Eleanor, gasping, said her cold was better, and repeated her determination of going home.
It was the doctor—dropping in, he said, to make sure Mrs. Curtis was none the worse for her “accident”—who put a stop to that.
“I slipped and fell,” Eleanor told him; she was very hoarse.
He said yes, he understood. “But you got badly chilled, and you had a cold to start with. So you must lie low for two or three days. When will Mr. Curtis be back?”
Eleanor said she didn’t know; all she knew was she didn’t want him sent for. She was “all right.”
But of course he had been sent for! “I don’t know that it was really necessary,” Mrs. Newbolt told Mrs. Houghton, who appeared late in the afternoon; “but I wasn’t goin’ to take the responsibility—”
“Of course not!” Mrs. Houghton said. “Mr. Weston has telegraphed him, too, I hope?” Then, before taking her things off, she went upstairs to Eleanor. “Well!” she said, “I hear you had an accident? Sensible girl, to stay in bed!” She took Eleanor’s hand, and its hot tremor made her look keenly at the haggard face on the pillow.
“Oh,” Eleanor said, with a gasp of relief, “I’m so glad you’re here! There are some things I want attended to. I owe—I mean, somebody paid my car fare. And I must send it to her! And then I want something from my desk; but I can’t have Bridget get it, and I don’t want to ask Auntie to. It’s—it’s a letter to Maurice. I wanted to tell him something.... But I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want him to see it. He mustn’t see it! Oh, Mrs. Houghton, would you get it for me? I’d be so grateful! ... And then,—oh, that five cents! I don’t know how I’m going to send it to her—”
“Tell me who it is, and I’ll get it to her; and I’ll get the letter,” Mary Houghton told her; and went on with the usual sick-room encouragement: “The doctor says you are better. But you must hurry and get well, so as to help Maurice with the little boy!”
Her words were like a push against some tottering barrier.
“I tried to help him; I tried to get Jacky! I went to the woman’s, but she wouldn’t give him to me! I tried—so hard. But she wouldn’t! She paid my car fare—”
Mrs. Houghton bent over and kissed her: “Tell me about it, dear; perhaps I can help.”
“There is no help! ... She won’t give him up. She insisted on coming home with me, and she paid my car fare! Then I thought, if—I were not alive, Maurice could get him, because he could marry her ...”
Instantly, with a thrill of horror and admiration, Mrs. Houghton understood the “accident”! “Eleanor! What a mad, mad thought! As if you could help Maurice by giving him a great grief! Oh, I do thank God he has been spared anything so terrible!”
“But,” Eleanor said, excitedly, “if I were dead, it would be his duty to marry her, wouldn’t it? Jacky is his child! Oughtn’t he to marry Jacky’s mother? Oh, Mrs. Houghton, I owe her five cents—”