The impulse I had been having to press on her the money, died within me; I felt suddenly it would be another insult. From the movement of her fingers about her heart I could not but see that this grief of hers was not about the money. It was the inarticulate outburst of a bitter sense of deep injustice; of all the dumb wondering at her own fate that went about with her behind that broad stolid face and bosom. This loss of the money was but a symbol of the furtive, hopeless insecurity she lived with day and night, now forced into the light, for herself and all the world to see. She felt it suddenly a bitter, unfair thing. This beastly little man did not share her insecurity. None of us shared it—none of us, who had brought her down to this. And, quite unable to explain to her how natural and proper it all was, I only murmured: “I am sorry, awfully sorry,” and fled away.
It was just a week later when, having for passport my Grand Jury summons, I presented myself at that prison where we had the privilege of seeing the existence to which we had assisted so many of the eighty-six.
“I’m afraid,” I said to the guardian of the gate, “that I am rather late in availing myself—the others, no doubt——?”
“Not at all, sir,” he said, smiling. “You’re the first, and if you’ll excuse me, I think you’ll be the last. Will you wait in here while I send for the chief warder to take you over?”
He showed me then to what he called the Warder’s Library—an iron-barred room, more bare and brown than any I had seen since I left school. While I stood there waiting and staring out into the prison court-yard, there came, rolling and rumbling in, a Black Maria. It drew up with a clatter, and I saw through the barred door the single prisoner—a young girl of perhaps eighteen—dressed in rusty black. She was resting her forehead against a bar and looking out, her quick, narrow dark eyes taking in her new surroundings with a sort of sharp, restless indifference; and her pale, thin-upped, oval face quite expressionless. Behind those bars she seemed to me for all the world like a little animal of the cat tribe being brought in to her Zoo. Me she did not see, but if she had I felt she would not shrink—only give me the same sharp, indifferent look she was giving all else. The policeman on the step behind had disappeared at once, and the driver now got down from his perch and, coming round, began to gossip with her. I saw her slink her eyes and smile at him, and he smiled back; a large man; not unkindly. Then he returned to his horses, and she stayed as before, with her forehead against the bars, just staring out. Watching her like that, unseen, I seemed to be able to see right through that tight-lipped, lynx-eyed mask. I seemed to know that little creature through and through, as one knows anything that one surprises off its guard,