Miss Wort groaned audibly, then cheered up, and with a gush of feeling assured her humble friend that it would not be so in a better world; there all would be love and perfect harmony. And so she went on her farther way. Mr. Carnegie and Bessie Fairfax, riding slowly, were still in sight. The next visit Miss Wort had proposed to pay was to a scene of genuine distress, and she saw with regret that the doctor would forestall her. He dismounted and entered a cottage by the roadside, and when she reached it the door was shut, Brownie’s bridle hung on the paling, and Bessie was letting Miss Hoyden crop the sweet grass on the bank while she waited. Miss Wort determined to stay for the doctor’s exit; she had remedies in her pocket for this case also.
Within the cottage there was a good-looking, motherly woman, and a large-framed young man of nineteen or twenty who sat beside the fire with a ghastly face, and hands hanging down in dark despondency. He had the aspect of one rising from a terrible illness; in fact, he had just come out of prison after a month’s hard labor.
“It is his mind that’s worst hurt, sir,” said his mother, lifting her eyes full of tears to Mr. Carnegie’s kind face. “But he has a sore pain in his chest, too, that he never used to have.”
“Stand up, Tom, and let me have a look at you,” said the doctor, and Tom stood up, grim as death, starved, shamed, unutterably miserable.
“Mr. Wiley’s been in, but all he had to say was as he hoped Tom would keep straight now, since he’d found out by unhappy experience as the way of transgressors is hard,” the poor woman told her visitor, breaking into a sob as she spoke.
Mr. Carnegie considered the lad, and told him to sit down again, then turned to the window. His eye lit on Miss Wort Standing outside with downcast face, and hands as if she were praying. He tapped on the glass, and as she rushed to the door he met her with a flag of truce in the form of a requisition for aid.
“Miss Wort, I know you are a liberal soul, and here is a case where you can do some real good, if you will be guided,” he said firmly. “I was going to appeal to Lady Latimer, but I have put so much on her ladyship’s kindness lately—”
“Oh, Mr. Carnegie! I have a right to help here,” interrupted Miss Wort. “A right, for poor Tom was years and years in my Sunday-school class; so he can’t be very bad! Didn’t Admiral Parkins and the other magistrates say that they would rather send his master to prison than him, if they had the power?”
“Yes; but he has done his prison now, and the pressing business is to keep him from going altogether to the deuce. I want him to have a good meal of meat three or four times a week, and light garden-work—all he is fit for now. And then we shall see what next.”
“I wo’ant list and I wo’ant emigrate; I’ll stop where I am and live it down,” announced Tom doggedly.