Many a pair of just such slippers she had danced to the verge of shabbiness. To her they were associated with hops, the gayest of music and lightest of laughter, brilliant crowds in flower-scented rooms, dancing and flirtation—the froth and bubble of life. But something sterner than waxed floors had wrought the havoc here. How much of life’s ground all unknown to her had these poor little slippers trodden? Was it often like that?—that the things created for the fun and the joy found the paths of tragedy?
She had put them away and was at last going to bed when she idly picked up the evening paper. What she saw was that the Daisey-Maisey Opera Company was playing at the city across the river. Something made her stand there very still. Could it be—? Might it not be—?
She did not know. Would she ever know?
It drew her back to the girl’s room. She was sleeping serenely. With shaded candle Katie stood at the door watching her. Surely the hour was past! Sleep such as that must draw one back to life.
Lying there in the sweet dignity of her braided hair, in that simple lovely gown, she might have been Ann indeed.
There was tenderness just then in the heart of Katherine Wayneworth Jones. She was glad that this girl who was sleeping as though sleep had been a treasure long withheld, was knowing to-night the balm of a good bed, glad that she could sink so unquestioningly into the lap of protection. Protection!—it was that which one had in a place like this. Why was it given the Anns—and not the Vernas? The sleeping girl seemed to feel that all was well in the house which sheltered her that night. Suddenly Katie knew what it was had gone. Fear. It was terror had slipped back, leaving the weariness which can give itself over to sleep. Katie was thinking, striking deeper things than were wont to invade Katie’s meditations. The protection of a Wayne, the chivalrous comradeship of a Captain Prescott—how different the life of an Ann from the life this girl might have had! She stood at the door for a long moment, looking at her with a searching tenderness. What had she been through? What was there left for her?
Once, as a child, she had taken a turtle from its native mud and brought it home. Soon after that they moved into an apartment and her father said that she must give the turtle up. “But, father,” she had cried, “you don’t understand! I took it! Now how can I throw it away?”
“You are right, Katherine,” he had replied gravely—her dear, honorable, understanding father; “it is rather inconvenient to have a turtle in an apartment, but, as you say, responsibilities are greater than conveniences.”
She was thinking of that story as she finally went to bed.
“Nora,” said Katie next morning, “Miss Forrest has had a great misfortune.”
Nora paused in her dusting, all ready with the emotion which Katie’s tone invited.