But, when the cruel wheels began to crunch upon the gravel, the great tears welling to her eyes blotted him from sight. Blindly she made her way up to her room, and throwing herself upon the bed let her unrestrained sorrow loose, feeling that she was indeed desolate and alone.
When Angela was still quite a child, the permanent inhabitants of Sherborne Lane, King William Street, in the city of London, used to note a very pretty girl, of small statue and modest ways, passing out —every evening after the city gentlemen had locked up their offices and gone home—from the quiet of the lane into the roar and rush of the city. This young girl was Mildred James, the only daughter of a struggling, a very struggling, city doctor, and her daily mission was to go to the cheap markets, and buy the provisions that were to last the Sherborne Lane household (for her father lived in the same rooms that he practised in) for the ensuing twenty-four hours. The world was a hard place for poor Mildred in those days of provision hunting, when so little money had to pay for so many necessaries, and to provide also for the luxuries that were necessaries to her invalid mother. Some years later, when she was a sweet maiden of eighteen, her mother died, but medical competition was keen in Sherborne Lane, and her removal did not greatly alleviate the pressure of poverty. At last, one evening, when she was about twenty years of age, a certain Mr. Carr, an old gentleman with whom her father had some acquaintance, sent up a card with a pencilled message on it to the effect that he would be glad to see Dr. James.
“Run, Mildred,” said her father, “and tell Mr. Carr that I will be with him in a minute. It will never do to see a new patient in this coat.”
Mildred departed, and, gliding into the gloomy consulting-room like a sunbeam, delivered her message to the old gentleman, who appeared to be in some pain, and prepared to return.
“Don’t go away,” almost shouted the aged patient; “I have crushed my finger in a door, and it hurts most confoundedly. You are something to look at in this hole, and distract my attention.”
Mildred thought to herself that this was an odd way of paying a compliment, if it was meant for one; but then, old gentlemen with crushed fingers are not given to weighing their words.
“Are you Dr. James’ daughter?” he asked, presently.
“Ugh, I have lived most of my life in Sherborne Lane, and never saw anything half so pretty in it before. Confound this finger!”
At this moment the doctor himself arrived, and wanted to dismiss Mildred, but Mr. Carr, who was a headstrong old gentleman, vowed that no one else should hold his injured hand whilst it was dressed, and so she stayed just long enough for him to fall as completely in love with her shell-like face was though he had been twenty instead of nearly seventy.