Already, when Mr. Cope went up again, the remedies had given some relief; and though the breaths came short and hard, like so many stabs, Alfred had put his head into an easier position, and his eyes and lips looked more free to look a greeting. There was so much wistful earnestness in his face, and it deeply grieved Mr. Cope to be forced to leave him, and in too much haste even to be able to pray with him.
‘Well, Alfred, dear fellow,’ he said, his voice trembling, ’I am come to wish you good-bye. I am comforted to find that Mr. Blunt thinks there is good hope that you will be here—that we shall be together when I come back. Yes, I know that is what is on your mind, and I do reckon most earnestly on it; but if it should not be His Will—here, Ellen, will you take care of this note? If he should be worse, will you send this to Mr. Carter, at Ragglesford? and I know he will come at once.’
The dew stood on Alfred’s eye-lashes, and his lips worked. He looked up sadly to Mr. Cope, as if this did not answer his longings.
Mr. Cope replied to the look—’Yes, dear boy, but if it cannot be, still remember it is Communion. He can put us together. We all drink into one Spirit. I shall be engaged in a like manner—I would not—I could not go, Alfred, for pleasure—no, nor business—only for this. You must think that I am gone to bring you home the Gift—the greatest, best Gift—the one our Lord left with His disciples, to bear them through their sorrows and pains—through the light affliction that is but for a moment, but worketh an exceeding weight of glory. And if I should not be in time,’ he added, nearly sobbing as he spoke, ’then—then, Alfred, the Gift, the blessing is yours all the same. It is the Great High Priest to Whom you must look—perhaps you may do so the more really if it should not be through—your friend. If we are disappointed, we will make a sacrifice of our disappointment. Good-bye, my boy; God bless you!’ Bending close down to his face, he whispered, ’Think of me. Pray for me—now— always.’ Then, rising hastily, he shook the hands of the mother and sister, ran down-stairs, and was gone.
The east wind had been swept aside by gales from the warm south, and the spring was bursting out everywhere; the sky looked softly blue, instead of hard and chill; the sun made everything glisten: the hedges were full of catkins; white buds were on the purple twigs of the blackthorns; primroses were looking out on the sunny side of the road; the larks were mounting up, singing as if they were wild with delight; and the sunbeams were full of dancing gnats, as the Curate of Friarswood walked, with quick eager steps, towards the bridge.