“Oh,” said Rose Mary, quickly looking up with pierced, startled eyes, “he must keep it—he must; it is the only hope for him. Tell me if you can how to help him keep it. Help me help him!”
“Forgive me,” answered Everett in quick distress. “I was only scoffing, as usual. He’ll keep what you give him, never fear, Rose Mary; he’s honor bound.”
“Yes, that’s what I want him to be—’honor bound.’ You don’t know about him, but to-night I want to tell you, because I somehow feel you love him—and us—and maybe if you know, some day you will help him. Just after I came back into the Valley and found them all so troubled and—and disgraced, something came to me I thought I couldn’t stand. Always it seemed to me I had loved him, my cousin, Uncle Tucker’s son, and I thought—I thought he had loved me. But when he went out into the world one of the village girls, Granny Satterwhite’s daughter, had followed him and—yes, she had been his wife for all the time we thought she was working in the city. They had been afraid—afraid of Uncle Tucker and me—to acknowledge it. She was foolish and he criminally weak. After his—his tragedy she came back—and nobody would believe—that she was his wife. I found her lying on the floor in the milk-house and though I was hurt, and hard, I took her into my room—and in a few hours Stonie was born. When they gave him to me, so little and helpless, the hurt and hardness all melted for ever, and I believed her and forgave her and him. I never rested until I made him come back, though it was just to die. She stayed with us a year—and then she married Todd Crabtree and moved West. They didn’t want Stonie, so she gave him to me. When my heart ached so I couldn’t stand it, there was always Stonie to heal it. Do you think that heartaches are sometimes just growing pains the Lord sends when He thinks we have not courage enough?” And in the moonlight Rose Mary’s tear-starred eyes gleamed softly and her lovely mouth began to flower out into a little smile. The sunshine of Rose Mary’s nature always threw a bow through her tears against any cloud that appeared on her horizon.
“I don’t believe your heart ever needed any growing pains, Rose Mary, and I resent each and every one,” answered Everett in a low voice, and he lifted one of Rose Mary’s strong slim hands and held it close for a moment in both his warm ones.
“Oh, but it did,” she answered, curling her fingers around his like a child grateful for a caress. “I was romantic—and—and intense, and I thought of it as a castle for—for just one. Now it’s grown into a wide, wing-spreading, old country house in Harpeth Valley, with vines over the gables and doves up under the eaves. And in it I keep sunshiny rooms to shelter all the folks in need that my Master sends. Yours—is on the south side—corner—don’t you want your supper now?”
THE HONORABLE GID