“Is that why she made you go out of the room?” I turned away and looked out of the window lest the accident to Jimmy’s smile be mine. “Is that why she sent you out?”
He nodded. “Mr. Pritchard kept me out an hour. Sometimes he lets me make it up at lunch. I was going to ask him to let me to-day, but—”
“I’m preventing. I’m glad of it! When are you going to eat your lunch?”
“I’ve done et it—” Jimmy’s tongue moistened his lips. “I et it on my way here this morning. I got paid off last night and I took out five cents and gave the rest to mother, and this morning I bought a pie with it and et up every bite. It might have been hooked when I was out the room, so I’m glad I didn’t save none. I got it at Heck’s. He keeps the best pies in town for five cents. They’re real fat.”
I was paying little attention to Jimmy. At the open window I could see a young girl across the street with a baby in her arms. She had brought it from a small frame house with high steps leading to a sagging porch, in the door of which a large and kindly-faced woman was standing, arms folded and eyes watching the movements of the girl. As the latter lifted her head, on which was no hat, I leaned forward, my heart in my throat. The odd, eager young face, the boyish arrangement of the hair above it, the quick, bird-like movements of the slender body, had burned for days and nights in my brain, and I recognized her at once.
“Jimmy,” I said, “come here.” I drew him to the window with nervous haste, my fingers twitching, my breath unsteady. “Who is that girl with the baby? There she is, turning the corner. Look quick! Do you know her?”
Jimmy shook his head. “Never saw her. Can’t see her now.” He leaned far out the window, but the girl had disappeared, and the woman in the doorway had gone in and closed the door.
I must have said something, made some sort of sound, for Jimmy, turning from the window, looked at me uneasily, in his eyes distress and understanding.
“What’s the matter, Miss Heath? You’d better sit down. Did the heat make you sick? You’re—you’re whiter than that wall.”
A sickness which Jimmy could not understand was indeed upon me, and unsteadily I leaned against the window-frame, looking at, but not seeing, him, and not until he spoke again did I remember I was not alone.
“Is it very bad? You look as if it hurts so. Wait a minute—I’ll get you some water.”
I caught him as he started to run down the hall, and drew him back. “I don’t want any water. I am not sick.” My head went up. “The smell of paste would make me ill if I stayed, however, and I’m not going to stay to-day. I’ll come some other time. Run on and join the other boys. Tell your mother”—I seemed groping for words—“tell your mother I will see her before you start to school. Run on, Jimmy, and thank Mr. Pritchard for lending you to me. And laugh as much as you want to, Jimmy. Laugh all you can before—you can’t!”