Mr. Balch here endeavoured to assist in pacifying the two little mourners.
“Why don’t father come?” asked Clarence. “Have you seen him, Mr. Walters?”
Mr. Walters was quite taken aback by this inquiry, which clearly showed that the children were still unaware of the extent of their misfortunes. “I’ve seen him, my child,” said he, evasively; “you’ll see him before long.” And fearful of further questioning, he left the house, promising soon to return.
Unable longer to endure her anxiety respecting her father, Esther determined not to await the return of Mr. Walters, which had already been greatly delayed, but to go herself in search of him. It had occurred to her that, instead of returning from the Garies direct to them, he had probably gone to his own home to see if it had been disturbed during the night.
Encouraged by this idea, without consulting any one, she hastily put on her cloak and bonnet, and took the direction of her home. Numbers of people were wending their way to the lower part of the city, to gratify their curiosity by gazing upon the havoc made by the rioters during the past night.
Esther found her home a heap of smoking ruins; some of the neighbours who recognized her gathered round, expressing their sympathy and regret. But she seemed comparatively careless respecting the loss of their property; and in answer to their kind expressions, could only ask, “Have you seen my father?—do you know where my father is?”
None, however, had seen him; and after gazing for a short time upon the ruins of what was once a happy home, she turned mournfully away, and walked back to Mr. Walters’s.
“Has father come?” she inquired, as soon as the door was opened. “Not yet!” was the discouraging reply: “and Mr. Walters, he hasn’t come back, either, miss!”
Esther stood for some moments hesitating whether to go in, or to proceed in her search. The voice of her mother calling her from the stairway decided her, and she went in.
Mrs. Ellis and Caddy wept freely on learning from Esther the destruction of their home. This cause of grief, added to the anxiety produced by the prolonged absence of Mr. Ellis, rendered them truly miserable.
Whilst they were condoling with one another, Mr. Walters returned. He was unable to conceal his fears that something had happened to Mr. Ellis, and frankly told them so; he also gave a detailed account of what had befallen the Garies, to the great horror and grief of all.
As soon as arrangements could be made, Mr. Walters and Esther set out in search of her father. All day long they went from place to place, but gained no tidings of him; and weary and disheartened they returned at night, bringing with them the distressing intelligence of their utter failure to procure any information respecting him.
The Lost One Found.