Part 7 out of 9
Mrs. Davenport went her way, and Mary was alone,--for I cannot call
those who sleep allies against the agony of thought which solitude
sometimes brings up.
She dreaded the night before her. Alice might die; the doctor had
that day declared her case hopeless, and not far from death; and at
times, the terror so natural to the young, not of death, but of the
remains of the dead, came over Mary; and she bent and listened
anxiously for the long-drawn, pausing breath of the sleeping Alice.
Or Mrs. Wilson might awake in a state which Mary dreaded to
anticipate, and anticipated while she dreaded;--in a state of
complete delirium. Already her senses had been severely stunned by
the full explanation of what was required of her--of what she had to
prove against her son, her Jem, her only child--which Mary could not
doubt the officious Mrs. Heming had given; and what if in dreams
(that land into which no sympathy or love can penetrate with
another, either to share its bliss or its agony--that land whose
scenes are unspeakable terrors, are hidden mysteries, are priceless
treasures to one alone--that land where alone I may see, while yet I
tarry here, the sweet looks of my dear child)--what if, in the
horrors of her dreams, her brain should go still more astray, and
she should waken crazy with her visions, and the terrible reality
that begot them?
How much worse is anticipation sometimes than reality! How Mary
dreaded that night, and how calmly it passed by! Even more so than
if Mary had not had such claims upon her care!
Anxiety about them deadened her own peculiar anxieties. She thought
of the sleepers whom she was watching, till, overpowered herself by
the want of rest, she fell off into short slumbers in which the
night wore imperceptibly away. To be sure, Alice spoke, and sang
during her waking moments, like the child she deemed herself; but so
happily with the dearly-loved ones around her, with the scent of the
heather, and the song of the wild bird hovering about her in
imagination--with old scraps of ballads, or old snatches of
primitive versions of the Psalms (such as are sung in country
churches half draperied over with ivy, and where the running brook,
or the murmuring wind among the trees makes fit accompaniment to the
chorus of human voices uttering praise and thanksgiving to their
God)--that the speech and the song gave comfort and good cheer to
the listener's heart, and the grey dawn began to dim the light of
the rush-candle, before Mary thought it possible that day was
already trembling in the horizon.
Then she got up from the chair where she had been dozing, and went,
half-asleep, to the window to assure herself that morning was at
hand. The streets were unusually quiet with a Sabbath stillness.
No factory bells that morning; no early workmen going to their
labours; no slip-shod girls cleaning the windows of the little shops
which broke the monotony of the street; instead, you might see here
and there some operative sallying forth for a breath of country air,
or some father leading out his wee toddling bairns for the unwonted
pleasure of a walk with "Daddy," in the clear frosty morning. Men
with more leisure on week-days would perhaps have walked quicker
than they did through the fresh sharp air of this Sunday morning;
but to them there was a pleasure, an absolute refreshment in the
dawdling gait they, one and all of them, had.
There were, indeed, one or two passengers on that morning whose
objects were less innocent and less praiseworthy than those of the
people I have already mentioned, and whose animal state of mind and
body clashed jarringly on the peacefulness of the day, but upon them
I will not dwell; as you and I, and almost every one, I think, may
send up our individual cry of self-reproach that we have not done
all that we could for the stray and wandering ones of our brethren.
When Mary turned from the window, she went to the bed of each
sleeper, to look and listen. Alice looked perfectly quiet and happy
in her slumber, and her face seemed to have become much more
youthful during the painless approach to death.
Mrs. Wilson's countenance was stamped with the anxiety of the last
few days, although she, too, appeared sleeping soundly; but as Mary
gazed on her, trying to trace a likeness to her son in her face, she
awoke and looked up into Mary's eyes, while the expression of
consciousness came back into her own.
Both were silent for a minute or two. Mary's eyes had fallen
beneath that penetrating gaze, in which the agony of memory seemed
every minute to find fuller vent.
"Is it a dream?" the mother asked at last in a low voice.
"No!" replied Mary, in the same tone.
Mrs. Wilson hid her face in the pillow.
She was fully conscious of everything this morning; it was evident
that the stunning effect of the sub-poena, which had affected her so
much last night in her weak, worn-out state, had passed away. Mary
offered no opposition when she indicated by languid gesture and
action that she wished to rise. A sleepless bed is a haunted place.
When she was dressed with Mary's aid, she stood by Alice for a
minute or two looking at the slumberer.
"How happy she is!" said she, quietly and sadly.
All the time that Mary was getting breakfast ready, and performing
every other little domestic office she could think of, to add to the
comfort of Jem's mother, Mrs. Wilson sat still in the arm-chair,
watching her silently. Her old irritation of temper and manner
seemed to have suddenly disappeared, or perhaps she was too
depressed in body and mind to show it.
Mary told her all that had been done with regard to Mr. Bridgnorth;
all her own plans for seeking out Will; all her hopes; and concealed
as well as she could all the doubts and fears that would arise
To this Mrs. Wilson listened without much remark, but with deep
interest and perfect comprehension. When Mary ceased, she sighed,
and said, "O wench! I am his mother, and yet I do so little, I can
do so little! That's what frets me! I seem like a child as sees
its mammy ill, and moans and cries its little heart out, yet does
nought to help. I think my sense has left me all at once, and I
can't even find strength to cry like the little child."
Hereupon she broke into a feeble wail of self-reproach, that her
outward show of misery was not greater; as if any cries, or tears,
or loud-spoken words could have told of such pangs at the heart as
that look, and that thin, piping, altered voice!
But think of Mary and what she was enduring. Picture to yourself
(for I cannot tell you) the armies of thoughts that met and clashed
in her brain; and then imagine the effort it cost her to be calm,
and quiet, and even in a faint way, cheerful and smiling at times.
After a while she began to stir about in her own mind for some means
of sparing the poor mother the trial of appearing as a witness in
the matter of the gun. She had made no allusion to her summons this
morning, and Mary almost thought she must have forgotten it; and
surely some means might be found to prevent that additional sorrow.
She must see Job about it; nay, if necessary, she must see Mr.
Bridgnorth, with all his truth-compelling powers; for, indeed, she
had so struggled and triumphed (though a sadly-bleeding victor at
heart) over herself these two last days, had so concealed agony, and
hidden her inward woe and bewilderment, that she began to take
confidence, and to have faith in her own powers of meeting any one
with a passably fair show, whatever might be rending her life
beneath the cloak of her deception.
Accordingly, as soon as Mrs. Davenport came in after morning church,
to ask after the two lone women, and she had heard the report Mary
had to give (so much better as regarded Mrs. Wilson than what they
had feared the night before it would have been)--as soon as this
kind-hearted, grateful woman came in, Mary, telling her purpose,
went off to fetch the doctor who attended Alice.
He was shaking himself after his morning's round, and happy in the
anticipation of his Sunday's dinner; but he was a good-tempered man,
who found it difficult to keep down his jovial easiness even by the
bed of sickness or death. He had mischosen his profession; for it
was his delight to see every one around him in full enjoyment of
However, he subdued his face to the proper expression of sympathy,
befitting a doctor listening to a patient, or a patient's friend
(and Mary's sad, pale, anxious face might be taken for either the
one or the other).
"Well my girl! and what brings you here?" said he, as he entered his
surgery. "Not on your own account, I hope."
"I wanted you to come and see Alice Wilson,--and then I thought you
would maybe take a look at Mrs. Wilson."
He bustled on his hat and coat, and followed Mary instantly.
After shaking his head over Alice (as if it was a mournful thing for
one so pure and good, so true, although so humble a Christian, to be
nearing her desired haven), and muttering the accustomed words
intended to destroy hope, and prepare anticipation, he went, in
compliance with Mary's look, to ask the usual questions of Mrs.
Wilson, who sat passively in her arm-chair.
She answered his questions, and submitted to his examination.
"How do you think her?" asked Mary eagerly.
"Why--a," began he, perceiving that he was desired to take one side
in his answer, and unable to find out whether his listener was
anxious for a favourable verdict or otherwise; but thinking it most
probable that she would desire the former, he continued--
"She is weak, certainly; the natural result of such a shock as the
arrest of her son would be,--for I understand this James Wilson, who
murdered Mr. Carson, was her son. Sad thing to have such a
reprobate in the family."
"You say 'WHO MURDERED,' sir!" said Mary indignantly. "He is only
taken up on suspicion, and many have no doubt of his innocence--
those who know him, sir."
"Ah! well, well! doctors have seldom time to read newspapers, and I
dare say I'm not very correct in my story. I dare say he's
innocent; I'm sure I had no right to say otherwise,--only words slip
out.--No! indeed, young woman, I see no cause for apprehension about
this poor creature in the next room;--weak--certainly; but a day or
two's good nursing will set her up, and I'm sure you're a good
nurse, my dear, from your pretty kind-hearted face,--I'll send a
couple of pills and a draught, but don't alarm yourself--there's no
occasion, I assure you."
"But you don't think her fit to go to Liverpool?" asked Mary, still
in the anxious tone of one who wishes earnestly for some particular
"To Liverpool--yes," replied he. "A short journey like that
couldn't fatigue, and might distract her thoughts. Let her go by
all means,--it would be the very thing for her."
"O sir!" burst out Mary, almost sobbing; "I did so hope you would
say she was too ill to go."
"Whew!"--said he, with a prolonged whistle, trying to understand the
case; but being, as he said, no reader of newspapers, utterly
unaware of the peculiar reasons there might be for so apparently
unfeeling a wish--"Why did you not tell me so sooner? It might
certainly do her harm in her weak state! there is always some risk
attending journeys--draughts, and what not. To her, they might
prove very injurious,--very. I disapprove of journeys, or
excitement, in all cases where the patient is in the low, fluttered
state in which Mrs. Wilson is. If you take MY advice, you will
certainly put a stop to all thoughts of going to Liverpool." He
really had completely changed his opinion, though quite
unconsciously; so desirous was he to comply with the wishes of
"O sir, thank you! And will you give me a certificate of her being
unable to go, if the lawyer says he must have one? The lawyer, you
know," continued she, seeing him look puzzled, "who is to defend
Jem,--it was as a witness against him"--
"My dear girl!" said he almost angrily, "why did you not state the
case fully at first? one minute would have done it,--and my dinner
waiting all this time. To be sure she can't go,--it would be
madness to think of it; if her evidence could have done good, it
would have been a different thing. Come to me for the certificate
any time; that is to say, if the lawyer advises you. I second the
lawyer; take counsel with both the learned professions--ha, ha, ha."
And laughing at his own joke, he departed, leaving Mary accusing
herself of stupidity in having imagined that every one was as well
acquainted with the facts concerning the trial as she was herself;
for indeed she had never doubted that the doctor would have been
aware of the purpose of poor Mrs. Wilson's journey to Liverpool.
Presently she went to Job (the ever ready Mrs. Davenport keeping
watch over the two old women), and told him her fears, her plans,
and her proceedings.
To her surprise he shook his head doubtfully.
"It may have an awkward look, if we keep her back. Lawyers is up to
"But it is no trick," said Mary. "She is so poorly, she was last
night so, at least; and to-day she's so faded and weak."
"Poor soul! I dare say. I only mean for Jem's sake; and so much is
known, it won't do now to hang back. But I'll ask Mr. Bridgnorth.
I'll e'en take your doctor's advice. Yo tarry at home, and I'll
come to yo in an hour's time. Go thy ways, wench."
XXV. MRS. WILSON'S DETERMINATION.
"Something there was, what, none presumed to say,
Clouds lightly passing on a smiling day,--
Whispers and hints which went from ear to ear,
And mixed reports no judge on earth could clear."
"Curious conjectures he may always make,
And either side of dubious questions take."
Mary went home. Oh! how her head did ache, and how dizzy her brain
was growing! But there would be time enough she felt for giving way
So she sat quiet and still by an effort; sitting near the window,
and looking out of it, but seeing nothing, when all at once she
caught sight of something which roused her up, and made her draw
But it was too late. She had been seen.
Sally Leadbitter flaunted into the little dingy room, making it
gaudy with the Sunday excess of colouring in her dress.
She was really curious to see Mary; her connection with a murderer
seemed to have made her into a sort of lusus naturae, and was
almost, by some, expected to have made a change in her personal
appearance, so earnestly did they stare at her. But Mary had been
too much absorbed the last day or two to notice this.
Now Sally had a grand view, and looked her over and over (a very
different thing from looking her through and through), and almost
learnt her off by heart:--"Her every-day gown (Hoyle's print you
know, that lilac thing with the high body) she was so fond of; a
little black silk handkerchief just knotted round her neck, like a
boy; her hair all taken back from her face, as if she wanted to keep
her head cool--she would always keep that hair of hers so long; and
her hands twitching continually about"--
Such particulars would make Sally into a Gazette Extraordinary the
next morning at the workroom and were worth coming for, even if
little else could be extracted from Mary.
"Why, Mary!" she began. "Where have you hidden yourself? You never
showed your face all yesterday at Miss Simmonds's. You don't fancy
we think any the worse of you for what's come and gone. Some on us,
indeed, were a bit sorry for the poor young man, as lies stiff and
cold for your sake, Mary; but we shall ne'er cast it up against you.
Miss Simmonds, too, will be mighty put out if you don't come, for
there's a deal of mourning, agait."
"I can't," Mary said, in a low voice. "I don't mean ever to come
"Why, Mary!" said Sally, in unfeigned surprise. "To be sure, you'll
have to be in Liverpool, Tuesday, and maybe Wednesday; but after
that you'll surely come, and tell us all about it. Miss Simmonds
knows you'll have to be off those two days. But between you and me,
she's a bit of a gossip, and will like hearing all how and about the
trial, well enough to let you off very easy for your being absent a
day or two. Besides, Betsy Morgan was saying yesterday, she
shouldn't wonder but you'd prove quite an attraction to customers.
Many a one would come and have their gowns made by Miss Simmonds
just to catch a glimpse at you, at after the trial's over. Really,
Mary, you'll turn out quite a heroine."
The little fingers twitched worse than ever; the large soft eyes
looked up pleadingly into Sally's face; but she went on in the same
strain, not from any unkind or cruel feeling towards Mary, but
solely because she was incapable of comprehending her suffering.
She had been shocked, of course, at Mr. Carson's death, though at
the same time the excitement was rather pleasant than otherwise; and
dearly now would she have enjoyed the conspicuous notice which Mary
was sure to receive.
"How shall you like being cross-examined, Mary?"
"Not at all," answered Mary, when she found she must answer.
"La! what impudent fellows those lawyers are! And their clerks,
too, not a bit better. I shouldn't wonder" (in a comforting tone,
and really believing she was giving comfort) "if you picked up a new
sweetheart in Liverpool. What gown are you going in, Mary?"
"Oh, I don't know and don't care," exclaimed Mary, sick and weary of
"Well, then! take my advice, and go in that blue merino. It's old
to be sure, and a bit worn at elbows, but folk won't notice that,
and th' colour suits you. Now mind, Mary. And I'll lend you my
black-watered scarf," added she really good-naturedly, according to
her sense of things, and withal, a little bit pleased at the idea of
her pet article of dress figuring away on the person of a witness at
a trial for murder. "I'll bring it to-morrow before you start."
"No, don't!" said Mary; "thank you, but I don't want it."
"Why, what can you wear? I know all your clothes as well as I do my
own, and what is there you can wear? Not your old plaid shawl, I do
hope? You would not fancy this I have on, more nor the scarf, would
you?" said she, brightening up at the thought, and willing to lend
it, or anything else.
"O Sally! don't go on talking a-that-ns; how can I think on dress at
such a time? When it's a matter of life and death to Jem?"
"Bless the girl! It's Jem, is it? Well now, I thought there was
some sweetheart in the background, when you flew off so with Mr.
Carson. Then what, in the name of goodness, made him shoot Mr.
Harry? After you had given up going with him, I mean? Was he
afraid you'd be on again?"
"How dare you say he shot Mr. Harry?" asked Mary, firing up from the
state of languid indifference into which she had sunk while Sally
had been settling about her dress. "But it's no matter what you
think as did not know him. What grieves me is, that people should
go on thinking him guilty as did know him," she said, sinking back
into her former depressed tone and manner.
"And don't you think he did it?" asked Sally.
Mary paused; she was going on too fast with one so curious and so
unscrupulous. Besides, she remembered how even she herself had, at
first, believed him guilty; and she felt it was not for her to cast
stones at those who, on similar evidence, inclined to the same
belief. None had given him much benefit of a doubt. None had faith
in his innocence. None but his mother; and the heart loved more
than the head reasoned, and her yearning affection had never for an
instant entertained the idea that her Jem was a murderer. But Mary
disliked the whole conversation; the subject, the manner in which it
was treated, were all painful, and she had a repugnance to the
person with whom she spoke.
She was thankful, therefore, when Job Legh's voice was heard at the
door, as he stood with the latch in his hand, talking to a
neighbour, and when Sally jumped up in vexation and said, "There's
that old fogey coming in here, as I'm alive! Did your father set
him to look after you while he was away? or what brings the old chap
here? However, I'm off; I never could abide either him or his prim
grand-daughter. Good-bye, Mary."
So far in a whisper, then louder, "If you think better of my offer
about the scarf, Mary, just step in to-morrow before nine, and
you're quite welcome to it."
She and Job passed each other at the door, with mutual looks of
dislike, which neither took any pains to conceal.
"Yon's a bold, bad girl," said Job to Mary.
"She's very good-natured," replied Mary, too honourable to abuse a
visitor, who had only that instant crossed her threshold, and gladly
dwelling on the good quality most apparent in Sally's character.
"Ay, ay! good-natured, generous, jolly, full of fun; there are a
number of other names for the good qualities the devil leaves his
children, as baits to catch gudgeons with. D'ye think folk could be
led astray by one who was every way bad? Howe'er, that's not what I
came to talk about. I've seen Mr. Bridgnorth, and he is in a manner
the same mind as we; he thinks it would have an awkward look, and
might tell against the poor lad on his trial; still if she's ill
she's ill, and it can't be helped."
"I don't know if she's so bad as all that," said Mary, who began to
dread her part in doing anything which might tell against her poor
lover. "Will you come and see her, Job? The doctor seemed to say
as I liked, not as he thought."
"That's because he had no great thought on the subject, either one
way or t'other," replied Job, whose contempt for medical men pretty
nearly equalled his respect for lawyers. "But I'll go and welcome.
I han not seen th' ould ladies since their sorrows, and it's but
manners to go and ax after them. Come along."
The room at Mrs. Wilson's had that still, changeless look you must
have often observed in the house of sickness or mourning. No
particular employment going on; people watching and waiting rather
than acting, unless in the more sudden and violent attacks: what
little movement is going on, so noiseless and hushed; the furniture
all arranged and stationary, with a view to the comfort of the
afflicted; the window-blinds drawn down to keep out the disturbing
variety of a sunbeam; the same saddened serious look on the faces of
the indwellers: you fall back into the same train of thought with
all these associations, and forget the street, the outer world, in
the contemplation of the one stationary, absorbing interest within.
Mrs. Wilson sat quietly in her chair, with just the same look Mary
had left on her face; Mrs. Davenport went about with creaking shoes
which made all the more noise from her careful and lengthened tread,
annoying the ears of those who were well, in this instance, far more
than the dull senses of the sick and the sorrowful. Alice's voice
still was going on cheerfully in the upper room with incessant
talking and little laughs to herself, or perhaps in sympathy with
her unseen companions; "unseen," I say, in preference to "fancied,"
for who knows whether God does not permit the forms of those who
were dearest when living, to hover round the bed of the dying?
Job spoke, and Mrs. Wilson answered.
So quietly that it was unnatural under the circumstances. It made a
deeper impression on the old man than any token of mere bodily
illness could have done. If she had raved in delirium, or moaned in
fever, he could have spoken after his wont, and given his opinion,
his advice, and his consolation: now he was awed into silence.
At length he pulled Mary aside into a corner of the house-place,
where Mrs. Wilson was sitting, and began to talk to her.
"Yo're right, Mary! She's no ways fit to go to Liverpool, poor
soul. Now I've seen her I only wonder the doctor could ha' been
unsettled in his mind at th' first. Choose how it goes wi' poor
Jem, she cannot go. One way or another it will soon be over; the
best to leave her in the state she is till then."
"I was sure you would think so," said Mary.
But they were reckoning without their host. They esteemed her
senses gone, while, in fact, they were only inert, and could not
convey impressions rapidly to the overburdened, troubled brain.
They had not noticed that her eyes had followed them (mechanically
it seemed at first) as they had moved away to the corner of the
room; that her face, hitherto so changeless, had begun to work with
one or two of the old symptoms of impatience.
But when they were silent she stood up, and startled them almost as
if a dead person had spoken, by saying clearly and decidedly--
"I go to Liverpool. I hear you and your plans; and I tell you I
shall go to Liverpool. If my words are to kill my son, they have
already gone forth out of my mouth, and nought can bring them back.
But I will have faith. Alice (up above) has often telled me I
wanted faith, and now I will have it. They cannot--they will not
kill my child, my only child. I will not be afeard. Yet oh! I am
so sick with terror. But if he is to die, think ye not that I will
see him again; ay! see him at his trial? When all are hating him,
he shall have his poor mother near him, to give him all the comfort,
eyes, and looks, and tears, and a heart that is dead to all but him,
can give; his poor mother, who knows how free he is from sin--in the
sight of man at least. They'll let me go to him, maybe, the very
minute it's over; and I know many Scripture texts (though you would
not think it), that may keep up his heart. I missed seeing him ere
he went to yon prison, but nought shall keep me away again one
minute when I can see his face; for maybe the minutes are numbered,
and the count but small. I know I can be a comfort to him, poor
lad. You would not think it, now, but he'd always speak as kind and
soft to me as if he were courting me, like. He loved me above a
bit; and am I to leave him now to dree all the cruel slander they'll
put upon him? I can pray for him at each hard word they say against
him, if I can do nought else; and he'll know what his mother is
doing for him, poor lad, by the look on my face."
Still they made some look, or gesture of opposition to her wishes.
She turned sharp round on Mary, the old object of her pettish
attacks, and said, "Now, wench! once for all, I tell you this. HE
could never guide me; and he'd sense enough not to try. What he
could na do, don't you try. I shall go to Liverpool tomorrow, and
find my lad, and stay with him through thick and thin; and if he
dies, why, perhaps, God of His mercy will take me too. The grave is
a sure cure for an aching heart!"
She sank back in her chair, quite exhausted by the sudden effort she
had made; but if they even offered to speak, she cut them short
(whatever the subject might be), with the repetition of the same
words, "I shall go to Liverpool."
No more could be said, the doctor's opinion had been so undecided;
Mr. Bridgnorth had given his legal voice in favour of her going, and
Mary was obliged to relinquish the idea of persuading her to remain
at home, if, indeed, under all the circumstances, it could be
"Best way will be," said Job, "for me to hunt out Will, early
tomorrow morning, and yo, Mary, come at after with Jane Wilson. I
know a decent woman where yo two can have a bed, and where we may
meet together when I've found Will, afore going to Mr. Bridgnorth's
at two o'clock; for, I can tell him, I'll not trust none of his
clerks for hunting up Will, if Jem's life's to depend on it."
Now Mary disliked this plan inexpressibly; her dislike was partly
grounded on reason, and partly on feeling. She could not bear the
idea of deputing to any one the active measures necessary to be
taken in order to save Jem. She felt as if they were her duty, her
right. She durst not trust to any one the completion of her plan:
they might not have energy, or perseverance, or desperation enough
to follow out the slightest chance; and her love would endow her
with all these qualities independently of the terrible alternative
which awaited her in case all failed and Jem was condemned. No one
could have her motives; and consequently no one could have her
sharpened brain, her despairing determination. Besides (only that
was purely selfish), she could not endure the suspense of remaining
quiet, and only knowing the result when all was accomplished.
So with vehemence and impatience she rebutted every reason Job
adduced for his plan; and of course, thus opposed, by what appeared
to him wilfulness, he became more resolute, and angry words were
exchanged, and a feeling of estrangement rose up between them, for a
time, as they walked homewards.
But then came in Margaret with her gentleness, like an angel of
peace, so calm and reasonable, that both felt ashamed of their
irritation, and tacitly left the decision to her (only, by the way,
I think Mary could never have submitted if it had gone against her,
penitent and tearful as was her manner now to Job, the good old man
who was helping her to work for Jem, although they differed as to
"Mary had better go," said Margaret to her grandfather, in a low
tone; "I know what she's feeling, and it will be a comfort to her
soon, maybe, to think she did all she could herself. She would,
perhaps, fancy it might have been different; do, grandfather, let
Margaret had still, you see, little or no belief in Jem's innocence
and besides, she thought if Mary saw Will, and heard herself from
him that Jem had not been with him that Thursday night, it would in
a measure break the force of the blow which was impending.
"Let me lock up house, grandfather, for a couple of days, and go and
stay with Alice. It's but little one like me can do, I know" (she
added softly); "but, by the blessing o' God, I'll do it and welcome;
and here comes one kindly use o' money, I can hire them as will do
for her what I cannot. Mrs. Davenport is a willing body, and one
who knows sorrow and sickness, and I can pay her for her time, and
keep her there pretty near altogether. So let that be settled. And
you take Mrs. Wilson, dear grandad, and let Mary go find Will, and
you can all meet together at after, and I'm sure I wish you luck."
Job consented with only a few dissenting grunts; but on the whole
with a very good grace for an old man who had been so positive only
a few minutes before.
Mary was thankful for Margaret's interference. She did not speak,
but threw her arms round Margaret's neck, and put up her rosy-red
mouth to be kissed; and even Job was attracted by the pretty,
child-like gesture; and when she drew near him, afterwards, like a
little creature sidling up to some person whom it feels to have
offended, he bent down and blessed her, as if she had been a child
of his own.
To Mary the old man's blessing came like words of power.
XXVI. THE JOURNEY TO LIVERPOOL.
"Like a bark upon the sea,
Life is floating over death;
Above, below, encircling thee,
Danger lurks in every breath.
"Parted art thou from the grave
Only by a plank most frail;
Tossed upon the restless wave,
Sport of every fickle gale.
"Let the skies be e'er so clear,
And so calm and still the sea,
Shipwreck yet has he to fear
Who life's voyager will be."
The early trains for Liverpool, on Monday morning, were crowded by
attorneys, attorneys' clerks, plaintiffs, defendants, and witnesses,
all going to the Assizes. They were a motley assembly, each with
some cause for anxiety stirring at his heart; though, after all,
that is saying little or nothing, for we are all of us in the same
predicament through life; each with a fear and a hope from childhood
to death. Among the passengers there was Mary Barton, dressed in
the blue gown and obnoxious plaid shawl.
Common as railroads are now in all places as a means of transit, and
especially in Manchester, Mary had never been on one before; and she
felt bewildered by the hurry, the noise of people, and bells, and
horns; the whiz and the scream of the arriving trains.
The very journey itself seemed to her a matter of wonder. She had a
back seat, and looked towards the factory-chimneys, and the cloud of
smoke which hovers over Manchester, with a feeling akin to the
"Heimweh." She was losing sight of the familiar objects of her
childhood for the first time; and unpleasant as those objects are to
most, she yearned after them with some of the same sentiment which
gives pathos to the thoughts of the emigrant.
The cloud-shadows which give beauty to Chat-Moss, the picturesque
old houses of Newton, what were they to Mary, whose heart was full
of many things? Yet she seemed to look at them earnestly as they
glided past; but she neither saw nor heard.
She neither saw nor heard till some well-known names fell upon her
Two lawyers' clerks were discussing the cases to come on that
Assizes; of course, "the murder case," as it had come to be termed,
held a conspicuous place in their conversation.
They had no doubt of the result.
"Juries are always very unwilling to convict on circumstantial
evidence, it is true," said one, "but here there can hardly be any
"If it had not been so clear a case," replied the other, "I should
have said they were injudicious in hurrying on the trial so much.
Still, more evidence might have been collected."
"They tell me," said the first speaker--"the people in Gardener's
office, I mean--that it was really feared the old gentleman would
have gone out of his mind, if the trial had been delayed. He was
with Mr. Gardener as many as seven times on Saturday, and called him
up at night to suggest that some letter should be written, or
something done to secure the verdict."
"Poor old man," answered his companion, "who can wonder?--an only
son,--such a death,--the disagreeable circumstances attending it; I
had not time to read the Guardian on Saturday, but I understand it
was some dispute about a factory girl."
"Yes, some such person. Of course she'll be examined, and Williams
will do it in style. I shall slip out from our court to hear him,
if I can hit the nick of time."
"And if you can get a place, you mean, for depend upon it the court
will be crowded."
"Ay, ay, the ladies (sweet souls) will come in shoals to hear a
trial for murder, and see the murderer, and watch the judge put on
his black cap."
"And then go home and groan over the Spanish ladies who take delight
in bull-fights--'such unfeminine creatures!'"
Then they went on to other subjects.
It was but another drop to Mary's cup; but she was nearly in that
state which Crabbe describes--
"For when so full the cup of sorrows flows,
Add but a drop it instantly o'erflows."
And now they were in the tunnel!--and now they were in Liverpool;
and she must rouse herself from the torpor of mind and body which
was creeping over her; the result of much anxiety and fatigue, and
several sleepless nights.
She asked a policeman the way to Milk House Yard, and following his
directions with the savoir faire of a town-bred girl, she reached a
little court leading out of a busy, thronged street, not far from
When she entered the quiet little yard, she stopped to regain her
breath, and to gather strength, for her limbs trembled, and her
heart beat violently.
All the unfavourable contingencies she had, until now, forbidden
herself to dwell upon, came forward to her mind--the possibility,
the bare possibility, of Jem being an accomplice in the murder--the
still greater possibility that he had not fulfilled his intention of
going part of the way with Will, but had been led off by some little
accidental occurrence from his original intention; and that he had
spent the evening with those, whom it was now too late to bring
forward as witnesses.
But sooner or later she must know the truth; so, taking courage, she
knocked at the door of a house.
"Is this Mrs. Jones's?" she inquired.
"Next door but one," was the curt answer.
And even this extra minute was a reprieve.
Mrs. Jones was busy washing, and would have spoken angrily to the
person who knocked so gently at the door, if anger had been in her
nature; but she was a soft, helpless kind of woman, and only sighed
over the many interruptions she had had to her business that unlucky
But the feeling which would have been anger in a more impatient
temper, took the form of prejudice against the disturber, whoever he
or she might be.
Mary's fluttered and excited appearance strengthened this prejudice
in Mrs. Jones's mind, as she stood, stripping the soap-suds off her
arms, while she eyed her visitor, and waited to be told what her
But no words would come. Mary's voice seemed choked up in her
"Pray what do you want, young woman?" coldly asked Mrs. Jones at
"I want--oh! is Will Wilson here?"
"No, he is not," replied Mrs. Jones, inclining to shut the door in
"Is he not come back from the Isle of Man?" asked Mary, sickening.
"He never went; he stayed in Manchester too long; as perhaps you
And again the door seemed closing.
But Mary bent forwards with suppliant action (as some young tree
bends, when blown by the rough, autumnal wind), and gasped out--
"Tell me--tell--me--where is he?"
Mrs. Jones suspected some love affair, and, perhaps, one of not the
most creditable kind; but the distress of the pale young creature
before her was so obvious and so pitiable, that were she ever so
sinful, Mrs. Jones could no longer uphold her short, reserved
"He's gone this very morning, my poor girl. Step in, and I'll tell
you about it."
"Gone!" cried 'Mary. "How gone? I must see him,--it's a matter of
life and death: he can save the innocent from being hanged,--he
cannot be gone,--how gone?"
"Sailed, my dear! sailed in the John Cropper this very blessed
XXVII. IN THE LIVERPOOL DOCKS.
"Yon is our quay!
Hark to the clamour in that miry road,
Bounded and narrowed by yon vessel's load;
The lumbering wealth she empties round the place,
Package and parcel, hogshead, chest, and case;
While the loud seaman and the angry hind,
Mingling in business, bellow to the wind."
Mary staggered into the house. Mrs. Jones placed her tenderly in a
chair, and there stood bewildered by her side.
"O father! father!" muttered she, "what have you done!--What must I
do? must the innocent die?--or he--whom I fear--I fear--oh! what am
I saying?" said she, looking round affrighted, and, seemingly
reassured by Mrs. Jones's countenance, "I am so helpless, so weak--
but a poor girl, after all. How can I tell what is right? Father!
you have always been so kind to me,--and you to be--never mind--
never mind, all will come right in the grave."
"Save us, and bless us!" exclaimed Mrs. Jones, "if I don't think
she's gone out of her wits!"
"No, I am not," said Mary, catching at the words, and with a strong
effort controlling the mind she felt to be wandering, while the red
blood flushed to scarlet the heretofore white cheek,--"I'm not out
of my senses; there is so much to be done--so much--and no one but
me to do it, you know--though I can't rightly tell what it is,"
looking up with bewilderment into Mrs. Jones's face. "I must not go
mad whatever comes--at least not yet. No!" (bracing herself up)
"something may yet be done, and I must do it. Sailed! did you say?
The John Cropper? Sailed?"
"Ay! she went out of dock last night, to be ready for the morning's
"I thought she was not to sail till to-morrow," murmured Mary.
"So did Will (he's lodged here long, so we all call him 'Will'),"
replied Mrs. Jones. "The mate had told him so, I believe, and he
never knew different till he got to Liverpool on Friday morning; but
as soon as he heard, he gave up going to the Isle o' Man, and just
ran over to Rhyl with the mate, one John Harris, as has friends a
bit beyond Abergele; you may have heard him speak on him; for they
are great chums, though I've my own opinion of Harris."
"And he's sailed?" repeated Mary, trying by repetition to realise
the fact to herself.
"Ay, he went on board last night to be ready for the morning's tide,
as I said afore, and my boy went to see the ship go down the river,
and came back all agog with the sight. Here, Charley, Charley!"
She called out loudly for her son; but Charley was one of those boys
who are never "far to seek," as the Lancashire people say, when
anything is going on; a mysterious conversation, an unusual event, a
fire, or a riot, anything in short; such boys are the little
omnipresent people of this world.
Charley had, in fact, been spectator and auditor all this time;
though for a little while he had been engaged in "dollying" and a
few other mischievous feats in the washing line, which had prevented
his attention from being fully given to his mother's conversation
with the strange girl who had entered.
"O Charley! there you are! Did you not see the John Cropper sail
down the river this morning? Tell the young woman about it, for I
think she hardly credits me."
"I saw her tugged down the river by a steamboat, which comes to the
same thing," replied he.
"Oh! if I had but come last night!" moaned Mary. "But I never
thought of it. I never thought but what he knew right when he said
he would be back from the Isle of Man on Monday morning, and not
afore--and now some one must die for my negligence!"
"Die!" exclaimed the lad. "How?"
"Oh! Will would have proved an alibi,--but he's gone,--and what am I
"Don't give it up yet," cried the energetic boy, interested at once
in the case; "let's have a try for him. We are but where we were,
if we fail."
Mary roused herself. The sympathetic "we" gave her heart and hope.
"But what can be done? You say he's sailed; what can be done?" But
she spoke louder, and in a more life-like tone.
"No! I did not say he'd sailed; mother said that, and women know
nought about such matters. You see" (proud of his office of
instructor, and insensibly influenced, as all about her were, by
Mary's sweet, earnest, lovely countenance), "there's sandbanks at
the mouth of the river, and ships can't get over them but at
high-water; especially ships of heavy burden, like the John Cropper.
Now she was tugged down the river at low water, or pretty near, and
will have to lie some time before the water will be high enough to
float her over the banks. So hold up your head,--you've a chance
yet, though, maybe, but a poor one."
"But what must I do?" asked Mary, to whom all this explanation had
been a vague mystery.
"Do!" said the boy impatiently, "why, have not I told you? Only
women (begging your pardon) are so stupid at understanding about
anything belonging to the sea;--you must get a boat, and make all
haste, and sail after him,--after the John Cropper. You may
overtake her, or you may not. It's just a chance; but she's heavy
laden, and that's in your favour. She'll draw many feet of water."
Mary had humbly and eagerly (oh, how eagerly!) listened to this
young Sir Oracle's speech; but try as she would, she could only
understand that she must make haste, and sail--somewhere.
"I beg your pardon," (and her little acknowledgment of inferiority
in this speech pleased the lad, and made him her still more zealous
friend). "I beg your pardon," said she, "but I don't know where to
get a boat. Are there boat-stands?"
The lad laughed outright.
"You're not long in Liverpool, I guess. Boat-stands! No; go down
to the pier,--any pier will do, and hire a boat,--you'll be at no
loss when once you are there. Only make haste."
"Oh, you need not tell me that, if I but knew how," said Mary,
trembling with eagerness. "But you say right,--I never was here
before, and I don't know my way to the place you speak on; only tell
me, and I'll not lose a minute."
"Mother!" said the wilful lad, "I'm going to show her the way to the
pier; I'll be back in an hour,--or so," he added in a lower tone.
And before the gentle Mrs. Jones could collect her scattered wits
sufficiently to understand half of the hastily-formed plan, her son
was scudding down the street, closely followed by Mary's
Presently he slackened his pace sufficiently to enable him to enter
into conversation with Mary, for once escaped from the reach of his
mother's recalling voice, he thought he might venture to indulge his
"Ahem!--What's your name? It's so awkward to be calling you young
"My name is Mary,--Mary Barton," answered she, anxious to propitiate
one who seemed so willing to exert himself in her behalf, or else
she grudged every word which caused the slightest relaxation in her
speed, although her chest seemed tightened, and her head throbbing,
from the rate at which they were walking.
"And you want Will Wilson to prove an alibi--is that it?"
"Yes--oh, yes,--can we not cross now?"
"No, wait a minute; it's the teagle hoisting above your head I'm
afraid of; and who is it that's to be tried?"
"Jem; oh, lad! can't we get past?"
They rushed under the great bales quivering in the air above their
heads and pressed onward for a few minutes, till Master Charley
again saw fit to walk a little slower, and ask a few more questions.
"Mary, is Jem your brother, or your sweetheart, that you're so set
upon saving him?"
"No--no," replied she, but with something of hesitation, that made
the shrewd boy yet more anxious to clear up the mystery.
"Perhaps he's your cousin, then? Many a girl has a cousin who has
not a sweetheart."
"No, he's neither kith nor kin to me. What's the matter? What are
you stopping for?" said she, with nervous terror, as Charley turned
back a few steps, and peered up a side street.
"Oh, nothing to flurry you so, Mary. I heard you say to mother you
had never been in Liverpool before, and if you'll only look up this
street you may see the back windows of our Exchange. Such a
building as yon is! with 'natomy hiding under a blanket, and Lord
Admiral Nelson, and a few more people in the middle of the court!
No! come here," as Mary, in her eagerness, was looking at any window
that caught her eye first, to satisfy the boy. "Here then, now you
can see it. You can say, now, you've seen Liverpool Exchange."
"Yes, to be sure--it's a beautiful window, I'm sure. But are we
near the boats? I'll stop as I come back, you know; only I think
we'd better get on now."
"Oh! if the wind's in your favour you'll be down the river in no
time, and catch Will, I'll be bound; and if it's not, why, you know
the minute it took you to look at the Exchange will be neither here
Another rush onwards, till one of the long crossings near the Docks
caused a stoppage, and gave Mary time for breathing, and Charley
leisure to ask another question.
"You've never said where you come from?"
"Manchester," replied she.
"Eh, then! you've a power of things to see. Liverpool beats
Manchester hollow, they say. A nasty, smoky hole, bean't it? Are
you bound to live there?"
"Oh, yes! it's my home."
"Well, I don't think I could abide a home in the middle of smoke.
Look there! now you see the river. That's something now you'd give
a deal for in Manchester. Look!"
And Mary did look, and saw down an opening made in the forest of
masts belonging to the vessels in dock, the glorious river, along
which white-sailed ships were gliding with the ensigns of all
nations, not "braving the battle," but telling of the distant lands,
spicy or frozen, that sent to that mighty mart for their comforts or
their luxuries; she saw small boats passing to and fro on that
glittering highway, but she also saw such puffs and clouds of smoke
from the countless steamers, that she wondered at Charley's
intolerance of the smoke of Manchester. Across the swing-bridge,
along the pier,--and they stood breathless by a magnificent dock,
where hundreds of ships lay motionless during the process of loading
and unloading. The cries of the sailors, the variety of languages
used by the passers-by, and the entire novelty of the sight compared
with anything which Mary had ever seen, made her feel most helpless
and forlorn; and she clung to her young guide as to one who alone by
his superior knowledge could interpret between her and the new race
of men by whom she was surrounded,--for a new race sailors might
reasonably be considered, to a girl who had hitherto seen none but
inland dwellers, and those for the greater part factory people.
In that new world of sight and sound, she still bore one prevailing
thought, and though her eye glanced over the ships and the
wide-spreading river, her mind was full of the thought of reaching
"Why are we here?" asked she of Charley. "There are no little boats
about, and I thought I was to go in a little boat; those ships are
never meant for short distances, are they?"
"To be sure not," replied he, rather contemptuously. "But the John
Cropper lay in this dock, and I know many of the sailors; and if I
could see one I knew, I'd ask him to run up the mast, and see if he
could catch a sight of her in the offing. If she's weighed her
anchor, no use for your going, you know."
Mary assented quietly to this speech, as if she were as careless as
Charley seemed now to be about her overtaking Will; but in truth her
heart was sinking within her, and she no longer felt the energy
which had hitherto upheld her. Her bodily strength was giving way,
and she stood cold and shivering, although the noonday sun beat down
with considerable power on the shadeless spot where she was
"Here's Tom Bourne!" said Charley; and altering his manner from the
patronising key in which he had spoken to Mary, he addressed a
weather-beaten old sailor who came rolling along the pathway where
they stood, his hands in his pockets, and his quid in his mouth,
with very much the air of one who had nothing to do but look about
him, and spit right and left; addressing this old tar, Charley made
known to him his wish in slang, which to Mary was almost inaudible,
and quite unintelligible, and which I am too much of a land-lubber
to repeat correctly.
Mary watched looks and actions with a renovated keenness of
She saw the old man listen attentively to Charley; she saw him eye
her over from head to foot, and wind up his inspection with a little
nod of approbation (for her very shabbiness and poverty of dress
were creditable signs to the experienced old sailor), and then she
watched him leisurely swing himself on to a ship in the basin, and,
borrowing a glass, run up the mast with the speed of a monkey.
"He'll fall!" said she, in affright, clutching at Charley's arm, and
judging the sailor, from his storm-marked face and unsteady walk on
land, to be much older than he really was.
"Not he!" said Charley. "He's at the mast-head now. See! he's
looking through his glass, and using his arms as steady as if he
were on dry land. Why, I've been up the mast, many and many a time;
only don't tell mother. She thinks I'm to be a shoemaker, but I've
made up my mind to be a sailor; only there's no good arguing with a
woman. You'll not tell her, Mary?"
"Oh, see!" exclaimed she (his secret was very safe with her, for, in
fact, she had not heard it); "see! he's coming down; he's down.
Speak to him, Charley."
But, unable to wait another instant, she called out herself--
"Can you see the John Cropper? Is she there yet?"
"Ay, ay," he answered, and coming quickly up to them, he hurried
them away to seek for a boat, saying the bar was already covered,
and in an hour the ship would hoist her sails and be off.
"You've the wind right against you, and must use oars. No time to
They ran to some steps leading down to the water. They beckoned to
some watermen, who, suspecting the real state of the case, appeared
in no hurry for a fare, but leisurely brought their boat alongside
the stairs, as if it were a matter of indifference to them whether
they were engaged or not, while they conversed together in few
words, and in an undertone, respecting the charge they should make.
"Oh, pray make haste," called Mary. "I want you to take me to the
John Cropper. Where is she, Charley? Tell them--I don't rightly
know the words--only make haste!"
"In the offing she is, sure enough, miss," answered one of the men,
shoving Charley on one side, regarding him as too young to be a
principal in the bargain.
"I don't think we can go, Dick," said he, with a wink to his
companion; "there's the gentleman over at New Brighton as wants
"But, mayhap, the young woman will pay us handsome for giving her a
last look at her sweetheart," interposed the other.
"Oh, how much do you want? Only make haste--I've enough to pay you,
but every moment is precious," said Mary.
"Ay, that it is. Less than an hour won't take us to the mouth of
the river, and she'll be off by two o'clock!"
Poor Mary's ideas of "plenty of money," however, were different to
those entertained by the boatmen. Only fourteen or fifteen
shillings remained out of the sovereign Margaret had lent her, and
the boatmen, imagining "plenty" to mean no less than several pounds,
insisted upon receiving a sovereign (an exorbitant fare, by-the-bye,
although reduced from their first demand of thirty shillings).
While Charley, with a boy's impatience of delay, and disregard to
money, kept urging--
"Give it 'em, Mary; they'll none of them take you for less. It's
your only chance. There's St. Nicholas ringing one!"
"I've only got fourteen and ninepence," cried she in despair, after
counting over her money; "but I'll give you my shawl, and you can
sell it for four or five shillings--oh! won't that much do?" asked
she, in such a tone of voice, that they must indeed have had hard
hearts who could refuse such agonised entreaty.
They took her on board.
And in less than five minutes she was rocking and tossing in a boat
for the first time in her life, alone with two rough, hard-looking
XXVIII. "JOHN CROPPER," AHOY!
"A wet sheet and a flowing sea,
A wind that follows fast
And fills the white and rustling sail,
And bends the gallant mast!
And bends the gallant mast, my boys,
While, like the eagle free,
Away the good ship flies, and leaves
Old England on the lee."
Mary had not understood that Charley was not coming with her. In
fact, she had not thought about it, till she perceived his absence,
as they pushed off from the landing-place, and remembered that she
had never thanked him for all his kind interest in her behalf; and
now his absence made her feel most lonely--even his, the little
mushroom friend of an hour's growth.
The boat threaded her way through the maze of larger vessels which
surrounded the shore, bumping against one, kept off by the oars from
going right against another, overshadowed by a third, until at
length they were fairly out on the broad river, away from either
shore; the sights and sounds of land being heard in the distance.
And then came a sort of pause.
Both wind and tide were against the two men, and labour as they
would they made but little way. Once Mary in her impatience had
risen up to obtain a better view of the progress they had made; but
the men had roughly told her to sit down immediately, and she had
dropped on her seat like a chidden child, although the impatience
was still at her heart.
But now she grew sure they were turning off from the straight course
which they had hitherto kept on the Cheshire side of the river,
whither they had gone to avoid the force of the current, and after a
short time she could not help naming her conviction, as a kind of
nightmare dread and belief came over her, that everything animate
and inanimate was in league against her one sole aim and object of
They answered gruffly. They saw a boatman whom they knew, and were
desirous of obtaining his services as a steersman, so that both
might row with greater effect. They knew what they were about. So
she sat silent with clenched hands while the parley went on, the
explanation was given, the favour asked and granted. But she was
sickening all the time with nervous fear.
They had been rowing a long, long time--half a day it seemed, at
least--yet Liverpool appeared still close at hand, and Mary began
almost to wonder that the men were not as much disheartened as she
was, when the wind, which had been hitherto against them, dropped,
and thin clouds began to gather over the sky, shutting out the sun,
and casting a chilly gloom over everything.
There was not a breath of air, and yet it was colder than when the
soft violence of the westerly wind had been felt.
The men renewed their efforts. The boat gave a bound forwards at
every pull of the oars. The water was glassy and motionless,
reflecting tint by tint of the Indian-ink sky above. Mary shivered,
and her heart sank within her. Still, now they evidently were
making progress. Then the steersman pointed to a rippling line on
the river only a little way off, and the men disturbed Mary, who was
watching the ships that lay in what appeared to her the open sea, to
get at their sails.
She gave a little start, and rose. Her patience, her grief, and
perhaps her silence, had begun to win upon the men.
"Yon second to the norrard is the John Cropper. Wind's right now,
and sails will soon carry us alongside of her."
He had forgotten (or perhaps he did not like to remind Mary) that
the same wind which now bore their little craft along with easy,
rapid motion, would also be favourable to the John Cropper.
But as they looked with straining eyes, as if to measure the
decreasing distance that separated them from her, they saw her sails
unfurled and flap in the breeze, till, catching the right point,
they bellied forth into white roundness, and the ship began to
plunge and heave, as if she were a living creature, impatient to be
"They're heaving anchor!" said one of the boatmen to the other, as
the faint musical cry of the sailors came floating over the waters
that still separated them.
Full of the spirit of the chase, though as yet ignorant of Mary's
motives, the men sprung to hoist another sail. It was fully as much
as the boat could bear, in the keen, gusty east wind which was now
blowing, and she bent, and laboured, and ploughed, and creaked
upbraidingly as if tasked beyond her strength; but she sped along
with a gallant swiftness.
They drew nearer, and they heard the distant "ahoy" more clearly.
It ceased. The anchor was up, and the ship was away.
Mary stood up, steadying herself by the mast, and stretched out her
arms, imploring the flying vessel to stay its course, by that mute
action, while the tears streamed down her cheeks. The men caught up
their oars and hoisted them in the air, and shouted to arrest
They were seen by the men aboard the larger craft; but they were too
busy with all the confusion prevalent in an outward-bound vessel to
pay much attention. There were coils of ropes and seamen's chests
to be stumbled over at every turn; there were animals, not properly
secured, roaming bewildered about the deck, adding their pitiful
lowings and bleatings to the aggregate of noises. There were
carcases not cut up, looking like corpses of sheep and pigs rather
than like mutton and pork; there were sailors running here and there
and everywhere, having had no time to fall into method, and with
their minds divided between thoughts of the land and the people they
had left, and the present duties on board ship; while the captain
strove hard to procure some kind of order by hasty commands given in
a loud, impatient voice, to right and left, starboard and larboard,
cabin and steerage.
As he paced the deck with a chafed step, vexed at one or two little
mistakes on the part of the mate, and suffering himself from the
pain of separation from wife and children, but showing his suffering
only by his outward irritation, he heard a hail from the shabby
little river boat that was striving to overtake his winged ship.
For the men fearing that, as the ship was now fairly over the bar,
they should only increase the distance between them, and being now
within shouting range, had asked of Mary her more particular desire.
Her throat was dry, all musical sound had gone out of her voice; but
in a loud, harsh whisper she told the men her errand of life and
death, and they hailed the ship.
"We're come for one William Wilson, who is wanted to prove an alibi
in Liverpool Assize Courts to-morrow. James Wilson is to be tried
for a murder done on Thursday night when he was with William Wilson.
Anything more, missis?" asked the boatman of Mary, in a lower voice,
and taking his hands down from his mouth.
"Say I'm Mary Barton. Oh, the ship is going on! Oh, for the love
of Heaven, ask them to stop."
The boatman was angry at the little regard paid to his summons, and
called out again; repeating the message with the name of the young
woman who sent it, and interlarding it with sailors' oaths.
The ship flew along--away--the boat struggled after.
They could see the captain take his speaking-trumpet. And oh! and
alas! they heard his words.
He swore a dreadful oath; he called Mary a disgraceful name! and he
said he would not stop his ship for any one, nor could he part with
a single hand, whoever swung for it.
The words came in unpitying clearness with their trumpet-sound.
Mary sat down looking like one who prays in the death agony. For
her eyes were turned up to that heaven, where mercy dwelleth, while
her blue lips quivered, though no sound came. Then she bowed her
head, and hid it in her hands.
"Hark! yon sailor hails us."
She looked up, and her heart stopped its beating to listen.
William Wilson stood as near the stern of the vessel as he could
get; and unable to obtain the trumpet from the angry captain, made a
tube of his own hands.
"So help me God, Mary Barton, I'll come back in the pilot-boat time
enough to save the life of the innocent."
"What does he say?" asked Mary wildly, as the voice died away in the
increasing distance, while the boatmen cheered, in their kindled
sympathy with their passenger.
"What does he say?" repeated she. "Tell me. I could not hear."
She had heard with her ears, but her brain refused to recognise the
They repeated his speech, all three speaking at once, with many
comments; while Mary looked at them and then at the vessel far away.
"I don't rightly know about it," said she sorrowfully. "What is the
They told her, and she gathered the meaning out of the sailors'
slang which enveloped it. There was a hope still, although so
slight and faint.
"How far does the pilot go with the ship?"
To different distances, they said. Some pilots would go as far as
Holyhead for the chance of the homeward-bound vessels; others only
took the ships over the Banks. Some captains were more cautious
than others, and the pilots had different ways. The wind was
against the homeward-bound vessels, so perhaps the pilot aboard the
John Cropper would not care to go far out.
"How soon would he come back?"
There were three boatmen, and three opinions, varying from twelve
hours to two days. Nay, the man who gave his vote for the longest
time, on having his judgment disputed, grew stubborn, and doubled
the time, and thought it might be the end of the week before the
pilot-boat came home.
They began disputing and urging reasons; and Mary tried to
understand them; but independently of their nautical language, a
veil seemed drawn over her mind, and she had no clear perception of
anything that passed. Her very words seemed not her own, and beyond
her power of control, for she found herself speaking quite
differently to what she meant.
One by one her hopes had fallen away, and left her desolate; and
though a chance yet remained, she could no longer hope. She felt
certain it, too, would fade and vanish. She sank into a kind of
stupor. All outward objects harmonised with her despair--the gloomy
leaden sky--the deep dark waters below, of a still heavier shade of
colour--the cold, flat yellow shore in the distance, which no ray
lightened up--the nipping, cutting wind.
She shivered with her depression of mind and body.
The sails were taken down, of course, on the return to Liverpool,
and the progress they made, rowing and tacking, was very slow. The
men talked together, disputing about the pilots at first, and then
about matters of local importance, in which Mary would have taken no
interest at any time, and she gradually became drowsy; irrepressibly
so, indeed, for in spite of her jerking efforts to keep awake, she
sank away to the bottom of the boat, and there lay crouched on a
rough heap of sails, rope, and tackles of various kinds.
The measured beat of the waters against the sides of the boat, and
the musical boom of the more distant waves, were more lulling than
silence, and she slept sound.
Once she opened her eyes heavily, and dimly saw the old grey, rough
boatman (who had stood out the most obstinately for the full fare)
covering her with his thick pea-jacket. He had taken it off on
purpose, and was doing it tenderly in his way, but before she could
rouse herself up to thank him she had dropped off to sleep again.
At last, in the dusk of evening, they arrived at the landing-place
from which they had started some hours before. The men spoke to
Mary, but though she mechanically replied, she did not stir; so, at
length, they were obliged to shake her. She stood up, shivering and
puzzled as to her whereabouts.
"Now tell me where you are bound to, missus," said the grey old man,
"and maybe I can put you in the way."
She slowly comprehended what he said, and went through the process
of recollection; but very dimly, and with much labour. She put her
hand into her pocket and pulled out her purse, and shook its
contents into the man's hand; and then began meekly to unpin her
shawl, although they had turned away without asking for it.
"No! no!" said the old man, who lingered on the step before
springing into the boat, and to whom she mutely offered the shawl.
"Keep it! we donnot want it. It were only for to try you,--some
folks say they've no more blunt, when all the while they've getten a
"Thank you," said she, in a dull, low tone.
"Where are you bound to? I axed that question afore," said the
gruff old fellow.
"I don't know. I'm a stranger," replied she quietly, with a strange
absence of anxiety under the circumstances.
"But you mun find out then," said he sharply: "pier-head's no
place for a young woman to be standing on, gapeseying."
"I've a card somewhere as will tell me," she answered, and the man,
partly relieved, jumped into the boat, which was now pushing off to
make way for the arrivals from some steamer.
Mary felt in her pocket for the card, on which was written the name
of the street where she was to have met Mr. Bridgnorth at two
o'clock; where Job and Mrs. Wilson were to have been, and where she
was to have learnt from the former the particulars of some
respectable lodging. It was not to be found.
She tried to brighten her perceptions, and felt again, and took out
the little articles her pocket contained, her empty purse, her
pocket-handkerchief, and such little things, but it was not there.
In fact, she had dropped it when, so eager to embark, she had pulled
out her purse to reckon up her money.
She did not know this, of course. She only knew it was gone.
It added but little to the despair that was creeping over her. But
she tried a little more to help herself, though every minute her
mind became more cloudy. She strove to remember where Will had
lodged, but she could not; name, street, everything had passed away,
and it did not signify; better she were lost than found.
She sat down quietly on the top step of the landing, and gazed down
into the dark, dank water below. Once or twice a spectral thought
loomed among the shadows of her brain; a wonder whether beneath that
cold dismal surface there would not be rest from the troubles of
earth. But she could not hold an idea before her for two
consecutive moments; and she forgot what she thought about before
she could act upon it.
So she continued sitting motionless, without looking up, or
regarding in any way the insults to which she was subjected.
Through the darkening light the old boatman had watched her:
interested in her in spite of himself, and his scoldings of himself.
When the landing-place was once more comparatively clear, he made
his way towards it, across boats, and along planks, swearing at
himself while he did so for an old fool.
He shook Mary's shoulder violently.
"D--- you, I ask you again where you're bound to? Don't sit there,
stupid. Where are going to?"
"I don't know," sighed Mary.
"Come, come; avast with that story. You said a bit ago you'd a
card, which was to tell you where to go."
"I had, but I've lost it. Never mind."
She looked again down upon the black mirror below.
He stood by her, striving to put down his better self; but he could
not. He shook her again. She looked up, as if she had forgotten
"What do you want?" asked she wearily.
"Come with me and be d--d to you!" replied he, clutching her arm to
pull her up.
She arose and followed him, with the unquestioning docility of a
XXIX. A TRUE BILL AGAINST JEM.
"There are who, living by the legal pen,
Are held in honour--honourable men."
At five minutes before two, Job Legh stood upon the doorstep of the
house where Mr. Bridgnorth lodged at Assize time. He had left Mrs.
Wilson at the dwelling of a friend of his, who had offered him a
room for the old woman and Mary: a room which had frequently been
his, on his occasional visits to Liverpool, but which he was
thankful now to have obtained for them, as his own sleeping place
was a matter of indifference to him, and the town appeared crowded
and disorderly on the eve of the Assizes.
He was shown in to Mr. Bridgnorth, who was writing; Mary and Will
Wilson had not yet arrived, being, as you know, far away on the
broad sea; but of this Job of course knew nothing, and he did not as
yet feel much anxiety about their non-appearance; he was more
curious to know the result of Mr. Bridgnorth's interview that
morning with Jem.
"Why, yes," said Mr. Bridgnorth, putting down his pen, "I have seen
him, but to little purpose, I'm afraid. He's very impracticable--
very. I told him, of course, that he must be perfectly open with
me, or else I could not be prepared for the weak points. I named
your name with the view of unlocking his confidence, but"--
"What did he say?" asked Job breathlessly.
"Why, very little. He barely answered me. Indeed, he refused to
answer some questions--positively refused. I don't know what I can
do for him."
"Then you think him guilty, sir?" said Job despondingly.
"No, I don't," replied Mr. Bridgnorth, quickly and decisively.
"Much less than I did before I saw him. The impression (mind, 't is
only impression; I rely upon your caution, not to take it for fact)--
the impression," with an emphasis on the word, "he gave me is, that
he knows something about the affair, but what, he will not say; and
so the chances are, if he persists in his obstinacy, he'll be hung.
He began to write again, for he had no time to lose.
"But he must not be hung," said Job with vehemence.
Mr. Bridgnorth looked up, smiled a little, but shook his head.
"What did he say, sir, if I may be so bold as to ask?" continued
"His words were few enough, and he was so reserved and short, that,
as I said before, I can only give you the impression they conveyed
to me. I told him, of course, who I was, and for what I was sent.
He looked pleased, I thought--at least his face (sad enough when I
went in, I assure ye) brightened a little; but he said he had
nothing to say, no defence to make. I asked him if he was guilty,
then; and, by way of opening his heart, I said I understood he had
had provocation enough, inasmuch as I heard that the girl was very
lovely and had jilted him to fall desperately in love with that
handsome young Carson (poor fellow!). But James Wilson did not
speak one way or another. I then went to particulars. I asked him
if the gun was his, as his mother had declared. He had not heard of
her admission, it was evident, from his quick way of looking up, and
the glance of his eye; but when he saw I was observing him, he hung
down his head again, and merely said she was right; it was his gun."
"Well!" said Job impatiently, as Mr. Bridgnorth paused.
"Nay! I have little more to tell you," continued that gentleman.
"I asked him to inform me, in all confidence, how it came to be
found there. He was silent for a time, and then refused. Not only
refused to answer that question, but candidly told me he would not
say another word on the subject, and, thanking me for my trouble and
interest in his behalf, he all but dismissed me. Ungracious enough
on the whole, was it not, Mr. Legh? And yet, I assure ye, I am
twenty times more inclined to think him innocent than before I had
"I wish Mary Barton would come," said Job anxiously. "She and Will
are a long time about it."
"Ay, that's our only chance, I believe," answered Mr. Bridgnorth,
who was writing again. "I sent Johnson off before twelve to serve
him with his sub-poena, and to say I wanted to speak with him; he'll
be here soon, I've no doubt."
There was a pause. Mr. Bridgnorth looked up again, and spoke.
"Mr. Duncombe promised to be here to speak to his character. I sent
him a sub-poena on Saturday night. Though, after all, juries go
very little by such general and vague testimony as that to
character. It is very right that they should not often; but in this
instance unfortunate for us, as we must rest our case on the alibi."
The pen went again, scratch, scratch over the paper.
Job grew very fidgety. He sat on the edge of his chair, the more
readily to start up when Will and Mary should appear. He listened
intently to every noise and every step on the stair.
Once he heard a man's footstep, and his old heart gave a leap of
delight. But it was only Mr. Bridgnorth's clerk, bringing him a
list of those cases in which the grand jury had found true bills.
He glanced it over and pushed it to Job, merely saying--
"Of course we expected this," and went on with his writing.
There was a true bill against James Wilson, of course. And yet Job
felt now doubly anxious and sad. It seemed the beginning of the
end. He had got, by imperceptible degrees, to think Jem innocent.
Little by little this persuasion had come upon him.
Mary (tossing about in the little boat on the broad river) did not
come, nor did Will.
Job grew very restless. He longed to go and watch for them out of
the window, but feared to interrupt Mr. Bridgnorth. At length his
desire to look out was irresistible, and he got up and walked
carefully and gently across the room, his boots creaking at every
cautious step. The gloom which had overspread the sky, and the
influence of which had been felt by Mary on the open water, was yet
more perceptible in the dark, dull street. Job grew more and more
fidgety. He was obliged to walk about the room, for he could not
keep still; and he did so, regardless of Mr. Bridgnorth's impatient
little motions and noises, as the slow, stealthy, creaking movements
were heard, backwards and forwards, behind his chair.
He really liked Job, and was interested for Jem, else his
nervousness would have overcome his sympathy long before it did.
But he could hold out no longer against the monotonous, grating
sound; so at last he threw down his pen, locked his portfolio, and
taking up his hat and gloves, he told Job he must go to the courts.
"But Will Wilson is not come," said Job in dismay. "Just wait while
I run to his lodgings. I would have done it before, but I thought
they'd be here every minute, and I were afraid of missing them.
I'll be back in no time."
"No, my good fellow, I really must go. Besides, I begin to think
Johnson must have made a mistake, and have fixed with this William
Wilson to meet me at the courts. If you like to wait for him here,
pray make use of my room; but I've a notion I shall find him there:
in which case, I'll send him to your lodging; shall I? You know
where to find me. I shall be here again by eight o'clock, and with
the evidence of this witness that's to prove the alibi, I'll have
the brief drawn out, and in the hands of counsel to-night."
So saying he shook hands with Job, and went his way. The old man
considered for a minute as he lingered at the door, and then bent
his steps towards Mrs. Jones's, where he knew (from reference to
queer, odd, heterogeneous memoranda, in an ancient black-leather
pocket-book) that Will lodged, and where he doubted not he should
hear both of him and of Mary.
He went there, and gathered what intelligence he could out of Mrs.
Jones's slow replies.
He asked if a young woman had been there that morning, and if she
had seen Will Wilson. "No!"
"Why, bless you, 'cause he had sailed some hours before she came
asking for him."
There was a dead silence, broken only by the even, heavy sound of
Mrs. Jones's ironing.
"Where is the young woman now?" asked Job.
"Somewhere down at the docks," she thought. "Charley would know, if
he was in, but he wasn't. He was in mischief, somewhere or other,
she had no doubt. Boys always were. He would break his neck some
day, she knew"; so saying, she quietly spat upon her fresh iron, to
test its heat, and then went on with her business.
Job could have boxed her, he was in such a state of irritation. But
he did not, and he had his reward. Charley came in, whistling with
an air of indifference, assumed to carry off his knowledge of the
lateness of the hour to which he had lingered about the docks.
"Here's an old man come to know where the young woman is who went
out with thee this morning," said his mother, after she had bestowed
on him a little motherly scolding.
"Where she is now I don't know. I saw her last sailing down the
river after the John Cropper. I'm afeard she won't reach her; wind
changed, and she would be under weigh, and over the bar in no time.
She would have been back by now."
It took Job some little time to understand this, from the confused
use of the feminine pronoun. Then he inquired how he could best
"I'll run down again to the pier," said the boy; "I'll warrant I'll
"Thou shalt do no such a thing," said his mother, setting her back
against the door. The lad made a comical face at Job, which met
with no responsive look from the old man, whose sympathies were
naturally in favour of the parent: although he would thankfully
have availed himself of Charley's offer; for he was weary, and
anxious to return to poor Mrs. Wilson, who would be wondering what
had become of him.
"How can I best find her? Who did she go with, lad?"
But Charley was sullen at his mother's exercise of authority before
a stranger, and at that stranger's grave looks when he meant to have
made him laugh.
"They were river boatmen;--that's all I know," said he.
"But what was the name of their boat?" persevered Job.
"I never took no notice; the Anne, or William,--or some of them
common names, I'll be bound."
"What pier did she start from?" asked Job despairingly.
"Oh, as for that matter, it were the stairs on the Prince's Pier she
started from; but she'll not come back to the same, for the American
steamer came up with the tide, and anchored close to it, blocking up
the way for all the smaller craft. It's a rough evening, too, to be
out on," he maliciously added.
"Well, God's will be done! I did hope we could have saved the lad,"
said Job sorrowfully; "but I'm getten very doubtful again. I'm
uneasy about Mary, too,--very. She's a stranger in Liverpool."
"So she told me," said Charley. "There's traps about for young
women at every corner. It's a pity she's no one to meet her when
"As for that," replied Job, "I don't see how any one could meet her
when we can't tell where she would come to. I must trust to her
coming right. She's getten spirit and sense. She'll most likely be
for coming here again. Indeed, I don't know what else she can do,
for she knows no other place in Liverpool. Missus, if she comes,
will you give your son leave to bring her to No. 8, Back Garden
Court, where there's friends waiting for her? I'll give him
sixpence for his trouble."
Mrs. Jones, pleased with the reference to her, gladly promised. And
even Charley, indignant as he was at first at the idea of his
motions being under the control of his mother, was mollified at the
prospect of the sixpence, and at the probability of getting nearer
to the heart of the mystery.
But Mary never came.
XXX. JOB LEGH'S DECEPTION.
"Oh! sad is the night-time,
The night-time of sorrow,
When through the deep gloom, we catch but the boom
Of the waves that may whelm us to-morrow."
Job found Mrs. Wilson pacing about in a restless way; not speaking
to the woman at whose house she was staying, but occasionally
heaving such deep oppressive sighs as quite startled those around
"Well!" said she, turning sharp round in her tottering walk up and
down as Job came in.
"Well, speak!" repeated she, before he could make up his mind what
to say; for, to tell the truth, he was studying for some kind-
hearted lie which might soothe her for a time. But now the real
state of the case came blurting forth in answer to her impatient
"Will's not to the fore. But he'll maybe turn up yet, time enough."
She looked at him steadily for a minute, as if almost doubting if
such despair could be in store for her as his words seemed to imply.
Then she slowly shook her head, and said, more quietly than might
have been expected from her previous excited manner--
"Don't go for to say that! Thou dost not think it. Thou'rt well-
nigh hopeless, like me. I seed all along my lad would be hung for
what he never did. And better he were, and were shut* of this weary
world, where there's neither justice nor mercy left."
She looked up with tranced eyes as if praying, and then sat down.
"Nay, now thou'rt off at a gallop," said Job. "Will has sailed this
morning, for sure; but that brave wench, Mary Barton, is after him,
and will bring him back, I'll be bound, if she can but get speech on
him. She's not back yet. Come, come, hold up thy head. It will
all end right."
"It will all end right," echoed she; "but not as thou tak'st it.
Jem will be hung, and will go to his father and the little lads,
where the Lord God wipes away all tears, and where the Lord Jesus
speaks kindly to the little ones, who look about for the mothers
they left upon earth. Eh, Job, yon's a blessed land, and I long to
go to it, and yet I fret because Jem is hastening there. I would
not fret if he and I could lie down to-night to sleep our last
sleep; not a bit would I fret if folk would but know him to be
innocent--as I do."
"They'll know it sooner or later, and repent sore if they've hanged
him for what he never did," replied Job.
"Ay, that they will. Poor souls! May God have mercy on them when
they find out their mistake."
Presently Job grew tired of sitting waiting, and got up, and hung
about the door and window, like some animal wanting to go out. It
was pitch dark, for the moon had not yet risen.
"You just go to bed," said he to the widow; "you'll want your
strength for to-morrow. Jem will be sadly off, if he sees you so
cut up as you look to-night. I'll step down again and find Mary.
She'll be back by this time. I'll come and tell you everything,
never fear. But now, you go to bed."
"Thou'rt a kind friend, Job Legh, and I'll go, as thou wishest me.
But, oh! mind thou com'st straight off to me, and bring Mary as soon
as thou'st lit on her." She spoke low, but very calmly.
"Ay, ay!" replied Job, slipping out of the house.
He went first to Mr. Bridgnorth's, where it had struck him that Will
and Mary might be all this time waiting for him.
They were not there, however. Mr. Bridgnorth had just come in, and
Job went breathlessly upstairs to consult with him as to the state
of the case.
"It's a bad job," said the lawyer, looking very grave, while he
arranged his papers. "Johnson told me how it was; the woman that
Wilson lodged with told him. I doubt it's but a wildgoose chase of
the girl Barton. Our case must rest on the uncertainty of
circumstantial evidence, and the goodness of the prisoner's previous
character. A very vague and weak defence. However, I've engaged
Mr. Clinton as counsel, and he'll make the best of it. And now, my
good fellow, I must wish you good-night, and turn you out of doors.
As it is, I shall have to sit up into the small hours. Did you see
my clerk as you came upstairs? You did! Then may I trouble you to
ask him to step up immediately?"
After this Job could not stay, and, making his humble bow, he left
Then he went to Mrs. Jones's. She was in, but Charley had slipped
off again. There was no holding that boy. Nothing kept him but
lock and key, and they did not always; for once she had him locked
up in the garret, and he had got off through the skylight. Perhaps
now he was gone to see after the young woman down at the docks. He
never wanted an excuse to be there.
Unasked, Job took a chair, resolved to wait Charley's reappearance.
Mrs. Jones ironed and folded her clothes, talking all the time of
Charley and her husband, who was a sailor in some ship bound for
India, and who, in leaving her their boy, had evidently left her
rather more than she could manage. She moaned and croaked over
sailors, and seaport towns, and stormy weather, and sleepless
nights, and trousers all over tar and pitch, long after Job had left
off attending to her, and was only trying to hearken to every step
and every voice in the street.
At last Charley came in, but he came alone.
"Yon Mary Barton has getten into some scrape or another," said he,
addressing himself to Job. "She's not to be heard of at any of the
piers; and Bourne says it were a boat from the Cheshire side as she
went aboard of. So there's no hearing of her till to-morrow
"To-morrow morning she'll have to be in court at nine o'clock, to
bear witness on a trial," said Job sorrowfully.
"So she said; at least somewhat of the kind," said Charley, looking
desirous to hear more. But Job was silent.
He could not think of anything further that could be done; so he
rose up, and, thanking Mrs. Jones for the shelter she had given him,
he went out into the street; and there he stood still, to ponder
over probabilities and chances.
After some little time he slowly turned towards the lodging where he
had left Mrs. Wilson. There was nothing else to be done; but he
loitered on the way, fervently hoping that her weariness and her
woes might have sent her to sleep before his return, that he might
be spared her questionings.
He went very gently into the house-place where the sleepy landlady
awaited his coming and his bringing the girl, who, she had been
told, was to share the old woman's bed.
But in her sleepy blindness she knocked things so about in lighting
the candle (she could see to have a nap by firelight, she said),
that the voice of Mrs. Wilson was heard from the little back-room,
where she was to pass the night.
Job gave no answer, and kept down his breath, that she might think
herself mistaken. The landlady, having no such care, dropped the
snuffers with a sharp metallic sound, and then, by her endless
apologies, convinced the listening woman that Job had returned.
"Job! Job Legh!" she cried out nervously.
"Eh, dear!" said Job to himself, going reluctantly to her bedroom
door. "I wonder if one little lie would be a sin, as things stand?
It would happen give her sleep, and she won't have sleep for many
and many a night (not to call sleep), if things goes wrong
to-morrow. I'll chance it, any way."
"Job! art thou there?" asked she again with a trembling impatience
that told in every tone of her voice.
"Ay! sure! I thought thou'd ha' been asleep by this time."
"Asleep! How could I sleep till I know'd if Will were found?"
"Now for it," muttered Job to himself. Then in a louder voice,
"Never fear! he's found, and safe, ready for to-morrow."
"And he'll prove that thing for my poor lad, will he? He'll bear
witness that Jem were with him? O Job, speak! tell me all!"
"In for a penny, in for a pound," thought Job. "Happen one prayer
will do for the sum total. Any rate, I must go on now. Ay, ay,"
shouted he, through the door. "He can prove all; and Jem will come
off as clear as a new-born babe."
He could hear Mrs. Wilson's rustling movements, and in an instant
guessed she was on her knees, for he heard her trembling voice
uplifted in thanksgiving and praise to God, stopped at times by sobs
of gladness and relief.
And when he heard this, his heart misgave him; for he thought of the
awful enlightening, the terrible revulsion of feeling that awaited
her in the morning. He saw the shortsightedness of falsehood; but
what could he do now?
While he listened, she ended her grateful prayers.
"And Mary? Thou'st found her at Mrs. Jones's, Job?" said she,
continuing her inquiries.
He gave a great sigh.
"Yes, she was there, safe enough, second time of going. God forgive
me!" muttered he, "who'd ha' thought of my turning out such an
arrant liar in my old days."
"Bless the wench! Is she here? Why does she not come to bed? I'm
sure she's need."
Job coughed away his remains of conscience, and made answer--
"She was a bit weary, and o'erdone with her sail! and Mrs. Jones
axed her to stay there all night. It was nigh at hand to the
courts, where she will have to be in the morning."
"It comes easy enough after a while," groaned out Job. "The father
of lies helps one, I suppose, for now my speech comes as natural as
truth. She's done questioning now, that's one good thing. I'll be
off, before Satan and she are at me again."
He went to the house-place, where the landlady stood wearily
waiting. Her husband was in bed, and asleep long ago.
But Job had not yet made up his mind what to do. He could not go to
sleep, with all his anxieties, if he were put into the best bed in
"Thou'lt let me sit up in this arm-chair," said he at length to the
woman, who stood, expecting his departure.
He was an old friend, so she let him do as he wished. But, indeed,
she was too sleepy to have opposed him. She was too glad to be
released and go to bed.
Back to Full Books