He had always been a little thin man. He was shrunken now and very white and very still. Only his face twitched. A muscle in one cheek jerked and jerked and jerked at his mouth. It was as though he controlled a desire to smile. That jerking, suppressed smile upon his white and tortured countenance was terrible. I could see the blood drain down from his forehead, down from his cheeks. He became white as death itself.
After a little he tried to speak. I do not know what he meant to say. But what he did was to repeat—as though he had not heard her words—the question which he had flung at her in the beginning. He said huskily: “Where is the boy?”
She looked toward the bed and Hazen looked that way; and then he went across to the bed with uncertain little steps. I followed him. I saw the little twisted body there. The woman had been keeping it warm with her own body. It must have been in her arms when we came in. The tumbled coverings, the crushed pillows spoke mutely of a ferocious intensity of grief.
Hazen looked down at the little body. He made no move to touch it, but I heard him whisper to himself: “Fine boy.”
After a while he looked at the woman. She seemed to feel an accusation in his eyes. She said: “I did all I could.”
He asked “What was it?”
I had it in me—though I had reason enough to despise the little man—to pity Hazen Kinch.
“He coughed,” said the woman. “I knew it was croup. You know I asked you to get the medicine—ipecac. You said no matter—no need—and you had gone.”
She looked out of the window.
“I went for help—to Annie Marshey. Her babies had had it. Her husband was going to town and she said he would get the medicine for me. She did not tell him it was for me. He would not have done it for you. He did not know. So I gave her a dollar to give him—to bring it out to me.
“He came home in the snow last night. Baby was bad by that time, so I was watching for Doan. I stopped him in the road and I asked for the medicine. When he understood he told me. He had not brought it.”
The woman was speaking dully, without emotion.
“It would have been in time, even then,” she said. “But after a while, after that, baby died.”
I understood in that moment the working of the mills. And when I looked at Hazen Kinch I saw that he, too, was beginning to understand. There is a just mercilessness in an aroused God. Hazen Kinch was driven to questions.
“Why—didn’t Marshey fetch it?” he asked.
She said slowly: “They would not trust him—at the store.”
His mouth twitched, he raised his hands.
“The money!” he cried. “The money! What did he do with that?”
“He said,” the woman answered, “that he lost it—in your office; lost the money there.”
After a little the old money-lender leaned far back like a man wrenched with agony. His body was contorted, his face was terrible. His dry mouth opened wide.