Noiselessly she slipped downstairs and let herself out. The midnight air was bitingly cold, but she did not feel it. With one handsatchel holding all she thought she could honestly lay claim to, Mary Virginia turned her back upon the home that had sheltered her all her life, but that wouldn’t be able to shelter its own people much longer, because Inglesby was going to take it away from them. It made her wince to think of him as master under that roof. The old house deserved a happier fate.
At best the Parish House could be only a momentary stopping-place. What lay beyond she didn’t know. What her fate held further of evil she couldn’t guess. But at least, she thought, it would be in her own hands. It wasn’t. Unexpectedly and mercifully was it put into the abler and stronger hands of the Butterfly Man.
Now, that night Flint had found himself unable to work. He was unaccountably depressed. He couldn’t read; even the Bible, opened at his favorite John, hadn’t any comfort for him. He shoved the book aside, snatched hat and overcoat, and fled to his refuge the healing out-of-doors.
He trudged the country roads for awhile, then turned toward town, intending to pass by the Eustis house. It wasn’t the first time he had passed the Eustis house at night of late, and just to see it asleep in the midst of its gardens steadied him and made him smile at the vague fears he entertained.
He was almost up to the gate when a girl emerged from it, and he stiffened in his tracks, for it was Mary Virginia. A second later, and they stood face to face.
“Don’t be alarmed, it is I, Flint,” he said in his quiet voice. And then he asked directly: “Why are you out alone at this hour? Where are you going?”
“To—to the Parish House,” she stammered. She was greatly startled by his sudden appearance.
“Exactly,” said the Butterfly Man, with meaning, and relieved her of her satchel. He asked no questions, offered no comments; but as quickly as he could he got her to his own rooms, put Kerry on guard, and ran for help.
ST. STANISLAUS CROOKS HIS ELBOW
Mary Virginia’s voice trailed into silence and she sank back into her chair, staring somberly at the fire. Her face marked with tears, the long braids of her hair over her shoulders, she looked so like a sad and chidden child that the piteousness of her would have moved and melted harder hearts than ours.
The Butterfly Man had listened without an interruption. He sat leaning slightly forward, knees crossed, the left arm folded to support the elbow of the right, and his chin in his cupped right hand. His eyes had the piercing clear directness of an eagle’s; they burned with an unwavering pale flame. Shrewder far than I, he saw the great advantage of knowing the worst, of at last thoroughly understanding Hunter and Inglesby and the motives which moved them. He had, too, a certain tolerance. These two had merely acted according to their lights; he had not expected any more or less, therefore he was not surprised now into an undue condemnation.