Mr. Hamilton’s visit was very brief. I asked him to prescribe for the baby, but he said nothing ailed it in particular; it had always been sickly, and had been so neglected of late, most likely sour food had been given it. Mrs. Tyler, the next-door neighbour, who had looked after it, was a thoughtless body. ’You must take it in hand yourself, Miss Garston,’ he finished; ’keep it warm and clean, and see the food properly prepared: that will be better than any medicine.’ And then he went off with his usual abruptness, only I saw him stop at the gate to give pennies to Janie and little Jock.
There was still so much to do that I determined to spend the whole day at the cottage. I sent off all the dirty things for Mrs. Tyler to wash at home, for she was so noisy and untidy that I did not care to have her on the premises, and I thought granny could sit in Mrs. Marshall’s room and hold baby while Peggy waited on me and ran errands.
Hope worked splendidly: when she had scoured the kitchen and front passage, she went upstairs and scrubbed the two rooms where granny and the children slept. I had made a potato pie with some scraps of meat Peggy had brought from the butcher’s, and had seen the dish emptied by the hungry children. When I had fed the sandy cat and had had my own dinner, which Mrs. Barton had packed in a nice clean basket, and had peeped at my patient, I went upstairs to help Hope, and Peggy went with me. The state of the sleeping-rooms had horrified me in the morning; the windows had evidently not been open for weeks, and the sheets on granny’s bed were black with dirt. Hope had washed the bedstead, and Peggy had lighted a fire, that the room might be habitable by night. Tim came up while we were busy, and stared at us. I was helping Peggy drag the mattresses and bedclothes into the passage. The open windows and the wet boards reeking with soft soap evidently astonished him.
‘Where be us to sleep to-night?’ quoth Tim; ’it is colder than in the yard.’ But Peggy, who was excited by her work, bade him hold his tongue and not stand gaping there blocking up the passage.
I had been singing over my work, just to put heart into all of us and make us forget what a very disagreeable business it was, when Tim again made his appearance and said there was a gentleman in the kitchen. ’He thought he knowed him, but wasn’t sure, but he had asked for the lady.’ I went down at once, and found it was Mr. Tudor; he was sitting very comfortably by the fire, with all the children round him; little Janie was on his knee; her face was clean, and her pretty curls had been nicely brushed, so I did not mind her cuddling up to him, and I knew he was fond of children and always ready to play with them.
He put her down and shook hands with me, and said the vicar had sent him to look after me, as he could not come himself. I thought he looked a little amused at my appearance; and no wonder. I had quite forgotten that I had tied a handkerchief over my head to keep the dust from off my hair; with my holland bib-apron and sleeves, and pinned-up dress, I must have looked an odd figure; but when I said so he laughed, and observed that he rather admired my novel costume: it reminded him of a Highland peasant he had once seen.