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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMary Barton - Chapter XXX - Job Legh's deception.
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Mary Barton - Chapter XXX - Job Legh's deception. Post by :DavidJames Category :Long Stories Author :Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell Date :June 2011 Read :1430

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Mary Barton - Chapter XXX - Job Legh's deception.

Chapter XXX - Job Legh's deception


"Oh! sad is the night-time,
The night-time of sorrow,
When through the deep gloom, we catch but the boom
Of the waves that may whelm us to-morrow."

Job found Mrs. Wilson pacing about in a restless way; not speaking
to the woman at whose house she was staying, but occasionally
heaving such deep oppressive sighs as quite startled those around
her.

"Well!" said she, turning sharp round in her tottering walk up and
down as Job came in.

"Well, speak!" repeated she, before he could make up his mind what
to say; for, to tell the truth, he was studying for some kind-
hearted lie which might soothe her for a time. But now the real
state of the case came blurting forth in answer to her impatient
questioning.

"Will's not to the fore. But he'll maybe turn up yet, time enough."

She looked at him steadily for a minute, as if almost doubting if
such despair could be in store for her as his words seemed to imply.
Then she slowly shook her head, and said, more quietly than might
have been expected from her previous excited manner--

"Don't go for to say that! Thou dost not think it. Thou'rt well-
nigh hopeless, like me. I seed all along my lad would be hung for
what he never did. And better he were, and were shut* of this weary
world, where there's neither justice nor mercy left."

*Shut; quit.

She looked up with tranced eyes as if praying, and then sat down.

"Nay, now thou'rt off at a gallop," said Job. "Will has sailed this
morning, for sure; but that brave wench, Mary Barton, is after him,
and will bring him back, I'll be bound, if she can but get speech on
him. She's not back yet. Come, come, hold up thy head. It will
all end right."

"It will all end right," echoed she; "but not as thou tak'st it.
Jem will be hung, and will go to his father and the little lads,
where the Lord God wipes away all tears, and where the Lord Jesus
speaks kindly to the little ones, who look about for the mothers
they left upon earth. Eh, Job, yon's a blessed land, and I long to
go to it, and yet I fret because Jem is hastening there. I would
not fret if he and I could lie down to-night to sleep our last
sleep; not a bit would I fret if folk would but know him to be
innocent--as I do."

"They'll know it sooner or later, and repent sore if they've hanged
him for what he never did," replied Job.

"Ay, that they will. Poor souls! May God have mercy on them when
they find out their mistake."

Presently Job grew tired of sitting waiting, and got up, and hung
about the door and window, like some animal wanting to go out. It
was pitch dark, for the moon had not yet risen.

"You just go to bed," said he to the widow; "you'll want your
strength for to-morrow. Jem will be sadly off, if he sees you so
cut up as you look to-night. I'll step down again and find Mary.
She'll be back by this time. I'll come and tell you everything,
never fear. But now, you go to bed."

"Thou'rt a kind friend, Job Legh, and I'll go, as thou wishest me.
But, oh! mind thou com'st straight off to me, and bring Mary as soon
as thou'st lit on her." She spoke low, but very calmly.

"Ay, ay!" replied Job, slipping out of the house.

He went first to Mr. Bridgnorth's, where it had struck him that Will
and Mary might be all this time waiting for him.

They were not there, however. Mr. Bridgnorth had just come in, and
Job went breathlessly upstairs to consult with him as to the state
of the case.

"It's a bad job," said the lawyer, looking very grave, while he
arranged his papers. "Johnson told me how it was; the woman that
Wilson lodged with told him. I doubt it's but a wildgoose chase of
the girl Barton. Our case must rest on the uncertainty of
circumstantial evidence, and the goodness of the prisoner's previous
character. A very vague and weak defence. However, I've engaged
Mr. Clinton as counsel, and he'll make the best of it. And now, my
good fellow, I must wish you good-night, and turn you out of doors.
As it is, I shall have to sit up into the small hours. Did you see
my clerk as you came upstairs? You did! Then may I trouble you to
ask him to step up immediately?"

After this Job could not stay, and, making his humble bow, he left
the room.

Then he went to Mrs. Jones's. She was in, but Charley had slipped
off again. There was no holding that boy. Nothing kept him but
lock and key, and they did not always; for once she had him locked
up in the garret, and he had got off through the skylight. Perhaps
now he was gone to see after the young woman down at the docks. He
never wanted an excuse to be there.

Unasked, Job took a chair, resolved to wait Charley's reappearance.

Mrs. Jones ironed and folded her clothes, talking all the time of
Charley and her husband, who was a sailor in some ship bound for
India, and who, in leaving her their boy, had evidently left her
rather more than she could manage. She moaned and croaked over
sailors, and seaport towns, and stormy weather, and sleepless
nights, and trousers all over tar and pitch, long after Job had left
off attending to her, and was only trying to hearken to every step
and every voice in the street.

At last Charley came in, but he came alone.

"Yon Mary Barton has getten into some scrape or another," said he,
addressing himself to Job. "She's not to be heard of at any of the
piers; and Bourne says it were a boat from the Cheshire side as she
went aboard of. So there's no hearing of her till to-morrow
morning."

"To-morrow morning she'll have to be in court at nine o'clock, to
bear witness on a trial," said Job sorrowfully.

"So she said; at least somewhat of the kind," said Charley, looking
desirous to hear more. But Job was silent.

He could not think of anything further that could be done; so he
rose up, and, thanking Mrs. Jones for the shelter she had given him,
he went out into the street; and there he stood still, to ponder
over probabilities and chances.

After some little time he slowly turned towards the lodging where he
had left Mrs. Wilson. There was nothing else to be done; but he
loitered on the way, fervently hoping that her weariness and her
woes might have sent her to sleep before his return, that he might
be spared her questionings.

He went very gently into the house-place where the sleepy landlady
awaited his coming and his bringing the girl, who, she had been
told, was to share the old woman's bed.

But in her sleepy blindness she knocked things so about in lighting
the candle (she could see to have a nap by firelight, she said),
that the voice of Mrs. Wilson was heard from the little back-room,
where she was to pass the night.

"Who's there?"

Job gave no answer, and kept down his breath, that she might think
herself mistaken. The landlady, having no such care, dropped the
snuffers with a sharp metallic sound, and then, by her endless
apologies, convinced the listening woman that Job had returned.

"Job! Job Legh!" she cried out nervously.

"Eh, dear!" said Job to himself, going reluctantly to her bedroom
door. "I wonder if one little lie would be a sin, as things stand?
It would happen give her sleep, and she won't have sleep for many
and many a night (not to call sleep), if things goes wrong
to-morrow. I'll chance it, any way."

"Job! art thou there?" asked she again with a trembling impatience
that told in every tone of her voice.

"Ay! sure! I thought thou'd ha' been asleep by this time."

"Asleep! How could I sleep till I know'd if Will were found?"

"Now for it," muttered Job to himself. Then in a louder voice,
"Never fear! he's found, and safe, ready for to-morrow."

"And he'll prove that thing for my poor lad, will he? He'll bear
witness that Jem were with him? O Job, speak! tell me all!"

"In for a penny, in for a pound," thought Job. "Happen one prayer
will do for the sum total. Any rate, I must go on now. Ay, ay,"
shouted he, through the door. "He can prove all; and Jem will come
off as clear as a new-born babe."

He could hear Mrs. Wilson's rustling movements, and in an instant
guessed she was on her knees, for he heard her trembling voice
uplifted in thanksgiving and praise to God, stopped at times by sobs
of gladness and relief.

And when he heard this, his heart misgave him; for he thought of the
awful enlightening, the terrible revulsion of feeling that awaited
her in the morning. He saw the shortsightedness of falsehood; but
what could he do now?

While he listened, she ended her grateful prayers.

"And Mary? Thou'st found her at Mrs. Jones's, Job?" said she,
continuing her inquiries.

He gave a great sigh.

"Yes, she was there, safe enough, second time of going. God forgive
me!" muttered he, "who'd ha' thought of my turning out such an
arrant liar in my old days."

"Bless the wench! Is she here? Why does she not come to bed? I'm
sure she's need."

Job coughed away his remains of conscience, and made answer--

"She was a bit weary, and o'erdone with her sail! and Mrs. Jones
axed her to stay there all night. It was nigh at hand to the
courts, where she will have to be in the morning."

"It comes easy enough after a while," groaned out Job. "The father
of lies helps one, I suppose, for now my speech comes as natural as
truth. She's done questioning now, that's one good thing. I'll be
off, before Satan and she are at me again."

He went to the house-place, where the landlady stood wearily
waiting. Her husband was in bed, and asleep long ago.

But Job had not yet made up his mind what to do. He could not go to
sleep, with all his anxieties, if he were put into the best bed in
Liverpool.

"Thou'lt let me sit up in this arm-chair," said he at length to the
woman, who stood, expecting his departure.

He was an old friend, so she let him do as he wished. But, indeed,
she was too sleepy to have opposed him. She was too glad to be
released and go to bed.

Content of Chapter XXX - Job Legh's deception (Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell's novel: Mary Barton)

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