Widowed in spirit, still Rachael was continually reminded that she was not actually widowed, and in the hurt that came to her, even in these first months, she found a chilling premonition of the years to come. Warm-hearted Vera Villalonga wrote impulsively from the large establishment at Lakewood that she had acquired for the early winter. She had heard that Rachael and Greg weren’t exactly hitting it off—hoped to the Lord it wasn’t true—anyway, Rachael had been perfectly horrible about seeing her old friends; couldn’t she come at once to Vera, lots of the old crowd were there, and spend a month? Mrs. Barker Emery, meeting Rachael on one of the rare occasions when Rachael went into the city, asked pleasantly for the boys, and pleasantly did not ask for Warren. Belvedere Bay was gayer than ever this year, Mrs. Emory said; did Rachael know that the Duchess of Exton was visiting Mary Moulton—such a dear! Georgiana Vanderwall, visiting the Thomases at Easthampton, motored over one day to spend a sympathetic half morning with Rachael, pressing that lady’s unresponsive hand with her own large, capable one, and murmuring that of course—one heard—that the Bishop of course felt dreadfully—they only hoped—both such dear sweet people—
Rachael felt as if she would like to take a bath after this well-meant visitation. A day or two later she had a letter from Florence, who said that “someone” had told her that the Gregorys might not be planning to keep their wonderful cook this winter. If that was true, would Rachael be so awfully good as to ask her to go see Mrs. Haviland?
“The pack,” Rachael said to Alice, “is ready to run again!”
November turned chilly, and in its second week there was even a flutter of snow at Clark’s Hills. Rachael did not dislike it, and it was a huge adventure to the boys. Nevertheless, she began to feel that a longer stay down on the bleak coast might be unwise. The old house, for all its purring furnace and double windows, was draughty enough to admit icy little fingers of the outside air, here and there, and the village, getting under storm shutters and closing up this wing or that room for the winter, was so businesslike in its preparations as to fill Rachael’s heart with mild misgivings.
Alice still brought her brood down for the week-ends, and it was on one of these that Rachael suddenly decided to move. The two women discussed it, Rachael finally agreeing to go to the Valentines’ for a week before going on to Boston—or it might be Washington or Philadelphia—any other city than the one in which she might encounter the boys’ father. Alice had never won her to promise a visit before, and although Rachael’s confidence in her— for Rachael neither extracted a promise from Alice as to any possible encounter with Warren, nor reminded her friend that she placed herself entirely at Alice’s mercy—rather