Friarswood Post Office
Charlotte M. Yonge
Part 4 out of 4
Cope, with his merry eyes upon the boy, and his mouth looking grave;
'only I'm afraid you might puzzle me.'
'I can't do as I used, Sir,' said Paul, rather nervously; 'I've
forgotten ever so much; and my head swims.'
The slate was lying near; Mr. Cope pushed it towards him, and said,
'Well, will you mind letting me see how you can write from
And taking up one of the papers, he read slowly several sentences
from a description of a great fire, with some tolerably long-winded
newspaper words in them. When he paused, and asked for the slate,
there it all stood, perfectly spelt, well written, and with all the
stops and capitals in the right places.
'Famously done, Paul! Well, and do you know where this place was?'
naming the town.
Paul turned his eyes about for a moment, and then gave the name of a
'That'll do, Paul. Which part of England?'
And so on, Mr. Cope got him out of his depth by asking about the
rivers, and made him frown and look teased by a question about a
battle fought in that county. If he had ever known, he had
forgotten, and he was weak and easily confused; but Mr. Cope saw that
he had read some history and learnt some geography, and was not like
some of the village boys, who used to think Harold had been called
after Herod--a nice namesake, truly!
'Who taught you all this, Paul?' he said. 'You must have had a
cleverer master than is common in Unions. Who was he?'
'He was a Mr. Alcock, Sir. He was a clever man. They said in the
House that he had been a bit of a gentleman, a lawyer, or a clerk, or
something, but that he could never keep from the bottle.'
'What! and so they keep him for a school-master?'
'He was brought in, Sir; he'd got that mad fit that comes of drink,
Sir, and was fresh out of gaol for debt. And when he came to, he
said he'd keep the school for less than our master that was gone. He
couldn't do anything else, you see.'
'And how did he teach you?'
'He knocked us about,' said Paul, drawing his shoulders together with
an unpleasant recollection; 'he wasn't so bad to me, because I liked
getting my tasks, and when he was in a good humour, he'd say I was a
credit to him, and order me in to read to him in the evening.'
'And when he was not?'
'That was when he'd been out. They said he'd been at the gin-shop;
but he used to be downright savage,' said Paul. 'At last he never
thought it worth while to teach any lessons but mine, and I used to
hear the other classes; but the inspector came all on a sudden, and
found it out one day when he'd hit a little lad so that his nose was
bleeding, and so he was sent off.'
'How long ago was this?'
'Going on for a year,' said Paul.
'Didn't the inspector want you to go to a training-school?' said
'Yes; but the Guardians wouldn't hear of it.'
'Did you wish it?' asked Mr. Cope.
'I liked my liberty, Sir,' was the answer; and Paul looked down.
'Well, and what you do think now you've tried your liberty?'
Paul didn't make any answer, but finding that good-humoured face
still waiting, he said slowly, 'Why, Sir, it was well-nigh the worst
of all to find I was getting as stupid as the cows.'
Mr. Cope laughed, but not so as to vex him; and added, 'So that was
the way you learnt to be a reader, Paul. Can you tell me what books
you used to read to this master?'
Paul paused; and Alfred said, '"Uncle Tom's Cabin," Sir; he told us
the story of that.'
'Yes,' said Paul; 'but that wasn't all: there was a book about
Paris, and all the people in the back lanes there; and a German
prince who came, and was kind.'
'You must not tell them stories out of that book, Paul,' said Mr.
Cope quickly, for he knew it was a very bad one.
'No, Sir,' said Paul; 'but most times it was books he called
philosophy, that I couldn't make anything of--no story, and all dull;
but he was very savage if I got to sleep over them, till I hated the
sight of them.'
'I'm glad you did, my poor boy,' said Mr. Cope. 'But one thing more.
Tell me how, with such a man as this, you could have learnt about the
Bible and Catechism, as you have done.'
'Oh,' said Paul, 'we had only the Bible and Testament to read in the
school, because they were the cheapest; and the chaplain asked us
about the Catechism every Sunday.'
'What was the chaplain's name?'
Paul was able, with some recollection, to answer; but he knew little
about the clergyman, who was much overworked, and seldom able to give
any time to the paupers.
Three days after, Mr. Cope again came into the post-office.
'Well, Mrs. King, I suppose you don't need to be told that our friend
Paul has spoken nothing but truth. The chaplain sends me his
baptismal registry, for which I asked. Just seventeen he must be--a
foundling, picked up at about three weeks old, January 25th, 1836.
They fancy he was left by some tramping musicians, but never were
able to trace them--at least, so the chaplain hears from some of the
people who remember it. Being so stunted, and looking younger than
he is, no farmer would take him from the House, and the school-master
made him useful, so he was kept on till the grand exposure that he
told us of.'
'Ah! Sir,' said Mrs. King,' I'm afraid that master was a bad man. I
only wonder the poor lad learnt no more harm from him!'
'One trembles to think of the danger,' said Mr. Cope; 'but you see
there's often a guard over those who don't seek the temptation, and
perhaps this poor fellow's utter ignorance of anything beyond the
Union walls helped him to let the mischief pass by his understanding,
better than if he had had any experience of the world.'
'I doubt if he'll ever have that, Sir,' said Mrs. King, her sensible
face lighting up rather drolly; 'there's Harold always laughing at
him for being so innocent, and yet so clever at his book.'
'So much the better for him,' said Mr. Cope. 'The Son of Sirach
never said a wiser word than that "the knowledge of wickedness is not
wisdom." Why, Mrs. King, what have I said? you look as if you had a
great mind to laugh at me.'
'I beg your pardon, Sir,' said Mrs. King, much disconcerted at what
seemed to her as if it might have been disrespect, though that was
only Mr. Cope's droll way of putting it, 'I never meant--'
'Well, but what were you thinking of?'
'Why, Sir, I beg your pardon, but I was thinking it wouldn't have
been amiss if he had had sense enough to keep himself clean and
'I agree with you,' said Mr. Cope, laughing, and seeing she used
'innocent' in a slightly different sense from what he did; 'but
perhaps Union cleanliness was not inviting, and he'd not had you to
bring him up to fresh cheeks like Harold's. Besides, I believe it
was half depression and want of heart to exert himself, when there
was no one to care for him; and he certainly had not been taught
either self-respect, or to think cleanliness next to godliness.'
'Poor lad--no,' said Mrs. King; 'nor I don't think he'd do it again,
and I trust he'll never be so lost again.'
'Lost, and found,' said Mr. Cope gravely. 'Another thing I was going
to say was, that this irreverent economy of the Guardians, in
allowing no lesson-books but the Bible, seems to have, after all,
been blest to him in his knowledge of it, like an antidote to the
evil the master poured in.'
'Yes, Sir,' said Mrs. King, 'just so; only he says, that though he
liked it, because, poor lad, there was nothing else that seemed to
him to speak kind or soft, he never knew how much it was meant for
him, nor it didn't seem to touch him home till he came to you, Sir.'
Mr. Cope half turned away. His bright eyes had something very like a
tear in them, for hardly anything could have been said to make the
young clergyman so happy, as to tell him that any work of his should
be blessed; but he went on talking quickly, to say that the chaplain
gave a still worse account of Alcock than Paul's had been, saying
that some gentlemen who had newly become Guardians at the time of the
inspector's visit, had taken up the matter, and had been perfectly
shocked at the discoveries they had made about the man to whom the
poor children had been entrusted.
On his dismissal, some of the old set, who were all for cheapness,
had talked of letting young Blackthorn act as school-master; but as
he was so very young, and had been brought up by this wretched man,
the gentlemen would not hear of it; and as they could not afford to
accept the inspector's offer of recommending him to a government
school, he had been sent out in quest of employment, as being old
enough to provide for himself. Things had since, the chaplain said,
been put on a much better footing, and he himself had much more time
to attend to the inmates. As to Paul, he was glad to hear that he
was in good hands; he said he had always perceived him to be a very
clever boy, and knew no harm of him but that he was a favourite with
Alcock, which he owned had made him very glad to get him out of the
House, lest he should carry on the mischief.
Mr. Cope and Mrs. King were both of one mind, that this was hard
measure. So it was. Man's measure always is either over hard or
over soft, because he cannot see all sides at once. Now they saw
Paul's side, his simplicity, and his suffering; the chaplain had only
seen the chances of his conveying the seeds of ungodly teaching to
the workhouse children; he could not tell that the pitch which Paul
had not touched by his own will, had not stuck by him--probably owing
to that very simplicity which had made him so helpless in common
Having learnt all this, Mr. Cope proposed to Paul to use the time of
his recovery in learning as much as he could, so as to be ready in
case any opportunity should offer for gaining his livelihood by his
head rather than by his hands.
Paul's face glowed. He liked nothing better than to be at a book,
and with Mr. Cope to help him by bright encouragements and good-
natured explanations instead of tweaks of the ears and raps on the
knuckles, what could be pleasanter? So Mr. Cope lent him books, set
him questions, and gave him pen, ink, and copy-book, and he toiled
away with them till his senses grew dazed, and his back ached beyond
bearing; so that 'Mother,' as he called her now, caught him up, and
made him lie on his bed to rest, threatening to tell Mr. Cope not to
set him anything so hard; while Ellen watched in wonder at any one
being so clever, and was proud of whatever Mr. Cope said he did well;
and Harold looked on him as a more extraordinary creature than the
pie-bald horse in the show, who wore a hat and stood on his hind
legs, since he really was vexed when book and slate were taken out of
He would have over-tasked himself in his weakness much more, if it
had not been for his lovingness to Alfred. To please Alfred was
always his first thought; and even if a difficult sum were just on
the point of proving itself, he would leave off at the first moment
of seeing Alfred look as if he wanted to be read to, and would miss
all his calculations, to answer some question--who was going down the
village, or what that noise could be.
Alfred tried to be considerate, and was sorry when he saw by a furrow
on Paul's brow that he was trying to win up again all that some
trifling saying had made him lose. But Alfred was not scholar enough
to perceive the teasing of such interruptions, and even had he been
aware of it, he was not in a state when he could lie quite still long
together without disturbing any one; he could amuse himself much less
than formerly, and often had most distressing restless fits, when one
or other of them had to give him their whole attention; and it was
all his most earnest efforts could do to keep from the old habit of
fretfulness and murmuring. And he grieved so much over the least
want of temper, and begged pardon so earnestly for the least
impatient word--even if there had been real provocation for it--that
it was a change indeed since the time when he thought grumbling and
complaint his privilege and relief. Nothing helped him more than
Paul's reading Psalms to him--the 121st was his favourite--or saying
over hymns to him in that very sweet voice so full of meaning.
Sometimes Ellen and Paul would sing together, as she sat at her work,
and it almost always soothed him to hear the Psalm tunes, that were
like an echo from the church, about which he had cared so little when
he had been able to go there in health and strength, but for which he
now had such a longing! He came to be so used to depend on their
singing the Evening Hymn to him, that one of the times when it was
most hard for him to be patient, was one cold evening, when Ellen was
so hoarse that she could not speak, and an unlucky draught in from
the shop door had so knit Paul up again, that he was lying in his
bed, much nearer screaming than singing.
Most of all, however, was Alfred helped by Mr. Cope's visits, and the
looking forward to the promised Feast, with more earnestness as the
time drew on, and he felt his own weakness more longing for the
support and blessing of uniting his suffering with that of his Lord.
'In all our afflictions He was afflicted,' was a sound that came most
cheeringly to him, and seemed to give him greater strength and good-
will to bear his load of weakness.
There was a book which young Mrs. Selby had given his mother, which
was often lying on his bed, and had marks in it at all the favourite
places. Some he liked to look at himself, some for Paul to read to
him. They were such sentences as these:
'My son, I descended from Heaven for thy salvation; I took upon Me
thy miseries; not necessity, but charity, drawing Me thereto, that
thou thyself mightest learn patience, and bear temporal miseries
'For from the hour of My Birth, even until My Death on the Cross, I
was not without suffering and grief.'
And then again:
'Offer up thyself unto Me, and give thyself wholly for God, and thy
offering shall be acceptable.'
'Behold, I offered up Myself wholly unto My Father for thee, and gave
My whole Body and Blood for thy food, that I might be wholly thine,
and that thou mightest continue Mine unto the end.'
So he might think of all that he went through as capable of being
made a free offering, which God would accept for the sake of the One
Great Offering, 'consuming and burning away' (as the book said) 'all
his sins with the fire of Christ's love, and cleansing his conscience
from all offences.' It was what he now felt in the words, 'Thy Will
be done,' which he tried to say in full earnest; but he thought he
should be very happy when he should go along with the offering
ourselves, our souls, and bodies, to be a 'reasonable, holy, and
Each of Mr. Cope's readings brought out or confirmed these refreshing
hopes; and Paul likewise dwelt on such thoughts. Hardship had been a
training to him, like sickness for Alfred; he knew what it was to be
weary and heavy laden, and to want rest, and was ready to draw closer
to the only Home and Father that he could claim. His gentle
unresisting spirit was one that so readily forgot ill-will, that
positively Harold cherished more dislike to the Shepherds than he
did; and there was no struggle to forgive, no lack of charity for all
men, so that hope and trust were free.
These two boys were a great deal to the young deacon. Perhaps he
reckoned on his first ministration as a priest by Alfred's bedside,
as much or even more than did the lad, for to him the whole household
were as near and like-minded friends, though neither he nor they ever
departed from the fitting manners of their respective stations. He
was one who liked to share with others what was near his heart, and
he had shewn Alfred the Service for the Ordination of Priests, and
the Prayers for Grace that would be offered, and the holy vows that
he would take upon him, and the words with which those great Powers
would be conferred--those Powers that our Chief Shepherd left in
trust for the pastors who feed His flock.
And once he had bent down and whispered to Alfred to pray that help
might be given to him to use those powers faithfully.
So wore on the early spring; and the morning had come when he was to
set out for the cathedral town, when Harold rode up to the parsonage
door, and something in his looks as he passed the window made Mr.
Cope hasten to the door to meet him.
'O Sir!' said Harold, bursting out crying as he began to speak, 'poor
Alfred is took so bad; and Mother told me to tell you, Sir--if he's
not better--he'll never live out the day!'
Poor Harold, who had never seemed to heed his brother's illness, was
quite overwhelmed now. It had come upon him all at once.
'What is it? Has the doctor been?'
'No, Sir; I went in at six o'clock this morning to ask him to come
out, and he said he'd come--and sent him a blister--but Alf was worse
by the time I got back, Sir,--he can't breathe--and don't seem to
And without another word, nor waiting for comfort, Harold dug his
heels into Peggy, passed his elbow over his eyes, and cantered on
with the tears drying on his face in the brisk March wind.
There was no finishing breakfast for the Curate; he thrust his
letters into his pocket, caught up his hat, and walked off with long
strides for the post-office.
It shewed how different things were from usual, that Paul, who had
hardly yet been four times down-stairs, his thin pointed face all in
a flush, was the only person in the shop, trying with a very shaky
hand to cut out some cheese for a great stout farm maid-servant, who
evidently did not understand what was the matter, and stared doubly
when the clergyman put his strong hand so as to steady Paul's
trembling one, and gave his help to fold up the parcel.
'How is he, Paul?'
Paul was very near crying as he answered, 'Much worse, Sir. Mother
has been up all night with him. O Sir! he did so want to live till
you came home.'
'May I go up?' asked Mr. Cope.
Paul was sure that he might, and crept up after him. It was bad
enough, but not quite so bad as Harold, in his fright, had made Mr.
Cope believe. Poor boy! it had all come upon him now; and seeing his
brother unable to speak and much oppressed, he fancied he did not
know him, whereas Alfred was fully sensible, though too ill to do
more than lift his eyes, and put out his weak fingers as Mr. Cope
came into the room, where he was lying raised on his pillows, with
his mother and sister doing all they could for him.
A terrible pain in the side had come on in the night, making every
breath painful, every cough agonizing, and his whole face and brow
were crimson with the effort of gasping.
Paul looked a moment but could not bear it, and went, and sat down on
the top of the stairs; while Mr. Cope kindly held Alfred's hot hand,
and Mrs. King, in her low patient tone, told how the attack had
She was in the midst, when Mr. Blunt's gig was seen at the gate. His
having thus hastened his coming was more than they had dared to hope;
and while Mrs. King felt grateful for the kindness, Ellen feared that
it shewed that he thought very badly of the case.
Mr. Cope was much hurried, but he could not bear to go till he had
heard Mr. Blunt's opinion; so he went down to the kitchen, tried to
console Paul by talking kindly to him, wrote a note, and read his
They were much comforted to hear that Mr. Blunt thought that there
was hope of subduing the present inflammatory pain; and though there
was much immediate danger, it was not hastening so very fast to the
end as they had at first supposed. Yet, in such a state as Alfred's,
a few hours might finish all. There was no saying.
Already, when Mr. Cope went up again, the remedies had given some
relief; and though the breaths came short and hard, like so many
stabs, Alfred had put his head into an easier position, and his eyes
and lips looked more free to look a greeting. There was so much
wistful earnestness in his face, and it deeply grieved Mr. Cope to be
forced to leave him, and in too much haste even to be able to pray
'Well, Alfred, dear fellow,' he said, his voice trembling, 'I am come
to wish you good-bye. I am comforted to find that Mr. Blunt thinks
there is good hope that you will be here--that we shall be together
when I come back. Yes, I know that is what is on your mind, and I do
reckon most earnestly on it; but if it should not be His Will--here,
Ellen, will you take care of this note? If he should be worse, will
you send this to Mr. Carter, at Ragglesford? and I know he will come
The dew stood on Alfred's eye-lashes, and his lips worked. He looked
up sadly to Mr. Cope, as if this did not answer his longings.
Mr. Cope replied to the look--'Yes, dear boy, but if it cannot be,
still remember it is Communion. He can put us together. We all
drink into one Spirit. I shall be engaged in a like manner--I would
not--I could not go, Alfred, for pleasure--no, nor business--only for
this. You must think that I am gone to bring you home the Gift--the
greatest, best Gift--the one our Lord left with His disciples, to
bear them through their sorrows and pains--through the light
affliction that is but for a moment, but worketh an exceeding weight
of glory. And if I should not be in time,' he added, nearly sobbing
as he spoke, 'then--then, Alfred, the Gift, the blessing is yours all
the same. It is the Great High Priest to Whom you must look--perhaps
you may do so the more really if it should not be through--your
friend. If we are disappointed, we will make a sacrifice of our
disappointment. Good-bye, my boy; God bless you!' Bending close
down to his face, he whispered, 'Think of me. Pray for me--now--
always.' Then, rising hastily, he shook the hands of the mother and
sister, ran down-stairs, and was gone.
CHAPTER XII--REST AT LAST
The east wind had been swept aside by gales from the warm south, and
the spring was bursting out everywhere; the sky looked softly blue,
instead of hard and chill; the sun made everything glisten: the
hedges were full of catkins; white buds were on the purple twigs of
the blackthorns; primroses were looking out on the sunny side of the
road; the larks were mounting up, singing as if they were wild with
delight; and the sunbeams were full of dancing gnats, as the Curate
of Friarswood walked, with quick eager steps, towards the bridge.
His eyes were anxiously bent on the house, watching the white smoke
rising from the chimney; then he hastened on to gain the first sight
at the upper windows, feeling almost as he could have done had it
been a brother who lay there; so much was his heart set on the first
whom he had striven to help through the valley of the shadow of
death. The window was open, but the blind was not drawn; and almost
at the same moment the gate opened, some one looked out, and seeing
him, waved his hand and arm in joyful signal towards some one within,
and this gesture set Mr. Cope's heart at rest.
Was it Harold? No, it was Paul Blackthorn, who stood leaning on the
wicket, as he held it open for the clergyman, at whom he looked up as
if expecting some change, and a little surprised to find the same
voice and manner.
'Well, Paul, then he is not worse?'
'No, Sir, thank you, he is better. The pain has left him, and he can
speak again,' said Paul, but not very cheerfully.
'That is a great comfort! But who's that?' as a head, not Ellen's,
appeared for a moment at the window.
'That's Miss King, Sir--Miss Matilda!'
'Oh! Well, and how are the bones, Paul? Better, I hope, since I see
you are come out with the bees,' said Mr. Cope, laying his hand
kindly on his shoulder (a thing fit to touch now, since it was in a
fustian coat of poor Alfred's), and accommodating his swift strong
steps to the feeble halt with which Paul still moved.
'Thank you, Sir, yes; I've been down here twice when the sun was
out,' he said, as if it were a grand undertaking; but then, with a
sudden smile, 'and poor Caesar knew me, Sir; he came right across the
road, and wagged his tail, and licked my hand.'
'Good old Caesar! You were his best friend, Paul.--Well, Mrs. King,
this is a blessing!'
Mrs. King looked sadly worn out with nursing, and her eyes were full
'Yes, Sir,' she said, 'indeed it is. My poor darling has been so
much afraid he was too much set on your coming home, and yet so
patient and quiet about it.'
'Then you ventured to wait?'
And Mr. Cope heard that the attack of inflammation had given way to
remedies, but that Alfred was so much weakened, that they could not
raise him again. He was sustained by as much nourishment as they
could give him: but the disease had made great progress, and Mr.
Blunt did not think that he could last many days. His eldest sister
had come for a fortnight from her place, and was a great comfort to
them all. 'And so is Paul,' said Mrs. King, looking for him kindly;
'I don't know what we should do without his help up-stairs and down.
And, Sir, yesterday,' she added, colouring a good deal--'I beg your
pardon, but I thought, maybe, you'd like to hear it--Alfred would
have nobody else up with him in morning church-time--and made him
read the most--of that Service, Sir.'
Mr. Cope's eyes glistened, and he said something huskily of being
glad that Alfred could think of it.
It further appeared that Alfred had wished very much to see Miss
Selby again, and that Mrs. King had sent the two sisters to the
Grange to talk it over with Mrs. Crabbe, and word had been sent by
Harold that morning that the young lady would come in the course of
Mr. Cope followed Mrs. King up-stairs; Alfred's face lighted up as
his sister Matilda made way for the clergyman. He was very white,
and his breath was oppressed; but his look had changed very much--it
had a strange, still sort of brightness and peace about it. He spoke
in very low tones, just above a whisper, and smiled as Mr. Cope took
his hand, and spoke to him.
'Thank you, Sir. It is very nice,' he said.
'I thank God that He has let you wait for me,' said Mr. Cope.
'I am glad,' said Alfred. 'I did want to pray for it; but I thought,
perhaps, if it was not His Will, I would not--and then what you said.
And now He is making it all happy.'
'And you do not grieve over your year of illness?'
'I would not have been without it--no,' said Alfred, very quietly,
but with much meaning.
'"It is good for me that I have been in trouble," is what you mean,'
said Mr. Cope.
'It has made our Saviour seem--I mean--He is so good to me,' said
But talking made him cough, and that brought a line in the fair
forehead so full of peace. Mr. Cope would not say more to him, and
asked his mother whether the Feast, for which he had so much longed,
should be on the following day. She thought it best that it should
be so; and Alfred again said, 'Thank you, Sir,' with the serene
expression on his face. Mr. Cope read a Psalm and a prayer to him,
and thinking him equal to no more, went away, pausing, however, for a
little talk with Paul in the shop.
Paul did not say so, but, poor fellow, he had been rather at a loss
since Matilda had come. In herself, she was a very good, humble,
sensible girl; but she wore a dark silk dress, and looked, moved, and
spoke much more like a lady than Ellen: Paul stood in great awe of
her, and her presence seemed all at once to set him aloof from the
He had been like one of themselves for the last three months, now he
felt that he was like a beggar among them; he did not like to call
Mrs. King mother, lest it should seem presuming; Ellen seemed to be
raised up the same step as her sister, and even Alfred was almost out
of his reach; Matilda read to him, and Paul's own good feeling shewed
him that he would be only in the way if he spent all his time in
Alfred's room as formerly; so he kept down-stairs in the morning, and
went to bed very early. Nobody was in the least unkind to him: but
he had just begun to grieve at being a burden so long, and to wonder
how much longer he should be in getting his health again. And then
it might be only to be cast about the world, and to lose his one
glimpse of home kindness. Poor boy! he still cried at the thought of
how happy Alfred was.
He did all he could to be useful, but he could scarcely manage to
stoop down, could carry nothing heavy, and moved very slowly; and he
now and then made a dreadful muddle in the shop, when a customer was
not like Mrs. Hayward, who told him where everything was, and the
price of all she wanted, as well as Mrs. King could do herself. He
could sort the letters and see to the post-office very well; and for
all his blunders, he did so much by his good-will, that when Mrs.
King wanted to cheer him up, she declared that he saved her all the
expense of having in a woman from the village to help, and that he
did more about the house than Harold.
This was true: for Harold did not like doing anything but manly
things, as he called them; whereas Paul did not care what it was, so
that it saved trouble to her or Ellen.
Talking and listening to Harold was one use of Paul. Now that it had
come upon him, and he saw Alfred worse from day to day, the poor boy
was quite broken-hearted. Possibly, when at his work, or riding, he
managed to shake off the remembrance; but at home it always came
back, and he cried so much at the sight of Alfred, and at any attempt
of his brother to talk to him, that they could scarcely let him stay
ten minutes in the room. Then, when Paul had gone to bed on the
landing at seven o'clock, he would come and sit on his bed, and talk,
and cry, and sob about his brother, and his own carelessness of him,
often till his mother came out and ordered him down-stairs to his own
bed in the kitchen; and Paul turned his face into the pillow to weep
himself to sleep, loving Alfred very little less than did his
brother, but making less noise about it, and feeling very lonely when
he saw how all the family cared for each other.
So Mr. Cope's kind manner came all the more pleasantly to him; and
after some talk on what they both most cared about, Mr. Cope said,
'Paul, Mr. Shaw of Berryton tells me he has a capital school-master,
but in rather weak health, and he wants to find a good intelligent
youth to teach under him, and have opportunities of improving
himself. Five pounds a year, and board and lodgings. What do you
think of it, Paul?'
Paul's sallow face began growing red, and he polished the counter, on
which he was leaning; then, as Mr. Cope repeated, 'Eh, Paul?' he said
slowly, and in his almost rude way, 'They wouldn't have me if they
knew how I'd been brought up.'
'Perhaps they would if they knew what you've come to in spite of
bringing up. And,' added Mr. Cope, 'they are not so much pressed for
time but that they can wait till you've quite forgotten your tumble
into the Ragglesford. We must fatten you--get rid of those spider-
fingers, and you and I must do a few more lessons together--and I
think Mrs. King has something towards your outfit; and by
Whitsuntide, I told Mr. Shaw that I thought I might send him what I
call a very fair sample of a good steady lad.'
Paul did not half seem to take it in--perhaps he was too unhappy, or
it sounded like sending him away again; or, maybe, such a great step
in life was more than he could comprehend, after the outcast
condition to which he had been used: but Mr. Cope could not go on
talking to him, for the Grange carriage was stopping at the gate, and
Matilda and Ellen were both coming down-stairs to receive Miss Jane.
Poor little thing, she looked very pale and nervous; and as she shook
hands with the Curate, as he met her in the garden-path, she said
with a startled manner, 'Oh! Mr. Cope--were you there? Am I
'Not at all,' he said. 'I had only called in as I came home, and had
just come down again.'
'Is it--is it very dreadful?' murmured Jane, with a sort of gasp.
She was so entirely unused to scenes of sadness or pain, that it was
very strange and alarming to her, and it was more difficult than ever
to believe her no younger than Ellen.
'Very far from dreadful or distressing,' said Mr. Cope kindly, for he
knew it was not her fault that she had been prevented from overcoming
such feelings, and that this was a great effort of kindness. 'It is
a very peaceful, soothing sight--he is very happy, and not in a
'Oh, will you tell Grandmamma?' said Jane, with her pretty look of
earnestness; 'she is so much afraid of its much for me, and she was
so kind in letting me come.'
So Miss Selby went on to the two sisters, and Mr. Cope proceeded to
the carriage, where Lady Jane had put out her head, glad to be able
to ask him about the state of affairs. Having nothing but this
little grand-daughter left to her, the old lady watched over her with
almost over-tender care, and was in much alarm both lest the air of
the sick-room should be unwholesome, or the sight too sorrowful for
her; and though she was too kind to refuse the wish of the dying boy,
she had come herself, in order that 'the child,' as she called her,
might not stay longer than was good for her; and she was much
relieved to hear Mr. Cope's account of Alfred's calm state, and of
the freshness of the clean room, in testimony of which he pointed to
the open window.
'Yes,' she said, 'I hope Mary King was wise enough; but I hardly knew
how it might be with such a number about the house--that boy and all.
He is not gone, is he?'
'No, he is not nearly well enough yet, though he does what he can to
be useful to her. When he is recovered, I have a scheme for him.'
So Mr. Cope mentioned Mr. Shaw's proposal, by which my Lady set more
store than did Paul as yet. Very kind-hearted she was, though she
did not fancy adopting chance-comers into her parish; and as long as
he was not saddled upon Mary King, as she said, she was very glad of
any good for him; so she told Mr. Cope to come to her for what he
might want to fit him out properly for the situation; and turning her
keen eyes on him as he stood near the cottage door, pronounced that,
after all, he was a nice, decent-looking lad enough, which certainly
her Ladyship would not have said before his illness.
Miss Jane did not stay long. Indeed, Alfred could not talk to her,
and she did not know what to say to him; she could only stand by his
bed, with the tears upon her cheeks, making little murmuring sounds
in answer to Mrs. King, who said for her son what she thought he
wished to have said. Meanwhile, Jane was earnestly looking at him,
remarking with awe, that, changed as he was since she had last seen
him--so much more wasted away--the whole look of his face was altered
by the gentleness and peace that it had gained, so as to be like the
white figure of a saint.
She could not bear it when Mrs. King told her Alfred wanted to thank
her for all her kindness in coming to see him. 'Oh, no,' she said,
'I was not kind at all;' and her tears would not be hindered. 'Only,
you know, I could not help it.'
Alfred gave her a bright look. Any one could see what a pleasure it
was to him to be looking at her again, though he did not repent of
his share in the sacrifice for Paul's sake. No, if Paul had been
given up that Miss Jane might come to him, Alfred would not have had
the training that made all so sweet and calm with him now. He turned
his head to the little picture, and said, 'Thank you, Ma'am, for
that. That's been my friend.'
'Yes, indeed it has, Miss Jane,' said his mother. 'There's nothing
you ever did for him that gave him the comfort that has been.'
'And please, Ma'am,' said Alfred, 'will you tell my Lady--I give her
my duty--and ask her pardon for having behaved so bad--and Mrs.
Crabbe--and the rest?'
'I will, Alfred; but every one has forgiven that nonsense long ago.'
'It was very bad of me,' said Alfred, pausing for breath; 'and so it
was not to mind you--Miss Jane--when you said I was ill for a
'Did I?' said Jane.
'Yes--in hay-time--I mind it--I didn't mind for long--but 'twas true.
He had patience with me.'
The cough came on, and Jane knew she must go; her grandmother had
bidden her not to stay if it were so, and she just ventured to
squeeze Alfred's hand, and then went down-stairs, checking her tears,
to wish Matilda and Ellen good-bye; and as she passed by Paul, told
him not to uncover his still very short-haired head, and kindly hoped
he was better.
Paul, in his dreary feelings, hardly thought of Mr. Cope's plan,
till, as he was getting the letters ready for Harold, he turned up
one in Mr. Cope's writing, addressed to the 'Rev. A. Shaw, Berryton,
'That's to settle for me, then,' he said; and Harold who was at tea,
asking, 'What's that?' he explained.
'Well,' said Harold, 'every one to his taste! I wouldn't go to
school again, not for a hundred pounds; and as to KEEPING school!'
(Such a face as he made really caused Paul to smile.) 'Nor you don't
half like it, neither,' continued Harold. 'Come, you'd better stay
and get work here! I'd sooner be at the plough-tail all day, than
poke out my eyes over stuff like that,' pointing to Paul's slate,
covered with figures. 'Here, Nelly,' as she moved about, tidying the
room, 'do you hear? Mr. Cope's got an offer of a place for Paul--
five pounds a year, and board and lodging, to be school-master's
whipper-in, or what d'ye call it?'
'What do you say, Harold?' cried Ellen, putting her hands on the back
of a chair, quite interested. 'You going away, Paul?'
'Mr. Cope says so--and I must get my living, you know,' said Paul.
'But not yet; you are not well enough yet,' said the kind girl. 'And
where did you say--?'
'Berryton--oh! that's just four miles out on the other side of
Elbury, where Susan Congleton went to live that was housemaid at the
Grange. She says it's such a nice place, and such beautiful organ
and singing at church! And what did you say you were to be, Paul?'
'I'm to help the school-master.'
'Gracious me!' cried Ellen. 'Why, such a scholar as you are, you'll
be quite a gentleman yet, Paul. Why, they school-masters get fifty
or sixty pounds salaries sometimes. I protest it's the best thing
I've heard this long time! Was it Mr. Cope's doing, or my Lady's?'
'Mr. Cope's,' said Paul, beginning to think he had been rather less
grateful than he ought.
'Ah! it is like him,' said Ellen, 'after all the pains he has taken
with you. And you'll not be so far off, Paul: you'll come to see us
in the holidays, you know.'
'To be sure he will,' said Harold; 'or if he don't, I shall go and
'Of course he will,' said Ellen, with her hand on Paul's chair, and
speaking low and affectionately to console him, as she saw him so
downcast; 'don't you know how poor Alfy says he's come to be instead
of a son to Mother, and a brother to us? I must go up and tell Alf
and mother. They'll be so pleased.'
Paul felt very differently about the plan now. All the house
congratulated him upon it, and Matilda evidently thought more of him
now that she found he was to have something to do. But such things
as these were out of sight beside that which was going on in the room
Alfred slept better that night, and woke so much revived, that they
thought him better: and Harold, greatly comforted about him, stood
tolerably quietly by his side, listening to one or two things that
Alfred had longed for months past to say to him.
'Promise me, Harold dear, that you'll be a good son to Mother:
you'll be the only one now.'
Harold made a bend of his head like a promise.
'O Harold, be good to her!' went on Alfred earnestly; 'she's had so
much trouble! I do hope God will leave you to her--if you are steady
and good. Do, Harold! She's not like some, as don't care what their
lads get to. And don't take after me, and be idle! Be right-down
good, Harold, as Paul is; and when you come to be ill--oh! it won't
be so bad for you as it was for me!'
'I do want to be good,' sighed Harold. 'If I'd only been confirmed;
but 'twas all along of them merries last summer!'
'And I was such a plague to you--I drove you out,' said Alfred.
'No, no, I was a brute to you! Oh! Alfy, Alfy, if I could only get
back the time!'
He was getting to the sobs that hurt his brother; and his sister was
going to interfere; but Alfred said:
'Never mind, Harold dear, we've been very happy together, and we'll
always love each other. You'll not forget Alf, and you'll be
Mother's good son to take care of her! Won't you?'
So Harold gave that promise, and went away with his tears. Poor
fellow, now was his punishment for having slighted the Confirmation.
Like Esau, an exceeding bitter cry could not bring back what he had
lightly thrown away. Well was it for him that this great sorrow came
in time, and that it was not altogether his birthright that he had
parted with. He found he could not go out to his potato-planting and
forget all about it, as he would have liked to have done--something
would not let him; and there he was sitting crouched up and sorrowful
on the steps of the stairs, when Mr. Cope and all the rest were
gathered in Alfred's room, a church for the time. Matilda and Ellen
had set out the low table with the fair white cloth, and Mr. Cope
brought the small cups and paten, which were doubly precious to him
for having belonged to his father, and because the last time he had
seen them used had been for his father's last Communion.
Now was the time to feel that a change had really passed over the
young pastor in the time of his absence. Before, he could only lead
Alfred in his prayers, and give him counsel, tell him to hope in his
repentance, and on what that hope was founded. Now that he had bent
beneath the hand of the Bishop, he had received, straight down from
the Twelve, the Power from on High. It was not Mr. Cope, but the
Lord Who had purchased that Pardon by His own most Precious Blood,
Who by him now declared to Alfred that the sins and errors of which
he had so long repented, were pardoned and taken away. The Voice of
Authority now assured him of what he had been only told to hope and
trust before. And to make the promise all the more close and
certain, here was the means of becoming a partaker of the Sacrifice--
here was that Bread and that Cup which shew forth the Lord's Death
till He come. It was very great rest and peace, the hush that was
over the quiet room, with only Alfred's hurried breath to be heard
beside Mr. Cope's voice as he spoke the blessed words, and the low
responses of the little congregation. Paul was close beside Alfred--
he would have him there between his mother and the wall--and the two
whose first Communion it was, were the last to whom Mr. Cope came.
To one it was to be the Food for the passage into the unseen world;
to the other might it be the first partaking of the Manna to support
him through the wilderness of this life.
'From the highways and hedges,' here was one brought into the
foretaste of the Marriage Supper. Ah! there was one outside, who had
loved idle pleasure when the summons had been sent to him. Perhaps
the misery he was feeling now might be the means of sparing him from
missing other calls, and being shut out at last.
It seemed to fulfil all that Alfred had wished. He lay still between
waking and sleeping for a long time afterwards, and then begged for
Paul to read to him the last chapters of the Book of Revelation.
Matilda wished to read them for him; but he said, 'Paul, please.'
Paul's voice was fuller and softer when it was low; his accent helped
the sense, and Alfred was more used to them than to his visitor
sister. Perhaps there was still another reason, for when Paul came
to the end, and was turning the leaves for one of Alfred's favourite
bits, he saw Alfred's eyes on him, as if he wanted to speak. It was
to say, 'Brothers quite now, Paul! Thank you. I think God must have
sent you to help me.'
Alfred seemed better all the evening, and they went to bed in good
spirits; but at midnight, Mr. Cope, who was very deeply studying and
praying, the better to fit himself for his new office in the
ministry, was just going to shut his book, and go up to bed, when he
heard a tremulous ring at the bell.
It was Harold, his face looking very white in the light from Mr.
'Oh! please, Sir,' he said, 'Alfred is worse; and Mother said, if
your light wasn't out, you'd like to know.'
'I am very grateful to her,' said Mr. Cope; and taking up his plaid,
he wrapped one end round the boy, and put his arm round him, as he
felt him quaking as Paul had done before, but not crying--too much
awe-struck for that. He said that his mother thought something had
broken in the lungs, and that he would be choked. Mr. Cope made the
more haste, that he might judge if the doctor would be of any use.
Paul was sitting up in his bed--they had not let him get up--but his
eyes were wide open with distress, as he plainly heard the loud sob
that each breath had become. Mrs. King was holding Alfred up in her
arms; Matilda was trying to chafe his feet; Ellen was kneeling with
her face hidden.
The light of sense and meaning was not gone from Alfred's eyes,
though the last struggle had come. He gave a look as though he were
glad to see Mr. Cope, and then gazed on his brother. Mrs. King
signed to Harold to come nearer, and whispered, 'Kiss him.' His
sisters had done so, and he had missed Harold. Then Mr. Cope prayed,
and Alfred's eyes at first owned the sounds; but soon they were
closed, and the long struggling breaths were all that shewed that the
spirit was still there.
'He shall swallow up death in victory, and the Lord God shall wipe
away tears from all eyes.'
One moment, and the blue eyes they knew so well were opened and
smiling on his mother, and then -
It was over; and through affliction and pain, the young spirit had
gone to rest!
The funeral day was a very sore one to Paul Blackthorn. He would
have given the world to be there, and have heard the beautiful words
of hope which received his friend to his resting-place, but he could
not get so far. He had tried to carry a message to a house not half
so far off as the church, but his knees seemed to give way under him,
and his legs ached so much that he could hardly get home. Somehow, a
black suit, just such as Harold's, had come home for him at the same
time; but this could not hinder him from feeling that he was but a
stranger, and one who had no real place in the home where he lived.
There was the house full of people, who would only make their remarks
on him--Miss Hardman (who was very critical of the coffin-plate), the
school-master, and some of the upper-servants of the house--and poor
Mrs. King and Matilda, who could not help being gratified at the
attention to their darling, were obliged to go down and be civil to
them; while Ellen, less used to restraint, was shut into her own room
crying; and Harold was standing on the stairs, very red, but a good
deal engaged with his long hat-band. Poor Paul! he had not even his
usual refuge--his own bed to lie upon and hide his face--for that had
been taken away to make room for the coffin to be carried down.
There, they were going at last, when it had seemed as if the bustle
and confusion would never cease. There was Alfred leaving the door
where he had so often played, carried upon the shoulders of six lads
in white frocks, his old school-fellows and Paul's Confirmation
friends. How Paul envied them for doing him that last service!
There was his mother, always patient and composed, holding Harold's
arm--Harold, who must be her stay and help, but looking so slight, so
boyish, and so young, then the two girls, Ellen so overpowered with
crying that her sister had to lead her; Mrs. Crabbe with Betsey
Hardman, who held up a great white handkerchief, for other people's
visible grief always upset her, as she said; and besides, she felt it
a duty to cry at such a time; and the rest two and two, quite a
train, in their black suits: how unlike the dreary pauper funerals
Paul had watched away at Upperscote! That respectable look seemed to
make him further off and more desolate, like one cut off, whom no one
would follow, no one would weep for. Alfred, who had called him a
brother, was gone, and here he was alone!
The others were taking their dear one once more to the church where
they had so often prayed that he might have a happy issue out of all
They were met by Mr. Cope, ending his loving intercourse with Alfred
by reading out the blessed promise of Resurrection--the assurance
that the body they were sowing in weakness would be raised in power;
so that the noble boy, whom they had seen fade away like a drooping
flower, would rise again blossoming forth in glory, after the Image
of the Incorruptible--that Image, thought Mr. Cope, as he read on,
which he faithfully strove to copy even through the sufferings due to
the corruptible. His voice often shook and faltered. He had never
before read that Service; and perhaps, except for those of his own
kin, it could never be a greater effort to him, going along with
Alfred as he had done, holding up the rod and staff that bore him
through the dark valley. And each trembling of his tone seemed to
answer something that the mother was feeling in her peaceful,
hopeful, thankful grief--yes, thankful that she could lay her once
high-spirited and thoughtless boy in his grave, with the same sure
and certain hope of a joyful Resurrection, as that ripe and earnest-
minded Christian his father, or his little innocent brother. It was
peace--awful peace, indeed, but soothing even to Ellen and Harold,
new as they were to grief.
But to poor Paul at home, out of hearing of the words of hope, only
listening to the melancholy toll of the knell, and quite alone in the
disarranged forlorn house, there seemed nothing to take off the edge
of misery. He was not wanted to keep Alfred company now, nor to read
to him--no one needed him, no one cared for him. He wandered up to
where Alfred had lain so long, as if to look for the pale quiet face
that used to smile to him. There was nothing but the bed-frame and
mattress! He threw himself down on it and cried. He did not well
know why--perhaps the chief feeling was that Alfred was gone away to
rest and bliss, and he was left alone to be weary and without a
At last the crying began to spend itself, and he turned and looked
up. There was Alfred's little picture of the Crucified still on the
wall, and the words under it, 'For us!' Paul's eye fell on it; and
somehow it brought to mind what Alfred had said to him on Christmas
Day. There was One Who had no home on earth; there was One Who had
made Himself an outcast and a wanderer, and Who had not where to lay
His Head. Was not He touched with a fellow-feeling for the lonely
boy? Would He not help him to bear his friendless lot as a share of
His own Cross? Nay, had He not raised him up friends already in his
utmost need? 'There is a Friend Who sticketh closer than a brother.'
He was the Friend that Paul need never lose, and in Whom he could
still meet his dear Alfred. These thoughts, not quite formed, but
something like them, came gently as balm to the poor boy, and though
they brought tears even thicker than the first burst of lonely
sorrow, they were as peaceful as those shed beside the grave. Though
Paul was absent in the body, this was a very different shutting out
from Harold's on last Tuesday.
Paul must have cried himself to sleep, for he did not hear the
funeral-party return, and was first roused by Mrs. King coming up-
stairs. He had been so much used to think of this as Alfred's room,
that he had never recollected that it was hers; and now that she was
come up for a moment's breathing-time, he started up ashamed and
shocked at being so caught.
But good motherly Mrs. King saw it all, and how he had been weeping
where her child had so long rested. Indeed, his face was swelled
with crying, and his voice all unsteady.
'Poor lad! poor lad!' she said kindly, 'you were as fond of him as
any of them; and if we wanted anything else to make you one of us,
that would do it.'
'O Mother,' said Paul, as she kindly put her hand on him, 'I could
not bear it--I was so lost--till I looked at THAT,' pointing to the
'Ay,' said Mrs. King, as she wiped her quiet tears, 'that Cross was
Alfred's great comfort, and so it is to us all, my boy, whatever way
we have to carry it, till we come to where he is gone. No cross, no
crown, they say.'
Perhaps it was not bad for any one that this forlorn day had given
Paul a fresh chill, which kept him in bed for nearly a week, so as
gently to break the change from her life of nursing to Mrs. King, and
make him very happy and peaceful in her care.
And when at last on a warm sunny Sunday, Paul Blackthorn returned
thanks in church for his recovery--ay, and for a great deal besides--
he had no reason to think that he was a stranger cared for by no one.
CHAPTER XIII--SIX YEARS LATER
It is a beautiful morning in Easter week. The sun is shining on the
gilded weathercock, which flashes every time it veers from south to
west; the snowdrops are getting quite out of date, and the buttercups
and primroses have it all their own way; the grass is making a start,
and getting quite long upon the graves in Friarswood churchyard.
'Really, I should have sent in the Saxon monarch to tidy us up!' says
to himself the tall young Rector, as he stepped over the stile with
one long stride; 'but I suppose he is better engaged.'
That tall young Rector is the Reverend Marcus Cope, six years older,
but young still. The poor old Rector, Mr. John Selby, died four
years ago abroad; and Lady Jane and Miss Selby's other guardians gave
the living to Mr. Cope, to the great joy of all the parish, except
the Shepherds, who have never forgiven him for their own usage of
their farming boy, nor for the sermon he neither wrote nor preached.
The Saxon monarch means one Harold King, who looks after the Rectory
garden and horse, as well as the post-office and other small matters.
The clerk is unlocking the church, and shaking out the surplice, and
Mr. Cope goes into the vestry, takes out two big books covered with
green parchment, and sees to the pen. It is a very good one, judging
by the writing of the last names in that book. They are Francis
Mowbray and Jane Arabella Selby.
'Captain and Mrs. Mowbray will be a great blessing to the place, if
they go on as they have begun,' thinks Mr. Cope. 'How happy they are
making old Lady Jane, and how much more Mrs. Mowbray goes among the
cottages now that she does more as she pleases.'
Then Mr. Cope goes to the porch and looks out. He sees two men
getting over the stile. One is a small slight person, in very good
black clothes, not at all as if they were meant to ape a gentleman,
and therefore thoroughly respectable. He has a thin face, rather
pointed as to the chin and nose, and the eyes dark and keen, so that
it would be over-sharp but that the mouth looks so gentle and
subdued, and the whole countenance is grave and thoughtful. You
could not feel half so sure that he is a certificated school-master,
as you can that his very brisk-looking companion is so.
'Good morning, Mr. Brown.--Good morning, Paul,' said Mr. Cope. 'I
did not expect to see you arrive in this way.'
The grave face glitters up in a merry look of amusement, while, with
a little colouring, he answers:
'Why, Sir, Matilda said it was the proper thing, and so we supposed
she knew best.'
There are not so many people who DO talk of Paul now. Most people
know him as Mr. Blackthorn, late school-master at Berryton, where the
boys liked him for his bright and gentle yet very firm ways; the
parents, for getting their children on, and helping them to be
steady; and the clergyman, for being so perfectly to be trusted, so
anxious to do right, and, while efficient and well informed,
perfectly humble and free from conceit. Now he has just got an
appointment to Hazleford school, in another diocese, with a salary of
fifty pounds a year; but, as Charles Hayward would tell you, 'he
hasn't got one bit of pride, no more than when he lived up in the
There is not long to wait. There is another party getting over the
stile. There is a very fine tall youth first. As Betsey Hardman
tells her mother, 'she never saw such a one for being fine-growed and
stately to look at, since poor Charles King when he wore his best
wig.' A very nice open honest face, and as merry a pair of blue eyes
as any in the parish, does Harold wear, nearly enough to tell you
that, if in these six years it would be too much to say he has never
done ANYTHING to vex his mother, yet in the main his heart is in the
right place--he is a very good son, very tender to her, and steady
Whom is he helping over the stile? Oh, that is Mrs. Mowbray's pretty
little maid! a very good young thing, whom she has read with and
taught; and here, lady-like and delicate-looking as ever, is Matilda.
Bridemaids before the bride! that's quite wrong; but the bride has a
shy fit, and would not get over first, and Matilda and Harold are,
the one encouraging her, the other laughing at her; and Mr.
Blackthorn turns very red, and goes down the path to meet her, and
she takes his arm, and Harold takes Lucy, and Mr. Brown Miss King.
Very nice that bride looks, with her hair so glossy under her straw
bonnet trimmed with white, her pretty white shawl, and quiet purple
silk dress, her face rather flushed, but quiet-looking, as if she
were growing more like her mother, with something of her sense and
How Mr. Blackthorn ever came to ask her that question, nobody can
guess, and Harold believes he does not know himself. However, it got
an answer two years ago, and Mrs. King gave her consent with all her
heart, though she knew Betsey Hardman would talk of picking a husband
up out of the gutter, and that my Lady would look severe, and say
something of silly girls. Yes--and though the rich widower bailiff
had said sundry civil things of Miss Ellen being well brought up and
notable--'For,' as Mrs. King wrote to Matilda, 'I had rather see
Ellen married to a good religious man than to any one, and I do not
know one I can be so sure of as Paul, nor one that is so like a son
to me; and if he has no friends belonging to him, that is better than
bad friends.' And Ellen herself, from looking on him as a mere boy,
as she had done at their first acquaintance, had come to thinking no
one ever had been so wise or so clever, far less so good, certainly
not so fond of her--so her answer was no great wonder. Then they
were to be prudent, and wait for some dependence; and so they did
till Mr. Shaw recommended Paul Blackthorn for Hazleford school, where
there is a beautiful new house for the master, so that he will have
no longer to live in lodgings, and be 'done for,' as the saying is.
Harold tells Ellen that he is afraid that without her he won't wash
above once in four months; but however that may be, she is convinced
that the new school-house will be lost on him, and that in spite of
all his fine arithmetic, his fifty pounds will never go so far for
one as for two; and so she did not turn a deaf ear to his entreaties
that she would not send him alone to Hazleford.
They wanted very much to get 'Mother' to come and live with them,
give up the post-office, and let Harold live in Mr. Cope's house; but
Mother has a certain notion that Harold's stately looks and perfect
health might not last, if she were not always on the watch to put him
into dry clothes if he comes in damp, and such like 'little fidgets,'
as he calls them, which he would not attend to from any one but
Mother. So she will keep on the shop and the post-office, and try to
break in that uncouth girl of John Farden's to be a tidy little maid;
and Mr. and Mrs. Blackthorn will spend their holidays with her and
Harold. She may come to them yet in time, if, as Paul predicts,
Master Harold takes up with Lucy at the Grange--but there's time
enough to think of that; and even if he should, it would take many
years to make Lucy into such a Mrs. King as she who is now very busy
over the dinner at home, but thinking about a good deal besides the
There! Paul and Ellen have stood and knelt in an earnest reverent
spirit, making their vows to one another and before God, and His
blessing has been spoken upon them to keep them all their lives
It is with a good heart of hope that Mr. Cope speaks that blessing,
knowing that, as far as human eye can judge, here stands a man who
truly feareth the Lord, and beside him a woman with the ornament of a
meek and quiet spirit.
They are leaving the church now, the bridegroom and his bride, arm in
arm, but they turn from the path to the wicket, and Harold will not
let even Matilda follow them. Just by the south wall of the church
there are three graves, one a very long one, one quite short, one of
middle length. The large one has a head-stone, with the names of
Charles King, aged forty years, and Charles King, aged seven years.
The middle-sized one has a stone cross, and below it 'Alfred King,
aged sixteen years,' and the words, 'In all their afflictions He was
It was Matilda who paid the cost of that stone, Miss Selby who drew
the pattern of it, and 'Mother' who chose the words, as what Alfred
himself loved best. At the bottom of Ellen's best work-box is a copy
of verses about that very cross. She thinks they ought to have been
carved out upon it, but Paul knows a great deal better, so all she
could do was to write them out on a sheet of note-paper with a wide
lace border, and keep them as her greatest treasure. Perhaps she
prizes them even more than the handsome watch that Mr. Shaw gave
Paul, though less, of course, than the great Bible and Prayer-book,
in which Mr. Cope has waited till this morning to write the names of
Paul and Ellen Blackthorn.
So they stand beside the cross, and read the words, and they neither
of them can say anything, though the white sweet face is before the
eyes of their mind at the same time, and Ellen thinks she loves Paul
twice as much for having been one of his great comforts.
'Good-bye, Alfred dear,' she whispers at last.
'No, not good-bye,' says Paul. 'He is as much with us as ever,
wherever we are. Remember how we were together, Ellen. I have
always thought of him at every Holy Communion since, and have felt
that if till now, no one living--at least one at rest, were mine by
Ellen pressed his arm.
'Yes,' said Paul; 'the months I spent with Alfred were the great help
and blessing of my life. I don't believe any recollection has so
assisted to guard me in all the frets and temptations there are in a
life like mine.'
Back to Full Books