I said nothing. Garth abruptly turned, walked across the hold to where the medic had just finished adjusting the sling on Vicky's arm and was rewarding her with a large red lollipop. My brother spoke to the man, who nodded. Then he bent over, whispered something in the little girl's ear, took her hand, and led her back to my bedside.

'Tell her, Mongo.'

'Hey, brother,' I mumbled, now desperately wanting nothing more than to sleep for a very long time, 'you want to be Scrooge, you tell her.'

'Tell her the truth, Mongo.'

'You tell her.'

'Sweetheart,' Garth said, kneeling down next to the girl, 'I have some things to say to you.' I turned my head, looked down, and saw that his features had softened; his eyes glowed with a degree of gentleness and kindness I saw only when he spoke to children, or those in great need. 'First, I'm certain that other people who care a lot about little kids won't want you to live with your mommy and daddy until they go to doctors who will make them feel better so they'll never try to hurt themselves again. If that happens, would you like to live with Mongo and me until they get well?'

The child looked across the hold at her forlorn parents, then back at Garth. 'I love my mommy and daddy, Garth.'

'And they love you,' my brother answered. Tears had begun to roll down his cheeks, and he made no move to brush them away. 'It's because they love you that I think they'll want to go for treatment so that they'll be better able to take care of themselves and you.'

The child thought about it, nodded. 'Then I'd like to live with you and Mr. Mongo until they're better. Are we going to live at the North Pole?'

Garth slowly but firmly shook his head. 'No, Vicky. We don't live at the North Pole. You'll be getting your puppy, but it won't be coming from any Santa Claus. Mongo and I are going to give you a puppy, because we love you and we want you to be happy. But Mongo isn't Santa Claus's helper. He's a fine man with a lot of love in his heart, but he doesn't work for Santa Claus. There is no such person as Santa Claus. Children should learn to have love for all other people in their hearts, but they shouldn't be told things that aren't true. Do you understand what I'm saying?'

The child was silent for some time, sucking thoughtfully on her lollipop. Finally she nodded. Garth kissed her forehead, then straightened up, realigned me on the bed and pulled the covers up to my chin.

'Sleep well, my brother,' Garth said softly. 'You've earned it.'

I heard Garth walk away, then felt a child's hand patting my forearm.

'I still believe you, Mr. Mongo,' Vicky Brown whispered.

Вы читаете Second Horseman Out of Eden
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