Another moment, and “Poulter’s” had lost the most devoted servant which it had ever possessed.
Mavis and Jill stood outside Mrs Gowler’s, in the late evening of the Wednesday after the day on which Miss Nippett had commenced her long, long rest. Mavis had left the trunk she was bringing at the station (a porter was trundling it on), but before opening the gate of No. 9 Durley Road, she instinctively paused to take what she thought might prove a last look at the world.
The contented serenity of the summer night enhanced the meanness of the little street; but Mavis’s imagination soared over the roofs, not only of the road in which she stood, but of countless other roofs, till it winged its way to Melkbridge. Instead of the depressing road, with its infrequent down-at-heel passers-by, Mavis saw only the Avon as she had known it a year ago. The river flowed lazily beneath the pollard willows, as if complaisant enough to let these see their reflection in the water. Forget-me-nots jewelled the banks; ragged robin looked roguishly from, clumps of bushes; the scent of hay seemed to fill the world. That was then.
Now—! Before she had set out for Durley Road, she had penned a little note to Perigal. In this she had told him of the circumstances in which she was writing it, and had said that if it proved to be the last letter she should send him, that she would never cease to love and trust him in any world to which it might please God to take her. This was all she had written; but the moving simplicity of her words might have touched even Perigal’s heart. Besides writing to her lover, Mavis had given Mrs Scatchard the address to which she was going, and had besought her, in the event of anything untoward happening, either to take Jill for her own or to find her a good home. Mrs Scatchard’s promise to keep and cherish Jill herself, should anything happen to her mistress, cheered Mavis much.
Mavis took a last long look of the June night, sighed and entered the gate of No. 9: her nerves were so disordered that it seemed as if it shut behind her with a menacing clang. She knocked at the door, but, upon no one coming, she knocked again and again. She knew there was someone in the house, for the wailing of babies could be heard within. For all anyone cared, her baby might have been born on the step. After knocking and waiting for quite a long time, the door was opened by a sad-faced girl, who, with the remains of a fresh complexion, looked as if she were countryborn and bred.
“Mrs Gowler?” asked Mavis wearily.