‘An’ is th’ Almeety baan to mak’ me climb as mony steps as thaa’s climbed afore I ged into th’ same raam as He’s takken little Job too, thinksto?’
’Ey, lass. Aw durnd know; but whether thaa’s to climb mony or few thaa’ll hev strength gien thee, as aw hev.’
’Aw wish God’s other room wurnd so far off, Gronny—nobbud t’other side o’ th’ wall instead o’ th’ story aboon. Durnd yo’?’
’Nay, lass; they’re safer upstairs. Thaa knows He put’s ’em aat o’ harm’s way.’
‘But aw somehaa think aw could ha’ takken care o’ little Job a bit longer. And when he’d groon up, thaa knows, he could ha’ takken care o’ me.’
‘Yi, lass; we’re awlus for patchin’ th’Almeety’s work; and if He leet us, we’s mak’ a sorry mess on it and o’.’
‘Well, Gronny, if I wur God Almeety I’d be agen lettin’ lumps o’ coile fall and crush th’ life aat o’ lads like aar Job. It’s a queer way o’ takkin ’em upstairs, as yo’ co it.’
‘Hooisht! lass, thaa mornd try to speerit through th’ clouds that are raand abaat His throne. He tak’s one i’ one way, an another i’ another; but if He tak’s em to Hissel they’re better off than they’d be wi’ us.’
‘Well, Gronny, aw tell thee, aw cornd see it i’ that way yet;’ and again the mother caressed the body of her son.
Once more she turned towards the old woman, and said:
‘Aw shouldn’t ha’ caared so mich, Gronny, if he’d deed as yor lad deed—i’ his own bed, an’ wi’ a fayver; bud he wur crushed wi’ a lump o’ coile! Poor little lad! Luk yo’ here!’ and the mother bared the body and showed the discoloured parts.
‘Did ta’ ever see a child dee o’ fayver, lass?’
’Not as aw know on. Aw’ve awlus bin flayed, and never gone near ‘em.’
’Thaa may thank God as thy lad didn’t dee of a fayver. Aw’s never forgeet haa th’ measter and I watched and listened to aar lad’s ravin’s. Haa he rached aat wi’ his honds, and kept settin’ up and makin’ jumps at what he fancied he see’d abaat him; and when we co’d him he never knowed us. Nowe, lass, he never knowed me until one neet he seemed to come to hissel, and then he looked at me and said, “Mother!” But it wur all he said—he never spok’ at after.’
‘Yi; but yo’ see’d yur lad dee—and mine deed afore I could get to him.’
‘That is so, lass! but as aw stood an’ see’d mine deein’, I would ha’ gien onything if I could ha’ shut mi een, or not bin wi’ him. I know summat as what Hagar felt when hoo said, “Let me not see th’ deeath o’ th’ child”—I do so.’
The younger woman wept, and the tears brought relief to her pent-up heart. She had found a mother’s ear for her mother’s sorrow; and the after-calm of a great grief was now falling over her. She leaned her aching head on the shoulders of the older and stronger woman by whose side she sat, and at last her sorrow brought the surcease of sleep. The fire threw its fitful flicker on her haggard face, lighting up in strange relief the lines of agony and the moisture of the freshly fallen tears. Now and again she sobbed in her slumber—a sob that shook her soul—but she slept, and sleep brought peace and oblivion.