“Thank God!” said the old doctor, blowing his nose.
The Devil has no stancher
ally than want of perception.—PHILIP
It takes two to speak
truth—one to speak and another to
Mrs. Gresley had passed an uncomfortable day. In the afternoon all the Pratts had called, and Mr. Gresley, who departed early in the afternoon for Southminster, had left his wife no directions as to how to act in this unforseen occurrence, or how to parry the questions with which she was overwhelmed.
After long hesitation she at last owned that Hester had returned to Southminster in the Bishop’s carriage not more than half an hour after it had brought her back.
“I can’t explain Hester’s actions,” she would only repeat over and over again. “I don’t pretend to understand clever people. I’m not clever myself. I can only say Hester went back to Southminster directly she arrived here.”
Hardly had the Pratts taken their departure when Doll Loftus was ushered in. His wife had sent him to ask where Hester was, as Fraeulein had alarmed her earlier in the day. Doll at least asked no questions. He had never asked but one in his life, and that had been of his wife, five seconds before he had become engaged to her.
He accepted with equanimity the information that Hester had returned to Southminster, and departed to impart the same to his exasperated wife.
“But why did she go back? She had only that moment arrived,” inquired Sybell. How should Doll know. She, Sybell, had said she could not rest till she knew where Hester was, and he, Doll, had walked to Warpington through the snow-drifts to find out for her. And he had found out, and now she wanted to know something else. There was no satisfying some women. And the injured husband retired to unlace his boots.
Yes, Mrs. Gresley had passed an uncomfortable day. She had ventured out for a few minutes, and had found Abel, with his arms akimbo; contemplating the little gate which led to the stables. It was lying on the ground. He had swept the snow off it.
“I locked it up the same as usual last night,” he said to Mrs. Gresley. “There’s been somebody about as has tampered it off its hinges. Yet nothing hasn’t been touched, the coal nor the stack. It doesn’t seem natural, twisting the gate off for nothing.”
Mrs. Gresley did not answer. She did not associate Hester with the gate. But she was too much perturbed to care about such small matters at the moment.
“His lordship’s coachman tell me as Miss Gresley was at the Palace,” continued Abel, “while I was a hotting up his mash for him, for William had gone in with a note, and onst he’s in the kitchen the hanimals might be stocks and stones for what he cares. He said his nevvy, the footman, heard the front door-bell ring just as he was getting into bed last night, and Miss Gresley come in without her hat, with the snow upon her. The coachman said as she must ha’ run afoot all the way.”