Joshua was despatched to drive through mud and rain to bring Aunt Mary’s solace from the station.
Aunt Mary had herself propped up in bed to be ready for the return before Billy’s feet had ceased to cry splash on the road outside of the gate. Her eagerness tinged her pallor pink. It was as if the prospect of seeing Janice gave her some of that flood of vitality which always seems to ebb and flow so richly in the life of a metropolis.
“My gracious heavens, Lucinda” (for Lucinda was back now), she said joyfully, “to think that I needn’t look at you for a week if I don’t want to! You haven’t any idea how tired I am of looking at you, Lucinda. If you looked like anything it would be different. But you don’t.”
Lucinda rocked placidly; hers was what is called an “even disposition.” If it hadn’t been, she might have led an entirely different life—in fact, she would most certainly have lived somewhere else, for she couldn’t possibly have lived with Aunt Mary.
The hour that ensued after Joshua’s departure was so long that it resulted in a nap for the invalid, and Lucinda had to wake her by slamming the closet door when the arrival turned in at the gate.
“Has he got her?” Aunt Mary cried breathlessly. “Has he got someone with him? Run, Lucinda, an’ bring her in. She needn’t wipe her feet, tell her; you can brush the hall afterwards. Well, why ain’t you hurryin’?”
Lucinda was hurrying, her curiosity being as potent as the commands of her mistress, and five seconds later Janice appeared in the door with her predecessor just behind her—a striking contrast.
“You dear blessed Granite!” cried the old lady, stretching out her hands in a sort of ecstasy. “Oh, my! but I’m glad to see you! Come right straight here. No, shut the door first. Lucinda, you go and do ’most anything. An’ how is the city?”
Janice came to the bedside and dropped on her knees there, taking Aunt Mary’s withered hand close in both of her own.
“You didn’t shut the door,” the old lady whispered hoarsely. “I wish you would—an’ bolt it, too. An’ then come straight back to me.”
Janice closed and bolted the door, and returned to the bedside. Aunt Mary drew her down close to her, and her voice and eyes were hungry, indeed. For a little she looked eagerly upon what she had so craved to possess again, and then she suddenly asked:
“Granite, have you got any cigarettes with you?”
The maid started a little.
“Do you smoke now?” she asked, with interest.
“No,” said Aunt Mary sadly, “an’ that’s one more of my awful troubles. You see I’m jus’ achin’ to smell smoke, an’ Joshua promised his mother the night before he was twenty-one. You don’t know nothin’ about how terrible I feel. I’m empty somewhere jus’ all the time. Don’t you believe’t you could get some cigarettes an’ smoke ’em right close to me, an’ let me lay here, an’ be so happy while I smell. I’ll have a good doctor for you, if you’re sick from it.”