LIFE AMONG THE LOWLY 275
the conversation with the old rusk-woman, had followed her out into the street. He saw her go on, giving every once in a while a suppressed groan. At last she set her basket down on a doorstep, and began arranging the old, faded shawl which covered her shoulders.
" I '11 carry your basket a piece," said Tom, compassionately.
" Why should ye ? " said the woman. " I don't want no help."
" You seem to be sick, or in trouble, or something" said Tom.
" I an't sick," said the woman, shortly.
" I wish," said Tom, looking at her earnestly, — "I wish I could persuade you to leave off drinking. Don't you know it will be the ruin of ye, body and soul ? "
" I knows 1 'm gwine to torment," said the woman, sullenly. " Ye don't need to tell me that ar. I's ugly, — I's wicked, — I's gwine straight to torment. O Lord ! I wish I's thar! "
Tom shuddered at these frightful words, spoken with a sullen, impassioned earnestness.
" O Lord have mercy on ye! poor crittur. Han't ye never heard of Jesus Christ ? "
" Jesus Christ, — who 's He ? "
" Why, He's the Lord;' said Tom.
" I think I 've hearn tell o' the Lord", and the judgment and torment. I 've heard o' that."
" But did n't anybody ever tell you of the Lord Jesus, that loved us poor sinners, and died for us ? "
" Don't know nothin' 'bout that," said the woman ; " nobody han't never loved me, since my old man died."
" Where was you raised ? " said Tom.
" Up in Kentuck. A man kept me to breed chil'en for market, and sold 'em as fast as they got big enough ; last of all, he sold me to a speculator, and my Mas'r got me o' him."
" What set you into this bad way of drinkin' ? "