“Why not? I have no one who needs me.” I held my bit of sewing off, looked at it carefully. “Other women have their homes, their husbands and children, or their families, or duties or obligations of some sort, which they cannot leave, even if they wanted to know, to understand better how they might—” I leaned forward. “I think you can help me, Lillie, help me very much.”
“Help you—” Half lifting herself up, Lillie stared at me as if not understanding, then the flush in her face deepened. “I help anybody! Oh, my God! if I only could! If I only could!”
“I’m sure you can.” I picked up the flower, which again had fallen. “The doctor says you can go in the country soon, but before you go—”
“I hope I won’t live long enough to go anywhere, but before I go away for good if I could tell you what you could tell to others, and make them understand how different it is from what they think, make them know the awfulness—awfulness—”
She turned her head away, buried it in her arms, her body shaking in convulsive sobs. The bird on the apple-tree had stopped its singing, and the sun was no longer shining. In the hall I heard Mrs. Mundy go to the door, heard it open; then heavier footsteps came toward us, I looked around. Selwyn was standing in the doorway.
Selwyn closed the door, put his hat and overcoat on a chair beside it, and came over to the fire. Standing in front of it, hands in his pockets, he looked at me. I, also, was standing.
“Why don’t you sit down? Are you in a hurry? Am I interrupting you?”
I shook my head. “I am not in a hurry, and you are not interrupting. I thought perhaps—”
“That you were in a hurry.” I sat down on a footstool near the mantel, and leaned against the latter, my hands on my knees. “I so seldom have a visit from a man in the morning that I don’t know how to behave.” My head nodded toward the chair he usually preferred.
“I would not take your time now—but I must.” He took a seat opposite me, and looking at me, his face changed. “What is the matter? Are you sick? Your eyes look like holes in a blanket. Something has been keeping you awake. What is it?”
“I am not at all sick, and I slept very well last night.” I drew a little further from the flame of the fire. “I’m sorry if my eyes—”
“Belie your bluff? They always do. Resist as you will, they give you away. You’ve been working yourself to death doing absurd things for unthankful people. Who is that sick person downstairs? Where’d you pick her up?”
“I didn’t pick her up. She had a hemorrhage and fainted in front of the house. I happened to see her and—and—”
“Had her brought in. I understand. In a neighborhood of this sort you don’t know who you’re bringing in, but I suppose that doesn’t matter.”