Citation
Nelly's dark days

Material Information

Title:
Nelly's dark days
Creator:
Stretton, Hesba, 1832-1911 ( Author, Primary )
Tweedie, William, 1821-1874 ( Publisher )
Bayes, Alfred Walter, 1832-1909 ( Illustrator )
Scottish Temperance League ( Publisher )
Houlston & Sons ( Publisher )
John Menzies & Co ( Publisher )
W.G. Blackie and Co ( Printer )
Butterworth and Heath ( Engraver )
Place of Publication:
Glasgow
London
Edinburgh
Publisher:
Scottish Temperance League
Houlston & Sons
W. Tweedie
John Menzies & Co.
Manufacturer:
W.G. Blackie and Co.
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
96, [4] p., [6] leaves of plates : ill. ; 16 cm.

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Alcoholism -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Alcoholics -- Family relationships -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Children -- Conduct of life -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Conduct of life -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Temperance -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Family -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Publishers' catalogues -- 1870 ( rbgenr )
Baldwin -- 1870
Genre:
Publishers' catalogues ( rbgenr )
novel ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage:
Scotland -- Glasgow
England -- London
Scotland -- Edinburgh
Target Audience:
juvenile ( marctarget )

Notes

General Note:
Publisher's catalogue follows text.
General Note:
Hesba Stretton is the pseudonym for Sarah Smith.
General Note:
Illustrations engraved by Butterworth and Heath after A.W.B. (Alfred Walter Bayes).
Funding:
Preservation and Access for American and British Children's Literature, 1870-1889 (NEH PA-50860-00).
Statement of Responsibility:
by the author of "Jessica's first prayer," "Little Meg's children,"...

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
Baldwin Library of Historical Children's Literature in the Department of Special Collections and Area Studies, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Rights Management:
This item is presumed to be in the public domain. The University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries respect the intellectual property rights of others and do not claim any copyright interest in this item. Users of this work have responsibility for determining copyright status prior to reusing, publishing or reproducing this item for purposes other than what is allowed by fair use or other copyright exemptions. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions may require permission of the copyright holder. The Smathers Libraries would like to learn more about this item and invite individuals or organizations to contact The Department of Special and Area Studies Collections (special@uflib.ufl.edu) with any additional information they can provide.
Resource Identifier:
026975515 ( ALEPH )
ALH8601 ( NOTIS )
10718879 ( OCLC )

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WAITING FOR FATHER,



Nelly’s Dark Days.

BY THE AUTHOR OF
“FESSICA'S FIRST PRAYER,” “LITTLE MEG'S CHILDREN,"
“ALONE IN LONDON,” &c.



Third Thousand,

GLASGOW:
SCOTTISH TEMPERANCE LEAGUE.
LONDON: HOULSTON & SONS; AND W. TWEEDIE.
EDINBURGH: ¥OHN MENZIES & CO.

1870.



GLASGOW:
W. G. BLACKIE AND CO., PRINTERS,
VILLAFIELD.



CONTENTS.

CHAPTER I.

PAGE

A STREET CORNER .. 20... eee ole ee tee 7
CHAPTER Ii.

LOCKED OUT. 2... ee ee wee eee B
CHAPTER IIL.

MORNING FEARS . 00... 0 ee ee ee wee ee 20
CHAPTER IV.

ONLY A DOLL... 2... ee ee wee ee ee 28
CHAPTER Y.

“VIOLETS... 2 eee ee fee ew le ee Oe
CHAPTER VI.

THE PRICE OF ADRAM ...... 2... ee ee .. 48

CHAPTER VII.
HALF MEASURES . 2... 1 ee ee ee ee es . 61



vi CONTENTS.

CHAPTER VIII.

PAGE

A SORROWFUL FACT. ...... eee eee ws 55
CHAPTER Ix.

FOUND DROWNED. ....... re
CHAPTER X.

DEEPER STILL 2. we ee ee ee ee + + 65
CHAPTER XI.

THE ONLY REFUGE . 2. 1 ee we ee ee ee 73
CHAPTER XII.

TRUE TO A PROMISE. . 2... 1k ee ee ee 0 7

CHAPTER XIII.

DEAD AND ALIVE AGAIN. 2. 2. 1. 1 1 wee wee wwe SE






BISSETT SISSIES SID DSSS
LLL OLLIE INGO



NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

CHAPTER I.
A STREET CORNER.

T was nearly twelve o’clock at night on the
first Sunday of the New Year. The
churches and chapels had all been closed
for some hours; and none of the better class of
shops had been opened during the day. Business
had been set on one side, even by those workmen
and labourers who lived from hand to mouth, and
scarcely knew beforehand where the day’s meals
were to come from, There had been, as usual, a pre-
vailing feeling that the day was not a day for work
or traffic of any kind; and what had been done had
been, more or less, away from the public scrutiny.
But though midnight was close at hand, the streets
in the lower parts of Liverpool were neither quiet
nor dark. Up higher, farther away from the long





8 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

line of docks and the troubled stream of the
mighty river, there was silence in the deserted
streets where the wealthier classes had their com-
fortable homes; but, where the poor dwelt, and
wherever there was a corner of a street which
afforded a good situation for traffic, or wherever
it was supposed there was an “immense drinking
neighbourhood capable of improvement,’* there
stood a gin-palace still open, with its bright gas-
lights sparkling down each dark row of dingy houses
with a show of cheery welcome not easy to resist.

At one spot where four roads met, each corner
house was thus brilliantly lit up; and the doors,
which swung to and fro readily and noiselessly,
were constantly moving, and giving a passing
glimpse, but no more, of what was going on
within. The streets were so light here that a pin
lying on the flagged pavement was plainly seen.
So were the rags of a child who stood in the
full glare of the most popular of the gin-palaces,
leaning against a lamp-post, with her face
turned towards the often-opening door. It was
a small, meagre face, yet pretty, with a mingled’
and wistful expression of anxiety and happi-

* “Capital Spirit Vaults to Let, in an Immense Drinking
Neighbourhood, capable of great improvement by an industrious
man and his wife.” (Newspaper Advt.)



NELLY S DARK DAYS. 9

ness. The anxiety was visible whenever the
door stood ajar; when it was closed, the happi-
ness came uppermost. The secret of her brief,
new-born happiness was very simple, but very
deep to the child. She clasped tenderly, but
carefully, in her thin bare arms a gaily dressed
doll, whose finery contrasted strongly with her
own rags. When the door remained closed for a
few minutes she passed the time in timid, half
fearful caresses of her shining doll; as soon as it
opened she peered, with heedful and searching
eyes, to the farthest corner of the interior.

“Nelly!” said a clear, shrill voice, which
startled the child from an anxious gaze, “you
here at this time! How’s poor mother to-night?”

“Very bad,” said the child sadly.

“And father’s in there, I reckon?”

“Yes,” said Nelly, “and oh! I want him to
come home so, because mother says she’d go to
sleep maybe if father was home.”

The girl who had spoken to her—a bright,
brisk-looking girl—pushed open the door a little
way, and glancing in turned back with a decisive
shake of her head.

“No use, Nelly,” she said; “he won’t come as
long as he can stay. Well, I'l nurse you a bit to
keep you warm; it’s very bitter to-night. I don’t



10, NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

much wonder at father drinking to-night, I
don’t.” f

All day long the wind had been blowing keenly
from the north-east, bringing a fine, piercing sleet
with it, and at nightfall the bitter cold had in-
creased. The girl sat down on a door-step, and
drew the shivering child into her lap, covering her
as well as she could with her own scanty clothing.

“Father didn’t use to get drunk once, did he,
Bessie?” asked the child, plaintively.

“Oh dear, no!” answered Bessie, in a cheery
voice.

“Tell me all about that time,” said Nelly, nest-
ling closer to Bessie. It was an old story, often
told, but neither the girl nor the child ever grew
weary of it.

“Tt's ever so many years ago, before you was
born,” said Bessie; “and he lived in a beautiful
house, with a parlour in front, and a kitchen be-
hind, and two rooms upstairs, all full of beautiful
furniture. Everybody that I knew called him
Mister Rodney then; but I was nothing but a
poor ragged little girl, raggeder than you, Nelly,
selling matches in the streets. And this was how
I come to know him. I was hanging about the
basket-women, down by the stages, running
errands for ’em, and one day, almost as cold as



NELLY’S DARK DAYS. ll

this, my foot slipped, and down I fell into the
water. Oh! it was so cold; and I seemed to be
sinking down, down, down.”

“And father jumped in after you and fetched
you out,” interrupted Nelly, eagerly.

“Ay! he did, though he knew nothing of me,
and I was nothing to him, only a little, dirty
match-girl, And then he carried me all the way
to his own house in his arms.”

“He never, never carried me in his arms,” cried
the child, “they aren’t strong enough now.”

“No; but he was as strong as strong then,”
continued Bessie, “and he clipped me so. fast I
wasn’t a bit afraid. That's how I’m never afraid
of him now, Nelly. He’s a good man, and kind,
and clever, when he’s himself; and I love him,
and you love him; don’t we?”

“Yes,” said Nelly, drawing a long breath,
“mother says she’s going to heaven soon, where
the other children are, and there'll be nobody left
but me to take care of father. I don’t much
mind, though I'd rather go with mother. Will
he go on getting drunk always and always?”

“Tf he could only see the gentleman I saw!”
exclaimed Bessie. ‘It’s six years ago, and I was
a big, grown girl, ready to push in anywhere, and
I see a lot of boys and girls crowding into a great



12 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

hall, and I pushed in with them, nobody stopping
me. And then they sang a lot of songs, oh!-
beautiful songs, and some gentlemen spoke to
em about drink, and how they’d grow up good,
decent men and women if they’d keep from it.
And I was one of the very last to come away, the
place was so nice, and a gentleman come up to
me, and he said, ‘My girl, what is your.name?’
And I said, ‘Bessie Dingle, sir’ And he said,
‘Can you read?’ And I said, ‘No, sir’ And he
said, ‘That’s a pity. Do you ever drink what
will make you drunk?’ And I was ashamed to
say yes, so I answered him nothing. And he
said, looking me full in the face with eyes as kind
as kind could be, ‘I wish you'd promise me never
to taste it till you see me again.’ And I said, ‘Yes,
I will promise, sir’”

“And when did you see him again?” asked
Nelly.

“Never!” she answered. “He wrote down on
a bit of paper where he lived, and said any of
the p’leece would show me where it ‘was; and
that very night I fell sick with fever; and they
took me to the workhouse, and the slip of paper
got lost. Anyhow, I never could find it or the
place, and I’ve never seen him again. He’s sure
to think I broke my promise, and did not care



NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 13

for him; he’s almost sure to think that, but I
never did.” She raised her head and looked
down the long street, where the gloom seemed
to press darkly against the glare of the gas-lights;
it was very cheerless beyond the light, and the
girl’s face grew darker for a minute or two.

“Tt’s no wonder they drink as long as the place
is open,” she said; “I’d like to be inside there,
where it’s light and warm. I wonder why the
shops are all shut, and those places open. That
gentleman, he said to me, ‘My girl, you’ve got
sharp eyes of your own; you just look round and
see what makes the most mischief among the
people about you, and tell me when I see you
again.” I know what Id say if he stood here
this minute.”

“Did you ever tell father about him?” asked
Nelly.

“Scores and scores of times,” she answered,
emphatically; “and sometimes he cries and wishes
he knew him, and could make him a promise like
me; and sometimes he curses and calls me an
idiot. Ifhe could only see him, Nelly!”

. They sat silent for a minute or two, Bessie
nursing the child as tenderly as she nursed her
doll. At last the girl touched the doll with the
tip of her finger, and said cheerfully,



14 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

“Why, wherever did you get this grand play-
thing from?”

“It’s a lady doll, and it’s my very own,” an-
swered Nelly, opening her rags to display it fully;
“there was a Christmas-tree at our school, and
this was the very best thing there, and teacher
gave it me because she said I was the best child.
Isn’t it a beauty, Bessie?”

“Tt’s wonderful!” said Bessie, in a voice of Wa
miration.

“I take such care of it,” continued Nelly,
eagerly, “only I’m afraid of nursing it when there
are children about, for fear they should snatch it
from me, you know.”

As the child spoke the clocks in the town struck
twelve, and a trail of lingerers crept reluctantly
out of each brilliant gin-palace. Bessie kept
Nelly back from springing forward to meet her
father, and then seeing him take his way home-
wards, she followed at a little. distance, clasping
the child’s hand warmly in her own.





CHAPTER II.

LOCKED OUT.

(pus ficure which staggered on before them had
i2, once been that of a tall, well-built man, strong

and upright, with a firm tread and a steady
hand. Bessie had known him in his better days;
but such as he was now—feeble and bent, with red-
dened eyes and shaking hands—Nelly had never
known him otherwise. Rodney loved Nelly with
all that was left to him of a heart. 1t was per-
haps the last link which bound him in nature to
God and his fellow-men. She was his latest-born,
and the only child remaining to him; and though
he had lost the sense of all other affections, this
one still glimmered and lived within him. Such
as he was now he was sure of her love for him,
for she could not compare him with any better
self in happier times. The state to which he had
reduced himself was the only one she knew; and
the drunkard felt that there was no reproach
mingled with the little child’s kisses upon his
parched lips.



16 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

Rodney floundered on through the narrow
streets leading homewards, unconscious that he
was followed by the silent and noiseless girls,
whose ill-shod feet made no sound upon the
slushy pavement. His progress was slow and
uncertain; but at length he turned down:a short
passage, and paused, with labouring breath, at
the foot of a flight of stone steps leading to the
upper flat of the building in which he lived. It
was to see him safe up this perilous staircase that
Bessie had come so far out of her own way. A
false step here, or a giddy lurch, might be death
to him. They ventured nearer to him between
the dark and narrow walls as he climbed up be-
fore them; and as soon as he reached the landing,
upon which several doors opened, their hearts
were at rest, now all danger was over. He groped
his way on from door to door until he gained his
own, and then with an unexpected quickness and
steadiness of hand he lifted the latch and passed
in, slamming the door behind him, and turning
the key noisily in the lock. Nelly sprang for-
ward with a sudden cry.

“Oh! Bessie,” she cried, wringing her small
hands in distress, “whatever are I to do? When
father’s like that I durstn’t let- him see me nor
hear me, for mother says may-be he'd kill me.



NELLYS DARK DAYS. 17

And mother durstn’t stir to open the door or he'd
nearly kill her. And it’s so cold out here, and
all the neighbours gone to bed, and it ’ud kill me
to stay out of doors all night, wouldn’t it, Bessie?
Whatever are I to do?”

It was too dark for Bessie to see the terror upon
the child’s wan face, but she could hear it in her
voice, and she could feel the little creature
trembling and shivering beside her.

“Never mind,” she said, soothingly, “I’m not
afraid of him. He’s a kind man, and he'll open
the door for me, I know; or else you shall come
home with me, Nelly, and Pll carry you all the
way. Meet Mr, HOTESY: sir, please to open the
door again.”

She knocked sharply and decisively at the
door, and called out in a shrill voice, which made
itself heard through all the din he was. making
inside. He was silent for a moment, listening,
and Bessie went on in the same clear tones,

“You've locked Nelly out, Mr. Rodney, as has
been waiting and watching ever so long for you;
and it’s bitter cold to-night, and she’s tired to
death. Please unfasten the door and I'll bring
her in.”

There was no sound for a minute or so except
the hollow and suppressed cough of the mother,

5



18 NELLYS DARK DAYS.

who was struggling to hush the noise she made,
lest it should arouse the drunken fury of her
husband. Then Rodney shouted with an oath
that he would not open the door again that night
for any one.

“Tt’s me, father!” sobbed the child, “little
Nelly, and it's snowing out here. You didn’t use
to be so bad to me. Please to let me in.”

She was beating now with both hands at the
door, and crying aloud with cold and terror, while
her mother’s low cough sounded faintly within;
but she dare not rise from her bed and open the
door for her little girl.

“Tt’ll teach you to come waiting and watching
for me,” cried Rodney, savagely; “get off from
there, and be quiet, or I’ll break every bone in
your body. Now, I’ve said it!”

Nelly’s hands dropped down, and she crouched
upon the door-sill in silent agony; but Bessie
knocked again bravely.

“Never you mind, Mrs. Rodney,” she said, “Tl
take Nelly home with me, and carry her every
inch of the road. And, Mr. Rodney, sir, you'll
be as sorry as sorry can be as soon as you come
to yourself. Good-night, now; and don’t you
fret. Nelly’s here, up in my arms, safe and
sound; and I'll take care of her.”



NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 19

Bessie had lifted the child into her arms, but
still lingered in the hope that the door would
open. But it did not; and turning away with
a sorrowful and heavy heart, and with Nelly
sobbing herself to sleep on her bosom, she made
her way toilsomely along, under her burden, and
through the thickening snow, to her own poor
lodging.





CHAPTER III,

MORNING FEARS.

W. HEN Rodney awoke in the morning, he had
Git a vague remembrance of the night before,
which made him raise his aching head, and
look with a sharp prick of anxiety to see if his little
child was in bed beside her mother. His wife,
who had been lying awake all night, had now
fallen into a profound slumber, and her hollow
face, with the skin drawn tightly across it, and
with a hectic flush upon her cheeks, was turned
towards him; but Nelly was not there. What
was it he had done the night before? In his dull
and clouded mind there was a dawning recollec-
tion of having heard.little hands beat against the
door, and a piteous voice call to him to open it.
It was quite impossible that the child could be
concealed in the room, for it was very bare of
furniture, and there was no corner in its narrow
space where she could hide.
Through the broken panes of the uncurtained
window he could see the snow lying thickly upon



NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 21

the roofs; and he was himself benumbed by the
biting breath of the frost, which found its way,
in rime and fog, through the crazy casement.
Could it by any possibility have happened that
he had driven out his little daughter, Nelly, who
did not shrink from kissing and fondling him yet,
drunkard as he was, into the deadly cold of such
a winter’s night? He crept quietly across the
room, and unlocked the door, letting in a keener
draft of the bitter wind as he opened it. His
wife moved restlessly in her sleep, and began to
cough a little. He drew the door behind hin,
and stood looking down over the railings which
protected the gallery upon which the houses
opened, into the street below. The snow that -
had fallen during the darkness was already trod-
den and sullied by many footsteps; but wherever
the northern wind had blown it had drifted it into
every cranny and crevice, in pure white streaks.
A few boys were snow-balling one another along
the street; but all the house doors, which usually
stood open, were closed, and the neighbours were
keeping within. If any of them had been open
he could have asked carelessly if they knew where
his Nelly could be; but he did not like to knock
formally at any one of them. In which of the
houses at hand could he inquire for her, without



22 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

exposing himself to the anger and contempt of the
inhabitants?

He could not make up his mind to inquire any-
where. He was afraid of almost any answer he
could get. More than once he had beaten his little
girl; but they had made it up again, he and Nelly,
with many tears and kisses, and he knew she had
borne no malice in her heart against him. But
he had never driven her out of her home before
—a little creature, not eight. years old, in the
wild, wintry night; at midnight too, when every
other shelter would be closed. Where could she
be at this moment? What if she had been frozen
to death in some corner, where she had tried to
shield herself from the snow-storm? He wan-
dered along the street, casting fearful glances
down each flight of cellar-steps, where a child
might creep for refuge, until he reached the wider
thoroughfares, and the numerous gin-palaces in
them.

But just now Rodney’s heart was too full of his
missing child to feel the temptation strongly.
He fumbled mechanically in his pockets for any
odd pence that might be there; but he was think-
ing too much of Nelly to have more than a faint,
instinctive desire for the stimulus. He was cold,
miserable, and downcast; but he had not as yet



NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 23

sunk so low that anything except the assurance
that his little daughter was alive and well, could
revive him. With bowed head he went on ina
blind search for her, along the snowy streets, look-
ing under archways, and up covered passages,
wherever she might have found a shelter for the
little face and form, which were dearer than all the
world to him, cruel as he had been to them.

He turned home again at length, worn out and
despondent, wishing himself dead and forgotten
by all those whom he had made miserable, and
more than half tempted to make an end of it
altogether in the great, strong river, whose tide
would sweep him out tosea. Swept away from the
face of the earth—that would be the best thing for
them and for him! Ifhe only had courage to do it;
but his courage was all gone, had oozed away from
him, and left him only the husk of a man, fearful
of his own shadow, except when he was drunk.
He scarcely knew whether he trembled from cold
or dread as he loitered homewards; and he could
hardly climb the worn steps which he must ascend
to reach his house, for the throbbing of his heart
and the tremor in his limbs. He was afraid of
facing his dying wife, and telling her that he
could not find their last little child, the only one
that she would have had to leave behind her.



24 NELLY S DARK DAYS.

But as he came within sight of the door, he saw
that it stood open an inch or two, and his eye
caught the gleam of a handful of fire kindled in
the grate. Before his hand could touch it, the
door was quickly but quietly opened, and Nelly
herself stood within, her hand raised to warn him
not to make any noise.

“Tush!” she whispered, “ mother’s asleep still,
and you're yourself again. Bessie said you'd be
yourself again, and I needn’t be afraid) Come in
and let me warm you, daddy.”

She drew him gently to the broken chair on the
hearth, and began to rub his numbed fingers be-
tween her own little hands; while Rodney sunk
helplessly into the seat, and leaned his head upon
her small shoulder.

“Never mind, father,” said Nelly, “you didn’t
mean to do it. Bessie says you'd never have done
it of your own self. It’s only the drink that does
it; and I’wasn’t hurt, daddy; not hurt a bit.
Bessie carried me all the way to her home, like
you carried her once, she says. Did you ever carry
Bessie, when you were a strong man, in your own
arms, a long, long way?”

« Ay! I did,” said Rodney, with a heavy sigh,
‘and now I can scarcely lift you upon my knee.
Do you love poor, old father, Nelly?”











































































































































“SHE DREW HIM GENTLY TO THE BROKEN CHAIR.”






NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 27

“To be sure I do,” said the child, earnestly,
“why, when mother’s dead, there'll be nobody
left but me to take care of you, you know. You
mustn’t ever turn me out of doors then, or you
might hurt yourself, and there'd be nobody to see
when youre drunk.”

“Tl never get drunk again,” cried Rodney,
“and Tl never be cruel to you again, Nelly.
Give me a kiss, and let it be a bargain.”

Nelly covered his fevered face with kisses, in
all a child’s hopefulness and gladness; and told
‘her mother the good news the moment she awoke.
But neither the wife, nor Rodney himself, dared
to believe he would have strength to keep the
promise he had made.





CHAPTER IV.

ONLY A DOLL.

he was accustomed to seek the excitement of

the spirit-vaults or beer-shops, a sore conflict
began within Rodney’s soul. With the darkness
came a cold, thick fog from the river, which pene-
trated into the ill-built houses, and wrapped freez-
ingly about their poorly-clad inmates. What few
pence he had saved from the scanty wages of the
previous week, he had spent earlier in the day in
buying a little food for Nelly, and some medicine
to lull his wife’s racking cough. There was no light
in his house, and the fire was sparingly fed with
tiny lumps of coal or cinder, which gave little
warmth, and no brightness to his hearth. The
sick woman had stayed in bed all day, and had
only strength enough to speak to him from time
to time; while Nelly, who was also suffering from
cold, and hunger but half-satisfied, grew dull as
the darkness deepened, and rocked her doll silently
to and fro, as she sat on the floor in front of the

SAvs the ni he ti hick
iA he night drew on, and the time at which
(eis



NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 29

fire, where the gleams of red light from the embers
fell upon her. Not far away was the brilliant
gin-palace, where the light fell in rainbow colours
on the glittering prisms of the gas pendants, to
which his dim and drunken eyes were so often
lifted in stupid admiration.

A chilly depression hung about Rodney, which
by-and-by gave place to an intense, unutterable
craving for the excitement of drink, which fastened
upon him, and which he felt no power to shake
off As the dreary minutes dragged by, he pic-
tured to himself the warmth and comfort that
were within a stone’s-throw of him. But there
was no money now in his pocket, and nothing
that was worth pawning in the house. He
almost repented of having spent the poor sum
that had been his in food and medicine; for Nelly
was still hungry, and her mother’s cough had not
ceased. That cough irritated him almost to
frenzy; and he felt that he should die, perish
that night of cold and misery, if he could not
buy one dram to warm and comfort him.

He peered anxiously around, in the gloom, upon
the few beggarly possessions remaining to him,
and groaned aloud as he confessed to himself that
they were worthless. His wandering glance fell
upon Nelly, curled up sleepily on the hearth, with



380 NELLY S DARK DAYS.

her doll lying on her arm. That looked gay and
attractive in the red light, its blue dress and
scarlet sash showing up brightly against Nelly’s
- dingy rags. Rodney's conscience smote him for
a moment as he thought that the toy, fresh and
unsoiled still, might fetch enough, if sold, to
satisfy his more immediate craving this evening;
but the idea once in his mind, he could not banish
it. To-morrow he would work, and earn money
enough to buy Nelly another quite as good as
this one. If he had not spent his money for
her and her mother, he would not now be driven
to taking her plaything from her; and it was only
a toy, nothing necessary to her, as ib was neces-
sary to get warmth, and what was more to him
than food. She would not be any colder or hun-
grier without her doll; and she would not mind
it much, as it was for him. He did not mean
to take it from her against her will; but she
would give it up, he knew. Leaning forward, he
laid his shaking hand upon her cheek.

“Nelly,” he said, in his kindest tones, “Nelly,
you've got a pretty plaything there.”

“Oh, yes!” she answered, opening her eyes
wide, and hugging the doll closer to her, “but it
isn’t a plaything, father. It’s a lady that has
come to live with me.”



NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 31

“A lady, is it?” said Rodney, laughing; “why,
it’s a queer place for a lady to live in. Would
you mind lending her to me for a little while,
Nelly?”

“What for?” asked Nelly, her eyes growing
large with terror, and her hands fastening more
closely around her treasure.

“No harm,” he answered softly, “no harm at
all, my little woman. I only want to show it to
a friend of mine that’s got a little girl like you
that’s fond of dolls. Tl bring it back very soon,
all right.”

“Qh! I cannot let her go!” cried Nelly, burst-
ing into tears, and creeping away from him to-
wards the bed where her mother lay.

“John,” murmured the mother, in feeble and
tremulous tones, “let the child keep her doll. It’s
the only comfort she’s got.”

Rodney sat still for another half-hour, the
numbness and depression gaining upon him every
minute. Nelly had sought refuge by her mother’s
side, and the dreary room was awfully silent. At
last he could endure it no longer; and with a
hard resolution in his heart, he stirred the fire
till a flickering light played about the bare walls,
and then he strode across to the bedside.

“Look here, Nelly,” he said, in a harsh voice,



32 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

“] promised that friend of mine to show his little
girl your doll; so you'd better give it up quietly,
or I must take it off you. What are you afraid
of? I’m not going to do you any harm, but have
- the doll I must. Ill bring it back again with
me, if you'll only lend it me without any more
words,”

“Nelly,” said the mother, tenderly, “you must
let him take it, my darling.”

Nelly sat up in bed, rocking herself to and
fro in a passion of griefand dread. Yet her father
had promised to bring it back, and she had still
some childish faith in him. The doll lay upon
the ragged pillow, but she could not muster courage
enough to give it herself into her father’s hands,
and with a bitter sob she pushed it towards her
mother. “You give it him,” she said.

For a minute or two Rodney’s wife looked up
steadily into his face, for some sign of relenting,
but though his eyes fell, and his head sank, he
still held out his hand for the toy, which she gave
to him, murmuring, ‘God have mercy upon you!”
For a second Rodney stood irresolute, but the
flickering flame died out, and darkness hid him
from his wife and Nelly. Without speaking again
he groped his way to the door and passed out into
the street.































































































THE PAWNBROKER AND THE DOLL.






NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 35

It proved a very paltry, insufficient satisfaction
after all. The toy, handsome as it seemed to
him, did not sell for as much as he expected at
the pawn-shop, where they refused altogether to
take it in pledge. He could only drink enough
to stupify him for a little while, but not sufficient
to give him the savage courage to go back and
meet Nelly without her doll) What he had
taken only served to quicken the stings of his
conscience, which made it a difficult thing to
return home at all. The night was even keener
than the last when Nelly watched for him at the
door of the gin-palace, yet he dare not go back
till she was fast asleep, and in the morning he
could readily pacify her by promising to buy
another doll. He hung about the entrances of
the spirit-vaults with. a listless hope that some
liberal comrade might offer him a glass; and as
long as there was any chance of it he loitered in
the streets. But they were closed at last, the
brillant lights extinguished, and the shutters put
up; and Rodney was forced to return home ten-
fold more miserable than when he left it.

His hope that Nelly would be asleep was ill-
founded. He could not see her; but the instant
his foot struck against the door-sill he heard. her
eager voice calling to him to bring the doll back



36 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

to her. His own voice, when he answered her,
was broken by a whimper, and a sob which he
could not control,—

“Father couldn’t bring it home,” he answered ;
“my friend’s little girl wouldn’t part with it to-
night. But it will come home to-morrow, Nelly.”

“Oh! I know it never will,” wailed the child.
“T shall never see my lady any more; never any
more. They’ve stolen her off me; and I shall
never, never have her again.”

He could hear her sobbing far into the night;
and after she had cried herself to sleep, her
breath came in long and troubled sighs, He
cursed himself bitterly, vowing a hundred times
that Nelly should have a doll again to-morrow.
But when the day came the daily temptation
came with it; and though he found work, and
borrowed a shilling from a fellow-workman, the
money went where his money had gone for many
a past month and year.

For some days his child was dull and quiet—
bearing malice, Rodney called it, when she gave
no.response to his fits of fondness. But neither
she nor his wife spoke to him of the lost play-
thing, and before long it had passed away alto-
gether from his weakened memory.



CHAPTER V.

VIOLETS.

hn the neighbours said it was a mystery how
cb the Rodneys lived for the next three months,

for Rodney was away for days together, only
coming home now and then during his sober inter-
vals; but it was no mystery at all. The wondrous
kindness which the poor show to the poor was at
work for them. Mrs. Rodney needed little food,
and Nelly was always welcome to share the
stinted meals in any house near at hand. Every
day at dusk Bessie came in, and if she had been
lucky in selling her flowers or fruit in the streets,
she did not fail to bring some small, cheap dainty
with her to tempt the sick woman’s appetite. So
the depth of the winter passed by; and the
spring drew near, with its Easter week. of holiday
and gladness.

It was the day before Good Friday, when
Rodney was returning, with lagging steps and a
heavy heart, to his wretched home, after an
absence of several days. Every nerve in his body



338 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

was jarring, and every limb ached. He could
scarcely climb the narrow and steep staircase; and
when he reached his door he was obliged to lean
against it, breathing hardly after the exertion.
It seemed very silent within, awfully still and
silent. He listened for Nelly’s chatter, or her
mother’s cough, which had sounded incessantly
in his ears before he had left home; but there
was no breath or whisper to be heard. Yet the
door yielded readily to his touch, and with faint
and weary feet he crossed the threshold, to find -
the room empty.

It was his first impression that it was empty;
but when he looked round again with his dim, red
eyes, whose sight was failing, they fell upon one
awful occupant of the desolate room. Even that
one he could not discern all at once, not till he
had crossed the floor and Jaid his hand upon the
strange object resting upon the old bed—the poor, .
rough shell of a coffin which the parish had pro-
vided for his wife’s burial. She was not in it yet,
but lay beyond it, in its shadow; her white, fixed
face, very hollow and rigid, at rest upon the
pillow, and her wasted hands crossed upon her
breast. The neighbours had furnished their best
to dress her for the grave, and a white cap
covered her gray hair; while between her hands,





NELLY'S DARK DAYS. 39

on the heart that would beat no more, Bessie had
laid a bunch of fresh spring violets.

Rodney sank down on his knees, with his arms
stretched over the coffin towards his dead wife.
Some of the deep, hard lines had vanished from
her face, and an expression of rest and peace had
settled: upon it, which made her look more like
the girl he had loved and married twenty years
ago. How happy they had been then! and how
truly he had loved her! If any man had told
him to what a wretched end he would bring her,
he would have asked indignantly, “Am I a dog,
that -I should do this thing?” The memory of
their first years together swept over him like a
flood: their pleasant home, of which she had been
so proud; their first-born child, and their plans
and schemes for his future; the respect in which
he had been held by all who knew him; and he
had thrown them all away to indulge a shameful
sin! And now she was dead; and even if he had
the power to break through the hateful chain
which fettered him body and soul, he could never
make amends to her. He had killed her as
surely, but more slowly and cruelly, than if he
had stained his hands with her blood. God, if
not man, would charge him with her murder.

The twilight came on as he knelt there, and



4.0 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

for a few minutes the white features looked
whiter and more ghastly before the darkness hid
them from him. Then the night fell. It seemed
more terrible than ever now—this stillness in the
room which was not empty. His mind wandered
in bewilderment; he could not fix his thoughts
upon one subject for a minute together, not even
on his wife, who was lying dead within reach of
his hand. His head ached, and his brain was
clouded. One dram would set him right again,
and give him the courage to seek his neighbours,
and inquire after Nelly; but he dared not meet
them as he was. He could not bear to meet their
accusing eyes, and listen to their rough reproaches,
and hear how his wife had died in want, and
neglect, and desertion. He must get something
to drink, or he should go mad.

There was nothing in the room of any value—
he knew that; yet there was one thing might
give him the means of gratifying his quenchless
drouth. He knew a man, serving at the counter
of one of the nearest spirit-vaults, who had a love
for flowers; and there was the bunch of sweet
violets withering in the dead hands of his wife.
For a minute or two the miserable drunkard’s
brain grew steady and clear, and he shuddered at
the thought of thus robbing the dead; but the



NELLY'S DARK DAYS. 41

better moments passed quickly away. The scent
of the flowers brought back to his troubled
memory the lanes and hedgerows where he had
rambled with her, under the showery and sunny
skies of April, to gather violets—so long ago that
surely it must have been in some other and
happier life, and he must have been another and
far better man. How happy the days had been!
No poverty then; no aching limbs and wandering
thoughts. He had believed in God, and loved his
fellow-men. Now there was not a cur in the
streets that was not a happier and nobler creature
than himself.

Still, underneath the surface of these thoughts,
his purpose strengthened steadily to exchange the
fresh, sweet flowers for one draught of the poison
which was destroying him—he knew it—body and
soul, But the darkness had grown so dense, that
he could not, with all the straining of his be-
dimmed eyes, trace the white outline of the dead
face and hands; and his skin crept at the thought
of touching, with his hot hand, the deathly chill
of the corpse. The flowers were there; but how
was he to snatch them away from the frigid grasp
which held them without feeling her fingers touch
his? But the pangs of his thirst gathered force
from minute to minute, until, overpowered by



42, NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

them, he stretched out his feverish and trembling
hands across the coffin in the darkness, and laid
them upon the dead hands of his wife.

The cold struck through him with an icy chill
that he would never forget, but he would not now
fail in his purpose. He loosed the violets from
her fingers, and rushed away from the place, not
daring to pause for an instant till. he had reached
the gin-palace where he could sell them.

FE
eS



CHAPTER VI.

THE PRICE OF A DRAM,

aap
A

WI

ODNEY had not left the house many minutes

when Bessie Dingle entered it, shading with
her hand a candle which she had borrowed
from a neighbour. She stepped softly across the
room, and looked down with tearful eyes upon her
friend’s corpse. The hands had been disturbed,
and the flowers were gone. Bessie started back
for an instant with terror, but guessing instinc-
tively what had happened, and whither the miser-
able man had gone, without hesitation she drew
her shawl over her head, and ran down the street
in the direction he had taken.

She had to peep into three or four gin-palaces
before she found him, tolling against the counter,
and slowly draining the last few drops of the
dram he had bought. There were not many
customers yet in the place, for it was still early
in the night; and the man behind the counter
was fastening into his button-hole the bunch of
violets, with their delicate white blossoms, and



44, NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

the broad green leaf behind them. Bessie did
not pause in her hurried steps, and she threw
herself half across the counter, speaking in clear
and eager tones.

“You don’t know where those vilets come
from,” she cried; “he’s taken ’em out of the hands
of his poor dead wife, where I put ’em only this
afternoon, because she loved ’em so, and I thought
they’d be buried with her. I think she knows
what he’s done, I do. Her face is gone sadder—
ever so—since I saw it this afternoon; for he’s
stolen the posy from her, I tell you, and she
lying dead !”

Bessie’s voice faltered with her eagerness and
grief; and the people present gathered about her
and Rodney, listening with curious and awed
faces; while the purchaser of the flowers laid
them down quickly upon the counter.

“Dead!” he exclaimed; “come straight from a
dead woman to me!”

“Ay!” said Bessie, “straight! And she loving
him so to the very last, and telling me when she
could hardly speak, ‘Take care of him, take care
of him!’ And he goes and robs her of the only
thing I could give her. That's what you make of
a man,” she continued, more and more eagerly;
“you give him drink till there isn’t a brute beast



NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 45

as bad; and he was a kind man to begin with, I
can tell you.”

“It's his own fault, my girl,” said the man, in
a pacifying tone; “he comes here of his own
accord. We don’t force him to come.”

“But you do all you can to ‘tice him in,”
answered Bessie; “if it wasn’t standing here so
handy, and bright, and pleasant, he wouldn’t
come in. There’s something wrong somewhere,
or Mr. Rodney ’ud never be like that, or do such
a thing as that, I know. Look at him! And
when I was a little girl he jumped into the river
after me, and saved my life.”

She pointed towards him as he-was trying to
slink away through the ring that encircled them,
bowing his head with a terrified and hang-dog
look. The little crowd was beginning to sneer
and hiss at him, but Bessie drew his hand
through her own strong, young arm, and faced
them with flashing eyes and a glance of indigna-
tion; before which they were silent.

“You're just as bad, every one of you,” she
cried; ‘you take the bread out of your children’s
mouths, and that’s as bad as stealin’ vi’lets from
your poor, dead wife. It doesn’t do her any real
harm, but you starve, and pinch, and cheat little
_ children, and it harms them ev’ry day they live.



46 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

None of you have any call to throw stones at
him.”

She thrust her way through them, and was
leading Rodney to the door, when the man
behind the counter called to her to take away the
flowers.

“Do you think I’d take ’em from such a place
as this?” she asked, more vehemently than before.
“Could I go and put ’em back into her poor, dead
hands, after he’d bought a glass o gin with ’em?
No, no; keep ’em, and carry ’em home with you,
and tell everybody you see what your customers
will do for drink. Id sooner cut my fingers off
than touch them again.”

The courage her agitation had given her was
well-nigh spent now, and she was glad to get
Rodney out of the place. She trembled almost
as much as he did, and the tears rained down her
face. She did not try to speak to him until
Rodney began to talk to her in a whimpering
and querulous voice.

“Hush!” she said, “hush! Don’t go to say
you couldn’t help it, and she loving you so to the
very last minute of her life. ‘If he'd only pray
to God to help him!’ she said. And then, just
before she was going away, she said, ‘Bessie, you
take care of him and Nelly. And I’m going to



































































































































BESSIE TAKES ROONEY FROM THE GIN-PALACE,






NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 49

do it, Mr. Rodney. You saved me once, and ’m
going to try to save you now, if God’ll only help
me. It shan’t be for want of praying to Him, I
promise you. Oh! if you'd only give it up now
at once before you get worse and worse.”

“T can’t be any worse,” moaned the drunkard.

“Not much, may be,” said Bessie, frankly;
“you went and stole Nelly’s doll for drink, and
now you've stole the vilets. But you might be
dead, and that’s worse. And every day you're
only getting nearer it, and if you go on drinking
youre sure to die pretty soon. Perhaps, if you
go on as you are, you'll be dead in a very little
while.”

“JT wish I was dead,” he groaned.

“Why!” exclaimed Bessie, in a tone of astonish-
ment; “and then you could never undo the harm
you've done to poor little Nelly, that you love so,
I know, spite of all. If you'd only think of
Nelly, and think of God—I don’t know much
about God, you used to know more than me; but
Pve a feeling as if He really does care for us all,
every one of us, and you, when you're drunk even.
If yowd only think of Him and little Nelly, you
wouldn’t get drunk again, I’m sure.”

“T never will again, Bessie; I never will again,”

he repeated fervently. And he continued saying
»D



50 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

it over and over again, till they reached the
gallery at the top of the staircase. Bessie drew
him aside as he was about to turn into his own
room.

“No,” she said, “you couldn’t bear to stay
in there alone all night; it ud be too much for
you. Mrs. Simpson, as is taking care of Nelly,
Il let you sit up by her fire; and I'll go and stay
in your house. Pm not afeard at all) She loved
us all so—you, and Nelly, and me. We're going
to bury her in the morning, and Id like to sit
up with her the last night of all.”

Before long Rodney was seated by his neigh-
bour’s fire, in a silent and very sorrowful mood,
with Nelly leaning against him, her arm round
his neck, and her cheek pressed against his. He
was quite sober now; and his spirit was filled
with bitter grief, and a sense of intolerable de-
gradation. He loathed and abhorred himself;
cursed his own sin, and the greed of the people
who lived upon it. If the owners of these places
of temptation—members of Christian churches,
some of them—could hear the deep, unutterable
-eurses breathed against them, their souls would
be ready to die within them for their own sin,
and the terrible shame of it,





CHAPTER VIL
ALF MEASURES.

es soon as Mrs. Rodney was buried, Bessie en-
(Bh tered upon her charge of Rodney and Nelly.
She was little more than a child herself in
years, but her life in the streets had given her a
keen, shrewd knowledge of human nature. She set
about at once to make Rodney’s home more attrac-
tive than it had been during his wife’s illness; and
every evening, as soon as her own necessary liveli-
hood was earned, she hastened to spend all the time
she could with him and Nelly. She could sing
and talk well; and Rodney, whose good resolu-
tions were deeper than usual, was often induced
to stay at home, or pay only a brief visit to some
public-house, for the sake of society, accompanied
by both Bessy and Nelly, who waited for him
outside the door, now and then sending in a
message, till he was ashamed of keeping them
longer.
_ There was a little change for the better. Nelly’s
rags were covered by a gay pink cotton frock,



52 ‘ NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

trimmed with a number of small flounces, which
Bessie picked up cheap at a clothes-shop, and
which she washed until the colour was faded.
Rodney often promised to buy his little daughter
the other clothes she so greatly needed; but work
was slack, very slack for unsteady hands like him;
and he could earn but little, more than half of
which still went for drink. But he had no violent
outbreak, and often when he was tempted to
greater excesses, there rose before his mind the
image of his dead wife, with the violets in her
folded hands. This memory, with Bessie’s influ-
ence and Nelly’s love, had a salutary effect upon
him in part; and in his heart he had determined
to be altogether a changed and reformed man
some day.

By degrees Rodney recovered confidence in
himself and his own power of moderation. Three
months had passed since his wife’s death, and he
had never been so drunk as to be incapable.
Bessie, with the sanguine delight of a girl, believed
in his reformation, and rejoiced in it openly;
while Nelly praised and fondled him every day.
The slavery of the habit seemed over; he was
master of it, or at least he was no more than a
hired servant, who could cast off the yoke at any
moment, and be altogether free. He drank still,



NELLYS DARK DAYS. - 53

drank deeply; but he could come out of the gin-
palace with money in his pocket; a feat impossible
a few months ago. The abject drunkards, who
could not tear themselves away from the neigh-
bourhood of the spirit-vaults, became objects of
contempt and disgust to him. He was pursuing
the rational and manly course of breaking off the
habit by slow but sure degrees.

Yet there was not after all much to be proud
of. The poor place at home was still bare and
comfortless, in spite of Bessie’s efforts; Nelly was
pining for better food, and he himself was shabby
and out-at-elbow. No person passing him in the
street would have distinguished him from the
drunken objects he despised. He was feeble and
tremulous still; his eyes were red and dim, and
his head was hot. The only point gained was
that the vice, which still had possession of him,
held him with a somewhat slighter grasp.

But when the next autumn came, and heavy
fogs from the river filled the town, Bessie caught
cold after cold till her spirits failed her, and she
could do little more than call in at Rodney’s
house upon her way home to her lodgings, where
she longed to lie down to rest. There was nobody
to wile away the listless time at home, and if he
stayed longer than usual at the beer-shop or gin-



54 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

palace, there was no one waiting for him outside,
for he took care to lock Nelly up safely before he
left her. By little and little the old slavery
established itself again in all its tyranny. He
had built his house upon the sand, and the storm
came and beat upon it, and it fell; and great was .
the fall thereof.

Night after night Rodney came home late,
raving more furiously than ever, while Nelly
crouched in the darkest corner of the little room
in an agony of terror, not daring to stir lest she
should draw his attention to her. Sometimes, as
she grew better, Bessie would make her way
through the chilly evenings to the house to exert
her old influence, but she found that it was all
gone before this new outbreak. Once he struck
her brutally, and thrust her out into the rain,
bidding her begone, and come back no more;
but the faithful girl would not forsake him and
little Nelly. She was hoping against hope.

2D) CLD
eg

Se



CHAPTER VIII.

A SORROWFUL FACT.

re was not long before the time came when
oh Rodney was never really sober. When he

could not stagger along the narrow streets to
the spirit-vaults, he sent Nelly, as scores and hun-
dreds of little children are sent in our Christian
country; and he drank himself dead drunk in the
room where his wife had died. At last there was
neither shame, nor sorrow, nor a consciousness
of sin in hig soul; only the one absorbing, in-
satiable craving for drink. A seven-fold posses-
sion had taken fast hold of him, and Bessie lost
‘all hope.

It was quite dark one evening, and Rodney
was lying prostrate, unable to stir, upon the low
bed, with a bottle near him which he had lately
drained, but without power to fumble with lis
nerveless fingers for any more pence which might
possibly remain in his possession. His eyes were
open, and in a state of drunken lethargy he was
watching Nelly going softly to and fro about the



56 NELLYS DARK DAYS.

room, casting terrified glances at him from time
to time. He saw her bent almost double under
the weight of the old iron-kettle, which she was
lifting with both her little arms on to the fire;
and lying there, powerless and speechless, he saw
the thin, ragged frock, with its torn and faded
flounces, catch the flame between the bars, and
kindle rapidly into a blazing light about her.

An extreme agony came upon him. With all
the might of his will he struggled to raise himself
up to save her; but he could not move. He had
no more power over his own limbs than the
mother’s corpse would have had, if it had been
lying there. Fora moment his little girl stretched
out her arms to him with a scream for help;
and then she sprang past him to the door, and
he heard the street ring and echo with her cries,
and the shrieks of frightened women and children.
But still he could not stir. He lay there like a
log, while great drops of terror and anguish
gathered on his face.

How long it was he did not know—it might
have been years of torment—before the door was
flung open, and a woman’s face looked in upon.
him, white and haggard with fear.

“She’s burned to death!” she cried, “and you'll
have to answer for it. I’m not sorry; I’m glad.





NELLYS DARK DAYS. 57

She'll be better off now; and I hope they'll hang
you for it. You'll have to answer for the child's
death.”

She drew the door to again sharply, and left
him in. his miserable and helpless loneliness.
Nelly was dead then; burned to death through
his sin! The intolerable agony of his spirit gave
him a little strength, and he crawled upon his
hands and knees to the door, and succeeded in
opening it. Down in the street below the people
were talking of it, the women calling to one
another to tell the horrible news; he could hear
many of the words they said, with his name
sometimes, and sometimes Nelly’s. Dead! Was
it possible that his little Nelly could be dead?
Why did they not bring her home? But then
a great shuddering of horror fell upon him. He
could not bear to see her again, his dead child;
burned to death with him lying by, too drunk
to save her. ,

By and by his limbs gathered more power, and
with pain and toil he raised himself to his feet.
The tumult in the streets was subsiding, and the
people were retiring to their houses’ Some of
them, who lived on the same flat, kicked at his
door with loud and angry curses; but he had
locked it as soon as his fingers could turn the



58 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

key, and he kept a silence like the grave All
was quiet after a while, and the clocks of the
town struck eleven. If he could only steal away
now there would be no one to stop him and ask
him what he was about to do, or whither he was
going. The streets were almost deserted, except
about the gin-palaces. He cursed them bitterly
as he went by. There was now only one purpose,
one idea in his tormented brain: if his miserable
feet would but carry him to the river all should
soon be ended for him. Nothing in the world
to come could be worse than the hell of his own
sin. The only plea Bessie herself could urge—
that he should live to make amends to Nelly—
had no longer an existence.

It was slow and weary work, creeping, creeping
down to the river side. He saw it long before
he reached it, with the lights glimmering across
it from the opposite shore. He was obliged to
‘lean often against the walls and the lamp-posts
to gain breath and power to take a few more
footsteps towards his. grave. THe was drunk no
longer. His mind was terribly clear. He knew
distinctly what had happened, and what was
about to happen to him if his strength would
only take him down to the edge of yonder black
water. His conscience raised no voice against



NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 59

his purpose. There was a certain feeling, almost
of satisfaction, that in a little while the tide would
be carrying him out to sea.

He had almost gained a spot where a single
effort would plunge him into the cooling waters;
there were but few persons about, and they at
some distance away, far enough not to hear the
splash as he fell into the basin, when his unsteady
foot caught upon the curb-stone, and he fell
forward, dashing his head violently upon the
pavement. Before many minutes had passed a
policeman was conveying him in a cab to the
infirmary; and he was laid, unconscious and
delirious, upon a bed in one of the wards there.

Sf



CHAPTER IX,

FOUND DROWNED.
GP uREE days after Rodney’s disappearance
RD Bessie was sitting at an apple-stall in her old
place by the inviding-atages, when the news ran
along the line of basket-women that the body of a
drowned man*had just been brought ashore at one
of the wharves near at hand. Bessie’s heart sank
within her. There had been no tidings of Rodney
since the evening she had first missed him, though
she had sought everywhere for him; and she re-
collected too well the threat he had often made
of putting an end to his life. She felt sick and
giddy at the mere thought of recognizing him
in this drowned man, yet she left her basket and
stall in charge of a neighbour, and ran in search
of the crowd which would be sure to gather about
_ the ghastly object.

Bessie pushed through the circle of bystanders,
and looked down on the dripping form lying upon
the stones. The face was livid and disfigured,
and the scanty hair was smooth and dark; yet



NELLY’S DARK DAYS, 61

it was like him, so like him that Bessie fell upon
her knees beside him, sobbing passionately.

“Oh! I know him!” she cried; “he saved me
from being drowned once, and now he’s gone
and drowned himself. Oh! I wish he could be
brought to life again! Is he quite dead? Are
you sure he’s quite dead?”

“He's been in the water two or three days,”
said one of the lookers-on, speaking to another
who stood near.

“Oh! then, it must be him!” sobbed Bessie!
“it must be him. It’s three days since little
Nelly set herself on fire while he was drunk;
and he went and drowned himself. He used to
say he’d do it, and I hindered him. Why wasn’t
I there to hinder him again?”

“ Are you his daughter?” asked a policeman.

“No, I was nothing to him,” answered Bessie,
“only he saved me from being drowned when
I was a little girl He ought never to have come
to this; he oughtn’t. He was a good man, and
as kind as kind could be when he was himself.
Oh! why wasn’t I here, Mr. Rodney, when you
came to drown yourself?”

“Do you know where his family lives?” asked
the policeman again.

“He hasn’t got any family now,” said Bessie,



62 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

with fresh tears; “his wife died at Easter, and
little Nelly is dying in the hospital. They say
they think she'll die to-day, but I’m to go again
this evening. He’s got nobody but a mother
down in the country thirty miles away; and as
soon as I can walk it I was going to tell her about
Nelly; and now there'll be this to tell her as well.
And he was such a good man once.”

«You must tell me where you live,” said the
policeman; “we shall want you on the inquest,
you know.”

“Oh, yes,” she answered, ‘but I haven’t got
any more to tell, Only I was very fond of him
and Nelly, I was.”

She rose from her knees and wiped her eyes,
watching them earnestly as they carried the corpse
into a small public-house near at hand, where it
was not unwelcome, as it brought custom to the
bar. The next morning she gave her evidence
at the inquest, and the corpse was buried as that
of John Rodney. Bessie gave up the key of the
house, which she had kept in her possession; and
the few poor articles of furniture in it were sold
by the landlord to pay the rent that was due to
him,

In the meantime, and for several weeks after,
Rodney lay on the verge of death, crazy and



NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 63

delirious with brain-fever. His wretched life
hung upon a thread, and only the marvellous skill
and patience of those about him could have saved
it. Nothing was known of him, and when the
delirium was over, his mind and memory were at
first too weak, for him to give any account of
himself As recollection returned and conscience
awoke he kept silence, brooding over the terrible
history of the past. There were time and oppor-
tunity now, during the long hours, day and night,
while he lay enfeebled, but sober, calling up one
by one all the memories of his sad life. He knew
that he should be compelled to live now, and
compelled to enter upon the desolate future, with
its sore burden of remorse and shame. He
vowed to himself that if ever he went out into
the streets again, where temptations beset him
on every hand, nothing should induce him to fall
again into sin.

When the time came for him to leave, he was
asked where his home was, and what he intended
to do. Rodney’s white and sunken face flushed
a little as he answered, “I’ve no home now;”
he said, “I had one once as good as a man could
wish for. I earned good wages, and I’d a dear
wife and little children to meet me when I came
in from my day’s work. But I threw it all away



6+ NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

for drink. All my children are dead—the last
that died was little Nelly. And my poor wife
is dead, thank God! I’ve nobody in the world
belonging to me, save my old mother, and I’ve
broken her heart. I think TU go home to her;
I know she'll take me in.” °

With half-a-crown to pay his fare down to his
mother’s house in the country, Rodney left the
infirmary, and found himself once more in the
familiar streets, with their common, everyday
sounds and sights, and their gin-palaces thrusting
themselves upon his notice at every other minute
of his progress through them.

Sy
dQ

Oe
&
ook

“aks



CHAPTER X.

DEEPER STILL

‘
Wh ATH bowed head and despair tugging at

(Way, his heart Rodney passed through the noise

and business of the streets. He was bent
upon seeing over again the poor place where his
wife had died and Nelly been killed. It was the
middle of the morning as he approached it, and as
he shrank from being the object of notice. to his
former neighbours, he slunk down the side-alleys
and passages, which brought him almost opposite
the building where his home had been. Again
he climbed the worn steps and gave a low knock
at his own door, which was quickly answered by
a voice calling, “Come in.”

Yes, his home was gone, quite gone. Here.
was another family on the same road to ruin as
himself, dwelling within the old walls. Upon
the hearth was a woman sitting on a low stool
and nursing a wailing baby, with a bottle in
reach of her hand, while the scent of gin, which

made every nerve in him creep and. tingle, filled
E



66 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

the place. She looked up with blood-shot eyes,
and asked him what his business might be.

“Td a friend who lived here once,” he said, lean-
ing against the door-post, for hefelt faint and giddy,
“John Rodney by name. I suppose he’s gone?”

“Oh! he’s dead,” answered the woman, “drowned
himself: and a good thing too. Everybody was
glad to hear the news. His little girl set herself
afire, and him lying there, the brute, too drunk
to stir; couldn’t lift hand or foot to help her.
Mrs. Simpson, as lived next door, said how she
see him crawl away after down them steps, and
up the street, and three days after his body was
found in the river.”

“What did you say about the little girl?” he
asked, sick at heart.

“Why! she set herself afire at this very grate,
and him lying as it might be there, and she ran
out, all in a flame, down them steps, and was
burned to death. Bless you! I’d lots of folks to
see the place, specially ladies; but they’re forget-
ting it now. I couldn’t bear it at first myself,
but I bore up. This Il help you bear up against
anything.”

She laid her hand on the bottle, smiling drearily,
and Rodney shivered and shuddered throughout
all his frame. He knew well what it would do















































































































GUT TERWORTH & HEATHSE4







THE VISIT TO THE OLD HOME,







NELLY'S DARK DAYS. 69

for him: what a warmth, what a genial glow
would run through all his veins, till some, at least,
of this deadly sickness of heart would pass away
In the hospital he had had wine given to him at
stated intervals, and his burden had always
seemed lighter after he drank it. “Here, within
the narrow compass of these bare walls was the
scene of his most terrible remembrance; but here
also the temptation beset him with awful and
renewed strength. He gazed with greedy eyes
at the bottle in the woman’s hand.

“It’s all gone,” she said, “or I’d have given’
you a drop.”

Rodney turned away without a word, his brain
on fire with the old hellish craving for drink.
Some words were running through his mind with
monotonous repetition, “Cool my tongue, for I
am tormented in this flame.” Halfway down
the narrow street lay a man in the gutter, the
butt for any passer-by to kick at. The children
had strewn ashes upon his head and face, from
the dust-heaps which lay before each door, with-
out disturbing the profound slumber of the drunk-
ard. Rodney stood still and gazed at him, with
a mingled feeling of wonder and envy to think
of what deep draughts he must have taken, and
what utter forgetfulness had come over him. At



70 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

length he passed onwards to the more public
thoroughfares. There was the old frequented
gin-palace, with its easily swinging doors, and its
attractive appliances to help the temptation to
conquer him. He could resist no longer; and he
did not turn away from the counter till the whole
of the money, given to him to carry him to his
mother’s home, was gone.

It was some hours before Rodney came to him-
self, being hastened to it by a shove from the
foot of the proprietor, who had allowed him to
lie asleep in a corner of the place during the slack.
hours of the daytime. It was time for him now
to make room for others who had money to spend.
He gathered himself up and stood on his feet,
looking drearily into the man’s face.

“Where am I to go to?” he asked; “I’ve spent
my last penny with you. I haven’t got a hole to
put my head in, nor a farthing in my pocket.
Where am I to go to?”

“Where you were last night,” said the man
angrily.

“T came out of the infirmary this morning,” he
answered, in a bewildered tone; “where am I to
go to to-night?”

“To the workhouse then,” said the man; “only
out of this anyhow.”



NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 71

He opened the door, and pushed him out.
Rodney tottered to a door-way, and sat down,
gazing at the stream of people constantly passing
by, with a rigid and stony face of despair. It
was still twilight, and a crimson flush was tinging
the sky westward, while a fresh invigorating
breeze played about his burning forehead.

“Oh God! oh God!” he dated within himself,
“T meant to have kept that vow. Where can I
hide myself from these places that entrap me?
Would to God they'd take me into some mad-
house, and put a strait-waistcoat on me! I am
mad, or the devilisin me. If I could but crawl
to some place, where they'd lock me up, and keep
me from it, if I died for thirst! Oh! if there were
only such a place for a madman like me!”

But there was no place for him, even to shelter
him for the night. He was homeless, without a
penny or a friend in the great and busy town.
Or rather, there was one refuge for him—the
workhouse. The thought of going there came
dimly to him at first; but by and by he began to
see that it was not merely the only place for him,
but it was a place where he could not be assailed
by the sight and smell of the poison which took
away his senses. As long as he could keep to the
resolution of remaining within its walls he would



72 NELLYS DARK DAYS.

be preserved from the temptation of the num-
berless gin-palaces which met him at every turn.
It might be that after a time the spell would
be broken; the devil’s witchcraft which had cost
lim so much.

Jt was a painful pilgrimage, with his heavy feet
and despairing spirit, to make his way to the work-
house. He could only be admitted to the casual
ward for the night; but the next morning he
entered, as an inmate, this last and only refuge.

“God help me,” he said to himself, “God help
me to keep inside these walls. I daren’t trust
inyself in the streets. If there's any chance for
me, it’s here.”

WP



CHAPTER XI.

TIE ONLY REFUGE.
sas
tf OR a season Rodney’s mind was clouded and
ety, bewildered. It is probable that if he had been
in ordinary health and strength, he could not
have held to his resolution to ea: within the walls,
which were his only defence from ovérpowering
temptation; but though his craving often amounted
to intense agony, the weakness which was the
result of his long and dangerous illness made him
incapable of much exertion, and the little labour
he was put to completely exhausted his powers.
Day after day passed by, the hours dragging along
heavily. In the midst of the miserable poor, who
peopled the place, he lived alone, in a kind of
dreary lethargy of body and soul, which rendered
him almost unconscious of what was going on
around him.

Gradually, however, the cloud which drunken-
ness had brought across his mind melted away,
and his thoughts and memories grew clear. All
his past life lay behind him, mapped out plainly
and distinctly; his early manhood, his strength
of muscle and nerve, his marriage, his children,



TA NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

and last of all his little Nelly,—all sacrificed, all
destroyed, all lost, by his fatal obedience to the
sin which had possessed him. It had come to
this, that he, who should have been a happy and
useful man, respected and beloved, was a pauper,
eating the begrudged bread of a workhouse table,
He had been acting out the story told centuries
ago by the Lord of truth and wisdom. He had
left the Father’s house and wandered into a far
‘country, where a sore famine had arisen; and be-
hold! he was eating the husks which the swine
did eat, and no man gave unto him. That was
his condition.

It was a long time before Rodney went any
farther than that. Broken-hearted and cast down
in spirit, he thought he must resign himself to
abide in his miserable condition. An importunate
remorse was gnawing in hig conscience, and he
gaid to himself, it was only just that he should be
left without hope, and without God, in a world
where he had brought all his misery upon himself.
At this time little Nelly was always in his
thoughts, the puny, pale little child, puny and
pale through his vice, hungry often, crying often,
seldom merry and light-hearted as other children
are, yet always patient and fond of him, always
ready to be glad if he only smiled upon her. Oh!



NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 75

what a wretch he had been! How often, too—his
memory was vivid in recalling it—how often, when
he had received any money, had he resolved to
hasten home with it that Nelly’s wants might be
supplied, and those accursed gin-palaces had been
strewn so thickly in his path, that when he had
reached home it had been penniless, but raging
mad with drink, striking the quiet, patient little
creature if she only came in his way!

But one morning, so early that it was still an
hour or two before the paupers left their pauper
beds, a whisper seemed to come to his troubled
conscience, partly, as it were, in a dream, which
said to his awakening ears, “I will arise, and
go to my Father.” He repeated the words over
and over again. Had that poor prodigal son,
living amongst swine, and eating of their husks,
still a right to call any good and great being his
Father? Still, it was he who had said it, without
hesitation, as it seemed, in saying the word, Father:
Christ, the Son of God, who knew all things, and
could make no mistake, was He who had told the
story. The miserable prodigal, who had spent
every penny in riotous living, just as he had done,
when he came to himself, had said, “I will arise,
and go to my Father.” Was it possible he could
do the same?



76 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

Day after day Rodney pondered this question
over in his heart. Long ago he had known that
Jesus Christ had come to seek and to save those
who were lost; and now, if he would only suffer
himself to be found by Him, if he would only
receive Christ and His love, He would give, even
to him, the power to become one of the sons of
God. Oh! if Christ would but find him! down
there in his deep degradation and despair! Had
He never known a drunkard like him! If He
had not when He was a man on earth, He knew
them now, by hundreds and thousands, in the
streets of Christian cities; His pure eyes beheld
them in all their vileness, in their desecrated
homes, and in the gin-palaces thickly studding the
streets.

The day dawn that was breaking upon his soul
grew stronger and stronger, until the shadows fled
away. There was neither drink nor the tempta-
tion to drink to make it dim, or to quench it.
He could think now. He could repent, pray, and
believe. Reason and faith could work within him,
and there was no subtle foe to steal away his
senses. The hour came at last, when from his
inmost soul, drunkard though he had been, though
his wife and little Nelly had perished through
his sin, he could look up to God, and ery, “Father!”



CHAPTER XII.

TRUE TO A PROMISE.

Gi T was not many days after this that Rodney
4) ‘came to the conclusion that he ought not to

stay any longer within the sheltering walls of
the. workhouse, to be a burden upon the poor-rates.
He was strong enough now to earn his own living,
though he could never regain the vigour he had
thrown away. Weakness of body, and a sorrow-
ful spirit within him, must be his portion in this
life, though his sin was forgiven, and his heart
could call God his Father. He knew also that
outside the gates, within sight of them, a vehe-
ment temptation would assail him. Even there,
within the refuge, if the thought of drink came
across him he could only find help against it in .
earnest prayer. Would the demon take him cap-
tive again if he ventured out to confront the
peril?

With a trembling heart, and in an agony of
prayer, Rodney left his shelter and found himself
once more free and unrestrained in the streets.



78 NELLY'S DARK DAYS.

He was compelled to pass the places of his temp-
tation, not once or twice only, but scores of times,
with the fumes of the liquors poisoning the at-,
mosphere about them. He could not help but
breathe it, could not choose but see the gaudy and
bright interiors, as his feet carried him from one.
fierce assault to another. Sometimes he felt as if
he should be lost if he did not flee back to the
shelter he had left, and end his days there shame-
fully. But be continued his course down to the
docks, where he hoped he might happen on work
to supply his wants for that day and night, for if
he failed he must return to the casual ward for a
lodging.

He had earned a few pence, and was about to
seek lodgings for the night, when he saw a number
of decent working-men crowding into a school-
room, which was well lit up. He stopped one of
them to ask what was going on inside.

«Tt’s a lecture,” he answered, “on temperance,
by Mr. Radford. He’s always plenty to say, and
says it out likea man. Come in, and hear him.”

“Ay, Vl come in,” said Rodney eagerly, forget-
ting both his hunger and fatigue. The lecture
had just begun, and the speaker, whose face was
earnest and hearty, and who had a pleasant voice,
had gained the fixed attention of his hearers.



NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 79

“Tl tell you what a promise once did,” he said,
towards the close of his lecture: “We had a meet-
ing of our Band of Hope some years ago, and
I saw amongst the children a rough, bare-foot
little girl staring about her with large, eager eyes,
as if she could not make out what we were
about. I asked her her name, and told her to
come to my house; and I wrote down my address
for her. But I said to her, ‘Will you promise
me not to taste anything that will make you
drunk till you see me again?’ And she promised
me.”

“That’s Bessie Dingle!” cried Rodney, half
aloud; and the lecturer paused for an instant,
looking down kindly but gravely upon his listeners.

“T expected her to come to me within a day
or two, and I should have persuaded her to jom
our Band of Hope; but she never came. Nearly
six years were gone, and one day last autumn,
when I was on the landing-stage, I heard some
one cry out, ‘That’s him again!’ and a girl of
seventeen or so, a bright, busy girl, came rushing
towards me from an apple-stall. ‘I’ve kept my
promise, sir!’ she cried; ‘I’ve never took a drop to
make me drunk. I said I never would till I see
you again.’ The girl had been faithful to her pro-
mise, Yes, in her place, and according to her



80 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

strength, she had kept her promise, as God keeps
His.”

Rodney scarcely heard the end of the lecture,
so full was his mind of Bessie, whom he had
scareely thought of, but who was the only friend
he had left in Liverpool. He could not go away
without making some inquiry arter her; and when
the audience was dispersing, he made his way up
to the lecturer’s desk :—“Sir,” he said, “that girl
was Bessie Dingle. Could you tell me where I
could find her this very night?”

«She left Liverpool last autumn,” he answered;
“she is gone to live in the country with an old
woman of the name of Rodney.”

“Why! that must be my mother!” exclaimed
Rodney, involuntarily.

“Who are you?” inquired Mr. Radford.

“My name’s John Rodney,” he answered;
“Bessie knows all about me. Oh, sir! I was a
dreadful drunkard; and one night I saw my little
girl—she was the last of them, and my poor wife
was dead as well, thank God!—and the child set
herself on fire, and me lying by so drunk I could
not move; I could not stir a limb no more than
if Td been dead, Ob God! oh God! it was a
horrible thing.”

Rodney grasped the desk with both hands to



KELLY’S DARK DAYS, $1

keep himself from falling, and neither he nor the
stranger could speak again for some moments.

“T understood you were drowned,” said Mr.
Radford at lenoth; “ Bessie believes so; she told
me all about it.”

“No,” murmured Rodney, ‘I went off with the
intention of putting an end to myself; but I
slipped on the pavement, and they carried me to
the infirmary. Iwas there a long time, and then
I went home, and other folks had taken to my
house, and I’d no place to sit down in, and the
liquor-vaults were the only place open to such as
ine, and I went in and got dead drunk again.”

“ Aoain!” repeated Mr. Radford.

“Ay, again,” he said, with a deep groan; “‘ but
it was the last time. I pray God it may be the
last time. Then I knew there was no hope fer
meas long as I could see or smell drink, and I
went into the workhouse to be out of the way
partly, and partly because I'd no other place to
goto. I only came out this morning.”

“And where are you going to now?” asked his
new friend.

“Anywhere,” he answered; ‘but I’m afraid of
going where they'll be drinking. There seems to
be drink everywhere. You don’t know what it

is down in the low parts of the town, sir.”
“=



82 NELLYS DARK DAYS.

“Yes, I do,” said Mr. Radford; ‘but I’ll speak
toa friend of mine here, who will take you to his
place for to-night. He was one of the first to
join us here, and he was as great a slave to drink
as you ever were before.”

“Sir,” said Rodney, earnestly, “I believe God
has forgiven me, and I believe He will help me.
He has helped me this day, or I should never
have been here. If you will let me join myself
to you, with a promise, I'll try to keep it as
Bessie kept hers, God helping me.”

“T believe from my heart it would be of great
use to you,” answered Mr. Radford, after a mo-
ment’s thought. “Mark! I do not say it will
save you, but it will help you. You can give it
as a reason for not drinking to your old comrades;
but the chief thing will be that it will bring you
into acquaintance with new comrades of your own
way of thinking, who will not tempt you to drink.
Remember, too, if you should break it, that’s no
reason why you should not promise again; yes,
and again.and again, if you fall again and again.
Most of us promise God very often to give up our
favourite sin, and when we forget our promise He
does not forbid us to renew it.”

With trembling fingers, and with deep, un-
spoken prayer in his heart, Rodney signed his



NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 83

name to a form by which he pledged himself to
abstain from all intoxicating drinks; and then Mr.
Radford committed him to the care of his friend,
who was to take him home for the night.

“What are you going to do to-morrow?” asked
Mr. Radford.

“Tl make my way down to my mother’s,” he
answered. “I shall be safer out of the town,
though I ought to be ashamed to go to her in
these rags. But it’s no more than I deserve, and
she'll be overjoyed to see me.”

“Go down by train,” said Mr. Radford. “I
will lend you the fare, and you can repay me
when you are in work again. They all think you
are dead down there.”

“Yes,” he answered, smiling sadly, “my mother
will say, ‘This my son was dead and is alive
again; he was lost and is found.’”

With these words he went his way; and after
a night’s rest, more refreshing than any he had
had for years, he started by the earliest train
down into the country.

CEN
Lb



CHAPTER XIII

DEAD AND ALIVE AGAIN.

" T was spring-time again—twelve months since

his wife had died. The hedgerows were sweet

with primroses and violets, whose fresh frag-
rance was full of sorrowful memories to Rodney.
The years, which had changed him so much, had
hardly touched the face of the country. Every
step of the road was familiar and dear to him.
Here were the nut-bushes, where he and his
brothers had come nutting in the autumn, when
he was a boy; they were fringed and tasselled
with yellow catkins now. On the other side of
the hedge lay the corn-fields, where they had all
gone gleaning together in the harvest, as happy a
time as any in the whole year. Yonder was the
bank where the violets grew thickest, and where
he had been used to seek the first-scented blos-
som for Ellen, before they were married. The
wooden bridge over the shallow brook, whose
water rippled round pebbles as bright as gems,
where he had paddled barefoot when he was



NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 85

young—barefoot like little Nelly, only it had
been sport to him; the willow-trees dipping
down into the stream; the cottage-roofs; but
above all, the thatched roof of his own cottage
home; all seemed to him like another world, com-
pared with the noisy, bustling, tempting streets
of Liverpool, where, in those parts to which he
had sunk, there were none but sordid sights and
sounds of misery. Oh! if Nelly had only lived a
young life like his own!

He reached the garden-gate, and leaned against
it, looking down the long, straight, narrow walk
which led to the door. It stood open, and the
sun was shining brightly into the house, lighting
up for him the old, polished oak dresser, with the
shelves above it, well filled with plates and
dishes. A lavender and rosemary bush grew close
up to the door-sill, and the bees were humming
busily about them. He could hear also the mur-
mur of-voices; the prattle of a child’s voice talk-
ing gaily within, out of his sight. Once he saw
Bessie cross the kitchen to the little pantry, but
she did not glance his way, through the open
door; and he still lingered outside, scarcely know-
ing how he should make himself known to his
mother, who believed he was dead.

She came to the door at last—a neat old



86 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

‘woman, with a snow-white frill round her face,
looking out through ber horn spectacles upon her
sunny garden; and Rodney, leaning over the
gate, stretched out his hands towards her, unable
to speak a word, except the low, murmured cry,
“Mother! mother!” which reached her ears,
though they had grown dull of hearing years ago.

For a minute or two old Mrs. Rodney stood still,
gazing intently at the motionless figure leaning
over her wicket, and then, almost in a voice of
terror, she called out loudly, “Bessie.” And in
an instant Bessie was at her side, in the doorway,
with her quick, sharp eyes fastened upon him.

“Bessie!” cried Rodney, in a louder voice than
before, “I was not drowned, as you thought I
was. I’ve been almost dead in the infirmary, but
I didn’t die. I’ve come home now, a changed
man, if you and mother will take me in.”

Would they take him in? They could hardly
hasten to the wicket fast enough, the old woman,
with her short, unsteady steps, hanging on to
Bessie’s arm to prevent her from being the first
to welcome her son. She threw her arms round
his neck, and pressed many motherly kisses upon
his haggard face, crying, “My boy! my boy!”
while Bessie clasped his hand in both her own,
fondling and kissing it as if it was impossible to



















THE PRODIGAL'S RETURN,




















NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 89

express her great and unexpected gladness. It
seemed to Rodney as if they were making too
much of him, and forgiving him too freely. They
ought at least to hang back a little from such a
sinner as he.

“Mother,” he said sadly, “you know all about
my poor little Nelly.”

“Yes, yes, my son,” she answered, “I know
it all; but now you've come home safe and sound, ©
after we thought you were dead, we cannot re-
member all that. Nelly forgot it long ago.”

“Ah!” cried Rodney, with a heavy sigh.

“Nelly’s happier than ever she was in her life,”
said Bessie, “and she'll be happier than allnow. It
was a good change for her to be took away from
those dirty streets, where everybody about her was
- getting drunk. She was never so well off as now.”

“JT know it,” answered Rodney.

“And though the pain was very bad,” continued
Bessie, soothingly, “she’s forgotten it all by now.
She’s never in any pain, and she’s singing as
happy as an angel all day long. I wouldn't fret
about that if I was you. We've forgot it; and
now you're come home again, though I was sure
and positive you were drowned. I said so before
the coroner; and Mr. Rodney, please, I followed
you to the grave.”



90 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

Bessie burst into an hysterical fit of laughter
and sobbing, which she could hardly conquer, and
she ran back along the garden-path, leaving
Rodney and his mother to follow more slowly.
His mother was hanging fondly on his arm; and
before he entered the cottage he paused and lifted
his old hat from his head.

“Please God,” he said, earnestly, “Tl be a
different man to what I’ve ever been; and may He
at last bring me to where my poor wife and little
Nelly are gone!”

“Father!” cried a sweet, childish voice inside
the cottage, a voice he had never thought to hear
again in this world; “where is father, Bessie?”

How he crossed the threshold, and passed into
sight of his child, he could never tell. But there
was Nelly before his very eyes, her wan, small
face unchanged, save for a faint tinge of colour
in her cheeks, and a happy light in her eyes.
She was lying on a little couch beneath the lat-
tice-window, with a doll beside her, and a cup of
violets on the window-sill; peaceful and happy,
with a childish patience and sweetness in her face.
Her arms were stretched out to him, and her
features began to quiver with eagerness as he |
stood awe-stricken and motionless. Bessie drew
him to her side, and he fell down on his knees,



NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 91

with his gray head upon the pillow, while she
laid her arm about his neck. He had no voice
to tell them what he had thought during these
last terrible months, and with what a shock of
rapture it came over him to find that his little
Nelly was still living.

“Come,” said Bessie, in a tone of comforting,
“don’t take on so, please, Mr. Rodney. We never
thought as Nelly would pull through at all; and
she’s not in any pain; are you, darling?”

“No,” answered Nelly, pressing her arm closer
about him; “are you come home to stay, daddy?”

Still Rodney could not speak, for his throat
seemed dried up and choked. The child’s voice
grew plaintive and wistful.

“Oh! father,” she said, “you’re not going to
get drunk any more, and make Granny, and
Bessie, and me all poor and miserable again?
You've come back to be good, aren’t you, father?”

“God help me!” sobbed Rodney.

“We're all so happy now,” continued Nelly
pleadingly; “Bessie goes out to work, and Granny
and me are alone all day, and at nights we sing,
and I’m learning to read, and so is Bessie. And
if you'll only be good, it'll be nicer than ever.
You didn’t mean to hurt me, I know; never, did
you?”



92, NELLYS DARK DAYS.

He could not lift up his head yet, or answer
her in any way, except by his reiterated cry,
“God help me!”

“See, P’ve got a doll again,” said Nelly in a
gayer tone, to cheer him; “it’s all my own, and it
keeps me company all day and night too. The
doctor says I shall never walk and run about like
other children, but I don’t mind that. I don’t
mind anything, now you're come home, if you'll
only be good, and never get drunk, and make us
all poor and ragged again. I shouldn’t like to
see poor Granny like mother was. You'll never
do that, will you, father?”

“lush, Nelly!” said Bessie, as she saw Rodney
shaking with his sobs, “hush! Father’s come
home to work, and get money for you; and we
shall all be happier than ever now. If God wasn’t
going to help him to be good, now he’s trying
himself, He’d have let him be drowned in the
river, and not brought him back here to be .a
plague tous. There, Mr. Rodney, please get up,
and sit down on this chair beside of little Nelly.”

Roduey did as she told him, and sat still for a
time, holding Nelly’s small hand tightly in his
own. Bessie bustled about getting dinner ready,
for ib was nearly mid-day, and in their simple
country fashion they took their meals early, and



NELLYS DARK DAYS. 93

lived in the day-light, from sunrise till not long
_after sunset. His mother was sitting opposite
to him in her old three-cornered chair, from time
to time wiping the glasses of her horn spectacles,
while her white head trembled a little. He could
scarcely believe that it was not all a dream.

In the long, sunny afternoon, with the bees
humming at the door, and the scent of lavender
and rosemary wafted in upon every breath of the
fresh spring air, Rodney told them all that had
happened to him, and the great change that had
passed over him in the workhouse, and his inter-
view with Mr. Radford the evening before. Then
Bessie related to him the history of their lives.

“Mr, Rodney,” she said, “when little Nelly
came flying down them steps all in a flame, I
met her just at the bottom, and Id a big cloak
on as was lent me by a woman I was friends
with, and I wrapped it allround her, and quenched
the fire. Then a woman as was in the crowd
shouted, ‘Take her to the Children’s Hospital.
They’ll do well by her, if she isn’t dead.” And
I cried out, ‘Oh! she is dead!’ And then me
and some other women carried her to the hospital,
and at first they said she was dead, and then they
said she’d be sure to die. So I had to leave her
there, and I came back to tell you, and you was



94 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

gone, and Mrs. Simpson she said she’d seen you
go creeping off in the dark, and it ’ud be a good
riddance if you never came back. And it was
three days after they found somebody in the river,
and I was certain it was you, and I followed you
to the churchyard, me and nobody else at all.
And then I went to the hospital, and they said
there was a little sparkle of hope, but if Nelly
lived she’d never be good for anything. And I
said, ‘Never you mind. You make her live, and
Til take care of her after.” And then I came
down here, walked every foot of the way, and told
Mrs. Rodney, and she said, ‘Bessie, as soon as
that dear child is well enough, her and you shall
have a home with me.” So as soon as Nelly
could come we moved down to this place; and
it’s been like heaven to us—hasn’t it, Nelly?”

“Yes,” answered the child with a quiet smile.

«But now you're come home as well,” continued
Bessie, blithely, “it'll be better than ever. It
was bad to think of you being drowned, and
never been the good man you ought to have been.
I’m glad you’ve seen Mr. Radford; and glad you've
made him a promise like me. And oh! I’m go
glad you're going to be good and kind again at
last. I always knew you'd be that, if it hadn’t
been for drink.”



NELLY'S DARK DAYS. 95

Long after the others had gone to bed, and
were sleeping soundly and peacefully under the
thatched roof, Rodney sat up by the cottage fire,
brooding over his past life and that which lay
before him, with many earnest prayers for light,
and strength, and help. .One thing was certain:
whatever other people might do who had never
fallen captives to drunkenness, he must never
touch the accursed thing again. He trembled to
think of the snares that would be laid to entrap,
and with what wary and watchful steps he must
tread among them. He could not walk down
the village street, or greet any of his former
friends, who had believed him dead, without being
invited, urged, and tempted to drink. He could
not seek work where he should meet with fellow-
workmen who would not mock at the pledge he
had taken. He could not even sit among some
religious people who would not despise him some-
what for his weakness, Whatever he did, where-
ever he went, in town or country, he would be
forced into’ contact with drinking customs, which
would assail him from without; while within
there would ever be a treacherous foe ready to
betray him. No other sin met with so constant
a temptation. Yet, on the other hand, here was
his little child restored to him from the dead;



96 NELLY'S DARK DAYS.

here his mother, so long broken-spirited for him,
and with so few days left which he could make
happy; and here was Bessie, constant and faith-
ful, true to the promises she made, his helper and
example. Could he plunge them again into the
depths from which God had delivered them?
Rodney opened his mother’s old Bible, with the
large print which his own dim eyes needed now,
and turning over page after page he found at last
the promise he was searching for, and set an in-
delible mark against it to look at in after-years:
““My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength
is made perfect in weakness.”



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Full Text

Sage

aay

The Baldwin Library


| Lorvy. f




































































































































































































































































































































































































WAITING FOR FATHER,
Nelly’s Dark Days.

BY THE AUTHOR OF
“FESSICA'S FIRST PRAYER,” “LITTLE MEG'S CHILDREN,"
“ALONE IN LONDON,” &c.



Third Thousand,

GLASGOW:
SCOTTISH TEMPERANCE LEAGUE.
LONDON: HOULSTON & SONS; AND W. TWEEDIE.
EDINBURGH: ¥OHN MENZIES & CO.

1870.
GLASGOW:
W. G. BLACKIE AND CO., PRINTERS,
VILLAFIELD.
CONTENTS.

CHAPTER I.

PAGE

A STREET CORNER .. 20... eee ole ee tee 7
CHAPTER Ii.

LOCKED OUT. 2... ee ee wee eee B
CHAPTER IIL.

MORNING FEARS . 00... 0 ee ee ee wee ee 20
CHAPTER IV.

ONLY A DOLL... 2... ee ee wee ee ee 28
CHAPTER Y.

“VIOLETS... 2 eee ee fee ew le ee Oe
CHAPTER VI.

THE PRICE OF ADRAM ...... 2... ee ee .. 48

CHAPTER VII.
HALF MEASURES . 2... 1 ee ee ee ee es . 61
vi CONTENTS.

CHAPTER VIII.

PAGE

A SORROWFUL FACT. ...... eee eee ws 55
CHAPTER Ix.

FOUND DROWNED. ....... re
CHAPTER X.

DEEPER STILL 2. we ee ee ee ee + + 65
CHAPTER XI.

THE ONLY REFUGE . 2. 1 ee we ee ee ee 73
CHAPTER XII.

TRUE TO A PROMISE. . 2... 1k ee ee ee 0 7

CHAPTER XIII.

DEAD AND ALIVE AGAIN. 2. 2. 1. 1 1 wee wee wwe SE



BISSETT SISSIES SID DSSS
LLL OLLIE INGO



NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

CHAPTER I.
A STREET CORNER.

T was nearly twelve o’clock at night on the
first Sunday of the New Year. The
churches and chapels had all been closed
for some hours; and none of the better class of
shops had been opened during the day. Business
had been set on one side, even by those workmen
and labourers who lived from hand to mouth, and
scarcely knew beforehand where the day’s meals
were to come from, There had been, as usual, a pre-
vailing feeling that the day was not a day for work
or traffic of any kind; and what had been done had
been, more or less, away from the public scrutiny.
But though midnight was close at hand, the streets
in the lower parts of Liverpool were neither quiet
nor dark. Up higher, farther away from the long


8 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

line of docks and the troubled stream of the
mighty river, there was silence in the deserted
streets where the wealthier classes had their com-
fortable homes; but, where the poor dwelt, and
wherever there was a corner of a street which
afforded a good situation for traffic, or wherever
it was supposed there was an “immense drinking
neighbourhood capable of improvement,’* there
stood a gin-palace still open, with its bright gas-
lights sparkling down each dark row of dingy houses
with a show of cheery welcome not easy to resist.

At one spot where four roads met, each corner
house was thus brilliantly lit up; and the doors,
which swung to and fro readily and noiselessly,
were constantly moving, and giving a passing
glimpse, but no more, of what was going on
within. The streets were so light here that a pin
lying on the flagged pavement was plainly seen.
So were the rags of a child who stood in the
full glare of the most popular of the gin-palaces,
leaning against a lamp-post, with her face
turned towards the often-opening door. It was
a small, meagre face, yet pretty, with a mingled’
and wistful expression of anxiety and happi-

* “Capital Spirit Vaults to Let, in an Immense Drinking
Neighbourhood, capable of great improvement by an industrious
man and his wife.” (Newspaper Advt.)
NELLY S DARK DAYS. 9

ness. The anxiety was visible whenever the
door stood ajar; when it was closed, the happi-
ness came uppermost. The secret of her brief,
new-born happiness was very simple, but very
deep to the child. She clasped tenderly, but
carefully, in her thin bare arms a gaily dressed
doll, whose finery contrasted strongly with her
own rags. When the door remained closed for a
few minutes she passed the time in timid, half
fearful caresses of her shining doll; as soon as it
opened she peered, with heedful and searching
eyes, to the farthest corner of the interior.

“Nelly!” said a clear, shrill voice, which
startled the child from an anxious gaze, “you
here at this time! How’s poor mother to-night?”

“Very bad,” said the child sadly.

“And father’s in there, I reckon?”

“Yes,” said Nelly, “and oh! I want him to
come home so, because mother says she’d go to
sleep maybe if father was home.”

The girl who had spoken to her—a bright,
brisk-looking girl—pushed open the door a little
way, and glancing in turned back with a decisive
shake of her head.

“No use, Nelly,” she said; “he won’t come as
long as he can stay. Well, I'l nurse you a bit to
keep you warm; it’s very bitter to-night. I don’t
10, NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

much wonder at father drinking to-night, I
don’t.” f

All day long the wind had been blowing keenly
from the north-east, bringing a fine, piercing sleet
with it, and at nightfall the bitter cold had in-
creased. The girl sat down on a door-step, and
drew the shivering child into her lap, covering her
as well as she could with her own scanty clothing.

“Father didn’t use to get drunk once, did he,
Bessie?” asked the child, plaintively.

“Oh dear, no!” answered Bessie, in a cheery
voice.

“Tell me all about that time,” said Nelly, nest-
ling closer to Bessie. It was an old story, often
told, but neither the girl nor the child ever grew
weary of it.

“Tt's ever so many years ago, before you was
born,” said Bessie; “and he lived in a beautiful
house, with a parlour in front, and a kitchen be-
hind, and two rooms upstairs, all full of beautiful
furniture. Everybody that I knew called him
Mister Rodney then; but I was nothing but a
poor ragged little girl, raggeder than you, Nelly,
selling matches in the streets. And this was how
I come to know him. I was hanging about the
basket-women, down by the stages, running
errands for ’em, and one day, almost as cold as
NELLY’S DARK DAYS. ll

this, my foot slipped, and down I fell into the
water. Oh! it was so cold; and I seemed to be
sinking down, down, down.”

“And father jumped in after you and fetched
you out,” interrupted Nelly, eagerly.

“Ay! he did, though he knew nothing of me,
and I was nothing to him, only a little, dirty
match-girl, And then he carried me all the way
to his own house in his arms.”

“He never, never carried me in his arms,” cried
the child, “they aren’t strong enough now.”

“No; but he was as strong as strong then,”
continued Bessie, “and he clipped me so. fast I
wasn’t a bit afraid. That's how I’m never afraid
of him now, Nelly. He’s a good man, and kind,
and clever, when he’s himself; and I love him,
and you love him; don’t we?”

“Yes,” said Nelly, drawing a long breath,
“mother says she’s going to heaven soon, where
the other children are, and there'll be nobody left
but me to take care of father. I don’t much
mind, though I'd rather go with mother. Will
he go on getting drunk always and always?”

“Tf he could only see the gentleman I saw!”
exclaimed Bessie. ‘It’s six years ago, and I was
a big, grown girl, ready to push in anywhere, and
I see a lot of boys and girls crowding into a great
12 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

hall, and I pushed in with them, nobody stopping
me. And then they sang a lot of songs, oh!-
beautiful songs, and some gentlemen spoke to
em about drink, and how they’d grow up good,
decent men and women if they’d keep from it.
And I was one of the very last to come away, the
place was so nice, and a gentleman come up to
me, and he said, ‘My girl, what is your.name?’
And I said, ‘Bessie Dingle, sir’ And he said,
‘Can you read?’ And I said, ‘No, sir’ And he
said, ‘That’s a pity. Do you ever drink what
will make you drunk?’ And I was ashamed to
say yes, so I answered him nothing. And he
said, looking me full in the face with eyes as kind
as kind could be, ‘I wish you'd promise me never
to taste it till you see me again.’ And I said, ‘Yes,
I will promise, sir’”

“And when did you see him again?” asked
Nelly.

“Never!” she answered. “He wrote down on
a bit of paper where he lived, and said any of
the p’leece would show me where it ‘was; and
that very night I fell sick with fever; and they
took me to the workhouse, and the slip of paper
got lost. Anyhow, I never could find it or the
place, and I’ve never seen him again. He’s sure
to think I broke my promise, and did not care
NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 13

for him; he’s almost sure to think that, but I
never did.” She raised her head and looked
down the long street, where the gloom seemed
to press darkly against the glare of the gas-lights;
it was very cheerless beyond the light, and the
girl’s face grew darker for a minute or two.

“Tt’s no wonder they drink as long as the place
is open,” she said; “I’d like to be inside there,
where it’s light and warm. I wonder why the
shops are all shut, and those places open. That
gentleman, he said to me, ‘My girl, you’ve got
sharp eyes of your own; you just look round and
see what makes the most mischief among the
people about you, and tell me when I see you
again.” I know what Id say if he stood here
this minute.”

“Did you ever tell father about him?” asked
Nelly.

“Scores and scores of times,” she answered,
emphatically; “and sometimes he cries and wishes
he knew him, and could make him a promise like
me; and sometimes he curses and calls me an
idiot. Ifhe could only see him, Nelly!”

. They sat silent for a minute or two, Bessie
nursing the child as tenderly as she nursed her
doll. At last the girl touched the doll with the
tip of her finger, and said cheerfully,
14 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

“Why, wherever did you get this grand play-
thing from?”

“It’s a lady doll, and it’s my very own,” an-
swered Nelly, opening her rags to display it fully;
“there was a Christmas-tree at our school, and
this was the very best thing there, and teacher
gave it me because she said I was the best child.
Isn’t it a beauty, Bessie?”

“Tt’s wonderful!” said Bessie, in a voice of Wa
miration.

“I take such care of it,” continued Nelly,
eagerly, “only I’m afraid of nursing it when there
are children about, for fear they should snatch it
from me, you know.”

As the child spoke the clocks in the town struck
twelve, and a trail of lingerers crept reluctantly
out of each brilliant gin-palace. Bessie kept
Nelly back from springing forward to meet her
father, and then seeing him take his way home-
wards, she followed at a little. distance, clasping
the child’s hand warmly in her own.


CHAPTER II.

LOCKED OUT.

(pus ficure which staggered on before them had
i2, once been that of a tall, well-built man, strong

and upright, with a firm tread and a steady
hand. Bessie had known him in his better days;
but such as he was now—feeble and bent, with red-
dened eyes and shaking hands—Nelly had never
known him otherwise. Rodney loved Nelly with
all that was left to him of a heart. 1t was per-
haps the last link which bound him in nature to
God and his fellow-men. She was his latest-born,
and the only child remaining to him; and though
he had lost the sense of all other affections, this
one still glimmered and lived within him. Such
as he was now he was sure of her love for him,
for she could not compare him with any better
self in happier times. The state to which he had
reduced himself was the only one she knew; and
the drunkard felt that there was no reproach
mingled with the little child’s kisses upon his
parched lips.
16 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

Rodney floundered on through the narrow
streets leading homewards, unconscious that he
was followed by the silent and noiseless girls,
whose ill-shod feet made no sound upon the
slushy pavement. His progress was slow and
uncertain; but at length he turned down:a short
passage, and paused, with labouring breath, at
the foot of a flight of stone steps leading to the
upper flat of the building in which he lived. It
was to see him safe up this perilous staircase that
Bessie had come so far out of her own way. A
false step here, or a giddy lurch, might be death
to him. They ventured nearer to him between
the dark and narrow walls as he climbed up be-
fore them; and as soon as he reached the landing,
upon which several doors opened, their hearts
were at rest, now all danger was over. He groped
his way on from door to door until he gained his
own, and then with an unexpected quickness and
steadiness of hand he lifted the latch and passed
in, slamming the door behind him, and turning
the key noisily in the lock. Nelly sprang for-
ward with a sudden cry.

“Oh! Bessie,” she cried, wringing her small
hands in distress, “whatever are I to do? When
father’s like that I durstn’t let- him see me nor
hear me, for mother says may-be he'd kill me.
NELLYS DARK DAYS. 17

And mother durstn’t stir to open the door or he'd
nearly kill her. And it’s so cold out here, and
all the neighbours gone to bed, and it ’ud kill me
to stay out of doors all night, wouldn’t it, Bessie?
Whatever are I to do?”

It was too dark for Bessie to see the terror upon
the child’s wan face, but she could hear it in her
voice, and she could feel the little creature
trembling and shivering beside her.

“Never mind,” she said, soothingly, “I’m not
afraid of him. He’s a kind man, and he'll open
the door for me, I know; or else you shall come
home with me, Nelly, and Pll carry you all the
way. Meet Mr, HOTESY: sir, please to open the
door again.”

She knocked sharply and decisively at the
door, and called out in a shrill voice, which made
itself heard through all the din he was. making
inside. He was silent for a moment, listening,
and Bessie went on in the same clear tones,

“You've locked Nelly out, Mr. Rodney, as has
been waiting and watching ever so long for you;
and it’s bitter cold to-night, and she’s tired to
death. Please unfasten the door and I'll bring
her in.”

There was no sound for a minute or so except
the hollow and suppressed cough of the mother,

5
18 NELLYS DARK DAYS.

who was struggling to hush the noise she made,
lest it should arouse the drunken fury of her
husband. Then Rodney shouted with an oath
that he would not open the door again that night
for any one.

“Tt’s me, father!” sobbed the child, “little
Nelly, and it's snowing out here. You didn’t use
to be so bad to me. Please to let me in.”

She was beating now with both hands at the
door, and crying aloud with cold and terror, while
her mother’s low cough sounded faintly within;
but she dare not rise from her bed and open the
door for her little girl.

“Tt’ll teach you to come waiting and watching
for me,” cried Rodney, savagely; “get off from
there, and be quiet, or I’ll break every bone in
your body. Now, I’ve said it!”

Nelly’s hands dropped down, and she crouched
upon the door-sill in silent agony; but Bessie
knocked again bravely.

“Never you mind, Mrs. Rodney,” she said, “Tl
take Nelly home with me, and carry her every
inch of the road. And, Mr. Rodney, sir, you'll
be as sorry as sorry can be as soon as you come
to yourself. Good-night, now; and don’t you
fret. Nelly’s here, up in my arms, safe and
sound; and I'll take care of her.”
NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 19

Bessie had lifted the child into her arms, but
still lingered in the hope that the door would
open. But it did not; and turning away with
a sorrowful and heavy heart, and with Nelly
sobbing herself to sleep on her bosom, she made
her way toilsomely along, under her burden, and
through the thickening snow, to her own poor
lodging.


CHAPTER III,

MORNING FEARS.

W. HEN Rodney awoke in the morning, he had
Git a vague remembrance of the night before,
which made him raise his aching head, and
look with a sharp prick of anxiety to see if his little
child was in bed beside her mother. His wife,
who had been lying awake all night, had now
fallen into a profound slumber, and her hollow
face, with the skin drawn tightly across it, and
with a hectic flush upon her cheeks, was turned
towards him; but Nelly was not there. What
was it he had done the night before? In his dull
and clouded mind there was a dawning recollec-
tion of having heard.little hands beat against the
door, and a piteous voice call to him to open it.
It was quite impossible that the child could be
concealed in the room, for it was very bare of
furniture, and there was no corner in its narrow
space where she could hide.
Through the broken panes of the uncurtained
window he could see the snow lying thickly upon
NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 21

the roofs; and he was himself benumbed by the
biting breath of the frost, which found its way,
in rime and fog, through the crazy casement.
Could it by any possibility have happened that
he had driven out his little daughter, Nelly, who
did not shrink from kissing and fondling him yet,
drunkard as he was, into the deadly cold of such
a winter’s night? He crept quietly across the
room, and unlocked the door, letting in a keener
draft of the bitter wind as he opened it. His
wife moved restlessly in her sleep, and began to
cough a little. He drew the door behind hin,
and stood looking down over the railings which
protected the gallery upon which the houses
opened, into the street below. The snow that -
had fallen during the darkness was already trod-
den and sullied by many footsteps; but wherever
the northern wind had blown it had drifted it into
every cranny and crevice, in pure white streaks.
A few boys were snow-balling one another along
the street; but all the house doors, which usually
stood open, were closed, and the neighbours were
keeping within. If any of them had been open
he could have asked carelessly if they knew where
his Nelly could be; but he did not like to knock
formally at any one of them. In which of the
houses at hand could he inquire for her, without
22 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

exposing himself to the anger and contempt of the
inhabitants?

He could not make up his mind to inquire any-
where. He was afraid of almost any answer he
could get. More than once he had beaten his little
girl; but they had made it up again, he and Nelly,
with many tears and kisses, and he knew she had
borne no malice in her heart against him. But
he had never driven her out of her home before
—a little creature, not eight. years old, in the
wild, wintry night; at midnight too, when every
other shelter would be closed. Where could she
be at this moment? What if she had been frozen
to death in some corner, where she had tried to
shield herself from the snow-storm? He wan-
dered along the street, casting fearful glances
down each flight of cellar-steps, where a child
might creep for refuge, until he reached the wider
thoroughfares, and the numerous gin-palaces in
them.

But just now Rodney’s heart was too full of his
missing child to feel the temptation strongly.
He fumbled mechanically in his pockets for any
odd pence that might be there; but he was think-
ing too much of Nelly to have more than a faint,
instinctive desire for the stimulus. He was cold,
miserable, and downcast; but he had not as yet
NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 23

sunk so low that anything except the assurance
that his little daughter was alive and well, could
revive him. With bowed head he went on ina
blind search for her, along the snowy streets, look-
ing under archways, and up covered passages,
wherever she might have found a shelter for the
little face and form, which were dearer than all the
world to him, cruel as he had been to them.

He turned home again at length, worn out and
despondent, wishing himself dead and forgotten
by all those whom he had made miserable, and
more than half tempted to make an end of it
altogether in the great, strong river, whose tide
would sweep him out tosea. Swept away from the
face of the earth—that would be the best thing for
them and for him! Ifhe only had courage to do it;
but his courage was all gone, had oozed away from
him, and left him only the husk of a man, fearful
of his own shadow, except when he was drunk.
He scarcely knew whether he trembled from cold
or dread as he loitered homewards; and he could
hardly climb the worn steps which he must ascend
to reach his house, for the throbbing of his heart
and the tremor in his limbs. He was afraid of
facing his dying wife, and telling her that he
could not find their last little child, the only one
that she would have had to leave behind her.
24 NELLY S DARK DAYS.

But as he came within sight of the door, he saw
that it stood open an inch or two, and his eye
caught the gleam of a handful of fire kindled in
the grate. Before his hand could touch it, the
door was quickly but quietly opened, and Nelly
herself stood within, her hand raised to warn him
not to make any noise.

“Tush!” she whispered, “ mother’s asleep still,
and you're yourself again. Bessie said you'd be
yourself again, and I needn’t be afraid) Come in
and let me warm you, daddy.”

She drew him gently to the broken chair on the
hearth, and began to rub his numbed fingers be-
tween her own little hands; while Rodney sunk
helplessly into the seat, and leaned his head upon
her small shoulder.

“Never mind, father,” said Nelly, “you didn’t
mean to do it. Bessie says you'd never have done
it of your own self. It’s only the drink that does
it; and I’wasn’t hurt, daddy; not hurt a bit.
Bessie carried me all the way to her home, like
you carried her once, she says. Did you ever carry
Bessie, when you were a strong man, in your own
arms, a long, long way?”

« Ay! I did,” said Rodney, with a heavy sigh,
‘and now I can scarcely lift you upon my knee.
Do you love poor, old father, Nelly?”








































































































































“SHE DREW HIM GENTLY TO THE BROKEN CHAIR.”
NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 27

“To be sure I do,” said the child, earnestly,
“why, when mother’s dead, there'll be nobody
left but me to take care of you, you know. You
mustn’t ever turn me out of doors then, or you
might hurt yourself, and there'd be nobody to see
when youre drunk.”

“Tl never get drunk again,” cried Rodney,
“and Tl never be cruel to you again, Nelly.
Give me a kiss, and let it be a bargain.”

Nelly covered his fevered face with kisses, in
all a child’s hopefulness and gladness; and told
‘her mother the good news the moment she awoke.
But neither the wife, nor Rodney himself, dared
to believe he would have strength to keep the
promise he had made.


CHAPTER IV.

ONLY A DOLL.

he was accustomed to seek the excitement of

the spirit-vaults or beer-shops, a sore conflict
began within Rodney’s soul. With the darkness
came a cold, thick fog from the river, which pene-
trated into the ill-built houses, and wrapped freez-
ingly about their poorly-clad inmates. What few
pence he had saved from the scanty wages of the
previous week, he had spent earlier in the day in
buying a little food for Nelly, and some medicine
to lull his wife’s racking cough. There was no light
in his house, and the fire was sparingly fed with
tiny lumps of coal or cinder, which gave little
warmth, and no brightness to his hearth. The
sick woman had stayed in bed all day, and had
only strength enough to speak to him from time
to time; while Nelly, who was also suffering from
cold, and hunger but half-satisfied, grew dull as
the darkness deepened, and rocked her doll silently
to and fro, as she sat on the floor in front of the

SAvs the ni he ti hick
iA he night drew on, and the time at which
(eis
NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 29

fire, where the gleams of red light from the embers
fell upon her. Not far away was the brilliant
gin-palace, where the light fell in rainbow colours
on the glittering prisms of the gas pendants, to
which his dim and drunken eyes were so often
lifted in stupid admiration.

A chilly depression hung about Rodney, which
by-and-by gave place to an intense, unutterable
craving for the excitement of drink, which fastened
upon him, and which he felt no power to shake
off As the dreary minutes dragged by, he pic-
tured to himself the warmth and comfort that
were within a stone’s-throw of him. But there
was no money now in his pocket, and nothing
that was worth pawning in the house. He
almost repented of having spent the poor sum
that had been his in food and medicine; for Nelly
was still hungry, and her mother’s cough had not
ceased. That cough irritated him almost to
frenzy; and he felt that he should die, perish
that night of cold and misery, if he could not
buy one dram to warm and comfort him.

He peered anxiously around, in the gloom, upon
the few beggarly possessions remaining to him,
and groaned aloud as he confessed to himself that
they were worthless. His wandering glance fell
upon Nelly, curled up sleepily on the hearth, with
380 NELLY S DARK DAYS.

her doll lying on her arm. That looked gay and
attractive in the red light, its blue dress and
scarlet sash showing up brightly against Nelly’s
- dingy rags. Rodney's conscience smote him for
a moment as he thought that the toy, fresh and
unsoiled still, might fetch enough, if sold, to
satisfy his more immediate craving this evening;
but the idea once in his mind, he could not banish
it. To-morrow he would work, and earn money
enough to buy Nelly another quite as good as
this one. If he had not spent his money for
her and her mother, he would not now be driven
to taking her plaything from her; and it was only
a toy, nothing necessary to her, as ib was neces-
sary to get warmth, and what was more to him
than food. She would not be any colder or hun-
grier without her doll; and she would not mind
it much, as it was for him. He did not mean
to take it from her against her will; but she
would give it up, he knew. Leaning forward, he
laid his shaking hand upon her cheek.

“Nelly,” he said, in his kindest tones, “Nelly,
you've got a pretty plaything there.”

“Oh, yes!” she answered, opening her eyes
wide, and hugging the doll closer to her, “but it
isn’t a plaything, father. It’s a lady that has
come to live with me.”
NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 31

“A lady, is it?” said Rodney, laughing; “why,
it’s a queer place for a lady to live in. Would
you mind lending her to me for a little while,
Nelly?”

“What for?” asked Nelly, her eyes growing
large with terror, and her hands fastening more
closely around her treasure.

“No harm,” he answered softly, “no harm at
all, my little woman. I only want to show it to
a friend of mine that’s got a little girl like you
that’s fond of dolls. Tl bring it back very soon,
all right.”

“Qh! I cannot let her go!” cried Nelly, burst-
ing into tears, and creeping away from him to-
wards the bed where her mother lay.

“John,” murmured the mother, in feeble and
tremulous tones, “let the child keep her doll. It’s
the only comfort she’s got.”

Rodney sat still for another half-hour, the
numbness and depression gaining upon him every
minute. Nelly had sought refuge by her mother’s
side, and the dreary room was awfully silent. At
last he could endure it no longer; and with a
hard resolution in his heart, he stirred the fire
till a flickering light played about the bare walls,
and then he strode across to the bedside.

“Look here, Nelly,” he said, in a harsh voice,
32 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

“] promised that friend of mine to show his little
girl your doll; so you'd better give it up quietly,
or I must take it off you. What are you afraid
of? I’m not going to do you any harm, but have
- the doll I must. Ill bring it back again with
me, if you'll only lend it me without any more
words,”

“Nelly,” said the mother, tenderly, “you must
let him take it, my darling.”

Nelly sat up in bed, rocking herself to and
fro in a passion of griefand dread. Yet her father
had promised to bring it back, and she had still
some childish faith in him. The doll lay upon
the ragged pillow, but she could not muster courage
enough to give it herself into her father’s hands,
and with a bitter sob she pushed it towards her
mother. “You give it him,” she said.

For a minute or two Rodney’s wife looked up
steadily into his face, for some sign of relenting,
but though his eyes fell, and his head sank, he
still held out his hand for the toy, which she gave
to him, murmuring, ‘God have mercy upon you!”
For a second Rodney stood irresolute, but the
flickering flame died out, and darkness hid him
from his wife and Nelly. Without speaking again
he groped his way to the door and passed out into
the street.




























































































THE PAWNBROKER AND THE DOLL.
NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 35

It proved a very paltry, insufficient satisfaction
after all. The toy, handsome as it seemed to
him, did not sell for as much as he expected at
the pawn-shop, where they refused altogether to
take it in pledge. He could only drink enough
to stupify him for a little while, but not sufficient
to give him the savage courage to go back and
meet Nelly without her doll) What he had
taken only served to quicken the stings of his
conscience, which made it a difficult thing to
return home at all. The night was even keener
than the last when Nelly watched for him at the
door of the gin-palace, yet he dare not go back
till she was fast asleep, and in the morning he
could readily pacify her by promising to buy
another doll. He hung about the entrances of
the spirit-vaults with. a listless hope that some
liberal comrade might offer him a glass; and as
long as there was any chance of it he loitered in
the streets. But they were closed at last, the
brillant lights extinguished, and the shutters put
up; and Rodney was forced to return home ten-
fold more miserable than when he left it.

His hope that Nelly would be asleep was ill-
founded. He could not see her; but the instant
his foot struck against the door-sill he heard. her
eager voice calling to him to bring the doll back
36 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

to her. His own voice, when he answered her,
was broken by a whimper, and a sob which he
could not control,—

“Father couldn’t bring it home,” he answered ;
“my friend’s little girl wouldn’t part with it to-
night. But it will come home to-morrow, Nelly.”

“Oh! I know it never will,” wailed the child.
“T shall never see my lady any more; never any
more. They’ve stolen her off me; and I shall
never, never have her again.”

He could hear her sobbing far into the night;
and after she had cried herself to sleep, her
breath came in long and troubled sighs, He
cursed himself bitterly, vowing a hundred times
that Nelly should have a doll again to-morrow.
But when the day came the daily temptation
came with it; and though he found work, and
borrowed a shilling from a fellow-workman, the
money went where his money had gone for many
a past month and year.

For some days his child was dull and quiet—
bearing malice, Rodney called it, when she gave
no.response to his fits of fondness. But neither
she nor his wife spoke to him of the lost play-
thing, and before long it had passed away alto-
gether from his weakened memory.
CHAPTER V.

VIOLETS.

hn the neighbours said it was a mystery how
cb the Rodneys lived for the next three months,

for Rodney was away for days together, only
coming home now and then during his sober inter-
vals; but it was no mystery at all. The wondrous
kindness which the poor show to the poor was at
work for them. Mrs. Rodney needed little food,
and Nelly was always welcome to share the
stinted meals in any house near at hand. Every
day at dusk Bessie came in, and if she had been
lucky in selling her flowers or fruit in the streets,
she did not fail to bring some small, cheap dainty
with her to tempt the sick woman’s appetite. So
the depth of the winter passed by; and the
spring drew near, with its Easter week. of holiday
and gladness.

It was the day before Good Friday, when
Rodney was returning, with lagging steps and a
heavy heart, to his wretched home, after an
absence of several days. Every nerve in his body
338 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

was jarring, and every limb ached. He could
scarcely climb the narrow and steep staircase; and
when he reached his door he was obliged to lean
against it, breathing hardly after the exertion.
It seemed very silent within, awfully still and
silent. He listened for Nelly’s chatter, or her
mother’s cough, which had sounded incessantly
in his ears before he had left home; but there
was no breath or whisper to be heard. Yet the
door yielded readily to his touch, and with faint
and weary feet he crossed the threshold, to find -
the room empty.

It was his first impression that it was empty;
but when he looked round again with his dim, red
eyes, whose sight was failing, they fell upon one
awful occupant of the desolate room. Even that
one he could not discern all at once, not till he
had crossed the floor and Jaid his hand upon the
strange object resting upon the old bed—the poor, .
rough shell of a coffin which the parish had pro-
vided for his wife’s burial. She was not in it yet,
but lay beyond it, in its shadow; her white, fixed
face, very hollow and rigid, at rest upon the
pillow, and her wasted hands crossed upon her
breast. The neighbours had furnished their best
to dress her for the grave, and a white cap
covered her gray hair; while between her hands,


NELLY'S DARK DAYS. 39

on the heart that would beat no more, Bessie had
laid a bunch of fresh spring violets.

Rodney sank down on his knees, with his arms
stretched over the coffin towards his dead wife.
Some of the deep, hard lines had vanished from
her face, and an expression of rest and peace had
settled: upon it, which made her look more like
the girl he had loved and married twenty years
ago. How happy they had been then! and how
truly he had loved her! If any man had told
him to what a wretched end he would bring her,
he would have asked indignantly, “Am I a dog,
that -I should do this thing?” The memory of
their first years together swept over him like a
flood: their pleasant home, of which she had been
so proud; their first-born child, and their plans
and schemes for his future; the respect in which
he had been held by all who knew him; and he
had thrown them all away to indulge a shameful
sin! And now she was dead; and even if he had
the power to break through the hateful chain
which fettered him body and soul, he could never
make amends to her. He had killed her as
surely, but more slowly and cruelly, than if he
had stained his hands with her blood. God, if
not man, would charge him with her murder.

The twilight came on as he knelt there, and
4.0 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

for a few minutes the white features looked
whiter and more ghastly before the darkness hid
them from him. Then the night fell. It seemed
more terrible than ever now—this stillness in the
room which was not empty. His mind wandered
in bewilderment; he could not fix his thoughts
upon one subject for a minute together, not even
on his wife, who was lying dead within reach of
his hand. His head ached, and his brain was
clouded. One dram would set him right again,
and give him the courage to seek his neighbours,
and inquire after Nelly; but he dared not meet
them as he was. He could not bear to meet their
accusing eyes, and listen to their rough reproaches,
and hear how his wife had died in want, and
neglect, and desertion. He must get something
to drink, or he should go mad.

There was nothing in the room of any value—
he knew that; yet there was one thing might
give him the means of gratifying his quenchless
drouth. He knew a man, serving at the counter
of one of the nearest spirit-vaults, who had a love
for flowers; and there was the bunch of sweet
violets withering in the dead hands of his wife.
For a minute or two the miserable drunkard’s
brain grew steady and clear, and he shuddered at
the thought of thus robbing the dead; but the
NELLY'S DARK DAYS. 41

better moments passed quickly away. The scent
of the flowers brought back to his troubled
memory the lanes and hedgerows where he had
rambled with her, under the showery and sunny
skies of April, to gather violets—so long ago that
surely it must have been in some other and
happier life, and he must have been another and
far better man. How happy the days had been!
No poverty then; no aching limbs and wandering
thoughts. He had believed in God, and loved his
fellow-men. Now there was not a cur in the
streets that was not a happier and nobler creature
than himself.

Still, underneath the surface of these thoughts,
his purpose strengthened steadily to exchange the
fresh, sweet flowers for one draught of the poison
which was destroying him—he knew it—body and
soul, But the darkness had grown so dense, that
he could not, with all the straining of his be-
dimmed eyes, trace the white outline of the dead
face and hands; and his skin crept at the thought
of touching, with his hot hand, the deathly chill
of the corpse. The flowers were there; but how
was he to snatch them away from the frigid grasp
which held them without feeling her fingers touch
his? But the pangs of his thirst gathered force
from minute to minute, until, overpowered by
42, NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

them, he stretched out his feverish and trembling
hands across the coffin in the darkness, and laid
them upon the dead hands of his wife.

The cold struck through him with an icy chill
that he would never forget, but he would not now
fail in his purpose. He loosed the violets from
her fingers, and rushed away from the place, not
daring to pause for an instant till. he had reached
the gin-palace where he could sell them.

FE
eS
CHAPTER VI.

THE PRICE OF A DRAM,

aap
A

WI

ODNEY had not left the house many minutes

when Bessie Dingle entered it, shading with
her hand a candle which she had borrowed
from a neighbour. She stepped softly across the
room, and looked down with tearful eyes upon her
friend’s corpse. The hands had been disturbed,
and the flowers were gone. Bessie started back
for an instant with terror, but guessing instinc-
tively what had happened, and whither the miser-
able man had gone, without hesitation she drew
her shawl over her head, and ran down the street
in the direction he had taken.

She had to peep into three or four gin-palaces
before she found him, tolling against the counter,
and slowly draining the last few drops of the
dram he had bought. There were not many
customers yet in the place, for it was still early
in the night; and the man behind the counter
was fastening into his button-hole the bunch of
violets, with their delicate white blossoms, and
44, NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

the broad green leaf behind them. Bessie did
not pause in her hurried steps, and she threw
herself half across the counter, speaking in clear
and eager tones.

“You don’t know where those vilets come
from,” she cried; “he’s taken ’em out of the hands
of his poor dead wife, where I put ’em only this
afternoon, because she loved ’em so, and I thought
they’d be buried with her. I think she knows
what he’s done, I do. Her face is gone sadder—
ever so—since I saw it this afternoon; for he’s
stolen the posy from her, I tell you, and she
lying dead !”

Bessie’s voice faltered with her eagerness and
grief; and the people present gathered about her
and Rodney, listening with curious and awed
faces; while the purchaser of the flowers laid
them down quickly upon the counter.

“Dead!” he exclaimed; “come straight from a
dead woman to me!”

“Ay!” said Bessie, “straight! And she loving
him so to the very last, and telling me when she
could hardly speak, ‘Take care of him, take care
of him!’ And he goes and robs her of the only
thing I could give her. That's what you make of
a man,” she continued, more and more eagerly;
“you give him drink till there isn’t a brute beast
NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 45

as bad; and he was a kind man to begin with, I
can tell you.”

“It's his own fault, my girl,” said the man, in
a pacifying tone; “he comes here of his own
accord. We don’t force him to come.”

“But you do all you can to ‘tice him in,”
answered Bessie; “if it wasn’t standing here so
handy, and bright, and pleasant, he wouldn’t
come in. There’s something wrong somewhere,
or Mr. Rodney ’ud never be like that, or do such
a thing as that, I know. Look at him! And
when I was a little girl he jumped into the river
after me, and saved my life.”

She pointed towards him as he-was trying to
slink away through the ring that encircled them,
bowing his head with a terrified and hang-dog
look. The little crowd was beginning to sneer
and hiss at him, but Bessie drew his hand
through her own strong, young arm, and faced
them with flashing eyes and a glance of indigna-
tion; before which they were silent.

“You're just as bad, every one of you,” she
cried; ‘you take the bread out of your children’s
mouths, and that’s as bad as stealin’ vi’lets from
your poor, dead wife. It doesn’t do her any real
harm, but you starve, and pinch, and cheat little
_ children, and it harms them ev’ry day they live.
46 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

None of you have any call to throw stones at
him.”

She thrust her way through them, and was
leading Rodney to the door, when the man
behind the counter called to her to take away the
flowers.

“Do you think I’d take ’em from such a place
as this?” she asked, more vehemently than before.
“Could I go and put ’em back into her poor, dead
hands, after he’d bought a glass o gin with ’em?
No, no; keep ’em, and carry ’em home with you,
and tell everybody you see what your customers
will do for drink. Id sooner cut my fingers off
than touch them again.”

The courage her agitation had given her was
well-nigh spent now, and she was glad to get
Rodney out of the place. She trembled almost
as much as he did, and the tears rained down her
face. She did not try to speak to him until
Rodney began to talk to her in a whimpering
and querulous voice.

“Hush!” she said, “hush! Don’t go to say
you couldn’t help it, and she loving you so to the
very last minute of her life. ‘If he'd only pray
to God to help him!’ she said. And then, just
before she was going away, she said, ‘Bessie, you
take care of him and Nelly. And I’m going to
































































































































BESSIE TAKES ROONEY FROM THE GIN-PALACE,
NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 49

do it, Mr. Rodney. You saved me once, and ’m
going to try to save you now, if God’ll only help
me. It shan’t be for want of praying to Him, I
promise you. Oh! if you'd only give it up now
at once before you get worse and worse.”

“T can’t be any worse,” moaned the drunkard.

“Not much, may be,” said Bessie, frankly;
“you went and stole Nelly’s doll for drink, and
now you've stole the vilets. But you might be
dead, and that’s worse. And every day you're
only getting nearer it, and if you go on drinking
youre sure to die pretty soon. Perhaps, if you
go on as you are, you'll be dead in a very little
while.”

“JT wish I was dead,” he groaned.

“Why!” exclaimed Bessie, in a tone of astonish-
ment; “and then you could never undo the harm
you've done to poor little Nelly, that you love so,
I know, spite of all. If you'd only think of
Nelly, and think of God—I don’t know much
about God, you used to know more than me; but
Pve a feeling as if He really does care for us all,
every one of us, and you, when you're drunk even.
If yowd only think of Him and little Nelly, you
wouldn’t get drunk again, I’m sure.”

“T never will again, Bessie; I never will again,”

he repeated fervently. And he continued saying
»D
50 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

it over and over again, till they reached the
gallery at the top of the staircase. Bessie drew
him aside as he was about to turn into his own
room.

“No,” she said, “you couldn’t bear to stay
in there alone all night; it ud be too much for
you. Mrs. Simpson, as is taking care of Nelly,
Il let you sit up by her fire; and I'll go and stay
in your house. Pm not afeard at all) She loved
us all so—you, and Nelly, and me. We're going
to bury her in the morning, and Id like to sit
up with her the last night of all.”

Before long Rodney was seated by his neigh-
bour’s fire, in a silent and very sorrowful mood,
with Nelly leaning against him, her arm round
his neck, and her cheek pressed against his. He
was quite sober now; and his spirit was filled
with bitter grief, and a sense of intolerable de-
gradation. He loathed and abhorred himself;
cursed his own sin, and the greed of the people
who lived upon it. If the owners of these places
of temptation—members of Christian churches,
some of them—could hear the deep, unutterable
-eurses breathed against them, their souls would
be ready to die within them for their own sin,
and the terrible shame of it,


CHAPTER VIL
ALF MEASURES.

es soon as Mrs. Rodney was buried, Bessie en-
(Bh tered upon her charge of Rodney and Nelly.
She was little more than a child herself in
years, but her life in the streets had given her a
keen, shrewd knowledge of human nature. She set
about at once to make Rodney’s home more attrac-
tive than it had been during his wife’s illness; and
every evening, as soon as her own necessary liveli-
hood was earned, she hastened to spend all the time
she could with him and Nelly. She could sing
and talk well; and Rodney, whose good resolu-
tions were deeper than usual, was often induced
to stay at home, or pay only a brief visit to some
public-house, for the sake of society, accompanied
by both Bessy and Nelly, who waited for him
outside the door, now and then sending in a
message, till he was ashamed of keeping them
longer.
_ There was a little change for the better. Nelly’s
rags were covered by a gay pink cotton frock,
52 ‘ NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

trimmed with a number of small flounces, which
Bessie picked up cheap at a clothes-shop, and
which she washed until the colour was faded.
Rodney often promised to buy his little daughter
the other clothes she so greatly needed; but work
was slack, very slack for unsteady hands like him;
and he could earn but little, more than half of
which still went for drink. But he had no violent
outbreak, and often when he was tempted to
greater excesses, there rose before his mind the
image of his dead wife, with the violets in her
folded hands. This memory, with Bessie’s influ-
ence and Nelly’s love, had a salutary effect upon
him in part; and in his heart he had determined
to be altogether a changed and reformed man
some day.

By degrees Rodney recovered confidence in
himself and his own power of moderation. Three
months had passed since his wife’s death, and he
had never been so drunk as to be incapable.
Bessie, with the sanguine delight of a girl, believed
in his reformation, and rejoiced in it openly;
while Nelly praised and fondled him every day.
The slavery of the habit seemed over; he was
master of it, or at least he was no more than a
hired servant, who could cast off the yoke at any
moment, and be altogether free. He drank still,
NELLYS DARK DAYS. - 53

drank deeply; but he could come out of the gin-
palace with money in his pocket; a feat impossible
a few months ago. The abject drunkards, who
could not tear themselves away from the neigh-
bourhood of the spirit-vaults, became objects of
contempt and disgust to him. He was pursuing
the rational and manly course of breaking off the
habit by slow but sure degrees.

Yet there was not after all much to be proud
of. The poor place at home was still bare and
comfortless, in spite of Bessie’s efforts; Nelly was
pining for better food, and he himself was shabby
and out-at-elbow. No person passing him in the
street would have distinguished him from the
drunken objects he despised. He was feeble and
tremulous still; his eyes were red and dim, and
his head was hot. The only point gained was
that the vice, which still had possession of him,
held him with a somewhat slighter grasp.

But when the next autumn came, and heavy
fogs from the river filled the town, Bessie caught
cold after cold till her spirits failed her, and she
could do little more than call in at Rodney’s
house upon her way home to her lodgings, where
she longed to lie down to rest. There was nobody
to wile away the listless time at home, and if he
stayed longer than usual at the beer-shop or gin-
54 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

palace, there was no one waiting for him outside,
for he took care to lock Nelly up safely before he
left her. By little and little the old slavery
established itself again in all its tyranny. He
had built his house upon the sand, and the storm
came and beat upon it, and it fell; and great was .
the fall thereof.

Night after night Rodney came home late,
raving more furiously than ever, while Nelly
crouched in the darkest corner of the little room
in an agony of terror, not daring to stir lest she
should draw his attention to her. Sometimes, as
she grew better, Bessie would make her way
through the chilly evenings to the house to exert
her old influence, but she found that it was all
gone before this new outbreak. Once he struck
her brutally, and thrust her out into the rain,
bidding her begone, and come back no more;
but the faithful girl would not forsake him and
little Nelly. She was hoping against hope.

2D) CLD
eg

Se
CHAPTER VIII.

A SORROWFUL FACT.

re was not long before the time came when
oh Rodney was never really sober. When he

could not stagger along the narrow streets to
the spirit-vaults, he sent Nelly, as scores and hun-
dreds of little children are sent in our Christian
country; and he drank himself dead drunk in the
room where his wife had died. At last there was
neither shame, nor sorrow, nor a consciousness
of sin in hig soul; only the one absorbing, in-
satiable craving for drink. A seven-fold posses-
sion had taken fast hold of him, and Bessie lost
‘all hope.

It was quite dark one evening, and Rodney
was lying prostrate, unable to stir, upon the low
bed, with a bottle near him which he had lately
drained, but without power to fumble with lis
nerveless fingers for any more pence which might
possibly remain in his possession. His eyes were
open, and in a state of drunken lethargy he was
watching Nelly going softly to and fro about the
56 NELLYS DARK DAYS.

room, casting terrified glances at him from time
to time. He saw her bent almost double under
the weight of the old iron-kettle, which she was
lifting with both her little arms on to the fire;
and lying there, powerless and speechless, he saw
the thin, ragged frock, with its torn and faded
flounces, catch the flame between the bars, and
kindle rapidly into a blazing light about her.

An extreme agony came upon him. With all
the might of his will he struggled to raise himself
up to save her; but he could not move. He had
no more power over his own limbs than the
mother’s corpse would have had, if it had been
lying there. Fora moment his little girl stretched
out her arms to him with a scream for help;
and then she sprang past him to the door, and
he heard the street ring and echo with her cries,
and the shrieks of frightened women and children.
But still he could not stir. He lay there like a
log, while great drops of terror and anguish
gathered on his face.

How long it was he did not know—it might
have been years of torment—before the door was
flung open, and a woman’s face looked in upon.
him, white and haggard with fear.

“She’s burned to death!” she cried, “and you'll
have to answer for it. I’m not sorry; I’m glad.


NELLYS DARK DAYS. 57

She'll be better off now; and I hope they'll hang
you for it. You'll have to answer for the child's
death.”

She drew the door to again sharply, and left
him in. his miserable and helpless loneliness.
Nelly was dead then; burned to death through
his sin! The intolerable agony of his spirit gave
him a little strength, and he crawled upon his
hands and knees to the door, and succeeded in
opening it. Down in the street below the people
were talking of it, the women calling to one
another to tell the horrible news; he could hear
many of the words they said, with his name
sometimes, and sometimes Nelly’s. Dead! Was
it possible that his little Nelly could be dead?
Why did they not bring her home? But then
a great shuddering of horror fell upon him. He
could not bear to see her again, his dead child;
burned to death with him lying by, too drunk
to save her. ,

By and by his limbs gathered more power, and
with pain and toil he raised himself to his feet.
The tumult in the streets was subsiding, and the
people were retiring to their houses’ Some of
them, who lived on the same flat, kicked at his
door with loud and angry curses; but he had
locked it as soon as his fingers could turn the
58 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

key, and he kept a silence like the grave All
was quiet after a while, and the clocks of the
town struck eleven. If he could only steal away
now there would be no one to stop him and ask
him what he was about to do, or whither he was
going. The streets were almost deserted, except
about the gin-palaces. He cursed them bitterly
as he went by. There was now only one purpose,
one idea in his tormented brain: if his miserable
feet would but carry him to the river all should
soon be ended for him. Nothing in the world
to come could be worse than the hell of his own
sin. The only plea Bessie herself could urge—
that he should live to make amends to Nelly—
had no longer an existence.

It was slow and weary work, creeping, creeping
down to the river side. He saw it long before
he reached it, with the lights glimmering across
it from the opposite shore. He was obliged to
‘lean often against the walls and the lamp-posts
to gain breath and power to take a few more
footsteps towards his. grave. THe was drunk no
longer. His mind was terribly clear. He knew
distinctly what had happened, and what was
about to happen to him if his strength would
only take him down to the edge of yonder black
water. His conscience raised no voice against
NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 59

his purpose. There was a certain feeling, almost
of satisfaction, that in a little while the tide would
be carrying him out to sea.

He had almost gained a spot where a single
effort would plunge him into the cooling waters;
there were but few persons about, and they at
some distance away, far enough not to hear the
splash as he fell into the basin, when his unsteady
foot caught upon the curb-stone, and he fell
forward, dashing his head violently upon the
pavement. Before many minutes had passed a
policeman was conveying him in a cab to the
infirmary; and he was laid, unconscious and
delirious, upon a bed in one of the wards there.

Sf
CHAPTER IX,

FOUND DROWNED.
GP uREE days after Rodney’s disappearance
RD Bessie was sitting at an apple-stall in her old
place by the inviding-atages, when the news ran
along the line of basket-women that the body of a
drowned man*had just been brought ashore at one
of the wharves near at hand. Bessie’s heart sank
within her. There had been no tidings of Rodney
since the evening she had first missed him, though
she had sought everywhere for him; and she re-
collected too well the threat he had often made
of putting an end to his life. She felt sick and
giddy at the mere thought of recognizing him
in this drowned man, yet she left her basket and
stall in charge of a neighbour, and ran in search
of the crowd which would be sure to gather about
_ the ghastly object.

Bessie pushed through the circle of bystanders,
and looked down on the dripping form lying upon
the stones. The face was livid and disfigured,
and the scanty hair was smooth and dark; yet
NELLY’S DARK DAYS, 61

it was like him, so like him that Bessie fell upon
her knees beside him, sobbing passionately.

“Oh! I know him!” she cried; “he saved me
from being drowned once, and now he’s gone
and drowned himself. Oh! I wish he could be
brought to life again! Is he quite dead? Are
you sure he’s quite dead?”

“He's been in the water two or three days,”
said one of the lookers-on, speaking to another
who stood near.

“Oh! then, it must be him!” sobbed Bessie!
“it must be him. It’s three days since little
Nelly set herself on fire while he was drunk;
and he went and drowned himself. He used to
say he’d do it, and I hindered him. Why wasn’t
I there to hinder him again?”

“ Are you his daughter?” asked a policeman.

“No, I was nothing to him,” answered Bessie,
“only he saved me from being drowned when
I was a little girl He ought never to have come
to this; he oughtn’t. He was a good man, and
as kind as kind could be when he was himself.
Oh! why wasn’t I here, Mr. Rodney, when you
came to drown yourself?”

“Do you know where his family lives?” asked
the policeman again.

“He hasn’t got any family now,” said Bessie,
62 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

with fresh tears; “his wife died at Easter, and
little Nelly is dying in the hospital. They say
they think she'll die to-day, but I’m to go again
this evening. He’s got nobody but a mother
down in the country thirty miles away; and as
soon as I can walk it I was going to tell her about
Nelly; and now there'll be this to tell her as well.
And he was such a good man once.”

«You must tell me where you live,” said the
policeman; “we shall want you on the inquest,
you know.”

“Oh, yes,” she answered, ‘but I haven’t got
any more to tell, Only I was very fond of him
and Nelly, I was.”

She rose from her knees and wiped her eyes,
watching them earnestly as they carried the corpse
into a small public-house near at hand, where it
was not unwelcome, as it brought custom to the
bar. The next morning she gave her evidence
at the inquest, and the corpse was buried as that
of John Rodney. Bessie gave up the key of the
house, which she had kept in her possession; and
the few poor articles of furniture in it were sold
by the landlord to pay the rent that was due to
him,

In the meantime, and for several weeks after,
Rodney lay on the verge of death, crazy and
NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 63

delirious with brain-fever. His wretched life
hung upon a thread, and only the marvellous skill
and patience of those about him could have saved
it. Nothing was known of him, and when the
delirium was over, his mind and memory were at
first too weak, for him to give any account of
himself As recollection returned and conscience
awoke he kept silence, brooding over the terrible
history of the past. There were time and oppor-
tunity now, during the long hours, day and night,
while he lay enfeebled, but sober, calling up one
by one all the memories of his sad life. He knew
that he should be compelled to live now, and
compelled to enter upon the desolate future, with
its sore burden of remorse and shame. He
vowed to himself that if ever he went out into
the streets again, where temptations beset him
on every hand, nothing should induce him to fall
again into sin.

When the time came for him to leave, he was
asked where his home was, and what he intended
to do. Rodney’s white and sunken face flushed
a little as he answered, “I’ve no home now;”
he said, “I had one once as good as a man could
wish for. I earned good wages, and I’d a dear
wife and little children to meet me when I came
in from my day’s work. But I threw it all away
6+ NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

for drink. All my children are dead—the last
that died was little Nelly. And my poor wife
is dead, thank God! I’ve nobody in the world
belonging to me, save my old mother, and I’ve
broken her heart. I think TU go home to her;
I know she'll take me in.” °

With half-a-crown to pay his fare down to his
mother’s house in the country, Rodney left the
infirmary, and found himself once more in the
familiar streets, with their common, everyday
sounds and sights, and their gin-palaces thrusting
themselves upon his notice at every other minute
of his progress through them.

Sy
dQ

Oe
&
ook

“aks
CHAPTER X.

DEEPER STILL

‘
Wh ATH bowed head and despair tugging at

(Way, his heart Rodney passed through the noise

and business of the streets. He was bent
upon seeing over again the poor place where his
wife had died and Nelly been killed. It was the
middle of the morning as he approached it, and as
he shrank from being the object of notice. to his
former neighbours, he slunk down the side-alleys
and passages, which brought him almost opposite
the building where his home had been. Again
he climbed the worn steps and gave a low knock
at his own door, which was quickly answered by
a voice calling, “Come in.”

Yes, his home was gone, quite gone. Here.
was another family on the same road to ruin as
himself, dwelling within the old walls. Upon
the hearth was a woman sitting on a low stool
and nursing a wailing baby, with a bottle in
reach of her hand, while the scent of gin, which

made every nerve in him creep and. tingle, filled
E
66 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

the place. She looked up with blood-shot eyes,
and asked him what his business might be.

“Td a friend who lived here once,” he said, lean-
ing against the door-post, for hefelt faint and giddy,
“John Rodney by name. I suppose he’s gone?”

“Oh! he’s dead,” answered the woman, “drowned
himself: and a good thing too. Everybody was
glad to hear the news. His little girl set herself
afire, and him lying there, the brute, too drunk
to stir; couldn’t lift hand or foot to help her.
Mrs. Simpson, as lived next door, said how she
see him crawl away after down them steps, and
up the street, and three days after his body was
found in the river.”

“What did you say about the little girl?” he
asked, sick at heart.

“Why! she set herself afire at this very grate,
and him lying as it might be there, and she ran
out, all in a flame, down them steps, and was
burned to death. Bless you! I’d lots of folks to
see the place, specially ladies; but they’re forget-
ting it now. I couldn’t bear it at first myself,
but I bore up. This Il help you bear up against
anything.”

She laid her hand on the bottle, smiling drearily,
and Rodney shivered and shuddered throughout
all his frame. He knew well what it would do












































































































GUT TERWORTH & HEATHSE4







THE VISIT TO THE OLD HOME,

NELLY'S DARK DAYS. 69

for him: what a warmth, what a genial glow
would run through all his veins, till some, at least,
of this deadly sickness of heart would pass away
In the hospital he had had wine given to him at
stated intervals, and his burden had always
seemed lighter after he drank it. “Here, within
the narrow compass of these bare walls was the
scene of his most terrible remembrance; but here
also the temptation beset him with awful and
renewed strength. He gazed with greedy eyes
at the bottle in the woman’s hand.

“It’s all gone,” she said, “or I’d have given’
you a drop.”

Rodney turned away without a word, his brain
on fire with the old hellish craving for drink.
Some words were running through his mind with
monotonous repetition, “Cool my tongue, for I
am tormented in this flame.” Halfway down
the narrow street lay a man in the gutter, the
butt for any passer-by to kick at. The children
had strewn ashes upon his head and face, from
the dust-heaps which lay before each door, with-
out disturbing the profound slumber of the drunk-
ard. Rodney stood still and gazed at him, with
a mingled feeling of wonder and envy to think
of what deep draughts he must have taken, and
what utter forgetfulness had come over him. At
70 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

length he passed onwards to the more public
thoroughfares. There was the old frequented
gin-palace, with its easily swinging doors, and its
attractive appliances to help the temptation to
conquer him. He could resist no longer; and he
did not turn away from the counter till the whole
of the money, given to him to carry him to his
mother’s home, was gone.

It was some hours before Rodney came to him-
self, being hastened to it by a shove from the
foot of the proprietor, who had allowed him to
lie asleep in a corner of the place during the slack.
hours of the daytime. It was time for him now
to make room for others who had money to spend.
He gathered himself up and stood on his feet,
looking drearily into the man’s face.

“Where am I to go to?” he asked; “I’ve spent
my last penny with you. I haven’t got a hole to
put my head in, nor a farthing in my pocket.
Where am I to go to?”

“Where you were last night,” said the man
angrily.

“T came out of the infirmary this morning,” he
answered, in a bewildered tone; “where am I to
go to to-night?”

“To the workhouse then,” said the man; “only
out of this anyhow.”
NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 71

He opened the door, and pushed him out.
Rodney tottered to a door-way, and sat down,
gazing at the stream of people constantly passing
by, with a rigid and stony face of despair. It
was still twilight, and a crimson flush was tinging
the sky westward, while a fresh invigorating
breeze played about his burning forehead.

“Oh God! oh God!” he dated within himself,
“T meant to have kept that vow. Where can I
hide myself from these places that entrap me?
Would to God they'd take me into some mad-
house, and put a strait-waistcoat on me! I am
mad, or the devilisin me. If I could but crawl
to some place, where they'd lock me up, and keep
me from it, if I died for thirst! Oh! if there were
only such a place for a madman like me!”

But there was no place for him, even to shelter
him for the night. He was homeless, without a
penny or a friend in the great and busy town.
Or rather, there was one refuge for him—the
workhouse. The thought of going there came
dimly to him at first; but by and by he began to
see that it was not merely the only place for him,
but it was a place where he could not be assailed
by the sight and smell of the poison which took
away his senses. As long as he could keep to the
resolution of remaining within its walls he would
72 NELLYS DARK DAYS.

be preserved from the temptation of the num-
berless gin-palaces which met him at every turn.
It might be that after a time the spell would
be broken; the devil’s witchcraft which had cost
lim so much.

Jt was a painful pilgrimage, with his heavy feet
and despairing spirit, to make his way to the work-
house. He could only be admitted to the casual
ward for the night; but the next morning he
entered, as an inmate, this last and only refuge.

“God help me,” he said to himself, “God help
me to keep inside these walls. I daren’t trust
inyself in the streets. If there's any chance for
me, it’s here.”

WP
CHAPTER XI.

TIE ONLY REFUGE.
sas
tf OR a season Rodney’s mind was clouded and
ety, bewildered. It is probable that if he had been
in ordinary health and strength, he could not
have held to his resolution to ea: within the walls,
which were his only defence from ovérpowering
temptation; but though his craving often amounted
to intense agony, the weakness which was the
result of his long and dangerous illness made him
incapable of much exertion, and the little labour
he was put to completely exhausted his powers.
Day after day passed by, the hours dragging along
heavily. In the midst of the miserable poor, who
peopled the place, he lived alone, in a kind of
dreary lethargy of body and soul, which rendered
him almost unconscious of what was going on
around him.

Gradually, however, the cloud which drunken-
ness had brought across his mind melted away,
and his thoughts and memories grew clear. All
his past life lay behind him, mapped out plainly
and distinctly; his early manhood, his strength
of muscle and nerve, his marriage, his children,
TA NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

and last of all his little Nelly,—all sacrificed, all
destroyed, all lost, by his fatal obedience to the
sin which had possessed him. It had come to
this, that he, who should have been a happy and
useful man, respected and beloved, was a pauper,
eating the begrudged bread of a workhouse table,
He had been acting out the story told centuries
ago by the Lord of truth and wisdom. He had
left the Father’s house and wandered into a far
‘country, where a sore famine had arisen; and be-
hold! he was eating the husks which the swine
did eat, and no man gave unto him. That was
his condition.

It was a long time before Rodney went any
farther than that. Broken-hearted and cast down
in spirit, he thought he must resign himself to
abide in his miserable condition. An importunate
remorse was gnawing in hig conscience, and he
gaid to himself, it was only just that he should be
left without hope, and without God, in a world
where he had brought all his misery upon himself.
At this time little Nelly was always in his
thoughts, the puny, pale little child, puny and
pale through his vice, hungry often, crying often,
seldom merry and light-hearted as other children
are, yet always patient and fond of him, always
ready to be glad if he only smiled upon her. Oh!
NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 75

what a wretch he had been! How often, too—his
memory was vivid in recalling it—how often, when
he had received any money, had he resolved to
hasten home with it that Nelly’s wants might be
supplied, and those accursed gin-palaces had been
strewn so thickly in his path, that when he had
reached home it had been penniless, but raging
mad with drink, striking the quiet, patient little
creature if she only came in his way!

But one morning, so early that it was still an
hour or two before the paupers left their pauper
beds, a whisper seemed to come to his troubled
conscience, partly, as it were, in a dream, which
said to his awakening ears, “I will arise, and
go to my Father.” He repeated the words over
and over again. Had that poor prodigal son,
living amongst swine, and eating of their husks,
still a right to call any good and great being his
Father? Still, it was he who had said it, without
hesitation, as it seemed, in saying the word, Father:
Christ, the Son of God, who knew all things, and
could make no mistake, was He who had told the
story. The miserable prodigal, who had spent
every penny in riotous living, just as he had done,
when he came to himself, had said, “I will arise,
and go to my Father.” Was it possible he could
do the same?
76 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

Day after day Rodney pondered this question
over in his heart. Long ago he had known that
Jesus Christ had come to seek and to save those
who were lost; and now, if he would only suffer
himself to be found by Him, if he would only
receive Christ and His love, He would give, even
to him, the power to become one of the sons of
God. Oh! if Christ would but find him! down
there in his deep degradation and despair! Had
He never known a drunkard like him! If He
had not when He was a man on earth, He knew
them now, by hundreds and thousands, in the
streets of Christian cities; His pure eyes beheld
them in all their vileness, in their desecrated
homes, and in the gin-palaces thickly studding the
streets.

The day dawn that was breaking upon his soul
grew stronger and stronger, until the shadows fled
away. There was neither drink nor the tempta-
tion to drink to make it dim, or to quench it.
He could think now. He could repent, pray, and
believe. Reason and faith could work within him,
and there was no subtle foe to steal away his
senses. The hour came at last, when from his
inmost soul, drunkard though he had been, though
his wife and little Nelly had perished through
his sin, he could look up to God, and ery, “Father!”
CHAPTER XII.

TRUE TO A PROMISE.

Gi T was not many days after this that Rodney
4) ‘came to the conclusion that he ought not to

stay any longer within the sheltering walls of
the. workhouse, to be a burden upon the poor-rates.
He was strong enough now to earn his own living,
though he could never regain the vigour he had
thrown away. Weakness of body, and a sorrow-
ful spirit within him, must be his portion in this
life, though his sin was forgiven, and his heart
could call God his Father. He knew also that
outside the gates, within sight of them, a vehe-
ment temptation would assail him. Even there,
within the refuge, if the thought of drink came
across him he could only find help against it in .
earnest prayer. Would the demon take him cap-
tive again if he ventured out to confront the
peril?

With a trembling heart, and in an agony of
prayer, Rodney left his shelter and found himself
once more free and unrestrained in the streets.
78 NELLY'S DARK DAYS.

He was compelled to pass the places of his temp-
tation, not once or twice only, but scores of times,
with the fumes of the liquors poisoning the at-,
mosphere about them. He could not help but
breathe it, could not choose but see the gaudy and
bright interiors, as his feet carried him from one.
fierce assault to another. Sometimes he felt as if
he should be lost if he did not flee back to the
shelter he had left, and end his days there shame-
fully. But be continued his course down to the
docks, where he hoped he might happen on work
to supply his wants for that day and night, for if
he failed he must return to the casual ward for a
lodging.

He had earned a few pence, and was about to
seek lodgings for the night, when he saw a number
of decent working-men crowding into a school-
room, which was well lit up. He stopped one of
them to ask what was going on inside.

«Tt’s a lecture,” he answered, “on temperance,
by Mr. Radford. He’s always plenty to say, and
says it out likea man. Come in, and hear him.”

“Ay, Vl come in,” said Rodney eagerly, forget-
ting both his hunger and fatigue. The lecture
had just begun, and the speaker, whose face was
earnest and hearty, and who had a pleasant voice,
had gained the fixed attention of his hearers.
NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 79

“Tl tell you what a promise once did,” he said,
towards the close of his lecture: “We had a meet-
ing of our Band of Hope some years ago, and
I saw amongst the children a rough, bare-foot
little girl staring about her with large, eager eyes,
as if she could not make out what we were
about. I asked her her name, and told her to
come to my house; and I wrote down my address
for her. But I said to her, ‘Will you promise
me not to taste anything that will make you
drunk till you see me again?’ And she promised
me.”

“That’s Bessie Dingle!” cried Rodney, half
aloud; and the lecturer paused for an instant,
looking down kindly but gravely upon his listeners.

“T expected her to come to me within a day
or two, and I should have persuaded her to jom
our Band of Hope; but she never came. Nearly
six years were gone, and one day last autumn,
when I was on the landing-stage, I heard some
one cry out, ‘That’s him again!’ and a girl of
seventeen or so, a bright, busy girl, came rushing
towards me from an apple-stall. ‘I’ve kept my
promise, sir!’ she cried; ‘I’ve never took a drop to
make me drunk. I said I never would till I see
you again.’ The girl had been faithful to her pro-
mise, Yes, in her place, and according to her
80 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

strength, she had kept her promise, as God keeps
His.”

Rodney scarcely heard the end of the lecture,
so full was his mind of Bessie, whom he had
scareely thought of, but who was the only friend
he had left in Liverpool. He could not go away
without making some inquiry arter her; and when
the audience was dispersing, he made his way up
to the lecturer’s desk :—“Sir,” he said, “that girl
was Bessie Dingle. Could you tell me where I
could find her this very night?”

«She left Liverpool last autumn,” he answered;
“she is gone to live in the country with an old
woman of the name of Rodney.”

“Why! that must be my mother!” exclaimed
Rodney, involuntarily.

“Who are you?” inquired Mr. Radford.

“My name’s John Rodney,” he answered;
“Bessie knows all about me. Oh, sir! I was a
dreadful drunkard; and one night I saw my little
girl—she was the last of them, and my poor wife
was dead as well, thank God!—and the child set
herself on fire, and me lying by so drunk I could
not move; I could not stir a limb no more than
if Td been dead, Ob God! oh God! it was a
horrible thing.”

Rodney grasped the desk with both hands to
KELLY’S DARK DAYS, $1

keep himself from falling, and neither he nor the
stranger could speak again for some moments.

“T understood you were drowned,” said Mr.
Radford at lenoth; “ Bessie believes so; she told
me all about it.”

“No,” murmured Rodney, ‘I went off with the
intention of putting an end to myself; but I
slipped on the pavement, and they carried me to
the infirmary. Iwas there a long time, and then
I went home, and other folks had taken to my
house, and I’d no place to sit down in, and the
liquor-vaults were the only place open to such as
ine, and I went in and got dead drunk again.”

“ Aoain!” repeated Mr. Radford.

“Ay, again,” he said, with a deep groan; “‘ but
it was the last time. I pray God it may be the
last time. Then I knew there was no hope fer
meas long as I could see or smell drink, and I
went into the workhouse to be out of the way
partly, and partly because I'd no other place to
goto. I only came out this morning.”

“And where are you going to now?” asked his
new friend.

“Anywhere,” he answered; ‘but I’m afraid of
going where they'll be drinking. There seems to
be drink everywhere. You don’t know what it

is down in the low parts of the town, sir.”
“=
82 NELLYS DARK DAYS.

“Yes, I do,” said Mr. Radford; ‘but I’ll speak
toa friend of mine here, who will take you to his
place for to-night. He was one of the first to
join us here, and he was as great a slave to drink
as you ever were before.”

“Sir,” said Rodney, earnestly, “I believe God
has forgiven me, and I believe He will help me.
He has helped me this day, or I should never
have been here. If you will let me join myself
to you, with a promise, I'll try to keep it as
Bessie kept hers, God helping me.”

“T believe from my heart it would be of great
use to you,” answered Mr. Radford, after a mo-
ment’s thought. “Mark! I do not say it will
save you, but it will help you. You can give it
as a reason for not drinking to your old comrades;
but the chief thing will be that it will bring you
into acquaintance with new comrades of your own
way of thinking, who will not tempt you to drink.
Remember, too, if you should break it, that’s no
reason why you should not promise again; yes,
and again.and again, if you fall again and again.
Most of us promise God very often to give up our
favourite sin, and when we forget our promise He
does not forbid us to renew it.”

With trembling fingers, and with deep, un-
spoken prayer in his heart, Rodney signed his
NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 83

name to a form by which he pledged himself to
abstain from all intoxicating drinks; and then Mr.
Radford committed him to the care of his friend,
who was to take him home for the night.

“What are you going to do to-morrow?” asked
Mr. Radford.

“Tl make my way down to my mother’s,” he
answered. “I shall be safer out of the town,
though I ought to be ashamed to go to her in
these rags. But it’s no more than I deserve, and
she'll be overjoyed to see me.”

“Go down by train,” said Mr. Radford. “I
will lend you the fare, and you can repay me
when you are in work again. They all think you
are dead down there.”

“Yes,” he answered, smiling sadly, “my mother
will say, ‘This my son was dead and is alive
again; he was lost and is found.’”

With these words he went his way; and after
a night’s rest, more refreshing than any he had
had for years, he started by the earliest train
down into the country.

CEN
Lb
CHAPTER XIII

DEAD AND ALIVE AGAIN.

" T was spring-time again—twelve months since

his wife had died. The hedgerows were sweet

with primroses and violets, whose fresh frag-
rance was full of sorrowful memories to Rodney.
The years, which had changed him so much, had
hardly touched the face of the country. Every
step of the road was familiar and dear to him.
Here were the nut-bushes, where he and his
brothers had come nutting in the autumn, when
he was a boy; they were fringed and tasselled
with yellow catkins now. On the other side of
the hedge lay the corn-fields, where they had all
gone gleaning together in the harvest, as happy a
time as any in the whole year. Yonder was the
bank where the violets grew thickest, and where
he had been used to seek the first-scented blos-
som for Ellen, before they were married. The
wooden bridge over the shallow brook, whose
water rippled round pebbles as bright as gems,
where he had paddled barefoot when he was
NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 85

young—barefoot like little Nelly, only it had
been sport to him; the willow-trees dipping
down into the stream; the cottage-roofs; but
above all, the thatched roof of his own cottage
home; all seemed to him like another world, com-
pared with the noisy, bustling, tempting streets
of Liverpool, where, in those parts to which he
had sunk, there were none but sordid sights and
sounds of misery. Oh! if Nelly had only lived a
young life like his own!

He reached the garden-gate, and leaned against
it, looking down the long, straight, narrow walk
which led to the door. It stood open, and the
sun was shining brightly into the house, lighting
up for him the old, polished oak dresser, with the
shelves above it, well filled with plates and
dishes. A lavender and rosemary bush grew close
up to the door-sill, and the bees were humming
busily about them. He could hear also the mur-
mur of-voices; the prattle of a child’s voice talk-
ing gaily within, out of his sight. Once he saw
Bessie cross the kitchen to the little pantry, but
she did not glance his way, through the open
door; and he still lingered outside, scarcely know-
ing how he should make himself known to his
mother, who believed he was dead.

She came to the door at last—a neat old
86 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

‘woman, with a snow-white frill round her face,
looking out through ber horn spectacles upon her
sunny garden; and Rodney, leaning over the
gate, stretched out his hands towards her, unable
to speak a word, except the low, murmured cry,
“Mother! mother!” which reached her ears,
though they had grown dull of hearing years ago.

For a minute or two old Mrs. Rodney stood still,
gazing intently at the motionless figure leaning
over her wicket, and then, almost in a voice of
terror, she called out loudly, “Bessie.” And in
an instant Bessie was at her side, in the doorway,
with her quick, sharp eyes fastened upon him.

“Bessie!” cried Rodney, in a louder voice than
before, “I was not drowned, as you thought I
was. I’ve been almost dead in the infirmary, but
I didn’t die. I’ve come home now, a changed
man, if you and mother will take me in.”

Would they take him in? They could hardly
hasten to the wicket fast enough, the old woman,
with her short, unsteady steps, hanging on to
Bessie’s arm to prevent her from being the first
to welcome her son. She threw her arms round
his neck, and pressed many motherly kisses upon
his haggard face, crying, “My boy! my boy!”
while Bessie clasped his hand in both her own,
fondling and kissing it as if it was impossible to
















THE PRODIGAL'S RETURN,














NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 89

express her great and unexpected gladness. It
seemed to Rodney as if they were making too
much of him, and forgiving him too freely. They
ought at least to hang back a little from such a
sinner as he.

“Mother,” he said sadly, “you know all about
my poor little Nelly.”

“Yes, yes, my son,” she answered, “I know
it all; but now you've come home safe and sound, ©
after we thought you were dead, we cannot re-
member all that. Nelly forgot it long ago.”

“Ah!” cried Rodney, with a heavy sigh.

“Nelly’s happier than ever she was in her life,”
said Bessie, “and she'll be happier than allnow. It
was a good change for her to be took away from
those dirty streets, where everybody about her was
- getting drunk. She was never so well off as now.”

“JT know it,” answered Rodney.

“And though the pain was very bad,” continued
Bessie, soothingly, “she’s forgotten it all by now.
She’s never in any pain, and she’s singing as
happy as an angel all day long. I wouldn't fret
about that if I was you. We've forgot it; and
now you're come home again, though I was sure
and positive you were drowned. I said so before
the coroner; and Mr. Rodney, please, I followed
you to the grave.”
90 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

Bessie burst into an hysterical fit of laughter
and sobbing, which she could hardly conquer, and
she ran back along the garden-path, leaving
Rodney and his mother to follow more slowly.
His mother was hanging fondly on his arm; and
before he entered the cottage he paused and lifted
his old hat from his head.

“Please God,” he said, earnestly, “Tl be a
different man to what I’ve ever been; and may He
at last bring me to where my poor wife and little
Nelly are gone!”

“Father!” cried a sweet, childish voice inside
the cottage, a voice he had never thought to hear
again in this world; “where is father, Bessie?”

How he crossed the threshold, and passed into
sight of his child, he could never tell. But there
was Nelly before his very eyes, her wan, small
face unchanged, save for a faint tinge of colour
in her cheeks, and a happy light in her eyes.
She was lying on a little couch beneath the lat-
tice-window, with a doll beside her, and a cup of
violets on the window-sill; peaceful and happy,
with a childish patience and sweetness in her face.
Her arms were stretched out to him, and her
features began to quiver with eagerness as he |
stood awe-stricken and motionless. Bessie drew
him to her side, and he fell down on his knees,
NELLY’S DARK DAYS. 91

with his gray head upon the pillow, while she
laid her arm about his neck. He had no voice
to tell them what he had thought during these
last terrible months, and with what a shock of
rapture it came over him to find that his little
Nelly was still living.

“Come,” said Bessie, in a tone of comforting,
“don’t take on so, please, Mr. Rodney. We never
thought as Nelly would pull through at all; and
she’s not in any pain; are you, darling?”

“No,” answered Nelly, pressing her arm closer
about him; “are you come home to stay, daddy?”

Still Rodney could not speak, for his throat
seemed dried up and choked. The child’s voice
grew plaintive and wistful.

“Oh! father,” she said, “you’re not going to
get drunk any more, and make Granny, and
Bessie, and me all poor and miserable again?
You've come back to be good, aren’t you, father?”

“God help me!” sobbed Rodney.

“We're all so happy now,” continued Nelly
pleadingly; “Bessie goes out to work, and Granny
and me are alone all day, and at nights we sing,
and I’m learning to read, and so is Bessie. And
if you'll only be good, it'll be nicer than ever.
You didn’t mean to hurt me, I know; never, did
you?”
92, NELLYS DARK DAYS.

He could not lift up his head yet, or answer
her in any way, except by his reiterated cry,
“God help me!”

“See, P’ve got a doll again,” said Nelly in a
gayer tone, to cheer him; “it’s all my own, and it
keeps me company all day and night too. The
doctor says I shall never walk and run about like
other children, but I don’t mind that. I don’t
mind anything, now you're come home, if you'll
only be good, and never get drunk, and make us
all poor and ragged again. I shouldn’t like to
see poor Granny like mother was. You'll never
do that, will you, father?”

“lush, Nelly!” said Bessie, as she saw Rodney
shaking with his sobs, “hush! Father’s come
home to work, and get money for you; and we
shall all be happier than ever now. If God wasn’t
going to help him to be good, now he’s trying
himself, He’d have let him be drowned in the
river, and not brought him back here to be .a
plague tous. There, Mr. Rodney, please get up,
and sit down on this chair beside of little Nelly.”

Roduey did as she told him, and sat still for a
time, holding Nelly’s small hand tightly in his
own. Bessie bustled about getting dinner ready,
for ib was nearly mid-day, and in their simple
country fashion they took their meals early, and
NELLYS DARK DAYS. 93

lived in the day-light, from sunrise till not long
_after sunset. His mother was sitting opposite
to him in her old three-cornered chair, from time
to time wiping the glasses of her horn spectacles,
while her white head trembled a little. He could
scarcely believe that it was not all a dream.

In the long, sunny afternoon, with the bees
humming at the door, and the scent of lavender
and rosemary wafted in upon every breath of the
fresh spring air, Rodney told them all that had
happened to him, and the great change that had
passed over him in the workhouse, and his inter-
view with Mr. Radford the evening before. Then
Bessie related to him the history of their lives.

“Mr, Rodney,” she said, “when little Nelly
came flying down them steps all in a flame, I
met her just at the bottom, and Id a big cloak
on as was lent me by a woman I was friends
with, and I wrapped it allround her, and quenched
the fire. Then a woman as was in the crowd
shouted, ‘Take her to the Children’s Hospital.
They’ll do well by her, if she isn’t dead.” And
I cried out, ‘Oh! she is dead!’ And then me
and some other women carried her to the hospital,
and at first they said she was dead, and then they
said she’d be sure to die. So I had to leave her
there, and I came back to tell you, and you was
94 NELLY’S DARK DAYS.

gone, and Mrs. Simpson she said she’d seen you
go creeping off in the dark, and it ’ud be a good
riddance if you never came back. And it was
three days after they found somebody in the river,
and I was certain it was you, and I followed you
to the churchyard, me and nobody else at all.
And then I went to the hospital, and they said
there was a little sparkle of hope, but if Nelly
lived she’d never be good for anything. And I
said, ‘Never you mind. You make her live, and
Til take care of her after.” And then I came
down here, walked every foot of the way, and told
Mrs. Rodney, and she said, ‘Bessie, as soon as
that dear child is well enough, her and you shall
have a home with me.” So as soon as Nelly
could come we moved down to this place; and
it’s been like heaven to us—hasn’t it, Nelly?”

“Yes,” answered the child with a quiet smile.

«But now you're come home as well,” continued
Bessie, blithely, “it'll be better than ever. It
was bad to think of you being drowned, and
never been the good man you ought to have been.
I’m glad you’ve seen Mr. Radford; and glad you've
made him a promise like me. And oh! I’m go
glad you're going to be good and kind again at
last. I always knew you'd be that, if it hadn’t
been for drink.”
NELLY'S DARK DAYS. 95

Long after the others had gone to bed, and
were sleeping soundly and peacefully under the
thatched roof, Rodney sat up by the cottage fire,
brooding over his past life and that which lay
before him, with many earnest prayers for light,
and strength, and help. .One thing was certain:
whatever other people might do who had never
fallen captives to drunkenness, he must never
touch the accursed thing again. He trembled to
think of the snares that would be laid to entrap,
and with what wary and watchful steps he must
tread among them. He could not walk down
the village street, or greet any of his former
friends, who had believed him dead, without being
invited, urged, and tempted to drink. He could
not seek work where he should meet with fellow-
workmen who would not mock at the pledge he
had taken. He could not even sit among some
religious people who would not despise him some-
what for his weakness, Whatever he did, where-
ever he went, in town or country, he would be
forced into’ contact with drinking customs, which
would assail him from without; while within
there would ever be a treacherous foe ready to
betray him. No other sin met with so constant
a temptation. Yet, on the other hand, here was
his little child restored to him from the dead;
96 NELLY'S DARK DAYS.

here his mother, so long broken-spirited for him,
and with so few days left which he could make
happy; and here was Bessie, constant and faith-
ful, true to the promises she made, his helper and
example. Could he plunge them again into the
depths from which God had delivered them?
Rodney opened his mother’s old Bible, with the
large print which his own dim eyes needed now,
and turning over page after page he found at last
the promise he was searching for, and set an in-
delible mark against it to look at in after-years:
““My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength
is made perfect in weakness.”



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Price, in Paper Covers, ws.; tn Lined Cloth, 1s. 6@.; Cloth Beards, 25.,
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George Flarrington.

By Davié Macrae, Author of * The Americans at Home,” & c.

Ninth Thousand.
Price, tn Paper Covers, 1s.; tn Bxtra Cloth Boards, 2s. 64., Post Free.

i100 Prize Tale,

Dunvarlich; or, Round A bout
the Bush.

By David Macrae, Author of ** George Harrington.”



108 “Hope Street, Glasgow,
(2)
Thirty-sixth Thousand,
Post 8vo, in Paper Covers. Price 1s, Post Free; Post 8vo, Fine Paper, in
Cloth Boards, with a Portrait of the Author, 38., Post Free.

Alcohol: tts Place and Power.

By Fames Miller, RSL, FRCS L.,

Surgeon in Ordinary to the Queen for Scotland, Professor of Surgery in the
University of Edinburgh, &¢. &¢.



Twenty-ninth Thousand.
F'cap 800, in Paper Covers, Price 6d.; in Limp Cloth, 1s., Post Free;
Post 8vo, on Fine Paper, in Cloth Boards, Price 38., Post Free.

Nephalism the True Temperance
Of Scripture, Science, and Experience.

By Fames Miller, RSL, RCSL,

Surgeon in Ordinary.to the Queen for Scotland, Professor of Surgery in the
University of Edinburgh, &c. & ct.



Twelfth Thousand,
Price in Paper Covers, 1s.; Cloth Boards, 2s. 6a.

Scripture Testimony against
L[ntoxicating Wene.

By the Rev. William Ritchie, D.D., Dunse.



Twelfth Thousand.
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Our National Vice.

By the Rev. William Reid, Edinburgh.



108 Hope Street, Glasgow.
(3)
Price in Paper Covers, 1s.; in Cloth Boards, 28., Post Free.

Sketches of Life and Character.

Illustrated with a Profusion of Wood Engravings.

By Rev. Alexander Wallace, D.D., Glasgow, Author of
“ The Desert and the Holy Land,” &c.



Thirty-fourth Thousand,
Price, in Paper Covers, 6d.; in Cloth Limp, 1s., Post Free.

The City: tts Sins and Sorrows.

By the Rev. Thomas Guthrie, D.D., Edinburgh,

Editor of “Sunday Magazine;” Author of “Plea for Ragged Schools,”
“ The Gospel in Ezekiel,” &c.



Prige One-Halfpenny, 14 Copies, Post Free, for Seven Stanips.

The Adviser,

An Illustrated Monthly Magazine for the Young.



Price, per Volume, Post Free, in Paper Covers, 9d.; in Paper Boards, 18.3
in Extra Cloth Limp, Gilt, 1s. 6d.; in Fine Cloth Boards, Gilt, 2s.

Volumes of the Aduser,

For 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865, 1866, 1867, 1868, 1869, axa 1870.
Beautifully lilustrated Books for the Young.
Suitable for Christmas and New Year Presents.



Glasgow. Scottish Temperance League, 108 Hope Street.
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