The children crouched down beside her—scarcely daring to whisper, lest they should attract the attention of their persecutors. Shivering with cold they drew closer around them the blanket with which they had been providentially provided.
“Brother, my feet are so cold,” sobbed little Em. “I can’t feel my toes. Oh, I’m so cold!”
“Put your feet closer to me, sissy,” answered her brother, baring himself to enwrap her more thoroughly; “put my stockings on over yours;” and, as well as they were able in the dark, he drew his stockings on over her benumbed feet. “There, sis, that’s better,” he whispered, with an attempt at cheerfulness, “now you’ll be warmer.”
Just then Clarence heard a groan from his mother, so loud indeed that it would have been heard without but for the noise and excitement around the house—and feeling for her in the dark, he asked, “Mother, are you worse? are you sick?”
A groan was her only answer.
“Mother, mother,” he whispered, “do speak, please do!” and he endeavoured to put his arm around her.
“Don’t, dear—don’t,” said she, faintly, “just take care of your sister—you can’t do me any good—don’t speak, dear, the men will hear you.”
Reluctantly the frightened child turned his attention again to his little sister; ever and anon suppressed groans from his mother would reach his ears—at last he heard a groan even fierce in its intensity; and then the sounds grew fainter and fainter until they entirely ceased. The night to the poor shivering creatures in their hiding place seemed interminably long, and the sound of voices in the house had not long ceased when the faint light of day pierced their cheerless shelter.
Hearing the voices of some neighbours in the yard, Clarence hastened out, and seizing one of the ladies by the dress, cried imploringly, “Do come to my mother, she’s sick.”
“Why, where did you come from, chil?” said the lady, with a start of astonishment. “Where have you been?”
“In there,” he answered, pointing to the wood-house. “Mother and sister are in there.”
The lady, accompanied by one or two others, hastened to the wood-house.
“Where is she?” asked the foremost, for in the gloom of the place she could not perceive anything.
“Here,” replied Clarence, “she’s lying here.” On opening a small window, they saw Mrs. Garie lying in a corner stretched upon the boards, her head supported by some blocks. “She’s asleep,” said Clarence. “Mother—mother,” but there came no answer. “MOTHER,” said he, still louder, but yet there was no response.
Stepping forward, one of the females opened the shawl, which was held firmly in the clenched hands of Mrs. Garie—and there in her lap partially covered by her scanty nightdress, was discovered a new-born babe, who with its mother had journeyed in the darkness, cold, and night, to the better land, that they might pour out their woes upon the bosom of their Creator.