As she sang it seemed to the boy that there were no such things as “jelly-pieces” to bother about. He liked his mother to sing to him, for he seemed to get rolled up in her soft, warm voice, and become restful and happy. Gradually the low crooning song grew fainter in his ears, the flicker of the fire danced further and further away, until long streaks of golden thready light seemed to reach out, straight from his eyes to the fireplace, and all the comfort that it was possible to have flowed through his soul, and at last he slept. Mrs. Sinclair placed him beside his brothers and sisters in the bed and went back to finish her knitting. The night was far gone before she accomplished her task, and she stood and surveyed her humble home with weariness in her heart.
Through the dim smoke which hung like a blue cloud along the roof, and made more seemingly thick by the small lamp upon the table, she looked at her husband lying asleep, and so far free from pain. Then her eyes traveled to the children in the other bed, and they filled with tears as she thought that she had had to put them supperless to bed that night, and again rebellion surged through her blood as she thought of all the misery of her life. Was it worth living and going on in this way? Was it worth while to continue? What had she done to reap all this suffering?
She was hungry and weak and exhausted. Perhaps if she could sleep she would forget it, and in the morning the socks she had finished would bring her a few pence, and that would mean food.
She decided to go to bed, and in passing by the shelf at the window, her eye caught sight of a plateful of potato skins, the remains of the meager dinner of boiled potatoes which the children had had; and clutching them, she began greedily to devour them, filling her mouth and cramming them in in handfuls, until it seemed as if she would choke herself. Then, licking the plate clean of every crumb, she undressed and slipped quietly into bed, to lie and fret and toss, as she thought of the insult which Black Jock had offered her, and pondered over the unhappy lot of her children and their injured father.
A TURN OF THE SCREW
On the Friday following Jock Walker’s visit to Mrs. Sinclair, a notice was put up at the pit by Peter Pegg and Andrew Marshall, to the effect that a collection would be taken next day on behalf of Geordie Sinclair. The notice was posted up before Andrew and Peter descended the pit for the day.
“Black Jock,” as Walker was called by the miners, saw the notice before it had been ten minutes posted, and deliberately tore it down. He then visited Peter Pegg and Andrew Marshall at the coal face.
“I suppose you an’ Andrew are goin’ to gather for Geordie Sinclair the morn?” he said, addressing Peter.
“Ay,” Peter answered, “we were thinkin’ it was aboot time somethin’ was done. There’s four bairns an’ their two selves, an’ though times are no’ very guid for ony of us now, it maun be a lot worse for them. Geordie has been a guid while off.”