When she could be coaxed no further, Elizabeth took her and the babe upstairs.
“I never saw anything like this in these parts!” cried the girl, looking round her at the white-tiled bathroom.
“Oh, they’re getting quite common!” laughed Elizabeth. “See how nice and warm the water is! Shall we bathe the baby?” And presently the child lay warm and swaddled in its mother’s arms, dressed in some baby-clothes produced by Elizabeth from a kind of travellers’ cupboard at the top of the stairs. Then the mother was induced to try a bath for herself, while Elizabeth tried her hand at spoon-feeding the baby; and in half an hour she had them both in bed, in the bright spare-room—the young mother’s reddish hair unbound lying a splendid mass on the white pillows, and a strange expression—as of some long tension giving way—on her pinched face.
“We’ll not know how to thank you”—she said brokenly. “We were just at the last. Tom wouldn’t ask no one to help us before. But we’d only a few shillings left—we thought at Battleford, we’d sell our bits of things—perhaps that’d take us through.” She looked piteously at Elizabeth, the tears gathering in her eyes.
“Oh! well, we’ll see about that!” said Elizabeth, as she tucked the blankets round her. “Nobody need starve in this country! Mr. Anderson’ll be able perhaps to think of something. Now you go to sleep, and we’ll look after your husband.”
Anderson joined his wife in the sitting-room, with a perplexed countenance. The man was a poor creature—and the beginnings of the drink-craving were evident.
“Give him a chance,” said Elizabeth. “You want one more man in the bothy.”
She sat down beside him, while Anderson pondered, his legs stretched to the fire. A train of thought ran through his mind, embittered by the memory of his father.
He was roused from it by the perception that Elizabeth was looking tired. Instantly he was all tenderness, and anxious misgiving. He made her lie down on the sofa by the fire, and brought her some important letters from Ottawa to read, and the English newspapers.
From the elementary human need with which their minds had just been busy, their talk passed on to National and Imperial affairs. They discussed them as equals and comrades, each bringing their own contribution.
“In a fortnight we shall be in Ottawa!” sighed Elizabeth, at last.
Anderson smiled at her plaintive voice.
“Darling!—is it such a tragedy?”
“No, I shall be as keen as anybody else when we get there. But—we are so happy here!”
“Is that really, really true?” asked Anderson, taking her hand and pressing it to his lips.
“Yes”—she murmured—“yes—but it will be truer still next year!”
They looked at each other tenderly. Anderson stooped and kissed her, long and closely.