"She calls it 'looking,'" said the Matron with a laugh. "Just you see her knitting, Miss Hilton. She's re-footing those stockings. See if you can tell where she's patched them." She took up a bright blue stocking from the bench. The blind woman took the other end and felt it carefully.
"That's not my work," she said with amused contempt. "It's too like patchwork. Here's mine."
Anne took the stocking and looked. "It's beautiful," she said. "I could never have told there was a join." The blind woman's hand touched her arm and wandered slowly upwards, over her face and neck and head.
"I've not seen you before, have I?" she said. "No, I don't think I have."
The Matron had already turned to leave the room. Anne, held by the blind woman, looked again round the big room with its clean floor and battered inmates. The uneventful peace broken by the bickering of the old women, the babies bringing a double burden to their mothers, the blind woman, to whom all days were alike, seemed to be imprisoned for ever.
She followed the Matron into the courtyard. Several men in bottle-green corduroys loitered there, and a tiny old woman shrivelled and imbecile, who ran to Anne the moment she appeared, holding her skirts high to her knees, skipping on one foot and then on the other.
"I'll dance for a ha'penny! I'll dance for a ha'penny!" she whined.
"Go on! dance, old lady," said one of the men who was carrying an empty drawer, which had just been scrubbed, to dry in the sunshine of the yard. He set it down, end upwards, and stood expectantly. The two other men paused also.
"Go on! Aren't you going to begin?" said one of them.
"She's a funny old thing, this one," said the Matron to Anne, stopping to watch, as the old woman, holding her skirts to her knees, her clogs clacking, and with a smile of imbecility fixed on her face, began to hop from one thin leg to the other, stamping slowly round on her heels in the artless manner of a child. All at once she stopped, and, pulling up her apron, put a corner of it in her mouth, hanging her head and giggling.
"They're all looking at me, all them men," she giggled. "Fancy me dancing with all them men looking." One of the men broke into a laugh, which was changed immediately into an attack of asthma.
"Dance again, old lady!" called a younger man, with the effects of hard drinking visible in his face.
The shrunken and pitiful figure revolved several times, stamping on her heels, then stopped with the same grotesque coquetry.
"She's a funny old thing, isn't she?" said the Matron to Anne. "She gives us many a laugh."
"It's too humbling to look at. I cannot laugh," said Anne. "Poor old thing, to have come to that."
"She doesn't know, you know," said the Matron. "You're wasting your pity. They're most of them better off in the infirmary here than they were outside. You've no idea what a dirty state she was found in for one."
"It's the painfulness of such a sight—age without honour," repeated Anne.
"I've no time to think of that sort of thing," replied the Matron, as they began to ascend the wide stairs to the bed rooms, a woman, who was scrubbing the steps with sand, standing aside to let them pass.
Several women were sitting up in bed, with starched night-caps nodding at different angles. Over the fireplace was a lithograph of Queen Victoria giving the Bible as the source of England's greatness to an Indian potentate, and beneath it, sitting very still in a large armchair, was Jane Evans staring into the fire. She was very quiet, broken, and helplessly docile. Her stillness was alarming. She seemed to be already dead in spirit. Even the child soon to be separated from her scarcely concerned her. She was quite neat. Thin and fatigued as her face was, she did not appear to have suffered greatly in health.
"Jane, my dear, I've not come to blame you," began Anne, "I've come to see if there's anything I can do to make it easier for you to face the future and what's coming. I only heard of you coming here by accident or you shouldn't have been left alone. You mustn't think everybody's forsaken you and you've no friend left to you. It's often the case that you know your true friends in trouble," she continued sententiously. "And if only you could find the best Friend of all now when you need Him most." Her prim phrasing changed to earnestness. "There was a woman once that they dragged out in front of everybody for evil-doing. But He wouldn't have it. He put them to silence, and then when she was all alone with Him He showed her how tender He was to them that do wrong. If you only knew Him and His kindness, and how He can understand any kind of trouble. There's a good deal you think none of us can understand, but He can if you tell Him." She wiped her eyes. Jane did not seem to have heard.
"I don't want to worry you," continued Anne; "you've got a good deal to bear and to think of, and you've got to keep up for the sake of the child. He'll need you to be father and mother both. Matron thinks you'll be better here for the present, but you mustn't give up and think you're to stay in the Union all your life. But try to think of the child, and how God'll help you if you try to do the right."
It was like speaking to a person a very long way off, and Anne desisted.
"She's very quiet, isn't she?" said the Matron. "That'll have to break down soon. The doctor thinks she'll be all right when the child comes. The labour'll give her a shock and rouse her. She comes of a better class than the usual ones. It's the disgrace she can't get over. She'll do anything she's told to do. I sometimes get tired of making the other women do as they're told, but I wish sometimes she'd be a bit more like them. You'll be ready for your tea soon, won't you, Jane?" she added in the cheerful professional tone intended to deceive the sick.
"Yes, please," said Jane, without looking round.
"Here's Miss Hilton come all this way to see you," said the Matron a little more sharply. "Can't you say anything to her? you may not have so many friends come to see you as you expect, you know."
There was no echo from the abyss of misery in which Jane was sunken. She neither replied nor stirred. With the flight of Burton all hope had been killed within her; and without hope she had fallen like a bird with one wing broken. She was defenceless, and her misery laid open to all. She could only keep still, lest it should be tortured by being handled.
"You must think of the child, you know," said the Matron. "He'll depend on you altogether, and you mustn't give in like this. She doesn't care," she added to Anne as Jane still sat without a tremor of understanding. "It's a bad sign. I can't even rouse her with speaking of Burton. She's given up hope of him. It's like as if something's dead inside her. Doctor says it's shock."
"I should say it's temper," said a voice from one of the beds. "Petting and spoiling all day long." The voice came from an old woman, with a soft, withered face and infantile blue eyes.
"Now then, where did you hide that thermometer?" said the Matron, with a good-natured laugh. "You know, Miss Hilton, this old lady's a famous hand at taking anything that's about, and keeping it for herself. She doesn't call it stealing, don't you see. Why, the other day she was having her temperature taken, and when the nurse turned her head away there was no thermometer to be seen. 'What have you done with it?' she says. 'Why, I declare, I must have etten it,' says this old lady. What do you think of that?"
The old woman turned over in bed, and her innocent eyes closed with a patient expression.
"I don't know what people are allowed to come talking here for when it isn't visiting day," she said. "Nobody can go to sleep for such talking."
Anne sat down beside Jane and began to sing—
"I was a wandering sheep; I did not love the fold."
The Matron watched with an air of curiosity. Jane did not cease staring into the fire.
"It's no use, Miss Hilton. I daresay the old lady's a bit right. There's a slice of temper in it too. But we can't waste all day over her."
Anne took Jane's hand. "I'll come and see you again in a little while," she said. "And remember, there's always One that'll hear all that you can't tell to any one else. He's with you here waiting to hear and help you." She lingered. There was no response. The Matron walked briskly towards the door.
"Well, the old ones are easier to manage," she said. She led the way downstairs and left Anne on the doorstep of the big front door. The porter shut it with a clang.
The pony was pawing the gravel outside the gate and pulling hard with his head. He backed the cart vigorously into the road as Anne untied his head, and set off at a good pace towards the town.
"I'll go up to-morrow and see Mrs Hankworth," said Anne. "She'll perhaps be able to say something to help."
Mrs Hankworth lived at one of the largest farms in the country, some three miles away from Anne Hilton's cottage. The farmstead was, contrary to the usual custom, not placed near the high road for convenience, but on an eminence in the midst of its own lands. A road had been cut to it between cornfields, so that in the time of springing corn a man walking on this road seemed to be wading to the knees in a green undulating sea, which had risen and submerged the hill. The farm itself was large, with a garden unusually well kept, a sign that the mistress counted in the establishment. Old rose trees grew almost to the roof of the wide building, and the thick turf bore token to the richness of the soil.
Inside, the passage, the stairs, the rooms, were all spacious, and, in spite of the rattling of cans and the sound of voices in the kitchen, the place retained an atmosphere of quiet and tranquillity, not of isolation or desertion, but of that comfortable restfulness which one recalls as a child, when, having been ill, one is left at home when the others have gone to school, and remains in a quiet house, watching contentedly the leisurely cheerful movements of one's mother.
Mrs Hankworth, the mistress of the best farm in the country, was an enormously stout but very active woman. Her husband, a man half her size and an excellent farmer, exhibited only one trait of nervousness, and that on her account. If she went to market without him he was uneasy until she came back lest something should have happened to her. In all the fifteen years of their married life they had never slept out of their own bed, and they had had no honeymoon.
With the contentment of a woman of sound health and of active useful life, who was fully aware that her good sense and management were as necessary to the farm, her husband and twelve children, as his own knowledge of farming, she looked upon this as a just sense of her own value, as indeed it was, and the reward of the confidence which she so completely deserved from her husband. She was generous to her poorer neighbours even when they cheated her. Not taking it very deeply to heart nor expecting much otherwise, she was yet able to remember that her lot was an affluent one compared with theirs, and was ready to excuse even while being perfectly aware of human fraility. Who, when she had sent to an old woman of the village who lived discontentedly on such pickings as she could induce her neighbours to leave her, and who had constantly profited by the liberality of this well-established mistress, a ticket for a large tea, and was informed by some officious person that the husband also had procured a ticket at her expense, said, "He's a poor old crab-stick. It'll do him no harm to have a good tea for once."
She was a contented woman, entirely satisfied with the position which life had allotted to her, a position in which all her faculties had full scope, and were to the full appreciated by those with whom she had most to do, and being of a really kind heart she was a good friend to the poor. When Anne arrived at the door of the dairy, she found its mistress seated before a tin pail containing a mass of butter which she was dividing into prints. With white sleeves and apron, a bucket of scalding water on one side of her and a pail of cold on the other, her ample knees spread apart for balance as she sat on a low chair, her bulky and capable hands moved with decision and practice about her work. She looked up as Anne appeared in the doorway, but her hands did not cease working.
"It's not often we have to do this," she said, "but they sent down word that there was no milk wanted yesterday, so we had to set to."
"It looks nice butter," said Anne, with the judgment of a connoisseur.
"You ought to know what good butter is," returned Mrs Hankworth. "I've just been having a laugh over that Peter Molesworth. He wrote on his account, "17 pints." Did you ever hear such a thing! It took me quite a long time to know what 17 pints was. Him and his 17 pints!"
"He's not very clever, Peter," said Anne, "but I don't know what his poor mother would do without him."
"No," returned Mrs Hankworth, "he's hard-working if he's stupid, and that's better than the other way round."
"Mrs Hankworth," began Anne, "I know what a good friend you've always been to those that have got into trouble, and I came to ask your advice about that poor Jane Evans."
"I just heard of it the other day," replied Mrs Hankworth, letting the butter-prints sink on her lap. "I don't know how it was I came to know of it so late. I'd no idea till the other day that she'd ever gone to live with that Burton. I wonder how she got acquainted with him. There's no men goes about their house. What's she doing now?"
"She's in the Union," said Anne, "and she sits there without speaking, staring into the fire. Nobody can rouse her. She seems to have no life left in her. It's pitiful to see her, and to think of what's coming to her."
"She's been foolish," said Mrs Hankworth, "and I expect she'll find plenty to make her pay for her foolishness. But I see no reason why she shouldn't do all the better for a lesson. She'll have to work though. There'll be no sitting round in silk blouses doing fancy-work. You needn't be troubled about her moping when she's got the baby. They don't leave you much time for that," she added with a laugh of retrospection. "But your first baby's as much trouble as ten. If she can earn a living when she comes out she'll be better without that Burton. He's no better than a child's balloon. He's up, and you prick him with a pin and he's down! She's provided in the Union, I suppose?"
"I think so, since they never asked anything about it," said Anne.
"What sort of a place is it, Miss Hilton?" asked Mrs Hankworth in the tone of one who might be enquiring after a prison or worse.
"They'd a nice big fire," said Anne, "and until you came to look at the people, it looked quite comfortable. But when you came to look at those poor things, and thought that that was all they had to expect, it made your heart ache."
"She's a good matron I've heard," said Mrs Hankworth.
"She's a kind woman," returned Anne, heartily, "and I suppose it's a good thing they've got such a place to shelter them. But it seems a poor end somehow, and not a place for young people. There seems to be no hope in it, and yet it's clean, and they've got good food."
"Other people's bread doesn't taste like your own to them that's been used to having any," returned Mrs Hankworth. "I expect, if you've never had any of your own, you're glad to get anything. I suppose Burton's out of the country."
"Nobody seems to know rightly," said Anne. "Jane says not a word. I don't suppose she really knows anything."
"She'll come to see that she's better without him," said Mrs Hankworth, taking up the prints and working the butter emphatically. "But she must work like the rest of us. It's generally the long clothes that gets left over," she added, "the short ones get worn out by some of them, but I'll look and see what I can find. It'll be rather nice to be looking out baby-things again. There's nothing you miss more than a baby, when you've had one or other about for a good many years. But she'd never do any good with that Burton about."
It seemed not so much the fact that a girl would give up her reputation for a man, that impressed Mrs Hankworth unpleasantly, but that she would give it into the keeping of such a man. She did not expect impossible things of anybody. No one belonging to her had ever made a slip, and such a happening seemed to be so remote a possibility for anyone "connected," that she could spare great charity for the rest of the world. Nor did she believe in "driving people." If a girl had made a mistake, that was no reason why everyone else should make another, and her good sense revolted against a perpetually drawn-out punishment for any fault. Her disgust at this fault, not very deep, being submerged almost as it arose, by the immediate necessity for doing something, and a reminiscent understanding of the timidity and dread with which the first child-bearing might be regarded by an ignorant and forsaken girl. Her position as the reputable and capable mother of a family being unassailable, no one could consider that kindness to the girl implied any countenancing of her offence. Anne, puzzled and baffled by the things which she had seen, felt herself in a larger sphere which could consider the fact of birth as a small matter for everyday occurrence and preparation, happen however it might.
"You can't do anything by worrying, Miss Hilton, you know," said Mrs Hankworth. "You've got to wait. There's nothing anybody can do but wait. There's our John. I think he gets more nervous every child we have. I always say to him that he can't help anything by worrying, and in any case I'm the person who's got to go through it; but it makes no difference. He can't be satisfied till he sees me walking about again. The girl'll be quite right when she's got the baby to work for. She's nothing to do now but wait and think about it and herself. You'll see when she's up and about again she'll be another thing. I hope the baby's a boy. It'll be sooner forgotten about if he is."
"I'm afraid," said Anne, growing expansive beneath the good sense which attacked every practical side of the matter, and dissolved difficulties as soon as they arose, "that she'll get little work to do when she comes out. People talk unkindly, and say that you must make a difference between her and other girls."
"Oh! there'll always be some clever folk like that," said Mrs Hankworth, drily. "The difference that anyone can see if they use their eyes is, that she'll have a child to keep and they won't. She's no idea where she'll go, I suppose?"
"She doesn't seem to know where she is now," replied Anne. "It's terrible to see anybody drinking such bitter waters as that poor girl. She thinks we're all against her, and I'm a religious old maid. So she shuts herself up, and doesn't say a word."
"Don't you worry, Miss Hilton," said Mrs Hankworth; "she'll look for friends when the baby comes. She'll stir herself for his sake, if she won't for her own. We're going to have Mr Charter to stop to-morrow night. You'll be going to the Home Missions, won't you?" she said, as if all had been said that could be.
"It'll be a great treat to hear Mr Charter," said Anne. "He's such a kind way of talking about everybody. It's a season of grace and sweet delight when he comes."
"He's got such a way with children and young people," said Mrs Hankworth, steering away from "experiences." "There's my big lad William! He'll follow him round from place to place till he's out of walking distance. 'What do you do it for, William?' I says to him, and he stands on one leg and then on the other, and says 'I don't know,' he says. 'I like hearing him,' he says. He's a great attraction for him."
"I hope there'll be a good meeting," said Anne, rising to go. "Don't you get up. It's been a great relief to me to have a chat with you."
"I'll go down myself and have a look at Jane," said Mrs Hankworth. "Perhaps in a week or so she'll have got a bit used to her position, and see that she can't go on like that long."
"It'll be a real work of charity," said Anne earnestly. "Young people think a lot of married women. She thinks, you know, that I'm an old maid and don't know anything about it."
"Well, I'll go," said Mrs Hankworth, gratified. "Good morning, then. We shall see you at the meeting."
"God willing," replied Anne, and turned to go, comforted by the confidence and ample views of this well-to-do woman.
The little grey chapel at the corner of two roads was lighted and already hot with steam on the windows. The wooden pews, set on steps which rose evenly to the window-sill at the back of the tiny building, seemed to precipitate themselves upon the mean wooden pulpit. Three benches set endwise to the platform served for the choir, and there was a small harmonium. The girl (a daughter of a prosperous farmer) who played it was already in her place, and a group of children had taken possession of the front pew. These were playing under the book-rest and frequent giggles burst from their number. At last one of them threw a hat so much too high that it dropped into the next pew, and a preter-natural silence fell upon the group, who all wriggled themselves erect on their seats and looked apprehensively round. The girl at the harmonium bent back to look at the clock and then pulled out her stops and began to play. The door clicked, and burst open to admit a cold breeze and a big farm boy in his Sunday clothes, whose head and shoulders came in before the rest of him was ready to follow, and who held on to the door as he entered as if for protection. Every child turned its head and watched him while he ducked his head on to the book-board for a second, and then sat upright, adjusting his neck into his collar. The farmer, whose daughter played the organ, came next with his wife, who made her way with an air of ownership to her seat, and having covered her face with her hand for a moment, untied her bonnet-strings and fanned her hot face. Every other moment now the door burst open, and admitted someone from the dark blue outside—a group of clumsy youths who flung themselves upon the pew doors as if they had formed the deliberate purpose of keeping them out, some girls in their finery nodding to acquaintances as they entered, some labourers in unaccustomed clothes, and last Mary Colton who walked with her calculating step to the nearest choir bench. Then a larger group hesitated at the door and the evangelist entered, mounting the pulpit with a confident tread, the minister taking a seat in the choir benches and the stewards sitting behind him. There was some whispering between the evangelist and the minister, then the evangelist remained seated and the minister rose and gave out a hymn—
"Rescue the perishing, care for the dying."
Those who did not know the words knew and shouted the chorus. It was a rousing beginning. As the hymn came to a final shout, Anne Hilton in a black bonnet and old-fashioned mantle with a bead fringe at the shoulders, with one black cotton glove half on and the other wholly off, entered the chapel and sat just within the door.
The evangelist glanced round his congregation and found himself able to believe the report that the country districts were apathetic. He was an ugly little man with straggling brown whiskers and unruly hair, and had no great appearance of illumination, yet he was a true evangelist, labouring hard to pull souls from the pit of social and moral corruption. That was why he had been sent to the task of addressing the country congregations. He was not working with an eye to romance, nor for the glory which comes to those who work in the slums. He thought with the thoughts of those among whom he worked. He had known what it was to be hungry. He had known the crucifixion of standing idle when every limb ached to be working. He knew that pregnant women are sometimes beaten and kicked by the clogs of their husbands. He knew what little children felt like when they cried from cold. His heart was incessantly burning, but he had worked now for fifteen years and it was no longer burning with indignation. He had found others, not Christians, as he thought, who would be indignant, who would plan with pity and sympathy and with more efficiency and foresight that he could ever control, build up and organise ways of escape for much that he saw. He could meet them too. But his work was to understand, and from his understanding to attract and heal. The others had nothing to say to a woman whose husband died, or whose son became crippled at work, to a man who lost his right hand, or a girl whose sweetheart was drowned two days before the wedding, and these things were always happening.
He looked round. He thought of his various speeches. It was no use telling these people how many more women were arrested for drunkenness in the streets this year than last, nor how many families lived in cellars, nor how many men were without work. Their imaginations, never straying into large numbers, would be blank. He would tell them stories of men and women like themselves, and of how they managed when calamity came. He had sheaves of such stories and a ready tongue. He might strike a spark of understanding. His voice, as he began to speak, belied his appearance. It was sonorous and beautiful and it immediately controlled his audience.
"My dear friends! Just round the corner from the house where I live, there's a street called 'Paradise Street,' but I can tell you as I came along here this morning in the lanes by the chapel, it seemed to me a good deal more like Paradise than that street. It was a treat to smell hawthorn hedges again, and to see some clear sky again, after the foundries of stone-work, and I don't know what it is that makes people give names like Angel Meadow, Paradise Row, Greenfield Street to the dirtiest and smelliest streets in all the town. But I've got some very good friends in this particular Paradise Street I was talking of, and if they don't get an abundant entrance into the Paradise of our Saviour when their time comes, I've mistaken His loving-kindness very sadly.
"Now, you'd hardly think that an old woman could be very happy living in a cellar, without even a proper window to put a plant in, and six steps to come up and down every time she went out and in, and drunken men cursing and blaspheming up above in the street! Well! I'm going to tell you a tale of one of the happiest old women I know, but I'm afraid it's got to be about a day on which she wasn't happy at all.
"Her name's Jane Clark, and she lives in that cellar I'm speaking of on 2s. 6d. a week she has from the parish. She's a widow, and some of you women know what that means. She pays 1s. 3d. for her share of the cellar, for you know in towns such as I come from, we're building so many factories, and railway sheds, and what not, that we've no room left to live in, so Mrs Clark had to share even her cellar. Many a time when I passed down that dreadful street and hadn't time to go in, I'd just shout down the cellar and she'd have an answer back in no time. I used to go down for a few minutes, just to cheer myself up a bit, for there's a lot of discouraging things happen in our sort of work, and she always made me ashamed. She was so content, never wanting more and always thankful for what she had.
"Well! one day I was in Paradise Street. It was wet and cold, and the beer-shops were full of drunken men and women, and even the children were shouting foul language.
"'O God,' I said, ready to cry out in the street, 'How long will the power of the devil last in this town?' However, I thought of Mrs Clark down there, and how she had to live in it all, so I went down the steps, and there she was, but I could see that even she had been crying.
"'Now, Mrs Clark!' I said, 'you don't mean to tell me that it's your turn to be cheered up?'
"'No!' she said, 'not now! I've got it done already!'
"'Well, now!' I said, 'it's so unusual to see you with those red eyes that you make me quite curious. That is, if it's nothing that'll hurt you to tell,' I said.
"'No!' she said, 'it'll not hurt me. I'm a silly old woman,' she said. She didn't speak for a minute, and then she went on:
"'You know it's my birthday to-day, Mr Charter. I'm sixty this very Friday. Well, you know, I always say to myself, "Short commons on Friday," I says, "because 1s. 6d. won't last for ever." But somehow, with its being my birthday I suppose, and me being sixty, I got it into my head that the Lord would perhaps remember me. I've gone on loving Him for over forty years, and it did seem hard that on my birthday and me sixty, He should have left me with only a crust of bread to my tea. However, I sat down to eat my crust, but when I began to say a blessing over it, I just began to cry like a silly child. Well, what do you think! I'd just taken the first bite, when a child, whose mother I know, came running in and put a little newspaper parcel on the table. "Mrs Clark," she says, "my mother was out working to-day, and the lady gave her a big pot of dripping, so she sent a bit round for your tea!" She run straight away, and when that child had gone, I cried a good bit more, and then I laughed and laughed, and says over and over again to myself, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."'"
The evangelist looked at his watch, and took a drink of water. One or two men shifted their attitude from one side to the other, and all waited as children do for an absorbing story. A momentary look of satisfaction came over the face of the evangelist, and he began again with zest.
"I'm afraid the next tale I've got to tell you will take a good deal of time." ("We're here to listen," interrupted the minister.)
"Thank you! but you don't know me when I begin to talk! I can hardly tell this tale in a public meeting, it comes so near home. It's about a friend of mine, we'll call him Joe, and whenever I think about him there always comes into my mind the verse we put up over him, 'Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me,' for Joe hadn't an easy lot. I'll tell you what his trade was, though it may make you laugh to hear he was a sweep! Now, I don't know what there is about a sweep that makes little rascals of boys throw stones at him, and call names after him, but that's the curious fact. As soon as ever a sweep begins to call out in the street, there's a crowd of little rascals round him at once. I've seen Joe sometimes, a little crooked man with a lame leg and a black face, and a tail of little ragamuffins shouting ''Weep, 'weep!' behind him, going about his earthly business in the dirty streets round about where he lived. 'Eh! never mind 'em, Mr Charter,' he used to say. 'It pleases the children, and it doesn't hurt me.' That was the sort of man he was, you see, humble and content.
"He was married, was Joe, to a good, hard-working little wife, and they'd had one daughter. She married a young plumber who got work at Peterhead, and she had three little boys that their grandfather had never seen. He had a photograph of them on the mantleshelf with their mother, that she'd sent him one Christmas. Now one day, an idea came into his head, that if he put by threepence a week, after a good long time, he and his wife could go by a cheap excursion to see those little grandchildren and their mother, just once before they died. He prayed about it, and then week by week, they began saving up, and the nearer they came to having L3, the more real those little grandchildren of theirs became. The daughter, you see, wasn't to be told till all was ready, and then there was going to be a grand surprise. Well, you know, I got as interested in that saving-up as though it was me that was going the excursion!
"Now Joe, he had the young men's class in the Sunday-school (all of 'em who weren't too high up in world to be taught by the sweep), and one day I was looking in at a foundry as I passed, when a young man who was standing out at the door said to me, 'Have you heard about Joe?'
"'No!' I said, rather startled, for he's a frail old man at the best, 'What about him?'
"'Oh, it's nothing wrong with himself,' he said, 'but a week ago when he was going out in the early morning—last Saturday was wet, wasn't it?—he found one of them poor street girls fallen down in a faint a few yards away from his house. He called the missis, and they got her into the kitchen and gave her a cup of tea and put her to bed, and she'll never get up again, it seems. She was in a consumption too bad for them to take her at the hospital, so Joe's keeping her till she wants it no more.'
"I said good-bye to the young man and set off straight to see Joe. It was afternoon, so he was in when I got there. He didn't say much, but we went in to see the girl (she'd got the bed, and the missis slept on the sofa and Joe in the armchair), a poor, breathless, young thing, very near to death. I began to talk to her of the love of our Saviour, but she stopped me. 'Nobody's ever loved me!' she said, 'nobody'll care if I die or not. I never believed there was any kindness in the world till I met these two.' We left her gasping there and went into the kitchen.
"'Poor lost lamb,' said Joe, 'them's sad words to hear.'
"'Sadder to feel they're true about so many others as well,' I said. 'But, Joe, be open with me,' I said, 'have you spent your savings on this poor soul?'
"'Yes!' he said, 'all but a few shillings. She must have milk and nourishment, you know.'
"'Yes, I know that,' I said, 'and for the present I can't help you, but you mustn't be allowed to spend all you've saved.'
"'Nay,' he said, 'it was a bitter cross the Lord of Glory carried for my sins. I can at least do this for one of His lost ones.'
"I knew he'd say that, or something like it, but in my own mind I'd determined to get it back again from somewhere for him, but you'll hear how I was prevented. I noticed that he looked a bit tired and thin as I went out, and I said to him, 'You're not looking very grand! You must take care of yourself too."
"'No! I don't feel very well,' he said. 'I've been feeling my age a bit lately,' he said laughing.
"'I'll look in to-morrow again,' I said as I went away, and about the same time next day I went back to find him sitting still on one side of the fireplace and the wife on the other. The girl had died suddenly in the night. They'd got the photograph of the little grandchildren, and I could see the old woman had been crying.
"'We shan't see them in this world now,' said Joe.
"I thought he was considering the money and began to talk.
"'No!' he said, 'it isn't that. The money was a bit of a sacrifice at the time, but I can see now why He asked me for it, and how thankful I am, as things have turned out, that I didn't refuse to do that little thing for Him. After you'd gone yesterday,' he went on, 'I felt so poorly that when the doctor came to see that poor girl I told him what I felt like. He looked a bit queer at first, and then he said:
"'"Well, Joe," he said, "I know very well that you're not afraid of death, so I won't beat about the bush," he said.
"'Thank you, doctor,' I said.
"'"Of course," he said, "I can't be certain, but I'm afraid it's cancer, and I can only say that I'll make it as easy for you as I can." He's a kind man, Mr Charter, though he's reckoned rough. Well, you can imagine how my first feeling was of thankfulness that I'd been kept in the love of God, and not held back for my own pleasure the money he was needing. He knew, you see, that I shouldn't want it, and he sent that poor girl to be looked after by someone as had money to spare.
'"I'll bless the Hand that guided, I'll bless the Heart that planned, When throned where glory dwelleth, In Immanuel's Land."
So my summons is come, Mr Charter, though I'd no idea it was so near.'
"There's not a great deal you can say at such times, and my heart was very full as I listened to him, though I knew that it was well with him. I'm not going to tell you about the way he went through the valley, beautiful though it was, but I'll tell you just this before I sit down. Those young men of Joe's Sunday class got together and talked, and though they were young working-men with not much of a wage, they each gave sixpence a week and the old man had ten shillings a week as long as he lived, and every time he got the ten shillings he'd cry, and say, that he didn't know anybody in the world who'd had so much kindness shown to them all their life long as he had."
The evangelist glanced round the chapel as the minister gave out the hymn. The heads of the boys were bent over their hymn-books, searching, with whispering, among the pages which they turned with wet thumbs. There was no apathy now. All the slow sun-burnt faces showed signs of having understood. One or two men sat with their eyes fixed on the evangelist as if waiting for more. A woman wiped her eyes and sighed. There was no restlessness. He had succeeded in making all these people, so different from the driven, excited, underfed congregation he constantly saw, think from beginning to end of his poor people, and had succeeded in making them sorry. He was content.
With that inarticulate desire to come into close contact with those who have moved them, which one knows among the poor, many of the congregation crowded round the pulpit to shake hands with the evangelist who leaned over the side, gripping hand after hand.
"A very good meeting," said the steward, looking round with an air of satisfaction.
"You've made me feel very small, sir," said a young man to the evangelist. "I've a good deal further to go yet."
"It's true of us all," replied the evangelist, shaking his hand fervently.
Anne Hilton had returned from the farmer to whom she had sold one of her pigs, and fed the animals, but had not taken off the linen pocket which she tied round her waist under her petticoat, and which held her money. She was trying to get at it now in the narrow pew. She knocked down a hymn-book and several pennies rolled under the feet of the out-going congregation. A young woman, with roses in her best hat, nudged another and laughed. A big boy stooped to pick up two, and restored them with a purple face. Anne replaced them in the linen pocket, shook her skirt down again, wrapped something in a piece of an old envelope, and beckoning the steward gave it to him, then followed the others through the blue square of the doorway. The steward approached the evangelist with a rather embarrassed smile.
"Our good sister's a bit queer," he said. "I don't know why she couldn't put it in the collection box."
The evangelist unwrapped the envelope and disclosed a sovereign. He paused.
"It's a big gift for a poor woman," he said in a moment. "She needed to make up her mind a bit first. The collection box came too soon."
"I've no doubt you're right," said the minister. "She's a good woman if a little erratic, and a sovereign means a large part of her week's takings."
"I don't think she ought to have given it," said the steward's wife, who was waiting for her husband to drive her home. "She'll need help herself if she gives away like that. She always must be different from other people."
Anne Hilton was walking home in the cool night air. The stars were so clear that they seemed to rest on the fields and tree-tops, and the rustle of the sleepless corn passed behind every hedge. She walked with a certain carefulness as of one who had unexpectedly escaped a physical danger; but the peril from which she was conscious of fleeing was spiritual. She had been threatened by avarice which had prompted her to give a small sum instead of the sovereign, and the evangelist had been right in his intuition. It had needed a good deal of "making up her mind" to give away the greater part of her earnings, even under the warmth of human appeal. She had conquered, but narrowly, and there was as much shame as satisfaction in her heart as she left the building, and more than all a great fear lest it should be talked about.
It was the first day of spring, the season of swift changes. For the first time the sky was lighter than the ground. Its brilliant clouds threw heavy shadows on the earth, fugitive shadows which ran with the warm wind, alert with colour. Nothing was quiet or hidden. There was not yet sufficient life to cover or screen. Everything that had budded had a world to itself and could be seen. Radiant, innocent, carolling, self-revealing, the movement and action of spring were in the earth. The running and glittering water, in winter so vivid a feature of the fields, had become insignificant in comparison with the splendid and vigorous sky. The noise of the wind, too, beat in one's ears louder than the water. One had no time for meditation. One was hurried as the wind, speeding as the sunshine. Yet the spring more than any other season is the time when one thinks of the generations that pass—perhaps from the very transitoriness of the visual images, their evanescence and momentary changes reminding one so of the dead. In autumn the passage is grave and decorous, like the advance of old age. In spring the image is lovely and momentary, like the bright passage of those dead young.
Anne Hilton looked out to see what kind of weather it was for the market, and with a sudden pang, she remembered her old father, and how, on such a day, he would totter to the open door, and there sit in the sunshine, grateful for the same warmth for which his old dog was grateful. When she came home from the market, she would make a wreath of white holly to put on the grave in which he rested. She thought of him vividly, of the pathos of his last illness from which she had vainly tried to drive the fear and soften the pain. She remembered his slow laugh, and the knocking of his stick on the floor. Memory is keener in bright sunshine than in the twilight, in vivid enjoyment more poignant than in melancholy. The churchyard, with its unvisited green mound and dwelling of the silent, became visible to Anne, and with it the dying out of joy which returns with that vision and memory. The house, too, was very quiet, as she drew in her head, with the stillness of a place once lived in and now empty. She had become accustomed to thinking of her father with tranquillity, satisfied to believe him at rest. Now the pain of loneliness returned with memory.
She harnessed the pony to the cart, and stowed her baskets safely under the seat. She was dressed in a purple merino skirt, kilted thickly, a black mantle, with a bead fringe, and an antiquated straw bonnet. Round her neck she had folded a man's linen handkerchief, and she had elastic-sided boots on her feet. She locked the door, and put the keys in her linen pocket tied round her waist under her skirt, and climbing up by means of the wheel, seated herself on the board which did duty as a seat, and took the reins. "Go on, Polly!" she said, and the pony, with a good deal of tossing of head and tail, set off obediently towards the high road. The clacking of its feet as it trotted on the hard road overwhelmed all other sounds. At the corner of the roads an old woman tending a cow nodded to her, and one or two field labourers raised themselves to see who was going past, remaining upright and staring longer than was necessary to satisfy their curiosity. At an open field-gate she had to wait until two heavy wagons, their wheels a mass of red, soft earth, had emerged, and turned in the direction of the town. She passed them, and for some time met no one. An advancing cart soon came in sight, accompanied by a great jangling of cans—a milk-cart returning from the station, having sent off its supplies to the town, now bringing back its empty cans. It was driven by a man whom Anne knew, and, instead of drawing to one side to pass, he reined in his horse as if to speak. "Good morning, Miss Hilton," he said. Anne checked her horse which had gone a few paces past, and turning in her seat to look over her shoulder, answered his greeting. The farmer's horse, impatient of this check on the way home, made several attempts to start, and at last, being held in by his master and scolded loudly, fell to pawing the ground with one foot. Having quieted his horse, the farmer also turned in his seat, and looking back at Anne said:
"I've just been up to the Union with the milk, Miss Hilton. They've had a death this morning. I thought I'd tell you."
"Not Jane Evans?" said Anne, dropping the reins, but the next moment retaking them as the pony had started off.
"Yes, it's Jane," said the man. "The child's living. It's a boy. She's to be buried to-morrow seemingly. They soon put you where they want you when you go in there."
Anne, who had been living all morning with the dead whom she knew to be dead, stared helplessly as she heard that one whom she believed to be alive was dead also. She had meant to go to the Union to-morrow. She was speechless.
"She had a drouth on her it seems, and couldn't drag herself up again," said the farmer.
Anne remembered the room with its blue-covered beds, and the fire burning beneath the lithograph of Queen Victoria, and the girl sitting beside it whom she could not reach by speaking, and who was now indeed dead.
"You'll perhaps be going up?" said the farmer, as if to lay on someone else the responsibility of knowing about it also.
"I'll go up this afternoon," returned Anne, picking up the whip and flicking the pony. The farmer said "Good morning," and the rattle of milk cans once more filled the road as his horse set off at a gallop towards home.
When the business of the market was done, and Anne reached the Union, it was late in the afternoon. The roads outside the town were full of farmers returning from the market, of women walking with empty baskets, and an occasional small herd of cattle, being driven away from the terrifying experience of the town, by a purchaser. It was visiting-day at the Union, and here and there from the out-going stream, a man or woman of middle-age turned aside to enter the gate of the big brick building, in whose side-garden men were working, dressed in the bottle-green corduroy of the institution.
The presence of spring seemed to surge about the bare building. The trees planted about it were old, and belonged to an older building which protruded from the back; the weather-stained wall was old also, and the sunlight, older than either, shone with an urgent warmth beneath the heavy green shade. Rows of green blades were appearing in the border, set aside for ornament. The air, the clouds, the light near the ground, all seemed alive with the peculiar revival only felt in the spring.
Anne was admitted with others to the corridor, and left while they turned to the places they sought.
"She might see the Matron," said the porter, going along with a clatter of his feet to the far end of the corridor and knocking at a door. The Matron almost immediately emerged carrying a large key.
"It was very sad, wasn't it?" she began at once. "It happened night before last. It's a fine boy, though it's a bit too soon. One of the young women's got him." She led the way to the wide front stairs and began to ascend. Stopping at a half-open door, she entered and Anne followed.
It was a smaller room than the big ward, and sunny. It had an air of privacy, of comfort given by the sunshine only, for it was uncarpeted, and bare like the others. Four young women were sewing the stiff linsey skirts worn in the Union.
"How's the baby?" said the Matron.
"Asleep," replied a good-looking, blond young woman, rising willingly from her work and going over to the window, beneath which was a wicker-cradle covered with a shawl. She drew back the shawl, and Anne saw lying on one cheek on the pillow, the tiny, fuzzy, misshapen head and creased purple fist of a new baby. The confidence of that tiny breathing creature lying asleep seemed strange to Anne, who knew how desolate it was. It had already, as it were, taken possession of its place in the world, and had no intention of being dislodged.
"He's a healthy little thing," said the Matron.
"Greedy too," said the blond young woman, with a laugh.
"Could I look at Jane?" asked Anne.
"They fastened it up this afternoon," replied the Matron. "There'll be two funerals to-morrow. The other's an old man. You can see all there is to see."
She covered the baby and left the room, descending the same stairs, and going out of a side door. A strong smell of disinfectants came out into the warm garden as she opened the door of a glazed brick building. The blinds were down to keep out the sun. The building was lined with white glazed brick, and two straight burdens lay on a trestle-table.
"Eight o'clock to-morrow," said the Matron, coming out again and locking the door.
Jane had gone. She was as confident as the baby in her absence. It was that which impressed Anne. Neither of the two so lately one flesh, needed or cared for the other. Jane seemed to have shut herself of her own accord in that wooden case, so that she would be no longer teased or tortured, and the baby was quite happy that it should be so. Their disregard one of the other was strange to Anne.
"Elizabeth Richardson was inquiring if you were coming," said the Matron. "Will you go up and see her?"
Elizabeth Richardson was lying in the bed that had been Jane's. She looked less peevish and more tended. Anne glanced at the fireplace as she entered. The armchair had been moved back, and no one sat at the fire. She sighed and turned to Elizabeth.
"Yes, it's very comfortable," said Elizabeth. "I'm glad I came. It's nice to have the bed made every day. You'll have heard that Jane Evans is out of her troubles?"
"It's best, I think," said Elizabeth. "The world's none too kind, and she was a depending sort of girl. She got out of it easy enough. There'll be some disappointed though," she added with her old cynicism.
"Don't let's be hard in our judgments," said Anne, sadly.
The habit of working for another is so fixed in the lives of poor women, that the interruption of it becomes a kind of second death, almost as difficult to bear as the death of the affection which is itself almost a kind of habit. When Anne returned from market, and sat down, her house seemed to have become a little emptier, because the girl whose welfare she had carried with her for so many months was beyond her reach. She took down her Bible to read it, and find relief for her trouble. She was a woman who had had "experience"—that experience which comes to each as a kind of special revelation, a thing so surprising, that it appears impossible to think of its having happened before, or to withhold the telling; the cynicism, which declares this to be an overwhelming interest in one's internal self, being only partially right, it being rather the excited and surprised mental condition which is the deep well from which all art, all expression, breaks forth. She read slowly, trying to find meaning in each phrase, when suddenly a verse struck her in its entirety before her lips had finished reading.
"Pure religion, and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."
She saw exactly what she would do. There was the child, motherless, and worse than fatherless. She would take him and bring him up unspotted from the world. It was clearly a leading for her. She had not been permitted to save the girl, but she might take and protect the boy. She remembered even the commonsense of Mrs Hankworth. "It's soonest forgotten about if it's a boy." She was not so much an old maid as a woman shut up from issue, and she had no fear of a child. And in the midst of her bewilderment about the girl, about death and the hereafter, she could see an earthly duty clearly, and pure religion for herself. She began to sing:
"Who points the clouds their course, Whom winds and storms obey, He shall direct thy wandering feet, He shall point out thy way."
She opened a drawer which held what was left of her father's clothes without any feeling of incongruity. There were four shirts of checked oxford shirting, two pairs of long stockings, a corduroy jacket, and his best suit of black serge bound with braid round the coat. There was a revolver, too, a clasp knife, a unused church-warden, an old wide-awake hat. To-morrow she would write to the Union, and offer to bring up the child when he was weaned.
It was a cool evening in early summer, full of the leisurely peace of the country. The women were out of doors after much perspiring work within. It was too early for the shadows, yet a sensible relief to the day's ardour, which one was disposed to linger and enjoy, was evident in the tranquil atmosphere, and on the relaxed faces of those who lingered about the doors of the cottages, or turned the bleaching clothes on the hedges. Mrs Hankworth, in a fashionable bonnet and dark green dress, which proclaimed a ceremonial visit, was driving beside her husband in a light yellow trap, in the unusual direction of Anne Hilton's cottage. Her husband, with his eyes on the road, suddenly pulled up the horse.
"Now, where did you two come from?" he ejaculated, jumping from the trap and examining the backs of two enormous sows, who were munching and rooting in foreign ground with great satisfaction. At the sight of their enemy, a man, they began that lumbering but nimble trot, by which their tribe elude and disregard anything disagreeable.
"You better get up again," said Mrs Hankworth. "We'll keep up to them and perhaps turn 'em in somewhere. Miss Hilton's the nearest."
"I don't recognise 'em," said the farmer, springing up with agility and driving the horse carefully after the sows. "Some one must have bought them yesterday. We can call at one or two places on the way back and inquire. There's William Crowther," he added, standing up in the trap—"William!" he shouted, "do you see them sows? Stop 'em at Anne Hilton's sty. I don't know whose they are."
"I'll give them a little exercise!" shouted William, setting off in pursuit. Anne Hilton looked out from her door to see the farmer standing up to bar the road backwards, and shouting directions to William, while he at the other side dodged one sow after the other, and Mrs Hankworth sat back laughing with enjoyment.
Anne ran to open the yard-gate, and, with management, the sows saw no other opening and ran in at a trot, scattering the squealing hens as they did so.
"Of all the knowing things!" said Mrs Hankworth.
"Well, Miss Hilton, we're bringing you two sows and ourselves to visit you!" said the farmer. "First a baby and then two sows! You'll keep a foundling home very soon."
He jumped out, and his wife came slowly over the wheel.
"Somebody'll be sending out to inquire for them soon," said Anne. "I'm very pleased to see you, Mrs Hankworth."
"We came to say we'd send you milk for the baby every day," said Mrs Hankworth, entering the kitchen. "You'll want yours for the butter."
"It's very kind of you," said Anne. "But he'll want a good deal."
"We've got seventy-five cows, you know," said Mrs Hankworth, with a contented laugh. "He'll not make much difference among 'em. Where is he? Bless him," she said, as she saw the baby staring at her from the wide wooden chair, in which he was tied.
"A fine baby," said the farmer with an ultimate tone.
"He is a nice one!" said his wife. "I must take him," she said, picking up the baby and turning him face downwards over her arm while she seated herself. She spread open her knees and laid him, docile to her practised handling, across them. Anne watched her with the air of one taking a lesson.
"Did you have much trouble to get him?" asked Mrs Hankworth.
"No, very little," said Anne. "There were some papers to sign, and one or two other things, but I believe they're generally glad to board out children if they can."
"Well, he's a healthy child. Oh! I don't know anything that made me so full as to hear that poor girl had slipped away like that. I didn't get over it for some days. You remember the last time I saw you, I was intending to go and see her."
"Yes, we were all making plans," said Anne.
"Here's Mrs Crowther," said the farmer. "Come to see the baby, too, I expect. I'll just go and see how the sows is doing," he said, approaching the door.
"Well, Mr and Mrs Hankworth, I didn't expect to see you here," said Mrs Crowther, coming in. "I came to see how the baby was getting on. Eh, how they do get hold of you, don't they, little things. I must have him a minute," she said, taking him from Mrs Hankworth's knee. "No, you're not the first baby I've had hold of," she added to the little creature, who twisted about with protesting noises. She smacked its soft thighs, and held its warm head against her cheek. "I'm right down silly over a baby!" she exclaimed, laying it back on Mrs Hankworth's knee.
"We can't have any more of our own," said the latter, "we have to make the best of other people's."
Anne took a tissue-paper parcel from the shelf, and opening it, showed a blue cashmere smock with a ribbon.
"I was so pleased," she said. "Mrs Phillipson's eldest girl that's to be married next month brought it in yesterday. It shows how you misjudge people. When I went to see them, they seemed so hard upon poor Jane. But she brought that pretty frock she'd made herself for the baby. She's a good-looking girl, and she'll make a good wife."
"You think on these things at such a time," said Mrs Hankworth. "All kinds o' little things you never thought of before come into your mind when you're going to be married. But it was nice of her. I shall think better of that girl after this."
"That sounds like Mary," said Anne, looking round the open door. "Yes it is. Come in, Mary. You'll find some friends here."
Mrs Hankworth laughed uproariously. "The baby's holding a reception," she said, her huge form shaking.
"It's Mrs Hankworth, I know," said Mary.
"And Mrs Crowther," interposed the latter herself; "we're making sillies of ourselves over the baby. Here, sit down and take him, Mary."
She set Mary in the chair which she had vacated, and laid the baby on her knees carefully placing the blind woman's hands over the little body.
"There's not much of him," said Mary. "What does he like? This?" And with her hands spread upon the child, she moved her knees backwards and forwards, clicking her heels on the floor.
"I could soon do it," she said, with a satisfied chuckle.
"I'm sure you could," said Anne.
"It was Peter Molesworth that told me you was here," said Mary, "so I thought I'd come too."
"Whatever do you think that Peter Molesworth came out with in the class the other day?" said Mrs Hankworth. "We was having as nice a meeting as you could wish, and then Peter gets up to give his experience. He says, 'I thank the Lord I've got peace in my home and a praying mother' (she's not much o' that, I thought to myself); and then he went on, 'You know, when I think of the troubles of others in serving Christ, I cannot bear. There's a poor woman I know,' he says, 'that's trying to serve Christ, and whenever she kneels down to say her prayers, her husband begins to tickle her feet.' Did you ever hear of anybody coming out with such a thing before? 'I think this door wants oiling, Mrs Hankworth,' he says to me as we was going out. 'Nay, Peter,' I says, 'it's thee that wants oiling.' 'Why, Mrs Hankworth, what's the matter?' he says. 'Whatever made you come out with such a thing in the meeting,' I says. 'Why, what was wrong with it?' he says. 'Oh, well!' I says, 'if you don't know yourself, I can't tell you,' I says. He's a bright one is Peter Molesworth."
"Are you ready, Mother?" shouted Mr Hankworth, putting his head in the door. "John Unsworth thinks the sows belongs to Mr Phillipson. He saw him bringing some home last night. We can take him on the way home."
"I'm coming," said Mrs Hankworth, rising slowly. "If there's anything you need, any advice or that, I'll be very pleased to give it you. Let me give him a kiss." "You're a beauty, that's what you are," she said, kissing the baby and giving it back to Mary.
"I must go too," said Mrs Crowther. "I'll send down some old flannel to-morrow, Anne. One of my girls'll come in and help you sometimes. It's well they should get used to a baby."
"She'll not be able to stop away herself," said Mrs Hankworth, shrewdly, and laughing together, both women went out, disputing amiably as to whether Mrs Crowther would take a seat in the trap and be driven as far as the cross roads.
The blind woman was feeling carefully the downy head of the baby.
"He's as soft as a kitten," she said. "I could spare several eggs a week out of the basket," she added, "if they'd be any use. I don't know much about babies. My brother was bigger than me when we was at home, and, of course, since then I've not had much to do with children."
Anne watched the two so helpless and confident. Mary rocked her knees steadily, and the child's head lay contentedly.
"I believe you've put him to sleep," said Anne. "Shall I put him in the cradle?"
"No, let me have him," said Mary, "I've never nursed a baby before."
Anne was left alone in the cottage with the baby, who slept in the clothes-basket she had turned into a cradle. The dog slept, too, having made friends with fortune. A late evening glow lit one side of the wall. When it faded, the dusk would absorb all the room and its inhabitants. Anne, sitting very still lest she should wake the baby, remembered one by one the agonies that had been lived through, whose sole result seemed to be this peaceful evening and the confidently breathing child. She remembered the shock of the disgrace to her, she, who had been a friend of the grandmother's, and how she had carried the burden about. She remembered the new house, and Jane, pretty, spoiled, and without misgiving, caring nothing for the hard judgments of which she herself imbibed the bitterness. Then Jane, with the child already striving to be free, leaving the new house at night, knowing without being told what door was open to her of all the doors in the country, and what place she would henceforth take. She saw the girl again, seated by the fire in the Infirmary ward, with that strange division between herself and all living, removed, as it were, to a distance which could not be bridged. Then Jane was no more to be found. There was the boy-child instead, who knew nothing except his desire to be kept alive; who met all reservations and pity by a determination to be fed. Throughout the whole evening, Anne had been struck by the fact that the other women scarcely thought of Jane any more than the baby did. It remained to them a very simple matter. There was a baby to feed and bring up. Being a boy, other things would soon be forgotten. It was too late, she knew, to do anything for Jane. The only thing that seemed possible to her in her simple reasoning, was to prevent such catastrophes for the future. It was not that pity was misplaced when shipwreck came, nor that charity ever failed. She understood, without being conscious of it, the ironic severity of Jesus, who would have no sudden pity and heart-searching on account of His poor. He had come into the world for righteousness and for judgment, and the judgment and righteousness both declared, not at the time of disaster or human appeal, nor with sudden loud outcries, but, "The poor always ye have with you, and whensoever ye will, ye may do them good."
The baby stirred. Anne lit the candle, and set it on the stairs. She stepped over the dog, and took a warm flannel from the oven door. Tucking it in at the feet of the child, she lifted the clothes-basket and carried it upstairs. The dog raised his head and watched her. She returned, covered the fire, and set an earthenware pot of milk on the hob. The dog laid his nose between his paws again. Anne, taking the candle and leaving the room in darkness, closed the staircase door and went upstairs.