Our Lady of the Rosary received her frequently after this. But there were days when the thought of repose was far from her. At one such time, on an evening in November, a sudden desire possessed her mind; she would go out into the streets of the town and see something of that life which she knew only in imagination, the traffic of highway and byway after dark, the masque of pleasure and misery of sin of which a young girl can know nothing, save from hints here and there in her reading, or from the occasional whispers and head-shakings of society’s gossip. Her freedom was complete; her absence, if noticed, would entail no questions; her mother doubtless would conclude that she was at her aunt Theresa’s. So she clad herself in walking attire of a kind not likely to attract observation, and set forth. The tumult which had been in her blood all day received fresh impulse from the excitement of the adventure. She had veiled her face, but the veil hindered her observation, and she threw it back. First into Edgware Road, then down Oxford Street. Her thoughts pointed to an eastern district, though she feared the distance would be too great; she had frequently talked with Waymark of his work in Litany Lane and Elm Court, and a great curiosity possessed her to see these places. She entered an omnibus, and so reached the remote neighbourhood. Here, by inquiry of likely people, she found her way to Litany Lane, and would have penetrated its darkness, but was arrested by a sudden event characteristic of the locality.
Forth from the alley, just before her, rushed a woman of hideous aspect, pursued by another, younger, but, if possible, yet more foul, who shrieked curses and threats. In the way of the fugitive was a costermonger’s stall; unable to check herself, the woman rushed against this, overturning it, and herself falling among the ruin. The one in pursuit, with a yell of triumph, sprang upon her prostrate enemy, and attacked her with fearful violence, leaping on her body, dashing her head against the pavement, seemingly bent on murder. In a moment there was a thick crowd rushing round, amid which Maud was crushed and swayed without possibility of disengaging herself. The screams of the one woman, and the terrific objurgations of the other, echoed through the street. From the words of those about her, Maud understood that the two women were mother and daughter, and that it was no rare occurrence for the younger woman to fall just short of killing her parent. But only for a moment or two could Maud understand anything; horror and physical oppression overcame her senses. Her fainting caused a diversion in the crowd, and she was dragged without much delay to the nearest doorstep.