She told him the story with its touching pathos. “And think of it,” she ended, “right here in our garden by the fountain, she saw him for the last time.”
Chilled by the ghostly breath of dead romance, they sat for a while in silence, then Mary said: “So that’s why I’m trying to learn something—that will have an earning value. I can sing and play a little, but not enough to make—money.”
She sighed, and he set himself to help her.
“The quickest way,” he said, “to acquire speed, is to have some one read to you.”
“Aunt Isabelle does sometimes, but it tires her.”
“Let me do it. I should never tire.”
“Oh, wouldn’t you mind? Could we practice a little—now?”
And so it began—the friendship in which he served her, and loved the serving.
He read, slowly, liking to see, when he raised his eyes, the slim white figure in the big chair, the firelight on the absorbed face.
Thus the time slipped by, until with a start, Mary looked up.
“I don’t see what is keeping Barry.”
Then Roger told her what he had been reluctant to tell. “I saw him down-town. I think he was on his way to the Country Club. He had been dining with some friends.”
“Yes. He called one of them Jerry.”
He saw the color rise in her face. “I hate Jerry Tuckerman, and Barry promised Constance he’d let those boys alone.”
Her voice had a sharp note in it, but he saw that she was struggling with a gripping fear.
This, then, was the burden she was bearing? And what a brave little thing she was to face the world with her head up.
“Would you like to have me call the Country Club—I might be able to get your brother on the wire.”
“Oh; if you would.”
But he was saved the trouble. For, even while they spoke of him, Barry came, and Mary went down to him.
A little later, there were stumbling steps upon the stairs, and a voice was singing—a strange song, in which each verse ended with a shout.
Roger, stepping out into the dark upper hall, looked down over the railing. Mary, a slender shrinking figure; was coming with her brother up the lower flight. Barry had his arm around her, but her face was turned from him, and her head drooped.
Then, still looking down, Roger saw her guide those stumbling steps to the threshold of the boy’s room. The door opened and shut, and she was alone, but from within there still came the shouted words of that strange song.
Mary stood for a moment with her hands clenched at her sides, then turned and laid her face against the closed door, her eyes hidden by her upraised arm.
In Which Little-Lovely Leila Sees a Picture in an Unexpected Place; and in Which Perfect Faith Speaks Triumphantly Over the Telephone.