> "To think > That all this long interminable night, > Which I have passed in thinking on two words— > 'Guilty'—'Not Guilty!'—like one happy moment > O'er many a head hath flown unheeded by; > O'er happy sleepers dreaming in their bliss > Of bright to-morrows—or far happier still, > With deep breath buried in forgetfulness.
> O all the dismallest images of death > Did swim before my eyes!"
And now, where was Mary?
How Job's heart would have been relieved of one of its cares if he could hav_een her: for he was in a miserable state of anxiety about her; and many an_any a time through that long night he scolded her and himself; her for he_bstinacy, and himself for his weakness in yielding to her obstinacy, when sh_nsisted on being the one to follow and find out Will.
She did not pass that night in bed any more than Job; but she was under _espectable roof, and among kind, though rough people.
She had offered no resistance to the old boatman, when he had clutched he_rm, in order to insure her following him, as he threaded the crowded dock- ways, and dived up strange by-streets. She came on meekly after him, scarcel_hinking in her stupor where she was going, and glad (in a dead, heavy way) that some one was deciding things for her.
He led her to an old-fashioned house, almost as small as house could be, whic_ad been built long ago, before all the other part of the street, and had _ountry-town look about it in the middle of that bustling back-street. H_ulled her into the house-place; and relieved to a certain degree of his fea_f losing her on the way, he exclaimed—
"There!" giving a great slap of one hand on her back.
The room was light and bright, and roused Mary (perhaps the slap on her bac_ight help a little too), and she felt the awkwardness of accounting for he_resence to a little bustling old woman who had been moving about th_ireplace on her entrance. The boatman took it very quietly, never deigning t_ive any explanation, but sitting down in his own particular chair, an_hewing tobacco, while he looked at Mary with the most satisfied ai_maginable, half triumphantly, as if she were the captive of his bow an_pear, and half defying, as if daring her to escape.
The old woman, his wife, stood still, poker in hand, waiting to be told who i_as that her husband had brought home so unceremoniously; but, as she looke_n amazement, the girl's cheek flushed, and then blanched to a dead whiteness; a film came over her eyes, and catching at the dresser for support in that ho_hirling room, she fell in a heap on the floor.
Both man and wife came quickly to her assistance. They raised her up, stil_nsensible, and he supported her on one knee, while his wife pattered away fo_ome cold fresh water. She threw it straight over Mary; but though it caused _reat sob, the eyes still remained closed, and the face as pale as ashes.
"Who is she, Ben?" asked the woman, as she rubbed her unresisting, powerles_ands.
"How should I know?" answered her husband gruffly.
"Well-a-well!" (in a soothing tone, such as you use to irritated children), and as if half to herself, "I only thought you might, you know, as you brough_er home. Poor thing! we must not ask aught about her, but that she need_elp. I wish I'd my salts at home, but I lent 'em to Mrs. Burton, last Sunda_n church, for she could not keep awake through the sermon. Dear-a-me, ho_hite she is!"
"Here! you hold her up a bit," said her husband.
She did as he desired, still crooning to herself, not caring for his short, sharp interruptions as she went on; and, indeed, to her old, loving heart, hi_rossest words fell like pearls and diamonds, for he had been the husband o_er youth; and even he, rough and crabbed as he was, was secretly soothed b_he sound of her voice, although not for worlds, if he could have helped it, would he have shown any of the love that was hidden beneath his rough outside.
"What's the old fellow after?" said she, bending over Mary, so as t_ccommodate the drooping head. "Taking my pen, as I've had for better nor fiv_ear. Bless us, and save us! he's burning it! Ay, I see now, he's his wit_bout him; burnt feathers is always good for a faint. But they don't bring he_ound, poor wench! Now what's he after next? Well! he is a bright one, my ol_an! That I never thought of that, to be sure!" exclaimed she, as he produce_ square bottle of smuggled spirits, labelled "Golden Wasser," from a corne_upboard in their little room.
"That'll do!" said she, as the dose he poured into Mary's open mouth made he_tart and cough. "Bless the man. It's just like him to be so tender an_houghtful!"
"Not a bit!" snarled he, as he was relieved by Mary's returning colour, an_pened eyes, and wondering, sensible gaze; "not a bit. I never was such a foo_fore."
His wife helped Mary to rise, and placed her in a chair.
"All's right, now, young woman?" asked the boatman anxiously.
"Yes, sir, and thank you. I'm sure, sir, I don't know rightly how to than_ou," faltered Mary softly forth.
"Be hanged to you and your thanks." And he shook himself, took his pipe, an_ent out without deigning another word; leaving his wife sorely puzzled as t_he character and history of the stranger within her doors.
Mary watched the boatman leave the house, and then, turning her sorrowful eye_o the face of her hostess, she attempted feebly to rise, with the intentio_f going away,—where she knew not.
"Nay! nay! whoe'er thou be'st, thou'rt not fit to go out into the street.
Perhaps" (sinking her voice a little) "thou'rt a bad one; I almost misdoub_hee, thou'rt so pretty. Well-a-well! it's the bad ones as have the broke_earts, sure enough; good folk never get utterly cast down, they've alway_etten hope in the Lord; it's the sinful as bear the bitter, bitter grief i_heir crushed hearts, poor souls; it's them we ought, most of all, to pity an_elp. She shanna leave the house to-night, choose who she is—worst woman i_iverpool, she shanna. I wished I knew where th' old man picked her up, that _o."
Mary had listened feebly to this soliloquy, and now tried to satisfy he_ostess in weak, broken sentences.
"I'm not a bad one, missis, indeed. Your master took me out to see after _hip as had sailed. There was a man in it as might save a life at the tria_o-morrow. The captain would not let him come, but he says he'll come back i_he pilot-boat." She fell to sobbing at the thought of her waning hopes, an_he old woman tried to comfort her, beginning with her accustomed—
"Well-a-well! and he'll come back, I'm sure. I know he will; so keep up you_eart. Don't fret about it. He's sure to be back."
"Oh! I'm afraid! I'm sore afraid he won't," cried Mary, consoled, nevertheless, by the woman's assertions, all groundless as she knew them t_e.
Still talking half to herself and half to Mary, the old woman prepared tea, and urged her visitor to eat and refresh herself. But Mary shook her head a_he proffered food, and only drank a cup of tea with thirsty eagerness. Fo_he spirits had thrown her into a burning heat, and rendered each impressio_eceived through her senses of the most painful distinctness and intensity, while her head ached in a terrible manner.
She disliked speaking, her power over her words seemed so utterly gone. Sh_sed quite different expressions to those she intended. So she kept silent, while Mrs. Sturgis (for that was the name of her hostess) talked away, and pu_er tea-things by, and moved about incessantly, in a manner that increased th_izziness in Mary's head. She felt as if she ought to take leave for the nigh_nd go. But where?
Presently the old man came back, crosser and gruffer than when he went away.
He kicked aside the dry shoes his wife had prepared for him, and snarled a_ll she said. Mary attributed this to his finding her still there, an_athered up her strength for an effort to leave the house. But she wa_istaken. By-and-by, he said (looking right into the fire, as if addressin_t), "Wind's right against them!"
"Ay, ay, and is it so?" said his wife, who, knowing him well, knew that hi_urliness proceeded from some repressed sympathy. "Well-a-well, wind change_ften at night. Time enough before morning. I'd bet a penny it has change_in' thou looked."
She looked out of her little window at a weathercock near, glittering in th_oonlight; and as she was a sailor's wife, she instantly recognised th_nfavourable point at which the indicator seemed stationary, and giving _eavy sigh, turned into the room, and began to beat about in her own mind fo_ome other mode of comfort.
"There's no one else who can prove what you want at the trial to-morrow, i_here?" asked she.
"No one!" answered Mary.
"And you've no clue to the one as is really guilty, if t'other is not?"
Mary did not answer, but trembled all over.
Sturgis saw it.
"Don't bother her with thy questions," said he to his wife. "She mun go t_ed, for she's all in a shiver with the sea-air. I'll see after the wind, han_t, and the weathercock too. Tide will help 'em when it turns."
Mary went upstairs murmuring thanks and blessings on those who took th_tranger in. Mrs. Sturgis led her into a little room redolent of the sea an_oreign lands. There was a small bed for one son bound for China; and _ammock slung above for another, who was now tossing in the Baltic. The sheet_ooked made out of sail-cloth, but were fresh and clean in spite of thei_rownness.
Against the wall were wafered two rough drawings of vessels with their name_ritten underneath, on which the mother's eyes caught, and gazed until the_illed with tears. But she brushed the drops away with the back of her hand, and in a cheerful tone went on to assure Mary the bed was well aired.
"I cannot sleep, thank you. I will sit here, if you please," said Mary, sinking down on the window-seat.
"Come, now," said Mrs. Sturgis, "my master told me to see you to bed, and _un. What's the use of watching? A watched pot never boils, and I see you ar_fter watching that weathercock. Why now, I try never to look at it, else _ould do nought else. My heart many a time goes sick when the wind rises, bu_ turn away and work away, and try never to think on the wind, but on what _a' getten to do."
"Let me stay up a little," pleaded Mary, as her hostess seemed so resolut_bout seeing her to bed.
Her looks won her suit.
"Well, I suppose I mun. I shall catch it downstairs, I know. He'll be in _idget till you're getten to bed, I know; so you mun be quiet if you are s_ent upon staying up."
And quietly, noiselessly, Mary watched the unchanging weathercock through th_ight. She sat on the little window seat, her hand holding back the curtai_hich shaded the room from the bright moonlight without; her head resting it_eariness against the corner of the window-frame; her eyes burning and stif_ith the intensity of her gaze.
The ruddy morning stole up the horizon, casting a crimson glow into th_atcher's room.