“I’m sorry, but I’ve got to go. I’d entirely forgotten an engagement I’m compelled to fill. May I come again?” He held out his hand. “I’ve heard about you, of course. I’ve wanted to know you. There’s much I’d like to talk to you about. When you leave Scarborough Square and go back into your world, you can tell it many things it should know. Some day it will understand.” Abruptly he turned and left the room.
The girl down-stairs, the girl named Lillie Pierce, was taken on the back porch this morning, and for the first time Mrs. Mundy left me alone with her.
“When the snow’s gone and the sun shines, the cot can be rolled out, I told the doctor,” Mrs. Mundy tucked the covering closely around the shrinking figure, “but chill and dampness ain’t friends to feeble folks, and there’s plenty of fresh air without going outdoors. It’s hard to make even smart folks like doctors get more ’n one idea at a time in their heads, and in remembering benefits, they forget dangers. Are you ready, child, for a whiff of sunshine? It’s come at last, the sun has.”
The girl nodded indifferently, but as the cot was pushed into the porch I saw her lips quiver, saw her teeth bitten into them to hide their quivering, and I nodded to Mrs. Mundy to go inside, and I, too, left her for a moment and went down the steps to the little garden being made ready for the coming of spring. Around the high fence vines had been planted, a trellis or two put against the porch for roses and clematis, and close to the gate an apple-tree, twisted and gnarled, gave promise of blossoms, if not of fruit. Already I loved the garden which was to be.
“Violets are to be here and tulips there,” I said, under my breath, and wondered if Lillie were herself again, if I could not go back. “A row of snowdrops and bleeding-hearts would look lovely there—” Something green and growing in a sheltered corner near the house caught my eye, and stooping, I pulled the little blossom, and went up the steps to Lillie’s cot and gave it to her.
Eagerly she held out her hands and the silence of days was broken. The bitterness that had filled her eyes, the scorn that had drawn her thin lips into forbidding curves, the mask of control which had exhausted her strength, yielded at the sight of a little brown-and-yellow flower, and with a cry she kissed it, pressed it to her face.
“It used to grow, a long bed of it, close to the kitchen wall where it was warm, and where it bloomed before anything else.” The words came stumblingly. “Mother loved it best of all her flowers; she had all sorts in her garden.”
With a quick turn of her head she looked at me, in her face horror, in her eyes tumultuous pain, then threw the flower from her with a wild movement, as if her touch had blighted it. “Why don’t you let me die!” she cried. “Oh, why don’t you let me die!”