The Suspicious Jackdaw

The Suspicious Jackdaw is a delightful, educational short story, not just for children. A unique tale which teaches us a valuable lesson. It is from a collection of short stories by Jean Ingelow, an English author and poet and was originally published in 1865. With the addition of some illustrations, and only a few – slight – changes to enhance a more modern reading experience, we hope you enjoy this short and pleasant tale.

THE SUSPICIOUS JACKDAW.

There never was a more suspicious mortal in this world than old Madam Mortimer, unless it was Madam Mortimer’s Jackdaw. To see him peep about, and turn his head on one side as if to listen, and go and stand on the edge of her desk with his bright eye fixed on her letters, and then flutter to her wardrobe, and peer behind her cabinets, as if he suspected that in cracks and crevices, under tables and behind screens, there must be other daws hidden, who would interfere with his particular interests, or listen to the remarks made to him when he and his mistress were alone, or find the bits of crust that he had stowed away for his own eating; to see all this. I say, was quite as good amusement as to see old Madam Mortimer occupying herself in the same way, indeed quite in the same way, considering the different natures of women and jackdaws.

 

The Suspicious Jackdaw a short narrative of experience in a short story

Sometimes Madame Mortimer would steal up softly to her door, and turn the handle very softly in her hand; then she would open it just by a little crack and listen till she must have had the ear-ache; but generally, after this exercise, she would return to her seat, saying aloud, as she took up her knitting, ‘Well, I declare, I thought that was the butcher’s boy talking to cook; an idle young fellow, that he is; brings all the gossip of the village here, I’m certain. However, this once I’m wrong; it’s only gardener sitting outside the scullery, helping her to shell peas. He had better be doing that than doing nothing—which is what most of his time is passed in, I suspect.’

Here the jackdaw would give a little croak, to express his approval of the sentiment; whenever his mistress finished a speech, he made a point of either croaking or coughing, just like a human being. The foot-boy had taught him this accomplishment, and his mistress could never help laughing when she heard him cough. No more could little Patience Grey, who was Madam Mortimer’s maid. She was very young, only fourteen, but then Madam Mortimer suspected that if she had an older maid she should have more trouble in keeping her in order; so she took Patience from school to wait on her, and Patience was very happy in the great old silent house, with its long oaken galleries; and as there really seemed to be nothing about her for either Madam Mortimer’s or the jackdaw’s suspicion to rest upon, she was very seldom scolded, though sometimes when she came into the parlour, looking rather hot and breathing quickly, her mistress would alarm her by saying, ‘Patience, you’ve been skipping in the yard. You need not deny it, for I know you have.’

Here Patience would answer, blushing,—’I just skipped for a few minutes, ma’am, after I had done plaiting your frills.’ ‘Ah, you’ll never be a woman,’ Mrs Mortimer would answer, ‘never! if you live to be a hundred.’ And it did not enter into the head of little Patience that her mistress could see everything that was done in the yard, and how she sometimes ran and played with the house dog under the walnut-trees, the two old walnut-trees that grew there; and how she played a ball in the coach-house, when she had finished all her needlework, while the little dog, and the big dog, and the big dog’s two puppies, sat watching at the open door, ready to rush in and seize the ball if she let it drop. It never entered into her giddy head that her mistress could see all this, for her mistress sat in a large upper parlour, and through one of its windows overlooked the yard; the blind was always drawn down, and how could Patience suppose that her mistress could peep through a tiny hole in it and that she did this continually, so that not a postman could politely offer an orange to the housemaid, nor she in return reward him with a mug of beer, without being seen by the keen eyes of Madame Mortimer!

Patience, on the whole, however, fared none the worse for being watched—quite the contrary; the more the jackdaw and his mistress watched her, the fonder they grew. She was such a guileless little maid, that they liked to have her in the large old parlour with them, helping Madam Mortimer with her needlework, and letting the jackdaw peep into her work-box. One day, when Patience was sent for to attend her mistress, she found her with the contents of an old cabinet spread open before her; there were corals with silver bells, there were old silver brooches, and there were many rings and necklaces, arid old-fashioned ornaments that Patience thought extremely handsome; in particular, there was a cornelian necklace, made of cut cornelians, which she considered to be particularly beautiful; so did the jackdaw, for when Madam Mortimer allowed Patience to wash this necklace in some warm water, he stood on the edge of the basin pecking at it playfully, as if he wanted to get it from her. Patience would not let him have it, and when she had carefully dried it she laid it on some clean cotton wool, and said to the jackdaw, ‘You are not going to have it, Jack. It’s the most beautiful thing that mistress has got, so I reckon she’ll never let you touch it.’

When Madam Mortimer heard this, she smiled covertly at the ignorance of Patience, and presently said to her, ‘Child, you may go down and ask for a piece of leather and some rouge powder, and I will show you how to clean this set of emeralds.’

So Patience ran clown to the footboy, and got what she required, and very happy she was under her mistress’s directions in polishing and cleaning the jewels— quite as happy as she could have felt if they had been her own; yet, when Madam Mortimer said to her, ‘Which do you think the handsomest now, Patience; the green stones or the red ones?’ she replied, ‘O, the red ones are the handsomest, ma’am, by a deal.’

Just at this moment, visitors were announced, and Madam Mortimer retired to her own room previous to seeing them, taking Patience with her to attend on her, and see to the set of her lace shawl, and of a new cap that she donned for the occasion. She turned the key of the parlour where all her jewellery lay about, and the jackdaw, as he hopped with her out of the room, coughed approvingly of the deed, in a manner as expressive as if he had said, ‘Who knows whether all the people about us are honest?’

The old lady put the key into her basket, but, strange to say, she forgot her basket, and left that in her bedroom with Patience, while she went down to receive her visitors; and all that evening, suspicious as she generally was, she never once remembered that anyone could unlock the parlour-door by means of this basket; on the contrary, she was in very good spirits, and she and her elder visitor talked nearly all the evening about their servants, and about what a trouble servants were, while the younger ladies walked in the garden, gathered a few flowers, and partook of some strawberries.

Now Madam Mortimer, suspicious though she was, had an exceedingly kind heart, and she very often allowed the housemaid to attend on her at night, that Patience might go to bed early, as befitted her age. The visitors staid late, but at nine the drawing-room bell was rung, and orders were sent out that Patience was to go to bed; so as it was the full of the midsummer moon, she stole upstairs without a candle, and when alone in her little garret it was quite light enough for her to examine various little treasures that she kept in her box. She was busy so doing, when Jack flew in at the open window, and lighted on her feet as she knelt, then fluttered on to her shoulder, and peeped down at her treasures, and began to make a great croaking and chattering. Patience thought he was more than usually inquisitive that night, and I am afraid he somewhat interfered with her attention while she was reading her chapter, for he would not let her pincushion alone, but would persist in pulling out the pins, and dropping them on to the floor, listening with his head on one side to the slight noise they made when they fell. At last, he flew out at the window. And what did he do next?

Why, he did not go to roost, as he would have done if he had not been for so many years accustomed to civilized society, but he flew once or twice around the house to see that other birds were asleep, and not likely to watch his movements, and then he peeped down the chimneys, where the swallows, now rearing their second broods, sat fast asleep on the nest; he next alighted on the roof and walked cautiously to a certain crevice, where he kept a few dozens of nails, that he had picked with his beak out of the carpet, and a good many odds and ends of ribbon, bits of worsted, farthings, and broken morsels of crockery, that he valued highly; these he pulled out of the crevice, and then he poked his property with his beak, chattered to it in a very senseless way, walked over it, and finally deposited it again in the crevice, flew down to the side of the house, and entered the parlour where his mistress’s jewellery lay.

Here lay the necklace—it looked very pretty—the jackdaw alighted on the table, pecked it as thinking that it might be good to eat, then lifted it up and shook it. At last, he flew with it out of the window.

It was still quite light out of doors, and as the necklace dangled from his beak, he admired it very much. ‘But what did he want with it?’ you will naturally ask. Nobody knows, but this is ascertained—that, finding it heavy, he took it, not to the roof, but to the edge of a deep well in the garden, wherein he had deposited the cook’s brass thimble, and several of her skewers; having reached this well, and lighted on the stone brink, he peered down into it, and saw his own image, and the red necklace in his beak; he also saw four or five little stars reflected there, and as it was his bedtime, he dozed a little on the edge of the well, while the evening air waved slightly the long leaves of the ferns that hung over it, and grew in the joints of the stone many feet down.

At last, it is supposed that some such thought as this crossed his brain: ‘These berries are heavy, and not good to eat; I had better lay them on the water till to-morrow morning.’

So he let them drop, and down they fell to the bottom. He had dropped a good many articles before this into the well; some, such as nuts, feathers, and bits of stick and straw, floated; others, like this necklace, had sunk. It was all chance which happened, but he liked to hear the splash of the red necklace, and he stood awhile chattering to himself, with great serenity of mind, on the occasion of its disappearing; then he went and pecked at the kitchen window, demanding his supper.

This is what the jackdaw did; and now what did the mistress do, when she walked to the parlour door the next morning, unlocked it, and found that the red necklace was gone?

She was quite amazed—nobody but Patience could have taken it—little Patience, her good little maid, who had seemed so guileless, so conscientious, and so honest. O, what a sad thing it was that there was nobody in the world that she could trust! Patience, must have taken the key, and after using it for this bad purpose, must have placed it again in the basket.

But Madam Mortimer was so sorry to think of this, that she decided to let Patience have a little time to reflect upon her great fault and confess it. So she said nothing to her all the morning, and in the afternoon, peeping through her little hole in the blind, she saw Patience chasing the ducks into the pond, and laughing heartily to see them plunge. ‘Hardened child,’ said her mistress, ‘how can she laugh?—I’ll give her warning;’ and thereupon she sat down in her easy chair and began to cry. Now, she felt, almost for the first time, what a sad thing it is to suspect a person whom one really loves. She had not supposed how much she cared for this little village girl till she was obliged to suspect her. She had not perceived how sad her constant habit of suspicion was, and how it had now obtained such a dominion over her, till everything done by a suspected person appeared to her mind in a distorted light. Now the childish simplicity of Patience seemed to her to be hardened guilt. Now, when she saw her at play, she made up her mind that the little girl knew she was overlooked and was playing about in order to make her mistress think she was at ease and had nothing weighing on her spirits; and when she came into the parlour, if she was awkward, her mistress attributed it to guilty fears; and if she made any mistake about a message, it was because her thoughts were pre-occupied with her ill-gotten trinket.

This unhappy state of things went on for several days. At last, one evening, Madam Mortimer happening to look out at her hole in the blind, saw Patience slowly walking across the yard, and cautiously looking down into her apron, which she had gathered up into her hands. Madam Mortimer felt convinced that the poor child had got the necklace concealed there. One of the housemaids came up, but Patience ran away, and would not let her see what she had got, and seemed so anxious to conceal it, that her mistress drew up the blind, opened the window, and said, in an awful voice, ‘Patience, come here!’

The little girl approached—there was a veranda outside the window, and some wooden steps led up to it. ‘Come up to me,’ said her mistress.

The little girl said, ‘Yes, ma’am;’ and still holding her apron, turned to enter the door.

‘No,’ exclaimed her mistress; ‘come up these steps; I do not want to lose sight of you.’

Patience obeyed. Her mistress sat down, and the little maid stood opposite to her. ‘Patience,’ said her mistress, ‘I have lost my red necklace.’

The little girl glanced under the table, as if she thought the necklace might have dropped there.

‘Do you know where it is, Patience?’ was the next question, asked with great solemnity.

Patience tightened the folds of her apron, looked earnestly at her mistress, and said, ‘No, ma’am.’

‘Poor child,’ replied Madame Mortimer shaking her head; and Patience, not appearing to know what she meant, coloured exceedingly, and looked as if she was going to cry. But at last, as her mistress sat in her chair, and did not say another word, she began to steal away till she was arrested by her mistress’s voice.

‘Come back again, you poor misguided child—come back, and show me what you have got in your apron.’

As Madame Mortimer spoke she started, for the evening was growing dusk, and when Patience turned, a light, a decided light, gleamed through her white apron.

‘Please, ma’am,’ she said, now holding it open, ‘it’s some glow-worms that old gardener gave me—three glow-worms, and some leaves that I got for them.’

‘Bless me!’ exclaimed Madame Mortimer, when she saw the shining insects slowly moving about on her little maid’s apron; but she looked so much less angry than before, that Patience, by way of peace-offering, took up one of her treasures, and placed it, with some leaves, upon the open page of her mistress’s great Bible, which lay on a little table by her side. ‘You may go, now, Patience,’ said her mistress, quite calmly, and the little girl left the room.

While her mistress sat so long, lost in thought, that it grew quite dusk. ‘After all,’ she thought, ‘that poor child must have been the thief; nobody else could have stolen the necklace, but I will still give her time to confess and restore it.’ As she said this she turned towards the Bible, and the glow-worm on the page was slowly moving along it; the darkness hid every other word, but she read by the light of her little maid’s gift, as it went on, this verse: ‘We—do—all—fade—as doth—a—leaf.’ ‘Too true,’ said the poor old lady, sighing, ‘I feel the coming on of old age very fast, and I could have wished to have somebody about me, however young, that I could trust. Ah, we are frail creatures we come up and die down like the summer grass; and we are as sinful as we are frail. My poor little Patience! I will try her a little longer.’ So saying, the mistress began to doze, and the jackdaw hopped down from the perch where he had been watching her, and when he saw that she was fast asleep, and that the yellow moonlight vas soft upon her aged features, he alighted on the page of the Bible which the shining glow-worm was then illuminating, and pounced upon him and ate him up.

Little Patience carried her glow-worms upstairs, and amused herself with them a long time; for she had nothing to do but to enjoy herself when her daily task of needlework was done; and as her mistress never set her more to accomplish than she could finish before dusk, she often had a good game at play with a clear conscience. That night, however, she was not in such good spirits as usual, because her mistress had been angry with her, and if it had not been for the glow-worms she would have felt very dull indeed.

However, she hung them up in a gauze bag that she had made for them, and long after she was in bed she lay looking at them, but thought they grew brighter and brighter. She fell fast asleep at last, and fast asleep she was when her mistress came into the room with a candle in her hand, and softly stole up to her bedside.

Patience looked very happy and peaceful in her sleep, and the suspicious old lady could find nothing lying about to excite her doubts. The child had left her box open, and Madam Mortimer, though she did not choose to touch or move anything in it, used her eyes very sharply, and scrutinized its contents with astonishing deliberation. At length, Patience moved, and Madam Mortimer, shading her candle, stole away again, feeling that she had done something to be ashamed of.

The next morning she sent for Patience, and said to her, ‘Patience, I told you that I had lost my red necklace; I must have you to help me to search for it, but first tell me whether you know where it is?’

‘I know where I think it is, ma’am,’ Patience answered quite simply.

‘Where?’ asked her mistress.

She had spoke and looked so severely, that Patience hung her head and faltered, and at last said, ‘She didn’t know, she only thought it might be;’ and when pressed for an answer, she said, ‘She thought it might be in the empty side of the tea-caddy, for Jack often took things and put them into it.’

While the little girl spoke she looked so bashful and confused, that her mistress was confirmed in her bad opinion of her; but she allowed her to help all the morning in searching for the lost necklace; ‘for, after all,’ she thought, ‘I may be mistaken.’

However, the necklace was not to be found; and though the jackdaw chattered and bustled about a great deal, and told over and over again, in the jackdaw’s language, what he had done with it, nobody took the slightest notice of him; and the longer she searched, the more unhappy Madam Mortimer became. ‘It is not the value of the necklace,’ she often said to herself; ‘but it is the being obliged to suspect this child, that I am so sorry for; for she was the only person in the wide world that I felt I could trust, excepting my own children.’

But if people trust only one person, and can make up their minds to be distrustful of everyone else, their suspicions are almost sure at last to reach the one remaining; and so Madam Mortimer had now found.

She sent for the little maid’s mother, and without finding fault with the child, said to her that she did not require her services any longer; and when the mother said, ‘I hope it is for no fault that you part with her, ma’am?’ she replied, evasively, ‘Patience has her faults like other people;’ and with that answer, the mother was obliged to be satisfied.

When Patience was gone her mistress felt very unhappy. She had felt a pleasure in her company, because she was such a child, and so guileless. She had meant to keep her with her, and teach her so long as she lived, and trust her, but now all this was over, and she had nobody whom she chose to trust. The jackdaw, too, appeared to feel dull; there was nobody to play with him and carry him on her shoulder. He was dull, too, because he had lost that pretty necklace, for he often thought he should like to have it again to put among his treasures on the roof; therefore, he was fond of flying to the edge of the well, and gabbling there with great volubility; but I need not say that his chatter and his regret did not make the necklace float.

After a time, however, he found something else to amuse him, for one of Madam Mortimer’s sons and his little boy came to visit her, and the jackdaw delighted in teasing the little fellow, and pecking his heels, and stealing his bits of string, and hiding his pencils; while the boy, on the other hand, was constantly teasing the bird, stroking his feathers the wrong way, snatching away his crusts, and otherwise plaguing him.

‘I wish Patience was here to play with that child, and keep him from teasing my Jack,’ said the old lady, fretfully. ‘I get so infirm’ that children are a trouble to me.’

‘Who is Patience?’ asked her son.

So then Madam Mortimer told him the whole story; the boy and the jackdaw having previously gone out of the room together the boy tantalizing him, and the bird gabbling and pecking at his ankles. When she had finished, her son said, ‘Mother, I believe this will end in your suspecting me next! Why did you not ascertain whether the girl was innocent or guilty before you parted with her?’

‘I feel certain she is guilty,’ answered the mother, ‘and I never mean to trust any servant again.’

‘But if you could be certain she was innocent?’ asked the son.

‘Why, then I would never suspect a servant again, I think,’ she replied. ‘Certainly I should never suspect—her she seemed as open as the day—and you do not know, son, what a painful thing it is to have nobody about me that I can trust.’

‘Excuse me, mother,’ replied the son, ‘you mean nobody that you do trust; for all your servants have been with you for years, and deserve to be trusted, as far as we can see.’

‘Well, well,’ said the mother, ‘it makes me unhappy enough, I assure you, to be obliged to suspect everybody; and if I could have that child back I should be truly glad; but I cannot harbour a thief.’

At this point of the discourse, the boy and the jackdaw were heard in the yard making such a noise, and quarrelling, that the son, went down, at his mother’s request, to see what was the matter.

‘He is a thief,’ said the boy; ‘I saw him fly to the roof with a long bit of blue ribbon that belongs to cook.’

The jackdaw gabbled angrily in reply, and it is highly probable that he understood part of the accusation, for he ruffled his feathers, and hopped about in a very exciting way; and as the boy kept pointing at him, jeering him, the bird, at last, flew at him angrily, and gave him a very severe peck with a loud croak, that might have been meant to express, ‘Take that.’

Having it on his hands to make up this quarrel, the little boy’s father could not go on with the discourse he had begun with his mother at that time; but when he found another opportunity he said a great deal to her; and if it had not been that the jackdaw’s suspicions being aroused, that troublesome bird would insist on listening to all he said, with his head on one side, and his twinkling eye fixed on his face,—and if he would have been quiet, instead of incessantly changing his place, as if he thought he could hear better on the right arm of the chair than the left, it is possible that the gentleman’s discourse might have had a great effect on the old lady’s mind; as it was, he interrupted his mistress’s attention so much, that it is doubtful whether she remembered what her son had been talking of. And there was no sooner a pause in what the jackdaw probably regarded as a disagreeable subject, than he hopped to a private little cupboard that he kept under the turned-up edge of the carpet, and bringing out five or six mouldy bits of bread, laid them in a row on the rug before his mistress and her son, and walking about before them with an air of reflection, seemed as if he would have said, ‘I must attend to my business, whether people talk or not.’

‘I never saw such a queer fellow in my life as that bird is!’ exclaimed the son.

‘Why, Jack, you miser!’ said his mistress; ‘one would think you were starved.’

The jackdaw gabbled something which was no doubt meant for impertinence, till hearing footsteps outside the door, he hastily snatched up some of his mouldy property and flew with it to the top of the cabinet; then he stood staring at the remainder, fluttering his wings, and making a great outcry, for he did not dare to fly down for it, because his little tormentor had just rushed into the room.

‘Papa, papa!’ exclaimed the boy.

‘Hold your tongue, Jack,’ cried the grandmother; ‘one at a time is enough.’

‘Come, I will take you on my knee,’ said his father, ‘and then the daw will fly down for his bread.’

The daw no sooner saw his little enemy in a place of safety than he descended, snatched up his bread, and having secured it all, came again to give the boy a malicious little peck.

‘Now what do you want to say?’ asked his father.

‘Papa,’ repeated the boy, ‘do currants ever grow underwater?’

‘No,’ said his father.

‘But,’ replied the boy, ‘there is something growing in the well, just underwater, that looks like currants; and, papa, will you get it for me, please, for I should like to have it if it is good to eat.’

‘Pooh!’ said his grandmother; ‘the boy is dreaming.’ But the boy made such a fuss about the bunch of currants, and was so positive as to their growing down in the well, that though it was now autumn, and the leaves were falling, and all the currants were either eaten up or stowed away in jam pots long before, his father and grandmother allowed him to take them to the well; but first the latter put on her black silk bonnet and her cloak, and fetched her stick from its place, lamenting all the while that Patience was not there to do all her little errands for her.

Now the weather all that summer and autumn had been remarkably dry, and the consequence was, that this old well, which had long been disused because it contained so little water, had now less than ever; but that little was clear; though when the old lady and her son looked over the edge they could not at first see down into it, because a few drops of rain had fallen, and had wetted the fern leaves which were still dripping a little and covering its surface with dimples.

‘There are no red currants here, nor plums either, my child,’ said the grandmother; and as she spoke she put down her gold-headed stick and shook the tuft of ferns that had been dripping, till she had shaken down all the water they contained.

The surface was now covered with little eddies and dimples. But when the water grew smooth again, ‘There they are!’ exclaimed the boy; ‘there are the currants. Look, grandmother, they lie just under the shadow of those long leaves.’

‘I see something,’ replied his grandmother, shading her eyes; ‘but it is six times as long as a bunch of currants, and the berries are three times as large. I shouldn’t wonder, son, if that was my cornelian necklace.’

‘I will see if we can ascertain,’ said her son; there are several ladders about the premises, and the well is not at all deep.’ So off he went, leaving the old lady and her grandson to look at the necklace; but the jackdaw, having by this time missed his mistress from her accustomed haunts, and being suspicious lest she might be inspecting some of his hoards, had set a search on foot for her, and now flew up screaming and making a great outcry, as if he thought he was going to be robbed. However, having lighted on the edge of the well, and observed that the necklace was there all safe, he felt more at his ease; and, if his mistress could have understood the tongue of a daw, she would have now heard him relate how he threw it there; as it was, she only heard him gabble, and saw him now and then peck at the boy’s pinafore. When the jackdaw saw a ladder brought, however, his mind misgave him that his mistress meant to get the necklace out again; and his thievish spirit sank very low. However, being a politic bird, he was quite silent while the ladder was lowered, and while the gardener’s boy descended to the bottom of the well and groped about with his hands, for there was not a foot of water.

‘There is my necklace, sure enough,’ exclaimed the old lady as the boy lifted up the long row of shining beads; ‘bring it out, James.’

‘Please, ma’am, here’s the great silver skewer that was lost a year ago,’ exclaimed the boy; ‘and, dear me, here’s the nozzle of a candlestick.’

The old lady held up her hands; she had parted with a good cook, in consequence of the loss of this skewer. But the sight of the necklace dangling from the youth’s hand as he prepared to mount the ladder was too much for the jackdaw—he suddenly flew down, gave the hand a tremendous peck with his hard bill, and while the boy cried out and dropped the necklace, the bird made a sudden dart at it, snatched it before it touched the water, and flew up with it into a tree. There he rested a few minutes playing with the wet necklace, and shaking it in the sunlight; but not all his mistress’s entreaties and coaxing could bring him down, and in a few minutes he flew off again and settled on the roof of the house.

There, in less than ten minutes, he was found by his mistress and her son, with all his ill-gotten gains spread out before him; everything was taken from him, and when his mistress saw the articles whose loss had caused her to suspect almost everyone about her of theft, she was so vexed that she actually shed tears. ‘Mother,’ said her son, ‘it appears to me that you have trusted the only creature about you that was utterly unworthy of trust!’

The old lady was so much disheartened that she could not say a word; but such is the audacity of a jackdaw’s nature, that not half an hour after this, when the foot-boy brought in the tea things, Jack walked in after him with a grave expression of countenance and hopped on to the tea table as if nothing had happened.

‘Patience shall come back again,’ thought the old lady; ‘I’ll send for her and her mother, and I’ll never suspect her any more. It is plain enough now that Jack must have thrown my property down there.’

So the mother of Patience was sent for; but, alas, what disappointments people are doomed to! The mother expressed herself much obliged to Madam Mortimer, but said, that her cousin, in London, hearing that she was out of place, had sent for her to serve in her shop. ‘And that I look on as a great rise in life for her,’ said the mother, with an air of satisfaction: ‘and I am going to send a box of clothes to her next week,’ she continued, ‘and I shall tell her, ma’am, that you have not forgotten her.’

Madam Mortimer was very much vexed, but the necklace was in her hand, and a sudden thought struck her that she would give it to Patience. So she said, with a sigh, ‘Well, Mrs Grey, when you send the box, you may put this in it.’

Her mother at first looked pleased, but she presently drew back, and said, ‘Thank you, kindly, ma’am, but that necklace is by far too fine for my Patience, and it might do her harm to have it, and I never encourage her to wish for fine clothes.’

‘Good evening, then,’ said Madam Mortimer; and as the woman went away, she walked softly to the hole in the blind, and watched her talking and laughing with the cook, rather, as it seemed, in a triumphant way, as if she was exulting in the good fortune of her child, and the evident discomfiture of her former mistress. ‘It is entirely the fault of that thieving jackdaw,’ said the old lady, as she returned to her chair; and as she spoke she saw the suspicious bird, sitting listening to her with his head on one side. ‘It is enough to make anybody suspicious to lose things as I have lost them,’ she thought. ‘However, I shall soon leave off the habit, as I find it a bad one. I wonder whether that woman is gone yet; I’ll just take a peep, and see what they are about, gossiping, down there. Ah, there she is! I wish I hadn’t sent Patience away; but, perhaps, if I had been kinder to her than I was, she would have given me cause to suspect her before long.’

Madam Mortimer then settled herself in her chair and began to doze. When she awoke, the necklace was gone again; and perhaps it is a proof that she really was somewhat improved, that though she said, ‘I suspect, Jack, you know where that necklace is,’ she never took any steps in the matter, but left her glittering stones in the bird’s greedy keeping; and after taking a little time for consideration, put a patch upon the hole in the blind, so that she could never look through it any more. Whether she was cured of her suspicious turn of mind is more than I can tell, but it is certain that she henceforth looked on suspicions as undesirable, and seldom thought of little Patience without a sigh.

illustration of a little girl to say finish

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Original short story by Jean Ingelow

Retold by A Moffat

Illustrations by justanemotion.com

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