Sylvie had made it happy again: she only stood gazing at her husband, and vainly trying, with white quivering lips (I believe she thought he was mad), to speak in the old tones of shrill upbraiding that he knew so well.

`And thou'st spent all thy wages--I'll swear thou hast--on the devil's own drink--and thou'st been and made thysen a beast again--as thou allus dost--'

`Hasna!' the man muttered, his voice hardly rising above a whisper, as he slowly emptied his pockets on the table. `There's th' wage, Missus, every penny on't.'

The woman gasped and put one hand to her heart, as if under some great shock of surprise. `Then how's thee gotten th' drink?'

`Hasna gotten it,' he answered her, in a tone more sad than sullen. `I hanna touched a drop this blessed day. No!' he cried aloud, bringing his clenched fist heavily down upon the table, and looking up at her with gleaming eyes, `nor I'll never touch another drop o' the cursed drink--till I die--so help me God my Maker!' His voice, which had suddenly risen to a hoarse shout, dropped again as suddenly: and once more he bowed his head, and buried his face in his folded arms.

The woman had dropped upon her knees by the cradle, while he was speaking. She neither looked at him nor seemed to hear him. With hands clasped above her head, she rocked herself wildly to and fro. `Oh my God! Oh my God!' was all she said, over and over again.

Sylvie and Bruno gently unclasped her hands and drew them down--till she had an arm round each of them, though she took no notice of them, but knelt on with eyes gazing upwards, and lips that moved as if in silent thanks-giving. The man kept his face hidden, and uttered no sound: but one could see the sobs that shook him from head to foot.

After a while he raised his head--his face all wet with tears. `Polly!' he said softly; and then, louder, `Old Poll!'

Then she rose from her knees and came to him, with a dazed look, as if she were walking in her sleep. `Who was it called me old Poll?' she asked: her voice took on it a tender playfulness: her eyes sparkled; and the rosy light of Youth flushed her pale cheeks, till she looked more like a happy girl of seventeen than a worn woman of forty. `Was that my own lad, my Willie, a-waiting for me at the stile?'

His face too was transformed, in the same magic light, to the likeness of a bashful boy: and boy and girl they seemed, as he wound an arm about her, and drew her to his side, while with the other hand he thrust from him the heap of money, as though it were something hateful to the touch. `Tak it, lass,' he said, `tak it all! An' fetch us summat to eat: but get a sup o' milk, first, for t' bairn.'

`My little bairn!' she murmured as she gathered up the coins. `My own little lassie!' Then she moved to the door, and was passing out, but a sudden thought seemed to arrest her: she hastily returned--first to kneel down and kiss the sleeping child, and then to throw herself into her husband's arms and be strained to his heart. The next moment she was on her way, taking with her a jug that hung on a peg near the door: we followed close behind.

We had not gone far before we came in sight of a swinging sign-board bearing the word `DAIRY' on it, and here she went in, welcomed by a little curly white dog, who, not being under the `eerie' influence, saw the children, and received them with the most effusive affection. When I got inside, the dairyman was in the act of taking the money. `Is't for thysen, Missus, or for t' bairn?' he asked, when he had filled the jug, pausing with it in his hand.

`For t' bairn!' she said, almost reproachfully. `Think'st tha I'd touch a drop mysen, while as she hadna got her fill?'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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