When Jimmy and his wife were alone, and the sound of the old woman’s voice no longer fell upon their ears, they realized, as never before, the anguish of their surroundings. They were spending their last night in what to one had been a life-long home, and to the other a shelter of happiness for ten years of married life. The story was a sad one, and yet, alas! not uncommon. Crawshaw Fold—the old farmstead—dated back two hundred years, and from the time of its erection to the present, had known neither owners nor occupiers save those of the sturdy yeoman family from which it took its name. It had been the boast of the Crawshaws that no alien ever lorded it beneath their roof, or sat as presiding genius at their hearth. They were proud to tell how all the heirs of Crawshaw Fold only entered its portals by the mystic gate of birth, nor departed until summoned by the passing bell. But families, like individuals, grow old, and with the course of years the richest blood runs thin. Bad seasons, which are the friends of the money-lender and mortgagee, are the foes of hereditary descent and family pride, and many are the escutcheons erased and the lines of lineage broken by reverses wrought through their fitful moods. The Crawshaws were no exception. A succession of disasters on their little farmstead brought them to sore straits, and for deliverance they sought help of one Moses Fletcher, who advanced money on the deeds of the property. So bad were the times that James Crawshaw was unable to meet the interest, and on the morrow Moses was putting in force his claim. This was the shadow that fell across the hearth—the despair that was seated like a hideous ghoul by their fireside. In the morning three generations of Crawshaw would be homeless.
‘Well, lad,’ said Jimmy’s wife, ’it’s no use lying daan to dee afore one’s time; there’s this little un to fend for, and, as I say, th’ wick is o’ more value than th’ deeing. Th’ owd Book says as th’ deead is to bury th’ deead, but I’m noan deead yet.’
‘Thaa’rt hard on th’ owd woman, lass. It’s nobbud natural as hoo should want to lie daan and dee where all her folk has deed afore her.’
‘Nay, lad, I’m noan hard. Hoo’ll go where we go, and we’s be doin’ aar duty both to her and th’ child here by workin’ for ’em, instead of frettin’ and sobbin’ as though all wor o’er.’
‘Happen so; but thaa’s more hope nor I hev. I durnd think th’ sun will ever shine again for us, lass.’
‘Get away wi’ thee! Th’ sun ’ll shine to-morn for them as has een to see.’
Throughout this conversation the footfall of the old grandmother was heard distinctly on the chamber floor above, for on reaching her room she did not, as was her wont, seek at once the shelter of her bed, but, placing the lamp on the table, commenced a fond and farewell survey of the old chamber. Over the fireplace hung an old sampler, worked by her deft fingers in girlhood’s days—her maiden name spelt out in now faded silks, with a tree of paradise on either side and under it the date of a forgotten year; while an old leather-cased Bible, in which were inscribed the epochs of the family, lay open upon a chair.