She couldn’t help recalling a boy of her own,—the only child she ever had,—who had been accidentally drowned when about the age of Paul.
“If he had only lived,” she thought, “how different might have been our lives.”
A thought came into her mind, and she looked earnestly at Paul.
“I—yes I will speak to Hugh about it,” she said, speaking aloud, unconsciously.
“Did you speak to me?” asked Paul.
“No,—I was thinking of something.”
She observed that Paul was looking rather wistfully at a loaf of bread on the table.
“Don’t you feel hungry?” she asked, kindly.
“I dare say you have had no breakfast.”
“I have eaten nothing since yesterday afternoon.”
“Bless my soul! How hungry you must be!” said the good woman, as she bustled about to get a plate of butter and a knife.
She must have been convinced of it by the rapid manner in which the slices of bread and butter disappeared.
At one o’clock the sexton came home. Dinner was laid, and Paul partook of it with an appetite little affected by his lunch of the morning. As he rose from the table, he took his cap, and saying, “Good-by, I thank you very much for your kindness!” he was about to depart.
“Where are you going?” asked the sexton, in surprise.
“I don’t know,” answered Paul.
“Stop a minute. Hester, I want to speak to you.”
They went into the sitting-room together.
“This boy, Hester,” he commenced with hesitation.
“He has no home.”
“It is a hard lot.”
“Do you think we should be the worse off if we offered to share our home with him?”
“It is like your kind heart, Hugh. Let us go and tell him.”
“We have been talking of you, Paul,” said the sexton. “We have thought, Hester and myself, that as you had no home and we no child, we should all be the gainers by your staying with us. Do you consent?”
“Consent!” echoed Paul in joyful surprise. “How can I ever repay your kindness?”
“If you are the boy we take you for, we shall feel abundantly repaid. Hester, we can give Paul the little bedroom where—where John used to sleep.”
His voice faltered a little, for John was the name of his boy, who had been drowned.
Paul found the sexton’s dwelling very different from his last home, if the Poorhouse under the charge of Mr. and Mrs. Mudge deserved such a name. His present home was an humble one, but he was provided with every needful comfort, and the atmosphere of kindness which surrounded him, gave him a feeling of peace and happiness which he had not enjoyed for a long time.
Paul supposed that he would be at once set to work, and even then would have accounted himself fortunate in possessing such a home.