‘Now for the beef-tea,’ said Miriam, crying.
‘Beef-tea?’ the boy repeated after her, mildly questioning.
‘Yes, my poppet,’ she answered; and then aside, ‘Father, he can hear i’ his left ear. Did ye notice it?’
‘It’s a miracle—a miracle of God!’ said Eli.
In a few hours Tommy was as well as ever—indeed, better; not only was his hearing fully restored, but he had ceased to stammer, and the thin, almost imperceptible cloud upon his intellect was dissipated. The doctor expressed but little surprise at these phenomena, and, in fact, stated that similar things had occurred often before, and were duly written down in the books of medicine. But Eli Machin’s firm, instinctive faith that Providence had intervened will never be shaken.
Miriam and Tommy now live in the villa-cottage with the old people.
* * * * *
William Froyle, ostler at the Queen’s Arms at Moorthorne, took the letter, and, with a curt nod which stifled the loquacity of the village postman, went at once from the yard into the coach-house. He had recognised the hand-writing on the envelope, and the recognition of it gave form and quick life to all the vague suspicions that had troubled him some months before, and again during the last few days. He felt suddenly the near approach of a frightful calamity which had long been stealing towards him.
A wire-sheathed lantern, set on a rough oaken table, cast a wavering light round the coach-house, and dimly showed the inner stable. Within the latter could just be distinguished the mottled-gray flanks of a fat cob which dragged its chain occasionally, making the large slow movements of a horse comfortably lodged in its stall. The pleasant odour of animals and hay filled the wide spaces of the shed, and through the half-open door came a fresh thin mist rising from the rain-soaked yard in the November evening.
Froyle sat down on the oaken table, his legs dangling, and looked again at the envelope before opening it. He was a man about thirty years of age, with a serious and thoughtful, rather heavy countenance. He had a long light moustache, and his skin was a fresh, rosy salmon colour; his straw-tinted hair was cut very short, except over the forehead, where it grew full and bushy. Dressed in his rough stable corduroys, his forearms bare and white, he had all the appearance of the sturdy Englishman, the sort of Englishman that crosses the world in order to find vent for his taciturn energy on virgin soils. From the whole village he commanded and received respect. He was known for a scholar, and it was his scholarship which had obtained for him the proud position of secretary to the provident society styled the Queen’s Arms Slate Club. His respectability and his learning combined had enabled him to win with dignity the hand of Susie Trimmer, the grocer’s daughter, to whom he had been engaged about a year. The village could not make up its mind concerning that match; without doubt it was a social victory for Froyle, but everyone wondered that so sedate and sagacious a man should have seen in Susie a suitable mate.