There was a new note in the passionate, tender voice. Linda was all alive for the few seconds he needed her, then she sank into her voiceless apathy again, and the short winter afternoon wore away, and there was no change. The doctor came, the nurse returned, Fred appeared at the door. After awhile it was dark, and a shaded lamp was lighted, and Harriet went downstairs, to the world of subdued voices, and smothered sobs, and fearful glances. And always horror brooded over the little house, and over the simple, normal family living that had been so taken for granted a few days before.
Harriet talked to the little girls, and while they were going to bed amused Nammy, whose lighter attack of the disease, a week ago, had begun the siege. Fred, tenderly attempting to reassure his daughters, buttoned his small son into woollen sleeping-wear, brought the inevitable drink, heard the garbled prayers, glancing now and then toward the door, as if fearing a summons, and looking, Harriet thought, stooped and gray and suddenly old.
She took Linda’s place for an hour, but before it was up the mother came back, and they kept their vigil together. Fred answered the strange, untimely ringing of the door-bell, brought in packages, conferred in the halls with the doctors. Midnight came, two o’clock, four o’clock.
Suddenly there was panic. Harriet, by chance in the hall, saw Linda and Fred and the doctors together, heard Linda’s quick, anguished “Yes!” and Fred’s hoarse “Anything!” Her heart pounded; the nurse ran upstairs. Harriet fell upon her knees with a sobbing whisper, “No—no—no!” and Linda clung to her husband with a cry torn, from the deeps of her heart, “Oh, Pip—my own boy!”
They were all needed; they were back in the sick room, there was hurry, quick whispers, breathless replies. No time to think now, though Harriet cast more than one agonized glance at Linda’s drawn face, and nodded more than once to Fred that she should not be here. The child protested with a choked cry; and Linda’s voice, that new, deep, terrible voice, answered him, “Never mind, my dearest—just a minute, that’s all! Mother is taking care of you!” And Harriet heard her sister say, in a breath almost inaudible: “Thy will be done—Thy will be done!”
Dawn came slowly and reluctantly at seven; the village lay bleak and closed under a sky of unbroken gray. Here and there smoke streamed upward from a chimney, or a window-pane showed an oblong of pale light. The dirty snow, frozen in thick lumps about the yard, was trodden by a furtive black cat, that mounted a fence and meowed desolately.
Harriet saw this from Linda’s kitchen, when she put out the light that was becoming unnecessary. But her heart was singing for joy, and the house was brimful of an inner light and cheer that no winter bleakness could touch. The girl had been crying until she was almost blind, but it was a crying mixed with laughter and prayers of utter thankfulness. She and Fred had built up a roaring fire, had given the nurse a royal breakfast, had had their own coffee, and now Harriet was waiting for Linda, in that mood when the commonplaces of life take on an exquisite flavour, and just to be free to eat and sleep and live is luxury.