At half-past five the kitchen-maid, a young Swede who feared not God, neither regarded man, but lived in absolute subjection to the cook, to whom, unknown to any one else, she every morning carried up breakfast, was stealing down with a candle in her hand. Her senses were alert, for a friend of hers had been strangled by burglars in similar circumstances, and she had never overcome her own terror of the cold, dark house in these early hours of a winter morning.
She went down not the back stairs, for Mr. Pringle objected that she woke him as she passed, whereas the carpet on the front stairs was so thick that there wasn’t the least chance of waking the family. As she passed Mrs. Farron’s room she was surprised to see a fine crack of light coming from under it. She paused, wondering if she was going to be caught, and if she had better run back and take to the back stairs despite Pringle’s well-earned rest; and as she hesitated she heard a sob, then another—wild, hysterical sobs. The girl looked startled and then went on, shaking her head. What people like that had to cry about beat her. But she was glad, because she knew such a splendid bit of news would soften the heart of the cook when she took up her breakfast.
By five o’clock it seemed to Adelaide that a whole eternity had passed and that another was ahead of her, that this night would never end.
When they went up-stairs, while she was brushing her hair—her hair rewarded brushing, for it was fine and long and took a polish like bronze—she had wandered into Vincent’s room to discuss with him the question of her father’s secretiveness about Mrs. Wayne. It was not, she explained, standing in front of his fire, that she suspected anything, but that it was so unfriendly: it deprived one of so much legitimate amusement if one’s own family practised that kind of reserve. Her just anger kept her from observing Farron very closely. As she talked she laid her brush on the mantelpiece, and as she did so she knocked down the letter that had come for him just before they went up-stairs. She stooped, and picked it up without attention, and stood holding it; she gesticulated a little with it as she repeated, for her own amusement rather than for Vincent’s, phrases she had caught at dinner.
The horror to Farron of seeing her standing there chattering, with that death-dealing letter in her hand, suddenly and illogically broke down his resolution of silence. It was cruel, and though he might have denied himself her help, he could not endure cruelty.
“Adelaide,” he said in a tone that drove every other sensation away—“Adelaide, that letter. No, don’t read it.” He took it from her and laid it on his dressing-table. “My dear love, it has very bad news in it.”
“There has been something, then?”
“Yes. I have been worried about my health for some time. This letter tells me the worst is true. Well, my dear, we did not enter matrimony with the idea that either of us was immortal.”