Again the room grew still and presently, with dragging steps, Etta turned toward the door. Quickly I followed her. She must not go. I had said nothing, gotten nowhere, and there was much that must be said that something might be done. To have her leave without some plan to work toward would be loss of time. She was but one of thousands of bits of human wreckage, in danger herself and of danger to others, and somebody must do something for her. I put my hand on her shoulder to draw her back and as I did so the door, half ajar, opened more widely. Motionless, and as one transfixed, she stared at it wide-eyed, and into her face crept the pallor of death.
Selwyn and Harrie were standing in the doorway.
Stumbling back as if struck, Harrie leaned against the door-frame, and the hat in his hand dropped to the floor. Selwyn, too, for a half-minute drew back, then he came inside and spoke to Etta, and to me, and to Mrs. Mundy, and to Kitty. Pushing a chair close to the fire, he took Harrie by the arm and led him to it.
“Sit down,” he said, quietly. “You’ll be better in a minute.”
Harrie had given Etta no sign of recognition, but the horror in his once-handsome face, now white and drawn, told of his shock at finding her with me, and fear and recoil weakened him to the point of faintness. In his effort to recover himself, to resist what might be coming, he struggled as one for breath, but from him came no word, no sound.
Infinite pity for Selwyn made it impossible for me to speak for a moment, and before words would come Mrs. Mundy and Kitty had gone out of the room and Selwyn had turned to Etta.
With shoulders again drawn back, and eyes dark with fear and defiance, she looked at him. “Why have you come here?” she asked. “What are you going to do? You’ve taken him home and left me to go back to where he drove me. Isn’t that enough? Why have you brought him here?”
“To ask Miss Heath to say what he must do. That is why I have come.” Pushing the trembling girl in a chair behind Harrie’s, Selwyn looked up at me. “You must decide what is to be done, Dandridge. This is a matter beyond a man’s judgment. I do not seem able to think clearly. You must tell me what to do.”
“I? Oh no! It is not for me. Surely you cannot mean that I must tell you—” The blood in my body surged thickly, and I drew back, appalled that such decision should be laid upon me, such responsibility be mine. “What is it you want—of me?”
“To tell me—what Harrie must do.” In Selwyn’s face was the whiteness of death, but his voice was quiet. “I did not know, until David Guard told me, that there was a child, and that Harrie was its father, and that because of the child Etta would not go away as I had tried to make her. I did not know she had no father or brother to see that, as far as possible, her wrong is righted. I want you to forget that Harrie is my brother and remember the girl, and tell me—what he must do.”