But good motherly Mrs. King saw it all, and how he had been weeping where her child had so long rested. Indeed, his face was swelled with crying, and his voice all unsteady.
‘Poor lad! poor lad!’ she said kindly, ’you were as fond of him as any of them; and if we wanted anything else to make you one of us, that would do it.’
‘O Mother,’ said Paul, as she kindly put her hand on him, ’I could not bear it—I was so lost—till I looked at that,’ pointing to the little print.
‘Ay,’ said Mrs. King, as she wiped her quiet tears, ’that Cross was Alfred’s great comfort, and so it is to us all, my boy, whatever way we have to carry it, till we come to where he is gone. No cross, no crown, they say.’
Perhaps it was not bad for any one that this forlorn day had given Paul a fresh chill, which kept him in bed for nearly a week, so as gently to break the change from her life of nursing to Mrs. King, and make him very happy and peaceful in her care.
And when at last on a warm sunny Sunday, Paul Blackthorn returned thanks in church for his recovery—ay, and for a great deal besides— he had no reason to think that he was a stranger cared for by no one.
CHAPTER XIII—SIX YEARS LATER
It is a beautiful morning in Easter week. The sun is shining on the gilded weathercock, which flashes every time it veers from south to west; the snowdrops are getting quite out of date, and the buttercups and primroses have it all their own way; the grass is making a start, and getting quite long upon the graves in Friarswood churchyard.
‘Really, I should have sent in the Saxon monarch to tidy us up!’ says to himself the tall young Rector, as he stepped over the stile with one long stride; ‘but I suppose he is better engaged.’
That tall young Rector is the Reverend Marcus Cope, six years older, but young still. The poor old Rector, Mr. John Selby, died four years ago abroad; and Lady Jane and Miss Selby’s other guardians gave the living to Mr. Cope, to the great joy of all the parish, except the Shepherds, who have never forgiven him for their own usage of their farming boy, nor for the sermon he neither wrote nor preached.
The Saxon monarch means one Harold King, who looks after the Rectory garden and horse, as well as the post-office and other small matters.
The clerk is unlocking the church, and shaking out the surplice, and Mr. Cope goes into the vestry, takes out two big books covered with green parchment, and sees to the pen. It is a very good one, judging by the writing of the last names in that book. They are Francis Mowbray and Jane Arabella Selby.
’Captain and Mrs. Mowbray will be a great blessing to the place, if they go on as they have begun,’ thinks Mr. Cope. ’How happy they are making old Lady Jane, and how much more Mrs. Mowbray goes among the cottages now that she does more as she pleases.’