“O, Tom, aw’ve hurt mi leg—aw cannot bide to goa any farther; tha’d better leave me, for aw’m sure we’st be too lat.”
“Happen net—tha’ll be better in a bit,—put thi arm raand mi shoulder, tha’rt nobbut leet; aw could ommost hug thi if it worn’t soa slippy. Sup o’ this tea, si thee, it’s warm yet, an’ then tha’ll feel better: an’ if we are a bit too lat, aw should think they’ll let us in this mornin’.”
Susy drank of the tea, and, revived by its warmth, she made another attempt to pursue her way. But it was slow work; Tom did his best to help her, and tried to cheer her as well as he could, though now an’ then a tear fell silently from his eyes, for his little fingers were numbed with cold, and he felt the rain had already penetrated to his skin, and the dreadful prospect of being late, and having to remain in the cold for two hours, was in itself sufficient to strike dread into the heart of one older and stronger than he. Even the watchman as he passed, turned his light upon them for a moment, and sighed. It was no business of his,—but under his waterproof cape there beat a father’s heart, and he murmured as he paced the solitary street, “Thank God, they arn’t mine.”
But we must leave them to pursue as best they can, their miserable way, whilst we return to have a glance at the occupants of the cottage from which we saw them start. It is a one storied building, with but one room and a small out-kitchen; in one corner is a bed, on which is laid a pale, emaciated young man, to all appearance not yet thirty years of age: he is asleep, but from the quick short breath, it is not difficult to infer that his best days are over. In another corner, a number of boxes are arranged so as to extemporize a bed, now unoccupied, but from which the two little factory-workers have but lately arisen. A jug of herb tea is on the table. The fire is very low, and the light from it is only sufficient to render all indistinctly visible. In a chair opposite is a young woman with such a mournful, careworn face, that a glance inspires you with sorrow; and from a bundle of clothes on her knee issues the fretful wail of a restless child. The monotonous tick of an old clock is the only sound, saving the longdrawn sigh of that young mother, or the quick, hollow breathing of the sleeping man. Now and then the wind whistles more shrilly through the crevices of the door, and the rain beats with greater force against the little window. The mother draws still nearer to the few red embers, and turns a timid glance to the window and then to the bed: another sigh, and then the overburdened heart overflows at her eyes, and the large bright drops fall quickly on that dearly loved infant.
The church clock chimes a quarter after six—this rouses the mother once more to set aside her own griefs; the wind still howls, and the rain beats with unabated fury against the glass: her thoughts are of those little ones, and a tremor passes over her as she fears lest they should be shut out. The man moves wearily in his bed, and opening his eyes, he looks towards his wife. She is at his side in an instant.