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Chapter 31 How Mary passed the night

  • > "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!"
  • >                                       —WILSON.
  • 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.
  • It was the morning of the day of trial!