“O, they’re nobbut laikin at snowball, or else slurrin a bit,” he said;—at the same time he put on his hat and coat, and showed as much alacrity to join in the search as the mother herself.
Owd Becca thrust into her capacious pocket a tea cake and two eggs, and taking the teapot into which she put a good supply of tea, she prepared for starting off; but suddenly recollecting herself, she returned and called in loud tones to her daughter: “Sarah I get that sucking bottle, an’ fill it wi’ milk for th’ little en, an’ nah, if yo two ’ll nobbut bring th’ childer back, aw’l see ’at all gooas on reight at hooam.”
Bessy began to express her thanks, but Becca was determined not to hear her, and drowned all she said in exhorting her husband to “luk sharp.” Bessy and Old Abe directed their steps to the factory, but often paused to ask passers-by if they had seen the two lost ones, but as there had so many children passed whose outward appearance corresponded with theirs of whom they were in search, they thought it best to go at once to the works and ascertain at what time they left.
Bessy’s heart misgave her as she knocked at the gatekeeper’s house; an indefinable dread came over her, and she scarce knew how to state her case. Little did she think that within sound of her voice lay the dear objects of her search; hundreds of feet had passed them during the day, but none had disturbed them; the whistles had screamed for them in vain, for they had gone to that lasting “rest prepared for the weary and heavy laden.” From the gatekeeper they learned that the two had arrived too late in the morning and gone away somewhere, but had not returned or been seen afterwards. Bessy stood transfixed for a moment, scarce knowing what to do, but Old Abe could look at the case more calmly; and taking hold of her hand, he led her gently away, and proceeded forthwith to the police station, where he gave as full an account and as correct a description of the missing ones as he was able. It took but a short time to accomplish this much, but the journey homewards was not so speedily performed. Every dark corner was explored, and every alley and by-lane had to be traversed, and the morning was far advanced when they reached home after their unsuccessful search.
The husband and babe were still sleeping, for Becca had ministered to all their wants. She had buoyed herself with the hope that they would be successful: but when she saw them return alone, her spirits sank as low as those of the mother, and although she was silent, yet the frequent application of the apron to her eyes showed that she felt as a mother for one so sorrowfully placed.