The Island of Faith
By MARGARET E. SANGSTER
To M's M and Chance
I. INTRODUCING—THE SETTLEMENT HOUSE
II. THE QUARREL
III. CONCERNING IDEALS
IV. THE PARK
V. ROSE-MARIE COMES TO THE RESCUE
VI. "THERE'S NO PLACE—"
VII. A LILY IN THE SLUMS
VIII. ANOTHER QUARREL
IX. AND ANOTHER
X. MRS. VOLSKY PROMISES TO TRY
XI. BENNIE COMES TO THE SETTLEMENT HOUSE
XII. AN ISLAND
XIII. ELLA MAKES A DECISION
XIV. PA STEPS ASIDE
XV. A SOLUTION
XVII. AN ANSWER
XVIII. AND A MIRACLE
XIX. AND THE HAPPY ENDING
INTRODUCING—THE SETTLEMENT HOUSE
There is a certain section of New York that is bounded upon the north by
Fourteenth Street, upon the south by Delancy. Folk who dwell in it seldom
stray farther west than the Bowery, rarely cross the river that flows
sluggishly on its eastern border. They live their lives out, with
something that might be termed a feverish stolidity, in the dim crowded
flats, and upon the thronged streets.
To the people who have homes on Central Park West, to the frail winged
moths who flutter up and down Broadway, this section does not exist. Its
poor are not the picturesque poor of the city's Latin quarter, its
criminals seldom win to the notoriety of a front page and inch-high
headlines; it almost never produces a genius for the world to smile
upon—its talent does not often break away from the undefined, but none
the less certain, limits of the district.
It is curious that this part of town is seldom featured in song or story,
for it is certainly neither dull nor unproductive of plot. The tenements
that loom, canyon-like, upon every side are filled to overflowing with
human drama; and the stilted little parks are so teeming with romances,
of a summer night, that only the book of the ages would be big enough to
hold them—were they written out! Life beats, like some great wave, up
the dim alleyways—it breaks, in a shattered tide, against rock-like
doorways. The music of a street band, strangely sweet despite its
shrillness, rises triumphantly above the tumult of pavement vendors, the
crying of babies, the shouting of small boys, and the monotonous voices
of the womenfolk.
In almost the exact center of this district is the Settlement House—a
brown building that is tall and curiously friendly. Between a great
hive-like dwelling place and a noisy dance-hall it stands valiantly, like
the soldier of God that it is! And through its wide-open doorway come and
go the girls who will gladly squander a week's wage for a bit of satin or
a velvet hat; the shabby, dull-eyed women who, two years before, were
care-free girls themselves; the dreamers—and the ones who have never
learned to dream. For there is something about the Settlement House—and
about the tiny group of earnest people who are the heart of the
Settlement House—that is like a warm hand, stretched out in welcome to
the poor and the needy, to the halt in body and the maimed in soul, and
to the casual passer-by.
"They're like animals," said the Young Doctor in the tone of one who
states an indisputable fact. "Only worse!" he added.
Rose-Marie laid down the bit of roll that she had been buttering and
turned reproachful eyes upon the Young Doctor.
"Oh, but they're not," she cried; "you don't understand, or you wouldn't
talk that way. You don't understand!"
Quite after the maddening fashion of men the doctor did not answer until
he had consumed, and appreciatively, the last of the roll he was eating.
"I've been here quite as long as you have, Miss Thompson," he remarked, a
shade too gently.
The Superintendent raised tired eyes from her plate. She was little and
slim and gray, this Superintendent; it seemed almost as though the slums
had drained from her the life and colour.
"When you've been working in this section for twenty years," she said
slowly, "you'll realize that nobody can ever understand. You'll realize
that we all have animal traits—to a certain extent. And you'll realize
that quarrelling isn't ever worth while."
"But"—Rose-Marie was inclined to argue the point—"but Dr. Blanchard
talks as if the people down here are scarcely human! And it's not right
to feel so about one's fellow-men. Dr. Blanchard acts as if the people
down here haven't souls!"
The Young Doctor helped himself nonchalantly to a second roll.
"There's a certain sort of a little bug that lives in the water," he
said, "and it drifts around aimlessly until it finds another little bug
that it holds on to. And then another little bug takes hold, and
another, and another. And pretty soon there are hundreds of little bugs,
and then there are thousands, and then there are millions, and then
billions, and then—"
The Superintendent interrupted wearily.
"I'd stop at the billions, if I were you," she said, "particularly as
they haven't any special bearing on the subject."
"Oh, but they have" said the doctor, "for, after a while, the billions
and trillions of little bugs, clinging together, make an island. They
haven't souls, perhaps," he darted a triumphant glance at Rose-Marie,
"but they make an island just the same!"
He paused for a moment, as if waiting for some sort of comment. When it
did not come, he spoke again.
"The people of the slums," he said, "the people who drift into, and out
of, and around this Settlement House, are not very unlike the little
bugs. And, after all, they do help to make the city!"
There was a quaver in Rose-Marie's voice, and a hurt look in her eyes, as
"Yes, they are like the little bugs," she said, "in the blind way that
they hold together! But please, Dr. Blanchard, don't say they are
All at once the Young Doctor's hand was banging upon the table. All at
once his voice was vehemently raised.
"It's the difference in our point of view, Miss Thompson," he told
Rose-Marie, "and I'm afraid that I'm right and that you're—not right.
You've come from a pretty little country town where every one was fairly
comfortable and fairly prosperous. You've always been a part of a
community where people went to church and prayer-meeting and
Sunday-school. Your neighbours loved each other, and played Pollyanna
when things went wrong. And you wore white frocks and blue sashes
whenever there was a lawn party or a sociable." He paused, perhaps for
breath, and then—"I'm different," he said; "I struggled for my
education; it was always the survival of the fittest with me. I worked my
way through medical school. I had my hospital experience in Bellevue and
on the Island—most of my patients were the lowest of the low. I've tried
to cure diseased bodies—but I've left diseased minds alone. Diseased
minds have been out of my line. Perhaps that's why I've come through with
an ideal of life that's slightly different from your sunshine and apple
"Oh," Rose-Marie was half sobbing, "oh, you're so hard!"
The Young Doctor faced her suddenly and squarely. "Why did you come
here," he cried, "to the slums? Why did you come to work in a Settlement
House? What qualifications have you to be a social service worker, you
child? What do you know of the meaning of service, of life?"
Rose-Marie's voice was earnest, though shaken.
"I came," she answered, "because I love people and want to help them. I
came because I want to teach them to think beautiful thoughts, to have
beautiful ideals. I came because I want to show them the God that I
know—and try to serve—" she faltered.
The Young Doctor laughed—but not pleasantly.
"And I," he said, "came to make their bodies as healthy as possible. I
came because curing sick bodies was my job—not because I loved people
or had any particular faith in them. Prescribing to criminals and
near-criminals isn't a reassuring work; it doesn't give one faith in
human nature or in human souls!"
The Superintendent had been forgotten. But her tired voice rose suddenly
across the barrier of speech that had grown high and icy between the
Young Doctor and Rose-Marie.
"You both came," she said, and she spoke in the tone of a mother of
chickens who has found two young and precocious ducklings in her brood,
"you both came to help people—of that I'm sure!"
Rose-Marie started up, suddenly, from the table.
"I came," she said, as she moved toward the door that led to the hall,
"to make people better."
"And I," said the Young Doctor, moving away from the table toward the
opposite side of the room and another door, "I came to make them
healthier!" With his hand on the knob of the door he spoke to the
"I'll not be back for supper," he said shortly, "I'll be too busy.
Giovanni Celleni is out of jail again, and he's thrown his wife down a
flight of stairs. She'll probably not live. And while Minnie Cohen was
at the vaudeville show last night—developing her soul, perhaps—her
youngest baby fell against the stove. Well, it'll be better for the
baby if it does die! And there are others—" The door slammed upon his
Rose-Marie's face was white as she leaned against the dark wainscoting.
"Minnie Cohen brought the baby in last week," she shuddered, "such a dear
baby! And Mrs. Celleni—she tried so hard! Oh, it's not right—" She was
crying, rather wildly, as she went out of the room.
The Superintendent, left alone at the table, rang for the stolid maid.
Her voice was carefully calm as she gave orders for the evening meal. If
she was thinking of Giovanni Celleni, his brute face filled with
semi-madness; if she was thinking of a burned baby, sobbing alone in a
darkened tenement while its mother breathlessly watched the gay colours
and shifting scenes of a make-believe life, her expression did not
mirror her thought. Only once she spoke, as she was folding her napkin,
"They're both very young," she murmured, a shade regretfully. Perhaps she
was remembering the enthusiasm—and the intolerance—of her own youth.
"Sunshine and apple blossoms!" Rose-Marie, hurrying along the hall to her
own room, repeated the Young Doctor's words and sobbed afresh as she
repeated them. She tried to tell herself that nothing he could think
mattered much to her, but there was a certain element of truth in
everything that he had said. It was a fact that her life had been an
unclouded, peaceful one—her days had followed each other as regularly,
as innocuously, as blue china beads, strung upon a white cord, follow
Of course, she told herself, she had never known a mother; and her father
had died when she was a tiny girl. But she was forced to admit—as she
had been forced to admit many times—that she did not particularly feel
the lack of parents. Her two aunts, that she had always lived with, had
been everything to her—they had indulged her, had made her pretty
frocks, had never tried, in any way, to block the reachings of her
personality. When she had decided suddenly, fired by the convincing
address of a visiting city missionary, to leave the small town of her
birth, they had put no obstacle in her path.
"If you feel that you must go," they had told her, "you must. Maybe it is
the work that the Lord has chosen for you. We have all faith in you,
And Rose-Marie, splendid in her youth and assurance, had never known that
their pillows were damp that night—and for many another night—with the
tears that they were too brave to let her see.
They had packed her trunk, folding the white dress and the blue
sash—Rose-Marie wondered how the Young Doctor had known about the dress
and sash—in tissue paper. They had created a blue serge frock for work,
and a staunch little blue coat, and a blue tam-o'-shanter. Rose-Marie
would have been aghast to know how childish she looked in that
tam-o'-shanter! Her every-day shoes had been resoled; her white ruffled
petticoats had been lengthened. And then she had been launched, like a
slim little boat, upon the turbulent sea of the city!
Looking back, through a mist of angry tears, Rose-Marie felt her first
moment of homesickness for the friendly little town with its wide,
tree-shaded streets, its lawn parties, and its neighbours; cities, she
had discovered, discourage the art of neighbouring! She felt a pang of
emptiness—she wanted her aunts with their soft, interested eyes, and
their tender hands.
At first the city had thrilled her. But now that she had been in the
Settlement House a month, the thrill was beginning to die away. The great
buildings were still unbelievably high, the crowds of people were still a
strange and mysterious throng, the streets were as colourful as ever—but
life, nevertheless, was beginning to settle into ordinary channels.
She had thought, at the beginning of her stay there, that the Settlement
House was a hotbed of romance. Every ring of the doorbell had tingled
through her; every step in the hall had made her heart leap, with a
strange quickening movement, into her throat—every shabby man had been
to her a possible tragedy, every threadbare woman had been a case for
charity. She had fluttered from reception-hall to reading-room, and back
again—she had been alert, breathless, eager.
But, with the assignment of regular duties, some of the adventure had
been drained from life. For her these consisted of teaching a club of
girls to sew, of instructing a group of mothers in the art of making
cakes and pies and salads, and of hearing a half hundred little children
repeat their A B Cs. Only the difference in setting, only the twang of
foreign tongues, only the strange precociousness of the children, made
life at all different from the life at home. She told herself, fiercely,
that she might be a teacher in a district school—a country school—for
all the good she was accomplishing.
She had offered, so many times, to do visiting in the tenements—to call
upon families of the folk who would not come to the Settlement House.
But the Superintendent had met her, always, with a denial that was
"I have a staff of women—older women from outside—who do the visiting,"
she had said. "I'm afraid" she was eyeing Rose-Marie in the blue coat and
the blue tam-o'-shanter, "I'm afraid that you'd scarcely be—convincing.
And," she had added, "Dr. Blanchard takes care of all the detail in that
department of our work!"
Dr. Blanchard … Rose-Marie felt the tears coming afresh at the thought
of him! She remembered how she had written home enthusiastic,
schoolgirlish letters about the handsome man who sat across the dining
table from her. It had seemed exciting, romantic, that only the three of
them really should live in the great brownstone house—the Young Doctor,
the Superintendent—who made a perfect chaperon—and herself. It had
seemed, somehow, almost providential that they should be thrown together.
Yes, Rose-Marie remembered how she had been attracted to Dr. Blanchard at
the very first—how she had found nothing wanting in his wiry strength,
his broad shoulders, his dark, direct eyes.
But she had not been in the Settlement House long before she began to
feel the clash of their natures. When she started to church service, on
her first Sunday in New York, she surprised a smile of something that
might have been cynical mirth upon his lean, square-jawed face. And when
she spoke of the daily prayers that she and her aunts had so beautifully
believed in, back in the little town, he laughed at her—not unkindly,
but with the sympathetic superiority that one feels for a too trusting
child. Rose-Marie, thinking it over, knew that she would rather meet
direct unkindness than that bland superiority!
And so—though there had never been an open quarrel until the one at the
luncheon table—Rose-Marie had learned to look to the Superintendent for
encouragement, rather than to the Young Doctor. And she had frigidly
declined his small courtesies—a visit to the movies, a walk in the park,
a 'bus ride up Fifth Avenue.
"I never went to the movies at home," she had told him. Or, "I'm too
busy, just now, to take a walk." Or, "I can't go with you to-day. I've
letters to write."
"It's a shame," she confided, on occasion, to the Superintendent, "that
Dr. Blanchard never goes to church. It's a shame that he has had so
little religious life. I gave him a book to read the other day—the
letters of an American Missionary in China—and he laughed and told me
that he couldn't waste his time. What do you think of that! But later,"
Rose-Marie's voice sank to a horrified whisper, "later, I saw him reading
a cheap novel—he had time for a cheap novel!"
The Superintendent looked down into Rose-Marie's earnest little face.
"My dear," she said gently, stifling a desire to laugh, "my dear, he's a
very busy man. He gives a great deal of himself to the people here in the
slums. The novel, to him, was just a mental relaxation."
But to the Young Doctor, later, the Superintendent spoke differently.
"Billy Blanchard," she said, and she only called him Billy Blanchard when
she wanted to scold him, "I've known you for a long time. And I'm sure
that there's no harm in you. Of course," she sighed, "I wish that you
could feel a little more in sympathy with the spiritual side of our work.
But I've argued with you, more than once, on that point!"
The doctor, who was packing medicines into his bag, looked up.
"You know, you old dear," he told her, "that I'm hopeless. I haven't had
an easy row to hoe, not ever; you wouldn't be religious yourself if you
were in my shoes! There—don't look so shocked—you've been a mother to
me in your funny, fussy way, since I came to this place! That's the main
reason, I guess, that I stick here, as I do, when I could make a lot more
money somewhere else!" He reached up to pat her thin hand, and then, "But
why are you worrying, just now, about my soul?" he questioned.
The Superintendent sighed again.
"It's the little Thompson girl," she answered; "she's so anxious to
convert people, and she's so sincere,—so very sincere. I can't help
feeling that you are a thorn in her flesh, Billy. She says that you won't
read her missionary books—"
The Young Doctor interrupted.
"She's such a pretty girl," he said quite fiercely. "Why on earth didn't
she stay at home, where she belonged! Why on earth did she pick out this
sort of work?"
The Superintendent answered.
"One never knows," she said, "why girls pick out certain kinds of work.
I've had the strangest cases come to my office—of homely girls who
wanted to be artists' models, and anemic girls who wanted to be physical
directors, and flighty girls who wanted to go to Bible School, and quiet
girls who were all set for a career on the stage. Rose-Marie Thompson is
the sort of a girl who was cut out to be a home-maker, to give happiness
to some nice, clean boy, to have a nursery full of rosy-cheeked babies.
And yet here she is, filled with a desire to rescue people, to snatch
brands from the burning. Here she is in the slums when she'd be
dramatically right in an apple orchard—at the time of year when the
trees are covered with pink and white blossoms."
The Young Doctor laughed. He so well understood the Superintendent—so
enjoyed her point of view.
"Yes," he agreed, "she'd be perfect there in an organdy frock with
the sun slanting across her face. But—well, she's just like other
girls. Tell a pretty girl that she's clever, they say, and tell a
clever girl that she's a raving, tearing beauty. That's the way for a
man to be popular!"
The Superintendent laughed quietly with him. It was a moment before she
grew sober again.
"I wonder," she said at last, "why you have never tried to be popular
with girls. You could so easily be popular. You're young and—don't try
to hush me up—good-looking. And yet—well, you're such an antagonistic
person. From the very first you've laughed at Rose-Marie—and she was
quite ready to adore you when she arrived. How do I know? Oh, I could
tell! Take the child seriously, Billy Blanchard, before she actually
begins to dislike you!"
The Young Doctor put several bottles of violently coloured pills into his
bag before he spoke.
"She dislikes me already," he said. "She's such a cool little person.
What are you trying to do, anyway? Are you trying to matchmake; to
stir up a love affair between the both of us—" suddenly he was
"I'm too busy to have a romance, you old dear," he told the
Superintendent, "far too busy. I'm as likely to fall in love, just now,
as you are!"
The woman's face was averted as she answered. But her low voice
"When I was your age, Billy," she said gently, "I was in love.
That's why, perhaps, I came here. That's why, perhaps, I stayed. No,
he didn't die—he married another girl. And dreams are hard things to
forget. That's why I left the country. Maybe that's why the little
But the Young Doctor was shaking his head.
"She hasn't had any love affair," he told the Superintendent. "She's too
young and full of ideals to have anything so ordinary as a romance.
Everybody," his laugh was not too pleasant, "can have a romance! And few
people can be so filled with ideals as Miss Thompson. Oh, it's her ideals
that I can't stand! It's her impractical way of gazing at life through
pink-coloured glasses. She'll never be of any real use here in the slums.
I'm only afraid that she'll come to some harm because she's so trusting
and over-sincere. I'd hate to see her placed in direct contact with some
of the young men that I work with, for instance. You haven't—" All at
once his voice took on a new note. "You haven't let her be with any of
the boys' classes, have you? Her ideals might not stand the strain!"
The Superintendent answered.
"Ideals don't hurt any one," she said, and her voice was almost as fierce
as the doctor's. "No, I haven't given her a bit of work with the boys.
She's too young and too untouched and, as you say, too pretty. I'm
letting her spend her time with the mothers, and the young girls, and the
little tots—not even allowing her to go out alone, if I can help it.
Such innocence—" The Superintendent broke off suddenly in the middle of
the sentence. And she sighed again.
Crying helps, sometimes. When Rose-Marie, alone in her room, finally
dried away the tears that were the direct result of her quarrel with Dr.
Blanchard, there was a new resolve in her eyes—a look that had not been
there when she went, an hour before, to the luncheon table. It was the
look of one who has resolutions that cannot be shattered—dreams that are
unbreakable. She glanced at her wrist watch and there was a shade of
defiance in the very way she raised the arm that wore it.
"They make a baby of me here," she told herself, "they treat me like a
silly child. It's a wonder that they don't send a nurse-maid with me to
my classes. It's a wonder"—she was growing vehement—"that they give me
credit for enough sense to wear rubbers when it's raining! I," again she
glanced at the watch, "I haven't a single thing to do until four
o'clock—and it's only just a little after two. I'm going out—now. I'm
going into the streets, or into a tenement, or into a—a dive, if
necessary! I'm going to show them"—the plural pronoun, strangely,
referred to a certain young man—"that I can help somebody! I'm going to
She was struggling eagerly into her coat; eagerly she pulled her
tam-o'-shanter over the curls that, even in the city slums, were full of
sunshine. With her hands thrust staunchly into her pockets, she went out;
out into the jungle of streets that met, as in the center of a labyrinth,
in front of the Settlement House.
Always, when she had gone out alone, she had sought a small park not far
from her new home. It was a comfortingly green little oasis in the desert
of stone and brick—a little oasis that reminded one of the country. She
turned toward it now, quite blindly, for the streets confused her—they
always did. As the crowds closed around her she hurried vaguely, as a
swimmer hurries just before he loses his head and goes down. She caught
her breath as she went, for the crowds always made her feel
submerged—quite as the swimmer feels just before the final plunge. She
entered the park—it was scarcely more than a square of grass—with a
very definite feeling of relief, almost of rescue.
As usual, the park was crowded. But park crowds are different from street
crowds—they are crowds at rest, rather than hurrying, restless throngs.
Rose-Marie sank upon an iron bench and with wide, childishly distended
eyes surveyed the people that surged in upon her.
There was a woman with a hideous black wig—the badge of revered Jewish
motherhood—pressed down over the front of her silvered hair. Rose-Marie,
a short time ago, would have guessed her age at seventy—now she told
herself that the woman was probably forty. There was a slim,
cigarette-smoking youth with pale, shifty eyes. There was an old, old
man—white-bearded like one of the patriarchs—and there was a
dark-browed girl who held a drowsy baby to her breast. All of these and
many more—Italians, Slavs, Russians, Hungarians and an occasional
Chinaman—passed her by. It seemed to the girl that this section was a
veritable melting pot of the races—and that every example of every race
was true to type. She had seen any number of young men with shifty
eyes—she had seen many old men with white beards. She knew that other
black-wigged women lived in every tenement; that other dark-browed girls
were, at that same moment, rocking other babies. She fell to wondering,
whimsically, whether God had fashioned the people of the slums after some
half-dozen set patterns—almost as the cutter, in many an alley
sweatshop, fashions the frocks of a season.
A sharp cry broke in upon her wonderings. It was the cry of an animal in
utter pain—in blind, unreasoning agony. Rose-Marie was on her feet at
the first moment that it cut, quiveringly, through the air. With eyes
distended she whirled about to face a small boy who knelt upon the ground
behind her bench.
To Rose-Marie the details of the small boy's appearance came back, later,
with an amazing clarity. Later she could have described his dark, sullen
eyes, his mouth with its curiously grim quirk at one corner, his shock of
black hair and his ragged coat. But at the moment she had the ability to
see only one thing—the scrawny gray kitten that the boy had tied to the
iron leg of the bench; the shrinking kitten that the boy was torturing
with a cold, relentless cruelty.
It shrieked again—with an almost human cry—as she started around the
bench toward it. And the wild throbbing of her heart told her that she
was witnessing, for the first time, a phase of human nature of which she
had never dreamed.
ROSE-MARIE COMES TO THE RESCUE
Rose-Marie's hand upon the small boy's coat collar was not gentle. With
surprising strength, for she was small and slight, she jerked him aside.
"You wicked child!" she exclaimed, and the Young Doctor would have
chuckled to hear her tone. "You wicked child, what are you doing?"
Without waiting for an answer she knelt beside the pitiful little animal
that was tied to the bench, and with trembling fingers unloosed the cord
that held it, noting as she did so how its bones showed, even through its
coat of fur. When it was at liberty she gathered it close to her breast
and turned to face the boy.
He had not tried to run away. Even with the anger surging through her,
Rose-Marie admitted that the child was not—in one sense—a coward. He
had waited, brazenly perhaps, to hear what she had to say. With blazing
eyes she said it:
"Why," she questioned, and the anger that made her eyes blaze also put a
tremor into her voice, "why were you deliberately hurting this kitten?
Don't you know that kittens can feel pain just as much as you can feel
pain? Don't you know that it is wicked to make anything suffer? Why were
you so wicked?"
The boy looked up at her with sullen, dark eyes. The grim twist at one
corner of his mouth became more pronounced.
"Aw," he said gruffly, "why don't yer mind yer own business?"
If Rose-Marie's hands had been free, she would have taken the boy
suddenly and firmly by both shoulders. She felt an overwhelming desire to
shake him—to shake him until his teeth chattered. But both of her hands
were busy, soothing the gray kitten that shivered against her breast.
"I am minding my own business," she told the boy. "It's my business to
give help where it's needed, and this kitten," she cuddled it closer,
"certainly needed help! Haven't you ever been told that you should be
kind? Like," she faltered, "like Jesus was kind? He wouldn't have hurt
anything. He loved animals—and He loved boys, too. Why don't you try to
be the sort of a boy He could love? Why do you try to be bad—to do
The eyes of the child were even more sullen—the twist of his mouth was
even more grim as he listened to Rose-Marie. But when she had finished
speaking, he answered her—and still he did not try to run away.
"Wot," he questioned, almost in the words of the Young Doctor, "wot do
you know about things that's right an' things that's wrong? It ain't bad
t' hurt animals—not if they're little enough so as they ain't able t'
Rose-Marie sat down, very suddenly, upon the bench. In all of her
life—her sheltered, glad life—she had never heard such a brutal creed
spoken, and from the lips of a child! Her eyes, searching his face, saw
that he was not trying to be funny, or saucy, or smart. Curiously enough
she noted that he was quite sincere—that, to him, the torturing of a
kitten was only a part of the day with its various struggles and
amusements. When she spoke again her tone was gentle—as gentle as the
tone with which the other slum children, who came to the Settlement
House, were familiar.
"Whoever told you," she questioned, "that it's not wrong to hurt an
animal, so long as it can't fight back?"
The boy eyed her strangely. Rose-Marie could almost detect a gleam of
latent interest in his dark eyes. And then, as if he had gained a sort of
confidence in her, he answered.
"Nobody never told me," he said gruffly. "But I know."
The kitten against Rose-Marie's breast cried piteously. Perhaps it was
the hopelessness of the cry that made her want so desperately to make the
boy understand. Conquering the loathing she had felt toward him she
managed the ghost of a smile.
"I wish," she said, and the smile became firmer, brighter, as she said
it, "I wish that you'd sit down, here, beside me. I want to tell you
about the animals that I've had for pets—and about how they loved me. I
had a white dog once; his name was Dick. He used to go to the store for
me, he used to carry my bundles home in his mouth—and he did tricks—"
The boy had seated himself, gingerly, on the bench. He interrupted her,
and his voice was eager.
"Did yer have t' beat him," he questioned, "t' make him do the tricks?
Did he bleed when yer beat him?"
Again Rose-Marie gasped. She leaned forward until her face was on a level
with the boy's face.
"Why," she asked him, "do you think that the only way to teach an animal
is to teach him by cruelty? I taught my dog tricks by being kind and
sweet to him. Why do you talk of beatings—I couldn't hurt anything, even
if I disliked it, until it bled!"
The small boy drew back from Rose-Marie. His expression was vaguely
puzzled—it seemed almost as if he did not comprehend what her
"My pa beats me," he said suddenly, "always he beats me—when he's
drunk! An' sometimes he beats me when he ain't. He beats Ma, too, an'
he uster beat Jim, 'n' Ella. He don't dare beat Jim now, though"—this
proudly—"Jim's as big as he is now, an' Ella—nobody'd dast lay a
hand on Ella …" almost as suddenly as he had started to talk, the
For the moment the episode of the kitten was a forgotten thing. There was
only pity, only a blank sort of horror, on Rose-Marie's face.
"Doesn't your father love you—any of you?" she asked.
"Naw." The boy's mouth was a straight line—a straight and very bitter
line, for such a young mouth. "Naw, he only loves his booze. He hits me
all th' time—an' he's four times as big as me! An' so I hit whoever's
smaller'n I am. An' even if they cry I don't care. I hate things that's
little—that can't take care o' themselves. Everything had oughter be
able t' take care of itself!"
"Haven't you"—again Rose-Marie asked a question—"haven't you ever loved
anything that was smaller than you are? Haven't you ever had a pet?
Haven't you ever felt that you must protect and take care of some one—or
something? Haven't you?"
All at once the boy was smiling, and the smile lit up his small, dark
face as a candle, slowly flickering, brings cheer and brightness to a
dull, lonely room.
"I love Lily," he told her. "I wouldn't let nobody touch Lily! If Pa so
much as spoke mean to her—I'd kill him. I'd kill him with a knife!"
Rose-Marie shuddered inwardly at the thought. But her voice was very even
as she spoke.
"Who is Lily?" she asked.
The boy had slid down along the bench. He was so close to her that his
shabby coat sleeve touched her blue one.
"Lily's my kid sister," he said, and, miracle of miracles, his voice held
a note of tenderness. "Say—Miss, I'm sorry I hurt th' cat."
With a sudden feeling of warmth Rose-Marie moved just a fraction of an
inch closer to the boy. She knew, somehow, that his small, curiously
abject apology was in a way related to the "kid sister"; she knew, almost
instinctively, that this Lily who could make a smile come to the dark
little face, who could make a tenderness dwell in those hard young eyes,
was the only avenue by which she could reach this strange child. She
spoke to him suddenly, impulsively.
"I'd like to see your Lily; I'd like to see her, awfully," she told
him. "Will you bring her some time to call on me? I live at the
A subtle change had come over the child's face. He slid, hurriedly, from
"Oh," he said, "yer one o' them! You sing hymns 'n' pray 'n' tell folks
t' take baths. I know. Well, I can't bring Lily t' see you—not ever!"
Rose-Marie had also risen to her feet.
"Then," she said eagerly, "let me come and see Lily. Where do you live?"
The boy's eyes had fallen. It was plain that he did not want to
answer—that he was experiencing the almost inarticulate embarrassment of
"We live," he told her at last, "in that house over there." His pointing
finger indicated the largest and grimiest of the tenements that loomed,
dark and high, above the squalor of a side street. "But you wouldn't
Rose-Marie caught her breath sharply. She was remembering how the
Superintendent had forbidden her to do visiting, how the Young Doctor
had laughed at her desire to be of service. She knew what they would say
if she told them that she was going into a tenement to see a strange
child named Lily. Perhaps that was why her voice had an excited ring as
"Yes, I would come there!" she told the boy. "Tell me what floor you live
on, and what your name is, and when it would be best for me to come?"
"My name's Bennie Volsky," the boy said slowly. "We're up five flights,
in th' back. D'yer really mean that you'll come—an' see Lily?"
Rose-Marie nodded soberly. How could the child know that her heart was
all athrob with the call of a great adventure?
"Yes, I mean it," she told him. "When shall I come?"
The boy's grubby hand shot out and rested upon her sleeve.
"Come to-morrow afternoon," he told her. "Say, yer all right!" He turned,
swiftly, and ran through the crowd, and in a moment had disappeared like
a small drab-coloured city chameleon.
Rose-Marie, standing by the bench, watched the place where he had
disappeared. And then, all at once, she turned swiftly—just as
swiftly as the boy had—and started back across the park toward the
"I won't tell them!" she was saying over and over in her heart, as she
went, "I won't tell them! They wouldn't let me go, if I did…. I won't
The kitten was still held tight in her arms. It rested, quite
contentedly, against her blue coat. Perhaps it knew that there was a
warm, friendly place—even for little frightened animals—in the
"THERE'S NO PLACE—"
When Rose-Marie paused in front of the tenement, at three o'clock on the
following afternoon, she felt like a naughty little girl who is playing
truant from school. When she remembered the way that she had avoided the
Superintendent's almost direct questions, she blushed with an inward
sense of shame. But when she thought of the Young Doctor's offer to go
with her—"wherever she was going"—she threw back her head with a
defiant little gesture. She knew well that the Young Doctor was sorry for
yesterday's quarrel—she knew that a night beside the dying Mrs. Celleni,
and the wails of the Cohen baby, had temporarily softened his viewpoint
upon life. And yet—he had said that they were soulless—these people
that she had come to help! He would have condemned Bennie Volsky from the
first—but she had detected the glimmerings of something fine in the
child! No—despite his more tolerant attitude—she knew that, underneath,
his convictions were unchanged. She was glad that she had gone out upon
her adventure alone.
With a heart that throbbed in quick staccato beats, she mounted the steps
of the tenement. Little dark-eyed children moved away from her,
apparently on every side, but somehow she scarcely noticed them. The
doorway yawned, like an open mouth, in front of her—and she could think
of nothing else. As she went over the dark threshold she remembered
stories that she had read about people who go in at tenement doorways and
are never seen again. Every one has read such stories in the daily
newspapers—and perhaps some of them are true!
A faint light flickered in through the doorway. It made the ascent of the
first flight of creaking stairs quite easy. At least Rose-Marie could
step aside from the piles of rubbish and avoid the rickety places. She
wondered, as she went up, her fingers gingerly touching the dirty
hand-rail, how people could exist under such wretched conditions.
The second flight was harder to manage. The light from the narrow doorway
was shut off, and there were no windows. There might have been gas jets
upon every landing—Rose-Marie supposed that there were—but it was
mid-afternoon, and they had not yet been lighted. She groped her way up
the second flight, and the third, feeling carefully along each step with
her foot before she put her weight upon it.
On the fourth flight she paused for a moment to catch her breath. But she
realized, as she paused, that even breathing had to be done under
difficulties in this place. There was no ventilation of any sort, so far
as she could tell—all about her floated the odours of boiled cabbage,
and fried onions, and garlic. And there were other odours, too; the
indescribable smells of soiled clothing and soap-suds and greasy dishes.
But in Rose-Marie's mind, the odours—poignant though they were—took
second place to the sounds. Never, she told herself, had she imagined
that so many different sorts of noises could exist in the same place at
one and the same time. There were the cries and sobs of little children,
the moans of sickness, the thuds of falling furniture and the crashes of
breaking crockery. There were yells of rage, and—worst of all—bursts of
appalling profanity. Rose-Marie, standing there in the darkness of the
fourth flight, heard words that she had never expected to hear—phrases
of which she had never dreamed. She shuddered as she started up the fifth
flight, and when, at last, she stood in front of the Volsky flat, she
experienced almost a feeling of relief. At least she would be shut off,
in a moment, from those alien and terrible sounds—at least, in a moment,
she would be in a home.
To most of us—particularly if we have grown up in an atmosphere such as
had always sheltered Rose-Marie—the very sound of the word "home" brings
a certain sense of warmth and comfort. Home stands for shelter and
protection and love. "Be it ever so humble," the old song tells us, "be
it ever so humble …"
And Rose-Marie, knocking timidly upon the Volsky door, expected to find a
home. She expected it to be humble in the truest sense of the word—to be
ragged and poverty-stricken and mean. And yet she could not feel that it
would be utterly divorced from the ideals she had always built around her
conception of the word. She expected it to be a home because a family
lived there together—a mother, and a father, and children.
In answer to her knock the door swung open—a little way. The glow of a
dingy lamp fell about her, through the opening—she felt suddenly as if
she had been swept, willy-nilly, before the footlights of some hostile
stage. For a moment she stood blinking. And as she stood there, quite
unable to see, she heard the voice of Bennie Volsky, speaking in a
"It's you, Miss!" said the voice, and it was as full of intense
wonderment as a voice could be. "I never thought that you'd come—I
didn't think you was on th' level. So many folks say they'll do things—"
he broke off, and then—"Walk in, quiet," he told her slowly. "Don't make
any noise, if yer can help it! Pa's come home, all lit up. An' he's
asleep, in th' corner! There'll be—" he broke off—"There'll be th'
dickens t' pay, if Pa wakes up! But walk in, still-like. An' yer can see
Ma an' all, an'—Lily!"
Rose-Marie, whose eyes had now become accustomed to the dim light,
stepped past the boy and into the room. Her hand, in passing, touched his
arm lightly, for she knew that he was labouring under intense excitement.
She stepped into the room, on mousy-quiet feet—and then, with a quick
gasp, drew back again.
Never, in her wildest dreams of poverty, had Rose-Marie supposed that
squalor, such as she saw in the Volsky home, could exist. Never had she
supposed that a family could live in such cramped, airless quarters.
Never had she thought that filth, such as she saw in the room, was
possible. It all seemed, somehow, an unbelievably bad dream—a dream in
which she was appearing, with startling realism. Her comfortable picture
of a home was vanishing—vanishing as suddenly and completely as a soap
bubble vanishes, if pricked by a pin.
"Why—why, Bennie!" she began. But the child was not listening. He had
darted from her side and was dragging forward, by one listless,
work-coarsened hand, a pallid, drooping woman.
"Dis is my ma," he told Rose-Marie. "She didn't know yer was comin'. I
didn't tell her!"
It seemed to Rose-Marie that there was a scared sort of appeal in the
woman's eyes as they travelled, slowly, over her face. But there was
not even appeal in the tone of her voice—it was all a drab,
"Whatcha come here fer?" she questioned. "Pa, he's home. If he should ter
wake up—" She left the sentence unfinished.
Almost instinctively the eyes of Rose-Marie travelled past the figure
of Mrs. Volsky. There was nothing in that figure to hold her gaze—it
was so vague, so like a shadow of something that had been. She saw the
few broken chairs, the half-filled wash tub, the dish-pan with its
freight of soiled cups and plates. She saw the gas stove, with its
battered coffee-pot, and a mattress or two piled high with dingy
bedding. And, in one corner, she saw—with a new sense of horror—the
reclining figure of Pa.
Pa was sleeping. Sleeping heavily, with his mouth open and his tousled
head slipping to one side. One great hairy hand was clenched about an
empty bottle—one huge foot, stockingless and half out of its shoe, was
dragging limply off the heap of blankets that was his bed. A stubble of
beard made his already dark face even more sinister, his tousled hair
looked as if it had never known the refining influences of a comb or
brush. As Rose-Marie stared at him, half fascinated, he turned—with a
spasmodic, drunken movement—and flung one heavy arm above his head.
The room was not a large one. But, at that moment, it seemed appallingly
spacious to Rose-Marie. She turned, almost with a feeling of affection,
toward Bennie. At least she had seen him before. And, as if he
interpreted her feeling, Bennie spoke.
"We got two other rooms," he told her, "one that Ella an' Lily sleep in,
an' one that Jim pays fer, his own self. Ma an' Pa an' me—we sleep
here! Say, don't you be too scared o' Pa—he'll stay asleep fer a long
time, now. He won't wake up unless he's shook. Will he, Ma?"
Mrs. Volsky nodded her head with a worn out, apathetic movement.
Noiselessly, but with the appearance of a certain terrible effort under
the shell of quiet, she moved away across the room toward the stove.
"She's goin' t' warm up th' coffee," Bennie said. "She'll give you some,
in a minute, if yer want it!"
Rose-Marie was about to speak, about to assure Bennie that she didn't
want any of the coffee, when steps sounded on the stairs. They were
hurried steps; steps suggesting to the listener that five flights were
nothing, after all! Rose-Marie found herself turning as a hand fell
heavily upon a door-knob, and the door swung in.
A young man stood jauntily upon the threshold. Rose-Marie's first
impression of him was one of extreme, almost offensive neatness—of sleek
hair, that looked like patent leather, and of highly polished brown
shoes. She saw that his blue and white striped collar was speckless, that
his blue tie was obviously new, that his trousers were creased to an
almost dangerous edge. But it was the face of the young man from which
Rose-Marie shrank back—a clever, sharp face with narrow, horribly
speculative eyes and a thin-lipped red mouth. It was a handsome face,
The voice of Bennie broke, suddenly, across her speculations.
"Jim," he said.
Still jauntily—Rose-Marie realized that jauntiness was his keynote—the
young man entered the room. His sharp eyes travelled with lightning-like
rapidity over the place, resting a moment on the sleeping figure of Pa
before they hurried past him to Rose-Marie. He surveyed her coolly,
taking in every feature, every fold of her garments, with a studied
boldness that was somehow offensive.
"Who's she?" he questioned abruptly, of any one who cared to answer, and
one manicured finger pointed in her direction. "Where'd she come from?"
Bennie was the one who spoke. Rather gallantly he stepped in front of
"She's a friend of mine," he said; "she lives by th' Settlement House.
She come up here t' see me, 'n' Ma, 'n' Lily. You leave her be—y'
The young man laughed, and his laugh was curiously hard and dry.
"Oh, sure!" he told Bennie. "I'll leave her be! What," he turned to
Rose-Marie with an insolent smile, "what's yer name?"
Rose-Marie met his insolent gaze with a calm expression. No one would
have guessed that she was trembling inwardly.
"My name," she told him, "is Rose-Marie Thompson. I live in the
Settlement House, and I came to see your sister."
"Well," the young man's insolent gaze was still studying Rose-Marie,
"well, she'll be up soon. I passed 'er on th' stairs. But," he laughed
again, "why didn't yer come t' see me—huh?"
Rose-Marie, having no answer, turned expectantly toward the door. If this
Jim had passed his sister on the stairs, she couldn't be very far away.
As if in reply to her supposition, the door swung open again and a tall,
dark-eyed girl came into the room. Rose-Marie saw with her first swift
glance that the red upon the girl's cheeks was too high to be quite
natural—that the scarlet of her lips was over-vivid. And yet, despite
the patently artificial colouring, she realized that the girl was
beautiful with a high strung, almost thoroughbred beauty. She wondered
how this beauty had been born of the dim woman who seemed so colourless
and the sodden brute who lay snoring in the comer.
Her train of thought was broken, suddenly. For the young man was
speaking. Rose-Marie disliked, somehow, the very tone of his voice.
"Here's a girl t' see you, Ella," he said. "She's from th' Settlement
House—she says! Maybe she wants," sarcastically, "that you should join a
The girl's eyes were flashing with a dangerously hard light. She turned
angrily to Rose-Marie. But before she could say anything, the child,
Bennie, had interposed.
"She didn't come t' see you" he told his older sister—"she don't want
t' see you—like those other wimmen did. She come t' see Lily—"
He paused and Rose-Marie, who had gathered that social service workers
were not welcome visitors, went on breathlessly, from where he left off.
"I am from the Settlement House," she told Ella, "and I'd like awfully
to have you join our classes. But that wasn't why I came here. Bennie
told me that he had a dear little sister. And I came to see her."
A change swept miraculously over Ella's cold face. Rose-Marie could see,
all at once, that she and her young brother were strikingly alike—that
Jim was the different one in this family.
"I'll get Lily," Ella said simply, and there was a warmth, a tenderness
in her dark eyes that had been so hard. "I didn't understand," she added,
as she went quickly past Rose-Marie and into the small inner room that
Bennie had said his sisters shared. In a moment she came out leading a
small girl by the hand.
"This is Lily!" she said softly.
Even in that dingy place—perhaps accentuated by the very dinginess of
it—Lily's blond loveliness struck Rose-Marie with a sense of shock. The
child might have been a flower—the very flower whose name she
bore—growing upon an ash heap. Her beauty made the rest of the room fade
into dim outlines—made Jim and Ella and Bennie seem heavy, and somehow
overfed. Even Pa, snoring lustily, became almost a shadow. Rose-Marie
stepped toward the child impulsively, with outflung arms.
"Oh, you dear!" she said shakily, "you dear!"
Nobody spoke. Only Ella, with gentle hands, pushed her little sister
forward. The child's great blue eyes looked past Rose-Marie, and a vague
smile quivered on her lips.
"Oh, you dear!" Rose-Marie exclaimed again, and went down on her knees on
the dirty floor—real women will always kneel before a beautiful child.
Lily might have been four years old. Her hair, drawn back from her white
little face, was the colour of pale gold, and her lips were faintly
coral. But it was her deep eyes, with their vague expression, that
clutched, somehow, at Rose-Marie's heart.
"Tell me that you're going to like me, Lily!" she almost implored. "I
love little girls."
The child did not answer—indeed, she did not seem to hear. But one thin
little hand, creeping out, touched Rose-Marie's face with a gesture that
was singularly appealing, singularly full of affection. When the fingers
touched her cheek, Rose-Marie felt a sudden suspicion, a sudden dread.
She noticed, all at once, that no one was speaking—that the room was
quite still, except for the beastial grunts of the sleeping Pa.
"Why," she asked, quite without meaning to, "why doesn't she answer me?
She isn't afraid of me, is she? Why doesn't she say something?"
It was, curiously enough, Mrs. Volsky who answered. Even her voice—that
was usually so dull and monotonous—held a certain tremor.
"Lily," she said slowly, "can't spick—'r hear…. An' she's—blind!"
A LILY IN THE SLUMS
Rose-Marie started back from the child with a sickening sense of shock.
All at once she realized the reason why Bennie's eyes grew tender at the
mention of his little sister—why Ella forgot anger and suspicion when
Lily came into the room. She understood why Mrs. Volsky's dull voice held
love and sorrow. And yet, as she looked at the small girl, it seemed
almost incredible that she should be so afflicted. Deaf and dumb and
blind! Never to hear the voices of those who loved her, never to see the
beautiful things of life, never—even—to speak! Rose-Marie choked back a
sob, and glanced across the child's cloud of pale golden hair at Ella. As
their eyes met she knew that they were, in some strange way, friends.
With a sudden, overwhelming pity, her arms reached out again to Lily. As
she gathered the child close she was surprised at the slenderness of the
tiny figure, at the neatness of the faded gingham frock that blended in
tone with the great, sightless eyes. All at once she remembered what
Bennie had said to her, the day before, in the park.
"I love Lily," he had told her, "I wouldn't let nobody hurt Lily! If any
one—even Pa, so much as spoke mean to her—I'd kill him…."
Glancing about the room, at the faces of the others, she sensed a silent
echo of Bennie's words. Mrs. Volsky, who would keep neither her flat nor
herself neat, quite evidently saw to it that Lily's little dress was
spotless. Ella, whose temper would flare up at the slightest word, cared
for the child with the tender efficiency of a professional nurse;
Bennie's face, as he looked at his tiny sister, had taken on a cherubic
softness. And Jim … Rose-Marie glanced at Jim and was startled out of
her reflections. For Jim was not looking at Lily. His gaze was fixed upon
her own face with an intensity that frightened her. With a sudden impulse
she spoke directly to him.
"You must be very kind to this little sister of yours," she told him.
"She needs every bit of love and affection and consideration that her
family can give her!"
Jim, his gaze still upon her face, shrugged his shoulders. But before
he could answer Ella had come a step closer to Rose-Marie. Her eyes
"Jim," she said, "ain't got any love or kindness or consideration in him!
Jim thinks that Lily ain't got any more feelin's than a puppy dog—'cause
she can't answer back. Oh," in response to the question in Rose-Marie's
face, "oh, he'd never put a finger on her—not that! But he don't speak
kind to her, like we do. It's enough fer him that she can't hear th'
words he lays his tongue to. Even Pa—"
Suddenly, as if in answer to his spoken name, there came a scuffling
sound from the corner where Pa was sleeping. All at once the empty bottle
dropped from the unclenched hand, the mouth fell open in a prodigious
yawn, the eyes became wide, burned-out wells of drunkenness. And as she
watched, Rose-Marie saw the room cleared in an amazing fashion. She heard
Mrs. Volsky's terrified whisper, "He's wakin' up!" She heard Jim's harsh
laugh; she saw Ella, with a fiercely maternal sweep of her strong arms,
gather the little Lily close to her breast and dart toward the inner
room. And then, as she stood dazedly watching the mountain of sodden
flesh that was Pa rear itself to a sitting posture, and then to a
standing one, she felt a hot little hand touch her own.
"We better clear out," said the voice of Bennie. "We better clear out
pretty quick! Pa's awful bad, sometimes, when he's just wakin' up!"
With a quickness not unlike the bump at the end of a
falling-through-space dream, Rose-Marie felt herself drawn from the
room—heard the door close with a slam behind her. And then she was
hurrying after the shadowy form of Bennie, down the five rickety flights
of stairs—past the same varied odours and the same appalling sounds that
she had noticed on the way up!
When Rose-Marie came out into the sunlight of the street she glanced at
her watch and saw, with an almost overwhelming surprise, that it was only
four o'clock. It was just an hour since she had entered the cavern-like
doorway of the tenement. But in that hour she had come, for the first
time, against life in the rough. She had seen degeneracy, and poverty,
and—she was thinking of the expression in Jim's eyes—a menace that she
did not at all understand. She had seen the waste of broken middle age
and the pity of blighted childhood. She had seen fear and, if she had
stayed a few moments longer, she would have seen downright brutality. Her
hand, reaching out, clutched Bennie's hand.
"Dear," she said—and realized, from the startled expression of his eyes,
that he had not often been called "Dear,"—"is it always like that, in
Bennie looked up into her eyes. He seemed, somehow, younger than he had
appeared the day before, younger and softer.
"Yes, Miss," he told her, "it's always like that, except when it's
"And," Rose-Marie was still asking questions, "do your older sister and
brother just drift in, at any time, like that? And is your father home in
the middle of the day? Don't any of them work?"
Bennie's barriers of shyness had been burned away by the warmth of her
friendship. He was in a mood to tell anything.
"Pa, he works sometimes," he said. "An' Ella—she uster work till she had
a fight with her boss last week. An' now she says she ain't gotta work no
more 'cause there's a feller as will give her everythin' she wants, if
she says th' word! An' Jim—I ain't never seen him do nothin', but he
always has a awful lot o' money. He must do his workin' at night—after
Rose-Marie, her mind working rapidly, realized that Bennie had given
revelations of which he did not even dream. Pa—his condition was what
she had supposed it to be—but Ella was drifting toward danger-shoals
that she had never imagined! Well she knew the conditions under which a
girl of Ella's financial status stops working—she had heard many such
cases discussed, with an amazing frankness, during her short stay at the
Settlement House. And Jim—Jim with his sleek, patent-leather hair, and
his rat-like face—Jim did his work at night! Rose-Marie could not
suppress the shudder that ran over her. Quickly she changed the subject
to the one bright spot in the Volsky family—to Lily.
"Your little sister," she asked Bennie, "has she always been as she is
now? Wasn't there ever a time when she could hear, or speak, or see?"
Bennie winked back a suspicion of tears before he answered. Rose-Marie,
who found herself almost forgetting the episode of the kitten, liked him
better for the tears. "Yes, Miss," he told her, "she was born all
healthy, Ma says. But she had a sickness—when she was a baby. An' she
ain't been right since!"
They walked the rest of the way in silence—a silence of untold depth.
But it was that silent walk, Rose-Marie felt afterward, that cemented the
strange affection that had sprung suddenly into flower between them. As
they said good-bye, in front of the brownstone stoop of the Settlement
House, there was none of the usual restraint that exists between a child
and a grown-up. And when Rose-Marie asked Bennie, quite as a matter of
course, to come to some of their boys' clubs he assented in a manner as
casual as her own.
* * * * *
As she sat down to dinner, that night, Rose-Marie was beaming with
happiness and the pride of achievement. The Superintendent, tired after
the day's work, noticed her radiance with a wearily sympathetic
smile—the Young Doctor, coming in briskly from his round of calls, was
aware of her pink cheeks and her sparkling eyes. All at once he realized
that Rose-Marie was a distinct addition to the humdrum life of the place;
that she was like a sweet old-fashioned garden set down in the gardenless
slums. He started to say something of the sort before he remembered that
a quarrel lay, starkly, between them.
Rose-Marie, herself, could scarcely have told why she was so bubbling
over with gladness. When she left the tenement home of the Volskys she
had been exceedingly depressed, when she parted from Bennie at the
Settlement House steps she had been ready to cry. But the hours between
that parting and dinnertime had brought her a sort of assurance, a sort
of joyous bravery. She felt that at last she had found her true vocation,
her real place in the sun. The Volsky family presented to her a very
She glanced, covertly, at the Young Doctor. He was eating soup, and no
man is at his best while eating soup. And yet as she watched him, she
considered very seriously whether she should tell him of her adventure.
His skill might, perhaps, find some way out for Lily, who had not been
born a mute, who had come into the world with seeing eyes. Bennie had
told her that the child's condition was the result of an illness. Perhaps
the Young Doctor might be able to effect at least a partial cure. Perhaps
it was selfish of her—utterly, absurdly selfish, to keep the situation
The Superintendent's voice broke, sharply, into her reverie. It was a
pleasant voice, and yet Rose-Marie found herself resenting its
"Did you have a pleasant afternoon, dear?" the Superintendent was asking.
"I noticed that you were out for a long while, alone!"
"Why, yes," Rose-Marie faltered, as she spoke, and, to her annoyance, she
could feel the red wave of a blush creeping up over her face (Rose-Marie
had never learned to control her blushes). "Why, yes, I had a very
The Young Doctor, glancing up from his soup, felt a sudden desire to
tease. Rose-Marie, with her cheeks all flushed, made a startlingly
colourful, extremely young picture.
"You're blushing!" he told her accusingly. "You're blushing!"
Rose-Marie, feeling the blushes creep still higher, knew a rude impulse
to slap the Young Doctor. All of her desire to confide in him died away,
as suddenly as it had been born. He was the man who had said that the
people who lived in poverty are soulless. He would scoff at the Volskys,
and at her desire to help them. Worse than that—he might keep her from
seeing the Volskys again. And, in keeping her from seeing them, he would
also keep her from making Bennie into a real, wholesome boy—he would
keep her from showing Ella the dangers of the precipice that she was
skirting. Of course, he might help Lily. But, Rose-Marie told herself
that perhaps even Lily—golden-haired, angelic little Lily—might seem
soulless to him.
"I'm not blushing, Dr. Blanchard," she said shortly, and could have
bitten her tongue for saying it.
The Young Doctor laughed with a boyish vigour.
"I thought," he said annoyingly, "that you were a Christian, Miss
Rose-Marie felt a tide of quite definite anger rising in her heart.
"I am a Christian!" she retorted.
"Then," the Young Doctor was still laughing, "then you must never, never
tell untruths. You are blushing!"
The Superintendent interrupted. It had been her role, lately, to
interrupt quarrels between the two who sat on either side of her table.
"Don't tease, Billy Blanchard!" she said, sternly. "If Rose-Marie went
anywhere this afternoon, she certainly had a right to. And she also has a
right to blush. I'm glad, in these sophisticated days, to see a girl who
The Young Doctor was leaning back in his chair, surveying the pair of
them with unconcealed amusement.
"How you women do stick together!" he said. "Talk about men being
clannish! I believe," he chuckled, "from the way Miss Thompson is
blushing, that she's got a very best beau! I believe that she was out
with him, this afternoon!"
Rose-Marie, who had always been taught that deceit is wicked, felt a
sudden, unexplainable urge to be wicked! She told herself that she hated
Dr. Blanchard—she told herself that he was the most unsympathetic of
men! His eyes, fixed mirthfully upon her, brought words—that she
scarcely meant to say—to her lips.
"Well," she answered slowly and distinctly, "what if I was?"
There was silence for a moment. And then—with something of an
effort—the Superintendent spoke.
"I told you," she said, "not to bother Rose-Marie, Doctor. If Rose-Marie
was out with a young man I'm sure that she had every right to be.
Rose-Marie"—was it possible that her eyes were fixed a shade inquiringly
upon the blushing girl—"would have nothing to do with any one who had
not been approved by her aunts. And she realizes that she is, in a way,
under my care—that I am more or less responsible for her safety and
welfare. Rose-Marie is trustworthy, absolutely trustworthy. And she is
old enough to take care of herself. You must not bother her, Billy
It was a long speech for the Superintendent, and it was a kindly one. It
was also a speech to invite confidences. But—strangely
enough—Rose-Marie could not help feeling that there was a question half
concealed in the kindliness of it. She could not help feeling that the
Superintendent was just a trifle worried over the prospect of an unknown
It was her time, then, to admit that there was nobody, really—that she
had gone out on an adventure by herself, that there had been no "beau."
But the consciousness of the Young Doctor's eyes, fixed upon her face,
prohibited all speech. She could not tell him about the Volskys—neither
could she admit that no young man was interested in her. Every girl wants
to seem popular in the eyes of some member of the opposite sex—even
though that member may be an unpleasant person—whom she dislikes. And
so, with a feeling of utter meanness in her soul—with a real weight of
deceit upon her heart—she smiled into the Superintendent's anxious face.
"I do appreciate the way you feel about me," she said softly, "I do,
indeed! You may be sure that I won't do anything that either you, or my
aunts, would disapprove of!"
After all, she assured herself a trifle uncomfortably, she had in no way
told a direct falsehood. They had assumed too much and she had not
corrected their assumptions. She said fiercely, in her heart, that she
was not to blame if they insisted upon taking things for granted!
As the days crept into weeks, Rose-Marie no longer felt the dull unrest
of inaction. She was busy at the Settlement House—her clubs for mothers
and young girls, her kindergarten for the little tots, had grown
amazingly popular. And at the times when she was not busy at the
Settlement House, she had the Volsky family and their many problems to
The Volsky family—and their many problems! Rose-Marie would have found
it hard to tell which problem was the most important! Of course Lily came
first—her infirmities and her sweetness made her the central figure. But
the problem of Ella was a more vital one to watch—it was, somehow, more
immediate. Rose-Marie had found it hard to reach Ella—except when Lily
was the topic of conversation; except when Lily's welfare was to be
considered, she stayed silently in the background. But the flashings of
her great dark eyes, the quiverings of her too scarlet mouth, were
ominous. Rose-Marie could see that the untidiness of the flat, the
drunken mutterings of Pa, and her mother's carelessness and dirt had
strained Ella's resistance to the breaking point. Some day there would be
a crash and, upon that day Ella would disappear like a gorgeous butterfly
that drifts across the road, and out of sight. Rose-Marie was hoping to
push that day into the background—to make it only a dim uncertainty
rather than the sword of Damocles that it was. But she could only hope.
Bennie, too, was a problem. But it was Bennie who cheered Rose-Marie when
she felt that her efforts in behalf of Ella were failing. For Bennie's
brain was the fertile ground in which she could plant ideals, and dreams.
Bennie was young enough to change, and easily. He got into the way of
waiting for her, after his school had been dismissed, in the little park.
And there, seated close together on an iron bench, they would talk; and
Rose-Marie would tell endless stories. Most of the stories were about
knights who rode upon gallant quests, and about old-time courtesy, and
about wonderful animals. But sometimes she told him of her home in the
country—of apple trees in bloom, and frail arbutus hiding under the
snow. She told him of coasting parties, and bonfires, and trees to climb.
And he listened, star-eyed and adoring. They made a pretty picture
together—the slim, rosy-cheeked girl and the ragged little boy, with the
pale, city sunshine falling, like a mist, all about them.
Lily and Ella and Bennie—Rose-Marie loved them, all three. But Jim
Volsky was the unsolvable problem—the one that she tried to push to the
back of her mind, to avoid. Mrs. Volsky and Pa she gave up as nearly
hopeless—she kept, as much as possible, out of Pa's way, and Mrs. Volsky
could only be helped in the attaining of creature comforts—her spirit
seemed dead! But Jim insisted upon intruding upon her moments in the
flat; he monopolized conversations, and asked impertinent questions, and
stared. More than once he had offered to "walk her home" as she was
leaving; more than once he had thrust himself menacingly across her path.
But she had managed, neatly, to avoid him.
Rose-Marie was afraid of Jim. She admitted it to herself—she even
admitted, at times, that the Young Doctor might be of assistance if any
emergency should arise out of Jim's sleek persistence. She had noticed,
from the first, that the doctor was an impressive man among men—she had
seen the encouraging swell of muscles through the warm tweed of his coat
sleeve. But to have asked his help in the controlling of Jim would have
been an admission of deceit, of weakness, of failure! To prove her own
theory that the people were real, underneath—to prove that they had some
sort of a code, and worth-while impulses—she had to make the reformation
of the Volsky family her own, individual task.
Yes—Rose-Marie was busy. Almost she hated to give up moments of her time
to the letters she had to write home—to the sewing that she had to do.
She made few friends among the teachers and visitors who thronged the
Settlement House by day—she was far too tired, when night came, to meet
with the Young Doctor and the Superintendent in the cosy little
living-room. But often when her activities lasted well along into the
evening, often when her clubs gave sociables or entertainments, she was
forced to welcome the Young Doctor (the Superintendent was always
welcome); to make room for him beside her own place.
It was during one of these entertainments—her Girls' Sewing Society was
giving a party—that she and the Young Doctor had their first real talk.
Before the quarrel at the luncheon table they had had little time
together; since the quarrel the Young Doctor had seldom been able to
corner Rose-Marie. But at the entertainment they were placed, by the hand
of circumstance, upon a wooden settee in the back of the room. And there,
for the better part of two hours—while Katie Syrop declaimed poetry and
Helen Merskovsky played upon the piano, and others recited long and
monotonous dialogues—they were forced to stay.
The Young Doctor was in a chastened mood. He applauded heartily whenever
a part of the program came to a close; the comments that he made behind
his hand were neither sarcastic nor condescending. He praised the work
that Rose-Marie had done and then, while she was glowing—almost against
her will—from the warmth of that praise, he ventured a remark that had
nothing to do with the work.
"When I see you," he told her very seriously, "when I see you, sitting
here in one of our gray coloured meeting rooms, I can't help thinking how
appropriate your name is. Rose-Marie—there's a flower, isn't there,
that's named Rosemary? I like flowery names!"
Rose-Marie laughed, as lightly as she could, to cover a strange feeling
"Most people don't like them," she said—"flowery names, I mean. I don't
myself. I like names like Jane, and Anne, and Nancy. I like names like
Phyllis and Sarah. I've always felt that my first name didn't fit my last
one. Thompson," she was warming to her subject, "is such a matter-of-fact
name. There's no romance in it. But Rose-Marie—"
The Young Doctor interrupted.
"But Rose-Marie," he finished for her, "is teeming with romance! It
suggests vague perfumes, and twilight in the country, and gay little
lights shining through the dusk. It suggests poetry."
Rose-Marie had folded her hands, softly, in her lap. Her eyes were bent
"My mother," she said, and her voice was quiet and tender, "loved poetry.
I've heard how she used to read it every afternoon, in her garden. She
loved perfumes, too, and twilight in the country. My mother was the sort
of a woman who would have found the city a bit hard, I think, to live in.
Beauty meant such a lot—to her. She gave me my name because she thought,
just as you think, that it had a hint of lovely things in it. And, even
though I sometimes feel that I'd like a plainer one, I can't be sorry
that she gave it to me. For it was a part of her—a gift that was built
out of her imagination," all at once she coughed, perhaps to cover the
slight tremor in her voice, and then—
"To change the subject," she said, "I'll tell you what Rosemary really
is. You said that you thought it was a flower. It's more than a flower,"
she laughed shakily, "it's a sturdy, evergreeny sort of little shrub. It
has a clean fragrance, a trifle like mint. And it bears small blue
blossoms. Folk say that it stands for remembrance," suddenly her eyes
were down, again, upon her clasped hands. "Let's stop talking about
flowers and the country—and mothers—" she said suddenly. Her voice
broke upon the last word.
The Young Doctor's understanding glance was on the girl's down-bent face.
After a moment he spoke.
"Are you ever sorry that you left the home town, Miss Rose-Marie?" he
Rose-Marie looked at him, for a moment, to see whether he was serious.
And then, as no flicker of mirth stirred his mouth, she answered.
"Sometimes I'm homesick," she said. "Usually after the lights are out, at
night. But I'm never sorry!"
The Young Doctor was staring off into space—past the raised platform
where the girls of the club were performing.
"I wonder," he said, after a moment, "I wonder if you can imagine what it
is to have nothing in the world to be lonesome for, Miss Rose-Marie?"
Rose-Marie felt a quick wave of sympathy toward him.
"My mother and my father are dead, Dr. Blanchard—you know that," she
told him, "but my aunts have always been splendid," she added honestly,
"and I have any number of friends! No, I've never felt at all alone!"
The Young Doctor was silent for a moment. And then—
"It isn't an alone feeling that I mean," he told her, "not exactly! It's
rather an empty feeling! Like hunger, almost. You see my father and
mother are dead, too. I can't even remember them. And I never had any
aunts to be splendid to me. My childhood—even my babyhood—was spent in
an orphan asylum with a firm-fisted matron who punished me; with nobody
to give me the love I needed. I came out of it a hard man—at fourteen.
I—" he broke off, suddenly, and then—
"I don't know why I'm telling you all this," he said; "you wouldn't be in
the least interested in my school days—they were pretty drab! And you
wouldn't be interested in the scholarship that gave me my profession.
For," his tone changed slightly, "you aren't even interested in the
result—not enough to try to understand my point of view, when I attempt
to tell you, frankly, just what I think of the people down here—barring
girls like these," he pointed to the stage, "and a few others who are
working hard to make good! You act, when I say that they're like animals,
as if I'm giving you a personal insult! You think, when I suggest that
you don't go, promiscuously, into dirty tenements, that I'm trying to
curb your ambition—to spoil your chances of doing good! But I'm not,
really. I'm only endeavouring, for your own protection, to give you the
benefit of my rather bitter experience. I don't want any one so young,
and trusting and—yes, beautiful—as you are, to be forced by experience
into my point of view. We love having you here, at the Settlement House.
But I almost wish that you'd go home—back to the place and the people
that you're lonesome for—after the lights are out!"
Rose-Marie, watching the play of expression across his keen dark face,
was struck, first of all by his sincerity. It was only after a moment
that she began to feel the old resentment creeping back.
"Then," she said at last, very slowly, "then you think that I'm worthless
here? It seems to me that I can help the people more, just because I am
fresh, and untried, and not in the least bitter! It seems to me that by
direct contact with them I may be able to show them the tender, guiding
hand of God—as it has always been revealed to me. But you think that I'm
There was a burst of loud singing from the raised platform. The girls of
the sewing club loved to sing. But neither Rose-Marie nor the Young
Doctor was conscious of it.
"No," the Young Doctor answered, also very slowly, "no, I don't think
that you are worthless—not at all.-But I'm almost inclined to think that
you're wasted. Go home, child, go home to the little town! Go home
before the beautiful colour has worn off the edge of your dreams!"
Again Rose-Marie felt the swift burst of anger that she had felt upon
other occasions. Why did he persist in treating her like a child? But her
voice was steady as she answered.
"Well," she said, "I'm afraid that I'll have to disappoint you! For I
came here with a definite plan to carry out. And I'm going to stay here
until I've at least partly made good!"
The Young Doctor was watching her flushed face. He answered almost
"Then," he said, "I'm glad that you have a sweetheart—you didn't deny
it, you know, the other night! He'll take you away from the slums, I
reckon, before very long! He'll take you away before you've been hurt!"
Rose-Marie, looking straight ahead, did not answer. But the weight of
deceit upon her soul made her feel very wicked.
Yes, the weight of deceit upon her soul made her feel very wicked! But
later that night, after the club members had gone home, dizzy with many
honours, it was not the weight of deceit that troubled her. As she crept
into her narrow little bed she was all at once very sorry for herself;
and for a vanished dream! Dr. Blanchard could be so nice—when he wanted
to. He could be so understanding, so sympathetic! There on the bench in
the rear of the room they had been, for a moment, very close together.
She had nearly come back, during their few minutes of really intimate
conversation, to her first glowing impression of him. And then he had
changed so suddenly—had so abruptly thrust aside the little house of
friendship that they had begun to build. "If he would only let me," she
told herself, "I could teach him to like the things I like. If he would
only understand I could explain just how I feel about people. If he would
only give me a chance I could keep him from being so lonely."
Rose-Marie had known few men. The boys of her own town she scarcely
regarded as men—they were old playmates, that was all. No one stood out
from the other, they were strikingly similar. They had carried her books
to school, had shared apples with her, had played escort to
prayer-meetings and to parties. But none of them had ever stirred her
imagination as the Young Doctor stirred it.
There in the dark Rose-Marie felt herself blushing. Could it be possible
that she felt an interest in the Young Doctor, an interest that was more
than a casual interest? Could it be possible that she liked a man who
showed plainly, upon every possible occasion, that he did not like her?
Could it be possible that a person who read sensational stories, who did
not believe in the greatness of human nature, who refused to go to
church, attracted her?
Of a sudden she had flounced out of bed; had shrugged her slender little
body into a shapeless wrapper—the parting gift of a girl friend—from
which her small flushed face seemed to grow like some delicate spring
blossom. With hurried steps—she might almost have been running away from
something—she crossed the room to a small table that served as a
combination dresser and writing desk. Brushing aside her modest toilet
articles, she reached for a pad of paper and a small business-like
fountain pen. Her aunts—she wanted them, all at once, and badly. She
wished that she might talk with them—writing seemed so inadequate.
"My dears," she began, "I miss you very much. Often I'm lonely enough to
cry. Of course," she added hastily (for they must not worry), "of course,
every one is nice to me. I like every one, too. That is, except Dr.
Blanchard. I guess I told you about him; he's the resident physician.
He's awfully good looking but he's not very pleasant. I never hated any
one so—" she paused, for a moment, as a round tear splashed
devastatingly down upon the paper.
MRS. VOLSKY PROMISES TO TRY
As Lily pattered across the room, on her soft, almost noiseless little
feet, Rose-Marie stopped talking. She had been having one of her rare
conversations alone with Mrs. Volsky—a conversation that she had almost
schemed for—and yet she stopped. It struck her suddenly as strange that
Lily's presence in any place should make such a vast difference—that the
child should bring with her a healing silence and a curious tenderness.
She had felt, many times before, a slowing up in conversations—she had
seen the bitterness drain from Ella's face, the stolidness from Bennie's.
She had even seen Pa, half intoxicated, turn and go quietly from a room
that Lily was entering. And now, as she watched, she saw a spark leap
into the dullness of Mrs. Volsky's eyes.
With a gentle hand she reached out to the child, drew her close. Lily
nestled against her side with a slight smile upon her faintly coral lips,
with her blue, vacant gaze fixed upon space—or upon something that they
could not see! Rose-Marie had often felt that Lily was watching beautiful
vistas with those sightless eyes of hers; that she was hearing wonderful
sounds, with her useless little ears—sounds that normal people could not
hear. But she did not say anything of the sort to Mrs. Volsky—Mrs.
Volsky would not have been able to understand. Instead she spoke of
something else that had lain, for a long time, upon her mind.
"Has Lily ever received any medical attention?" she asked abruptly.
Mrs. Volsky's face took on lines of blankness. "What say?" she mouthed
thickly. "I don' understan'?"
Rose-Marie reconstructed her question.
"Has Lily ever been taken to a doctor?" she asked.
Mrs. Volsky answered more quickly than she usually answered questions.
"When she was first sick, years ago," she told Rose-Marie, "she had a
doctor then. He say—no help fer her. Las' year Ella, she took Lily by a
free clinic. But the doctors, there, they say Lily never get no better.
And if there comes another doctor to our door, now—" she shrugged; and
her shrug seemed to indicate the uselessness of all doctors.
Rose-Marie, with suddenly misting eyes, lifted Lily to her knee… "The
only times," she said slowly, "when I feel any doubt in my mind of the
Divine Plan—are the times when I see little children, who have never
done anything at all wicked or wrong, bearing pain and suffering and…"
she broke off.
Mrs. Volsky answered, as she almost always answered, with a
"What say?" she murmured dully.
Rose-Marie eyed her over the top of Lily's golden head. After all, she
told herself, in the case of Mrs. Volsky she could see the point of Dr.
Blanchard's assertion! She had known many animals who apparently were
quicker to reason, who apparently had more enthusiasm and ambition, than
Mrs. Volsky. She looked at the dingy apron, the unkempt hair, the sagging
flesh upon the gray cheeks. And she was conscious suddenly of a feeling
of revulsion. She fought it back savagely.
"Christ," she told herself, "never turned away from people because they
were dirty, or ugly, or stupid. Christ loved everybody—no matter how low
they were. He would have loved Mrs. Volsky."
It was curious how it gave her strength—that reflection—strength to
look straight at the woman in front of her, and to smile.
"Why," she asked, and the smile became brighter as she asked it, "why
don't you try to fix your hair more neatly, Mrs. Volsky? And why don't
you wear fresh aprons, and keep the flat cleaner? Why don't you try to
make your children's home more pleasant for them?"
Mrs. Volsky did not resent the suggestion as some other women might have
done. Mrs. Volsky had reached the point where she no longer resented
"I uster try—onct," she said tonelessly, "but it ain't no good, no more.
Ella an' Bennie an' Jim don' care. An' Pa—he musses up th' flat whenever
he comes inter it. An' Lily can't see how it looks. So what's th' use?"
It was a surprisingly long speech for Mrs. Volsky. And some of it showed
a certain reasoning power. Rose-Marie told herself, in all fairness,
that if she were Mrs. Volsky—she, too, might be inclined to ask "What's
th' use?" She leaned forward, searching desperately in her mind for
something to say.
"Do you like me, Mrs. Volsky?" she questioned at last, "Do you like
The woman nodded, and again the suggestion of a light flamed up in her
"Sure I like you," she said, "you are good to all of us—an' to Lily."
"Then," Rose-Marie's voice was quivering with eagerness, "then won't you
try—for my sake—to make things here," the sweep of her hand included
every corner of the ugly room, "a little better? I'll help you, very
gladly. I'll make new aprons for you, and I'll"—her brave resolution
faltered, but only for a moment—"I'll wash your hair, and take you to
the free baths with me. And then," she had a sudden inspiration, "then
Lily will love to touch you, you'll be so nice and clean! Then Lily will
be glad that she has you for a mother!"
All at once the shell of stupidity had slipped from Mrs. Volsky's bent
shoulders. All at once she was eager, breathlessly eager.
"Miss," she said, and one thin, dingy hand was laid appealingly upon
Rose-Marie's dress, "Miss, you can do wit' me as you wish to! If you
t'ink dat my bein' clean will make Lily glad"—she made a sudden
impetuous gesture with her hand—"den I will be clean! If you t'ink dat
she will like better dat I should be her mother," the word, on her lips,
was surprisingly sweet, "den I will do—anyt'ing!" All at once she
broke into phrases that were foreign to Rose-Marie, phrases spoken
lovingly in some almost forgotten tongue. And the girl knew that she was
quite forgotten—that the drab woman was dreaming over some youthful
hope, was voicing tenderly the promises of a long dead yesterday, and was
making an impassioned pledge to her small daughter and to the future! The
words that she spoke might be in the language of another land—but the
tone was unmistakable, was universal.
Rose-Marie, listening to her, felt a sudden desire to kneel there, on the
dirty tenement floor, and say a little prayer of thanksgiving. Once again
she had proved that she was right—and that the Young Doctor was wrong.
BENNIE COMES TO THE SETTLEMENT HOUSE
It was Bennie who came first to the Settlement House. Shyly, almost, he
slipped through the great doors—as one who seeks something that he does
not quite understand. As he came, a gray kitten, creeping out from the
shadows of the hall, rubbed affectionately against his leg. And Bennie,
half unconsciously—and with absolutely no recognition—stooped to pat
its head. Rose-Marie would have cried with joy to have seen him do it,
but Rose-Marie was in another part of the building, teaching tiny
children to embroider outlines, with gay wool, upon perforated bits of
cardboard. The Young Doctor, passing by the half-opened door of the
kindergarten room, saw her there and paused for a moment to enjoy the
sight. He thought, with a curious tightening of his lips, as he left
noiselessly, that some day Rose-Marie would be surrounded by her own
children—far away from the Settlement House. And he was surprised at the
sick feeling that the thought gave him.
"I've been rather a fool," he told himself savagely, "trying to send her
away. I've been a fool. But I'd never known anything like her—not in all
of my life! And it makes me shiver to think of what one meeting with some
unscrupulous gangster would do to her point of view. It makes me want to
fight the world when I realize how an unpleasant experience would affect
her love of people. I'd rather never see her again," he was surprised,
for a second time, at the pain that the words caused him, "than to have
her made unhappy. I hope that this man of hers is a regular fellow!"
He passed on down the hall. He walked slowly, the vision of Rose-Marie, a
dream child held close to her breast, before his eyes. That was why,
perhaps, he did not see Bennie—why he stumbled against the boy.
"Hello," he said gruffly, for his voice was just a trifle hoarse (voices
get that way sometimes, when visions will stay in front of one's eyes!)
"Hello, youngster! Do you want anything? Or are you just looking around?"
Bennie straightened up. The kitten that he had been patting rubbed
reassuringly against his legs, but Bennie needed more reassurance than
the affection of a kitten can give. The kindness of Rose-Marie, the
stories that she had told him, had given him a great deal of confidence.
But he had not yet learned to stand up, fearlessly, to a big man with a
gruff voice. It is a step forward to have stopped hurting the smaller
things. But to accept a pretty lady's assurance that things larger than
you will be kind—that is almost too much to expect! Bennie answered just
a shade shrinkingly.
"Th' kids in school," he muttered, "tol' me 'bout a club they come to
here. It's a sort of a Scout Club. They wears soldier clo's. An' they
does things fer people. An' I wanter b'long," he gulped, noisily.
The Young Doctor leaned against the wall. He did not realize how tall and
strong he looked, leaning there, or he could not have smiled so
whimsically. To him the small dark boy with his earnest face, standing
beside the gray kitten, was just an interesting, rather lovable joke.
"Which do you want most," he questioned, "to wear soldier clothes, or to
do things for people?"
Bennie gulped again, and shuffled his feet. His voice came, at last,
"I sorter want to do things fer people!" he said.
More than anything else the Young Doctor hated folk, even children, who
say or do things for effect. And he knew well the lure that soldier
clothes hold for the small boy.
"Say, youngster," he inquired in a not too gentle voice, "are you
trying to bluff me? Or do you really mean what you're saying? And if
Bennie had never been a quitter. By an effort he steadied his voice.
"I mean," he said, "what I'm a-tellin' yer. I wanter be a good boy. My
pa, he drinks. He drinks like—" The word he used, in description, was
not the sort of a word that should have issued from childish lips. "An'
my big brother—he ain't like Pa, but he's a bum, too! I don't wanter be
like they are—not if I kin help it! I wanter be th' sort of a guy King
Arthur was, an' them knights of his'n. I wanter be like that there St.
George feller, as killed dragons. I wanter do real things," unconsciously
he was quoting from the gospel of Rose-Marie, "wi' my life! I wanter be a
good husban' an' father—"
All at once the Young Doctor was laughing. It was not an unkind
laugh—it gave Bennie heart to listen to it—but it was exceedingly
mirthful. Bennie could not know that the idea of himself, as a husband
and father, was sending this tall man into such spasms of merriment—he
could not know that it was rather incongruous to picture his small
grubby form in the shining armour of St. George or of King Arthur. But,
being glad that the doctor was not angry, he smiled too—his strange,
twisted little smile.
The Young Doctor stopped laughing almost as quickly as he had begun. With
something of interest in his face he surveyed the little ragged boy.
"Where," he questioned after a moment, "did you learn all of that stuff
about knights, and saints, and doing things with your life, and husbands
and fathers? Who told you about it?"
Bennie hesitated a moment. Perhaps he was wondering who had given this
stranger a right to pry into his inner shrine. Perhaps he was wondering
if Rose-Marie would like an outsider to know just what she had told him.
When he answered, his answer was evasive.
"A lady told me," he said. "A lady."
The Young Doctor was laughing again.
"And I suppose," he remarked, with an effort at solemnity, "that
gentlemen don't pass ladies' names about between 'em—I suppose that you
wouldn't tell me who this lady of yours may be, even though I'd like to
Bennie's lips closed in a hard little line that quirked up at one end. He
shook his head.
"I'd ruther not," he said very slowly. "Say—Where's th' Scout Club?"
The Young Doctor shook his head.
"It's such a strange, old-fashioned, young person!" he informed the empty
hallway. And then—"Come with me, youngster," he said kindly, "and we'll
find this very wonderful club where small boys learn about doing things
for people—and, incidentally, wear soldier clothes!"
Bennie, following stealthily behind him, felt that he had found another
friend—something like his lady, only different!
Rose-Marie was exceptionally weary that night. It had been a hard day.
All three of her classes had met, and—late in the afternoon—she had
made good her promise to wash Mrs. Volsky's hair. The task had not been a
joyous one—she felt that she could never wash hair again—not even her
own soft curls or the fine, snowy locks that crowned her aunts' stately
heads. Mrs. Volsky had once more relapsed into her shell of silence—she
had seemed more apathetic, more dull than ever. But Rose-Marie had
noticed that there were no unwashed dishes lying in the tub—that the
corners of the room had had some of the grime of months swept out of
them. When Ella Volsky came suddenly into the flat, with lips compressed,
and a high colour, Rose-Marie had been glowingly conscious of her start
of surprise. And when she had said, haltingly, in reference to the
hair—"I'll dry it for you, Miss Rose-Marie!" Rose-Marie could have wept
with happiness. It was the first time that she had ever heard Ella offer
to do anything for her mother.
Jim—coming in as she was about to leave—had added to Rose-Marie's
weariness. He had been more insistent than usual—he had commented upon
her rosy cheeks and he had made a laughing reference to her wide eyes.
And he had asked her, gruffly, why she didn't take up with some feller
like himself—a good provider, an' all, that'd doll her up the way she'd
oughter be dolled up? And when Ella had interrupted, her dark eyes
flashing, he had told her—with a burst of soul-chilling profanity—to
mind her own business.
And then Pa had come in—apparently more drunk than he had ever been. And
Rose-Marie had seen his bleary eyes pass, without a flicker of interest,
over his wife's clean apron and freshly washed hair; had seen him throw
his coat and his empty bottle into one of the newly dusted corners, had
seen his collapse into a heap in the center of the room. And, last of
all, as she had hurried away, with Jim's final insinuation ringing in her
ears, she had known the fear that all was not well with Bennie—for
Bennie came in every afternoon before she left. She could not know that
Bennie, by this time a budding Boy Scout, was learning more lessons of
the sort that she had taught him.
Yes, she was weary, in every fibre of her being, as she sat down to
supper that night. She had it quite alone in the dining-room, which, all
at once, seemed very large—for the Superintendent was sitting,
somewhere, with a dying woman, and the Young Doctor had been called out
on an emergency case. And then, still alone, she wandered into the
library of the Settlement House and picked up a book. She felt, somehow,
too tired to sleep—too utterly exhausted to lay her head upon her
pillow. It was in the library that the Superintendent, coming wearily
back from the watch with death, found her.
"My dear," said the Superintendent, and there was a sound of tears in her
usually steady voice, "my dear, I'm about all in! Yes, I know it's slang,
but I can't help it—I feel slangy! Come up to my sitting-room for a few
minutes and we'll have a cup of hot chocolate!"
Rose-Marie laid down her book with alacrity. She realized, suddenly, that
she wanted companionship of her own sort—that she longed with all of her
soul to chat with some one who did not murder the queen's English, that
she wanted to exchange commonplaces about books, and music, and beautiful
things—things that the Volskys would not understand.
"I guess," she said, as she followed the Superintendent into the cozy
sitting-room, "I guess that tiredness is in the air to-day. I'm all in,
myself. A cup of chocolate and a friendly talk will be a godsend to me,
The Superintendent was laying aside her coat and her hat. She smoothed
her hair with a nervous hand, and straightened her linen collar, before
she sank into an easy chair.
"Child," she said abruptly, "you shouldn't be tired—not ever! You've
got youth, and all of the world at your feet. You've got beauty, and
confidence, and faith. And I—well, I'm getting to be an old woman! I
feel sometimes as if I've been sitting on the window sill, watching life
go by, for centuries. You mustn't—" She paused, and there was a sudden
change in her voice, "You're not tiring yourself, Rose-Marie? You're not
doing more than your strength will permit? If you could have read the
letter that your aunts sent to me, when you first came to the Settlement
House! I tell you, child, I've felt my responsibility keenly! I'd no more
think of letting you brush up against the sort of facts I'm facing, than
Rose-Marie's cheeks were flushed, her eyes were bright, as she
"Somehow," she said, "I can't think that you and my aunts are quite
right about shielding me—about keeping me from brushing up against life,
and the real facts of life. It seems to me that there's only one way to
develop—really. And that way is to learn to accept things as they come;
to meet situations—no matter how appalling they may be, with one's eyes
open. If I," she was warming to her subject, "am never to tire myself
out, working for others, how am I to help them? If I am never to see
conditions as they are how am I ever to know the sort of a problem that
we, here at the Settlement House, are fighting? Dr. Blanchard wouldn't
try to treat a case if he had no knowledge of medicine—he wouldn't try
to set a broken leg if he had never studied anatomy. You wouldn't be in
charge, here, if you didn't know the district, if you didn't realize the
psychological reasons back of the things that the people of the district
say and do. Without the knowledge that you're trying to keep from me
you'd be as useless as"—she faltered—"as I am!"
The Superintendent's expression reflected all the tenderness of her
nature; the mother-instinct, which she had never known, made her smile
into the girl's serious face.
"My dear," she said, "you must not think that you're useless. You must
never think that! Look at the success you've had in your club
work—remember how the children that you teach have come to love you.
You've done more with them, because of the things that you don't know,
than I could ever do—despite the hard facts that I've had to brush up
against. Find content, dear, in being the sweet place in our garden—that
has so pitifully few flowers. Do not long for the hard, uncomfortable
places on the other side of the garden wall!"
Despite the Superintendent's expression—despite the gentle tone of her
voice, Rose-Marie felt a sudden desire to cry out against the irony of it
all. She was so tired of being classed with the flowers! "They toil not,
neither do they spin," came back to her, from a certain golden text that
she had learned, long ago, in Sunday-school. Even at the time it had
seemed to her as if the flowers enjoyed lives that were a shade too easy!
At the time it had seemed unfair that they, who were not workers, should
be beautiful—more beautiful than the ants, for instance, that
uncomplainingly toiled all day long for their existence.
"I don't want to be a flower," she exclaimed, almost fretfully, "I want
to be a worth while member of society—that's what I want! What's the use
of being a decoration in a garden! What's the use of knowing only the
sunshine? I want to know storms, too, and gales of wind. I want to share
the tempests that you go through!" She hesitated; and then—"I read a
book once," she said slowly, "I forget what it was—but I remember, in
one place, that a woman was being discussed. She was a very beautiful
elderly woman who, despite her age, had a face as unlined and calm as a
young girl's face could be. One character in the book commented upon the
woman's youth and charm, and another character agreed that she was
beautiful and charming, but that she'd be worth more if she had a few
lines on her face. 'She's never known tears,' the character said, 'she's
never lived deeply enough to know tears! Her life has been just a
surface life. If you go down deep enough into the earth you find water,
always. If you go down deep enough into life you invariably find tears.
It's one of the unbreakable rules!'" Rose-Marie paused, for a moment, and
stole a covert glance at the Superintendent's face. "You don't want me to
be a woman whose life is only a surface life," she pleaded, "and it will
be just that if you keep me from helping, as I want to help! You don't
want me to have a perfectly unlined face when I'm eighty years old?"
All at once the Superintendent was laughing. "You child!" she exclaimed
when the first spasm of mirth had passed, "you blessed child! If you
could know how ridiculously young you looked, sitting there and talking
about lined faces—and yourself at eighty. Eighty is a long way off,
The girl joined, a trifle shamefacedly, in the older woman's laughter.
"I reckon," she agreed, "that I do take myself too seriously! But—well,
there are families that I'm just dying to help—families that I've come
in contact with through the"—again she was forced to a slight
deceit—"through the Settlement House. I'm sure that I could help them if
you'd let me visit them, in their own homes. I'm sure that I'd be able to
reform ever so many people if you'd only let me go out and find them. The
city missionary who spoke once in our church, back home, told of
wonderful things that he'd done—of lives that he'd actually made over.
Of course, I couldn't do the sort of work he did, but I'm sure—if you'd
only give me a chance—" She paused.
The Superintendent was silent for a moment. And then—
"Maybe you're right, dear," she said, "and maybe you're wrong. Maybe I am
cramping your ambitions—maybe I am hampering your mental and spiritual
growth. But then, again, maybe I'm right! And I'm inclined to think that
I am right. I'm inclined to adhere to my point, that it will be better
for you to wait, until you're older, before you go into many
tenements—before you do much reforming outside of the Settlement House.
When you're older and more experienced I'll be glad to let you do
She was interrupted by a rap upon the door. It was a gentle rap, but it
was, above all, a masculine one. There was real gladness on her face as
she rose to answer it.
"I didn't expect Billy Blanchard—he thought he had an all-night case,"
she told Rose-Marie. "How nice!"
But Rose-Marie was rising to her feet.
"I don't think that I'll stay," she said hurriedly, "I'm too tired, after
all! I think—"
The Superintendent had paused in her progress to the door. Her voice was
surprisingly firm, of a sudden; firmer than Rose-Marie had ever heard it.
"No, my dear," said the Superintendent, "you're not too tired! You just
don't want to be civil to a very fine boy—who has had a harder day than
either of us. You came to the slums, Rose-Marie, to help people—to show
that you were a Christian. I think that you can show it, to-night, by
forgetting a silly quarrel that happened weeks ago—by forgetting the
words Dr. Blanchard said that he never really meant, inside. If he
thought that these people weren't worth it, do you suppose he'd stay
here, at the Settlement House, for a mere pittance? He's had many a
chance to go to fashionable hospitals, up-town!"
Rose-Marie, bewildered, and not a little ashamed, sank back into her seat
as the Superintendent swung open the door.
The Young Doctor came in with a springing step, but there were gray lines
that spoke of extreme fatigue about his mouth, and his eyes were darkly
circled. His surprise, at the sight of Rose-Marie, was evident—though he
tried to hide it by the breeziness of his manner.
"You'll be glad to know," he told the Superintendent, "that the stork has
called on the Stefan family. It's a boy—nine pounds—with lots of dark
hair. There have been three girls, in the Stefan family," he explained to
Rose-Marie, "and so they are wild with joy at this latest addition. Papa
Stefan is strutting about like a proud turkey, with his chest out. And
Mamma Stefan is trying to sing a lullaby. I feel something like a tool in
the hand of Providence, to-night!" He threw himself upon the sofa.
There was deep, motherly affection in the Superintendent's face as she
smiled at him.
"We're all of us mental and physical wrecks this evening, Billy!" she
said. "I think that I've never been so utterly worn out before. Katie"
(Katie was the stolid maid) "is making chocolate for us!"
"Chocolate!" The Young Doctor's glance answered the affection that shone
out of the Superintendent's face—"You are a dear!" He smiled at her,
and then—all at once—turned swiftly to Rose-Marie.
"Don't let's squabble to-night," he said childishly, "not about anything!
We're dog-tired, all three of us, and we're not up to even a tiny
quarrel. I'm willing to admit anything you want me to—even that I'm
wrong on a lot of subjects. And I want you to admit, yourself, that you'd
rather be here, with the two of us, than out in some den of
iniquity—reforming people. Am I right?"
Rose-Marie felt a glow of friendship toward the Young Doctor. Why
couldn't he always be like this—confiding and boyish and approachable?
She smiled at him, very sweetly, as she answered.
"You're right," she admitted. "I'm afraid that I haven't the heart to
think of reforming any one, this evening! I'm just glad—glad from the
very soul of me—to be here with you all, in the very center of
The Superintendent's face was puzzled—the Superintendent's eyes were
vague—as she asked a question.
"You said—island?" she questioned.
Rose-Marie laughed with a shade of embarrassment.
"I didn't really mean to say island," she explained, "but—well, you
remember what Dr. Blanchard told us, once, about the little bugs that
fastened together—first one and then another until there were billions?
And how, at last, they made an island?" She paused and, at their nods of
assent, went on. "Ever since then," she told them slowly, "I've thought
of us, here at the Settlement House, as the first little bugs—the ones
that the others must hold to. And I've felt, though many of them don't
realize it, though we hardly realize it ourselves, that we're building an
island together—an island of faith!"
There was silence for a moment. And then the Young Doctor spoke. His
voice was a trifle husky.
"You've made me more than a bit ashamed of myself, Miss Rose-Marie," he
said, "and I want to thank you for putting a real symbolism into my
chance words. After all"—suddenly he laughed, and then—"after all," he
said, "I wouldn't be surprised if you are right! I had a curious
experience, this afternoon, that would go to prove your theory."
The Superintendent was leaning back, shielding her eyes from the light.
"Tell us about your experience, Billy," she said.
The chocolate had come, and the Young Doctor took an appreciative sip
before he answered.
"Just as I was going out this afternoon," he said, at last, "I ran into a
dirty little boy in the hall. He was fondling a kitten—that thin gray
one that you brought to the Settlement House, Miss Rose-Marie. I asked
him what he was doing and he told me that he was hunting for a Scout Club
that he'd heard about. I"—the Young Doctor chuckled—"I engaged him in
conversation. And he told me that his ambition was to be a combination of
St. George and King Arthur and all the rest of those fellows. He said
that, some day, he wanted to be a good husband and father. When I asked
him where he got his large ambitions he told me that a lady had given
them to him."
Rose-Marie was leaning forward. "Did he tell you the lady's name?"
The Young Doctor shook his head.
"Not a thing did he tell me!" he said dramatically. "The lady's name
seemed to be something in the nature of a sacred trust to him. But his
big dark eyes were full of the spirit that she'd given him. And his funny
little crooked mouth was—" He paused, suddenly, his gaze fixed upon
Rose-Marie. "What's the matter?" he queried. "What's the matter? You look
as if somebody'd just left you a million dollars!"
Rose-Marie's face was flushed and radiant. Her eyes were deep
wells of joy.
"I have every reason in the world," she said softly, "to be happy!" And
she was too absorbed in her own thoughts to realize that a sudden cloud
had crept across the brightness of the Young Doctor's face.
ELLA MAKES A DECISION
And then the climax of Ella's life—the crash that Rose-Marie had been
expecting—happened. It happened when Ella came furiously into the Volsky
flat, early one afternoon, and—ignoring the little Lily, who sat
placidly on Rose-Marie's lap—hurried silently into her own room. Mrs.
Volsky, bending over the wash-tubs, straightened up as if she could
almost feel the electric quality of the air, as Ella passed her, but
Rose-Marie only held tighter to Lily—as if, somehow, the slim little
body gave her comfort.
"I wonder what's the matter?" she ventured, after a moment.
Mrs. Volsky, again bending over the wash-tubs, answered.
"Ella, she act so funny, lately," she told Rose-Marie, "an' there is some
feller; Bennie, he tell me that he have seen her wit' some feller! A rich
feller, maybe; maybe he puts Ella up to her funny business!"
There were sounds of activity from the inner room, as if clothing was
being torn down from hooks—as if heavy garments were being flung into
bags. Rose-Marie listened, apprehensively, to the sounds before she
"Perhaps I'd better go in and see what's the matter," she suggested.
Mrs. Volsky, looking back over her shoulder, gave a helpless little
shrug. "If you t'inks best," she said hopelessly. "But Ella—she not
never want to take any help…"
Only too well Rose-Marie knew what Mrs. Volsky meant by her twisted
sentence. Only too well she understood that Ella would never allow
herself to be biased by another's judgment,—that Ella would not allow
herself to be moved by another's plea. And yet she set Lily gently down
upon the floor and rose to her feet.
"I'll see what she's doing," she told Mrs. Volsky, and pushed open the
Despite all of the time that she had spent in the Volsky flat,
Rose-Marie had never been past the front room with its tumbled heaps of
bedding, and its dirt. She was surprised to see that the inner room,
shared by Ella and Lily, was exquisitely neat, though tiny. There were
no windows—the only light came from a rusty gas fixture—but
Rose-Marie, after months in the slums, was prepared for that. It was the
geranium, blooming on the shabby table, that caught her eye; it was the
clean hair-brush, lying on the same table, and the framed picture of a
Madonna, upon the wall, that attracted her. She spoke of them, first, to
the girl who knelt on the floor, packing a cheap suit-case—spoke of
them before she questioned gently:
"You're not going away, are you, Ella?"
Ella glanced up from her packing.
"Yes. I'm going away!" she said, shortly. And then, as if against her
will, she added:
"I got th' flower an' th' picture for Lily. Oh, sure, I know that she
can't see 'em! But I sorter feel that she knows they're here!"
Rose-Marie's voice was very soft, as she spoke again.
"I'm glad that you chose the picture you did," she said, "the picture of
the Christ Child and His Mother!"
Ella wadded a heavy dress into the suit-case.
"I don't hold much with religious pictures," she said, without looking
up; "religion never did much fer me! I only got it 'cause th' Baby had
hair like Lily's hair!"
Rose-Marie crouched down, suddenly, upon the floor beside the girl. She
laid her hand upon the suit-case.
"Where are you going, Ella?" she asked abruptly. "Where are you
going—and when will you be back?"
Ella's lips drew up into the semblance of a smile—a very bitter one—as
"It's none of yer business where I'm goin'," she said, "an' I may not
ever come back—see?"
Rose-Marie caught her breath in a kind of sob. It was as she had
"Ella," she asked slowly, "are you going alone?"
The girl's face coloured swiftly, with a glorious wave of crimson. She
tossed her head with a defiant movement.
"No, I ain't goin' alone!" she told Rose-Marie. "You kin betcha life I
ain't goin' alone!"
Rose-Marie—sitting beside her on the floor—asked God, silently, for
help before she spoke again. She felt suddenly powerless, futile.
"Why are you going, dear?" she questioned, at last.
Ella dropped the shoes that she had been about to tuck into the
suit-case. Her eyes were grim.
"Because," she said, "I'm tired of all o' this," Her finger pointed in
the direction of the outer room. "I'm tired o' dirt, and drunken people,
and Jim's rotten talk. I'm tired o' meals et out o' greasy dishes, an'
cheap clothes, and jobs that I hate—an' that I can't nohow seem ter
hold! I'm tired, dog-tired, o' life. All that's ever held me in this
place is Lily. An' sometimes, when I look at her, I don't think that
she'd know the difference whether I was here 'r not!"
Rose-Marie was half sobbing in her earnestness.
"Ah, but she would know the difference," she cried. "Lily loves you with
all of her heart. And your mother is really trying to be neater, to make
a better home for you! She hasn't a pleasant time of it, either—your
mother. But she doesn't run away. She stays!"
There was scorn in the laugh that came, all at once, from Ella's twisted
mouth. Her great eyes were somberly sarcastic.
"Sure, she stays," said Ella, "'cause she ain't got enough gumption ter
be gettin' out! I know."
In her heart Rose-Marie was inclined to agree with Ella. She knew,
herself, that Mrs. Volsky would never have the courage to make any sort
of a definite decision. But she couldn't say so—not while Ella was
staring at her with that cynical expression.
"I guess," she said bravely, "that we'd better leave your mother out of
this discussion. After all, it's between you—and your conscience."
"Say," Ella's face was suddenly drawn and ugly, "say, where do you get
off to pull this conscience stuff? You've always had a nice home, an'
pretty clothes, an' clean vittles, an'—an' love! I ain't had any of it.
But," her eyes flamed, "I'm goin' to! Don't you dast ter pull this
conscience stuff on me—I've heard you profess'nal slummers talk
before—a lot o' times. What good has a conscience ever done me—huh?"
Rose-Marie had been watching the girl's face. Of a sudden she shot her
"Are you running away to be married, Ella?" she asked.
A second flush ran over Ella's face, and receded slowly—leaving it very
pale. But her head went up rather gallantly.
"No, I ain't," she retorted. "Marriage," she said the words parrot-like,
"was made fer th' sort o' folks who can't stick at nothin' unless they're
tied. I ain't one of those folks!"
Across the nearly forgotten suit-case, Rose-Marie leaned toward Ella
Volsky. Her eyes were suddenly hot with anger.
"Who gave you that sort of an argument?" she demanded. "Who has been
filling your head with lies? You never thought of that yourself, Ella—I
know you never thought of that yourself!"
Ella's eyes met Rose-Marie's angry glance. Her words, when she spoke,
came rapidly—almost tumbled over each other. It was as if some
class-resentment, long repressed, were breaking its bounds.
"How d' you know," she demanded passionately, "that I didn't think of
that myself? How do you know? You're th' only one, I s'pose," her tone
was suddenly mocking, "that knows how t' think! No"—as Rose-Marie
started to interrupt—"don't try t' pull any alibi on me! I know th' way
you Settlement House ladies"—she accented the word—"feel about us.
You have clubs for us, an' parties, an' uplift meetin's. You pray fer
us—an' with us. You tell us who t' marry, an' how t' bring up our
children, an' what butcher t' buy our meat off of. But when it comes t'
understandin' us—an' likin' us! Well, you're too good, that's all." She
paused, staring at Rose-Marie's incredulous face with insolent eyes.
"You're like all th' rest," she went on, after a moment, "just like
all th' rest. I was beginnin' t' think that you was diff'rent. You've
been so white about Bennie. An' you washed Ma's hair—I wouldn't 'a'
done that myself! But now—now it sticks out all over you; th'
I'm-better-'n-you-are stuff. I never could think of a thing, I
couldn't. But you—you're smart, you are. You could think—"
Rose-Marie's cheeks were flushed with a very real resentment, as she
interrupted the girl's flow of half-articulate speech.
"Ella," she said, and her words, too, came rapidly, "you know that you're
not being fair—you know it! I've never held apart from you in any way.
Oh, I realize that we've been brought up in different—surroundings. And
it's made us different from each other in the unimportant things. But
we're both girls, Ella—we're both young and we've both got all of life
before us. And so, perhaps, we can understand each other"—she was
fumbling mentally for words, in an effort to make clear her
meaning—"more than either of us realize. I wasn't, for one moment,
trying to patronize you when I said what I did. I was only wondering how
you happened to say something that I wouldn't ever dream of saying—that
no nice girl, who had a real understanding of life"—she wondered, even
as she spoke the words, what the Young Doctor would think if he could
hear them issuing from her lips—"would dream of saying. You're a nice
girl, Ella—or you wouldn't be in the same family with Bennie and Lily.
And you're a sensible girl, so you must realize how important and sacred
marriage is. Who told you that it was a mistake, Ella? Who," her childish
face was very grave, indeed, "who told you such a terrible thing?"
Ella's eyes were blazing—Rose-Marie almost thought that the girl
was going to strike her! But the blazing eyes wavered, after a
moment, and fell.
"My gentleman fren' says marriage is wrong," said Ella. "He knows a lot.
And he has so much money"—she made a wide gesture with her hands—"I
can have a nice place ter live, Miss Rose-Marie, an' pretty clothes.
Lookit Ma; she's married an' she ain't got nothin'! I can have coats an'
Rose-Marie touched Ella's hand, timidly, with her cool fingers.
"But you'll have to pay for them, Ella," she said. "Think, dear; will the
coats and hats be worth the price that you'll have to pay? Will they be
worth the price of self-respect—will they be worth the price of
honourable wifehood and—motherhood? Will the pretty clothes, Ella, make
it easier for you to look into the face of some other woman—who has kept
straight? Will they?"
Ella raised her eyes and, in their suddenly vague expression, Rose-Marie
saw a glimmering of the faded, crushed mother. She hurried on.
"What kind of a chap is this gentleman friend," she raged, "to ask so
much of you, dear? Is there—is there any reason why he can't marry you?
Is he tied to some one else?"
All at once Ella was sobbing, with gusty, defiant sobs.
"Not as far as I've heard of, there ain't nobody else," she sobbed. "I
don't know much about him, Miss Rose-Marie. Jim gimme a knockdown ter
him, one night, in a dance-hall. I thought he was all right—Jim said he
was … An' he said he loved me, an'"—wildly—"I love him, too! An' I
hate it all, here, except Lily—"
Rose-Marie, thinking rapidly, seized her advantage.
"Will going away with him," she asked steadily, "be worth never seeing
Lily again? For you wouldn't be able to see her again—you wouldn't feel
able to touch her, you know, if your hands weren't—clean. You bought
her a religious picture, Ella, and a flower. Why? Because you know, in
your heart, that she's aware of religion and beauty and sweetness! Going
away with this man, Ella, will separate you from Lily, just as
completely as an ocean—flowing between the two of you—would make a
separation! And all of your life you'll have to know that she's
suffering somewhere, perhaps; that maybe somebody's hurting her—that
her dresses are dirty and her hair isn't combed! Every time you hear a
little child crying you'll think of Lily—who can't cry aloud. Every
time a pair of blue eyes look into your face you'll think of her
eyes—that can't see. Will going away with him be worth never knowing,
Ella, whether she's alive or dead—"
Ella had stopped sobbing, but the acute misery of her face was somehow
more pitiful than tears. Rose-Marie waited, for a moment, and then—as
Ella did not speak—she got up from her place beside the suit-case, and
going to the dividing door, opened it softly.
The room was as she had left it. Mrs. Volsky was still bending above the
tubs, Lily was standing in almost the same place in which she had been
left. With hurried steps Rose-Marie crossed the room, and took the
child's slim, little hand in her own.
"Come with me, honey," she said, almost forgetting that Lily could not
hear her voice. "Come with me," and she led her gently back to the
Ella was sitting on the floor, her face still wan, her attitude
unconsciously tragic. But as the child, clinging to Rose-Marie's hand,
came over to her side, she was suddenly galvanized into action.
"Oh, darlin', darlin'," she sobbed wildly, "Ella was a-goin' ter leave
you! Ella was a-goin' away. But she isn't now—not now! Darlin'," her
arms were flung wildly about the little figure, "show, some way, that you
forgive Ella—who loves you!"
Rose-Marie was crying, quite frankly. All at once she dropped down on the
floor and put her arms about the two sisters—the big one and the little
one—and her sobs mingled with Ella's. But, curiously enough, as she
stood like a little statue between them, a sudden smile swept across the
face of Lily. She might, almost, have understood.
PA STEPS ASIDE
They wept together for a long time, Ella and Rose-Marie. And as they
cried something grew out of their common emotion. It was a something that
they both felt subconsciously—a something warm and friendly. It might
have been a new bond of affection, a new chain of love. Rose-Marie, as
she felt it, was able to say to herself—with more of tolerance than she
had ever known—
"If I had been as tempted and as unhappy as she—well, I might, perhaps,
have reacted in the same way!"
And Ella, sobbing in the arms of the girl that she had never quite
understood, was able to tell herself: "She's right—dead right! The
straight road's the only road…."
It was little Lily who created a diversion. She had been standing, very
quietly, in the shelter of their arms for some time—she had a way of
standing with an infinite patience, for hours, in one place. But
suddenly, as if drawn by some instinct, she dropped down on the floor,
beside the cheap suit-case, and her small hands, shaking with eagerness,
started to take out the clothes that had been flung into it.
It was uncanny, almost, to see the child so happily beginning to unpack
the suit-case. The sight dried Rose-Marie's tears in an almost
"Let's put away the things," she suggested shakily, to Ella. "For you
won't be going now, will you?"
The face that Ella Volsky lifted was a changed face. Her expression was a
shade more wistful, perhaps, but the somber glow had gone out of her
eyes, leaving them softer than Rose-Marie had supposed possible.
"No, Miss," she said quietly, "I won't be going—away. You're right, it
ain't worth the price!" And the incident, from that moment, was closed.
They unpacked the garments—there weren't many of them—quietly. But
Rose-Marie was very glad, deep in her soul, and she somehow felt that
Ella's mind was relieved of a tremendous strain. They didn't speak
again, but there was something in the way Ella's hand touched her
little sister's sunny hair that was more revealing than words. And
there was something in the way Rose-Marie's mouth curved blithely up
that told a whole story of satisfaction and content. It seemed as if
peace, with her white wings folded and at rest, was hovering, at last,
above the Volsky flat.
And then, all at once, the momentary lull was over. All at once the calm
was shattered as a china cup, falling from a careless hand, is broken.
There was a sudden burst of noise in the front room; of rough words; of a
woman sobbing. There was the sound of Mrs. Volsky's voice, raised in an
unwonted cry of anguish, there was a trickle of water slithering down
upon an uncarpeted floor—as if the wash-tub had been overturned.
It was the final event of an unsettling day—the last straw. Forgetting
Lily, forgetting the unpacking, Rose-Marie jumped to her feet, ran to the
door. Ella followed. They stood together on the threshold of the outer
room, and stared.
The room seemed full of people—shouting, gesticulating people. And in
the foreground was Jim—as sleek and well groomed as ever. Of all the
crowd he seemed the only one who was composed. In front of him stood Mrs.
Volsky—her face drawn and white, her hands clasped in a way that was
singularly and primitively appealing.
At first Rose-Marie thought that the commotion had to do with Jim. She
was always half expecting to hear that he had been apprehended in some
sort of mischief, that he had been accused of some crime. But she
dismissed the idea quickly—his composure was too real to be born of
bravado. It was while her brain groped for some new solution that she
became conscious of Mrs. Volsky's voice.
"Oh, he ain't," the woman was moaning, "say he ain't! My man—he could
not be so! There ain't no truth in it—there can't be no truth…. Say as
he ain't been done to so bad! Say it!"
Ella, with a movement that was all at once love-filled, stepped quickly
to her mother's side. As she faced the crowd—and Jim—her face was also
drawn; drawn and apprehensive.
"What's up?" she queried tersely of her brother. "What's up?"
The face of Jim was calm and almost smiling as he answered. Behind him
the shrill voices of the crowd sounded, like a background, to the blunt
words that he spoke.
"Pa was comin' home drunk," he told Ella, "an' he was ran inter by a
truck. He was smashed up pretty bad; dead right away, th' cop said. But
they took him ter a hospital jus' th' same. Wonder why they'd take a
stiff ter a hospital?"
Mrs. Volsky's usually colourless voice was breaking into loud, almost
weird lamentation. Ella stood speechless. But Rose-Marie, the horror of
it all striking to her very soul, spoke.
"It can't be true," she cried, starting forward and—in the excitement of
the moment—laying her hand upon Jim's perfectly tailored coat sleeve.
"It can't be true…. It's too terrible!"
Jim's laugh rang out heartlessly, eerily, upon the air.
"It ain't so terrible!" he told Rose-Marie. "Pa—he wasn't no good! He
wasn't a reg'lar feller—like me." All at once his well-manicured white
hand crept down over her hand. "He wasn't a reg'lar feller," he
repeated, "like me!"
As Rose-Marie left the Volsky flat—Ella had begged her to go; had
assured her that it would be better to leave Mrs. Volsky to her
inarticulate grief—her brain was in a whirl. Things had happened, in the
last few hours, with a kaleidoscopic rapidity—the whirl of events had
left her mind in a dazed condition. She told herself, over and over, that
Ella was saved. But she found it hard to believe that Ella would ever
find happiness, despite her salvation, in the grim tenement that was her
home. She told herself that Bennie was learning to travel the right
road—that the Scout Club would be the means of leading him to other
clubs and that the other clubs would, in time, introduce him to
Sunday-school and to the church. She told herself that Mrs. Volsky was
willing to try; very willing to try! But of what avail would be Bennie's
growing faith and idealism if he had to come, night after night, to the
home that was responsible for men like Jim—and like Pa?
Pa! Rose-Marie realized with a new sense of shock that Pa was no longer a
force to reckon with. Pa was dead—had been crushed by a truck. Never
again would he slouch drunkenly into the flat, never again would he throw
soiled clothing and broken bottles and heavy shoes into newly tidied
corners. He was dead and he had—after all—been the one link that tied
the Volskys to their dingy quarters! With Pa gone the family could seek
cleaner, sweeter rooms—rooms that would have been barred to the family
of a drunkard! With Pa gone the air would clear, magically, of some of
Rose-Marie, telling herself how much the death of Pa was going to benefit
the Volsky family, felt all at once heartless. She had been brought up in
an atmosphere where death carries sorrow with it—deep sorrow and
sanctity. She remembered the dim parlours of the little town when there
was a funeral—she remembered the singing of the village choir and the
voice of the pastor, slightly unsteady, perhaps, but very confident of
the life hereafter. She remembered the flowers, and the mourners in their
black gowns, and the pure tears of grief. She had always seen folk meet
death so—meet it rather beautifully.
But the passing of Pa! She shuddered to think of its cold cruelty—it was
rather like his life. He had been snuffed out—that was all—snuffed out!
There would be for him no dim parlour, no singing choir, no pastor with
an unsteady voice. The black-robed mourners would be absent, and so would
the flowers. His going would cause not a ripple in the life of the
community—it would bring with it better opportunities for his family,
rather than a burden of sorrow!
"I can't grieve for him!" Rose-Marie told herself desperately. "I can't
grieve for him! It's the only chance he ever gave to his
children—dying! Perhaps, without him, they'll be able to make
She was crossing the park—splashed with sunshine, it was. And suddenly
she remembered the first time that she had met Bennie in the park. It
seemed centuries away, that first meeting! She remembered how she had
been afraid, then, of the crowds. Now she walked through them with a
certain assurance—she belonged. She had come a long distance since
that first meeting with Bennie—a very long distance! She told herself
that she had proved her ability to cope with circumstance—had proved her
worth, almost. Why, now, should the Superintendent keep her always in the
shadow of the Settlement House—why should the Young Doctor laugh at her
desire to help people? She had something to show them—she could flaunt
Bennie before their eyes, she could quote the case of Ella; she could
produce Mrs. Volsky, broken of spirit but ready to do anything that she
could. And—last but not least—she would show Lily to them, Lily who had
been hidden away from the eyes of the ones who could help her—Lily who
so desperately needed help!
All at once Rose-Marie was weary of deceit. She would be glad—ever so
glad—to tell her story to the Superintendent! She was tired of going out
furtively of an afternoon to help these folk that she had come to help.
She wanted to go in an open way—with the stamp of approval upon her. The
Superintendent had said, once, that she would hardly be convincing to the
people of the slums. With the Volsky family to show, she could prove that
she had been convincing, very convincing!
With a singing heart she approached the Settlement House. With a smile on
her lips she went up the brownstone steps, pushed wide the door—which
was never locked. And then she hurried, as fast as her feet could hurry,
to the Superintendent's tiny office.
The Superintendent was in. She answered Rose-Marie's knock with a cheery
word, but, when the girl entered the room, she saw that the
Superintendent's kind eyes were troubled.
"What's the matter?" she questioned, forgetting, for a moment, the
business of which she had been so full. "What's the matter? You look ever
The Superintendent's tired face broke into a smile.
"Was I looking as woe-begone as that?" she queried. "I didn't realize
that I was. Nothing serious is the matter, dear—nothing very serious!
Only Katie's sister in the old country is ill—and Katie is going home to
stay with her. And it's just about impossible to get a good maid,
nowadays—it seems as if Katie has been with me for a lifetime. I expect
that we'll manage, somehow, but I don't just fancy cooking and sweeping,
and running the Settlement House, too!"
All at once an idea leaped, full-blown, into the brain of Rose-Marie. She
leaned forward and laid her hand upon the Superintendent's arm.
"I wonder," she asked excitedly, "if you'd consider a woman with a
family to take Katie's place? The family isn't large—just a small boy
who goes to school, and a small girl, and an older girl who is working.
There's a grown son, but he can take care of himself…" the last she
said almost under her breath. "He can take care of himself. It would be
better, for them—"
The Superintendent was eyeing Rose-Marie curiously.
"We have plenty of sleeping-rooms on the top floor," she said slowly,
"and I suppose that the older girl could help a bit, evenings. Why, yes,
perhaps a family might solve the problem—it's easier to keep a woman
with children than one who is," she laughed, "heart-whole and fancy free!
Who are they, dear, and how do you happen to know of them?"
Rose-Marie sat down, suddenly, in a chair beside the Superintendent's
desk. All at once her knees were shaky—all at once she felt strangely
"Once," she began, and her voice quivered slightly, "I met a little boy,
in the park. He was hurting a kitten. I started to scold him and then
something made me question him, instead. And I found out that he was
hurting the kitten because he didn't know any better—think of it,
because he didn't know any better! And so I was interested, ever so
interested. And I decided it was my duty to know something of him—to
find out what sort of an environment was responsible for him."
The Superintendent's tired face was alight She leaned forward to ask
"How long ago," she questioned, "did you meet this child, in the park?"
Rose-Marie flushed. The time, suddenly, seemed very long to her.
"It was the day that I came home bringing a little gray cat with me," she
said. "It was the day that I quarreled with Dr. Blanchard at the luncheon
table. Do you remember?"
The Superintendent smiled reminiscently. "Ah, yes, I remember!" she
said. And then—"Go on with the story, dear."
Rose-Marie went on.
"I found the place where he lived," she said hurriedly. "Yes—I know that
you wouldn't have let me go if you'd known about it! That's why I didn't
tell you. I found the place where he lived; an unspeakable tenement on an
unspeakable street. And I met, there, his family—a most remarkable
family! There was a mother, and an older sister, and an older brother,
and a drunken father, and a little crippled girl…."
And then, shaking inwardly, Rose-Marie told the story of the Volskys. She
told it well; better than she realized. For the Superintendent's eyes
never left her face and—at certain parts of the story—the
Superintendent's cheeks grew girlishly pink. She told of the saving of
Ella—she told of Bennie, explaining that he was the same child whom the
Young Doctor had met in the hall. She told of Mrs. Volsky's effort to
better herself, and of Jim's snake-like smoothness. And then she told of
Lily—Lily with her almost unearthly beauty and her piteous physical
condition. As she told of Lily the Superintendent's kind eyes filled with
tears, and her lips quivered.
"Oh," she breathed, "if only something could be done for her—if only
something could be done! Billy Blanchard must see her at once—he's done
marvellous things with the crippled children of the neighbourhood!"
With a feeling of sudden confidence Rose-Marie smiled. She realized that
she had caught the Superintendent's interest—and her sympathy. It would
be easier, now, to give the family their chance! Her voice was more calm
as she went on with the narrative. It was only when she told of the death
of Pa that her lips trembled.
"You'll think that I'm hard and callous," she said, "taking his death so
easily. But I can't help feeling that it's for the best. They could never
have broken away—not with him alive. You would never have taken them
in—if he had had to be included! You couldn't have done it…. But now,"
her voice was aquiver with eagerness, "now, say that they may come! Say
that Mrs. Volsky may take Katie's place. Oh, I know that she isn't very
neat; that she doesn't cook as we would want her to. But she can learn
and, free from the influence of her husband and son, I'm sure she'll
change amazingly. Say that you'll give the family a chance!"
The Superintendent was wavering. "I'm not so sure," she began, and
hesitated. "I'm not so sure—"
Rose-Marie interrupted. Her voice was very soft.
"It will mean," she said, "that Lily will be here, under the doctor's
care. It will mean that she will get well—perhaps! For her sake give
them a chance…."
The Superintendent's eyes were fixed upon space. When she spoke, she
"Then," she said, "that was where you went every afternoon—to the
tenement. You weren't out with some man, after all?"
Rose-Marie hung her head. "I went to the tenement every afternoon," she
admitted, "to the tenement. Oh, I know that you're angry with me—I
know it. And I don't in the least blame you. I've been deceitful, I've
sneaked away when your back was turned, I've practically told lies to
you! Don't think," her voice was all a-tremble, "don't think that I
haven't been sorry. I've been tremendously sorry ever so many times. I've
tried to tell you, too—often. And I've tried to make you think my way.
Do you remember the talk we had, that night when we were both so tired,
in your sitting-room—before Dr. Blanchard came? I was trying to scrape
up the courage to tell you, then, but you so disagreed with me that I
The Superintendent seemed scarcely to be listening. There seemed to be
something upon her mind.
"Rose-Marie," she said with a mock sternness, "you're evading my
questions. Answer me, child! Isn't there any one that you—care for?
Weren't you out with some man?"
Rose-Marie was blushing furiously.
"No," she admitted, "I wasn't out with a man. I never had any sort of a
sweetheart, not ever! I just let you all think that I was with some one
because—if I hadn't let you think that way—you might have made me stay
in. I wouldn't have made a point of deliberately telling you a
falsehood—but Dr. Blanchard gave me the idea and "—defiantly—"I just
let him think what he wanted to think!"
The Superintendent was laughing.
"What he wanted to think!" she exclaimed. "Oh, Rose-Marie—you've a lot
to answer for! What he wanted to think…." Suddenly the laugh died out
of her voice, all at once she was very serious. "Perhaps," she said
slowly, "your idea about the Volsky family is a good one. We'll try it
out, dear! There was a MAN, once, Who said: 'Suffer the little children
to come—'Why, Rose-Marie, what's the matter?" For Rose-Marie, her face
hidden in the crook of her elbow, was crying like a very tired child.
It was with a light heart that Rose-Marie started back to the tenement.
The tears had cleared her soul of the months of evasion that had so
worried her—she felt suddenly free and young and happy. It was as if a
rainbow had come up, tenderly, out of a storm-tossed sky; it was as if a
star was shining, all at once, through the blackness of midnight. She
felt a glad assurance of the future—a faith in the Hand of God,
stretched out to His children. "Everything," she sing-songed, joyously,
to herself, "will come right, now. Everything will come right!"
It was strange how she suddenly loved all of the people, the almost
mongrel races of people, who thronged the streets! She smiled brightly at
a mother, pushing a baby-buggy—she thrust a coin into the withered hand
of an old beggar. On a crowded corner she paused to listen to the vague
carollings of a barrel organ, to pat the head of a frayed looking little
monkey that hopped about in time to the music. All at once she wanted to
know a dozen foreign languages so that she could tell those who passed
her by that she was their friend—their friend!
And yet, despite her sudden feeling of kinship to these people of the
slums, she did not loiter. For she was the bearer of a message, a message
of hope! She wished, as she sped through the crowded streets, that her
feet were winged so that she might hurry the faster! She wanted to see
the expression of bewilderment on Mrs. Volsky's face, she wanted to see a
light dawn in Ella's great eyes, she wanted to whisper a message of—of
life, almost—into Lily's tiny useless ear. And, most of all, she wanted
to feel Bennie's warm, grubby little fingers touching her hand! Jim—she
hoped that Jim would be out when she arrived. She did not want to have
Jim throw cold water upon her plans—which did not include him. Well she
knew that the arrangement would make no real difference to him—it was
not love of family that kept him from leaving the dirty, crowded little
flat. It was the protection of a family, with its pseudo-respectability,
that he wanted. It was the locked room, which no one would think of
prying into, that he desired.
She went in through the mouth-like tenement door—it was no longer
frightful to her—with a feeling of intense emotion. She climbed the
narrow stairs, all five flights of them, with never a pause for breath.
And then she was standing, once again, in front of the Volskys' door. She
Everything was apparently very still in the Volsky flat. All up and down
the hall came the usual sounds of the house; the stairs echoed with
noise. But behind the closed door silence reigned supreme. As Rose-Marie
stood there she felt a strange mental chill—the chill of her first
doubt. Perhaps the Volskys would not want to come with her to the
Settlement House, perhaps they would resent her attitude—would call it
interference. Perhaps they would tell her that they were tired of
her—and of her plans. Perhaps—But the door, swinging open, cut short
Jim stood in the doorway. He was in his shirt sleeves but—even divested
of his coat—he was still too painfully immaculate—too well groomed.
Rose-Marie, looking at him, felt a sudden primitive desire to see him
dirty and mussed up. She wished, and the wish surprised her, that she
might sometime see him with his hair rumpled, his collar torn, his eye
blackened and—she could hardly suppress a hysterical desire to laugh as
the thought struck her—his nose bleeding. Somehow his smooth, hard
neatness was more offensive to her than his mother's dirty apron—than
his small brother's frankly grimy hands. She spoke to him in a cool
little voice that belied her inward disturbance.
"Where," she questioned, "are your mother and Ella? I want to see them."
With a movement that was not ungraceful Jim flung wide the door. Indeed,
Rose-Marie told herself, as she stepped into the Volsky flat, Jim was
never ungraceful. There was something lithe and cat-like in his slightest
movement, just as there was something feline in the expression of his
eyes. Rose-Marie often felt like a small, helpless mouse when Jim was
staring at her.
"Where are your mother and Ella?" she questioned again as she stepped
into the room. "I do want to see them!"
Jim was dragging forward a chair. He answered.
"Then yer'd better sit down 'n' make yourself at home," he told her, "fer
they've gone out. They're down t' th' hospital, now, takin' a last slant
at Pa. Ma's cryin' to beat th' band—you'd think that she really liked
him! An' Ella's cryin', too—she's fergot how he uster whip her wit' a
strap when she was a kid! An' they've took Bennie; Bennie ain't cryin'
but he's a-holdin' to Ma's hand like a baby. Oh," he laughed sneeringly,
"it's one grand little family group that they make!"
Rose-Marie sat down gingerly upon the edge of the chair. She did not
relish the prospect of spending any time alone with Jim, but a certain
feeling of pride kept her from leaving the place. She would not let Jim
know that she feared him—it would flatter him to think that he had so
much influence over her. She would stay, even though the staying made her
uneasy! But she hoped, from the bottom of her heart, that the rest of the
family would not be long at the hospital.
"When did they go out?" she questioned, trying to make her tone casual.
"Do you expect them back soon?"
Jim sat down in a chair that was near her own. He leaned forward as
"They haven't been gone so awful long," he told her. "An'—say—what's
th' difference when they gets back? I never have no chance to talk wit'
you—not ever! An'," he sighed with mock tragedy, "an' I have so much t'
say t' yer! You never have a word fer me—think o' that! An' think o' all
th' time yer waste on Bennie—an' him too young t' know a pretty girl
when he sees one!"
Rose-Marie flushed and hated herself for doing it. "We'll leave
personalities out of this!" she said primly.
Jim was laughing, but there was a sinister note in his mirth.
"Not much we won't!" he told her. "I like you—see? You're th' best
lookin' girl in this neck o' woods—even if you do live at the Settlement
House! If you'd learn to dress more snappy—t' care more about hats than
yer do about Bible Classes—you'd make a big hit when yer walked out on
Delancy Street. There ain't a feller livin' as wouldn't turn t' look at
yer—not one! Say, kid," he leaned still closer, "I'm strong fer yer when
yer cheeks get all pink-like. I'm strong fer yer any time a-tall!"
Rose-Marie was more genuinely shocked than she had ever been in her life.
The flush receded slowly from her face.
"You'd like me to be more interested in clothes than in Bible Classes!"
she said slowly. "You'd like me to go parading down Delancy Street …"
she paused, and then—"You're a fine sort of a man," she said
bitterly—"a fine sort of a man! Oh, I know. I know the sort of people
you introduce to Ella—and she's your sister. I've seen the way you look
at Lily, and she's your sister, too! You wouldn't think of making things
easier for your mother; and you'd give Bennie a push down—instead of a
boost up! And you scoff at your father—lying dead in his coffin!
You're a fine sort of a man…. I don't believe that you've a shred of
human affection in your whole make-up!"
Jim had risen slowly to his feet. There was no anger in his face—only a
huge amusement. Rose-Marie, watching his expression, knew all at once
that nothing she said would have the slightest effect upon him. His
sensibilities were too well concealed, beneath a tough veneer of conceit,
to be wounded. His soul seemed too well hidden to be reached.
"So that's what you think, is it?" he asked, and his voice was almost
silky, it was so smooth, "so that's what you think! I haven't any 'human
affection in my make-up,'" he was imitating her angry voice, "I haven't
any 'human affection'!" he laughed suddenly, and bent with a swift
movement until his face was on a level with her face. "Lot yer know about
it!" he told her and his voice thickened, all at once, "lot yer know
about it! I'm crazy about you, little kid—just crazy! Yer th' only girl
as I've ever wanted t' tie up to, get that? How'd yer like t' marry me?"
For one sickening moment Rose-Marie thought that she had
misunderstood. And then she saw his face and knew that he had been
deadly serious. Her hands fluttered up until they rested, like
frightened birds, above her heart.
There was eagerness—and a hint of something else—in Jim's voice as he
repeated his question.
"Well," he asked for the second time, "what d' yer say about it—huh?
How'd yer like ter marry me?"
Rose-Marie's fascinated eyes were on his face. At the first she had
hardly believed her ears—but her ears had evidently been functioning
properly. Jim wanted to marry her—to marry her! It was a possibility
that she had never dreamed of—a thought that she had never, for one
moment, entertained. Jim had always seemed so utterly of another
world—of another epoch, almost. He spoke a language that was far removed
from her language, his mind worked differently—even his emotions were
different from her emotions. He might have been living upon another
planet—so distant he had always seemed from her. And yet he had asked
her to marry him!
Like every other normal girl, Rose-Marie had thought ahead to the time
when she would have a home and a husband. She had dreamed of the day when
her knight would come riding—a visionary, idealized figure, always, but
a noble one! She had pictured a hearth-fire, and a blue and white kitchen
with aluminum pans and glass baking dishes. She had even wondered how
tiny fingers would feel as they curled about her hand—if a wee head
would be heavy upon her breast.
Of late her dreams, for some reason, had become a little less misty—a
little more definite. The figure of her knight had been a trifle more
clear cut—the armour of her imagination had given place to rough tweed
suits and soft felt hats. And the children had looked at her, from out of
the shadows, with wide, dark eyes—almost like real children. Her
thoughts had shaped themselves about a figure that was not the romantic
creation of girlhood—that was strong and willing and very tender. Dr.
Blanchard—had he not been mistaken upon so many subjects—would have
fitted nicely into the picture!
But Jim—of all people, Jim! He was as far removed from the boundaries
of her dream as the North Pole is removed from the South. His patent
leather hair—she could not picture it against her arm—his mouth,
thin-lipped and too red…. She shuddered involuntarily, as she thought
of it and the man, bending above her, saw the shudder.
"Well," he questioned for the third time, "what about it? I'm a reg'lar
guy, ain't I? How'd you like to marry me?"
Rose-Marie moistened her lips before she answered. Her voice, when it
came, was very husky.
"Why, Jim," she said faintly, "what an idea! How did you ever come to
think of it?"
The man's face was flushed. His words tumbled, quickly, from his
"I'm crazy about yer, kid," he said, "crazy about yer! Don't think that
bein' married t' me will mean as you'll have ter live in a dump like
this-there"—the sweep of his arm was expressive—"fer yer won't! You'll
have th' grandest flat in this city—anywhere yer say'll suit me! Yer'll
have hats an' dresses, an' a car—if yer want it. Yer'll have
everything—if yer'll marry me! What d' yer say?"
Rose-Marie's face was a study of mixed emotions—consternation struggling
with incredulity for first place. The man saw the unbelief; for he
hurried on before she could speak.
"Yer think that I'm like my pa was"—he told her—"livin' on measly
wages! Well, I ain't. Some nights I make a pile that runs inter
thousands—an' it'll be all fer yer! All fer yer!"
Of a sudden, Rose-Marie spoke. She was scarcely tactful.
"How do you make all of this money, Jim?" she questioned; "do you come by
A dark wave of colour spread over the man's face—dyeing it to an
"What's it matter how I get it," he snarled, "long's I get it! What
business is it of yers how I come by my coin? I ain't stagin' a
investergation. And"—his face softened suddenly, "an' yer wouldn't
understand, anyhow! Yer only a girl—a little kid! What's it matter how I
gets th' roll—long as I'm willin' ter spend it on m' sweetie? What's it
matter?" He made a movement as if to take her into his arms—"What's it
matter?" he questioned again.
Like a flash Rose-Marie was upon her feet. With a swing of her body she
had evaded his arms. Her face was white and drawn, but her mind was
exceptionally active—more active than it had ever been in all of her
life. She knew that Jim was in a difficult mood—that a word, one way or
the other, would make him as easy to manage as a kitten or as relentless
as a panther, stalking his prey. She knew that it was in her power to say
the word that would calm him until the return of his mother and his
sister. And yet she found it well-nigh impossible to say that word.
"I'm tired of deceit," she told herself, as she stepped back in the
direction of the door. "I'll not say anything to him that isn't true! …
Nothing can happen to me, anyway," she assured herself. "This is the
twentieth century, and I'm Rose-Marie Thompson. This is a civilized
country—nothing can hurt me! I'm not afraid—not while God is taking
care of me!"
Jim had straightened up. He seemed, suddenly, to tower.
"Well," he growled, "how about it? When'll we be married?"
Rose-Marie raised her head gallantly.
"We won't ever be married, Jim Volsky!" she told him, and even to her own
surprise there was not the suggestion of a quaver in her voice. "We won't
ever be married. I'm surprised at you for suggesting it!"
The man stared at her, a moment, and his eyes showed clearly that he did
not quite understand.
"Yer mean," he stammered at last, "that yer t'rowing me down?"
Rose-Marie's head was still gallantly lifted.
"I mean," she said, "that I won't marry you! Please—we'll let the matter
drop, at once!"
The man came a step nearer. The bewilderment was dying from his face.
"Not much, we won't let the matter drop!" he snarled. "What's yer reason
fer turnin' me down—huh?"
It was then that Rose-Marie made her mistake. It was then that she ceased
to be tactful. But suddenly she was tired, desperately tired, of Jim's
persistence. Suddenly she was too tired even to be afraid. The lift of
her chin was very proud—proud with some ingrained pride of race, as she
answered. Behind her stood a long line of ancestors with gentle blood,
ancestors who had known the meaning of chivalry.
Coolly she surveyed him. Dispassionately she noticed the lack of breeding
in his face, the marks of early dissipation, the lines that sin had
etched. And as she looked she laughed with just the suggestion of
hauteur. For the first time in her life Rose-Marie was experiencing a
touch of snobbishness, of class distinction.
"We won't discuss my reason," she told him slowly; "it should be quite
evident to any one!"
Not many weeks before, Rose-Marie had told the Young Doctor—in the
presence of the Superintendent—that she loved the people of the slums.
She had been so sure of herself then—so certain that she spoke the
truth. More recently she had assured the Superintendent that she could
cope with any situation. And that very afternoon she had told Ella that
they were alike, were just young girls—both of them—with all of life in
front of them, with the same hopes and the same fears and the same
She had believed the statement that she had made, so emphatically, to the
Young Doctor—she had believed it very strongly. She had been utterly
sure of herself when she begged the Superintendent to let her know more
of life. And, during her talk with Ella, she had felt a real kinship to
the whole of the Volsky family! But now that she had come face to face
with a crisis—now that she was meeting her big test—she knew that her
strong beliefs were weakening and that she was no longer at all sure of
herself! And as for being kin to the Volskys—the idea was quite
Always, Rose-Marie had imagined that a proposal of marriage would be
the greatest compliment that a man could pay a girl. But the proposal
of the man in front of her did not seem in the least complimentary.
She realized—with the only feeling of irony she had ever known, that
this proposal was her very first. And she was looking upon it as an
insult. With a tiny curl of her lips she raised her eyes until they
met Jim's eyes.
"It should be quite evident," she repeated, "to any one!"
Jim Volsky's face had turned to a dark mottled red. His slim, well
manicured hands were clenched at his sides.
"Y' mean," he questioned, and his voice had an ugly ring, "y' mean I
ain't good enough fer yer?"
All at once the snobbishness had slipped, like a worn coat, from the
shoulders of the girl. She was Rose-Marie Thompson again—Settlement
worker. She was no better, despite the ancestors with gentle blood,
than the man in front of her—just more fortunate. She realized that
she had been not only unkind, but foolish. She tried, hurriedly—and
with a great scare looking out of her wide eyes—to repair the mistake
that she had made.
"I don't mean that I am better than you, Jim," she said softly, "not in
the matter of family. We are all the children of God—we are all brothers
and sisters in His sight."
Jim Volsky interrupted. He came nearer to Rose-Marie—so near that only a
few inches of floor space lay between them.
"Don't yer go sayin' over Sunday-school lessons at me," he snarled. "I
know what yer meant. Yer think I ain't good enough—t' marry yer.
Well"—he laughed shortly, "well, maybe I ain't good enough—t' marry
yer! But I guess I'm good enough t' kiss yer—" All at once his hands
shot out, closed with the strength of a vise upon her arms, just above
her elbows. "I guess I'm good enough t' kiss yer!" he repeated
Rose-Marie felt cold fear creeping through her veins. There was
something clammy in Jim's touch, something more than menacing in his
eyes. She knew that her strength was nothing to be pitted against
his—she knew that in any sort of a struggle she would be easily
subdued. And yet she knew that she would rather die than feel his lips
upon hers. She felt an intense loathing for him—the loathing that some
women feel for toads and lizards.
"Jim," she said slowly and distinctly, "let go of me this instant!"
The man was bending closer. A thick lock of his heavy hair had shaken
down over his forehead, giving him a strangely piratical look.
"Not much I won't," he told her. "So I ain't good enough—"
All at once Rose-Marie felt the blindness of rage—unreasoning, deadly
anger. Only two things she knew—that she hated Jim and that she would
not let him kiss her. She spoke sudden defiant words that surprised
"No," she told him, and her voice was hysterically high, "no, you're not
good enough! You're not good enough for any decent girl! You're
bad—too bad to lay your fingers upon me. You're—you're unclean! Let go
of me or I'll"—her courage was oozing rapidly away, "or I'll scream!"
Jim Volsky's too red lips were on a level with her own. His voice came
thickly. "Scream, if you want to, little kid!" he said. "Scream t' beat
th' band! There ain't no one t' hear yer. Ma an' Ella an' Bennie are at
the hospital—givin' Pa th' once over. An' th' folks in this house are
used t' yellin'. They'd oughter be! Scream if yer want to—but I'm
a-goin' ter have my kiss!"
Rose-Marie could feel the warmth of his breath upon her face. Knowing the
futility—the uselessness of it—she began to struggle. Desperately she
tried to twist her arms from the slim, brutal hands that held them—but
the hands did not loosen their hold. She told herself, as she struggled,
that Jim had spoken the truth—that a scream, more or less, was an
every-day occurrence in the tenement.
All at once she realized, with a dazed, sinking feeling, that the Young
Doctor had had some foundation of truth in certain of his statements.
Some of the slum people were like animals—very like animals! Jim was all
animal as he bent above her—easily holding her with his hands. Nothing
that she said could reach him—nothing. She realized why the Young Doctor
had wanted her to leave the Settlement House before any of her dreams had
been shattered, before her faith in mankind had been abused! She realized
why, at times, he had hurt her, and with the realization came the
knowledge that she wanted him, desperately, at that minute—that he, out
of all the people in the world, was the one that her heart was calling to
in her time of need. She wanted his strength, his protection.
Once before, earlier in the afternoon, she had realized that there was
much of the cat in Jim. Now she realized it again, with a new sense of
fear and dislike. For Jim was not claiming the kiss that he wanted, in a
straight-forward way—he was holding her gloatingly, as a cat tortures a
mouse. He was letting her know, without words, that she was utterly
helpless—that he could kiss her when he wanted to, and not until he
wanted to. There was something horribly playful in his attitude. She
struggled again—but more weakly, her strength was going. If there were
only somebody to help—somebody!
And then, all at once, she remembered—with a blinding sense of
relief—what she had been forgetting. She remembered that there was
Somebody—a Somebody Who is always ready to help—a Somebody who watches
over the fate of every little sparrow.
"If you hurt me," she said desperately, to Jim, "God will know! Let go of
"Yer'll scream!" he chuckled, and there was cruel mirth in the chuckle.
"Yer'll scream, an' God will take care o' yer! Well—scream! I don't
believe as God can help yer. God ain't never been in this tenement—as
far as I know!"
Despite her weight of fear and loathing, Rose-Marie was suddenly sorry
for Jim. There was something pitiful—something of which he did not
realize the pathos—in his speech. God had never been in the
tenement—God had never been in the tenement! All at once she realized
that Jim's wickedness, that Jim's point of view, was not wholly his
fault. Jim had not been brought up, as she had, in the clean
out-of-doors; he—like many another slum child—had grown to manhood
without his proper heritage of fresh air and sunshine. One could not
entirely blame him for thinking of his home—the only home that he had
ever known—as a Godless place. She stopped struggling and her voice was
suddenly calm and sweet as she answered Jim's statement.
"God," she said slowly, "is in this tenement. God is everywhere,
Jim—everywhere! If I call on Him, He will help me!"
All at once Jim had swung her away from him, until he was holding her at
arm's length. He looked at her, from between narrowed lids, and there was
bitter sarcasm in his eyes.
"Call on Him, then," he taunted, "call on Him! Lotta good it'll do yer!"
The very tone of his voice was a sacrilege, as he said it.
Rose-Marie's eyes were blurred with tears as she spoke her answer to his
challenge. She was remembering the prayers that she had said back
home—in the little town. She was remembering how her aunts had taught
her, when she was a wee girl, to talk with God—to call upon Him in times
of deep perplexity. She had called upon Him, often, but she had never
really needed Him as she did now. "Help me, God!" she said softly, "Help
The Volsky flat was still, for a moment. And then, with surprising
quickness, the door to the inner room swung open. Jim, who was
standing with his back to the door, did not see the tiny,
golden-haired figure that stood in the opening, but Rose-Marie caught
her breath in a kind of a sob.
"I had forgotten Lily—" she murmured, almost to herself.
Jim, hearing her words, glanced quickly back over his shoulder. And then
he laughed, and there was an added brutality in the tone of his laughter.
"Oh—Lily!" he laughed. "Lily! She won't help yer—not much! I was sort
of expectin' this God that yer talk about—" The laughter died out of his
face and he jerked her suddenly close—so close that she lay trembling in
his arms. "Lily can't hear," he exulted, "'r see, 'r speak. I'll take my
It was then that Rose-Marie, forgetting herself in the panic of the
moment, screamed. She screamed lustily, twisting her face away from his
lips. And as she screamed Lily, as silently as a little wraith, started
across the room. She might almost have heard, so straight she came. She
might almost have known what was happening, so directly she ran to the
spot where Rose-Marie was struggling in the arms of Jim. All at once her
thin little hands had fastened themselves upon the man's trouser leg, all
at once she was pulling at him, with every bit of her feeble strength.
Rose-Marie, still struggling, felt an added weight of apprehension. Not
only her own safety was at stake—Lily, who was so weak, was in danger of
being hurt. She jerked back, with another cry.
"Oh, God help me!" she cried, "God help us!"
Silently, but with a curious persistence, the child clung to the man's
trouser leg. With an oath he looked back again over his shoulder.
"Leave go of me," he mouthed. "Leave go o' me—y' little brat! 'r I'll—"
And "Let go of him, Lily," sobbed Rose-Marie, forgetting that the child
could not hear. "Let go of him, or he'll hurt you!"
The child lifted her sightless blue eyes wistfully to the faces above
her—the faces that she could not see. And she clung the closer.
Jim was swearing, steadily—swearing with a dogged, horrible regularity.
Of a sudden he raised his heavy foot and kicked viciously at the child
who clung so tenaciously to his other leg. Rose-Marie, powerless to help,
closed her eyes—and opened them again almost spasmodically.
"You brute," she screamed, "you utter brute!"
Lily, who had never, in all of her broken little life, felt an unkind
touch, wavered, as the man's boot touched her slight body. Her sightless
eyes clouded, all at once, with tears. And then, with a sudden piercing
shriek, she crumpled up—in a white little heap—upon the floor.
AND A MIRACLE
For a moment Rose-Marie was stunned by the child's unexpected cry. She
hung speechless, filled with wonderment, in Jim's arms. And then, with a
wrench, she was free—was running across the floor to the little huddled
bundle that was Lily.
"You beast," she flung back, over her shoulder, as she ran. "You beast!
You've killed her!"
Jim did not attempt to follow—or to answer. He had wheeled about, and
his face was very pale.
"God!" he said, in a tense whisper, "God!" It was the first time that
the word, upon his lips, was neither mocking nor profane.
Rose-Marie, with tender hands, gathered the child up from the hard floor.
She was not thinking of the miracle that had taken place—she was not
thinking of the sound that had come, so unexpectedly, from dumb lips. She
only knew that the child was unconscious, perhaps dying. Her trembling
fingers felt of the slim wrist; felt almost with apprehension. She was
surprised to feel that the pulse was still beating, though faintly.
"Get somebody," she said, tersely, to Jim. "Get somebody who
Jim's face was still the colour of ashes. He did not stir—did not seem
to have the power to stir.
"Did yer hear her?" he mouthed thickly. "She yelled. I heard her. Did
Rose-Marie was holding Lily close to her breast. Her stern young eyes
looked across the drooping golden head into the scared face of the man.
"It was God, speaking through her," she said. "It was God. And you—you
had denied Him—you beast!"
All at once Jim was down upon the floor beside her. The mask of passion
had slipped from his face—his shoulders seemed suddenly more narrow—his
cruel hands almost futile. Rose-Marie wondered, subconsciously, how she
had ever feared him.
"She yelled," he reiterated, "did yer hear her—"
Rose-Marie clutched the child tighter in her arms.
"Get some one, at once," she ordered, "if you don't want her to die—if
you don't want to be a murderer!"
But Jim had not heard her voice. He was sobbing, gustily.
"I'm t'rough," he was sobbing, "t'rough! Oh—God, fergive—"
It was then that the door opened. And Rose-Marie, raising eyes abrim with
relief, saw that Ella and Mrs. Volsky and Bennie stood upon the
"What's a-matter?" questioned Mrs. Volsky—her voice sodden with grief.
"What's been a-happenin'?" But Ella ran across the space between them,
and knelt in front of Rose-Marie.
"Give 'er t' me!" she breathed fiercely; "she's my sister. Give
'er t' me!"
Silently Rose-Marie handed over the light little figure. But as Ella
pillowed the dishevelled head upon her shoulder, she spoke directly
"Run to the Settlement House, as fast as ever you can!" she told him.
"And bring Dr. Blanchard back with you. Hurry, dear—it may mean Lily's
life!" And Bennie, with his grimy face tear-streaked, was out of the door
and clattering down the stairs before she had finished.
Ella, her mouth agonized and drawn, was the first to speak after Bennie
left the room. When she did speak she asked a question.
"Who done this t' her?" she questioned. "Who done it?"
Rose-Marie hesitated. She could feel the eyes of Mrs. Volsky, dumb with
suffering, upon her—she could feel Jim's rat-like gaze fixed, with a
certain appeal, on her face. At last she spoke.
"Jim will tell you!" she said.
If she had expected the man to evade the issue—if she had expected a
downright falsehood from him—she was surprised. For Jim's head came up,
suddenly, and his eyes met the burning dark ones of his sister.
"I done it," he said, simply, and he scrambled up from the floor, as he
spoke. "I kicked her. She come in when I was tryin' t' kiss"—his finger
indicated Rose-Marie, "her. Lily got in th' way. So I kicked out
hard—then—she," he gulped back a shudder, "she yelled!"
Ella was suddenly galvanized into action. She was on her feet, with one
lithe, pantherlike movement—the child held tight in her arms.
"Yer kicked her," she said softly—and the gentleness of her voice was
ominous. "Yer kicked her! An' she yelled—" For the first time the full
significance of it struck her. "She yelled?" she questioned, whirling
to Rose-Marie; "yer don't mean as she made a sound?"
Rose-Marie nodded dumbly. It was Jim's voice that went on with the story.
"She ain't dead," he told Ella, piteously. "She ain't dead. An'—I
promise yer true—I'll never do such a thing again. I promise yer true!"
Ella took a step toward him. Her face was suddenly lined, and old. "If
she dies," she told him, "if she dies…" she hesitated, and
then—"Much yer promises mean," she shrilled, "much yer promises—"
Rose-Marie had been watching Jim's face. Almost without meaning to she
interrupted Ella's flow of speech.
"I think that he means what he says," she told Ella slowly. "I think that
he means … what he says."
For she had seen the birth of something—that might have been soul—in
Jim's haggard eyes.
The child in Ella's arms stirred, weakly, and was still again. But the
movement, slight as it was, made the girl forget her brother. Her dark
head bent above the fair one.
"Honey," she whispered, "yer goin' ter get well fer Ella—ain't yer? Yer
goin' ter get well—"
The door swung open with a startling suddenness, and Rose-Marie sprang
forward, her hands outstretched. Framed in the battered wood stood
Bennie—the tears streaking his face—and behind him was the Young
Doctor. So tall he seemed, so capable, so strong, standing there, that
Rose-Marie felt as if her troubles had been lifted, magically, from her
shoulders. All at once she ceased to be afraid—ceased to question the
ways of the Almighty. All at once she felt that Lily would get
better—that the Volskys would be saved to a better life. And all at
once she knew something else. And the consciousness of it looked from
her wide eyes.
"You!" she breathed. "You!"
And, though she had sent for him, herself, she felt a glad sort of
surprise surging through her heart.
The Young Doctor's glance, in her direction, was eloquent. But as his
eyes saw the child in Ella's arms his expression became impersonal,
again, concentrated, and alert. With one stride he reached Ella's side,
and took the tiny figure from her arms.
"What's the matter here?" he questioned sharply.
Rose-Marie was not conscious of the words that she used as she described
Lily's accident. She glossed over Jim's part in it as lightly as
possible; she told, as quickly as she could, the history of the child.
And as she told it, the doctor's lean capable hands were passing, with
practiced skill, over the little relaxed body. When she told of the
child's deaf and dumb condition she was conscious of his absolute
attention—though he did not for a moment stop his work—when she spoke
of the scream she saw his start of surprise. But his only words were in
the nature of commands. "Bring water"—he ordered, "clean water, in a
basin. A clean basin. Bring a sponge"—he corrected himself—"a clean
rag will do—only it must be clean"—this to Mrs. Volsky, "you
understand? Where," his eyes were on Ella's face, "can we lay the
child? Is there a clean bed, anywhere?"
Ella was shaking with nervousness as she opened the door of the inner
room that she and Lily shared. Mrs. Volsky, carrying the basin of water,
was sobbing. Jim, standing in the center of the room, was like a
statue—only his haunted eyes were alive. The Young Doctor, glancing from
face to face, spoke suddenly to Rose-Marie.
"I hate to ask you," he said simply, "but you seem to be the only one who
hasn't gone to pieces. Will you come in here with me?"
Rose-Marie nodded, and she spoke, very softly. "Then you think that I'll
be able—to help?" she questioned.
The Young Doctor was remembering—or forgetting—many things.
"I know that you will!" he said, and he spoke as softly as she had done.
"I know that you will!"
They went, together, with Lily, into the inner room. And as the Young
Doctor closed the door, Rose-Marie knew a very real throb of triumph. For
he had admitted that her help was to be desired—that she could really do
But, the moment that the door closed, she forgot her feeling of victory,
for, of a sudden, she saw Dr. Blanchard in a new light. She saw him lay
the little figure upon the bed—she saw him pull off his coat. And then,
while she held the basin of water, she saw him get to work. And as she
watched him her last feeling of doubt was swept away.
"He may say that he's not interested in people," she told herself
joyously, "but he is. He may think that he doesn't care for religion—but
he does. There's love of people in every move of his hands! There's
something religious in the very way his fingers touch Lily!"
Yes, she was seeing the Young Doctor in a new light. As she watched him
she knew that he had quite forgotten her presence—had quite forgotten
the little quarrels that had all but ruined their chance at friendship.
She knew that his mind was only on the child who lay so still under his
hands—she knew that all the intensity of his nature was concentrated
upon Lily. As she watched him, deftly obeying His simple directions, she
gloried in his skill—in his surety.
And then, at last, Lily opened her eyes. She might have been waking from
a deep slumber as she opened them—she might have been dreaming a
pleasant dream as she smiled faintly. Rose-Marie had a sudden feeling—a
feeling that she had experienced before—that the child was seeing
visions, with her great sightless eyes, that other, normal folk could not
see. All at once a great dread clutched at her soul.
"She's not dying—?" she whispered, gaspingly. "Her smile is so
very—wonderful. She's not dying?"
The Young Doctor turned swiftly from the bed. All at once he looked like
a knight to Rose-Marie—an armourless, modern knight who fought an
endless fight against the dragons of disease and pain.
"Bless your heart, no!" he answered. "She isn't dying! We'll bring her
around in a few minutes. And now"—a great tenderness shone out of his
eyes, "tell me all about it. You were very sketchy," his gesture
indicated the other room, "out there! How did the child really get
hurt—and how did you come to be here? How—Why, Rose-Marie….
For Rose-Marie had fainted very quietly—and for the first time in all of
her strong young life.
AND THE HAPPY ENDING
They were sitting together at the luncheon table—the Superintendent,
Rose-Marie, and the Young Doctor. The noontime sunshine slanted across
the table—dancing on the silver, touching softly Rose-Marie's curls,
finding an answering sparkle in the Young Doctor's smile. And
silence—the warm silence of happiness—lay over them all.
It was the Young Doctor who spoke first.
"Just about a month ago, it was," he said reflectively, "that I saw Lily
for the first time. And now"—he paused teasingly—"and now—"
Rose-Marie laid down the bit of roll that she was buttering. Her face was
glowing with eagerness.
"They've come to some decision," she whispered, in a question that was
little more than a breath of sound, "the doctors at the hospital have
come to some decision?"
The Superintendent was leaning forward and her kind soul shone out of her
tired eyes. "Tell us at once, Billy Blanchard!" she ordered, "At once!"
Quite after the maddening fashion of men the Young Doctor did not
answer—not until he had consumed, and appreciatively, the bit of roll
that he had been buttering. And then—"The other doctors agree with my
diagnosis," he told them simply. "It's an extraordinary case, they say;
but a not incurable one. The shock—when Jim kicked her—was a blessing
in disguise. Not, of course, that I'd prescribe kicks for crippled
children! But"—the term that he used was long and technical—"but such
things have happened. Not often, of course. The doctors agree with me
that, if her voice comes back—as I believe it will—there may be a very
real hope for her hearing. And her eyes "—his voice was suddenly
tender—"well—thousands of slum kiddies are blind—and thousands of them
have been cured. If Lily is, some day, a normal child—if she can some
day speak and see, and hear, it will be—"
The Superintendent's voice was soft—
"It is already a miracle!" she said simply. "It is already a miracle.
Look at Jim—working for a small salary, and liking it! Look at
Bennie—he was the head of his class in school, this month, he told me.
The Young Doctor interrupted.
"Ella and her mother went to church with us last Sunday," he said.
"Rose-Marie and I were starting out, together, and they asked if they
might go along. I tell you"—his eyes were looking deep, deep, into the
eyes of Rose-Marie and he spoke directly to her, "I tell you, dear—I've
learned a great many lessons in the last few weeks. Jim isn't the only
one—or Bennie. Lily isn't the only nearly incurable case that has found
Rose-Marie was blushing. The Superintendent, watching the waves of colour
sweep over her face, spoke suddenly—reminiscently.
"Child," she said—and laughter, tremulous laughter, was in her voice,
"your face is ever so pink! I believe," she was quoting, "'that you
have a best beau'!"
The Young Doctor was laughing, too. Strangely enough his laughter had
just the suggestion of a tremor in it.
"I'll say that she has!" he replied, and his words, though slangy, were
very tender. "I'll say that she has!" And then—"Are we going back to
the little town, Rose-Marie," he questioned. "Are we going back to the
little town to be married?"
The blush had died from Rose-Marie's face, leaving it just faintly
flushed. The eyes that she raised to the Young Doctor's eyes were like
"No," she told him, "we're not! I've thought it all out. We're going to
be married here—here in the Settlement House. I'll write for my aunts to
come on—and for my old pastor! I couldn't be married without my
aunts…. And my pastor; he christened me, and he welcomed me into the
church, and"—all at once she started up from the table, "I'm going
up-stairs to write, now," she managed. "I want to tell them that we're
going to start our home here"—her voice broke, "here, on our own
Island…." Like a flash she was out of the door.
The Young Doctor was on his feet. Luncheon was quite forgotten.
"I think," he said softly, and his face was like a light, "I think that
I'll go with her—and help her with the letter!" The door closed,
sharply, upon his hurrying back.
* * * * *
The Superintendent, left alone at the table, rang for the maid. Her voice
was carefully calm as she ordered the evening meal. But her eyes were
just a bit misty as she looked into the maid's dull face.
"Mrs. Volsky," she said suddenly, "love must have its way! And love is—"
The maid looked at her blankly. Obviously she did not understand. But,
seeing her neat apron, her clean hands, her carefully combed hair, one
could forgive her vague expression.
"What say?" she questioned.
The Superintendent laughed wearily, "Anyway," she remarked, "Ella likes
her work, doesn't she? And Jim? And Bennie is going to be a great man,
some day—isn't he? And Lily may be made well—quite well! You should be
a glad woman, Mrs. Volsky!"
Pride flamed up, suddenly, in the maid's face—blotting out the dullness.
"God," she said simply and—marvel of marvels—her usually toneless
voice was athrob with love—"God is good!" She went out, with a tray
full of dishes.
Her chin in the palm of her hand, the Superintendent stared off into
space. If she was thinking of a little blond child—lying in a hospital
bed—if she was thinking of a man with sleek hair, trying to make a new
start—if she was thinking of a girl with dark, flashing eyes, and a
small, grubby-fingered boy, her expression did not mirror her thought.
Only once she spoke, as she was folding her napkin. And then—
"They're both very young," she murmured, a shade wistfully. Perhaps she
was remembering the springtime of her own youth.