CHAPTER XXII

AVONDALE ROAD was an obscure corner of the suburb-- obscure, for it had just sprung into existence. The scaffolding that had built it now littered an adjoining field, where in a few months it would rise about Horsley Gardens, whose red gables and tiled upper walls will correspond with Avondale Road. 'Nothing much like eighteen pounds a year,' she said, 'in this neighbourhood. Hot joint to-day, cold the next,' and raising her eyes she saw the tiny gable windows of the cupboard-like rooms where the single servant kept in these houses slept.

A few steps more brought her to 41, the corner house, and the thin passage and the meagre staircase confirmed Esther in the poor opinion she had formed from the aspect of the street; and she felt that the place was more suitable to the, gaunt woman with iron-grey hair whom she found waiting in the passage. The woman looked apprehensively at Esther, and when Esther said that she had come after the place a painful change of expression passed over her face, and she answered:

'You'll get it; I'm too old for anything but charing. How much are you going to ask?'

'I can't take less than sixteen.'

'Sixteen! I used to get that once; I'd be glad enough to get twelve now. You can't think of sixteen once you've turned forty, and I've lost my teeth, and they means a couple of pound off.'

Then the door opened, and a woman's voice called to the gaunt woman to come in. She went in, and Esther breathed a prayer that she might not be engaged. A minute intervened, and the gaunt woman came out; there were tears in her eyes, and she whispered to Esther as she passed, 'No

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