« ForrigeFortsett »
between its dogged determination, and the man's listless, indifferent attitude. He might once have been handsome and attractive, but now you scarcely knew whether to shrink from the too evident marks of what he was, or to be filled with pity and regret at the thought of what he might have been. He spoke as the two entered, “ So, my girl, you've kept away as long as you could; but I knew you'd be forced to come home for your dinner, and I'll have some with you,” he said, in a tone half defiant, half coaxing.
" What does this mean?” said Edward, in a shocked undertone.
“ Ay!" said the man, looking at him, “who's this?"
“ It is Edward Morris. He was kind enough to walk home with me, father," answered Susan, speaking the last word clearly, and looking at her companion. He turned, made some excuse about time being up, and abruptly left the house.
Six months after the scene which I have been describing, Susan was sitting in the dusk, in the same room in which we last saw her; she was doing nothing, rather an unusual state of things for her, only gazing earnestly into the hollows of the little fire, scarcely as if she was looking at it, rather through it at some picture her own thoughts
had made. The Bible was lying open on the table by her side. She had been seeking guidance from its wise counsels, and comfort from its precious promises while the lingering light lasted ; now she could see to read no longer, and was brooding over what she had read.
Her face was paler and older than it looked last year, the lines about her mouth were more sharply drawn, and an expression of patient suffering had taken the place of her former merry glance and happy smile.
The door softly opened, and Susan's smile came back for a moment as Jane entered, and coming to her, knelt by her side in the circle of firelight and took her hands in her own.
“ All alone, Susan; what did you see in the fire to look at it so earnest ?”
“ I was waiting till father should come in for supper; and then I got thinking-about you Jane, partly, and what a help you have been to me. You always bring me comfort when you come. “ I am afraid I have not brought any now, my poor
lass.” “ What is it? Something about him I know. Not dead !"
“ No, no, dear; but the girls were talking to-day, and I feared you might hear it sudden-like, and
“ He is married,” said Susan.
“ No, not yet; but they do say he walks with a lass at the other end of the town; Rose Clark said they'd been asked in church, but I don't believe it."
Susan did not speak, only drew away her hands and pressed them closely together; both girls were silent, till she suddenly bent down and laying her head on Jane's shoulder sobbed bitterly.
Jane said no word to soothe her, only smoothed tenderly the brown hair, and, with her arm round Susan, waited till the tears should cease. Presently Susan looked up.
I am very foolish, Jane ; I gave him up long ago. I suppose I ought to be glad he can be happy, and find some one to care for him as I would have done. I want to do my duty to father. I pray God to teach and help me to do right.”
“ Poor child, poor child! it's easy talking for them as hasn't felt it," said Jane.
" You see, Jane, I never told any one rightly how it was ; but I don't want you to think any harm of him, so you shall know all. When he saw my father, and when he heard what a sore burden and disgrace he had been to mother and all of us, he told me I must choose between father and him; that if I married him I must never see father nor do aught for him. I can't tell you or any one what I felt; I didn't know how to decide, for though I had never given Edward my promise, it had been understood between us for many a month. One evening I had well nigh made up my mind to leave father, who was going on worse than ever. I was sitting, as it might be now, looking at the fire, and all at once I seemed to go back to when I was about four years old. I remembered how one evening I lay very sick in my cot, for I was a weakly child,-İ couldn't sleep, but lay moaning just for weariness and pain; till father-ho was a good father to us then-came and lifted me out and carried me up and down the room in his strong arms so easy for a long, long time. Mother said, • Father, that child's a rare weight, and your arms are tired enough with your day's work; lay ler down. But father wouldn't hear it. Says he, Rare weight indeed! why I scarce knew her from a feather. The little one 's welcome to all I can do for her now; like enough when she's a big girl she'll care and fend for her old father and mother.' I
looked up in his face and said, “Yes, father, I will,-I will always take care of you, and sure, Jane, that was a promise.
* Then I minded how when mother lay a dying she said, “Susan, it’s nearly over with me here; but the dear Saviour has given me a good hope through his precious blood. It's borne in on me strongly that your father isn't dead, he will come home, and I trust to you, child, to keep a home for him; who knows but you may win him back. He was a good husband to me and a good father before that drink took such hold on him: never forget that, Susan lass.'
So, Jane, it seemed as if my duty was clear, and I told Edward I had made up my mind to stay and keep a home for father. He was angry, and we parted; but after a bit he came to me and said, · Susan, I can't do without you; I am earning good wages now, and could keep you comfortable, and wo'll spare a bit and a scrap now and then for your father, and
go and see after him when you like.' But father was going on worse then over then, and I couldn't find it in my heart to bring the disgrace on Edward's good name, so I wouldn't listen to his words; and now I have no right to complain."
" Is that your father's step?" said Jane, as a heavy tread was heard in the narrow passage leading to the court ?
No, it's noways likely he'd be home yet: but, Jane, I have something to be thankful for, he has been kinder to me lately, and not stopped out so much of nights; and yesterday he said, may be he could piece my old shoes, you knew he was a good hand once. When he got to work he seemed so pleased, and said, 'I haven't lost my trade yet; who knows but I may be seeking work afore long ?”
“ Well, dear, I'm glad you've some comfort; and there is always this," Jane touched, as she spoke, the little Bible on the table by the window. Susan did not answer save by look and smile.
As Jane passed out she saw, though indistinctly, in the dusk, two men standing in the street in earnest talk, she knew to be Susan's father, the other was strangely like Edward Morris. But she told herself she must have been mistaken, and passed quickly on.
Six months more passed away. It was now New Year's day. The weather was bleak and cold. The Lancashire town where these things happened looked very wretched with half-melted snow, no longer white, but black with soot and dirt.
Susan, my girl, 'tis time for supper, and I think I've earned a good one to-day anyhow.”
“ How late you are: where have you been, father ?"
“ At work,” said Susan's father; “ doesn't this look like it?" and he threw some money on the table; “ it's a pleasant sound I can tell you, to hear the jingling of shillings, and know I've won them honest, but it seems strange to me yet.”
Susan was not now sitting by the fire, she was busy preparing supper ; it was not the same room where we last saw her, but a larger and brighter one, and there were marks of more careful tendance and greater comfort. Susan moved briskly about, but with a face still sober and grave, though its expression was pleasant and almost cheerful. But her father was more changed: you would scarcely have known the strong, active, working man, as the half stupid loiterer who had entered his daughter's home two years ago; Dany months of active work and determined selfrestraint had told, not on character only, but through it on face and bearing.
“ But you haven't told me why you were so late,” said Susan, as she took up the money with a happy, grateful look ; you
didn't stop at work till now, surely ?" Well, I can't rightly say I did; what do you think of my going home to tea with a friend, and leaving my girl to take care of herself?"
“ With a friend ?" Susan asked, wonderingly, for John Wilson kept aloof from companionship. He felt himself as it were on his trial, and whilst shrinking from his old associates, did not feel himself worthy to seek the friendship of the good and steady among his fellow-workmen.
“ Yes, with a friend; and he's a friend of yours too, and what's more to the purpose he walked home with me to see you, and you must give him welcome for the sake of all he's done for me. Here he is," as Edward Morris entered the room.
Susan did not scream or turn pale, she came forward simply and put her hand into the one held out to clasp it. The first to speak was John Wilson.
“ Take her, Edward,” he said, “ to be to you as good a wife as she has been daughter to me: I needn't wish you better, and 'tis you have a right to her anyhow."
“ I don't understand," faltered Susan. “ How is this, father?"
“ Edward must tell you, my girl. I'm going out for a bit till supper is quite ready," he said, smiling; " but, Susan, if I've not been quite so bad a father to you lately you must thank him for it. Many and many's the time he has got me away from drink, and talked of better things, and used his good name to get me work; all for your sake, Susan, though I didn't know it till a week or two back.”
Wilson left the two, so long parted, together, but there was too much to say for words to come easily. Susan learned, however, that when she had sent Edward away, and bade him give up all thoughts of her, he had determined that if she would not let him help and comfort her in the way he would have chosen, he would yet not forsake either her or her father.
Wilson had no remembrance of Edward's face from their momentary meeting in Susan's little home, and Edward had picked up a seemingly chance acquaintance with him. Feeling himself shunned by all, he had been much pleased by Edward's kindness, who thus soon gained an influence over him, which he had tried to use for good. More than once he had persuaded him to go with him to church, but Wilson never spoke to his daughter of this, as he was more than half ashamed of the change. Then came the faint desire for work, and when with Edward's help this was obtained, a great step was made on the upward road. The church-going had lately become frequent and open, and Susan had more than once found her father earnestly reading her mother's treasured Bible; once she saw that it was open at the story of the Prodigal Son.
At length Edward had told Wilson of his love for Susan, and asked and gladly obtained his consent to his seeking once more to win her.
This was told in broken sentences, and half intelligible words; nothing seemed to have been really said, when Wilson again entered the room.
When supper was balf over, Jane came in. - I couldn't help coming, Susan," she said, “ to tell you how glad I am. I daresay you won't believe it, but I've known all about it almost from the time I frightened you and myself by that silly story the girls got up of the lass that was to have taken your place. I got to know how things were; but