“IT is a splendid boy,” said the nurse as she came in with the new-born baby in her arms, “and perfect as a bit of sculpture. Just look at that hand.”
“Faugh!” ejaculated Mrs. Dinneford, to whom this was addressed. Her countenance expressed disgust. She turned her head away. “Hide the thing from my sight!” she added, angrily. “Cover it up! smother it if you will!”
“You are still determined?” said the nurse.
“Determined, Mrs. Bray; I am not the woman to look back when I have once resolved. You know me.” Mrs. Dinneford said this passionately.
The two women were silent for a little while. Mrs. Bray, the nurse, kept her face partly turned from Mrs. Dinneford. She was a short, dry, wiry little woman, with French features, a sallow complexion and very black eyes.
The doctor looked in. Mrs. Dinneford went quickly to the door, and putting her hand on his arm, pressed him back, going out into the entry with him and closing the door behind them. They talked for a short time very earnestly.
“The whole thing is wrong,” said the doctor as he turned to go, “and I will not be answerable for the consequences.”
“No one will require them at your hand, Doctor Radcliffe,” replied Mrs. Dinneford. “Do the best you can for Edith. As for the rest, know nothing, say nothing. You understand.”
Doctor Burt Radcliffe had a large practice among rich and fashionable people. He had learned to be very considerate of their weaknesses, peculiarities and moral obliquities. His business was to doctor them when sick, to humor them when they only thought themselves sick, and to get the largest possible fees for his, services. A great deal came under his observation that he did not care to see, and of which he saw as little as possible. From policy he had learned to be reticent. He held family secrets enough to make, in the hands of a skillful writer, more than a dozen romances of the saddest and most exciting character.
Mrs. Dinneford knew him thoroughly, and just how far to trust him. “Know nothing, say nothing” was a good maxim in the case, and so she divulged only the fact that the baby was to be cast adrift. His weak remonstrance might as well not have been spoken, and he knew it.
While this brief interview was in progress, Nurse Bray sat with the baby on her lap. She had taken the soft little hands into her own; and evil and cruel though she was, an impulse of tenderness flowed into her heart from the angels who were present with the innocent child. It grew lovely in her eyes. Its helplessness stirred in her a latent instinct of protection. “No no, it must not be,” she was saying to herself, when the door opened and Mrs. Dinneford came back.
Mrs. Bray did not lift her head, but sat looking down at the baby and toying with its hands.
“Pshaw!” ejaculated Mrs. Dinneford, in angry disgust, as she noticed this manifestation of interest. “Bundle the thing up and throw into that basket. Is the woman down stairs?”