“Have they gooan, Bessy?” he asks.
“Eea, they’ve gooan, an’ aw hooap ther thear before nah.”
“It saands vary wild. We ne’er thowt it ud come to this twelve year sin, Bess,—an’ it’s all along o’ me!”
“Nay, Jim, tha munnot say soa—tha knows we can nooan on us help bein poorly sometimes, but when spring comes tha’ll pick up thi crumbs agean, an’ things ’ll be different.”
“That’s true, lass,—aw feel that’s true—things will be different when spring comes, an’ afoor it comes, aw’m feeard. Has ta iver been i’ bed to-neet?”
“Nay, aw couldn’t come to bed, ‘coss th’ child wor cross, but aw’ve slept a bit i’ th’ cheer: dooant thee bother, aw’l look after mi sen. Will ta have a sup o’ this teah?”
“Whisht!” he said, “that’s awr Susy callin, aw’m sure it is! Oppen th’ door!”
She flew to oppen th’ door, and the storm rushed in with fury; the snow had begun to fall thickly: she strained her eyes and called, “Susy! Susy!” but she heard no response: yet her heart misgave her, for the thoughts of her darlings being exposed to such a storm made her shudder; but necessity knows no law, and on the slender earnings of these two children depended the subsistence of herself and husband.
“Aw think tha wor mistakken, Jim: aw con see nowt,” she said, as she returned and closed the door.
“Well, happen aw wor; but it’s a sorry mornin to turn aght two little lambs like them. Bessy,” he said, lowering his voice to a whisper, “aw know aw’m i’th’ gate,—aw con do nowt but lig i’ bed, an’ aw know ’at thee an’ th’ childer have to goa short mony a time for what aw get, but it willn’t be for long. Dooant rooar! tha knows it’s summat ’at we’ve nowt to do wi; an’ tha heeard what th’ parson said, ’Ther’s One aboon at ‘ll work all things together for gooid,’ an’ aw feel my time’s commin’ varry near; but aw’m nooan freetened like aw used to be; aw think it’s gooin to be a change for th’ better—an’ He’ll luk after thee an’ th’ little ens.”
“O! Jim! tha munnot talk abaght leavin us yet; tha’ll be better in a bit.”
“Niver i’ this world, Bessy! Come, put thi heead o’ th’ pillow here beside me, aw think aw want to rest.”
She placed the little babe upon the coverlet, laid her head upon the pillow, and worn out with watching, she wept herself asleep.
The church clock had chimed the half-hour before Tom and his little sister landed at the mill yard, and it was closed. The storm was still raging, but to his repeated entreaties for admission the same answer was returned, “Tha’rt too lat! tha connot come in afoor th’ braikfast.” Experience had taught him how vain his endeavours would be to obtain admission; and had it been himself alone that was shut out, he would have gone quietly away and spent the time as best he might; but he felt emboldened by the responsibility that was upon him on his sister’s account, and he redoubled his efforts, but the timekeeper