For over an hour Edith and her father remained at the mission waiting for some news of little Andy. At the end of this time Mr. Paulding came back with word that nothing could be learned beyond the fact that a woman with a child answering to the description of Andy had been seen getting into an up-town car on Clayton street about one o’clock. She came, it was said by two or three who professed to have seen her, from the direction of Briar street. The chief of police had been seen, and he had already telegraphed to all the stations. Mr. Hall was at the central station awaiting the result.
After getting a promise from Mr. Paulding to send a messenger the moment news of Andy was received, Mr. Dinneford and Edith returned home.
AS Edith glanced up, on arriving before their residence, she saw for a moment her mother’s face at the window. It vanished like the face of a ghost, but not quick enough to prevent Edith from seeing that it was almost colorless and had a scared look. They did not find Mrs. Dinneford in the parlor when they came in, nor did she make her appearance until an hour afterward, when dinner was announced. Then it was plain to both her husband and daughter that something had occurred since morning to trouble her profoundly. The paleness noticed by Edith at the window and the scared look remained. Whenever she turned her eyes suddenly upon her mother, she found her looking at her with a strange, searching intentness. It was plain that Mrs. Dinneford saw in Edith’s face as great a change and mystery as Edith saw in hers, and the riddle of her husband’s countenance, so altered since morning, was harder even than Edith’s to solve.
A drearier Christmas dinner, and one in which less food was taken by those who ate it, could hardly have been found in the city. The Briar-street feast was one of joy and gladness in comparison. The courses came and went with unwonted quickness, plates bearing off the almost untasted viands which they had received. Scarcely a word was spoken during the meal. Mrs. Dinneford asked no question about the dinner in Briar street, and no remark was made about it by either Edith or her father. In half the usual time this meal was ended. Mrs. Dinneford left the table first, and retired to her own room. As she did so, in taking her handkerchief from her pocket, she drew out a letter, which fell unnoticed by her upon the floor. Mr. Dinneford was about calling her attention to it when Edith, who saw his purpose and was near enough to touch his hand, gave a quick signal to forbear. The instant her mother was out of the room she sprang from her seat, and had just secured the letter when the dining-room door was pushed open, and Mrs. Dinneford came in, white and frightened. She saw the letter in Edith’s hand, and with a cry like some animal in pain leaped upon her and tried to wrest it from her grasp. But Edith held it in her closed hand with a desperate grip, defying all her mother’s efforts to get possession of it. In her wild fear and anger Mrs. Dinneford exclaimed,