“Do you think I would?” she asked.
“No, I don’t. But I thought you might say queer things, just as a joke.”
She shook her head. “No,” she said calmly. “I laughed a little at first, because I didn’t understand, but I’m quite serious now.”
“You said Roger was a fossil. I know what a fossil is. That wasn’t kind.”
“But it’s true,” she repeated warmly. “He might keep things from you, but he has no right to misrepresent women.”
“Are women as fine as men?” he asked.
She looked around at him.
“Why shouldn’t they be? I think they’re finer. Your Roger wouldn’t agree with me. I’ve told you the kind of things they do—that men can’t and won’t do. You may believe me or not as you choose. Some day you’ll find out.”
“But I want to find out now. I want to find out everything.”
She smiled into the fire.
“That’s a great deal, isn’t it?” she said.
He went on soberly:
“You see, I don’t want you to think I’m an idiot and I don’t want you to think Roger is narrow-minded. If you only knew him—”
“I’m sure he has a long nose, sandy hair, grayish? watery eyes and spectacles.”
“There. I knew you hadn’t a notion of him. He’s nothing like that.”
“Well, what is he like?”
“Why, I’ve never thought. But he isn’t like that. He has a beautiful mind. I think that is what matters more than anything. What do looks count for? I would rather think fine thoughts than be the handsomest person in the world.”
He might have been the handsomest person in the world but he wouldn’t have been aware of it. Through the window I saw the girl search his bent head quickly and then peer into the fire smiling. But Jerry did not know what she was thinking about and went on slowly:
“You’ve said some things that make me believe I ought to know more about women and their work. I didn’t know that they ever did the sort of things you tell me of. It’s strange I don’t know, but I’ve always been pretty busy in here and I’ve never really thought much about them. What did you mean by ’the plague-spots of the cities’?” he asked. “Surely there can be no such a disease as the plague in a modern city when science has made such progress.”
“Moral plague-spots, Jerry, civic sores.” She paused.
“I don’t understand.”
“You will in time. The world isn’t all as beautiful as you think it is. There are men and women with diseased minds, diseased bodies that no medicine can cure. There are hospitals and homes for them, but there never seems to be enough money or skill or civic righteousness to make such people well.”
“How do you know all this?” he asked in wonder.
“I’ve always been interested in social problems. I can’t abide being idle.”
“Social problems! And do you mean that you go among these diseased people and try to make them well?”