The power of speaking tenderly seemed to have been given to him all at once; this and his calling her “Ida,” struck so upon the girl’s agitated feelings that she began to sob.
“Let me, let me go with you! I will forget everything—I will be your child—I will try to love you.—”
She was as weak as water, and would have sunk to the ground if Abraham had not given her his support just in time. He could not find words to soothe her, but passed his hand very tenderly over her head.
“We are losing time!” she exclaimed, forcing herself into an appearance of calmness. “Come at once.”
In Beaufort Street they only learnt that Waymark had not yet been home. Thence they drove to the east, and stopped at a police-station, where Abraham saw the inspector. The latter suggested that Mr. Woodstock should go through all the houses which Waymark would have visited; if that search proved fruitless, the police would pursue the matter. Ida insisted on being allowed to accompanying him when the cab stopped at the end of Litany Lane. She gazed about her like one who had been suddenly set down in a new country; this squalor and vileness, so familiar to her of old, affected her strangely under the present conditions. The faces of people at whom she looked remained fresh in her memory for years after; the long confinement and the excitement which now possessed her resulted in preternatural acuteness of observation. Abraham spoke first with several people whom he had already questioned about Waymark, but they had heard nothing since.
“Are you strong enough for this?” he asked Ida. “Hadn’t you better go back to the cab and wait for me!”
“Don’t ask me to do that!” she entreated earnestly. “I must be active. I have strength now for anything.”
Just as she spoke, Mr. Woodstock became aware of a disturbance of some kind in a duty little tobacconist’s shop close at hand. There was a small crowd at the door, and the sound of wrangling voices came from within. Such an occurrence was too ordinary to suggest any special significance, but Abraham would not pass without making some inquiry. Begging Ida to stand where he left her, he pushed his way into the shop and listened to what was going on. A lad, well known in these parts as “Lushy Dick,” was, it appeared, charging the tobacconist with cheating him; he alleged that he had deposited half a sovereign on the counter in payment for a cigar, and the shopman had given him change as if for sixpence, maintaining stoutly that sixpence had been the coin given him, and no half-sovereign at all. When Mr. Woodstock entered, the quarrel had reached a high pitch.
“Arf a quid!” the tobacconist was exclaiming contemptuously. “I’d like to know where such as you’s likely to git arf a quid from.”
Lushy Dick, stung to recklessness by a succession of such remarks, broke out in vehement self-justification.