Mrs. Humphrey soon after re-entered the room, bringing a small tea-tray, on which was a cup of tea and some other suitable refreshment for the weary woman; she also brought a bowl of bread and milk for the child. The woman drank the tea eagerly, like one athirst, but partook sparingly of the more substantial refreshment which Mrs. Humphrey urged upon her; but the sight of the brim-full bowl of bread and milk caused the eyes of the little boy to glisten with pleasure, and he did ample justice to the hospitality of the benevolent old lady.
Mrs. Harwood wished to give Mrs. Humphrey some account of the circumstances which caused her to be travelling alone with her child, but the worthy and considerate lady would not allow her to further fatigue herself by talking that night, and insisted upon her retiring at once to rest.
“To-morrow,” said she, “I shall be happy to listen to any thing you may wish to communicate.”
Mrs. Humphrey conducted the woman and her child up stairs to a neat bed-room where, after making every arrangement necessary to their comfort, she bade them a kind good night, and left them to enjoy the rest which they so much needed.
When Mrs. Humphrey rejoined her husband in the sitting-room, their conversation very naturally turned to the stranger who was resting beneath their roof. They evidently felt deeply interested by her delicate and lady-like appearance.
“I am sure of one thing,” said Mrs. Humphrey, “that this woman has seen better days, notwithstanding the poverty which her present appearance indicates.”
“And I am convinced of another thing,” replied Mr. Humphrey, “that no fault of her’s has reduced her to her present circumstances, for her countenance shews her to be a worthy and true-souled woman; and she shall freely remain beneath my roof until it shall be her wish to leave it.”
Little did Mr. Humphrey think, when he made this remark, how soon the poor woman would exchange the shelter of his roof for that of the grave.
Next morning on visiting the room of the stranger, Mrs. Humphrey found her too ill to rise from the bed. She complained of no pain, but seemed very weak and languid. Mrs. Humphrey did all that lay in her power for the comfort of the sick woman. Taking little Ernest down stairs she beguiled him with amusing stories, as she attended to her domestic duties, so that his mother might be left in quiet; and when the child grew weary of the confinement of the house Mr. Humphrey took him to walk with him while he attended to some business in the village. Before returning home Mr. Humphrey called upon Dr. Merton, with whom he was intimately acquainted, and spoke to him concerning the sick woman at his house. He requested the physician to call to see her in the course of the day, saying, that if the woman was not able to pay him he would himself see him paid for his services.