BOOK THE FIRST - SOWING
13. Chapter Xiii - Rachael
A CANDLE faintly burned in the window, to which the black ladder
had often been raised for the sliding away of all that was most
precious in this world to a striving wife and a brood of hungry
babies; and Stephen added to his other thoughts the stern
reflection, that of all the casualties of this existence upon
earth, not one was dealt out with so unequal a hand as Death. The
inequality of Birth was nothing to it. For, say that the child of
a King and the child of a Weaver were born to-night in the same
moment, what was that disparity, to the death of any human creature
who was serviceable to, or beloved by, another, while this
abandoned woman lived on!
From the outside of his home he gloomily passed to the inside, with
suspended breath and with a slow footstep. He went up to his door,
opened it, and so into the room.
Quiet and peace were there. Rachael was there, sitting by the bed.
She turned her head, and the light of her face shone in upon the
midnight of his mind. She sat by the bed, watching and tending his
wife. That is to say, he saw that some one lay there, and he knew
too well it must be she; but Rachael's hands had put a curtain up,
so that she was screened from his eyes. Her disgraceful garments
were removed, and some of Rachael's were in the room. Everything
was in its place and order as he had always kept it, the little
fire was newly trimmed, and the hearth was freshly swept. It
appeared to him that he saw all this in Rachael's face, and looked
at nothing besides. While looking at it, it was shut out from his
view by the softened tears that filled his eyes; but not before he
had seen how earnestly she looked at him, and how her own eyes were
She turned again towards the bed, and satisfying herself that all
was quiet there, spoke in a low, calm, cheerful voice.
'I am glad you have come at last, Stephen. You are very late.'
'I ha' been walking up an' down.'