A WEEK'S notice to her employers would release Monica from the engagement in Walworth Road; such notice must be given on Monday, so that, if she could at once make up her mind to accept Miss Barfoot's offer, the coming week would be her last of slavery behind the counter. On the way home from Queen's Road, Alice and Virginia pressed for immediate decision; they were unable to comprehend how Monica could hesitate for another moment. The question of her place of abode had already been discussed; one of Miss Barfoot's young women, who lived at a convenient distance from Great Portland Street, would gladly accept a partner for her lodging, an arrangement to be recommended for its economy. Yet Monica shrank from speaking the final word.
'I don't know whether it's worth while,' she said, after a long silence, as they drew near to York Road Station, whence they were to take train for Clapham Junction.
'Not worth while?' exclaimed Virginia. 'You don't think it would be an improvement?'
'Yes, I suppose it would.--I shall see how I feel about it tomorrow morning.'
She spent the evening at Lavender Hill, but without change in the mood thus indicated. A strange inquietude appeared in her behaviour. It was as though she were being urged to undertake something hard and repugnant.
On her return to Walworth Road, just as she came within sight of the shop, she observed a man's figure, some twenty yards distant, which instantly held her attention. The dim gas-light occasioned some uncertainty, but she believed the figure was that of Widdowson. He was walking on the other side of the street, and away from her. When the man was exactly opposite Scotchers' establishment, he gazed in that direction, but without stopping. Monica hastened, fearing to be seen and approached. Already she had reached the door, when Widdowson--yes, he it was--turned abruptly to walk back again. His eye was at once upon her, but whether he recognized her or not Monica could not know; at that moment she opened the door and passed in.