“Perhaps it was one of the heath-folk going home?”
“No, it couldn’t be. ’Tis too late. The noise of her gown over the he’th was of a whistling sort that nothing but silk will make.”
“It wasn’t I, then. My dress is not silk, you see... Are we anywhere in a line between Mistover and the inn?”
“Well, yes; not far out.”
“Ah, I wonder if it was she! Diggory, I must go at once!”
She jumped down from the van before he was aware, when Venn unhooked the lantern and leaped down after her. “I’ll take the baby, ma’am,” he said. “You must be tired out by the weight.”
Thomasin hesitated a moment, and then delivered the baby into Venn’s hands. “Don’t squeeze her, Diggory,” she said, “or hurt her little arm; and keep the cloak close over her like this, so that the rain may not drop in her face.”
“I will,” said Venn earnestly. “As if I could hurt anything belonging to you!”
“I only meant accidentally,” said Thomasin.
“The baby is dry enough, but you are pretty wet,” said the reddleman when, in closing the door of his cart to padlock it, he noticed on the floor a ring of water drops where her cloak had hung from her.
Thomasin followed him as he wound right and left to avoid the larger bushes, stopping occasionally and covering the lantern, while he looked over his shoulder to gain some idea of the position of Rainbarrow above them, which it was necessary to keep directly behind their backs to preserve a proper course.
“You are sure the rain does not fall upon baby?”
“Quite sure. May I ask how old he is, ma’am?”
“He!” said Thomasin reproachfully. “Anybody can see better than that in a moment. She is nearly two months old. How far is it now to the inn?”
“A little over a quarter of a mile.”
“Will you walk a little faster?”
“I was afraid you could not keep up.”
“I am very anxious to get there. Ah, there is a light from the window!”
“’Tis not from the window. That’s a gig-lamp, to the best of my belief.”
“O!” said Thomasin in despair. “I wish I had been there sooner—give me the baby, Diggory—you can go back now.”
“I must go all the way,” said Venn. “There is a quag between us and that light, and you will walk into it up to your neck unless I take you round.”
“But the light is at the inn, and there is no quag in front of that.”
“No, the light is below the inn some two or three hundred yards.”
“Never mind,” said Thomasin hurriedly. “Go towards the light, and not towards the inn.”
“Yes,” answered Venn, swerving round in obedience; and, after a pause, “I wish you would tell me what this great trouble is. I think you have proved that I can be trusted.”
“There are some things that cannot be—cannot be told to—” And then her heart rose into her throat, and she could say no more.