“I thought as much,” said Mary drearily. “And then they’ll give me out again—likely to some one just like Mrs. Wiley. Well, I s’pose I can stand it. I’m tough.”
“I’m going to pray that you won’t have to go back,” whispered Una, as she and Mary walked home to the manse.
“You can do as you like,” said Mary decidedly, “but I vow I won’t. I’m good and scared of this praying business. See what’s come of it. If Mrs. Wiley had died after I started praying it would have been my doings.”
“Oh, no, it wouldn’t,” said Una. “I wish I could explain things better—father could, I know, if you’d talk to him, Mary.”
“Catch me! I don’t know what to make of your father, that’s the long and short of it. He goes by me and never sees me in broad daylight. I ain’t proud—but I ain’t a door-mat, neither!”
“Oh, Mary, it’s just father’s way. Most of the time he never sees us, either. He is thinking deeply, that is all. And I am going to pray that God will keep you in Four Winds—because I like you, Mary.”
“All right. Only don’t let me hear of any more people dying on account of it,” said Mary. “I’d like to stay in Four Winds fine. I like it and I like the harbour and the light house—and you and the Blythes. You’re the only friends I ever had and I’d hate to leave you.”
Miss Cornelia had an interview with Mr. Meredith which proved something of a shock to that abstracted gentleman. She pointed out to him, none too respectfully, his dereliction of duty in allowing a waif like Mary Vance to come into his family and associate with his children without knowing or learning anything about her.
“I don’t say there is much harm done, of course,” she concluded. “This Mary-creature isn’t what you might call bad, when all is said and done. I’ve been questioning your children and the Blythes, and from what I can make out there’s nothing much to be said against the child except that she’s slangy and doesn’t use very refined language. But think what might have happened if she’d been like some of those home children we know of. You know yourself what that poor little creature the Jim Flaggs’ had, taught and told the Flagg children.”
Mr. Meredith did know and was honestly shocked over his own carelessness in the matter.
“But what is to be done, Mrs. Elliott?” he asked helplessly. “We can’t turn the poor child out. She must be cared for.”
“Of course. We’d better write to the Hopetown authorities at once. Meanwhile, I suppose she might as well stay here for a few more days till we hear from them. But keep your eyes and ears open, Mr. Meredith.”