-
ing. As the children turned into their own court, tired,
wet, and disappointed, they were accosted by a quaintly
attired old gentleman. He was very wrinkled, and
his hair was snow white.
"Can you tell me if this is Lamb's Court? he asked,
looking at the little party with sad, dark eyes.
"Wot does yer want to know for? asked Bunch,
her heart beating against her ribs-for she feared
who the old man was-and her eyes travelling down
from his blue swallow-tailed coat and tights to his
You have a right to ask, seeing I am a stranger to
these parts," he answered, in a low, quavering voice,
taking out a large silk handkerchief and blowing his
nose. I have a small grand-nephew and niece living
here somewhere. My beloved niece, Mrs. Trench,
when she wrote, forgot to give me the number of the
house where she was lodging."
"Are you Uncle Tib?" asked Bunch, putting her
hand to her heart to stay its beatings.
I am, my dear," he said, looking down into the
girl's face, from which all colour had fled; and you, I
suppose, are little Mother Bunch-the good child who
befriended my dear niece's little ones. -It 'as been a
grief that I haven'tt been able to come sooner. But
I've been ill-very ill-and I had nobody to send for
the children. I would 'ave written if I had known the
number of the house. Are these the children ? stoop-
ing down to the little ones. They are very young," as
Bunchjust nodded; "and this child," pointing with his
stick at Glory, is the very image of her poor mother
when she was her age. I am Uncle Tib, your great-
uncle," he said, speaking to Tibbie, who was standing
in front of him with his small brown hands thrust into
his pockets. "I am so glad I've found you without
any bother. Are you glad to see me, my dear? "
Little Bunch's Charge.
"I don't know," said the boy, throwing back his
I live in the beautiful country where you will be
able to gather flowers and 'ear the birds sing," making
an attempt to be friendly with the child.
"Are you really my Uncle Tib ?" asked the little
fellow, his great brown eyes looking out distrustfully
through their long black lashes at this strange old
"I really am, my boy. Are you ready to come
with me to Bleckley? The train leaves at seven
o'clock, so we haven'tt much time to spare."
"Isn't our little Muvver Bunch doing wiff us ? he
demanded. "'Cause if she isn't we shan't doe !" he
cried, stoutly. We couldn't leave our little muvver.'
I am afraid you must, Tibbie, if Uncle Tib says
so," said Bunch, strangling a sob. The little 'uns ain't
safe in London now, sir," she said, lifting her eyes to
the old gentleman, but not seeing him for tears. You
had better take 'em. It don't matter if my eartht do
break; I am only a little slum gal-nobody's gal. I'll
go and pick up their few duds. They ain't a got
much 'cept their bed, plates, cups, and a box."
You can keep all that belonged to their mother,"
said the old man, following Bunch and the children;
" and don't fret, that's a good girl. You must come to
Bleckley some day, and see what a beautiful house the
little 'uns have to live in. I wish my limited means
would only allow of my taking you to live with us too."
Bunch went with Uncle Tib and the little ones to
the station. Her eyes were tearless now, but her face
was as pallid as death.
The children clung to her to the last, sobbing
bitterly, and the old man had some difficulty in loosing
their small clinging hands. But it was accomplished
at last, and they were bundled into a third class
carriage in unnecessary haste, Bunch thought; and
when the train steamed out of the station, the poor
child felt that she had now nothing left to live for.
BI3NCH IS TAKEN TO THE HOSPITAL.
ONE afternoon towards the end of August a tall,
ungainly lad stepped out of a barge just below St.
Katherine's Docks and came up the steps. As he was
passing along the wharfs he noticed a little figure, all
the world like a bundle of rags, half lying on the
ground, her head pillowed on a baulk of timber, fast
"Why, 'tis little Mother Bunch," said the lad,
bending over the sleeping child. "Ain't she thin,
though ; nothing but a bag of bones Little pardner,
wake up he cried, laying a large red hand on her
shaggy head. "It is me-Spotty Jim. You won't
'ave cause to be ashamed of me now, Bunch. I ain't
got a gin-shop inside of me now. I 'ave turned
teetotaler. You was right to 'ave nothing to do
with a chap that made a beast of hisself. And, little
pardner," he said, eagerly, as Bunch-for it was she-
opened her eyes and looked at him wearily, "I
knows about Him-the Lord Jesus Christ-who
your little 'uns knelt to so often. He loves us,
Mother Bunch-loves us even more than you loved
those little dears. A mission lady-Sister, we
call her-told me about Him. I do love Him.
Just think of it, Bunch: He died for us. I've been
longing to see yer and to tell yer about Him. Yer
66 Little Bunch's Charge.
will like to know that He don t approve of chaps
getting drunk more than you. But wot's the matter,
pardner ?" as Bunch made no response.
"Nothink much," said the girl, her tired eyes
resting a moment on a large ship in the docks.
You poor little soul! ejaculated the boy. Yer
look mrre fit for the hospital than lying 'ere in the
hot sun. Wotever ails yer ? Yer looks as if you
'ave seen trouble."
"So I 'ave, Jim; I ain't cared about nothing since
my little dears went away."
"Why ain't yer with 'em, Bunch?" said the lad,
throwing himself on the ground beside the girl. "I
never thought you would 'ave given them up to any-
body save Uncle Tib."
Neither I did, Jim," said Bunch, in the same
weary voice. "Uncle Tib came for 'em weeks and
weeks ago. I don't think he is a wery kind gent to
me," she went on, not noticing the look of amazement
in the lad's red eyes. He hardly gave me a minute
to say good-bye; and "-her voice choking-" I 'ave
never heardd aught of my little dears since he looked
'em off in the train."
"It never once entered my noddle that Uncle Tib
was a showman," said Jim, slowly, scratching his
"Neither is he, Jim. He 'as a nice home at
Bleckley, and he is a werry feeble old gent-too old to
go about anywhere, I should think," and then she
told the lad all that had happened from the time he
had left Lamb's Court in a huff. "So yer don't
wonder I was glad when Uncle Tib did come along;
for I shouldn't have liked Bill and Beta to 'ave 'ad
my little dears. But I do miss 'em awful, Jim, and I
feels like a widder," and the girl's lip trembled.
"Little pardner," said Jim, slowly and "solemnly,
"I jist believe that you 'ave been gulled out and out,
and I'll tell yer why I think so.
Last week my mate and I took our barge up the
Bunch is Taken to the Hospital. 67
Thames as far as Marlow. As we 'ad to wait there
some time for goods to bring back, I thought I would
like to look round a bit. Well, I found meself in a
place where the caravans take their stand. There
was several shows there--one a big affair. It 'ad
pictures as big as barge sails hung up outside of it.
It was a painting of two little children-a boy and a
gal. A man told me that they were the pictures of
the Little Wonders-the Baby Dancer and her little
brother, the Boy Acrobat. 'And they are little
wonders,' he said, 'and the little dancing gal is as
pretty as a flower.'
"Well, pardner, I thought I should like to see
the little 'uns, havingg nothing to do. So when the
show was opened, I climbed the steps to the stage,
paid the entrance money-sixpence-and took my
seat. There was a great deal to see before the Little
Wonders made their appearance; a gal without arms,
a man with no flesh on 'is bones, a dwarf, a regular
little hop-me-thumb, and I can't tell yer wot besides.
Just as I was wishing 'twas over, in came a little chap
dressed in flesh-coloured tights, his dark curly hair
kept back with a ring of gold. I can't tell yer wot
he didn't do, and the people clapped the place down
when he had finished. Well, he cleared out, and
before a chap could say Jack Robinson, a tiny little
critter glided into the ring, followed by the same boy
dressed in crimson and gold, his curls tumbling about
'is neck like a gal's. 'Tis a wonder to me 'ow he got
into them other clothes all in a minute, but he did.
The little maid was the wonder. You never saw
Sanythink like her Her little frock was like sunlight
over blue water, and the hair of her was just like a
cloud of gold. The boy had a tambourine in his bit
of a hand, and when he began to beat it the little gal
began to dance. And didn't her tiny feet move
to the jingling! It made me giddy to look. at
her. As her little feet moved in and out she looked
up, and thinks I to myself, 'I 'ave seed those pretty
Little Bunch's Charge.
blue eyes afore,' and I was racking my brains to think
where, when she saw me, and her little voice rang out
like a flute over the 'eads of the people: 'Look,
bruvver, dere is Jim.' "
Bunch gasped, but no words came.
"The Little Wonders was your little 'uns, Mother
Bunch-your Tibbie and Glory-as sure as I'm alive
and sitting 'ere," continued the lad, looking at the girl,
only half seeing through his half-closed eyes that her
wizened little face was growing whiter and whiter.
Yer are right, 'tis Jim,' I shouted back, trying to
force my way into the ring, but before I could get
there a woman with a gipsy face led both of the little
"I went round to the caravans after the perform-
ance was over, thinking, of course, that you were there
with the children. But they wouldn't tell me nothing
nor let me see the little 'uns. It never once entered
my noddle that there was anything fishy about their
being amongst show people. I did think you might
have come out and spoke to a chap, seeing we were
pardners. And you wasn't with 'em ? Well, I'm
Then it wasn't Uncle Tib who came for my little
dears," said Bunch, gripping the lad's arm, her breath
coming and going in gasps.
"I don't believe it was. But you look awful. You
ain't going to faint, are yer ? "
Bunch did not answer. Her head dropped, and Jim
saw to his consternation that his "little pardner had
This is a pretty go," he cried, in dismay. Wot's
a chap to do with a gal that looks dead as a kite.
There is a chemist's shop up the street; I had better
take her there."
The girl was alight weight, and Spotty Jim quickly
took her to the shop.
This is a case for the hospital," said the chemist,
gravely, after administering restoratives and bringing
Bunch is Taken to the Hospital.
Bunch to her senses. "The child is very ill-has
received a shock of some sort, I should say. I'll call
a cab, if you like, and take her to the East London
Hospital," as Jim looked perfectly bewildered.
" Urgent cases are admitted there at any hour."
Bunch was too ill to resist, had she been so inclined,
and again became unconscious before they reached
Jim accompanied the girl to the hospital door, and
left a message to the effect that they must tell little
Bunch not to worry, as he-Spotty Jim-would have
an eye on all travelling caravans along his route, and
would get the little ones out of Bill's hands, if he
died in doing it.
I .' ,
A CLERGYMAN FROM BLECKLEY.
THE doctors had just gone the round of the wards of
the hospital where Bunch had been taken, and one of
them, Dr. Noel, the head physician, tarried behind in
the children's ward to give special instructions to the
By the way," he said, as he was leaving, Mother
Bunch, as you call her, is not improving as she ought.
She is wanting in recuperative powers."
"Nurse Alison thinks the child has some mental
trouble which is retarding her recovery," the Sister
made answer. "She is most reserved, and we cannot
get her 'to speak of herself. We literally know
nothing about her beyond what she told us when she
first became conscious-that her name is 'Mother
Bunch,' and that she is 'Nobody's gal.'"
It is a pity she is so reticent," said the great man,
his keen eyes travelling up the long ward. I should
be sorry for her to slip through our fingers now we
have pulled her back from the jaws of death. She wants
rousing. Ah, what lovely flowers! catching sight of
a basket of roses on a table by the door. The last
of the year."
"They have just come, and are Nurse Alison's."
-said the Sister, smiling.
A Clergyman from Bleckley.
From the young parson at Bleckley, I'llbe bound.
I am sadly afraid we shall soon lose Nurse Alison,
who is as pretty as she is clever-far too clever to be
tied up to a country parson," and the doctor chuckled
to himself as he made his way down the stairs leading
to the front entrance of the hospital.
"Dr. Noel is not pleased with Mother Bunch's
progress," said the Sister, half an hour later, to a young
dark-eyed nurse who had come to fetch the roses.
"I thought from his manner he was not," said the
nurse, gravely., > "And yet, what more can we do?
She takes interest in nothing, and but for the
intelligent gleam one sees in those dark eyes of hers,
one would thinkAhe was daft. It is grievous to see
the dear child fade before our eyes like a flower
plucked from the woodlandss"
"She must be-, roused," the Sister said, slowly.
"Those are Dr. Noel's orders."
I will try her with these roses, Sister," returned
the nurse. Most children are fond of sweet-smelling
flowers," and she moved away.
Not many minutes later the white-capped nurse
was standing by the small bed where Bunch lay,
looking almost as waxen as a St. Joseph's lily; her
little cropped head alone showing dark against the
whiteness of the pillow.
Spotty Jim's surprising news had indeed given a
shock to the waif's already weakened system, and for
many days she lay at death's door. But her mind
was clear enough now, and yet she was not getting
strong. The fact was, she wanted something outside
of herself to give her a hold on life, and that something
-although the doctors were not aware of it-was the
children, of whom she had heard nothing since her
coming to the hospital.
"I've brought you a few roses," said the nurse,
laying a beautiful spray on her pillow. "Somebody
very dear to me sent them. He has promised to bring
me some grapes to-morrow," she added, as Bunch
Little Bunch's Charge.
barely glanced at the sweet blushing buds in their
cloud of green leaves. "I must reserve a bunch for
you. He thinks there are no grapes to be compared
with Bleckley grapes."
The pale face was animated at last, and the dark,
tired eyes opened wide.
My friend is a clergyman, and lives at Bleckley,
which perhaps you may not know is in Berkshire,"
continued the nurse, thankful to see her special case,"
as she called Bunch, beginning to show interest at
last. He is very fond of children, especially of the
Good Shepherd's suffering little lambs. Shall I bring
him to see you ?"
"If yer likes," Bunch answered. "P'raps," she
said, half to herself, "he'll be able to tell me about
Uncle Tib, as he lives at Bleckley."
Have you ever been to Bleckley ? asked the
nurse, in surprise.
"No, ma'am. But my little dears' real Uncle Tib
lives there. I 'spect your gentleman knows him."
"I daresay my 'gentleman' does, as Bleckley is
not a large place," said Nurse Alison, smiling. He
has been living there quite a year now. Will you tell
me who Uncle Tib is and about your little dears ?
They are very interesting, I'm sure."
"I can't now," cried Bunch, panting. "It hurts
me awful to speak about little Tibbie and Glory. Yer
see, they was stolen from me, and it nearly broke my
"You poor darling," said the sweet-faced nurse,
bending over the bed and kissing the child. Is it
not a comfort that the Lord Jesus knows all about
our troubles and heartaches, without having to tell Him
when we are too weak to do so ?" and she stole away.
Half an hour before the patients' tea-time the
following day, Bunch, opening her eyes, saw Nurse
Alison and a clergyman standing by her bed.
This is Mr Elvey, the gentleman of whom I told
you," said the nurse, introducing her fiance, for such
A Clergyman froih Bleckley.
he was. "I am going to spare him to you for a little
while, whilst I go and see what ails Tommie Burt, who
is howling under the bedclothes over there," and
again pressing her lips on Bunch's half-glad, half-
frightened little face, she hastened away.
So you are Mother Bunch," said the clergyman,
dropping into a chair by the bed. Nurse Alison
has been telling me about you, and that a friend of
yours lives at Bleckley."
He ain't a friend of mine 'zactly," said Bunch,
slowly, drawn towards this kind-voiced, gentle-faced
stranger, and feeling that, somehow, he was a link
between her and those two lovable little creatures for
whose presence she was pining. He is my little dears'
uncle. Will yer please tell Uncle Tib that I couldn't
'elp the other old gent from taking them from me, and
that I tried to be true to my trust ?" and her white
I will gladly, if you will tell me his surname," said
the young clergyman, kindly.
I don't think he 'as any name except Uncle Tib.
Don't yer know him, mister?" and Bunch, half
fearing from Mr. Elvey's manner that he did not, was
on the borderland of tears.
"I daresay I do," he said, soothingly, for I am
the rector of the parish, and know everybody in it.
So if you will tell me all you can about him, I will give
him your message."
Bunch was by no means willing to do this, and it
was not without much questioning that he got her to
tell him her little story; but when she was prevailed
on to do so, he was deeply interested and touched;
indeed, some parts of this little tragedy of human life
moved him to tears.
"You'll be able to tell Uncle Tib about Tibbie and
Glory now, won't yer, mister? said Bunch, when all
I only wish I could have that privilege, dear little
child," returned the clergyman, regretfully. ." But I
74 Little Bunch's Charge.
am sadly afraid 'Uncle Tib never had any existence,
save in the imagination."
"Does yer mean that Mrs. Trench made it up, as
Spotty Jim said she did?" cried poor Bunch, quick to
see what Mr. Elvey meant, and the sob in her weak
little voice touched him to the quick.
"I am afraid it was the outcome of a fevered brain,
my poor little girl," returned the clergyman, gravely.
"People when they are ill sometimes imagine all
kinds of strange things. No mother in her right
mind who really loved her children would ask a small
child like yourself, friendless and homeless, to take
the entire charge of two tiny children even for a few
days. She would have given them into the care of
"But she lay like a dead log till the last day !" broke
in Bunch ; and when she woke there was only me in
the room," and her voice choked with sobs.
You poor little soul," said Mr. Elvey, his voice
almost as unsteady as Bunch's. Don't cry, dear,"
taking hold of her hand. We will do all in our power
to get possession of the children. I am a member of
the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Children, whose business is to rescue children out of
the hands of unscrupulous persons who have no right
to them, and we will not fail to get these people
punished, if they deserve it."
"Then yer knows where my pritties are?" said
Bunch, hope stealing back into her eyes.
"I do not, my child. But the Lord Jesus-the
Friend of little children, you know-does."
"That Somebody my Tibbie talked to some-
times ? asked the girl eagerly.
Yes, Mother Bunch. Our Lord knows every-
thing, and is acquainted with all our ways. Do
you know the loving Saviour, my child?" and the
gentle face looking down on the wasted little form
was very earnest.
I knows loads more about Him since I came here,
A Clergyman from Bleckley.
answered Bunch, her eyes meeting his gladly. She,"
pointing to NurseAlison, who was sitting a little apart
from them nursing a sick boy, "told me about Him.
I always listened with my eyes shut like doors, but I
took it all in. I likes Him ever so, 'cause He is good
and kind, and died on the Cross to save little gals and
boys, and I'll like Him heaps more if He will kindly
tell me where my dears are. Does yer know Him,
I do indeed, little Mother Bunch," said Mr. Elvey,
and the child wondered at the thankful look that
leaped into his kind eyes.
"Well, then, will yer ask Him, please, to be quick
and bring 'em to me ? Tell Him that my poor little 'eart
will break if He don't make haste. She said that He
is ever so kind," she whispered to herself; "and I
don't think He'll mind hurrying up a bit for a little
Bunch," said the clergyman, bending over the
bed, shall we tell our Lord about Tibbie and Glory,
and ask Him to do what you want ? "
"Ask Him! cried Bunch, clasping her hands.
"Is He anywhere about? "
He is here, and has been here all the while we have
been talking to each other, dear child, and is more
anxious about the children than even you or I."
Before Bunch could get over her astonishment, he was
kneeling beside the bed with folded hands and bowed
head, and then, after a silence of a minute, he began to
speak in a low, reverent voice to Him whose presence
is ever nigh and whose help is ever ready.
Bunch folded her hands too, and listened half-awed,
but not one word of the petition escaped her, and
when Mr. Elvey rose from his knees, she whis-
I reckon He-the dear Lord-won't lose no time
now, and my pritties will be here in a jiffy."
He will bring them back to you in His own good
time, Bunch. You will try to be patient a little
Little Bunch's Charge.
longer, won't you ? His message to you is, 'Rest in
the LORD, and wait patiently for Him.' Nurse Alison
will explain what I mean," as Bunch showed by her
face that she only dimly understood. "Now I must
say good-bye, as I have to go to St. Katherine's Docks.
When you are troubled about those dear little children,
don't forget that the Good Shepherd is with them, and
with you too. Pray this prayer, dear child: '0 GoD,
save Thy little ones out of the wicked hands of those
who hold them, and help Thy servants to seek them and
save them, for the Lord Jesus' sake,' and the clergy-
.man left her repeating, with trembling lips and
intense earnestness, the simple petition.
V :. ;'
-' N -
BUNCH HAS VISITORS.
THE following day was Sunday, when the friends of
the patients were allowed to visit them. Early in the
afternoon visitors began to arrive, and Bunch watched
them go to the different beds with mingled feelings.
A big sigh escaped her at the thought that she was the
only child in the ward who had no relatives to brighten
her bedside. Nurse Alison, who was ever on the
watch to comfort her dear. little patients, was not slow
to notice Bunch's sad little face, and came at once to
Mr. Elvey went to see an aunt of his-Sister
Margaret, of St. Katherine's Docks," said the nurse,
standing beside the bed, "and he sent a message to
you to say that he is almost sure Sister Margaret
knows your friend Spotty Jim. Yes,' my gentleman'
told me about him," as Bunch looked surprised,
"and of your befriending those dear little orphaned
children, and what a brave little mother he thinks you,
and how true you were to your trust! We are,
I assure you, more than proud of our little Mother
Bunch. It really is quite wonderful that a small girl,
with no home or friends, should have kept two little
mites so many weeks. I feel sure you starved your--
self for them, and this, no doubt, is the cause of your
illness. No wonder you broke down at last, you poor
Little Bunch's Charge.
child. The wonder is that you are alive! Sister
Margaret is so interested in you, that she is coming to
see you the first hour she can steal from her poor
Yer said the lady knows my pal Jim cried
Bunch, lifting herself up on her elbow. 'As she
seen him lately ? "
"Not for some weeks. Shehas been sorely troubled
at his absence from the mission-room, fearing from
his non-attendance that he has again yielded to his old
temptation-drink. She was so hopeful of him, Bunch,
and he seemed such an honest lad."
"He is, nurse. P'r'aps he has gone to look for my
little 'uns," said the girl, nodding her head. Why,
nurse," flinging out her arms, "there he is, and Old
Coffin too," and Nurse Alison, looking towards the
door, saw an ungainly lad, with a shock of brick-red
hair, slouching up the ward between the beds, followed
by a tall, melancholy-featured old man in rusty black,
wearing a silk hat, with a deep crape band.
She went to meet them to conduct them to Bunch's
Jim would not come alone," said Mr. Horne, bow-
ing low, "and he persuaded me to come with him. I
wanted to see the little gal too," he added, in his most
melancholy tones, which were really signs that he was
delighted to come on his own account. "I hope I find
you better, my dear," looking down at Bunch, who
was already grasping one of Jim's big horny hands.
Your little friend is really better," said the nurse,
answering for her patient, and is delighted to see you,
iI am sure. Only a few minutes ago she was quite sad
at having nobody to come and see her. Weren't you,
Mother Bunch? "
"Mother Bunch" only smiled. She was full of
wonder at Mr. Horne's condescension at paying her
a visit. Pr'aps," thought she, "that as I am so very
bad, he wants to measure me before'and," and she
eyed him very suspiciously.
Y JIM WS TIG S K O
" SPOTTY JIM WAS TAKING STOCK OF HIS 'LITTLE PABRDNEB.
Bunch kas Visitors.
Spotty Jim was in the meantime taking stock of his
" little pardner." He was very-shy of her, and held
her hand as if he were afraid it would break. She was
not quite the same Bunch, somehow. Her spotless
surroundings, the bright red bed-jacket she wore, her
pale face, which her illness had spiritualized, seemed
to lift her far above him. He was both shy and
awkward, and it was some time before he could speak
"Little pardner," he blurted out at last, I guess
you've been a-waiting to 'ear about the little 'uns.
No, I ain't got much to cheer yer, as Bunch gazed up
at him with all the soul in her eyes. I ain't cotched
sight of 'em since yer was brought to this swell place;
but I've met a person wot 'as. She knows yer She
is the Punch-and-Judy show woman; I met her on the
tow-path above Richmond. Yer see, I was that anxious
about them little critters that I axed every tramp I came
across if they could tell me where the Little Wonders
-the Baby Dancer and the Boy Acrobat-was to be
exhibited. The Punch-and-Judy woman was the only
one who took an interest in my question. Seeing
she was a kind soul, I told her why I wanted to know.
She was all in a minute eager to tell all she knowed,
and said 'ow thankful she shall be when the pretty
little things was got out of the 'ands of the brutes who
'as got 'em. She said they was too valuable to their
owners to be badly treated as yet. The company they
are with is coming to Kempton Park Races next week.
They are already advertised there, she told me. I tell
you this, little mate, to comfort yer a bit, and to tide
yer over yer illness. You 'ave no need to fret about
the little'uns one bit, dear," as a big tear escaped from
Bunch's eyes and rolled down her cheeks. I'm going
from here to the docks to see Sister, who 'as-
as I told yer-a snug little mission-room where
poor chaps like me can go at any time and have a chat
with her. She is a stunner, I can tell yer, and 'll be
sure to give a helpingg 'and in the rescue of the little
82 Little Bunch's Charge.
dears. Mr. Horne 'as offered his 'elp too, Bunch, and
to take 'em in and do for 'em until yer are on yer legs
How kind of him," murmured the child, lifting her
eyes, swimming in tears, to the undertaker's face. I
thought he 'adn't any 'eart."
"He 'as though, though you wouldn't never think
it to look at 'im. Old Coffin ain't 'alf bad. 'Tis only
'is rusty, grasping old ways. He'll be different now,
Bunch; for he 'as got a sweet'eart who was a pal of
'is years ago. He met her at a funeral, and now he
is going to his own wedding! Bless you, Bunch, he
ain't like the same man, and he goes to church every
Sunday regular. He is anxious to serve the God of
his youth-them is 'is own words. He 'as been
'ankering after Him ever since you told 'im in the
street that God was befriending you and the little
'uns. He is sorry he was so nasty to you, little
pardner, and is wanting to make amends."
Old Coffin said very little indeed to anybody, and as
Nurse Alison had the utmost difficulty in entertaining
him, she was glad for her own and Bunch's sake
to cut the visit short, for the little invalid was not
strong to bear much excitement as yet.
If you are in want of a home when you leave the
hospital, you must come to me, Mother Bunch," Mr.
Horne mumbled, as he was leaving. My Mary says
she would like you to live with us. P'r'aps Jim has
explained," as Bunch was too amazed to speak.
You shall never want for a good square meal again,
my gal, nor a warm bed. I wasn't good to you,
Bunch, and I am sorry-very."
Nurse Alison accompanied them to the door, and
asked Jim to wait in the hall while she wrote a line to
Sister at the docks, telling her to take no active
steps in the matter about which the bearer of the
note was come to seek her help until Mr. Elvey had
been communicated with.
THE MISSING RELATIVE FOUND.
BUNCH was none the worse for having seen Jim and
Mr. Home; in fact, she was quite cheerful after they
left, and the following day she was so much better that
Dr. Noel was delighted, and said she was on the high
road to recovery.
In the evening Nurse Alison received a letter, the
contents of which made her heart glad on Bunch's
account. It was from her fiance to tell her that
"Uncle Tib" was no creation of a fevered brain, after
all; that, to his own amazement, he had discovered
him at Bleckley Hall, and he was no other than Sir
Tibster Bleckley, a great friend of his father's, who
had just returned from the Continent, where he had
been travelling for the last nine months.
"I did not know of Sir Tibster's return until
yesterday at noon," the letter continued; and, as you
may suppose, I lost no time in going to the Hall to
welcome him back. I found him with a letter before
him overwhelmed with grief at his niece's destitute
condition and illness. He had only then opened her
letter, and in his distress had not noticed that it was
dated weeks back. Poor old gentleman! my heart
bled for him when he found that his niece was beyond
his power of help. Fortunately for his mental
Little Bunck's Charge.
equilibrium, I was able to enlighten him as to the
history of his grand-niece and nephew, and told him
he need not despair about the little ones being found,
as they had not been lost sight of very long, and
that I believe we could soon get on their track.
You can imagine with what absorbing interest he
listened to my story about that interesting little
patient of yours-Mother Bunch. The dying mother's
letter was the most touching appeal I ever read, and
would, I am sure, melt the stoniest heart. She
mentioned Bunch, and said what a dear child she was,
and how kind the girl had been to her and her little
son Tibster, and her baby girl. His heart is full of
gratitude to the child, and he is anxious to see her
and to thank her for her goodness to his niece and
little ones. So you may expect Sir Tibster and your
humble servant by an early train to-morrow; that is, if
the poor old gentleman is well enough to travel after
this great shock. Kindly prepare Mother Bunch for
a visit from the bond fide Uncle Tib.
"Woman-like, I daresay you are anxious to know
how a niece of an English baronet should have ended
her days in an East-end slum. I confess to have
been very curious on the matter myself. It is the
old story-marrying in haste and repenting at
leisure. From what I was able to gather from Sir
Tibster's somewhat incoherent statement, his niece,
Glorina, who was the orphaned child of a dead and
only brother, fell in love with the son of a country
solicitor before she was barely out of her teens, and
married him against her uncle's wish. He would
have nothing more to do with her, in spite of several
touching appeals for forgiveness. That was years
ago, I believe, and Sir Tibster has been secretly long-
ing for a reconciliation for some time, but he did not
know of her whereabouts, and unfortunately for all
concerned, before he went abroad he gave orders not
to have his letters forwarded, as his movements were
uncertain. Incidentally, two years ago, he heard of
The Missing Relative Found. 85
the death of her husband, who was a ne'er-do-well.
I remember hearing about this niece from my father;
but as her name was seldom mentioned, I had almost
I am sure you will not fail to pray for poor Sir
Tibster Bleckley in his trouble-it is a real trouble to
him that his niece died without knowing of his for-
giveness-and ask, if it be God's will, that we may
speedily recover those interesting little children."
There was a postscript to the epistle, which read as
follows :-" Since writing the above, I have received
a telegram from my aunt at St. Katherine's Docks
which has upset our plans. We are thankful at the
news it contains, and shall not take any steps in the
search for the little ones until the Kempton Park
Races, when we hope to come down on them coup de
main. Sir Tibster thinks it will be better to post-
pone his visit to Bunch, until Tibbie and little Glory
are safe in our hands. You can tell the child as
much of our intended doings as you think advisable.
Give her my love, and tell her that, please God, she
will soon see her 'little dears' again."
MOTHER BUNCH REGAINS HER CHILDREN.
IT was a bright October morning, and the London
sky was clear and blue, for a wonder. The weather
was cold, but there was a crispness in the air which
was very exhilarating.
The children's ward of the East London Hospital
was also bright and gay with chrysanthemums and
hothouse flowers which had been sent to Mother
Bunch and the other little sufferers from Uncle
Tib's glass-houses, and Bunch was very proud of
The girl was marvellously better, and the doctors
declared that the petting she was ever receiving from
Sister and the nurses was very detrimental to her
future maternal duties; it was quite time she was
sent about her business. Bunch enjoyed those little
jokes, and laughed heartily.
She was sitting out of bed in a comfortable
arm-chair; and, dressed in a spotless pinafore and a
warm, bright jacket, looked quite my lady," as one
of the probationers told her.
But Bunch was too excited to think of her appear-
ance; the child was expecting visitors, and every now
and again the Sister and nurses glanced expectantly
in the direction of the ward door.
Mother Bunch Regains Her Children. 87
Nurse, does yer think they will come this morn-
ing?" asked Bunch, for the twentieth time within
"They" were no other than Uncle Tib, Mr. Elvey,
and the two children, who had been rescued with the
help of two detectives from Scotland Yard.
Spotty Jim had accompanied the little party, so as
to make sure they did not carry off the wrong
children. They reached Kempton late in the after-
noon, and entered the caravan just as the little ones
were being dressed for the evening performance.
Tibbie had evidently been crying bitterly about
something, and when he caught sight of Jim's kind
face, he fled to him and begged him to hide him from
Beta, who came to the door of the caravan a few
minutes later, knew in a moment why the clergyman
and the aristocratic-looking old gentleman and the
others were visiting the caravan, and retreated in
haste, but a detective followed her and quietly
arrested her on the charge of stealing the children.
In her quiet, ladylike way, she denied the charge, and
boldly declared that they would rue the day they took
her up on so false an accusation, as she would bring
witnesses to swear the children were her own flesh
Bill, seeing a small crowd gathered round his
caravan, came blustering up to see what was the
matter. Beta gave him a hint that the game was up,
and he tried to escape, but it. was useless; and he
and the whole company were taken in charge, greatly
to their astonishment and consternation.
We may say here (for it would make our story too
long to go into details) that, with the exception of
Bill and Beta, they were quickly discharged, as
nothing could be proved against them. It was
otherwise with Bill and the woman, and as the charge
of stealing the children was proved against them,
they were both sentenced to long terms of imprison-
88 Little Buncks Charge.
meant, to the satisfaction of everybody except Spotty
Jim, who thought hanging was too good for such as
they." Tibbie told a piteous story of cruelty. Bill had
beaten him many times because he was unable to
perform his part to the man's satisfaction. "And God
saw all the time," said.the boy, shaking his dusky
curls, "and He didn't let Bill kill us, did He, uncle ? "
lifting his solemn eyes to the old gentleman's face.
" You won't let Bill beat me again, will you, Uncle Tib ?
You are our Uncle Tib, aren't you?"
I am, dear boy, and a very unworthy Uncle Tib,"
said the baronet, folding his arms about the engaging
little fellow. "And nobody shall ever beat you
again, if I can help it."
When Tibbie was tubbed that night and the effects
of Bill's stick seen on his tender little body, Sir
Tibster was indeed angry, and it would have relieved
his feelings to have thrashed the scoundrel in a
similar way. Glory had been less cruelly used, but
she was a frightened, cowed little thing, and it was
several days before she would make friends with any-
body except Spotty Jim, to whom she clung like a
As it was thought advisable not to let the children
see Bunch until she was really well enough to be
removed from the hospital, they were taken to their
uncle's beautiful home on the banks. of the Thames,
about a mile or so from Bleckley, where the old
baronet would hardly suffer them out of his sight. He
was already devoted to them, and happy in tracing a
likeness to his niece in the lovely face of the little
Glorina, which was the child's full name. The boy
was a small copy of Sir Tibster, and the aged house-
keeper, who had grown grey in the service of the
Bleckley family, declared that the little lad was the
living image of his uncle when he was his age. And
a very good thing too," said she, "for Master Tibbie
is Sir Tibster's heir."
Bunch was told of her darlings' rescue, and that
Mother Bunch Regains Her Children. 89
they would come and see her as soon as they were
presentable and she well enough to bear-the meeting.
The doctor's permission having at last been obtained,
Uncle Tib and his grand-nephew and niece quickly
travelled to town to see her and to take her back with
them to Bleckley.
The news of their coming was not -revealed to
Bunch till within half an hour of their arrival, and she
was, as we have seen, in a great state of excitement.
Are you quite sure they will be here to-day ?"
asked Bunch once again.
Quite sure, dear," Nurse Alison answered. Try
to be patient a little longer. It can't be long now
before they are here."
I will try," said Bunch, sighing. I ought to be
patient, for the dear Lord has been so good to me,
and given me what I asked. Oh, nursie, I do love
Him. I shall always 'ave Himn to be my friend, even
if I can't 'ave my little dears to live with me like
they used. I suppose Uncle Tib won't let me do for
'em again, 'cos yer say he is rich, and a wery big swell.
But he'll let me see 'em sometimes, I know. Spotty
Jim says he is a brick, and the nicest old cove he
knows, 'cept your gentleman; and- Hark! nurse.
What is that ? "
Only a wheelbarrow, you excitable child!" said
Nurse Alison, laughing.
"No, it ain't. 'Tis my little 'uns," and as Bunch
spoke, footsteps were heard, and a fresh young voice
"Does our Muivver Bunch live here, Uncle Tib ?
I fought she lived in a dark room at Lamb's Court."
Then the door of the ward opened, and Mr. Elvey
entered, followed by Sir Tibster leading Tibbie and
Bunch saw them making their way up the ward,
and Tibbie looking curiously around him, and giving
friendly nods to the suffering little children lying so
patiently in their small beds. On they came, and no
90 Little Bunch's Charge.
one seemed to notice the little figure sitting so still
in the big chair, afraid to move an eyelash lest they
should vanish like faces in a dream.
Tibbie had not discovered the girl amongst the
many children in the ward, and lifting his.dark,
handsome face to Sir Tibster, he said, in his clear,
I don't fink our little Muvver Bunch is here, Uncle
That was more than the child could stand, and a cry
broke from her lips, which rang through the large
"Here I am, my pritties; here is Mother Bunch! "
The boy recognized the voice, darted forward,
and in another moment was encircling her neck with
his loving little arms.
She was too glad for words, and yet her grateful
little heart had to give expression to its feeling some-
how, and, like Joseph at the sight of his brethren,
she lifted up her voice and wept.
Please don't cry," said Tibbie, wiping her eyes
with a corner of his reefer jacket. 'Tis me-Tibbie
-and here is Glory," glancing over his shoulder at his
small sister, whose lovely little face was looking
shyly out of a big, dark blue granny bonnet.
"Yes, here me is," she said, in the sweetest of
little voices, and here is Uncle Tib."
"The real bond fide 'Uncle Tib,'" put in Mr.
Elvey's kind voice.
"Yes, dear child," said the stately old baronet,
and I am come to thank you for your great good-
ness to my niece, Mrs. Trench, and for being so true
to her little children committed to your charge;
but for you, I am afraid to think what would have
become of them."
I ain't done nothing, mister," said Bunch, her
face getting as bright as her jacket. "Heaps of gals
smaller than me looks after little 'uns, and don't let
'em be stolen, nuther."
Mother Bunch Regains Her Children.
That was not your fault, and you were true to your
trust, for all that. How were you to know that that
' old gent,' who I haven't a doubt was Bill got up to
represent me, was not the real Uncle Tib ? You may
be quite sure I am the right one now, little Mother
Bunch," and he stooped and kissed her.
"I knows yer are, mister, or yer would not 'ave
brought the little 'uns to see me."
God has been very good to us all, hasn't He ? said
Mr. Elvey, bending down to Bunch, and even
better than His promises. I am sure we can all say
from our heart, '0 give thanks unto the Lord, for
He is good; for His mercy endureth for ever '" .;
For ever," echoed Sir Tibster, fervently.
I am going to fank God for taking me and Glory
away from Bill and Beta every night, until I am a
great, big, old man, like Uncle Tib," cried Tibbie.
That is right, dear boy," said the clergyman.
"Sir Tibster Bleckley is anxious to take you back
with him to Bleckley," said Nurse Alison, coming
to Bunch's chair; and as the doctors think you can't
do without a nurse for another week at least, they have
desired me to accompany you."
That's just lovely !" cried Bunch, her soft dark
eyes shining with gladness. Don't you think so,
too ? turning to the old baronet.
"I do indeed, Mother Bunch!" he responded,
"and I am pleased that you fall in so readily with the
kind doctors' arrangements. It is most thoughtful
of them, I am sure Well, Bunch, whilst the nurses
are getting you ready to accompany us to Bleckley,
the children and I will go and chat with the dear little
invalids down here, who, I have noticed, have been
watching us with big, wondering eyes," and Sir
Tibster and Tibbie and Glory trotted off down the
S' HAPPY CHANGES.
IT was well on in the afternoon when Sir Tibster
Bleckley's carriage stopped at the door of Bleckley
Hall. It was a very weary little Mother Bunch that
was lifted out and carried up the great stairway to
a room specially prepared for her, adjoining the
children's nursery and overlooking the flower garden
which sloped down to the brink of the silver-stream-
ing Thames." It was well that Nurse Alison came to
Bleckley with her. She bore her short journey badly,
and was even too faint and ill to hear the little ones shout,
"Welcome home, dear Muvver Bunch She had a
restless night, and greatly alarmed Nurse Alison; but
she was better the next day. Her heart was very full
as she lay listening to the merry prattle of her little
dears," who often came to the door to assure her of
their presence, and to tell her to get better quickly.
Bunch never forgot her first peep from the window.
It was late in the autumn, and the gardens were yet
gay with flowers, and as for the woods, burning with
autumn's fiery touches, they were beautiful indeed.
It was her first experience of the country; and the
sight of the flaming woods, the gleaming of the Thames
between the trees, the great tent of blue over all, and
the silence which prevailed, quite overawed her.
Everything was so still, and so utterly different from
the East-end slums; even the black sparrows, as she
called the golden-beaked birds, were larger and fatter
than any she had ever seen before. Happily for her,
a well-known figure came up from the river to the
lawn. It was Spotty Jim, who, she afterwards learned,
had been taken into Sir Tibster's service. His work
now was to look after the boats and the pretty boat-
house in the bend of the river behind a clump of trees.
A glimpse of Jim's plain face was a comfort to her; at
least, she was no longer afraid of the beautiful country
-strange to her, as it was beautiful. The children
were not quite the same, or rather their dress was not;
and that one homely figure was very dear to her just
She soon found that Jim did not live in the house,
and she wondered if he slept out of doors like she used
to, but nobody satisfied her curiosity. When she got
well and Nurse Alison returned to town to prepare
for her wedding, the children took her down to the
lodge gates, where outside the quaint lodge they saw
Mr. Joseph Home.
Bunch was amazed to see him there, and she gasped
out, "Why, 'tis Old Coffin."
"Yes," piped L'li:,:i.-, "and he has got a Mary, and
they live at the lodge. I do like Mary. She makes
such nice gingerbreads, and Uncle Tib lets her give
"I don't think I can be called Old Coffin any longer,"
said Mr. Home, holding out his hand to Bunch, as I
have given up the undertaking. My Mary didn't
like that business, and as little master's uncle," looking
at Tibbie, wanted a lodge-keeper, Spotty Jim spoke
up for me, and I got it. I came here to live a week
ago. I didn't deserve such a good berth,", he said,
in a quick, hurried voice, "for I was a grasping
old man, really glad when folks died that I might put
a few shillings more into the savings bank. I have
repented and do repent of my greed, and the money
Little Bunch's Charge.
I thus saved my Mary has given to hospitals, where
everything is done to prolong life, which is only right
and proper. Yes, Miss Bunch, I've done with under-
takings and furnishings for ever. Perhaps but for
you and little master and miss here, I should have
been the greedy, grasping old wretch of an under-
taker unto .the end of my life. You spoke'to me of
Christ, when you hardly knew Him yourself. I knew
Him, and, I believe, loved Him once upon a time.
Your mentioning Him in the street brought Him back
to my mind, and made me think of my dear old
Christian father. Then my Mary came along-God
sent her, she says-and then- Well, I need only say
that I am trying to serve Him again."
Bunch's eyes were round with wonder, and she
almost stared Mr. Horne out of countenance.
There is Mr. Home's Mary," cried Tibbie, pointing
to the door of the lodge, where stood a little dumpling
of a woman.
She was several years younger than her solemn-
featured husband, and merry as he was grave.
"This is the little girl you have heard so much
about," said the old man, introducing Bunch.
"My dear, I am so glad to make your acquaint-
ance," Mrs. Home said, holding out her plump
little hand. Master Tibbie and Miss Glorina, bless
her! often talked about their little Mother Bunch;
and as for Jim, he thinks there is nobody in all the
world like his pardner."
"Jim lodges with us," Mr. Horine struck in.
" That was the reason Sir Tibster was so willing to
give me the situation of lodge-keeper, that Jim might
live with some one who knew him and his ways. He
thinks no small bones of Jim, I can tell you "
"'Tis a pretty house," said Bunch, looking at the
ivy-draped walls of the lodge and the quaint little
windows gleaming out of the ivy.
It is indeed, and I shall be glad to give you a
home in it, my dear, if you will come and live with us,"
Happy Changes. 95
Uncle Tib says I am to live with Nurse Alison
when she is-married to Mr. Elvey," returned Bunch,
quickly. "Thank yer all the same. Yer see," as
Mr. Home looked down over his long nose, "I
belongs to him now-he says so-and I've got to do
what he wants. Nurse Alison is a dear young lady,
and she is going to teach me everything that a gal
like me ought to know-everythink that will'be useful
to me when I gets a woman, she told me-and I am
to see my little dears every day."
"We are going to have a wedding at the Hall soon,"
said Tibbie, confidentially, to Mrs. Home, "and Glory,"
glancing round at his little sister, "is to be a brides-
maid. I am going to be a bridegroom, or something
like it, and hold up Miss Alison's long train. Jim
says his Sister at the docks is coming to the wedding,
only she isn't to be married; it is Miss Alison and
Mr. Elvey-the rector, you know-who are to be
"Who is taking my name in vain?" called out a
voice at the gate, and the children, turning round, saw
Mr. Elvey's kind face smiling at them.
"We were only talking about your wedding, sir,"
cried Tibbie, rushing to the gate.
Only," laughed the rector, coming into the
Yes, and I do wish they could hurry it on-don't
you ? "
"I do indeed, my boy. I am quite sure that
Mother Bunch will be glad to see her dear Nurse
I shall," returned Bunch, with a bright, happy
We can't do wiffout one another, can we ? trilled
in Glory's sweet little treble.
We can't, you darling," answered the rector,
lifting the small child in his arms and kissing her.
"That is what Uncle Tib said," cried Tibbie.
"Ar'n't you glad we are all together, little muvver ? '"
96 Little Bunch's Charge.
he asked, raising those lovely dark eyes of his to
Bunch's still pale, thin face.
"I thank the dear Lord every day for letting us
be together again," was the soft answer. I'm a wery,
wery happy Mother Bunch," and her eyes travelled
from one to another and rested on the plain face of
Spotty Jim, who, with Uncle Tib, had come down to
the lodge on their way to the river.
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Author of "Michael Faraday: Man of Science," etc.
Twice Saved; or, Somebody's Pet and Nobody's Darling.
By E. M. Waterworth, Author of Our Den," "Master Lionel," etc. Many
Illustrations. Crown 8vo, cloth extra.
Old Goggles; or, The Brackenhurst Bairns' Mistake. By
M. S. Ha craft, Author of "Chine Cabin," "The Ch:ldren of Cherryholme,"
etc. Crown 8vo. Illustrated. Cloth extra.
Little Bunch's Charge; or, True to Trust. By Nellie
Cornwall, Author of "Tamsin Rosewarne," "Hallvard Halvorsen," etc.
Illustrated. Crown 8vo, cloth extra.
The Children of Cherryholme. By M. S. Haycraft,
Author of" Like a Little Candle,' Chine Cabin," etc. Six full-page Illustra-
tions. Crown 8vo, cloth extra.
Birdie's Benefits; or, A Little Child Shall Lead Them.
By Ethel Ruth Boddy, Author of "Two Girls; or, Seed Sown through the
Post." Illustrated. Crown 8vo, cloth extra.
Some Secrets of Christian Living. By Rev. F. B.
Meyer, B.A. Small crown 8vo. Cloth boards. (Uniform with "Steps to the