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Nurse and Patient
I had not been at home again many days when one evening I went
upstairs into my own room to take a peep over Charley's shoulder
and see how she was getting on with her copy-book. Writing was a
trying business to Charley, who seemed to have no natural power
over a pen, but in whose hand every pen appeared to become
perversely animated, and to go wrong and crooked, and to stop, and
splash, and sidle into corners like a saddle-donkey. It was very
odd to see what old letters Charley's young hand had made, they so
wrinkled, and shrivelled, and tottering, it so plump and round.
Yet Charley was uncommonly expert at other things and had as nimble
little fingers as I ever watched.
"Well, Charley," said I, looking over a copy of the letter O in
which it was represented as square, triangular, pear-shaped, and
collapsed in all kinds of ways, "we are improving. If we only get
to make it round, we shall be perfect, Charley."
Then I made one, and Charley made one, and the pen wouldn't join
Charley's neatly, but twisted it up into a knot.
"Never mind, Charley. We shall do it in time."
Charley laid down her pen, the copy being finished, opened and shut
her cramped little hand, looked gravely at the page, half in pride
and half in doubt, and got up, and dropped me a curtsy.
"Thank you, miss. If you please, miss, did you know a poor person
of the name of Jenny?"
"A brickmaker's wife, Charley? Yes."
"She came and spoke to me when I was out a little while ago, and
said you knew her, miss. She asked me if I wasn't the young lady's
little maid--meaning you for the young lady, miss--and I said yes,
"I thought she had left this neighbourhood altogether, Charley."
"So she had, miss, but she's come back again to where she used to
live--she and Liz. Did you know another poor person of the name of
"I think I do, Charley, though not by name."
"That's what she said!" returned Charley. "They have both come
back, miss, and have been tramping high and low."
"Tramping high and low, have they, Charley?"
"Yes, miss." If Charley could only have made the letters in her
copy as round as the eyes with which she looked into my face, they
would have been excellent. "And this poor person came about the
house three or four days, hoping to get a glimpse of you, miss--all
she wanted, she said--but you were away. That was when she saw me.
She saw me a-going about, miss," said Charley with a short laugh of
the greatest delight and pride, "and she thought I looked like your
"Did she though, really, Charley?"
"Yes, miss!" said Charley. "Really and truly." And Charley, with
another short laugh of the purest glee, made her eyes very round
again and looked as serious as became my maid. I was never tired
of seeing Charley in the full enjoyment of that great dignity,
standing before me with her youthful face and figure, and her
steady manner, and her childish exultation breaking through it now
and then in the pleasantest way.
"And where did you see her, Charley?" said I.
My little maid's countenance fell as she replied, "By the doctor's
shop, miss." For Charley wore her black frock yet.
I asked if the brickmaker's wife were ill, but Charley said no. It
was some one else. Some one in her cottage who had tramped down to
Saint Albans and was tramping he didn't know where. A poor boy,
Charley said. No father, no mother, no any one. "Like as Tom
might have been, miss, if Emma and me had died after father," said
Charley, her round eyes filling with tears.
"And she was getting medicine for him, Charley?"
"She said, miss," returned Charley, "how that he had once done as
much for her."
My little maid's face was so eager and her quiet hands were folded
so closely in one another as she stood looking at me that I had no
great difficulty in reading her thoughts. "Well, Charley," said I,
"it appears to me that you and I can do no better than go round to
Jenny's and see what's the matter."
The alacrity with which Charley brought my bonnet and veil, and
having dressed me, quaintly pinned herself into her warm shawl and
made herself look like a little old woman, sufficiently expressed
her readiness. So Charley and I, without saying anything to any
one, went out.
It was a cold, wild night, and the trees shuddered in the wind.
The rain had been thick and heavy all day, and with little
intermission for many days. None was falling just then, however.
The sky had partly cleared, but was very gloomy--even above us,
where a few stars were shining. In the north and north-west, where
the sun had set three hours before, there was a pale dead light
both beautiful and awful; and into it long sullen lines of cloud
waved up like a sea stricken immovable as it was heaving. Towards
London a lurid glare overhung the whole dark waste, and the
contrast between these two lights, and the fancy which the redder
light engendered of an unearthly fire, gleaming on all the unseen
buildings of the city and on all the faces of its many thousands of
wondering inhabitants, was as solemn as might be.
I had no thought that night--none, I am quite sure--of what was
soon to happen to me. But I have always remembered since that when
we had stopped at the garden-gate to look up at the sky, and when
we went upon our way, I had for a moment an undefinable impression
of myself as being something different from what I then was. I
know it was then and there that I had it. I have ever since
connected the feeling with that spot and time and with everything
associated with that spot and time, to the distant voices in the
town, the barking of a dog, and the sound of wheels coming down the
It was Saturday night, and most of the people belonging to the
place where we were going were drinking elsewhere. We found it
quieter than I had previously seen it, though quite as miserable.
The kilns were burning, and a stifling vapour set towards us with a
We came to the cottage, where there was a feeble candle in the
patched window. We tapped at the door and went in. The mother of
the little child who had died was sitting in a chair on one side of
the poor fire by the bed; and opposite to her, a wretched boy,
supported by the chimney-piece, was cowering on the floor. He held
under his arm, like a little bundle, a fragment of a fur cap; and
as he tried to warm himself, he shook until the crazy door and
window shook. The place was closer than before and had an
unhealthy and a very peculiar smell.
I had not lifted my veil when I first spoke to the woman, which was
at the moment of our going in. The boy staggered up instantly and
stared at me with a remarkable expression of surprise and terror.
His action was so quick and my being the cause of it was so evident
that I stood still instead of advancing nearer.
"I won't go no more to the berryin ground," muttered the boy; "I
ain't a-going there, so I tell you!"
I lifted my veil and spoke to the woman. She said to me in a low
voice, "Don't mind him, ma'am. He'll soon come back to his head,"
and said to him, "Jo, Jo, what's the matter?"
"I know wot she's come for!" cried the boy.
"The lady there. She's come to get me to go along with her to the
berryin ground. I won't go to the berryin ground. I don't like
the name on it. She might go a-berryin ME." His shivering came on
again, and as he leaned against the wall, he shook the hovel.
"He has been talking off and on about such like all day, ma'am,"
said Jenny softly. "Why, how you stare! This is MY lady, Jo."
"Is it?" returned the boy doubtfully, and surveying me with his arm
held out above his burning eyes. "She looks to me the t'other one.
It ain't the bonnet, nor yet it ain't the gownd, but she looks to
me the t'other one."
My little Charley, with her premature experience of illness and
trouble, had pulled off her bonnet and shawl and now went quietly
up to him with a chair and sat him down in it like an old sick
nurse. Except that no such attendant could have shown him
Charley's youthful face, which seemed to engage his confidence.
"I say!" said the boy. "YOU tell me. Ain't the lady the t'other
Charley shook her head as she methodically drew his rags about him
and made him as warm as she could.
"Oh!" the boy muttered. "Then I s'pose she ain't."
"I came to see if I could do you any good," said I. "What is the
matter with you?"
"I'm a-being froze," returned the boy hoarsely, with his haggard
gaze wandering about me, "and then burnt up, and then froze, and
then burnt up, ever so many times in a hour. And my head's all
sleepy, and all a-going mad-like--and I'm so dry--and my bones
isn't half so much bones as pain."
"When did he come here?" I asked the woman.
"This morning, ma'am, I found him at the corner of the town. I had
known him up in London yonder. Hadn't I, Jo?"
"Tom-all-Alone's," the boy replied.
Whenever he fixed his attention or his eyes, it was only for a very
little while. He soon began to droop his head again, and roll it
heavily, and speak as if he were half awake.
"When did he come from London?" I asked.
"I come from London yes'day," said the boy himself, now flushed and
hot. "I'm a-going somewheres."
"Where is he going?" I asked.
"Somewheres," repeated the boy in a louder tone. "I have been
moved on, and moved on, more nor ever I was afore, since the
t'other one give me the sov'ring. Mrs. Snagsby, she's always a-
watching, and a-driving of me--what have I done to her?--and
they're all a-watching and a-driving of me. Every one of 'em's
doing of it, from the time when I don't get up, to the time when I
don't go to bed. And I'm a-going somewheres. That's where I'm a-
going. She told me, down in Tom-all-Alone's, as she came from
Stolbuns, and so I took the Stolbuns Road. It's as good as
He always concluded by addressing Charley.
"What is to be done with him?" said I, taking the woman aside. "He
could not travel in this state even if he had a purpose and knew
where he was going!"
"I know no more, ma'am, than the dead," she replied, glancing
compassionately at him. "Perhaps the dead know better, if they
could only tell us. I've kept him here all day for pity's sake,
and I've given him broth and physic, and Liz has gone to try if any
one will take him in (here's my pretty in the bed--her child, but I
call it mine); but I can't keep him long, for if my husband was to
come home and find him here, he'd be rough in putting him out and
might do him a hurt. Hark! Here comes Liz back!"
The other woman came hurriedly in as she spoke, and the boy got up
with a half-obscured sense that he was expected to be going. When
the little child awoke, and when and how Charley got at it, took it
out of bed, and began to walk about hushing it, I don't know.
There she was, doing all this in a quiet motherly manner as if she
were living in Mrs. Blinder's attic with Tom and Emma again.
The friend had been here and there, and had been played about from
hand to hand, and had come back as she went. At first it was too
early for the boy to be received into the proper refuge, and at
last it was too late. One official sent her to another, and the
other sent her back again to the first, and so backward and
forward, until it appeared to me as if both must have been
appointed for their skill in evading their duties instead of
performing them. And now, after all, she said, breathing quickly,
for she had been running and was frightened too, "Jenny, your
master's on the road home, and mine's not far behind, and the Lord
help the boy, for we can do no more for him!" They put a few
halfpence together and hurried them into his hand, and so, in an
oblivious, half-thankful, half-insensible way, he shuffled out of
"Give me the child, my dear," said its mother to Charley, "and
thank you kindly too! Jenny, woman dear, good night! Young lady,
if my master don't fall out with me, I'll look down by the kiln
by and by, where the boy will be most like, and again in the
morning!" She hurried off, and presently we passed her hushing
and singing to her child at her own door and looking anxiously
along the road for her drunken husband.
I was afraid of staying then to speak to either woman, lest I
should bring her into trouble. But I said to Charley that we must
not leave the boy to die. Charley, who knew what to do much better
than I did, and whose quickness equalled her presence of mind,
glided on before me, and presently we came up with Jo, just short
of the brick-kiln.
I think he must have begun his journey with some small bundle under
his arm and must have had it stolen or lost it. For he still
carried his wretched fragment of fur cap like a bundle, though he
went bare-headed through the rain, which now fell fast. He stopped
when we called to him and again showed a dread of me when I came
up, standing with his lustrous eyes fixed upon me, and even
arrested in his shivering fit.
I asked him to come with us, and we would take care that he had
some shelter for the night.
"I don't want no shelter," he said; "I can lay amongst the warm
"But don't you know that people die there?" replied Charley.
"They dies everywheres," said the boy. "They dies in their
lodgings--she knows where; I showed her--and they dies down in Tom-
all-Alone's in heaps. They dies more than they lives, according to
what I see." Then he hoarsely whispered Charley, "If she ain't the
t'other one, she ain't the forrenner. Is there THREE of 'em then?"
Charley looked at me a little frightened. I felt half frightened
at myself when the boy glared on me so.
But he turned and followed when I beckoned to him, and finding that
he acknowledged that influence in me, I led the way straight home.
It was not far, only at the summit of the hill. We passed but one
man. I doubted if we should have got home without assistance, the
boy's steps were so uncertain and tremulous. He made no complaint,
however, and was strangely unconcerned about himself, if I may say
so strange a thing.
Leaving him in the hall for a moment, shrunk into the corner of the
window-seat and staring with an indifference that scarcely could be
called wonder at the comfort and brightness about him, I went into
the drawing-room to speak to my guardian. There I found Mr.
Skimpole, who had come down by the coach, as he frequently did
without notice, and never bringing any clothes with him, but always
borrowing everything he wanted.
They came out with me directly to look at the boy. The servants
had gathered in the hall too, and he shivered in the window-seat
with Charley standing by him, like some wounded animal that had
been found in a ditch.
"This is a sorrowful case," said my guardian after asking him a
question or two and touching him and examining his eyes. "What do
you say, Harold?"
"You had better turn him out," said Mr. Skimpole.
"What do you mean?" inquired my guardian, almost sternly.
"My dear Jarndyce," said Mr. Skimpole, "you know what I am: I am a
child. Be cross to me if I deserve it. But I have a constitutional
objection to this sort of thing. I always had, when I was a medical
man. He's not safe, you know. There's a very bad sort of fever
Mr. Skimpole had retreated from the hall to the drawing-room again
and said this in his airy way, seated on the music-stool as we
"You'll say it's childish," observed Mr. Skimpole, looking gaily at
us. "Well, I dare say it may be; but I AM a child, and I never
pretend to be anything else. If you put him out in the road, you
only put him where he was before. He will be no worse off than he
was, you know. Even make him better off, if you like. Give him
sixpence, or five shillings, or five pound ten--you are
arithmeticians, and I am not--and get rid of him!"
"And what is he to do then?" asked my guardian.
"Upon my life," said Mr. Skimpole, shrugging his shoulders with his
engaging smile, "I have not the least idea what he is to do then.
But I have no doubt he'll do it."
"Now, is it not a horrible reflection," said my guardian, to whom I
had hastily explained the unavailing efforts of the two women, "is
it not a horrible reflection," walking up and down and rumpling his
hair, "that if this wretched creature were a convicted prisoner,
his hospital would be wide open to him, and he would be as well
taken care of as any sick boy in the kingdom?"
"My dear Jarndyce," returned Mr. Skimpole, "you'll pardon the
simplicity of the question, coming as it does from a creature who
is perfectly simple in worldly matters, but why ISN'T he a prisoner
My guardian stopped and looked at him with a whimsical mixture of
amusement and indignation in his face.
"Our young friend is not to be suspected of any delicacy, I should
imagine," said Mr. Skimpole, unabashed and candid. "It seems to me
that it would be wiser, as well as in a certain kind of way more
respectable, if he showed some misdirected energy that got him into
prison. There would be more of an adventurous spirit in it, and
consequently more of a certain sort of poetry."
"I believe," returned my guardian, resuming his uneasy walk, "that
there is not such another child on earth as yourself."
"Do you really?" said Mr. Skimpole. "I dare say! But I confess I
don't see why our young friend, in his degree, should not seek to
invest himself with such poetry as is open to him. He is no doubt
born with an appetite--probably, when he is in a safer state of
health, he has an excellent appetite. Very well. At our young
friend's natural dinner hour, most likely about noon, our young
friend says in effect to society, 'I am hungry; will you have the
goodness to produce your spoon and feed me?' Society, which has
taken upon itself the general arrangement of the whole system of
spoons and professes to have a spoon for our young friend, does NOT
produce that spoon; and our young friend, therefore, says 'You
really must excuse me if I seize it.' Now, this appears to me a
case of misdirected energy, which has a certain amount of reason in
it and a certain amount of romance; and I don't know but what I
should be more interested in our young friend, as an illustration
of such a case, than merely as a poor vagabond--which any one can
"In the meantime," I ventured to observe, "he is getting worse."
"In the meantime," said Mr. Skimpole cheerfully, "as Miss
Summerson, with her practical good sense, observes, he is getting
worse. Therefore I recommend your turning him out before he gets
The amiable face with which he said it, I think I shall never
"Of course, little woman," observed my guardian, turning to me, "I
can ensure his admission into the proper place by merely going
there to enforce it, though it's a bad state of things when, in his
condition, that is necessary. But it's growing late, and is a very
bad night, and the boy is worn out already. There is a bed in the
wholesome loft-room by the stable; we had better keep him there
till morning, when he can be wrapped up and removed. We'll do
"Oh!" said Mr. Skimpole, with his hands upon the keys of the piano
as we moved away. "Are you going back to our young friend?"
"Yes," said my guardian.
"How I envy you your constitution, Jarndyce!" returned Mr. Skimpole
with playful admiration. "You don't mind these things; neither
does Miss Summerson. You are ready at all times to go anywhere,
and do anything. Such is will! I have no will at all--and no
"You can't recommend anything for the boy, I suppose?" said my
guardian, looking back over his shoulder half angrily; only half
angrily, for he never seemed to consider Mr. Skimpole an
"My dear Jarndyce, I observed a bottle of cooling medicine in his
pocket, and it's impossible for him to do better than take it. You
can tell them to sprinkle a little vinegar about the place where he
sleeps and to keep it moderately cool and him moderately warm. But
it is mere impertinence in me to offer any recommendation. Miss
Summerson has such a knowledge of detail and such a capacity for
the administration of detail that she knows all about it."
We went back into the hall and explained to Jo what we proposed to
do, which Charley explained to him again and which he received with
the languid unconcern I had already noticed, wearily looking on at
what was done as if it were for somebody else. The servants
compassionating his miserable state and being very anxious to help,
we soon got the loft-room ready; and some of the men about the
house carried him across the wet yard, well wrapped up. It was
pleasant to observe how kind they were to him and how there
appeared to be a general impression among them that frequently
calling him "Old Chap" was likely to revive his spirits. Charley
directed the operations and went to and fro between the loft-room
and the house with such little stimulants and comforts as we
thought it safe to give him. My guardian himself saw him before he
was left for the night and reported to me when he returned to the
growlery to write a letter on the boy's behalf, which a messenger
was charged to deliver at day-light in the morning, that he seemed
easier and inclined to sleep. They had fastened his door on the
outside, he said, in case of his being delirious, but had so
arranged that he could not make any noise without being heard.
Ada being in our room with a cold, Mr. Skimpole was left alone all
this time and entertained himself by playing snatches of pathetic
airs and sometimes singing to them (as we heard at a distance) with
great expression and feeling. When we rejoined him in the drawing-
room he said he would give us a little ballad which had come into
his head "apropos of our young friend," and he sang one about a
"Thrown on the wide world, doomed to wander and roam,
Bereft of his parents, bereft of a home."
quite exquisitely. It was a song that always made him cry, he told
He was extremely gay all the rest of the evening, for he absolutely
chirped--those were his delighted words--when he thought by what a
happy talent for business he was surrounded. He gave us, in his
glass of negus, "Better health to our young friend!" and supposed
and gaily pursued the case of his being reserved like Whittington
to become Lord Mayor of London. In that event, no doubt, he would
establish the Jarndyce Institution and the Summerson Almshouses,
and a little annual Corporation Pilgrimage to St. Albans. He had
no doubt, he said, that our young friend was an excellent boy in
his way, but his way was not the Harold Skimpole way; what Harold
Skimpole was, Harold Skimpole had found himself, to his
considerable surprise, when he first made his own acquaintance; he
had accepted himself with all his failings and had thought it sound
philosophy to make the best of the bargain; and he hoped we would
do the same.
Charley's last report was that the boy was quiet. I could see,
from my window, the lantern they had left him burning quietly; and
I went to bed very happy to think that he was sheltered.
There was more movement and more talking than usual a little before
daybreak, and it awoke me. As I was dressing, I looked out of my
window and asked one of our men who had been among the active
sympathizers last night whether there was anything wrong about the
house. The lantern was still burning in the loft-window.
"It's the boy, miss," said he.
"Is he worse?" I inquired.
"Dead, miss? No. Gone clean off."
At what time of the night he had gone, or how, or why, it seemed
hopeless ever to divine. The door remaining as it had been left,
and the lantern standing in the window, it could only be supposed
that he had got out by a trap in the floor which communicated with
an empty cart-house below. But he had shut it down again, if that
were so; and it looked as if it had not been raised. Nothing of
any kind was missing. On this fact being clearly ascertained, we
all yielded to the painful belief that delirium had come upon him
in the night and that, allured by some imaginary object or pursued
by some imaginary horror, he had strayed away in that worse than
helpless state; all of us, that is to say, but Mr. Skimpole, who
repeatedly suggested, in his usual easy light style, that it had
occurred to our young friend that he was not a safe inmate, having
a bad kind of fever upon him, and that he had with great natural
politeness taken himself off.
Every possible inquiry was made, and every place was searched. The
brick-kilns were examined, the cottages were visited, the two women
were particularly questioned, but they knew nothing of him, and
nobody could doubt that their wonder was genuine. The weather had
for some time been too wet and the night itself had been too wet to
admit of any tracing by footsteps. Hedge and ditch, and wall, and
rick and stack, were examined by our men for a long distance round,
lest the boy should be lying in such a place insensible or dead;
but nothing was seen to indicate that he had ever been near. From
the time when he was left in the loft-room, he vanished.
The search continued for five days. I do not mean that it ceased
even then, but that my attention was then diverted into a current
very memorable to me.
As Charley was at her writing again in my room in the evening, and
as I sat opposite to her at work, I felt the table tremble.
Looking up, I saw my little maid shivering from head to foot.
"Charley," said I, "are you so cold?"
"I think I am, miss," she replied. "I don't know what it is. I
can't hold myself still. I felt so yesterday at about this same
time, miss. Don't be uneasy, I think I'm ill."
I heard Ada's voice outside, and I hurried to the door of
communication between my room and our pretty sitting-room, and
locked it. Just in time, for she tapped at it while my hand was
yet upon the key.
Ada called to me to let her in, but I said, "Not now, my dearest.
Go away. There's nothing the matter; I will come to you
presently." Ah! It was a long, long time before my darling girl
and I were companions again.
Charley fell ill. In twelve hours she was very ill. I moved her
to my room, and laid her in my bed, and sat down quietly to nurse
her. I told my guardian all about it, and why I felt it was
necessary that I should seclude myself, and my reason for not
seeing my darling above all. At first she came very often to the
door, and called to me, and even reproached me with sobs and tears;
but I wrote her a long letter saying that she made me anxious and
unhappy and imploring her, as she loved me and wished my mind to be
at peace, to come no nearer than the garden. After that she came
beneath the window even oftener than she had come to the door, and
if I had learnt to love her dear sweet voice before when we were
hardly ever apart, how did I learn to love it then, when I stood
behind the window-curtain listening and replying, but not so much
as looking out! How did I learn to love it afterwards, when the
harder time came!
They put a bed for me in our sitting-room; and by keeping the door
wide open, I turned the two rooms into one, now that Ada had
vacated that part of the house, and kept them always fresh and
airy. There was not a servant in or about the house but was so
good that they would all most gladly have come to me at any hour of
the day or night without the least fear or unwillingness, but I
thought it best to choose one worthy woman who was never to see Ada
and whom I could trust to come and go with all precaution. Through
her means I got out to take the air with my guardian when there was
no fear of meeting Ada, and wanted for nothing in the way of
attendance, any more than in any other respect.
And thus poor Charley sickened and grew worse, and fell into heavy
danger of death, and lay severely ill for many a long round of day
and night. So patient she was, so uncomplaining, and inspired by
such a gentle fortitude that very often as I sat by Charley holding
her head in my arms--repose would come to her, so, when it would
come to her in no other attitude--I silently prayed to our Father
in heaven that I might not forget the lesson which this little
sister taught me.
I was very sorrowful to think that Charley's pretty looks would
change and be disfigured, even if she recovered--she was such a
child with her dimpled face--but that thought was, for the greater
part, lost in her greater peril. When she was at the worst, and
her mind rambled again to the cares of her father's sick bed and
the little children, she still knew me so far as that she would be
quiet in my arms when she could lie quiet nowhere else, and murmur
out the wanderings of her mind less restlessly. At those times I
used to think, how should I ever tell the two remaining babies that
the baby who had learned of her faithful heart to be a mother to
them in their need was dead!
There were other times when Charley knew me well and talked to me,
telling me that she sent her love to Tom and Emma and that she was
sure Tom would grow up to be a good man. At those times Charley
would speak to me of what she had read to her father as well as she
could to comfort him, of that young man carried out to be buried
who was the only son of his mother and she was a widow, of the
ruler's daughter raised up by the gracious hand upon her bed of
death. And Charley told me that when her father died she had
kneeled down and prayed in her first sorrow that he likewise might
be raised up and given back to his poor children, and that if she
should never get better and should die too, she thought it likely
that it might come into Tom's mind to offer the same prayer for
her. Then would I show Tom how these people of old days had been
brought back to life on earth, only that we might know our hope to
be restored to heaven!
But of all the various times there were in Charley's illness, there
was not one when she lost the gentle qualities I have spoken of.
And there were many, many when I thought in the night of the last
high belief in the watching angel, and the last higher trust in
God, on the part of her poor despised father.
And Charley did not die. She flutteringly and slowly turned the
dangerous point, after long lingering there, and then began to
mend. The hope that never had been given, from the first, of
Charley being in outward appearance Charley any more soon began to
be encouraged; and even that prospered, and I saw her growing into
her old childish likeness again.
It was a great morning when I could tell Ada all this as she stood
out in the garden; and it was a great evening when Charley and I at
last took tea together in the next room. But on that same evening,
I felt that I was stricken cold.
Happily for both of us, it was not until Charley was safe in bed
again and placidly asleep that I began to think the contagion of
her illness was upon me. I had been able easily to hide what I
felt at tea-time, but I was past that already now, and I knew that
I was rapidly following in Charley's steps.
I was well enough, however, to be up early in the morning, and to
return my darling's cheerful blessing from the garden, and to talk
with her as long as usual. But I was not free from an impression
that I had been walking about the two rooms in the night, a little
beside myself, though knowing where I was; and I felt confused at
times--with a curious sense of fullness, as if I were becoming too
In the evening I was so much worse that I resolved to prepare
Charley, with which view I said, "You're getting quite strong,
Charley, are you not?"
"Oh, quite!" said Charley.
"Strong enough to be told a secret, I think, Charley?"
"Quite strong enough for that, miss!" cried Charley. But Charley's
face fell in the height of her delight, for she saw the secret in
MY face; and she came out of the great chair, and fell upon my
bosom, and said "Oh, miss, it's my doing! It's my doing!" and a
great deal more out of the fullness of her grateful heart.
"Now, Charley," said I after letting her go on for a little while,
"if I am to be ill, my great trust, humanly speaking, is in you.
And unless you are as quiet and composed for me as you always were
for yourself, you can never fulfil it, Charley."
"If you'll let me cry a little longer, miss," said Charley. "Oh,
my dear, my dear! If you'll only let me cry a little longer. Oh,
my dear!"--how affectionately and devotedly she poured this out as
she clung to my neck, I never can remember without tears--"I'll be
So I let Charley cry a little longer, and it did us both good.
"Trust in me now, if you please, miss," said Charley quietly. "I
am listening to everything you say."
"It's very little at present, Charley. I shall tell your doctor
to-night that I don't think I am well and that you are going to
For that the poor child thanked me with her whole heart. "And in
the morning, when you hear Miss Ada in the garden, if I should not
be quite able to go to the window-curtain as usual, do you go,
Charley, and say I am asleep--that I have rather tired myself, and
am asleep. At all times keep the room as I have kept it, Charley,
and let no one come."
Charley promised, and I lay down, for I was very heavy. I saw the
doctor that night and asked the favour of him that I wished to ask
relative to his saying nothing of my illness in the house as yet.
I have a very indistinct remembrance of that night melting into
day, and of day melting into night again; but I was just able on
the first morning to get to the window and speak to my darling.
On the second morning I heard her dear voice--Oh, how dear now!--
outside; and I asked Charley, with some difficulty (speech being
painful to me), to go and say I was asleep. I heard her answer
softly, "Don't disturb her, Charley, for the world!"
"How does my own Pride look, Charley?" I inquired.
"Disappointed, miss," said Charley, peeping through the curtain.
"But I know she is very beautiful this morning."
"She is indeed, miss," answered Charley, peeping. "Still looking
up at the window."
With her blue clear eyes, God bless them, always loveliest when
raised like that!
I called Charley to me and gave her her last charge.
"Now, Charley, when she knows I am ill, she will try to make her
way into the room. Keep her out, Charley, if you love me truly, to
the last! Charley, if you let her in but once, only to look upon
me for one moment as I lie here, I shall die."
"I never will! I never will!" she promised me.
"I believe it, my dear Charley. And now come and sit beside me for
a little while, and touch me with your hand. For I cannot see you,
Charley; I am blind."