Tom Salter left them as soon as he had seen them home, and went up to his room to change into his every-day clothes. His young, almost boyish face was very grave and thoughtful. “God help me never to live to leave such a feeling behind me,” he thought to himself solemnly.
Life after this should have settled down into the usual groove again, and so Jessie thought, with the difference that a great discomfort and ever-present dread would be gone. Somehow, though, it did not.
Mrs. Lang, looking ill, and worn to a shadow, seemed grave and abstracted, and full of thoughts which she did not share with any one. She was often absent, too, on business of which she did not speak. At first Jessie noticed none of all this, she thought her mother’s manner was simply the result of the shock and the trouble she had been through; then, by degrees, it came to her that things were different, that there was something in the air that she could not understand or explain, but she felt that changes were impending.
Often when she looked up she found her mother gazing at her wistfully, it seemed, and questioningly. More than once, too, she drew Jessie on to talk of her old home and her grandparents, and of her longing to see them again; and then one day her mother came to her and asked her if she remembered her grandfather’s address!
Jessie knew then that her surmises were correct, and her heart beat fast with wonderment and hopes and fears, and a thousand questions poured through her brain.
Thomas Dawson was sitting in his chair in the garden enjoying the warmth of the October sunshine. The weather was unusually warm for the time of the year, and the little breeze which blew across the garden was very acceptable. The long graceful tendrils of the jessamine rose and fell like soft green waves above his head, a little cloud of dust rose and skidded along the road, to the annoyance of some lazy cows being driven home to the milking.
But Thomas heeded none of these things, he sat with his head sunk on his breast, his eyes staring gloomily before him, his thoughts far away. He had aged ten years and more in the last two. A very slight sound, though from within the house, roused him in an instant and brought him to his feet.
“I’m coming, mother, I’m coming,” he called, and went indoors. “I expect it’s pretty nigh tea-time, isn’t it?” he asked, with affected cheerfulness; “the fire only wants a stir, and the kettle’ll boil in no time.”
Patience nodded and took up the poker. She was very slow of speech in those days, but it was a grand relief to know that she could speak at all, and break the silence which had held her for weeks and months after the stroke of paralysis which had seized her on that dreadful day when Harry Lang had stolen Jessie from them.