’Well, I’m sure I don’t know when poor folks is to have a holiday if not on a Sunday, and the poor boy must be terrible moped with his brother so ill.’
‘Not doing thine own pleasure on My holy day,’ thought Ellen, but she did not say it, for her mother could not bear for texts to be quoted at people. But her heart was very heavy; and when she went up with some tea to Alfred, she looked from the window to see whether, as she hoped, Harold might be in Paul’s hay-loft, preferring going without his tea to being teased by Betsey. Paul sat in his loft, with his Bible on his knee, and his head on Caesar’s neck.
‘Alfred,’ said Ellen, ’do you know where Harold is? Sure he is not gone to the merry orchard?’
‘Is not he come home?’ said Alfred. ’Oh, then he is! He is gone to the merry orchard, breaking Sunday with Dick Royston! And by-and-by he’ll be ill, and die, and be as miserable as I am!’ And Alfred cried as Ellen had never seen him cry.
CHAPTER VI—THE MERRY ORCHARD
Where was Harold?
Still the evening went on, and he did not come. Alfred had worn himself out with his fit of crying, and lay quite still, either asleep, or looking so like it, that when Betsey had finished her tea, and again began asking to see him, Ellen could honestly declare that he was asleep.
Betsey had bidden them good-bye, more than half affronted at not being able to report to her mother all about his looks, though she carried with her a basket of gooseberries and French beans, and Mrs. King walked all the way down the lane with her, and tried to shew an interest in all she said, to make up for the disappointment.
Maybe likewise Mrs. King felt it a relief to her uneasiness to look up and down the road, and along the river, and into the farm-yard, in the hope that Harold might be in sight; but nothing was to be seen on the road, but Master Norland, his wife, and baby, soberly taking their Sunday walk; nor by the river, except the ducks, who seemed to be enjoying their evening bath, and almost asleep on the water; nor in the yard, except Paul Blackthorn, who had come down from his perch to drive the horses in from the home-field, and shut the stable up for the night.
She could not help stopping a moment at the gate, and calling out to Paul to ask whether he had seen anything of Harold. He seemed to have a great mind not to hear, and turned very slowly with his shoulder towards her, making a sound like ‘Eh?’ as if to ask what she said.
‘Have you seen my boy Harold?’
‘I saw him in the morning.’
‘Have you not seen him since? Didn’t he go to church with you?’
‘No; I don’t go to Sunday school.’
‘Was he there?’
She did not receive any answer.
‘Do you know if many of the boys are gone to the merry orchard?’
‘Well, you are a good lad not to be one of them.’