“When women know, they will not shirk. So many of us are children yet. We’ve got to grow up.” Stooping, I kissed her. “In Scarborough Square I’ve learned to see it’s a pretty wasteful world I’ve lived in. And life is short, Kitty. There’s not a moment of it to be wasted.”
Mrs. Mundy cannot find Etta Blake. She went this morning to the house just opposite the box-factory, but no one is living there. A “For Rent” sign is on it. After trying, without success, to find from the families who live in the neighborhood where the people who once occupied the house have gone, she went to the agent, but from him also she could learn nothing.
“They were named Banch. A man and his wife and three children lived in the house, but where they’ve moved nobody could tell me, or give me a thing to go on. They went away between sun-up and sun-down and no one knows where.” Mrs. Mundy, who had come to my sitting-room to make report, before taking off her coat and hat, sat down in a chair near the desk at which I had been writing, and smoothed the fingers of her gloves with careful precision. She was disappointed and distressed that she had so little to tell me.
“I couldn’t find a soul who’d ever heard of a girl named Etta Blake. Poor people are generally sociable and know everybody in the neighborhood, but didn’t anybody know her. Mr. Parke, the agent, said the man paid his rent regular and he was sorry to lose him as a tenant, but he didn’t know where he’d gone. If his wife took boarders he didn’t know anything about it. The girl might have rented a room—” Mrs. Mundy hesitated, looked at me uncertainly. “Shall I ask Mr. Crimm to—to help me find her? If she’s in town he’d soon know where.”
Something in her voice sent the blood to my face. “You mean—oh no, you cannot, do not mean—”
“I don’t know. It’s usually the end. The only one they have to come to when a man like Mr. Thorne’s brother makes a girl lose her head about him. After he tires of her, or when he’s afraid there may be trouble, there’s apt to be a row and he quits. When he’s gone the girl generally ends—down there.” Mrs. Mundy’s hand made movement over her shoulder. “Respectable people don’t want to have anything to do with girls like that, and it’s hard for them to get work. After a while they give up and go to what’s the only place some of them have to go to. Would you mind if I ask Mr. Crimm?”
I shook my head. “No, I would not mind.”
Going over to a window, I opened it, and as the sunshine fell upon my face it seemed impossible that such things as Mrs. Mundy feared were true. But I knew now they were true, and shiveringly I twisted my hands within my arms as if to warm my heart, which was cold with a nameless something it was difficult to define. On one side of me the little, elfish creature with her frightened eyes and short, curly hair seemed standing; on the other, the girl to whom Harrie was engaged. I could not help them. Could not help Selwyn. Could help no one! If David Guard—at thought of him the clutch at my throat lessened. David Guard could help them. He had promised to come whenever I sent for him, and to him I could talk as to no one else on earth.