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The baby has her breakfast.
He waked Tommy, and showed him the loaf. Tommy sprang from his lair and snatched at it.
"No, Tommy," said Clare, drawing back, "I can't trust you! You would eat it all; and if I died of hunger, what would become of baby, left alone with you? I don't feel at all sure you wouldn't eat her!"
Baby started a feeble whimper.
"You must wait now till I've attended to her," continued Clare. "If you had got up quietly without waking her, I would have given you your share at once."
As he spoke, he pulled a blanket off the bed to wrap her in, and made haste to take her up. A series of difficulties followed, which I will leave to the imagination of mothers and aunts, and nurses in general--the worst being that there was no warm water to wash her in, and cold water would be worse than dangerous after what she had gone through with it the night before. Clare comforted himself that washing was a thing non-essential to existence, however desirable for well-being.
Then came a more serious difficulty: the milk must be mixed with water, and water as cold as Clare's legs would kill the drug-dazed shred of humanity! What was to be done? It would be equally dangerous to give her the strong milk of a cow undiluted. There was but one way: he must feed her as do the pigeons. First, however, he must have water! The well was almost inaccessible: to get to it and return would fearfully waste life-precious time! The rain-water in the little pool must serve the necessity! It was preferable to that in the but!
Until many years after, it did not occur to Clare as strange that there should be even a drop of water in that water-but. Whence was it fed? There was no roof near, from which the rain might run into it. If there had ever been a pipe to supply it, surely, in a house so long forsaken, its continuity must have given way One always sees such barrels empty, dry, and cracked: this one was apparently known to be full of water, for what woman in her senses, however inferior those senses, would throw her child into an empty but! How did it happen to be full? Clare was almost driven to the conclusion that it had been filled for the evil purpose to which it was that night put. Against this was the fact that it would not have been easy to fill such a huge vessel by hand. I suggested that the blacksmith and his predecessors might have used it for the purposes of the forge, and kept it and its feeder in repair. Mr. Skymer endeavoured repeatedly to find out what had become of the blacksmith, but never with any approach to success; the probability being that he had left the world long before his natural time, by disease engendered or quarrel occasioned through his drunkenness.
Clare laid the baby down, and fetched water from the pool. Then he mixed the milk with what seemed the right quantity, again took the baby up, who had been whimpering a little now and then all the time, laid a blanket, several times folded, on his wet knees, and laid her in her blanket upon it. These preparations made, he took a small mouthful of the milk and water, and held it until it grew warm. It was the only way, I condescend to remind any such reader as may think it proper to be disgusted. When then he put his mouth to the baby's, careful not to let too much go at once, they managed so between them that she successfully appropriated the mouthful. It was followed by a second, a third, and more, until, to Clare's delight, the child seemed satisfied, leaving some of the precious fluid for another meal. He put her in the bed again, and covered her up warm. All the time, Tommy had been watching the loaf with the eyes of a wild beast.
"Now, Tommy," said Clare, "how much of this loaf do you think you ought to have?"
"Half, of course!" answered Tommy boldly, with perfect conviction of his fairness, and pride in the same.
"Are you as big as I am?"
Tommy held his peace.
"You ain't half as big!" said Clare.
"I'm a bloomin' lot hungrier!" growled Tommy.
"You had eggs last night, and I had none!"
"That wurn't my fault!"
"What did you do to get this bread?"
"I staid at home with baby."
"That's true," answered Clare. "But," he went on, "suppose a horse and a pony had got to divide their food between them, would the pony have a right to half? Wouldn't the horse, being bigger, want more to keep him alive than the pony?"
"Don't know," said Tommy.
"But you shall have the half," continued Clare; "only I hope, after this, when you get anything given to you, you'll divide it with me. I try to be fair, and I want you to be fair."
Tommy made no reply. He did not trouble himself about fair play; he wanted all he could get--like most people; though, thank God, I know a few far more anxious to give than to receive fair play. Such men, be they noblemen or tradesmen, I worship.
Clare carefully divided the loaf, and after due deliberation, handed Tommy that which seemed the bigger half. Without a word of acknowledgment, Tommy fell upon it like a terrier. He would love Clare in a little while when he had something more to give--but stomach before heart with Tommy! His sort is well represented in every rank. There are not many who can at the same time both love and be hungry.
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