Then the clayey hue, so long overshadowing the face, faded away in the warmth of a returning tide of life, as a gray dawn is suffused by sunrise. The beat became stronger and more frequent, there was a movement in the passive limbs, and, opening his eyes dreamily, then wonderingly, and at last consciously, the lad looked into the old woman’s face and said:
‘Yi! it’s Gronny, lad. And haa doesto feel?’
The boy tried to move, and uttered a feeble cry of pain.
‘Lie thee still, lad. Doesto think thaa can ston this?’ and the old woman laid another hot flannel on the boy’s body.
At first he winced, and a look of terrible torture passed over his face. Then he smiled and said:
‘Yi! Gronny, aw can bide thee to do ought.’
Mr. Penrose, helpless and silent, stood at the foot of the settle on which lay the dying boy, the colliers seeking the gloomy corners of the large kitchen, where in shadow they awaited in rude fear the death of their little companion. The old woman, cool and self-possessed, plied her task with a tenderness and skill born of long years of experience, cheering with words of endearment the last moments of the sufferer.
The boy’s rally was brief, for internal haemorrhage set in, and swiftly wrought its fatal work, sweeping the vital tide along channels through which it no longer returned to the fount of life, and leaving the weary face with a pallor that overmastered the flush that awhile before brought a momentary hope. His eyes grew dim, and the light from the lamp seemed to recede, as though it feared him, and would elude his gaze. The figures in the room became mixed and commingled, and took shapes which at times he failed to recognise. Then a sensation of falling seized him, and he planted his hands on the cushion of the settle, as though he would stay his descent.
Looking at Mr. Penrose through a ray of consciousness, he said:
‘Th’ cage is goin’ daan fearfo quick. Pray!’
The old woman caught the word, and, turning to the minister, she said:
‘He wants thee to mak’ a prayer.’
Mr. Penrose drew nearer to the boy, and repeated the grand death-song of the saints: ’Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me, Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.’
The boy shook his head—for him the words had no meaning. Then, raising himself, he said:
‘Ax God O’meety to leet His candle. I’m baan along th’ seam, an’ it’s fearfo dark!’
To Mr. Penrose the words were strange, and, turning to the colliers, he asked them what the boy wanted.
Then Malachi o’ the Mount came towards the minister and said:
‘Th’ lad thinks he’s i’ th’ four-foot seam, and he connot find his road, it’s so dark, and he wants a leet—a candle, yo’ know, same as we use in th’ pit. He wants the Almeety to leet him along.’