‘Sleep on, lass, sleep on, and God ease thi poor heart,’ said the old Granny, as she held the woman’s hand in hers. ’Thaa’s hed both thi travails naa; thaa’s travailed i’ birth, and thaa’s travailed i’ deeath, like mony a poor soul afore thee. There wur joy when thaa brought him into th’ world, and theer’s sorrow naa he’s goan aat afore his time. Ey, dear! A mother’s life’s like an April morn—sunleet and cloud, fleshes o’ breetness, and showers o’ rain.’
And closing her eyes, she, too, slept. And in that lone outlying fold, far away in the snowy bosom of the hills, there was the sleep of weariness, the sleep of sorrow, and the sleep of death. And who shall say that the last was not the kindliest and most welcome?
THE SNOW CRADLE.
As Mr. Penrose and Malachi o’ th’ Mount closed the door of Granny Houses on the sorrowing widowed mother, there opened to them a fairy realm of snow. Stepping out on its yielding carpet of crystals, they looked in silent wonder at the fair new world, where wide moors slept in peaceful purity, and distant hills lifted their white summits towards the deep cold blue of the clearing sky. Steely stars glittered and magnified their light through the lens of the eager, frosty air, and old landmarks were hidden, and roads familiar to the wayfarer no longer discovered their trend. Little hillocks had taken the form of mounds, and stretches of level waste were swept by ranges of drift and shoulders of obstructing snow.
No sooner did Mr. Penrose look out on this new earth than a feeling of lostness came on him, and, linking his arm in that of the old man, he said:
‘Can you find the way, Malachi?’
‘Wheer to, Mr. Penrose?’
’Why, to Rehoboth, of course. Where else did you think I wanted to go at this time of night?’
‘Nay, that’s what I wur wonderin’ when yo’ axed me if I knew th’ way,’ replied the old man.
’Oh! I beg your pardon; I thought perhaps the snow might throw you off the track.’
‘Throw me off th’ track, an’ on these moors and o’? Nowe, Mr. Penrose, I hevn’t lived on ’em forty years for naught, I con tell yo’.’
‘But when you cannot see your way, what then?’
‘Then I walks by instink.’
And by instinct the two men crossed the wastes of snow towards the Green Fold Clough, through which gorge lay the path that led to the village below.
Just as they traversed the edge of the Red Moss, old Malachi broke the silence by saying:
‘Well, Mr. Penrose, what do yo’ think o’ yon?’
‘Think of what, Malachi?’ asked the perplexed divine, for neither of them, for some moments, had spoken.
‘Think o’ yon lad as has getten killed, and o’ his mother?’