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 large altogether.
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 good."
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 nurse me."
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.