Part 5 out of 9
upon their shrunk limbs. In choosing their delegates, too, the
operatives had had more regard to their brains, and power of speech,
than to their wardrobes; they might have read the opinions of that
worthy Professor Teufelsdreck, in Sartor Resartus, to judge from the
dilapidated coats and trousers, which yet clothed men of parts and
of power. It was long since many of them had known the luxury of a
new article of dress; and air-gaps were to be seen in their
garments. Some of the masters were rather affronted at such a
ragged detachment coming between the wind and their nobility; but
what cared they.
At the request of a gentleman hastily chosen to officiate as
chairman, the leader of the delegates read, in a high-pitched,
psalm-singing voice, a paper, containing the operatives' statement
of the case at issue, their complaints, and their demands, which
last were not remarkable for moderation.
He was then desired to withdraw for a few minutes, with his
fellow-delegates, to another room, while the masters considered what
should be their definite answer.
When the men had left the room, a whispered earnest consultation
took place, every one re-urging his former arguments. The conceders
carried the day, but only by a majority of one. The minority
haughtily and audibly expressed their dissent from the measures to
be adopted, even after the delegates re-entered the room; their
words and looks did not pass unheeded by the quick-eyed operatives;
their names were registered in bitter hearts.
The masters could not consent to the advance demanded by the
workmen. They would agree to give one shilling per week more than
they had previously offered. Were the delegates empowered to accept
They were empowered to accept or decline any offer made that day by
Then it might be as well for them to consult among themselves as to
what should be their decision. They again withdrew.
It was not for long. They came back, and positively declined any
compromise of their demands.
Then up sprang Mr. Henry Carson, the head and voice of the violent
party among the masters, and addressing the chairman, even before
the scowling operatives, he proposed some resolutions, which he, and
those who agreed with him, had been concocting during this last
absence of the deputation.
They were, firstly, withdrawing the proposal just made, and
declaring all communication between the masters and that particular
Trades' Union at an end; secondly, declaring that no master would
employ any workman in future, unless he signed a declaration that he
did not belong to any Trades' Union, and pledged himself not to
assist or subscribe to any society, having for its object
interference with the masters' powers; and, thirdly, that the
masters should pledge themselves to protect and encourage all
workmen willing to accept employment on those conditions, and at the
rate of wages first offered. Considering that the men who now stood
listening with lowering brows of defiance were all of them leading
members of the Union, such resolutions were in themselves
sufficiently provocative of animosity: but not content with simply
stating them, Harry Carson went on to characterise the conduct of
the workmen in no measured terms; every word he spoke rendering
their looks more livid, their glaring eyes more fierce. One among
them would have spoken, but checked himself, in obedience to the
stern glance and pressure on his arm, received from the leader. Mr.
Carson sat down, and a friend instantly got up to second the motion.
It was carried, but far from unanimously. The chairman announced it
to the delegates (who had been once more turned out of the room for
a division). They received it with deep brooding silence, but spake
never a word, and left the room without even a bow.
Now there had been some by-play at this meeting, not recorded in the
Manchester newspapers, which gave an account of the more regular
part of the transaction.
While the men had stood grouped near the door, on their first
entrance, Mr. Harry Carson had taken out his silver pencil, and had
drawn an admirable caricature of them--lank, ragged, dispirited, and
famine-stricken. Underneath he wrote a hasty quotation from the fat
knight's well-known speech in Henry IV. He passed it to one of his
neighbours, who acknowledged the likeness instantly, and by him it
was sent round to others, who all smiled and nodded their heads.
When it came back to its owner he tore the back of the letter on
which it was drawn in two, twisted them up, and flung them into the
fireplace; but, careless whether they reached their aim or not, he
did not look to see that they fell just short of any consuming
This proceeding was closely observed by one of the men.
He watched the masters as they left the hotel (laughing, some of
them were, at passing jokes), and when all had gone, he re-entered.
He went to the waiter, who recognised him.
"There's a bit on a picture up yonder, as one o' the gentlemen threw
away; I've a little lad at home as dearly loves a picture; by your
leave I'll go up for it."
The waiter, good-natured and sympathetic, accompanied him upstairs;
saw the paper picked up and untwisted, and then being convinced, by
a hasty glance at its contents, that it was only what the man had
called it, "a bit of a picture," he allowed him to bear away his
Towards seven o'clock that evening, many operatives began to
assemble in a room in the Weavers' Arms public-house, a room
appropriated for "festive occasions," as the landlord, in his
circular, on opening the premises, had described it. But, alas! it
was on no festive occasion that they met there this night. Starved,
irritated, despairing men, they were assembling to hear the answer
that morning given by the masters to their delegates; after which,
as was stated in the notice, a gentleman from London would have the
honour of addressing the meeting on the present state of affairs
between the employers and the employed, or (as he chose to term
them) the idle and the industrious classes. The room was not large,
but its bareness of furniture made it appear so. Unshaded gas
flared down upon the lean and unwashed artisans as they entered,
their eyes blinking at the excess of light.
They took their seats on benches, and awaited the deputation. The
latter, gloomily and ferociously, delivered the masters' ultimatum,
adding thereto not one word of their own; and it sank all the deeper
into the sore hearts of the listeners for their forbearance.
Then the "gentleman from London" (who had been previously informed
of the masters' decision) entered. You would have been puzzled to
define his exact position, or what was the state of his mind as
regarded education. He looked so self-conscious, so far from
earnest, among the group of eager, fierce, absorbed men, among whom
he now stood. He might have been a disgraced medical student of the
Bob Sawyer class, or an unsuccessful actor, or a flashy shopman.
The impression he would have given you would have been unfavourable,
and yet there was much about him that could only be characterised as
He smirked in acknowledgment of their uncouth greetings, and sat
down; then glancing round, he inquired whether it would not be
agreeable to the gentlemen present to have pipes and liquor handed
round, adding, that he would stand treat.
As the man who has had his taste educated to love reading, falls
devouringly upon books after a long abstinence, so these poor
fellows, whose tastes had been left to educate themselves into a
liking for tobacco, beer, and similar gratifications, gleamed up at
the proposal of the London delegate. Tobacco and drink deaden the
pangs of hunger, and make one forget the miserable home, the
They were now ready to listen to him with approbation. He felt it;
and rising like a great orator, with his right arm outstretched, his
left in the breast of his waistcoat, he began to declaim, with a
forced theatrical voice.
After a burst of eloquence, in which he blended the deeds of the
elder and the younger Brutus, and magnified the resistless might of
the "millions of Manchester," the Londoner descended to
matter-of-fact business, and in his capacity this way he did not
belie the good judgment of those who had sent him as a delegate.
Masses of people, when left to their own free choice, seem to have
discretion in distinguishing men of natural talent: it is a pity
they so little regard temper and principles. He rapidly dictated
resolutions, and suggested measures. He wrote out a stirring
placard for the walls. He proposed sending delegates to entreat the
assistance of other Trades' Unions in other towns. He headed the
list of subscribing Unions, by a liberal donation from that with
which he was especially connected in London; and what was more, and
more uncommon, he paid down the money in real, clinking, blinking,
golden sovereigns! The money, alas! was cravingly required; but
before alleviating any private necessities on the morrow, small sums
were handed to each of the delegates, who were in a day or two to
set out on their expeditions to Glasgow, Newcastle, Nottingham, etc.
These men were most of them members of the deputation who had that
morning waited upon the masters. After he had drawn up some
letters, and spoken a few more stirring words, the gentleman from
London withdrew, previously shaking hands all round; and many
speedily followed him out of the room, and out of the house.
The newly-appointed delegates, and one or two others, remained
behind to talk over their respective missions, and to give and
exchange opinions in more homely and natural language than they
dared to use before the London orator.
"He's a rare chap, yon," began one, indicating the departed delegate
by a jerk of his thumb towards the door. "He's getten the gift of
the gab, anyhow!"
"Ay! ay! he knows what he's about. See how he poured it into us
about that there Brutus. He were pretty hard, too, to kill his own
"I could kill mine if he took part with the masters; to be sure,
he's but a step-son, but that makes no odds," said another.
But now tongues were hushed, and all eyes were directed towards the
member of the deputation who had that morning returned to the hotel
to obtain possession of Harry Carson's clever caricature of the
The heads clustered together, to gaze at and detect the likenesses.
"That's John Slater! I'd ha' known him anywhere, by his big nose.
Lord! how like; that's me, by G-d, it's the very way I'm obligated
to pin my waistcoat up, to hide that I've getten no shirt. That IS
a shame, and I'll not stand it."
"Well!" said John Slater, after having acknowledged his nose and his
likeness; "I could laugh at a jest as well as e'er the best on 'em,
though it did tell agen mysel, if I were not clemming" (his eyes
filled with tears; he was a poor, pinched, sharp-featured man, with
a gentle and melancholy expression of countenance), "and if I could
keep from thinking of them at home, as is clemming; but with their
cries for food ringing in my ears, and making me afeard of going
home, and wonder if I should hear 'em wailing out, if I lay cold and
drowned at th' bottom o' th' canal, there--why, man, I cannot laugh
at aught. It seems to make me sad that there is any as can make
game on what they've never knowed; as can make such laughable
pictures on men, whose very hearts within 'em are so raw and sore as
ours were and are, God help us."
John Barton began to speak; they turned to him with great attention.
"It makes me more than sad, it makes my heart burn within me, to see
that folk can make a jest of striving men; of chaps who comed to ask
for a bit o' fire for th' old granny, as shivers i' th' cold; for a
bit o' bedding, and some warm clothing to the poor wife who lies in
labour on th' damp flags; and for victuals for the childer, whose
little voices are getting too faint and weak to cry aloud wi'
hunger. For, brothers, is not them the things we ask for when we
ask for more wage? We donnot want dainties, we want bellyfuls; we
donnot want gimcrack coats and waistcoats, we want warm clothes; and
so that we get 'em, we'd not quarrel wi' what they're made on. We
donnot want their grand houses, we want a roof to cover us from the
rain, and the snow, and the storm; ay, and not alone to cover us,
but the helpless ones that cling to us in the keen wind, and ask us
with their eyes why we brought 'em into th' world to suffer?"
He lowered his deep voice almost to a whisper--
"I've seen a father who had killed his child rather than let it clem
before his eyes; and he were a tender-hearted man."
He began again in his usual tone. "We come to th' masters wi' full
hearts, to ask for them things I named afore. We know that they've
getten money, as we've earned for 'em; we know trade is mending, and
they've large orders, for which they'll be well paid; we ask for our
share o' th' payment; for, say we, if th' masters get our share of
payment it will only go to keep servants and horses--to more dress
and pomp. Well and good, if yo choose to be fools we'll not hinder
you, so long as you're just; but our share we must and will have;
we'll not be cheated. We want it for daily bread, for life itself;
and not for our own lives neither (for there's many a one here, I
know by mysel, as would be glad and thankful to lie down and die out
o' this weary world), but for the lives of them little ones, who
don't yet know what life is, and are afeard of death. Well, we come
before th' masters to state what we want, and what we must have,
afore we'll set shoulder to their work; and they say, 'No.' One
would think that would be enough of hard-heartedness, but it isn't.
They go and make jesting pictures on us! I could laugh at mysel, as
well as poor John Slater there; but then I must be easy in my mind
to laugh. Now I only know that I would give the last drop of my
blood to avenge us on yon chap, who had so little feeling in him as
to make game on earnest, suffering men!"
A low angry murmur was heard among the men, but it did not yet take
form or words. John continued--
"You'll wonder, chaps, how I came to miss the time this morning;
I'll just tell you what I was a-doing. Th' chaplain at the New
Bailey sent and gived me an order to see Jonas Higginbotham; him as
was taken up last week for throwing vitriol in a knob-stick's face.
Well, I couldn't help but go; and I didn't reckon it would ha' kept
me so late. Jonas were like one crazy when I got to him; he said he
could na get rest night or day for th' face of the poor fellow he
had damaged; then he thought on his weak, clemmed look, as he
tramped, footsore, into town; and Jonas thought, maybe, he had left
them at home as would look for news, and hope and get none, but,
haply, tidings of his death. Well, Jonas had thought on these
things till he could not rest, but walked up and down continually
like a wild beast in his cage. At last he bethought him on a way to
help a bit, and he got the chaplain to send for me; and he telled me
this; and that th' man were lying in the Infirmary, and he bade me
go (to-day's the day as folk may be admitted into th' Infirmary) and
get his silver watch, as was his mother's, and sell it as well as I
could, and take the money, and bid the poor knob-stick send it to
his friends beyond Burnley; and I were to take him Jonas's kind
regards, and he humbly axed him to forgive him. So I did what Jonas
wished. But, bless your life, none on us would ever throw vitriol
again (at least at a knob-stick) if they could see the sight I saw
to-day. The man lay, his face all wrapped in cloths, so I didn't
see that: but not a limb, nor a bit of a limb, could keep from
quivering with pain. He would ha' bitten his hand to keep down his
moans, but couldn't, his face hurt him so if he moved it e'er so
little. He could scarce mind me when I telled him about Jonas; he
did squeeze my hand when I jingled the money, but when I axed his
wife's name, he shrieked out, 'Mary, Mary, shall I never see you
again? Mary, my darling, they've made me blind because I wanted to
work for you and our own baby; O Mary, Mary!' Then the nurse came,
and said he were raving, and that I had made him worse. And I'm
afeard it was true; yet I were loth to go without knowing where to
send the money. . . . . So that kept me beyond my time, chaps."
"Did you hear where the wife lived at last?" asked many anxious
"No! he went on talking to her, till his words cut my heart like a
knife. I axed th' nurse to find out who she was, and where she
lived. But what I'm more especial naming it now for is this,--for
one thing I wanted you all to know why I weren't at my post this
morning; for another, I wish to say, that I, for one, ha' seen
enough of what comes of attacking knob-sticks, and I'll ha' nought
to do with it no more."
There were some expressions of disapprobation, but John did not mind
"Nay! I'm no coward," he replied, "and I'm true to th' backbone.
What I would like, and what I would do, would be to fight the
masters. There's one among yo called me a coward. Well! every man
has a right to his opinion; but since I've thought on th' matter
to-day I've thought we han all on us been more like cowards in
attacking the poor like ourselves; them as has none to help, but mun
choose between vitriol and starvation. I say we're more cowardly in
doing that than in leaving them alone. No! what I would do is this.
Have at the masters!" Again he shouted, "Have at the masters!" He
spoke lower; all listened with hushed breath--
"It's the masters as has wrought this woe; it's the masters as
should pay for it. Him as called me coward just now, may try if I
am one or not. Set me to serve out the masters, and see if there's
aught I'll stick at."
"It would give the masters a bit on a fright if one of them were
beaten within an inch of his life," said one.
"Ay! or beaten till no life were left in him," growled another.
And so with words, or looks that told more than words, they built up
a deadly plan. Deeper and darker grew the import of their speeches,
as they stood hoarsely muttering their meaning out, and glaring with
eyes that told the terror their own thoughts were to them, upon
their neighbours. Their clenched fists, their set teeth, their
livid looks, all told the suffering which their minds were
voluntarily undergoing in the contemplation of crime, and in
familiarising themselves with its details.
Then came one of those fierce terrible oaths which bind members of
Trades' Unions to any given purpose. Then under the flaring
gaslight, they met together to consult further. With the distrust
of guilt, each was suspicious of his neighbour; each dreaded the
treachery of another. A number of pieces of paper (the identical
letter on which the caricature had been drawn that very morning)
were torn up, and one was marked. Then all were folded up again,
looking exactly alike. They were shuffled together in a hat. The
gas was extinguished; each drew out a paper. The gas was
re-lighted. Then each went as far as he could from his fellows, and
examined the paper he had drawn without saying a word, and with a
countenance as stony and immovable as he could make it.
Then, still rigidly silent, they each took up their hats and went
every one his own way.
He who had drawn the marked paper had drawn the lot of the assassin!
and he had sworn to act according to his drawing! But no one, save
God and his own conscience, knew who was the appointed murderer.
XVII. BARTON'S NIGHT-ERRAND,
"Mournful is't to say Farewell,
Though for few brief hours we part;
In that absence, who can tell
What may come to wring the heart!"
The events recorded in the last chapter took place on a Tuesday. On
Thursday afternoon Mary was surprised, in the midst of some little
bustle in which she was engaged, by the entrance of Will Wilson. He
looked strange, at least it was strange to see any different
expression on his face to his usual joyous beaming appearance. He
had a paper parcel in his hand. He came in, and sat down, more
quietly than usual.
"Why, Will! what's the matter with you? You seem quite cut up about
"And I am, Mary! I'm come to say good-bye; and few folk like to say
good-bye to them they love."
"Good-bye! Bless me, Will, that's sudden, isn't it?"
Mary left off ironing, and came and stood near the fireplace. She
had always liked Will; but now it seemed as if a sudden spring of
sisterly love had gushed up in her heart, so sorry did she feel to
hear of his approaching departure.
"It's very sudden, isn't it?" said she, repeating the question.
"Yes, it's very sudden," said he dreamily. "No, it isn't"; rousing
himself to think of what he was saying. "The captain told me in a
fortnight he would be ready to sail again; but it comes very sudden
on me, I had got so fond of you all."
Mary understood the particular fondness that was thus generalised.
She spoke again.
"But it's not a fortnight since you came. Not a fortnight since you
knocked at Jane Wilson's door, and I was there, you remember.
Nothing like a fortnight!"
"No; I know it's not. But, you see, I got a letter this afternoon
from Jack Harris, to tell me our ship sails on Tuesday next; and
it's long since I promised my uncle (my mother's brother, him that
lives at Kirk-Christ, beyond Ramsay, in the Isle of Man) that I'd go
and see him and his, this time of coming ashore. I must go. I'm
sorry enough; but I mustn't slight poor mother's friends. I must
go. Don't try to keep me," said he, evidently fearing the strength
of his own resolution, if hard pressed by entreaty.
"I'm not a-going, Will. I dare say you're right; only I can't help
feeling sorry you're going away. It seems so flat to be left
behind. When do you go?"
"To-night. I shan't see you again."
"To-night! and you go to Liverpool! Maybe you and father will go
together. He's going to Glasgow, by way of Liverpool."
"No! I'm walking; and I don't think your father will be up to
"Well! and why on earth are you walking? You can get by railway for
"Ay, but Mary! (thou mustn't let out what I'm going to tell thee) I
haven't got three shillings, no, nor even a sixpence left, at least,
not here; before I came I gave my landlady enough to carry me to the
island and back, and maybe a trifle for presents, and I brought the
rest here; and it's all gone but this," jingling a few coppers in
"Nay, never fret over my walking a matter of thirty mile," added he,
as he saw she looked grave and sorry. "It's a fine clear night, and
I shall set off betimes, and get in afore the Manx packet sails.
Where's your father going? To Glasgow did you say? Perhaps he and
I may have a bit of a trip together then, for, if the Manx boat has
sailed when I get into Liverpool, I shall go by a Scotch packet.
What's he going to do in Glasgow?--Seek for work? Trade is as bad
there as here, folk say."
"No; he knows that," answered Mary sadly. "I sometimes think he'll
never get work again, and that trade will never mend. It's very
hard to keep up one's heart. I wish I were a boy, I'd go to sea
with you. It would be getting away from bad news at any rate; and
now, there's hardly a creature that crosses the door-step, but has
something sad and unhappy to tell one. Father is going as a
delegate from his Union, to ask help from the Glasgow folk. He's
starting this evening."
Mary sighed, for the feeling again came over her that it was very
flat to be left alone.
"You say no one crosses the threshold but has something sad to say;
you don't mean that Margaret Jennings has any trouble?" asked the
young sailor anxiously.
"No!" replied Mary, smiling a little; "she's the only one I know, I
believe, who seems free from care. Her blindness almost appears a
blessing sometimes; she was so down-hearted when she dreaded it, and
now she seems so calm and happy when it's downright come. No!
Margaret's happy, I do think."
"I could almost wish it had been otherwise," said Will thoughtfully.
"I could have been so glad to comfort her, and cherish her, if she
had been in trouble."
"And why can't you cherish her, even though she is happy?" asked
"Oh! I don't know. She seems so much better than I am! And her
voice! When I hear it, and think of the wishes that are in my
heart, it seems as much out of place to ask her to be my wife, as it
would be to ask an angel from heaven."
Mary could not help laughing outright, in spite of her depression,
at the idea of Margaret as an angel; it was so difficult (even to
her dressmaking imagination) to fancy where, and how, the wings
would be fastened to the brown stuff gown, or the blue and yellow
Will laughed, too, a little, out of sympathy with Mary's pretty
merry laugh. Then he said--
"Ay, you may laugh, Mary: it only shows you've never been in
In an instant Mary was carnation colour, and the tears sprang to her
soft grey eyes. She that was suffering so much from the doubts
arising from love! It was unkind of him. He did not notice her
change of look and of complexion. He only noticed that she was
silent, so he continued--
"I thought--I think, that when I come back from this voyage, I will
speak. It's my fourth voyage in the same ship and with the same
captain, and he's promised he'll make me a second mate after this
trip; then I shall have something to offer Margaret; and her
grandfather, and Aunt Alice, shall live with her, and keep her from
being lonesome while I'm at sea. I'm speaking as if she cared for
me, and would marry me; d'ye think she does care at all for me,
Mary?" asked he anxiously.
Mary had a very decided opinion of her own on the subject, but she
did not feel as if she had any right to give it. So she said--
"You must ask Margaret, not me, Will; she's never named your name to
me." His countenance fell. "But I should say that was a good sign
from a girl like her. I've no right to say what I think; but, if I
was you, I would not leave her now without speaking."
"No! I cannot speak! I have tried. I've been in to wish them
good-bye, and my voice stuck in my throat. I could say nought of
what I'd planned to say; and I never thought of being so bold as to
offer her marriage till I'd been my next trip, and been made mate.
I could not even offer her this box," said he, undoing his paper
parcel and displaying a gaudily ornamented accordion; "I longed to
buy her something, and I thought, if it were something in the music
line, she would maybe fancy it more. So, will you give it to her,
Mary, when I'm gone? and, if you can slip in something tender,--
something, you know, of what I feel--maybe she would listen to you,
Mary promised that she would do all that he asked.
"I shall be thinking on her many and many a night, when I'm keeping
my watch in mid-sea; I wonder if she will ever think on me when the
wind is whistling, and the gale rising. You'll often speak of me to
her, Mary? And if I should meet with any mischance, tell her how
dear, how very dear, she was to me, and bid her, for the sake of one
who loved her well, try and comfort my poor aunt Alice. Dear old
aunt! you and Margaret will often go and see her, won't you? She's
sadly failed since I was last ashore. And so good as she has been!
When I lived with her, a little wee chap, I used to be wakened by
the neighbours knocking her up; this one was ill, and that body's
child was restless; and for as tired as ever she might be, she would
be up and dressed in a twinkling, never thinking of the hard day's
wash afore her next morning. Them were happy times! How pleased I
used to be when she would take me into the fields with her to gather
herbs! I've tasted tea in China since then, but it wasn't half so
good as the herb tea she used to make for me o' Sunday nights. And
she knew such a deal about plants and birds, and their ways. She
used to tell me long stories about her childhood, and we used to
plan how we would go some time, please God (that was always her
word), and live near her old home beyond Lancaster; in the very
cottage where she was born, if we could get it. Dear! and how
different it is! Here is she still in a back street o' Manchester,
never likely to see her own home again; and I, a sailor, off for
America next week. I wish she had been able to go to Burton once
afore she died."
"She would maybe have found all sadly changed," said Mary, though
her heart echoed Will's feeling.
"Ay! ay! I dare say it's best. One thing I do wish though, and I
have often wished it when out alone on the deep sea, when even the
most thoughtless can't choose but think on th' past and th' future;
and that is, that I'd never grieved her. O Mary! many a hasty word
comes sorely back on the heart when one thinks one shall never see
the person whom one has grieved again!"
They both stood thinking. Suddenly Mary started.
"That's father's step. And his shirt's not ready!"
She hurried to her irons, and tried to make up for lost time.
John Barton came in. Such a haggard and wildly anxious-looking man,
Will thought he had never seen. He looked at Will, but spoke no
word of greeting or welcome.
"I'm come to bid you good-bye," said the sailor, and would in his
sociable friendly humour have gone on speaking. But John answered
"Good-bye to ye, then."
There was that in his manner which left no doubt of his desire to
get rid of the visitor, and Will accordingly shook hands with Mary,
and looked at John, as if doubting how far to offer to shake hands
with him. But he met with no answering glance or gesture, so he
went his way, stopping for an instant at the door to say--
"You'll think on me on Tuesday, Mary. That's the day we shall hoist
our blue Peter, Jack Harris says."
Mary was heartily sorry when the door closed; it seemed like
shutting out a friendly sunbeam. And her father! what could be the
matter with him? He was so restless; not speaking (she wished he
would), but starting up and then sitting down, and meddling with her
irons; he seemed so fierce, too, to judge from his face. She
wondered if he disliked Will being there; or if he were vexed to
find that she had not got further on with her work. At last she
could bear his nervous way no longer, it made her equally nervous
and fidgety. She would speak.
"When are you going, father? I don't know the time o' the trains."
"And why shouldst thou know?" replied he gruffly. "Meddle with thy
ironing, but donnot be asking questions about what doesn't concern
"I wanted to get you something to eat first," answered she gently.
"Thou dost not know that I'm larning to do without food," said he.
Mary looked at him to see if he spoke jestingly. No! he looked
She finished her bit of ironing, and began preparing the food she
was sure her father needed; for by this time her experience in the
degrees of hunger had taught her that his present irritability was
increased, if not caused by want of food.
He had had a sovereign given him to pay his expenses as delegate to
Glasgow, and out of this he had given Mary a few shillings in the
morning; so she had been able to buy a sufficient meal, and now her
care was to cook it so as to tempt him.
"If thou'rt doing that for me, Mary, thou mayst spare thy labour. I
telled thee I were not for eating."
"Just a little bit, father, before starting," coaxed Mary
At that instant who should come in but Job Legh. It was not often
he came, but when he did pay visits, Mary knew from past experience
they were anything but short. Her father's countenance fell back
into the deep gloom from which it was but just emerging at the sound
of Mary's sweet voice, and pretty pleading. He became again
restless and fidgety, scarcely giving Job Legh the greeting
necessary for a host in his own house. Job, however, did not stand
upon ceremony. He had come to pay a visit, and was not to be
daunted from his purpose. He was interested in John Barton's
mission to Glasgow, and wanted to hear all about it; so he sat down,
and made himself comfortable, in a manner that Mary saw was meant to
"So thou'rt off to Glasgow, art thou?" he began his catechism.
"When art starting?"
"That I knowed. But by what train?"
That was just what Mary wanted to know; but what apparently her
father was in no mood to tell. He got up without speaking, and went
upstairs. Mary knew from his step, and his way, how much he was put
out, and feared Job would see it too! But no! Job seemed
imperturbable. So much the better, and perhaps she could cover her
father's rudeness by her own civility to so kind a friend.
So, half-listening to her father's movements upstairs (passionate,
violent, restless motions they were), and half-attending to Job
Legh, she tried to pay him all due regard.
"When does thy father start, Mary?"
That plaguing question again.
"Oh! very soon. I'm just getting him a bit of supper. Is Margaret
"Yes, she's well enough. She's meaning to go and keep Alice Wilson
company for an hour or so this evening: as soon as she thinks her
nephew will have started for Liverpool; for she fancies the old
woman will feel a bit lonesome. Th' Union is paying for your
father, I suppose?"
"Yes, they've given him a sovereign. You're one of th' Union, Job?"
"Ay! I'm one, sure enough; but I'm but a sleeping partner in the
concern. I were obliged to become a member for peace, else I don't
go along with 'em. Yo see they think themselves wise, and me silly,
for differing with them. Well! there's no harm in that. But then
they won't let me be silly in peace and quietness, but will force me
to be as wise as they are; now that's not British liberty, I say.
I'm forced to be wise according to their notions, else they
parsecute me, and sarve me out."
What could her father be doing upstairs? Tramping and banging
about. Why did he not come down? Or why did not Job go? The
supper would be spoilt.
But Job had no notion of going.
"You see my folly is this, Mary. I would take what I could get; I
think half a loaf is better than no bread. I would work for low
wages rather than sit idle and starve. But, comes the Trades'
Union, and says, 'Well, if you take the half-loaf, we'll worry you
out of your life. Will you be clemmed, or will you be worried?'
Now clemming is a quiet death, and worrying isn't, so I choose
clemming, and come into th' Union. But I'd wish they'd leave me
free, if I am a fool."
Creak, creak, went the stairs. Her father was coming down at last.
Yes, he came down, but more doggedly fierce than before, and made up
for his journey, too; with his little bundle on his arm. He went up
to Job, and, more civilly than Mary expected, wished him good-bye.
He then turned to her, and in a short cold manner, bade her
"Oh! father, don't go yet. Your supper is all ready. Stay one
But he pushed her away, and was gone. She followed him to the door,
her eyes blinded by sudden tears; she stood there looking after him.
He was so strange, so cold, so hard. Suddenly, at the end of the
court, he turned, and saw her standing there; he came back quickly,
and took her in his arms.
"God bless thee, Mary!--God in heaven bless thee, poor child!" She
threw her arms round his neck.
"Don't go yet, father; I can't bear you to go yet. Come in, and eat
some supper; you look so ghastly; dear father, do!"
"No," he said, faintly and mournfully. "It's best as it is. I
couldn't eat, and it's best to be off. I cannot be still at home.
I must be moving."
So saying, he unlaced her soft twining arms, and kissing her once
more, set off on his fierce errand.
And he was out of sight! She did not know why, but she had never
before felt so depressed, so desolate. She turned in to Job, who
sat there still. Her father, as soon as he was out of sight,
slackened his pace, and fell into that heavy listless step which
told, as well as words could do, of hopelessness and weakness. It
was getting dark, but he loitered on, returning no greeting to any
A child's cry caught his ear. His thoughts were running on little
Tom; on the dead and buried child of happier years. He followed the
sound of the wail, that might have been HIS, and found a poor little
mortal, who had lost his way, and whose grief had choked up his
thoughts to the single want, "Mammy, mammy." With tender address,
John Barton soothed the little laddie, and with beautiful patience
he gathered fragments of meaning from the half-spoken words which
came mingled with sobs from the terrified little heart. So, aided
by inquiries here and there from a passer-by, he led and carried the
little fellow home, where his mother had been too busy to miss him,
but now received him with thankfulness, and with an eloquent Irish
blessing. When John heard the words of blessing, he shook his head
mournfully and turned away to retrace his steps.
Let us leave him.
Mary took her sewing after he had gone, and sat on, and sat on,
trying to listen to Job, who was more inclined to talk than usual.
She had conquered her feeling of impatience towards him so far as to
be able to offer him her father's rejected supper; and she even
tried to eat herself. But her heart failed her. A leaden weight
seemed to hang over her; a sort of presentiment of evil, or perhaps
only an excess of low-spirited feeling in consequence of the two
departures which had taken place that afternoon.
She wondered how long Job Legh would sit. She did not like putting
down her work, and crying before him, and yet she had never in her
life longed so much to be alone in order to indulge in a good hearty
burst of tears.
"Well, Mary," she suddenly caught him saying, "I thought you'd be a
bit lonely to-night; and as Margaret were going to cheer th' old
woman, I said I'd go and keep th' young un company; and a very
pleasant chatty evening we've had; very. Only I wonder as Margaret
is not come back."
"But perhaps she is," suggested Mary.
"No, no, I took care o' that. Look ye here!" and he pulled out the
great house-key. "She'll have to stand waiting i' th' street, and
that I'm sure she wouldn't do, when she knew where to find me."
"Will she come back by hersel?" asked Mary.
"Ay. At first I were afraid o' trusting her, and I used to follow
her a bit behind; never letting on, of course. But, bless you! she
goes along as steadily as can be; rather slow to be sure, and her
head a bit on one side, as if she were listening. And it's real
beautiful to see her cross the road. She'll wait above a bit to
hear that all is still; not that she's so dark as not to see a coach
or a cart like a big black thing, but she can't rightly judge how
far off it is by sight, so she listens. Hark! that's her!"
Yes; in she came, with her usually calm face all tear-stained and
"What's the matter, my wench?" said Job hastily.
"O grandfather! Alice Wilson's so bad!" She could say no more for
her breathless agitation. The afternoon, and the parting with Will,
had weakened her nerves for any after-shock.
"What is it? Do tell us, Margaret!" said Mary, placing her in a
chair, and loosening her bonnet-strings.
"I think it's a stroke o' the palsy. Any rate she has lost the use
of one side."
"Was it afore Will set off?" asked Mary.
"No, he were gone before I got there," said Margaret; "and she were
much about as well as she has been for many a day. She spoke a bit,
but not much; but that were only natural, for Mrs. Wilson likes to
have the talk to hersel, you know. She got up to go across the
room, and then I heard a drag wi' her leg, and presently a fall, and
Mrs. Wilson came running, and set up such a cry! I stopped wi'
Alice, while she fetched a doctor; but she could not speak, to
answer me, though she tried, I think."
"Where was Jem? Why didn't he go for the doctor?"
"He were out when I got there, and he never came home while I
"Thou'st never left Mrs. Wilson alone wi' poor Alice?" asked Job
"No, no," said Margaret. "But oh! grandfather, it's now I feel how
hard it is to have lost my sight. I should have so loved to nurse
her; and I did try, until I found I did more harm than good. O
grandfather; if I could but see!"
She sobbed a little; and they let her give that ease to her heart.
Then she went on--
"No! I went round by Mrs. Davenport's, and she were hard at work;
but, the minute I told my errand, she were ready and willing to go
to Jane Wilson, and stop up all night with Alice."
"And what does the doctor say?" asked Mary.
"Oh! much what all doctors say: he puts a fence on this side, and
a fence on that, for fear he should be caught tripping in his
judgment. One moment he does not think there's much hope--but while
there is life there is hope! th' next he says he should think she
might recover partial--but her age is again her. He's ordered her
leeches to her head."
Margaret having told her tale, leant back with weariness, both of
body and mind. Mary hastened to make her a cup of tea; while Job,
lately so talkative, sat quiet and mournfully silent.
"I'll go first thing to-morrow morning, and learn how she is; and
I'll bring word back before I go to work," said Mary.
"It's a bad job Will's gone," said Job.
"Jane does not think she knows any one," replied Margaret. "It's
perhaps as well he shouldn't see her now for they say her face is
sadly drawn. He'll remember her with her own face better, if he
does not see her again."
With a few more sorrowful remarks they separated for the night, and
Mary was left alone in her house, to meditate on the heavy day that
had passed over her head. Everything seemed going wrong. Will
gone; her father gone--and so strangely too! And to a place so
mysteriously distant as Glasgow seemed to be to her! She had felt
his presence as a protection against Harry Carson and his threats;
and now she dreaded lest he should learn she was alone. Her heart
began to despair, too, about Jem. She feared he had ceased to love
her; and she--she only loved him more and more for his seeming
neglect. And, as if all this aggregate of sorrowful thoughts was
not enough, here was this new woe, of poor Alice's paralytic stroke.
"But in his pulse there was no throb,
Nor on his lips one dying sob;
Sigh, nor word, nor struggling breath
Heralded his way to death."
--"SIEGE OF CORINTH."
"My brain runs this way and that way; 't will not fix
On aught but vengeance."
--"DUKE OF GUISE."
I must now go back to an hour or two before Mary and her friends
parted for the night. It might be about eight o'clock that evening,
and the three Miss Carsons were sitting in their father's
drawing-room. He was asleep in the dining-room, in his own
comfortable chair. Mrs. Carson was (as was usual with her, when no
particular excitement was going on) very poorly, and sitting
upstairs in her dressing-room, indulging in the luxury of a
headache. She was not well, certainly. "Wind in the head," the
servants called it. But it was but the natural consequence of the
state of mental and bodily idleness in which she was placed.
Without education enough to value the resources of wealth and
leisure, she was so circumstanced as to command both. It would have
done her more good than all the ether and sal-volatile she was daily
in the habit of swallowing, if she might have taken the work of one
of her own housemaids for a week; made beds, rubbed tables, shaken
carpets, and gone out into the fresh morning air, without all the
paraphernalia of shawl, cloak, boa, fur boots, bonnet, and veil, in
which she was equipped before setting out for an "airing," in the
closely shut-up carriage.
So the three girls were by themselves in the comfortable, elegant,
well-lighted drawing-room; and, like many similarly situated young
ladies, they did not exactly know what to do to while away the time
until the tea-hour. The elder two had been at a dancing-party the
night before, and were listless and sleepy in consequence. One
tried to read "Emerson's Essays," and fell asleep in the attempt;
the other was turning over a parcel of new songs, in order to select
what she liked. Amy, the youngest, was copying some manuscript
music. The air was heavy with the fragrance of strongly-scented
flowers, which sent out their night odours from an adjoining
The clock on the chimney-piece chimed eight. Sophy (the sleeping
sister) started up at the sound.
"What o'clock is that?" she asked.
"Eight," said Amy.
"O dear! how tired I am! Is Harry come in? Tea will rouse one up a
little. Are you not worn out, Helen?"
"Yes; I am tired enough. One is good for nothing the day after a
dance. Yet I don't feel weary at the time; I suppose it is the
lateness of the hours."
"And yet, how could it be managed otherwise? So many don't dine
till five or six, that one cannot begin before eight or nine; and
then it takes a long time to get into the spirit of the evening. It
is always more pleasant after supper than before."
"Well, I'm too tired to-night to reform the world in the matter of
dances or balls. What are you copying, Amy?"
"Only that little Spanish air you sing, 'Quien quiera.'"
"What are you copying it for?" asked Helen.
"Harry asked me to do it for him this morning at breakfast-time--for
Miss Richardson, he said."
"For Jane Richardson!" said Sophy, as if a new idea were receiving
strength in her mind.
"Do you think Harry means anything by his attention to her?" asked
"Nay, I do not know anything more than you do; I can only observe
and conjecture. What do you think, Helen?"
"Harry always likes to be of consequence to the belle of the room.
If one girl is more admired than another, he likes to flutter about
her, and seem to be on intimate terms with her. That is his way,
and I have not noticed anything beyond that in his manner to Jane
"But I don't think she knows it's only his way. Just watch her the
next time we meet her when Harry is there, and see how she crimsons,
and looks another way when she feels he is coming up to her. I
think he sees it, too, and I think he is pleased with it."
"I dare say Harry would like well enough to turn the head of such a
lovely girl as Jane Richardson. But I'm not convinced that he's in
love, whatever she may be."
"Well, then!" said Sophy indignantly, "though it is our own brother,
I do not think he is behaving very wrongly. The more I think of it,
the more sure I am that she thinks he means something, and that he
intends her to think so. And then, when he leaves off paying her
"Which will be as soon as a prettier girl makes her appearance,"
"As soon as he leaves off paying her attention," resumed Sophy, "she
will have many and many a heartache, and then she will harden
herself into being a flirt, a feminine flirt, as he is a masculine
flirt. Poor girl!"
"I don't like to hear you speak so of Harry," said Amy, looking up
"And I don't like to have to speak so, Amy, for I love him dearly.
He is a good, kind brother, but I do think him vain, and I think he
hardly knows the misery, the crime, to which indulged vanity may
"Oh! do you think we may ring for tea? Sleeping after dinner makes
me so feverish."
"Yes, surely. Why should not we?" said the more energetic Sophy,
pulling the bell with some determination.
"Tea, directly, Parker," said she authoritatively, as the man
entered the room.
She was too little in the habit of reading expressions on the faces
of others to notice Parker's countenance,
Yet it was striking. It was blanched to a dead whiteness; the lips
compressed as if to keep within some tale of horror; the eyes
distended and unnatural. It was a terror-stricken face.
The girls began to put away their music and books, in preparation
for tea. The door slowly opened again, and this time it was the
nurse who entered. I call her nurse, for such had been her office
in bygone days, though now she held rather an anomalous situation in
the family. Seamstress, attendant on the young ladies, keeper of
the stores; only "Nurse" was still her name. She had lived longer
with them than any other servant, and to her their manner was far
less haughty than to the other domestics. She occasionally came
into the drawing-room to look for things belonging to their father
or mother, so it did not excite any surprise when she advanced into
the room. They went on arranging their various articles of
She wanted them to look up. She wanted them to read something in
her face--her face so full of woe, of horror. But they went on
without taking any notice. She coughed; not a natural cough; but
one of those coughs which asks so plainly for remark.
"Dear nurse, what is the matter?" asked Amy. "Are not you well?"
"Is mamma ill?" asked Sophy quickly.
"Speak, speak, nurse!" said they all, as they saw her efforts to
articulate choked by the convulsive rising in her throat. They
clustered round her with eager faces, catching a glimpse of some
terrible truth to be revealed.
"My dear young ladies! my dear girls!" she gasped out at length, and
then she burst into tears.
"Oh! do tell us what it is, nurse!" said one. "Anything is better
than this. Speak!"
"My children! I don't know how to break it to you. My dears, poor
Mr. Harry is brought home"--
"Brought home--BROUGHT home--how?" Instinctively they sank their
voices to a whisper; but a fearful whisper it was. In the same low
tone, as if afraid lest the walls, the furniture, the inanimate
things which told of preparation for life and comfort, should hear,
Amy clutched her nurse's arm, and fixed her eyes on her as if to
know if such a tale could be true; and when she read its
confirmation in those sad, mournful, unflinching eyes, she sank,
without word or sound, down in a faint upon the floor. One sister
sat down on an ottoman, and covered her face, to try and realise it.
That was Sophy. Helen threw herself on the sofa, and burying her
head in the pillows, tried to stifle the screams and moans which
shook her frame.
The nurse stood silent. She had not told ALL.
"Tell me," said Sophy, looking up, and speaking in a hoarse voice,
which told of the inward pain, "tell me, nurse! Is he DEAD, did you
say? Have you sent for a doctor? Oh! send for one, send for one,"
continued she, her voice rising to shrillness, and starting to her
feet. Helen lifted herself up, and looked, with breathless waiting,
"My dears, he is dead! But I have sent for a doctor. I have done
all I could."
"When did he--when did they bring him home?" asked Sophy.
"Perhaps ten minutes ago. Before you rang for Parker."
"How did he die? Where did they find him? He looked so well. He
always seemed so strong. Oh! are you sure he is dead?"
She went towards the door. Nurse laid her hand on her arm.
"Miss Sophy, I have not told you all. Can you bear to hear it?
Remember, master is in the next room, and he knows nothing yet.
Come, you must help me to tell him. Now, be quiet, dear! It was no
common death he died!" She looked in her face as if trying to
convey her meaning by her eyes.
Sophy's lips moved, but nurse could hear no sound.
"He has been shot as he was coming home along Turner Street,
Sophy went on with the motion of her lips, twitching them almost
"My dear, you must rouse yourself, and remember your father and
mother have yet to be told. Speak! Miss Sophy!"
But she could not; her whole face worked involuntarily. The nurse
left the room, and almost immediately brought back some sal-volatile
and water. Sophy drank it eagerly, and gave one or two deep gasps.
Then she spoke in a calm, unnatural voice.
"What do you want me to do, nurse? Go to Helen and poor Amy. See,
they want help."
"Poor creatures! we must let them alone for a bit. You must go to
master; that's what I want you to do, Miss Sophy. You must break it
to him, poor old gentleman! Come, he's asleep in the dining-room,
and the men are waiting to speak to him."
Sophy went mechanically to the dining-room door.
"Oh! I cannot go in. I cannot tell him. What must I say?"
"I'll come with you, Miss Sophy. Break it to him by degrees."
"I can't, nurse. My head throbs so, I shall be sure to say the
However, she opened the door. There sat her father, the shaded
light of the candle-lamp falling upon, and softening his marked
features, while his snowy hair contrasted well with the deep crimson
morocco of the chair. The newspaper he had been reading had dropped
on the carpet by his side. He breathed regularly and deeply.
At that instant the words of Mrs. Hemans's song came full in Sophy's
"Ye know not what ye do,
That call the slumberer back
From the realms unseen by you,
To life's dim weary track."
But this life's track would be to the bereaved father something more
than dim and weary, hereafter.
"Papa," said she softly. He did not stir.
"Papa!" she exclaimed, somewhat louder.
He started up, half awake.
"Tea is ready, is it?" and he yawned.
"No! papa, but something very dreadful--very sad, has happened!"
He was gaping so loud that he did not catch the words she uttered,
and did not see the expression of her face.
"Master Henry has not come back," said nurse. Her voice, heard in
unusual speech to him, arrested his attention, and rubbing his eyes,
he looked at the servant.
"Harry! oh, no! he had to attend a meeting of the masters about
these cursed turn-outs. I don't expect him yet. What are you
looking at me so strangely for, Sophy?"
"O papa, Harry is come back," said she, bursting into tears.
"What do you mean?" said he, startled into an impatient
consciousness that something was wrong. "One of you says he is not
come home, and the other says he is. Now, that's nonsense! Tell me
at once what's the matter. Did he go on horseback to town? Is he
thrown? Speak, child, can't you?"
"No! he's not been thrown, papa," said Sophy sadly.
"But he's badly hurt," put in the nurse, desirous to be drawing his
anxiety to a point.
"Hurt? Where? How? Have you sent for a doctor?" said he, hastily
rising, as if to leave the room.
"Yes, papa, we've sent for a doctor--but I'm afraid---I believe it's
of no use."
He looked at her for a moment, and in her face he read the truth.
His son, his only son, was dead.
He sank back in his chair, and hid his face in his hands, and bowed
his head upon the table. The strong mahogany dining-table shook and
rattled under his agony.
Sophy went and put her arms round his bowed neck.
"Go! you are not Harry," said he; but the action roused him.
"Where is he? where is the"--said he, with his strong face set into
the lines of anguish, by two minutes of such intense woe.
"In the servants' hall," said nurse. "Two policemen and another man
brought him home. They would be glad to speak to you when you are
"I am now able," replied he. At first when he stood up he tottered.
But steadying himself, he walked, as firmly as a soldier on drill,
to the door. Then he turned back and poured out a glass of wine
from the decanter which yet remained on the table. His eye caught
the wine-glass which Harry had used but two or three hours before.
He sighed a long quivering sigh, and then mastering himself again,
he left the room.
"You had better go back to your sisters, Miss Sophy," said nurse.
Miss Carson went. She could not face death yet.
The nurse followed Mr. Carson to the servants' hall. There on their
dinner-table lay the poor dead body. The men who had brought it
were sitting near the fire, while several of the servants stood
round the table, gazing at the remains.
One or two were crying; one or two were whispering; awed into a
strange stillness of voice and action by the presence of the dead.
When Mr. Carson came in they all drew back and looked at him with
the reverence due to sorrow.
He went forward and gazed long and fondly on the calm, dead face;
then he bent down and kissed the lips yet crimson with life. The
policemen had advanced, and stood ready to be questioned. But at
first the old man's mind could only take in the idea of death;
slowly, slowly came the conception of violence, of murder. "How did
he die?" he groaned forth.
The policemen looked at each other. Then one began, and stated that
having heard the report of a gun in Turner Street, he had turned
down that way (a lonely, unfrequented way Mr. Carson knew, but a
short cut to his garden door, of which Harry had a key); that as he
(the policeman) came nearer, he had heard footsteps as of a man
running away; but the evening was so dark (the moon not having yet
risen) that he could see no one twenty yards off. That he had even
been startled when close to the body by seeing it lying across the
path at his feet. That he had sprung his rattle; and when another
policeman came up, by the light of the lantern they had discovered
who it was that had been killed. That they believed him to be dead
when they first took him up, as he had never moved, spoken, or
breathed. That intelligence of the murder had been sent to the
superintendent, who would probably soon be here. That two or three
policemen were still about the place where the murder was committed,
seeking out for some trace of the murderer. Having said this, they
Mr. Carson had listened attentively, never taking his eyes off the
dead body. When they had ended, he said--
"Where was he shot?"
They lifted up some of the thick chestnut curls, and showed a blue
spot (you could hardly call it a hole, the flesh had closed so much
over it) in the left temple. A deadly aim! And yet it was so dark a
"He must have been close upon him," said one policeman.
"And have had him between him and the sky," added the other.
There was a little commotion at the door of the room, and there
stood poor Mrs. Carson, the mother.
She had heard unusual noises in the house, and had sent down her
maid (much more a companion to her than her highly-educated
daughters) to discover what was going on. But the maid either
forgot, or dreaded, to return; and with nervous impatience Mrs.
Carson came down herself, and had traced the hum and buzz of voices
to the servants' hall.
Mr. Carson turned round. But he could not leave the dead for any
"Take her away, nurse. It is no sight for her. Tell Miss Sophy to
go to her mother." His eyes were again fixed on the dead face of
Presently Mrs. Carson's hysterical cries were heard all over the
house. Her husband shuddered at the outward expression of the agony
which was rending his heart.
Then the police superintendent came, and after him the doctor. The
latter went through all the forms of ascertaining death, without
uttering a word, and when at the conclusion of the operation of
opening a vein, from which no blood flowed, he shook his head, all
present understood the confirmation of their previous belief. The
superintendent asked to speak to Mr. Carson in private.
"It was just what I was going to request of you," answered he; so he
led the way into the dining-room, with the wine-glass still on the
The door was carefully shut, and both sat down, each apparently
waiting for the other to begin.
At last Mr. Carson spoke.
"You probably have heard that I am a rich man."
The superintendent bowed in assent.
"Well, sir, half--nay, if necessary, the whole of my fortune I will
give to have the murderer brought to the gallows."
"Every exertion, you may be sure, sir, shall be used on our part;
but probably offering a handsome reward might accelerate the
discovery of the murderer. But what I wanted particularly to tell
you, sir, is that one of my men has already got some clue, and that
another (who accompanied me here) has within this quarter of an hour
found a gun in the field which the murderer crossed, and which he
probably threw away when pursued, as encumbering his flight. I have
not the smallest doubt of discovering the murderer."
"What do you call a handsome reward?" said Mr. Carson.
"Well, sir, three, or five hundred pounds is a munificent reward:
more than will probably be required as a temptation to any
"Make it a thousand," said Mr. Carson decisively. "It's the doing
of those damned turn-outs."
"I imagine not," said the superintendent. "Some days ago the man I
was naming to you before, reported to the inspector when he came on
his beat, that he had to separate your son from a young man, who by
his dress he believed to be employed in a foundry; that the man had
thrown Mr. Carson down, and seemed inclined to proceed to more
violence, when the policeman came up and interfered. Indeed, my man
wished to give him in charge for an assault, but Mr. Carson would
not allow that to be done."
"Just like him!--noble fellow!" murmured the father.
"But after your son had left, the man made use of some pretty strong
threats. And it's rather a curious coincidence that this scuffle
took place in the very same spot where the murder was committed; in
There was some one knocking at the door of the room. It was Sophy,
who beckoned her father out, and then asked him, in an awestruck
whisper, to come upstairs and speak to her mother.
"She will not leave Harry, and talks so strangely. Indeed--indeed--
papa, I think she has lost her senses."
And the poor girl sobbed bitterly.
"Where is she?" asked Mr. Carson.
"In his room."
They went upstairs rapidly and silently. It was a large comfortable
bedroom; too large to be well lighted by the flaring, flickering
kitchen-candle which had been hastily snatched up, and now stood on
On the bed, surrounded by its heavy, pall-like green curtains, lay
the dead son. They had carried him up, and laid him down, as
tenderly as though they feared to waken him; and, indeed, it looked
more like sleep than death, so very calm and full of repose was the
face. You saw, too, the chiselled beauty of the features much more
perfectly than when the brilliant colouring of life had distracted
your attention. There was a peace about him which told that death
had come too instantaneously to give any previous pain.
In a chair, at the head of the bed, sat the mother--smiling. She
held one of the hands (rapidly stiffening, even in her warm grasp),
and gently stroked the back of it, with the endearing caress she had
used to all her children when young.
"I am glad you are come," said she, looking up at her husband, and
still smiling. "Harry is so full of fun, he always has something
new to amuse us with; and now he pretends he is asleep, and that we
can't waken him. Look! he is smiling now; he hears I have found him
And, in truth, the lips, in the rest of death, did look as though
they wore a smile, and the waving light of the unsnuffed candle
almost made them seem to move.
"Look, Amy," said she to her youngest child, who knelt at her feet,
trying to soothe her, by kissing her garments.
"Oh, he was always a rogue! You remember, don't you, love? how full
of play he was as a baby; hiding his face under my arm, when you
wanted to play with him. Always a rogue, Harry!"
"We must get her away, sir," said nurse; "you know there is much to
be done before"--
"I understand, nurse." said the father, hastily interrupting her in
dread of the distinct words which would tell of the changes of
"Come, love," said he to his wife. "I want you to come with me. I
want to speak to you downstairs."
"I'm coming," said she, rising; "perhaps, after all, nurse, he's
really tired, and would be glad to sleep. Don't let him get cold,
though,--he feels rather chilly," continued she, after she had bent
down, and kissed the pale lips.
Her husband put his arm around her waist, and they left the room.
Then the three sisters burst into unrestrained wailings. They were
startled into the reality of life and death. And yet in the midst
of shrieks and moans, of shivering and chattering of teeth, Sophy's
eye caught the calm beauty of the dead; so calm amidst such
violence, and she hushed her emotion.
"Come," said she to her sisters, "nurse wants us to go; and besides,
we ought to be with mamma. Papa told the man he was talking to,
when I went for him, to wait, and she must not be left."
Meanwhile, the superintendent had taken a candle, and was examining
the engravings that hung round the dining-room. It was so common to
him to be acquainted with crime, that he was far from feeling all
his interest absorbed in the present case of violence, although he
could not help having much anxiety to detect the murderer. He was
busy looking at the only oil-painting in the room (a youth of
eighteen or so, in a fancy dress), and conjecturing its identity
with the young man so mysteriously dead, when the door opened, and
Mr. Carson returned. Stern as he had looked before leaving the
room, he looked far sterner now. His face was hardened into
"I beg your pardon, sir, for leaving you." The superintendent
bowed. They sat down, and spoke long together. One by one the
policemen were called in, and questioned.
All through the night there was bustle and commotion in the house.
Nobody thought of going to bed. It seemed strange to Sophy to hear
nurse summoned from her mother's side to supper, in the middle of
the night, and still stranger that she could go. The necessity of
eating and drinking seemed out of place in the house of death.
When night was passing into morning, the dining-room door opened, and
two persons' steps were heard along the hall. The superintendent
was leaving at last. Mr. Carson stood on the front-door step,
feeling the refreshment of the caller morning air, and seeing the
starlight fade away into dawn.
"You will not forget," said he. "I trust to you." The policeman
"Spare no money. The only purpose for which I now value wealth is
to have the murderer arrested, and brought to justice. My hope in
life now is to see him sentenced to death. Offer any rewards. Name
a thousand pounds in the placards. Come to me at any hour, night or
day, if that be required. All I ask of you is, to get the murderer
hanged. Next week, if possible--to-day is Friday. Surely with the
clues you already possess, you can muster up evidence sufficient to
have him tried next week."
"He may easily request an adjournment of his trial, on the ground of
the shortness of the notice," said the superintendent.
"Oppose it, if possible. I will see that the first lawyers are
employed. I shall know no rest while he lives."
"Everything shall be done, sir."
"You will arrange with the coroner. Ten o'clock if convenient."
The superintendent took leave.
Mr. Carson stood on the step, dreading to shut out the light and
air, and return into the haunted, gloomy house.
"My son! my son!" he said at last. "But you shall be avenged, my
poor murdered boy."
Ay! to avenge his wrongs the murderer had singled out his victim,
and with one fell action had taken away the life that God had given.
To avenge his child's death, the old man lived on; with the single
purpose in his heart of vengeance on the murderer. True, his
vengeance was sanctioned by law, but was it the less revenge?
Are ye worshippers of Christ? or of Alecto?
Oh! Orestes, you would have made a very tolerable Christian of the
XIX. JEM WILSON ARRESTED ON SUSPICION,
"Deeds to be hid which were not hid,
Which, all confused, I could not know,
Whether I suffered or I did,
For all seemed guilt, remorse, or woe."
I left Mary, on that same Thursday night which left its burden of
woe at Mr. Carson's threshold, haunted with depressing thoughts.
All through the night she tossed restlessly about, trying to get
quit of the ideas that harassed her, and longing for the light when
she could rise, and find some employment. But just as dawn began to
appear, she became more quiet, and fell into a sound heavy sleep,
which lasted till she was sure it was late in the morning, by the
full light that shone in.
She dressed hastily, and heard the neighbouring church clock strike
eight. It was far too late to do as she had planned (after
inquiring how Alice was, to return and tell Margaret), and she
accordingly went in to inform the latter of her change of purpose,
and the cause of it; but on entering the house she found Job sitting
alone, looking sad enough. She told him what she came for.
"Margaret, wench! why, she's been gone to Wilson's these two hours.
Ay! sure, you did say last night you would go; but she could na rest
in her bed, so was off betimes this morning."
Mary could do nothing but feel guilty of her long morning nap, and
hasten to follow Margaret's steps; for late as it was, she felt she
could not settle well to her work, unless she learnt how kind good
Alice Wilson was going on.
So, eating her crust-of-bread breakfast, she passed rapidly along
the street. She remembered afterwards the little groups of people
she had seen, eagerly hearing, and imparting news; but at the time
her only care was to hasten on her way, in dread of a reprimand from
She went into the house at Jane Wilson's, her heart at the instant
giving a strange knock, and sending the rosy flush into her face, at
the thought that Jem might possibly be inside the door. But I do
assure you, she had not thought of it before. Impatient and loving
as she was, her solicitude about Alice on that hurried morning had
not been mingled with any thought of him.
Her heart need not have leaped, her colour need not have rushed so
painfully to her cheeks, for he was not there. There was the round
table, with a cup and saucer, which had evidently been used, and
there was Jane Wilson sitting on the other side, crying quietly,
while she ate her breakfast with a sort of unconscious appetite.
And there was Mrs. Davenport washing away at a night-cap or so,
which, by their simple, old-world make, Mary knew at a glance were
Alice's. But nothing--no one else.
Alice was much the same, or rather better of the two, they told her:
at any rate she could speak, though it was sad rambling talk. Would
Mary like to see her?
Of course she would. Many are interested by seeing their friends
under the new aspect of illness; and among the poor there is no
wholesome fear of injury or excitement to restrain this wish.
So Mary went upstairs, accompanied by Mrs. Davenport, wringing the
suds off her hands, and speaking in a loud whisper far more audible
than her usual voice.
"I mun be hastening home, but I'll come again to-night, time enough
to iron her cap; 'twould be a sin and a shame if we let her go dirty
now she's ill, when she's been so rare and clean all her life long.
But she's sadly forsaken, poor thing! She'll not know you, Mary;
she knows none of us."
The room upstairs held two beds, one superior in the grandeur of
four posts and checked curtains to the other, which had been
occupied by the twins in their brief lifetime. The smaller had been
Alice's bed since she had lived there; but with the natural
reverence to one "stricken of God and afflicted," she had been
installed, since her paralytic stroke the evening before, in the
larger and grander bed; while Jane Wilson had taken her short broken
rest on the little pallet.
Margaret came forwards to meet her friend, whom she half expected,
and whose step she knew. Mrs. Davenport returned to her washing.
The two girls did not speak; the presence of Alice awed them into
silence. There she lay with the rosy colour, absent from her face
since the days of childhood, flushed once more into it by her
sickness nigh unto death. She lay on the affected side, and with
her other arm she was constantly sawing the air, not exactly in a
restless manner, but in a monotonous, incessant way, very trying to
a watcher. She was talking away, too, almost as constantly, in a
low indistinct tone. But her face, her profiled countenance, looked
calm and smiling, even interested by the ideas that were passing
through her clouded mind.
"Listen!" said Margaret, as she stooped her head down to catch the
muttered words more distinctly.
"What will mother say? The bees are turning homeward for th' last
time, and we've a terrible long bit to go yet. See! here's a
linnet's nest in this gorse-bush. Th' hen bird is on it. Look at
her bright eyes, she won't stir. Ay! we mun hurry home. Won't
mother be pleased with the bonny lot of heather we've got! Make
haste, Sally, maybe we shall have cockles for supper. I saw th'
cockleman's donkey turn up our way fra' Arnside."
Margaret touched Mary's hand, and the pressure in return told her
that they understood each other; that they knew how in this illness
to the old, world-weary woman, God had sent her a veiled blessing:
she was once more in the scenes of her childhood, unchanged and
bright as in those long departed days; once more with the sister of
her youth, the playmate of fifty years ago, who had for nearly as
many years slept in a grassy grave in the little churchyard beyond
Alice's face changed; she looked sorrowful, almost penitent.
"O Sally! I wish we'd told her. She thinks we were in church all
morning, and we've gone on deceiving her. If we'd told her at first
how it was--how sweet th' hawthorn smelt through the open church
door, and how we were on th' last bench in the aisle, and how it
were the first butterfly we'd seen this spring, and how it flew into
th' very church itself; oh! mother is so gentle, I wish we'd told
her. I'll go to her next time she comes in sight, and say, 'Mother,
we were naughty last Sabbath.'"
She stopped, and a few tears came stealing down the old withered
cheek, at the thought of the temptation and deceit of her childhood.
Surely many sins could not have darkened that innocent child-like
spirit since. Mary found a red-spotted pocket-handkerchief, and put
it into the hand which sought about for something to wipe away the
trickling tears. She took it with a gentle murmur.
"Thank you, mother."
Mary pulled Margaret away from the bed.
"Don't you think she's happy, Margaret?"
"Ay! that I do, bless her. She feels no pain, and knows nought of
her present state. Oh! that I could see, Mary! I try and be
patient with her afore me, but I'd give aught I have to see her, and
see what she wants. I am so useless! I mean to stay here as long
as Jane Wilson is alone; and I would fain be here all to-night,
"I'll come," said Mary decidedly.
"Mrs. Davenport said she'd come again, but she's hardworked all
"I'll come," repeated Mary.
"Do!" said Margaret, "and I'll be here till you come. Maybe, Jem
and you could take th' night between you, and Jane Wilson might get
a bit of sound sleep in his bed; for she were up and down the better
part of last night, and just when she were in a sound sleep this
morning, between two and three, Jem came home, and th' sound o' his
voice roused her in a minute."
"Where had he been till that time o' night?" asked Mary.
"Nay! it were none of my business; and, indeed, I never saw him till
he came in here to see Alice. He were in again this morning, and
seemed sadly downcast. But you'll, maybe, manage to comfort him
to-night, Mary," said Margaret, smiling, while a ray of hope
glimmered in Mary's heart, and she almost felt glad, for an instant,
of the occasion which would at last bring them together. Oh! happy
night! when would it come? Many hours had yet to pass.
Then she saw Alice, and repented, with a bitter self-reproach. But
she could not help having gladness in the depths of her heart, blame
herself as she would. So she tried not to think, as she hurried
along to Miss Simmonds', with a dancing step of lightness.
She was late--that she knew she should be. Miss Simmonds was vexed
and cross. That also she had anticipated, and had intended to
smooth her raven down by extraordinary diligence and attention. But
there was something about the girls she did not understand--had not
anticipated. They stopped talking when she came in; or rather, I
should say, stopped listening, for Sally Leadbitter was the talker
to whom they were hearkening with deepest attention. At first they
eyed Mary, as if she had acquired some new interest to them since
the day before. Then they began to whisper; and, absorbed as Mary
had been in her own thoughts, she could not help becoming aware that
it was of her they spoke.
At last Sally Leadbitter asked Mary if she had heard the news?
"No! What news?" answered she.
The girls looked at each other with gloomy mystery. Sally went on.
"Have you not heard that young Mr. Carson was murdered last night?"
Mary's lips could not utter a negative, but no one who looked at her
pale and terror-stricken face could have doubted that she had not
heard before of the fearful occurrence.
Oh, it is terrible, that sudden information, that one you have known
has met with a bloody death! You seem to shrink from the world
where such deeds can be committed, and to grow sick with the idea of
the violent and wicked men of earth. Much as Mary had learned to
dread him lately, now he was dead (and dead in such a manner) her
feeling was that of oppressive sorrow for him.
The room went round and round, and she felt as though she should
faint; but Miss Simmonds came in, bringing a waft of fresher air as
she opened the door, to refresh the body, and the certainty of a
scolding for inattention to brace the sinking mind. She, too, was
full of the morning's news.
"Have you heard any more of this horrid affair, Miss Barton?" asked
she, as she settled to her work.
Mary tried to speak; at first she could not, and when she succeeded
in uttering a sentence, it seemed as though it were not her own
voice that spoke.
"No, ma'am, I never heard of it till this minute."
"Dear! that's strange, for every one is up about it. I hope the
murderer will be found out, that I do. Such a handsome young man to
be killed as he was. I hope the wretch that did it may be hanged as
high as Haman."
One of the girls reminded them that the assizes came on next week.
"Ay," replied Miss Simmonds, "and the milkman told me they will
catch the wretch, and have him tried and hung in less than a week.
Serve him right, whoever he is. Such a handsome young man as he
Then each began to communicate to Miss Simmonds the various reports
they had heard.
Suddenly she burst out--
"Miss Barton! as I live, dropping tears on that new silk gown of
Mrs. Hawkes'! Don't you know they will stain, and make it shabby
for ever? Crying like a baby, because a handsome young man meets
with an untimely end. For shame of yourself, miss! Mind your
character and your work, if you please. Or if you must cry" (seeing
her scolding rather increased the flow of Mary's tears, than
otherwise), "take this print to cry over. That won't be marked like
this beautiful silk," rubbing it, as if she loved it, with a clean
pocket-handkerchief, in order to soften the edges of the hard round
Mary took the print, and, naturally enough, having had leave given
her to cry over it, rather checked the inclination to weep.
Everybody was full of the one subject. The girl sent out to match
silk, came back with the account gathered at the shop, of the
coroner's inquest then sitting; the ladies who called to speak about
gowns first began about the murder, and mingled details of that,
with directions for their dresses. Mary felt as though the haunting
horror were a nightmare, a fearful dream, from which awakening would
relieve her. The picture of the murdered body, far more ghastly
than the reality, seemed to swim in the air before her eyes. Sally
Leadbitter looked and spoke of her, almost accusingly, and made no
secret now of Mary's conduct, more blamable to her fellow-workwomen
for its latter changeableness, than for its former giddy flirting.
"Poor young gentleman," said one, as Sally recounted Mary's last
interview with Mr. Carson.
"What a shame!" exclaimed another, looking indignantly at Mary.
"That's what I call regular jilting," said a third. "And he lying
cold and bloody in his coffin now!"
Mary was more thankful than she could express, when Miss Simmonds
returned, to put a stop to Sally's communications, and to check the
remarks of the girls.
She longed for the peace of Alice's sick-room. No more thinking
with infinite delight of her anticipated meeting with Jem; she felt
too much shocked for that now; but longing for peace and kindness,
for the images of rest and beauty, and sinless times long ago, which
the poor old woman's rambling presented, she wished to be as near
death as Alice; and to have struggled through this world, whose
sufferings she had early learnt, and whose crimes now seemed
pressing close upon her. Old texts from the Bible, that her mother
used to read (or rather spell out) aloud in the days of childhood,
came up to her memory. "Where the wicked cease from troubling, and
the weary are at rest." "And God shall wipe away all tears from
their eyes," etc. And it was to that world Alice was hastening!
Oh! that she were Alice!
I must return to the Wilsons' house, which was far from being the
abode of peace that Mary was picturing it to herself. You remember
the reward Mr. Carson offered for the apprehension of the murderer
of his son? It was in itself a temptation, and to aid its efficacy
came the natural sympathy for the aged parents mourning for their
child, for the young man cut off in the flower of his days; and
besides this, there is always a pleasure in unravelling a mystery,
in catching at the gossamer clue which will guide to certainty.
This feeling, I am sure, gives much impetus to the police. Their
senses are ever and always on the qui-vive, and they enjoy the
collecting and collating evidence, and the life of adventure they
experience: a continual unwinding of Jack Sheppard romances,
always interesting to the vulgar and uneducated mind, to which the
outward signs and tokens of crime are ever exciting.
There was no lack of clue or evidence at the coroner's inquest that
morning. The shot, the finding of the body, the subsequent
discovery of the gun, were rapidly deposed to; and then the
policeman who had interrupted the quarrel between Jem Wilson and the
murdered young man was brought forward, and gave his evidence,
clear, simple, and straightforward. The coroner had no hesitation,
the jury had none, but the verdict was cautiously worded. "Wilful
murder against some person unknown."
This very cautiousness, when he deemed the thing so sure as to
require no caution, irritated Mr. Carson. It did not soothe him
that the superintendent called the verdict a mere form,--exhibited a
warrant empowering him to seize the body of Jem Wilson committed on
suspicion,--declared his intention of employing a well-known officer
in the Detective Service to ascertain the ownership of the gun, and
to collect other evidence, especially as regarded the young woman,
about whom the policeman deposed that the quarrel had taken place;
Mr. Carson was still excited and irritable; restless in body and
mind. He made every preparation for the accusation of Jem the
following morning before the magistrates: he engaged attorneys
skilled in criminal practice to watch the case and prepare briefs;
he wrote to celebrated barristers coming the Northern Circuit, to
bespeak their services. A speedy conviction, a speedy execution,
seemed to be the only things that would satisfy his craving thirst
for blood. He would have fain been policeman, magistrate, accusing
speaker, all; but most of all, the judge, rising with full sentence
of death on his lips.
That afternoon, as Jane Wilson had begun to feel the effect of a
night's disturbed rest, evinced in frequent droppings off to sleep,
while she sat by her sister-in-law's bedside, lulled by the
incessant crooning of the invalid's feeble voice, she was startled
by a man speaking in the house-place below, who, wearied of knocking
at the door, without obtaining any answer, had entered and was
calling lustily for--
When Mrs. Wilson caught a glimpse of the intruder through the
stair-rails, she at once saw he was a stranger, a working-man, it
might be a fellow-labourer with her son, for his dress was grimy
enough for the supposition. He held a gun in his hand.
"May I make bold to ask if this gun belongs to your son?"
She first looked at the man, and then, weary and half asleep, not
seeing any reason for refusing to answer the inquiry, she moved
forward to examine it, talking while she looked for certain
old-fashioned ornaments on the stock. "It looks like his; ay, it is
his, sure enough. I could speak to it anywhere by these marks. You
see it were his grandfather's as were gamekeeper to some one up in
th' north; and they don't make guns so smart nowadays. But, how
comed you by it? He sets great store on it. Is he bound for th'
shooting-gallery? He is not, for sure, now his aunt is so ill, and
me left all alone"; and the immediate cause of her anxiety being
thus recalled to her mind, she entered on a long story of Alice's
illness, interspersed with recollections of her husband's and her
The disguised policeman listened for a minute or two, to glean any
further information he could; and then, saying he was in a hurry, he
turned to go away. She followed him to the door, still telling him
her troubles, and was never struck, until it was too late to ask the
reason, with the unaccountableness of his conduct, in carrying the
gun away with him. Then, as she heavily climbed the stairs, she put
away the wonder and the thought about his conduct, by determining to
believe he was some workman with whom her son had made some
arrangement about shooting at the gallery; or mending the old
weapon; or something or other. She had enough to fret her, without
moidering herself about old guns. Jem had given it to him to bring
it to her; so it was safe enough; or, if it was not, why she should
be glad never to set eyes on it again, for she could not abide
firearms, they were so apt to shoot people.
So, comforting herself for the want of thought in not making further
inquiry, she fell off into another dose, feverish, dream-haunted,
Meanwhile, the policeman walked off with his prize, with an odd
mixture of feelings; a little contempt, a little disappointment, and
a good deal of pity. The contempt and the disappointment were
caused by the widow's easy admission of the gun being her son's
property, and her manner of identifying it by the ornaments. He
liked an attempt to baffle him; he was accustomed to it; it gave
some exercise to his wits and his shrewdness. There would be no fun
in fox-hunting, if Reynard yielded himself up without any effort to
escape. Then, again, his mother's milk was yet in him, policeman,
officer of the Detective Service though he was; and he felt sorry
for the old woman, whose "softness" had given such material
assistance in identifying her son as the murderer. However, he
conveyed the gun, and the intelligence he had gained, to the
superintendent; and the result was, that, in a short time
afterwards, three policemen went to the works at which Jem was
foreman, and announced their errand to the astonished overseer, who
directed them to the part of the foundry where Jem was then
superintending a casting.
Dark, black were the walls, the ground, the faces around them, as
they crossed the yard. But, in the furnace-house, a deep and lurid
red glared over all; the furnace roared with mighty flame. The men,
like demons, in their fire-and-soot colouring, stood swart around,
awaiting the moment when the tons of solid iron should have melted
down into fiery liquid, fit to be poured, with still, heavy sound,
into the delicate moulding of fine black sand, prepared to receive
it. The heat was intense, and the red glare grew every instant more
fierce; the policemen stood awed with the novel sight. Then, black
figures, holding strange-shaped bucket-shovels, came athwart the
deep-red furnace light, and clear and brilliant flowed forth the
iron into the appropriate mould. The buzz of voices rose again;
there was time to speak, and gasp, and wipe the brows; and then one
by one, the men dispersed to some other branch of their employment.
No. B72 pointed out Jem as the man he had seen engaged in a scuffle
with Mr. Carson, and then the other two stepped forward and arrested
him, stating of what he was accused, and the grounds of the
accusation. He offered no resistance, though he seemed surprised;
but calling a fellow-workman to him, he briefly requested him to
tell his mother he had got into trouble, and could not return home
at present. He did not wish her to hear more at first.
So Mrs. Wilson's sleep was next interrupted in almost an exactly
similar way to the last, like a recurring nightmare.
"Missis! missis!" some one called out from below.
Again it was a workman, but this time a blacker-looking one than
"What don ye want?" said she peevishly.
"Only nothing but"--stammered the man, a kind-hearted matter-of-fact
person, with no invention, but a great deal of sympathy.
"Well, speak out, can't ye, and ha' done with it?"
"Jem's in trouble," said he, repeating Jem's very words, as he could
think of no others.
"Trouble?" said the mother, in a high-pitched voice of distress.
"Trouble! God help me, trouble will never end, I think. What d'ye
mean by trouble? Speak out, man, can't ye? Is he ill? My boy!
tell me, is he ill?" in a hurried voice of terror.
"Na, na, that's not it. He's well enough. All he bade me say was,
'Tell mother I'm in trouble, and can't come home tonight.'"
"Not come home to-night! And what am I to do with Alice? I can't
go on, wearing my life out wi' watching. He might come and help
"I tell you he can't," said the man.
"Can't, and he is well, you say? Stuff! It's just that he's getten
like other young men, and wants to go a-larking. But I'll give it
him when he comes back."
The man turned to go; he durst not trust himself to speak in Jem's
justification. But she would not let him off.
She stood between him and the door, as she said--
"Yo shall not go till yo've told me what he's after. I can see
plain enough you know, and I'll know too, before I've done."
"You'll know soon enough, missis!"
"I'll know now, I tell ye. What's up that he can't come home and
help me nurse? Me, as never got a wink o' sleep last night wi'
"Well, if you will have it out," said the poor badgered man, "the
police have got hold on him."
"On my Jem!" said the enraged mother. "You're a downright liar, and
that's what you are. My Jem, as never did harm to any one in his
life. You're a liar, that's what you are."
"He's done harm enough now," said the man, angry in his turn, "for
there's good evidence he murdered young Carson, as was shot last
She staggered forward to strike the man for telling the terrible
truth; but the weakness of old age, of motherly agony, overcame her,
and she sank down on a chair, and covered her face. He could not
When next she spoke, it was in an imploring, feeble, child-like
"O master, say you're only joking. I ax your pardon if I have vexed
ye, but please say you're only joking. You don't know what Jem is
She looked humbly, anxiously up to him.
"I wish I were only joking, missis; but it's true as I say. They've
taken him up on charge of murder. It were his gun as were found
near th' place; and one o' the police heard him quarrelling with Mr.
Carson a few days back, about a girl."
"About a girl!" broke in the mother, once more indignant, though too
Back to Full Books