BLTC Press Titles

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Further Adventures of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross

Letters on the Aesthetical Education of Man

Friedrich Schiller

Mortal Coils

Aldous Huxley

The Bhagavad Gita


Nelly's dark days. By the author of 'Jessica's first prayer'.

by Sarah Smith


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 before 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 forward 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. Arid 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 I'll carry you all the way. Hegh! Mr. Rodney, 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,


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.

"It'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.

"It'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, "I'll 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."

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.

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