“Will going away with him,” she asked steadily, “be worth never seeing Lily again? For you wouldn’t be able to see her again—you wouldn’t feel able to touch her, you know, if your hands weren’t—clean. You bought her a religious picture, Ella, and a flower. Why? Because you know, in your heart, that she’s aware of religion and beauty and sweetness! Going away with this man, Ella, will separate you from Lily, just as completely as an ocean—flowing between the two of you—would make a separation! And all of your life you’ll have to know that she’s suffering somewhere, perhaps; that maybe somebody’s hurting her—that her dresses are dirty and her hair isn’t combed! Every time you hear a little child crying you’ll think of Lily—who can’t cry aloud. Every time a pair of blue eyes look into your face you’ll think of her eyes—that can’t see. Will going away with him be worth never knowing, Ella, whether she’s alive or dead—”
Ella had stopped sobbing, but the acute misery of her face was somehow more pitiful than tears. Rose-Marie waited, for a moment, and then—as Ella did not speak—she got up from her place beside the suit-case, and going to the dividing door, opened it softly.
The room was as she had left it. Mrs. Volsky was still bending above the tubs, Lily was standing in almost the same place in which she had been left. With hurried steps Rose-Marie crossed the room, and took the child’s slim, little hand in her own.
“Come with me, honey,” she said, almost forgetting that Lily could not hear her voice. “Come with me,” and she led her gently back to the inner room.
Ella was sitting on the floor, her face still wan, her attitude unconsciously tragic. But as the child, clinging to Rose-Marie’s hand, came over to her side, she was suddenly galvanized into action.
“Oh, darlin’, darlin’,” she sobbed wildly, “Ella was a-goin’ ter leave you! Ella was a-goin’ away. But she isn’t now—not now! Darlin’,” her arms were flung wildly about the little figure, “show, some way, that you forgive Ella—who loves you!”
Rose-Marie was crying, quite frankly. All at once she dropped down on the floor and put her arms about the two sisters—the big one and the little one—and her sobs mingled with Ella’s. But, curiously enough, as she stood like a little statue between them, a sudden smile swept across the face of Lily. She might, almost, have understood.
PA STEPS ASIDE
They wept together for a long time, Ella and Rose-Marie. And as they cried something grew out of their common emotion. It was a something that they both felt subconsciously—a something warm and friendly. It might have been a new bond of affection, a new chain of love. Rose-Marie, as she felt it, was able to say to herself—with more of tolerance than she had ever known—
“If I had been as tempted and as unhappy as she—well, I might, perhaps, have reacted in the same way!”