Page:Court Royal.djvu/410

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her memory with vivid distinctness. Seven years of slavery, leading now to what was worse a hundred times.

‘Fool that I was,’ she muttered, ‘to climb out of the water. Better have choked in that slime than have come to this. I have lived in hope, and now hope is dead. My mother has died, I know not when and I know not where, and I was not by her to close her eyes and receive her last kiss.

Then she heard a tap at the door.

She stood up and threw the veil over her head.

‘Are you ready?’ asked Miss Polly Thresher and Miss Phillips, standing in the doorway. ‘Everyone is ready, and expecting you.’

She turned once more with a face that darkened as though a fold of the coming night had dropped over it, towards the window, irresolute, unwilling to go.

At that moment she heard a voice, and her heart stood still. The voice was in the street and the tones were familiar.

‘Here, lass! Thou’lt find t’ bairn right enough.’

Joanna uttered a piercing cry, and dashed through the door, driving the two girls standing in it to right and left. In another moment she was in the street, laughing, crying, clasping a poor woman, whilst a burly skipper stood by, with his hands in his pockets, and chuckled.

‘Mother! mother!’ she cried, ‘I knew you would come. I was sure you would not desert me. Only just at the last my trust gave way. Now all is well! Oh, so well! mother! mother!’

The woman she clung to was indeed the same poor creature whom we saw in the first chapter of the story throw herself and the child into Sutton Pool.

She was thin, oldened, haggard, with grey in her hair, and a wandering look in her eyes, but the face was the same. Joanna knew her instantly. Her heart leaped towards her with a spasm of mingled joy and pain. The poor woman seemed quite as poor as when she tried to drown herself seven years before. She did not seem to have gained much more courage to battle with the hardships of life during these years.

Joanna drew her into the house, thrust the two young women impatiently, angrily, away, brought her mother into her own room, and then shut and locked and bolted the door against intruders.

Hastily she placed her mother in the chair she had recently occupied, and held her, looked into her worn face, then