When she came to herself Landry was laughing softly. “When are you going to let me see—the baby—?”
Cissy went on to her doom. “Because you’ll want to put me on the shelf like all the rest of them. You’ll want to see me with—my hair—parted—and spectacles. And my eyes are perfectly good—and my hair is my own—”
She stopped. Landry was surveying her with hard eyes.
“Don’t you love—the baby—?”
Cissy shrugged. “Perhaps. I don’t know yet. Some day I may when I haven’t anything to do but sit in a chimney-corner.”
Thus spoke Cissy Beale, making of herself a heartless creature, flinging back into the face of Valentine Landry his most cherished ideals.
But what did it matter? She had known from the moment of her confession that he would be repelled. What man could stand up in the face of the world and marry a grandmother!—the idea was preposterous.
She finished dinner with her head in the air; she was hypocritically lively during the drive home; she said “Good-night” and “Good-bye” without feeling, and went up-stairs with her heart like lead to find the nurse weeping wildly on the first landing.
The baby, it appeared, was very ill. And the baby’s father and mother, having left the little cherub sleeping peacefully, were motoring somewhere in the wide spaces of the world. The family doctor was out. She had called up another doctor, and he would come as soon as he could. But in the meantime the baby was dying—
“Nonsense, Kate,” said Cissy Beale, and pulling off her gloves as she ran, she made for the pale-gray room.
Now, as it happened, Valentine Landry, driving away in a priggish state of mind, was suddenly overwhelmed by miserable remorse. Reviewing the evening, he seemed to see, for the first time, the unhappiness in the eyes of the little woman who had borne herself so bravely. In a sudden moment of illumination he realized all that she must have been feeling. Perhaps it had not been heartlessness; perhaps it had been—heart hunger.
Leaning forward, he spoke to his chauffeur. They stopped at the first drug-store, and Landry called up Cissy. Her voice from the other end answered, sharply, then broke as he gave his name.
“I thought it was the doctor,” she said. “Can you come back, please? The baby, oh, the baby is very ill!”
Five minutes later the nurse let him into the house. He followed her up the stairs and into the nursery. Cissy sat with the baby in her arms. The baby was in a blanket and Cissy was in her gray wrapper. She had donned it while the nurse held the baby in the hot bath which saved its life. Cissy’s hair was out of curl and the color was out of her cheeks. But to Valentine Landry she was beautiful.
“It was a convulsion,” she told him, simply. “I am afraid she will have another. We haven’t been able to get a doctor—will you get one for us?”