Friarswood Post Office
Charlotte M. Yonge
Part 3 out of 4
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 ago.
'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 unkind.
'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 after
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
'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 himself.'
'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
'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-
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 ye.'
'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 foot.
'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
'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
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, sitting
'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
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, Paul?'
'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
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
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 before.
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,'
'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.
'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.
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