“How should you know that?” said Marie, sharply; “she’s been complaining, I suppose.”
“She didn’t complain; she only told me what bad nights you’d had,—so many in succession.”
“Why don’t you let Jane or Rosa take her place, a night or two,” said St. Clare, “and let her rest?”
“How can you propose it?” said Marie. “St. Clare, you really are inconsiderate. So nervous as I am, the least breath disturbs me; and a strange hand about me would drive me absolutely frantic. If Mammy felt the interest in me she ought to, she’d wake easier,—of course, she would. I’ve heard of people who had such devoted servants, but it never was my luck;” and Marie sighed.
Miss Ophelia had listened to this conversation with an air of shrewd, observant gravity; and she still kept her lips tightly compressed, as if determined fully to ascertain her longitude and position, before she committed herself.
“Now, Mammy has a sort of goodness,” said Marie; “she’s smooth and respectful, but she’s selfish at heart. Now, she never will be done fidgeting and worrying about that husband of hers. You see, when I was married and came to live here, of course, I had to bring her with me, and her husband my father couldn’t spare. He was a blacksmith, and, of course, very necessary; and I thought and said, at the time, that Mammy and he had better give each other up, as it wasn’t likely to be convenient for them ever to live together again. I wish, now, I’d insisted on it, and married Mammy to somebody else; but I was foolish and indulgent, and didn’t want to insist. I told Mammy, at the time, that she mustn’t ever expect to see him more than once or twice in her life again, for the air of father’s place doesn’t agree with my health, and I can’t go there; and I advised her to take up with somebody else; but no—she wouldn’t. Mammy has a kind of obstinacy about her, in spots, that everybody don’t see as I do.”
“Has she children?” said Miss Ophelia.
“Yes; she has two.”
“I suppose she feels the separation from them?”
“Well, of course, I couldn’t bring them. They were little dirty things—I couldn’t have them about; and, besides, they took up too much of her time; but I believe that Mammy has always kept up a sort of sulkiness about this. She won’t marry anybody else; and I do believe, now, though she knows how necessary she is to me, and how feeble my health is, she would go back to her husband tomorrow, if she only could. I do, indeed,” said Marie; “they are just so selfish, now, the best of them.”
“It’s distressing to reflect upon,” said St. Clare, dryly.
Miss Ophelia looked keenly at him, and saw the flush of mortification and repressed vexation, and the sarcastic curl of the lip, as he spoke.