When Mrs. Cliff entered Edna’s room in a New York hotel, the latter was startled, almost frightened. She had expected her visitor, for she had had a telegram, but she scarcely recognized at the first glance the pale and haggard woman who had come to her.
“Sick!” exclaimed poor Mrs. Cliff, as she sank upon a sofa. “Yes, I am sick, but not in body, only in heart. Well, it is hard to tell you what is the matter. The nearest I can get to it is that it is wealth struck in, as measles sometimes strike in when they ought to come out properly, and one is just as dangerous as the other.”
When Mrs. Cliff had had something to eat and drink, and had begun to tell her tale, Edna listened with great interest and sympathy. But when the good lady had nearly finished, and was speaking of her resolution to confide everything to Mr. Perley, Edna’s gaze at her friend became very intent, and her hands tightly grasped the arms of the chair in which she was sitting.
“Mrs. Cliff,” said she, when the other had finished, “there is but one thing for you to do: you must go to Europe with us.”
“Now!” exclaimed Mrs. Cliff. “In the steamer you have engaged passage in? Impossible! I could not go home and settle up everything and come back in time.”
“But you must not go home,” said Edna. “You must not think of it. Your troubles would begin again as soon as you got there. You must stay here and go when we do.”
Mrs. Cliff stared at her. “But I have only a bag and the clothes I have on. I am not ready for a voyage. And there’s the house, with nobody but Willy in it. Don’t you see it would be impossible for me to go?”
“What you need for the passage,” said Edna, “you can buy here in a few hours, and everything else you can get on the other side a great deal cheaper and better than here. As to your house, you can write to that other lady to go there and stay with Miss Croup until you come back. I tell you, Mrs. Cliff, that all these things have become mere trifles to you. I dare say you could buy another house such as you own in Plainton, and scarcely miss the money. Compared to your health and happiness, the loss of that house, even if it should burn up while you are away, would be as a penny thrown to a beggar.”
“And there is my new trunk,” said Mrs. Cliff, “with my blankets and ever so many things locked up in it.”
“Let it stay there,” said Edna. “You will not need the blankets, and I don’t believe any one will pick the lock.”
“But how shall I explain my running away in such a fashion? What will they all think?”
“Simply write,” said Edna, “that you are going to Europe as companion to Mrs. Horn. If they think you are poor, that will explain everything. And you may add, if you choose, that Mrs. Horn is so anxious to have you, she will take no denial, and it is on account of her earnest entreaties that you are unable to go home and take leave in a proper way of your friends.”