SHE had left her box in the cloak-room at Victoria, for she did not know if her father would have her at home. Her mother would tell her what she thought, but no one could say for certain what he would do. If she brought the box he might fling it after her into the street; better come without it, even if she had to go back through the wet to fetch it. At that moment another gust drove the rain violently over her, forcing it through her boots. The sky was a tint of ashen grey, and all the low brick buildings were veiled in vapour; the rough roadway was full of pools, and nothing was heard but the melancholy bell of the tramcar. She hesitated, not wishing to spend a penny unnecessarily, but remembering that a penny wise is often a pound foolish she called to the driver and climbed in. The car passed by the little brick street where the Saunders lived, and when Esther pushed the door open she could see into the kitchen and overheard the voices of the children. Mrs. Saunders was sweeping down the stairs, but at the sound of footsteps she ceased to bang the broom, and, stooping till her head looked over the banisters, she cried :

'Who is it?'

'Me, mother.'

'What! You, Esther?'

'Yes, mother.'

Mrs. Saunders hastened down, and, leaning the broom against the wall, she took her daughter in her arms and kissed her. 'Well, this is nice to see you again, after this long while. But you are looking a bit poorly, Esther.' Then her face changed expression. 'What has happened? Have you lost your situation?'

'Yes, mother.'


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Esther Waters


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