Days went by, but Edith had no more signs. Now that her mother was steadily getting back both bodily strength and mental self-poise, the veil behind which she was hiding herself, and which had been broken into rifts here and there during her sickness, grew thicker and thicker. Mrs. Dinneford had too much at stake not to play her cards with exceeding care. She knew that Edith was watching her with an intentness that let nothing escape. Her first care, as soon as she grew strong enough to have the mastery over herself, was so to control voice, manner and expression of countenance as not to appear aware of this surveillance. Her next was to re-establish the old distance between herself and daughter, which her illness had temporarily bridged over, and her next was to provide against any more visits from Mrs. Bray.
AS for Edith, all doubts and questionings as to her baby’s fate were merged into a settled conviction that it was alive, and that her mother knew where it was to be found. From her mother’s pity and humanity she had nothing to hope for the child. It had been cruelly cast adrift, pushed out to die; by what means was cared not, so that it died and left no trace.
The face of Mrs. Bray had, in the single glance Edith obtained of it, become photographed in her mind. If she had been an artist, she could have drawn it from memory so accurately that no one who knew the woman could have failed to recognize her likeness. Always when in the street her eyes searched for this face; she never passed a woman of small stature and poor dark clothing without turning to look at her. Every day she went out, walking the streets sometimes for hours looking for this face, but not finding it. Every day she passed certain corners and localities where she had seen women begging, and whenever she found one with a baby in her arms would stop to look at the poor starved thing, and question her about it.
Gradually all her thoughts became absorbed in the condition of poor, neglected and suffering children. Her attendance at the St. John’s mission sewing-school, which was located in the neighborhood of one of the worst places in the city, brought her in contact with little children in such a wretched state of ignorance, destitution and vice that her heart was moved to deepest pity, intensified by the thought that ever and anon flashed across her mind: “And my baby may become like one of these!”
Sometimes this thought would drive her almost to madness. Often she would become so wild in her suspense as to be on the verge of openly accusing her mother with having knowledge of her baby’s existence and demanding of her its restoration. But she was held back by the fear that such an accusation would only shut the door of hope for ever. She had come to believe her mother capable of almost any wickedness. Pressed to the wall she would never be if there was any way of escape, and to prevent such at thing there was nothing so desperate that she would not do it; and so Edith hesitated and feared to take the doubtful issue.