> "Deal gently with them, they have much endured; > Scoff not at their fond hopes and earnest plans, > Though they may seem to thee wild dreams and fancies.
> Perchance, in the rough school of stern Experience, > They've something learned which Theory does not teach; > Or if they greatly err, deal gently still, > And let their error but the stronger plead, > 'Give us the light and guidance that we need!'"
> —LOVE THOUGHTS.
One Sunday afternoon, about three weeks after that mournful night, Jem Wilso_et out with the ostensible purpose of calling on John Barton. He was dresse_n his best—his Sunday suit of course; while his face glittered with th_crubbing he had bestowed on it. His dark black hair had been arranged an_earranged before the household looking-glass, and in his button-hole he stuc_ narcissus (a sweet Nancy is its pretty Lancashire name), hoping it woul_ttract Mary's notice, so that he might have the delight of giving it her.
It was a bad beginning of his visit of happiness that Mary saw him som_inutes before he came into her father's house. She was sitting at the end o_he dresser, with the little window-blind drawn on one side, in order that sh_ight see the passers-by, in the intervals of reading her Bible, which la_pen before her. So she watched all the greeting a friend gave Jem; she sa_he face of condolence, the sympathetic shake of the hand, and had time t_rrange her own face and manner before Jem came in, which he did, as if he ha_yes for no one but her father, who sat smoking his pipe by the fire, while h_ead an old Northern Star, borrowed from a neighbouring public-house.
Then he turned to Mary, who, he felt through the sure instinct of love, b_hich almost his body thought, was present. Her hands were busy adjusting he_ress; a forced and unnecessary movement Jem could not help thinking. He_ccost was quiet and friendly, if grave; she felt that she reddened like _ose, and wished she could prevent it, while Jem wondered if her blushes aros_rom fear, or anger, or love.
She was very cunning, I am afraid. She pretended to read diligently, and no_o listen to a word that was said, while in fact she heard all sounds, even t_em's long, deep sighs, which wrung her heart. At last she took up her Bible, and as if their conversation disturbed her, went upstairs to her little room.
And she had scarcely spoken a word to Jem; scarcely looked at him; neve_oticed his beautiful sweet Nancy, which only awaited her least word of prais_o be hers! He did not know—that pang was spared—that in her little ding_edroom stood a white jug, filled with a luxuriant bunch of early sprin_oses, making the whole room fragrant and bright. They were the gift of he_icher lover. So Jem had to go on sitting with John Barton, fairly caught i_is own trap, and had to listen to his talk, and answer him as best he might.
"There's the right stuff in this here Star, and no mistake. Such a right-dow_iece for short hours."
"At the same rate of wages as now?" asked Jem.
"Aye, aye! else where's the use? It's only taking out o' the masters' pocke_hat they can well afford. Did I ever tell yo what th' Infirmary chap let m_nto, many a year agone?"
"No," said Jem listlessly.
"Well! yo must know I were in th' Infirmary for a fever, and times were rar_nd bad, and there be good chaps there to a man while he'_ick,[](footnotes.xml#footnote_22) whate'er they may be about cutting hi_p at after.[](footnotes.xml#footnote_23) So when I were better o' th'
fever, but weak as water, they says to me, says they, 'If yo can write, yo_ay stay in a week longer, and help our surgeon wi' sorting his papers; an_e'll take care yo've your bellyful of meat and drink. Yo'll be twice a_trong in a week.' So there wanted but one word to that bargain. So I were se_o writing and copying; th' writing I could do well enough, but they'd suc_ueer ways o' spelling, that I'd ne'er been used to, that I'd to look first a_h' copy and then at my letters, for all the world like a cock picking u_rains o' corn. But one thing startled me e'en then, and I thought I'd mak_old to ask the surgeon the meaning o't. I've getten no head for numbers, bu_his I know, that by FAR TH' GREATER PART O' THE ACCIDENTS AS COMED IN, HAPPENED IN TH' LAST TWO HOURS O' WORK, when folk getten tired and careless.
Th' surgeon said it were all true, and that he were going to bring that fac_o light."
Jem was pondering Mary's conduct; but the pause made him aware he ought t_tter some civil listening noise; so he said—
"Ay, it's true enough, my lad, that we're sadly over-borne, and worse wil_ome of it afore long. Block-printers is going to strike; they'n getten _ang-up Union, as won't let 'em be put upon. But there's many a thing wil_appen afore long, as folk don't expect. Yo may take my word for that, Jem."
Jem was very willing to take it, but did not express the curiosity he shoul_ave done. So John Barton thought he'd try another hint or two.
"Working folk won't be ground to the dust much longer. We'n a' had as much t_ear as human nature can bear. So, if th' masters can't do us no good, an_hey say they can't, we mun try higher folk."
Still Jem was not curious. He gave up hope of seeing Mary again by her ow_ood free-will; and the next best thing would be, to be alone to think of her.
So muttering something which he meant to serve as an excuse for his sudde_eparture, he hastily wished John good-afternoon, and left him to resume hi_ipe and his politics.
For three years past trade had been getting worse and worse, and the price o_rovisions higher and higher. This disparity between the amount of th_arnings of the working classes and the price of their food, occasioned, i_ore cases than could well be imagined, disease and death. Whole families wen_hrough a gradual starvation. They only wanted a Dante to record thei_ufferings. And yet even his words would fall short of the awful truth; the_ould only present an outline of the tremendous facts of the destitution tha_urrounded thousands upon thousands in the terrible years 1839, 1840, an_841. Even philanthropists who had studied the subject, were forced to ow_hemselves perplexed in their endeavour to ascertain the real causes of th_isery; the whole matter was of so complicated a nature, that it became nex_o impossible to understand it thoroughly. It need excite no surprise, then, to learn that a bad feeling between working-men and the upper classes becam_ery strong in this season of privation. The indigence and sufferings of th_peratives induced a suspicion in the minds of many of them, that thei_egislators, their magistrates, their employers, and even the ministers o_eligion, were, in general, their oppressors and enemies; and were in leagu_or their prostration and enthralment. The most deplorable and enduring evi_hat arose out of the period of commercial depression to which I refer, wa_his feeling of alienation between the different classes of society. It is s_mpossible to describe, or even faintly to picture, the state of distres_hich prevailed in the town at that time, that I will not attempt it; and ye_ think again that surely, in a Christian land, it was not known even s_eebly as words could tell it, or the more happy and fortunate would hav_hronged with their sympathy and their aid. In many instances the sufferer_ept first, and then they cursed. Their vindictive feelings exhibite_hemselves in rabid politics. And when I hear, as I have heard, of th_ufferings and privations of the poor, of provision shops where ha'porths o_ea, sugar, butter, and even flour, were sold to accommodate the indigent—o_arents sitting in their clothes by the fireside during the whole night, fo_even weeks together, in order that their only bed and bedding might b_eserved for the use of their large family—of others sleeping upon the col_earthstone for weeks in succession, without adequate means of providin_hemselves with food or fuel (and this in the depth of winter)—of others bein_ompelled to fast for days together, uncheered by any hope of better fortune, living, moreover, or rather starving, in a crowded garret, or damp cellar, an_radually sinking under the pressure of want and despair into a prematur_rave; and when this has been confirmed by the evidence of their carewor_ooks, their excited feelings, and their desolate homes—can I wonder that man_f them, in such times of misery and destitution, spoke and acted wit_erocious precipitation?
An idea was now springing up among the operatives, that originated with th_hartists, but which came at last to be cherished as a darling child by man_nd many a one. They could not believe that Government knew of their misery; they rather chose to think it possible that men could voluntarily assume th_ffice of legislators for a nation who were ignorant of its real state; as wh_hould make domestic rules for the pretty behaviour of children without carin_o know that those children had been kept for days without food. Besides, th_tarving multitudes had heard, that the very existence of their distress ha_een denied in Parliament; and though they felt this strange and inexplicable, yet the idea that their misery had still to be revealed in all its depths, an_hat then some remedy would be found, soothed their aching hearts, and kep_own their rising fury.
So a petition was framed, and signed by thousands in the bright spring days o_839, imploring Parliament to hear witnesses who could testify to th_nparalleled destitution of the manufacturing districts. Nottingham, Sheffield, Glasgow, Manchester, and many other towns, were busy appointin_elegates to convey this petition, who might speak, not merely of what the_ad seen, and had heard, but from what they had borne and suffered. Life-worn, gaunt, anxious, hunger-stamped men, were those delegates.
One of them was John Barton. He would have been ashamed to own the flutter o_pirits his appointment gave him. There was the childish delight of seein_ondon—that went a little way, and but a little way. There was the vain ide_f speaking out his notions before so many grand folk—that went a littl_urther; and last, there was the really pure gladness of heart arising fro_he idea that he was one of those chosen to be instruments in making known th_istresses of the people, and consequently in procuring them some gran_elief, by means of which they should never suffer want or care any more. H_oped largely, but vaguely, of the results of his expedition. An argosy of th_recious hopes of many otherwise despairing creatures, was that petition to b_eard concerning their sufferings.
The night before the morning on which the Manchester delegates were to leav_or London, Barton might be said to hold a levee, so many neighbours cam_ropping in. Job Legh had early established himself and his pipe by Joh_arton's fire, not saying much, but puffing away, and imagining himself of us_n adjusting the smoothing-irons that hung before the fire, ready for Mar_hen she should want them. As for Mary, her employment was the same as that o_eau Tibbs' wife, "just washing her father's two shirts," in the pantry back- kitchen; for she was anxious about his appearance in London. (The coat ha_een redeemed, though the silk handkerchief was forfeited.) The door stoo_pen, as usual, between the house-place and back-kitchen, so she gave he_reeting to their friends as they entered.
"So, John, yo're bound for London, are yo?" said one.
"Ay, I suppose I mun go," answered John, yielding to necessity as it were.
"Well, there's many a thing I'd like yo to speak on to the Parliament people.
Thou'lt not spare 'em, John, I hope. Tell 'em our minds: how we're thinkin_e'n been clemmed long enough, and we donnot see whatten good they'n bee_oing, if they can't give us what we're all crying for sin' the day we wer_orn."
"Ay, ay! I'll tell 'em that, and much more to it, when it gets to my turn; bu_hou knows there's many will have their word afore me."
"Well, thou'lt speak at last. Bless thee, lad, do ask 'em to make th' master_o break th' machines. There's never been good times sin' spinning-jennie_ame up."
"Machines is th' ruin of poor folk," chimed in several voices.
"For my part," said a shivering, half-clad man, who crept near the fire, as i_gue-stricken, "I would like thee to tell 'em to pass th' Short-hours Bill.
Flesh and blood gets wearied wi' so much work; why should factory hands wor_o much longer nor other trades? Just ask 'em that, Barton, will ye?"
Barton was saved the necessity of answering, by the entrance of Mrs.
Davenport, the poor widow he had been so kind to. She looked half-fed, an_ager, but was decently clad. In her hand she brought a little newspape_arcel, which she took to Mary, who opened it, and then called out, dangling _hirt collar from her soapy fingers—
"See, father, what a dandy you'll be in London! Mrs. Davenport has brought yo_his; made new cut, all after the fashion. Thank you for thinking on him."
"Eh, Mary!" said Mrs. Davenport in a low voice, "whatten's all I can do, t_hat he's done for me and mine? But, Mary, sure I can help ye, for you'll b_usy wi' this journey."
"Just help me wring these out, and then I'll take 'em to the mangle."
So Mrs. Davenport became a listener to the conversation; and after a whil_oined in.
"I'm sure, John Barton, if yo are taking messages to the Parliament folk, yo'll not object to telling 'em what a sore trial it is, this law o' theirs, keeping childer fra' factory work, whether they be weakly or strong. There'_ur Ben; why, porridge seems to go no way wi' him, he eats so much; and I ha_otten no money to send him t' school, as I would like; and there he is, rampaging about the streets a' day, getting hungrier and hungrier, and pickin_p a' manner o' bad ways; and th' inspector won't let him in to work in th'
factory, because he's not right age; though he's twice as strong as Sankey'_ittle ritling[](footnotes.xml#footnote_24) of a lad, as works till h_ries for his legs aching so, though he is right age, and better."
"I've one plan I wish to tell John Barton," said a pompous, careful-speakin_an, "and I should like him for to lay it afore the Honourable House. M_other comed out o' Oxfordshire, and were under-laundry-maid in Sir Franci_ashwood's family; and when we were little ones, she'd tell us stories o_heir grandeur: and one thing she named were, that Sir Francis wore two shirt_ day. Now he were all as one as a Parliament man; and many on 'em, I han n_oubt, are like extravagant. Just tell 'em, John, do, that they'd be doing th_ancashire weavers a great kindness, if they'd ha' their shirts a' made o'
calico; 't would make trade brisk, that would, wi' the power o' shirts the_ear."
Job Legh now put in his word. Taking the pipe out of his mouth, and addressin_he last speaker, he said—
"I'll tell ye what, Bill, and no offence, mind ye; there's but hundreds o_hem Parliament folk as wear so many shirts to their back; but there'_housands and thousands o' poor weavers as han only gotten one shirt i' th_orld; ay, and don't know where t' get another when that rag's done, thoug_hey're turning out miles o' calico every day; and many a mile o't is lying i_arehouses, stopping up trade for want o' purchasers. Yo take my advice, Joh_arton, and ask Parliament to set trade free, so as workmen can earn a decen_age, and buy their two, ay and three, shirts a year; that would make weavin_risk."
He put his pipe in his mouth again, and redoubled his puffing, to make up fo_ost time.
"I'm afeard, neighbours," said John Barton, "I've not much chance o' telling
'em all yo say; what I think on, is just speaking out about the distress tha_hey say is nought. When they hear o' children born on wet flags, without _ag t' cover 'em or a bit o' food for th' mother; when they hear of folk lyin_own to die i' th' streets, or hiding their want i' some hole o' a cellar til_eath come to set 'em free; and when they hear o' all this plague, pestilence, and famine, they'll surely do somewhat wiser for us than we can guess at now.
Howe'er, I han no objection, if so be there's an opening, to speak up for wha_o say; anyhow, I'll do my best, and yo see now, if better times don't com_fter Parliament knows all."
Some shook their heads, but more looked cheery: and then one by one droppe_ff, leaving John and his daughter alone.
"Didst thou mark how poorly Jane Wilson looked?" asked he, as they wound u_heir hard day's work by a supper eaten over the fire, which glowed an_limmered through the room, and formed their only light.
"No, I can't say as I did. But she's never rightly held up her head since th_wins died; and all along she has never been a strong woman."
"Never sin' her accident. Afore that I mind her looking as fresh and likely _irl as e'er a one in Manchester."
"What accident, father?"
"She cotched[](footnotes.xml#footnote_25) her side again a wheel. It wer_fore wheels were boxed up. It were just when she were to have been married, and many a one thought George would ha' been off his bargain; but I knew h_ern't the chap for that trick. Pretty near the first place she went to whe_he were able to go about again, was th' Oud Church; poor wench, all pale an_imping, she went up the aisle, George holding her up as tender as a mother, and walking as slow as e'er he could, not to hurry her, though there wer_lenty enow of rude lads to cast their jests at him and her. Her face wer_hite like a sheet when she came in church, but afore she got to th' altar sh_ere all one flush. But for a' that it's been a happy marriage, and George ha_tuck by me through life like a brother. He'll never hold up his head again i_e loses Jane. I didn't like her looks to-night."
And so he went to bed, the fear of forthcoming sorrow to his friend minglin_ith his thoughts of to-morrow, and his hopes for the future.
Mary watched him set off, with her hands over her eyes to shade them from th_right slanting rays of the morning sun, and then she turned into the house t_rrange its disorder before going to her work. She wondered if she should lik_r dislike the evening and morning solitude; for several hours when the cloc_truck she thought of her father, and wondered where he was; she made goo_esolutions according to her lights; and by-and-bye came the distractions an_vents of the broad full day to occupy her with the present, and to deaden th_emory of the absent.
One of Mary's resolutions was, that she would not be persuaded or induced t_ee Mr. Harry Carson during her father's absence. There was something crooke_n her conscience after all; for this very resolution seemed an acknowledgmen_hat it was wrong to meet him at any time; and yet she had brought herself t_hink her conduct quite innocent and proper, for although unknown to he_ather, and certain, even did he know it, to fail of obtaining his sanction, she esteemed her love-meetings with Mr. Carson as sure to end in her father_ood and happiness. But now that he was away, she would do nothing that h_ould disapprove of; no, not even though it was for his own good in the end.
Now, amongst Miss Simmonds' young ladies was one who had been from th_eginning a confidante in Mary's love affair, made so by Mr. Carson himself.
He had felt the necessity of some third person to carry letters and messages, and to plead his cause when he was absent. In a girl named Sally Leadbitter h_ad found a willing advocate. She would have been willing to have embarked i_ love affair herself (especially a clandestine one), for the mere excitemen_f the thing; but her willingness was strengthened by sundry half-sovereigns, which from time to time Mr. Carson bestowed upon her.
Sally Leadbitter was vulgar-minded to the last degree; never easy unless he_alk was of love and lovers; in her eyes it was an honour to have had a lon_ist of wooers. So constituted, it was a pity that Sally herself was but _lain, red-haired, freckled girl; never likely, one would have thought, t_ecome a heroine on her own account. But what she lacked in beauty she trie_o make up for by a kind of witty boldness, which gave her what her better_ould have called piquancy. Considerations of modesty or propriety neve_hecked her utterance of a good thing. She had just talent enough to corrup_thers. Her very good nature was an evil influence. They could not hate on_ho was so kind; they could not avoid one who was so willing to shield the_rom scrapes by any exertion of her own; whose ready fingers would at any tim_ake up for their deficiencies, and whose still more convenient tongue woul_t any time invent for them. The Jews, or Mohammedans (I forget which), believe that there is one little bone of our body,—one of the vertebrae, if _emember rightly,—which will never decay and turn to dust, but will li_ncorrupt and indestructible in the ground until the Last Day: this is th_eed of the Soul. The most depraved have also their Seed of the Holiness tha_hall one day overcome their evil; their one good quality, lurking hidden, bu_afe, among all the corrupt and bad.
Sally's seed of the future soul was her love for her mother, an aged bedridde_oman. For her she had self-denial; for her, her good- nature rose int_enderness; to cheer her lonely bed, her spirits, in the evenings, when he_ody was often woefully tired, never flagged, but were ready to recount th_vents of the day, to turn them into ridicule, and to mimic, with admirabl_idelity, any person gifted with an absurdity who had fallen under her kee_ye. But the mother was lightly principled like Sally herself; nor was ther_eed to conceal from her the reason why Mr. Carson gave her so much money. Sh_huckled with pleasure, and only hoped that the wooing would be long a-doing.
Still neither she, nor her daughter, nor Harry Carson liked this resolution o_ary, not to see him during her father's absence.
One evening (and the early summer evenings were long and bright now), Sall_et Mr. Carson by appointment, to be charged with a letter for Mary, implorin_er to see him, which Sally was to back with all her powers of persuasion.
After parting from him she determined, as it was not so very late, to go a_nce to Mary's, and deliver the message and letter.
She found Mary in great sorrow. She had just heard of George Wilson's sudde_eath: her old friend, her father's friend, Jem's father—all his claims cam_ushing upon her. Though not guarded from unnecessary sight or sound of death, as the children of the rich are, yet it had so often been brought home to he_his last three or four months. It was so terrible thus to see friend afte_riend depart. Her father, too, who had dreaded Jane Wilson's death th_vening before he set off. And she, the weakly, was left behind, while th_trong man was taken. At any rate the sorrow her father had so feared for hi_as spared. Such were the thoughts which came over her.
She could not go to comfort the bereaved, even if comfort were in her power t_ive; for she had resolved to avoid Jem; and she felt that this of all other_as not the occasion on which she could keep up a studiously cold manner.
And in this shock of grief, Sally Leadbitter was the last person she wished t_ee. However, she rose to welcome her, betraying her tear-swollen face.
"Well, I shall tell Mr. Carson to-morrow how you're fretting for him; it's n_ore nor he's doing for you, I can tell you."
"For him, indeed!" said Mary, with a toss of her pretty head.
"Ay, miss, for him! You've been sighing as if your heart would break now fo_everal days, over your work; now arn't you a little goose not to go and se_ne who I am sure loves you as his life, and whom you love; 'How much, Mary?'
'This much,' as the children say" (opening her arms very wide).
"Nonsense," said Mary, pouting; "I often think I don't love him at all."
"And I'm to tell him that, am I, next time I see him?" asked Sally.
"If you like," replied Mary. "I'm sure I don't care for that or anything els_ow"; weeping afresh.
But Sally did not like to be the bearer of any such news. She saw she had gon_n the wrong tack, and that Mary's heart was too full to value either messag_r letter as she ought. So she wisely paused in their delivery and said, in _ore sympathetic tone than she had hitherto used—
"Do tell me, Mary, what's fretting you so? You know I never could abide to se_ou cry."
"George Wilson's dropped down dead this afternoon," said Mary, fixing her eye_or one minute on Sally, and the next hiding her face in her apron as sh_obbed anew.
"Dear, dear! All flesh is grass; here to-day and gone tomorrow, as the Bibl_ays. Still he was an old man, and not good for much; there's better folk tha_im left behind. Is th' canting old maid as was his sister alive yet?"
"I don't know who you mean," said Mary sharply; for she did know, and did no_ike to have her dear, simple Alice so spoken of.
"Come, Mary, don't be so innocent. Is Miss Alice Wilson alive, then; will tha_lease you? I haven't seen her hereabouts lately."
"No, she's left living here. When the twins died, she thought she could, maybe, be of use to her sister, who was sadly cast down, and Alice thought sh_ould cheer her up; at any rate she could listen to her when her heart gre_verburdened; so she gave up her cellar and went to live with them."
"Well, good go with her. I'd no fancy for her, and I'd no fancy for her makin_y pretty Mary into a Methodee."
"She wasn't a Methodee; she was Church o' England."
"Well, well, Mary, you're very particular. You know what I meant.
Look, who is this letter from?" holding up Henry Carson's letter.
"I don't know, and don't care," said Mary, turning very red.
"My eye! as if I didn't know you did know and did care."
"Well, give it me," said Mary impatiently, and anxious in her present mood fo_er visitor's departure.
Sally relinquished it unwillingly. She had, however, the pleasure of seein_ary dimple and blush as she read the letter, which seemed to say the write_as not indifferent to her.
"You must tell him I can't come," said Mary, raising her eyes at last. "I hav_aid I won't meet him while father is away, and I won't."
"But, Mary, he does so look for you. You'd be quite sorry for him, he's so pu_ut about not seeing you. Besides, you go when your father's at home, withou_etting on[](footnotes.xml#footnote_26) to him, and what harm would ther_e in going now?"
"Well, Sally, you know my answer, I won't; and I won't."
"I'll tell him to come and see you himself some evening, instead o' sendin_e; he'd maybe find you not so hard to deal with."
Mary flashed up.
"If he dares to come here while father's away, I'll call the neighbours in t_urn him out, so don't be putting him up to that."
"Mercy on us! one would think you were the first girl that ever had a lover; have you never heard what other girls do and think no shame of?"
"Hush, Sally! that's Margaret Jennings at the door."
And in an instant Margaret was in the room. Mary had begged Job Legh to le_er come and sleep with her. In the uncertain firelight you could not hel_oticing that she had the groping walk of a blind person.
"Well, I must go, Mary," said Sally. "And that's your last word?"
"Yes, yes; good-night." She shut the door gladly on her unwelcom_isitor—unwelcome at that time at least.
"O Margaret, have ye heard this sad news about George Wilson?"
"Yes, that I have. Poor creatures, they've been so tried lately.
Not that I think sudden death so bad a thing; it's easy, and there's no terrors for him as dies. For them as survives it's very hard.
Poor George! he were such a hearty-looking man."
"Margaret," said Mary, who had been closely observing her friend, "thou'r_ery blind to-night, arn't thou? Is it wi' crying? Your eyes are so swolle_nd red."
"Yes, dear! but not crying for sorrow. Han ye heard where I was last night?"
"Look here." She held up a bright golden sovereign. Mary opened her large gre_yes with astonishment.
"I'll tell you all and how about it. You see there's a gentleman lecturing o_usic at th' Mechanics', and he wants folk to sing his songs. Well, last nigh_he counter got a sore throat and couldn't make a note. So they sent for me.
Jacob Butterworth had said a good word for me, and they asked me would I sing?
You may think I was frightened, but I thought, Now or never, and said I'd d_y best. So I tried o'er the songs wi' th' lecturer, and then th' manager_old me I were to make myself decent and be there by seven."
"And what did you put on?" asked Mary. "Oh, why didn't you come in for m_retty pink gingham?"
"I did think on't; but you had na come home then. No! I put on my merino, a_as turned last winter, and my white shawl, and did my hair pretty tidy; i_id well enough. Well, but as I was saying, I went at seven. I couldn't see t_ead my music, but I took th' paper in wi' me, to ha' something to do wi' m_ingers. Th' folks' heads danced, as I stood as right afore 'em all as if I'_een going to play at ball wi' 'em. You may guess I felt squeamish, but min_eren't the first song, and th' music sounded like a friend's voice telling m_o take courage. So, to make a long story short, when it were all o'er th'
lecturer thanked me, and th' managers said as how there never was a new singe_o applauded (for they'd clapped and stamped after I'd done, till I began t_onder how many pair o' shoes they'd get through a week at that rate, le_lone their hands). So I'm to sing again o' Thursday; and I got a sovereig_ast night, and am to have half-a-sovereign every night th' lecturer is at th'
"Well, Margaret, I'm right glad to hear it."
"And I don't think you've heard the best bit yet. Now that a way seemed ope_o me, of not being a burden to any one, though it did please God to make m_lind, I thought I'd tell grandfather. I only tell'd him about the singing an_he sovereign last night, for I thought I'd not send him to bed wi' a heav_eart; but this morning I telled him all."
"And how did he take it?"
"He's not a man of many words; and it took him by surprise like."
"I wonder at that; I've noticed it in your ways ever since you telled me."
"Ay, that's it! If I'd not telled you, and you'd seen me every day, you'd no_a' noticed the little mite o' difference fra' day to day."
"Well, but what did your grandfather say?"
"Why, Mary," said Margaret, half smiling, "I'm a bit loth to tell yo, fo_nless yo knew grandfather's ways like me, yo'd think it strange. He was take_y surprise, and he said: 'Damn yo!' Then he began looking at his book as i_ere, and were very quiet, while I telled him all about it; how I'd feared, and how downcast I'd been; and how I were now reconciled to it, if it were th'
Lord's will; and how I hoped to earn money by singing; and while I wer_alking, I saw great big tears come dropping on th' book; but in course _ever let on that I saw 'em. Dear grandfather! and all day long he's bee_uietly moving things out o' my way, as he thought might trip me up, an_utting things in my way as he thought I might want; never knowing I saw an_elt what he were doing; for, yo see, he thinks I'm out and out blind, _uess—as I shall be soon."
Margaret sighed in spite of her cheerful and relieved tone.
Though Mary caught the sigh, she felt it was better to let it pass withou_otice, and began, with the tact which true sympathy rarely fails to supply, to ask a variety of questions respecting her friend's musical debut, whic_ended to bring out more distinctly how successful it had been.
"Why, Margaret," at length she exclaimed, "thou'lt become as famous, maybe, a_hat grand lady fra' London as we see'd one night driving up to th' concert- room door in her carriage."
"It looks very like it," said Margaret, with a smile. "And be sure, Mary, I'l_ot forget to give thee a lift now and then when that comes about. Nay, wh_nows, if thou'rt a good girl, but may-happen I may make thee my lady's maid!
Wouldn't that be nice? So I e'en sing to myself th' beginning o' one o' m_ongs—
'An' ye shall walk in silk attire, An' siller hae to spare.'"
"Nay, don't stop; or else give me something rather more new, for somehow _ever quite liked that part about thinking o' Donald mair?"
"Well, though I'm a bit tired I don't care if I do. Before I come I wer_ractising well-nigh upon two hours this one which I'm to sing o' Thursday.
The lecturer said he were sure it would just suit me, and I should do justic_o it; and I should be right sorry to disappoint him, he were so nice an_ncouraging like to me. Eh! Mary, what a pity there isn't more o' that way, and less scolding and rating i' th' world! It would go a vast deal further.
Beside, some o' th' singers said, they were a'most certain that it were a son_' his own, because he were so fidgety and particular about it, and so anxiou_ should give it th' proper expression. And that makes me care still more. Th'
first verse, he said, were to be sung 'tenderly, but joyously!' I'm afraid _on't quite hit that, but I'll try.
'What a single word can do!
Thrilling all the heart-strings through, Calling forth fond memories, Raining round hope's melodies, Steeping all in one bright hue— What a single word can do !'
"Now it falls into th' minor key, and must be very sad-like. I feel as if _ould do that better than t'other.
'What a single word can do!
Making life seem all untrue, Driving joy and hope away, Leaving not one cheering ray, Blighting every flower that grew— What a single word can do!'"
Margaret certainly made the most of this little song. As a factory worker, listening outside, observed, "She spun i_eet[](footnotes.xml#footnote_27) fine!" And if she only sang it at th_echanics' with half the feeling she put into it that night, the lecturer mus_ave been hard to please if he did not admit that his expectations were mor_han fulfilled.
When it was ended, Mary's looks told more than words could have done what sh_hought of it; and partly to keep in a tear which would fain have rolled out, she brightened into a laugh, and said, "For certain th' carriage is coming. S_et us go and dream on it."