Friarswood Post Office
by Charlotte M. Yonge
CHAPTER I—THE STRANGE LAD
A WRONG TURN
CHAPTER I—THE STRANGE LAD
'Goodness! If ever I did see such a pig!' said Ellen King, as she
mounted the stairs. 'I wouldn't touch him with a pair of tongs!'
'Who?' said a voice from the bedroom.
'Why, that tramper who has just been in to buy a loaf! He is a
perfect pig, I declare! I only wonder you did not find of him up
here! The police ought to hinder such folk from coming into decent
people's shops! There, you may see him now!'
'Is that he upon the bridge—that chap about the size of our
'Yes. Did you ever see such a figure? His clothes aren't good
enough for a scarecrow—and the dirt, you can't see that from here,
but you might sow radishes in it!'
'Oh, he's swinging on the rail, just as I used to do. Put me down,
Nelly; I don't want to see any more.' And the eyes filled with
tears; there was a working about the thin cheeks and the white lips,
and a long sigh came out at last, 'Oh, if I was but like him!'
'Like him! I'd wish something else before I wished that,' said
Ellen. 'Don't think about it, Alfred dear; here are Miss Jane's
'I don't want the pictures,' said Alfred wearily, as he laid his
head down on his white pillow, and shut his eyes because they were hot
Ellen looked at him very sadly, and the feeling in her own mind
was, that he was right, and nothing could make up for the health and
strength that she knew her mother feared would never return to him.
There he lay, the fair hair hanging round the white brow with the
furrows of pain in it, the purple-veined lids closed over the great
bright blue eyes, the long fingers hanging limp and delicate as a
lady's, the limbs stretched helplessly on the couch, whither it cost
him so much pain to be daily moved. Who would have thought, that not
six months ago that poor cripple was the merriest and most active boy
in the parish?
The room was not a sad-looking one. There were spotless white
dimity curtains round the lattice window; and the little bed, and the
walnut of the great chest, and of the doors of the press-bed on which
Alfred lay, shone with dark and pale grainings. There was a carpet on
the floor, and the chairs had chintz cushions; the walls were as white
as snow, and there were pretty china ornaments on the mantel-piece,
many little pictures hanging upon the walls, and quite a shelf of
books upon the white cloth, laid so carefully on the top of the
drawers. A little table beside Alfred held a glass with a few
flowers, a cup with some toast and water, a volume of the 'Swiss
Family Robinson;' and a large book of prints of animals was on a chair
where he could reach it.
A larger table was covered with needle-work, shreds of lining,
scissors, tapes, and Ellen's red work-box; and she herself sat beside
it, a very nice-looking girl of about seventeen, tall and slim, her
lilac dress and white collar fitting beautifully, her black apron
sitting nicely to her trim waist, and her light hair shining, like
the newly-wound silk of the silk-worm, round her pleasant face; where
the large, clear, well-opened blue eyes, and the contrast of white
and red on the cheek, were a good deal like poor Alfred's, and gave
an air of delicacy.
Their father had been, as their mother said, 'the handsomest
coachman who ever drove to St. James's;' but he had driven thither
once too often; he had caught his death of cold one bitter day when
Lady Jane Selby was obliged to go to a drawing-room, and had gone off
in a deep decline fourteen years ago, when the youngest of his five
children was not six weeks old.
The Selby family were very kind to Mrs. King, who, besides her
husband's claims on them, had been once in service there; and
moreover, had nursed Miss Jane, the little heiress, Ellen's foster-
sister. By their help she had been able to use her husband's savings
in setting up a small shop, where she sold tea, tobacco and snuff,
tape, cottons, and such little matters, besides capital bread of her
own baking, and various sweet-meats, the best to the taste of her own
cooking, the prettiest to the eye brought from Elbury. Oranges too,
and apples, shewed their yellow or rosy cheeks at her window in their
season; and there was sometimes a side of bacon, displaying under the
brown coat the delicate pink stripes bordering the white fat. Of
late years one pane of her window had been fitted up with a wooden
box, with a slit in it on the outside, and a whole region round it
taken up with printed sheets of paper about 'Mails to Gothenburg,—
Weekly Post to Vancouver's Island'—and all sorts of places to which
the Friarswood people never thought of writing.
Altogether, she throve very well; and she was a good woman, whom
every one respected for the pains she took to bring up her children
well. The eldest, Charles, had died of consumption soon after his
father, and there had been much fear for his sister Matilda; but Lady
Jane had contrived to have her taken as maid to a lady who usually
spent the winter abroad, and the warm climate had strengthened her
health. She was not often at Friarswood; but when she came she
looked and spoke like a lady—all the more so as she gave herself no
airs, but was quite simple and humble, for she was a very good right-
minded young woman, and exceedingly fond of her home and her good
Ellen would have liked to copy Matilda in everything; and as a
first step, she went for a year to a dress-maker; but just as this was
over, Alfred's illness had begun; and as he wanted constant care and
attendance, it was thought better that she should take in work at
home. Indeed Alfred was such a darling of hers, that she could not
have endured to go away and leave him so ill.
Alfred had been a most lively, joyous boy, with higher spirits than
he quite knew what to do with, all fun and good-humour, and yet very
troublesome and provoking. He and his brother Harold were the
monkeys of the school, and really seemed sometimes as if they COULD
NOT sit still, nor hinder themselves from making faces, and playing
tricks; but that was the worst of them—they never told untruths,
never did anything mean or unfair, and could always be made sorry
when they had been in fault. Their old school-mistress liked them in
spite of all the plague they gave her; and they liked her too, though
she had tried upon them every punishment she could devise.
Little Miss Jane, the orphan whom the Colonel and Mrs. Selby had
left to be brought up by her grandmother, had a great fancy that
Alfred should be a page; and as she generally had her own way, he went
up to the Grange when he was about thirteen years old, and put on a
suit thickly sown with buttons. But ere the gloss of his new jacket
had begun to wear off, he had broken four wine-glasses, three cups,
and a decanter, all from not knowing where he was going; he had put
sugar instead of salt into the salt-cellars at the housekeeper's
dining- table, that he might see what she would say; and he had been
caught dressing up Miss Jane's Skye terrier in one of the butler's
clean cravats; so, though Puck, the aforesaid terrier, liked him
better than any other person, Miss Jane not excepted, a regular
complaint went up of him to my Lady, and he was sent home. He was
abashed, and sorry to have vexed mother and disappointed Miss Jane;
but somehow he could not be unhappy when he had Harold to play with
him again, and he could halloo as loud as they pleased, and stamp
about in the garden, instead of being always in mind to walk softly.
There was the pony too! A new arrangement had just been made, that
the Friarswood letters should be fetched from Elbury every morning,
and then left at the various houses of the large straggling district
that depended on that post-office. All letters from thence must be
in the post before five o'clock, at which time they were to be sent
in to Elbury. The post-master at Elbury asked if Mrs. King's sons
could undertake this; and accordingly she made a great effort, and
bought a small shaggy forest pony, whom the boys called 'Peggy,' and
loved not much less than their sisters.
It was all very well in the summer to take those two rides in the
cool of the morning and evening; but when winter came on, and Alfred
had to start for Elbury in the tardy dawn of a frosty morning, or
still worse, in the gloom of a wet one, he did not like it at all. He
used to ride in looking blue and purple with the chill; and though he
went as close to the fire as possible, and steamed like the tea-
kettle while he ate his breakfast and his mother sorted the letters,
he had not time to warm himself thoroughly before he had to ride off
to leave them—two miles further altogether; for besides the bag for
the Grange, and all the letters for the Rectory, and for the farmers,
there was a young gentlemen's school at a great old lonely house,
called Ragglesford, at the end of a very long dreary lane; and many a
day Alfred would have given something if those boys' relations would
only have been so good as, with one consent, to leave them without
It would not have mattered if Alfred had been a stouter boy; but
his mother had always thought he had his poor father's constitution,
and therefore wished him to be more in the house; but his idleness had
prevented his keeping any such place. It might have been the cold
and wet, or, as Alfred thought, it might have been the strain he gave
himself one day when he was sliding on the ice and had a fall; but
one morning he came in from Elbury very pale, and hobbling, as he
said his hip hurt him so much, that Harold must take the letters
round for him.
Harold took them that morning, and for many another morning and
evening besides; while poor Alfred came from sitting by the fire to
being a prisoner up-stairs, only moved now and then from his own bed
to lie outside that of his mother, when he could bear it. The doctor
came, and did his best; but the disease had thrown itself into the
hip joint, and it was but too plain that Alfred must be a great
sufferer for a long time, and perhaps a cripple for life. But how
long might this life be? His mother dared not think. Alfred
himself, poor boy, was always trying with his whole might to believe
himself getting better; and Ellen and Harold always fancied him so,
when he was not very bad indeed; but for the last fortnight he had
been decidedly worse, and his heart and hopes were sinking, though he
would not own it to himself, and that and the pain made his spirits
fail so, that he had been more inclined to be fretful than any time
since his illness had begun.
His view from the window was a pleasant one; and when he was pretty
well, afforded him much amusement. The house stood in a neat garden,
with green railings between it and the road, over which Alfred could
see every one who came and went towards Elbury, and all who had
business at the post-office, or at Farmer Shepherd's. Opposite was
the farm-yard; and if nothing else was going on, there were always
cocks and hens, ducks and turkeys, pigs, cows, or horses, to be seen
there; and the cow-milking, or the taking the horses down to the
water, the pig-feeding, and the like, were a daily amusement. Sloping
down from the farm-yard, the ground led to the river, a smooth clear
stream, where the white ducks looked very pretty, swimming, diving,
and 'standing tail upwards;' and there was a high- arched bridge over
it, where Alfred could get a good view of the carriages that chanced
to come by, and had lately seen all the young gentlemen of Ragglesford
going home for the summer holidays, making such a whooping and
hurrahing, that the place rang again; and beyond, there were beautiful
green meadows, with a straight path through them, leading to a stile;
and beyond that, woods rose up, and there was a little glimpse of a
stately white house peeping through them. Hay-making was going on
merrily in the field, under the bright summer sun, and the air was
full of the sweet smell of the grass, but there was something sultry
and oppressive to the poor boy's feelings; and when he remembered how
Farmer Shepherd had called him to lend a hand last year, and how happy
he had been tossing the hay, and loading the waggon, a sad sick
feeling crept over him; and so it was that the tears rose in his eyes,
and he made his sister lay him back on the pillow, for he did not wish
to see any more.
Ellen worked and thought, and wanted to entertain him, but could
not think how. Presently she burst out, however, 'Oh, Alfred! there's
Harold coming running back! There he is, jumping over that hay-cock-
-not touched the ground once—another—oh! there's Farmer Shepherd
coming after him!'
'Hold your tongue,' muttered Alfred moodily, as if each of her
words gave him unbearable pain; and he hid his face in the pillow.
Ellen kept silence for ten minutes, and then broke forth again,
'Now then, Alfred, you WILL be glad! There's Miss Jane getting over
'I don't want Miss Jane,' grumbled Alfred; and as Ellen sprang up
and began smoothing his coverings, collecting her scraps, and tidying
the room, already so neat, he growled again, 'What a racket you keep!'
'There, won't you be raised up to see her? She does look so pretty
in her new pink muslin, with a double skirt, and her little hat and
feather, that came from London; and there's Puck poking in the hay—
he's looking for a mouse! And she's showering the hay over him with
her parasol! Oh, look, Alfred!' and she was going to lift him up,
but he only murmured a cross 'Can't you be quiet?' and she let him
alone, but went on talking: 'Ah, there's Puck's little tail
wriggling out—hinder-end foremost—here he comes—they are touching
their hats to her now, the farmer and all, and she nods just like a
little queen! She's got her basket, Alfred. I wonder what she has
for you in it! Oh dear, there's that strange boy on the bridge! She
won't like that.'
'Why, what would he do to her? He won't bite her,' said Alfred.
'Oh, if he spoke to her, or begged of her, she'd be so frightened!
There, he looked at her, and she gave such a start. You little
vagabond! I'd like to—'
'Stuff! what could he do to her, with all the hay-field and Farmer
Shepherd there to take care of her? What a fuss you do make!' said
poor Alfred, who was far too miserable just then to agree with any
one, though at almost any other time he would have longed to knock
down any strange boy who did but dare to pass Miss Selby without
touching his cap; and her visits were in general the very light of
They were considered a great favour; for though old Lady Jane Selby
was a good, kind-hearted person, still she had her fancies, and she
kept her young grand-daughter like some small jewel, as a thing to be
folded up in a case, and never trusted in common. She was afraid to
allow her to go about the village, or into the school and cottages,
always fancying she might be made ill, or meet with some harm; but
Mrs. King being an old servant, whom she knew so well, and the way
lying across only two meadows beyond Friarswood Park, the little pet
was allowed to go so far to visit her foster-mother, and bring
whatever she could devise to cheer the poor sick boy.
Miss Jane, though of the same age as Ellen, and of course with a
great deal more learning and accomplishment, had been so little used
to help herself, or to manage anything, that she was like one much
younger. The sight of the rough stranger on the bridge was really
startling to her, and she came across the road and garden as fast as
she could without a run; and the first thing the brother and sister
heard, was her voice saying rather out of breath and fluttered, 'Oh,
what a horrid-looking boy!'
Seeing that Mrs. King was serving some one in the shop, she only
nodded to her, and came straight upstairs. Alfred raised up his
head, and beheld the little fairy through the open door, first the
head, and the smiling little face and slight figure in the fresh
Miss Jane was not thought very pretty by strangers; but that dainty
little person, and sweet sunny eyes and merry smile, and shy, kind,
gracious ways, were perfect in the eyes of her grandmamma and of Mrs.
King and her children, if of nobody else. Alfred, in his present
dismal state, only felt vexed at a fresh person coming up to worry
him, and make a talking; especially one whose presence was a
restraint, so that he could not turn about and make cross answers at
'Well, Alfred, how are you to-day?' said the sweet gay voice, a
'Better, Ma'am, thank you,' said Alfred, who always called himself
better, whatever he felt; but his voice told the truth better than
'He's had a very bad night, Miss Jane,' said his sister; 'no sleep
at all since two o'clock, and he is so low to-day, that I don't know
what to do with him.'
Alfred hated nothing so much as to hear that he was low, for it
meant that he was cross.
'Poor Alfred!' said the young lady kindly. 'Was it pain that kept
'No, Ma'am—not so much—' said the boy.
Miss Jane saw he looked very sad, and hoped to cheer him by opening
her basket. 'I've brought you a new book, Alfred. It is "The
Cherry-stones." Have you finished the last?'
'Did you like it?'
But it was a very matter-of-course sort of Yes, and disappointed
Miss Jane, who thought he would have been charmed with the 'Swiss
Ellen spoke: 'Oh yes, Alfred, you know you did like it. I heard
you laughing to yourself at Ernest and the shell of soup. And Harold
reads that; and 'tis so seldom he will look at a book.'
Jane did not like this quite as well as if Alfred had spoken up
more; but she dived into her basket again, and brought out a neat
little packet of green leaves, with some strawberries done up in it,
and giving a little smile, she made sure that it would be acceptable.
Ellen thanked vehemently, and Alfred gave feeble thanks; but,
unluckily, he had so set his mind upon raspberries, that he could not
enjoy the thought of anything else. It was a sickly distaste for
everything, and Miss Selby saw that he was not as much pleased as she
meant him to be; she looked at him wistfully, and, half grieved, half
impatient, she longed to know what he would really like, or if he
were positively ungrateful. She was very young, and did not know
whether it was by his fault or her mistake that she had failed to
Puck had raced up after her, and had come poking and snuffling
round Alfred. She would have called him away lest he should be too
much for one so weak, but she saw Alfred really did enjoy this: his
hand was in the long rough coat, and he was whispering, 'Poor Puck,'
and 'Good little doggie;' and the little hairy rummaging creature,
with the bright black beads of eyes gleaming out from under his shaggy
hair, was doing him more good than her sense and kindness, or Ellen's
She turned to the window, and said to Ellen, 'What a wild-looking
lad that is on the bridge!'
'Yes, Miss Jane,' said Ellen; 'I was quite afraid he would frighten
'Well, I was surprised,' said Jane; 'I was afraid he might speak to
me; but then I knew I was too near friends for harm to come to me;'
and she laughed at her own fears. 'How ragged and wretched he looks!
Has he been begging?'
'No, Miss Jane; he came into the shop, and bought some bread. He
paid for it honestly; but I never did see any one so dirty. And
there's Alfred wishing to be like him. I knew you would tell him it
is quite wicked, Miss Jane.'
It is not right, I suppose, to wish to be anything but what we
are,' said Jane, rather puzzled by the appeal; 'and perhaps that poor
beggar-boy would only like to have a nice room, and kind mother and
sister, like you, Alfred.'
'I don't say anything against them!' cried the boy vehemently;
'but— but—I'd give anything—anything in the world—to be able to
run about again in the hay-field! No, don't talk to me, Ellen, I
say—I hate them all when I see them there, and I forced to lie here!
I wish the sun would never shine!'
He hid his eyes and ears in the pillow, as if he never wished to
see the light again, and would hear nothing. The two girls both stood
trembling. Ellen looked at Miss Selby, and she felt that she must
say something. But what could she say?
With tears in her eyes she laid hold of Alfred's thin hand and
tried to speak, choked by tears. 'Dear Alfred, don't say such
dreadful things. You know we are all so sorry for you; but God sent
Alfred gave a groan of utter distress, as if it were no
'And—and things come to do us good,' continued Miss Jane, the
tears starting to her cheeks.
'I don't know what good it can do me to lie here!' cried Alfred.
'Oh, but, Alfred, it must.'
'I tell you,' exclaimed the poor boy, forgetting his manners, so
that Ellen stood dismayed, 'it does not do me good! I didn't use to
hate Harold, nor to hate everybody.'
'To hate Harold!' said Jane faintly.
'Ay,' said Alfred, 'when I hear him whooping about like mad, and
jumping and leaping, and going on like I used to do, and never shall
The tears came thick and fast, and perhaps they did him good.
'But, Alfred,' said Jane, trying to puzzle into the right thing,
'sometimes things are sent to punish us, and then we ought to submit
'I don't know what I've done, then,' he cried angrily. 'There have
been many worse than I any day, that are well enough now.'
'Oh, Alfred, it is not who is worse, but what one is oneself,' said
'I wish I knew how to help you,' she said earnestly; 'it is so very
sad and hard; and I dare say I should be just as bad myself if I were
as ill; but do, pray, Alfred, try to think that nobody sent it but
God, and that He must know best.'
Alfred did not seem to take in much comfort, and Jane did not
believe she was putting it rightly; but it was time for her to go
home, so she said anxiously, 'Good-bye, Alfred; I hope you'll be
better next time—and—and—' She bent down and spoke in a very
frightened whisper, 'You know when we go to church, we pray you may
have patience under your sufferings.'
Then she sprang away, as if ashamed of the sound of her own words;
but as she was taking up her basket and wishing Ellen good-bye, she
saw that the strange lad had moved nearer the house, and timid little
thing as she was, she took out a sixpence, and said, 'Do give him
that, and ask him to go away.'
Ellen had no very great fancy for facing the enemy herself, but she
made no objection; and looking down-stairs, she saw her brother
Harold waiting while his mother stamped the letters, and she called
to him, and sent him out to the boy.
He came back in a few moments so much amazed, that she could see
the whites all round his eyes.
'He won't have it! He's a rum one that! He says he's no beggar,
and that if the young lady would give him work, he'd thank her; but he
wants none of her money, and he'll stand where he chooses!'
'Why didn't you lick him?' hallooed out Alfred's voice from his
bed. 'Oh! if I—'
'Nonsense, Alfred!' cried Miss Jane, frightened into spirit; 'stand
still, Harold! I don't mind him.'
And she put up her parasol, and walked straight out at the house
door as bold as a little lioness, going on without looking to the
right or left.
'IF—' began Harold, clenching his fists—and Alfred raised himself
upon his bed with flashing eyes to watch, as the boy had moved
nearer, and looked for a moment as if he were going to grin, or say
something impudent; but the quiet childish form stepping on so simply
and steadily seemed to disarm him, and he shrunk back, left her to
trip across the road unmolested, and stood leaning over the rail of
the bridge, gazing after her as she crossed the hay-field.
Harold rode off with the letters; and Alfred lay gazing, and
wondering what that stranger could be, counting the holes in his
garments, and trying to guess at his history.
One good thing was, that Alfred was so much carried out of himself,
that he was cheerful all the evening.
There was again a sultry night, which brought on so much discomfort
and restlessness, that poor Alfred could not sleep. He tried to bear
in mind how much he had disturbed his mother the night before, and he
checked himself several times when he felt as if he could not bear it
any longer without waking her, and to remember his old experience,
that do what she would for him, it would be no real relief, and he
should only be sorry the next day when he saw her going about her
work with a worn face and a head-ache.
Then every now and then Miss Selby's words about being patient came
back to him. Sometimes he thought them hard, coming from a being who
had never known sickness or sorrow, and wondered how she would feel
if laid low as he was; but they would not be put away in that manner,
for he knew they were true, and were said by others than Miss Jane,
though he had begun to think no phrase so tiresome, hopeless, or
provoking. People always told him to be patient when they had no
comfort to give him, and did not know what he was suffering. He
would not have minded it so much if only he could have got it out of
his head. Somehow it would not let him call to his mother, if it was
only because very likely all he should get by so doing would be to be
again told to be patient. And then came Miss Jane's telling him his
illness might be good for him, as if she thought he deserved to be
punished. Really that was hard! Who could think he deserved this
wearing pain and helplessness, only because he had played tricks on
the butler and housekeeper, and now and then laughed at church?
'It is just like Job and his friends,' thought Alfred. 'I don't
want her to come and see me any more!'
Poor Alfred! There was a little twinge here. His conscience could
not give quite such an account as did that of Job! But he did not
like recollecting his own errors better than any of us do, and liked
much more to feel himself very hardly used, and greatly to be pitied.
Thereupon he opened his lips to call to his mother, but that old
thought about patience returned on him; he had mercy on her regular
breathing, though it made him quite envious to hear it, and he said
to himself that he would let her alone, at least till the next time
the clock struck. It would be three o'clock next time. Oh dear,
would the night never be over? How often such a round of weary
thoughts came again and again can hardly be counted; but, at any
rate, poor Alfred was exercising one act of forbearance, and that was
so much gain. At last he found, by the increasing light shewing him
the shapes of all the pictures, that he must have had a short sleep
which had made him miss the clock, and he felt a good deal injured
However, Mrs. King was too good a nurse not to be awakened by his
first movement, and she came to him, gave him some cold tea, and
settled his pillow so as to make him more comfortable; and when he
begged her to let in a little more air, she went to open the window
wider, and relieve the closeness of the little room. She had learnt
while living with Lady Jane that night air is not so dangerous as
some people fancy; and it was an infinite relief to Alfred when the
lattice was thrown back, and the cool breeze came softly in, with the
freshness of the dew, and the delicious scent of the hay-field.
Mrs. King stood a moment to look out at the beautiful stillness of
early dawn, the trees and meads so gravely calmly quiet, and the
silver dew lying white over everything; the tanned hay-cocks rising
up all over the field, the morning star and waning moon glowing pale
as light of morning spread over the sky. Then a cock crew somewhere
at a distance, and Mrs. Shepherd's cock answered him more shrilly
close by, and the swallows began to twitter under the eaves.
'It WILL be a fine day, to be sure!' she said. 'The farmer will
get in his hay!' and then she stood looking as if something had caught
'What do you see, Mother?' asked Alfred.
'I was looking what that was under yon hay-cock,' said Mrs. King;
'and I do believe it is some one sleeping there.'
'Ha!' cried Alfred. 'I dare say it is the boy that would not have
Miss Jane's sixpence.'
'I'm sure I hope he's after no harm,' said Mrs. King; 'I don't like
to have tramps about so near. I hope he means no mischief by the
'He can't be one of that sort, or he wouldn't have refused the
money,' said Alfred. 'How nice and cool it must be sleeping in the
hay! I'll warrant he doesn't lie awake. I wish I was there!'
'You'll know what to be thankful for one of these days, my poor
lad,' said his mother, sighing; then yawning, she said, 'I must go
back to bed. Mind you call out, Alfred, if you hear anything like a
noise in the farmyard.'
This notion rather interested Alfred; he began to build up a fine
scheme of shouting out and sending Harold to the rescue of the cocks
and hens, and how well he would have done it himself a year ago, and
pinned the thief, and fastened the door on him. Not that he thought
this individual lad at all likely to be a thief, nor did he care much
for Farmer Shepherd, who was a hard man and no favourite; but to
catch a thief would be a grand feat. And while settling his clever
plan, and making some compliments for the magistrate to pay him,
Alfred, fanned by the cool breeze, fell into a sound sleep, and did
not wake till the sun was high, and all the rest of the house were up
That good sleep made him much more able to bear the burden of the
day. First, his mother came with the towel and basin, and washed his
face and hands; and then he had his little book, and said his
prayers; and somehow to-day he felt so much less fractious than
usual, that he asked to be taught patience, and not ONLY to be made
well, as he had hitherto done.
That over, he lay smiling as he waited for his breakfast, and when
Ellen brought it to him, he had not one complaint to make, but ate it
almost with a relish. 'Is that boy gone?' he asked Ellen, as she
tidied the room while he was eating.
'What, the dirty boy? No, there he is, speaking to the farmer.
Will he beg of him?'
'Asking for work, more likely.'
'I'd sooner give work to a pig at once,' said Ellen; 'but I do
believe he's getting it. I fancy they are short of hands for the
hay. Yes, he's pointing into the field. Ay, and he's sending him
into the yard.'
'I hope he'll give him some breakfast,' said Alfred. 'Do you know
he slept all night on a hay-cock?'
'Yes, so Mother said, just like a dog; and he got up like a dog
this morning,—never so much as washed himself at the river. Why,
he's coming here! Whatever does he want?'
'No, the farmer.'
Mr. Shepherd's heavy tread was heard below, and, as Alfred said,
Ellen had only to hold her tongue for them be able to hear his loud
tones telling Mrs. King that the glass was falling, and his hay in
capital order, and his hands short, and asking whether her boy Harold
would come and help in the hay-field between the post times. Mrs.
King gave a ready answer that the boy would be well pleased, and the
farmer promised him his victuals and sixpence for the day. 'Your
lass wouldn't like to come too, I suppose, eh?'
Ellen flushed with indignation. She go a hay-making! Her mother
was civilly making answer that her daughter was engaged with her sick
brother, and besides—had her work for Mrs. Price, which must be
finished off. The farmer, saying he had not much expected her, but
thought she might like a change from moping over her needle, went
Ellen did not feel ready to forgive him for wanting to set her to
field-work. There is some difference between being fine and being
refined, and in Ellen's station of life it is very difficult to hit
the right point. To be refined is to be free from all that is rough,
coarse, or ungentle; to be fine, is to affect to be above such
things. Now Ellen was really refined in her quietness and maidenly
modesty, and there was no need for her to undertake any of those
kinds of tasks which, by removing young girls from home shelter, do
sometimes help to make them rude and indecorous; but she was FINE,
when she gave herself a little mincing air of contempt, as if she
despised the work and those who did it. Lydia Grant, who worked so
steadily and kept to herself so modestly, that no one ventured a bold
word to her as she tossed her hay, was just as refined as Ellen King
behind her white blinds, ay, or as Jane Selby herself in her terraced
garden. Refinement is in the mind that loves whatsoever is pure,
lovely, and of good report; finery is in disdaining what is homely or
Boys of all degrees are usually, when they are good for anything,
the greatest enemies of the finery tending to affectation; and Alfred
at once began to make a little fun of his sister, and tell her it
would be a famous thing for her, he believed she had quite forgotten
how to run, and did not know a rake from a fork when she saw it. He
knew she was longing for a ride in the waggon, if she would but own
Ellen used to be teased by this kind of joking; but she was too
glad to see Alfred well enough so to entertain himself, to think of
anything but pleasing him, so she answered good-humouredly that
Harold must make hay for them all three to-day, no doubt but he would
be pleased enough.
He was heard trotting home at this moment, and whistling as he
hitched up the pony at the gate, and ran in with the letter-bag, to
snap up his breakfast while the letters were sorted.
'Here, let me have them,' called Alfred, and they were glad he
should do it, for he was the quickest of the family at reading
handwriting; but he was often too ill to attend to it, and more often
the weary fretfulness and languor of his state made him dislike to
exert himself, so it was apt to depend on his will or caprice.
'Look sharp, Alf!' hallooed out Harold, rushing up-stairs with the
bags in one hand, and his bread-and-butter in the other. 'If you
find a letter for that there Ragglesford, I don't know what I shall
do to you! I must be back in no time for the hay!'
And he had bounced down-stairs again before Ellen had time to scold
him for making riot enough to shake Alfred to pieces. He was a fine
tall stout boy, with the same large fully open blue eyes, high
colour, white teeth, and light curly hair, as his brother and sister,
but he was much more sunburnt. If you saw him with his coat off, he
looked as if he had red gloves and a red mask on, so much whiter was
his skin where it was covered; and he was very strong for his age,
and never had known what illness was. The brothers were very fond of
each other, but since Alfred had been laid up, they had often been a
great trial to each other—the one seemed as little able to live
without making a noise, as the other to endure the noise he made; and
the sight of Harold's activity and the sound of his feet and voice,
vexed the poor helpless sufferer more than they ought to have done,
or than they would had the healthy brother been less thoughtless in
the joy of his strength.
To-day, however, all was smooth. Alfred did not feel every tread
of those bounding limbs like a shock to his poor diseased frame; and
he only laughed as he unlocked the leathern bag, and dealt out the
letters, putting all those for the Lady Jane Selby, Miss Selby, and
the servants, into their own neat little leathern case with the
padlock, and sorting out the rest, with some hope there might be one
from Matilda, who was a very good one to write home. There was none
from her, but then there was none for Ragglesford, and that was
unexpected good luck. If the old housekeeper left in charge had been
wicked enough to get her newspaper that day, Alfred felt that in
Harold's place he should be sorely tempted to chuck it over the
hedge. Ellen looked as if he had talked of murdering her, and truly
such a breach of trust would have been a very grievous fault.
'The Reverend—what's his name? the Reverend Marcus Cope,
Friarswood, near Elbury,' read Alfred; 'one, two, three letters, and a
newspaper. Yes, and this long printed-looking thing. Who is he,
'What did you say?' said Ellen, who was busy shaking her mother's
bed, and had not heard at the first moment, but now turned eagerly;
'what did you say his name was?'
'The Reverend Marcus Cope,' repeated Alfred. 'Is that another new
'Why, did not we tell you what a real beautiful sermon the new
clergyman preached on Sunday? Mr. Cope, so that's his name. I
wonder if he is come to stay.—Mother,' she ran to the head of the
stairs, 'the new clergyman's name is the Reverend Mr. Marcus Cope.'
'He don't live at Ragglesford, I hope!' cried Harold, who regarded
any one at the end of that long lane as his natural enemy.
'No, it only says Friarswood,' said Ellen. 'You'll have to find
out where he lives, Harold.'
'Pish! it will take me an hour going asking about!' said Harold
impatiently. 'He must have his letters left here till he chooses to
come for them, if he doesn't know where he lives.'
'No, no, Harold, that won't do,' said Mrs. King. 'You must take
the gentleman his letters, and they'll be sure to know at the Park, or
at the Rectory, or at the Tankard, where he lodges. Well, it will be
a real comfort if he is come to stop.'
So Harold went off with the letters and the pony, and Ellen and her
mother exchanged a few words about the gentleman and his last
Sunday's sermon, and then Ellen went to dust the shop, and put out
the bread, while her mother attended to Alfred's wound, the most
painful part of the day to both of them.
It was over, however, and Alfred was resting afterwards when Harold
cantered home as hard as the pony could or would go, and came racing
up to say, 'I've seen him! He's famous! He stood out in the road
and met me, and asked for his letters, and he's to be at the
Parsonage, and he asked my name, and then he laughed and said, "Oh! I
perceive it is the royal mail!" I didn't know what he was at, but he
looked as good-humoured as anything. Halloo! give me my old hat,
Nell—that's it! Hurrah! for the hay-waggon! I saw the horses
And off he went again full drive; and Alfred did nothing worse than
give a little groan.
Ellen had enough to do in wondering about Mr. Cope. News seemed to
belong of right to the post-office, and it was odd that he should
have preached on Sunday, and now it should be Tuesday, without
anything having been heard of him, not even from Miss Jane; but then
the young lady had been fluttered by the strange boy, and Alfred had
been so fretful, that it might have put everything out of her head.
Friarswood was used to uncertainty about the clergyman. The Rector
had fallen into such bad health, that he had long been unable to do
anything, and always hoping to get better, he had sent different
gentlemen to take the services, first one and then another, or had
asked the masters at Ragglesford to help him; but it was all very
irregular, and no one had settled down long enough to know the people
or do much good in visiting them. My Lady, as they all called Lady
Jane, was as sorry as any one could be, and she tried what she could
do by paying a very good school-master and mistress, and giving
plenty of rewards; but nothing could be like the constant care of a
real good clergyman, and the people were all the worse for the want.
They had the church to go to, but it was not brought home to them.
The Rector had been obliged at last to go abroad, one of the
Ragglesford gentlemen had performed the service for the ensuing
Sundays, until now there seemed to be a chance that this new
clergyman was coming to stay.
This interested Alfred less than his sister. His curiosity was
chiefly about the strange lad; and when he was moved to his place by
the window he turned his eyes anxiously to make him out in the line
of hay-makers, two fields off, as they shook out the grass to give it
the day's sunshine. He knew them all, the ten women, with their old
straw bonnets poked down over their faces, and deep curtains sewn on
behind to guard their necks; the farm men come in from their other
work to lend a hand, three or four boys, among whom he could see
Harold's white shirt sleeves, and sometimes hear his merry laugh, and
he was working next to the figure in brown faded-looking tattered
array, which Alfred suspected to belong to the strange boy. So did
Ellen. 'Ah!' she said, 'Harold ye scraped acquaintance with that
vagabond-looking boy; I wish I had warned him against it, but I
suppose he would only have done it all the more.'
'You want to make friends with him yourself, Ellen! We shall have
you nodding to him next! You are as curious about him as can be!'
said Alfred slyly.
'Me! I never was curious about nothing so insignificant,' said
Ellen. 'All I wish is, that that boy may not be running into bad
The hay-fields were like an entertainment on purpose for Alfred all
day; he watched the shaking of the brown grass all over the meadows
in the morning, and the farmer walking over it, and smelling it, and
spying up to guess what would come of the great rolling towers of
grey clouds edged with pearly white, soft but dazzling, which varied
the intense blue of the sky.
Then he watched all the company sit or lie down on the shady side
of the hedge, under the pollard-willows, and Tom Boldre the shuffler
and one or two more go into the farm-house, and come out with great
yellow-ware with pies in them, and the little sturdy-looking kegs of
beer, and two mugs to go round among them all. There was Harold
lying down, quite at his ease, close to the strange boy; Alfred knew
how much better that dinner would taste to him than the best with the
table-cloth neatly spread in his mother's kitchen; and well did
Alfred remember how much more enjoyment there was in such a meal as
that, than in any one of the dainties that my Lady sent down to tempt
his sickly appetite. And what must pies and beer be to the wanderer
who had eaten the crust so greedily the day before! Then, after the
hour's rest, the hay-makers rose up to rake the hay into beds ready
for the waggons. Harold and the stranger were raking opposite to
each other, and Alfred could see them talking; and when they came
into the nearer hay-field, he saw Harold put up his hand, and point
to the open window, as if he were telling the other lad about the
sick boy who was lying there.
He was so much absorbed in thus watching, that he did not pay much
heed to what interested his mother and sister—the reports which came
by every customer about the new clergyman, who, it appeared, had been
staying in the next parish till yesterday, when he had moved into the
Rectory; and Mrs. Bonham, the butcher's wife, reported that the
Rectory servants said he was come to stay till their master came
back. All this and much more Mrs. King heard and rehearsed to Ellen,
while Alfred lay, sometimes reading the 'Swiss Robinson,' sometimes
watching the loading of the wains, as they creaked slowly through the
fields, the horses seeming to enjoy the work, among their fragrant
provender, as much as the human kind. When five o'clock struck,
Harold gave no signs of quitting the scene of action; and Mrs. King,
in much anxiety lest the letters should be late, sent Helen to get
the pony ready, while she herself went into the field to call the
Very unwilling he was to come—he shook his shoulders, and growled
and grumbled, and said he should be in plenty of time, and he wished
the post was at the bottom of the sea. Nothing but his mother's
orders and the necessity of the case could have made him go at all.
At last he walked off, as if he had lead in his feet, muttering that
he wished he had not some one to be always after him. Mrs. King
looked at the grimy face of his disreputable-looking companion, and
wondered whether he had put such things into his head.
Very cross was Harold as he twitched the bridle out of Ellen's
hand, threw the strap of the letter-bag round his neck, and gave such
a re- echoing switch to the poor pony, that Alfred heard it upstairs,
and started up to call out, 'For shame, Harold!'
Harold was ashamed: he settled himself in the saddle and rode off,
but Alfred had not the comfort of knowing that his ill-humour was not
being vented upon the poor beast all the way to Elbury. Alfred had
given a great deal of his heart to that pony, and it made him feel
helpless and indignant to think that it was ill-used. Those tears of
which he was ashamed came welling up into his eyes as he lay back on
his pillow; but they were better tears than yesterday's—they were
'Never mind, Alfy,' said Ellen, 'Harold's not a cruel lad; he'll
not go on, if he was cross for a bit. It is all that he's mad after
that boy there! I wish mother had never let him go into the hay-field
to meet bad company! Depend upon it, that boy has run away out of a
Reformatory! Sleeping out at night! I can't think how Farmer
Shepherd could encourage him among honest folk!'
'Well, now I think of it, I should not wonder if he had,' said Mrs.
King. 'He is the dirtiest boy that ever I did see! Most likely; I
wish he may do no mischief to-night!'
Harold came home in better humour, but a fresh vexation awaited
him. Mrs. King would not let him go to the hay-home supper in the
barn. The men were apt to drink too much and grow riotous; and with
her suspicions about his new friend, she thought it better to keep him
apart. She was a spirited woman, who would be minded, and Harold
knew he must submit, and that he had behaved very ill. Ellen told
him too how much Alfred had been distressed about the pony, and
though he would not shew her that he cared, it made him go straight
up-stairs, and with a somewhat sheepish face, say, 'I say, Alf, the
pony's all right. I only gave him one cut to get him off. He'd
never go at all if he didn't know his master.'
'He'd go fast enough for my voice,' said Alfred.
'You know I'd never go for to beat him,' continued Harold; 'but it
was enough to vex a chap—wasn't it?—to have Mother coming and
lugging one off from the carrying, and away from the supper and all.
Women always grudge one a bit of fun!'
'Mother never grudged us cricket, nor nothing in reason,' said
Alfred. 'Lucky you that could make hay at all! And what made you so
taken up with that new boy that Ellen runs on against, and will have
it he's a convict?'
'A convict! if Ellen says that again!' cried Harold; 'no more a
convict than she is.'
'What is he, then? Where does he come from?'
'His name is Paul Blackthorn,' said Harold; 'and he's the queerest
chap I ever came across. Why, he knew no more what to do with a
prong than the farmer's old sow till I shewed him.'
'But where did he come from?' repeated Alfred.
'He walked all the way from Piggot's turnpike yesterday,' said
Harold. 'He's looking for work.'
'And before that?'
'He'd been in the Union out—oh! somewhere, I forgot where, but
it's a name in the Postal Guide.'
'Well, but you've not said who he is,' said Ellen.
'Who? why, I tell you, he's Paul Blackthorn.'
'But I suppose he had a father and mother,' said Ellen.
'No,' said Harold.
'No!' Ellen and Alfred cried out together.
'Not as ever he heard tell of,' said Harold composedly, as if this
were quite natural and common.
'And you could go and be raking with him like born brothers there!'
said Ellen, in horror.
'D'ye think I'd care for stuff like that?' said Harold. 'Why, he
sings—he sings better than Jack Lyte! He's learnt to sing, you
know. And he's such a comical fellow! he said Mr. Shepherd was like
a big pig on his hind legs; and when Mrs. Shepherd came out to count
the scraps after we had done, what does he do but whisper to me to
know how long our withered cyder apples had come to life!'
Such talents for amusing others evidently far out-weighed in
Harold's consideration such trifling points as fathers, mothers, and
respectability. Alfred laughed; but Ellen thought it no laughing
matter, and reproved Harold for being wicked enough to hear his
betters made game of.
'My betters!' said Harold—'an old skin-flint like Farmer
Shepherd's old woman?'
'Hush, Harold! I'll tell Mother of you, that I will!' cried Ellen.
'Do then,' said Harold, who knew his sister would do no such thing.
She had made the threat too often, and then not kept her word.
She contented herself with saying, 'Well, all I know is, that I'm
sure now he has run away out of prison, and is no better than a
thief; and if our place isn't broken into before to-morrow morning,
and Mother's silver sugar-tongs gone, it will be a mercy. I'm sure I
shan't sleep a wink all night.'
Both boys laughed, and Alfred asked why he had not done it last
'How should I know?' said Ellen. 'Most likely he wanted to see the
way about the place, before he calls the rest of the gang.'
'Take care, Harold! it's a gang coming now,' said Alfred, laughing
again. 'All coming on purpose to steal the sugar-tongs!'
'No, I'll tell you what they are come to steal,' said Harold
mischievously; 'it's all for Ellen's fine green ivy-leaf brooch that
Matilda sent her!'
'I dare say Harold has been and told him everything valuable in the
house!' said Ellen.
'I think,' said Alfred gravely, 'it would be a very odd sort of
thief to come here, when the farmer's ploughing cup is just by.'
'Yes,' said Harold, 'I'd better have told him of that when I was
about it; don't you think so, Nelly?'
'If you go on at this rate,' said Ellen, teased into anger, 'you'll
be robbing the post-office yourself some day.'
'Ay! and I'll get Paul Blackthorn to help me,' said the boy.
'Come, Ellen, don't be so foolish; I tell you he's every bit as
honest as I am, I'd go bail for him.'
'And I KNOW he'll lead you to ruin!' cried Ellen, half crying: 'a
boy that comes from nowhere and nobody knows, and sleeps on a hay-
cock all night, no better than a mere tramp!'
'What, quarrelling here? 'said Mrs. King, coming upstairs. 'The
lad, I wish him no ill, I'm sure, but he'll be gone by to-morrow, so
you may hold your tongues about him, and we'll read our chapter and go
Harold's confidence and Ellen's distrust were not much wiser the
one than the other. Which was nearest being right?
CHAPTER III—A NEW FRIEND
The post-office was not robbed that night, neither did the silver
sugar-tongs disappear, though Paul Blackthorn was no farther off than
the hay-loft at Farmer Shepherd's, where he had obtained leave to
But he did not go away with morning, though the hay-making was
over. Ellen saw him sitting perched on the empty waggon, munching his
breakfast, and to her great vexation, exchanging nods and grins when
Harold rode by for the morning's letters; and afterwards, there was a
talk between him and the farmer, which ended in his having a hoe put
into his hand, and being next seen in the turnip-field behind the
To make up for the good day, this one was a very bad one with poor
Alfred. There was thunder in the air, and if the sultry heat weighed
heavily even on the healthy, no wonder it made him faint and
exhausted, disposed to self-pity, and terribly impatient and fretful.
He was provoked by Ellen's moving about the room, and more provoked
by Harold's whistling as he cleaned out the stable; and on the other
hand, Harold was petulant at being checked, and vowed there was no
living in the house with Alfred making such a work. Moreover, Alfred
was restless, and wanted something done for him every moment,
interrupting Ellen's work, and calling his mother up from her baking
so often for trifles, that she hardly knew how to get through it.
The doctor, Mr. Blunt, came, and he too felt the heat, having spent
hours in going his rounds in the closeness and dust. He was a rough
man, and his temper did not always hold out; he told Alfred sharply
that he would have no whining, and when the boy moaned and winced
more than he would have done on a good day, he punished him by not
trying to be tender-handed. When Mrs. King said, perhaps a little
lengthily, how much the boy had suffered that morning, the doctor,
wearied out, no doubt, with people's complaints, cut her short rather
rudely, 'Ay, ay, my good woman, I know all that.'
'And can nothing be done, Sir, when he feels so sinking and weak?'
'Sinking—he must feel sinking—nothing to do but to bear it,' said
Mr. Blunt gruffly, as he prepared to go. 'Don't keep me now;' and as
Alfred held up his hand, and made some complaint of the tightness of
the bandage, he answered impatiently, 'I've no time for that, my lad;
keep still, and be glad you've nothing worse to complain of.'
'Then you don't think he is getting any better, Sir?' said Mrs.
King, keeping close to him. 'I thought he was yesterday, and I wanted
to speak to you. My oldest daughter thought if we could get him away
to the sea, and—'
'That's all nonsense,' said the hurried doctor; 'don't you spend
your money in that way; I tell you nothing ever will do him any good.'
This was at the bottom of the stairs; and Mr. Blunt was off. He
was the cleverest doctor for a good way round, and it was not easy to
Mrs. King to secure his attendance. Her savings and Matilda's were
likely to melt away sadly in paying him, since she was just too well
off to be doctored at the parish expense, and he was really a good
and upright man, though wanting in softness of manner when he was
hurried and teased. If Mrs. King had known that he was in haste to
get to a child with a bad burn, she might have thought him less
unkind in the short ungentle way in which he dashed her hopes. Alas!
there had never been much hope; but she feared that Alfred might have
heard, and have been shocked.
Ellen heard plainly enough, and her heart sank. She tried to look
at her brother's face, but he had put it out of sight, and spoke not a
word; and she only could sit wondering what was the real drift of the
cruel words, and whether the doctor meant to give no hope of
recovery, or only to dissuade her mother from vainly trying change of
air. Her once bright brother always thus! It was a sad thought, and
yet she would have been glad to know he would be no worse; and
Ellen's heart was praying with all her might that he might have his
health and happiness restored to him, and that her mother might be
spared this bitter sorrow.
Alfred said nothing about the doctor's visit, but he could eat no
dinner, and did not think this so much the fault of his sickly taste,
as of his mother's potato-pie; he could not think why she should be
so cross as to make that thing, when she knew he hated it; and as to
poor Harold, Alfred would hardly let him speak or stir, without
ordering Ellen down to tell him not to make such a row.
Ellen was thankful when Harold was fairly hunted out of the house
and garden, even though he betook himself to the meadow, where Paul
Blackthorn was lying on the grass with his feet kicking in the air,
and shewing the skin through his torn shoes. The two lads squatted
down on the grass with their heads together. Who could tell what
mischief that runaway might be putting into Harold's head, and all
because Alfred could not bear with him enough for him to be happy at
They were so much engrossed, that it needed a rough call from the
farmer to send Paul back to his work when the dinner-hour was over;
whereupon Harold came slowly to his digging again.
Hotter and hotter did it grow, and the grey dull clouds began to
gain a yellow lurid light in the distance; there were low growlings of
thunder far away, and Ellen left her work unfinished, and forgot how
hot she was herself in toiling to fan Alfred, so as to keep him in
some little degree cooler, while the more he strove with the heat,
the more oppressed and miserable he grew.
Poor fellow! his wretchedness was not so much the heat, as the dim
perception of Mr. Blunt's hasty words; he had not heard them fully—
he dared not inquire what they had been, and he could not endure to
face them—yet the echo of 'nothing will ever do him good,' seemed to
ring like a knell in his ears every time he turned his weary head.
Nothing do him good! Nothing! Always these four walls, that little
bed, this wasting weary lassitude, this gnawing, throbbing pain, no
pony, no running, no shouting, no sense of vigour and health ever
again, and perhaps—that terrible perhaps, which made Alfred's very
flesh quail, he would not think of; and to drive it away, he found
some fresh toil to require of the sister who could not content him,
toil as she would.
Slowly the afternoon hours rolled on, one after the other, and
Alfred had just been in a pet with the clock for striking four when he
wanted it to be five, when the sky grew darker, and one or two heavy
drops of rain came plashing down on the thirsty earth.
'The storm is coming at last, and now it will be cooler,' said
Ellen, looking out from the window. 'Dear me!' she added, there
'What?' asked Alfred. 'What are you gaping at?'
'I declare!' cried Ellen, 'it's the new clergyman! It is Mr. Cope,
and he is coming up to the wicket!'
Alfred turned his head with a peevish sound; he was in the dreary
mood to resent whatever took off attention from him for a moment.
'A very pleasant-looking gentleman,' commented Ellen, 'and so
young! He does not look older than Charles Lawrence! I wonder whether
he is coming in, or if it is only to post a letter. Oh! there he is,
talking to Mother! There!'
A vivid flash of lightning came over the room at that moment and
made them all pause till it was followed up by the deep rumble of the
thunder, and then down rushed the rain, plashing and leaping up
again, bringing out the delicious scent from the earth, and seeming
in one moment to breathe refreshment and relief on the sick boy. His
brow was already clearing, as he listened to his mother's tones of
welcome, as she was evidently asking the stranger to sit down and
wait for the storm to be over, and the cheerful voice that replied to
her. He did not scold Ellen for, as usual, making things neat; and
whereas, five minutes sooner, he would have hated the notion of any
one coming near him, he now only hoped that his mother would bring
Mr. Cope up; and presently he heard the well-known creak of the
stairs under a manly foot, and his mother's voice saying something
about 'a great sufferer, Sir.'
Then came in sight his mother's white cap, and behind her one of
the most cheerful lively faces that Alfred had ever beheld. The new
Curate looked very little more than a boy, with a nice round fresh
rosy face, and curly brown hair, and a quick joyous eye, and regular
white teeth when he smiled that merry good-humoured smile. Indeed,
he was as young as a deacon could be, and he looked younger. He
knocked his tall head against the top of the low doorway as he came
into the room, and answered Mrs. King's apologies with a pleasant
laugh. Ellen knew her mother would like him the better for his
height, for no one since the handsome coachman himself had had to
bend his head to get into the room. Alfred liked the looks of him
the first moment, and by way of salutation put up one of his weary,
white, blue-veined hands to pull his damp forelock; but Mr. Cope,
nodding in answer to Ellen's curtsey, took hold of his hand at once,
and softening the cheery voice that was so pleasant to hear, said,
'Well, my boy, I hope we shall be good friends. And what's your
'Alfred King, Sir,' was the answer. It really was quite a pleasure
not to begin with the old weary subject of being pitied for his
'King Alfred!' said Mr. Cope. 'I met King Harold yesterday. I've
got into royal company, it seems!'
Alfred smiled, it was said so drolly; but his mother, who felt a
little as if she were being laughed at, said, 'Why, Sir, my brother's
name was Alfred; and as to Harold, it was to please Miss Jane's
little sister that died—she was quite a little girl then, Sir, but
so clever, and she would have him named out of her History of
'Did Miss Selby give you those flowers?' said Mr. Cope, admiring
the rose and geranium in the cup on the table.
'Yes, Sir;' and Mrs. King launched out in the praises of Miss Jane
and of my Lady, an inexhaustible subject which did not leave Alfred
much time to speak, till Mrs. King, seeing the groom from the Park
coming with the letter-bag through the rain, asked Mr. Cope to excuse
her, and went down-stairs.
'Well, Alfred, I think you are a lucky boy,' he said. 'I was
comparing you with a lad I once knew of, who got his spine injured,
and is laid up in a little narrow garret, in a back street, with no
one to speak to all day. I don't know what he would not give for a
sister, and a window like this, and a Miss Jane.'
Alfred smiled, and said, 'Please, Sir, how old is he?'
'About sixteen; a nice stout lad he was, as ever I knew, till his
accident; I often used to meet him going about with his master, and
thought it was a pleasure to meet such a good-humoured face.'
Alfred ventured to ask his trade, and was told he was being brought
up to wait on his father, who was a bricklayer, but that a ladder had
fallen with him as he was going up with a heavy load, and he had been
taken at once to the hospital. The house on which he was employed
belonged to a friend of Mr. Cope, and all in the power of this
gentleman had been done for him, but that was not much, for it was
one of the families that no one can serve; the father drank, and the
mother was forced to be out charing all day, and was so rough a
woman, that she could hardly be much comfort to poor Jem when she was
Alfred was quite taken up with the history by this time, and kept
looking at Mr. Cope, as if he would eat it up with his eager eyes.
Ellen asked compassionately who did for the poor boy all day.
'His mother runs in at dinner-time, if she is not at work too far
off, and he has a jug of water and a bit of bread where he can reach
them; the door is open generally, so that he can call to some of the
other lodgers, but though the house is as full as a bee-hive, often
nobody hears him. I believe his great friend is a little school-
girl, who comes and sits by him, and reads to him if she can; but she
is generally at school, or else minding the children.'
'It must be very lonely,' said Alfred, perceiving for the first
time that there could be people worse off than himself; 'but has he no
books to read?'
'He was so irregularly sent to school, that he could not read to
himself, even if his corner were not so dark, and the window so
dingy. My friend gave him a Bible, but he could not get on with it;
and his mother, I am sorry to say, pawned it.'
Ellen and Alfred both cried out as if they had never heard of
anything so shocking.
'It was grievous,' said Mr. Cope; 'but the poor things did not know
the value, and when there was scarcely a morsel of bread in the
house, there was cause enough for not judging them hardly, but I
don't think Jem would allow it now. He got some of his little
friend's easy Scripture lessons and the like, in large print, which
he croons over as he lies there alone, till one feels sure that they
are working into his heart. The people in the house say that though
he has been ill these three years, he has never spoken an ill-
tempered word; and if any one pities him, he answers, "It is the
Lord," and seems to wish for no change. He lies there between dozing
and dreaming and praying, and always seems content.'
'Does he think he shall get well?' said Alfred, who had been
'Oh no; there is no chance of that; it is an injury past cure. But
I suppose that while he bears the Will of God so patiently here, his
Heavenly Father makes it up to him in peacefulness of heart now, and
the hope of what is to come hereafter.'
Alfred made no answer, but his eyes shewed that he was thinking;
and Mr. Cope rose, and looked out of window, as a gleam of sunshine,
while the dark cloud lifted up from the north-west, made the trees
and fields glow with intense green against the deep grey of the sky,
darker than ever from the contrast. Ellen stood up, and Alfred
exclaimed, 'Oh Sir, please come again soon!'
'Very soon,' said Mr. Cope good-humouredly; 'but you've not got rid
of me yet, the rain is pretty hard still, and I see the beggarmen
dancing all down the garden-walk.'
Alfred and Ellen smiled to hear their mother's old word for the
drops splashing up again; and Mr. Cope went on:
'The garden looks very much refreshed by this beautiful shower. It
is in fine order. Is it the other monarch's charge?'
'Harold's, Sir,' said Ellen. 'Yes, he takes a great pride in it,
and so did Alfred when he was well.'
'Ah, I dare say; and it must be pleasant to you to see your brother
working in it now. I see him under that shed, and who is that lad
with him? They seem to have some good joke together.'
'Oh,' said Ellen, 'Harold likes company, you see, Sir, and will
take up with anybody. I wish you could be so good as to speak to him,
Sir, for lads of that age don't mind women folk, you see, Sir.'
'What? I hope his majesty does not like bad company?' said Mr.
Cope, not at all that he thought lightly of such an evil, but it was
his way to speak in that droll manner, especially as Ellen's voice was
a little bit peevish.
'Nobody knows no harm of the chap,' said Alfred, provoked at Ellen
for what he thought unkindness in setting the clergyman at once on
his brother; but Ellen was the more displeased, and exclaimed:
'Nor nobody knows no good. He's a young tramper that hired with
Farmer Shepherd yesterday, a regular runaway and reprobate, just out
of prison, most likely.'
'Well, I hope not so bad as that,' said Mr. Cope, 'he's not a bad-
looking boy; but I dare say you are anxious about your brother. It
must be dull for him, to have his companion laid up;—and by the
looks of him, I dare say his spirits are sometimes too much for you,'
he added, turning to Alfred.
'He does make a terrible racket sometimes,' said Alfred.
'Ay, and I dare say you will try to bear with it, and not drive him
out to seek dangerous company,' said Mr. Cope; at which Alfred
blushed a little, as he remembered the morning, and that he had never
thought of this danger.
Mr. Cope added, 'I think I shall go and talk to those two merry
fellows; I must not tire you, my lad, but I will soon come here
again;' and he took leave.
Heartily did Ellen exclaim, 'Well, that is a nice gentleman!' and
as heartily did Alfred reply. He felt as if a new light had come in
on his life, and Mr. Cope had not said one word about patience.
Ellen expected Mr. Cope to come back and warn her mother against
Paul Blackthorn, but she only saw him stand talking to the two lads
till he made them both grin again, and then as the rain was over, he
walked away; Paul went back to his turnips, and Harold came
thundering up-stairs in his great shoes. Alfred was cheerful, and
did not mind him now; but Ellen did, and scolded him for the quantity
of dirt he was bringing up with him from the moist garden, which was
all one steam of sweet smells, as the sun drew up the vapour after
'If you were coming in, you'd better have come out of the rain, not
stood idling there with that good-for-nothing lad. The new minister
said he would be after you if you were taking up with bad company.'
'Who told you I was with bad company?' said Harold.
'Why, I could see it! I hope he rebuked you both.'
'He asked us if we could play at cricket—and he asked the pony's
name,' said Harold, 'if that's what you call rebuking us!'
'And what did he say to that boy?'
'Oh! he told him he heard he was a stranger here, like himself, and
asked how long he'd been here, and where he came from.'
'And what did he say?'
'He said he was from Upperscote Union—come out because he was big
enough to keep himself, and come to look for work,' said Harold.
'He's a right good chap, I'll tell you, and I'll bring him up to see
Alfy one of these days!'
'Bring up that dirty boy! I should like to see you!' cried Ellen,
making SUCH a face. 'I don't believe a word of his coming out of the
Union. I'm sure he's run away out of gaol, by the look of him!'
'Ellen—Harold—come down to your tea!' called Mrs. King.
So they went down; and presently, while Mrs. King was gone up to
give Alfred his tea, there came Mrs. Shepherd bustling across, with
her black silk apron thrown over her cap with the crimson gauze
ribbons. She wanted a bit of tape, and if there were none in the shop,
Harold must match it in Elbury when he took the letters.
Ellen was rather familiar with Mrs. Shepherd, because she made her
gowns, and they had some talk about the new clergyman. Mrs. Shepherd
did not care for clergymen much; if she had done so, she might not
have been so hard with her labourers. She was always afraid of their
asking her to subscribe to something or other, so she gave it as her
opinion, that she should never think it worth while to listen to such
a very young man as that, and she hoped he would not stay; and then
she said, 'So your brother was taking up with that come-by-chance
lad, I saw. Did he make anything out of him?'
'He fancies him more than I like, or Mother either,' said Ellen.
'He says he's out of Upperscote Union; but he's a thorough impudent
one, and owns he's no father nor mother, nor nothing belonging to him.
I think it is a deal more likely that he is run away from some
reformatory, or prison.'
'That's just what I said to the farmer!' said Mrs. Shepherd. 'I
said he was out of some place of that sort. I'm sure it's a sin for
the gentlemen to be setting up such places, raising the county rates,
and pampering up a set of young rogues to let loose on us. Ay! ay!
I'll warrant he's a runaway thief! I told the farmer he'd take him
to his sorrow, but you see he is short of hands just now, and the men
are so set up and grabbing, I don't know how farmers is to live.'
So Mrs. Shepherd went away grumbling, instead of being thankful for
the beautiful crop of hay, safely housed, before the thunder shower
which had saved the turnips from the fly.
Ellen might have doubted whether she had done right in helping to
give the boy a bad name, but just then in came the ostler from the
Tankard with some letters.
'Here!' he said, 'here's one from one of the gentlemen lodging here
fishing, to Cayenne. You'll please to see how much there is to pay.'
Ellen looked at her Postal Guide, but she was quite at a fault, and
she called up-stairs to Alfred to ask if he knew where she should
look for Cayenne. He was rather fond of maps, and knew a good deal
of geography for a boy of his age, but he knew nothing about this
place, and she was just thinking of sending back the letter, to ask
the gentleman where it was, when a voice said:
'Try Guiana, or else South America.'
She looked up, and there were Paul's dirty face and dirtier elbows,
leaning over the half-door of the shop.
'Why, how do you know?' she said, starting back.
'I learnt at school, Cayenne, capital of French Guiana.' Sure
enough Cayenne had Guiana to it in her list, and the price was found
But when this learned geographer advanced into the shop, and asked
for a loaf, what a hand and what a sleeve did he stretch out! Ellen
scarcely liked to touch his money, and felt all her disgust revive.
But, for all that, and for all her fear of Harold's running into
mischief, what business had she to set it about that the stranger was
an escaped convict?
Meanwhile, Alfred had plenty of food for dreaming over his fellow
sufferer. It really seemed to quiet him to think of another in the
same case, and how many questions he longed to have asked Mr. Cope!
He wanted to know whether it came easier to Jem to be patient than to
himself; whether he suffered as much wearing pain; whether he grieved
over the last hope of using his limbs; and above all, the question he
knew he never could bear to ask, whether Jem had the dread of death
to scare his thoughts, though never confessed to himself.
He longed for Mr. Cope's next visit, and felt strongly drawn
towards that thought of Jem, yet ashamed to think of himself as so
much less patient and submissive; so little able to take comfort in
what seemed to soothe Jem, that it was the Lord's doing. Could Jem
think he had been a wicked boy, and take it as punishment?
CHAPTER IV—PAUL BLACKTHORN
'I say,' cried Harold, running up into his brother's room, as soon
as he had put away the pony, 'do you know whether Paul is gone?'
'It is always Paul, Paul!' exclaimed Ellen; 'I'm sure I hope he
'But why do you think he would be?' asked Alfred.
'Oh, didn't you hear? He knows no more than a baby about anything,
and so he turned the cows into Darnel meadow, and never put the
hurdle to stop the gap—never thinking they could get down the bank;
so the farmer found them in the barley, and if he did not run out
against him downright shameful—though Paul up and told him the
truth, that 'twas nobody else that did it.'
'What, and turned him off?'
'Well, that's what I want to know,' said Harold, going on with his
tea. 'Paul said to me he didn't know how he could stand the like of
that—and yet he didn't like to be off—he'd taken a fancy to the
place, you see, and there's me, and there's old Caesar—and so he
said he wouldn't go unless the farmer sent him off when he came to be
paid this evening—and old Skinflint has got him so cheap, I don't
think he will.'
'For shame, Harold; don't call names!'
'Well, there he is,' said Alfred, pointing into the farmyard,
towards the hay-loft door. This was over the cow-house in the gable
end; and in the dark opening sat Paul, his feet on the top step of the
ladder, and Caesar, the yard-dog, lying by his side, his white paws
hanging down over the edge, his sharp white muzzle and grey prick ears
turned towards his friend, and his eyes casting such appealing looks,
that he was getting more of the hunch of bread than probably Paul
could well spare.
'How has he ever got the dog up the ladder?' cried Harold.
'Well!' said Mrs. King, 'I declare he looks like a picture I have
'Well, to be sure! who would go for to draw a picture of the like
of that!' exclaimed Ellen, pausing as she put on her things to carry
home some work.
'It was a picture of a Spanish beggar-boy,' said Mrs. King; 'and
the housekeeper at Castlefort used to say that the old lord—that's
Lady Jane's brother—had given six hundred pounds for it.'
Ellen set out on her walk with a sound of wonder quite beyond
words. Six hundred pounds for a picture like Paul Blackthorn! She did
not know that so poor and feeble are man's attempts to imitate the
daily forms and colourings fresh from the Divine Hand, that a likeness
of the very commonest sight, if represented with something of its true
spirit and life, wins a strange value, especially if the work of the
great master-artists of many years ago.
And even the painter Murillo himself, though he might pleasantly
recall on his canvas the notion of the bright-eyed, olive-tinted lad,
resting after the toil of the day, could never have rendered the free
lazy smile on his face, nor the gleam of the dog's wistful eyes and
quiver of its eager ears, far less the glow of setting sunlight that
shed over all that warm, clear, ruddy light, so full of rest and
cheerfulness, beautifying, as it hid, so many common things: the
thatched roof of the barn, the crested hayrick close beside it; the
waggons, all red and blue, that had brought it home, and were led to
rest, the horses drooping their meek heads as they cooled their feet
among the weed in the dark pond;—the ducks moving, with low
contented quacks and quickly-wagging tails, in one long single file
to their evening foraging in the dewy meadows; the spruce younger
poultry pecking over the yard, staying up a little later than their
elders to enjoy a few leavings in peace, free from the persecutions
of the cross old king of the dung-hill;—all this left in shade,
while the ruddy light had mounted to the roofs, gave brilliance to
every round tuft of moss, and gleamed on the sober foliage of the old
spreading walnut tree.
'Poor lad,' said Mrs. King, 'it seems a pity he should come to such
a rough life, when he seems to have got such an education! I hope he
is not run away from anywhere.'
'You're as bad as Ellen, mother,' cried Harold, 'who will have it
that he's out of prison.'
'No, not that,' said Mrs. King; 'but it did cross me whether he
could have run away from school, and if his friends were in trouble
'He never had any friends,' said Harold, 'nor he never ran away.
He's nothing but a foundling. They picked him up under a blackthorn
bush when he was a baby, with nothing but a bit of an old plaid shawl
'Did they ever know who he belonged to?' asked Alfred.
'Never; nor he doesn't care if they don't, for sure they could be
no credit to him; but they that found him put him into the Union, and
there an old woman, that they called Granny Moll, took to him. She
had but one eye, he says; but, Mother, I do believe he never had
another friend like her, for he got to pulling up the bits of grass,
and was near crying when he said she was dead and gone, and then he
didn't care for nothing.'
'But who taught him about Cayenne?' asked Alfred.
'Oh, that was the Union School. All the children went to school,
and they had a terrible sharp master, who used to cut them over the
head quite cruel, and was sent away at last for being such a savage;
but Paul being always there, and having nothing else to do, you see,
got on ever so far, and can work sums in his head downright wonderful.
There came an inspector once who praised him up, and said he'd
recommend him to a place where he'd be taught to be a school-master,
if any one would pay the cost; but the guardians wouldn't hear of it
at no price, and were quite spiteful to find he was a good scholar,
for fear, I suppose, that he'd know more than they.'
'Hush, hush, Harold,' said his mother; 'wait till you have to pay
the rates before you run out against the guardians.'
'What do you mean, Mother?'
'Why, don't you see, the guardians have their duties to those who
pay the rates, as well as those that have parish pay. What they have
to do, is to mind that nobody starves, or the like; and their means
comes out of the rates, out of my pocket, and the like of me, as well
as my Lady's and all the rich. Well, whatever they might like to do,
it would not be serving us fairly to take more than was a bare
necessity from us, to send your Master Paul and the like of him to a
fine school. 'Tis for them to be just, and other folk to be generous
with what's their own.'
'Mother talks as if she was a guardian herself!' said Alfred in his
'Ah, the collector's going his rounds,' responded Harold; and Mrs.
King laughed good-humouredly, always glad to see her sick boy able to
enjoy himself; but she sighed, saying, 'Ay, and ill can I spare it,
though thanks be to God that I've been as yet of them that pay, and
not of them that receive.'
'Go on the parish! Mother, what are you thinking of?' cried both
Poor Mrs. King was thinking of the long winter, and the heavy
doctor's bill, and feeling that, after all, suffering and humbling
might not be so very far off; but she was too cheerful and full of
trust to dwell on the thought, so she smiled and said, 'I only said I
was thankful, boys, for the mercy that has kept us up. Go on now,
Harold; what about the boy?'
'Why, I don't know that he'd have gone if they had paid his
expenses ever so much,' said Harold, 'for he's got a great spirit of
his own, and wouldn't be beholden to any one, he said, now he could
keep himself—he'd had quite enough of the parish and its keep; so he
said he'd go on the tramp till he got work; and they let him out of
the Union with just the clothes to his back, and a shilling in his
pocket. 'Twas the first time he had ever been let out of bounds
since he was picked up under the tree; and he said no one ever would
guess the pleasure it was to have nobody to order him here and there,
and no bounds round him; and he quite hated the notion of getting
inside walls again, as if it was a prison.'
'Oh, I know! I can fancy that!' cried Alfred, raising himself and
panting; 'and where did he go first?'
'First, he only wanted to get as far from Upperscote as ever he
could, so he walked on; I can't say how he lived, but he didn't beg;
he got a job here and a job there; but there are not so many things
he knows the knack of, having been at school all his life. Once he
took up with a man that sold salt, to draw his cart for him, but the
man swore at him so awfully he could not bear it, and beat him too,
so he left him, and he had lived terrible hard for about a month
before he came here! So you see, Mother, there's not one bit of harm
in him; he's a right good scholar, and never says a bad word, nor has
no love for drink; so you won't be like Ellen, and be always at me
for going near him?'
'You're getting a big boy, Harold, and it is lonely for you,' said
Mrs. King reluctantly; 'and if the lad is a good lad I'd not cast up
his misfortune against him; but I must say, I should think better of
him if he would keep himself a little bit cleaner and more decent, so
as he could go to church.'
Harold made a very queer face, and said, 'How is he to do it up in
the hay-loft, Mother? and he ha'n't got enough to pay for lodgings,
nor for washing, nor to change.'
'The river is cheap enough,' said Alfred. 'Do you remember when we
used to bathe together, Harold, and go after the minnows?'
'Ay, but he don't know how; and then they did plague him so in the
Union, that he's got to hate the very name of washing—scrubbing them
over and cutting their hair as if they were in gaol.'
'Poor boy! he is terribly forsaken,' said Mrs. King
'You may say that!' returned Harold; 'why, he's never so much as
seen how folks live at home, and wanted to know if you were most like
old Moll or the master of the Union!'
Alfred went into such a fit of laughter as almost hurt him; but
Mrs. King felt the more pitiful and tender towards the poor deserted
orphan, who could not even understand what a mother was like, and the
tears came into her eyes, as she said, 'Well, I'm glad he's not a bad
boy. I hope he thinks of the Father and the Home that he has above.
I say, Harold, against next Sunday I'll look out Alfred's oldest
shirt for him to put on, and you might bring me his to wash, only
mind you soak it well in the river first.'
Harold quite flushed with gratitude for his mother's kindness, for
he knew it was no small effort in one so scrupulously and delicately
clean, and with so much work on her hands; but Mrs. King was one who
did her alms by her trouble when she had nothing else to give. Alfred
smiled and said he wondered what Ellen would say; and almost at the
same moment Harold shot down-stairs, and was presently seen standing
upon Paul's ladder talking to him; then Paul rose up as though to come
down, and there was much fun going on, as to how Caesar was to be got
down; for, as every one knows, a dog can mount a ladder far better
than he can descend; and poor Caesar stretched out his white paw,
looked down, seemed to turn giddy, whined, and looked earnestly at his
friends till they took pity on him and lifted him down between them,
stretching out his legs to their full length, like a live hand-barrow.
A few seconds more, and there was a great trampling of feet, and
then in walked Harold, exclaiming, 'Here he is!' And there he stood,
shy and sheepish, with rusty black shag by way of hair, keen dark
beads of eyes, and very white teeth; but all the rest, face, hands,
jacket, trousers, shoes, and all, of darker or lighter shades of
olive-brown; and as to the rents, one would be sorry to have to count
them; mending them would have been a thing impossible. What a
difference from the pure whiteness of everything around Alfred! the
soft pink of the flush of surprise on his delicate cheek, and the wavy
shine on his light hair. A few months ago, Alfred would have been as
ready as his brother to take that sturdy hand, marbled as it was with
dirt, and would have heeded all drawbacks quite as little; but
sickness had changed him much, and Paul was hardly beside his couch
before the colour fleeted away from his cheek, and his eye turned to
his mother in such distress, that she was obliged to make a sign to
Harold in such haste that it looked like anger, and to mutter
something about his being taken worse. And while she was holding the
smelling salts to him, and sprinkling vinegar over his couch, they
heard the two boys' voices loud under the window, Paul saying he
should never come there again, and Harold something about people being
squeamish and fine.
It hurt Alfred, and he burst out, almost crying, 'Mother! Mother,
now isn't that too bad!'
'It is very thoughtless,' said Mrs. King sorrowfully; 'but you know
everybody has their feelings, Alfred, and I am sorry it happened so.'
'I'm sure I couldn't help it,' said Alfred, as if his mother were
turning against him. 'Harold had better have brought up the farmer's
whole stable at once!'
'When you were well, you did not think of such things any more than
Alfred grunted. He could not believe that; and he did not feel
gently when his brother shewed any want of consideration; but his
mother thought he would only grow crosser by dwelling on the unlucky
subject, so she advised him to lie still and rest before his being
moved to bed, and went down herself to finish some ironing.
Presently Alfred saw the Curate coming over the bridge with quick
long steps, and this brought to his mind that he had been wishing to
hear more of the poor crippled boy. He watched eagerly, and was
pleased to see Mr. Cope turn in at the wicket, and presently the
tread upon the stairs was heard, and the high head was lowered at the
'Good evening, Alfred; your mother told me it would not disturb you
if I came up alone;' and he began to inquire into his amusements and
occupations, till Alfred became quite at home with him, and at ease,
and ventured to ask, 'If you please, Sir, do you ever hear about Jem
now?' and as Mr. Cope looked puzzled, 'the boy you told me of, Sir,
that fell off the scaffold.'
'Oh, the boy at Liverpool! No, I only saw him once when I was
staying with my cousin; but I will ask after him if you wish to
'Thank you, Sir. I wanted to know if he had been a bad boy.'
'That I cannot tell. Why do you wish to know? Was it because he
had such an affliction?'
'I don't think that is quite the way to look at troubles,' said Mr.
Cope. 'I should think his accident had been a great blessing to him,
if it took him out of temptation, and led him to think more of God.'
'But isn't it punishment?' said Alfred, not able to get any
farther; but Mr. Cope felt that he was thinking of himself more than
'All our sufferings in this life come as punishment of sin,' he
said. 'If there had been no sin, there would have been no pain; and
whatever we have to bear in this life is no more than is our due,
whatever it may be.'
'Every one is sinful,' said Alfred slowly; 'but why have some more
to bear than others that may be much worse?'
'Did you never think it hard to be kept strictly, and punished by
your good mother?'
Alfred answered rather fretfully, 'But if it is good to be
punished, why ain't all alike?'
'God in His infinite wisdom sees the treatment that each particular
nature needs. Some can be better trained by joy, and some by grief;
some may be more likely to come right by being left in active health;
others, by being laid low, and having their faults brought to mind.'
Alfred did not quite choose to take this in, and his answer was
'Bad boys are quite well!'
'And a reckoning will be asked of them. Do not think of other
boys. Think over your past life, of which I know nothing, and see
whether you can believe, after real looking into it, that you have
done nothing to deserve God's displeasure. There are other more
comforting ways of bringing joy out of pain; but of this I am sure,
that none will come home to us till we own from the bottom of our
heart, that whatever we suffer in this life, we suffer most justly
for the punishment of our sins. God bless and help you, my poor boy.
With these words he went down-stairs, for well he knew that while
Alfred went on to justify himself, no peace nor joy could come to
him, and he thought it best to leave the words to work in, praying in
his heart that they might do so, and help the boy to humility and
Finding Mrs. King in her kitchen, he paused and said, 'We shall
have a Confirmation in the spring, Mrs. King; shall not you have some
candidates for me?'
'My daughter will be very glad, thank you, Sir; she is near to
seventeen, and a very good girl to me. And Harold, he is but
fourteen—would he be old enough, Sir?'
'I believe the Bishop accepts boys as young; and he might be
started in life before another opportunity.'
'Well, Sir, he shall come to you, and I hope you won't think him
too idle and thoughtless. He's a good-hearted boy, Sir; but it is a
charge when a lad has no father to check him.'
'Indeed it is, Mrs. King; but I think you must have done your
'I hope I have, Sir,' she said sadly; 'I've tried, but my ability
is not much, and he is a lively lad, and I'm sometimes afraid to be
too strict with him.'
'If you have taught him to keep himself in order, that's the great
thing, Mrs. King; if he has sound principles, and honours you, I
would hope much for him.'
'And, Sir, that boy he has taken a fancy to; he is a poor lost lad
who never had a home, but Harold says he has been well taught, and he
might take heed to you.'
'Thank you, Mrs. King; I will certainly try to speak to him. You
said nothing of Alfred; do you think he will not be well enough?'
'Ah! Sir,' she said in her low subdued voice, 'my mind misgives me
that it is not for Confirmation that you will be preparing him.'
Mr. Cope started. He had seen little of illness, and had not
thought of this. 'Indeed! does the doctor think so ill of him? Do
not these cases often partially recover?'
'I don't know, Sir; Mr. Blunt does not give much account of him,'
and her voice grew lower and lower; 'I've seen that look in his
father's and his brother's face.'
She hid her face in her handkerchief as if overpowered, but looked
up with the meek look of resignation, as Mr. Cope said in a broken
voice, 'I had not expected—you had been much tried.'
'Yes, Sir. The Will of the Lord be done,' she said, as if willing
to turn aside from the dark side of the sorrow that lay in wait for
her; 'but I'm thankful you are come to help my poor boy now—he frets
over his trouble, as is natural, and I'm afraid he should offend, and
I'm no scholar to know how to help him.'
'You can help him by what is better than scholarship,' said Mr.
Cope; and he shook her hand warmly, and went away, feeling what a
difference there was in the ways of meeting affliction.
CHAPTER V—AN UNWELCOME VISITOR
'The axe is laid to the root of the tree,' was said by the Great
Messenger, when the new and better Covenant was coming to pierce,
try, and search into, the hearts of men.
Something like this always happens, in some measure, whenever
closer, clearer, and more stringent views of faith and of practice are
brought home to Christians. They do not always take well the finding
that more is required of them than they have hitherto fancied
needful; and there are many who wince and murmur at the sharp
piercing of the weapon which tries their very hearts; they try to
escape from it, and to forget the disease that it has touched, and at
first, often grow worse rather than better. Well is it for them if
they return while yet there is time, before blindness have come over
their eyes, and hardness over their heart.
Perhaps this was the true history of much that grieved poor Mrs.
King, and distressed Ellen, during the remainder of the summer.
Anxious as Mrs. King had been to bring her sons up in the right way,
there was something in Mr. Cope's manner of talking to them that
brought things closer home to them, partly from their being put in a
new light, and partly from his being a man, and speaking with a
different kind of authority.
Alfred did not like his last conversation—it was little more than
his mother and Miss Selby had said—but then he had managed to throw
it off, and he wanted to do so again. It was pleasanter to him to
think himself hardly treated, than to look right in the face at all
his faults; he knew it was of no use to say he had none, so he lumped
them all up by calling himself a sinful creature, like every one
else; and thus never felt the weight of them at all, because he never
thought what they were.
And yet, because Mr. Cope's words had made him uneasy, he could not
rest in this state; he was out of temper whenever the Curate's name
was spoken, and accused Ellen of bothering about him as much as
Harold did about Paul Blackthorn; and if he came to see him, he made
himself sullen, and would not talk, sometimes seeming oppressed and
tired, and unable to bear any one's presence, sometimes leaving Ellen
to do all the answering, dreading nothing so much as being left alone
with the clergyman. Mr. Cope had offered to read prayers with him,
and he could not refuse; but he was more apt to be thinking that it
was tiresome, than trying to enter into what, poor foolish boy, would
have been his best comfort.
To say he was cross when Mr. Cope was there, would be saying much
too little; there was scarcely any time when he was not cross; he was
hardly civil even to Miss Jane, so that she began to think it was
unpleasant to him to have her there; and if she were a week without
calling, he grumbled hard thoughts about fine people; he was fretful
and impatient with the doctor; and as to those of whom he had no
fears, he would have been quite intolerable, had they loved him less,
or had less pity on his suffering.
He never was pleased with anything; teased his mother half the
night, and drove Ellen about all day. She, good girl, never said one
word of impatience, but bore it all with the sweetest good humour; but
her mother now and then spoke severely for Alfred's own good, and then
he made himself more miserable than ever, and thought she was unkind
and harsh, and that he was very much to be pitied for having a mother
who could not bear with her poor sick boy. He was treating his mother
as he was treating his Father in Heaven.
How Harold fared with him may easily be guessed—how the poor boy
could hardly speak or step without being moaned at, till he was
almost turned out of his own house; and his mother did not know what
to do, for Alfred was really very ill, and fretting made him worse,
and nothing could be so bad for his brother as being driven out from
home, to spend the long summer evenings as he could.
Ellen would have been thankful now, had Paul Blackthorn been the
worst company into which Harold fell. Not that Paul was a bit
cleaner; on the contrary, each day could not fail to make him worse,
till, as Ellen had once said, you might almost grow a crop of
radishes upon his shoulders.
Mrs. King's kind offer of washing his shirt had come to nothing.
She asked Harold about it, and had for answer, 'Do you think he
would, after the way you served him?'
Either he was affronted, or he was ashamed of her seeing his rags,
or, what was not quite impossible, there was no shirt at all in the
case; and he had a sturdy sort of independence about him, that made
him always turn surly at any notion of anything being done for him
How or why he stayed on with the farmer was hard to guess, for he
had very scanty pay, and rough usage; the farmer did not like him; the
farmer's wife scolded him constantly, and laid on his shoulders all
the mischief that was done about the place; and the shuffler gave him
half his own work to do, and hunted him about from dawn till past
sunset. He was always going at the end of every week, but never
gone; perhaps he had undergone too much in his wanderings, to be
ready to begin them again; or perhaps either Caesar or Harold, one or
both, kept him at Friarswood. And there might be another reason,
too, for no one had ever spoken to him like Mr. Cope. Very few had
ever thrown him a kindly word, or seemed to treat him like a thing
with feelings, and those few had been rough and unmannerly; but Mr.
Cope's good-natured smile and pleasant manner had been a very
different thing; and perhaps Paul promised to come to the
Confirmation class, chiefly because of the friendly tone in which he
When there, he really liked it. He had always liked what he was
taught, apart from the manner of teaching; and now both manner and
lessons were delightful to him. His answers were admirable, and it
was not all head knowledge, for very little more than a really kind
way of putting it was needed, to make him turn in his loneliness to
rest in the thought of the ever-present Father. Hard as the
discipline of his workhouse home had been, it had kept him from much
outward harm; the little he had seen in his wanderings had shocked
him, and he was more untaught in evil than many lads who thought
themselves more respectable, so there was no habit of wickedness to
harden and blunt him; and the application of all he had learnt
before, found his heart ready.
He had not gone to church since he left the workhouse: he did not
think it belonged to vagabonds like him; besides, he always felt
walls like a prison; and he had not profited much by the workhouse
prayers, which were read on week-days by the master, and on Sundays
by a chaplain, who always had more to do than he could manage, and
only went to the paupers when they were very ill. But when Mr. Cope
talked to him of the duty of going to church, he said, 'I will, Sir;'
and he sat in the gallery with the young lads, who were not quite as
delicate as Alfred.
The service seemed to rest him, and to be like being brought near a
friend; and he had been told that church might always be his home. He
took a pleasure in going thither—the more, perhaps, that he rather
liked to shew how little he cared for remarks upon his appearance.
There was a great deal of independence about him; and, having escaped
from the unloving maintenance of the parish, while he had as yet been
untaught what affection or gratitude meant, he WOULD not be beholden
to any one.
Scanty as were his wages, he would accept nothing from anybody; he
daily bought his portion of bread from Mrs. King, but it was of no
use for her to add a bit of cheese or bacon to it; he never would see
the relish, and left it behind; and so he never would accept Mr.
Cope's kind offers of giving him a bit of supper in his kitchen,
perhaps because he was afraid of being said to go to the Rectory for
the sake of what he could get.
He did not object to the farmer's beer, which was sometimes given
him when any unusual extra work had been put on him. That was his
right, for in truth the farmer did not pay him the value of his
labour, and perhaps disliked him the more, because of knowing in his
conscience that this was shameful extortion.
However, just at harvest time, when Paul's shoes had become very
like what may be sometimes picked up by the roadside, Mr. Shepherd did
actually bestow on him a pair that did not fit himself! Harold came
home quite proud of them.
However, on the third day they were gone, and the farmer's voice
was heard on the bridge, rating Paul violently for having changed them
away for drink.
Mrs. King felt sorrowful; but, as Ellen said, 'What could you
expect of him?' In spite of the affront, there was a sort of
acquaintance now over the counter between Mrs. King and young
Blackthorn; and when he came for his bread, she could not help saying,
'I'm sorry to see you in those again.'
'Why, the others hurt me so, I could hardly get about,' said Paul.
'Ah! poor lad, I suppose your feet has got spread with wearing
those old ones; but you should try to use yourself to decent ones, or
you'll soon be barefoot; and I do think it was a pity to drink them
'That's all the farmer, Ma'am. He thinks one can't do anything but
'Well, what is become of them?'
'Why, you see, Ma'am, they just suited Dick Royston, and he wanted
a pair of shoes, and I wanted a Bible and Prayer-book, so we changed
When Ellen heard this, she could not help owning that Paul was a
good boy after all, though it was in an odd sort of way. But, alas!
when next he was to go to Mr. Cope, there was a hue-and-cry all over
the hay-loft for the Prayer-book. There was no place to put it
safely, or if there had been, Poor Paul was too great a sloven to
think of any such thing; and as it was in a somewhat rubbishy state to
begin with, it was most likely that one of the cows had eaten it with
her hay; and all that could be said was, that it would have been worse
if it had been the Bible.
As to Dick Royston, to find that he would change away his Bible for
a pair of shoes, made Mrs. King doubly concerned that he should be a
good deal thrown in Harold's way. There are many people who neglect
their Bibles, and do not read them; but this may be from
thoughtlessness or press of care, and is not like the wilful breaking
with good, that it is to part with the Holy Scripture, save under the
most dire necessity; and Dick was far from being in real want, nor
was he ignorant, like Mr. Cope's poor Jem, for he had been to school,
and could read well; but he was one of those many lads, who, alas!
are everywhere to be found, who break loose from all restraint as
soon as they can maintain themselves. They do their work pretty
well, and are tolerably honest; but for the rest—alas! they seem to
live without God. Prayers and Church they have left behind, as
belonging to school-days; and in all their strength and health, their
days of toil, their evenings of rude diversion, their Sundays of
morning sleep, noonday basking in the sun, evening cricket, they have
little more notion of anything concerning their souls than the horses
they drive. If ever a fear comes over them, it seems a long long way
off, a whole life-time before them; they are awkward, and in dread of
one another's jeers and remarks; and if they ever wish to be better,
they cast it from them by fancying that time must steady them when
they have had their bit of fun, or that something will come from
somewhere to change them all at once, and make it easy to them to be
good—as if they were not making it harder each moment.
This sort of lad had been utterly let alone till Mr. Cope came; and
Lady Jane and the school-master felt it was dreary work to train up
nice lads in the school, only to see them run riot, and forget all
good as soon as they thought themselves their own masters.
Mr. Cope was anxious to do the best he could for them, and the
Confirmation made a good opportunity; but the boys did not like to be
interfered with—it made them shy to be spoken to; and they liked
lounging about much better than having to poke into that mind of
theirs, which they carried somewhere about them, but did not like to
stir up. They had no notion of going to school again—which no one
wanted them to do—nor to church, because it was like little boys;
and they wouldn't be obliged.
So Mr. Cope made little way with them; a few who had better parents
came regularly to him, but others went off when they found it too
much trouble, and behaved worse than ever by way of shewing they did
not care. This folly had in some degree taken possession of Harold;
and though he could not be as bad as were some of the others, he was
fast growing impatient of restraint, and worried and angry, as if any
word of good advice affronted him. Driven from home by the fear of
disturbing Alfred, he was left the more to the company of boys who
made him ashamed of being ordered by his mother; and there was a
jaunty careless style about all his ways of talking and moving, that
shewed there was something wrong about him—he scorned Ellen, and was
as saucy as he dared even to his mother; and though Mr. Cope found
him better instructed than most of his scholars, he saw him quite as
idle, as restless at church, and as ready to whisper and grin at
improper times, as many who had never been trained like him.
One August Sunday afternoon, Mrs. King was with Alfred while Ellen
was at church. He was lying on his couch, very uncomfortable and
fretful, when to the surprise of both, a knock was heard at the door.
Mrs. King looked out of the window, and a smart, hard-looking,
pigeon's-neck silk bonnet at once nodded to her, and a voice said,
'I've come over to see you, Cousin King, if you'll come down and let
me in. I knew I should find you at home.'
'Betsey Hardman!' exclaimed Alfred, in dismay; 'you won't let her
come up here, Mother?'
'Not if I can help it,' said Mrs. King, sighing. If there were a
thing she disliked above all others, it was Sunday visiting.
'You must help it, Mother,' said Alfred, in his most pettish tones.
'I won't have her here, worrying with her voice like a hen cackling.
Say you won't let her come her!'
'Very well,' said Mrs. King, in doubt of her own powers, and in
haste to be decently civil.
'Say you won't,' repeated Alfred. 'Gadding about of a Sunday, and
leaving her old sick mother—more shame for her! Promise, Mother!'
He had nearly begun to cry at his mother's unkindness in running
down-stairs without making the promise, for, in fact, Mrs. King had
too much conscience to gain present quiet for any one by promises she
might be forced to break; and Betsey Hardman was only too well known.
Her mother was an aunt of Alfred's father, an old decrepit widow,
nearly bed-ridden, but pretty well to do, by being maintained chiefly
by her daughter, who made a good thing of taking in washing in the
suburbs of Elbury, and always had a girl or two under her. She had
neither had the education, nor the good training in service, that had
fallen to Mrs. King's lot; and her way of life did not lead to
softening her tongue or temper. Ellen called her vulgar, and though
that is not a nice word to use, she was coarse in her ways of talking
and thinking, loud-voiced, and unmannerly, although meaning to be
Alfred lay in fear of her step, ten times harder than Harold's in
his most boisterous mood, coming clamp clamp! up the stairs; and her
shrill voice—the same tone in which she bawled to her deaf mother,
and hallooed to her girls when they were hanging out the clothes in
the high wind—coming pitying him—ay, and perhaps her whole weight
lumbering down on the couch beside him, shaking every joint in his
body! His mother's ways, learnt in the Selby nursery, had made him
more tender, and more easily fretted by such things, than most
cottage lads, who would have been used to them, and never have
thought of not liking to have every neighbour who chose running up
into the room, and talking without regard to subject or tone.
He listened in a fright to the latch of the door, and the coming
in. Betsey's voice came up, through every chink of the boards,
whatever she did herself; and he could hear every word of her
greeting, as she said how it was such a fine day, she said to Mother
she would take a holiday, and come and see Cousin King and the poor
lad: it must be mighty dull for him, moped up there.
Stump! stump! Was she coming? His mother was answering something
too soft for him to hear.
'What, is he asleep?'
'O Mother, must you speak the truth?'
'Bless me! I should have thought a little cheerful company was
good for him. Do you leave him quite alone? Well—' and there was a
frightful noise of the foot of the heaviest chair on the floor. 'I'll
sit down and wait a bit! Is he so very fractious, then?'
What was his mother saying? Alfred clenched his fist, and grinned
anger at Betsey with closed teeth. There was the tiresome old word,
'Low—ay, so's my mother; but you should rise his spirits with
company, you see; that's why I came over; as soon as ever I heard
that there wasn't no hope of him, says I to Mother—'
What? What was that she had heard? There was his mother, probably
trying to restrain her voice, for it came up now just loud enough to
make it most distressing to try to catch the words, which sounded
like something pitying. 'Ay, ay—just like his poor father; when
they be decliny, it will come out one ways or another; and says I to
Mother, I'll go over and cheer poor Cousin King up a bit, for you
see, after all, if he'd lived, he'd be nothing but a burden, crippled
up like that; and a lingering job is always bad for poor folks.'
Alfred leant upon his elbow, his eyes full stretched, but feeling
as if all his senses had gone into his ears, in his agony to hear
more; and he even seemed to catch his mother's voice, but there was no
hope in that; it was of her knowing it would be all for the best; and
the sadness of it told him that she believed the same as Betsey. Then
came, 'Yes; I declare it gave me such a turn, you might have knocked
me down with a feather. I asked Mr. Blunt to come in and see what's
good for Mother, she feels so weak at times, and has such a noise in
her head, just like the regiment playing drums, she says, till she
can't hardly bear herself; and so what do you think he says? Don't
wrap up her head so warm, says he—a pretty thing for a doctor to
say, as if a poor old creature like that, past seventy years old,
could go without a bit of flannel to her head, and her three night-
caps, and a shawl over them when there's a draught. I say, Cousin, I
ha'n't got much opinion of Mr. Blunt. Why don't you get some of them
boxes of pills, that does cures wonderful? Ever so many lords and
ladies cured of a perplexity fit, by only just taking an imposing
draught or two.'
Another time Alfred would have laughed at the very imposing
draught, that was said to cure lords and ladies of this jumble between
apoplexy and paralysis; but this was no moment for laughing, and he
was in despair at fancying his mother wanted to lead her off on the
quack medicine; but she went on.
'Well, only read the papers that come with them. I make my girl
Sally read 'em all to me, being that she's a better scholar; and the
long words is quite heavenly—I declare there ain't one of them
shorter than peregrination. I'd have brought one of them over to
shew you if I hadn't come away in a hurry, because Evans's cart was
going out to the merry orchard, and says I to Mother, Well, I'll get
a lift now there's such a chance to Friarswood: it'll do them all a
bit of good to see a bit of cheerful company, seeing, as Mr. Blunt
says, that poor lad is going after his father as fast as can be. Dear
me, says I, you don't say so, such a fine healthy-looking chap as he
was. Yes, he says, but it's in the constitution; it's getting to the
lungs, and he'll never last out the winter.'
Alfred listened for the tone of his mother's voice; he knew he
should judge by that, even without catching the words—low, subdued,
sad—he almost thought she began with 'Yes.'
All the rest that he heard passed by him merely as a sound, noted
no more than the lowing of the cattle, or the drone of the thrashing
machine. He lay half lifted up on his pillows, drawing his breath
short with apprehension; his days were numbered, and death was coming
fast, fast, straight upon him. He felt it within himself—he knew
now the meaning of the pain and sinking, the shortness of breath and
choking of throat that had been growing on him through the long
summer days; he was being 'cut off with pining sickness,' and his
sentence had gone forth. He would have screamed for his mother in
the sore terror and agony that had come over him, in hopes she might
drive the notion from him; but the dread of seeing her followed by
that woman kept his lips shut, except for his long gasps of breath.
And she could not keep him—Mr. Blunt could not keep him; no one
could stay the hand that had touched him! Prayer! They had prayed
for his father, for Charlie, but it had not been God's Will. He had
himself many times prayed to recover, and it had not been granted—he
was worse and worse.
Moreover, whither did that path of suffering lead? Up rose before
Alfred the thought of living after the unknown passage, and of
answering for all he had done; and now the faults he had refused to
call to mind when he was told of chastisement, came and stood up of
themselves. Bred up to know the good, he had not loved it; he had
cared for his own pleasure, not for God; he had not heeded the
comfort of his widowed mother; he had been careless of the honour of
God's House, said and heard prayers without minding them; he had been
disrespectful and ill-behaved at my Lady's—he had been bad in every
way; and when illness came, how rebellious and murmuring he had been,
how unkind he had been to his patient mother, sister, and brother;
and when Mr. Cope had told him it was meant to lead him to repent, he
would not hear; and now it was too late, the door would be shut. He
had always heard that there was a time when sorrow was no use, when
the offer of being saved had been thrown away.
When Ellen came in, and after a short greeting to Betsey Hardman,
went up-stairs, she found Alfred lying back on his pillow, deadly
white, the beads of dew standing on his brow, and his breath in
gasps. She would have shrieked for her mother, but he held out his
hand, and said, in a low hoarse whisper, 'Ellen, is it true?'
'What, Alfy dear? What is the matter?'
'What SHE says.'
'Who? Betsey Hardman? Dear dear Alf, is it anything dreadful?'
'That I shall die,' said Alfred, his eyes growing round with terror
again. 'That Mr. Blunt said I couldn't last out the winter.'
'Dear Alfy, don't!' cried Ellen, throwing her arms round him, and
kissing him with all her might; 'don't fancy it! She's always
gossiping and gadding about, and don't know what she says, and she'd
got no business to tell stories to frighten my darling!' she
exclaimed, sobbing with agitation. 'I'm sure Mr. Blunt never said no
'But Mother thinks it, Ellen.'
'She doesn't, she can't!' cried Ellen vehemently; 'I know she
doesn't, or she could never go about as she does. I'll call her up
and ask her, to satisfy you.'
'No, no, not while that woman is there!' cried Alfred, holding her
by the dress; 'I'll not have HER coming up.'
Even while he spoke, however, Mrs. King was coming. Betsey had
spied an old acquaintance on the way from church, and had popped out
to speak to her, and Mrs. King caught that moment for coming up. She
understood all, for she had been sitting in great distress, lest
Alfred should be listening to every word which she was unable to
silence, and about which Betsey was quite thoughtless. So many
people of her degree would talk to the patient about himself and his
danger, and go on constantly before him with all their fears, and the
doctor's opinions, that Betsey had never thought of there being more
consideration and tenderness shewn in this house, nor that Mrs. King
would have hidden any pressing danger from the sick person; but such
plain words had not yet passed between her and Mr. Blunt; and though
she had long felt what Alfred's illness would come to, the perception
had rather grown on her than come at any particular moment.
Now when Ellen, with tears and agitation, asked what that Betsey
had been saying to frighten Alfred so, and when she saw her poor boy's
look at her, and heard his sob, 'Oh, Mother!' it was almost too much
for her, and she went up and kissed him, and laid him down less
uneasily, but he felt a great tear fall on his face.
'It's not true, Mother, I'm sure it is not true,' cried Ellen; 'she
Mrs. King looked at her daughter with a sad sweet face, that
stopped her short, and brought the sense over her too. 'Did he say
so, Mother?' said Alfred.
'Not to me, dear,' she answered; 'but, Ellen, she's coming back!
She'll be up here if you don't go down.'
Poor Ellen! what would she not have given for power to listen to
her mother, and cry at her ease? But she was forced to hurry, or
Betsey would have been half-way up-stairs in another instant. She was
a hopeful girl, however, and after that 'not to me,' resolved to
believe nothing of the matter. Mrs. King knelt down by her son, and
looked at him tenderly; and then, as his eyes went on begging for an
answer, she said, 'Dr. Blunt never told me there was no hope, my
dear, and everything lies in God's power.'
'But you don't think I shall get well, Mother?'
'I don't feel as if you would, my boy,' she said, very low, and
fondling him all the time. 'You've got to cough like Father and
Charlie, and—though He might raise my boy up—yet anyhow, Alfy boy,
if God sees it good for us, it WILL be good for us, and we shall be
helped through with it.'
'But I'm not good, Mother! What will become of me?'
'Perhaps the hearing this is all out of God's mercy, to give you
time to get ready, my dear. You are no worse now than you were this
morning; you are not like to go yet awhile. No, indeed, my child; so
if you don't put off any longer—'
'Mother!' called up Ellen. She was in despair. Betsey was not to
be kept by her from satisfying herself upon Alfred's looks, and Mrs.
King was only in time to meet her on the stairs, and tell her that he
was so weak and low, that he could not be seen now, she could not
tell how it would be when he had had his tea.
Ellen thought she had never had so distressing a tea-drinking in
her life, as the being obliged to sit listening civilly to Betsey's
long story about the trouble she had about a stocking of Mrs. Martin's
that was lost in the wash, and that had gone to Miss Rosa Marlowe,
because Mrs. Martin had her things marked with a badly-done K. E. M.,
and all that Mrs. Martin's Maria and all Miss Marlowe's Jane had said
about it, and all Betsey's 'Says I to Mother,'—when she was so
longing to be watching poor Alfred, and how her mother could sit so
quietly making tea, and answering so civilly, she could not guess;
but Mrs. King had that sense of propriety and desire to do as she
would be done by, which is the very substance of Christian courtesy,
the very want of which made Betsey, with all her wish to be kind, a
real oppression and burthen to the whole party.
And where was Harold? Ellen had not seen him coming out of church,
but meal-times were pretty certain to bring him home.
'Oh,' said Betsey, 'I'll warrant he is off to the merry orchard.'
'I hope not,' said Mrs. King gravely.
'He never would,' said Ellen, in anger.
'Ah, well, I always said I didn't see no harm in a lad getting a
bit of pleasure.'
'No, indeed,' said Mrs. King. 'Harold knows I would not stint him
in the fruit nor in the pleasure, but I should be much vexed if he
could go out on a Sunday, buying and selling, among such a lot as meet
at that orchard.'
'Well, I'm sure I don't know when poor folks is to have a holiday
if not on a Sunday, and the poor boy must be terrible moped with his
brother so ill.'
'Not doing thine own pleasure on My holy day,' thought Ellen, but
she did not say it, for her mother could not bear for texts to be
quoted at people. But her heart was very heavy; and when she went up
with some tea to Alfred, she looked from the window to see whether, as
she hoped, Harold might be in Paul's hay-loft, preferring going
without his tea to being teased by Betsey. Paul sat in his loft, with
his Bible on his knee, and his head on Caesar's neck.
'Alfred,' said Ellen, 'do you know where Harold is? Sure he is not
gone to the merry orchard?'
'Is not he come home?' said Alfred. 'Oh, then he is! He is gone
to the merry orchard, breaking Sunday with Dick Royston! And
by-and-by he'll be ill, and die, and be as miserable as I am!' And
Alfred cried as Ellen had never seen him cry.
CHAPTER VI—THE MERRY ORCHARD
Where was Harold?
Still the evening went on, and he did not come. Alfred had worn
himself out with his fit of crying, and lay quite still, either
asleep, or looking so like it, that when Betsey had finished her tea,
and again began asking to see him, Ellen could honestly declare that
he was asleep.
Betsey had bidden them good-bye, more than half affronted at not
being able to report to her mother all about his looks, though she
carried with her a basket of gooseberries and French beans, and Mrs.
King walked all the way down the lane with her, and tried to shew an
interest in all she said, to make up for the disappointment.
Maybe likewise Mrs. King felt it a relief to her uneasiness to look
up and down the road, and along the river, and into the farm-yard, in
the hope that Harold might be in sight; but nothing was to be seen on
the road, but Master Norland, his wife, and baby, soberly taking
their Sunday walk; nor by the river, except the ducks, who seemed to
be enjoying their evening bath, and almost asleep on the water; nor
in the yard, except Paul Blackthorn, who had come down from his perch
to drive the horses in from the home-field, and shut the stable up
for the night.
She could not help stopping a moment at the gate, and calling out
to Paul to ask whether he had seen anything of Harold. He seemed to
have a great mind not to hear, and turned very slowly with his
shoulder towards her, making a sound like 'Eh?' as if to ask what she
'Have you seen my boy Harold?'
'I saw him in the morning.'
'Have you not seen him since? Didn't he go to church with you?'
'No; I don't go to Sunday school.'
'Was he there?'
She did not receive any answer.
'Do you know if many of the boys are gone to the merry orchard?'
'Well, you are a good lad not to be one of them.'
'Hadn't got any money,' said Paul gruffly; but Mrs. King thought he
said so chiefly from dislike to be praised, and that there had been
some principle as well as poverty to keep him away.
'It might be better if no one had it on a Sunday,' she could not
help sighing out as she looked anxiously along the lane ere turning
in, and then said, 'My good lad, I don't want to get you to be telling
tales, but it would set my heart at rest, and his poor brother's up
there, if you could tell me he is not gone to Briar Alley.'
Paul turned up his face from the gate upon which he was leaning his
elbows, and gazed for a moment at her sad, meek, anxious face, then
exclaimed, 'I can't think how he could!'
Poor Paul! was it not crossing him how impossible it would seem to
do anything to vex one who so cared for him?
'Then he is gone,' she said mournfully.
'They were all at him,' said Paul; 'and he said he'd never seen
what it was like. Please don't take on, Missus; he's right kind and
good- hearted, and wanted to treat me.'
'I had rather he had hearkened to you, my boy,' said Mrs. King.
'I don't know why he should do that,' said Paul, perhaps meaning
that a boy who heeded not such a mother would certainly heed no one
else. 'But please, Missus,' he added, 'don't beat him, for you made me
tell on him.'
'Beat him! no,' said Mrs. King, with a sad smile; 'he's too big a
boy for me to manage that way. I can't do more than grieve if he lets
himself be led away.'
'Then I'd like to beat him myself if he grieves you!' burst out
Paul, doubling up his brown fist with indignation.
'But you won't,' said Mrs. King gently; 'I don't want to make a
quarrel among you, and I hope you'll help to keep him out of bad
ways, Paul. I look to you for it. Good-night.'
Perhaps the darkness and her own warm feeling made her forget the
condition of that hand; at any rate, as she said Good-night she took
it in her own and shook it heartily, and then she went in.
Paul did not say Good-night in answer; but when she had turned
away, his head went down between his two crossed arms upon the top of
the gate, and he did not move for many many minutes, except that his
shoulders shook and shook again, for he was sobbing as he had never
sobbed since Granny Moll died. If home and home love were not
matters of course to you, you might guess what strange new fountains
of feeling were stirred in the wild but not untaught boy, by that
face, that voice, that touch.
And Mrs. King, as she walked to her own door in the twilight, with
bitter pain in her heart, could not help thinking of those from the
highways and hedges who flocked to the feast set at naught by such as
A sad and mournful Sunday evening was that to the mother and
daughter, as each sat over her Bible. Mrs. King would not talk to
Ellen, for fear of awakening Alfred; not that low voices would have
done so, but Ellen was already much upset by what she had heard and
seen, and to talk it over would have brought on a fit of violent
crying; so her mother thought it safest to say nothing. They would
have read their Bible to one another, but each had her voice so
choked with tears, that it would not do.
That Alfred was sinking away into the grave, was no news to Mrs.
King; but perhaps it had never been so plainly spoken to her before,
and his own knowledge of it seemed to make it more sure; but broken-
hearted as she felt, she had been learning to submit to this, and it
might be better and safer for him, she thought, to be aware of his
state, and more ready to do his best with the time left to him. That
was not the freshest sorrow, or more truly a darker cloud had come
over, namely, the feeling, so terrible to a good careful mother, that
her son is breaking out of the courses to which she has endeavoured
and prayed to bring him up—that he is casting off restraint, and
running into evil that may be the beginning of ruin, and with no
father's hand to hold him in.
O Harold, had you but seen the thick tears dropping on the walnut
table behind the arm that hid her face from Ellen, you would not have
thought your fun worth them!
That merry orchard was about three miles from Friarswood. It
belonged to a man who kept a small public-house, and had a little
farm, and a large garden, with several cherry trees, which in May
were perfect gardens of blossoms, white as snow, and in August with
small black fruit of the sort known as merries; and unhappily the
fertile produce of these trees became a great temptation to the owner
and to all the villagers around.
As Sunday was the only day when people could be at leisure, he
chose three Sundays when the cherries were ripe for throwing open his
orchard to all who chose to come and buy and eat the fruit, and of
course cakes and drink of various kinds were also sold. It was a
solitary spot, out of the way of the police, or the selling in
church-time would have been stopped; but as there may be cases of
real distress, the law does not shut up all houses for selling food
and drink on a Sunday, so others, where there is no necessity, take
advantage of it; and so for miles round all the idle young people and
children would call it a holiday to go away from their churches to
eat cherries at Briar Alley, buying and selling on a Sunday, noisy
and clamorous, and forgetting utterly that it was the Lord's Day, not
their day of idle pleasure.
It was a sad pity that an innocent feast of fruit should be almost
out of reach, unless enjoyed in this manner. To be sure, merries
might be bought any day of the week at Briar Alley, and were hawked
up and down Friarswood so cheaply that any one might get a mouth as
purple as the black spaniel's any day in the season; but that was
nothing to the fun of going with numbers, and numbers never could go
except on a Sunday. But if people wish to serve God truly, why, they
must make up their minds to miss pleasures for His sake, and this was
one to begin with; and I am much mistaken if the happiness of the
week would not have turned out greater in the end with him. Ay, and
as to the owner of the trees, who said he was a poor man, and could
not afford to lose the profit, I believe that if he would have
trusted God and kept His commandment, his profit in the long run
would have been greater here, to say nothing of the peril to his own
soul of doing wrong, and leading so many into temptation.
The Kings had been bred up to think a Sunday going to the merry
orchard a thing never to be done; and in his most idle days Alfred
would never have dreamt of such a thing. Indeed, their good mother
always managed to have some treat to make up for it when they were
little; and they certainly never wanted for merries, nay, a merry
pudding had been their dinner this very day, with savage-looking
purple juice and scalding hot stones. If Harold went it was for the
frolic, not for want of the dainty; and wrong as it was, his mother
was grieving more at the thought of his casting away the restraint of
his old habits than for the one action. One son going away into the
unseen world, the other being led away from the paths of right—no
wonder she wept as she tried to read!
At last voices were coming, and very loud ones. The summer night
was so still, they could be heard a great way—those rude coarse
voices of village boys boasting and jeering one another.
'I say, wouldn't you like to be one of they chaps at Ragglesford
'What lots they bought there on Saturday, to be sure!'
'Well they may: they've lots of tin!'
'Have they? How d'ye know?'
'Why, the money-letters! Don't I know the feel of them—directed
to master this and master that, and with a seal and a card, and half a
sovereign, or maybe a whole one, under it; and such lots as they gets
before the holidays—that's to go home, you see.'
'Well, it's a shame such little impudent rogues should get so much
without ever doing a stroke of work for it.'
'I say, Harold, don't ye never put one of they letters in your
'For shame, Dick!'
'Ha! I shall know where to come when I wants half a sovereign or
'No, you won't.'
It was only these last two or three speeches that reached the
cottage at all clearly; and they were followed by a sound as if Harold
had fallen upon one of the others, and they were holding him off, with
halloos and shouts of hoarse laughing, which broke Alfred's sleep,
and his voice came down-stairs with a startled cry of 'Mother!
Mother! what is that?' She ran up-stairs in haste, and Ellen threw
the door open. The sudden display of the light silenced the noisy
boys; and Harold came slowly up the garden-path, pretty certain of a
scolding, and prepared to feel it as little as he could help.
'Well, Master, a nice sort of a way of spending a Sunday evening
this!' began Ellen; 'and coming hollaing up the lane, just on purpose
to wake poor Alfred, when he's so ill!'
'I'm sure I never meant to wake him.'
'Then what did you bring all that good-for-nothing set roaring and
shouting up the road for? And just this evening, too, when one would
have thought you would we have cared for poor Mother and Alfred,'
said she, crying.
'Why, what's the matter now?' said Harold.
'Oh, they've been saying he can't live out the winter,' said Ellen,
shedding the tears that had been kept back all this time, and broke
out now with double force, in her grief for one brother and vexation
with the other.
But next winter seemed a great way off to Harold, and he was put
out besides, so he did not seem shocked, especially as he was
reproached with not feeling what he did not know; so all he did was to
say angrily, 'And how was I to know that?'
'Of course you don't know anything, going scampering over the
country with the worst lot you can find, away from church and all, not
caring for anything! Poor Mother! she never thought one of her lads
would come to that!'
'Plenty does so, without never such a fuss,' said Harold. 'Why,
what harm is there in eating a few cherries?'
There would be very little pleasure or use in knowing what a
wrangling went on all the time Mrs. King was up-stairs putting Alfred
to bed. Ellen had all the right on her side, but she did not use it
wisely; she was very unhappy, and much displeased with Harold, and so
she had it all out in a fretful manner that made him more cross and
less feeling than was his nature.
There was something he did feel, however—and that was his mother's
pale, worn, sorrowful face, when she came down-stairs and hushed
Ellen, but did not speak to him. They took down the books, read
their chapter, and she read prayers very low, and not quite steadily.
He would have liked very much to have told her he felt sorry, but he
was too proud to do so after having shewn Ellen he was above caring
for such nonsense.
So they all went to bed, Harold on a little landing at the top of
the stairs; but—whether it was from the pounds of merry-stones he had
swallowed, or the talk he had had with his sister—he could not go to
sleep, and lay tossing and tumbling about, thinking it very odd he
had not heeded more what Ellen had said when he first came in, and
the notion dawning on him more and more, that day after day would
come and make Alfred worse, and that by the time summer came again he
should be alone. Who could have said it? Why had not he asked? What
could he have been thinking about? It should not be true! A sort of
frenzy to speak to some one, and hear the real meaning of those words,
so as to make sure they were only Ellen's nonsense, came over him in
the silent darkness. Presently he heard Alfred moving on his pillow,
for the door was open for the heat; and that long long sigh made him
call in a whisper, 'Alf, are you awake?'
In another moment Harold was by his brother's side. 'Alf! Alf!
are you worse?' he asked, whispering.
'Then what's all this? What did they say? It's all stuff; I'm
sure it is, and you're getting better. But what did Ellen mean?'
'No, Harold,' said Alfred, getting his brother's hand in his, 'it's
not stuff; I shan't get well; I'm going after poor Charlie; and don't
you be a bad lad, Harold, and run away from your church, for you
don't know—how bad it feels to—' and Alfred turned his face down,
for the tears were coming thick.
'But you aren't going to die, Alf. Charlie never was like you, I
know he wasn't; he was always coughing. It is all Ellen. Who said
it? I won't let them.'
'The doctor said it to Betsey Hardman,' said Alfred; and his cough
was only too like his brother's.
Harold would have said a great deal in contempt of Betsey Hardman,
but Alfred did not let him.
'You'll wake Mother,' he said. 'Hush, Harold, don't go stamping
about; I can't bear it! No, I don't want any one to tell me now;
I've been getting worse ever since I was taken, and—oh! be quiet,
'I can't be quiet,' sobbed Harold, coming nearer to him. 'O Alf!
I can't spare you! There hasn't been no proper downright fun without
Harold had lain down by him and clung to his hand, trying not to
'O Harold!' sighed Alfred, 'I don't think I should mind—at least
not so much—if I hadn't been such a bad boy.'
'You, Alfy! Who was ever a good boy if you was not?'
'Hush! You forget all about when I was up at my Lady's, and all
that. Oh! and how bad I behaved at church, and when I was so saucy
to Master about the marbles; and so often I've not minded Mother. O
Harold! and God judges one for everything!'
What a sad terrified voice it was!
'Oh! don't go on so, Alf! I can't bear it! Why, we are but boys;
and those things were so long ago! God will not be hard on little
boys. He is merciful, don't you know?'
'But when I knew it was wrong, I did the worst I could!' said
Alfred. 'Oh, if I could only begin all over again, now I do care!
Only, Harold, Harold, you are well; you can be good now when there's
'I'll be ever so good if you'll only get well,' said Harold. 'I
wouldn't have gone to that there place to-night; but 'tis so terribly
dull, and one must do something.'
'But in church-time, and on Sunday!'
'Well, I'll never do it again; but it was so sunshiny, and they
were all making such fun, you see, and it did seem so stuffy, and so
long and tiresome, I couldn't help it, you see.'
Alfred did not think of asking how, if Harold could not help it
this time, he could be sure of never doing so again. He was more
inclined to dwell on himself, and went back to that one sentence, 'God
judges us for everything.' Harold thought he meant it for him, and
'Yes, yes, I know, but—oh, Alf, you shouldn't frighten one so; I
never meant no harm.'
'I wasn't thinking about that,' sighed Alfred. 'I was wishing I'd
been a better lad; but I've been worse, and crosser, and more unkind,
ever since I was ill. O Harold! what shall I do?'
'Don't go on that way,' said Harold, crying bitterly. 'Say your
prayers, and maybe you will get well; and then in the morning I'll
ask Mr. Cope to come down, and he'll tell you not to mind.'
'I wouldn't listen to Mr. Cope when he told me to be sorry for my
sins; and oh, Harold, if we are not sorry, you know they will not be
'Well, but you are sorry now.'
'I have heard tell that there are two ways of being sorry, and I
don't know if mine is the right.'
'I tell you I'll fetch Mr. Cope in the morning; and when the doctor
comes he'll be sure to say it is all a pack of stuff, and you need
not be fretting yourself.'
When Harold awoke in the morning, he found himself lying wrapped in
his coverlet on Alfred's bed, and then he remembered all about it,
and looked in haste, as though he expected to see some sudden and
terrible change in his brother.
But Alfred was looking cheerful, he had awakened without
discomfort; and with some amusement, was watching the starts and
movements, the grunts and groans, of Harold's waking. The morning air
and the ordinary look of things, had driven away the gloomy thoughts
of evening, and he chiefly thought of them as something strange and
dreadful, and yet not quite a dream.
'Don't tell Mother,' whispered Harold, recollecting himself, and
starting up quietly.
'But you'll fetch Mr. Cope,' said Alfred earnestly.
Harold had begun not to like the notion of meeting Mr. Cope, lest
he should hear something of yesterday's doings, and he did not like
Alfred or himself to think of last night's alarm, so he said, 'Oh,
very well, I'll see about it.'
He had not made up his mind. Very likely, if chance had brought
him face to face with Mr. Cope, he would have spoken about Alfred as
the best way to hinder the Curate from reproving himself; but he had
not that right sort of boldness which would have made him go to meet
the reproof he so richly deserved, and he was trying to persuade
himself either that when Alfred was amused and cheery, he would forget
all about 'that there Betsey's nonsense,' or else that Mr. Cope might
come that way of himself.
But Alfred was not likely to forget. What he had heard hung on him
through all the little occupations of the morning, and made him meek
and gentle under them, and he was reckoning constantly upon Mr.
Cope's coming, fastening on the notion as if he were able to save
Still the Curate came not, and Alfred became grieved, feeling as if
he was neglected.
Mr. Blunt, however, came, and at any rate he would have it out with
him; so he asked at once very straightforwardly, 'Am I going to die,
'Why, what's put that in your head?' said the doctor.
'There was a person here talking last night, Sir,' said Mrs. King.
'Well, but am I?' said Alfred impatiently.
'Not just yet, I hope,' said Mr. Blunt cheerfully. 'You are weak,
but you'll pick up again.'
'But of this?' persisted Alfred, who was not to be trifled with.
Mr. Blunt saw he must be in earnest.
'My boy,' he said, 'I'm afraid it is not a thing to be got over.
I'll do the best I can for you, by God's blessing; and if you get
through the winter, and it is a mild spring, you might do; but you'd
better settle your mind that you can't be many years for this world.'
Many years! that sounded like a reprieve, and sent gladness into
Ellen's heart; but somehow it did not seem in the same light to
Alfred; he felt that if he were slowly going down hill and wasting
away, so as to have no more health or strength in which to live
differently from ever before, the length of time was not much to him,
and in his sickly impatience he would almost have preferred that it
should not be what Betsey kindly called 'a lingering job.'
There he lay after Mr. Blunt was gone, not giving Ellen any
trouble, except by the sad thoughtfulness of his face, as he lay
dwelling on all that he wanted to say to Mr. Cope, and the terror of
his sin and of judgment sweeping over him every now and then.
Still Mr. Cope came not. Alfred at last began to wonder aloud, and
asked if Harold had said anything about it when he came in to dinner;
but he heard that Harold had only rushed in for a moment, snatched up
a lump of bread and cheese, and made off to the river with some of
the lads who meant to spend the noon-tide rest in bathing.
When he came for the evening letters he was caught, and Mr. Cope
was asked for; and then it came out that Harold had never given the
message at all.
Alfred, greatly hurt, and sadly worn by his day of expectation, had
no self-restraint left, and flew out into a regular passion, calling
his brother angry names. Harold, just as passionate, went into a
rage too, and scolded his brother for his fancies. Mrs. King, in
great displeasure, turned him out, and he rushed off to ride like one
mad to Elbury; and poor Alfred remained so much shocked at his own
outbreak, just when he meant to have been good ever after, and
sobbing so miserably, that no one could calm him at all; and Ellen,
as the only hope, put on her bonnet to fetch Mr. Cope.
At that moment Paul was come for his bit of bread. She found him
looking dismayed at the sounds of violent weeping from above, and he
asked what it was.
'Oh, Alfred is so low and so bad, and he wants Mr. Cope! Here's
your bread, don't keep me!'
'Let me go! I'll be quicker!' cried Paul; and before she could
thank him, he was down the garden and right across the first field.
Alfred had had time to cry himself exhausted, and to be lying very
still, almost faint, before Mr. Cope came in in the summer twilight.
Good Paul! He had found that Mr. Cope was dining at Ragglesford and
had run all the way thither; and here was the kind young Curate,
quite breathless with his haste, and never regretting the cheerful
party whence he had been called away. All Alfred could say was, 'O
Sir, I shall die; and I'm a bad boy, and wouldn't heed you when you
'And God has made you see your sins, my poor boy,' said Mr. Cope.
'That is a great blessing.'
'But if I can't do anything to make up for them, what's the use?
And I never shall be well again.'
'You can't make up for them; but there is One Who has made up for
them, if you will only truly repent.'
'I wasn't sorry till I knew I should die,' said Alfred.
'No, your sins did not come home to you! Now, do you know what
'Oh yes; I've been a bad boy to Mother, and at church; and I've
been cross to Ellen, and quarrelled with Harold; and I was so
audacious at my Lady's, they couldn't keep me. I never did want
really to be good. Oh! I know I shall go to the bad place!'
'No, Alfred, not if you so repent, that you can hold to our Blessed
Saviour's promise. There is a fountain open for sin and all
'It is very good of Him,' said Alfred, a little more tranquilly,
not in the half-sob in which he had before spoken.
'Most merciful!' said Mr. Cope.
'But does it mean me?' continued Alfred.
'You were baptized, Alfred, you have a right to all His promises of
pardon.' And he repeated the blessed sentences:
'Come unto Me, all that travail and are heavy laden, and I will
'God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, to the
end that all that believe in Him should not perish, but have
'But how ought I to believe, Sir?'
'You say you feel what your sins are; think of them all as you lie,
each one as you remember it; say it out in your heart to our Saviour,
and pray God to forgive it for His sake, and then think that it cost
some of the pain He bore on the Cross, some of the drops of His agony
in the Garden. Each sin of ours was indeed of that burden!'
'Oh, that will make them seem so bad!'
'Indeed it does; but how it will make you love Him, and feel
thankful to Him, and anxious not to waste the sufferings borne for
your sake, and glad, perhaps, that you are bearing some small thing
yourself. But you are spent, and I had better not talk more now. Let
me read you a few prayers to help you, and then I will leave you, and
come again to-morrow.'
How differently those Prayers and Psalms sounded to Alfred now that
he had really a heart grieved and wearied with the burthen of sin!
The point was to make his not a frightened heart, but a contrite
CHAPTER VII—HAROLD TAKES A WRONG
Mrs. King was very anxious about Alfred for many hours after this
visit from the Curate, for he was continually crying, not violently,
but the tears flowing quietly from his eyes as he lay, thinking.
Sometimes it was the badness of the faults as he saw them now,
looking so very different from what they did when they were committed
in the carelessness of fun and high spirits, or viewed afterwards in
the hardening light of self-justification. Now they did look so
wantonly hard and rude—unkind to his sister, ruinous to Harold,
regardless of his widowed mother, reckless of his God—that each one
seemed to cut into him with a sense of its own badness, and he was
quite as much grieved as afraid; he hated the fault, and hated
himself for it.
Indeed, he was growing less afraid, for the sorrow seemed to
swallow that up; the grief at having offended One so loving was
putting out the terror of being punished; or rather, when he thought
that this illness was punishment, he was almost glad to have some of
what he deserved; just as when he was a little boy, he really used to
be happier afterwards for having been whipped and put in the corner,
because that was like making it up. Though he knew very well that if
he had ten thousand times worse than this to bear, it would not be
making up for his faults, and he felt now that one of them had been
his 'despising the chastening of the Lord.' And then the thought of
what had made up for it would come: and though he had known of it
all his life, and heeded it all too little, now that his heart was
tender, and he had felt some of the horror and pain of sin, he took
it all home now, and clung to it. He recollected the verses about
that One kneeling—nay, falling on the ground, in the cold dewy
night, with the chosen friends who could not watch with Him, and the
agony and misery that every one in all the world deserved to feel,
gathering on Him, Who had done no wrong, and making His brow stream
with great drops of Blood.
And the tortures, the shame, the slow Death—circumstance after
circumstance came to his mind, and 'for me,' 'this fault of mine
helped,' would rise with it, and the tears trickled down at the
thought of the suffering and of the Love that had caused it to be
Once he raised up his head, and saw through the window the deep
dark- blue sky, and the stars, twinkling and sparkling away; that pale
band of light, the Milky Way, which they say is made of countless
stars too far off to be distinguished, and looking like a cloud, and
on it the larger, brighter burnished stars, differing from one another
in glory. He thought of some lines in a book Miss Jane once gave
Ellen, which said of the stars:
'The Lord resigned them all to gain The bliss of pardoning thee.'
And when he thought that it was the King of those stars Who was
scourged and spit on, and for the sake of HIS faults, the loving
tears came again, and he turned to another hymn of Ellen's:
'Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee!'
And going on with this, he fell into a more quiet sleep than he had
had for many nights.
Alfred had worked up his mind to a point where it could not long
remain; and when he awoke in the morning, the common affairs of the
day occupied him in a way that was not hurtful to him, as the one
chief thought was ever present, only laid away for a time, and
helping him when he might have been fretful or impatient.
He was anxious for Mr. Cope, and grateful when he saw him coming
early in the day. Mr. Cope did not, however, say anything very new.
He chiefly wished to shew Alfred that he must not think all his
struggle with sin over, and that he had nothing to do but to lie
still and be pardoned. There was much more work, as he would find,
when the present strong feeling should grow a little blunt; he would
have to keep his will bent to bear what was sent by God, and to prove
his repentance by curing himself of all his bad habits of peevishness
and exacting; to learn, in fact, to take up his cross.
Alfred feebly promised to try, and it did not seem so difficult
just then. The days were becoming cooler, and he did not feel quite
so ill; and though he did not know how much this helped him, it made
it much easier to act on his good resolutions. Miss Selby came to see
him, and was quite delighted to see him looking so much less
uncomfortable and dismal.
'Why, Alfred,' said she, 'you must be much better.'
Ellen looked mournful at this, and shook her head so that Miss Jane
turned her bright face to her in alarm.
'No, Ma'am,' said Alfred. 'Dr. Blunt says I can never get over
'And does that make you glad?' almost gasped Miss Jane.
'No, Ma'am,' said Alfred; 'but Mr. Cope has been talking to me, and
made it all so—'
He could not get out the words; and, besides, he saw Miss Jane's
eyes winking very fast to check the tears, and Ellen's had begun to
rain down fast.
'I didn't mean to be silly,' said little Jane, in rather a
trembling voice; 'but I'm sorry—no—I'm glad you are happy and good,
'Not good, Miss Jane,' cried Alfred; 'I'm such a bad boy, but there
are such good things as I never minded before—'
'Well then, I think you'll like what I've brought you,' said Jane
It was a little framed picture of our Blessed Lord on His Cross,
all darkness round, and the Inscription above His Head; and Miss Jane
had painted, in tall Old English red letters, under it the two words,
Alfred looked at it as if indeed it would be a great comfort to him
to be always reminded by the eye, of how 'He was wounded for our
transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities.'
He thanked Miss Jane with all his heart, and she and Ellen soon
found a place to hang it up well in his sight. It was a pretty bright
sight to see her insisting on holding the nail for it, and then
playfully pretending to shrink and fancy that Ellen would hammer her
Alfred could enjoy the sunshine of his sick-room again; and Ellen
and his mother down-stairs told Miss Selby, with many tears, of the
happy change that had come over him ever since he had resigned himself
to give up hopes of life. Mrs. King looked so peaceful and thankful,
that little Jane could hardly understand what it was that made her so
much more at rest.
Even Ellen, though her heart ached at the hope having gone out, and
left a dark place where it had been, felt the great relief from hour
to hour of not being fretted and snarled at for whatever she either
did or left undone. Thanks and smiles were much pleasanter payment
than groans, murmurs, and scoldings; and the brother and sister
sometimes grew quite cheerful and merry together, as Alfred lay
raised up to look over the hedge into the harvest-field across the
meadow, where the reaper and his wife might be seen gathering the
brown ears round, and cutting them with the sickle, and others going
after to bind them into the glorious wheat sheaves that leant against
each other in heaps of blessed promise of plenty.
Paul tried reaping; but the first thing he did was to make a
terrible cut in his hand, which the shuffler told him was for good
luck! Some of the women in the field bound it up, but he was good for
nothing after it except going after the cattle, and so he was likely
to lose all the chance of earning himself any better clothes in
Harold grumbled dreadfully that his mother could not spare him to
go harvesting beyond their own tiny quarter of an acre of wheat. The
post made it impossible for him to go out to work like the labourers;
and besides, his mother did not think he had gained much good in hay-
time, and wished to keep him from the boys.
Very hard he thought it; and to hear him grumble, any one would
have thought Mrs. King was a tyrant far worse than Farmer Shepherd,
working the flesh off his bones, taking away the fun and the payment
The truth was, that the morning when Harold threw away from him the
thought of his brother's danger, and broke all his promises to him in
the selfish fear of a rebuke from the clergyman, had been one of the
turning-points of his life, and a turning-point for the bad. It had
been a hardening of his heart, just as it had begun to be touched,
and a letting in of evil spirits instead of good ones.
He became more than ever afraid of Mr. Cope, and shirked going near
him so as to be spoken to; he cut Ellen off short if she said a word
to him, and avoided being with Alfred, partly because it made him
melancholy, partly because he was afraid of Alfred's again talking to
him about the evil of his ways. In reality, his secret soul was
wretched at the thought of losing his brother; but he tried to put
the notion away from him, and to drown it in the noisiest jokes and
most riotous sports he could meet with, keeping company with the
wildest lads about the parish. That Dick Royston especially, whose
honesty was doubtful, but who, being a clever fellow, was a sort of
leader, was doing great harm by setting his face against the new
parson, and laughing at the boys who went to him. Mrs. King was very
unhappy. It was almost worse to think of Harold than of his sick
brother; and Alfred grieved very much too, and took to himself the
blame of having made home miserable to Harold, and driven him into
bad company; of having been so peevish and unpleasant, that it was no
wonder he would not come near him more than could be helped; and
above all, of having set a bad example of idleness and recklessness,
when he was well. If the tears were brought into his eyes at first
by some unkind neglect of Harold's, they were sure to end in this
thought at last; and then the only comfort was, that Mr. Cope had
told him that he might make his sick-bed very precious to his
brother's welfare, by praying always for him.
Mr. Cope had talked it over with Mrs. King; and they had agreed
that as Harold was under the regular age for Confirmation, and seemed
so little disposed to prepare for it in earnest, they would not press
it on him. He was far from fit for it, and he was in such a mood of
impatient irreverence, that Mr. Cope was afraid of making his sin
worse by forcing serious things on him, and his mother was in
constant fear of losing her last hold on him.
Yet Harold was not a bad or unfeeling boy by nature; and if he
would but have paused to think, he would have been shocked to see how
cruelly he was paining his widowed mother and dying brother, just
when he should have been their strength and stay.
One afternoon in October, when Alfred was in a good deal of pain,
Mr. Blunt said he would send out some cooling ointment for the wound
at the joint, when Harold took the evening letters into Elbury.
Alfred reckoned much on the relief this was to give, and watched the
ticks of the clock for the time for Harold to set off.
'Make haste,' were the last words his mother spoke—and Harold
fully meant to make haste; nor was it weather to tempt him to stay
long, for there was a chill raw fog hanging over the meadows, and fast
turning into rain, which hung in drops upon his eyebrows, and the
many-tiered cape of his father's box-coat, which he always wore in
bad weather. It was fortunate he was likely to meet nothing, and
that he and the pony both knew the road pretty well.
How fuzzy the grey fog made the lamps of the town look! Did they
disturb the pony? What a stumble! Ha! there's a shoe off. Be it
known that it was Harold's own fault; he had not looked at the shoes
for many a morning, as he knew it was his duty to do.
He left Peggy with her ears back, much discomposed at being shod in
a strange forge, and by any one but Bill Saunders.
Then Harold was going to leave his bag at the post-office, when, as
he turned up the street, some one caught hold of him, and cried, 'Ho!
Harold King on foot! What's the row? Old pony tumbled down dead?'
'Cast a shoe,' said Harold.
'Oh, jolly, you'll have to wait!' went on Dick Royston. 'Come in
here! Here's such a lark!'
Harold looked into a court-yard belonging to a low public-house,
and saw what was like a tent, with a bright red star on a blue ground
at the end, lighted up. A dark figure came between, and there was a
sudden crack that made Harold start.
'It's the unique (he called it eu-ni-quee) royal shooting-gallery,
patronized by his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales,' (what a
story!) said Dick. 'You've only to lay down your tin; one copper for
three shots, and if you hit, you may take your choice—gingerbread-
nuts, or bits of cocoa-nut, or, what's jolliest, lollies with gin
inside 'em! Come, blaze away! or ha'n't you got the money? Does
Mother keep you too short?'
If there was a thing Harold had a longing for, it was to fire off a
gun! If there was a person he envied more than another, it was old
Isaac Coffin, when he prowled up and down Farmer Ledbitter's fields
with an old blunderbuss and some powder, to keep off the birds!
To be sure it was a public-house, but it was not inside one! And
Mother would call it gambling. Oh, but it wasn't cards or skittles!
And if he shot away his half-pence, how should he pay for the shoeing
of the pony? The blacksmith might trust him, or the clerk at the
post-office would lend him the money, or Betsey Hardman. And the
time? One shot would not waste much! Pony must be shod. Besides,
Dick and all the rest would say he was a baby.
He paid the penny, threw aside his cap, and took the gun, though
after all it was only a sham one, and what a miss he made! What
business had every one to set up that great hoarse laugh? which made
him so angry that he had nearly turned on Dick and cuffed him for his
However, he was the more bent on trying again, and the owner of the
gallery shewed him how to manage better. He hit anything but the
middle of the star, and just saw how he thought he might hit next
time. Next time was barely a miss, so that the man actually gave him
a gin-drop to encourage him. That made him mad to meet with real
success; but it was the turn of another 'young gent,' as the man
called him, and Harold had to stand by, with his penny in his hand,
burning with impatience, and fancying he could mend each shot of that
young gent, and another, and another, and another, who all thrust in
to claim their rights before him. His turn came at last; and so
short and straight was the gallery, that he really did hit once the
side of the star, and once the middle, and thus gained one
gingerbread-nut, and three of the gin-drops.
It would have been his nature to share them with Alfred, but he
could not do so without saying where he had been, and that he could
not do, so he gave one to Dick, and swallowed the rest to keep out the
Just then the town clock struck six, and frightened him. He had
been there three-quarters of an hour. What would they say at the
The clerk looked out of his hole as angry as clerk could look.
'This won't do, King,' he said. 'Late for sorting! Fine,
remember—near an hour after time.'
'Pony cast a shoe, Sir,' said Harold. He had never been so near a
'Whew! Then I suppose I must not report you this time! But look
out! You're getting slack.'
No time this for borrowing of the clerk. Harold was really
frightened, for he HAD dawdled much more than he ought of late, and
though he sometimes fancied himself sick of the whole post business,
a complaint to his mother would be a dreadful matter. It put
everything else out of his head; and he ran off in great haste to get
the money from Betsey Hardman, knocking loud at her green door.
What a cloud of steamy heat the room was, with the fire glowing
like a red furnace, and five black irons standing up before it; and
clothes-baskets full of heaps of whiteness, and horses with vapoury
webs of lace and cambric hanging on them; and the three ironing-
boards, where smoothness ran along with the irons; and the heaps of
folded clothes; and Betsey in her white apron, broad and red in the
midst of her maidens!
'Ha! Harold King! Well, to be sure, you are a stranger! Don't
come nigh that there hoss; it's Mrs. Parnell's best
pocket-handkerchiefs, real Walencines!' (she meant Valenciennes.) 'If
you'll just run up and see Mother, I'll have it out of the way, and
we'll have a cup of tea.'
'Thank you, but I—'
'My! What a smoke ye're in! Take care, or I shall have 'em all to
do over again. Go up to Mother, do, like a good lad.'
'I can't, Betsey; I must go home.'
'Ay! that's the way. Lads never can sit down sensible and
comfortable! it's all the same—'
'I wanted,' said Harold, interrupting her, 'to ask you to lend me
sixpence. Pony's cast a shoe, and I had to leave her with the
'Ay? Who did you leave her with?'
'The first I came to, up in Wood Street.'
'Myers. Ye shouldn't have done that. His wife's the most stuck-up
proud body I ever saw—wears steel petticoats, I'll answer for it.
You should have gone to Charles Shaw.'
'Can't help it,' said Harold. 'Please, Betsey, let me have the
sixpence; I'll pay you faithfully to-morrow!'
'Ay! that's always the way. Never come in unless ye want somewhat.
'Twasn't the way your poor father went on! He'd a civil word for
every one. Well, and can't you stop a minute to say how your poor
'Much the same,' said Harold impatiently.
'Yes, he'll never be no better, poor thing! All decliny; as I says
to Mother, what a misfortune it is upon poor Cousin King! they'll all
go off, one after t'other, just like innocents to the slaughter.'
This was not a cheerful prediction; and Harold petulantly said he
must get back, and begged for the sixpence. He got it at last, but
not till all Betsey's pocket had been turned out; and finding nothing
but shillings and threepenny-bits, she went all through her day's
expenses aloud, calling all her girls to witness to help her to
account for the sixpence that ought to have been there.
Mrs. Brown had paid her four and sixpence—one florin and a half-
crown—and she had three threepenny-pieces in her pocket, and
twopence. Then Sally had been out and got a shilling's-worth of
soap, and six-penn'orth of blue, and brought home one shilling; and
there was the sausages—no one could recollect what they had cost,
though they talked so much about their taste; and five-pence-worth of
red-herrings, and the butter; yes, and threepence to the beggar who
said he had been in Sebastopol. Harold's head was ready to turn
round before it was all done; but he got away at last, with a
scolding for not going up to see Mother.
Home he trotted as hard as the pony would go, holding his head down
to try to bury nose and mouth in his collar, and the thick rain
plastering his hair, and streaming down the back of his neck. What
an ill-used wretch was he, said he to himself, to have to rattle all
over the country in such weather!
Here was home at last. How comfortable looked the bright light, as
the cottage door was thrown open at the sound of the horse's feet!
'Well, Harold!' cried Ellen eagerly, 'is anything the matter?'
'No,' he said, beginning to get sulky because he felt he was wrong;
'only Peggy lost a shoe—'
'No, I took her to the smith.'
'Give me Alfred's ointment, please, before you put her up. He is
in such a way about it, and we can't put him to bed—'
'Haven't got it.'
'Not got it! O Harold!'
'I should like to know how to be minding such things when pony
loses a shoe, and such weather! I declare I'm as wet—!' said Harold
angrily, as he saw his sister clasp her hands in distress, and the
tears come in her eyes.
'Is Harold come safe?' called Mrs. King from above.
'Is the ointment come?' cried Alfred, in a piteous pain-worn voice.
Harold stamped his foot, and bolted to the stable to put the pony
'It's not come,' said Ellen, coming up-stairs, very sadly.
'He has forgot it.'
'Forgot it!' cried Alfred, raising himself passionately. 'He
always does forget everything! He don't care for me one farthing! I
believe he wants me dead!'
'This is very bad of him! I didn't think he'd have done it,' said
Mrs. King sorrowfully.
'He's been loitering after some mischief,' exclaimed Alfred.
'Taking his pleasure—and I must stay all this time in pain! Serve
him right to send him back to Elbury.'
Mrs. King had a great mind to have done so; but when she looked at
the torrents of rain that streamed against the window, and thought
how wet Harold must be already, and of the fatal illnesses that had
been begun by being exposed to such weather, she was afraid to
venture a boy with such a family constitution, and turning back to
Alfred, she said, 'I am very sorry, Alfred, but it can't be helped; I
can't send Harold out in the rain again, or we shall have him ill
Poor Alfred! it was no trifle to have suffered all day, and to be
told the pain must go on all night. His patience and all his better
thoughts were quite worn away, and he burst into tears of anger and
cried out that it was very hard—his mother cared for Harold more
than for him, and nobody minded it, if he lay in such pain all night.
'You know better than that, dear,' said his poor mother, sadly
grieved, but bearing it meekly. 'Harold shall go as soon as can be
'And what good will that be to-night?' grumbled Alfred. 'But you
always did put Harold before me. However, I shall soon be dead and
out of your way, that's all!'
Mrs. King would not make any answer to this speech, knowing it only
made him worse. She went down to see about Harold, an additional
offence to Alfred, who muttered something about 'Mother and her
'How can you, Alfred, speak so to Mother?' cried Ellen.
'I'm sure every one is cross enough to me,' returned Alfred.
'Not Mother,' said Ellen. 'She couldn't help it.'
'She won't send Harold out again, though; I'm sure I'd have gone
'You don't know what the rain was,' said Ellen.
'Well, he should have minded; but you're all against me.'
'You'll be sorry by-and-by, Alfred; this isn't like the way you
'Some one else had need to be sorry, not me.'
Perhaps, in the midst of his captious state, Alfred was somewhat
pacified by hearing sounds below that made him certain that Harold
was not escaping without some strong words from his mother.
They were not properly taken. Harold was in no mood of repentance,
and the consciousness that he had been behaving most unkindly, only
made him more rough and self-justifying.
'I can't help it! I can't be a slave to run about everywhere, and
remember everything—pony losing her shoe, and nigh tumbling down
with me, and Ross at the post so cross for nothing!'
'You'll grieve at the way you have used your poor brother one of
these days, Harold,' quietly answered his mother, so low, that Alfred
could not hear through the floor. 'Now, you'll please to go to bed.'
'Ain't I to have no supper?' said Harold in a sullen voice, with a
great mind to sit down in the chimney-corner in defiance.
'I shall give you something hot when you are in bed. If I treated
you as you deserve, I should send you to Mr. Blunt's this moment; but
I can't afford to have you ill too, so go to bed this moment.'
His mother could still master him by her steadiness and he went up,
muttering that he'd no notion of being treated like a baby, and that
he would soon shew her the difference: he wasn't going to be made a
slave to Alfred, and 'twas all a fuss about that stuff!
He did fancy he said his prayers; but they could not have been real
ones, for he was no softer when his mother came to his bedside with a
great basin of hot gruel. He said he hated such nasty sick stuff,
and grunted savagely when, with a look that ought to have gone to his
heart, she asked if he thought he deserved anything better.
Yet she did not know of the shooting gallery, nor of his false
excuses. If he had not been deceiving her, perhaps he might have
'Well, Harold,' she said at last, after taking the empty basin from
him, and picking up his wet clothes and boots to dry them by the
fire, 'I hope as you lie there you'll come to a better mind. It
makes me afraid for you, my boy. It is not only your brother you are
sinning against, but if you are a bad boy, you know Who will be angry
with you. Good-night.'
She lingered, but Harold was still hard, and would neither own
himself sorry, nor say good-night.
When she passed his bed at the top of the stairs again, after
hanging up the things by the fire, he had his head hidden, and either
was, or feigned to be, asleep.
Alfred's ill-temper was nearly gone, but he still thought himself
grievously injured, and was at no pains to keep himself from groaning
and moaning all the time he was being put to bed. In fact, he rather
liked to make the most of it, to shew his mother how provoking she
was, and to reproach Harold for his neglect.
The latter purpose he did not effect; Harold heard every sound, and
consoled himself by thinking what an intolerable work Alfred was
making on purpose. If he had tried to bear it as well as possible,
his brother would have been much more likely to be sorry.
Alfred was thinking too much about his misfortunes and discomforts
to attend to the evening reading, but it soothed him a little, and the
pain was somewhat less, so he did fall asleep, so uneasily though,
that Mrs. King put off going to bed as late as she could.
It was nearly eleven, and Ellen had been in bed a long time, when
Alfred started, and Mrs. King turned her head, at the click of the
wicket gate, and a step plashing on the walk. She opened the little
window, and the gust of wet wind puffed the curtains, whistled round
the room, and almost blew out the candle.
'It's me, Mrs. King! I've got the stuff,' called a hoarse tired
'Well, if ever! It's Paul Blackthorn!' exclaimed Mrs. King.
'Thank ye kindly. I'll come and let you in.'
'Paul Blackthorn!' cried Alfred. 'Been all the way to Elbury for
me! O Mother, bring him up, and let me thank him! But how ever did he
know?' The tears came running down Alfred's cheeks at such kindness
from a stranger. Mrs. King had hurried downstairs, and at the
threshold stood a watery figure, holding out the gallipot.
'Oh! thank you, thank you; but come in! Yes, come in! you must
have something hot, and get dried.'
Paul shambled in very foot-sore. He looked as if he were made of
moist mud, and might be squeezed into any shape, and streams of rain
were dropping from each of his many rags.
'Well, I don't know how to thank you—such a night! But he'll
sleep easy now. How did you come to think of it?'
'I was just coming home from the parson's, and I met Harold putting
up Peggy, in a great way because he'd forgotten. That's all,
Missus,' said Paul, looking shamefaced. 'Good-night to you.'
'No, no, that won't do. I must have you sit down and get dry,'
said Mrs. King, nursing up the remains of the fire; and as Paul's day-
garments served him for night-gear likewise, he could hardly help
accepting the invitation, and spreading his chilled hands to the
As to Mrs. King's feelings, it must be owned that, grateful as she
was, it was rather like sitting opposite to the heap in the middle of
Mr. Shepherd's farm-yard.
'Would you take that?' she said, holding out a three-penny piece.
'I'd make it twice as much if I could, but times are hard.'
'No, no, Missus, I didn't do it for that,' said Paul, putting it
'Then you must have some supper, that I declare.'
And she brought out a slice of cold bacon, and some bread, and
warmed some beer at the fire. She would go without bacon and beer
herself to-morrow, but that was nothing to her. It was a real
pleasure to see the colour come into Paul's bony yellow cheeks at the
hearty meal, which he could not refuse; but he did not speak much, for
he was tired out, and the fire and the beer were making him very
Alfred rapped above with the stick that served as a bell. It was
to beg that Paul would come and be thanked; and though Mrs. King was a
little afraid of the experiment, she did ask him to walk up for a
Grunt went he, and in rather an unmannerly way, he said, 'I'd
'Pray do,' said Mrs. King; 'I don't think Alfred will sleep easy
without saying thank you.'
So Paul complied, and in a most ungainly fashion clumped up-stairs
and stood at the door. He had not forgotten his last reception, and
would not come a step farther, though Alfred stretched out his hand
and begged him to come in.
Alfred could say only 'Thank you, I never thought any one would be
And Paul made gruff reply, 'Ye're very welcome,' turned about as if
he were running away, and tumbled down-stairs, and out of the house,
without even answering Mrs. King's 'Good-night.'
Harold had wakened at the sounds. He heard all, but he chose to
seem to be asleep, and, would you believe it? he was only the more
provoked! Paul's exertion made his neglect seem all the worse, and
he was positively angry with him for 'going and meddling, and poking
his nose where he'd no concern. Now he shouldn't be able to get the
stuff to-morrow, and so make it up; and of course mother would go and
dock Paul's supper out of his dinner!'
If such reflections were going on upon one side of the partition,
there were very different thoughts upon the other. The stranger's
kindness had done more than relieve Alfred's pain: the warm sense of
thankfulness had softened his spirit, and carried off his selfish
fit. He knew not how kind people were to him, and how ungrateful he
had been to punish his innocent mother and sister, and so much to
magnify a bit of thoughtlessness on Harold's part; to be angry with
his mother for not driving him out when she thought it might endanger
his health and life, and to say such cruel things on purpose to wound
her. Alfred felt himself far more cruel than he had even thought
And was this his resolution? Was this the shewing the sincerity of
his repentance through his conduct in illness? Was this patience?
Was it brotherly love? Was it the taking up the cross so as to bear
it like his Saviour, Who spoke no word of complaining, no murmur
against His tormentors?
How he had fallen! How he had lost himself! It was a bitter
distress, and threw him almost into despair. He prayed over and over
to be forgiven, and began to long for some assurance of pardon, and
for something to prevent all his right feelings and wishes from thus
seeming to slip away from his grasp at the first trial.
He told his mother how sorry he was; and she answered, 'Dear lad,
don't fret about it. It was very hard for you to bear, and you are
but learning, you see, to be patient.'
'But I'm not learning if I don't go on no better,' sighed Alfred.
'By bits you are, my boy,' she said; 'you are much less fractious
now than you used to be, only you could not stand this out-of-the-way
'Do you remember what our Saviour said to St. Peter?' said his
mother; '"Whither I go thou canst not follow Me now, but thou shalt
follow Me afterwards." You see, St. Peter couldn't bear his cross
then, but he went on doing his best, and grieving when he failed, and
by-and-by he did bear it almost like his Master. He got to be made
strong out of weakness.'
There was some comfort to Alfred in this; but he feared, and yet
longed, to see Mr. Cope, and when he came, had scarcely answered his
questions as to how he felt, before he said, 'O Sir, I've been a bad
boy again, and so cross to them all!'
'O Sir,' said Ellen, who could not bear for him to blame himself,
'I'm sure it was no wonder—he's so distracted with the pain, and
Harold getting idling, and forgetting to bring him the ointment. Why,
even that vagabond boy was so shocked, that he went all the way to
Elbury that very night for it. I told Alfred you'd tell him that
anybody would be put out, and nobody would think of minding what he
'Nobody, especially so kind a sister,' said Mr. Cope, smiling; 'but
that is not what Alfred is thinking of.'
'No, Sir,' said Alfred; 'their being so good to me makes it all the
'I quite believe so; and you are very much disappointed in
'Oh yes, Sir, just when I wanted to be getting patient, and more
like—' and his eyes turned to the little picture, and filled with
Mr. Cope said somewhat of what his mother had said that he was but
a scholar in patience, and that he must take courage, though he had
slipped, and pray for new strengthening and refreshing to go on in
the path of pain his Lord had hallowed for him.
Perhaps the words reminded Alfred of the part of the Catechism
where they occur, for he said, 'Oh, I wish I was confirmed! If I
could but take the Holy Sacrament, to make me stronger, and sure of
'You shall—before—' said Mr. Cope, speaking eagerly, but becoming
choked as he went on. 'You are one whom the Church would own as
ready and desirous to come, though you cannot be confirmed. You
should at once—but you see I am not yet a priest; I have not the
power to administer the Holy Communion; but I trust I shall be one in
the spring, and then, Alfred—Or if you should be worse, I promise
you that I would bring some one here. You shall not go without the
Bread of Life.'
Alfred felt what he said to the depths of his heart, but he could
not say anything but 'Thank you, Sir.'
Mr. Cope, still much moved, laid his hand upon that of the boy.
'So, Alfred, we prepare together. As I hope and long to prepare
myself to have that great charge committed to me, which our Saviour
Christ gave to His Apostles; so you prepare for the receiving of that
Bread and that Cup which will more fully unite you to Him, and join
your suffering to what He bore for you.'
'How shall I, Sir?' murmured Alfred.
'I will do my best to shew you,' said Mr. Cope; 'but your Catechism
tells you best. Think over that last answer.'
Alfred's face lighted sweetly as he went over it. 'Why, that's
what I can't help doing, Sir; I can't forget my faults, I'm so afraid
of them; and I'm sure I do want to lead a new life, if I didn't keep
on being so bad; and thinking about His dying is the best comfort I
have. Nor I'm sure I don't bear ill-will to nobody, only I suppose
it is not charity to run out at poor Mother and Ellen when one's put
'Perhaps that is what you want to learn,' said Mr. Cope, 'and to
get all these feelings deepened, and more earnest and steadfast. If
the long waiting does that for you, it will be good, and keep you from
coming lightly to the Holy Feast.'
'Oh, I could not do that!' exclaimed Alfred. 'And may I think that
all my faults will be taken away and forgiven?'
'All you repent of, and bring in faith—'
'That is what they say at church in the Absolution,' said Alfred
'Rather it is what the priest says to them,' said Mr. Cope; 'it is
the applying the promise of forgiveness that our Saviour bought. I
may not yet say those words with authority, Alfred, but I should like
to hope that some day I may speak them to you, and bring rest from
the weight at your heart.'
'Oh! I hope I may live to that!' said Alfred.
'You shall hear them, whether from me or from another,' said Mr.
Cope, 'that is, if God will grant us warning. But you need not fear,
Alfred, if you thoroughly repent, and put your full faith in the
great Sacrifice that has been offered for your sins and the sins of
all the world. God will take care of His child, and you already have
His promise that He will give you all that is needful for your
If Harold had known all the consequences of his neglect, perhaps he
would have been more sorry for it than as yet he had chosen to be.
The long walk and the warm beer and fire sent Paul to his hay-nest
so heavy with sleep, that he never stirred till next morning he was
wakened by Tom Boldre, the shuffler, kicking him severely, and
swearing at him for a lazy fellow, who stayed out at night and left
him to do his work.
Paul stumbled to his feet, quite confused by the pain, and feeling
for his shoes in the dark loft. The shuffler scarcely gave him an
instant to put them on, but hunted him down-stairs, telling him the
farmer was there, and he would catch it.
It would do nobody any good to hear the violent way in which Mr.
Shepherd abused the boy. He was a passionate man, and no good
labourers liked to work with him because of his tongue. With such
grown men as he had, he was obliged to keep himself under some
restraint, but this only incited him to make up for it towards the
poor friendless boy.
It was really nearly eight o'clock, and Paul's work had been
neglected, which was enough to cause displeasure; and besides, Boldre
had heard Paul coming home past eleven, and the farmer insisted on
knowing what he had been doing.
Under all his rags, Paul was a very proud boy, and thus asked, he
would not tell, but stood with his legs twisted, looking very sulky.
'No use asking him,' cried Mrs. Shepherd's shrill voice at the back
door; 'why, don't ye hear that Mrs. Barker's hen-roost has been
robbed by Dick Royston and two or three more on 'em?'
'I never robbed!' cried Paul indignantly.
'None of your jaw,' said the farmer angrily. 'If you don't tell me
this moment where you've been, off you go this instant. Drinking at
the Tankard, I'll warrant.'
'No such thing, Sir,' said Paul. 'I went to Elbury after some
medicine for a sick person.'
Somehow he had a feeling about the house opposite, which would not
let him come out with the name in such a scene.
'That's all stuff,' broke in Mrs. Shepherd, 'I don't believe one
word of it! Send him off; take my advice, Farmer, let him go where he
comes from; Ellen King told me he was out of prison.'
Paul flushed crimson at this, and shook all over. He had all but
turned to go, caring for nothing more at Friarswood; but just then,
John Farden, one of the labourers, who was carrying out some manure,
called out, 'No, no, Ma'am. Sure enough he did go to Elbury to Dr.
Blunt's. I was on the road myself, and I hears him. "Goodnight,"
says I. "Good-night," says he. "Where be'est going?" says I. "To
doctor's," says he, "arter some stuff for Alfred King."
'Yes,' said Paul, speaking more to Farden than to his master, 'and
then Mrs. King gave me some supper, and that was what made me so
'She ought to be ashamed of herself, then,' said Mrs. Shepherd
spitefully, 'having a vagabond scamp like that drinking beer at her
house at that time of night. How one is deceived in folks!'
'Well, what are you doing here?' cried the farmer, turning on Paul
angrily; 'd'ye mean to waste any more of the day?'
So Paul was not turned off, and had to go straight to his work. It
was well he had had so good a supper, for he had not a moment to
snatch a bit of breakfast. It so happened that his work was to go
with John Farden, who was carrying out the manure in the cart. Paul
had to hold the horse, while John forked it out into little heaps in
the field. John was a great big powerful man, with a foolish face,
not a good workman, nor a good character, or he would not have been
at that farm. He had either never been taught anything, or had
forgotten it all; he never went near church; he had married a
disreputable wife, and had two or three unruly children, who were
likely to be the plagues of their parents and the parish, but not a
whit did John heed; he did not seem to have much more sense than to
work just enough to get food, lodging, beer, and tobacco, to sleep
all night, and doze all Sunday. There was not any malice nor
dishonesty in him; but it was terrible that a man with an immortal
soul should live so nearly the life of the brute beasts that have no
understanding, and should never wake to the sense of God or of
He was not a man of many words, and nothing passed for a long time
but shouts of hoy, and whoa, and the like, to the horse. Paul went
heavily on, scarce knowing what he was about; there was a stunned
jaded feel about him, as if he were hunted and driven about, a mere
outcast, despised by every one, even by the Kings, whose kindness had
been his only ray of brightness. Not that his senses or spirits were
alive enough even to be conscious of pain or vexation; it was only a
dull dreary heedlessness what became of him next; and, quick clever
boy as he had been in the Union, he did not seem to have a bit more
sense, thought, or feeling, than John Farden.
John Farden was the first to break the silence: 'I wouldn't bide,'
Paul looked up, and muttered, 'I have nowhere to go.'
'Farmer uses thee shameful,' repeated John. 'Why don't thee cut?'
Paul saw the smoke of Mrs. King's chimney. That had always seemed
like a friend to him, but it came across him that they too thought
him a runaway from prison, and he felt as if his only bond of
fellowship was gone. But there was something else, too; and he made
answer, 'I'll bide for the Confirmation.'
'Eh?' said John, 'what good'll that do ye?'
'Help me to be a good lad,' said Paul, who knew John Farden would
not enter into any other explanation.
'Why, what'll they do to ye?'
'The Bishop will put his hand on me and bless me,' said Paul; and
as he said the words there was hope and refreshment coming back. He
was a child of God, if no other owned him.
'Whoy,' said Farden, much as he might have spoken to his horse,
'rum sort of a head thou'st got! Thee'll never go up to Bishop such a
'Can't help it,' said Paul rather sullenly; 'it ain't the clothes
that God looks at.'
John scanned him all over, with his face looking more foolish than
ever in the puzzle he felt.
'Well,' he said, 'and what wilt get by it?'
'God's grace to do right, I hope,' said Paul; then he added, out of
his sad heart, 'It's bad enough here, to be sure. It would be a bad
look-out if one hoped for nothing afterwards.'
Somehow John's mind didn't take in the notion of afterwards, and he
did not go on talking to Paul. Perhaps there was a dread in his poor
dull mind of getting frightened out of the deadly stupefied sleep it
was bound in.
But that bit of talk had done Paul great good, by rousing him to
the thought of what he had to hope for. There was the Confirmation
nigh at hand, and then on beyond there was rest; and the words came
into his mind, 'There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the
weary are at rest.'
Poor, poor boy! He was very young to have such yearnings towards
the grave, and well-nigh to wish he lay as near to it as Alfred King,
so he might have those loving tender hands near him, those kind voices
round him. Paul had gone through a great deal in these few months;
and, used to good shelter and regular meals, he was less inured to
bodily hardship than many a cottage boy. His utter neglect of his
person was telling on him; he was less healthy and strong than he had
been, and though high spirits, merriment, and the pleasure of freedom
and independence, had made all light to him in the summer, yet now
the cold weather, with his insufficient food and scanty clothing, was
dulling him and deadening him, and hard work and unkind usage seemed
to be grinding his very senses down. To be sure, when twelve o'clock
came, he went up into the loft, ate his bit of dry bread, and said
his prayers, as he had not been able to do in the morning, and that
made him feel less forlorn and downcast for a little while; but then
as he sat, he grew cold, and numb, and sleepy, and seemed to have no
life in him, but to be moving like a horse in a mill, when Boldre
called him down, and told him not to be idling there.
The theft in Mrs. Barker's poultry-yard was never traced home to
any one, but the world did not the less believe Dick Royston and Jesse
Rolt to have been concerned in it. Indeed, they had been drinking up
some of their gains when Harold met them at the shooting-gallery: and
Mrs. Shepherd would not put it out of her head that Paul Blackthorn
was in the secret, and that if he did really go for the medicine as he
said, it was only as an excuse for carrying the chickens to some
receiver of stolen goods. She had no notion of any person doing
anything out of pure love and pity. Moreover, it is much easier to
put a suspicion into people's heads than out again; and if Paul's
whole history and each day's doings had been proved to her in a court
of justice, she would still have chiefly remembered that she had
always thought ill of him, and that Ellen King had said he was a
runaway convict, and so she would have believed him to the end.
Ellen had long ago forgotten that she had said anything of the
kind; and though she still held her nose rather high when Paul was
near, she would have answered for his honesty as readily as for that
of her own brothers. But hers had not been the charity that thinketh
no evil, and her idle words had been like thistle-down, lightly sent
forth, but when they had lighted, bearing thorns and prickles.
Those thorns were galling poor Paul. Nobody could guess what his
glimpses of that happy, peaceful, loving family were to him. They
seemed to him like a softer, better kind of world, and he looked at
their fair faces and fresh, well-ordered garments with a sort of
reverence; a kind look or greeting from Mrs. King, a mere civil
answer from Ellen, those two sights of the white spirit-looking
Alfred, were like the rays of light that shone into his dark hay-
loft. Sometimes he heard them singing their hymns and psalms on a
Sunday evening, and then the tears would come into his eyes as he
leant over the gate to listen. And, as if it was because Ellen kept
at the greatest distance from him, he set more store by her words and
looks than those of any one else, was always glad when she served him
in the shop, and used to watch her on Sunday, looking as fresh as a
flower in her neat plain dress.
And now to hear that she not only thought meanly of him, which he
knew well enough, but thought him a thief, a runaway, and an impostor
coming about with false tales, was like a weight upon his sunken
spirits, and seemed to take away all the little heart hard usage had
left him, made him feel as if suspicious eyes were on him whenever he
went for his bit of bread, and took away all his peace in looking at
He did once take courage to say to Harold, 'Did your sister really
say I had run away from gaol?'
'Oh, nobody minds what our Ellen says,' was the answer.
'But did she say so?'
'I don't know, I dare say she did. She's so fine, that she thinks
no one that comes up-stairs in dirty shoes worth speaking to. I'm
sure she's the plague of my life—always at me.'
That was not much comfort for Paul. He had other friends, to be
sure. All the boys in the place liked him, and were very angry with
the way the farmer treated him, and greatly to their credit, they
admired his superior learning instead of being jealous of it. Mrs.
Hayward, the sexton's wife, the same who had bound up his hand when
he cut it at harvest, even asked him to come in and help her boys in
the evenings with what they had to prepare for Mr. Cope. He was not
sorry to do so sometimes. The cottage was a slatternly sort of
place, where he did not feel ashamed of himself, and the Haywards
were mild good sort of folks, from whom he was sure never to hear
either a bad or an unkind word; though he did not care for them, nor
feel refreshed and helped by being with them as he did with the
John Farden, too, was good-natured to him, and once or twice
hindered Boldre from striking or abusing him; he offered him a pipe
once, but Paul could not smoke, and another time brought him out a
pint of beer into the field. Mrs. Shepherd spied him drinking it from
her upper window, and believed all the more that he got money somehow,
and spent it in drink.
So the time wore on till the Confirmation, all seeming like one
dull heavy dream of bondage; and as the weather became colder, the
poor boy seemed to have no power of thinking of anything, but of so
getting through his work as to avoid violence, to keep himself from
perishing with cold, and not to hurt his chilblains more than he
All his quick intellect and good instruction seemed to have
perished away, and the last time he went to Mr. Cope's, he sat as if
he were stupid or asleep, and when a question came to him, sat with
his mouth open like silly Bill Pridden.
Mr. Cope knew him too well not to feel, as he wrote the ticket,
that there were very few of whom he could so entirely from his heart
say 'Examined and APPROVED,' as the poor lonely outcast foundling,
Paul Blackthorn, who could not even tell whether he were fifteen,
sixteen, or seventeen, but could just make sure that he had once been
caned by old Mr. Haynes, who went away from the Union twelve years
'Do you think you can keep the ticket safe if I give it you now,
Paul?' asked Mr. Cope, recollecting that the cows might sup upon it
like his Prayer-book.
Paul put his hands down to the bottom of his pockets. They were
all one hole, and that sad lost foolish look came over his wan face
again, and startled Mr. Cope.
The boys grinned, but Charles Hayward stepped forward. 'Please,
Sir, let me take care of it for him.'
Mr. Cope and Paul both agreed, and Mr. Cope kept Charles for a
moment to say, as he gave him a shilling, 'Look here, Charles, do you
think you can manage to get that poor fellow a tolerable breakfast on
Saturday before he goes? And if you could make him look a little
Charles pulled his forelock and looked knowing. In fact, there was
a little plot among these good-natured boys, and Harold King was in it
too, though he was not of the Confirmation party, and said and
thought he was very glad of it. He did not want to bind himself to
be so very good. Silly boy; as if Baptism had not bound him already!
Mrs. Hayward put her head out as Paul passed her cottage, and
called out, 'I say, you Paul, you come in to-morrow evening with our
Charlie and Jim, and I'll wash you when I washes them.'
Good Mrs. Hayward made a mistake that the more delicate-minded Mrs.
King would never have made. Perhaps if a pail of warm water and some
soap had been set before Paul, he might actually have washed himself;
but he was much too big and too shamefaced a lad to fancy sharing a
family scrubbing by a woman, whatever she might do to her own sons.
But considering the size of the Hayward cottage, and the way in which
the family lived, this sort of notion was not likely to come into the
head of the good-natured mother.
So she and her boys were much vexed when Paul did not make his
appearance, and she made a face of great disgust when Charles said,
'Never mind, Mother, my white frock will hide no end of dirt.'
'I shall have to wash it over again before you can wear it, I
know,' said Mrs. Hayward. 'Not as I grudges the trouble; he's a poor
lost orphant, that it's a shame to see so treated.'
Mrs. Hayward did not know that she was bestowing the cup of cold
water, as well as being literally ready to wash the feet of the poor
A clean body is a type and token of a pure mind; and though the
lads of Friarswood did not quite perceive this, there was a feeling
about them of there being something unnatural and improper, and a
disgrace to Friarswood, in any one going up to the Bishop in such a
condition as Paul. Especially, as Charles Hayward said, when he was
the pick of the whole lot. Perhaps Charles was right, for surely Paul
was single-hearted in his hope of walking straight to his one home,
Heaven, and he had been doing no other than bearing his cross, when
he so patiently took the being 'buffeted' when he did well, and
faithfully served his froward master.
But Paul was not to escape the outward cleansing, and from one of
the very last people from whom it would have been expected. He had
just pulled his bed of hay down over him, and was trying to curl
himself up so as to stop his teeth from chattering, with Caesar on his
feet, when the dog growled, and a great voice lowered to a gruff
whisper, said, 'Come along, young un!'
'I'm coming,' cried Paul.
Though it was not Boldre's voice, it had startled him terribly; he
was so much used to ill-treatment, that he expected a savage blow
But the great hand that closed on him, though rough, was not
'Poor lad, how he quakes!' said John Farden's voice. 'Don't ye be
afeard, it's only me.'
'Nobody got at the horses?' cried Paul.
'No, no; only I ain't going to have you going up to yon big parson
all one muck-heap! Come on, and make no noise about it.'
Paul did not very well know what was going to befall him, but he
did not feel unsafe with John Farden, and besides, his lank frame was
in the grasp of that big hand like a mouse in the power of a mastiff.
So he let himself be hauled down the ladder, into an empty stall,
where, behold, there was a dark lantern (which had been at bad work
in its time), a pail, a brush, a bit of soap, and a ragged towel.
John laid hold of him much as Alfred in his page days used to do of
Lady Jane's little dog when it had to be washed, but Puck had the
advantage in keeping on his shaggy coat all the time, and in being
more gently handled, whereas Farden scrubbed with such hearty good-
will, that Paul thought his very skin would come off. But he had
undergone the like in the workhouse, and he knew how to accommodate
himself to it; and when his rough bath was over, though he was very
sore, and stiff, and chilly, he really felt relieved, and more
respectable than he had done for many months, only rather sorry he
must put on his filthy old rags again; and he gave honest John more
thanks than might have been expected.
The Confirmation was to be at eleven o'clock, at Elbury, and John
had undertaken his morning's work, so that Mr. Shepherd grudgingly
consented to spare him, knowing that all the other farmers of course
did the same, and that there would be a cry of shame if he did not.
Paul had just found his way down the ladder in the morning, with
thoughts going through his mind that to him this would be the coming
of the Comforter, and he was sure he wanted comfort; and that for
some hours of this day at least, he should be at peace from rude
words and blows, when he heard a great confusion of merry voices and
suppressed laughing, and saw the heads of some of the lads bobbing
about near Mrs. King's garden.
Was it time already to set off, he wondered, looking up to the sun;
but then those boys seemed to be in an uproarious state such as did
not suit his present mood, nor did he think Mr. Cope would consider
it befitting. He would have let them go by, feeling himself such a
scare-crow as they might think a blot upon them; but he remembered
that Charles Hayward had his ticket, and as he looked at himself, he
doubted whether he should be let into a strange church.
'Paul! Paul Blackthorn!' called Harold, with a voice all aglee.
'Well!' said Paul, 'what do you want of me?'
'Come on, and you'll see.'
'I don't want a row. Is Charlie Hayward there? Just ask him for
my card, and don't make a work.'
'He'll give it you if you'll come for it,' said Harold; and seeing
there was no other chance, Paul slowly came. Harold led him to the
stable, where just within the door stood a knot of stout hearty boys,
snorting with fun, hiding their heads on each other's shoulders, and
bending their buskined knees with merriment.
'Now then!' cried Charles Hayward, and he had got hold of the only
button that held Paul's coat together.
Paul was bursting out with something, but George Grant's arms were
round his waist, and his hands were fumbling at his fastenings. They
were each one much stronger than he was now, and they drowned his
voice with shouts of laughter, while as fast as one garment was
pulled off, another was put on.
'Mind, you needn't make such a work, it bain't presents,' said
George Grant, 'only we won't have them asking up at Elbury if we've
saved the guy to bring in.'
'It is a present, though, old Betty Bushel's shirt,' said Charles
Hayward. 'She said she'd throw it at his head if he brought it back
again; but the frock's mine.'
'And the corduroys is mine,' said George Grant. 'My! they be a
sight too big in the band! Run in, Harold, and see if your mother can
lend us a pin.'
'And the waistcoat is my summer one,' said Fred Bunting. 'He's too
big too; why, Paul, you're no better than a natomy!'
'Never mind, my white frock will hide it all,' said Charles, 'and
here's Ned's cap for you. Oh! and it's poor Alfred's boots.'
Paul could not make up his mind to walk all the way in the boots,
but to satisfy the boys he engaged to put them on as soon as they were
getting to Elbury.
'My! he looks quite respectable,' cried Charles, running back a
little way to look at him.
'I wonder if Mr. Cope will know him?' exclaimed Harold, jumping
leap- frog fashion on George Grant's back.
'The maids will take him for some strange gentleman,' exclaimed Jem
Hayward; 'and why, bless me, he's washed, I do declare!' as a streak
of light from the door fell on Paul's visage.
'No, you don't mean it,' broke out Charles. 'Let's look! yes, I
protest, why, the old grime between his eyes is gone after all. How
did you manage that, Paul?'
Paul rather uneasily mumbled something about John Farden, and the
boys clapped their hands, and shouted, so that Alfred, who well knew
what was going on, raised himself on his pillow and laughed. It was
rather blunt treatment for feelings if they were tender, but these
were rough warm-hearted village boys, and it was all their good-
'And where's the grub?' asked Charles importantly, looking about.
'Oh, not far off,' said Harold; and in another moment, he and
Charles had brought in a black coffee-pot, a large mug, some brown
sugar, a hunch of bread, some butter, and a great big smoking sausage.
Paul looked at it, as if he were not quite sure what to do with it.
One boy proceeded to turn in an inordinate quantity of sugar, another
to pour in the brown coffee that sent out a refreshing steam enough
to make any one hungry. George Grant spread the butter, cut the
sausage in half, put it on the bread, and thrust it towards Paul.
'Eat it—s—s,' said Charles, patting Paul on the back. 'Mr. Cope
said you was to, and you must obey your minister.'
'Not all for me?' said Paul, not able to help a pull at the coffee,
the mug warming his fingers the while.
'Oh yes, we've all had our breakfastisses,' said George Grant; 'we
are only come to make you eat yours like a good boy, as Mr. Cope said
They stood round, looking rather as they would have done had Paul
been an elephant taking his meal in a show; but not one would hear of
helping him off with a crumb out of Mr. Cope's shilling. George
Grant was a big hungry lad, and his breakfast among nine at home had
not been much to speak of; but savoury as was the sausage, and
perfumy as was the coffee, he would have scorned to take a fragment
from that stranger, beg him to do so as Paul might; and what could
not be eaten at that time, with a good pint of the coffee, was put
aside in a safe nook in the stable to be warmed up for supper.
That morning's work was not a bad preparation for Confirmation
Harold had stayed so long, that he had to jump on the pony and ride
his fastest to be in time at the post. He was very little ashamed of
not being among those lads, and felt as if he had the more time to
enjoy himself; but there were those who felt very sad for him—
Alfred, who would have given so much to receive the blessing; and
Ellen, whose confirmation was very lonely and melancholy without
either of her brothers; besides his mother, to whom his sad
carelessness was such constant grief and heart-ache.
Ellen was called for by the carriage from the Grange, and sat up
behind with the kitchen-maid, who was likewise to be confirmed.
Little Miss Jane sat inside in her white dress and veil, looking like
a snowdrop, Alfred thought, as his mother lifted him up to the window
to see her, as the carriage stood still while Ellen climbed to her
In the course of the morning, Mrs. King made time to read over the
Confirmation Service with Alfred, to think of the blessing she was
receiving, and to pray that it might rest upon her through life. And
they entreated, too, that Harold might learn to care for it, and be
brought to a better mind.
'O Mother,' said Alfred, after lying thinking for sometime, 'if I
thought Harold would take up for good and be a better boy to you than
I have been, I should not mind anything so much.'
And there was Harold all the time wondering whether he should be
able to get out in the evening to have a lark with Dick and Jesse.
Ellen was set down by-and-by. Her colour was very deep, but she
looked gentle and happy, and the first thing she did was to bend over
Alfred, kiss him, and say how she wished he had been there.
Then, when she had been into her own room, she came back and told
them about the beautiful large Elbury Church, and the great numbers
of young girls and boys on the two sides of the aisle, and of the
Bishop seated in the chair by the altar, and the chanted service,
with the organ sounding so beautiful.
And then how her heart had beat, and she hardly dared to speak her
vow, and how she trembled when her turn came to go up to the rail,
but she said it was so comfortable to see Mr. Cope in his surplice,
looking so young among the other clergymen, and coming a little
forward, as if to count out and encourage his own flock. She was
less frightened when she had met his kind eye, and was able to kneel
down with a more quiet mind to receive the gift which had come down
on the Day of Pentecost.
Alfred wanted to know whether she had seen Paul, but Ellen had been
kneeling down and not thinking of other people, when the Friarswood
boys went up. Only she had passed him on the way home, and seen that
though he was lagging the last of the boys, he did not look dull and
worn, as he had been doing lately.
Ellen had been asked to go to the Grange after church to-morrow
evening, and drink tea there, in celebration of the Confirmation
which the two young foster-sisters had shared.
Harold went to fetch her home at night, and they both came into the
house fresh and glowing with the brisk frosty air, and also with what
they had to tell.
'O mother, what do you think? Paul Blackthorn is to go to the
Grange to-morrow. My Lady wants to see him, and perhaps she will make
Mr. Pound find some work for him about the farm.'
Harold jumped up and snapped his fingers towards the farm.
'There's for old Skinflint!' said he; 'not a chap in the place but
will halloo for joy!'
'Well, I am glad!' said Mrs. King; 'I didn't think that poor lad
would have held out much longer, winter weather and all. But how did
my Lady come to hear of it?'
'Oh, it seems she noticed him going to church in all his rags, and
Mr. Cope told her who he was; so Miss Jane came and asked me all
about him, and I told her what a fine scholar he is, and how
shamefully the farmer and Boldre treat him, and how good he was to
Alfred about the ointment, and how steady he is. And I told her
about the boys dressing him up yesterday, and how he wouldn't take a
gift. She listened just as if it was a story, and she ran away to
her grandmamma, and presently came back to say that the boy was to
come up to-morrow after his work, for Lady Jane to speak to him.'
'Well, at least, he has been washed once,' said Mrs. King; 'but
he's so queer; I hope he will have no fancies, and will behave
'I'll tackle him,' declared Harold decidedly. 'I've a great mind
to go out this moment and tell him.'
Mrs. King prevented this; she persuaded Harold that Mrs. Shepherd
would fly out at them if she heard any noise in the yard, and that it
would be better for every one to let Paul alone till the morning.
Morning came, and as soon as Harold was dressed, he rushed to the
farm-yard, but he could not find Paul anywhere, and concluded that he
had been sent out with the cows, and would be back by breakfast-time.
As soon as he had brought home the post-bag, he dashed across the
road again, but came back in a few moments, looking beside himself.
'He's gone!' he said, and threw himself back in a chair.
'Gone!' cried Mrs. King and Ellen with one voice, quite aghast.
'Gone!' repeated Harold. 'The farmer hunted him off this morning!
Missus will have it that he's been stealing her eggs, and that there
was a lantern in the stable on Friday night; so they told him to be
off with him, and he's gone!'
'Poor, poor boy! just when my Lady would have been the making of
him!' cried Ellen.
'But where—which way is he gone?' asked Mrs. King.
'I might ride after him, and overtake him,' cried Harold, starting
up, 'but I never thought to ask! And Mrs. Shepherd was ready to
pitch into me, so I got away as soon as I could. Do you run over and
ask, Ellen; you always were a favourite.'
They were in such an eager state, that Ellen at once sprang up, and
hastily throwing on her bonnet, ran across the road, and tapped at
Mrs. Shepherd's open door, exclaiming breathlessly, 'O Ma'am, I beg
your pardon, but will you tell me where Paul Blackthorn is gone?'
'Paul Blackthorn! how should I know?' said Mrs. Shepherd crossly.
'I'm not to be looking after thieves and vagabonds. He's a come-by-
chance, and he's a go-by-chance, and a good riddance too!'
'Oh but, Ma'am, my Lady wanted to speak to him.'
This only made Mrs. Shepherd the more set against the poor boy.
'Ay, ay, I know—coming over the gentry; and a good thing he's
gone!' said she. 'The place isn't to be harbouring thieves and
vagrants, or who's to pay the rates? My eggs are gone, I tell you,
and who should take 'em but that lad, I'd like to know?'
'Them was two rotten nest-eggs as I throwed away when I was
cleaning the stable.'
'Who told you to put in your word, John Farden?' screamed Mrs.
Shepherd, turning on him. 'Ye'd best mind what ye're about, or ye'll
be after him soon.'
'No loss neither,' muttered John, stopping to pick up his shovel.
'And you didn't see which way he was gone?' asked Ellen, looking
from the labourer to the farmer's wife.
'Farmer sent un off or ever I come,' replied John, 'or I'd ha' gied
un a breakfast.'
'I'm sure I can't tell,' said Mrs. Shepherd, with a toss of her
head. 'And as to you, Ellen King, I'm surprised at you, running after
a scamp like that, that you told me yourself was out of a prison.'
'Oh but, Mrs. Shepherd—'
'You ought to be ashamed of yourself,' interrupted Mrs. Shepherd;
'and I wonder your mother allows it. But there's nothing like girls
Ellen thought John Farden grinned; and feeling as if nothing so
shocking could ever happen to her again, she flew back, she hardly
knew how, to her home, clapped the door after, and dropping into a
chair as Harold had done, burst into such a fit of crying, that she
could not speak, and only shook her head in answer to Harold's
questions as to how Paul was gone.
'Oh, no one knew!' she choked out among her sobs; 'and Mrs.
Shepherd- -such things!'
Harold stamped his foot, and Mrs. King tried to soothe her. In the
midst, she recollected that she could not bear her brothers to guess
at the worst part of the 'such things;' and recovering herself a
moment, she said, 'No, no, they've driven him off! He's gone, and—
and, oh! Mother, Mrs. Shepherd will have it he's a thief, and—and
she says I said so.'
That was bad enough, and Ellen wept bitterly again; while her
mother and Harold both cried out with surprise.
'Yes—but—I did say I dare said he was out of a reformatory—and
that she should remember it! Now I've taken away his character, and
he's a poor lost boy!'
Oh, idle words! idle words!
CHAPTER IX—ROBBING THE MAIL
There was no helping it! People must have their letters whether
Paul Blackthorn were lost or not, and Harold was a servant of the
public, and must do his duty, so after some exhortations from his
mother, he ruefully rose up, hoping that he should not have to go to
'Yes, you will,' said his mother, 'and maybe to wait. Here's a
registered letter, and I think there are two more with money in
'To think,' sighed Harold, as he mounted his pony, 'of them little
chaps getting more money for nothing, than Paul did in a month by
working the skin off his bones!'
'Don't be discontented, Harold, on that score. Them little chaps
will work hard enough by-and-by: and the money they have now is to
train them in making a fit use of it then.'
Harold looked anxiously up and down the road for Paul, and asked
Mr. Cope's housekeeper whether he had been there to take leave. No;
and indeed Harold would have been a little vexed if he had wished
good- bye anywhere if not at home.
There was a fine white frost, and the rime hung thickly on every
spray of the heavy branches of the dark firs and larches that
overhung the long solitary lane between the Grange and Ragglesford,
and fringed the park palings with crystals. Harold thought how cold
poor Paul must be going on his way in his ragged clothes. The ice
crackled under the pony's feet as she trotted down Ragglesford Lane,
and the water of the ford looked so cold, that Peggy, a very wise
animal, turned her head towards the foot-bridge, a narrow and not
very sound affair, over which Harold had sometimes taken her when the
stream was high, and threatened to be over his feet.
Harold made no objection; but no sooner were all the pony's four
hoofs well upon the bridge, than at the other end appeared Dick
'Hollo, Har'ld!' was his greeting, 'I've got somewhat to say to
'D'ye know where Paul Blackthorn is?' asked Harold.
'Not I—I'm a traveller myself, you must know.'
'You, going to cut?' cried Harold.
'Ay,' said Dick, laying hold of the pony's rein. 'The police have
been down at Rolt's—stupid fellow left old gander's feet about—Mrs.
Barker swore to 'em 'cause he'd had so many kicks and bites on
common—Jesse's took up and peached—I've been hiding about all
night—precious cold it was, and just waiting, you see, to wish you
Harold, very much shocked, could have dispensed with his farewells,
nor did he like the look of his eyes.
'Thank you, Dick; I'm sorry—I didn't think—but I'm after time—I
wish you'd let go of Peggy.'
'So that's all you have to say to an old comrade!' said Dick; 'but,
I say, Har'ld, I'm not going so. I must have some tin to take me to
Portsmouth. I want to know what you've got in that there bag!'
'You won't have that; it's the post. Let go, Dick;' and he pushed
the pony forward, but Dick had got her fast by the head. Harold
looked round for help, but Ragglesford Lane was one of the loneliest
places in the country. There was not a house for half a mile, and
Lady Jane's plantations shut in the road on either side.
'I mean to have it,' said Dick, looking coolly up into his face; 'I
mean to see if there's any of the letters with a half-sovereign in
'em, that you tell us about.'
'Dick, Dick, it would be robbing! For shame, Dick! What would
become of Mother and me?'
'That's your look-out,' said Dick; and he stretched out his hand
for the bag. He was four years older than Harold, and much stouter.
Harold, with a ready move, chucked the bag round to his back, and
shouted lustily in hopes that there might be a keeper in the woods,
'Help! Thieves! He's robbing the post!'
Dick's hoarse laugh was all the answer. 'That'll do, my dear,' he
said; 'now you'd best be quiet; I'd be loath to hurt you.'
For all answer, Harold, shouting all the time, dealt him a stroke
right over the eyes and nose with his riding-switch, and made a great
effort to force the pony on in hopes the blow might have made him
slacken his hold. But though one moment Dick's arm was thrown over
his watering eyes, the other hand held the bridle as firmly as ever,
and the next instant his fist dealt Harold such a blow, as nearly
knocked out all his breath. Setting his teeth, and swearing an oath,
Dick was pouncing on the boy's arm, when from the road before them
came bursting a meagre thing darting like a wild cat, which fell upon
him, hallooing as loud as Harold.
Dick turned in fury, and let go the bridle. The pony backed in
alarm. The new-comer was grappling with the thief, and trying to
drag him aside. 'On, on; go on, Har'ld!' he shouted, but his
strength was far from equal to Dick's, who threw him aside on the
hand-rail. Old rotten rail that it was, it crashed under the weight,
and fell with both the boys into the water. Peggy dashed forward to
the other side, where Harold pulled her up with much difficulty, and
turned round to look at the robber and the champion. The fall was
not far, nor the water deep, and they had both risen, and were ready
to seize one another again in their rage. And now Harold saw that he
who had come to his help was no other than Paul Blackthorn, who
shouted loudly, 'On, go on! I'll keep him.'
'He'll kill you!' screamed Harold, in despair, ready to push in
between them with his horse; but at that moment cart-wheels were
heard in the road, and Dick, shaking his fist, and swearing at them
both, shook off Paul as if he had been a feather, and splashing out
of the ford on the other side, leapt over the hedge, and was off
through the plantations.
Paul more slowly crept up towards Harold, dripping from head to
'Paul! Paul! I'm glad I've found you!' cried Harold. 'You've
saved the letters, man, and one was registered! Come along with me,
up to the school.'
'Nay, I'll not do that,' said Paul.
'Then you'll stay till I come back,' said Harold earnestly; 'I've
got so much to tell you! My Lady sent for you. Our Ellen told her
all about you, and you're to go to her. Ellen was in such a way when
she found you were off.'
'Then she didn't think I'd taken the eggs?' said Paul.
'She'd as soon think that I had,' said Harold. 'Why, don't we all
know that you're one of the parson's own sort? But what made you go
off without a word to nobody?'
'I don't know. Every one was against me,' said Paul; 'and I
thought I'd just go out of the way, and you'd forget all about me.
But I never touched those eggs, and you may tell Mr. Cope so, and
thank him for all his kindness to me.'
'You'll tell him yourself. You're going home along with me,' cried
Harold. 'There! I'll not stir a step till you've promised! Why, if
you make off now, 'twill be the way to make them think you have
something to run away for, like that rascal.'
'Very well,' said Paul, rather dreamily.
'Then you won't?' said Harold. 'Upon your word and honour?'
Paul said the words after him, not much as if he knew what he was
about; and Harold, rather alarmed at the sound of the Grange clock
striking, gave a cut to the pony, and bounded on, only looking back
to see that Paul was seating himself by the side of the lane. Harold
said to himself that his mother would not have liked to see him do so
after such a ducking, but he knew that he was more tenderly treated
than other lads, and with reason for precaution too; and he promised
himself soon to be bringing Paul home to be dried and warmed.
But he was less speedy than he intended. When he arrived at the
school, he had first to account to the servants for his being so
late, and then he was obliged to wait while the owner of the
registered letter was to sign the green paper, acknowledging its safe
Instead of having the receipt brought back to him, there came a
message that he was to go up to tell the master and the young
gentlemen all about the robbery.
So the servant led the way, and Harold followed a little shy, but
more curious. The boys were in school, a great bare white-washed
room, looking very cold, with a large arched window at one end, and
forms ranged in squares round the hacked and hewed deal tables.
Harold thought he should tell Alfred that the young gentlemen had not
much the advantage of themselves in their schoolroom.
The boys were mostly smaller than he was, only those of the
uppermost form being of the same size. There might be about forty of
them, looking rather red and purple with the chilly morning, and all
their eighty eyes, black or brown, blue or grey, fixed at once upon
the young postman as he walked into the room, straight and upright, in
his high stout gaiters over his cord trousers, his thick rough blue
coat and red comforter, with his cap in his hand, his fair hair
uncovered, and his blue eyes and rosy cheeks all the more bright for
that strange morning's work. He was a well-mannered boy, and made
his bow very properly to Mr. Carter, the master, who sat at his high
'So, my little man,' said the master, 'I hear you've had a fight
for our property this morning. You've saved this young gentleman's
birthday present of a watch, and he wants to thank you.'
'Thank you, Sir,' said Harold; 'but he'd have been too much for me
if Paul hadn't come to help. He's a deal bigger than me.'
The boys all made a thumping and scuffling with their feet, as if
to applaud Harold; and their master said, 'Tell us how it was.'
Harold gave the account in a very good simple manner, only he did
not say who the robber was—he did not like to do so—indeed, he would
not quite believe it could be his old friend Dick. The boys clapped
and thumped doubly when he came to the switching, and still more at
the tumble into the water.
'Do you know who the fellow was?' asked Mr. Carter.
'Yes, I knowed him,' said Harold, and stopped there.
'But you had rather not tell. Is that it?'
'Please, Sir, he's gone, and I wouldn't get him into trouble.'
At this the school-boys perfectly stamped, and made signs of
'And who is the boy that came to help you?'
'Paul Blackthorn, Sir; he's a boy from the Union who worked at
Farmer Shepherd's. He's a right good boy, Sir; but he's got no
friends, nor no—nothing,' said Harold, pausing ere he finished.
'Why didn't you bring him up with you?' asked the master.
'Please, Sir, he wouldn't come.'
'Well,' said Mr. Carter, 'you've behaved like a brave fellow, and
so has your friend; and here's something in token of gratitude for the
rescue of our property.'
It was a crown piece.
'And here,' said the boy whose watch had been saved, 'here's
half-a- crown. Shake hands, you're a jolly fellow; and I'll tell my
uncle about you.'
Harold was a true Englishman, and of course his only answer could
be, 'Thank you, Sir, I only did my duty;' and as the other boys, whose
money had been rescued, brought forward more silver pledges of
gratitude, he added, 'I'll take it to Paul—thank you, Sir—thank
'That's right; you must share, my lad,' said the school-master.
'It is a reward for both of you.'
'Thank you, Sir, it was MY duty,' repeated Harold, making his bow.
'Sir, Sir, pray let us give him three cheers,' burst out the head
boy in an imploring voice.
Mr. Carter smiled and nodded; and there was such a hearty roaring
and stamping, such 'hip, hip, hurrah!' bursting out again and again,
that the windows clattered, and the room seemed fuller of noise than
it could possibly hold. It is not quite certain that Mr. Carter did
not halloo as loud as any of the boys.
Harold turned very red, and did not know which way to look while it
was going on, nor what to do when it was over, except to say a very
odd sort of 'Thank you, Sir;' but his heart leapt up with a kind of
warm grateful feeling of liking towards those boys for going along
with him so heartily; and the cheers gave a pleasure and glow that
the coins never would have done, even had he thought them his own by
He was not particularly good in this; he had never felt the pinch
of want, and was too young to care; and he did not happen to wish to
buy anything in particular just then. A selfish or a covetous boy
would not have felt as he did; but these were not his temptations.
Knowing, as he did, that the assault had been the consequence of his
foolish boasts about the money-letters, and that he, being in charge,
ought to defend them to the last gasp, he was sure he deserved the
very contrary from a reward, and never thought of the money belonging
to any one but Paul, who had by his own free will come to the rescue,
and saved the bag from robbery, himself from injury and disgrace.
How happy he was in thinking what a windfall it was for his friend,
and how far it would go in fitting him up respectably!
Peggy was ready to trot nearly as fast as he wished her down the
lane to the place where he had left Paul; and no sooner did Harold
come in sight of the olive-coloured rags, than he bawled out a loud
'Hurrah! Come on, Paul; you don't know what I've got for you! 'Twas a
young gentleman's watch as you saved; and they've come down right
handsome! and here's twelve-and-sixpence for you—enough to rig you
out like a regular swell! Why, what's the matter?' he added in quite
another voice, as he had now come up to Paul, and found him sitting
nearly doubled up, with his head bent over his knees.
He raised his face up as Harold came, and it was so ghastly pale,
that the boy, quite startled, jumped off his pony.
'Why, old chap, what is it? Have you got knit up with cold,
'Yes, I suppose so,' said Paul; but his very voice shivered, his
teeth chattered, and his knees knocked together with the chill. 'The
pains run about me,' he added; but he spoke as if he hardly knew what
he was doing or saying.
'You must come home with me, and Mother will give you something
hot,' said Harold. 'Come, you'll catch your death if you don't. You
shall ride home.'
He pulled Paul from his seat with some difficulty, and was further
alarmed when he found that the poor fellow reeled and could hardly
stand; but he was somewhat roused, and knew better what he was about.
Harold tried to put him on the pony, but this could not be managed:
he could not help himself enough, Peggy always swerved aside, nor was
Harold strong enough to lift him up.
The only thing to be done was for Harold to mount, and Paul to lean
against the saddle, while the pony walked. When they had to separate
at the ford, poor Paul's walk across the bridge was so feeble and
staggering, that Harold feared every moment that he would fall where
the rail was broken away, but was right glad to put his arm on his
shoulder again to help to hold him up. The moving brought a little
more life back to the poor boy's limbs, and he walked a little
better, and managed to tell Harold how he had felt too miserable to
speak to any one after the rating the farmer had given him, and how
he had set out on the tramp for more work, though with hope so nearly
dead in his heart, that he only wished he could sit down and die. He
had walked out of the village before people were about, so as not to
be noticed, and then had found himself so weak and weary that he
could not get on without food, and had sat down by the hedge to eat
the bit of bread he had with him. Then he had taken the first
lonely-looking way he saw, without knowing that it was one of
Harold's daily rides, and was slowly dragging himself up the hill
from the ford when the well-known voice, shouting for help, had
suddenly called him back, and filled him with spirit and speed that
were far enough off now, poor fellow!
That was a terrible mile and a half—Harold sometimes thought it
would never be over, or that Paul would drop down, and he would have
to gallop off for help; but Paul was not one to give in, and somehow
they got back at last, and Harold, with his arm round his friend,
dragged him through the garden, and across the shop, and pushed him
into the arm-chair by the fire, Mrs. King following, and Ellen
rushing down from up-stairs.
'There!' cried Harold, all in a breath, 'there he is! That rascal
tried to rob me on Ragglesford Bridge, and was nigh too much for me;
but HE there came and pulled him off me, and got spilt into the
river, and he's got a chill, and if you don't give him something
jolly hot, Mother, he'll catch his death!'
Mrs. King thought so too: Paul's state looked to her more alarming
than it did even to Harold. He did not seem able to think or speak,
but kept rocking himself towards the fire, and that terrible
shivering shaking him all over.
'Poor lad!' she said kindly. 'I'll tell you what, Harold, all you
can do is put him into your bed at once.—Here, Ellen, you run up
first, and bring me a shirt to warm for him. Then we'll get his own
'No, no,' cried Harold, with a caper, 'we'll make a scare-crow of
'em. You don't know what I know, Mother. I've got twelve shillings
and sixpence here all his own; and you'll see what I won't do with it
at old Levi's, the second-hand clothes man, to-night.'
Harold grew less noisy as he saw how little good the fire was doing
to his patient, and how ill his mother seemed to think him. He
quietly obeyed her, by getting him up-stairs, and putting him into
his own bed, the first in which Paul had lain down for more than four
months. Then Mrs. King sent Harold out for some gin; she thought hot
spirits and water the only chance of bringing back any life after
such a dreadful chill; and she and Ellen kept on warming flannels and
shawls to restore some heat, and to stop the trembling that shook the
bed, so that Alfred felt it, even in the next room, where he lay with
the door open, longing to be able to help, and wishing to understand
what could have happened.
At last, the cordial and the warm applications effected some good.
Paul was able to say, 'I don't know why you are so good to me,' and
seemed ready to burst into a great fit of crying; but Mrs. King
managed to stop him by saying something about one good turn deserving
another, and that she hoped he was coming round now.
Harold was now at leisure to tell the story in his brother's room.
Alfred did not grieve now at his brother's being able to do spirited
things; he laughed out loud, and said, 'Well done, Harold!' at the
switching, and rubbed his hands, and lighted up with glee, as he
heard of the Ragglesford boys and their cheers; and then, Harold went
eagerly on with his scheme for fitting up Paul at the second-hand
shop, both Mrs. King and Alfred taking great interest in his plans,
till Mrs. King hearing something like a moan, went back to Paul.
She found his cheeks and hands as burning hot as they had been
cold; they were like live coals; and what was worse, such severe pains
were running all over his limbs, that he was squeezing the clothes
into his mouth that he might not scream aloud.
Happily it was Mr. Blunt's day for calling; and before the morning
was over he came, and after a few words of explanation, he stood at
Not much given to tenderness towards the feelings of patients of
his degree, Mr. Blunt's advice was soon given. 'Yes, he is in for
rheumatic fever—won't be about again for a long time to come. I
say, Mistress, all you've got to do is to send in your boy to the
Union at Elbury, tell 'em to send out a cart for him, and take him in
as a casual pauper. Then they may pass him on to his parish.'
Therewith Mr. Blunt went on to attend to Alfred.
'Then you think this poor lad will be ill a long time, Sir?' said
Mrs. King, when Mr. Blunt was preparing to depart.
'Of course he will; I never saw a clearer case! You'd better send
him off as fast as you can, while he can be moved. He'll have a
pretty bout of it, I dare say.
'It is nothing infectious, of course, Sir?' said the mother, a
little startled by this hastiness.
'Infectious—nonsense! why, you know better than that, Mrs. King; I
only meant that you'd better get rid of him as quick as you can,
unless you wish to set up a hospital at once—and a capital nurse
you'd be! I would leave word with the relieving officer for you, but
that I've got to go on to Stoke, and shan't be at home till too
Mrs. King's heart ached for the poor forlorn orphan, when she
remembered what she had heard of the nursing in Elbury Union. She
did not know how to turn him from her door the day he had saved her
son from danger such as she could not think of without shuddering;
and yet, what could she do? Her rent and the winter before her, a
heavy doctor's bill, and the loss of Alfred's work!
Slowly she went up the stairs again to the narrow landing that held
the bed where Paul Blackthorn lay. He was quite still, but there
were large tears coursing one after the other from his eyes, his
hollow cheeks quite glazed with them.
'Is the pain so very bad?' she said in her soft voice, putting her
hand over his hot forehead, in the way that Alfred liked.
'I don't—know,' he answered; and his black eyes, after looking up
once in her face with the piteous earnest glance that some loving
dogs have, shut themselves as if on purpose to keep in the tears, but
she saw the dew squeezing out through the eye-lashes.
'My poor boy, I'm sure it's very bad for you,' she said again.
'Please, don't speak so kind,' said Paul; and this time he could
not prevent a-sob. 'Nobody ever did so before, and—' he paused, and
went on, 'I suppose they do it up in Heaven, so I hope I shall die.'
'You are vexing about the Union,' said Mrs. King, without answering
this last speech, or she knew that she should begin to cry herself.
'I DID think I'd done with them,' said Paul, with another sob. 'I
said I'd never set foot in those four walls again! I was proud,
maybe; but please don't stop with me! If you wouldn't look and speak
like that, the place wouldn't seem so hard, seeing I'm bred to it, as
they say;' and he made an odd sort of attempt to laugh, which ended
in his choking himself with worse tears.
'Harold is not gone yet,' said Mrs. King soothingly; 'we'll wait
till he comes in from his work, and see how you are, when you've had a
little sleep. Don't cry; you aren't going just yet.'
That same earnest questioning glance, but with more hope in it, was
turned on her again; but she did not dare to bind herself, much as
she longed to take the wanderer to her home. She went on to her
'Mother, Mother,' Alfred cried in a whisper, so eager that it made
him cough, 'you can't never send him to the workhouse?'
'I can't bear the thought, Alfy,' she said, the tears in her eyes;
'but I don't know what to do. It's not the trouble. That I'd take
with all my heart, but it is hard enough to live, and—'
'I'm sure,' said Ellen, coming close, that her undertone might be
heard, 'Harold and I would never mind how much we were pinched.'
'And I could go without—some things,' began Alfred.
'And then,' went on the mother, 'you see, if we got straitened, and
Matilda found it out, she'd want to help, and I can't have her
savings touched; and yet I can't bear to let that poor lad be sent
off, so ill as he is, and after all he's done for Harold—such a good
boy, too, and one that's so thankful for a common kind word.'
'O Mother, keep him!' said Alfred; 'don't you know how the Psalm
says, "God careth for the stranger, and provideth for the fatherless
and the widow"?'
Mrs. King almost smiled. 'Yes, Alf, I think it would be trusting
God's word; but then there's my duty to you.'
'You've not sent Harold off for the cart?' said Alfred.
'No; I thought somehow, we have enough for to-day; and it goes
against me to send him away at once. I thought we'd wait to see how
it is to-morrow; and Harold won't mind having a bed made up in the
Tap, tap, on the counter. Some one had come in while they were
talking. It was Mr. Cope, very anxious to hear the truth of the
strange stories that were going about the place. Ellen and Alfred
thought it very tiresome that he was so long in coming up-stairs; but
the fact was, that their mother was very glad to talk the matter over
without them. She knew indeed that Mr. Cope was a very young man,
and not likely to be so well able as herself, with all her
experience, to decide what she could afford, or whether she ought to
follow her feelings at the risk of debt or of privations for her
delicate children; but she also knew that though he had not
experience, education had given him a wider and clearer range of
thought; and that, as her pastor, he ought to be consulted; so though
she did not exactly mean to make it a matter for his decision
(unless, indeed, he should have some view which had not occurred to
her), she knew that he was by far the best person to help her to see
her way, and form her own judgment.
Mr. Cope heard all the story with as much eagerness as the
Ragglesford boys themselves, and laughed quite out loud at Harold's
'That's a good lad!' said he. 'Well, Mrs. King, I don't think you
need be very uneasy about your boy. When a fellow can stand up like
that in defence of his duty, there must be the right stuff in him to
be got at in time! And now, as to his ally—this other poor fellow—
very kind of you to have taken him in.'
'I couldn't do no other, Sir,' said Mrs. King; 'he came in so
drenched, and so terribly bad, I could do nothing but let him lie
down on Harold's bed; and now Dr. Blunt thinks he's going to have a
rheumatic fever, and wanted me to send in to the relieving officer,
to have him removed, but I don't know how to do that; the poor lad
doesn't say one word against it, but I can see it cuts him to the
heart; and they do tell such stories of the nurses at the Union, that
it does seem hard to send him there, such an innocent boy, too, and
one that doesn't seem to know how to believe it if one says a kind
word to him.' The tears were in Mrs. King's eyes as she went on: 'I
do wish to let him stay here and do what I can for him, with all my
heart, and so does all the children, but I don't hardly know what's
right by them, poor things. If the parish would but allow him just
one shilling and sixpence a week out of the house, I think I could do
'What, with your own boy in such a state, you could undertake to
nurse a stranger through a rheumatic fever!'
'It wouldn't make much difference, Sir,' said Mrs. King. 'You see
I am up a good deal most nights with Alfred, and we have fire and
candle almost always alight. I should only be glad to do it for a
poor motherless lad like that, except for the cost; and I thought
perhaps if you could speak to the Guardians, they might allow him
ever so little, because there will be expenses.'
Mr. Cope had not much hope from the parish, so he said, 'Mr.
Shepherd ought to do something for him after he has worked for him so
long. He has been looking wretchedly ill for some time past; and I
dare say half this illness is brought on by such lodging and living as
he got there. But what did you say about some eggs?'
Mrs. King told him; and he stood a moment thoughtful, then said,
'Well, I'll go and see about it,' and strode across to the farm.
When Mr. Cope came back, Ellen was serving a customer. He stood
looking redder than they had ever seen him, and tapping the toe of
his boot impatiently with his stick; and the moment the buyer had
turned away, he said, 'Ellen, ask your mother to be kind enough to
Mrs. King came, and found the young Curate in such a state of
indignation, as he could not keep to himself. He had learnt more
than he had ever known, or she had ever known, of the oppression that
the farmer and his wife and Tom Boldre had practised on the
friendless stranger, and he was burning with all the keen generous
displeasure of one new to such base ways. At the gate he had met,
going home to dinner, John Farden with Mrs. Hayward, who had been
charing at the farm. Both had spoken out, and he had learned how far
below the value of his labour the boy had been paid, how he had been
struck, abused, and hunted about, as would never have been done to
one who had a father to take his part. And he had further heard
Farden's statement of having himself thrown away the eggs, and Mrs.
Hayward's declaration that she verily believed that the farmer only
made the accusation an excuse for hurrying the lad off because he
thought him faltering for a fever, and wouldn't have him sick there.
This was shocking enough; Mr. Cope had thought it merely the kind-
hearted woman's angry construction, but it was still worse when he
came to the farmer and his wife.
So used were they to think it their business to wring the utmost
they could out of whatever came in their way, that they had not the
slightest shame about it. They thought they had done a thing to be
proud of in making such a good bargain of the lad, and getting so
much work out of him for so little pay; in fact, that they had been
rather weakly kind in granting him the freedom of the hay-loft; the
notion of his dishonesty was firmly fixed in their heads, though
there was not a charge to bring against him. This was chiefly
because they had begun by setting him down as a convict, and because
they could not imagine any one living honestly on what they gave him.
And lastly, the farmer thought the cleverest stroke of all, was the
having got rid of him just as winter was coming on and work was
scarce, and when there seemed to be a chance of his being laid up to
encumber the rates. Mr. Cope was quite breathless after the answer
he had made to them. He had never spoken so strongly in his life
before, and he could hardly believe his own ears, that people could
be found, not only to do such things, but to be proud of having done
It is to be hoped there are not many such thoroughgoing tyrants;
but selfishness is always ready to make any one into a tyrant, and
Mammon is a false god, who manages to make his servants satisfied that
they are doing their duty.
It was plain enough that no help was to be expected from the farm,
and neither Mrs. King nor the clergyman thought there was much hope
in the Guardians; however, they were to be applied to, and this would
be at least a reprieve for Paul. Mr. Cope went up to see him, and
found Harold sitting on the top step of the stairs.
'Well, boys,' he said, in his hearty voice, 'so you've had a
battle, I hear. I'm glad it turned out better than your namesake's at
Paul was not too ill to smile at this; and Harold modestly said,
'It was all along of he, Sir.'
'And he seems to be the chief sufferer.—Are you in much pain,
'Sometimes, Sir, when I try to move,' said Paul; 'but it is better
when I'm still.'
'You've had a harder time of it than I supposed, my boy,' said Mr.
Cope. 'Why did you never let me know how you were treated?'
Paul's face shewed more wonder than anything else. 'Thank you,
Sir,' he said, 'I didn't think it was any one's business.'
'No one's business!' exclaimed the young clergyman. 'It is every
one's business to see justice done, and it should never have gone on
so if you had spoken. Why didn't you?'
'I didn't think it would be any use,' again said Paul. 'There was
old Joe Joiner, he always said 'twas a hard world to live in, and
that there was nothing for it but to grin and bear it.'
'There's something better to be done than to grin,' said Mr. Cope.
'Yes, I know, Sir,' said Paul, with a brighter gleam on his face;
'and I seem to understand that better since I came here. I was
thinking,' he added, 'if they pass me back to Upperscote, I'll tell
old Joe that folks are much kinder than he told me, by far.'
'Kinder—I should not have thought that your experience!' exclaimed
Mr. Cope, his head still running on the Shepherds.
But Paul did not seem to think of them at all, or else to take
their treatment as a matter-of-course, as he did his Union hardships.
There was a glistening in his eyes; and he moved his head so as to
sign down-stairs, as he said, 'I didn't think there was ne'er a one
in the world like HER.'
'What, Mrs. King? I don't think there are many,' said Mr. Cope
warmly. 'And yet I hope there are.'
'Ay, Sir,' said Paul fervently. 'And there's Harold, and John
Farden, and all the chaps. Please, Sir, when I'm gone away, will you
tell them all that I'll never forget 'em? and I'll be happier as long
as I live for knowing that there are such good-hearted folks.'
Mr. Cope felt trebly moved towards one who thought harshness so
much more natural than kindness, and who received the one so
submissively, the other so gratefully; but the conversation was
interrupted by Harold's exclaiming that my Lady in her carriage was
stopping at the gate, and Mother was running out to her.
Rumours of the post-office robbery, as little Miss Selby called it,
had travelled up to the Grange, and she was wild to know what had
happened to Harold; but her grandmamma, not knowing what highway
robbers might be roaming about Friarswood, would not hear of her
walking to the post-office, and drove thither with her herself, in
full state, close carriage, coachman and footman; and there was Mrs.
King, with her head in at the carriage window, telling all the story.
'So you have this youth here?' said Lady Jane.
'Yes, my Lady; he was so poorly that I couldn't but let him lie
'And you have not sent him to the workhouse yet?'
'Why, no, not yet, my Lady; I thought I would wait to see how he is
'You had better take care, Mary,' said Lady Jane. 'You'll have him
too ill to be moved; and then what will you do? a great lad of that
age, and with illness enough in the house already!' She sighed, and
it was not said unkindly; but Mrs. King answered with something about
his being so good a lad, and so friendless. And Miss Jane exclaimed,
'O Grandmamma, it does seem so hard to send him to the workhouse!'
'Do not talk like a silly child, my dear,' said Lady Jane. 'Mary
is much too sensible to think of saddling herself with such a charge—
not fit for her, nor the children either—even if the parish made it
worth her while, which it never will. The Union is intended to
provide for such cases of destitution; and depend on it, the youth
looks to nothing else.'
'No, my Lady,' said Mrs. King; 'he is so patient and meek about it,
that it goes to one's very heart.'
'Ay, ay,' said the old lady; 'but don't be soft-hearted and weak,
Mary. It is not what I expect of you, as a sensible woman, to be
harbouring a mere vagrant whom you know nothing about, and injuring
your own children.'
'Indeed, my Lady,' began Mrs. King, 'I've known the poor boy these
four months, and so has Mr. Cope; and he is as steady and serious a
boy as ever lived.'
'Very likely,' said Lady Jane; 'and I am sure I would do anything
for him—give him work when he is out again, or send him with a paper
to the county hospital. Eh?'
But the county hospital was thirty miles off; and the receiving day
was not till Saturday. That would not do.
'Well,' added Lady Jane, 'I'll drive home directly, and send Price
with the spring covered cart to take him in to Elbury. That will be
better for him than jolting in the open cart they would send for
'Why, thank you, my Lady, but I—I had passed my word that he
should not go to-day.'
Lady Jane made a gesture as if Mary King were a hopelessly weak
good- natured woman; and shaking her head at her with a sort of
lady-like vexation, ordered the coachman to drive on.
My Lady was put out. No wonder. She was a very sensible, managing
woman herself, and justly and up-rightly kind to all her dependants;
and she expected every one else to be sternly and wisely kind in the
same pattern. Mrs. King was one whom she highly esteemed for her
sense and good judgment, and she was the more provoked with her for
any failure in these respects. If she had known Paul as the Kings
did, it is probable she might have felt like them. Not knowing him,
nor knowing the secrets of Elbury Union, she thought it Mrs. King's
clear duty to sacrifice him for her children's sake. Moreover, Lady
Jane had strict laws against lodgers—the greatest kindness she could
do her tenants, though often against their will. So to have her
model woman receiving a strange boy into her house, even under the
circumstances, was beyond bearing.
So Mrs. King stood on her threshold, knowing that to keep Paul
Blackthorn would be an offence to her best friend and patroness.
Moreover, Mr. Cope was gone, without having left her a word of advice
to decide her one way or the other.
CHAPTER X—CHRISTMAS DAY
Things are rather apt to settle themselves; and so did Paul
Blackthorn's stay at the post-office, for the poor boy was in such an
agony of pain all night, and the fever ran so high, that it was
impossible to think of moving him, even if the waiting upon him in
such suffering had not made Mrs. King feel that she could not dismiss
him to careless hands. His patience, gratitude, and surprise at
every trouble she took for him were very endearing, as were the
efforts he made to stifle and suppress moans and cries that the
terrible aches would wring from him, so as not to disturb Alfred.
When towards morning the fever ran to his head, and he did not know
what he said, it was more moving still to see that the instinct of
keeping quiet for some one's sake still suppressed his voice. Then,
too, his wanderings shewed under what dread and harshness his life
had been spent, and what his horror was of a return to the workhouse.
In his senses, he would never have thought of asking to remain at
Friarswood; but in his half-conscious state, he implored again and
again not to be sent away, and talked about not going back, but only
being left in a corner to die; and Mrs. King, without knowing what
she was about, soothed him by telling him to lie still, for he was
not going to that place again. At day-break she sent Harold, on his
way to the post, for an order from the relieving officer for medical
attendance; and, after some long and weary hours, the Union doctor
came. He said, like Mr. Blunt, that it was a rheumatic fever, the
effect of hardship and exposure; for which perhaps poor Paul—after
his regular meals, warm clothing, and full shelter, in the workhouse-
-was less prepared than many a country lad, whose days had been much
happier, but who had been rendered more hardy by often going without
some of those necessaries which were provided for the paupers.
The head continued so much affected, that the doctor said the hair
must be taken off; which was done by old Master Warren, who singed
the horses in the autumn, killed the pigs in the winter, and shaved
the men on Saturday night. It was a very good thing for all parties;
and he would take no pay for his trouble, but sent down a pitcher
with what he called 'all manner of yarbs' steeping in it, with which,
as he said, to 'ferment the boy's limbs.' Foment was what he meant;
and Mrs. King thought, as it was kindly intended, and could do no
harm, she would try if it would do any good; but she could not find
that it made much difference whether she used that or common warm
water. However, the good will made Paul smile, and helped to change
his notion about its being very few that had any compassion for a
stranger. So, too, did good Mrs. Hayward, who, when he was at the
worst, twice came to sit up all night with him after her day's work;
and though she was not as tender a nurse as Mrs. King, treated him
like her own son, and moreover carried off to her own tub all the
clothes she could find ready to be washed, and would not take so much
as a mouthful of meat or drink in return, struggling, toil-worn body
as she was.
The parish, as might have been foreseen, would afford nothing but
the doctor to a chance-comer such as Paul. If he needed more, he
might come into the House, and be passed home to Upperscote.
But by the time this reply came, Mrs. King not only felt that it
would be almost murder to send a person in such a state four miles on
a November day, but she was caring so much for her patient, that it
sounded almost as impossible as to send Alfred away.
Besides, she had remembered the cup of cold water, she had thought
of the widow's cruse of oil and barrel of meal, and she had called to
mind, 'Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My
brethren, ye have done it unto Me;' and thereupon she took heart, and
made up her mind that it was right to tend the sick lad; and that
even if she should bring trouble and want on herself and her
children, it would be a Heaven-sent trial that would be good for
So she made up her resolution to a winter of toil, anxiety, and
trouble, and to Lady Jane's withdrawal of favour; and thinking her
ungrateful, which, to say the truth, grieved her more than anything
else, excepting of course her forebodings for Alfred.
Ellen was in great distress about my Lady's displeasure. Not that
she dreamt of her mother's giving up Paul on that account; but she
was very fond of her little foster-sister, and of many of the maid-
servants, and her visits to the Grange were the chief change and
amusement she ever had. So while Mrs. King was busy between the
shop, her work, and Paul, Ellen sat by her brother, making the
housekeeper's winter dress, and imagining all sorts of dreadful
things that might come of my Lady being angry with them, till Alfred
grew quite out of patience. 'Well, suppose and suppose,' he said,
'suppose it was not to happen at all! Why, Mother's doing right
would be any good for nothing if she only did it to please my Lady.'
Certainly this was the very touchstone to shew whether the fear of
man were the guide. And Ellen was still more terrified that day, for
when she went across to the farm for the evening's supply of milk and
butter, Mrs. Shepherd launched out into such a torrent of abuse
against her and her mother, that she came home trembling from head to
foot; and Mrs. King declared she should never go thither again. They
would send to Mrs. Price's for the little bit of fresh butter that
was real nourishment to Alfred: the healthy ones would save by going
One word more as to the Shepherds, and then we have done with him.
On the Sunday, Mr. Cope had an elder brother staying with them, who
preached on the lesson for the day, the second chapter of the Prophet
Habakkuk; and when he came to the text, 'Woe to him that coveteth an
evil covetousness to his house,' he brought in some of the like
passages, the threats to those that 'grind the faces of the poor,'
that 'oppress the hireling in his wages,' and that terrible saying of
St. James, 'Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down
your fields, which is of you kept by fraud, crieth; and the cries of
them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of
Three days after, the Curate was very much amazed to hear that Mr.
and Mrs. Shepherd did not choose to be preached at in their own
church, and never meant to come thither again. Now it so happened
that he could testify that the sermon had been written five years
ago, and that his brother had preached it without knowing that the
Shepherds were in existence, for he had only come late the night
before, and there was so much to say about their home, that the
younger brother had not said a word about his parish before church,
though the Kings and their guests were very near his heart.
But it was of no use to say so. It was the TRUTH that wounded the
farmer and his wife, and no one could make that otherwise. They did
not choose to hear their sin rebuked, so they made an excuse by
pretending to take offence, and except when they now and then went to
the next parish to a meeting-house, cut themselves off from all that
might disturb them in the sole pursuit of gain. It is awful to think
of such hardening of the heart, first towards man, then towards the
warnings of God.
And mind, whoever chooses profit rather than mercy, is in the path
of Farmer Shepherd.
Some certainty as to Lady Jane Selby's feelings came on the second
evening of Paul's illness. Mrs. Crabbe, the housekeeper, was seen
with infinite trouble and disgust getting her large person over the
stiles across the path fields. A call from her was almost a greater
event than one from my Lady herself. Why! Mother had been her
still-room maid, and always spoke to her as 'Ma'am,' and she called
her 'Mary,' and she had chosen Matilda's name for her, and had given
her a silver watch!
So when Mrs. Crabbe had found her way in, and had been set down to
rest in the arm-chair, she proceeded to give 'Mary' a good round
scolding against being weak and soft-hearted, saying at last that my
Lady was quite in a way about it. She was sure that Harold would
catch his death of cold, putting him to sleep in the kitchen, upon
the stones—and so—my Lady had sent off the cart with the little
chair-bed, that would take down and put up again—mattress, bed-
clothes, and all.
That was a comfortable finish to the scolding! Not that it was a
finish though, for the thanks made Mrs. Crabbe afraid the family
thought themselves forgiven, so she went on to declare they all would
be pinched, and get into debt, and she should advise her god-
daughter, Matilda, not to help them with a farthing of her wages, and
as to going without their full meals, that was what none of them were
fit to do. With which it appeared that the cart was bringing a can
of broth, a couple of rabbits, some calves'-feet jelly, and a bottle
of port wine for Alfred, who lived on that and cod-liver oil more
than on any other nourishment.
At that rate, Lady Jane's displeasure did not seem likely to do
much harm; but there was pain in it too, for when Mrs. Crabbe had
managed to get up-stairs, past the patch-work quilt that was hung up
to shelter Paul from the draught, and had seen Alfred, and been
shocked to find how much wasted he was since she last had seen him,
she said, 'One thing you know—my Lady says she can't have Miss Selby
coming down here to see Alfred while this great lad is always about.
And I'm sure it is not proper for her at any time, such a young lady
as she is, over all those inconvenient stiles. I declare I shall
speak to Mr. Price about them.'
Losing Miss Jane's visits was to Alfred like losing a sunbeam, and
his spirit felt very dreary after he had heard this sentence. Ellen
knew her well enough to suspect that she was very sorry, but that she
could not help herself; and Mrs. King caught the brother and sister
making such grumbling speeches to each other about the old lady's
crossness, that her faithful, grateful spirit was quite grieved, and
she spoke strongly up for the just, right-minded lady to whom she had
loyally looked up for many and many a year, though, with the right
sort of independence, she would not give up to any one's opinion what
she knew to be her duty.
'We all knew it must cost us something,' she said, 'and we'll try
to be ready with it, though it does go to one's heart that the first
should be what vexes you, my Alfy; but it won't be for long.'
'No, Mother; but if it ain't here long? Oh! I don't seem to have
nothing to look to if Miss Jane ain't coming here no more, with her
And there were large tears on his cheeks. Mrs. King had tears in
her eyes too, but she bent down over the boy, and turning his eyes to
the little picture on the wall, she said in a whisper in his ear,
'Didn't He bear His Cross for the sake of other people?' Alfred did
not answer; he turned his face in towards the pillow, and though Ellen
thought he was crying, it did not seem to her to be so sadly.
Cost them something their kindness did. To be sure, there came a
party of boys with the master from Ragglesford, when there had been
time for them to write the history of the robbery to their homes; and
as it came just before the monthly letter which they all had to write
by way of practice, to be shewn up to the master, it was a real
treasure to them to have such a story to tell. Some of their
friends, especially the uncle who gave the watch, had sent small sums
of money for the lad who had behaved so well, and these altogether
came to a fair amount, which the boys were highly pleased to give
over into Mrs. King's hands. She, like Harold, never made the
smallest question that it was all for Paul's benefit, and though,
when she mentioned it to him, he gave a cheery smile, and said it
would lessen the cost of his illness to her, yet she put it all aside
with the first twelve-and-sixpence. She told Ellen that it went
against her to touch the orphan's money, and that unless it came to
very bad times indeed, it should be kept to set him up decently when
he should recover.
No one else could afford aid in money, not Mr. Cope, for he had
little more than a maintenance for himself; indeed, Mrs. King was not
in a station where it would seem becoming to offer alms to her. Lady
Jane gave help in nourishing food, but the days when this would come
were uncertain, and she had made a resolution against undertaking any
share of the expense, lest she should seem to encourage Mary King, as
she said, in such weak good nature—cramming up her house with a
strange boy like that, when she had quite enough to do with her own
son. So they had to fight on as they could; and the first week, when
Paul's illness was at the height, Ellen had so much more to do for
Alfred and about the house, and was so continually called off her
work, that she could not finish Mrs. Crabbe's gown as soon as was
expected; and the ladies' maid, who was kept waiting, took huff, and
sent her new purple silk to Elbury to be madeup.
It is not quite certain that Ellen did not shed a few tears.
Harold had to go without his butter, and once took it much to heart
that his mother would buy no shrimps for tea, but after some one had
whispered to him that if there were a trouble about rent, or about
Mr. Blunt's bill, Peggy would be sold, he bore it all pretty well;
and after all, Alfred and Paul were so apt to give him tastes of
their dainties, that he had not much loss!
Rent was the care. The pig was killed and cut up to great
advantage; Mrs. King sold a side of it at once, which went a good way
towards it, but not the whole; and there was a bad debt of John
Farden's for bread, contracted last winter, and which he had never
paid off in the summer. That would just have made it up, but what
hopes were there of that?
Just then, however, came a parcel from Matilda. It was her way of
helping her family to send them the clothes which her mistresses
allowed her to have when they left them off, when Mrs. King either
made them up for herself or Ellen, or disposed of them at Elbury.
What a treat those parcels were! How curious were all the party at
the unpacking, looking at the many odd things that were sure to come
out, on the happy doubtful certainty that each one would be
remembered by the good sister.
So there were the little directed parcels—a neat knitted grey and
black handkerchief for Mother to wear in the shop; a whole roll of
fashion-books for Ellen, and a nice little pocket-book besides; and a
bundle of 'Illustrated News' to amuse the boys; a precious little
square book of 'Hymns for the Sick' for Alfred; and a famous pair of
riding-gloves, like bears' paws, for Harold. And what rolls besides!
Worn flimsy dresses, once pretty, but now only fit for the old-
clothes man, yet whose trimmings Ellen pulled out and studied;
bonnets that looked as if they had been sat upon; rolls of soft
ragged cambric handkerchiefs, on which Mrs. King seized as the most
valuable part of the cargo, so useful would they be to poor Alfred;
some few real good things, in especial, a beautiful thick silk dress
which had been stained, but which dyeing would render very useful;
and a particularly nice grey cloth mantle, which Matilda had
mentioned in her letter as likely to be useful to Ellen—it was not
at all the worse for wear, except as to the lining of the hood, and
she should just fancy Ellen in it.
Ellen could just fancy herself in it. She had a black silk one,
which had come in the same way, and looked very well, but it was just
turning off, and it was not warm enough for winter without a shawl
under it. That grey looked as if it was made for her, it suited her
shoulders and her shape so well! She put it on and twisted about in
it, and then she saw her good mother not saying one word, and knew
she was thinking of the sum that was wanting to the rent.
'Well, Mother,' said Ellen, 'I'll go in and take the things to
Betsey on the next market-day, and if we can get thirty shillings on
them without the mantle—'
'Yes, if you can, my dear,' said her mother; 'I'm sure I should be
very glad for you to have it, but you see—'
And Mrs. King sighed.
Ellen passed by Paul on the landing, and saw him with his face
flushed with pain and fever, trying to smile at her. She remembered
how her unkind words had brought trouble on him, and how her mother
had begun by telling her that they must give up their own wishes if
they were to nurse him.
Ellen went to Elbury on the market-day, and by the help of Betsey
Hardman, she got great credit for her bargaining. She brought home
thirty shillings, and ten shillings' worth of soap for the shop,
where that article was running low; but she did not bring home the
cloak, though Betsey had told her a silk cloak over a shawl looked so
mean! and she feared all the servants at the Grange would think the
'They always were good children to me,' said Mrs. King to Mr. Cope,
'but somehow, since Paul has been here, I think they are better than
ever! There's poor Alfred, though his cough has been so bad of late,
has been so thoughtful and so good; he says he's quite ashamed to
find how patient Paul is under so much sharper pain than he ever had,
and he's ready to send anything to Paul that he fancies will do him
good—quite carried out of himself, you see; and there's Harold, so
much steadier; I've hardly had to find fault with him since that poor
boy made off—he's sure to come in in time, and takes care not to
disturb his brother, and helps his sister and me all he can.'
Mr. Cope was not at all surprised that the work of mercy was
blessed to all the little household, nor that it drew out all the
better side of their dispositions.
There was no positive change, nor sudden resolution, to alter
Harold; but he had been a good deal startled by Dick's wickedness, and
in him had lost a tempter. Besides, he considered Paul as his own
friend, received for his sake, and therefore felt himself bound to do
all he could for him, and though he was no nurse, he could do much to
set his mother and Ellen free to attend to their patients. And Paul's
illness, though so much less dangerous, frightened and subdued Harold
much more than the quiet gradual pining away of Alfred, to which he
was used. The severe pain, the raging fever, and the ramblings in
talk, were much more fearful things to witness than the low cough,
the wearing sore, and the helpless languor, though there was much
hope for the one, and scarcely any for the other. While to Harold's
apprehension, Alfred was always just the same, only worsening visibly
from month to month; Paul was better or worse every time he came in,
and when fresh from hearing his breath gasp with sharp pain, or
receiving his feeble thanks for some slight service, it was not in
Harold to go out and get into thoughtless mischief.
Moreover, there were helpful things to do at home, such as Harold
liked. He was fond of chopping wood, so he was very obliging about
the oven, and what he liked best of all was helping his mother in
certain evening cookeries of sweet-meats, by receipts from Mrs.
Crabbe. On the day of the expedition from Ragglesford, the young
gentlemen had found out that Mrs. King's bottles contained what they
called 'the real article and no mistake,' much better than what the
old woman at the turnpike sold; and so they were, for Mrs. King made
them herself, and, like an honest woman, without a morsel of sham in
them. She was not going to break the Eighth Commandment by cheating
in a comfit any more than by stealing a purse; and the children of
Friarswood had long known that, and bought all the 'lollies' that
they were not naughty enough to buy on Sundays, when, as may be
supposed, her shutters were not shut only for a decent show.
And now Harold did not often ride up to the school without some
little master giving him a commission for some variety of sweet-
stuff; and though Mrs. King used to say it was a pity the children
should throw away their money in that fashion, it brought a good deal
into her till, and Harold greatly liked assisting at the manufacture.
How often he licked his fingers during the process need not be
mentioned; but his objection to Ragglesford was quite gone off, now
that some one was nearly certain to be looking out for him, with a
good-natured greeting, or an inquiry for Paul. He knew one little
boy from another, and felt friendly with them all, and he really was
quite grieved when the holidays came, and they wished him good-bye.
The coach that had been hired to take them to Elbury seemed something
to watch for now, and some thoughtful boy stopped all the whooping
and hurraing as they came near the house on the bridge. Some other
stopped the coach, and they all came dropping off it like a swarm of
black flies, and tumbling into the shop, where Mrs. King and her
daughter had need to have had a dozen pair of hands to have served
them, and they did not go till they had cleared out her entire stock
of sweet things and gingerbread; nay, some of them would have gone
off without their change, if she had not raced out to catch them with
it after they were climbing up the coach, and then the silly fellows
said they hated coppers! And meeting Harold and his post-bag on his
way home from Elbury, they raised such a tremendous cheer at him that
poor Peggy seemed to make but three springs from the milestone to the
bridge, and he could not so much as touch his cap by way of answer.
Somehow, even after those droll customers were gone, every
Saturday's reckoning was a satisfactory one. More always seemed to
come in than went out. The potatoes had been unusually free from
disease in Mrs. King's garden, and every one came for them; the second
pig turned out well; a lodger at the butcher's took a fancy to her
buns; and on the whole, winter, when her receipts were generally at
the lowest, was now quite a prosperous time with her. The great
pressure and near anxiety she had expected had not come, and something
was being put by every week towards the bill for flour, and for Mr.
Blunt's account, so that she began to hope that after all the Savings
Bank would not have to be left quite bare.
Quite unexpectedly, John Farden came in for a share of the savings
of an old aunt at service, and, like an honest fellow as he was, he
got himself out of debt at once. This quite settled all Mrs. King's
fears; Mr. Blunt and the miller would both have their due, and she
really believed she should be no poorer!
Then she recollected the widow's cruse of oil, and tears of
thankfulness and faith came into her eyes, and other tears dropped
when she remembered the other more precious comfort that the stranger
had brought into the widow's house, but she knew that the days of
miracles and cures past hope were gone, and that the Christian
woman's promise was 'that her children should come again,' but not
till the resurrection of the just.
And though to her eye each frost was freshly piercing her boy's
breast, each warm damp day he faded into greater feebleness, yet the
hope was far clearer. He was happy and content. He had laid hold of
the blessed hope of Everlasting Life, and was learning to believe
that the Cross laid on him here was in mercy to make him fit for
Heaven, first making him afraid and sorry for his sins, and ready to
turn to Him Who could take them away, and then almost becoming
gladness, in the thought of following his Master, though so far off.
Not that Alfred often said such things, but they breathed peace
over his mind, and made Scripture-reading, prayers, and hymns very
delightful to him, especially those in Matilda's book; and he dwelt
more than he told any one on Mr. Cope's promise, when he trusted to
be made more fully 'one with Christ' in the partaking of His Cup of
Life. It used to be his treat, when no one was looking, to read over
that Service in his Prayer-book, and to think of the time. It was
like a kind of step; he could fix his mind on that, and the sense of
forgiveness he hoped for therein, better than on the great change
that was coming; when there was much fear and shrinking from the
pain, and some dread of what as yet seemed strange and unknown, he
thought he should feel lifted up so as to be able to bear the
thought, when that holy Feast should have come to him.
All this made him much less occupied with himself, and he took much
more share in what was going on; he could be amused and playful,
cared for all that Ellen and Harold did, and was inclined to make the
most of his time with his brother. It was like old happy times, now
that Alfred had ceased to be fretful, and Harold took heed not to
One thing to which Alfred looked forward greatly, was Paul's being
able to come into his room, and the two on their opposite sides of
the wall made many pleasant schemes for the talk and reading that
were to go on. But when the day came, Alfred was more disappointed
Paul had been cased, by Lady Jane's orders, in flannel; he had over
that a pair of trousers of Alfred's—much too long, for the Kings
were very tall, and he was small and stunted in growth—and a great
wrapping-gown that Mr. Cope had once worn when he was ill at college,
and over his shaven head a night-cap that had been their father's.
Ellen, with many directions from Alfred, had made him up a couch
with three chairs, and the cushions Alfred used to have when he could
leave his bed; the fire was made up brightly, and Mrs. King and
Harold helped Paul into the room.
But all the rheumatic pain was by no means over, and walking made
him feel it; he was dreadfully weak, and was so giddy and faint after
the first few steps, that they could not bring him to shake hands with
Alfred as both had wished, but had to lay him down as fast as they
could. So tired was he, that he could hardly say anything all the
time he was there; and Alfred had to keep silence for fear of
wearying him still more. There was a sort of shyness, too, which
hindered the two from even letting their eyes meet, often as they had
heard each other's voices, and had greeted one another through the
thin partition. As Paul lay with his eyes shut, Alfred raised
himself to take a good survey of the sharp pinched features, the
hollow cheeks, deep-sunk pits for the eyes,—and yellow ghastly skin
of the worn face, and the figure, so small and wasted that it was
like nothing, curled up in all those wraps. One who could read faces
better than young Alfred could, would have gathered not only that the
boy who lay there had gone through a great deal, but that there was
much mind and thought crushed down by misery, and a gentle nature not
fit to stand up alone against it, and so sinking down without
And when Alfred was learning a verse of his favourite hymn -
'There is a rill whose waters rise—'
Paul's eye-lids rose, and looked him all over dreamily, comparing
him perhaps with the notions he had carried away from his two former
glimpses. Alfred did not look now so utterly different from anything
he had seen before, since Mrs. King and Ellen had been hovering round
his bed for nearly a month past; but still the fair skin, pink
colour, dark eye-lashes, glossy hair, and white hands, were like a
dream to him, as if they belonged to the pure land whither Alfred was
going, and he was quite loath to hear him speak like another boy, as
he knew he could do, having often listened to his talk through the
wall. At the least sign of Alfred's looking up, he turned away his
eyes as if he had been doing something by stealth.
He came in continually after this; and little things each day, and
Harold's talk, made the two acquainted and like boys together; but it
was not till Christmas Day that they felt like knowing each other.
It was the first time Paul felt himself able to be of any use, for
he was to be left in charge of Alfred, while Mrs. King and both her
other children went to church. Paul was sadly crippled still, and
every frost filled his bones with acute pain, and bent him like an
old man, so that he was still a long way from getting down-stairs,
but he could make a shift to get about the room, and he looked
greatly pleased when Alfred declared that he should want nobody else
to stay with him in the morning.
Very glad he was that his mother would not be kept from Ellen's
first Holy Communion. Owing to the Curate not being a priest, the
Feast had not been celebrated since Michaelmas; but a clergyman had
come to help Mr. Cope, that the parish might not be deprived of the
Festival on such a day as Christmas.
Harold, though in a much better mood than at the Confirmation time,
was not as much concerned to miss it as perhaps he ought to have
been. Thought had not come to him yet, and his head was full of the
dinner with the servants at the Grange. It was sad that he and Ellen
should alone be able to go to it; but it would be famous for all
that! Ay, and so were the young postman's Christmas-boxes!
So Paul and Alfred were left together, and held their tongues for
full five minutes, because both felt so odd. Then Alfred said
something about reading the Service, and Paul offered to read it to
Paul had not only been very well taught, but had a certain gift,
such as not many people have, for reading aloud well. Alfred listened
to those Psalms and Lessons as if they had quite a new meaning in
them, for the right sound and stress on the right words made them
sound quite like another thing; and so Alfred said when he left off.
'I'm sure they do to me,' said Paul. 'I didn't know much about
"good-will to men" last Christmas.'
'You've not had overmuch good-will from them, neither,' said
Alfred, 'since you came out.'
'What! not since I've been at Friarswood?' exclaimed Paul. 'Why, I
used to think all THAT was only something in a book.'
'All what?' asked Alfred.
'All about—why, loving one's neighbour—and the Good Samaritan,
and so on. I never saw any one do it, you know, but it was
comfortable like to read about it; and when I watched to your mother
and all of you, I saw how it was about one's neighbour; and then, what
with that and Mr. Cope's teaching, I got to feel how it was—about
God!' and Paul's face looked very grave and peaceful.
'Well,' said Alfred, 'I don't know as I ever cared about it
much—not since I was a little boy. It was the fun last Christmas.'
And Paul looking curious, Alfred told all about the going out for
holly, and the dining at the Grange, and the snap-dragon over the
pudding, till he grew so eager and animated that he lost breath, and
his painful cough came on, so that he could just whisper, 'What did
'Oh! I don't know. We had prayers, and there was roast beef for
dinner, but they gave it to me where it was raw, and I couldn't eat
it. Those that had friends went out; but 'twasn't much unlike other
'Poor Paul!' sighed Alfred.
'It won't be like that again, though,' said Paul, 'even if I was in
a Union. I know—what I know now.'
'And, Paul,' said Alfred, after a pause, 'there's one thing I
should like if I was you. You know our Blessed Saviour had no house
over Him, but was left out of the inn, and nobody cared for Him.'
Paul did not make any answer; and Alfred blushed all over.
Presently Alfred said, 'Harold will run in soon. I say, Paul,
would you mind reading me what they will say after the Holy
Sacrament—what the Angels sang is the beginning.'
Paul found it, and felt as if he must stand to read such praise.
'Thank you,' said Alfred. 'I'm glad Mother and Ellen are there.
They'll remember us, you know. Did you hear what Mr. Cope promised
Paul had not heard; and Alfred told him, adding, 'It will be the
Ember-week in Lent. You'll be one with me then, Paul?'
'I'd like to promise,' said Paul fervently; 'but you see, when I'm
'Oh, you won't go away for good. My Lady, or Mr. Cope, will get
you work; and I want you to be Mother's good son instead of me; and a
brother to Harold and Ellen.'
'I'd never go if I could help it,' said Paul; 'I sometimes wish I'd
never got better! I wish I could change with you, Alfred; nobody
would care if 'twas me; nor I'm sure I shouldn't.'
'I should like to get well!' said Alfred slowly, and sighing. 'But
then you've been a much better lad than I was.'
'I don't know why you should say that,' said Paul, with his hand
under his chin, rather moodily. 'But if I thought I could be good
and go on well, I would not mind so much. I say, Alfred, when people
round go on being—like Tom Boldre, you know—do you think one can
always feel that about God being one's Father, and church home, and
all the rest?'
'I can't say—I never tried,' said Alfred. 'But you know you can
always go to church—and then the Psalms and Lessons tell you those
things. Well, and you can go to the Holy Sacrament—I say, Paul, if
you take it the first time with me, you'll always remember me again
every time after.'
'I must be very odd ever to forget you!' said Paul, not far from
crying. 'Ha!' he exclaimed, 'they are coming out of church!'
'I want to say one thing more, while I've got it in my head,' said
Alfred. 'Mr. Cope said all this sickness was a cross to me, and I'd
got to take it up for our Saviour's sake. Well, and then mayn't
yours be being plagued and bullied, without any friends? I'm sure
something like it happened to our Lord; and He never said one word
against them. Isn't that the way you may be to follow Him?'
Illness and thought had made such things fully plain to Alfred, and
his words sank deep into Paul's mind; but there was not time for any
answer, for Harold was heard unlocking the door, and striding up
three steps at a time, sending his voice before him. 'Well, old
chaps, have you quarrelled yet? Have you been jolly together? I
say, Mrs. Crabbe told Ellen that the pudding was put into the boiler
at eight o'clock last night; and my Lady and Miss Jane went in to
give it a stir! I'm to bring you home a slice, you know; and Paul
will know what a real pudding is like.'
The two boys spent a happy quiet afternoon with Mrs. King; and
Charles Hayward brought all the singing boys down, that they might
hear the carols outside the window. Paul, much tired, was in his bed
by that time; but his last thought was that 'Good-will to Men' had
come home to him at last.
CHAPTER XI—BETTER DAYS FOR PAUL
Paul's reading was a great prize to Alfred, for he soon grew tired
himself; his sister could not spare time to read to him, and if she
did, she went mumbling on like a bee in a bottle. Her mother did
much the same, and Harold used to stumble and gabble, so that it was
horrible to hear him. Such reading as Paul's was a new light to them
all, and was a treat to Ellen as she worked as much as to Alfred; and
Paul, with hands as clean as Alfred's, was only too happy to get hold
of a book, and infinitely enjoyed the constant supply kept up by Miss
Selby, to make up for her not coming herself.
Then came the making out the accounts, a matter dreaded by all the
family. Ellen and Alfred both used to do the sums; but as they never
made them the same, Mrs. King always went by some reckoning of her
own by pencil dots on her thumb-nail, which took an enormous time,
but never went wrong. So the slate and the books came up after tea,
one night, and Ellen set to work with her mother to pick out every
one's bill. There might be about eight customers who had Christmas
bills; but many an accountant in a London shop would think eight
hundred a less tough business than did the King family these eight;
especially as there was a debtor and creditor account with four, and
coals, butcher's meat, and shoes for man and horse, had to be set
against bread, tea, candles, and the like.
One pound of tea, 3s. 6d., that was all very well; but an ounce and
a half of the same made Ellen groan, and look wildly at the corner
over Alfred's bed, as if in hopes she should there see how to set it
down, so as to work it.
'Fourpence, all but—' said a voice from the arm-chair by the fire.
Ellen did not take any particular heed, but announced the fact that
three shillings were thirty-six pence, and six was forty-two. Also
that sixteen ounces were one pound, and sixteen drams one ounce; but
there she got stuck, and began making figures and rubbing them out,
as if in hopes that would clear up her mind. Mrs. King pecked on for
ten minutes on her nail.
'Well,' she said, 'Paul's right; it is fourpence.'
'However did you do it?' asked Ellen.
'As 16 to 1.5, so 42,' quoth Paul quickly. 'Three halves into 42;
21 and 42 is 63; 63 by 16, gives 3 and fifteen-sixteenths. You can't
deduct a sixteenth of a penny, so call it fourpence.'
Ellen and Alfred were as wise as to the working as they were
Next question—Paul's answer came like the next line in the book—
Mrs. King proved him right, and so on till she was quite tired of the
proofs, and began to trust him. Alfred asked how he could possibly
do such things, which seemed to him a perfect riddle.
'I should have had my ears pretty nigh pulled off if I took five
minutes to work THAT in my head,' said Paul. 'But I've forgotten
things now; I could do it faster once.'
'I'm sure you hadn't need,' said Mrs. King; 'it's enough to
distract one's senses to count so fast. All in your poor head too!'
'And I've got to write them all out to-morrow,' said Ellen
dismally; 'I must wait till dark, or I shan't set a stitch of work. I
wish people would pay ready money, and then one wouldn't have to set
down their bills. Here's Mr. Cope, bread—bread—bread, as long as my
'If you didn't mind, maybe I could save you the trouble, Miss
Ellen,' said Paul.
'Did you ever make out a bill?' asked Mrs. King.
'Never a real one; but every Thursday I used to do sham ones. Once
I did a jeweller's bill for twelve thousand pounds and odd! It is so
long since I touched a pen, that may be I can't write; but I should
like to try.'
Ellen brought a pen, and the cover of a letter; and hobbling up to
the table, he took the pen, cleared it of a hair that was sticking in
it, made a scratch or two weakly and ineffectually, then wrote in a
neat clear hand, without running up or down, 'Friarswood, Christmas.'
'A pretty hand as ever I saw!' said Mrs. King. 'Well, if you can
write like that, and can be trusted to make no mistakes, you might
write out our bills; and we'd be obliged to you most kindly.'
And so Paul did, so neatly, that when the next evening Mr. Cope
walked in with the money, he said, looking at Harold, 'Ah! my ancient
Saxon, I must make my compliments to you: I did not think you could
write letters as well as you can carry them.'
''Twas Paul did it, Sir,' said Harold.
'Yes, Sir; 'twas Paul,' said Mrs. King. 'The lad is a wonderful
scholar: he told off all the sums as if they was in print; and to
hear him read—'tis like nothing I ever heard since poor Mrs. Selby,
Miss Jane's mother.'
'I saw he had been very well instructed—in acquaintance with the
Bible, and the like.'
'And, Sir, before I got to know him for a boy that would not give a
false account of himself, I used to wonder whether he could have run
away from some school, and have friends above the common. If you
observe, Sir, he speaks so remarkably well.'
Mr. Cope had observed it. Paul spoke much better English than did
even the Kings; though Ellen was by way of being very particular, and
sometimes a little mincing.
'You are quite sure it is not so?' he said, a little startled at
Mrs. King's surmise.
'Quite sure now, Sir. I don't believe he would tell a falsehood on
no account; and besides, poor lad!' and she smiled as the tears came
into her eyes, 'he's so taken to me, he wouldn't keep nothing back
from me, no more than my own boys.'
'I'm sure he ought not, Mrs. King,' said the Curate, 'such a mother
to him as you have been. I should like to examine him a little. With
so much education, he might do something better for himself than
'A very good thing it would be, Sir,' said Mrs. King, looking much
cheered; 'for I misdoubt me sometimes if he'll ever be strong enough
to gain his bread that way—at least, not to be a good workman.
There! he's not nigh so tall as Harold; and so slight and skinny as
he is, going about all bent and slouching, even before his illness!
Why, he says what made him stay so long in the Union was that he
looked so small and young, that none of the farmers at Upperscote
would take him from it; and so at last he had to go on the tramp.'
Mr. Cope went up-stairs, and found Ellen, as usual, at her needle,
and Paul in the arm-chair close by Alfred, both busied in choosing
and cutting out pictures from Matilda's 'Illustrated News,' with
which Harold ornamented the wall of the stair-case and landing. Mr.
Cope sat down, and made them laugh with something droll about the
figures that were lying spread on Alfred.
'So, Paul,' he said, 'I find Mrs. King has engaged you for her
'I wish I could do anything to be of any use,' said Paul.
'I've half a mind to ask you some questions in arithmetic,' said
Mr. Cope, with his merry eyes upon the boy, and his mouth looking
grave; 'only I'm afraid you might puzzle me.'
'I can't do as I used, Sir,' said Paul, rather nervously; 'I've
forgotten ever so much; and my head swims.'
The slate was lying near; Mr. Cope pushed it towards him, and said,
'Well, will you mind letting me see how you can write from
And taking up one of the papers, he read slowly several sentences
from a description of a great fire, with some tolerably long-winded
newspaper words in them. When he paused, and asked for the slate,
there it all stood, perfectly spelt, well written, and with all the
stops and capitals in the right places.
'Famously done, Paul! Well, and do you know where this place was?'
naming the town.
Paul turned his eyes about for a moment, and then gave the name of
'That'll do, Paul. Which part of England?'
And so on, Mr. Cope got him out of his depth by asking about the
rivers, and made him frown and look teased by a question about a
battle fought in that county. If he had ever known, he had
forgotten, and he was weak and easily confused; but Mr. Cope saw that
he had read some history and learnt some geography, and was not like
some of the village boys, who used to think Harold had been called
after Herod—a nice namesake, truly!
'Who taught you all this, Paul?' he said. 'You must have had a
cleverer master than is common in Unions. Who was he?'
'He was a Mr. Alcock, Sir. He was a clever man. They said in the
House that he had been a bit of a gentleman, a lawyer, or a clerk, or
something, but that he could never keep from the bottle.'
'What! and so they keep him for a school-master?'
'He was brought in, Sir; he'd got that mad fit that comes of drink,
Sir, and was fresh out of gaol for debt. And when he came to, he
said he'd keep the school for less than our master that was gone. He
couldn't do anything else, you see.'
'And how did he teach you?'
'He knocked us about,' said Paul, drawing his shoulders together
with an unpleasant recollection; 'he wasn't so bad to me, because I
liked getting my tasks, and when he was in a good humour, he'd say I
was a credit to him, and order me in to read to him in the evening.'
'And when he was not?'
'That was when he'd been out. They said he'd been at the gin-shop;
but he used to be downright savage,' said Paul. 'At last he never
thought it worth while to teach any lessons but mine, and I used to
hear the other classes; but the inspector came all on a sudden, and
found it out one day when he'd hit a little lad so that his nose was
bleeding, and so he was sent off.'
'How long ago was this?'
'Going on for a year,' said Paul.
'Didn't the inspector want you to go to a training-school?' said
'Yes; but the Guardians wouldn't hear of it.'
'Did you wish it?' asked Mr. Cope.
'I liked my liberty, Sir,' was the answer; and Paul looked down.
'Well, and what you do think now you've tried your liberty?'
Paul didn't make any answer, but finding that good-humoured face
still waiting, he said slowly, 'Why, Sir, it was well-nigh the worst
of all to find I was getting as stupid as the cows.'
Mr. Cope laughed, but not so as to vex him; and added, 'So that was
the way you learnt to be a reader, Paul. Can you tell me what books
you used to read to this master?'
Paul paused; and Alfred said, '"Uncle Tom's Cabin," Sir; he told us
the story of that.'
'Yes,' said Paul; 'but that wasn't all: there was a book about
Paris, and all the people in the back lanes there; and a German
prince who came, and was kind.'
'You must not tell them stories out of that book, Paul,' said Mr.
Cope quickly, for he knew it was a very bad one.
'No, Sir,' said Paul; 'but most times it was books he called
philosophy, that I couldn't make anything of—no story, and all dull;
but he was very savage if I got to sleep over them, till I hated the
sight of them.'
'I'm glad you did, my poor boy,' said Mr. Cope. 'But one thing
more. Tell me how, with such a man as this, you could have learnt
about the Bible and Catechism, as you have done.'
'Oh,' said Paul, 'we had only the Bible and Testament to read in
the school, because they were the cheapest; and the chaplain asked us
about the Catechism every Sunday.'
'What was the chaplain's name?'
Paul was able, with some recollection, to answer; but he knew
little about the clergyman, who was much overworked, and seldom able
to give any time to the paupers.
Three days after, Mr. Cope again came into the post-office.
'Well, Mrs. King, I suppose you don't need to be told that our
friend Paul has spoken nothing but truth. The chaplain sends me his
baptismal registry, for which I asked. Just seventeen he must be—a
foundling, picked up at about three weeks old, January 25th, 1836.
They fancy he was left by some tramping musicians, but never were
able to trace them—at least, so the chaplain hears from some of the
people who remember it. Being so stunted, and looking younger than
he is, no farmer would take him from the House, and the school-master
made him useful, so he was kept on till the grand exposure that he
told us of.'
'Ah! Sir,' said Mrs. King,' I'm afraid that master was a bad man.
I only wonder the poor lad learnt no more harm from him!'
'One trembles to think of the danger,' said Mr. Cope; 'but you see
there's often a guard over those who don't seek the temptation, and
perhaps this poor fellow's utter ignorance of anything beyond the
Union walls helped him to let the mischief pass by his understanding,
better than if he had had any experience of the world.'
'I doubt if he'll ever have that, Sir,' said Mrs. King, her
sensible face lighting up rather drolly; 'there's Harold always
laughing at him for being so innocent, and yet so clever at his book.'
'So much the better for him,' said Mr. Cope. 'The Son of Sirach
never said a wiser word than that "the knowledge of wickedness is not
wisdom." Why, Mrs. King, what have I said? you look as if you had a
great mind to laugh at me.'
'I beg your pardon, Sir,' said Mrs. King, much disconcerted at what
seemed to her as if it might have been disrespect, though that was
only Mr. Cope's droll way of putting it, 'I never meant—'
'Well, but what were you thinking of?'
'Why, Sir, I beg your pardon, but I was thinking it wouldn't have
been amiss if he had had sense enough to keep himself clean and
'I agree with you,' said Mr. Cope, laughing, and seeing she used
'innocent' in a slightly different sense from what he did; 'but
perhaps Union cleanliness was not inviting, and he'd not had you to
bring him up to fresh cheeks like Harold's. Besides, I believe it
was half depression and want of heart to exert himself, when there
was no one to care for him; and he certainly had not been taught
either self-respect, or to think cleanliness next to godliness.'
'Poor lad—no,' said Mrs. King; 'nor I don't think he'd do it
again, and I trust he'll never be so lost again.'
'Lost, and found,' said Mr. Cope gravely. 'Another thing I was
going to say was, that this irreverent economy of the Guardians, in
allowing no lesson-books but the Bible, seems to have, after all,
been blest to him in his knowledge of it, like an antidote to the
evil the master poured in.'
'Yes, Sir,' said Mrs. King, 'just so; only he says, that though he
liked it, because, poor lad, there was nothing else that seemed to
him to speak kind or soft, he never knew how much it was meant for
him, nor it didn't seem to touch him home till he came to you, Sir.'
Mr. Cope half turned away. His bright eyes had something very like
a tear in them, for hardly anything could have been said to make the
young clergyman so happy, as to tell him that any work of his should
be blessed; but he went on talking quickly, to say that the chaplain
gave a still worse account of Alcock than Paul's had been, saying
that some gentlemen who had newly become Guardians at the time of the
inspector's visit, had taken up the matter, and had been perfectly
shocked at the discoveries they had made about the man to whom the
poor children had been entrusted.
On his dismissal, some of the old set, who were all for cheapness,
had talked of letting young Blackthorn act as school-master; but as
he was so very young, and had been brought up by this wretched man,
the gentlemen would not hear of it; and as they could not afford to
accept the inspector's offer of recommending him to a government
school, he had been sent out in quest of employment, as being old
enough to provide for himself. Things had since, the chaplain said,
been put on a much better footing, and he himself had much more time
to attend to the inmates. As to Paul, he was glad to hear that he
was in good hands; he said he had always perceived him to be a very
clever boy, and knew no harm of him but that he was a favourite with
Alcock, which he owned had made him very glad to get him out of the
House, lest he should carry on the mischief.
Mr. Cope and Mrs. King were both of one mind, that this was hard
measure. So it was. Man's measure always is either over hard or
over soft, because he cannot see all sides at once. Now they saw
Paul's side, his simplicity, and his suffering; the chaplain had only
seen the chances of his conveying the seeds of ungodly teaching to
the workhouse children; he could not tell that the pitch which Paul
had not touched by his own will, had not stuck by him—probably owing
to that very simplicity which had made him so helpless in common
Having learnt all this, Mr. Cope proposed to Paul to use the time
of his recovery in learning as much as he could, so as to be ready in
case any opportunity should offer for gaining his livelihood by his
head rather than by his hands.
Paul's face glowed. He liked nothing better than to be at a book,
and with Mr. Cope to help him by bright encouragements and good-
natured explanations instead of tweaks of the ears and raps on the
knuckles, what could be pleasanter? So Mr. Cope lent him books, set
him questions, and gave him pen, ink, and copy-book, and he toiled
away with them till his senses grew dazed, and his back ached beyond
bearing; so that 'Mother,' as he called her now, caught him up, and
made him lie on his bed to rest, threatening to tell Mr. Cope not to
set him anything so hard; while Ellen watched in wonder at any one
being so clever, and was proud of whatever Mr. Cope said he did well;
and Harold looked on him as a more extraordinary creature than the
pie-bald horse in the show, who wore a hat and stood on his hind
legs, since he really was vexed when book and slate were taken out of
He would have over-tasked himself in his weakness much more, if it
had not been for his lovingness to Alfred. To please Alfred was
always his first thought; and even if a difficult sum were just on
the point of proving itself, he would leave off at the first moment
of seeing Alfred look as if he wanted to be read to, and would miss
all his calculations, to answer some question—who was going down the
village, or what that noise could be.
Alfred tried to be considerate, and was sorry when he saw by a
furrow on Paul's brow that he was trying to win up again all that some
trifling saying had made him lose. But Alfred was not scholar enough
to perceive the teasing of such interruptions, and even had he been
aware of it, he was not in a state when he could lie quite still long
together without disturbing any one; he could amuse himself much less
than formerly, and often had most distressing restless fits, when one
or other of them had to give him their whole attention; and it was
all his most earnest efforts could do to keep from the old habit of
fretfulness and murmuring. And he grieved so much over the least
want of temper, and begged pardon so earnestly for the least
impatient word—even if there had been real provocation for it—that
it was a change indeed since the time when he thought grumbling and
complaint his privilege and relief. Nothing helped him more than
Paul's reading Psalms to him—the 121st was his favourite—or saying
over hymns to him in that very sweet voice so full of meaning.
Sometimes Ellen and Paul would sing together, as she sat at her work,
and it almost always soothed him to hear the Psalm tunes, that were
like an echo from the church, about which he had cared so little when
he had been able to go there in health and strength, but for which he
now had such a longing! He came to be so used to depend on their
singing the Evening Hymn to him, that one of the times when it was
most hard for him to be patient, was one cold evening, when Ellen was
so hoarse that she could not speak, and an unlucky draught in from
the shop door had so knit Paul up again, that he was lying in his
bed, much nearer screaming than singing.
Most of all, however, was Alfred helped by Mr. Cope's visits, and
the looking forward to the promised Feast, with more earnestness as
the time drew on, and he felt his own weakness more longing for the
support and blessing of uniting his suffering with that of his Lord.
'In all our afflictions He was afflicted,' was a sound that came most
cheeringly to him, and seemed to give him greater strength and good-
will to bear his load of weakness.
There was a book which young Mrs. Selby had given his mother, which
was often lying on his bed, and had marks in it at all the favourite
places. Some he liked to look at himself, some for Paul to read to
him. They were such sentences as these:
'My son, I descended from Heaven for thy salvation; I took upon Me
thy miseries; not necessity, but charity, drawing Me thereto, that
thou thyself mightest learn patience, and bear temporal miseries
'For from the hour of My Birth, even until My Death on the Cross, I
was not without suffering and grief.'
And then again:
'Offer up thyself unto Me, and give thyself wholly for God, and thy
offering shall be acceptable.'
'Behold, I offered up Myself wholly unto My Father for thee, and
gave My whole Body and Blood for thy food, that I might be wholly
thine, and that thou mightest continue Mine unto the end.'
So he might think of all that he went through as capable of being
made a free offering, which God would accept for the sake of the One
Great Offering, 'consuming and burning away' (as the book said) 'all
his sins with the fire of Christ's love, and cleansing his conscience
from all offences.' It was what he now felt in the words, 'Thy Will
be done,' which he tried to say in full earnest; but he thought he
should be very happy when he should go along with the offering
ourselves, our souls, and bodies, to be a 'reasonable, holy, and
Each of Mr. Cope's readings brought out or confirmed these
refreshing hopes; and Paul likewise dwelt on such thoughts. Hardship
had been a training to him, like sickness for Alfred; he knew what it
was to be weary and heavy laden, and to want rest, and was ready to
draw closer to the only Home and Father that he could claim. His
gentle unresisting spirit was one that so readily forgot ill-will,
that positively Harold cherished more dislike to the Shepherds than he
did; and there was no struggle to forgive, no lack of charity for all
men, so that hope and trust were free.
These two boys were a great deal to the young deacon. Perhaps he
reckoned on his first ministration as a priest by Alfred's bedside,
as much or even more than did the lad, for to him the whole household
were as near and like-minded friends, though neither he nor they ever
departed from the fitting manners of their respective stations. He
was one who liked to share with others what was near his heart, and
he had shewn Alfred the Service for the Ordination of Priests, and
the Prayers for Grace that would be offered, and the holy vows that
he would take upon him, and the words with which those great Powers
would be conferred—those Powers that our Chief Shepherd left in
trust for the pastors who feed His flock.
And once he had bent down and whispered to Alfred to pray that help
might be given to him to use those powers faithfully.
So wore on the early spring; and the morning had come when he was
to set out for the cathedral town, when Harold rode up to the
parsonage door, and something in his looks as he passed the window
made Mr. Cope hasten to the door to meet him.
'O Sir!' said Harold, bursting out crying as he began to speak,
'poor Alfred is took so bad; and Mother told me to tell you, Sir—if
he's not better—he'll never live out the day!'
Poor Harold, who had never seemed to heed his brother's illness,
was quite overwhelmed now. It had come upon him all at once.
'What is it? Has the doctor been?'
'No, Sir; I went in at six o'clock this morning to ask him to come
out, and he said he'd come—and sent him a blister—but Alf was worse
by the time I got back, Sir,—he can't breathe—and don't seem to
And without another word, nor waiting for comfort, Harold dug his
heels into Peggy, passed his elbow over his eyes, and cantered on
with the tears drying on his face in the brisk March wind.
There was no finishing breakfast for the Curate; he thrust his
letters into his pocket, caught up his hat, and walked off with long
strides for the post-office.
It shewed how different things were from usual, that Paul, who had
hardly yet been four times down-stairs, his thin pointed face all in
a flush, was the only person in the shop, trying with a very shaky
hand to cut out some cheese for a great stout farm maid-servant, who
evidently did not understand what was the matter, and stared doubly
when the clergyman put his strong hand so as to steady Paul's
trembling one, and gave his help to fold up the parcel.
'How is he, Paul?'
Paul was very near crying as he answered, 'Much worse, Sir. Mother
has been up all night with him. O Sir! he did so want to live till
you came home.'
'May I go up?' asked Mr. Cope.
Paul was sure that he might, and crept up after him. It was bad
enough, but not quite so bad as Harold, in his fright, had made Mr.
Cope believe. Poor boy! it had all come upon him now; and seeing his
brother unable to speak and much oppressed, he fancied he did not
know him, whereas Alfred was fully sensible, though too ill to do
more than lift his eyes, and put out his weak fingers as Mr. Cope
came into the room, where he was lying raised on his pillows, with
his mother and sister doing all they could for him.
A terrible pain in the side had come on in the night, making every
breath painful, every cough agonizing, and his whole face and brow
were crimson with the effort of gasping.
Paul looked a moment but could not bear it, and went, and sat down
on the top of the stairs; while Mr. Cope kindly held Alfred's hot
hand, and Mrs. King, in her low patient tone, told how the attack had
She was in the midst, when Mr. Blunt's gig was seen at the gate.
His having thus hastened his coming was more than they had dared to
hope; and while Mrs. King felt grateful for the kindness, Ellen feared
that it shewed that he thought very badly of the case.
Mr. Cope was much hurried, but he could not bear to go till he had
heard Mr. Blunt's opinion; so he went down to the kitchen, tried to
console Paul by talking kindly to him, wrote a note, and read his
They were much comforted to hear that Mr. Blunt thought that there
was hope of subduing the present inflammatory pain; and though there
was much immediate danger, it was not hastening so very fast to the
end as they had at first supposed. Yet, in such a state as Alfred's,
a few hours might finish all. There was no saying.
Already, when Mr. Cope went up again, the remedies had given some
relief; and though the breaths came short and hard, like so many
stabs, Alfred had put his head into an easier position, and his eyes
and lips looked more free to look a greeting. There was so much
wistful earnestness in his face, and it deeply grieved Mr. Cope to be
forced to leave him, and in too much haste even to be able to pray
'Well, Alfred, dear fellow,' he said, his voice trembling, 'I am
come to wish you good-bye. I am comforted to find that Mr. Blunt
thinks there is good hope that you will be here—that we shall be
together when I come back. Yes, I know that is what is on your mind,
and I do reckon most earnestly on it; but if it should not be His
Will—here, Ellen, will you take care of this note? If he should be
worse, will you send this to Mr. Carter, at Ragglesford? and I know he
will come at once.'
The dew stood on Alfred's eye-lashes, and his lips worked. He
looked up sadly to Mr. Cope, as if this did not answer his longings.
Mr. Cope replied to the look—'Yes, dear boy, but if it cannot be,
still remember it is Communion. He can put us together. We all
drink into one Spirit. I shall be engaged in a like manner—I would
not—I could not go, Alfred, for pleasure—no, nor business—only for
this. You must think that I am gone to bring you home the Gift—the
greatest, best Gift—the one our Lord left with His disciples, to
bear them through their sorrows and pains—through the light
affliction that is but for a moment, but worketh an exceeding weight
of glory. And if I should not be in time,' he added, nearly sobbing
as he spoke, 'then—then, Alfred, the Gift, the blessing is yours all
the same. It is the Great High Priest to Whom you must look—perhaps
you may do so the more really if it should not be through—your
friend. If we are disappointed, we will make a sacrifice of our
disappointment. Good-bye, my boy; God bless you!' Bending close
down to his face, he whispered, 'Think of me. Pray for me—now—
always.' Then, rising hastily, he shook the hands of the mother and
sister, ran down-stairs, and was gone.
CHAPTER XII—REST AT LAST
The east wind had been swept aside by gales from the warm south,
and the spring was bursting out everywhere; the sky looked softly
blue, instead of hard and chill; the sun made everything glisten: the
hedges were full of catkins; white buds were on the purple twigs of
the blackthorns; primroses were looking out on the sunny side of the
road; the larks were mounting up, singing as if they were wild with
delight; and the sunbeams were full of dancing gnats, as the Curate
of Friarswood walked, with quick eager steps, towards the bridge.
His eyes were anxiously bent on the house, watching the white smoke
rising from the chimney; then he hastened on to gain the first sight
at the upper windows, feeling almost as he could have done had it
been a brother who lay there; so much was his heart set on the first
whom he had striven to help through the valley of the shadow of
death. The window was open, but the blind was not drawn; and almost
at the same moment the gate opened, some one looked out, and seeing
him, waved his hand and arm in joyful signal towards some one within,
and this gesture set Mr. Cope's heart at rest.
Was it Harold? No, it was Paul Blackthorn, who stood leaning on
the wicket, as he held it open for the clergyman, at whom he looked up
as if expecting some change, and a little surprised to find the same
voice and manner.
'Well, Paul, then he is not worse?'
'No, Sir, thank you, he is better. The pain has left him, and he
can speak again,' said Paul, but not very cheerfully.
'That is a great comfort! But who's that?' as a head, not Ellen's,
appeared for a moment at the window.
'That's Miss King, Sir—Miss Matilda!'
'Oh! Well, and how are the bones, Paul? Better, I hope, since I
see you are come out with the bees,' said Mr. Cope, laying his hand
kindly on his shoulder (a thing fit to touch now, since it was in a
fustian coat of poor Alfred's), and accommodating his swift strong
steps to the feeble halt with which Paul still moved.
'Thank you, Sir, yes; I've been down here twice when the sun was
out,' he said, as if it were a grand undertaking; but then, with a
sudden smile, 'and poor Caesar knew me, Sir; he came right across the
road, and wagged his tail, and licked my hand.'
'Good old Caesar! You were his best friend, Paul.—Well, Mrs.
King, this is a blessing!'
Mrs. King looked sadly worn out with nursing, and her eyes were
full of tears.
'Yes, Sir,' she said, 'indeed it is. My poor darling has been so
much afraid he was too much set on your coming home, and yet so
patient and quiet about it.'
'Then you ventured to wait?'
And Mr. Cope heard that the attack of inflammation had given way to
remedies, but that Alfred was so much weakened, that they could not
raise him again. He was sustained by as much nourishment as they
could give him: but the disease had made great progress, and Mr.
Blunt did not think that he could last many days. His eldest sister
had come for a fortnight from her place, and was a great comfort to
them all. 'And so is Paul,' said Mrs. King, looking for him kindly;
'I don't know what we should do without his help up-stairs and down.
And, Sir, yesterday,' she added, colouring a good deal—'I beg your
pardon, but I thought, maybe, you'd like to hear it—Alfred would
have nobody else up with him in morning church-time—and made him
read the most—of that Service, Sir.'
Mr. Cope's eyes glistened, and he said something huskily of being
glad that Alfred could think of it.
It further appeared that Alfred had wished very much to see Miss
Selby again, and that Mrs. King had sent the two sisters to the
Grange to talk it over with Mrs. Crabbe, and word had been sent by
Harold that morning that the young lady would come in the course of
Mr. Cope followed Mrs. King up-stairs; Alfred's face lighted up as
his sister Matilda made way for the clergyman. He was very white,
and his breath was oppressed; but his look had changed very much—it
had a strange, still sort of brightness and peace about it. He spoke
in very low tones, just above a whisper, and smiled as Mr. Cope took
his hand, and spoke to him.
'Thank you, Sir. It is very nice,' he said.
'I thank God that He has let you wait for me,' said Mr. Cope.
'I am glad,' said Alfred. 'I did want to pray for it; but I
thought, perhaps, if it was not His Will, I would not—and then what
you said. And now He is making it all happy.'
'And you do not grieve over your year of illness?'
'I would not have been without it—no,' said Alfred, very quietly,
but with much meaning.
'"It is good for me that I have been in trouble," is what you
mean,' said Mr. Cope.
'It has made our Saviour seem—I mean—He is so good to me,' said
But talking made him cough, and that brought a line in the fair
forehead so full of peace. Mr. Cope would not say more to him, and
asked his mother whether the Feast, for which he had so much longed,
should be on the following day. She thought it best that it should
be so; and Alfred again said, 'Thank you, Sir,' with the serene
expression on his face. Mr. Cope read a Psalm and a prayer to him,
and thinking him equal to no more, went away, pausing, however, for a
little talk with Paul in the shop.
Paul did not say so, but, poor fellow, he had been rather at a loss
since Matilda had come. In herself, she was a very good, humble,
sensible girl; but she wore a dark silk dress, and looked, moved, and
spoke much more like a lady than Ellen: Paul stood in great awe of
her, and her presence seemed all at once to set him aloof from the
He had been like one of themselves for the last three months, now
he felt that he was like a beggar among them; he did not like to call
Mrs. King mother, lest it should seem presuming; Ellen seemed to be
raised up the same step as her sister, and even Alfred was almost out
of his reach; Matilda read to him, and Paul's own good feeling shewed
him that he would be only in the way if he spent all his time in
Alfred's room as formerly; so he kept down-stairs in the morning, and
went to bed very early. Nobody was in the least unkind to him: but
he had just begun to grieve at being a burden so long, and to wonder
how much longer he should be in getting his health again. And then
it might be only to be cast about the world, and to lose his one
glimpse of home kindness. Poor boy! he still cried at the thought of
how happy Alfred was.
He did all he could to be useful, but he could scarcely manage to
stoop down, could carry nothing heavy, and moved very slowly; and he
now and then made a dreadful muddle in the shop, when a customer was
not like Mrs. Hayward, who told him where everything was, and the
price of all she wanted, as well as Mrs. King could do herself. He
could sort the letters and see to the post-office very well; and for
all his blunders, he did so much by his good-will, that when Mrs.
King wanted to cheer him up, she declared that he saved her all the
expense of having in a woman from the village to help, and that he
did more about the house than Harold.
This was true: for Harold did not like doing anything but manly
things, as he called them; whereas Paul did not care what it was, so
that it saved trouble to her or Ellen.
Talking and listening to Harold was one use of Paul. Now that it
had come upon him, and he saw Alfred worse from day to day, the poor
boy was quite broken-hearted. Possibly, when at his work, or riding,
he managed to shake off the remembrance; but at home it always came
back, and he cried so much at the sight of Alfred, and at any attempt
of his brother to talk to him, that they could scarcely let him stay
ten minutes in the room. Then, when Paul had gone to bed on the
landing at seven o'clock, he would come and sit on his bed, and talk,
and cry, and sob about his brother, and his own carelessness of him,
often till his mother came out and ordered him down-stairs to his own
bed in the kitchen; and Paul turned his face into the pillow to weep
himself to sleep, loving Alfred very little less than did his
brother, but making less noise about it, and feeling very lonely when
he saw how all the family cared for each other.
So Mr. Cope's kind manner came all the more pleasantly to him; and
after some talk on what they both most cared about, Mr. Cope said,
'Paul, Mr. Shaw of Berryton tells me he has a capital school-master,
but in rather weak health, and he wants to find a good intelligent
youth to teach under him, and have opportunities of improving
himself. Five pounds a year, and board and lodgings. What do you
think of it, Paul?'
Paul's sallow face began growing red, and he polished the counter,
on which he was leaning; then, as Mr. Cope repeated, 'Eh, Paul?' he
said slowly, and in his almost rude way, 'They wouldn't have me if
they knew how I'd been brought up.'
'Perhaps they would if they knew what you've come to in spite of
bringing up. And,' added Mr. Cope, 'they are not so much pressed for
time but that they can wait till you've quite forgotten your tumble
into the Ragglesford. We must fatten you—get rid of those spider-
fingers, and you and I must do a few more lessons together—and I
think Mrs. King has something towards your outfit; and by
Whitsuntide, I told Mr. Shaw that I thought I might send him what I
call a very fair sample of a good steady lad.'
Paul did not half seem to take it in—perhaps he was too unhappy,
or it sounded like sending him away again; or, maybe, such a great
step in life was more than he could comprehend, after the outcast
condition to which he had been used: but Mr. Cope could not go on
talking to him, for the Grange carriage was stopping at the gate, and
Matilda and Ellen were both coming down-stairs to receive Miss Jane.
Poor little thing, she looked very pale and nervous; and as she shook
hands with the Curate, as he met her in the garden-path, she said
with a startled manner, 'Oh! Mr. Cope—were you there? Am I
'Not at all,' he said. 'I had only called in as I came home, and
had just come down again.'
'Is it—is it very dreadful?' murmured Jane, with a sort of gasp.
She was so entirely unused to scenes of sadness or pain, that it was
very strange and alarming to her, and it was more difficult than ever
to believe her no younger than Ellen.
'Very far from dreadful or distressing,' said Mr. Cope kindly, for
he knew it was not her fault that she had been prevented from
overcoming such feelings, and that this was a great effort of
kindness. 'It is a very peaceful, soothing sight—he is very happy,
and not in a suffering state.'
'Oh, will you tell Grandmamma?' said Jane, with her pretty look of
earnestness; 'she is so much afraid of its much for me, and she was
so kind in letting me come.'
So Miss Selby went on to the two sisters, and Mr. Cope proceeded to
the carriage, where Lady Jane had put out her head, glad to be able
to ask him about the state of affairs. Having nothing but this
little grand-daughter left to her, the old lady watched over her with
almost over-tender care, and was in much alarm both lest the air of
the sick-room should be unwholesome, or the sight too sorrowful for
her; and though she was too kind to refuse the wish of the dying boy,
she had come herself, in order that 'the child,' as she called her,
might not stay longer than was good for her; and she was much
relieved to hear Mr. Cope's account of Alfred's calm state, and of
the freshness of the clean room, in testimony of which he pointed to
the open window.
'Yes,' she said, 'I hope Mary King was wise enough; but I hardly
knew how it might be with such a number about the house—that boy and
all. He is not gone, is he?'
'No, he is not nearly well enough yet, though he does what he can
to be useful to her. When he is recovered, I have a scheme for him.'
So Mr. Cope mentioned Mr. Shaw's proposal, by which my Lady set
more store than did Paul as yet. Very kind-hearted she was, though
she did not fancy adopting chance-comers into her parish; and as long
as he was not saddled upon Mary King, as she said, she was very glad
of any good for him; so she told Mr. Cope to come to her for what he
might want to fit him out properly for the situation; and turning her
keen eyes on him as he stood near the cottage door, pronounced that,
after all, he was a nice, decent-looking lad enough, which certainly
her Ladyship would not have said before his illness.
Miss Jane did not stay long. Indeed, Alfred could not talk to her,
and she did not know what to say to him; she could only stand by his
bed, with the tears upon her cheeks, making little murmuring sounds
in answer to Mrs. King, who said for her son what she thought he
wished to have said. Meanwhile, Jane was earnestly looking at him,
remarking with awe, that, changed as he was since she had last seen
him—so much more wasted away—the whole look of his face was altered
by the gentleness and peace that it had gained, so as to be like the
white figure of a saint.
She could not bear it when Mrs. King told her Alfred wanted to
thank her for all her kindness in coming to see him. 'Oh, no,' she
said, 'I was not kind at all;' and her tears would not be hindered.
'Only, you know, I could not help it.'
Alfred gave her a bright look. Any one could see what a pleasure
it was to him to be looking at her again, though he did not repent of
his share in the sacrifice for Paul's sake. No, if Paul had been
given up that Miss Jane might come to him, Alfred would not have had
the training that made all so sweet and calm with him now. He turned
his head to the little picture, and said, 'Thank you, Ma'am, for
that. That's been my friend.'
'Yes, indeed it has, Miss Jane,' said his mother. 'There's nothing
you ever did for him that gave him the comfort that has been.'
'And please, Ma'am,' said Alfred, 'will you tell my Lady—I give
her my duty—and ask her pardon for having behaved so bad—and Mrs.
Crabbe—and the rest?'
'I will, Alfred; but every one has forgiven that nonsense long
'It was very bad of me,' said Alfred, pausing for breath; 'and so
it was not to mind you—Miss Jane—when you said I was ill for a
'Did I?' said Jane.
'Yes—in hay-time—I mind it—I didn't mind for long—but 'twas
true. He had patience with me.'
The cough came on, and Jane knew she must go; her grandmother had
bidden her not to stay if it were so, and she just ventured to
squeeze Alfred's hand, and then went down-stairs, checking her tears,
to wish Matilda and Ellen good-bye; and as she passed by Paul, told
him not to uncover his still very short-haired head, and kindly hoped
he was better.
Paul, in his dreary feelings, hardly thought of Mr. Cope's plan,
till, as he was getting the letters ready for Harold, he turned up
one in Mr. Cope's writing, addressed to the 'Rev. A. Shaw, Berryton,
'That's to settle for me, then,' he said; and Harold who was at
tea, asking, 'What's that?' he explained.
'Well,' said Harold, 'every one to his taste! I wouldn't go to
school again, not for a hundred pounds; and as to KEEPING school!'
(Such a face as he made really caused Paul to smile.) 'Nor you don't
half like it, neither,' continued Harold. 'Come, you'd better stay
and get work here! I'd sooner be at the plough-tail all day, than
poke out my eyes over stuff like that,' pointing to Paul's slate,
covered with figures. 'Here, Nelly,' as she moved about, tidying the
room, 'do you hear? Mr. Cope's got an offer of a place for Paul—
five pounds a year, and board and lodging, to be school-master's
whipper-in, or what d'ye call it?'
'What do you say, Harold?' cried Ellen, putting her hands on the
back of a chair, quite interested. 'You going away, Paul?'
'Mr. Cope says so—and I must get my living, you know,' said Paul.
'But not yet; you are not well enough yet,' said the kind girl.
'And where did you say—?'
'Berryton—oh! that's just four miles out on the other side of
Elbury, where Susan Congleton went to live that was housemaid at the
Grange. She says it's such a nice place, and such beautiful organ
and singing at church! And what did you say you were to be, Paul?'
'I'm to help the school-master.'
'Gracious me!' cried Ellen. 'Why, such a scholar as you are,
you'll be quite a gentleman yet, Paul. Why, they school-masters get
fifty or sixty pounds salaries sometimes. I protest it's the best
thing I've heard this long time! Was it Mr. Cope's doing, or my
'Mr. Cope's,' said Paul, beginning to think he had been rather less
grateful than he ought.
'Ah! it is like him,' said Ellen, 'after all the pains he has taken
with you. And you'll not be so far off, Paul: you'll come to see us
in the holidays, you know.'
'To be sure he will,' said Harold; 'or if he don't, I shall go and
'Of course he will,' said Ellen, with her hand on Paul's chair, and
speaking low and affectionately to console him, as she saw him so
downcast; 'don't you know how poor Alfy says he's come to be instead
of a son to Mother, and a brother to us? I must go up and tell Alf
and mother. They'll be so pleased.'
Paul felt very differently about the plan now. All the house
congratulated him upon it, and Matilda evidently thought more of him
now that she found he was to have something to do. But such things
as these were out of sight beside that which was going on in the room
Alfred slept better that night, and woke so much revived, that they
thought him better: and Harold, greatly comforted about him, stood
tolerably quietly by his side, listening to one or two things that
Alfred had longed for months past to say to him.
'Promise me, Harold dear, that you'll be a good son to Mother:
you'll be the only one now.'
Harold made a bend of his head like a promise.
'O Harold, be good to her!' went on Alfred earnestly; 'she's had so
much trouble! I do hope God will leave you to her—if you are steady
and good. Do, Harold! She's not like some, as don't care what their
lads get to. And don't take after me, and be idle! Be right-down
good, Harold, as Paul is; and when you come to be ill—oh! it won't
be so bad for you as it was for me!'
'I do want to be good,' sighed Harold. 'If I'd only been
confirmed; but 'twas all along of them merries last summer!'
'And I was such a plague to you—I drove you out,' said Alfred.
'No, no, I was a brute to you! Oh! Alfy, Alfy, if I could only get
back the time!'
He was getting to the sobs that hurt his brother; and his sister
was going to interfere; but Alfred said:
'Never mind, Harold dear, we've been very happy together, and we'll
always love each other. You'll not forget Alf, and you'll be
Mother's good son to take care of her! Won't you?'
So Harold gave that promise, and went away with his tears. Poor
fellow, now was his punishment for having slighted the Confirmation.
Like Esau, an exceeding bitter cry could not bring back what he had
lightly thrown away. Well was it for him that this great sorrow came
in time, and that it was not altogether his birthright that he had
parted with. He found he could not go out to his potato-planting and
forget all about it, as he would have liked to have done—something
would not let him; and there he was sitting crouched up and sorrowful
on the steps of the stairs, when Mr. Cope and all the rest were
gathered in Alfred's room, a church for the time. Matilda and Ellen
had set out the low table with the fair white cloth, and Mr. Cope
brought the small cups and paten, which were doubly precious to him
for having belonged to his father, and because the last time he had
seen them used had been for his father's last Communion.
Now was the time to feel that a change had really passed over the
young pastor in the time of his absence. Before, he could only lead
Alfred in his prayers, and give him counsel, tell him to hope in his
repentance, and on what that hope was founded. Now that he had bent
beneath the hand of the Bishop, he had received, straight down from
the Twelve, the Power from on High. It was not Mr. Cope, but the
Lord Who had purchased that Pardon by His own most Precious Blood,
Who by him now declared to Alfred that the sins and errors of which
he had so long repented, were pardoned and taken away. The Voice of
Authority now assured him of what he had been only told to hope and
trust before. And to make the promise all the more close and
certain, here was the means of becoming a partaker of the Sacrifice—
here was that Bread and that Cup which shew forth the Lord's Death
till He come. It was very great rest and peace, the hush that was
over the quiet room, with only Alfred's hurried breath to be heard
beside Mr. Cope's voice as he spoke the blessed words, and the low
responses of the little congregation. Paul was close beside Alfred—
he would have him there between his mother and the wall—and the two
whose first Communion it was, were the last to whom Mr. Cope came. To
one it was to be the Food for the passage into the unseen world; to
the other might it be the first partaking of the Manna to support him
through the wilderness of this life.
'From the highways and hedges,' here was one brought into the
foretaste of the Marriage Supper. Ah! there was one outside, who had
loved idle pleasure when the summons had been sent to him. Perhaps
the misery he was feeling now might be the means of sparing him from
missing other calls, and being shut out at last.
It seemed to fulfil all that Alfred had wished. He lay still
between waking and sleeping for a long time afterwards, and then
begged for Paul to read to him the last chapters of the Book of
Revelation. Matilda wished to read them for him; but he said, 'Paul,
please.' Paul's voice was fuller and softer when it was low; his
accent helped the sense, and Alfred was more used to them than to his
visitor sister. Perhaps there was still another reason, for when Paul
came to the end, and was turning the leaves for one of Alfred's
favourite bits, he saw Alfred's eyes on him, as if he wanted to speak.
It was to say, 'Brothers quite now, Paul! Thank you. I think God
must have sent you to help me.'
Alfred seemed better all the evening, and they went to bed in good
spirits; but at midnight, Mr. Cope, who was very deeply studying and
praying, the better to fit himself for his new office in the
ministry, was just going to shut his book, and go up to bed, when he
heard a tremulous ring at the bell.
It was Harold, his face looking very white in the light from Mr.
'Oh! please, Sir,' he said, 'Alfred is worse; and Mother said, if
your light wasn't out, you'd like to know.'
'I am very grateful to her,' said Mr. Cope; and taking up his
plaid, he wrapped one end round the boy, and put his arm round him, as
he felt him quaking as Paul had done before, but not crying—too much
awe-struck for that. He said that his mother thought something had
broken in the lungs, and that he would be choked. Mr. Cope made the
more haste, that he might judge if the doctor would be of any use.
Paul was sitting up in his bed—they had not let him get up—but
his eyes were wide open with distress, as he plainly heard the loud
sob that each breath had become. Mrs. King was holding Alfred up in
her arms; Matilda was trying to chafe his feet; Ellen was kneeling
with her face hidden.
The light of sense and meaning was not gone from Alfred's eyes,
though the last struggle had come. He gave a look as though he were
glad to see Mr. Cope, and then gazed on his brother. Mrs. King
signed to Harold to come nearer, and whispered, 'Kiss him.' His
sisters had done so, and he had missed Harold. Then Mr. Cope prayed,
and Alfred's eyes at first owned the sounds; but soon they were
closed, and the long struggling breaths were all that shewed that the
spirit was still there.
'He shall swallow up death in victory, and the Lord God shall wipe
away tears from all eyes.'
One moment, and the blue eyes they knew so well were opened and
smiling on his mother, and then -
It was over; and through affliction and pain, the young spirit had
gone to rest!
The funeral day was a very sore one to Paul Blackthorn. He would
have given the world to be there, and have heard the beautiful words
of hope which received his friend to his resting-place, but he could
not get so far. He had tried to carry a message to a house not half
so far off as the church, but his knees seemed to give way under him,
and his legs ached so much that he could hardly get home. Somehow, a
black suit, just such as Harold's, had come home for him at the same
time; but this could not hinder him from feeling that he was but a
stranger, and one who had no real place in the home where he lived.
There was the house full of people, who would only make their remarks
on him—Miss Hardman (who was very critical of the coffin-plate), the
school-master, and some of the upper-servants of the house—and poor
Mrs. King and Matilda, who could not help being gratified at the
attention to their darling, were obliged to go down and be civil to
them; while Ellen, less used to restraint, was shut into her own room
crying; and Harold was standing on the stairs, very red, but a good
deal engaged with his long hat-band. Poor Paul! he had not even his
usual refuge—his own bed to lie upon and hide his face—for that had
been taken away to make room for the coffin to be carried down.
There, they were going at last, when it had seemed as if the bustle
and confusion would never cease. There was Alfred leaving the door
where he had so often played, carried upon the shoulders of six lads
in white frocks, his old school-fellows and Paul's Confirmation
friends. How Paul envied them for doing him that last service! There
was his mother, always patient and composed, holding Harold's
arm—Harold, who must be her stay and help, but looking so slight, so
boyish, and so young, then the two girls, Ellen so overpowered with
crying that her sister had to lead her; Mrs. Crabbe with Betsey
Hardman, who held up a great white handkerchief, for other people's
visible grief always upset her, as she said; and besides, she felt it
a duty to cry at such a time; and the rest two and two, quite a
train, in their black suits: how unlike the dreary pauper funerals
Paul had watched away at Upperscote! That respectable look seemed to
make him further off and more desolate, like one cut off, whom no one
would follow, no one would weep for. Alfred, who had called him a
brother, was gone, and here he was alone!
The others were taking their dear one once more to the church where
they had so often prayed that he might have a happy issue out of all
They were met by Mr. Cope, ending his loving intercourse with
Alfred by reading out the blessed promise of Resurrection—the
assurance that the body they were sowing in weakness would be raised
in power; so that the noble boy, whom they had seen fade away like a
drooping flower, would rise again blossoming forth in glory, after the
Image of the Incorruptible—that Image, thought Mr. Cope, as he read
on, which he faithfully strove to copy even through the sufferings due
to the corruptible. His voice often shook and faltered. He had never
before read that Service; and perhaps, except for those of his own
kin, it could never be a greater effort to him, going along with
Alfred as he had done, holding up the rod and staff that bore him
through the dark valley. And each trembling of his tone seemed to
answer something that the mother was feeling in her peaceful,
hopeful, thankful grief—yes, thankful that she could lay her once
high-spirited and thoughtless boy in his grave, with the same sure
and certain hope of a joyful Resurrection, as that ripe and earnest-
minded Christian his father, or his little innocent brother. It was
peace—awful peace, indeed, but soothing even to Ellen and Harold,
new as they were to grief.
But to poor Paul at home, out of hearing of the words of hope, only
listening to the melancholy toll of the knell, and quite alone in the
disarranged forlorn house, there seemed nothing to take off the edge
of misery. He was not wanted to keep Alfred company now, nor to read
to him—no one needed him, no one cared for him. He wandered up to
where Alfred had lain so long, as if to look for the pale quiet face
that used to smile to him. There was nothing but the bed-frame and
mattress! He threw himself down on it and cried. He did not well
know why—perhaps the chief feeling was that Alfred was gone away to
rest and bliss, and he was left alone to be weary and without a
At last the crying began to spend itself, and he turned and looked
up. There was Alfred's little picture of the Crucified still on the
wall, and the words under it, 'For us!' Paul's eye fell on it; and
somehow it brought to mind what Alfred had said to him on Christmas
Day. There was One Who had no home on earth; there was One Who had
made Himself an outcast and a wanderer, and Who had not where to lay
His Head. Was not He touched with a fellow-feeling for the lonely
boy? Would He not help him to bear his friendless lot as a share of
His own Cross? Nay, had He not raised him up friends already in his
utmost need? 'There is a Friend Who sticketh closer than a brother.'
He was the Friend that Paul need never lose, and in Whom he could
still meet his dear Alfred. These thoughts, not quite formed, but
something like them, came gently as balm to the poor boy, and though
they brought tears even thicker than the first burst of lonely
sorrow, they were as peaceful as those shed beside the grave. Though
Paul was absent in the body, this was a very different shutting out
from Harold's on last Tuesday.
Paul must have cried himself to sleep, for he did not hear the
funeral-party return, and was first roused by Mrs. King coming up-
stairs. He had been so much used to think of this as Alfred's room,
that he had never recollected that it was hers; and now that she was
come up for a moment's breathing-time, he started up ashamed and
shocked at being so caught.
But good motherly Mrs. King saw it all, and how he had been weeping
where her child had so long rested. Indeed, his face was swelled
with crying, and his voice all unsteady.
'Poor lad! poor lad!' she said kindly, 'you were as fond of him as
any of them; and if we wanted anything else to make you one of us,
that would do it.'
'O Mother,' said Paul, as she kindly put her hand on him, 'I could
not bear it—I was so lost—till I looked at THAT,' pointing to the
'Ay,' said Mrs. King, as she wiped her quiet tears, 'that Cross was
Alfred's great comfort, and so it is to us all, my boy, whatever way
we have to carry it, till we come to where he is gone. No cross, no
crown, they say.'
Perhaps it was not bad for any one that this forlorn day had given
Paul a fresh chill, which kept him in bed for nearly a week, so as
gently to break the change from her life of nursing to Mrs. King, and
make him very happy and peaceful in her care.
And when at last on a warm sunny Sunday, Paul Blackthorn returned
thanks in church for his recovery—ay, and for a great deal besides—
he had no reason to think that he was a stranger cared for by no one.
CHAPTER XIII—SIX YEARS LATER
It is a beautiful morning in Easter week. The sun is shining on
the gilded weathercock, which flashes every time it veers from south
to west; the snowdrops are getting quite out of date, and the
buttercups and primroses have it all their own way; the grass is
making a start, and getting quite long upon the graves in Friarswood
'Really, I should have sent in the Saxon monarch to tidy us up!'
says to himself the tall young Rector, as he stepped over the stile
with one long stride; 'but I suppose he is better engaged.'
That tall young Rector is the Reverend Marcus Cope, six years
older, but young still. The poor old Rector, Mr. John Selby, died
four years ago abroad; and Lady Jane and Miss Selby's other guardians
gave the living to Mr. Cope, to the great joy of all the parish,
except the Shepherds, who have never forgiven him for their own usage
of their farming boy, nor for the sermon he neither wrote nor
The Saxon monarch means one Harold King, who looks after the
Rectory garden and horse, as well as the post-office and other small
The clerk is unlocking the church, and shaking out the surplice,
and Mr. Cope goes into the vestry, takes out two big books covered
with green parchment, and sees to the pen. It is a very good one,
judging by the writing of the last names in that book. They are
Francis Mowbray and Jane Arabella Selby.
'Captain and Mrs. Mowbray will be a great blessing to the place, if
they go on as they have begun,' thinks Mr. Cope. 'How happy they are
making old Lady Jane, and how much more Mrs. Mowbray goes among the
cottages now that she does more as she pleases.'
Then Mr. Cope goes to the porch and looks out. He sees two men
getting over the stile. One is a small slight person, in very good
black clothes, not at all as if they were meant to ape a gentleman,
and therefore thoroughly respectable. He has a thin face, rather
pointed as to the chin and nose, and the eyes dark and keen, so that
it would be over-sharp but that the mouth looks so gentle and
subdued, and the whole countenance is grave and thoughtful. You
could not feel half so sure that he is a certificated school-master,
as you can that his very brisk-looking companion is so.
'Good morning, Mr. Brown.—Good morning, Paul,' said Mr. Cope. 'I
did not expect to see you arrive in this way.'
The grave face glitters up in a merry look of amusement, while,
with a little colouring, he answers:
'Why, Sir, Matilda said it was the proper thing, and so we supposed
she knew best.'
There are not so many people who DO talk of Paul now. Most people
know him as Mr. Blackthorn, late school-master at Berryton, where the
boys liked him for his bright and gentle yet very firm ways; the
parents, for getting their children on, and helping them to be
steady; and the clergyman, for being so perfectly to be trusted, so
anxious to do right, and, while efficient and well informed,
perfectly humble and free from conceit. Now he has just got an
appointment to Hazleford school, in another diocese, with a salary of
fifty pounds a year; but, as Charles Hayward would tell you, 'he
hasn't got one bit of pride, no more than when he lived up in the
There is not long to wait. There is another party getting over the
stile. There is a very fine tall youth first. As Betsey Hardman
tells her mother, 'she never saw such a one for being fine-growed and
stately to look at, since poor Charles King when he wore his best
wig.' A very nice open honest face, and as merry a pair of blue eyes
as any in the parish, does Harold wear, nearly enough to tell you
that, if in these six years it would be too much to say he has never
done ANYTHING to vex his mother, yet in the main his heart is in the
right place—he is a very good son, very tender to her, and steady
Whom is he helping over the stile? Oh, that is Mrs. Mowbray's
pretty little maid! a very good young thing, whom she has read with
and taught; and here, lady-like and delicate-looking as ever, is
Matilda. Bridemaids before the bride! that's quite wrong; but the
bride has a shy fit, and would not get over first, and Matilda and
Harold are, the one encouraging her, the other laughing at her; and
Mr. Blackthorn turns very red, and goes down the path to meet her, and
she takes his arm, and Harold takes Lucy, and Mr. Brown Miss King.
Very nice that bride looks, with her hair so glossy under her straw
bonnet trimmed with white, her pretty white shawl, and quiet purple
silk dress, her face rather flushed, but quiet-looking, as if she
were growing more like her mother, with something of her sense and
How Mr. Blackthorn ever came to ask her that question, nobody can
guess, and Harold believes he does not know himself. However, it got
an answer two years ago, and Mrs. King gave her consent with all her
heart, though she knew Betsey Hardman would talk of picking a husband
up out of the gutter, and that my Lady would look severe, and say
something of silly girls. Yes—and though the rich widower bailiff
had said sundry civil things of Miss Ellen being well brought up and
notable—'For,' as Mrs. King wrote to Matilda, 'I had rather see
Ellen married to a good religious man than to any one, and I do not
know one I can be so sure of as Paul, nor one that is so like a son
to me; and if he has no friends belonging to him, that is better than
bad friends.' And Ellen herself, from looking on him as a mere boy,
as she had done at their first acquaintance, had come to thinking no
one ever had been so wise or so clever, far less so good, certainly
not so fond of her—so her answer was no great wonder. Then they
were to be prudent, and wait for some dependence; and so they did
till Mr. Shaw recommended Paul Blackthorn for Hazleford school, where
there is a beautiful new house for the master, so that he will have
no longer to live in lodgings, and be 'done for,' as the saying is.
Harold tells Ellen that he is afraid that without her he won't wash
above once in four months; but however that may be, she is convinced
that the new school-house will be lost on him, and that in spite of
all his fine arithmetic, his fifty pounds will never go so far for
one as for two; and so she did not turn a deaf ear to his entreaties
that she would not send him alone to Hazleford.
They wanted very much to get 'Mother' to come and live with them,
give up the post-office, and let Harold live in Mr. Cope's house; but
Mother has a certain notion that Harold's stately looks and perfect
health might not last, if she were not always on the watch to put him
into dry clothes if he comes in damp, and such like 'little fidgets,'
as he calls them, which he would not attend to from any one but
Mother. So she will keep on the shop and the post-office, and try to
break in that uncouth girl of John Farden's to be a tidy little maid;
and Mr. and Mrs. Blackthorn will spend their holidays with her and
Harold. She may come to them yet in time, if, as Paul predicts,
Master Harold takes up with Lucy at the Grange—but there's time
enough to think of that; and even if he should, it would take many
years to make Lucy into such a Mrs. King as she who is now very busy
over the dinner at home, but thinking about a good deal besides the
There! Paul and Ellen have stood and knelt in an earnest reverent
spirit, making their vows to one another and before God, and His
blessing has been spoken upon them to keep them all their lives
It is with a good heart of hope that Mr. Cope speaks that blessing,
knowing that, as far as human eye can judge, here stands a man who
truly feareth the Lord, and beside him a woman with the ornament of a
meek and quiet spirit.
They are leaving the church now, the bridegroom and his bride, arm
in arm, but they turn from the path to the wicket, and Harold will not
let even Matilda follow them. Just by the south wall of the church
there are three graves, one a very long one, one quite short, one of
middle length. The large one has a head-stone, with the names of
Charles King, aged forty years, and Charles King, aged seven years.
The middle-sized one has a stone cross, and below it 'Alfred King,
aged sixteen years,' and the words, 'In all their afflictions He was
It was Matilda who paid the cost of that stone, Miss Selby who drew
the pattern of it, and 'Mother' who chose the words, as what Alfred
himself loved best. At the bottom of Ellen's best work-box is a copy
of verses about that very cross. She thinks they ought to have been
carved out upon it, but Paul knows a great deal better, so all she
could do was to write them out on a sheet of note-paper with a wide
lace border, and keep them as her greatest treasure. Perhaps she
prizes them even more than the handsome watch that Mr. Shaw gave
Paul, though less, of course, than the great Bible and Prayer-book,
in which Mr. Cope has waited till this morning to write the names of
Paul and Ellen Blackthorn.
So they stand beside the cross, and read the words, and they
neither of them can say anything, though the white sweet face is
before the eyes of their mind at the same time, and Ellen thinks she
loves Paul twice as much for having been one of his great comforts.
'Good-bye, Alfred dear,' she whispers at last.
'No, not good-bye,' says Paul. 'He is as much with us as ever,
wherever we are. Remember how we were together, Ellen. I have
always thought of him at every Holy Communion since, and have felt
that if till now, no one living—at least one at rest, were mine by
Ellen pressed his arm.
'Yes,' said Paul; 'the months I spent with Alfred were the great
help and blessing of my life. I don't believe any recollection has so
assisted to guard me in all the frets and temptations there are in a
life like mine.'