The Brat indeed runs over for a couple of days, but I am so glad when they are over, and he is gone. I used to like the Brat the best of all the boys, and perhaps by-and-by I shall again; but, for the moment, do you know, I almost hate him.
Once or twice I quite hate him, when I hear him laughing in his old thorough, light-hearted way—when I hear him jumping up-stairs three steps at a time, whistling the same tune he used to whistle before he went.
Poor boy! He would be always sorrowful if he could, and is very much ashamed of himself for not being, but he cannot.
Life is still pleasant to him, though Barbara is dead, and so I unjustly hate him, and am glad when he is gone. Have not I come home because here she was loved, here, at least, through all the village—the village about which she trod like one of God’s kind angels—I shall be certain of meeting a keen and assured sympathy in my sorrow.
The roof so lowly but that beam of heaven
Dawned some time through the door-way?”
And yet, now that I am here, the village seems much as it was. Still the same groups of fat, frolicking children about the doors; still the same busy women at the wash-tub; about the house still the same coarse laughs.
It would be most unnatural, impossible that it should not be so, and yet I feel angry—sorely angry with them.
One day when this sense of rawness is at its worst and sharpest, I resolve that I will pay a visit to the almshouse. There, at least, I shall find that she is remembered; there, out of mere selfishness, they must grieve for her. When will they, in their unlovely eld, ever find such a friend again?
So I go there. I find the old women, some crooning over the fire, half asleep, some squabbling. I suppose they are glad to see me, though not so glad when they discover that I have brought no gift in my hand, for indeed I have forgotten—no quarter-pounds of tea—no little three-cornered parcels of sugar.
They begin to talk about Barbara at once. Among the poor there is never any sacredness about the names of the dead, and though I have hungered for sorrowful talk about her, for assurance that by some one besides myself the awful emptiness of her place is felt, yet I wince and shrink from hearing her lightly named in common speech.
They are sorry about her, certainly—quite sorry—but it is more what they have lost by her, than her that they deplore. And they are more taken up with their own little miserable squabbles—with detracting tales of one another—than with either.
“Eh? she’s a bad ’un, she is! I says to her, says I, ‘Sally,’ says I, ’if you’ll give yourself hully and whully to the Lord for one week, I’ll give you a hounce of baccy,’ and she’s that wicked, she actilly would not.”
Is this the sort of thing I have come to hear? I rise up hastily, and take my leave.