More than the mortgage, the forced sale of the old house had brought only a few hundreds of dollars. It was to be torn down at once, and Susan felt a curious stirring of sadness as she went through the strange yet familiar rooms for the last time.
“Lord, how familiar it all is!” said Billy, “the block and the bakery! I can remember the first time I saw it.”
The locked house was behind them, they had come down the street steps, and turned for a last look at the blank windows.
“I remember coming here after my father died,” Susan said. “You gave me a little cologne bottle filled with water, and one of those spools that one braids worsted through, do you remember?”
“Do you remember Miss Fish,—the old girl whose canary we hit with a ball? And the second-hand type-writer we were always saving up for?”
“And the day we marked up the steps with chalk and Auntie sent us out with wet rags?”
“Lord—Lord!” They were both smiling as they walked away.
“Shall you go to Nevada City with the Eastmans, Sue?”
“No, I don’t think so. I’ll stay with Georgie for a week, and get things straightened out.”
“Well, suppose we go off and have dinner somewhere, to-morrow?”
“Oh, I’d love it! It’s terribly gloomy at Georgie’s. But I’m going over to see the Carrolls to-morrow, and they may want to keep me—–”
“They won’t!” said Billy grimly.
“Won’t?” Susan echoed, astonished.
“No,” Billy said with a sigh. “Mrs. Carroll’s been awfully queer since—since Jo, you know—–”
“Why, Bill, she was so wonderful!”
“Just at first, yes. But she’s gone into a sort of melancholia, now, Phil was telling me about it.”
“But that doesn’t sound a bit like her,” Susan said, worriedly.
“No, does it? But go over and see them anyway, it’ll do them all good. Well—look your last at the old block, Sue!”
Susan got on the car, leaning back for a long, goodbye look at the shabby block, duller than ever in the grimy winter light, and at the dirt and papers and chaff drifting up against the railings, and at the bakery window, with its pies and bread and Nottingham lace curtains. Fulton Street was a thing of the past.
The next day, in a whirling rainstorm, well protected by a trim raincoat, overshoes, and a close-fitting little hat about which spirals of bright hair clung in a halo, Susan crossed the ferry and climbed up the long stairs that rise through the very heart of Sausalito. The sky was gray, the bay beaten level by the rain, and the wet gardens that Susan passed were dreary and bare. Twisting oak trees gave vistas of wind-whipped vines, and of the dark and angry water; the steps she mounted ran a shallow stream.
The Carrolls’ garden was neglected and desolate, chrysanthemum stalks lay across the wet flagging of the path, and wind screamed about the house. Susan’s first knock was lost in a general creaking and banging, but a second brought Betsey, grave and tired-looking, to the door.