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?"
"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 left behind at the house where they had halted some time before, and therefore she would sit near the door and watch for him.