“I am young; I love life; help me to live, if only for a little while, in this glorious, wonderful world of Thy making. I only ask for bread, for which I am eager to work. Help me! Help me! Help me!”
Mavis uncovered her eyes. The tea-shop, the music, the indefinable odour of women all seemed bizarre after her communion with the Most High. She made ready to go.
“Are you in trouble?” said a voice at her elbow.
“Yes,” she replied.
“I must help you,” said the voice.
Mavis saw a richly dressed, bejewelled, comfortable-looking woman at her side.
She was not in the least surprised; a friend had been sent in answer to her prayer.
“Is it over money?” asked the instrument.
“I thought as much. I saw you outside the tea-shop and followed you in. Is your time your own?”
“No parents or anyone?”
“I haven’t a friend or relation in the world.”
“Ah! I must really help you. Come with me. Let me pay for your tea.”
Mavis, before she went, found time to offer up brief, heartfelt thanks for having speedily received an answer to her prayer.
Mavis followed her new friend past the pay box, down the carpeted stairs, into the street. She could not help seeing how bedraggled a sparrow she appeared when contrasted with the brilliant plumage of the woman at her side. A superb motor drew up to the pavement, from which a man got down to open the door.
“Get inside, dear,” said the woman.
Mavis did as she was bid, hardly realising the good fortune which had so unexpectedly overtaken her.
“Telegraph office, then home,” said the woman, who had, also, got into the car.
The man touched his hat and they were off. The woman did not speak at first, being seemingly absorbed in anxious thought. Mavis became conscious of a vague feeling of discomfort like to when—when—she tried to remember when this uneasy feeling had before possessed her. She glanced at her companion; she noticed that the woman’s eyes were hard and cold; it was difficult to reconcile their expression with the sentiments she had professed. Then the woman turned to her.
“What is your name?”
“Mavis Weston Keeves.”
“My name’s Hamilton; it’s really West-Hamilton, but I’m known as Mrs Hamilton. How old are you?”
“Eighteen. I’m nineteen in three months.”
“Tell me more of yourself.”
Mavis briefly told her story; as she finished, the car drew up at a post-office. Mrs Hamilton scanned Mavis’s face closely before getting out.
“I shan’t be a moment; it’s only to someone who’s coming to dinner.”
Mavis, left alone in the motor, wondered at the strangeness of the adventure. She knew that Mrs Hamilton was scarcely a gentlewoman— even in the broad interpretation nowadays given to the word. But it was not this so much as the fact of her having such hard eyes which perplexed the girl. She had little time to dwell on this matter, as, in a very few moments, Mrs Hamilton was again beside Mavis, and they were speeding up Oxford Street.