Page:A New England Tale.djvu/29

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A NEW-ENGLAND TALE.

must not think of depending upon her for life, for though she was a widow, and could do what she was a mind to her with her own, she could not justify herself in taking the children's meat"—and she would have added—" throw it to the dogs,"—but she was interrupted by a person who, unregarded by the ladies, had taken her seat among them.

This was a middle aged woman, whose mind had been unsettled in her youth by misfortunes. Having no mischievous propensities, she was allowed to indulge her vagrant inclinations, in wandering from house to house, and town, to town, her stimulated imagination furnishing continual amusement to the curious by her sagacious observations, and unfailing mirth to the young and vulgar, by the fanciful medley in which she arrayed her person. There were some who noticed in her a quickness of feeling that indicated original sensibility, which, perhaps, had been the cause of her sufferings. The dogs of a surly master would sometimes bark at her, because her dress resembled the obnoxious livery of the beggar—a class they had been taught to chase with pharisaical antipathy. But except when her timid nature was alarmed by the sortie of dogs, which she always called the devil's servants, crazy Bet found a welcome wherever she went.

It is common for persons in her unfortunate circumstances to seek every scene of excitement. The sober, sedate manners of the New-England people, and the unvaried tenor of their lives, afford but few of these. Wherever there was an