“We must go, too, Dorothy,” said James uneasily.
Mrs. Wickham began drawing on her gloves. “Jim will be writing to you in a day or two. You know how grateful we both are for all you did for our poor aunt. We shall be glad to give you the very highest references. You’re such a wonderful nurse. I’m sure you’ll have no difficulty in getting another situation; I expect I can find you something myself. I’ll ask among all my friends.”
Nora made no reply to this affable speech.
“Come on, Dorothy; we really haven’t any time to lose,” said Wickham hurriedly.
“Good-by, Miss Marsh.”
“Good-by,” said Nora dully. She stood, her hands resting on the table, her eyes fastened on the long blue envelope which Mr. Wynne had forgotten. From a long way off she heard the wheels of the cab on the driveway.
“I thought they were never going. Well?”
It was Miss Pringle who had come in from her retreat in the garden, eager to hear the news the moment she had seen the Wickhams driving away. Nora turned and looked at her without a word.
Miss Pringle was genuinely startled at the drawn look on her face.
“Nora! What’s the matter? Isn’t it as much as you thought?”
“Miss Wickham has left me nothing,” said Nora in a dead voice.
Miss Pringle gave a positive wail of anguish. “Oh-h-h-h.”
“Not a penny. Oh, it’s cruel!” the girl said, almost wildly. “After all,” she went on bitterly, “there was no need for her to leave me anything. She gave me board and lodging and thirty pounds a year. If I stayed it was because I chose. But she needn’t have promised me anything. She needn’t have prevented me from marrying.”
“My dear, you could never have married that little assistant. He wasn’t a gentleman,” Miss Pringle reminded her.
“Ten years! The ten best years of a woman’s life, when other girls are enjoying themselves. And what did I get for it? Board and lodging and thirty pounds a year. A cook does better than that.”
“We can’t expect to make as much money as a good cook,” said Miss Pringle, with touching and unconscious pathos. “One has to pay something for living like a lady among people of one’s own class.”
“Oh, it’s cruel!” Nora could only repeat.
“My dear,” said Miss Pringle with an effort at consolation, “don’t give way. I’m sure you’ll have no difficulty in finding another situation. You wash lace beautifully and no one can arrange flowers like you.”
Nora sank wearily into a chair. “And I was dreaming of France and Italy—I shall spend ten years more with an old lady, and then she’ll die and I shall look out for another situation. It won’t be so easy then because I shan’t be so young. And so it’ll go on until I can’t find a situation because I’m too old, and then some charitable people will get me into a home. You like the life, don’t you?”