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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMary Barton - Chapter XXXVIII - Conclusion.
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Mary Barton - Chapter XXXVIII - Conclusion. Post by :Shawn_W. Category :Long Stories Author :Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell Date :June 2011 Read :1565

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Mary Barton - Chapter XXXVIII - Conclusion.

Chapter XXXVIII - Conclusion

"Touch us gently, gentle Time!
We've not proud nor soaring wings,
Our ambition, our content,
Lies in simple things;
Humble voyagers are we
O'er life's dim unsounded sea;
Touch us gently, gentle Time !"

Not many days after John Barton's funeral was over, all was arranged
respecting Jem's appointment at Toronto; and the time was fixed for
his sailing. It was to take place almost immediately: yet much
remained to be done; many domestic preparations were to be made; and
one great obstacle, anticipated by both Jem and Mary, to be removed.
This was the opposition they expected from Mrs. Wilson, to whom the
plan had never yet been named.

They were most anxious that their home should continue ever to be
hers, yet they feared that her dislike to a new country might be an
insuperable objection to this. At last Jem took advantage of an
evening of unusual placidity, as he sat alone with his mother just
before going to bed, to broach the subject; and to his surprise she
acceded willingly to his proposition of her accompanying himself and
his wife.

"To be sure 'Merica is a long way to flit to; beyond London a good
bit I reckon; and quite in foreign parts; but I've never had no
opinion of England, ever since they could be such fools as to take
up a quiet chap like thee, and clap thee in prison. Where you go,
I'll go. Perhaps in them Indian countries they'll know a
well-behaved lad when they see him; ne'er speak a word more, lad,
I'll go."

Their path became daily more smooth and easy; the present was clear
and practicable, the future was hopeful; they had leisure of mind
enough to turn to the past.

"Jem!" said Mary to him, one evening as they sat in the twilight,
talking together in low happy voices till Margaret should come to
keep Mary company through the night, "Jem! you've never yet told me
how you came to know about my naughty ways with poor young Mr.
Carson." She blushed for shame at the remembrance of her folly, and
hid her head on his shoulder while he made answer.

"Darling, I'm almost loth to tell you; your aunt Esther told me."

"Ah, I remember! but how did she know? I was so put about that
night I did not think of asking her. Where did you see her? I've
forgotten where she lives."

Mary said all this in so open and innocent a manner, that Jem felt
sure she knew not the truth respecting Esther, and he half hesitated
to tell her. At length he replied--

"Where did you see Esther lately? When? Tell me, love, for you've
never named it before, and I can't make it out."

"Oh! it was that horrible night, which is like a dream." And she
told him of Esther's midnight visit, concluding with, "We must go
and see her before we leave, though I don't rightly know where to
find her."

"Dearest Mary"--

"What, Jem?" exclaimed she, alarmed by his hesitation.

"Your poor aunt Esther has no home:--she's one of them miserable
creatures that walk the streets." And he in his turn told of his
encounter with Esther, with so many details that Mary was forced to
be convinced, although her heart rebelled against the belief.

"Jem, lad!" said she vehemently, "we must find her out--we must hunt
her up!" She rose as if she was going on the search there and then.

"What could we do, darling?" asked he, fondly restraining her.

"Do! Why! what could we NOT do, if we could but find her? She's
none so happy in her ways, think ye, but what she'd turn from them,
if any one would lend her a helping hand. Don't hold me, Jem; this
is just the time for such as her to be out, and who knows but what I
might find her close to hand."

"Stay, Mary, for a minute; I'll go out now and search for her if you
wish, though it's but a wild chase. You must not go. It would be
better to ask the police to-morrow. But if I should find her, how
can I make her come with me? Once before she refused, and said she
could not break off her drinking ways, come what might?"

"You never will persuade her if you fear and doubt," said Mary, in
tears. "Hope yourself, and trust to the good that must be in her.
Speak to that,--she has it in her yet,--oh, bring her home, and we
will love her so, we'll make her good."

"Yes!" said Jem, catching Mary's sanguine spirit; "she shall go to
America with us: and we'll help her to get rid of her sins. I'll
go now, my precious darling, and if I can't find her, it's but
trying the police to-morrow. Take care of your own sweet self,
Mary," said he, fondly kissing her before he went out.

It was not to be. Jem wandered far and wide that night, but never
met Esther. The next day he applied to the police; and at last they
recognised under his description of her, a woman known to them under
the name of the "Butterfly," from the gaiety of her dress a year or
two ago. By their help he traced out one of her haunts, a low
lodging-house behind Peter-street. He and his companion, a
kind-hearted policeman, were admitted, suspiciously enough, by the
landlady, who ushered them into a large garret where twenty or
thirty people of all ages and both sexes lay and dosed away the day,
choosing the evening and night for their trades of beggary,
thieving, or prostitution.

"I know the Butterfly was here," said she, looking round. "She came
in, the night before last, and said she had not a penny to get a
place for shelter; and that if she was far away in the country she
could steal aside and die in a copse, or a clough, like the wild
animals; but here the police would let no one alone in the streets,
and she wanted a spot to die in, in peace. It's a queer sort of
peace we have here, but that night the room was uncommon empty, and
I'm not a hard-hearted woman (I wish I were, I could ha' made a good
thing out of it afore this if I were harder), so I sent her up--but
she's not here now, I think."

"Was she very bad?" asked Jem.

"Ay! nought but skin and bone, with a cough to tear her in two."

They made some inquiries, and found that in the restlessness of
approaching death, she had longed to be once more in the open air,
and had gone forth--where, no one seemed to be able to tell.
Leaving many messages for her, and directions that he was to be sent
for if either the policeman or the landlady obtained any clue to her
whereabouts, Jem bent his steps towards Mary's house; for he had not
seen her all that long day of search. He told her of his
proceedings and want of success; and both were saddened at the
recital, and sat silent for some time.

After awhile they began talking over their plans. In a day or two,
Mary was to give up house, and go and live for a week or so with Job
Legh, until the time of her marriage, which would take place
immediately before sailing; they talked themselves back into silence
and delicious reverie. Mary sat by Jem, his arm around her waist,
her head on his shoulder; and thought over the scenes which had
passed in that home she was so soon to leave for ever.

Suddenly she felt Jem start, and started too without knowing why;
she tried to see his countenance, but the shades of evening had
deepened so much she could read no expression there. It was turned
to the window; she looked and saw a white face pressed against the
panes on the outside, gazing intently into the dusky chamber. While
they watched, as if fascinated by the appearance, and unable to
think or stir, a film came over the bright, feverish, glittering
eyes outside, and the form sank down to the ground without a
struggle of instinctive resistance.

"It is Esther!" exclaimed they, both at once. They rushed outside;
and, fallen into what appeared simply a heap of white or
light-coloured clothes, fainting or dead, lay the poor crushed
Butterfly--the once innocent Esther. She had come (as a wounded
deer drags its heavy limbs once more to the green coolness of the
lair in which it was born, there to die) to see the place familiar
to her innocence, yet once again before her death. Whether she was
indeed alive or dead, they knew not now.

Job came in with Margaret, for it was bedtime. He said Esther's
pulse beat a little yet. They carried her upstairs and laid her on
Mary's bed, not daring to undress her, lest any motion should
frighten the trembling life away; but it was all in vain.

Towards midnight, she opened wide her eyes and looked around on the
once familiar room; Job Legh knelt by the bed praying aloud and
fervently for her, but he stopped as he saw her roused look. She
sat up in bed with a sudden convulsive motion.

"Has it been a dream, then?" asked she wildly. Then with a habit,
which came like instinct even in that awful dying hour, her hand
sought for a locket which hung concealed in her bosom, and, finding
that, she knew all was true which had befallen her since last she
lay an innocent girl on that bed.

She fell back, and spoke word never more. She held the locket
containing her child's hair still in her hand, and once or twice she
kissed it with a long soft kiss. She cried feebly and sadly as long
as she had any strength to cry, and then she died.

They laid her in one grave with John Barton. And there they lie
without name, or initial, or date. Only this verse is inscribed
upon the stone which covers the remains of these two wanderers.

Psalm ciii. v. 9.--"For He will not always chide, neither will He
keep His anger for ever."

I see a long, low, wooden house, with room enough and to spare. The
old primeval trees are felled and gone for many a mile around; one
alone remains to overshadow the gable-end of the cottage. There is
a garden around the dwelling, and far beyond that stretches an
orchard. The glory of an Indian summer is over all, making the
heart leap at the sight of its gorgeous beauty.

At the door of the house, looking towards the town, stands Mary,
watching the return of her husband from his daily work; and while
she watches, she listens, smiling--

"Clap hands, daddy comes,
With his pocket full of plums,
And a cake for Johnnie."

Then comes a crow of delight from Johnnie. Then his grandmother
carries him to the door, and glories in seeing him resist his
mother's blandishments to cling to her.

"English letters! 'Twas that made me so late!"

"O Jem, Jem! don't hold them so tight! What do they say?"

"Why, some good news. Come, give a guess what it is."

"Oh, tell me! I cannot guess," said Mary.

"Then you give it up, do you? What do you say, mother?"

Jane Wilson thought a moment.

"Will and Margaret are married?" asked she.

"Not exactly,--but very near. The old woman has twice the spirit of
the young one. Come, Mary, give a guess?"

He covered his little boy's eyes with his hands for an instant,
significantly, till the baby pushed them down, saying in his
imperfect way--

"Tan't see."

"There now! Johnnie can see. Do you guess, Mary?"

"They've done something to Margaret to give her back her sight!"
exclaimed she.

"They have. She has been couched, and can see as well as ever. She
and Will are to be married on the twenty-fifth of this month, and
he's bringing her out next voyage; and Job Legh talks of coming
too,--not to see you, Mary,--nor you, mother,--nor you, my little
hero" (kissing him), "but to try and pick up a few specimens of
Canadian insects, Will says. All the compliment is to the earwigs,
you see, mother!"

"Dear Job Legh!" said Mary, softly and seriously.

Content of Chapter XXXVIII - Conclusion

The End
Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell's novel: Mary Barton

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