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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMary Barton - Chapter XXVI - The journey to Liverpool.
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Mary Barton - Chapter XXVI - The journey to Liverpool. Post by :rlpublic Category :Long Stories Author :Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell Date :June 2011 Read :644

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Mary Barton - Chapter XXVI - The journey to Liverpool.

Chapter XXVI - The journey to Liverpool

"Like a bark upon the sea,
Life is floating over death;
Above, below, encircling thee,
Danger lurks in every breath.

"Parted art thou from the grave
Only by a plank most frail;
Tossed upon the restless wave,
Sport of every fickle gale.

"Let the skies be e'er so clear,
And so calm and still the sea,
Shipwreck yet has he to fear
Who life's voyager will be."

The early trains for Liverpool, on Monday morning, were crowded by
attorneys, attorneys' clerks, plaintiffs, defendants, and witnesses,
all going to the Assizes. They were a motley assembly, each with
some cause for anxiety stirring at his heart; though, after all,
that is saying little or nothing, for we are all of us in the same
predicament through life; each with a fear and a hope from childhood
to death. Among the passengers there was Mary Barton, dressed in
the blue gown and obnoxious plaid shawl.

Common as railroads are now in all places as a means of transit, and
especially in Manchester, Mary had never been on one before; and she
felt bewildered by the hurry, the noise of people, and bells, and
horns; the whiz and the scream of the arriving trains.

The very journey itself seemed to her a matter of wonder. She had a
back seat, and looked towards the factory-chimneys, and the cloud of
smoke which hovers over Manchester, with a feeling akin to the
"Heimweh." She was losing sight of the familiar objects of her
childhood for the first time; and unpleasant as those objects are to
most, she yearned after them with some of the same sentiment which
gives pathos to the thoughts of the emigrant.

The cloud-shadows which give beauty to Chat-Moss, the picturesque
old houses of Newton, what were they to Mary, whose heart was full
of many things? Yet she seemed to look at them earnestly as they
glided past; but she neither saw nor heard.

She neither saw nor heard till some well-known names fell upon her

Two lawyers' clerks were discussing the cases to come on that
Assizes; of course, "the murder case," as it had come to be termed,
held a conspicuous place in their conversation.

They had no doubt of the result.

"Juries are always very unwilling to convict on circumstantial
evidence, it is true," said one, "but here there can hardly be any

"If it had not been so clear a case," replied the other, "I should
have said they were injudicious in hurrying on the trial so much.
Still, more evidence might have been collected."

"They tell me," said the first speaker--"the people in Gardener's
office, I mean--that it was really feared the old gentleman would
have gone out of his mind, if the trial had been delayed. He was
with Mr. Gardener as many as seven times on Saturday, and called him
up at night to suggest that some letter should be written, or
something done to secure the verdict."

"Poor old man," answered his companion, "who can wonder?--an only
son,--such a death,--the disagreeable circumstances attending it; I
had not time to read the Guardian on Saturday, but I understand it
was some dispute about a factory girl."

"Yes, some such person. Of course she'll be examined, and Williams
will do it in style. I shall slip out from our court to hear him,
if I can hit the nick of time."

"And if you can get a place, you mean, for depend upon it the court
will be crowded."

"Ay, ay, the ladies (sweet souls) will come in shoals to hear a
trial for murder, and see the murderer, and watch the judge put on
his black cap."

"And then go home and groan over the Spanish ladies who take delight
in bull-fights--'such unfeminine creatures!'"

Then they went on to other subjects.

It was but another drop to Mary's cup; but she was nearly in that
state which Crabbe describes--

"For when so full the cup of sorrows flows,
Add but a drop it instantly o'erflows."

And now they were in the tunnel!--and now they were in Liverpool;
and she must rouse herself from the torpor of mind and body which
was creeping over her; the result of much anxiety and fatigue, and
several sleepless nights.

She asked a policeman the way to Milk House Yard, and following his
directions with the savoir faire of a town-bred girl, she reached a
little court leading out of a busy, thronged street, not far from
the Docks.

When she entered the quiet little yard, she stopped to regain her
breath, and to gather strength, for her limbs trembled, and her
heart beat violently.

All the unfavourable contingencies she had, until now, forbidden
herself to dwell upon, came forward to her mind--the possibility,
the bare possibility, of Jem being an accomplice in the murder--the
still greater possibility that he had not fulfilled his intention of
going part of the way with Will, but had been led off by some little
accidental occurrence from his original intention; and that he had
spent the evening with those, whom it was now too late to bring
forward as witnesses.

But sooner or later she must know the truth; so, taking courage, she
knocked at the door of a house.

"Is this Mrs. Jones's?" she inquired.

"Next door but one," was the curt answer.

And even this extra minute was a reprieve.

Mrs. Jones was busy washing, and would have spoken angrily to the
person who knocked so gently at the door, if anger had been in her
nature; but she was a soft, helpless kind of woman, and only sighed
over the many interruptions she had had to her business that unlucky
Monday morning.

But the feeling which would have been anger in a more impatient
temper, took the form of prejudice against the disturber, whoever he
or she might be.

Mary's fluttered and excited appearance strengthened this prejudice
in Mrs. Jones's mind, as she stood, stripping the soap-suds off her
arms, while she eyed her visitor, and waited to be told what her
business was.

But no words would come. Mary's voice seemed choked up in her

"Pray what do you want, young woman?" coldly asked Mrs. Jones at

"I want--oh! is Will Wilson here?"

"No, he is not," replied Mrs. Jones, inclining to shut the door in
her face.

"Is he not come back from the Isle of Man?" asked Mary, sickening.

"He never went; he stayed in Manchester too long; as perhaps you
know, already."

And again the door seemed closing.

But Mary bent forwards with suppliant action (as some young tree
bends, when blown by the rough, autumnal wind), and gasped out--

"Tell me--tell--me--where is he?"

Mrs. Jones suspected some love affair, and, perhaps, one of not the
most creditable kind; but the distress of the pale young creature
before her was so obvious and so pitiable, that were she ever so
sinful, Mrs. Jones could no longer uphold her short, reserved

"He's gone this very morning, my poor girl. Step in, and I'll tell
you about it."

"Gone!" cried 'Mary. "How gone? I must see him,--it's a matter of
life and death: he can save the innocent from being hanged,--he
cannot be gone,--how gone?"

"Sailed, my dear! sailed in the John Cropper this very blessed


Content of Chapter XXVI - The journey to Liverpool (Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell's novel: Mary Barton)

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Mary Barton - Chapter XXVII - In the Liverpool docks. Mary Barton - Chapter XXVII - In the Liverpool docks.

Mary Barton - Chapter XXVII - In the Liverpool docks.
Chapter XXVII - In the Liverpool docks "Yon is our quay! Hark to the clamour in that miry road, Bounded and narrowed by yon vessel's load; The lumbering wealth she empties round the place, Package and parcel, hogshead, chest, and case; While the loud seaman and the angry hind,

Mary Barton - Chapter XXV - Mrs. Wilson's determination. Mary Barton - Chapter XXV - Mrs. Wilson's determination.

Mary Barton - Chapter XXV - Mrs. Wilson's determination.
Chapter XXV - Mrs. Wilson's determination "Something there was, what, none presumed to say, Clouds lightly passing on a smiling day,-- Whispers and hints which went from ear to ear, And mixed reports no judge on earth could clear."