It was partly because of certain talks with her that I decided to come to Scarborough Square. If I could make but a few understand what she understands—so understand that the sending of a check would not sufficiently relieve them from obligation, from responsibility. But how can I make clear to others what is not clear to me?
It will not be Bettina’s fault if I do not become acquainted with my new neighbors in Scarborough Square. By the calendar’s accounting Bettina’s years are only thirteen, but in shrewdness of penetration, in swiftness of conclusion, and in acceptance of the fact that most people are queer she is amazingly mature. Her readiness to go with me anywhere I wish to go is unfailing, but save on Saturdays and Sundays we can only pay our visits in the afternoon. It is late when she gets from school, and dark soon after we start, but with Bettina I am safe.
Outside and inside of the house our roles are reversed. Concerning my books and my pictures, concerning the people who ride in their own automobiles, who go to the theatre whenever they wish, to the fine churches with beautiful music and paid pews; the people who give parties and wear gorgeous clothes and eat mushrooms and terrapin—which she considered inexplicable taste—she will ask me countless questions; but outside of the house she becomes the teacher and I the taught. Just what I am learning she hardly understands. Much that is new to me is commonplace to her; and she does not dream that I often cannot sleep at night for remembering what the day has shown me. To-morrow we are going to see a Mrs. Gibbons, whose little boy, eleven years of age, is the head of his mother’s house—the support of her family.
Hands in her pockets, Bettina looked at me disappointedly. “It’s very cold,” she said. “Why don’t you wear your fur coat?”
“I like this one better. It’s warm and not so heavy.”
“Your fur coat is the only one in Scarborough Square. A sure-enough fur one, I mean. There’re plenty of imitations. Mrs. Crimm’s got an imitation. You look awful grand in that fur coat—look like a princess person. Grannie says you don’t want to seem different from the people down here. How are you going to help it?”
“I don’t know. I mean—” It was silly that my face should flush before Bettina’s unblinking scrutiny, but flush it did. “I don’t want to seem different. People are much more alike than they imagine. If we didn’t think so much of our differences—”
“Bound to think of them when they’re right in your face. You don’t suppose you’re anything like Evie May Poore, do you? or Roberta Wicks, or Mrs. Clay Burt? Every time I see Evie May Poore I wish I was an Indian so I could tomahawk her hair. Most of her money goes in hair and chewing-gum. Mr. Crimm says he thinks girls who dress like Roberta Wicks ought to be run in, but there ain’t any law which lets him do it. Mr. Crimm’s going to a big wedding to-night. Did you know it?”