For that gay scamp, her father, Desire had no tear. And no condemnation. Her mother had loved him. Her gentleness had seen no flaw. Lightly he had taken a woman to protect through life—to neglect, as lightly, the little matter of living. Desire let his picture slip unhindered from her mind.
There was relief, though, in the knowledge that she owed no duty there—or here. The instinct which had always balked at kinship with the strange old man who had held her youth in bondage had not been the abnormal thing she once had feared it was. She had fought through—but it was good to know that she had fought with Nature, not against her. At least she could start upon her new life clean and free. . . .
A pity, though, that life should lie like ashes on her lips!
Nevertheless, and despite the taste of ashes, one must live and take one’s morning bath. desire thought, not without pleasure, of the pool beneath the tree. Wrapped in her blue kimona, her leaf-brown hair braided tightly into a thick pigtail and both hands occupied with towels and soap, she pushed back the tent flap and stepped out into the green and gold of morning.
The first thing she saw was Benis sitting on a fallen log and waiting. He had been waiting a long time. In the flashing second before he saw her, Desire had time to draw one long breath of wonder. After that, there was no time for anything. The professor’s patience suddenly gave out.
He had intended to begin with an explanation. But it is a poor lover who can’t find a better beginning than that . . . And what could Desire do, with towels in one hand and soap in the other?
When he released her at last, blushing and glowing, it was to find the most urgent need for explanation past.
“Idiots, weren’t we?” asked Benis happily.
Desire agreed. But her eyes questioned.
“There isn’t any Mary, you see,” he told her hastily. “Never was; never could be. (Let me take your soap?) Mary was a figment—mortal mind, you know. Your fault entirely.”
“Yes, I know. But I did it to please you. I am a truthful person, really. (Let me take your towels?) And I thought you had more sense--Oh, Desire, darling!”
“Oh, I was a fool, too. I admit it. I thought you were fretting about John. Fancy your fretting about dear old Bones! I thought—oh well, it seems silly enough now. But the day I found you crying over his photo-graph—”
“Her photograph,” interposed Desire shakily.
“It was Mary’s photograph. I found it on your desk.”
“It was John’s, when I saw it.”
“Yes—but you didn’t see it soon enough.”
“Oh—you young deceiver! But once you went to John’s office and came away smiling.”
“Why not? I went to find Mary. And I didn’t find her. When the real Mary came—”