Rose-Marie’s face was white as she leaned against the dark wainscoting.
“Minnie Cohen brought the baby in last week,” she shuddered, “such a dear baby! And Mrs. Celleni—she tried so hard! Oh, it’s not right—” She was crying, rather wildly, as she went out of the room.
The Superintendent, left alone at the table, rang for the stolid maid. Her voice was carefully calm as she gave orders for the evening meal. If she was thinking of Giovanni Celleni, his brute face filled with semi-madness; if she was thinking of a burned baby, sobbing alone in a darkened tenement while its mother breathlessly watched the gay colours and shifting scenes of a make-believe life, her expression did not mirror her thought. Only once she spoke, as she was folding her napkin, and then—
“They’re both very young,” she murmured, a shade regretfully. Perhaps she was remembering the enthusiasm—and the intolerance—of her own youth.
“Sunshine and apple blossoms!” Rose-Marie, hurrying along the hall to her own room, repeated the Young Doctor’s words and sobbed afresh as she repeated them. She tried to tell herself that nothing he could think mattered much to her, but there was a certain element of truth in everything that he had said. It was a fact that her life had been an unclouded, peaceful one—her days had followed each other as regularly, as innocuously, as blue china beads, strung upon a white cord, follow each other.
Of course, she told herself, she had never known a mother; and her father had died when she was a tiny girl. But she was forced to admit—as she had been forced to admit many times—that she did not particularly feel the lack of parents. Her two aunts, that she had always lived with, had been everything to her—they had indulged her, had made her pretty frocks, had never tried, in any way, to block the reachings of her personality. When she had decided suddenly, fired by the convincing address of a visiting city missionary, to leave the small town of her birth, they had put no obstacle in her path.
“If you feel that you must go,” they had told her, “you must. Maybe it is the work that the Lord has chosen for you. We have all faith in you, Rose-Marie!”
And Rose-Marie, splendid in her youth and assurance, had never known that their pillows were damp that night—and for many another night—with the tears that they were too brave to let her see.
They had packed her trunk, folding the white dress and the blue sash—Rose-Marie wondered how the Young Doctor had known about the dress and sash—in tissue paper. They had created a blue serge frock for work, and a staunch little blue coat, and a blue tam-o’-shanter. Rose-Marie would have been aghast to know how childish she looked in that tam-o’-shanter! Her every-day shoes had been resoled; her white ruffled petticoats had been lengthened. And then she had been launched, like a slim little boat, upon the turbulent sea of the city!