“Yes, you do.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Of course you do, you silly.”
“No, I don’t. He—he’s real.”
“Well,” Mary said, with a final toss of the head, “if you go seeing ghosts like that you can’t have me for your friend, Barbara Flint—you can choose, that’s all.”
Barbara was aghast. Such a catastrophe had never been contemplated. Lose Mary? Sooner life itself. She resolved, sorrowfully, to say no more about her Friend. But here occurred a strange thing. It was as though Mary felt that over this one matter Barbara had eluded her; she returned to it again and again, always with contemptuous but inquisitive allusion.
“Did he come last night, Barbara?”
“P’r’aps he did, only you were asleep.”
“No, he didn’t.”
“You don’t believe he’ll come ever any more, do you? Now that I’ve said he isn’t there really?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Very well, then, I won’t see you to-morrow—not at all—not all day—I won’t.”
These crises tore Barbara’s spirit. Seven is not an age that can reason with life’s difficulties, and Barbara had, in this business, no reasoning powers at all. She would die for Mary; she could not deny her Friend. What was she to do? And yet—just at this moment when, of all others, it was important that he should come to her and confirm his reality—he made no sign. Not only did he make no sign, but he seemed to withdraw, silently and surely, all his supports. Barbara discovered that the company of Mary Adams did in very truth make everything that was not sure and certain absurd and impossible. There was visible no longer, as there had been before, that country wherein anything was possible, where wonderful things had occurred and where wonderful things would surely occur again.
“You’re pretending,” said Mary Adams sharply when Barbara ventured some possibly extravagant version of some ordinary occurrence, or suggested that events, rich and wonderful, had occurred during the night. “Nonsense,” said Mary sharply.
She said “nonsense” as though it were the very foundation of her creed of life—as, indeed, to the end of her days, it was. What, then, was Barbara to do? Her friend would not come, although passionately she begged and begged and begged that he would. Mary Adams was there every day, sharp, and shining, and resolved, demanding the whole of Barbara Flint, body and soul—nothing was to be kept from her, nothing. What was Barbara Flint to do?
She denied her Friend, denied that earlier world, denied her dreams and her hopes. She cried a good deal, was very lonely in the dark. Mary Adams, as was her way, having won her victory, passed on to win another.
Mary began, now, to find Barbara rather tiresome. Having forced her to renounce her gods, she now despised her for so easy a renunciation. Every day did she force Barbara through her act of denial, and the Inquisition of Spain held, in all its records, nothing more cruel.