To C. SNEYD EDGEWORTH, IN LONDON. EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Jan. 1, 1808. A Happy New Year to you, my dear Sneyd. My mother has told you about these predictions, and the horror they have spread through the country entirely. The old woman who was the cause of the mischief is, I suppose, no bigger than a midge's wing, as she has never been found, though diligent search has been made for her.
The fact remains that we soon see the Midge's grub-worms swarming around the larva, the daughter of the house. There are ten, fifteen, twenty or more of them gnawing with their pointed mouths at the common dish and turning the food into a heap of fine, orange-coloured vermicelli. The Bee's grub dies of starvation. It is life, life in all its ferocity even in these tiny creatures.
"The mother of mischief," says an old proverb, "is no bigger than a midge's wing." At Doctor Middleton's school, there was a great tall dunce of the name of Fisher, who never could be taught how to look out a word in the dictionary. He used to torment everybody with "Do pray help me! I can't make out this one word."
"If I'd a knowed, Mister," he mumbled, "that ye'd took my little Midge's hand in yer'n, that ye soothed her when she was a howlin' fer me, I wouldn't have cribbed yer kids I'll be damned if I would 'ave! But I hated ye Christ! how I hated ye! I could only think how ye wouldn't help me." He shuddered, wiped his wet lips, and went on, "After that I went plumb to hell.
For a week the dolls lay in Midge's bed, and though their breasts were full of saw-dust and their heads were only wood, the sweet patience of the little creature seemed to waken something like a heart in them, and set them thinking, for dolls don't live in vain, I am firmly persuaded.
'Then he is the very man to take charge of a letter; he knows the trouble of writing one. 'Aye, marry does he, an tou comest to that, mon; only it takes him four hours to write as mony lines. Tan, it is a great round hand loike, that one can read easily, and not loike your honour's, that are like midge's taes. But for ganging to Carloisle, he's dead foundered, man, as cripple as Eckie's mear.
"'The mother of mischief," I quoted, "'is no bigger than a midge's wing, and the grandmother is the match-making microbe that lurks in every woman's system." She caught one of my hands and looked up into my face. "You're not cross with me, Simon?" Her tone was that of the old Agatha.
She often sent one or the other to cheer up some little neighbor, and in this way Do and Flo became small sisters of charity, welcomed eagerly, reluctantly returned, and loved by all, although they never uttered a word and their dingy faces could not express the emotion that stirred their saw-dust bosoms. When Saturday night came they were laid in their usual place on Midge's arm.
I will not gainsay thee in this; but pass not more than one night in the desert and return to me on the morrow; for thou knowest that life is not good to me without thee, and indeed I can hardly as yet credit thy recovery, because thou art to me as he of whom quoth the poet: Though Solomon his carpet were mine both day and night, Though the Choeroes' empire, yea, and the world were mine, All were to me in value less than a midge's wing, Except mine eyes still rested upon that face of thine.
With great care, Carter drew up the bucketful of Molly, and when Midge's bucket was still at a safe distance above the water, he stayed the chain with a stick, and pulled Molly the rest of the way up merely by his own strong muscles. He safely landed the bucket on the curb, and picking the exhausted child out, laid her on the grass, without a word.