“I have the back room on the third floor. Do you wish to look at it?”
“No, I don’t remember the name. Theater people change names as often as they change their rooms. They come and they go. No, I don’t remember that one.”
“A young girl—Eloise Vashner—do you remember her? Has she ever been in this house? She would be singing in the theater, probably. A girl of middle height, thin, with red-gold hair and a small dark spot on her face near her left eye.”
“She has been in this room,”
One evening a young man appeared, going from one to another of these big old houses, ringing the doorbell. At the twelfth house, he put down the bag he carried. He cleaned the dust from his face. Then he touched the bell. It sounded far, far away, as if it were ringing deep underground.
The furnished room received the young man with a certain warmth. Or it seemed to receive him warmly. It seemed to promise that here he could rest. There was a bed and there were two chairs with ragged covers. Between the two windows there was a looking-glass about twelve inches wide. There were pictures on the walls.
He had asked his question for five months, and the answer was always no. He who had loved her best had tried to find her. She had suddenly gone from her home. He was sure that this great city, this island, held her. But everything in the city was moving, restless. What was on top today, was lost at the bottom tomorrow.
''Only one week ago I helped you there in the third floor back room. She was a pretty little girl. And to kill herself with the gas! She had a sweet little face, Mrs. Purdy.”
Suddenly the room was filled with the strong, sweet smell of a flower, small and white, named mignonette. The smell came so surely and so strongly that it almost seemed like a living person entering the room.
He wanted something that he could see. He could not realize that she was there beside, around, against, within, above him, near to him, calling him. For he could not yet see the form and color and love and reaching arms that were there in the smell of white flowers.
Mrs. McCool and Mrs. Purdy talked about the girl who the young man looking for and who had died in that room one week ago.