She had come home from work and had put on a thin silk wrapper, too well worn for pawning, when the door of their little sitting-room was opened and Dalton entered, bringing two men with him. One of them kept his hat on as he talked, the other slouched his from his head after he had taken a seat and had had a chance to look her over. The three had come upon her suddenly, and she, realizing her dishabille, had risen hastily, excusing herself, when Dalton, who was half tipsy, stepped between her and her bedroom door.
“No, you’ll stay here,” he had cried; “you’re prettier as you are. I never saw you so fetching. Don’t mind them, they’re friends of mine. We’ve ordered up something to drink.”
She had stood trembling, looking from one to the other, her heart hammering wildly. No man had ever addressed her with such insolence and before such company. What she feared was that something would snap in her and she fall fainting to the floor.
“I will change my dress,” she had answered firmly, speaking slowly to hide her terror. She was Lord Carnavon’s daughter now.
“No, I tell you, Barbara—I—”
There was something in her eyes that told him he had reached the limit of her forbearance. Beyond that there was danger.
She had glided past him, shut and locked her bedroom door, struggled with bungling fingers into her walking-dress, pinned on her hat, thrown an old silk waterproof around her shoulders, had slid back the bolt of her chamber opening into the hall, crept down the steps, and fled.
Ten minutes later Martha’s arms were about her, and she sobbing on her old nurse’s shoulder.
The day following Stephen’s visit was one of many spent by Lady Barbara in working at “home,” as she called the simple apartment in which Martha had given her shelter.
With the aid of a shop-girl whose mother Martha had known, she had found employment at Rosenthal’s, on upper Third Avenue. There had been need of an expert needlewoman in a department recently opened, and Mangan, in charge of the work, had taken her name and address. The repairing of rare laces had been one of her triumphs when a girl, she having placed an inset in the middle of an old piece of Valenciennes which had deceived even the experts at Kensington Museum. And so, when one of Rosenthal’s agents had looked up her lodgings, had seen Martha, and noted “Mrs. Stanton’s” quiet refinement, he had at once given her the place. She had retained, with Martha’s advice, the name that Dalton had assumed for her on her arrival in New York, and Rosenthal’s pay-roll and messengers knew her by no other.
These days at home bad been gradually extended, her employer finding that she could work there more satisfactorily, and of late the greater part of each week had been spent in the small suite of rooms in St. Mark’s Place—much to Martha’s delight, who had arranged her own duties so as to be with her mistress. The good woman had long since given up night-nursing, and the few patrons dependent upon her during the day had had to be content with an “exchange,” which she generally managed to obtain, there being one or two of the fraternity on whom she could call.