A distant rumbling was heard of the carriage driving under the stable archway on its way to the front-door.
Lord Newhaven picked up a novel with a mark in it, and left the room. In the passage he stopped a moment at the foot of the narrow black oak staircase to the nurseries, which had once been his own nurseries. All was very silent. He listened, hesitated; his foot on the lowest stair. The butler came round the corner to announce the carriage.
“I shall be back in four days at furthest,” Lord Newhaven said to him, and turning, went on quickly to the hall, where the piercing night air came in with the stamping of the impatient horses’ hoofs.
A minute later the two listening women up-stairs heard the carriage drive away into the darkness, and a great silence settled down upon the house.
“The fool saith, Who would have thought it?”
Winter had brought trouble with it to Warpington Vicarage. A new baby had arrived, and the old baby was learning, not in silence, what kings and ministers undergo when they are deposed. Hester had never greatly cared for the old baby. She was secretly afraid of it. But in its hour of adversity she took to it, and she and Regie spent many hours consoling it for the arrival of the little chrysalis up-stairs.
Mrs. Gresley recovered slowly, and before she was down-stairs again Regie sickened with one of those swift, sudden illnesses of childhood, which make childless women thank God for denying them their prayers.
Mrs. Gresley was not well enough to be told, and for many days Mr. Gresley and Hester and Doctor Brown held Regie forcibly back from the valley of the shadow, where, since the first cradle was rocked, the soft feet of children have cleft so sharp an entrance over the mother-hearts that vainly barred the way.
Mr. Gresley’s face grew as thin as Hester’s as the days went by. On his rounds—for he let nothing interfere with his work—heavy farmers in dog-carts, who opposed him at vestry meetings, stopped to ask after Regie. The most sullen of his parishioners touched their hats to him as he passed, and mothers of families, who never could be induced to leave their cooking to attend morning service, and were deeply offended at being called “after-dinner Christians” in consequence, forgot the opprobrious term, and brought little offerings of new-laid eggs and rosy apples to tempt “the little master.”