+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

memories, even though those remembrances
told of sorrow, and the dead and gone.

Mrs. Leigh heeded the loss of all these
things less than her sons. She had more
spirit in her countenance than she had had for
months, because now she had hope; of a sad
enough kind, to be sure, but still it was hope.
She performed all her household duties,
strange and complicated as they were, and
bewildered as she was with all the
town-necessities of her new manner of life; but
when her house was 'sided,' and the boys
come home from their work, in the evening,
she would put on her things and steal out,
unnoticed, as she thought, but not without
many a heavy sigh from Will, after she had
closed the house-door and departed. It was
often past midnight before she came back,
pale and weary, with almost a guilty look
upon her face; but that face so full of
disappointment and hope deferred, that Will had
never the heart to say what he thought of the
folly and hopelessness of the search. Night
after night it was renewed, till days grew
to weeks and weeks to months. All this
time Will did his duty towards her as well as
he could, without having sympathy with her.
He staid at home in the evenings for Tom's
sake, and often wished he had Tom's pleasure
in reading, for the time hung heavy on his
hands, as he sat up for his mother.

I need not tell you how the mother spent
the weary hours. And yet I will tell you
something. She used to wander out, at first
as if without a purpose, till she rallied her
thoughts, and brought all her energies to bear
on the one point; then she went with earnest
patience along the least known ways to some
new part of the town, looking wistfully with
dumb entreaty into people's faces; sometimes
catching a glimpse of a figure which had a
kind of momentary likeness to her child's, and
following that figure with never wearying
perseverance, till some light from shop or
lamp showed the cold strange face which was
not her daughter's. Once or twice a kind-
hearted passer-by, struck by her look of
yearning woe, turned back and offered help,
or asked her what she wanted. When so
spoken to, she answered only, 'You don't
know a poor girl they call Lizzie Leigh, do
you? ' and when they denied all knowledge,
she shook her head, and went on again. I
think they believed her to be crazy. But she
never spoke first to any one. She sometimes
took a few minutes' rest on the door-steps,
and sometimes (very seldom) covered her face
and cried; but she could not afford to lose
time and chances in this way; while her eyes
were blinded with tears, the lost one might
pass by unseen.

One evening, in the rich time of shortening
autumn-days, Will saw an old man, who,
without being absolutely drunk, could not
guide himself rightly along the foot-path, and
was mocked for his unsteadiness of gait by
the idle boys of the neighbourhood. For his
father's sake Will regarded old age with
tenderness, even when most degraded and
removed from the stern virtues which
dignified that father; so he took the old man
home, and seemed to believe his often-
repeated assertions that he drank nothing but
water. The stranger tried to stiffen himself up
into steadiness as he drew nearer home, as if
there were some one there, for whose respect
he cared even in his half-intoxicated state, or
whose feelings he feared to grieve. His
home was exquisitely clean and neat even in
outside appearance; threshold, window, and
window-sill, were outward signs of some
spirit of purity within. Will was rewarded
for his attention by a bright glance of thanks,
succeeded by a blush of shame, from a young
woman of twenty or thereabouts. She did
not speak, or second her father's hospitable
invitations to him to be seated. She seemed
unwilling that a stranger should witness her
father's attempts at stately sobriety, and Will
could not bear to stay and see her distress.
But when the old man, with many a flabby
shake of the hand, kept asking him to come
again some other evening and see them, Will
sought her down-cast eyes, and, though he
could not read their veiled meaning, he answered
timidly, ' If it's agreeable to everybody,
I 'll comeand thank ye.' But there
was no answer from the girl to whom this
speech was in reality addressed; and Will
left the house liking her all the better for
never speaking.

He thought about her a great deal for
the next day or two; he scolded himself
for being so foolish as to think of her, and
then fell to with fresh vigour, and thought
of her more than ever. He tried to depreciate
her; he told himself she was not pretty,
and then made indignant answer that he
liked her looks much better than any beauty
of them all. He wished he was not so
country looking, so red-faced, so broad-
shouldered; while she was like a lady, with
her smooth colourless complexion, her bright
dark hair and her spotless dress. Pretty, or
not pretty, she drew his footsteps towards
her; he could not resist the impulse that
made him wish to see her once more, and
find out some fault which should unloose
his heart from her unconscious keeping.
But there she was, pure and maidenly as
before. He sat and looked, answering her
father at cross-purposes, while she drew
more and more into the shadow of the
chimney-corner out of sight. Then the spirit
that possessed him (it was not he himself, sure,
that did so impudent a thing!) made him get
up and carry the candle to a different place,
under the pretence of giving her more light
at her sewing, but, in reality, to be able to
see her better; she could not stand this much
longer, but jumped up, and said she must put
her little niece to bed; and surely, there
never was, before or since, so troublesome a
child of two years old; for, though Will staid