As we have seen, Edith did not make her appearance at the mission sewing-school on the following Thursday, nor did she go there for many weeks afterward. The wild hope that had taken her to Briar street, the nervous strain and agitation attendant on that visit, and the reaction occasioned by her father’s failure to get possession of the baby, were too much for her strength, and an utter prostration of mind and body was the consequence. There was no fever nor sign of any active disease—only weakness, Nature’s enforced quietude, that life and reason might be saved.
THE police were at fault. They found Pinky Swett, but were not able to find the baby. Careful as they were in their surveillance, she managed to keep them on the wrong track and to baffle every effort to discover what had been done with the child.
In this uncertainty months went by. Edith came up slowly from her prostrate condition, paler, sadder and quieter, living in a kind of waking dream. Her father tried to hold her back from her mission work among the poor, but she said, “I must go, father; I will die if I do not.”
And so her life lost itself in charities. Now and then her mother made an effort to draw her into society. She had not yet given up her ambition, nor her hope of one day seeing her daughter take social rank among the highest, or what she esteemed the highest. But her power over Edith was entirely gone. She might as well have set herself to turn the wind from its course as to influence her in anything. It was all in vain. Edith had dropped out of society, and did not mean to go back. She had no heart for anything outside of her home, except the Christian work to which she had laid her hands.
The restless, watchful, suspicious manner exhibited for a long time by Mrs. Dinneford, and particularly noticed by Edith, gradually wore off. She grew externally more like her old self, but with something new in the expression of her face when in repose, that gave a chill to the heart of Edith whenever she saw its mysterious record, that seemed in her eyes only an imperfect effort to conceal some guilty secret.
Thus the mother and daughter, though in daily personal contact, stood far apart—were internally as distant from each other as the antipodes.