“Selma, Selma, you must come at once.”
Her returning wits realized that it was Pauline who was arousing her and urging her to Wilbur’s bed-side. She sprang forward, and saw the light of existence fading from her husband’s eyes into the mute dulness of death. Dr. Page was bending over him in a desperate, but vain, effort to force some restorative between his lips. At the foot of the bed stood the nurse, with an expression which betrayed what had occurred.
“What is it, Wilbur? What have they done to you? What has happened?” Selma cried, looking from one to the other, though she had discerned the truth in a flash. As she spoke, Dr. Page desisted from his undertaking, and stepped back from the bed, and instantly Selma threw herself on her knees and pressed her face upon Littleton’s lifeless features. There was no response. His spirit had departed.
“His heart could not stand the strain. That is the great peril in pneumonia,” she heard the doctor murmur.
“He is dead,” she cried, in a horrified outburst, and she looked up at the pitying group with the gaze of an afflicted lioness. She caught sight of Pauline smiling through her tears—that same unprotesting, submissive smile—and holding out her hands to her. Selma, rising, turned away, and as her sister-in-law sought to put her arm about her, evaded the caress.
“No—no,” she said. Then facing her, added, with aggrieved conviction:
“I cannot believe that Wilbur’s death was necessary. Why was not something energetic done?”
Pauline flushed, but, ascribing the calumny to distress, she held her peace, and said, simply:
“Sh! dear. You will understand better by and by.”
It had never occurred to Selma that she might lose her husband. Even with his shortcomings he was so important to her from the point of view of support, and her scheme of life was so interwoven with his, she had taken for granted that he would live as long as she desired. She felt that destiny had a second time been signally cruel to her, and that she was drinking deeply of the cup of sorrow. She was convinced that Wilbur, had he lived, would have moved presently to Benham, in accordance with her desire, and that they would then have been completely happy again. Instead he was dead and under the sod, and she was left to face the world with no means save $5,000 from his life insurance and the natural gifts and soul which God had given her.