“But you can’t help it, my dear; and she must know tomorrow if not to-day.”
So before long Barbara went upstairs. She entered the room softly. Madeline had her eyes fixed on the ceiling, and did not move them as her sister approached the bed.
Then indeed she looked at the speaker, and with surprise, so unwonted was this tone on Barbara’s lips. Surprise was quickly succeeded by a smile.
“I know, Barbara; I understand.”
“What? How can you?”
“I heard a cab drive up, and I heard a knock at the door. ’That’s Mr. Musselwhite,’ I thought. He has been here a long time, and now I understand. You needn’t tell me.”
“But there’s a good deal to tell that you can’t have found out, quick as you are.”
And she related the circumstances. Madeline listened with her eyes on the ceiling.
“We shall be married very soon,” Barbara added; “as soon as a house can be chosen. Of course it must be in London, or very near. We shall go somewhere or other, and then, very likely, pay a formal visit to the ‘place in Lincolnshire.’ Think of that! Sir Roland seems a good sort of man; he will welcome us. Think of visiting at the ‘place in Lincolnshire’! Isn’t it all like a dream?”
“What will mamma do without you?”
“Oh, Zillah is to come home. We’ll see about that.”
“I suppose he forgot to bring me some flowers today?”
“No But I declare I forgot to bring them up. I’ll fetch them at once.”
She did so, running downstairs and up again like a child, with a jump at the landings. The flowers were put in the usual place. Madeline looked at them, and listened to her sister’s chatter for five minutes. Then she said absently:
“Go away now, please. I’ve heard enough for the present.”
“You shall have all sorts of comforts, Maddy.”
“Go away, Barbara.”
The sister obeyed, looking back with compassion from the door. She closed it softly, and in the room there was the old perfect stillness. Madeline had let her eyelids fall, and the white face against the white pillows was like that of one dead. But upon the eyelashes there presently shone a tear; it swelled, broke away, and left a track of moisture. Poor white face, with the dark hair softly shadowing its temples! Poor troubled brain, wearying itself in idle questioning of powers that heeded not!
MULTUM IN PARVO
Elgar’s marriage had been a great success. For a year and a half, for even more than that, he had lived the fullest and most consistent life of which he was capable; what proportion of the sons of men can look back on an equal span of time in their own existence and say the same of it?