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Unredeemed Pledges
by [?]

“Twenty-one shillings,” was bid in opposition.

“Twenty-five,” said the merchant, promptly.

The first bidder, seeing that Mr. Edwards was determined to run against him, and being a little afraid that he might be left with a ruinous bid on his hands, declined advancing, and the locket was assigned to the young merchant, who, as soon as he had received it, turned and presented it to the young woman, saying as he did so–

“It is yours.”

The young woman caught hold of it with an eager gesture, and after gazing on it for a few moments, pressed it to her lips.

“I have not the money to pay for it,” she said in a low sad voice, recovering herself in a few moments; and seeking to return the miniature.

“It is yours!” replied Mr. Edwards. Then thrusting back the hand she had extended, and speaking with some emotion, he said–“Keep it–keep it, in Heaven’s name!”

And saying this he hastily retired, for he became conscious that many eyes were upon him; and he felt half ashamed to have betrayed his weakness before a coarse, unfeeling crowd. For a few moments he lingered in the street; but his companion not appearing, he went on his way, musing on the singular adventure he had encountered. The more distinctly he recalled the young woman’s face, the more strangely familiar did it seem.

About an hour afterwards, as Mr. Edwards sat reading a letter, the Quaker entered his store.

“Ah, how do you do? I am glad to see you,” said the merchant, his manner more than usually earnest. “Did you see anything more of that young woman?”

“Yes,” replied the Quaker. “I could not leave one like her without knowing something of her past life and present circumstances. I think even you will hardly be disposed to regard her as an object unworthy of interest.”

“No, certainly I will not. Her appearance, and the circumstances under which we found her, are all in her favor.”

“But we turned aside from the beaten path. We looked into a by-place to us; or we would not have discovered her. She was not obtrusive. She asked no aid; but, with the last few shillings that remained to her in the world, had gone to recover, if possible, an unredeemed pledge–the miniature of her mother, on which she had obtained a small advance of money to buy food and medicine for the dying original. This is but one of the thousand cases of real distress that are all around us. We could see them if we did but turn aside for a moment into ways unfamiliar to our feet.”

“Did you learn who she was, and anything of her condition?” asked Mr. Edwards.

“Oh yes. To do so was but a common dictate of humanity. I would have felt it as a stain upon my conscience to have left one like her uncared for in the circumstances under which we found her.”

“Did you accompany her home?”

“Yes; I went with her to the place she called her home–a room in which there was scarcely an article of comfort–and there learned the history of her past life and present condition. Does thee remember Belgrave, who carried on a large business in Maiden Lane some years ago?”

“Very well. But, surely this girl is not Mary Belgrave?”

“Yes. It was Mary Belgrave whom we met at the pawnbroker’s sale.”

“Mary Belgrave! Can it be possible? I knew the family had become poor; but not so poor as this!”

And Mr. Edwards, much disturbed in mind, walked uneasily about the floor. But soon pausing, he said–

“And so her mother is dead!”

“Yes. Her father died two years ago and her mother, who has been sick ever since, died last week in abject poverty, leaving Mary friendless, in a world where the poor and needy are but little regarded. The miniature which Mary had secretly pawned in order to supply the last earthly need of her mother, she sought by her labor to redeem; but ere she had been able to save up enough for the purpose, the time for which the pledge had been taken, expired, and the pawn broker refused to renew it. Under the faint hope that she might be able to buy it in with the little pittance of money she had saved, she attended the sale where we found her.”