She looked crazy—this poor, gray-haired woman of pitiful dignity and breeding. ("I bet she’s sixty!” Lily thought)—this old, childless woman, with a “Mrs.” to her name, pleading with a mother to give up her boy, so he could have “music lessons”! “And Mr. Curtis’s up against that,” Lily thought, and instantly her anger at Maurice ebbed. “There, dear,” she said, touching Eleanor’s wet cheeks gently with that perfumed handkerchief; “I don’t believe you’ve had any supper. I’m going to get you something to eat—”
“No, please; please no!” Eleanor said. She had risen. She thought, “If she says ‘dear’ again, I’ll—I’ll die!” ... “I promise you on my word of honor,” she said, faintly, “that I won’t try to take Jacky away from you, if—” she paused; it was terrible to have a secret with this woman; it put her in her power, but she couldn’t help it—“I won’t try to get him, if you won’t tell Mr. Curtis that I ... have been here? Please promise me!”
“Don’t you worry,” Lily said, reassuringly; “I won’t give you away to him.”
Eleanor was moving, stumbling a little, toward the door; Lily hesitated, then ran and caught her own coat and hat from the rack in the hall.
“Wait!” she said, pinning her hat on at a hasty and uncertain angle; “I’m going with you! It ain’t right for you to go by yourself ... Jacky,” she called out to the kitchen, “you be a good boy! Maw’ll be home soon.”
Eleanor shook her head in wordless protest. But Lily had tucked her hand under her arm, and was walking along beside her. “He ought to look out for you!” Lily said; “I declare, I’ve a mind to tell that man what I think of him!” On the car, while Eleanor with shaking hands was opening her purse, Lily quickly paid both fares, saying, politely, in answer to Eleanor’s confused protest, “That’s all right!” There was no talk between them. Lily was too perplexed to say anything, and Eleanor was too frightened. So they rode, side by side, almost to Maurice’s door. There, standing on the step while Eleanor took her latch key from her pocketbook, Lily said, cheerfully, “Now you go and get a cup of tea—you’re all wore out!” Then she hurried off to catch a Medfield car. “I declare,” said little Lily, “I don’t know which is the worse off, him or her!”
Eleanor, letting herself into her silent house, saw, with relief, that the library was dark, and knew that Maurice had gone to the station and she could be alone. She felt her way into the room, blundering against his big chair; the fire was almost out, and without waiting to turn on the light she thrust some kindling under a charred log and knelt down and took up the bellows. A spark brightened, ran backward under the film of ashes, then a flame hesitated, caught—and there was a little winking blaze.