Promising to “luk in i’ th’ morn’,” they left the disconsolate Bessy to her grief.
Who shall attempt to describe the anguish of that bereaved parent? Statuelike she sat, nursing a sorrow too deep for tears. Hours passed, and the first faint streak of dawn found her still sitting, with her eyes intently fixed on vacancy. Her husband’s voice was the first thing that roused her from the state of despondency into which she had sunk. He spoke with difficulty, and his voice was feeble as a child’s. “Bessy,” he gasped, “tha munnot leave me ony moor. It’s drawin varry near. Awr little Tom an’ Susy have been here wol tha’s been off; aw heeard ’em calling for me, but aw could’nt goa until aw’d had a word wi’ thee. Aw’m feeard tha’ll tak it hard, lass, but if tha finds tha cannot bide it, ax th’ parson to tell thee what he tell’d to me, an’ it’ll comfort thee.” Bessy was unable to reply. Sorrows had been heaped upon her so heavily that her feelings were benumbed; she scarcely comprehended what was said, but in the bitterness of her soul she fell upon her knees and sobbed—“Lord, help me!”
Her husband feebly took her hand and drew her towards him. “He will help thee, lassie, niver fear. One kiss, Bessy; gooid bye! Tom! Susy!—It’s varry dark.—Aw think aw want to sleep.”—
“And ere that hour departed.
All death reveals, he knew.”
A change had taken place in the atmosphere since Bessy and Abe had returned. Here and there green patches could be seen on the hill side, and the distant town presented a view of smoke-blackened roofs that shone, dripping with wet as the sickly’ sun glanced over them. Little or no snow was to be found in the streets, and all the hideous sights stood out once more rejoicing in their naked deformities.
The giant engine—the factory’s heart—was ceasing to beat once more, in order to allow the workers time to swallow the food necessary to enable them to bear up until noon. The gates were opened, and the crowd swarmed forth, but all seemed instinctively directed to a group at a short distance, whose pallid faces reflected the ghastly sight before them. The group soon swelled to a vast crowd. Enquiries were made on every hand by those in the outer circle—“What is it? what is it?” “Frozen to death.” Tenderly those rough handed, rough-spoken men raised the death-frozen little ones. Some there were who knew them and had heard of their loss. It was to them an easy task to account for their deaths, and curses low but deep were cast on them, at whose doors the blood of those innocents must lie.
The bodies were taken to the nearest inn to wait an inquest. Those in authority were quickly on the alert; whilst some who were acquainted with the parents prepared to carry them the sorrowful tidings.—Poor Bessy! thy cup of bitterness is nearly full!
Old Becca had come according to promise, and found Bessy laid partially upon the bed in a swoon, her arm around the neck of him who had been her faithful partner for a dozen years. She raised her, bathed her forehead, and used all means in her power to promote her recovery. After a short time she was successful; and having prepared the other bed and placed Bessy upon it, she hastily left to get some assistance.