“Sell Jacky for six hundred dollars?” Lily said. “I wouldn’t sell him for six thousand dollars, or six million!” She drew away from Eleanor’s beseeching hands. “How long has Mr. Curtis thought enough of Jacky to pay six hundred dollars for him? You can tell Mr. Curtis, from me, that I ain’t no cheap trader, to give away my child for six hundred dollars!” She sprang up, putting her clenched fists on her fat hips, and wagging her head. “Why,” she demanded, raucously, “didn’t you have a child of your own for him, ’stead of trying to get another woman’s child away from her?”
It was a hideous blow. Eleanor gasped with pain; and instantly Lily’s anger was gone.
“Say! I didn’t mean that! ’Course you couldn’t, at your age. I oughtn’t to have said it!”
Eleanor, dumb for a moment after that deadly question, began, faintly: “Mr. Curtis will do so much for him, Mrs. Dale; he’ll educate him, and—”
“I can educate him,” Lily said; “you tell Mr. Curtis that; you tell him I thank him for nothing!—I can educate my child to beat the band. I don’t want any help from him. But—” she was on her knees again, stroking Eleanor’s shoulder—“but if he’s mean to you because you haven’t had any children, I—I—I’ll see to him! Well—I’ve always thought, what with him fussing about ‘grammar,’ and ‘truth,’ he’d be a hard man to live with. But if he’s been mean to you he’d ought to be ashamed of himself!”
“Oh, he doesn’t even know that I have come!” Eleanor said; “he mustn’t know it. Oh, please!” She was terrified. “Don’t tell him, Mrs. Dale. Promise me you won’t! He would be angry.”
Her frightened despair was pitiful; Lily was at her wits’ end. “My soul and body!” she thought, “what am I going to do with her?” But what was all this business? Mrs. Curtis asking for Jacky—and Mr. Curtis not knowing it? What was all this funny business? “Now I tell you,” she said; “you and me are just two ladies who understand each other, and I’m going to be straight with you: if Mr. Curtis is trying to get my child away from me, he’ll have a sweet time doing it! There’s other places than Medfield to live in. I have a friend in New York, a society lady; she’s always after me to come and live there. Mind! I’m not mad at you, you poor woman that couldn’t have a baby—it’s him I’m mad at! He knows Jacky is mine, and I’ll go to New York before I’ll—”
“Oh, don’t say that!” Eleanor pleaded; “my husband hasn’t tried to get Jacky; it’s just I!”
She saw, with panic, that what Maurice had said was true—Lily might “run”! If she did, there would be no hope of getting Jacky ... and Edith would be in Mercer....
“Mrs. Dale, promise me you’ll stay in Medfield? It was only I who was trying to get Jacky; Mr. Curtis never thought of such a thing! I wanted him. I’d do everything for him; I’d—I’d give him music lessons.”
“Honest,” said Lily, soberly, “I believe you’re crazy.”