"Who is come?" asked Ruth. The idea of Mrs. Mason flashed through her mind--but with a more terrible, because a more vague, dread she heard that it was his mother; the mother of whom he had always spoken as a person whose opinion was to be regarded more than that of any other individual.
"What must I do? Will she be angry with me?" said she, relapsing into her child-like dependence on others; and feeling that even Mrs. Morgan was some one to stand between her and Mrs. Bellingham.
Mrs. Morgan herself was a little perplexed. Her morality was rather shocked at the idea of a proper real lady like Mrs. Bellingham discovering that she had winked at the connection between her son and Ruth. She was quite inclined to encourage Ruth in her inclination to shrink out of Mrs. Bellingham's observation, an inclination which arose from no definite consciousness of having done wrong, but principally from the representations she had always heard of the lady's awfulness. Mrs. Bellingham swept into her son's room as if she were unconscious what poor young creature had lately haunted it; while Ruth hurried into some unoccupied bedroom, and, alone there, she felt her self-restraint suddenly give way, and burst into the saddest, most utterly wretched weeping she had ever known. She was worn out with watching, and exhausted by passionate crying, and she lay down on the bed and fell asleep. The day passed on; she slumbered unnoticed and unregarded; she awoke late in the evening with a sense of having done wrong in sleeping so long; the strain upon her responsibility had not yet left her. Twilight was closing fast around; she waited until it had become night, and then she stole down to Mrs. Morgan's parlour.
"If you please, may I come in?" asked she.
Jenny Morgan was doing up the hieroglyphics which she called her accounts; she answered sharp enough, but it was a permission to enter, and Ruth was thankful for it.
"Will you tell me how he is? Do you think I may go back to him?"
"No, indeed, that you may not. Nest, who has made his room tidy these many days, is not fit to go in now. Mrs. Bellingham has brought her own maid, and the family nurse and Mr. Bellingham's man; such a tribe of servants, and no end to packages; water-beds coming by the carrier, and a doctor from London coming down to-morrow, as if feather-beds and Mr. Jones was not good enough. Why, she won't let a soul of us into the room; there's no chance for you!"
Ruth sighed. "How is he?" she inquired, after a pause.