Jack and Jill
4. Ward No. 2.
"I do believe the child will fret herself into a fever, mem, and I m clean distraught to
know what to do for her. She never used to mind trifles, but now she frets about the
oddest things, and I can't change them. This wall-paper is well enough, but she has
taken a fancy that the spots on it look like spiders, and it makes her nervous. I've no
other warm place to put her, and no money for a new paper. Poor lass! There are hard
times before her, I'm fearing.
Mrs. Pecq said this in a low voice to Mrs. Minot, who came in as often as she could, to
see what her neighbor needed; for both mothers were anxious, and sympathy drew
them to one another. While one woman talked, the other looked about the little room,
not wondering in the least that Jill found it hard to be contented there. It was very neat,
but so plain that there was not even a picture on the walls, nor an ornament upon the
mantel, except the necessary clock, lamp, and match-box. The paper was ugly, being a
deep buff with a brown figure that did look very like spiders sprawling over it, and might
well make one nervous to look at day after day.
Jill was asleep in the folding chair Dr. Whiting had sent, with a mattress to make it soft.
The back could be raised or lowered at will; but only a few inches had been gained as
yet, and the thin hair pillow was all she could bear. She looked very pretty as she lay,
with dark lashes against the feverish cheeks, lips apart, and a cloud of curly black locks
all about the face pillowed on one arm. She seemed like a brilliant little flower in that dull
place for the French blood in her veins gave her a color, warmth, and grace which were
very charming. Her natural love of beauty showed itself in many ways: a red ribbon had
tied up her hair, a gay but faded shawl was thrown over the bed, and the gifts sent her
were arranged with care upon the table by her side among her own few toys and
treasures. There was something pathetic in this childish attempt to beautify the poor
place, and Mrs. Minot's eyes were full as she looked at the tired woman, whose one joy
and comfort lay there in such sad plight.
"My dear soul, cheer up, and we will help one another through the hard times," she said,
with a soft hand on the rough one, and a look that promised much.
"Please God, we will, mem! With such good friends, I never should complain. I try not to
do it, but it breaks my heart to see my little lass spoiled for life, most like"; and Mrs.
Pecq pressed the kind hand with a despondent sigh.
"We won't say, or even think, that, yet. Everything is possible to youth and health like
Janey s. We must keep her happy, and time will do the rest, I'm sure. Let us begin at
once, and have a surprise for her when she wakes."