“Do you think,” she said sternly, “that you showed your gratitude to this family, who have been far too kind to you, by insulting and chasing one of their little friends as you did yesterday?”
“Say, it was rotten mean of me,” admitted Mary easily. “I dunno what possessed me. That old codfish seemed to come in so blamed handy. But I was awful sorry—I cried last night after I went to bed about it, honest I did. You ask Una if I didn’t. I wouldn’t tell her what for ’cause I was ashamed of it, and then she cried, too, because she was afraid someone had hurt my feelings. Laws, I ain’t got any feelings to hurt worth speaking of. What worries me is why Mrs. Wiley hain’t been hunting for me. It ain’t like her.”
Miss Cornelia herself thought it rather peculiar, but she merely admonished Mary sharply not to take any further liberties with the minister’s codfish, and went to report progress at Ingleside.
“If the child’s story is true the matter ought to be looked into,” she said. “I know something about that Wiley woman, believe me. Marshall used to be well acquainted with her when he lived over-harbour. I heard him say something last summer about her and a home child she had—likely this very Mary-creature. He said some one told him she was working the child to death and not half feeding and clothing it. You know, Anne dearie, it has always been my habit neither to make nor meddle with those over-harbour folks. But I shall send Marshall over to-morrow to find out the rights of this if he can. And then I’ll speak to the minister. Mind you, Anne dearie, the Merediths found this girl literally starving in James Taylor’s old hay barn. She had been there all night, cold and hungry and alone. And us sleeping warm in our beds after good suppers.”
“The poor little thing,” said Anne, picturing one of her own dear babies, cold and hungry and alone in such circumstances. “If she has been ill-used, Miss Cornelia, she mustn’t be taken back to such a place. I was an orphan once in a very similar situation.”
“We’ll have to consult the Hopetown asylum folks,” said Miss Cornelia. “Anyway, she can’t be left at the manse. Dear knows what those poor children might learn from her. I understand that she has been known to swear. But just think of her being there two whole weeks and Mr Meredith never waking up to it! What business has a man like that to have a family? Why, Anne dearie, he ought to be a monk.”
Two evenings later Miss Cornelia was back at Ingleside.
“It’s the most amazing thing!” she said. “Mrs. Wiley was found dead in her bed the very morning after this Mary-creature ran away. She has had a bad heart for years and the doctor had warned her it might happen at any time. She had sent away her hired man and there was nobody in the house. Some neighbours found her the next day. They missed the child, it seems, but