“You can’t see Miss Dane, you ragamuffin!” exclaimed the mellifluous tones of footman Wilson. “You hadn’t oughter ring the door-bell! The airy’s for such as you!”
“It is Miriam!” cried Mollie, running to the door. “It is surely Miriam at last!”
But it was not Miriam. It was a dirty-faced boy—a tatter-demalion of fourteen years—with sharp, knowing black eyes. Those intelligent orbs fixed on the young lady at once.
“Be you Miss Dane—Miss Mollie Dane—miss?”
“Yes,” said Mollie. “Who are you?”
“Sammy Slimmens, miss. Miss Miriam sent me, miss—she did.”
“Miriam? Are you sure? Why didn’t she come herself?”
“Couldn’t, miss,” nodding sagaciously. “She’s very bad, she is. Got runned over, miss.”
“Run over!” Mollie cried, in horror.
“Corner Fulton Street, miss, and Broadway. Yesterday morning ’twas. I told the policeman where she lived, and he fetched her home. Won’t live, they say, and she’s sent for you. Got something very ’ticular to tell you, miss.”
“I will go at once,” Mollie said, unutterably distressed. “My poor Miriam! I might have known something had happened, or she would have been here before this.”
She flew upstairs and was back again, dressed for the street, in ten minutes.
“Permit me to accompany you, Miss Dane,” said Hugh Ingelow, stepping forward. “You have been entrapped before. We will be on our guard this time. Now, my man,” to the hero of the rags and tatters, “lead on; we follow.”
The boy darted away, and Mr. Ingelow with Mollie’s hand drawn through his arm, set off after him at a rapid rate.
A miserable attic chamber, dimly lighted by one dirty sky-light, a miserable bed in one corner, a broken chair, an old wooden chest, a rickety table, a few articles of delf, a tumble-down little cook-stove.
That was the picture Mollie Dane saw, standing on the threshold of Miriam’s room.
There was no deception this time. On that wretched bed lay the broken and bruised figure of the woman Miriam, dying.
Her deep, labored breathing was painfully audible, even outside the room; her strong chest rose and fell—every breath torture.
By her side sat the mother of the ragged boy, holding a drink to her lips, and coaxing her to open her mouth and try to swallow.
In vivid contrast to all this poverty and abject wretchedness, the young girl in the door-way stood, with her fair, blooming face, her fluttering golden ringlets, her rich silken garments, and elegant air.
The woman by the bed turned round and stared for a moment; then—
“Be you the young lady as Mrs. Miriam sent my Sammy for?” she asked.
“Yes,” said Mollie, coming forward. “How is she?”
“Bad as bad can be, miss. Won’t never see another day, the doctor says.”