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- The Unclassed - 74/74 -


is be'avin' to her like a mother. She knew her, did Mrs. Sprowl, in the pore thing's 'appy days, before ever she married. But of course it ain't likely as Mrs. Sprowl can keep her as long as her pore life lasts; not to speak of the expense; its a terrible responsibility, owin' to the hepiplectic ailment, mem, as of course you understand."

"Can't she get into any hospital!"

"She only just came out, mem, not two weeks ago. They couldn't do no more for the pore creature, and so she had to go. An' she 'asn't not a friend in the world, 'ceptin' Mrs. Sprowl, as is no less than a mother to her."

"Do you know her name?"

"Mrs. Casty, mem. It's a Irish name, I b'lieve, an' I can't say as I'm partial to the Irish, but--"

"Very well," Ida broke in hastily. "I'll see if I can do anything."

Paying no attention to the blessings showered upon her by the counsel in this case, blessings to which she was accustomed, and of which she well understood the value, Ida went out into the Lane, and walked away quickly. She did not pause at the Clock House, but walked as far as a quiet street some little distance off, and then paced the pavement for a while, in thought. Who this "Mrs. Casty" was she could have little doubt. The calumnies against her husband were just such as Harriet Casti would be likely to circulate.

For a moment it had seemed possible to go to the public-house and make personal inquiries, but reflection showed her that this would be a needless imprudence, even had she been able to overcome herself sufficiently for such an interview. She went home instead, and at once despatched Miss Hurst to the Clock House to discover whether it was indeed Harriet Casti who lay there, and, if so, what her real condition was. That lady returned with evidence establishing the sick woman's identity. Harriet, she reported, was indeed m a sad state, clearly incapable of supporting herself by any kind of work. Her husband--Miss Hurst was told--had deserted her, leaving her entirely without means, and now, but for Mrs. Sprowl's charity, she would have been in the workhouse. This story sounded very strangely to Ida. It might mean that Julian was dead. She wrote a few lines to Waymark, at the old address, and had a speedy reply. Yes, Julian Casti was dead, but the grave had not yet closed over him. Harriet had been in receipt of money, and need have wanted for nothing; but _now_ she must expect no more.

The result of it all was that, in the course of a week, Harriet was informed by Miss Hurst that a place was open to her in a hospital near London, where she could remain as long as her ailments rendered it necessary; the expense would be provided for by a lady who had been told of the case, and wished to give what aid she could. The offer was rejected, and with insult. When next she visited Litany Lane, Ida learnt that "pore Mrs. Casty," after a quarrel with her friend Mrs. Sprowl, had fallen downstairs in a fit and broken her neck.

Waymark lived on in the Isle of Wight, until a day when there came to him a letter from Miss Bygrave. It told him that Maud's resolve was immutable, and added that aunt and niece, having become members of "the true Church," were about to join a sisterhood in a midland town, where their lives would be devoted to work of charity.

Not many days after this, Ida, in London, received a letter, addressed in a hand she knew well. There was a flush on her face as she began to read; but presently came the pallor of a sudden joy almost too great to be borne. The letter was a long one, containing the story of several years of the writer's life, related with unflinching sincerity, bad and good impartially set down, and all leading up to words which danced in golden sunlight before her tear-dimmed eyes.

For an hour she sat alone, scarce moving. Yet it seemed to her that only a few minutes were allowed to pass before she took her pen and wrote.


The Unclassed - 74/74

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