“Did you wish to speak to me?” I asked gently.
“Yes,” she said abruptly, “I release you from your promise, and you are free to believe or not what I have said during my—delirium.”
She emphasized the last word with a little mocking smile. The same smile was on her lips as she added, slowly, sneeringly:
“But you will never know, will you, Madgie dear, just how much of what I said was false and how much true?”
Her eyes held mine a moment longer, and the malignance in their feverish brightness frightened me. Then she closed them wearily.
As I turned away from her bedside I realized that she had prophesied only too truthfully. There would be times in my life when I would believe Dicky only. But I was also afraid there would be others when her words would come back to me with intensified power to sear and scar.
THE WEEKS THAT FOLLOWED
Grace Draper did not die. Thanks to the assiduous care of Dr. Pettit and the two trained nurses Dicky had provided she gradually struggled up from the “valley of the shadow of death” in which she had lain to convalescence.
As soon as she was able to travel she went to the home of the relative in the country whom she had visited in the summer. One of the nurses went with her to see that she was settled comfortably, and upon returning reported that she was getting strong fast, and in a month or two more would be her usual self again.
Neither Dicky nor I had seen her before she left. Indeed, Dicky appeared to have taken an uncontrollable aversion to the girl since her attempt to kill him and herself and disliked hearing even her name mentioned. As for me, I had a positive dread of ever looking into the girl’s beautiful false face again.
It was Lillian who made all the necessary arrangements both for the girl’s stay in her own home and her transfer to the country.
But between the time of my mother-in-law’s arrival at our house in Marvin and the departure of Grace Draper from Lillian’s home lay an interval of a fortnight in which what we all considered the miraculous happened. My mother-in-law grew to like Lillian Underwood.
For the first three or four days after the ultimatum which I had given her that she should respect our guests if she stayed in our house she was like a sulky child. She kept to her room, affecting fatigue, and demanding her meals be carried up to her by Katie.
Of course Lillian and Harry wanted to go away at once, but Dicky and I overruled them. I was resolved to see the thing through. I felt that if my mother-in-law did not yield her prejudices at this time she never would, and that I would simply have to go through the same thing again later.
Lillian saw the force of my reasoning and agreed to stay, although I knew that the sensitive delicacy of feeling which she concealed beneath her rough and ready mask made her uncomfortable in a house which held such a disapproving element as my mother-in-law.