“Yes, that’ll be a good plan,” chimed in Mrs. Babcock. “She’d better go in her bedroom where it’s quiet, or she’ll wind up with a fever. There’s too many folks here.”
“I wonder if some of my currant wine wouldn’t be good for her?” said Mrs. Jane Maxwell, with an air of irrepressible virtue.
“She don’t want none of your currant wine,” rejoined Mrs. Babcock fiercely. “She’s suffered enough by your family.”
“I guess you needn’t be so mighty smart,” returned Mrs. Maxwell, jerking her arm away from Flora. “I dunno of anything she’s suffered. I should think Flora an’ me had been the ones to suffer, an’ now we shan’t never go to law, nor make any fuss about it. I ain’t goin’ to stay here an’ be talked to so any longer if I know, especially by folks that ain’t got any business meddlin’ with it, anyway. I suppose this is my daughter’s house, an’ I’ve got a perfect right in it, but I’m a-goin’.”
Mrs. Jane Maxwell went out, her ribbons and silken draperies fluttering as if her own indignation were a wind, but Flora stayed.
The women led Jane Field into her little bedroom, took off her bonnet and shawl and dress as if she were dead, and made her lie down. They bathed her head with camphor, they plied her with soothing arguments, but she kept on her one strain. She was singularly docile in all but that. Mrs. Green dropped on her knees beside the bed and prayed. When she said amen, Jane Field called out her confession as if in the ear of God. They sent for the doctor and he gave her a soothing draught, and she slept. The women watched with her, as ever and anon she stirred and murmured in her sleep, “I ain’t Esther Maxwell.” And she said it when she first awoke in the morning.
“She’s sayin’ it now,” whispered Mrs. Babcock to Mrs. Green, “and I believe she’ll say it her whole life.”
And Jane Field did. The stern will of the New England woman had warped her whole nature into one groove. Gradually she seemed more like herself, and her mind was in other respects apparently clear, but never did she meet a stranger unless she said for greeting, “I ain’t Esther Maxwell.”
And she said it to her own daughter on her wedding-day, when she came in her white dress from the minister’s with Francis. The new joy in Lois’s face affected her like the face of a stranger, and she turned on her and said, “I ain’t Esther Maxwell.”