When Ida reached home from her visit to the City, she saw her mother risen and sitting by the fire. Lotty had found the suspense insupportable as she lay still, and, though the pains in her chest grew worse and the feeling of lassitude was gaining upon her, she had half-dressed, and even tried to move about. Just before the child’s appearance, she seemed to have sunk into something of a doze on her chair, for, as the door opened, she started and looked about her in doubt.
“Where have you been so long?” she asked impatiently.
“I got back as quickly as I could, mother,” said Ida, in some surprise.
“Got back? Is school over?”
“From the—the place you sent me to, mother.”
“What am I thinking of!” exclaimed Lotty, starting to consciousness. “Come here, and tell me. Did you see—see him, Ida? Mr. Woodstock, you know.”
“Yes, mother,” began the child, with pale face, “and he—he said I was to tell you—”
She burst into tears, and flew to her mother’s neck.
“Oh, you won’t send me away from you, mother dear? I can’t go away from you!”
Lotty felt she knew what this meant. Fear and trouble wrought with her physical weakness to drive her almost distracted. She sprang up, caught the child by the shoulders, and shook her as if in anger.
“Tell me, can’t you?” she cried, straining her weak voice. “What did he say? Don’t be a little fool! Can’t the child speak?”
She fell back again, seized with a cough which choked her. Ida stayed her sobbing, and looked on in terror. Her mother motioned constantly to her to proceed.
“The gentleman said,” Ida continued, with calm which was the result of extreme self-control, “that he would take me; but that you were never to see me again.”
“Did he say anything else about me?” whispered Lotty.
“No, nothing else.”
“Go—go and tell him you’ll come,—you’ll leave me.”
Ida stood in anguish, speechless and motionless. All at once her mother seemed to forget what she was saying, and sat still, staring into the fire. Several times she shivered. Her hands lay listlessly on her lap; she breathed with difficulty.
Shortly afterwards, the landlady came into the room. She was alarmed at Lotty’s condition. Her attempts to arouse the sick woman to consciousness were only partly successful. She went downstairs again, and returned with another woman, a lodger in the house. These two talked together in low tones. The result of their colloquy was that Mrs. Ledward dressed Lotty as well as she could, whilst the other left the house and returned with a cab.
“We’re going to take your mother to the hospital,” said Mrs. Ledward to the child. “You wait here till we come back, there’s a good girl. Now, hold up a bit, Lotty; try and walk downstairs. That’s better, my girl.”
Ida was left alone.