‘Not very, miss. My head’s bad, an’ I’m so thirsty. May I drink out of the jug, miss?’
‘Stay where you are. I’ll bring it to you.’
Jane drank a great deal. Presently she fell again into slumber, which was again broken in the same way. Clara did not go to sleep, and as soon as it was daylight she summoned her father to come and look at the child. Jane was ill, and, as everyone could see, rapidly grew worse.
JANE IS VISITED
At ten o’clock next morning Mrs. Peckover reached home. She was a tall, big-boned woman of fifty, with an arm like a coalheaver’s. She had dark hair, which shone and was odorous with unguents; a sallow, uncomely face, and a handsome moustache. Her countenance was more difficult to read than Clem’s; a coarse, and most likely brutal, nature was plain enough in its lines, but there was also a suggestion of self-restraint, of sagacity, at all events of cunning—qualities which were decidedly not inherited by her daughter. With her came the relative whose presence had been desired at the funeral to-day. This was Mrs. Gully, a stout person with a very red nose and bleared eyes. The credit of the family demanded that as many relatives as possible should follow the hearse, and Mrs. Peckover’s reason for conducting Mrs. Gully hither was a justifiable fear lest, if she came alone, the latter would arrive in too manifest a state of insobriety. A certain amount of stimulant had been permitted on the way, just enough to assist a genteel loquacity, for which Mrs. Gully had a reputation. She had given her word to abstain from further imbibing until after the funeral.
The news which greeted her arrival was anything but welcome to Mrs. Peckover. In the first place, there. would be far more work than usual to be performed in the house to-day, and Jane could be ill spared. Worse than that, however, Clara Hewett, who was losing half a day’s work on Jane’s account, made a very emphatic statement as to the origin of the illness, and said that if anything happened to Jane, there would be disagreeable facts forthcoming at a coroner’s inquest. Having looked at the sick child, Mrs. Peckover went downstairs and shut herself up with Clem. There was a stormy interview.
’So you thought you’d have yer fling, did you, just because I wasn’t ‘ere? You must go makin’ trouble, just to suit yer own fancies! I’ll pay you, my lady Gr-r-r!’
Whereupon followed the smack of a large hand on a fleshy cheek, so vigorous and unexpected a blow that even the sturdy Clem staggered back.
‘You leave me alone, will you?’ she roared out, her smitten cheek in a flame. ‘Do that again, an’ I’ll give you somethin’ for yerself! See if I don’t! You just try it on!’