Next morning the landlady came up to say that if, as she assumed from my name, I was Irish and a Catholic, I might like to receive a visit from a Sister of Mercy who called at the house at intervals to attend to the sick.
I thought I saw in a moment that this was a subterfuge, but feeling that my identity was suspected I dared not give cause for further suspicion, so I compelled myself to agree.
A few minutes later, having got up and dressed, I was standing with my back to the window, feeling like one who would soon have to face an attack, when a soft footstep came up my corridor and a gentle hand knocked at my door.
“Come in,” I cried, trembling like the last leaf at the end of a swinging bough.
And then an astonishing thing happened.
A young woman stepped quietly into the room and closed the door behind her. She was wearing the black and white habit of the Little Sisters of the Poor, but I knew her long, pale, plain-featured face in an instant.
A flood of shame, and at the same time a flood of joy swept over me at the sight of her.
It was Mildred Bankes.
“Mary,” said Mildred, “speak low and tell me everything.”
She sat in my chair, I knelt by her side, took one of her hands in both of mine, and told her.
I told her that I had fled from my husband’s house because I could not bear to remain there any longer.
I told her that my father had married me against my will, in spite of my protests, when I was a child, and did not know that I had any right to resist him.
I told her that my father—God forgive me if I did him a wrong—did not love me, that he had sacrificed my happiness to his lust of power, and that if he were searching for me now it was only because my absence disturbed his plans and hurt his pride.
I told her that my husband did not love me either, and that he had married me from the basest motives, merely to pay his debts and secure an income.
I told her, too, that not only did my husband not love me, but he loved somebody else, that he had been cruel and brutal to me, and therefore (for these and other reasons) I could not return to him under any circumstances.
While I was speaking I felt Mildred’s hand twitching between mine, and when I had finished she said:
“But, my dear child, they told me your friends were broken-hearted about you; that you had lost your memory and perhaps your reason, and therefore it would be a good act to help them to send you home.”
“It’s not true, it’s not true,” I said.