> "I lov'd him not; and yet now he is gone, > I feel I am alone.
> I check'd him while he spoke; yet could he speak, > Alas! I would not check.
> For reasons not to love him once I sought, > And wearied all my thought."—W. S. LANDOR.
And now Mary had, as she thought, dismissed both her lovers. But they looke_n their dismissals with very different eyes. He who loved her with all hi_eart and with all his soul, considered his rejection final. He did no_omfort himself with the idea, which would have proved so well founded in hi_ase, that women have second thoughts about casting off their lovers. He ha_oo much respect for his own heartiness of love to believe himself unworthy o_ary; that mock humble conceit did not enter his head. He thought he did not
"hit Mary's fancy"; and though that may sound a trivial every-day expression, yet the reality of it cut him to the heart. Wild visions of enlistment, o_rinking himself into forgetfulness, of becoming desperate in some way o_nother, entered his mind; but then the thought of his mother stood like a_ngel with a drawn sword in the way to sin. For, you know, "he was the onl_on of his mother, and she was a widow"; dependent on him for daily bread. S_e could not squander away health and time, which were to him money wherewit_o support her failing years. He went to his work, accordingly, to all outwar_emblance just as usual; but with a heavy, heavy heart within.
Mr. Carson, as we have seen, persevered in considering Mary's rejection of hi_s merely a "charming caprice." If she were at work, Sally Leadbitter was sur_o slip a passionately loving note into her hand, and then so skilfully mov_way from her side, that Mary could not all at once return it, without makin_ome sensation among the workwomen. She was even forced to take several hom_ith her. But after reading one, she determined on her plan. She made no grea_esistance to receiving them from Sally, but kept them unopened, an_ccasionally returned them in a blank half-sheet of paper. But far worse tha_his, was the being so constantly waylaid as she went home by her perseverin_over; who had been so long acquainted with all her habits, that she found i_ifficult to evade him. Late or early, she was never certain of being fre_rom him. Go this way or that, he might come up some cross street when she ha_ust congratulated herself on evading him for that day. He could not hav_aken a surer mode of making himself odious to her.
And all this time Jem Wilson never came! Not to see her—that she did no_xpect—but to see her father; to—she did not know what, but she had hoped h_ould have come on some excuse, just to see if she hadn't changed her mind. H_ever came. Then she grew weary and impatient, and her spirits sank. Th_ersecution of the one lover, and the neglect of the other, oppressed he_orely. She could not now sit quietly through the evening at her work; or, i_he kept, by a strong effort, from pacing up and down the room, she felt as i_he must sing to keep off thought while she sewed. And her songs were th_addest, merriest, she could think of. "Barbara Allen," and such sorrowfu_itties, did well enough for happy times; but now she required all the ai_hat could be derived from external excitement to keep down the impulse o_rief.
And her father, too—he was a great anxiety to her, he looked so changed and s_ll. Yet he would not acknowledge to any ailment. She knew, that be it as lat_s it would, she never left off work until (if the poor servants paid he_retty regularly for the odd jobs of mending she did for them) she had earne_ few pence, enough for one good meal for her father on the next day. But ver_requently all she could do in the morning, after her late sitting up a_ight, was to run with the work home, and receive the money from the perso_or whom it was done. She could not stay often to make purchases of food, bu_ave up the money at once to her father's eager clutch; sometimes prompted b_ savage hunger it is true, but more frequently by a craving for opium.
On the whole he was not so hungry as his daughter. For it was a long fast fro_he one o'clock dinner hour at Miss Simmonds' to the close of Mary's vigil, which was often extended to midnight. She was young, and had not yet learne_o bear "clemming."
One evening, as she sang a merry song over her work, stopping occasionally t_igh, the blind Margaret came groping in. It had been one of Mary's additiona_orrows that her friend had been absent from home, accompanying the lecture_n music in his round among the manufacturing towns of Yorkshire an_ancashire. Her grandfather, too, had seen this a good time for going hi_xpeditions in search of specimens; so that the house had been shut up fo_everal weeks.
"O Margaret, Margaret! how glad I am to see you. Take care. There now, you'r_ll right, that's father's chair. Sit down."—She kissed her over and ove_gain.
"It seems like the beginning o' brighter times, to see you again, Margaret. Bless you! And how well you look!"
"Doctors always send ailing folk for change of air: and you know I've had plenty o' that same lately."
"You've been quite a traveller for sure! Tell us all about it, do, Margaret. Where have you been to, first place?"
"Eh, lass, that would take a long time to tell. Half o'er the world, _ometimes think. Bolton and Bury, and Owdham, and Halifax, and—but Mary, gues_ho I saw there? Maybe you know, though, so it's not fair guessing."
"No, I dunnot. Tell me, Margaret, for I cannot abide waiting and guessing."
"Well, one night as I were going fra' my lodgings wi' the help on a lad a_elonged to th' landlady, to find the room where I were to sing, I heard _ough before me, walking along. Thinks I, that's Jem Wilson's cough, or I'_uch mistaken. Next time came a sneeze and cough, and then I were certain.
First I hesitated whether I should speak, thinking if it were a stranger he'_aybe think me forrard.[](footnotes.xml#footnote_41) But I knew blin_olks must not be nesh about using their tongues, so says I, 'Jem Wilson, i_hat you?' And sure enough it was, and nobody else. Did you know he were i_alifax, Mary?"
"No," she answered, faintly and sadly; for Halifax was all the same to he_eart as the Antipodes; equally inaccessible by humble penitent looks an_aidenly tokens of love.
"Well, he's there, however: he's putting up an engine for some folks there, for his master. He's doing well, for he's getten four or five men under him; we'd two or three meetings, and he telled me all about his invention for doin_way wi' the crank, or somewhat. His master's bought it from him, and ta'e_ut a patent, and Jem's a gentleman for life wi' the money his master gie_im. But you'll ha' heard all this, Mary?"
No! she had not.
"Well, I thought it all happened afore he left Manchester, and then in cours_ou'd ha' known. But maybe it were all settled after he got to Halifax; however, he's gotten two or three hunder pounds for his invention. But what'_p with you, Mary? you're sadly out of sorts. You've never been quarrellin_i' Jem, surely?"
Now Mary cried outright; she was weak in body, and unhappy in mind, and th_ime was come when she might have the relief of telling her grief. She coul_ot bring herself to confess how much of her sorrow was caused by her havin_een vain and foolish; she hoped that need never be known, and she could no_ear to think of it.
"O Margaret! do you know Jem came here one night when I were put out, an_ross. Oh, dear! dear! I could bite my tongue out when I think on it. And h_old me how he loved me, and I thought I did not love him, and I told him _idn't; and, Margaret,—he believed me, and went away so sad, and so angry; an_ow, I'd do anything—I would indeed"; her sobs choked the end of her sentence.
Margaret looked at her with sorrow, but with hope; for she had no doubt in he_wn mind, that it was only a temporary estrangement,
"Tell me, Margaret," said Mary, taking her apron down from her eyes, an_ooking at Margaret with eager anxiety, "what can I do to bring him back t_e? Should I write to him?"
"No," replied her friend, "that would not do. Men are so queer, they like t_ave a' the courting to themselves."
"But I did not mean to write him a courting letter," said Mary, somewha_ndignantly.
"If you wrote at all, it would be to give him a hint you'd taken the rue, an_ould be very glad to have him now. I believe now he'd rather find that ou_imself."
"But he won't try," said Mary, sighing. "How can he find it out when he's a_alifax?"
"If he's a will he's a way, depend upon it. And you would not have him if he'_ot a will to you, Mary! No, dear!" changing her tone from the somewhat har_ay in which sensible people too often speak, to the soft accents o_enderness which come with such peculiar grace from them, "you must just wai_nd be patient. You may depend upon it, all will end well, and better than i_ou meddled in it now."
"But it's so hard to be patient," pleaded Mary.
"Ay, dear; being patient is the hardest work we, any of us, have to do throug_ife, I take it. Waiting is far more difficult than doing. I've known tha_bout my sight, and many a one has known it in watching the sick; but it's on_f God's lessons we all must learn, one way or another." After a pause—"Hav_e been to see his mother of late?"
"No; not for some weeks. When last I went she was s_rabbit[](footnotes.xml#footnote_42) with me, that I really thought sh_ished I'd keep away."
"Well! if I were you I'd go. Jem will hear on't, and it will do you far mor_ood in his mind than writing a letter, which, after all, you would find _ough piece of work when you came to settle to it. 'T would be hard to sa_either too much nor too little. But I must be going, grandfather is at home, and it's our first night together, and he must not be sitting wanting me an_onger."
She rose up from her seat, but still delayed going.
"Mary! I've somewhat else I want to say to you, and I don't rightly know ho_o begin. You see, grandfather and I know what bad times is, and we know you_ather is out of work, and I'm getting more money than I can well manage; and, dear, would you just take this bit o' gold, and pay me back in good times?"
The tears stood in Margaret's eyes as she spoke.
"Dear Margaret, we're not so bad pressed as that." (The thought of her fathe_nd his ill looks, and his one meal a day, rushed upon Mary.) "And yet, dear, if it would not put you out o' your way—I would work hard to make it up t_ou;—but would not your grandfather be vexed?"
"Not he, wench! It were more his thought than mine, and we have gotten ever s_any more at home, so don't hurry yourself about paying. It's hard to b_lind, to be sure, else money comes in so easily now to what it used to do; and it's downright pleasure to earn it, for I do so like singing."
"I wish I could sing," said Mary, looking at the sovereign.
"Some has one kind of gifts, and some another. Many's the time when I coul_ee, that I longed for your beauty, Mary! We're like childer, ever wantin_hat we han not got. But now I must say just one more word. Remember, i_ou're sore pressed for money, we shall take it very unkind if you donnot le_s know. Good-bye to ye."
In spite of her blindness she hurried away, anxious to rejoin her grandfather, and desirous also to escape from Mary's expressions of gratitude.
Her visit had done Mary good in many ways. It had strengthened her patienc_nd her hope; it had given her confidence in Margaret's sympathy; and last, and really least in comforting power (of so little value are silver and gol_n comparison to love, that gift in every one's power to bestow), came th_onsciousness of the money-value of the sovereign she held in her hand. Th_any things it might purchase! First of all came the thought of th_omfortable supper for her father that very night; and acting instantly upo_he idea, she set off in hopes that all the provision shops might not yet b_losed, although it was so late.
That night the cottage shone with unusual light and fire gleam; and the fathe_nd daughter sat down to a meal they thought almost extravagant. It was s_ong since they had had enough to eat.
"Food gives heart," say the Lancashire people; and the next day Mary made tim_o go and call on Mrs. Wilson, according to Margaret's advice. She found he_uite alone, and more gracious than she had been the last time Mary ha_isited her. Alice was gone out, she said.
"She would just step up to the post-office, all for no earthly use. For i_ere to ask if they hadn't a letter lying there for her from her foster-son, Will Wilson, the sailor-lad."
"What made her think there were a letter?" asked Mary.
"Why, yo see, a neighbour as has been in Liverpool, telled us Will's ship wer_ome in. Now he said last time he were in Liverpool, he'd ha' come to ha' see_lice, but his ship had but a week holiday, and hard work for the men in tha_ime, too. So Alice makes sure he'll come this, and has had her hand behin_er ear at every noise in th' street, thinking it were him. And to-day sh_ere neither to have nor to hold, but off she would go to th' post, and see i_e had na sent her a line to th' old house near yo. I tried to get her to giv_p going, for let alone her deafness she's getten so dark, she cannot see fiv_ards afore her; but no, she would go, poor old body."
"I did not know her sight failed her; she used to have good eyes enough whe_he lived near us."
"Ay, but it's gone lately a good deal. But you never ask after Jem "—anxiou_o get in a word on the subject nearest her heart.
"No," replied Mary, blushing scarlet. "How is he?"
"I cannot justly say how he is, seeing he's at Halifax; but he were very wel_hen he wrote last Tuesday. Han ye heard o' his good luck?"
Rather to her disappointment, Mary owned she had heard of the sum his maste_ad paid him for his invention.
"Well! and did not Margaret tell you what he'd done wi' it? It's just lik_im, though, ne'er to say a word about it. Why, when he were paid, what doe_e do but get his master to help him to buy an income for me and Alice. He ha_er name put down for her life; but, poor thing, she'll not be long to th_ore, I'm thinking. She's sadly failed of late. And so, Mary, yo see, we'r_wo ladies o' property. It's a matter o' twenty pound a year, they tell me. _ish the twins had lived, bless 'em," said she, dropping a few tears. "The_hould ha' had the best o' schooling, and their bellyfuls o' food. I suppos_hey're better off in heaven, only I should so like to see 'em."
Mary's heart filled with love at this new proof of Jem's goodness; but sh_ould not talk about it. She took Jane Wilson's hand, and pressed it wit_ffection; and then turned the subject to Will, her sailor nephew. Jane was _ittle bit sorry, but her prosperity had made her gentler, and she did no_esent what she felt at Mary's indifference to Jem and his merits.
"He's been in Africa, and that neighbourhood, I believe. He's a fine chap, bu_e's not getten Jem's hair. His has too much o' the red in it. He sent Alice (but, maybe, she telled you) a matter o' five pound when he were over before: but that were nought to an income, yo know."
"It's not every one that can get a hundred or two at a time," said Mary.
"No! no! that's true enough. There's not many a one like Jem. That's Alice'_tep," said she, hastening to open the door to her sister-in-law. Alice looke_eary, and sad, and dusty. The weariness and the dust would not have bee_oticed either by her, or the others, if it had not been for the sadness.
"No letters?" said Mrs. Wilson.
"No, none! I must just wait another day to hear fra' my lad. It's very dre_ork, waiting," said Alice.
Margaret's words came into Mary's mind. Every one has their time and kind o_aiting.
"If I but knew he were safe, and not drowned!" spoke Alice. "If I but knew h_ERE drowned, I would ask grace to say, Thy will be done. It's the waiting."
"It's hard work to be patient to all of us," said Mary; "I know I find it so, but I did not know one so good as you did, Alice; I shall not think so badl_f myself for being a bit impatient, now I've heard you say you find i_ifficult."
The idea of reproach to Alice was the last in Mary's mind; and Alice knew i_as. Nevertheless, she said—
"Then, my dear, I beg your pardon, and God's pardon, too, if I've weakene_our faith, by showing you how feeble mine was. Half our life's spent i_aiting, and it ill becomes one like me, wi' so many mercies, to grumble. I'l_ry and put a bridle o'er my tongue, and my thoughts too." She spoke in _umble and gentle voice, like one asking forgiveness.
"Come, Alice," interposed Mrs. Wilson, "don't fret yoursel for e'er a trifl_rong said here or there. See! I've put th' kettle on, and you and Mary shal_a' a dish o' tea in no time."
So she bustled about, and brought out a comfortable-looking substantial loaf, and set Mary to cut bread and butter, while she rattled out the tea- cups—always a cheerful sound.
Just as they were sitting down, there was a knock heard at the door, an_ithout waiting for it to be opened from the inside, some one lifted th_atch, and in a man's voice asked, if one George Wilson lived there?
Mrs. Wilson was entering on a long and sorrowful explanation of his havin_nce lived there, but of his having dropped down dead; when Alice, with th_nstinct of love (for in all usual and common instances sight and hearin_ailed to convey impressions to her until long after other people had receive_hem), arose, and tottered to the door.
"My bairn!—my own dear bairn!" she exclaimed, falling on Will Wilson's neck.
You may fancy the hospitable and welcoming commotion that ensued; how Mrs.
Wilson laughed, and talked, and cried, all together, if such a thing can b_one; and how Mary gazed with wondering pleasure at her old playmate; now _ashing, bronzed-looking, ringleted sailor, frank, and hearty, an_ffectionate.
But it was something different from common to see Alice's joy at once mor_aving her foster-child with her. She did not speak, for she really could not; but the tears came coursing down her old withered cheeks, and dimmed the hor_pectacles she had put on, in order to pry lovingly into his face. So wha_ith her failing sight, and her tear-blinded eyes, she gave up the attempt o_earning his face by heart through the medium of that sense, and trie_nother. She passed her sodden, shrivelled hands, all trembling wit_agerness, over his manly face, bent meekly down in order that she might mor_asily make her strange inspection. At last, her soul was satisfied.
After tea, Mary feeling sure there was much to be said on both sides, at whic_t would be better none should be present, not even an intimate friend lik_erself, got up to go away. This seemed to arouse Alice from her dream_onsciousness of exceeding happiness, and she hastily followed Mary to th_oor. There, standing outside, with the latch in her hand, she took hold o_ary's arm, and spoke nearly the first words she had uttered since he_ephew's return.
"My dear! I shall never forgive mysel, if my wicked words to-night are an_tumbling-block in your path. See how the Lord has put coals of fire on m_ead! O Mary, don't let my being an unbelieving Thomas weaken your faith. Wai_atiently on the Lord, whatever your trouble may be."