I sent Hope to her dinner while I washed and made my patient comfortable. The room felt fresher and sweeter already; a bright fire burned in the polished grate; Hope had scoured the table and wiped the chairs, and the dirty quilt and valance had been sent to Mrs. Weatherley’s to be washed. When Hope returned, and the sheets were aired, we re-made the bed. I had sent a message early to Mrs. Drabble begging for some of the lending blankets and a clean coloured quilt, which she had sent down by a boy. The scarlet cover looked so warm and snug that I stood still to admire the effect; poor Mary fairly cried when I laid her back on her pillow.
‘It feels all so clean and heavenly,’ she sobbed; ’it is just a comfort to lie and see the room.’
‘I mean granny to come and have her tea here,’ I said, for I was longing for the dear old woman to have her share of some of the comfort; and I had just led her in and put her in the big shiny chair by the fire, when Uncle Max put his head in and looked at us.
‘Just so,’ he said, nodding his head, and a pleased expression came into his eyes. ’Bravo, Ursula! Tudor won’t know the place again. How you must have worked, child!’ And then he came in and talked to the sick woman.
I had taken a cup of tea standing, for I was determined not to go home and rest until I left for the night. I could not forget the poor fretful baby, and, indeed, all the children were miserably neglected. I made up my mind that Hope and I would wash the poor little creatures and put them comfortably to bed. My first day’s work was certainly exceptionally hard, but it would make my future work easier.
The baby was a pale, delicate little creature, very backward for its age; it left off fretting directly I took it in my lap, and began staring at me with its large blue eyes. Hope had just filled the large tub, and the children were crowding round it with evident amusement, when Uncle Max came in. He contemplated the scene with twinkling eyes.
‘"There was an old woman who lived in a shoe,"’ he began humorously. ’My dear Ursula, do you mean to say you are going to wash all those children? The tub looks suggestive, certainly.’
’Who would have believed in such an overplus of energy? Hard work certainly agrees with you.’ And then he went out laughing, and we set to work, and then Hope and I carried in the children by detachments, that the poor mother might see the clean rosy faces. I am afraid we had to bribe Jock, the youngest boy, for he evidently disliked soap and water.
Peggy and the baby slept in the mother’s room; there was a little bed in the corner for them. I did not leave until granny had been taken upstairs and poor tired Peggy was fast asleep with the baby beside her.
The room looked so comfortable when I turned for a last peep. I had drawn the round table to the bed, and left the night-light and cooling drink beside the sick woman; she was propped up with pillows, and her breathing seemed easier. When I bade her good-night, and told her I should be round early in the morning, she said, ’Then it will be the first morning I shall not dread to wake. Thank you kindly, dear miss, for all you have done’; and her soft brown eyes looked at me gratefully.