Even when Barbara grew to be nine she would be a poor thing beside the lusty self-confidence of Mary Adams—and this was quite as it should be. All that Barbara wanted was some one upon whom she might pour her devotion, and one of the things that Mary wanted was some one who would spend it upon her. But there stirred, nevertheless, some breath of emotion across that stagnant little pool, Mary’s heart. She was moved, perhaps, by pity for Barbara’s amazing simplicities, moved also by curiosity as to how far Barbara’s devotion to her would go, moved even by some sense of distrust of her own self-satisfaction. She did, indeed, admire any one who could realise, as completely as did Barbara, the greatness of Mary Adams.
It may seem strange to us, and almost terrible, that a small child of seven can feel anything as devastating as this passion of Barbara. But Barbara was made to be swept by storms stronger than she could control, and Mary Adams was the first storm of her life. They spent now a great deal of their time together. Mrs. Adams, who was beginning to find Mary more than she could control, hailed the gentle Barbara with joy; she welcomed also perhaps a certain note of rather haughty protection which Mary seemed to be developing.
During the hours when Barbara was alone she thought of the many things that she would say to her friend when they met, and then at the meeting could say nothing. Mary talked or she did not talk according to her mood, but she soon made it very plain that there was only one way of looking at everything inside and outside the earth, and that was Mary’s way. Barbara had no affection, but a certain blind terror for God. It was precisely as though some one were standing with a hammer behind a tree, and were waiting to hit you on the back of your head at the first opportunity. But God was not, on the whole, of much importance; her Friend was the great problem, and before many days were passed Mary was told all about him.
“He used to come often and often. He’d be there just where you wanted him—when the light was out or anything. And he was nice.” Barbara sighed.
Mary stared at her, seeming in the first full sweep of confidence, to be almost alarmed.
“You don’t mean——?” She stopped, then cried, “Why, you silly, you believe in ghosts!”
“No, I don’t,” said Barbara, not far from tears.