Jessie’s own tears were checked more quickly by the sight of his than they would have been by any other means. She pulled herself together as well as she could. “No—o, don’t ask mother,” she said in a choked, thick voice, “it is no use, father would make me stay, and it would only make him angry if we asked him, and I—I want to help you, too,” she added, quite truthfully. “I shan’t mind so much by and by, p’raps. Don’t cry, Charlie. Turn round and listen, and I’ll tell you more stories. Then, after breakfast, I’ll tidy your room.”
The violence of Charlie’s sobs had quite frightened away and stopped hers, and banished for a time her home-sickness. She put all her thoughts into her coaxing of Charlie, and after a time he raised his head and turned around and faced her, and while he lay back on his pillows, very weary after his excitement, Jessie, the more weary of the two, tried bravely to be cheerful, and to talk brightly, and so Mrs. Lang found them when, a little later, she brought up Charlie’s breakfast on a tray.
Mrs. Lang even smiled when she saw the two together, evidently on such good terms, and the happy smile with which Charlie looked up at her delighted her sad heart. He was the apple of her eye, the great love of her life, the only thing in the world she cared for, and to see him happy, to see his dull, cheerless days brightened, gave her more pleasure than anything. She kissed her boy and looked quite kindly at Jessie.
“Your breakfast is ready in the oven,” she said, “and I’m sure you must be famished. I am. I thought I should never get the men started off. Now, darling,” to Charlie, “will you take your breakfast?” She put down the tray and raised him on his pillow a little. Jessie, accustomed now to invalids, beat up the pillow and placed it behind him.
“Is that right?” she asked.
“Oh yes, that’s lovely,” said Charlie, with a sigh of pleasure.
Mrs. Lang brought forward the tray. Jessie’s eye fell on it with dismay. Trained by Miss Barley in dainty neatness, and by her grandmother in cleanness and care and thoughtfulness, the sight of it shocked her. The black dingy tray was smeared and dirty, the slice of bread rested on it, with no plate between, the knife and fork and cup were dirty too, and all was put down anyhow. Charlie probably was not accustomed to daintiness, but this was enough to check whatever appetite an invalid might have. Jessie longed to take the tray away, and set it according to her own notions, but she said nothing, for instinct told her that her mother’s feelings would be hurt if she did, and that it would not be nice for a stranger to come in and begin to alter things according to her own tastes. She made up her mind, though, to try in small ways to make things nicer for the invalid when she got the opportunity.