Charles Dickens, Bleak House: Ch. 8

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She also had upon her face and arms the marks of ill usage.  She had no kind of grace about her, but the grace of sympathy; but when she condoled with the woman, and her own tears fell, she wanted no beauty.  I say condoled, but her only words were "Jenny!  Jenny!"  All the rest was in the tone in which she said them.

I thought it very touching to see these two women, coarse and shabby and beaten, so united; to see what they could be to one another; to see how they felt for one another, how the heart of each to each was softened by the hard trials of their lives.  I think the best side of such people is almost hidden from us.  What the poor are to the poor is little known, excepting to themselves and God.

We felt it better to withdraw and leave them uninterrupted.  We stole out quietly and without notice from any one except the man.  He was leaning against the wall near the door, and finding that there was scarcely room for us to pass, went out before us.  He seemed to want to hide that he did this on our account, but we perceived that he did, and thanked him.  He made no answer.

Ada was so full of grief all the way home, and Richard, whom we found at home, was so distressed to see her in tears (though he said to me, when she was not present, how beautiful it was too!), that we arranged to return at night with some little comforts and repeat our visit at the brick-maker's house.  We said as little as we could to Mr. Jarndyce, but the wind changed directly.

Richard accompanied us at night to the scene of our morning expedition.  On our way there, we had to pass a noisy drinking-house, where a number of men were flocking about the door.  Among them, and prominent in some dispute, was the father of the little child.  At a short distance, we passed the young man and the dog, in congenial company.  The sister was standing laughing and talking with some other young women at the corner of the row of cottages, but she seemed ashamed and turned away as we went by.

We left our escort within sight of the brickmaker's dwelling and proceeded by ourselves.  When we came to the door, we found the woman who had brought such consolation with her standing there looking anxiously out.

"It's you, young ladies, is it?" she said in a whisper.  "I'm a-watching for my master.  My heart's in my mouth.  If he was to catch me away from home, he'd pretty near murder me."

"Do you mean your husband?" said I.

"Yes, miss, my master.  Jenny's asleep, quite worn out.  She's scarcely had the child off her lap, poor thing, these seven days and nights, except when I've been able to take it for a minute or two."

As she gave way for us, she went softly in and put what we had brought near the miserable bed on which the mother slept.  No effort had been made to clean the room—it seemed in its nature almost hopeless of being clean; but the small waxen form from which so much solemnity diffused itself had been composed afresh, and washed, and neatly dressed in some fragments of white linen; and on my handkerchief, which still covered the poor baby, a little bunch of sweet herbs had been laid by the same rough, scarred hands, so lightly, so tenderly!

"May heaven reward you!" we said to her.  "You are a good woman."

"Me, young ladies?" she returned with surprise.  "Hush!  Jenny, Jenny!"

The mother had moaned in her sleep and moved.  The sound of the familiar voice seemed to calm her again.  She was quiet once more. 

How little I thought, when I raised my handkerchief to look upon the tiny sleeper underneath and seemed to see a halo shine around the child through Ada's drooping hair as her pity bent her head—how little I thought in whose unquiet bosom that handkerchief would come to lie after covering the motionless and peaceful breast!  I only thought that perhaps the Angel of the child might not be all unconscious of the woman who replaced it with so compassionate a hand; not all unconscious of her presently, when we had taken leave, and left her at the door, by turns looking, and listening in terror for herself, and saying in her old soothing manner, "Jenny, Jenny!"