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- Fanny, the Flower-Girl - 1/17 -






"Come, buy my flowers; flowers fresh and fair. Come, buy my flowers. Please ma'am, buy a nice bunch of flowers, very pretty ones, ma'am. Please, sir, to have some flowers; nice, fresh ones, miss; only just gathered; please look."

Thus spoke, or sometimes sung, a little girl of perhaps eight years old, holding in her hand a neat small basket, on the top of which lay a clean white cloth, to shade from the sun the flowers which she praised so highly, and a little bunch of which she presented to almost every passer-by, in the hope of finding purchasers; while, after one had passed rudely on, another had looked at her young face and smiled, another had said, "What a nice child!" but not one had taken the flowers, and left the penny or the half-penny that was to pay for them the little girl, as if accustomed to all this, only arranged again the pretty nosegays that had been disarranged in the vain hope of selling them, and commenced anew in her pretty singing tone, "Come, buy my flowers; flowers fresh and fair."

"Your flowers are sadly withered, my little maid," said a kind, country-looking gentleman, who was buying some vegetables at a stall near her.

"Oh, sir! I have fresh ones, here, sir; please look;" and the child lifted up the cover of her basket, and drew from the very bottom a bunch of blossoms on which the dew of morning still rested.

"Please to see, sir; a pretty rose, sir, and these pinks and mignonette, and a bunch of jessamine, sir, and all for one penny."

"Bless thee! pretty dear!" said the old lame vegetable-seller, "thou'lt make a good market-woman one of these days. Your honor would do well to buy her flowers, sir, she has got no mother or father, God help her, and works for a sick grandmother."

"Poor child!" said the old gentleman. "Here, then, little one, give me three nice nosegays, and there is sixpence for you."

With delight sparkling in every feature of her face, and her color changed to crimson with joy, the little flower-girl received in one hand the unusual piece of money; and setting her basket on the ground, began hastily and tremblingly to pick out nearly half its contents as the price of the sixpence; but the gentleman stooped down, and taking up at random three bunches of the flowers, which were not the freshest, said,

"Here, these will do; keep the rest for a more difficult customer. Be a good child; pray to God, and serve Him, and you will find He is the Father of the fatherless."

And so he went away; and the flower-girl, without waiting to put her basket in order, turned to the old vegetable-seller, and cried, "Sixpence! a whole sixpence, and all at once. What will grandmother say now? See!" and opening her hand, she displayed its shining before her neighbor's eyes.

"Eh!" exclaimed the old man, as he approached his eyes nearer to it. "Eh! what is this? why thou hast twenty sixpences there; this is a half-sovereign!"

"Twenty sixpences! why the gentleman said, there is sixpence for thee," said the child.

"Because he didn't know his mistake," replied the other; "I saw him take the piece out of his waistcoat-pocket without looking."

"Oh dear! what shall I do?" cried the little girl.

"Why, thou must keep it, to be sure," replied the old man; "give it to thy grandmother, she will know what to do with it, I warrant thee."

"But I must first try to find the good gentleman, and tell him of his mistake," said the child. "I know what grandmother would say else; and he cannot be far off, I think, because he was so fat; he will go slow, I am sure, this hot morning. Here, Mr. Williams, take care of my basket, please, till I come back."

And without a word more, the flower-girl put down her little basket at the foot of the vegetable-stall, and ran away as fast as she could go.

When she turned out of the market-place, she found, early as it was, that the street before her was pretty full; but as from the passage the gentleman had taken to leave the market-place, she knew he could only have gone in one direction, she had still hopes of finding him; and she ran on and on, until she actually thought she saw the very person before her; he had just taken off his hat, and was wiping his forehead with his handkerchief.

"That is him," said the little flower-girl, "I am certain;" but just as she spoke, some persons came between her and the gentleman, and she could not see him. Still she kept running on; now passing off the foot-path into the street, and then seeing the fat gentleman still before her; and then again getting on the foot-path, and losing sight of him, until at last she came up quite close to him, as he was walking slowly, and wiping the drops of heat from his forehead.

The poor child was then quite out of breath; and when she got up to him she could not call out to him to stop, nor say one word; so she caught hold of the skirt of his coat, and gave it a strong pull.

The gentleman started, and clapped one hand on his coat-pocket, and raised up his cane in the other, for he was quite sure it was a pickpocket at his coat. But when he turned, he saw the breathless little flower-girl, and he looked rather sternly at her, and said,

"Well, what do you want; what are you about? eh!"

"Oh, sir!" said the girl; and then she began to cough, for her breath was quite spent. "See, sir; you said you gave me sixpence, and Mr. Williams says there are twenty sixpences in this little bit of money."

"Dear me!" said the gentleman; "is it possible? could I have done such a thing?" and he began to fumble in his waistcoat pocket.

"Well, really it is true enough," he added, as he drew out a sixpence. "See what it is to put gold and silver together."

"I wish he would give it to me," thought the little flower-girl; "how happy it would make poor granny; and perhaps he has got a good many more of these pretty gold pieces."

But the old gentleman put out his hand, and took it, and turned it over and over, and seemed to think a little; and then he put his hand into his pocket again, and took out his purse; and he put the half- sovereign into the purse, and took out of it another sixpence.

"Well," he said, "there is the sixpence I owe you for the flowers; you have done right to bring me back this piece of gold; and there is another sixpence for your race; it is not a reward, mind, for honesty is only our duty, and you only did what is right; but you are tired, and have left your employment, and perhaps lost a customer, so I give you the other sixpence to make you amends."

"Thank you, sir," said the flower-girl, curtseying; and taking the two sixpences into her hand with a delighted smile, was going to run back again, when the old gentleman, pulling out a pocket-book, said, "Stay a moment; you are an orphan, they tell me; what is your name?"

"Fanny, sir."

"Fanny what?"

"Please, I don't know, sir; grandmother is Mrs. Newton, sir; but she says she is not my grandmother either, sir."

"Well, tell me where Mrs. Newton lives," said the gentleman, after looking at her a minute or so, as if trying to make out what she meant.

So Fanny told him, and he wrote it down in his pocket-book, and then read over what he had written to her, and she said it was right.

"Now, then, run away back," said he, "and sell all your flowers, if you can, before they wither, for they will not last long this warm day; flowers are like youth and beauty--do you ever think of that? even the rose withereth afore it groweth up." And this fat gentleman looked very sad, for he had lost all his children in their youth.

"O yes! sir; I know a verse which says that," replied Fanny. "All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of grass--but good morning, and thank you, sir," and away Fanny ran.

And now, before going on with my story, I must go back to tell who and what Fanny, the flower-girl, was.

Mrs. Newton, whom she called her grandmother, was now a poor old woman, confined to her bed by a long and trying illness, that had nearly deprived her of the use of her limbs. But she had not been always thus afflicted. Some years before, Mrs. Newton lived in a neat cottage near the road-side, two or three miles from one of the great sea-port towns of England. Her husband had good employment, and they were both comfortable and happy.

Just eight years from this time, it happened that one warm summer's day, Mrs. Newton went to look out from her cottage door down the road, and she saw a young woman standing there, leaning against a tree, and looking very faint and weak.

She was touched with pity and asked the poor traveller to walk into her house and rest. The young woman thankfully consented, for she said she was very ill; but she added, that her husband was coming after her, having been obliged to turn back for a parcel that was

Fanny, the Flower-Girl - 1/17

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