“Did he go back?”
“Yes. He conquered. He looked upon his weakness not merely as a moral disease, but as a physical one. And it was to be cured like any other disease by removing the cause. The first step was to get away from old associations. He couldn’t resist temptation, so he had come where he was not tempted. His occupation in the city had been mental, here it was largely physical. He chopped wood, he tramped the forest, he whipped the streams. And gradually he built up a self which was capable of resistance. When he went back he was a different man, made over by his different life. And he has cast out his—devil.”
The boy was visibly impressed.
“His way might not be your way,” Roger concluded, “but the fact that he fought a winning battle should give you hope.”
The next day they went back. Mary met them as if nothing had happened. The basket of fish which they had brought to be cooked by Susan Jenks furnished an unembarrassing topic of conversation. Then Barry went to his room, and Mary was alone with Roger.
She had had a letter from him, and a message by telephone; thus her anxiety had been stilled. And she was very grateful—so grateful that her voice trembled as she held out her hands to him.
“How shall I ever thank you?” she said.
He took her hands in his, and stood looking down at her.
He did not speak at once, yet in those fleeting moments Mary had a strange sense of a question asked and answered. It was as if he were calling upon her for something she was not ready to give—as if he were drawing from her some subconscious admission, swaying her by a force that was compelling, to reveal herself to him.
And, as she thought these things, he saw a new look in her eyes, and her breath quickened.
He dropped her hands.
“Don’t thank me,” he said. “Ask me again to do something for you. That shall be my reward.”
In Which a Scarlet Flower Blooms in the Garden; and in Which a Light Flares Later in the Tower.
In September everybody came back to town, Porter Bigelow among the rest.
He telephoned at once to Mary, “I’m coming up.”
She was radiant. “Constance and Gordon arrived Monday, and I want you for dinner. Leila will be here and the General and Aunt Frances and Grace from New York.”
His growl came back to her. “And that means that I won’t have a minute alone with you.”
“Oh, Porter—please. There are so many other girls in the world—and you’ve had the whole summer to find one.”
“The summer has been a howling wilderness. But mother has put me through my paces at the resorts. Mary, I’ve learned such a lot of new dances to teach you.”
“Teach them to Grace.”
He groaned. “You know what I think of Grace Clendenning.”