Meanwhile, Alfred had plenty of food for dreaming over his fellow sufferer. It really seemed to quiet him to think of another in the same case, and how many questions he longed to have asked Mr. Cope! He wanted to know whether it came easier to Jem to be patient than to himself; whether he suffered as much wearing pain; whether he grieved over the last hope of using his limbs; and above all, the question he knew he never could bear to ask, whether Jem had the dread of death to scare his thoughts, though never confessed to himself.
He longed for Mr. Cope’s next visit, and felt strongly drawn towards that thought of Jem, yet ashamed to think of himself as so much less patient and submissive; so little able to take comfort in what seemed to soothe Jem, that it was the Lord’s doing. Could Jem think he had been a wicked boy, and take it as punishment?
‘I say,’ cried Harold, running up into his brother’s room, as soon as he had put away the pony, ‘do you know whether Paul is gone?’
‘It is always Paul, Paul!’ exclaimed Ellen; ‘I’m sure I hope he is.’
‘But why do you think he would be?’ asked Alfred.
’Oh, didn’t you hear? He knows no more than a baby about anything, and so he turned the cows into Darnel meadow, and never put the hurdle to stop the gap—never thinking they could get down the bank; so the farmer found them in the barley, and if he did not run out against him downright shameful—though Paul up and told him the truth, that ‘twas nobody else that did it.’
‘What, and turned him off?’
‘Well, that’s what I want to know,’ said Harold, going on with his tea. ’Paul said to me he didn’t know how he could stand the like of that—and yet he didn’t like to be off—he’d taken a fancy to the place, you see, and there’s me, and there’s old Caesar—and so he said he wouldn’t go unless the farmer sent him off when he came to be paid this evening—and old Skinflint has got him so cheap, I don’t think he will.’
‘For shame, Harold; don’t call names!’
‘Well, there he is,’ said Alfred, pointing into the farmyard, towards the hay-loft door. This was over the cow-house in the gable end; and in the dark opening sat Paul, his feet on the top step of the ladder, and Caesar, the yard-dog, lying by his side, his white paws hanging down over the edge, his sharp white muzzle and grey prick ears turned towards his friend, and his eyes casting such appealing looks, that he was getting more of the hunch of bread than probably Paul could well spare.
‘How has he ever got the dog up the ladder?’ cried Harold.
‘Well!’ said Mrs. King, ’I declare he looks like a picture I have seen—’
’Well, to be sure! who would go for to draw a picture of the like of that!’ exclaimed Ellen, pausing as she put on her things to carry home some work.