Laura knelt and put the slipper on her sister’s foot. “Cora, dear,” she said, “you’re just going to put on a negligee and go down and sit in the library, aren’t you?”
“Laura!” The tone was more than impatient. “I wish I could be let alone for five whole minutes some time in my life! Don’t you think I’ve stood enough for one day? I can’t bear to be questioned, questioned, questioned! What do you do it for? Don’t you see I can’t stand anything more? If you can’t let me alone I do wish you’d keep out of my room.”
Laura rose and went out; but as she left the door, Cora called after her with a rueful laugh: “Laura, I know I’m a little devil!”
Half an hour later, Laura, suffering because she had made no reply to this peace-offering, and wishing to atone, sought Cora downstairs and found no one. She decided that Cora must still be in her own room; she would go to her there. But as she passed the open front door, she saw Cora upon the sidewalk in front of the house. She wore a new and elaborate motoring costume, charmingly becoming, and was in the act of mounting to a seat beside Valentine Corliss in a long, powerful-looking, white “roadster” automobile. The engine burst into staccato thunder, sobered down; the wheels began to move both Cora and Corliss were laughing and there was an air of triumph about them—Cora’s veil streamed and fluttered: and in a flash they were gone.
Laura stared at the suddenly vacated space where they had been. At a thought she started. Then she rushed upstairs to her mother, who was sitting in the hall near her husband’s door.
“Mamma,” whispered Laura, flinging herself upon her knees beside her, “when papa wanted to speak to you, was it a message to Cora?”
“Yes, dear. He told me to tell her he was sorry he’d made her sick, and that if he got well he’d try to do what she asked him to.”
Laura nodded cheerfully. “And he will get well, darling mother,” she said, as she rose. “I’ll come back in a minute and sit with you.”
Her return was not so quick as she promised, for she lay a long time weeping upon her pillow, whispering over and over:
“Oh, poor, poor papa! Oh, poor, poor Richard!”
Within a week Mr. Madison’s illness was a settled institution in the household; the presence of the nurse lost novelty, even to Hedrick, and became a part of life; the day was measured by the three regular visits of the doctor. To the younger members of the family it seemed already that their father had always been sick, and that he always would be; indeed, to Cora and Hedrick he had become only a weak and querulous voice beyond a closed door. Doctor Sloane was serious but reassuring, his daily announcement being that his patient was in “no immediate danger.”