So at lunch she prattled of the book almost continuously, and at the end of it thought Maggie more unsubtle than ever: she looked rather tired and strained, thought the old lady, and she hardly said a word from beginning to end.
The drive in the afternoon was equally unsatisfactory. Mrs. Baxter took the book with her, and the pencil, in order to read aloud a few extracts here and there; and she again seemed to find Maggie rather vacuous and silent.
“Dearest child, you are not very well, I think,” she said at last.
Maggie roused herself suddenly.
“You are not very well, I think. Did you sleep well?”
“Oh! I slept all right,” said Maggie vaguely.
* * * * *
But after tea Mrs. Baxter did not feel very well herself. She said she thought she must have taken a little chill. Maggie looked at her with unperceptive eyes.
“I am sorry,” she said mechanically.
“Dearest, you don’t seem very overwhelmed. I think perhaps I shall have dinner in bed. Give me my book, child.... Yes, and the pencil-case.”
Mrs. Baxter’s room was so comfortable, and the book so fascinatingly spiritual, that she determined to keep her resolution and go to bed. She felt feverish, just to the extent of being very sleepy and at her ease. She rang her bell and issued her commands.
“A little of the volaille,” she said, “with a spoonful of soup before it.... No, no meat; but a custard or so, and a little fruit. Oh! yes, Charlotte, and tell Miss Maggie not to come and see me after dinner.”
It seemed that the message had roused the dear girl at last, for Maggie appeared ten minutes later in quite a different mood. There was really some animation in her face.
“Dear Auntie, I am so very sorry.... Yes; do go to bed, and breakfast there in the morning too. I’m just writing to Laurie, by the way.”
Mrs. Baxter nodded sleepily from her deep chair.
“He’s coming down in Easter week, isn’t he?”
“So he says, my dear.”
“Why shouldn’t he come next week instead, Auntie, and be with us for Easter? You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”
“Very nice indeed, dear child; but don’t bother the boy.”
“And you don’t think it’s influenza?” put in Maggie swiftly, laying a cool hand on the old lady’s.
She maintained it was not. It was just a little chill, such as she had had this time last year: and it became necessary to rouse herself a little to enumerate the symptoms. By the time she had done, Maggie’s attention had begun to wander again: the old lady had never known her so unsympathetic before, and said so with gentle peevishness.
Maggie kissed her quickly.
“I’m sorry, Auntie,” she said. “I was just thinking of something. Sleep well; and don’t get up in the morning.”
Then she left her to a spoonful of soup, a little volaille, a custard, some fruit, her spiritual book and contentment.