Throughout that afternoon adult members of the Atwater family connection made futile efforts to secure all the copies of the week’s edition of The North End Daily Oriole. It could not be done.
It was a trying time for “the family.” Great Aunt Carrie said that she had the “worst afternoon of any of ’em,” because young Newland Sanders came to her house at two and did not leave until five; all the time counting over, one by one, the hours he’d spent with Julia since she was seventeen and turned out, unfortunately, to be a Beauty. Newland had not restrained himself, Aunt Carrie said, and long before he left she wished Julia had never been born—and as for Herbert Illingsworth Atwater, Junior, the only thing to do with him was to send him to some strict Military School.
Florence’s father telephoned to her mother from downtown at three, and said that Mr. George Plum and the ardent vocalist, Clairdyce, had just left his office. They had not called in company, however, but coincidentally; and each had a copy of The North End Daily Oriole, already somewhat worn with folding and unfolding. Mr. Clairdyce’s condition was one of desperate calm, Florence’s father said, but Mr. Plum’s agitation left him rather unpresentable for the street, though he had finally gone forth with his hair just as he had rumpled it, and with his hat in his hand. They wished the truth, they said: Was it true or was it not true? Mr. Atwater had told them that he feared Julia was indeed engaged, though he knew nothing of her fiance’s previous marriage or marriages, or of the number of his children. They had responded that they cared nothing about that. This man Crum’s record was a matter of indifference to them, they said. All they wanted to know was whether Julia was engaged or not—and she was!
“The odd thing to me,” Mr. Atwater continued to his wife, “is where on earth Herbert could have got his story about this Crum’s being a widower, and divorced, and with all those children. Do you know if Julia’s written any of the family about these things and they haven’t told the rest of us?”
“No,” said Mrs. Atwater. “I’m sure she hasn’t. Every letter she’s written to any of us has passed all through the family, and I know I’ve seen every one of ’em. She’s never said anything about him at all, except that he was a lawyer. I’m sure I can’t imagine where Herbert got his awful information; I never thought he was the kind of boy to just make up such things out of whole cloth.”
Florence, sitting quietly in a chair near by, with a copy of “Sesame and Lilies” in her lap, listened to her mother’s side of this conversation with an expression of impersonal interest; and if she could have realized how completely her parents had forgotten (naturally enough) the details of their first rambling discussion of Julia’s engagement, she might really have felt as little alarm as she showed.