“Ow, what a wicked ol’ woman I bin an’ bin,” suddenly burst forth again the repentant knitter. “I bin an’ stole ‘arf a pound o’ sugar off of the Eelite ‘Atshop where I does a bit o’ cleanin’. Ef I get out o’ this alive, I swear I’ll repay it an ’undredfold—that is ef I can get that much awf me sugar card....”
Sarah Brown was becoming sleepy. A blankness was invading her mind, and the talk in the crypt seemed to lose its meaning, and to consist chiefly of S’s. She pondered idly on the family of children with their elders, all of whom were now studying each other with a certain look of disillusionment. It was a group whose relationships were difficult to make out, the ages of many of the children being unnaturally approximate. There seemed to be at least seven children under three years old, and yet they all bore a strong and regrettable family likeness. Several of the babies would hardly have been given credit for having reached walking age, yet none had been carried in. The woman who seemed to imagine herself the mother of this rabble was distributing what looked like hurried final words of advice. The father with a pensive eye was obviously trying to remember their names, and at intervals whispering to a man apparently twenty years his senior, whom he addressed as Sonny. It was all very confusing.
A long dim stretch of time seemed to have passed when suddenly the note of a bugle sprang out across space. Somehow the air at once felt cooler and more wholesome, the sound of the All-clear had something akin to the sight of the sun after a thunderstorm, lighting up a crouching whipped world.
“The Trump at last,” said Lady Arabel’s garrulous neighbour, rising with alacrity, and twitching her sheet into more becoming folds. “I was just wondering——”
But at that moment the two Vicars approached, and the elder one, including both the spinster and the mysterious family in one glance, spoke in a clerical yet embarrassed voice.
“Dear friends, a slight but inconvenient mistake has occurred, and I am afraid I must ask you to submit blindly to my guidance in a matter strangely difficult to explain, even as I—myself in much confusion—bow to the advice of my reverend friend here. It would be out of place——”
The spinster interrupted, and, by the way she did it, one saw that she was Chapel. “Excuse me, Canon,” she said acidly, “but is not all discussion out of place at this solemn moment?”
“Believe me, madam,” replied the aged Burstley-Ripp. “You overrate the solemnity of the moment. I must earnestly ask you all to return with me to the places whence—labouring under an extraordinary error—we came to-night. I see that Mrs. Parachute trusts me, and is prepared to lead her little flock to rest again. You, madam——”