194 At the Back of the North Wind
" But she is," said the girl, looking up confidently in his face. " If you don't believe me, you can come and take a look at her."
The words sounded rude, but the girl's face looked so simple that the gentleman saw that she did not mean to be rude, and became still more interested in her.
"Still you shouldn't say so," he insisted.
" Shouldn't I? Everybody calls her wicked old grannie—even them that's as wicked as her. You should hear her swear. There's nothing like it in the Row. Indeed, I assure you, sir, there's ne'er a one of them can shut my grannie up once she begins and gets right a-going. You must put her in a passion first, you know. It's no good till you do that—she's so old now. How she do make them laugh, to be sure!"
Although she called her wicked, the child spoke so as plainly to indicate pride in her grannie's pre-eminence in swearing.
The gentleman looked very grave to hear her, for he was sorry that such a nice little girl should be in such bad keeping. But he did not know what to say next, and stood for a moment with his eyes on the ground. When he lifted them, he saw the face of Diamond looking up in his.
"Please, sir," said Diamond, "her grannie's very cruel to her sometimes, and shuts her out in the streets at night, if she happens to be late."
" Is this your brother?" asked the gentleman of the girl.