The inexorable minutes passed. Mavis stood before the open grave. Miss Toombs, ashamed of her earlier timidity, stood beside her. Windebank, erect and bare-headed, was a little behind. As the box containing her baby disappeared, Mavis felt as if the life were being mercilessly drawn from her. It was as if she stood there for untold ages. Then it seemed as if her heart were torn out by the roots. Blinded with pain, she found herself being led by Miss Toombs towards the carriage in which she had been driven from Melkbridge. But Mavis would not get into this. Followed by her friend, she struck into a by-path which led into a lane. Here she walked dry-eyed, numbed with pain, in a world that was hatefully strange. Then Miss Toombs made brave efforts to talk commonplaces, while tears streamed from her eyes. The top of Mavis’s head seemed both hot and cold at the same time; she wondered if it would burst. Then, with a sharp bark of delight, Jill sprang from the hedge to jump delightedly about her mistress. Mavis knelt down and pressed her lips to her faithful friend’s nose. At the same moment, the wind carried certain sounds to her ears from the direction of Melkbridge. Mavis looked up. The expression of fear which Miss Toombs’s face wore confirmed her suspicions. Suddenly, Miss Toombs flung herself upon Mavis, and clapped her hands against the suffering woman’s ears.
“Don’t listen! don’t listen!” screamed Miss Toombs.
But Mavis thrust aside the other woman’s arms, to hear the sound of wedding bells, which were borne to her by the wind.
Mavis listened intently for some moments, the while Miss Toombs fearfully watched her. Then, Mavis placed her hands to her head, and laughed and laughed and laughed, till Miss Toombs thought that she was never going to stop.
Mavis’s ride to Pennington was her last appearance out of doors for many a long day. For weeks she lay at Mrs Trivett’s on the borderland of death. For nights on end, it was the merest chance whether or not she would live to see another dawn; but, in the end, youth, aided by skilful doctoring and careful nursing, prevailed against the dread illness which had fastened on her brain. As she slowly got better, the blurred shadows which had previously hovered about her took shape into doctor, nurses, and Mrs Trivett. When they told her how ill she had been, and how much better she was, despair filled her heart. She had no wish to live; her one desire was to join her little one beyond the grave.
A time came when the improvement which had set in was not maintained; she failed to get better, yet did not become worse, although Mavis rejoiced in the belief that her health was daily declining. Often, she would wake in the night to listen with glad ears to the incessant ticking of the American clock on the mantelpiece. If alone she would say: