ROSE-MARIE COMES TO THE RESCUE
Rose-Marie’s hand upon the small boy’s coat collar was not gentle. With surprising strength, for she was small and slight, she jerked him aside.
“You wicked child!” she exclaimed, and the Young Doctor would have chuckled to hear her tone. “You wicked child, what are you doing?”
Without waiting for an answer she knelt beside the pitiful little animal that was tied to the bench, and with trembling fingers unloosed the cord that held it, noting as she did so how its bones showed, even through its coat of fur. When it was at liberty she gathered it close to her breast and turned to face the boy.
He had not tried to run away. Even with the anger surging through her, Rose-Marie admitted that the child was not—in one sense—a coward. He had waited, brazenly perhaps, to hear what she had to say. With blazing eyes she said it:
“Why,” she questioned, and the anger that made her eyes blaze also put a tremor into her voice, “why were you deliberately hurting this kitten? Don’t you know that kittens can feel pain just as much as you can feel pain? Don’t you know that it is wicked to make anything suffer? Why were you so wicked?”
The boy looked up at her with sullen, dark eyes. The grim twist at one corner of his mouth became more pronounced.
“Aw,” he said gruffly, “why don’t yer mind yer own business?”
If Rose-Marie’s hands had been free, she would have taken the boy suddenly and firmly by both shoulders. She felt an overwhelming desire to shake him—to shake him until his teeth chattered. But both of her hands were busy, soothing the gray kitten that shivered against her breast.
“I am minding my own business,” she told the boy. “It’s my business to give help where it’s needed, and this kitten,” she cuddled it closer, “certainly needed help! Haven’t you ever been told that you should be kind? Like,” she faltered, “like Jesus was kind? He wouldn’t have hurt anything. He loved animals—and He loved boys, too. Why don’t you try to be the sort of a boy He could love? Why do you try to be bad—to do wrong things?”
The eyes of the child were even more sullen—the twist of his mouth was even more grim as he listened to Rose-Marie. But when she had finished speaking, he answered her—and still he did not try to run away.
“Wot,” he questioned, almost in the words of the Young Doctor, “wot do you know about things that’s right an’ things that’s wrong? It ain’t bad t’ hurt animals—not if they’re little enough so as they ain’t able t’ hurt you!”
Rose-Marie sat down, very suddenly, upon the bench. In all of her life—her sheltered, glad life—she had never heard such a brutal creed spoken, and from the lips of a child! Her eyes, searching his face, saw that he was not trying to be funny, or saucy, or smart. Curiously enough she noted that he was quite sincere—that, to him, the torturing of a kitten was only a part of the day with its various struggles and amusements. When she spoke again her tone was gentle—as gentle as the tone with which the other slum children, who came to the Settlement House, were familiar.