To say that his letter in its personal relation to herself had not thrilled her would be to underestimate the warmth of her friendship for him; if there was more than friendship, she would not admit it. There had been a moment when, shaken and stirred by his throbbing words, she had laid down his letter and had asked herself, palpitating, “has love come to me—at last?” But she had not answered it. She knew that she would never answer it until Roger Poole found a meaning in life which was, as yet, hidden from him.
But how could she best help him to find that meaning? Dimly she felt that it was to be through her that he would find it. And he was going away. And before he went, she must light for him some little beacon of hope.
It was dark in the church now except for the candle on the altar.
She knelt once more and hid her face in her hands. She had the simple faith of a child, and as a child she had knelt in this same pew and had asked confidently for the things she desired, and she had believed that her prayers would be answered.
It was late when she left the church. And she was late in getting home. All the lower part of the house was lighted, but there was no light in the Tower Rooms. Roger, who dined down-town, would not come until they were on their way to Mrs. Bigelow’s.
As she passed through the garden, she saw that on a bush near the fountain bloomed a late rose. She stooped and picked it, and flitting in the dusk down the path, she entered the door which led to the Tower stairway.
And when, an hour later, Roger Poole came into the quiet house, weary and worn from the strain of a day in which he had tried to read his letter with Mary’s eyes, he found his room dark, except for the flicker of the fire.
Feeling his way through the dimness, he pulled at last the little chain of the electric lamp on his table. The light at once drew a circle of gold on the dark dull oak. And within that circle he saw the answer to his letter.
Wide open and illumined, lay John Ballard’s old Bible. And across the pages, fresh and fragrant as the friendship which she had given him, was the late rose which Mary had picked in the garden.
In Which Mary and Roger Have Their Hour; and in Which a Tea-Drinking Ends in What Might Have Been a Tragedy.
To Mary, possessed and swayed by the letter which she had received from Roger, it seemed a strange thing that the rest of the world moved calmly and unconsciously forward.
The letter had come to her on Saturday. On Sunday morning everybody went to church. Everybody dined afterward, unfashionably, at two o’clock, and later everybody motored out to the Park.
That is, everybody but Mary!
She declined on the ground of other things to do.
“There’ll be five of you anyhow with Aunt Frances and Grace,” she said, “and I’ll have tea for you when you come back.”