Mrs. Roy had heard that the Australian mail was in. But the postman had not been to their door, therefore no letter could have arrived for them from Luke. A great many mails, as it appeared to Mrs. Roy, had come in with the like result. That Luke had been murdered, as his master, John Massingbird, had been before him, was the least she feared. Her fears and troubles touching Luke were great; they were never at rest; and her tears fell frequently. All of which excited the ire of Roy.
She sat in a rocking-chair in the kitchen—a chair which had been new when the absent Luke was a baby, and which was sure to be the seat chosen by Mrs. Roy when she was in a mood to indulge any passing tribulation. The kitchen opened to the road, as the kitchens of many of the dwellings did open to it; a parlour was on the right, which was used only on the grand occasion of receiving visitors; and the stairs, leading to two rooms above, ascended from the kitchen. Here she sat, silently wiping away her dropping tears with a red cotton pocket-handkerchief. Roy was not in the sweetest possible temper himself that morning, so, of course, he turned it upon her.
“There you be, a-snivelling as usual! I’d have a bucket always at my feet, if I was you. It might save the trouble of catching rain-water.”
“If the letter-man had got anything for us, he’d have been round here an hour ago,” responded Mrs. Roy, bursting into unrestrained sobs.
Now, this happened to be the very grievance that was affecting the gentleman’s temper—the postman’s not having gone there. They had heard that the Australian mail was in. Not that he was actuated by any strong paternal feelings—such sentiments did not prey upon Mr. Roy. The hearing or the not hearing from his son would not thus have disturbed his equanimity. He took it for granted that Luke was alive somewhere—probably getting on—and was content to wait until himself or a letter should turn up. The one whom he had been expecting to hear from was his new master, Mr. Massingbird. He had fondly indulged the hope that credential letters would arrive for him, confirming him in his place of manager; he believed that this mail would inevitably bring them, as the last mails had not. Hence he had stayed at home to receive the postman. But the postman had not come, and it gave Roy a pain in his temper.
“They be a-coming back, that’s what it is,” was the conclusion he arrived at, when his disappointment had a little subsided. “Perhaps they might have come by this very ship! I wonder if it brings folks as well as letters?”
“I know he must be dead!” sobbed Mrs. Roy.
“He’s dead as much as you be,” retorted Roy. “He’s a-making his fortune, and he’ll come home after it—that’s what Luke’s a-doing. For all you know he may be come too.”
The words appeared to startle Mrs. Roy; she looked up, and he saw that her face had gone white with terror.