An elderly woman in an old-fashioned quakerish bonnet was coming up the drive. She carried a little bunch of red and white roses, and her face, which was very sweet and simple, wore the pathetic expression of a child in trouble.
It was Martin’s mother. She was coming to see me, and at the first sight of her something told me that my brave resolution was about to be broken, and I was going to be shaken to the depths of my being.
I heard the bell of the front door ringing. After a moment a maid came up and said:
“Mrs. Doctor Conrad has called to see your ladyship.”
“Bring her here,” I answered.
My heart was in my mouth already.
When Martin’s mother came into the room she looked nervous and almost frightened, as if she had charged herself with a mission which she was afraid to fulfil. But I put her to sit in my mother’s easy chair and sat on the arm of it myself, and then she seemed calmer and more comfortable.
In spite of the silver threads in the smooth hair under her poke bonnet her dear face was still the face of a child, and never before had it seemed to me so helpless and child-like.
After a moment we began to talk of Martin. I said it must be a great happiness to her to have him back after his long and perilous voyage; and she answered that it was, but his visit was so short, only four days altogether, although the doctor and she had looked forward to it so long.
“That’s not Martin’s fault, though,” she said. “He’s such a good son. I really, really think no mother ever had such a good son. But when children grow up they can’t always be thinking of the old people, can they? That’s why I say to the doctor, ‘Doctor,’ I say, ’perhaps we were the same ourselves when we were young and first loved each other.’”
Already I thought I saw vaguely what the dear soul had come to tell me, but I only said I supposed Martin was still with them.
She told me no, he had gone to King George’s. That was his old school, and being prize-giving day the masters had asked him to the sports and to the dinner that was to be given that night before the breaking-up for the holidays.
“The boys will give him a cheer, I know they will,” she said.
I said of course he would be back to-morrow, but again she said no; he had gone for good, and they had said good-bye to him. When he left King George’s he was to go on to Castle Raa. Didn’t I know that? He had said he would telegraph to me. But being from home perhaps I had not yet received his message. Oh yes, he was going on to the Castle to-morrow night and would stay there until it was time to leave the island.
“I’m so glad,” I said, hardly knowing with what fervour I had said it, until I saw the same expression of fear come back to the sweet old face.
“Martin will be glad, too,” she said, “and that’s why I’ve come to see you.”