They wept together for a long time,
Ella and Rose-Marie. And as they cried something
grew out of their common emotion. It was a something
that they both felt subconsciouslya something
warm and friendly. It might have been a new bond
of affection, a new chain of love. Rose-Marie,
as she felt it, was able to say to herselfwith
more of tolerance than she had ever known
“If I had been as tempted and
as unhappy as shewell, I might, perhaps,
have reacted in the same way!”
And Ella, sobbing in the arms of the
girl that she had never quite understood, was able
to tell herself: “She’s rightdead
right! The straight road’s the only road....”
It was little Lily who created a diversion.
She had been standing, very quietly, in the shelter
of their arms for some timeshe had a way
of standing with an infinite patience, for hours,
in one place. But suddenly, as if drawn by some
instinct, she dropped down on the floor, beside the
cheap suit-case, and her small hands, shaking with
eagerness, started to take out the clothes that had
been flung into it.
It was uncanny, almost, to see the
child so happily beginning to unpack the suit-case.
The sight dried Rose-Marie’s tears in an almost
“Let’s put away the things,”
she suggested shakily, to Ella. “For you
won’t be going now, will you?”
The face that Ella Volsky lifted was
a changed face. Her expression was a shade more
wistful, perhaps, but the somber glow had gone out
of her eyes, leaving them softer than Rose-Marie had
“No, Miss,” she said quietly,
“I won’t be goingaway.
You’re right, it ain’t worth the price!”
And the incident, from that moment, was closed.
They unpacked the garmentsthere
weren’t many of themquietly.
But Rose-Marie was very glad, deep in her soul, and
she somehow felt that Ella’s mind was relieved
of a tremendous strain. They didn’t speak
again, but there was something in the way Ella’s
hand touched her little sister’s sunny hair
that was more revealing than words. And there
was something in the way Rose-Marie’s mouth curved
blithely up that told a whole story of satisfaction
and content. It seemed as if peace, with her
white wings folded and at rest, was hovering, at last,
above the Volsky flat.
And then, all at once, the momentary
lull was over. All at once the calm was shattered
as a china cup, falling from a careless hand, is broken.
There was a sudden burst of noise in the front room;
of rough words; of a woman sobbing. There was
the sound of Mrs. Volsky’s voice, raised in an
unwonted cry of anguish, there was a trickle of water
slithering down upon an uncarpeted flooras
if the wash-tub had been overturned.
It was the final event of an unsettling
daythe last straw. Forgetting Lily,
forgetting the unpacking, Rose-Marie jumped to her
feet, ran to the door. Ella followed. They
stood together on the threshold of the outer room,
The room seemed full of peopleshouting,
gesticulating people. And in the foreground was
Jimas sleek and well groomed as ever.
Of all the crowd he seemed the only one who was composed.
In front of him stood Mrs. Volskyher face
drawn and white, her hands clasped in a way that was
singularly and primitively appealing.
At first Rose-Marie thought that the
commotion had to do with Jim. She was always
half expecting to hear that he had been apprehended
in some sort of mischief, that he had been accused
of some crime. But she dismissed the idea quicklyhis
composure was too real to be born of bravado.
It was while her brain groped for some new solution
that she became conscious of Mrs. Volsky’s voice.
“Oh, he ain’t,”
the woman was moaning, “say he ain’t!
My manhe could not be so! There ain’t
no truth in itthere can’t be no truth....
Say as he ain’t been done to so bad! Say
Ella, with a movement that was all
at once love-filled, stepped quickly to her mother’s
side. As she faced the crowdand Jimher
face was also drawn; drawn and apprehensive.
“What’s up?” she
queried tersely of her brother. “What’s
The face of Jim was calm and almost
smiling as he answered. Behind him the shrill
voices of the crowd sounded, like a background, to
the blunt words that he spoke.
“Pa was comin’ home drunk,”
he told Ella, “an’ he was ran inter by
a truck. He was smashed up pretty bad; dead right
away, th’ cop said. But they took him ter
a hospital jus’ th’ same. Wonder why
they’d take a stiff ter a hospital?”
Mrs. Volsky’s usually colourless
voice was breaking into loud, almost weird lamentation.
Ella stood speechless. But Rose-Marie, the horror
of it all striking to her very soul, spoke.
“It can’t be true,”
she cried, starting forward andin the excitement
of the momentlaying her hand upon Jim’s
perfectly tailored coat sleeve. “It can’t
be true.... It’s too terrible!”
Jim’s laugh rang out heartlessly, eerily, upon
“It ain’t so terrible!”
he told Rose-Marie. “Pahe wasn’t
no good! He wasn’t a reg’lar fellerlike
me.” All at once his well-manicured white
hand crept down over her hand. “He wasn’t
a reg’lar feller,” he repeated, “like