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Chapter 3

  • Mr. Hawkins proved himself worthy of his wife's faith in his capacity. H_earned from Ann Eliza as much as she could tell him about Mrs. Hochmuller an_eturned the next evening with a scrap of paper bearing her address, beneat_hich Johnny (the family scribe) had written in a large round hand the name_f the streets that led there from the ferry.
  • Ann Eliza lay awake all that night, repeating over and over again th_irections Mr. Hawkins had given her. He was a kind man, and she knew he woul_illingly have gone with her to Hoboken; indeed she read in his timid eye th_alf-formed intention of offering to accompany her—but on such an errand sh_referred to go alone.
  • The next Sunday, accordingly, she set out early, and without much troubl_ound her way to the ferry. Nearly a year had passed since her previous visi_o Mrs. Hochmuller, and a chilly April breeze smote her face as she stepped o_he boat. Most of the passengers were huddled together in the cabin, and An_liza shrank into its obscurest corner, shivering under the thin black mantl_hich had seemed so hot in July. She began to feel a little bewildered as sh_tepped ashore, but a paternal policeman put her into the right car, and as i_ dream she found herself retracing the way to Mrs. Hochmuller's door. She ha_old the conductor the name of the street at which she wished to get out, an_resently she stood in the biting wind at the corner near the beer-saloon, where the sun had once beat down on her so fiercely. At length an empty ca_ppeared, its yellow flank emblazoned with the name of Mrs. Hochmuller'_uburb, and Ann Eliza was presently jolting past the narrow brick house_slanded between vacant lots like giant piles in a desolate lagoon. When th_ar reached the end of its journey she got out and stood for some time tryin_o remember which turn Mr. Ramy had taken. She had just made up her mind t_sk the car-driver when he shook the reins on the backs of his lean horses, and the car, still empty, jogged away toward Hoboken.
  • Ann Eliza, left alone by the roadside, began to move cautiously forward, looking about for a small red house with a gable overhung by an elm-tree; bu_verything about her seemed unfamiliar and forbidding. One or two surl_ooking men slouched past with inquisitive glances, and she could not make u_er mind to stop and speak to them.
  • At length a tow-headed boy came out of a swinging door suggestive of illici_onviviality, and to him Ann Eliza ventured to confide her difficulty. Th_ffer of five cents fired him with an instant willingness to lead her to Mrs.
  • Hochmuller, and he was soon trotting past the stone-cutter's yard with An_liza in his wake.
  • Another turn in the road brought them to the little red house, and havin_ewarded her guide Ann Eliza unlatched the gate and walked up to the door. He_eart was beating violently, and she had to lean against the door-post t_ompose her twitching lips: she had not known till that moment how much it wa_oing to hurt her to speak of Evelina to Mrs. Hochmuller. As her agitatio_ubsided she began to notice how much the appearance of the house had changed.
  • It was not only that winter had stripped the elm, and blackened the flower- borders: the house itself had a debased and deserted air. The window-pane_ere cracked and dirty, and one or two shutters swung dismally on loosene_inges.
  • She rang several times before the door was opened. At length an Irish woma_ith a shawl over her head and a baby in her arms appeared on the threshold, and glancing past her into the narrow passage Ann Eliza saw that Mrs.
  • Hochmuller's neat abode had deteriorated as much within as without.
  • At the mention of the name the woman stared. "Mrs. who, did ye say?"
  • "Mrs. Hochmuller. This is surely her house?"
  • "No, it ain't neither," said the woman turning away.
  • "Oh, but wait, please," Ann Eliza entreated. "I can't be mistaken. I mean th_rs. Hochmuller who takes in washing. I came out to see her last June."
  • "Oh, the Dutch washerwoman is it—her that used to live here? She's been gon_wo months and more. It's Mike McNulty lives here now. Whisht!" to the baby, who had squared his mouth for a howl.
  • Ann Eliza's knees grew weak. "Mrs. Hochmuller gone? But where has she gone?
  • She must be somewhere round here. Can't you tell me?"
  • "Sure an' I can't," said the woman. "She wint away before iver we come."
  • "Dalia Geoghegan, will ye bring the choild in out av the cowld?" cried a_rate voice from within.
  • "Please wait—oh, please wait," Ann Eliza insisted. "You see I must find Mrs.
  • Hochmuller."
  • "Why don't ye go and look for her thin?" the woman returned, slamming the doo_n her face.
  • She stood motionless on the door-step, dazed by the immensity of he_isappointment, till a burst of loud voices inside the house drove her dow_he path and out of the gate.
  • Even then she could not grasp what had happened, and pausing in the road sh_ooked back at the house, half hoping that Mrs. Hochmuller's once deteste_ace might appear at one of the grimy windows.
  • She was roused by an icy wind that seemed to spring up suddenly from th_esolate scene, piercing her thin dress like gauze; and turning away she bega_o retrace her steps. She thought of enquiring for Mrs. Hochmuller at some o_he neighbouring houses, but their look was so unfriendly that she walked o_ithout making up her mind at which door to ring. When she reached the horse- car terminus a car was just moving off toward Hoboken, and for nearly an hou_he had to wait on the corner in the bitter wind. Her hands and feet wer_tiff with cold when the car at length loomed into sight again, and sh_hought of stopping somewhere on the way to the ferry for a cup of tea; bu_efore the region of lunch-rooms was reached she had grown so sick and dizz_hat the thought of food was repulsive. At length she found herself on th_erry-boat, in the soothing stuffiness of the crowded cabin; then came anothe_nterval of shivering on a street-corner, another long jolting journey in a
  • "cross-town" car that smelt of damp straw and tobacco; and lastly, in the col_pring dusk, she unlocked her door and groped her way through the shop to he_ireless bedroom.
  • The next morning Mrs. Hawkins, dropping in to hear the result of the trip, found Ann Eliza sitting behind the counter wrapped in an old shawl.
  • "Why, Miss Bunner, you're sick! You must have fever—your face is just as red!"
  • "It's nothing. I guess I caught cold yesterday on the ferry- boat," Ann Eliz_cknowledged.
  • "And it's jest like a vault in here!" Mrs. Hawkins rebuked her. "Let me fee_our hand—it's burning. Now, Miss Bunner, you've got to go right to bed thi_ery minute."
  • "Oh, but I can't, Mrs. Hawkins." Ann Eliza attempted a wan smile. "You forge_here ain't nobody but me to tend the store."
  • "I guess you won't tend it long neither, if you ain't careful," Mrs. Hawkin_rimly rejoined. Beneath her placid exterior she cherished a morbid passio_or disease and death, and the sight of Ann Eliza's suffering had roused he_rom her habitual indifference. "There ain't so many folks comes to the stor_nyhow," she went on with unconscious cruelty, "and I'll go right up and se_f Miss Mellins can't spare one of her girls."
  • Ann Eliza, too weary to resist, allowed Mrs. Hawkins to put her to bed an_ake a cup of tea over the stove, while Miss Mellins, always good-naturedl_esponsive to any appeal for help, sent down the weak-eyed little girl to dea_ith hypothetical customers.
  • Ann Eliza, having so far abdicated her independence, sank into sudden apathy.
  • As far as she could remember, it was the first time in her life that she ha_een taken care of instead of taking care, and there was a momentary relief i_he surrender. She swallowed the tea like an obedient child, allowed _oultice to be applied to her aching chest and uttered no protest when a fir_as kindled in the rarely used grate; but as Mrs. Hawkins bent over to
  • "settle" her pillows she raised herself on her elbow to whisper: "Oh, Mrs.
  • Hawkins, Mrs. Hochmuller warn't there." The tears rolled down her cheeks.
  • "She warn't there? Has she moved?"
  • "Over two months ago—and they don't know where she's gone. Oh what'll I do, Mrs. Hawkins?"
  • "There, there, Miss Bunner. You lay still and don't fret. I'll ask Mr. Hawkin_oon as ever he comes home."
  • Ann Eliza murmured her gratitude, and Mrs. Hawkins, bending down, kissed he_n the forehead. "Don't you fret," she repeated, in the voice with which sh_oothed her children.
  • For over a week Ann Eliza lay in bed, faithfully nursed by her two neighbours, while the weak-eyed child, and the pale sewing girl who had helped to finis_velina's wedding dress, took turns in minding the shop. Every morning, whe_er friends appeared, Ann Eliza lifted her head to ask: "Is there a letter?"
  • and at their gentle negative sank back in silence. Mrs. Hawkins, for severa_ays, spoke no more of her promise to consult her husband as to the best wa_f tracing Mrs. Hochmuller; and dread of fresh disappointment kept Ann Eliz_rom bringing up the subject.
  • But the following Sunday evening, as she sat for the first time bolstered u_n her rocking-chair near the stove, while Miss Mellins studied the Polic_azette beneath the lamp, there came a knock on the shop-door and Mr. Hawkin_ntered.
  • Ann Eliza's first glance at his plain friendly face showed her he had news t_ive, but though she no longer attempted to hide her anxiety from Mis_ellins, her lips trembled too much to let her speak.
  • "Good evening, Miss Bunner," said Mr. Hawkins in his dragging voice. "I'v_een over to Hoboken all day looking round for Mrs. Hochmuller."
  • "Oh, Mr. Hawkins—you HAVE?"
  • "I made a thorough search, but I'm sorry to say it was no use. She's lef_oboken—moved clear away, and nobody seems to know where."
  • "It was real good of you, Mr. Hawkins." Ann Eliza's voice struggled up in _aint whisper through the submerging tide of her disappointment.
  • Mr. Hawkins, in his embarrassed sense of being the bringer of bad news, stoo_efore her uncertainly; then he turned to go. "No trouble at all," he pause_o assure her from the doorway.
  • She wanted to speak again, to detain him, to ask him to advise her; but th_ords caught in her throat and she lay back silent.
  • The next day she got up early, and dressed and bonneted herself with twitchin_ingers. She waited till the weak-eyed child appeared, and having laid on he_inute instructions as to the care of the shop, she slipped out into th_treet. It had occurred to her in one of the weary watches of the previou_ight that she might go to Tiffany's and make enquiries about Ramy's past.
  • Possibly in that way she might obtain some information that would suggest _ew way of reaching Evelina. She was guiltily aware that Mrs. Hawkins and Mis_ellins would be angry with her for venturing out of doors, but she knew sh_hould never feel any better till she had news of Evelina.
  • The morning air was sharp, and as she turned to face the wind she felt so wea_nd unsteady that she wondered if she should ever get as far as Union Square; but by walking very slowly, and standing still now and then when she could d_o without being noticed, she found herself at last before the jeweller'_reat glass doors.
  • It was still so early that there were no purchasers in the shop, and she fel_erself the centre of innumerable unemployed eyes as she moved forward betwee_ong lines of show-cases glittering with diamonds and silver.
  • She was glancing about in the hope of finding the clock- department withou_aving to approach one of the impressive gentlemen who paced the empty aisles, when she attracted the attention of one of the most impressive of the number.
  • The formidable benevolence with which he enquired what he could do for he_ade her almost despair of explaining herself; but she finally disentangle_rom a flurry of wrong beginnings the request to be shown to the clock- department.
  • The gentleman considered her thoughtfully. "May I ask what style of clock yo_re looking for? Would it be for a wedding- present, or—?"
  • The irony of the allusion filled Ann Eliza's veins with sudden strength. "_on't want to buy a clock at all. I want to see the head of the department."
  • "Mr. Loomis?" His stare still weighed her—then he seemed to brush aside th_roblem she presented as beneath his notice. "Oh, certainly. Take the elevato_o the second floor. Next aisle to the left." He waved her down the endles_erspective of show- cases.
  • Ann Eliza followed the line of his lordly gesture, and a swift ascent brough_er to a great hall full of the buzzing and booming of thousands of clocks.
  • Whichever way she looked, clocks stretched away from her in glitterin_nterminable vistas: clocks of all sizes and voices, from the bell-throate_iant of the hallway to the chirping dressing-table toy; tall clocks o_ahogany and brass with cathedral chimes; clocks of bronze, glass, porcelain, of every possible size, voice and configuration; and between their serrie_anks, along the polished floor of the aisles, moved the languid forms o_ther gentlemanly floor-walkers, waiting for their duties to begin.
  • One of them soon approached, and Ann Eliza repeated her request. He receive_t affably.
  • "Mr. Loomis? Go right down to the office at the other end." He pointed to _ind of box of ground glass and highly polished panelling.
  • As she thanked him he turned to one of his companions and said something i_hich she caught the name of Mr. Loomis, and which was received with a_ppreciative chuckle. She suspected herself of being the object of th_leasantry, and straightened her thin shoulders under her mantle.
  • The door of the office stood open, and within sat a gray- bearded man at _esk. He looked up kindly, and again she asked for Mr. Loomis.
  • "I'm Mr. Loomis. What can I do for you?"
  • He was much less portentous than the others, though she guessed him to b_bove them in authority; and encouraged by his tone she seated herself on th_dge of the chair he waved her to.
  • "I hope you'll excuse my troubling you, sir. I came to ask if you could tel_e anything about Mr. Herman Ramy. He was employed here in the clock- department two or three years ago."
  • Mr. Loomis showed no recognition of the name.
  • "Ramy? When was he discharged?"
  • "I don't har'ly know. He was very sick, and when he got well his place ha_een filled. He married my sister last October and they went to St. Louis, _in't had any news of them for over two months, and she's my only sister, an_'m most crazy worrying about her."
  • "I see." Mr. Loomis reflected. "In what capacity was Ramy employed here?" h_sked after a moment.
  • "He—he told us that he was one of the heads of the clock- department," An_liza stammered, overswept by a sudden doubt.
  • "That was probably a slight exaggeration. But I can tell you about him b_eferring to our books. The name again?"
  • "Ramy—Herman Ramy."
  • There ensued a long silence, broken only by the flutter of leaves as Mr.
  • Loomis turned over his ledgers. Presently he looked up, keeping his finge_etween the pages.
  • "Here it is—Herman Ramy. He was one of our ordinary workmen, and left us thre_ears and a half ago last June."
  • "On account of sickness?" Ann Eliza faltered.
  • Mr. Loomis appeared to hesitate; then he said: "I see no mention of sickness."
  • Ann Eliza felt his compassionate eyes on her again. "Perhaps I'd better tel_ou the truth. He was discharged for drug-taking. A capable workman, but w_ouldn't keep him straight. I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but it seem_airer, since you say you're anxious about your sister."
  • The polished sides of the office vanished from Ann Eliza's sight, and th_ackle of the innumerable clocks came to her like the yell of waves in _torm. She tried to speak but could not; tried to get to her feet, but th_loor was gone.
  • "I'm very sorry," Mr. Loomis repeated, closing the ledger. "I remember the ma_erfectly now. He used to disappear every now and then, and turn up again in _tate that made him useless for days."
  • As she listened, Ann Eliza recalled the day when she had come on Mr. Ram_itting in abject dejection behind his counter. She saw again the blurre_nrecognizing eyes he had raised to her, the layer of dust over everything i_he shop, and the green bronze clock in the window representing a Newfoundlan_og with his paw on a book. She stood up slowly.
  • "Thank you. I'm sorry to have troubled you."
  • "It was no trouble. You say Ramy married your sister last October?"
  • "Yes, sir; and they went to St. Louis right afterward. I don't know how t_ind her. I thought maybe somebody here might know about him."
  • "Well, possibly some of the workmen might. Leave me your name and I'll sen_ou word if I get on his track."
  • He handed her a pencil, and she wrote down her address; then she walked awa_lindly between the clocks.