“Of course it must be done,” she said. “Granny knows what she wants, and we must carry out all her wishes. Shall I write the telegram for you, Auntie? If it goes at once Ellen can probably catch tomorrow morning’s train.” She pronounced the syllables of the name with a peculiar clearness, as if she had tapped on two silver bells.
“Well, it can’t go at once. Jasper and the pantry-boy are both out with notes and telegrams.”
May turned to her husband with a smile. “But here’s Newland, ready to do anything. Will you take the telegram, Newland? There’ll be just time before luncheon.”
Archer rose with a murmur of readiness, and she seated herself at old Catherine’s rosewood “Bonheur du Jour,” and wrote out the message in her large immature hand. When it was written she blotted it neatly and handed it to Archer.
“What a pity,” she said, “that you and Ellen will cross each other on the way!—Newland,” she added, turning to her mother and aunt, “is obliged to go to Washington about a patent law-suit that is coming up before the Supreme Court. I suppose Uncle Lovell will be back by tomorrow night, and with Granny improving so much it doesn’t seem right to ask Newland to give up an important engagement for the firm—does it?”
She paused, as if for an answer, and Mrs. Welland hastily declared: “Oh, of course not, darling. Your Granny would be the last person to wish it.” As Archer left the room with the telegram, he heard his mother-in-law add, presumably to Mrs. Lovell Mingott: “But why on earth she should make you telegraph for Ellen Olenska—” and May’s clear voice rejoin: “Perhaps it’s to urge on her again that after all her duty is with her husband.”
The outer door closed on Archer and he walked hastily away toward the telegraph office.
“Ol-ol—howjer spell it, anyhow?” asked the tart young lady to whom Archer had pushed his wife’s telegram across the brass ledge of the Western Union office.
“Olenska—O-len-ska,” he repeated, drawing back the message in order to print out the foreign syllables above May’s rambling script.
“It’s an unlikely name for a New York telegraph office; at least in this quarter,” an unexpected voice observed; and turning around Archer saw Lawrence Lefferts at his elbow, pulling an imperturbable moustache and affecting not to glance at the message.
“Hallo, Newland: thought I’d catch you here. I’ve just heard of old Mrs. Mingott’s stroke; and as I was on my way to the house I saw you turning down this street and nipped after you. I suppose you’ve come from there?”
Archer nodded, and pushed his telegram under the lattice.
“Very bad, eh?” Lefferts continued. “Wiring to the family, I suppose. I gather it is bad, if you’re including Countess Olenska.”
Archer’s lips stiffened; he felt a savage impulse to dash his fist into the long vain handsome face at his side.