“What a beautiful little girl,” she whispered.
“Is she beautiful, Betty?”
“She’s—lovely. Come here, dear, and see my baby.” Betty put forth a welcoming hand to the child, but Ann shrank away and her long silence was broken.
“I jes’ naturally hate babies!” she whispered, in the soft drawl that betrayed her.
“Lyn, who is she? Why—what is the matter?”
Lynda came close and her words did not reach past Betty’s strained hearing. “I—I’m going to—adopt her. I—I must prepare, Con. I hoped you’d keep her for a few days.”
“Of course I will, Lyn. I’m ready—but Lyn, tell me!”
“Betty, look at her! She has come out of—of Con’s past. He doesn’t know, he mustn’t know—not now! She belongs to—to the future. Can you—can you understand? I never suspected until to-day. I’ve got to get used to it!” Then, fiercely: “But I’m going to do it, Betty! Con’s road is my road; his duty my duty; it’s all right—only just at first—I’ve got to—steady my nerves!”
Without a word Betty rose and laid the now-sleeping baby in a crib; then she came back to the low chair and opened her arms to little Ann with the heaven-given gesture that no child resists—especially a suffering, lonely child.
“Come here, little girl, to—to Aunt Betty,” she said.
Fascinated, Ann walked to the shelter offered.
“Will you kiss me?” Betty asked. The kiss was given mutely.
“Will you tell Aunt Betty your name?”
“Jes’ lil’ Ann.”
Then Betty raised her eyes to Lynda’s face and smiled at its tragic suffering.
“Poor, old Lyn!” she said, “run home to Con. You need him and God knows he needs you. It will take the big love, Lyn, dear, the big love; but you have it—you have it!”
Without a word Lynda turned and left Betty with the children.
Potential motherhood can endure throes of travail other than physical; and for the next week Lynda passed through all the phases of spiritual readjustment that enabled her, with blessed certainty of success, to accept what she had undertaken.
She did not speak to Truedale at once, but she went daily to Betty’s and with amazement watched the miracle Betty was performing. She never forgot the hour, when, going softly up the stairs, she heard little Ann laugh gleefully and clap her hands.
Betty was playing with the baby and telling Ann a story at the same time. Lynda paused to listen.
“And now come here, little Ann, and kiss Bobilink. Isn’t he smelly-sweet and wonderful?”
“That’s right. Kiss him again. And you once said you just naturally didn’t like babies! Little Ann, you are a humbug. And now tell me how much you like Bobilink.”
“Heaps and lickwigs.”