’Well, I never! if our Milly isn’t reet! Hoo said as how hoo know’d Amanda bed come back. Hoo seed th’ leet go aat and co’d aat at th’ top o’ her voice, “Amanda’s come back.” Hoo remembers thee, Amanda, an’ hoo’s never stop’t talkin’ abaat thee. Tha’rt eight year owder nor hoo is—poor lass! hoo’s lost her leg sin’ thaa seed her. It wor a bad do, aw con tell thee; but hoo’s as lively as a cricket, bless her! and often talks abaat thee, and wonders where thaa’d getten to. Let’s see, lass, it’s five years sin thaa left us, isn’t it?’ And then, remembering the whole story of Amanda, which in her excitement she had forgotten, and the great trouble and the great joy which that night fought for supremacy in the little moorland home, she stopped, and with a tear-streamed face rushed up to Amanda, and said: ‘What am I talkin’ abaat, lass? I’d clean forgetten,’ and then she, too, imprinted on Amanda’s lips a caress of welcome.
It was late that night when Milly asked her father to go up Pinner Brow and fetch her mother home. When he reached the house he found the two women and the girl upon their knees, for Milly’s mother was a good woman, and to her goodness was added a mother’s heart. Her own sorrow had taught her to weep with those who weep, and a great trial through which she had passed in her girlhood days, and through which she had passed scathless, led her to look on Amanda with pitying love. Abraham paused upon the threshold as he heard the sound of his wife’s voice in prayer, and when, half an hour afterwards, they together descended the brow towards their home, he said:
‘Thaa sees, lass, Milly’s angel een wor on th’ watch a’ter all.’
‘Yi,’ said his wife, ‘and they see’d a returnin’ sinner. But hoo’s safe naa; hoo’s getten back to her mother, and hoo’s getten back to God.’
‘Where hes hoo bin, missus, thinksto?’
’Nay, lad, I never ax’d her. I know where hoo’s getten to, and that’s enugh. I’m noan one for sperrin (asking questions) baat th’ past.’
‘But they’ll be wantin’ to know up at th’ chapel where hoo’s bin.’
‘They’ll happen do more good by doin’ by Amanda as th’ Almeety does.’
‘Doesto mean i’ His judgments?’
‘Nowe! theer’s summat more wonderful nor them.’
‘What doesto mean?’
‘I mean His FORGEETFULNESS.’
LIGHT AT EVENTIDE.
While Amanda’s return aroused the curiosity of Rehoboth, it drew few callers to the cottage on Pinner’s Brow. Not that the villagers were all wanting in kindliness, but Amanda’s mother, being a woman of strong reserve, had fenced herself off from much friendly approach; while the nature of the trouble through which she was now passing was felt by the rude moorlanders to impose silence, and deter them from all open signs of sympathy.
Apart from Mrs. Lord and a girl friend or two of Amanda’s, the joy of return was pent up in the heart of the mother—a joy which she, poor thing, would fain have sought to share with others had not delicacy of instinct and sense of shame forbade. She felt it to be indeed hard that she could not go among her neighbours and friends and say, ’Rejoice with me, for I have found my child which was lost.’