[Illustration: THE ROOM IN THE OLD GALLERY.]
“We will go to her, like children to a grandmother, etc. The others have no delicacy of sentiment, etc. And she will thus learn who really remember, really love her, etc.”
Provided with congratulatory bouquets, they set forth. It is very hard to find a dweller on the very sea-bottom of poverty. Perhaps that is why the effort is so seldom made. One has to ask at grocers’ shops, groggeries, market-stalls, Chinese restaurants; interview corner cobblers, ragpickers, gutter children. But nothing is impossible to the determined. The two ladies overcame all obstacles, and needled their way along, where under other circumstances they would not have glanced, would have thought it improper to glance.
They were directed through an old, old house, out on an old, old gallery, to a room at the very extreme end.
“Poor thing! Evidently she has not heard the good news yet. We will be the first to communicate it,” they whispered, standing before the dilapidated, withered-looking door.
Before knocking, they listened, as it is the very wisdom of discretion to do. There was life inside, a little kind of voice, like some one trying to hum a song with a very cracked old throat.
The ladies opened the door. “Ah, my friend!”
“Ah, my friend!”
“Just the same!”
“Exactly the same!”
It was which one would get to her first with bouquet and kiss, competition almost crowding friendship.
“The good news!”
“The good news!”
“We could not stay!”
“We had to come!”
“It has arrived at last!”
“At last it has arrived!”
The old lady was very much older, but still the same.
“You will again have a chance!”
“Restored to your friends!”
“Comforts! Luxuries!” At last the old lady had an opportunity to slip in a word. “And friends! You say right.”
There was a pause—a pause which held not a small measure of embarrassment. But the two visitors, although they were women of the world, and so dreaded an embarrassment more than they did sin, had prepared themselves even to stand this.
The old lady standing there—she was very much thinner, very much bent, but still the same—appeared to be looking not at them, but at their enumeration.
“Comfort!” She opened a pot bubbling on the fire. “Bouillon! A good five-cent bouillon. Luxury!” She picked up something from a chair, a handful of new cotton chemises. “Luxury!” She turned back her bedspread: new cotton sheets. “Did you ever lie in your bed at night and dream of sheets? Comfort! Luxury! I should say so! And friends! My dear, look!” Opening her door, pointing to an opposite gallery, to the yard, her own gallery; to the washing, ironing, sewing women, the cobbling, chair-making, carpentering men; to the screaming, laughing, crying, quarreling, swarming children. “Friends! All friends—friends for fifteen years. Ah, yes, indeed! We are all glad—elated in fact. As you say. I am restored.”