“I shall leave you with the Padre now,” he said evenly, “to tell him what you wanted to tell him. Father, understand: there’s something rotten wrong, as I’ve been telling you all along. Now she’s got to tell you what it is and all about it. Everything. Whether she likes to or not, and no matter what it is, she’s got to tell you. You understand that, Mary Virginia?”
She fixed him with a glance that had in it something hostile and oblique. Even with those dearest of women whom I adore, there are moments when I have the impression that they have, so to speak, their ears laid back flat, and I experience what I may justly term cat-fear. I felt it then.
“Oh, don’t have too much consideration for my feelings, Mr. Flint!” said she, with that oblique and baffling glance, and the smile Old Fitz once likened to the Curve in the Cat’s Tail. “Indeed, why should you go? Why don’t you stay and find out why I wanted to run to the Padre—to beg him to find some way to help me, since I can’t fall like a plum into Mr. Inglesby’s hand when Mr. Hunter shakes the Eustis family tree!”
His breath came whistlingly between his teeth.
“Parson! You hear?” he slapped his leg with his open palm. “Oh, I knew it, I knew it!” And he turned upon her a kindling glance:
“I knew all along it was never in you to be anything but true!” said the Butterfly Man.
“WILL YOU WALK INTO MY PARLOR”
It is impossible for me to put down in her own words what Mary Virginia told the Butterfly Man and me. Also, I have had to fill in gaps here and there, supplying what was lacking, from my intimate knowledge of the actors and from such chance words and hints and bits of detail as came to me afterward. But what I have added has been necessary, in order to do greater justice to everybody concerned.
If it be true that the boy is father to the man, it is even more tritely true that the girl is mother to the woman, there being here less chance for change. So it was with Mary Virginia. That gracious little girlhood of hers, lived among the birds and bees and blossoms of an old Carolina garden, had sent her into the Church School with a settled and definite idealism as part of her nature. Her creed was simple enough: The world she knew was the best of all possible worlds, its men good, its women better; and to be happy and loved one had only to be good and loving.
The school did not disabuse her of this pleasing optimism. It was a very expensive school and could afford to have optimisms of its own. For one thing, it had no pupils poor enough to apply the acid test.
When Mary Virginia was seventeen, Mrs. Eustis perceived with dismay that her child who had promised beauty was instead become angular, awkward, and self-conscious; and promptly packed the unworldly one off to spend a saving summer with a strenuously fashionable cousin, a widow, of whom she herself was very fond. She liked the idea of placing the gauche girl under so vigorous and seasoned a wing as Estelle Baker’s. As for Mrs. Baker herself, that gay and good-humored lady laughed at the leggy and serious youngster and promptly took her education in hand along lines not laid down in Church Schools.