“Isn’t he a monster?” said Mab, as she sat before the kitchen fire in Quiller’s humble dwelling with Mrs. Quiller’s three months’ old baby in her arms. “I guess he’d fetch a prize at a baby show, Mrs. Quiller. Isn’t he just too knowing for anything?”
“He’s the best of the bunch, miss,” said Mrs. Quiller proudly. “The other eight, they weren’t nothing special. But this one, he be a beauty, though it ain’t me as should say it. I’m sure it’s very good of you, miss, to spend the time you do over him. He’d be an ungrateful little rogue if he didn’t get on.”
“It’s real kind of you to make me welcome,” Mab said, with her cheek against the baby’s head, “I don’t know what I’d do if you didn’t.”
“Ah! Poor dear! You must be lonesome now the gentleman’s gone,” said Mrs. Quiller commiseratingly.
“Oh, no,” said Mab lightly. “Not so very. I couldn’t ask my cousin to give up all his time to me you know. Besides, he would come to see me at any time if I really wanted him.”
“Ah!” Mrs. Quiller shook her head. “But it ain’t the same. You wants a home of your own, my dear. That’s what it is. What’s become of t’other gentleman what used to be down here?”
Mab almost laughed at the artlessness of this query.
“Mr. Merefleet, you mean? I don’t know. I guess he’s making some more money.”
At this point old Quiller, who had been toddling about in the November sunshine outside, pushed open the door in a state of breathless excitement.
“Here’s Master Bernard coming, missie,” he announced.
Mab started to her feet, her face in a sudden, marvellous glow.
“There now!” said Mrs. Quiller, relieving her of her precious burden. “Who’d have thought it? You’d better go and talk to him.”
And Mab stepped out into the soft sunshine. It fell around her in a flood and dazzled her. She stood quite still and waited, till out of the brilliance someone came to her and took her hand. The waves were dashing loudly on the shore. The south wind raced by with a warm rushing. The whole world seemed to laugh. She closed her eyes and laughed with it.
“Is it you, Big Bear?” she said.
And Merefleet’s voice answered her.
“Yes,” it said. “I have come for you in earnest this time. You won’t send me away again?”
Mab lifted her face with a glad smile.
“I guess there’s no need,” she said. “My dear, I’ll come now.”
And they went away together in the sunlight.
* * * * *
“And now I guess I’ll tell you the story of the first Mrs. Ralph Warrender,” said Mab, some time later. “I won’t say anything about him, because he’s dead, and if you can’t speak well of the dead,—well it’s better not to speak at all. But she was miserable with him. And after her baby died—it just wasn’t endurable. Then came that railway accident, and she was in it. There were a lot of folks killed, burnt to death most of them. But she escaped, and then the thought came to her just to lie low for a bit and let him think she was dead.