“Yes, they’re different now,” I answered.
“But are you sure you’re not cross with me for coming?”
“Oh, no, no,” I said, and it was all I could say for my voice was failing me.
She gave a sigh of inexpressible relief and then rose to go.
“I must be going now. The doctor is digging in the garden and he hasn’t had his breakfast. But I put the pot on the slouree to boil and it will be ready for the porridge.”
She got as far as the door and then turned and said:
“I wish I had a photo of you—a right one, just as you are at this very minute. I’d hang it in your own room, and times and times in the day I’d be running upstairs to look at it. But it’s all as one. I’ve got a photo of you here,” (touching her breast) “and sometimes I can see it as plain as plain.”
I could not speak after that, but I kissed her as she was going out, and she said:
“That’s nice, now! Good-bye, my chree! You’ll not be going home until to-morrow, it’s like, so perhaps I’ll be putting another sight on you. Good-bye!”
I went to the window to watch her as she walked down the drive. She was wiping her eyes, but her head was up and I thought her step was light, and I was sure her face was shining.
God bless her! The dear sweet woman! Such women as she is, and my mother was—so humble and loving, so guileless and pure, never saying an unkind word or thinking an unkind thought—are the flowers of the world that make the earth smell sweet.
* * * * *
When she was gone and I remembered the promise I had made to her I asked myself what was to become of me. If I could neither divorce my husband under any circumstances without breaking a sacrament of the Church, nor love Martin and be loved by him without breaking the heart of his mother, where was I?
I intended to go home the following morning; I was to meet Martin the following night. What was I to say? What was I to do?
All day long these questions haunted me and I could find no answers. But towards evening I took my troubles where I had often taken them—to Father Dan.
The door of the Presbytery was opened by Father Dan’s Irish housekeeper, a good old soul whose attitude to her master was that of a “moithered” mother to a wilful child.
All the way up the narrow staircase to his room, she grumbled about his reverence. Unless he was sickening for the scarlet fever she didn’t know in her seven sinses what was a-matter with him these days. He was as white as a ghost, and as thin as a shadder, and no wonder neither, for he didn’t eat enough to keep body and soul together.
Yesterday itself she had cooked him a chicken as good as I could get at the Big House; “done to a turn, too, with a nice bit of Irish bacon on top, and a bowl of praties biled in their jackets and a basin of beautiful new buttermilk;” but no, never a taste nor a sup did he take of it.