As this partly awoke the baby from a doze, its red face began to crease, and pucker, and twist into various contortions, at which Jan gazed with a sort of solemn curiosity in his black eyes.
“Stroke the little lady’s cheeks, love,” said Mrs. Lake, irrepressibly proud of the winning ways and quaint grace which certainly did distinguish her foster-child.
Jan leaned forward once more, and passed his little hand softly down the baby’s face twice or thrice, as he was wont to stroke the sandy kitten, as it slept with him, saying, “Poor itta pussy!”
“It’s not a puss-cat, bless his little heart!” said the matter-of-fact nurse. “It’s little Miss Amabel Adeline Ammaby.”
“Say it, love!” said Mrs. Lake, adding, to the nurse, “he can say any thing, mum.”
“Miss am—Abel ad—E—line am—Ma—by,” prompted the nurse.
“Amabel!” said the little Jan, softly. But, after this feat, he took a fit of childish reticence, and would say no more; whilst, deeply resentful of the liberties Jan had taken, Miss Amabel Adeline Ammaby twisted her features till she looked like a gutta-percha gargoyle, and squalled as only a fretful baby can squall.
She was calmed at last, however, and the windmiller took her once more into his arms, and Mrs. Lake carrying Jan, they all climbed up the narrow ladder to the next floor.
Heavily ground the huge stones with a hundred and twenty revolutions a minute, making the chamber shake as they went round.
They made the nurse giddy. The simplest machinery has a bewildering effect upon an unaccustomed person. So has going up a ladder; which makes you feel much less safe in the place to which it leads you than if you had got there by a proper flight of stairs. So—very often—has finding yourself face to face with the accomplishment of what you have been striving for, if you happen to be weak-minded.
Under the combined influences of all these causes, the nurse listened nervously to Master Lake, as he did the honors of the mill.
“Those be the mill-stones, ma’am. Pretty fastish they grinds, and they goes faster when the wind’s gusty. Many a good cat they’ve ground as flat as a pancake from the poor gawney beasts getting into the hopper.”
“Oh, sir!” cried the nurse, now thoroughly alarmed, “give me the young lady back again. Deary, deary me! I’d no notion it was so dangerous. Oh, don’t, sir! don’t!”
“Tut, tut! I’ll hold un safe, ma’am,” said the windmiller, who had all a man’s dislike for shirking at the last moment what had once been decided upon; and, as the nurse afterwards expressed it, before she had time to scream, he had tucked Miss Amabel Adeline Ammaby’s finery well round her, and had dipped her into the hopper and out again.
In that moment of suspense both the women had been silent, and the little Jan had gazed steadily at the operation. As it safely ended, they both broke simultaneously into words.