“You can’t get her. She’s out the prayer-meeting by now and gone to see somebody who sent for her. I don’t know who it is, and I ain’t by myself. Miss Sallie Jenks is sitting with me while grannie’s out.” Bettina’s tones were energetic. She turned to me. “You needn’t stay back on my account, Miss Danny. Aren’t you going?”
“Yes—I’m going.” I walked toward my bedroom. At its door I stopped. “I’m sorry, Selwyn, but I’ll have to go. The woman is dying.”
Selwyn’s teeth came together sharply and in his eyes were disapproval and protest. For a half-minute he did not speak, then he faced me.
“If you insist, there’s nothing to be said except that I am going with you. Where’s your telephone? I’ll get a cab.”
“Oh no! You must not go.” Back to the door, I leaned against it. “You’ve never seen things of this kind. They’re—they’re—”
“No pleasanter for you than for me.” His voice was decisive; but his eyes were no longer on mine. They were on Jimmy Gibbons’s shoes with the big and ragged hole in one of them through which the bare skin of his foot showed red and raw. He drew in his breath; turned to me. “Put on warm things. It’s pretty cold to-night.”
Jimmy followed me into the taxi, and as Selwyn snapped the door he huddled in an opposite corner as if effacement were an obligation required by the situation in which he found himself. But he had never been in an automobile before, and his sense of awe soon yielded to eager anxiety to miss no thrill of the unexpected experience. His face was pressed against the glass pane of the door before we had gone two blocks, in the hope that he might see some one who would see him in the glory of an adventure long hoped for and long delayed and Selwyn and I were forgotten in the joy of a dream come true.
There was time to tell Selwyn but little of the woman I was going to see. Mrs. Gibbons’s home was only a short distance from Scarborough Square, and before I could do more than give the briefest explanation of Mrs. Cotter’s condition, of her long hours of work and lack of home life, the cab had stopped, and Jimmy, springing out, hopped, on his unhurt foot, to the sagging gate of his little yard and opened it for us to pass through. Going up the broken steps, I pushed open the partly closed door and went in.
A faint light from a kerosene-lamp, set on a bracket in the wall at the far end of the hall, caused weird shadows to flicker on the floor and up the narrow staircase, and for a half-minute Selwyn and I waited until we could see where we should go. From the middle room we could hear hoarse and labored breathing and the stir of footsteps on the bare floor. Putting my hand on the door-knob, I was about to turn it when Mrs. Gibbons came out, holding Mrs. Cotter’s little girl by the hand.
“I’m glad you’ve come. She keeps calling for you.” Her voice was the monotone of old, and, as unmoved as ever, she nodded to me and then looked at Selwyn. “Is he a doctor? Did he come to see her?”