But the crooning old woman heeded him not. With eyes fixed on the fire she continued to read the horoscope of the past:
’We were some happy, those first years, I can tell thee. Then little Billy wor born. Poor little Billy! Thaa’s been a good lad, Jim, but I often think what a good un little Billy would ha’ been if he’d lived! But he deed. Ay! I con remember it as though it were nobbud yesterneet. It was abaat th’ deead hour, and I wakened up sudden-like, for summat towd me all were not reet wi’ th’ lad. I made thi faither strike a leet, and then I see’d Billy’s een were set, and his little mouth twitchin’. Thi faither run off, half dressed as he were, for th’ doctor. But it wor no use; Billy were going cowd in my arms when they both geet back. And then they laid th’ little lad aat in th’ owd chamber, and I used to creep upstairs when thi faither were in th’ meadow, and talk to Billy, and ax him to oppen his een. But it wor all no use, he never glent at me agen. I never cried, lad—I couldn’t. I felt summat wor taan aat o’ me,’ and the old woman laid her hand on her heart. ’I was empty-like; and then five years after, as I lay in bed in th’ owd chamber aboon—same chamber as Billy were laid out in—Mary o’ Sams, who had come to nurse me, said: “Thou mun look up, Jenny, it’s another lad,” and she put thee in my arms, and then th’ warkin’ went, and I were a happy woman again. I could ha’ liked to ha’ kept little Billy, but Him aboon knows best: thaa’s bin a good lad to me, Jimmy.’
Tears began to stream from the eyes of Jimmy’s wife; and stooping down, she lifted her sleeping baby from its cradle, and hugged it to her breast. The story of little Billy had, for the moment, softened the heart of this practical and common-sense woman.
’That’s reet, lass. Keep him close to thee, he’ll need thee and thaa’ll need him afore yo’re both done wi’ th’ world. Since thi faither deed, Jimmy, I’ve felt to need thee more and more. It’s ten year this last back-end sin’ we buried him. And it’s nobbud just like yesterday. He wor in th’ barn when he wor taan, sudden-like, with apoplex; and he never spoke, or knew me or you at after. And he wor laid aat in th’ owd chamber, too, where they laid little Billy aat afore him, and where yo’ wor born, lad. I thought I should be laid aat there, and all, and I could ha’ liked it to be so. But I mun be off to bed, childer, it’s gettin’ lat’. I shall sleep in th’ owd chamber to-neet, wheresomever I sleep to-morn.’
And so saying, the grandmother took her lamp, and climbed the worn stone staircase to her room—a staircase trodden so many times in changing moods of joy and sorrow, and with feet now gladsome and now weary with honest toil and household care.