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On learning what was the matter, she made haste to dress, and in a few minutes stood by Mattie's bedside. But the child did not know her. When the doctor came, he shook his head, though he was one of the most undemonstrative of his profession; and after prescribing for her, said she must be watched with the greatest care, and gave Lucy urgent directions about her treatment. Lucy resolved that she would not leave her, and began at once to make what preparations were necessary for carrying out the doctor's instructions. Mattie took the medicine he sent; and in a little while the big eyes began to close, sank and opened again, half-closed and then started wide open, to settle their long lashes at last, after many slow flutterings, upon the pale cheek below them. Then Lucy wrote a note to Mrs. Morgenstern, and left her patient to run across to her grandmother to consult with her how she should send it. But when she opened the door into the court, there was Poppie, who of course fitted the moment she saw her, but only a little way off, like a bold bird. “Poppie, dear Poppie I" cried Lucy, earnestly, “do come here. I want you.” “Blowed if I go there again, lady ?” said Poppie, without moving in either direction. “Come here, Poppie. I won't touch, you—I promise you. I wouldn't tell you a lie, Poppie,” she added, seeing that she made no impression on the child. To judge by the way Poppie came a yard nearer, she did not seem at all satisfied by the assurance. “Look here, Poppie. There's a little girl—you know her— Mattie—she's lying very ill here, and I can't leave her. Will you take this letter for me—to that big house in Wyvil Place—to tell them I can't come to-day ?” “They'll wash me,” said Poppie, decisively. “Oh, no, they won't again, Poppie. They know now that you don't like it.” “They'll be giving me something I don't want, then. I know the sort of them.” “You needn't go into the house at all. Just ring the bell, and give the letter to the servant.” Poppie came close up to Lucy. “I tell you what, lady: I’m not afraid of him. He won't touch me again. If he do, I'll bite worser next time. But I won’t run errands for nothink. Nobody does, miss. You 'aint forgotten what you guv me last time? Do it again, and I’m off.” “A good wash, Poppie—that's what I gave you last time.” “No, miss,” returned the child, looking up in her face beseechingly. “You knows as well as me.” And she held up her pretty grimy mouth, so that her meaning could not be mistaken. “Old Mother Flanaghan gave me a kiss once. You remember her golotle don't you, miss P” she added, still holding up her mouth. For a moment Lucy did hesitate, but from no yielding to the repugnance she naturally felt at dirt. She hesitated, thinking to make a stipulation on her side, for the child's good. “I tell you what, Poppie,” she said; “I will kiss you every time you come to me with a clean face, as often as you like.” Poppie's dirty face fell. She put out her hand, took the letter, turned, and went away slowly. Lucy could not bear it. She darted after her, caught her, and kissed her. The child, without looking round, instantly scudded. Lucy could hardly believe her eyes when, going down at Mr. Kitely's call, some time after, she found Poppie in the shop. “She says she wants to see you, miss,” said Kitely. “I don't know what she wants. Begging, I suppose.” And so she was. But all her begging lay in the cleanness and brightness of her countenance. She might have been a little saint but for the fact that her aureole was all in her face, and around it lay a border of darkness that might be felt. “Back already : * said Lucy in astonishment. “Yes, lady. I didn't bite him. I throwed the letter at him, and he throwed it out again, and says I, pickin' of it up, “You’ll hear o' this to-morrow, Plush.' And says he, ‘Give me that letter, you wagabones.’ And I throwed it at him again, and he took it up and looked at it, and took it in. And here I am, lady,” added Poppie, making a display of her clean face. Lucy kissed her once more, and she was gone in a moment. While Mattie was asleep Lucy did all she could to change the aspect of the place. “She shan’t think of Syne the first thing when she comes to herself,” she said. With the bookseller's concurrence, who saw the reason for it the moment she uttered the wish, she removed all the old black volumes within sight of her bed, and replaced them with the brightest bindings to be found in the shop. She would rather have got rid of the books altogether; but there was no time for that now. Then she ventured, finding her sleep still endure, to take down the dingy old chintz curtains from her tent bed and replace them with her own white dimity. These she drew close round the bed, and then set about cleaning the window, inside and out. Her fair hands were perfectly fit for such work, or any other labour that love chose to require of them. “Entire affection hateth nicer hands,” is one of the profoundestlines in all Spenser's profound allegory. But she soon perceived that the light would in consequence be far too much for her little patient, especially as she had now only white curtains to screen her. So the next thing was to get a green blind for the window. Not before that was up did Mattie awake, and then only to stare about her, take her medicine, and fall asleep again, or, at least, into some state resembling sleep. She was suffering from congestion of the brain. For a week she continued in nearly the same condition, during which time Lucy scarcely left her bedside. And it was a great help to her in her own trouble to have such a charge to fulfil. At length one morning, when the sun was shining clear and dewy through a gap between the houses of the court, and Lucy was rising early according to her custom—she lay on a sofa in Mattie's room—the child opened her eyes and saw. Then she closed them again, and Lucy heard her murmuring to herself“Yes, I thought so. I'm dead. And it is so nice I’ve got white clouds to my bed. And there's Syne cutting away with all his men—just like a black cloud—away out of the world. Ah! I see you, Syne | You ought to be ashamed of yourself for worrying of me as you've been doing all this time. You see it's no use. You ought really to give it up. He's too much for you, anyhow.” This she said brokenly and at intervals. The whole week had been filled with visions of conflict with the enemy, and the Son of Man had been with her in those visions. The spiritual struggles of them that are whole are the same in kind as those of this brain-sick child. They are tempted and driven to faithlessness, to selfindulgence, to denial of God and of his Christ, to give in—for the sake of peace, as they think. And I, believing that the very hairs of our heads are all numbered, and that not a sparrow can fall to the ground without our Father, believe that the Lord Christ—I know not how, because such knowledge is too wonderful for me—is resent in the soul of such a child, as certainly as in his Church, or in the spirit of a saint who in his name stands against the world. There are two ways in which he can be present in the Church, one in the ordering of the confluence and working of men's deeds, the other in judgment; but he can be present in the weakest child's heart, in the heart of any of his disciples, in an infinitely deeper way than those, and without this deeper presence, he would not care for the outside presence of the other modes. It is in the individual soul that the Spirit works, and out of which he sends forth fresh influences. And I believe that the good fight may be fought amidst the wildest visions of a Saint Anthony, or even in the hardest confinement of Bedlam. It was such a fight, perhaps, that brought the maniacs of old time to the feet of the Saviour, who gave them back their right mind. Let those be thankful who have it to fight amidst their brothers and sisters, who can return look for look, and word for word, and not among the awful visions of a tormented brain, *As thick and numberless As the gay motes that people the sunbeams.”
Lucy did not venture to show herself for a little while, but at length she peeped within the curtain, and saw the child praying with solded hands. Ere she could withdraw, she opened her eyes and saw her. “I thought I was in heaven l’ she said; “but I don't mind, if you're there, miss. I’ve been seeing you all through it. But it's over now,” she added, with a sigh of relief. “You must be very still, dear Mattie,” said Lucy. “You’re not well enough to talk yet.” “I am quite well, miss; only sleepy, I think.” And before Lucy could answer, she was indeed asleep once more. It was quite another fortnight before Lucy ventured to give up her place to her grandmother. During this time, she saw very little of Thomas—only for a few minutes every evening as he left ; place—and somehow she found it a relief not to see more of lm. All the time of Mattie's illness, Mr. Spelt kept coming to inquire after her. He was in great concern about her, but he never asked to see her. He had a great gift in waiting, the little man. Possibly he fared the better, like Zaccheus, who wanted only to see, and was seen. But perhaps his quietness might be partly attributed to another cause—namely, that since Mattie's illness he had brooded more upon the suspicion that his wife had had a child. I cannot in the least determine whether this suspicion was a mere fancy or not; but I know that the tailor thought he had good grounds for it ; and it does not require a very lawless imagination to presume the thing possible. Every day of those three weeks, most days more than once or twice even, Poppie was to be seen at one hour or other in Guild Court, prowling about—with a clean face, the only part of her, I am all but certain, that was clean—for the chance of seeing Lucy. From what I know of Poppie, I cannot think that it was anxiety about Mattie that brought her there. I do not doubt that she was selfish —prowling about after a kiss from Lucy. And as often as Lucy saw her, she had what she wanted. But if Lucy did not see her sometimes, at least there was one who always did see her from his nest in the—rock, I was going to say, but it was only the wall. I mean, of course, Mr. Spelt. He saw her, and watched her, until at length, as he plied his needle, the fancy which already occupied his brain began to develope itself, and he wondered whether that Poppie might not be his very lost child. Nor had the supposition lasted more than five minutes before he passionately believed, or at least passionately desired to believe it, and began to devise how to prove it, or at least to act upon it.
MR. SPELT sat in his watch-tower, over the head of patiently cobbling Mr. Dolman, reflecting. He too was trying to cobble— things in general, in that active head of his beneath its covering of heathery hair. But he did not confine his efforts to things in general : one very particular thing had its share in the motions of his spirit—how to prove that Poppie was indeed his own child. He had missed his little Mattie much, and his child-like spirit was longing greatly after some child-like companionship. This, in Mattie's case, he had found did him good, cleared his inward sight, helped him to cobble things even when her questions showed him the need of fresh patching in many a place where he had not before perceived the rent or the thin-worn threads of the common argument or belief. And the thought had come to him that perhaps Mattie was taken away from him to teach him that he ought not, as Mattie had said with regard to Mrs. Morgenstern, to cultivate friendship only where he got good from it. The very possibility that he had a child somewhere in London, seemed at length to make it his first duty to rescue some child or other from the abyss around him, and there were not a few swimming in the vast VOrtex. Having found out that Mrs. Flanaghan knew more about Poppie than any one else, and that she crept oftener into the bottom of an empty cupboard in her room than anywhere else, he went one morning to see whether he could not learn something from the old Irishwoman. The place looked very different then from the appearance it presented to Lucy the day she found it inhabited by nobody, and furnished with nothing but the gin-bottle. When the tailor opened the door, he found the room swarming with children. Though it was hot summer weather, a brisk fire burned in the grate; and the place smelt strongly of reesty bacon. There were three different groups of children in three of the corners: one of them laying out the dead body of a terribly mutilated doll; another, the tangle-haired members of which had certainly had no share in the bacon but the smell of it, sitting listlessly on the floor, leaning their backs against the wall, apparently without hope and without God in the world; one of the third group searching for ossible crumbs where she had just had her breakfast, the other two ying ill of the measles on a heap of rags. Mrs. Flanaghan was in the act of pouring a little gin into her tea. The tailor was quickeyed, and took in the most of this at a glance. But he thought he saw something more, namely, the sharp eyes of Poppie peeping through the crack of the cupboard. He therefore thought of nothing