ELLA MAKES A DECISION
And then the climax of Ella’s life—the crash that Rose-Marie had been expecting—happened. It happened when Ella came furiously into the Volsky flat, early one afternoon, and—ignoring the little Lily, who sat placidly on Rose-Marie’s lap—hurried silently into her own room. Mrs. Volsky, bending over the wash-tubs, straightened up as if she could almost feel the electric quality of the air, as Ella passed her, but Rose-Marie only held tighter to Lily—as if, somehow, the slim little body gave her comfort.
“I wonder what’s the matter?” she ventured, after a moment.
Mrs. Volsky, again bending over the wash-tubs, answered.
“Ella, she act so funny, lately,” she told Rose-Marie, “an’ there is some feller; Bennie, he tell me that he have seen her wit’ some feller! A rich feller, maybe; maybe he puts Ella up to her funny business!”
There were sounds of activity from the inner room, as if clothing was being torn down from hooks—as if heavy garments were being flung into bags. Rose-Marie listened, apprehensively, to the sounds before she spoke again.
“Perhaps I’d better go in and see what’s the matter,” she suggested.
Mrs. Volsky, looking back over her shoulder, gave a helpless little shrug. “If you t’inks best,” she said hopelessly. “But Ella—she not never want to take any help...”
Only too well Rose-Marie knew what Mrs. Volsky meant by her twisted sentence. Only too well she understood that Ella would never allow herself to be biased by another’s judgment,—that Ella would not allow herself to be moved by another’s plea. And yet she set Lily gently down upon the floor and rose to her feet.
“I’ll see what she’s doing,” she told Mrs. Volsky, and pushed open the inner door.
Despite all of the time that she had spent in the Volsky flat, Rose-Marie had never been past the front room with its tumbled heaps of bedding, and its dirt. She was surprised to see that the inner room, shared by Ella and Lily, was exquisitely neat, though tiny. There were no windows—the only light came from a rusty gas fixture—but Rose-Marie, after months in the slums, was prepared for that. It was the geranium, blooming on the shabby table, that caught her eye; it was the clean hair-brush, lying on the same table, and the framed picture of a Madonna, upon the wall, that attracted her. She spoke of them, first, to the girl who knelt on the floor, packing a cheap suit-case—spoke of them before she questioned gently:
“You’re not going away, are you, Ella?”
Ella glanced up from her packing.
“Yes. I’m going away!” she said, shortly. And then, as if against her will, she added:
“I got th’ flower an’ th’ picture for Lily. Oh, sure, I know that she can’t see ’em! But I sorter feel that she knows they’re here!”