“There are times,” she sobbed, “when I am tempted to wish myself back in my father’s house!”
“I cannot think whence all this discomfort arises!” he weakly exclaimed. “Of one thing, Anne, rest assured: as soon as Edward changes for the better or the worse—and one it must inevitably be—that mischief-making old woman shall quit my house for ever.”
“Edward will never change for the better,” she said. “For the worse, he may soon: for the better, never.”
“I know: Hillary has told me. Bear with things a little longer, and believe that I will remedy them the moment remedy is possible. I am your husband.”
Lady Hartledon lifted her eyes to his. “We cannot go on as we are going on now. Tell me what it is you have to bear. You remind me that you are my husband; I now remind you that I am your wife: confide in me. I will be true and loving to you, whatever it may be.”
“Not yet; in a little time, perhaps. Bear with me still, my dear wife.”
His look was haggard; his voice bore a sound of anguish; he clasped her hand to pain as he left her. Whatever might be his care, Anne could not doubt his love.
And as he went into the drawing-room, a smile on his face, chatting with the curate, laughing with his newly-married wife, both those unsuspicious visitors could have protested when they went forth, that never was a man more free from trouble than that affable servant of her Majesty’s the Earl of Hartledon.
A change for the worse occurred in the child, Lord Elster; and after two or three weeks’ sinking he died, and was buried at Hartledon by the side of his mother. Hartledon’s sister quitted Hartledon House for a change; but the countess-dowager was there still, and disturbed its silence with moans and impromptu lamentations, especially when going up and down the staircase and along the corridors.
Mr. Carr, who had come for the funeral, also remained. On the day following it he and Lord Hartledon were taking a quiet walk together, when they met Mrs. Gum. Hartledon stopped and spoke to her in his kindly manner. She was less nervous than she used to be; and she and her husband were once more at peace in their house.
“I would not presume to say a word of sympathy, my lord,” she said, curtseying, “but we felt it indeed. Jabez was cut up like anything when he came in yesterday from the funeral.”
Val looked at her, a meaning she understood in his earnest eyes. “Yes, it is hard to part with our children: but when grief is over, we live in the consolation that they have only gone before us to a better place, where sin and sorrow are not. We shall join them later.”
She went away, tears of joy filling her eyes. She had a son up there, waiting for her; and she knew Lord Hartledon meant her to think of him when he had so spoken.