“Oh! Well, he’ll probably be here in the morning,” Rachael said carelessly.
“Excuse me, Mrs. Breckenridge, but Mr. Breckenridge seemed to be a good deal worried about himself, and he had me call Doctor Gregory,” the man pursued respectfully.
“Doctor Gregory!” echoed his mistress, with a laugh like a wail. “Alfred, what were you thinking of! Why didn’t you call me?”
“He wouldn’t have me call you,” Alfred said unhappily. “He spoke to the doctor himself. We got the housekeeper first, and she said Doctor Gregory was dressing. ’Tell him it’s a matter of life and death,’ says Mr. Breckenridge. Then we got him. ‘I’m dining out,’ he says, ‘but I’ll be there this evening.’”
“Oh, dear, dear, dear!” Mrs. Breckenridge said half to herself in serio-comic desperation. “Gregory—called in for a—for a—for this! If I could get hold of him! He didn’t say where he was dining?”
“No, Mrs. Breckenridge,” the man answered, with a great air of efficiency.
“Well, Alfred, I wish sometimes you knew a little more—or a little less!” Rachael said dispassionately. “Light a fire in the library, will you? I’ll have my dinner there. Tell Ellie to send me up something broiled—nothing messy—and some strong coffee.”
The coffee was strong. Mrs. Breckenridge found it soothing to rasped nerves and tired body, and after the dinner things had been cleared away she sat on beside the library fire, under the soft arc of light from the library lamp, sipping the stimulating fluid, and staring at the snapping and flashing logs.
A sense of merely physical well-being crept through her body, and for a little time even her active brain was quieter; she forgot the man now heavily sleeping upstairs, the pretty little tyrant who had rushed off to dinner at the Chases’, and the many perplexing elements in her own immediate problem. She saw only the quiet changes in the fire as yellow flame turned to blue—sank, rose, and sank again.
The house was still. Kitchenward, to be sure, there was a great deal of cheerful laughter and chatter, as Ellie, sitting heavily ensconced in the largest rocker, embroidered a centrepiece for her sister’s birthday, Annie read fortunes in the teacups, Alfred imitated the supercilious manner of a lady who had called that afternoon upon Mrs. Breckenridge, and Helda, a milk-blond Dane with pink-rimmed eyes, laughed with infantile indiscrimination at everything, blushing an agonized scarlet whenever Alfred’s admiring eye met her own.
But the kitchen was not within hearing distance of the quiet room where Rachael sat alone, and as the soft spring night wore on no sound came to disturb her revery. It was not the first solitary evening she had had of late, for Clarence had been more than usually reckless, and was developing in his wife, although she did not realize it herself, a habit of introspection quite foreign to her real nature.