Edgar drank his tea slowly as he waited. He held the tea cup between his forefinger and thumb, touching as little of his mother’s fine china as he felt necessary. He took tiny sips, partially because the tea was too hot and he was afraid to tell his mother so, and partially because he had decided he did not like tea, and was also afraid to tell his mother so. His mother’s health had always been quite susceptible to disagreement. Now was certainly not the time to risk a collapse over a cup of tea.
“I thought you had no business to do while you visit? Hmm, Edgar?”
“Nor do I,” said Edgar, unsure where this was going.
“Then do quit watching the clock. You’re are making me nervous.” She fixed him with a reproachful stare as she wrapped her shawl more closely about her shoulders. She kept him fixed under her gaze, unflinching as Edgar’s eyes darted about the room, resting upon anything but the clock or his mother’s face. He finally found relief in staring out the garden window. Being early summer, the flowers were in first bloom and as pink and dainty as his mother’s parlor.
“Ah! I see your azaleas are looking quite well this year. Have you decided which flowers you will bring to the fair this year?” Not a very bright man, Edgar was quite pleased with himself for happening upon a his mother’s favorite hobby, gardening, to while the time away. Perhaps it would be better to say her favorite hobby was to over see the gardening. Mrs. Humboldt had always found grubbing about the dirt a vulgar habit. She preferred to give commands and over see the work from the windows of the house. She tended to make her way from room to room, peering from each window to ensure that each maintained a lovely view of her gardens. The servants, quite distressed by this habit, had to run about the cottage guessing which window she would appear in next to call out her orders.
Edgar, never one for subterfuge, was finding it difficult to keep his eyes off the clock. Luckily, his mother had called Helen, the maid, in to give a full account on the happenings in the garden. This gave Edgar some time to rehearse his plans in his head.
When I see him at the garden gate I shall say “Why Mother, here is Reverend Gleeson, come to call upon you. I suppose he has heard you are ill.” He mouthed these words to himself and vaguely waved his hands under the table, as though gesturing towards the window. I shall go to the door myself and bring him in, like a welcome guest. Once the customary bits are over with I will wait for a pause. I shall clear my throat-he quietly did so, eliciting a stern look from his mother, in the midst of correcting the poor maid’s account of the garden- and I shall ask him about the welfare of Mrs. Hawkins. Edgar continued throughout the girl’s questioning.
He began to act out his imagined conversation. Quite pleased with his imagined wit in conversation, he grinned foolishly and laced his fingers over his over large belly in satisfaction. Unaware that Helen had already stepped out of the room, the subtle movements and practiced facial expressions, along with a few phrases of his whispered conversation, had been caught by his mother. Suddenly realizing his error, he pulled out his handkerchief and mopped his brow, then fanned himself vigorously as though his peculiar behavior were due to the heat. “Quite a heat wave, dear mother, isn’t it? I am afraid I don’t agree with this heat at all. Not at all…” He chuckled nervously and then, suddenly, soberly stuffed the handkerchief back in his pocket. Mrs. Humboldt’s eyes narrowed. Again he glanced at the clock, remembered that he wasn’t to do so, wiped his palms vigorously on his trousers and hummed as he gazed absently about the room until he suddenly heard a knock on the door.
“Oh! Oh, dear! Mother, I do believe I had seen Reverend Gleeson coming up the walk just now. He must have come to tell- to see how you’ve been” Of course he had done no such thing. Having just been preoccupied with counting the roses on the wall papering, so as to avoid looking at the clock, he had completely forgotten to watch the garden gate. He skittered out of the room as his mother eyed him suspiciously. He paused in front of the door to regain his composure. Just a slight error, nothing to worry about, he told himself. Throwing wide the door he swept his arm in welcome to the foyer, bowing slightly. “Ah, Reverend, we are so pleased-” he sputtered. At the door was not Reverend Gleeson, but Mrs. Hawkins, a week too soon.
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