Maurice came hurrying into the parlor, with the anxious, “How is she?” on his lips; and Mrs. Newbolt and Mrs. Houghton were full of reassurances, and suggestions of food, which he negatived promptly. “Tell me about Eleanor! What happened?”
“She’s asleep,” Mrs. Newbolt said. “You must have something to eat—” She was in such a panic of uncertainty as to what must and must not be said to Maurice that she clutched at supper as a perfectly safe topic. “I—I—I’ll go and see about your supper,” said Mrs. Newbolt, and trundled off to hide herself in the dining room.
Mary Houghton could not hide, but she would have been glad to! “Eleanor is sleepy, now, Maurice,” she said; “but she’ll want to have just a glimpse of you—”
“I’ll go right up!”
“Maurice, wait one minute. If I were you, I wouldn’t get Eleanor to talking, to-night; she’s a little feverish—”
“Mrs. Houghton!” he broke in, “Eleanor’s all right, isn’t she?” His face was furrowed with alarm. (If that wicked rhythm of the wheels should begin again!)
“Oh yes; I—I think so. She hasn’t quite got over the shock yet, but—”
“What shock? Nobody’s told me yet what it was! Your dispatch only said she’d slipped into the water. What water?”
“We don’t really know,” said Mrs. Houghton; “and she mustn’t be worried with questions, the doctor says. You see, she got dripping wet, somehow, and then had a long trolley ride—and she had a cold to start with—”
“I’ll just crawl upstairs, and see if she’s awake,” said Maurice. “I won’t disturb her.”
As he started softly upstairs, Mrs. Newbolt opened the dining-room door a crack, and peered in at Mary Houghton. “Did you tell him?” she said, in a wheezing whisper.
Mrs. Houghton shook her head.
“Well, I can tell you who won’t tell him,” said Eleanor’s aunt; “me! To tell a man that his wife—”
“Hush-sh!” said Mrs. Houghton; “he’s coming downstairs. Besides, we don’t know that she did—”
The dining-room door closed softly on the whispered words: “Puffect nonsense. Of course we know.”
Maurice, tiptoeing into Eleanor’s room, thought she was asleep, and was backing out again, when she opened drowsy eyes and said, faintly, “Hullo.”
He bent over to kiss her. “Well, you’re a great girl, to cut up like this when I’m away from home!”
She smiled, closed her eyes, and he tiptoed out of the room....
Back again in the parlor, he began, “Mrs. Houghton, for Heaven’s sake, tell me the whole thing!” He wasn’t anxious now; as far as he could see, Eleanor was “all right”—just sleepy. But what on earth—
She told him what she knew; what she suspected, she kept to herself. But she might as well have told it all. For, as he listened, his face darkened with understanding.
“The river? In Medfield? But, why—?”
“Edith says you and she had a good deal of sentiment about the river, and—”