The wonder of it seemed stealing up upon the girl, growing upon her. “You mean,” she asked, in slow, hushed voice, “that I should stay here—here?—as a friend of yours?”
“Stay here as a friend—and become a friend,” came the answer, quick and true.
So true that it went straight to the girl’s heart. Tears came, different tears, tears which were melting something. And yet, once again she whispered: “But I don’t understand.”
“Try to understand. Stay here with me and learn to laugh and be foolish, that’ll help you understand. And if you’re ever in the least oppressed with a sense of obligation—horrid thing, isn’t it?—just put it down with, ‘But she likes it. It’s fun for her.’ For really now, Ann, I hope this is not going to hurt you, but I simply can’t help getting fun out of things. I get fun out of everything. It’s my great failing. Not a particularly unkind sort of fun, though. I don’t believe you’ll mind it as you get used to it. My friends all seem to accept the fact that I—enjoy them. And then my curiosity. Well, like the eggs. It’s not entirely to make you stronger. It’s to see whether the things I’ve always heard about milk and eggs are really so. See how it works—not altogether for the good of the works, you see? Oh, I don’t know. Motives are slippery things, don’t you think so? Mine seem particularly athletic. They hop from their pigeon holes and turn hand-springs and do all sorts of stunts the minute I turn my back. So I never know for sure why I want to do a thing. For that matter, I don’t know why I named you Ann. I had to give you a name—I thought you might prefer my not using yours—so all in a flash I had to make one up—and Ann was what came. I love that name. It never would have come if something in you hadn’t called it. The Ann in you has had a hard time.” She was speaking uncertainly, timidly, as if on ground where words had broken no paths. “Oh, I’m not so much the outsider I can’t see that. But the Ann in you has never died. That I see, too. Maybe it was to save Ann you were going to—give up Verna. And because I see Ann—like her—because I called her back, won’t you let her stay here and—” Katie’s voice broke, so to offset that she cocked her head and made a wry little face as she concluded, not succeeding in concealing the deep tenderness in her eyes, “just try—the eggs?”
Katie was writing to her uncle the Bishop. At least that was what she would have said she was doing. To be literal, she was nibbling at the end of her pen.
Writing to her uncle had never been a solemn affair with Kate. She gossiped and jested with him quite as she would with a playfellow; it was playfellow, rather than spiritual adviser, he had always been to her, Kate’s need seeming rather more for playfellows than for spiritual advisers. But the trouble that morning was that the things of which she was wont to gossip and jest seemed remote and uninteresting things.