The Young Doctor stopped laughing almost as quickly as he had begun. With something of interest in his face he surveyed the little ragged boy.
“Where,” he questioned after a moment, “did you learn all of that stuff about knights, and saints, and doing things with your life, and husbands and fathers? Who told you about it?”
Bennie hesitated a moment. Perhaps he was wondering who had given this stranger a right to pry into his inner shrine. Perhaps he was wondering if Rose-Marie would like an outsider to know just what she had told him. When he answered, his answer was evasive.
“A lady told me,” he said. “A lady.”
The Young Doctor was laughing again.
“And I suppose,” he remarked, with an effort at solemnity, “that gentlemen don’t pass ladies’ names about between ’em—I suppose that you wouldn’t tell me who this lady of yours may be, even though I’d like to meet her?”
Bennie’s lips closed in a hard little line that quirked up at one end. He shook his head.
“I’d ruther not,” he said very slowly. “Say—Where’s th’ Scout Club?”
The Young Doctor shook his head.
“It’s such a strange, old-fashioned, young person!” he informed the empty hallway. And then—“Come with me, youngster,” he said kindly, “and we’ll find this very wonderful club where small boys learn about doing things for people—and, incidentally, wear soldier clothes!”
Bennie, following stealthily behind him, felt that he had found another friend—something like his lady, only different!
Rose-Marie was exceptionally weary that night. It had been a hard day. All three of her classes had met, and—late in the afternoon—she had made good her promise to wash Mrs. Volsky’s hair. The task had not been a joyous one—she felt that she could never wash hair again—not even her own soft curls or the fine, snowy locks that crowned her aunts’ stately heads. Mrs. Volsky had once more relapsed into her shell of silence—she had seemed more apathetic, more dull than ever. But Rose-Marie had noticed that there were no unwashed dishes lying in the tub—that the corners of the room had had some of the grime of months swept out of them. When Ella Volsky came suddenly into the flat, with lips compressed, and a high colour, Rose-Marie had been glowingly conscious of her start of surprise. And when she had said, haltingly, in reference to the hair—“I’ll dry it for you, Miss Rose-Marie!” Rose-Marie could have wept with happiness. It was the first time that she had ever heard Ella offer to do anything for her mother.
Jim—coming in as she was about to leave—had added to Rose-Marie’s weariness. He had been more insistent than usual—he had commented upon her rosy cheeks and he had made a laughing reference to her wide eyes. And he had asked her, gruffly, why she didn’t take up with some feller like himself—a good provider, an’ all, that’d doll her up the way she’d oughter be dolled up? And when Ella had interrupted, her dark eyes flashing, he had told her—with a burst of soul-chilling profanity—to mind her own business.