“Pooring her head, and kissing it.”
“To each his sufferings;
all are men
Condemned alike to groan.
The tender for another’s pain—”
Not even the miser’s funeral had produced in the neighbourhood anything like the excitement which followed that Sunday evening. At first my mother—her mind filled by the simplest form of the problem, namely, that Mrs. Wood was in the hands of a tramp—wished my father to take the blunderbuss in his hand and step down to the farm. He had “pish"ed and “pshaw"ed about the blunderbuss, and was beginning to say more, when I was dismissed to bed, where I wandered back over the moors in uneasy dreams, and woke with the horror of a tramp’s hand upon my shoulder. After suffering the terrors of night for some time, and finding myself no braver with my head under the bedclothes than above them, I began conscientiously to try my mother’s family recipe for “bad dreams and being afraid in the dark.” This was to “say over” the Benedicite correctly, which (if by a rare chance one were still awake at the end) was to be followed by a succession of the hymns one knew by heart. It required an effort to begin, and to really try, but the children of such mothers as ours are taught to make efforts, and once fairly started, and holding on as a duty, it certainly did tend to divert the mind from burglars and ghosts, to get the beasts, creeping things, and fowls of the air into their right places in the chorus of benedictions. That Jem never could discriminate between the “Dews and Frosts” and “Frost and Cold” verses needs no telling. I have often finished and still been frightened and had to fall back upon the hymns, but this night I began to dream pleasanter dreams of Charlie’s father and the bee-master before I got to the holy and humble men of heart.
I slept long then, and Mother would not let me be awakened. When I did open my eyes Jem was sitting at the end of the bed, dying to tell me the news.
“Jack! you have waked, haven’t you? I see your eyes. Don’t shut ’em again. What do you think? Mrs. Wood’s husband has come home!”
I never knew the ins and outs of the story very exactly. At the time that what did become generally known was fresh in people’s minds Jem and I were not by way of being admitted to “grown-up” conversations; and though Mrs. Wood’s husband and I became intimate friends, I neither wished nor dared to ask him more about his past than he chose to tell, for I knew enough to know that it must be a most intolerable pain to recall it.