A Baby is Found
In the west of England, in a part of the country called Somerset, there lived a gentleman whose name was Allworthy. He might be called the favourite of both Nature and Fortune, because Nature had given him the gifts of good health, good sense and a kind heart, and Fortune had made him one of the richest landowners in that part of England.
In his youth this gentleman had married a good, beautiful woman. They had three children, all of whom died young, and about five years before this story begins his wife also died. He loved her still, and sometimes said that he was waiting to join her after death.
He now lived in the country most of the time, with his sister, Miss Bridget Allworthy. This lady was now past the age of thirty. She was a very good woman who often thanked God she was not beautiful, because she believed that beauty led women into wicked ways.
Now, reader, as Mr Allworthy had a large fortune, a good heart and no family, you may think that he lived an honest life, gave to the poor, built a hospital and died a rich man. It is true that he did many of these things, but they are not the reason for this story. Something much more extraordinary happened.
One evening, Mr Allworthy came back to his house very late and very tired. He had been away in London on business for several months. After a light supper with his sister, he went to bed. First he spent some time on his knees, praying to God, and then he pulled back the bedclothes. To his great surprise he saw a baby lying in his bed in a sweet, deep sleep. He stood for some time, looking at its innocent beauty, and then rang his bell to call his elderly housekeeper, Mrs Deborah Wilkins.
When Mrs Wilkins saw the child she cried out, 'My good sir! What shall we do?' Mr Allworthy answered that she must take care of the child that evening, and in the morning he would give orders to find a nurse for it.
'Yes sir,' said Mrs Wilkins, 'and I hope you will give orders to send its wicked mother to prison for doing this.'
'I'm leaving the baby here, Deborah,' said Mr Allworthy, 'I suppose the poor woman has tried to provide a good home for her child, and I am very glad she has not done worse.'