Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 30 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 th_oman at whose house she was staying, but occasionally heaving such dee_ppressive sighs as quite startled those around her.
  • "Well!" said she, turning sharp round in her tottering walk up and down as Jo_ame 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 migh_oothe her for a time. But now the real state of the case came blurting fort_n answer to her impatient questioning.
  • "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 despai_ould be in store for her as his words seemed to imply. Then she slowly shoo_er head, and said, more quietly than might have been expected from he_revious excited manner—
  • "Don't go for to say that! Thou dost not think it. Thou'rt well- nig_opeless, like me. I seed all along my lad would be hung for what he neve_id. And better he were, and were shut[[49]](footnotes.xml#footnote_49) o_his 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 hi_ack, 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 b_ung, and will go to his father and the little lads, where the Lord God wipe_way all tears, and where the Lord Jesus speaks kindly to the little ones, wh_ook about for the mothers they left upon earth. Eh, Job, yon's a blesse_and, and I long to go to it, and yet I fret because Jem is hastening there. _ould 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 fo_hat he never did," replied Job.
  • "Ay, that they will. Poor souls! May God have mercy on them when they find ou_heir mistake."
  • Presently Job grew tired of sitting waiting, and got up, and hung about th_oor and window, like some animal wanting to go out. It was pitch dark, fo_he 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 an_ell 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 o_er." 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 Mar_ight be all this time waiting for him.
  • They were not there, however. Mr. Bridgnorth had just come in, and Job wen_reathlessly 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 hi_apers. "Johnson told me how it was; the woman that Wilson lodged with tol_im. I doubt it's but a wildgoose chase of the girl Barton. Our case must res_n the uncertainty of circumstantial evidence, and the goodness of th_risoner's previous character. A very vague and weak defence. However, I'v_ngaged Mr. Clinton as counsel, and he'll make the best of it. And now, m_ood 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 cam_pstairs? 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 the room.
  • 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 di_ot always; for once she had him locked up in the garret, and he had got of_hrough the skylight. Perhaps now he was gone to see after the young woma_own 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 an_er husband, who was a sailor in some ship bound for India, and who, i_eaving her their boy, had evidently left her rather more than she coul_anage. She moaned and croaked over sailors, and seaport towns, and storm_eather, and sleepless nights, and trousers all over tar and pitch, long afte_ob had left off attending to her, and was only trying to hearken to ever_tep 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, addressin_imself to Job. "She's not to be heard of at any of the piers; and Bourne say_t were a boat from the Cheshire side as she went aboard of. So there's n_earing of her till to-morrow morning."
  • "To-morrow morning she'll have to be in court at nine o'clock, to bear witnes_n a trial," said Job sorrowfully.
  • "So she said; at least somewhat of the kind," said Charley, looking desirou_o 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 th_treet; and there he stood still, to ponder over probabilities and chances.
  • After some little time he slowly turned towards the lodging where he had lef_rs. 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 slee_efore his return, that he might be spared her questionings.
  • He went very gently into the house-place where the sleepy landlady awaited hi_oming and his bringing the girl, who, she had been told, was to share the ol_oman'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.
  • "Who's there?"
  • Job gave no answer, and kept down his breath, that she might think hersel_istaken. The landlady, having no such care, dropped the snuffers with a shar_etallic sound, and then, by her endless apologies, convinced the listenin_oman that Job had returned.
  • "Job! Job Legh!" she cried out nervously.
  • "Eh, dear!" said Job to himself, going reluctantly to her bedroom door. "_onder if one little lie would be a sin, as things stand? It would happen giv_er sleep, and she won't have sleep for many and many a night (not to cal_leep), if things goes wrong to-morrow. I'll chance it, any way."
  • "Job! art thou there?" asked she again with a trembling impatience that tol_n 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 tha_em were with him? O Job, speak! tell me all!"
  • "In for a penny, in for a pound," thought Job. "Happen one prayer will do fo_he sum total. Any rate, I must go on now. Ay, ay," shouted he, through th_oor. "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 sh_as on her knees, for he heard her trembling voice uplifted in thanksgivin_nd 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 awfu_nlightening, the terrible revulsion of feeling that awaited her in th_orning. 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 he_nquiries.
  • 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 m_ld days."
  • "Bless the wench! Is she here? Why does she not come to bed? I'm sure she'_eed."
  • 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 t_tay there all night. It was nigh at hand to the courts, where she will hav_o be in the morning."
  • "It comes easy enough after a while," groaned out Job. "The father of lie_elps one, I suppose, for now my speech comes as natural as truth. She's don_uestioning now, that's one good thing. I'll be off, before Satan and she ar_t me again."
  • He went to the house-place, where the landlady stood wearily waiting. He_usband 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 Liverpool.
  • "Thou'lt let me sit up in this arm-chair," said he at length to the woman, wh_tood, expecting his departure.
  • He was an old friend, so she let him do as he wished. But, indeed, she was to_leepy to have opposed him. She was too glad to be released and go to bed.