And the curious thing is that, within two years, she did think better of it—for why? That fire had sobered Wheeler more than twenty thousand temperance tracts, and all the Sons of the Phoenix and Bands of Hope rolled into one. He never touched a drop of drink since that day, and Jenny’s as happy as her kind ever is. I hear she didn’t fret over me more than a month, though perhaps that’s only what I deserved, writing to her as I did. And then Amelia she said—’No such harm done then after all.’ So she married me.
Now, you see, if I’d listened to Satan and hadn’t pulled Wheeler out, I shouldn’t have got burned, and I shouldn’t have got into the hospital, and I shouldn’t have found Amelia again, and then where should I have been? Whereas now, we’re farming the same bit of land that my father farmed before us. And if this was a made-up story, Amelia would have had to drowned herself or something, and I should have gone a-weeping and a-wailing for Jenny all my born days; but as it’s true and really happened, Amelia and me have been punished enough, I think; for eight years of unhappiness is only a few words of print in a story-book, but when you’ve got to live them, every day of them, eight years is eight years, as Amelia and I shall remember till our dying day; and eight years unhappiness is enough punishment for most of the wrong things a man can do, or a woman either for that matter.
All my life I’ve lived on a barge. My father, he worked a barge from London to Tonbridge, and ’twas on a barge I first see the light when my mother’s time come. I used to wish sometimes as I could ’ave lived in a cottage with a few bits of flowers in the front, but I think if I’d been put to it I should have chose the barge rather than the finest cottage ever I see. When I come to be grown up and took a husband of my own it was a bargeman I took, of course. He was a good sort always, was my Tom, though not particular about Sundays and churchgoings and such like, as my father always was. It used to be a sorrow to me in my young married days to think as Tom was so far from the Lord, and I used to pray that ’is eyes might be opened and that ’e might be led to know the truth like me, which was vanity on my part, for I’ve come to see since that like as not ’e was nearer the Lord nor ever I was.
We worked the William and Mary, did Tom and me, and I used to think no one could be ’appier than we was them first two years. Tom was as kind as kind, and never said a hard word to me except when he was in liquor; and as to liftin’ his ’and to me, no, never in his life. But after two years we got a little baby of our own, and then I knew as I hadn’t known what ’appiness was before. She was such a pretty little thing, with yellow hair, soft and fluffy all over her head, the colour of a new-hatched duck, and blue eyes and dear little hands that I used to kiss a thousand times a day.