“Well,” said pertinacious Mrs. Ferret, “I’ll have to know what is in it, won’t I?”
“No, you only want to know that this is Mrs. Plausaby’s signature,” and Isa placed her fingers over the paper in such a way that Mrs. Ferret could not read it.
“Did you sign this, Mrs. Plausaby?”
The sick woman said she did.
“Do you know what is in it?”
“Yes, but—but it’s a secret.”
“Did you sign it of your own free will, or did Mr. Plausaby make you?”
“Mr. Plausaby! Oh! don’t tell him about it. He’ll make such an awful fuss! But it’s true.”
Thus satisfied that it was not a case of domestic despotism, Mrs. Ferret wrote her peculiar signature, and made a private mark besides.
And later in the evening Mrs. Plausaby asked Isa to send word to that nice-looking young woman that Albert loved so much. She said she supposed he must feel bad about her. She wanted Isa to tell her all about it. “But not till I’m dead,” she added. “Do you think people know what people say about them after they’re dead? And, Isa, when I’m laid out let me wear my blue merino dress, and do my hair up nice, and put a bunch of roses in my hand. I wish Plausaby had got that changeable silk. It would have been better than the blue merino. But you know best. Only don’t forget to tell Albert’s girl that he did not do it. But explain it all so she won’t think I’m a—that I did it a-purpose, you know. I didn’t mean to. What makes you look at me that way? Oh, dear! Isa, you won’t ever love me any more!”
But Isa quieted her by putting her arms around her neck in a way that made the poor woman cry, and say, “That’s just the way Katy used to do. When I die, Katy’ll love me all the same. Won’t she? Katy always did love a body so.” Perhaps she felt that Isabel’s love was not like Katy’s. For pity is not love, and even Mrs. Plausaby could hardly avoid distinguishing the spontaneous affection of Katy from this demonstration of Isa’s, which must have cost her some exertion.
Mrs. Plausaby grew more feeble. Her remorse and her feeling of the dire necessity for confessing her sin had sustained her hitherto. But now her duty was done, she had no longer any mental stimulant. In spite of Isa’s devoted and ingenious kindness, the sensitive vanity of Mrs. Plausaby detected in every motion evidence that Isa thought of her as a thief. She somehow got a notion that Mrs. Ferret knew all about it also, and from her and Mr. Lurton she half-hid her face in the cover. Lurton, perceiving that his mission to Mrs. Plausaby was ended, returned home, intending to see Isabel when circumstances should be more favorable. But the Ferret kept sniffing round after a secret which she knew lay not far away. Mrs. Plausaby having suddenly grown worse, Isa determined to sit by her during the night, but Plausaby strenuously