Nevertheless his just punishment had been remitted. Hitherto he had looked solely at that punishment, feeling that it was too great. He had prayed many times that he might escape it. Now for the first time he prayed that he might be forgiven.
Repentance took his hands and locked them together.
“God helping me,” he said, “I will lead a new life.”
“Les sots sont plus a craindre que les mechants.”
Mr. Gresley had often remarked to persons in affliction that when things are at their worst they generally take a turn for the better. This profound truth was proving itself equal to the occasion at Warpington Vicarage.
Mrs. Gresley was well again, after a fortnight at the seaside with Regie. The sea air had blown back a faint color into Regie’s cheeks. The new baby’s vaccination was ceasing to cast a vocal gloom over the thin-walled house. The old baby’s whole attention was mercifully diverted from his wrongs to the investigation of that connection between a chair and himself, which he perceived the other children could assume at pleasure. He stood for hours looking at his own little chair, solemnly seating himself at long intervals where no chair was. But his mind was working, and work, as we know, is the panacea for mental anguish.
Mr. Gresley had recovered that buoyancy of spirits which was the theme of Mrs. Gresley’s increasing admiration.
On this particular evening, when his wife had asked him if the beef were tender, he had replied, as he always did if in a humorous vein: “Douglas, Douglas, tender and true.” The arrival of the pot of marmalade (that integral part of the mysterious meal which begins with meat and is crowned with buns) had been hailed by the exclamation, “What! More family jars.” In short, Mr. Gresley was himself again.
The jocund Vicar, with his arm round Mrs. Gresley, proceeded to the drawing-room.
On the hall table was a large parcel insured for two hundred pounds. It had evidently just arrived by rail.
“Ah! ha!” said Mr. Gresley. “My pamphlets at last. Very methodical of Smithers insuring them for such a large sum,” and, without looking at the address, he cut the string.
“Well packed,” he remarked. “Water-proof sheeting, I do declare. Smithers is certainly a cautious man. Ha! at last!”
The inmost wrapping shelled off, and Mr. Gresley’s jaw dropped. Where were the little green and gold pamphlets entitled “Modern Dissent,” for which his parental soul was yearning? He gazed down frowning at a solid mass of manuscript, written in a small, clear hand.
“This is Hester’s writing,” he said. “There is some mistake.”
He turned to the direction on the outer cover.
“Miss Hester Gresley, care of Rev. James Gresley.” He had only seen his own name.
“I do believe,” he said, “that this is Hester’s book, refused by the publisher. Poor Hester! I am afraid she will feel that.”