+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error



'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 is——"

'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 her turned 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 herOh, 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 soon 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 a while 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 nearher
without craving to see herSusan Palmer
I mean.'

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

'Aye, 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

'Why should'st 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 inquire 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