“Miss,” she said, and one thin, dingy hand was laid appealingly upon Rose-Marie’s dress, “Miss, you can do wit’ me as you wish to! If you t’ink dat my bein’ clean will make Lily glad”—she made a sudden impetuous gesture with her hand—“den I will be clean! If you t’ink dat she will like better dat I should be her mother,” the word, on her lips, was surprisingly sweet, “den I will do—anyt’ing!” All at once she broke into phrases that were foreign to Rose-Marie, phrases spoken lovingly in some almost forgotten tongue. And the girl knew that she was quite forgotten—that the drab woman was dreaming over some youthful hope, was voicing tenderly the promises of a long dead yesterday, and was making an impassioned pledge to her small daughter and to the future! The words that she spoke might be in the language of another land—but the tone was unmistakable, was universal.
Rose-Marie, listening to her, felt a sudden desire to kneel there, on the dirty tenement floor, and say a little prayer of thanksgiving. Once again she had proved that she was right—and that the Young Doctor was wrong.
BENNIE COMES TO THE SETTLEMENT HOUSE
It was Bennie who came first to the Settlement House. Shyly, almost, he slipped through the great doors—as one who seeks something that he does not quite understand. As he came, a gray kitten, creeping out from the shadows of the hall, rubbed affectionately against his leg. And Bennie, half unconsciously—and with absolutely no recognition—stooped to pat its head. Rose-Marie would have cried with joy to have seen him do it, but Rose-Marie was in another part of the building, teaching tiny children to embroider outlines, with gay wool, upon perforated bits of cardboard. The Young Doctor, passing by the half-opened door of the kindergarten room, saw her there and paused for a moment to enjoy the sight. He thought, with a curious tightening of his lips, as he left noiselessly, that some day Rose-Marie would be surrounded by her own children—far away from the Settlement House. And he was surprised at the sick feeling that the thought gave him.
“I’ve been rather a fool,” he told himself savagely, “trying to send her away. I’ve been a fool. But I’d never known anything like her—not in all of my life! And it makes me shiver to think of what one meeting with some unscrupulous gangster would do to her point of view. It makes me want to fight the world when I realize how an unpleasant experience would affect her love of people. I’d rather never see her again,” he was surprised, for a second time, at the pain that the words caused him, “than to have her made unhappy. I hope that this man of hers is a regular fellow!”
He passed on down the hall. He walked slowly, the vision of Rose-Marie, a dream child held close to her breast, before his eyes. That was why, perhaps, he did not see Bennie—why he stumbled against the boy.