Alfred did not seem to take in much comfort, and Jane did not believe she was putting it rightly; but it was time for her to go home, so she said anxiously, ’Good-bye, Alfred; I hope you’ll be better next time—and—and—’ She bent down and spoke in a very frightened whisper, ’You know when we go to church, we pray you may have patience under your sufferings.’
Then she sprang away, as if ashamed of the sound of her own words; but as she was taking up her basket and wishing Ellen good-bye, she saw that the strange lad had moved nearer the house, and timid little thing as she was, she took out a sixpence, and said, ’Do give him that, and ask him to go away.’
Ellen had no very great fancy for facing the enemy herself, but she made no objection; and looking down-stairs, she saw her brother Harold waiting while his mother stamped the letters, and she called to him, and sent him out to the boy.
He came back in a few moments so much amazed, that she could see the whites all round his eyes.
’He won’t have it! He’s a rum one that! He says he’s no beggar, and that if the young lady would give him work, he’d thank her; but he wants none of her money, and he’ll stand where he chooses!’
‘Why didn’t you lick him?’ hallooed out Alfred’s voice from his bed. ‘Oh! if I—’
‘Nonsense, Alfred!’ cried Miss Jane, frightened into spirit; ’stand still, Harold! I don’t mind him.’
And she put up her parasol, and walked straight out at the house door as bold as a little lioness, going on without looking to the right or left.
‘If—’ began Harold, clenching his fists—and Alfred raised himself upon his bed with flashing eyes to watch, as the boy had moved nearer, and looked for a moment as if he were going to grin, or say something impudent; but the quiet childish form stepping on so simply and steadily seemed to disarm him, and he shrunk back, left her to trip across the road unmolested, and stood leaning over the rail of the bridge, gazing after her as she crossed the hay-field.
Harold rode off with the letters; and Alfred lay gazing, and wondering what that stranger could be, counting the holes in his garments, and trying to guess at his history.
One good thing was, that Alfred was so much carried out of himself, that he was cheerful all the evening.
There was again a sultry night, which brought on so much discomfort and restlessness, that poor Alfred could not sleep. He tried to bear in mind how much he had disturbed his mother the night before, and he checked himself several times when he felt as if he could not bear it any longer without waking her, and to remember his old experience, that do what she would for him, it would be no real relief, and he should only be sorry the next day when he saw her going about her work with a worn face and a head-ache.