Mrs. Houghton said she didn’t know. Edith was silent, for a whole minute. Then she said, soberly:
“I suppose father’s sorry ’cause she’ll die so soon, she’s so old? And then Maurice will feel awfully. Poor Maurice! Well, I’ll live with him, and comfort him.”
“My dear, I’m fifty!” Mrs. Houghton said, much amused.
“Oh, well, you—” Edith demurred; “that’s different. You’re my mother, and you—” She paused; “I never thought of you being old, or dying, ever. And yet I suppose you are rather old?” She pondered. “I suppose some day you’ll die? Mother!—promise me you won’t!” she said, quaveringly.
“Edith, don’t be a goose!” Mrs. Houghton said, laughing—but she turned and kissed the rosy, anxious face, “Maurice’s wife isn’t old at all. She’s quite young. It’s only that he is so much younger.”
Edith lapsed into silence. She was very quiet for the rest of that summer morning. Just before dinner she went across the west pasture to Doctor Bennett’s house, and, hailing Johnny, told him the news. His indifference—for he only looked at her, with his mild, nearsighted brown eyes, and said, “Huh?”—irritated her so that she would not confide her dismay at Maurice’s approaching widowerhood, but ran home to a sympathetic kitchen: “Katy! Maurice got eloped!”
Katy was much more satisfactory than Johnny; she said, “God save us! Mr. Maurice eloped? Who with, then? Well, well!” But Edith was still abstracted. Time, as related to life, had acquired significance. At dinner she regarded her father with troubled eyes. He, too, was old, like Maurice’s wife. He, too, as well as the bride, and her mother, would die, sometime. And she and Maurice would have such awful grief!... Something tightened in her throat; “Please ’scuse me,” she said, in a muffled voice; and, slipping out of her chair, made a dash for the back door, and ran as hard as she could to her chicken house. The little place was hot, and smelled of feathers; through the windows, cobwebbed and dusty, the sunshine fell dimly on the hard earth floor, and on an empty plate or two and a rusty, overturned tin pan. Here, sitting on a convenient box, she could think things out undisturbed: Maurice, and his lovely, dying Bride; herself, orphaned and alone; Johnny Bennett, indifferent to all this oncoming grief! Probably Maurice was worrying about it all the time! How long would the Bride live? Suddenly she remembered her mother’s age, and had a revulsion of hope for Maurice. Perhaps his wife would live to be as old as mother? “Why, I hadn’t thought of that! Well, then, she will live—let’s see: thirty-nine from fifty leaves eleven—yes; the Bride will live eleven years!” Why, that wasn’t so terrible, after all. “That’s as long as I have been alive!” Obviously it would not be necessary to take care of Maurice for quite a good while. “I guess,” she reflected, “I’ll have some children by that time. And maybe I’ll be married, too,