“Here, take this,” she ordered, “and leave the house at once. Somebody is coming.”
Without a word Grimsby seized his hat, sped across the room, opened the door and disappeared. Trembling violently, the woman sank down in the chair and buried her face in her hands, a veritable picture of abject misery and despair.
The man had been gone but a few minutes when the door was again opened and a girl entered. She was a vision fair to behold as she paused for an instant while her eyes rested upon the woman crouched before the fire. She evidently had just come in out of the night, for she wore her out-of-door cloak, and her hair was somewhat tossed by the violence of the wind. The rich colour of her cheeks betokened the healthy exercise of one who had walked some distance. An expression of anxiety came into her dark-brown eyes as she crossed the room, and bent over the woman in the chair.
“Mother, mother, what is the matter?” she demanded. “Are you ill?”
“Oh, it’s you, Jess, is it?” the woman languidly asked as she lifted her head. “I thought it was Maggie. I was not expecting you so soon. What brought you home so early?”
“It must have been my guiding angel,” the girl smilingly replied. “So you were lonely without me? Was that the trouble?”
“Yes, I suppose that had something to do with it. But I am not feeling well to-night. This room seems very oppressive.”
“You are too warm,” and the girl glanced down at the fire. Her eyes at once rested upon the stub of the cigarette lying upon the grate where Grimsby had thrown it. She also smelled the smoke of tobacco and instantly surmised that something out of the ordinary had happened to agitate her usually self-possessed mother.
“Somebody has been here annoying you,” she cried, turning impulsively to the woman. “Was it Tom asking for more money?”
Again the woman bowed her head, and made no immediate answer. Her thoughts were active, and she was glad of any excuse.
“How did you know he was here?” she at length asked, without looking up.
“I met a man hurrying from the door as I came in. It was too dark to see who he was, and he did not seem to notice me at all. Tom knows my opinion of him, and so he is not anxious to meet me. I did not think of Tom, though, until I found you so upset. And he was smoking too, for there is the stub of his cigarette. Why can’t he leave you alone?”
“He never will, Jess. He is just like Will and Dick. They are always bothering me about money, as if I haven’t been giving to them for years. They are just like helpless children.”
“Worse, mother. They are three useless men. It is well that I am a girl, for I might be tempted to follow their miserable example. Are you not glad that you have only three sons instead of four?”