Carl, coming up to their group with a report of the doings in ant-land, brought them all back to the realm of facts.
“Ants are darned in’resting,” exclaimed Mary, glad to escape the shadowy Piper’s thrall. “Carl and me watched that bed in the graveyard all Saturday afternoon. I never thought there was so much in bugs. Say, but they’re quarrelsome little cusses—some of ’em like to start a fight ’thout any reason, far’s we could see. And some of ’em are cowards. They got so scared they just doubled theirselves up into a ball and let the other fellows bang ’em. They wouldn’t put up a fight at all. Some of ’em are lazy and won’t work. We watched ’em shirking. And there was one ant died of grief ’cause another ant got killed—wouldn’t work— wouldn’t eat—just died—it did, honest to Go—oodness.”
A shocked silence prevailed. Every one knew that Mary had not started out to say “goodness.” Faith and Di exchanged glances that would have done credit to Miss Cornelia herself. Walter and Carl looked uncomfortable and Una’s lip trembled.
Mary squirmed uncomfortably.
“That slipped out ’fore I thought—it did, honest to—I mean, true’s you live, and I swallowed half of it. You folks over here are mighty squeamish seems to me. Wish you could have heard the Wileys when they had a fight.”
“Ladies don’t say such things,” said Faith, very primly for her.
“It isn’t right,” whispered Una.
“I ain’t a lady,” said Mary. “What chance’ve I ever had of being a lady? But I won’t say that again if I can help it. I promise you.”
“Besides,” said Una, “you can’t expect God to answer your prayers if you take His name in vain, Mary.”
“I don’t expect Him to answer ’em anyhow,” said Mary of little faith. “I’ve been asking Him for a week to clear up this Wiley affair and He hasn’t done a thing. I’m going to give up.”
At this juncture Nan arrived breathless.
“Oh, Mary, I’ve news for you. Mrs. Elliott has been over-harbour and what do you think she found out? Mrs. Wiley is dead—she was found dead in bed the morning after you ran away. So you’ll never have to go back to her.”
“Dead!” said Mary stupefied. Then she shivered.
“Do you s’pose my praying had anything to do with that?” she cried imploringly to Una. “If it had I’ll never pray again as long as I live. Why, she may come back and ha’nt me.”
“No, no, Mary,” said Una comfortingly, “it hadn’t. Why, Mrs. Wiley died long before you ever began to pray about it at all.”
“That’s so,” said Mary recovering from her panic. “But I tell you it gave me a start. I wouldn’t like to think I’d prayed anybody to death. I never thought of such a thing as her dying when I was praying. She didn’t seem much like the dying kind. Did Mrs. Elliott say anything about me?”
“She said you would likely have to go back to the asylum.”