“My darling, don’t let it grieve you! We shall soon right it all.”
“Oh, Percival, if the mischief should have gone too far!—if they should never look upon me except as a step-mother! You don’t know how sick and troubled this has made me feel! I wanted to go to them in the nursery when I came up, and did not dare! Perhaps the nurse has also been prejudiced against me!”
“Come up with me now, love,” he whispered.
They went silently upstairs, and found the children were then in bed and asleep. They were tired with sight-seeing, the nurse said apologetically, curtseying to her new mistress.
The nurse withdrew, and they stood over the nursery fire, talking. Anne could scarcely account for the extreme depression the event seemed to have thrown upon her. Lord Hartledon quickly recovered his spirits, vowing he should like to “serve out” the dowager.
“I was thankful for one thing, Val; that you did not betray anger to them, poor little things. It would have made it worse.”
“I was on the point of betraying something more than anger to Edward; but the thought that I should be punishing him for another’s fault checked me. I wonder how we can get rid of her?”
“We must strive to please her while she stays.”
“Please her!” he echoed. “Anne, my dear, that is stretching Christian charity rather too far.”
Anne smiled. “I am a clergyman’s daughter, you know, Val.”
“If she is wise, she’ll abstain from offending you in my presence. I’m not sure but I should lose command of myself, and send her off there and then.”
“I don’t fear that. She was quite civil when we came up from dinner, and—”
“As she generally is then. She takes her share of wine.”
“And asked me if I would excuse her falling into a doze, for she never felt well without it.”
Anne was right. The cunning old woman changed her tactics, finding those she had started would not answer. It has been remarked before, if you remember, that she knew particularly well on which side her bread was buttered. Nothing could exceed her graciousness from that evening. The past scene might have been a dream, for all traces that remained of it. Out of the house she was determined not to go in anger; it was too desirable a refuge for that. And on the following day, upon hearing Edward attempt some impudent speech to his new mother, she put him across her knee, pulled off an old slipper she was wearing, and gave him a whipping. Anne interposed, the boy roared; but the good woman had her way.
“Don’t put yourself out, dear Lady Hartledon. There’s nothing so good for them as a wholesome whipping. I used to try it on my own children at times.”
MR. PIKE ON THE WING.
The time went on. It may have been some twelve or thirteen months later that Mr. Carr, sitting alone in his chambers, one evening, was surprised by the entrance of his clerk—who possessed a latch-key as well as himself.