“I do appreciate the way you feel about me,” she said softly, “I do, indeed! You may be sure that I won’t do anything that either you, or my aunts, would disapprove of!”
After all, she assured herself a trifle uncomfortably, she had in no way told a direct falsehood. They had assumed too much and she had not corrected their assumptions. She said fiercely, in her heart, that she was not to blame if they insisted upon taking things for granted!
As the days crept into weeks, Rose-Marie no longer felt the dull unrest of inaction. She was busy at the Settlement House—her clubs for mothers and young girls, her kindergarten for the little tots, had grown amazingly popular. And at the times when she was not busy at the Settlement House, she had the Volsky family and their many problems to occupy her.
The Volsky family—and their many problems! Rose-Marie would have found it hard to tell which problem was the most important! Of course Lily came first—her infirmities and her sweetness made her the central figure. But the problem of Ella was a more vital one to watch—it was, somehow, more immediate. Rose-Marie had found it hard to reach Ella—except when Lily was the topic of conversation; except when Lily’s welfare was to be considered, she stayed silently in the background. But the flashings of her great dark eyes, the quiverings of her too scarlet mouth, were ominous. Rose-Marie could see that the untidiness of the flat, the drunken mutterings of Pa, and her mother’s carelessness and dirt had strained Ella’s resistance to the breaking point. Some day there would be a crash and, upon that day Ella would disappear like a gorgeous butterfly that drifts across the road, and out of sight. Rose-Marie was hoping to push that day into the background—to make it only a dim uncertainty rather than the sword of Damocles that it was. But she could only hope.
Bennie, too, was a problem. But it was Bennie who cheered Rose-Marie when she felt that her efforts in behalf of Ella were failing. For Bennie’s brain was the fertile ground in which she could plant ideals, and dreams. Bennie was young enough to change, and easily. He got into the way of waiting for her, after his school had been dismissed, in the little park. And there, seated close together on an iron bench, they would talk; and Rose-Marie would tell endless stories. Most of the stories were about knights who rode upon gallant quests, and about old-time courtesy, and about wonderful animals. But sometimes she told him of her home in the country—of apple trees in bloom, and frail arbutus hiding under the snow. She told him of coasting parties, and bonfires, and trees to climb. And he listened, star-eyed and adoring. They made a pretty picture together—the slim, rosy-cheeked girl and the ragged little boy, with the pale, city sunshine falling, like a mist, all about them.