Mr. Povey came in to supper, laden with ledgers and similar works which Constance had never even pretended to understand. It was a sign from him that the honeymoon was over. He was proprietor now, and his ardour for ledgers most justifiable. Still, there was the question of her servant.
“Never!” he exclaimed, when she told him all about the end of the world. A ‘never’ which expressed extreme astonishment and the liveliest concern!
But Constance had anticipated that he would have been just a little more knocked down, bowled over, staggered, stunned, flabbergasted. In a swift gleam of insight she saw that she had been in danger of forgetting her role of experienced, capable married woman.
“I shall have to set about getting a fresh one,” she said hastily, with an admirable assumption of light and easy casualness.
Mr. Povey seemed to think that Hollins would suit Maggie pretty well. He made no remark to the betrothed when she answered the final bell of the night.
He opened his ledgers, whistling.
“I think I shall go up, dear,” said Constance. “I’ve a lot of things to put away.”
“Do,” said he. “Call out when you’ve done.”
“Sam!” she cried from the top of the crooked stairs.
No answer. The door at the foot was closed.
“Hello?” Distantly, faintly.
“I’ve done all I’m going to do to-night.”
And she ran back along the corridor, a white figure in the deep gloom, and hurried into bed, and drew the clothes up to her chin.
In the life of a bride there are some dramatic moments. If she has married the industrious apprentice, one of those moments occurs when she first occupies the sacred bed-chamber of her ancestors, and the bed on which she was born. Her parents’ room had always been to Constance, if not sacred, at least invested with a certain moral solemnity. She could not enter it as she would enter another room. The course of nature, with its succession of deaths, conceptions, and births, slowly makes such a room august with a mysterious quality which interprets the grandeur of mere existence and imposes itself on all. Constance had the strangest sensations in that bed, whose heavy dignity of ornament symbolized a past age; sensations of sacrilege and trespass, of being a naughty girl to whom punishment would accrue for this shocking freak. Not since she was quite tiny had she slept in that bed—one night with her mother, before her father’s seizure, when he had been away. What a limitless, unfathomable bed it was then! Now it was just a bed—so she had to tell herself—like any other bed. The tiny child that, safely touching its mother, had slept in the vast expanse, seemed to her now a pathetic little thing; its image made her feel melancholy. And her mind dwelt on sad events: the death of her father, the flight of darling Sophia; the immense