Mrs. Chirk meekly brought a straw sun-bonnet, and Hilda tied its strings under Pink’s chin, every fibre within her mutely protesting against its extreme ugliness. “She shall not wear that again,” said she to herself, “if I can help it.” But the sweet pale face looked out so joyously from the dingy yellow tunnel that the stern young autocrat relented. “After all, what does it matter?” she thought. “She would look like an angel, even with a real coal-scuttle on her head.” And then she laughed at the thought of a black japanned scuttle crowning those fair locks; and Pink laughed because Hilda laughed; and so they both went laughing out into the sunshine.
“Nurse Lucy,” said Hildegarde that evening, as they sat in the porch after tea, “why have you never told me about Pink Chirk,—about her being a cripple, I mean? I had no idea of it till I went to see her to-day. How terrible it is!”
“I wonder that I haven’t told you, dear!” replied Nurse Lucy, placidly. “I suppose I am so used to Pink as she is, I forget that she ever was like other people. She is a dear, good child,—his ‘sermon,’ Jacob calls her. He says that whenever he feels impatient or put out, he likes to go down and look at Pink, and hear her talk. ’It takes the crook right out of me!’ he says. Poor Jacob!”
“But how did it happen?” asked Hilda. “She says she was only three years when she—Oh, think of it, Nurse Lucy! It is too dreadful. Tell me how it happened.”
“Don’t ask me, my dear!” said Dame Hartley, sadly. “Why should you hear anything so painful? It would only haunt your mind as it haunted mine for years after. The worst of it was, there was no need of it. Her mother was a young, flighty, careless girl, and she didn’t look after her baby as she should have done. That is all you need know, Hilda, my dear! Poor Susan Chirk! it took the flightiness out of her, and made her the anxious, melancholy soul she has been ever since. Then Bubble was born, and soon after her husband died, and since then she has had a hard time to fend for herself. But Pink has never been any trouble to her, only a help and a comfort; and her neighbors have done what they could from time to time.”
Dame Hartley might have said that she and her husband had kept this desolate widow and her children from starvation through many a long winter, and had given her the means of earning her daily bread in summer; had clothed the children, and provided comforts for the crippled girl. But this was not Nurse Lucy’s way. The neighbors had done what they could, she said; and now Bubble was earning good wages for a boy, and was sure to get on well, being bright and industrious; and Mrs. Chirk took in weaving to do for the neighbors, and went out sometimes to work by the day; and so they were really getting on very well,—better than one could have hoped.