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

Mary. We are younga poor man has no
chance here, but we can go to America with
fresh hopes——"

"And a good conscience?" said the woman,
in a whisper like Lady Macbeth's.

The man was silent. At last he seemed to
grow angry at the steadiness of her gaze.
"Why do you look at me in that manner?
I tell you we shall start to-morrow."

"And the money?" said the woman.

"I will send it back to my friend from
whom I borrowed it, out of my first earnings.
I took only three, in case it should incommode
him to lend me more."

"I must see that friend myself," said Mary,
"before I touch the money."

"Tell ye what! Is it the man ?" again
asked Tom.

"Hush!" I said; "let us listen."

"I recognised a friend of mine in one of
the clerks in the Melfield Bank. I give you
my word I got the coins from him."

"Tell ye what! He confesses," said Tom;
"let us spring on him by surprisean ugly
ruffian as ever I saw!"

"And with that sum," he continued, "see
what we can do. It will relieve us from our
distress, which has come upon usMary, you
know I speak the truth in thisfrom no other
fault of mine than too much confidence in a
treacherous friend. I can't see you starve.
I can't see the baby reduced from our
comfortable keeping to lie on straw at the end
of a barn like this. I can't do itI won't!"
he went on, getting more impassioned in his
words. "At whatever cost, I will give you
a chance of comfort and independence."

"And peace of mind?" replied Mary. "Oh,
William, I must tell you what terrible fears
have been in my heart, all this dreary night,
during your absence; I have read, and prayed,
and turned for comfort to Heaven. Oh,
William, give the money back to your friend
I say nothing about the loantake it back;
I can't look at it! Let us starvelet us
die, if it must be sobut take that money

Tom Ruddle gently put down the cock of
his pistol, and ran the sleeve of his coat
across his eyes.

"Let us trust, William," the woman went
on, "and deliverance will be found. The
weather is very cold," she added. "There
seems no visible hope; but I cannot altogether
despair at this time of the year. This barn
is not more humble than the manger at
Bethlehem, which I have been reading about all

At this moment, a great clang of bells
pealed from the old church tower; it was
so near that it shook the rafters on which
we sat, and filled all the room with the sharp
ringing sound. "Hark!" cried the man,
startled, " What's that ?" "It is Christmas
morning," said the woman. "Ah, William,
William, what a different spirit we should
welcome it with; in what a different spirit
we have welcomed it, many and many a
happy time!"

He listened for a moment or two to the
bells. Then he sank on his knees, and put
his head on her lap; and there was perfect
silence except the Christmas music. "Tell
ye what!" said Tom. "I remember we
always sang a hymn at this hour, in my
father's house. Let us be offI wouldn't
disturb these people for a thousand guineas."

Some little noise was made by our preparations
to descend. The man looked up,
while the woman still continued absorbed in
prayer. My head was just on the level of
the wall. Our eyes met. They were the
same that had flashed so wildly when the
pistol was fired from the gig. We continued
our descent. The man rose quietly from his
knees, and put his finger to his lip. When
we got down stairs he was waiting for us at
the door. "Not before her" he said. "I
would spare her the sight, if I could. I am
guilty of the robbery, but I wouldn't have
harmed you, sir. The pistol went off, the
moment I put my hand upon it. For God's
sake tell her of it gently, when you have
taken me away!"

"Tell ye what! " said Tom Ruddlewhose
belligerent feelings had entirely disappeared
"the pistol was my mistake, and it's all a
mistake together. Come to my friend and
me, at the Bank, the day after to-morrow,
andtell ye what!— the sharp wind brings
water to my eyeswe'll manage to lend you
some more."

So, the bells still rang clear in the midnight
air; and our drive home through the frosty
lanes was the pleasantest drive we ever had in
our lives.


A PERSON is flustered by being had up into
the dining-room for to drink merry Christmases
and them (though wishing, I am sure,
to every party present as many as would be
agreeable to their own selves), and it an't easy
rightly to remember at a moment's notice
what a person did see in the ghostly way.
Indeed I never seen nothing myself, it being
Thomas which did soand he heard it.
Hows'ever, the account of it having been
seemingly carried to the young ladies by Nurse,
and they wishing to know it all correct, it
were as I will now mention.

I was cook to Alderman Playford when he
died so suddenly; and very handsome
mourning we servants had, though I'm only
a hard-working charwoman now.

The Alderman kept up two establishments;
his town-house at Dewcester, for the sake of
the business, and his country-house at Brownham,
five or six miles off. I was at Brownham,
and I liked that the best because the
young ladies liked it best; they were real
ladies, they were. We had everything
comfortable there; I may say grand: gardens,