Many hours elapsed before John Grange opened his eyes from what seemed to be a deep sleep; and then he only muttered incoherently, and old Tummus's plump, elderly wife, who was famed in the district for her nursing qualities, sat by the bedside and shed tears as she held his hand. "Such a bonny lad," she said, "I wonder what Miss Mary'll say if he should die."
"He did not move them," said Ellis grimly. "Who did, then?" "John Grange." "John Grange?" "Yes; I dare say he has been here. He has been in the big conservatory ever so long, tying up plants and clearing off dead stuff." "John Grange! What, has he got back his sight?" "No; the mistress fetched him over from old Tummus's cottage, and he has been hard at work ever so long."
"What poor bairn?" said James Ellis angrily, as he stood in the keeping-room of old Tummus's cottage. "I was asking you about John Grange." "Well, I know you were. Arn't he quite a bairn to me?" "Please don't be cross with him, Mr Ellis, sir," said old Hannah respectfully; "it's only his way, sir." "Very well, let him go on," cried James Ellis testily.
John Grange felt annoyed at the other's manner in the presence of the bailiff. There was a tone a hectoring way which nettled him the more that they were precisely equal in status at the great gardens; and, besides, there were Mary and old Tummus's words.
It dated from the evening when he had been left busying himself in the garden of old Tummus's cottage, left entirely to himself, trimming up the roses, and thinking sadly that there was no future for him in the world.
So that, knowing well his wife's weakness, old Tummus would pick up a fallen pear when he saw it under the tree in September, show it to old Dunton, who would nod his head, and the destination of that pear would be Tummus's pocket.
He stretched out his hand again, and it closed, but not upon old Tummus's horny palm, but ringers that were soft and warm, and clung to his; and as that little, soft, trembling hand seemed to nestle there, John Grange uttered a hoarse cry. "Who who is this?" he whispered then.
James Ellis, with the great care upon his breast the haunting thought that perhaps, after all, he had had something to do with John Grange's disappearance now stood in old Tummus's cottage a different being. There was none of the rather pompous, important manner that he was in the habit of putting on when addressing his inferiors.
The kitchen fires began to blaze, the good wine ascended from the cellar, a professed cook actually came over from Guttlebury to compile culinary abominations. Stripes was in a new coat, and so was Ponto, for a wonder, and Tummus's button-suit was worn EN PERMANENCE.
"There is no water near," said James Ellis, as if to himself, but old Tummus's ears were sharp enough. "There's the river." "Two miles away, Tummus." "What's two miles to a man who wants to drownd hissen! Why, if I wanted to mak' a hole in the watter I'd walk twenty." "Tummus, I will not have you say such dreadful things."