Then Esther heard her mistress mutter something about the danger of good-looking servants. She was paid a month's wages, and left that afternoon.
IT Was the beginning of August, and London yawned in every street; the dust blew unslaked, and a little cloud curled and disappeared over the crest of the hill at Hyde Park Corner; the streets and St. George's Place looked out with blind, white eyes; and in the deserted Park the trees tossed their foliage restlessly, as if they wearied and missed the fashion of their season. And all through Park Lane and Mayfair, caretakers and gaunt cats were the traces that the caste on which Esther depended had left of its departed presence. She was coming from the Alexandra Hotel, where she had heard a kitchenmaid was wanted. Another disappointment! Good situations were seldom found in the summer months, and it would be bad policy to take a bad one, even if it were only for a while. Besides, she had saved a little money, and, feeling that she required a rest, she took Mrs. Lewis's advice to wait. But as luck would have it Jackie fell ill before she had been at Dulwich a week; his illness made a big hole in her savings, and it became plain that she'd have to go to work at once.
She was going north, to a registry office* near Oxford Street, which Mrs. Lewis had recommended. Holborn Row was difficult to find, and she had to ask the way very often, but she suddenly knew that she was in the right street by the number of servant-girls going and coming from the office, and in company with five others she ascended a gloomy little staircase and passed into an odour of poverty.
The benches were occupied by fifteen or twenty poorly dressed women, and a little old woman, very white and pale,