“I shall—I am going,” Aunt Betsy replied, feeling that to take Mattie with her was not quite the thing, and not exactly knowing how to manage, for the girl must of course pilot the way. “I’ll risk it and trust to Providence,” was her final decision, and so after an early lunch she started out with Mattie as her escort, suggesting that they visit Wilford’s office first and get that affair out of her mind.
At this point Aunt Betsy began to look upon herself as a most hardened wretch, wondering at the depths of iniquity to which she had fallen. The opera was the least of her offenses, for she was not harboring pride and contriving how to be rid of ’Tilda Tubbs, as clever a girl as ever lived, hoping that if she found Wilford he would see her home, and so save ’Tilda the trouble? Playhouses, pride, vanity, subterfuge and deceit—it was a long catalogue she would have to confess to Deacon Bannister, if confess she did, and with a groan the conscience-smitten woman followed her conductor along the street, and at last into the stage which took them to Wilford’s office.
Broadway was literally jammed that day, and the aid of two policemen was required to extricate the bewildered countrywoman from the mass of vehicles and horses’ heads, which took all her sense away. Trembling like a leaf when Mattie explained that the “two nice men” who had dragged her to the walk were police officers, and thinking again of the subpoena, the frightened woman who had escaped such peril, followed up the two flights of stairs and into Wilford’s office, where she sank breathless into a chair, while Mark, not in the least surprised, greeted her cordially, and very soon succeeded in getting her quiet, bowing so graciously to Mattie when introduced that the poor girl dreamed of him for many a night, and by day built castles of what might have been had she been rich, instead of only ’Tilda Tubbs, whose home was on the Bowery. Why need Aunt Betsy in her introduction have mentioned that fact? Mattie thought, her cheeks burning scarlet; or why need she afterward speak of her as ’Tilda, who was kind enough to come with her to the office where she hoped to find Wilford? Poor Mattie, she knew some things very well, but she had never yet conceived of the immeasurable distance between herself and Mark Ray, who cared but little whether her home were on the Bowery or on Murray Hill, after the first sight which told him what she was. He was very polite to her, however, for it was not in his nature to be otherwise, while the fact that she came with Helen’s aunt gave her some claim upon him.
“Mr. Cameron had just left the office and would not return that day,” he said to Aunt Betsy, asking if he could assist her in any way, and assuring her of his willingness to do so.
Aunt Betsy could talk with him better than with Wilford, and was about to give him the story of the sheep pasture in detail, when, motioning to a side door, he said, “Walk in here, please. You will not be liable to so many interruptions.”