The London train came in just as he reached the station, and Madame Lamotte, substantial, dark-clothed, very yellow in the lamplight, came towards the exit with a dressing-bag.
“This all you have?” asked Soames.
“But yes; I had not the time. How is my little one?”
“Doing well—both. A girl!”
“A girl! What joy! I had a frightful crossing!”
Her black bulk, solid, unreduced by the frightful crossing, climbed into the brougham.
“And you, mon cher?”
“My father’s dying,” said Soames between his teeth. “I’m going up. Give my love to Annette.”
“Tiens!” murmured Madame Lamotte; “quel malheur!”
Soames took his hat off, and moved towards his train. ‘The French!’ he thought.
JAMES IS TOLD
A simple cold, caught in the room with double windows, where the air and the people who saw him were filtered, as it were, the room he had not left since the middle of September—and James was in deep waters. A little cold, passing his little strength and flying quickly to his lungs. “He mustn’t catch cold,” the doctor had declared, and he had gone and caught it. When he first felt it in his throat he had said to his nurse—for he had one now—“There, I knew how it would be, airing the room like that!” For a whole day he was highly nervous about himself and went in advance of all precautions and remedies; drawing every breath with extreme care and having his temperature taken every hour. Emily was not alarmed.
But next morning when she went in the nurse whispered: “He won’t have his temperature taken.”
Emily crossed to the side of the bed where he was lying, and said softly, “How do you feel, James?” holding the thermometer to his lips. James looked up at her.
“What’s the good of that?” he murmured huskily; “I don’t want to know.”
Then she was alarmed. He breathed with difficulty, he looked terribly frail, white, with faint red discolorations. She had ‘had trouble’ with him, Goodness knew; but he was James, had been James for nearly fifty years; she couldn’t remember or imagine life without James—James, behind all his fussiness, his pessimism, his crusty shell, deeply affectionate, really kind and generous to them all!
All that day and the next he hardly uttered a word, but there was in his eyes a noticing of everything done for him, a look on his face which told her he was fighting; and she did not lose hope. His very stillness, the way he conserved every little scrap of energy, showed the tenacity with which he was fighting. It touched her deeply; and though her face was composed and comfortable in the sick-room, tears ran down her cheeks when she was out of it.
About tea-time on the third day—she had just changed her dress, keeping her appearance so as not to alarm him, because he noticed everything—she saw a difference. ‘It’s no use; I’m tired,’ was written plainly across that white face, and when she went up to him, he muttered: “Send for Soames.”