Jacqueline was late. In the quarter of an hour between six o’clock and a quarter past, Sophia suffered the supreme pangs of despair and verged upon insanity. It appeared to her that her cranium would blow off under pressure from within. Then the door opened silently, a few inches. Usually Jacqueline came into the room, but sometimes she stood behind the door and called in her soft, trembling voice, “Fossette! Fossette!” And on this morning she did not come into the room. The dog did not immediately respond. Sophia was in an agony. She marshalled all her volition, all her self-control and strength, to shout:
It came out of her, a horribly difficult and misshapen birth, but it came. She was exhausted.
“Yes, madame.” Jacqueline entered.
As soon as she had a glimpse of Sophia she threw up her hands. Sophia stared at her, wordless.
“I will fetch the doctor—myself,” whispered Jacqueline, and fled.
“Jacqueline!” The woman stopped. Then Sophia determined to force herself to make a speech, and she braced her muscles to an unprecedented effort. “Say not a word to the others.” She could not bear that the whole household should know of her illness. Jacqueline nodded and vanished, the dog following. Jacqueline understood. She lived in the place with her mistress as with a fellow-conspirator.
Sophia began to feel better. She could get into a sitting posture, though the movement made her dizzy. By working to the foot of the bed she could see herself in the glass of the wardrobe. And she saw that the lower part of her face was twisted out of shape.
The doctor, who knew her, and who earned a lot of money in her house, told her frankly what had happened. Paralysie glosso-labio-laryngee was the phrase he used. She understood. A very slight attack; due to overwork and worry. He ordered absolute rest and quiet.
“Impossible!” she said, genuinely convinced that she alone was indispensable.
“Repose the most absolute!” he repeated.
She marvelled that a few words with a man who chanced to be named Peel-Swynnerton could have resulted in such a disaster, and drew a curious satisfaction from this fearful proof that she was so highly-strung. But even then she did not realize how profoundly she had been disturbed.
“My darling Sophia—”
The inevitable miracle had occurred. Her suspicions concerning that Mr. Peel-Swynnerton were well-founded, after all! Here was a letter from Constance! The writing on the envelope was not Constance’s; but even before examining it she had had a peculiar qualm. She received letters from England nearly every day asking about rooms and prices (and on many of them she had to pay threepence excess postage, because the writers carelessly or carefully forgot that a penny stamp was not sufficient); there was