While she was lying there so many days the process of recharging her will went on all the time; it spread to her face, too, and tightening movements were always in action at the corners of her lips.
The maid Smither, who had been in her service since girlhood, and was spoken of as “Smither—a good girl—but so slow!”—the maid Smither performed every morning with extreme punctiliousness the crowning ceremony of that ancient toilet. Taking from the recesses of their pure white band-box those flat, grey curls, the insignia of personal dignity, she placed them securely in her mistress’s hands, and turned her back.
And every day Aunts Juley and Hester were required to come and report on Timothy; what news there was of Nicholas; whether dear June had succeeded in getting Jolyon to shorten the engagement, now that Mr. Bosinney was building Soames a house; whether young Roger’s wife was really—expecting; how the operation on Archie had succeeded; and what Swithin had done about that empty house in Wigmore Street, where the tenant had lost all his money and treated him so badly; above all, about Soames; was Irene still—still asking for a separate room? And every morning Smither was told: “I shall be coming down this afternoon, Smither, about two o’clock. I shall want your arm, after all these days in bed!”
After telling Aunt Ann, Mrs. Small had spoken of the house in the strictest confidence to Mrs. Nicholas, who in her turn had asked Winifred Dartie for confirmation, supposing, of course, that, being Soames’s sister, she would know all about it. Through her it had in due course come round to the ears of James. He had been a good deal agitated.
“Nobody,” he said, “told him anything.” And, rather than go direct to Soames himself, of whose taciturnity he was afraid, he took his umbrella and went round to Timothy’s.
He found Mrs. Septimus and Hester (who had been told—she was so safe, she found it tiring to talk) ready, and indeed eager, to discuss the news. It was very good of dear Soames, they thought, to employ Mr. Bosinney, but rather risky. What had George named him? ‘The Buccaneer’ How droll! But George was always droll! However, it would be all in the family they supposed they must really look upon Mr. Bosinney as belonging to the family, though it seemed strange.
James here broke in:
“Nobody knows anything about him. I don’t see what Soames wants with a young man like that. I shouldn’t be surprised if Irene had put her oar in. I shall speak to....”
“Soames,” interposed Aunt Juley, “told Mr. Bosinney that he didn’t wish it mentioned. He wouldn’t like it to be talked about, I’m sure, and if Timothy knew he would be very vexed, I....”
James put his hand behind his ear:
“What?” he said. “I’m getting very deaf. I suppose I don’t hear people. Emily’s got a bad toe. We shan’t be able to start for Wales till the end of the month. There’ s always something!” And, having got what he wanted, he took his hat and went away.