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THREE PICTURES IN A LIFE.
A TRUE TALE OF FACTORY LIFE.
"How pale you look, Susan. Have you been helping old nurse Jones before you came to work? I doubt it has been too much for you."
"No, it isn't that, Jane; something very dreadful has happened. But may be I oughtn't to call it so."
Jane looked anxiously into the sorrowful face.
"Your father, Susan?" she asked. "Not dead, surely?" "Oh no," said Susan; "but he came home last night. I must tell you about it. I thought some one was following me when I left work yesterday, but whenever I looked no one was there, and just as I had my bonnet off and was putting on the kettle, father came in, like the last time five or six years ago, when mother was alive. I turned white, I know I did, and he asked me if I was so unnatural as to want to turn my own father into the street; but, Jane, indeed I made him as welcome as I could, and gave him the best I had, and this morning I left him asleep :—but what shall I do?"
The speakers were two factory girls, coming from their work at the dinner hour. They were very different from each other in appearance, though a likeness in dress marked them as sisters or companions. Jane, the elder, was short and plain-looking, but with a good, honest face; you fancied her at once the comfort of some busy mother or old father, or the elder sister whom the little ones would look up to. Susan was younger, she looked scarcely twenty; tall and pleasant looking, with a gentle face and good, honest brown eyes, but they were downcast now and full of tears, as she waited for Jane's answer.
My poor lassie, it comes hard on you I know," said the
JANUARY 1, 1867.
elder, with something of the protecting tenderness which seemed natural to her.
"Hard! 'tis bitter hard. I wouldn't grudge him half my earnings; I'd live on dry bread to keep him comfortable : for after all he is my father: but to come and disgrace me afore all and take away my good name!"
Susan, do I guess right? Isn't there something as you haven't said, may be to yourself, as makes this a sorer fret to you?"
Susan crimsoned suddenly to the roots of her hair, either at the words of her companion, or at the frank greeting and outstretched hand of a young man who overtook them at this moment.
"I was bent on catching you, Susan," he said. "My mother sent me after you to ask you to come in this evening. Poor Fanny wants to see you, and I'll take care of you home," he said in a lower voice; "I may tell Fanny you'll come, mayn't I?"
"I can't, thank you," said Susan in a constrained voice, whilst all her colour died away again; "tell Fanny I will come and see her soon."
"Is that all the answer?" said Edward Morris, in a disappointed tone. "Here have I run all this way, to be sent back after this fashion. I'll see you home anyhow," as Jane, unable to wait longer, walked on.
"You mustn't, Edward, indeed you mustn't," said Susan, trying to pass on.
"I can't stand this. What have I done to make you turn against me?"
"Not you, you have done nothing. Please let me go, I shall be late," said Susan, trying hard for her usual tone. "Some one has come between us," he said.
been talking to you?"
"It isn't that."
"Then what is it? Haven't I a right to know?”
"What do you mean, Edward ?”
"You needn't to wait for me to tell what you are to me, and have been," answered the young man.
Stop, Edward," said Susan, "before you say a word more; you shall come home with me." The two walked on in silence, till Susan opened the door of the room where she lived alone; there, crouching over the fire, sat a man still in full strength and vigour of body; his face as he turned it was one you could not but notice, if only for the contrast