Still, she had her moments of weakness, and on this warm day of the spring she felt vaguely disappointed with life. Rachael’s hints of divorce had filled her with a real apprehension; she felt a good aunt’s concern at Billy’s reckless course, and a good sister’s disapproval of Clarence and his besetting sin.
But it was not these considerations that darkened her full handsome face as she went up the steps of her big, widespread country mansion; it was some vaguer, more subtle discontent. She had not dressed herself for the sudden warmth of the day, and her heavy flowered hat and trim veil had given her a headache. The blazing sunlight on white steps and blooming flowers blinded her, and when she stepped into the dark, cool hall she could hardly see.
The three girls were there, well-bred, homely girls, in their simple linens: Charlotte, a rather severe type, eyeglassed at eighteen, her thick, light-brown hair plainly brushed off her face and knotted on her neck, was obviously the opposite of everything Billy was; conscientious, intellectual, and conscious of her own righteousness, she could not compete with her cousin in Billy’s field; she very sensibly made the best of her own field. Isabelle was a stout, clumsy girl of sixteen, with a metal bar across her large white teeth, red hair, and a creamy skin. Little Florence was only nine, a thin, freckled, sensitive child, with a shy, unsmiling passion for dogs and horses, and little in common with the rest of the world.
Their mother had expected sons in every case, and still felt a little baffled by the fact of her children’s sex. Charlotte proving a girl, she had said gallantly that she must have a little brother “to play with Charlotte.” Isabelle, duly arriving, probably played with Charlotte much more amiably than a brother would have done, and Mrs. Haviland blandly accepted her existence, but in her heart she was far from feeling satisfied. She was, of course, an absolutely competent mother to girls, but she felt that she would have been a more capable and wonderful mother to boys.
More than six years after Isabelle’s birth Florence Haviland began to talk smilingly of “my boy.” “Gardner worships the girls,” she said, with wifely indulgence, “but I know he wants a son—and the girlies need a brother!” A resigned shrug ended the sentence with: “So I’m in for the whole thing again!”
It was said that Mrs. Haviland greeted the news that the third child was a daughter with a mechanically bright smile, as one puzzled beyond all words by perverse event, and that her spoken comment was the single mild ejaculation: “Extraordinary!”