So Mrs. King stood on her threshold, knowing that to keep Paul Blackthorn would be an offence to her best friend and patroness. Moreover, Mr. Cope was gone, without having left her a word of advice to decide her one way or the other.
CHAPTER X—CHRISTMAS DAY
Things are rather apt to settle themselves; and so did Paul Blackthorn’s stay at the post-office, for the poor boy was in such an agony of pain all night, and the fever ran so high, that it was impossible to think of moving him, even if the waiting upon him in such suffering had not made Mrs. King feel that she could not dismiss him to careless hands. His patience, gratitude, and surprise at every trouble she took for him were very endearing, as were the efforts he made to stifle and suppress moans and cries that the terrible aches would wring from him, so as not to disturb Alfred. When towards morning the fever ran to his head, and he did not know what he said, it was more moving still to see that the instinct of keeping quiet for some one’s sake still suppressed his voice. Then, too, his wanderings shewed under what dread and harshness his life had been spent, and what his horror was of a return to the workhouse. In his senses, he would never have thought of asking to remain at Friarswood; but in his half-conscious state, he implored again and again not to be sent away, and talked about not going back, but only being left in a corner to die; and Mrs. King, without knowing what she was about, soothed him by telling him to lie still, for he was not going to that place again. At day-break she sent Harold, on his way to the post, for an order from the relieving officer for medical attendance; and, after some long and weary hours, the Union doctor came. He said, like Mr. Blunt, that it was a rheumatic fever, the effect of hardship and exposure; for which perhaps poor Paul—after his regular meals, warm clothing, and full shelter, in the workhouse--was less prepared than many a country lad, whose days had been much happier, but who had been rendered more hardy by often going without some of those necessaries which were provided for the paupers.
The head continued so much affected, that the doctor said the hair must be taken off; which was done by old Master Warren, who singed the horses in the autumn, killed the pigs in the winter, and shaved the men on Saturday night. It was a very good thing for all parties; and he would take no pay for his trouble, but sent down a pitcher with what he called ‘all manner of yarbs’ steeping in it, with which, as he said, to ‘ferment the boy’s limbs.’ Foment was what he meant; and Mrs. King thought, as it was kindly intended, and could do no harm, she would try if it would do any good; but she could not find that it made much difference whether she used that or common warm water. However, the good will made Paul smile, and helped to change his notion about its being very few that had any compassion for