As a wife, it is probable that Nellie McKaye had not been an altogether unqualified success. She lacked tact, understanding and sympathy where her husband was concerned; she was one of that numerous type of wife who loses a great deal of interest in her husband after their first child is born. The Laird’s wife was normally intelligent, peacefully inclined, extremely good-looking both as to face and figure, despite her years, and always abnormally concerned over what the most inconsequential people in the world might think of her and hers. She had a passion for being socially “correct.” Flights of imagination were rarely hers; on the few occasions when they were, her thoughts had to do with an advantageous marriage for Jane and Elizabeth, who, it must be confessed, had not had very good luck holding on to the few eligible young bachelors who had seemed, for a brief period, to regard them with serious intent. The poor soul was worried about the girls, as well she might be, since the strides of time were rapidly bearing both into the sere-and-yellow-leaf period of life. For her son, she had earnest, passionate mother love, but since, like all mothers, she was obsessed with the delusion that every girl in the world, eligible and ineligible, was busy angling for her darling, she had left his matrimonial future largely to his father. Frequently her conscience smote her for her neglect of old Hector, but she smoothed it by promising herself to devote more time to him, more study to his masculine needs for wifely devotion, as soon as Elizabeth and Jane should be settled.
Her son’s acute illness and the possibility that he might not survive it had brought her closer to The Laird than these twain had been in twenty years; the blow that had all but crushed him had not even staggered her, for she told herself that, during this crisis she must keep her feet and her head. A wave of pity for her husband and a tinge of shame for her years of neglect of him revived more than a modicum of the old honeymoon tenderness, and, to her mild amazement, she discovered that she was still, in old Hector’s eyes, young and beautiful; her breast, her lips, still had power to soothe and comfort.
In those trying days she was The Laird’s greatest asset. With maternal stubbornness, she resolutely refused to entertain the thought that her son might die. She could understand the possibility of some other woman’s son dying, but not hers! she, who knew him so well (or thought she did, which amounts to the same thing), met with gentle tolerance and contempt the portentous nods and anxious glances of doctors and trained nurses. ’Fraid-cats—every last one of them! She told old Hector so and, to a considerable extent, succeeded in making him believe it.