“Here’s a bad business, I suspect,” said the landlord, as he brought in some water.
“Ah, it’s plain enough what sort of business it is,” said the wife. “She’s not a common flaunting dratchell, I can see that. She looks like a respectable country girl, and she comes from a good way off, to judge by her tongue. She talks something like that ostler we had that come from the north. He was as honest a fellow as we ever had about the house—they’re all honest folks in the north.”
“I never saw a prettier young woman in my life,” said the husband. “She’s like a pictur in a shop-winder. It goes to one’s ’eart to look at her.”
“It ’ud have been a good deal better for her if she’d been uglier and had more conduct,” said the landlady, who on any charitable construction must have been supposed to have more “conduct” than beauty. “But she’s coming to again. Fetch a drop more water.”
The Journey in Despair
Hetty was too ill through the rest of that day for any questions to be addressed to her—too ill even to think with any distinctness of the evils that were to come. She only felt that all her hope was crushed, and that instead of having found a refuge she had only reached the borders of a new wilderness where no goal lay before her. The sensations of bodily sickness, in a comfortable bed, and with the tendance of the good-natured landlady, made a sort of respite for her; such a respite as there is in the faint weariness which obliges a man to throw himself on the sand instead of toiling onward under the scorching sun.
But when sleep and rest had brought back the strength necessary for the keenness of mental suffering—when she lay the next morning looking at the growing light which was like a cruel task-master returning to urge from her a fresh round of hated hopeless labour—she began to think what course she must take, to remember that all her money was gone, to look at the prospect of further wandering among strangers with the new clearness shed on it by the experience of her journey to Windsor. But which way could she turn? It was impossible for her to enter into any service, even if she could obtain it. There was nothing but immediate beggary before her. She thought of a young woman who had been found against the church wall at Hayslope one Sunday, nearly dead with cold and hunger—a tiny infant in her arms. The woman was rescued and taken to the parish. “The parish!” You can perhaps hardly understand the effect of that word on a mind like Hetty’s, brought up among people who were somewhat hard in their feelings even towards poverty, who lived among the fields, and had little pity for want and rags as a cruel inevitable fate such as they sometimes seem in cities, but held them a mark of idleness and vice—and it was idleness and vice that brought burdens on the parish. To Hetty the “parish” was