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´╗┐Title: Lizzie Leigh
Author: Gaskell, Elizabeth Cleghorn, 1810-1865
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lizzie Leigh" ***

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Transcribed from the 1896 Smith, Elder and Co. edition by David Price,


LIZZIE LEIGH
by Elizabeth Gaskell


CHAPTER I.


When Death is present in a household on a Christmas Day, the very
contrast between the time as it now is, and the day as it has often been,
gives a poignancy to sorrow--a more utter blankness to the desolation.
James Leigh died just as the far-away bells of Rochdale Church were
ringing for morning service on Christmas Day, 1836.  A few minutes before
his death, he opened his already glazing eyes, and made a sign to his
wife, by the faint motion of his lips, that he had yet something to say.
She stooped close down, and caught the broken whisper, "I forgive her,
Annie!  May God forgive me!"

"Oh, my love, my dear! only get well, and I will never cease showing my
thanks for those words.  May God in heaven bless thee for saying them.
Thou'rt not so restless, my lad! may be--Oh, God!"

For even while she spoke he died.

They had been two-and-twenty years man and wife; for nineteen of those
years their life had been as calm and happy as the most perfect
uprightness on the one side, and the most complete confidence and loving
submission on the other, could make it.  Milton's famous line might have
been framed and hung up as the rule of their married life, for he was
truly the interpreter, who stood between God and her; she would have
considered herself wicked if she had ever dared even to think him
austere, though as certainly as he was an upright man, so surely was he
hard, stern, and inflexible.  But for three years the moan and the murmur
had never been out of her heart; she had rebelled against her husband as
against a tyrant, with a hidden, sullen rebellion, which tore up the old
landmarks of wifely duty and affection, and poisoned the fountains whence
gentlest love and reverence had once been for ever springing.

But those last blessed words replaced him on his throne in her heart, and
called out penitent anguish for all the bitter estrangement of later
years.  It was this which made her refuse all the entreaties of her sons,
that she would see the kind-hearted neighbours, who called on their way
from church, to sympathize and condole.  No! she would stay with the dead
husband that had spoken tenderly at last, if for three years he had kept
silence; who knew but what, if she had only been more gentle and less
angrily reserved he might have relented earlier--and in time?

She sat rocking herself to and fro by the side of the bed, while the
footsteps below went in and out; she had been in sorrow too long to have
any violent burst of deep grief now; the furrows were well worn in her
cheeks, and the tears flowed quietly, if incessantly, all the day long.
But when the winter's night drew on, and the neighbours had gone away to
their homes, she stole to the window, and gazed out, long and wistfully,
over the dark grey moors.  She did not hear her son's voice, as he spoke
to her from the door, nor his footstep as he drew nearer.  She started
when he touched her.

"Mother! come down to us.  There's no one but Will and me.  Dearest
mother, we do so want you."  The poor lad's voice trembled, and he began
to cry.  It appeared to require an effort on Mrs. Leigh's part to tear
herself away from the window, but with a sigh she complied with his
request.

The two boys (for though Will was nearly twenty-one, she still thought of
him as a lad) had done everything in their power to make the house-place
comfortable for her.  She herself, in the old days before her sorrow, had
never made a brighter fire or a cleaner hearth, ready for her husband's
return home, than now awaited her.  The tea-things were all put out, and
the kettle was boiling; and the boys had calmed their grief down into a
kind of sober cheerfulness.  They paid her every attention they could
think of, but received little notice on her part; she did not resist, she
rather submitted to all their arrangements; but they did not seem to
touch her heart.

When tea was ended--it was merely the form of tea that had been gone
through--Will moved the things away to the dresser.  His mother leant
back languidly in her chair.

"Mother, shall Tom read you a chapter?  He's a better scholar than I."

"Ay, lad!" said she, almost eagerly.  "That's it.  Read me the Prodigal
Son.  Ay, ay, lad.  Thank thee."

Tom found the chapter, and read it in the high-pitched voice which is
customary in village schools.  His mother bent forward, her lips parted,
her eyes dilated; her whole body instinct with eager attention.  Will sat
with his head depressed and hung down.  He knew why that chapter had been
chosen; and to him it recalled the family's disgrace.  When the reading
was ended, he still hung down his head in gloomy silence.  But her face
was brighter than it had been before for the day.  Her eyes looked
dreamy, as if she saw a vision; and by-and-by she pulled the Bible
towards her, and, putting her finger underneath each word, began to read
them aloud in a low voice to herself; she read again the words of bitter
sorrow and deep humiliation; but most of all, she paused and brightened
over the father's tender reception of the repentant prodigal.

So passed the Christmas evening in the Upclose Farm.

The snow had fallen heavily over the dark waving moorland before the day
of the funeral.  The black storm-laden dome of heaven lay very still and
close upon the white earth, as they carried the body forth out of the
house which had known his presence so long as its ruling power.  Two and
two the mourners followed, making a black procession, in their winding
march over the unbeaten snow, to Milne Row Church; now lost in some
hollow of the bleak moors, now slowly climbing the heaving ascents.  There
was no long tarrying after the funeral, for many of the neighbours who
accompanied the body to the grave had far to go, and the great white
flakes which came slowly down were the boding forerunners of a heavy
storm.  One old friend alone accompanied the widow and her sons to their
home.

The Upclose Farm had belonged for generations to the Leighs; and yet its
possession hardly raised them above the rank of labourers.  There was the
house and out-buildings, all of an old-fashioned kind, and about seven
acres of barren unproductive land, which they had never possessed capital
enough to improve; indeed, they could hardly rely upon it for
subsistence; and it had been customary to bring up the sons to some
trade, such as a wheelwright's or blacksmith's.

James Leigh had left a will in the possession of the old man who
accompanied them home.  He read it aloud.  James had bequeathed the farm
to his faithful wife, Anne Leigh, for her lifetime, and afterwards to his
son William.  The hundred and odd pounds in the savings bank was to
accumulate for Thomas.

After the reading was ended, Anne Leigh sat silent for a time and then
she asked to speak to Samuel Orme alone.  The sons went into the back
kitchen, and thence strolled out into the fields regardless of the
driving snow.  The brothers were dearly fond of each other, although they
were very different in character.  Will, the elder, was like his father,
stern, reserved, and scrupulously upright.  Tom (who was ten years
younger) was gentle and delicate as a girl, both in appearance and
character.  He had always clung to his mother and dreaded his father.
They did not speak as they walked, for they were only in the habit of
talking about facts, and hardly knew the more sophisticated language
applied to the description of feelings.

Meanwhile their mother had taken hold of Samuel Orme's arm with her
trembling hand.

"Samuel, I must let the farm--I must."

"Let the farm!  What's come o'er the woman?"

"Oh, Samuel!" said she, her eyes swimming in tears, "I'm just fain to go
and live in Manchester.  I mun let the farm."

Samuel looked, and pondered, but did not speak for some time.  At last he
said--

"If thou hast made up thy mind, there's no speaking again it; and thou
must e'en go.  Thou'lt be sadly pottered wi' Manchester ways; but that's
not my look out.  Why, thou'lt have to buy potatoes, a thing thou hast
never done afore in all thy born life.  Well! it's not my look out.  It's
rather for me than again me.  Our Jenny is going to be married to Tom
Higginbotham, and he was speaking of wanting a bit of land to begin upon.
His father will be dying sometime, I reckon, and then he'll step into the
Croft Farm.  But meanwhile--"

"Then, thou'lt let the farm," said she, still as eagerly as ever.

"Ay, ay, he'll take it fast enough, I've a notion.  But I'll not drive a
bargain with thee just now; it would not be right; we'll wait a bit."

"No; I cannot wait; settle it out at once."

"Well, well; I'll speak to Will about it.  I see him out yonder.  I'll
step to him and talk it over."

Accordingly he went and joined the two lads, and, without more ado, began
the subject to them.

"Will, thy mother is fain to go live in Manchester, and covets to let the
farm.  Now, I'm willing to take it for Tom Higginbotham; but I like to
drive a keen bargain, and there would be no fun chaffering with thy
mother just now.  Let thee and me buckle to, my lad! and try and cheat
each other; it will warm us this cold day."

"Let the farm!" said both the lads at once, with infinite surprise.  "Go
live in Manchester!"

When Samuel Orme found that the plan had never before been named to
either Will or Tom, he would have nothing to do with it, he said, until
they had spoken to their mother.  Likely she was "dazed" by her husband's
death; he would wait a day or two, and not name it to any one; not to Tom
Higginbotham himself, or may be he would set his heart upon it.  The lads
had better go in and talk it over with their mother.  He bade them good-
day, and left them.

Will looked very gloomy, but he did not speak till they got near the
house.  Then he said--

"Tom, go to th' shippon, and supper the cows.  I want to speak to mother
alone."

When he entered the house-place, she was sitting before the fire, looking
into its embers.  She did not hear him come in: for some time she had
lost her quick perception of outward things.

"Mother! what's this about going to Manchester?" asked he.

"Oh, lad!" said she, turning round, and speaking in a beseeching tone, "I
must go and seek our Lizzie.  I cannot rest here for thinking on her.
Many's the time I've left thy father sleeping in bed, and stole to th'
window, and looked and looked my heart out towards Manchester, till I
thought I must just set out and tramp over moor and moss straight away
till I got there, and then lift up every downcast face till I came to our
Lizzie.  And often, when the south wind was blowing soft among the
hollows, I've fancied (it could but be fancy, thou knowest) I heard her
crying upon me; and I've thought the voice came closer and closer, till
at last it was sobbing out, 'Mother!' close to the door; and I've stolen
down, and undone the latch before now, and looked out into the still,
black night, thinking to see her--and turned sick and sorrowful when I
heard no living sound but the sough of the wind dying away.  Oh, speak
not to me of stopping here, when she may be perishing for hunger, like
the poor lad in the parable."  And now she lifted up her voice, and wept
aloud.

Will was deeply grieved.  He had been old enough to be told the family
shame when, more than two years before, his father had had his letter to
his daughter returned by her mistress in Manchester, telling him that
Lizzie had left her service some time--and why.  He had sympathized with
his father's stern anger; though he had thought him something hard, it is
true, when he had forbidden his weeping, heart-broken wife to go and try
to find her poor sinning child, and declared that henceforth they would
have no daughter; that she should be as one dead, and her name never more
be named at market or at meal time, in blessing or in prayer.  He had
held his peace, with compressed lips and contracted brow, when the
neighbours had noticed to him how poor Lizzie's death had aged both his
father and his mother; and how they thought the bereaved couple would
never hold up their heads again.  He himself had felt as if that one
event had made him old before his time; and had envied Tom the tears he
had shed over poor, pretty, innocent, dead Lizzie.  He thought about her
sometimes, till he ground his teeth together, and could have struck her
down in her shame.  His mother had never named her to him until now.

"Mother!" said he, at last.  "She may be dead.  Most likely she is"

"No, Will; she is not dead," said Mrs. Leigh.  "God will not let her die
till I've seen her once again.  Thou dost not know how I've prayed and
prayed just once again to see her sweet face, and tell her I've forgiven
her, though she's broken my heart--she has, Will."  She could not go on
for a minute or two for the choking sobs.  "Thou dost not know that, or
thou wouldst not say she could be dead--for God is very merciful, Will;
He is: He is much more pitiful than man.  I could never ha' spoken to thy
father as I did to Him--and yet thy father forgave her at last.  The last
words he said were that he forgave her.  Thou'lt not be harder than thy
father, Will?  Do not try and hinder me going to seek her, for it's no
use."

Will sat very still for a long time before he spoke.  At last he said,
"I'll not hinder you.  I think she's dead, but that's no matter."

"She's not dead," said her mother, with low earnestness.  Will took no
notice of the interruption.

"We will all go to Manchester for a twelvemonth, and let the farm to Tom
Higginbotham.  I'll get blacksmith's work; and Tom can have good
schooling for awhile, which he's always craving for.  At the end of the
year you'll come back, mother, and give over fretting for Lizzie, and
think with me that she is dead--and, to my mind, that would be more
comfort than to think of her living;" he dropped his voice as he spoke
these last words.  She shook her head but made no answer.  He asked
again--"Will you, mother, agree to this?"

"I'll agree to it a-this-ns," said she.  "If I hear and see nought of her
for a twelvemonth, me being in Manchester looking out, I'll just ha'
broken my heart fairly before the year's ended, and then I shall know
neither love nor sorrow for her any more, when I'm at rest in my grave.
I'll agree to that, Will."

"Well, I suppose it must be so.  I shall not tell Tom, mother, why we're
flitting to Manchester.  Best spare him."

"As thou wilt," said she, sadly, "so that we go, that's all."

Before the wild daffodils were in flower in the sheltered copses round
Upclose Farm, the Leighs were settled in their Manchester home; if they
could ever grow to consider that place as a home, where there was no
garden or outbuilding, no fresh breezy outlet, no far-stretching view,
over moor and hollow; no dumb animals to be tended, and, what more than
all they missed, no old haunting memories, even though those remembrances
told of sorrow, and the dead and gone.

Mrs. Leigh heeded the loss of all these things less than her sons.  She
had more spirit in her countenance than she had had for months, because
now she had hope; of a sad enough kind, to be sure, but still it was
hope.  She performed all her household duties, strange and complicated as
they were, and bewildered as she was with all the town necessities of her
new manner of life; but when her house was "sided," and the boys come
home from their work in the evening, she would put on her things and
steal out, unnoticed, as she thought, but not without many a heavy sigh
from Will, after she had closed the house-door and departed.  It was
often past midnight before she came back, pale and weary, with almost a
guilty look upon her face; but that face so full of disappointment and
hope deferred, that Will had never the heart to say what he thought of
the folly and hopelessness of the search.  Night after night it was
renewed, till days grew to weeks, and weeks to months.  All this time
Will did his duty towards her as well as he could, without having
sympathy with her.  He stayed at home in the evenings for Tom's sake, and
often wished he had Tom's pleasure in reading, for the time hung heavy on
his hands as he sat up for his mother.

I need not tell you how the mother spent the weary hours.  And yet I will
tell you something.  She used to wander out, at first as if without a
purpose, till she rallied her thoughts, and brought all her energies to
bear on the one point; then she went with earnest patience along the
least-known ways to some new part of the town, looking wistfully with
dumb entreaty into people's faces; sometimes catching a glimpse of a
figure which had a kind of momentary likeness to her child's, and
following that figure with never-wearying perseverance, till some light
from shop or lamp showed the cold strange face which was not her
daughter's.  Once or twice a kind-hearted passer-by, struck by her look
of yearning woe, turned back and offered help, or asked her what she
wanted.  When so spoken to, she answered only, "You don't know a poor
girl they call Lizzie Leigh, do you?" and when they denied all knowledge,
she shook her head, and went on again.  I think they believed her to be
crazy.  But she never spoke first to any one.  She sometimes took a few
minutes' rest on the door-steps, and sometimes (very seldom) covered her
face and cried; but she could not afford to lose time and chances in this
way; while her eyes were blinded with tears, the lost one might pass by
unseen.

One evening, in the rich time of shortening autumn-days, Will saw an old
man, who, without being absolutely drunk, could not guide himself rightly
along the foot-path, and was mocked for his unsteadiness of gait by the
idle boys of the neighbourhood.  For his father's sake, Will regarded old
age with tenderness, even when most degraded and removed from the stern
virtues which dignified that father; so he took the old man home, and
seemed to believe his often-repeated assertions, that he drank nothing
but water.  The stranger tried to stiffen himself up into steadiness as
he drew nearer home, as if there some one there for whose respect he
cared even in his half-intoxicated state, or whose feelings he feared to
grieve.  His home was exquisitely clean and neat, even in outside
appearance; threshold, window, and windowsill were outward signs of some
spirit of purity within.  Will was rewarded for his attention by a bright
glance of thanks, succeeded by a blush of shame, from a young woman of
twenty or thereabouts.  She did not speak or second her father's
hospitable invitations to him to be seated.  She seemed unwilling that a
stranger should witness her father's attempts at stately sobriety, and
Will could not bear to stay and see her distress.  But when the old man,
with many a flabby shake of the hand, kept asking him to come again some
other evening, and see them, Will sought her downcast eyes, and, though
he could not read their veiled meaning, he answered, timidly, "If it's
agreeable to everybody, I'll come, and thank ye."  But there was no
answer from the girl, to whom this speech was in reality addressed; and
Will left the house, liking her all the better for never speaking.

He thought about her a great deal for the next day or two; he scolded
himself for being so foolish as to think of her, and then fell to with
fresh vigour, and thought of her more than ever.  He tried to depreciate
her: he told himself she was not pretty, and then made indignant answer
that he liked her looks much better than any beauty of them all.  He
wished he was not so country-looking, so red-faced, so broad-shouldered;
while she was like a lady, with her smooth, colourless complexion, her
bright dark hair, and her spotless dress.  Pretty or not pretty she drew
his footsteps towards her; he could not resist the impulse that made him
wish to see her once more, and find out some fault which should unloose
his heart from her unconscious keeping.  But there she was, pure and
maidenly as before.  He sat and looked, answering her father at cross-
purposes, while she drew more and more into the shadow of the chimney-
corner out of sight.  Then the spirit that possessed him (it was not he
himself, sure, that did so impudent a thing!) made him get up and carry
the candle to a different place, under the pretence of giving her more
light at her sewing, but in reality to be able to see her better.  She
could not stand this much longer, but jumped up and said she must put her
little niece to bed; and surely there never was, before or since, so
troublesome a child of two years old, for though Will stayed an hour and
a half longer, she never came down again.  He won the father's heart,
though, by his capacity as a listener; for some people are not at all
particular, and, so that they themselves may talk on undisturbed, are not
so unreasonable as to expect attention to what they say.

Will did gather this much, however, from the old man's talk.  He had once
been quite in a genteel line of business, but had failed for more money
than any greengrocer he had heard of; at least, any who did not mix up
fish and game with green-grocery proper.  This grand failure seemed to
have been the event of his life, and one on which he dwelt with a strange
kind of pride.  It appeared as if at present he rested from his past
exertions (in the bankrupt line), and depended on his daughter, who kept
a small school for very young children.  But all these particulars Will
only remembered and understood when he had left the house; at the time he
heard them, he was thinking of Susan.  After he had made good his footing
at Mr. Palmer's, he was not long, you may be sure, without finding some
reason for returning again and again.  He listened to her father, he
talked to the little niece, but he looked at Susan, both while he
listened and while he talked.  Her father kept on insisting upon his
former gentility, the details of which would have appeared very
questionable to Will's mind, if the sweet, delicate, modest Susan had not
thrown an inexplicable air of refinement over all she came near.  She
never spoke much; she was generally diligently at work; but when she
moved it was so noiselessly, and when she did speak, it was in so low and
soft a voice, that silence, speech, motion, and stillness alike seemed to
remove her high above Will's reach into some saintly and inaccessible air
of glory--high above his reach, even as she knew him!  And, if she were
made acquainted with the dark secret behind of his sister's shame, which
was kept ever present to his mind by his mother's nightly search among
the outcast and forsaken, would not Susan shrink away from him with
loathing, as if he were tainted by the involuntary relationship?  This
was his dread; and thereupon followed a resolution that he would withdraw
from her sweet company before it was too late.  So he resisted internal
temptation, and stayed at home, and suffered and sighed.  He became angry
with his mother for her untiring patience in seeking for one who he could
not help hoping was dead rather than alive.  He spoke sharply to her, and
received only such sad deprecatory answers as made him reproach himself,
and still more lose sight of peace of mind.  This struggle could not last
long without affecting his health; and Tom, his sole companion through
the long evenings, noticed his increasing languor, his restless
irritability, with perplexed anxiety, and at last resolved to call his
mother's attention to his brother's haggard, careworn looks.  She
listened with a startled recollection of Will's claims upon her love.  She
noticed his decreasing appetite and half-checked sighs.

"Will, lad! what's come o'er thee?" said she to him, as he sat listlessly
gazing into the fire.

"There's nought the matter with me," said he, as if annoyed at her
remark.

"Nay, lad, but there is."  He did not speak again to contradict her;
indeed, she did not know if he had heard her, so unmoved did he look.

"Wouldst like to go to Upclose Farm?" asked she, sorrowfully.

"It's just blackberrying time," said Tom.

Will shook his head.  She looked at him awhile, as if trying to read that
expression of despondency, and trace it back to its source.

"Will and Tom could go," said she; "I must stay here till I've found her,
thou knowest," continued she, dropping her voice.

He turned quickly round, and with the authority he at all times exercised
over Tom, bade him begone to bed.

When Tom had left the room, he prepared to speak.



CHAPTER II.


"Mother," then said Will, "why will you keep on thinking she's alive?  If
she were but dead, we need never name her name again.  We've never heard
nought on her since father wrote her that letter; we never knew whether
she got it or not.  She'd left her place before then.  Many a one dies
in--"

"Oh, my lad! dunnot speak so to me, or my heart will break outright,"
said his mother, with a sort of cry.  Then she calmed herself, for she
yearned to persuade him to her own belief.  "Thou never asked, and
thou'rt too like thy father for me to tell without asking--but it were
all to be near Lizzie's old place that I settled down on this side o'
Manchester; and the very day at after we came, I went to her old missus,
and asked to speak a word wi' her.  I had a strong mind to cast it up to
her, that she should ha' sent my poor lass away, without telling on it to
us first; but she were in black, and looked so sad I could na' find in my
heart to threep it up.  But I did ask her a bit about our Lizzie.  The
master would have turned her away at a day's warning (he's gone to
t'other place; I hope he'll meet wi' more mercy there than he showed our
Lizzie--I do), and when the missus asked her should she write to us, she
says Lizzie shook her head; and when she speered at her again, the poor
lass went down on her knees, and begged her not, for she said it would
break my heart (as it has done, Will--God knows it has)," said the poor
mother, choking with her struggle to keep down her hard overmastering
grief, "and her father would curse her--Oh, God, teach me to be patient."
She could not speak for a few minutes--"and the lass threatened, and said
she'd go drown herself in the canal, if the missus wrote home--and so--

"Well!  I'd got a trace of my child--the missus thought she'd gone to th'
workhouse to be nursed; and there I went--and there, sure enough, she had
been--and they'd turned her out as she were strong, and told her she were
young enough to work--but whatten kind o' work would be open to her, lad,
and her baby to keep?"

Will listened to his mother's tale with deep sympathy, not unmixed with
the old bitter shame.  But the opening of her heart had unlocked his, and
after awhile he spoke--

"Mother!  I think I'd e'en better go home.  Tom can stay wi' thee.  I
know I should stay too, but I cannot stay in peace so near--her--without
craving to see her--Susan Palmer, I mean."

"Has the old Mr. Palmer thou telled me on a daughter?" asked Mrs. Leigh.

"Ay, he has.  And I love her above a bit.  And it's because I love her I
want to leave Manchester.  That's all."

Mrs. Leigh tried to understand this speech for some time, but found it
difficult of interpretation.

"Why shouldst thou not tell her thou lov'st her?  Thou'rt a likely lad,
and sure o' work.  Thou'lt have Upclose at my death; and as for that, I
could let thee have it now, and keep mysel' by doing a bit of charring.
It seems to me a very backwards sort o' way of winning her to think of
leaving Manchester."

"Oh, mother, she's so gentle and so good--she's downright holy.  She's
never known a touch of sin; and can I ask her to marry me, knowing what
we do about Lizzie, and fearing worse?  I doubt if one like her could
ever care for me; but if she knew about my sister, it would put a gulf
between us, and she'd shudder up at the thought of crossing it.  You
don't know how good she is, mother!"

"Will, Will! if she's so good as thou say'st, she'll have pity on such as
my Lizzie.  If she has no pity for such, she's a cruel Pharisee, and
thou'rt best without her."

But he only shook his head, and sighed; and for the time the conversation
dropped.

But a new idea sprang up in Mrs. Leigh's head.  She thought that she
would go and see Susan Palmer, and speak up for Will, and tell her the
truth about Lizzie; and according to her pity for the poor sinner, would
she be worthy or unworthy of him.  She resolved to go the very next
afternoon, but without telling any one of her plan.  Accordingly she
looked out the Sunday clothes she had never before had the heart to
unpack since she came to Manchester, but which she now desired to appear
in, in order to do credit to Will.  She put on her old-fashioned black
mode bonnet, trimmed with real lace; her scarlet cloth cloak, which she
had had ever since she was married; and, always spotlessly clean, she set
forth on her unauthorised embassy.  She knew the Palmers lived in Crown
Street, though where she had heard it she could not tell; and modestly
asking her way, she arrived in the street about a quarter to four
o'clock.  She stopped to enquire the exact number, and the woman whom she
addressed told her that Susan Palmer's school would not be loosed till
four, and asked her to step in and wait until then at her house.

"For," said she, smiling, "them that wants Susan Palmer wants a kind
friend of ours; so we, in a manner, call cousins.  Sit down, missus, sit
down.  I'll wipe the chair, so that it shanna dirty your cloak.  My
mother used to wear them bright cloaks, and they're right gradely things
again a green field."

"Han ye known Susan Palmer long?" asked Mrs. Leigh, pleased with the
admiration of her cloak.

"Ever since they comed to live in our street.  Our Sally goes to her
school."

"Whatten sort of a lass is she, for I ha' never seen her?"

"Well, as for looks, I cannot say.  It's so long since I first knowed
her, that I've clean forgotten what I thought of her then.  My master
says he never saw such a smile for gladdening the heart.  But maybe it's
not looks you're asking about.  The best thing I can say of her looks is,
that she's just one a stranger would stop in the street to ask help from
if he needed it.  All the little childer creeps as close as they can to
her; she'll have as many as three or four hanging to her apron all at
once."

"Is she cocket at all?"

"Cocket, bless you! you never saw a creature less set up in all your
life.  Her father's cocket enough.  No! she's not cocket any way.  You've
not heard much of Susan Palmer, I reckon, if you think she's cocket.
She's just one to come quietly in, and do the very thing most wanted;
little things, maybe, that any one could do, but that few would think on,
for another.  She'll bring her thimble wi' her, and mend up after the
childer o' nights; and she writes all Betty Harker's letters to her
grandchild out at service; and she's in nobody's way, and that's a great
matter, I take it.  Here's the childer running past!  School is loosed.
You'll find her now, missus, ready to hear and to help.  But we none on
us frab her by going near her in school-time."

Poor Mrs. Leigh's heart began to beat, and she could almost have turned
round and gone home again.  Her country breeding had made her shy of
strangers, and this Susan Palmer appeared to her like a real born lady by
all accounts.  So she knocked with a timid feeling at the indicated door,
and when it was opened, dropped a simple curtsey without speaking.  Susan
had her little niece in her arms, curled up with fond endearment against
her breast, but she put her gently down to the ground, and instantly
placed a chair in the best corner of the room for Mrs. Leigh, when she
told her who she was.  "It's not Will as has asked me to come," said the
mother, apologetically; "I'd a wish just to speak to you myself!"

Susan coloured up to her temples, and stooped to pick up the little
toddling girl.  In a minute or two Mrs. Leigh began again.

"Will thinks you would na respect us if you knew all; but I think you
could na help feeling for us in the sorrow God has put upon us; so I just
put on my bonnet, and came off unknownst to the lads.  Every one says
you're very good, and that the Lord has keeped you from falling from His
ways; but maybe you've never yet been tried and tempted as some is.  I'm
perhaps speaking too plain, but my heart's welly broken, and I can't be
choice in my words as them who are happy can.  Well now!  I'll tell you
the truth.  Will dreads you to hear it, but I'll just tell it you.  You
mun know--" but here the poor woman's words failed her, and she could do
nothing but sit rocking herself backwards and forwards, with sad eyes,
straight-gazing into Susan's face, as if they tried to tell the tale of
agony which the quivering lips refused to utter.  Those wretched, stony
eyes forced the tears down Susan's cheeks, and, as if this sympathy gave
the mother strength, she went on in a low voice--"I had a daughter once,
my heart's darling.  Her father thought I made too much on her, and that
she'd grow marred staying at home; so he said she mun go among strangers
and learn to rough it.  She were young, and liked the thought of seeing a
bit of the world; and her father heard on a place in Manchester.  Well!
I'll not weary you.  That poor girl were led astray; and first thing we
heard on it, was when a letter of her father's was sent back by her
missus, saying she'd left her place, or, to speak right, the master had
turned her into the street soon as he had heard of her condition--and she
not seventeen!"

She now cried aloud; and Susan wept too.  The little child looked up into
their faces, and, catching their sorrow, began to whimper and wail.  Susan
took it softly up, and hiding her face in its little neck, tried to
restrain her tears, and think of comfort for the mother.  At last she
said--

"Where is she now?"

"Lass!  I dunnot know," said Mrs. Leigh, checking her sobs to communicate
this addition to her distress.  "Mrs. Lomax telled me she went--"

"Mrs. Lomax--what Mrs. Lomax?"

"Her as lives in Brabazon Street.  She telled me my poor wench went to
the workhouse fra there.  I'll not speak again the dead; but if her
father would but ha' letten me--but he were one who had no notion--no,
I'll not say that; best say nought.  He forgave her on his death-bed.  I
daresay I did na go th' right way to work."

"Will you hold the child for me one instant?" said Susan.

"Ay, if it will come to me.  Childer used to be fond on me till I got the
sad look on my face that scares them, I think."

But the little girl clung to Susan; so she carried it upstairs with her.
Mrs. Leigh sat by herself--how long she did not know.

Susan came down with a bundle of far-worn baby-clothes.

"You must listen to me a bit, and not think too much about what I'm going
to tell you.  Nanny is not my niece, nor any kin to me, that I know of.  I
used to go out working by the day.  One night, as I came home, I thought
some woman was following me; I turned to look.  The woman, before I could
see her face (for she turned it to one side), offered me something.  I
held out my arms by instinct; she dropped a bundle into them, with a
bursting sob that went straight to my heart.  It was a baby.  I looked
round again; but the woman was gone.  She had run away as quick as
lightning.  There was a little packet of clothes--very few--and as if
they were made out of its mother's gowns, for they were large patterns to
buy for a baby.  I was always fond of babies; and I had not my wits about
me, father says; for it was very cold, and when I'd seen as well as I
could (for it was past ten) that there was no one in the street, I
brought it in and warmed it.  Father was very angry when he came, and
said he'd take it to the workhouse the next morning, and flyted me sadly
about it.  But when morning came I could not bear to part with it; it had
slept in my arms all night; and I've heard what workhouse bringing-up is.
So I told father I'd give up going out working and stay at home and keep
school, if I might only keep the baby; and, after a while, he said if I
earned enough for him to have his comforts, he'd let me; but he's never
taken to her.  Now, don't tremble so--I've but a little more to tell--and
maybe I'm wrong in telling it; but I used to work next door to Mrs.
Lomax's, in Brabazon Street, and the servants were all thick together;
and I heard about Bessy (they called her) being sent away.  I don't know
that ever I saw her; but the time would be about fitting to this child's
age, and I've sometimes fancied it was hers.  And now, will you look at
the little clothes that came with her--bless her!"

But Mrs. Leigh had fainted.  The strange joy and shame, and gushing love
for the little child, had overpowered her; it was some time before Susan
could bring her round.  There she was all trembling, sick with impatience
to look at the little frocks.  Among them was a slip of paper which Susan
had forgotten to name, that had been pinned to the bundle.  On it was
scrawled in a round stiff hand--

"Call her Anne.  She does not cry much, and takes a deal of notice.  God
bless you and forgive me."

The writing was no clue at all; the name "Anne," common though it was,
seemed something to build upon.  But Mrs. Leigh recognised one of the
frocks instantly, as being made out of a part of a gown that she and her
daughter had bought together in Rochdale.

She stood up, and stretched out her hands in the attitude of blessing
over Susan's bent head.

"God bless you, and show you His mercy in your need, as you have shown it
to this little child."

She took the little creature in her arms, and smoothed away her sad looks
to a smile, and kissed it fondly, saying over and over again, "Nanny,
Nanny, my little Nanny."  At last the child was soothed, and looked in
her face and smiled back again.

"It has her eyes," said she to Susan.

"I never saw her to the best of my knowledge.  I think it must be hers by
the frock.  But where can she be?"

"God knows," said Mrs. Leigh; "I dare not think she's dead.  I'm sure she
isn't."

"No; she's not dead.  Every now and then a little packet is thrust in
under our door, with, may be, two half-crowns in it; once it was half-a-
sovereign.  Altogether I've got seven-and-thirty shillings wrapped up for
Nanny.  I never touch it, but I've often thought the poor mother feels
near to God when she brings this money.  Father wanted to set the
policeman to watch, but I said No; for I was afraid if she was watched
she might not come, and it seemed such a holy thing to be checking her
in, I could not find in my heart to do it."

"Oh, if we could but find her!  I'd take her in my arms, and we'd just
lie down and die together."

"Nay, don't speak so!" said Susan, gently; "for all that's come and gone,
she may turn right at last.  Mary Magdalen did, you know."

"Eh! but I were nearer right about thee than Will.  He thought you would
never look on him again if you knew about Lizzie.  But thou'rt not a
Pharisee."

"I'm sorry he thought I could be so hard," said Susan in a low voice, and
colouring up.  Then Mrs. Leigh was alarmed, and, in her motherly anxiety,
she began to fear lest she had injured Will in Susan's estimation.

"You see Will thinks so much of you--gold would not be good enough for
you to walk on, in his eye.  He said you'd never look at him as he was,
let alone his being brother to my poor wench.  He loves you so, it makes
him think meanly on everything belonging to himself, as not fit to come
near ye; but he's a good lad, and a good son.  Thou'lt be a happy woman
if thou'lt have him, so don't let my words go against him--don't!"

But Susan hung her head, and made no answer.  She had not known until now
that Will thought so earnestly and seriously about her; and even now she
felt afraid that Mrs. Leigh's words promised her too much happiness, and
that they could not be true.  At any rate, the instinct of modesty made
her shrink from saying anything which might seem like a confession of her
own feelings to a third person.  Accordingly she turned the conversation
on the child.

"I am sure he could not help loving Nanny," said she.  "There never was
such a good little darling; don't you think she'd win his heart if he
knew she was his niece, and perhaps bring him to think kindly on his
sister?"

"I dunnot know," said Mrs. Leigh, shaking her head.  "He has a turn in
his eye like his father, that makes me--He's right down good though.  But
you see, I've never been a good one at managing folk; one severe look
turns me sick, and then I say just the wrong thing, I'm so fluttered.  Now
I should like nothing better than to take Nancy home with me, but Tom
knows nothing but that his sister is dead, and I've not the knack of
speaking rightly to Will.  I dare not do it, and that's the truth.  But
you mun not think badly of Will.  He's so good hissel, that he can't
understand how any one can do wrong; and, above all, I'm sure he loves
you dearly."

"I don't think I could part with Nancy," said Susan, anxious to stop this
revelation of Will's attachment to herself.  "He'll come round to her
soon; he can't fail; and I'll keep a sharp look-out after the poor
mother, and try and catch her the next time she comes with her little
parcels of money."

"Ay, lass; we mun get hold of her; my Lizzie.  I love thee dearly for thy
kindness to her child: but, if thou canst catch her for me, I'll pray for
thee when I'm too near my death to speak words; and, while I live, I'll
serve thee next to her--she mun come first, thou know'st.  God bless
thee, lass.  My heart is lighter by a deal than it was when I comed in.
Them lads will be looking for me home, and I mun go, and leave this
little sweet one" (kissing it).  "If I can take courage, I'll tell Will
all that has come and gone between us two.  He may come and see thee,
mayn't he?"

"Father will be very glad to see him, I'm sure," replied Susan.  The way
in which this was spoken satisfied Mrs. Leigh's anxious heart that she
had done Will no harm by what she had said; and, with many a kiss to the
little one, and one more fervent tearful blessing on Susan, she went
homewards.



CHAPTER III.


That night Mrs. Leigh stopped at home--that only night for many months.
Even Tom, the scholar, looked up from his books in amazement; but then he
remembered that Will had not been well, and that his mother's attention
having been called to the circumstance, it was only natural she should
stay to watch him.  And no watching could be more tender, or more
complete.  Her loving eyes seemed never averted from his face--his grave,
sad, careworn face.  When Tom went to bed the mother left her seat, and
going up to Will, where he sat looking at the fire, but not seeing it,
she kissed his forehead, and said--"Will! lad, I've been to see Susan
Palmer!"

She felt the start under her hand which was placed on his shoulder, but
he was silent for a minute or two.  Then he said,--

"What took you there, mother?"

"Why, my lad, it was likely I should wish to see one you cared for; I did
not put myself forward.  I put on my Sunday clothes, and tried to behave
as yo'd ha' liked me.  At least, I remember trying at first; but after, I
forgot all."

She rather wished that he would question her as to what made her forget
all.  But he only said--

"How was she looking, mother?"

"Well, thou seest I never set eyes on her before; but she's a good,
gentle-looking creature; and I love her dearly, as I've reason to."

Will looked up with momentary surprise, for his mother was too shy to be
usually taken with strangers.  But, after all, it was naturally in this
case, for who could look at Susan without loving her?  So still he did
not ask any questions, and his poor mother had to take courage, and try
again to introduce the subject near to her heart.  But how?

"Will!" said she (jerking it out in sudden despair of her own powers to
lead to what she wanted to say), "I telled her all."

"Mother! you've ruined me," said he, standing up, and standing opposite
to her with a stern white look of affright on his face.

"No! my own dear lad; dunnot look so scared; I have not ruined you!" she
exclaimed, placing her two hands on his shoulders, and looking fondly
into his face.  "She's not one to harden her heart against a mother's
sorrow.  My own lad, she's too good for that.  She's not one to judge and
scorn the sinner.  She's too deep read in her New Testament for that.
Take courage, Will; and thou mayst, for I watched her well, though it is
not for one woman to let out another's secret.  Sit thee down, lad, for
thou look'st very white."

He sat down.  His mother drew a stool towards him, and sat at his feet.

"Did you tell her about Lizzie, then?" asked he, hoarse and low.

"I did; I telled her all! and she fell a-crying over my deep sorrow, and
the poor wench's sin.  And then a light comed into her face, trembling
and quivering with some new glad thought; and what dost thou think it
was, Will, lad?  Nay, I'll not misdoubt but that thy heart will give
thanks as mine did, afore God and His angels, for her great goodness.
That little Nanny is not her niece, she's our Lizzie's own child, my
little grandchild."  She could no longer restrain her tears; and they
fell hot and fast, but still she looked into his face.

"Did she know it was Lizzie's child?  I do not comprehend," said he,
flushing red.

"She knows now: she did not at first, but took the little helpless
creature in, out of her own pitiful, loving heart, guessing only that it
was the child of shame; and she's worked for it, and kept it, and tended
it ever sin' it were a mere baby, and loves it fondly.  Will! won't you
love it?" asked she, beseechingly.

He was silent for an instant; then he said, "Mother, I'll try.  Give me
time, for all these things startle me.  To think of Susan having to do
with such a child!"

"Ay, Will! and to think, as may be, yet of Susan having to do with the
child's mother!  For she is tender and pitiful, and speaks hopefully of
my lost one, and will try and find her for me, when she comes, as she
does sometimes, to thrust money under the door, for her baby.  Think of
that, Will.  Here's Susan, good and pure as the angels in heaven, yet,
like them, full of hope and mercy, and one who, like them, will rejoice
over her as repents.  Will, my lad, I'm not afeard of you now; and I must
speak, and you must listen.  I am your mother, and I dare to command you,
because I know I am in the right, and that God is on my side.  If He
should lead the poor wandering lassie to Susan's door, and she comes
back, crying and sorryful, led by that good angel to us once more, thou
shalt never say a casting-up word to her about her sin, but be tender and
helpful towards one 'who was lost and is found;' so may God's blessing
rest on thee, and so mayst thou lead Susan home as thy wife."

She stood no longer as the meek, imploring, gentle mother, but firm and
dignified, as if the interpreter of God's will.  Her manner was so
unusual and solemn, that it overcame all Will's pride and stubbornness.
He rose softly while she was speaking, and bent his head, as if in
reverence at her words, and the solemn injunction which they conveyed.
When she had spoken, he said, in so subdued a voice that she was almost
surprised at the sound, "Mother, I will."

"I may be dead and gone; but, all the same, thou wilt take home the
wandering sinner, and heal up her sorrows, and lead her to her Father's
house.  My lad!  I can speak no more; I'm turned very faint."

He placed her in a chair; he ran for water.  She opened her eyes, and
smiled.

"God bless you, Will.  Oh! I am so happy.  It seems as if she were found;
my heart is so filled with gladness."

That night Mr. Palmer stayed out late and long.  Susan was afraid that he
was at his old haunts and habits--getting tipsy at some public-house; and
this thought oppressed her, even though she had so much to make her happy
in the consciousness that Will loved her.  She sat up long, and then she
went to bed, leaving all arranged as well as she could for her father's
return.  She looked at the little rosy, sleeping girl who was her bed-
fellow, with redoubled tenderness, and with many a prayerful thought.  The
little arms entwined her neck as she lay down, for Nanny was a light
sleeper, and was conscious that she, who was loved with all the power of
that sweet, childish heart, was near her, and by her, although she was
too sleepy to utter any of her half-formed words.

And, by-and-by, she heard her father come home, stumbling uncertain,
trying first the windows, and next the door fastenings, with many a loud
incoherent murmur.  The little innocent twined around her seemed all the
sweeter and more lovely, when she thought sadly of her erring father.  And
presently he called aloud for a light.  She had left matches and all
arranged as usual on the dresser; but, fearful of some accident from
fire, in his unusually intoxicated state, she now got up softly, and
putting on a cloak, went down to his assistance.

Alas! the little arms that were unclosed from her soft neck belonged to a
light, easily awakened sleeper.  Nanny missed her darling Susy; and
terrified at being left alone, in the vast mysterious darkness, which had
no bounds and seemed infinite, she slipped out of bed, and tottered, in
her little nightgown, towards the door.  There was a light below, and
there was Susy and safety!  So she went onwards two steps towards the
steep, abrupt stairs; and then, dazzled by sleepiness, she stood, she
wavered, she fell!  Down on her head on the stone floor she fell!  Susan
flew to her, and spoke all soft, entreating, loving words; but her white
lids covered up the blue violets of eyes, and there was no murmur came
out of the pale lips.  The warm tears that rained down did not awaken
her; she lay stiff, and weary with her short life, on Susan's knee.  Susan
went sick with terror.  She carried her upstairs, and laid her tenderly
in bed; she dressed herself most hastily, with her trembling fingers.  Her
father was asleep on the settle downstairs; and useless, and worse than
useless, if awake.  But Susan flew out of the door, and down the quiet
resounding street, towards the nearest doctor's house.  Quickly she went,
but as quickly a shadow followed, as if impelled by some sudden terror.
Susan rang wildly at the night-bell--the shadow crouched near.  The
doctor looked out from an upstairs window.

"A little child has fallen downstairs, at No. 9 Crown Street, and is very
ill--dying, I'm afraid.  Please, for God's sake, sir, come directly.  No.
9 Crown Street."

"I'll be there directly," said he, and shut the window.

"For that God you have just spoken about--for His sake--tell me, are you
Susan Palmer?  Is it my child that lies a-dying?" said the shadow,
springing forwards, and clutching poor Susan's arm.

"It is a little child of two years old.  I do not know whose it is; I
love it as my own.  Come with me, whoever you are; come with me."

The two sped along the silent streets--as silent as the night were they.
They entered the house; Susan snatched up the light, and carried it
upstairs.  The other followed.

She stood with wild, glaring eyes by the bedside, never looking at Susan,
but hungrily gazing at the little, white, still child.  She stooped down,
and put her hand tight on her own heart, as if to still its beating, and
bent her ear to the pale lips.  Whatever the result was, she did not
speak; but threw off the bed-clothes wherewith Susan had tenderly covered
up the little creature, and felt its left side.

Then she threw up her arms, with a cry of wild despair.

"She is dead! she is dead!"

She looked so fierce, so mad, so haggard, that, for an instant, Susan was
terrified; the next, the holy God had put courage into her heart, and her
pure arms were round that guilty, wretched creature, and her tears were
falling fast and warm upon her breast.  But she was thrown off with
violence.

"You killed her--you slighted her--you let her fall down those stairs!
you killed her!"

Susan cleared off the thick mist before her, and, gazing at the mother
with her clear, sweet angel eyes, said, mournfully--"I would have laid
down my own life for her."

"Oh, the murder is on my soul!" exclaimed the wild, bereaved mother, with
the fierce impetuosity of one who has none to love her, and to be
beloved, regard to whom might teach self-restraint.

"Hush!" said Susan, her finger on her lips.  "Here is the doctor.  God
may suffer her to live."

The poor mother turned sharp round.  The doctor mounted the stair.  Ah!
that mother was right; the little child was really dead and gone.

And when he confirmed her judgment, the mother fell down in a fit.  Susan,
with her deep grief, had to forget herself, and forget her darling (her
charge for years), and question the doctor what she must do with the poor
wretch, who lay on the floor in such extreme of misery.

"She is the mother!" said she.

"Why did she not take better care of her child?" asked he, almost
angrily.

But Susan only said, "The little child slept with me; and it was I that
left her."

"I will go back and make up a composing draught; and while I am away you
must get her to bed."

Susan took out some of her own clothes, and softly undressed the stiff,
powerless form.  There was no other bed in the house but the one in which
her father slept.  So she tenderly lifted the body of her darling; and
was going to take it downstairs, but the mother opened her eyes, and
seeing what she was about, she said--"I am not worthy to touch her, I am
so wicked.  I have spoken to you as I never should have spoken; but I
think you are very good.  May I have my own child to lie in my arms for a
little while?"

Her voice was so strange a contrast to what it had been before she had
gone into the fit, that Susan hardly recognised it: it was now so
unspeakably soft, so irresistibly pleading; the features too had lost
their fierce expression, and were almost as placid as death.  Susan could
not speak, but she carried the little child, and laid it in its mother's
arms; then, as she looked at them, something overpowered her, and she
knelt down, crying aloud--"Oh, my God, my God, have mercy on her, and
forgive and comfort her."

But the mother kept smiling, and stroking the little face, murmuring
soft, tender words, as if it were alive.  She was going mad, Susan
thought; but she prayed on, and on, and ever still she prayed with
streaming eyes.

The doctor came with the draught.  The mother took it, with docile
unconsciousness of its nature as medicine.  The doctor sat by her; and
soon she fell asleep.  Then he rose softly, and beckoning Susan to the
door, he spoke to her there.

"You must take the corpse out of her arms.  She will not awake.  That
draught will make her sleep for many hours.  I will call before noon
again.  It is now daylight.  Good-by."

Susan shut him out; and then, gently extricating the dead child from its
mother's arms, she could not resist making her own quiet moan over her
darling.  She tried to learn off its little placid face, dumb and pale
before her.

   Not all the scalding tears of care
   Shall wash away that vision fair;
   Not all the thousand thoughts that rise,
   Not all the sights that dim her eyes,
      Shall e'er usurp the place
      Of that little angel-face.

And then she remembered what remained to be done.  She saw that all was
right in the house; her father was still dead asleep on the settle, in
spite of all the noise of the night.  She went out through the quiet
streets, deserted still, although it was broad daylight, and to where the
Leighs lived.  Mrs. Leigh, who kept her country hours, was opening her
window-shutters.  Susan took her by the arm, and, without speaking, went
into the house-place.  There she knelt down before the astonished Mrs.
Leigh, and cried as she had never done before; but the miserable night
had overpowered her, and she who had gone through so much calmly, now
that the pressure seemed removed could not find the power to speak.

"My poor dear!  What has made thy heart so sore as to come and cry a-this-
ons?  Speak and tell me.  Nay, cry on, poor wench, if thou canst not
speak yet.  It will ease the heart, and then thou canst tell me."

"Nanny is dead!" said Susan.  "I left her to go to father, and she fell
downstairs, and never breathed again.  Oh, that's my sorrow!  But I've
more to tell.  Her mother is come--is in our house!  Come and see if it's
your Lizzie."

Mrs. Leigh could not speak, but, trembling, put on her things and went
with Susan in dizzy haste back to Crown Street.



CHAPTER IV.


As they entered the house in Crown Street, they perceived that the door
would not open freely on its hinges, and Susan instinctively looked
behind to see the cause of the obstruction.  She immediately recognised
the appearance of a little parcel, wrapped in a scrap of newspaper, and
evidently containing money.  She stooped and picked it up.  "Look!" said
she, sorrowfully, "the mother was bringing this for her child last
night."

But Mrs. Leigh did not answer.  So near to the ascertaining if it were
her lost child or no, she could not be arrested, but pressed onwards with
trembling steps and a beating, fluttering heart.  She entered the
bedroom, dark and still.  She took no heed of the little corpse over
which Susan paused, but she went straight to the bed, and, withdrawing
the curtain, saw Lizzie; but not the former Lizzie, bright, gay, buoyant,
and undimmed.  This Lizzie was old before her time; her beauty was gone;
deep lines of care, and, alas! of want (or thus the mother imagined) were
printed on the cheek, so round, and fair, and smooth, when last she
gladdened her mother's eyes.  Even in her sleep she bore the look of woe
and despair which was the prevalent expression of her face by day; even
in her sleep she had forgotten how to smile.  But all these marks of the
sin and sorrow she had passed through only made her mother love her the
more.  She stood looking at her with greedy eyes, which seemed as though
no gazing could satisfy their longing; and at last she stooped down and
kissed the pale, worn hand that lay outside the bed-clothes.  No touch
disturbed the sleeper; the mother need not have laid the hand so gently
down upon the counterpane.  There was no sign of life, save only now and
then a deep sob-like sigh.  Mrs. Leigh sat down beside the bed, and still
holding back the curtain, looked on and on, as if she could never be
satisfied.

Susan would fain have stayed by her darling one; but she had many calls
upon her time and thoughts, and her will had now, as ever, to be given up
to that of others.  All seemed to devolve the burden of their cares on
her.  Her father, ill-humoured from his last night's intemperance, did
not scruple to reproach her with being the cause of little Nanny's death;
and when, after bearing his upbraiding meekly for some time, she could no
longer restrain herself, but began to cry, he wounded her even more by
his injudicious attempts at comfort; for he said it was as well the child
was dead; it was none of theirs, and why should they be troubled with it?
Susan wrung her hands at this, and came and stood before her father, and
implored him to forbear.  Then she had to take all requisite steps for
the coroner's inquest; she had to arrange for the dismissal of her
school; she had to summons a little neighbour, and send his willing feet
on a message to William Leigh, who, she felt, ought to be informed of his
mother's whereabouts, and of the whole state of affairs.  She asked her
messenger to tell him to come and speak to her; that his mother was at
her house.  She was thankful that her father sauntered out to have a
gossip at the nearest coach-stand, and to relate as many of the night's
adventures as he knew; for as yet he was in ignorance of the watcher and
the watched, who silently passed away the hours upstairs.

At dinner-time Will came.  He looked red, glad, impatient, excited.  Susan
stood calm and white before him, her soft, loving eyes gazing straight
into his.

"Will," said she, in a low, quiet voice, "your sister is upstairs."

"My sister!" said he, as if affrighted at the idea, and losing his glad
look in one of gloom.  Susan saw it, and her heart sank a little, but she
went on as calm to all appearance as ever.

"She was little Nanny's mother, as perhaps you know.  Poor little Nanny
was killed last night by a fall downstairs."  All the calmness was gone;
all the suppressed feeling was displayed in spite of every effort.  She
sat down, and hid her face from him, and cried bitterly.  He forgot
everything but the wish, the longing to comfort her.  He put his arm
round her waist, and bent over her.  But all he could say, was, "Oh,
Susan, how can I comfort you?  Don't take on so--pray don't!"  He never
changed the words, but the tone varied every time he spoke.  At last she
seemed to regain her power over herself; and she wiped her eyes, and once
more looked upon him with her own quiet, earnest, unfearing gaze.

"Your sister was near the house.  She came in on hearing my words to the
doctor.  She is asleep now, and your mother is watching her.  I wanted to
tell you all myself.  Would you like to see your mother?"

"No!" said he.  "I would rather see none but thee.  Mother told me thou
knew'st all."  His eyes were downcast in their shame.

But the holy and pure did not lower or veil her eyes.

She said, "Yes, I know all--all but her sufferings.  Think what they must
have been!"

He made answer, low and stern, "She deserved them all; every jot."

"In the eye of God, perhaps she does.  He is the Judge; we are not."

"Oh!" she said, with a sudden burst, "Will Leigh!  I have thought so well
of you; don't go and make me think you cruel and hard.  Goodness is not
goodness unless there is mercy and tenderness with it.  There is your
mother, who has been nearly heart-broken, now full of rejoicing over her
child.  Think of your mother."

"I do think of her," said he.  "I remember the promise I gave her last
night.  Thou shouldst give me time.  I would do right in time.  I never
think it o'er in quiet.  But I will do what is right and fitting, never
fear.  Thou hast spoken out very plain to me, and misdoubted me, Susan; I
love thee so, that thy words cut me.  If I did hang back a bit from
making sudden promises, it was because not even for love of thee, would I
say what I was not feeling; and at first I could not feel all at once as
thou wouldst have me.  But I'm not cruel and hard; for if I had been, I
should na' have grieved as I have done."

He made as if he were going away; and indeed he did feel he would rather
think it over in quiet.  But Susan, grieved at her incautious words,
which had all the appearance of harshness, went a step or two
nearer--paused--and then, all over blushes, said in a low, soft whisper--

"Oh, Will!  I beg your pardon.  I am very sorry.  Won't you forgive me?"

She who had always drawn back, and been so reserved, said this in the
very softest manner; with eyes now uplifted beseechingly, now dropped to
the ground.  Her sweet confusion told more than words could do; and Will
turned back, all joyous in his certainty of being beloved, and took her
in his arms, and kissed her.

"My own Susan!" he said.

Meanwhile the mother watched her child in the room above.

It was late in the afternoon before she awoke, for the sleeping draught
had been very powerful.  The instant she awoke, her eyes were fixed on
her mother's face with a gaze as unflinching as if she were fascinated.
Mrs. Leigh did not turn away, nor move; for it seemed as if motion would
unlock the stony command over herself which, while so perfectly still,
she was enabled to preserve.  But by-and-by Lizzie cried out, in a
piercing voice of agony--

"Mother, don't look at me!  I have been so wicked!" and instantly she hid
her face, and grovelled among the bed-clothes, and lay like one dead, so
motionless was she.

Mrs. Leigh knelt down by the bed, and spoke in the most soothing tones.

"Lizzie, dear, don't speak so.  I'm thy mother, darling; don't be afeard
of me.  I never left off loving thee, Lizzie.  I was always a-thinking of
thee.  Thy father forgave thee afore he died."  (There was a little start
here, but no sound was heard.)  "Lizzie, lass, I'll do aught for thee;
I'll live for thee; only don't be afeard of me.  Whate'er thou art or
hast been, we'll ne'er speak on't.  We'll leave th' oud times behind us,
and go back to the Upclose Farm.  I but left it to find thee, my lass;
and God has led me to thee.  Blessed be His name.  And God is good, too,
Lizzie.  Thou hast not forgot thy Bible, I'll be bound, for thou wert
always a scholar.  I'm no reader, but I learnt off them texts to comfort
me a bit, and I've said them many a time a day to myself.  Lizzie, lass,
don't hide thy head so; it's thy mother as is speaking to thee.  Thy
little child clung to me only yesterday; and if it's gone to be an angel,
it will speak to God for thee.  Nay, don't sob a that 'as; thou shalt
have it again in heaven; I know thou'lt strive to get there, for thy
little Nancy's sake--and listen!  I'll tell thee God's promises to them
that are penitent--only doan't be afeard."

Mrs. Leigh folded her hands, and strove to speak very clearly, while she
repeated every tender and merciful text she could remember.  She could
tell from the breathing that her daughter was listening; but she was so
dizzy and sick herself when she had ended, that she could not go on
speaking.  It was all she could do to keep from crying aloud.

At last she heard her daughter's voice.

"Where have they taken her to?" she asked.

"She is downstairs.  So quiet, and peaceful, and happy she looks."

"Could she speak!  Oh, if God--if I might but have heard her little
voice!  Mother, I used to dream of it.  May I see her once again?  Oh,
mother, if I strive very hard and God is very merciful, and I go to
heaven, I shall not know her--I shall not know my own again: she will
shun me as a stranger, and chug to Susan Palmer and to you.  Oh, woe!  Oh,
woe!"  She shook with exceeding sorrow.

In her earnestness of speech she had uncovered her face, and tried to
read Mrs. Leigh's thoughts through her looks.  And when she saw those
aged eyes brimming full of tears, and marked the quivering lips, she
threw her arms round the faithful mother's neck, and wept there, as she
had done in many a childish sorrow, but with a deeper, a more wretched
grief.

Her mother hushed her on her breast; and lulled her as if she were a
baby; and she grew still and quiet.

They sat thus for a long, long time.  At last, Susan Palmer came up with
some tea and bread and butter for Mrs. Leigh.  She watched the mother
feed her sick, unwilling child, with every fond inducement to eat which
she could devise; they neither of them took notice of Susan's presence.
That night they lay in each other's arms; but Susan slept on the ground
beside them.

They took the little corpse (the little unconscious sacrifice, whose
early calling-home had reclaimed her poor wandering mother) to the hills,
which in her lifetime she had never seen.  They dared not lay her by the
stern grandfather in Milne Row churchyard, but they bore her to a lone
moorland graveyard, where, long ago, the Quakers used to bury their dead.
They laid her there on the sunny slope, where the earliest spring flowers
blow.

Will and Susan live at the Upclose Farm.  Mrs. Leigh and Lizzie dwell in
a cottage so secluded that, until you drop into the very hollow where it
is placed, you do not see it.  Tom is a schoolmaster in Rochdale, and he
and Will help to support their mother.  I only know that, if the cottage
be hidden in a green hollow of the hills, every sound of sorrow in the
whole upland is heard there--every call of suffering or of sickness for
help is listened to by a sad, gentle-looking woman, who rarely smiles
(and when she does her smile is more sad than other people's tears), but
who comes out of her seclusion whenever there is a shadow in any
household.  Many hearts bless Lizzie Leigh, but she--she prays always and
ever for forgiveness--such forgiveness as may enable her to see her child
once more.  Mrs. Leigh is quiet and happy.  Lizzie is, to her eyes,
something precious--as the lost piece of silver--found once more.  Susan
is the bright one who brings sunshine to all.  Children grow around her
and call her blessed.  One is called Nanny; her Lizzie often takes to the
sunny graveyard in the uplands, and while the little creature gathers the
daisies, and makes chains, Lizzie sits by a little grave and weeps
bitterly.





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