’If not, speak out straight and fair, and tell him exactly how it fell out. If he’s a man he’ll see it.’
’O he’s a man true enough. But I really do think I shan’t have to tell him at all, since you’ve put it to me that way!’
As it was now Johnny’s bedtime he was carried upstairs, and when Selina came down again her mother observed with some anxiety, ’I fancy Mr. Clark must be here soon if he’s coming; and that being so, perhaps Mr. Miller wouldn’t mind—wishing us good-night! since you are so determined to stick to your sergeant-major.’ A little bitterness bubbled amid the closing words. ’It would be less awkward, Mr. Miller not being here—if he will allow me to say it.’
‘To be sure; to be sure,’ the master-wheelwright exclaimed with instant conviction, rising alertly from his chair. ‘Lord bless my soul,’ he said, taking up his hat and stick, ’and we to have been married in six days! But Selina—you’re right. You do belong to the child’s father since he’s alive. I’ll try to make the best of it.’
Before the generous Miller had got further there came a knock to the door accompanied by the noise of wheels.
‘I thought I heard something driving up!’ said Mrs Paddock.
They heard Mr. Paddock, who had been smoking in the room opposite, rise and go to the door, and in a moment a voice familiar enough to Selina was audibly saying, ’At last I am here again—not without many interruptions! How is it with ’ee, Mr. Paddock? And how is she? Thought never to see me again, I suppose?’
A step with a clink of spurs in it struck upon the entry floor.
‘Danged if I bain’t catched!’ murmured Mr. Miller, forgetting company-speech. ’Never mind—I may as well meet him here as elsewhere; and I should like to see the chap, and make friends with en, as he seems one o’ the right sort.’ He returned to the fireplace just as the sergeant-major was ushered in.
He was a good specimen of the long-service soldier of those days; a not unhandsome man, with a certain undemonstrative dignity, which some might have said to be partly owing to the stiffness of his uniform about his neck, the high stock being still worn. He was much stouter than when Selina had parted from him. Although she had not meant to be demonstrative she ran across to him directly she saw him, and he held her in his arms and kissed her.
Then in much agitation she whispered something to him, at which he seemed to be much surprised.
‘He’s just put to bed,’ she continued. ’You can go up and see him. I knew you’d come if you were alive! But I had quite gi’d you up for dead. You’ve been home in England ever since the war ended?’
‘Why didn’t you come sooner?’
’That’s just what I ask myself! Why was I such a sappy as not to hurry here the first day I set foot on shore! Well, who’d have thought it—you are as pretty as ever!’