It was Wayne who spoke. “Think not?”
Ann came a little way out of the shadow. She had leaned toward Wayne.
“Well you’d never know it if they did,” laughed Prescott. He turned to Wayne. “What’s your theory?”
“Oh I have no theory. Just a wondering. Can’t see how girls who have their living to earn could sing ‘Don’t You Care’ with complete abandon.”
Ann leaned forward, looking at him tensely. Then, as if afraid, she sank back into shadow. Katie could still see her hand gripping the arm of her chair.
“But they’re not the caring sort,” Prescott was holding.
“Think not?” said Wayne again, in Wayne’s queer way.
There was a silence, and then Ann had murmured something and slipped away.
Katie followed her; for hours she sat by her bed, holding her hand, trying to soothe her. It was almost morning before that other girl, that girl they were trying to get away from, would let Ann go to sleep.
Sitting beside the tortured girl that night, hearing the heart-breaking little moans which as sleep finally drew near replaced the sobs, Katie Jones wondered whether many of the things people so serenely took for granted were as absurd—and perhaps as tragically absurd—as Captain Prescott’s complacent conclusion that the “Don’t You Care” girls were girls who didn’t care.
How she would love—turning it all over in her mind that afternoon—to talk some of those things over with “the man who mends the boats”!
She had only known him for about twenty days—“The man who mends the boats”—but she had fallen into the way of referring all interesting questions to him. That was perhaps the more remarkable as her eyes had never rested upon him.
One morning Worth had looked up from some comparative measurements of the tails of Pourquoi and N’est-ce-pas to demand: “Why, Aunt Kate, what do you think?”
“There are times,” replied Aunt Kate, looking over at the girl swaying in the hammock, humming gently to herself, “when I don’t know just what to think.”
“Well sir, what do you think? The man that mends the boats knows more ’an Watts!”
“Worthie,” she admonished, “it’s bad business for an army man to turn traitor.”
“But yes, he does. ’Cause I asked Watts why Pourquoi had more yellow than white, and why N’est-ce-pas was more white ’an yellow, and he said I sure had him there. He’d be blowed if he knew, and he guessed nobody did, ’less maybe the Almighty had some ideas about it; but yesterday I asked the man that mends the boats, and he explained it—oh a whole lot of long words, Aunt Kate. More long words ’an I ever heard before.”
“And the explanation? I trust it was satisfactory?”
“I guess it was,” replied Worth uncertainly. “’Twas an awful lot of long words.”
“My experience, too,” laughed Aunt Kate.