Upstairs in Mrs. Newbolt’s spare room, as the twilight thickened, there was silence, except for the terrible breathing, and the clock ticking away the seconds; one by one they fell—like beads slipping from a string. Maurice sat holding Eleanor’s hand. The others, speaking, sometimes, without sound, or moving, noiselessly, stood before the meek majesty of dying. Waiting. Waiting. It was not until midnight that she opened her eyes again and looked at Maurice, very peacefully.
“Tell Edith it wasn’t what she said, made me try ... our river ... Jacky will call her ... Tell Edith ... to be kind to Jacky.”
She did not speak again.
“I have an uneasy feeling,” said Mr. Houghton, “that he is thinking of marrying the woman, just to carry out Eleanor’s wish. Poor Eleanor! Always doing the wrong thing, with greatness.” This was in September. Maurice was to come up to Green Hill for a Sunday, and the Houghtons were in the studio talking about the expected guest. Later Edith was to drive over to the junction and meet him....
It was not only Green Hill which talked about Maurice. In the months that followed Eleanor’s death, a good many people had pondered his affairs, because, somehow, that visit of Jacky’s to Mrs. Newbolt’s house, got noised abroad, so Maurice’s friends (making the inevitable deductions) told one another exactly what he ought to do.
Mrs. Newbolt expressed herself in great detail: “I shall never forgive him,” she said; “my poor Eleanor! She forgave him, and sent for the child. More than I would do for any man! But I could have told her what to expect. In fact, I did. I always said if she wasn’t entertainin’, she’d lose him. Yes; she had a hard time—but she kept her figger. Should Maurice marry the—boy’s mother? ’Course not! Puffect nonsense. You think he’ll make up to Edith Houghton? She would have too much self-respect to look at him! And if she did, her father would never consent to it.”
The Mortons’ opinion was just as definite: “I hope Maurice will marry again; Edith’s just the girl for him—What!” Mrs. Morton interrupted herself, at a whisper of gossip, “he had a mistress? I don’t believe a word of it!”
“But I’m afraid it’s true,” her husband told her, soberly; “there’s a boy.” His wife’s shocked face made him add: “I think Curtis will feel he ought to legitimatize the youngster by marrying his mother. Maurice is good stuff. He won’t sidestep an obligation.”
“I never heard of such an awful idea!” said Mrs. Morton, dismayed. “I hope he’ll do nothing of the kind! You can’t correct one mistake by making another. Don’t you agree with me?” she demanded of Doctor Nelson; who displayed, of course, entire ignorance of Mr. Curtis’s affairs.
He only said, “Well, it’s a rum world.”