« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Tell me what to do to keep my course straight, to be like you. Oh, if I could keep steady and think only of one thing. It is my thoughts that run off in every direction: it is not this gentleman. Oh, what can one do when one's heart is so wrong!"
Sister Mary Jane listened with a smile. Oswald's confidence in her beautiful eyes was perhaps not misplaced. And probably she was conscious now and then of thinking of something else as much as her penitent. She said, "My dear, I don't think you have a vocation. I never thought it. A girl may be a very good girl and not have a vocation. So you need not be very unhappy if your thoughts wander; all of us have not the same gifts. But, Agnes, even if you were in the world, instead of being in this house, which should make you more careful, you would not let a gentleman talk to you whom you did not know. You must not do it again."
"It was not meant badly," said Agnes, veering to self-defence. "He wanted to know how little Emmy was. It was the gentleman who carried her to the hospital. It was kindness, it was not meant for
"Yes, I saw who it was. And I can understand how it came about. But it is so easy to let an acquaintance spring up, and so difficult to end it when it has taken root. Perhaps, my dear, you had better not go to little Emmy again."
"Oh!" Agnes gave a cry of remonstrance and protest. It did not hurt her to be told not to speak to him any more-but not to go to little Emmy! She was not sure herself that it was all for little Emmy's sake, and this made her still more unhappy, but not willing to relinquish the expedition. Sister Mary Jane, however, took no notice of the cry. She put a heap of exercises into Agnes's hands to be corrected. "They must all be done to-night," she said, calculating with benevolent severity that this would occupy all the available time till bed-time. "One nail drives out another," she said to herself, being an accomplished person, with strange tongues at her command. And thus she sent the culprit away, exhausted with tears and supplied with work. "I will send you some tea to St. Monica, where you can be quiet," she said. And there Agnes toiled all the evening over her exercises, and had not a moment to spare. pation, occupation," said the Sister to herself; "that is the only thing. She will do very well if she has no time to think."
But was that the ideal life? I doubt if Sister Mary Jane thought so; but she was old enough to understand the need of such props, which Agnes was still young enough to have indignantly repudiated. For her part, Agnes felt that a little more thought would save her. If she could get vain imaginations out of her head, and those scraps of poetry, and bits of foolish novels, and replace them with real thought-thought upon serious subjects, something worthy the name-how soon would all those confusing, tantalizing shadows flee away! But, in the meantime, it is undeniable that the girl left this interview with a sense of relief, such as, it is to be supposed, is one of the chief reasons why confession continues to
hold its place, named or nameless, in all religious communions more or less. Sister Mary Jane was not the spiritual director of the community, though I think the place would have very well become her; but it was undeniable that the mind of Agnes was lightened after she had poured forth her burdens; also that her sin did not look quite so heinous as it had done before; also, that the despair which had enveloped her, and of which the consciousness that she must never so sin again formed no inconsiderable part, was imperceptibly dispelled, and the future as well as the past made less gloomy. Perhaps, if any very searching inspection had been made into those recesses of her soul which were but imperfectly known to Agnes herself, it might have been read there that there was no longer any crushing weight of certainty as to the absolute cessation of the sin; but that was beyond the reach of investigation. Anyhow, she had no time to think any more. Never had exercises so bad come under the young teacher's inspection; her brain reeled over the mis-spellings, the misunderstandings. Healthy human ignorance, indifference, opacity, desire to get done anyhow, could not have shown to greater advantage. They entirely carried out the intentions of Sister Mary Jane, and left her not a moment for thought, until she got to her recess in the dormitory. And then, after the whisperings were all hushed, and the lights extinguished, Agnes was too tired for anything but sleep-a result of occupa tion which the wise Sister was well aware of too. Indeed, everything turned out so well in the case of this young penitent, that Sister Mary Jane deemed it advisable not to interfere with the visits to the hospital. If she surmounted temptation, why then she was safe; if not, other steps must be taken. Anyhow, it was well that her highly wrought feelings and desire of excellence should be put to the test; and as Agnes was not even a Postulant, but still in "the world," an unwise backsliding of this kind was less important. No real harm could come to her. Nevertheless, Sister Mary Jane watched her slim figure disappear along the street from her window with unusual interest. Was it mere interest in little Emmy that had made the girl so anxious to go, or was she eager to encounter the test and try her own strength? Or was there still another reason, a wish more weak, more human, more girlish? Agnes walked on very quickly, pleased to find herself at liberty. She was proud of the little patient, whose small face brightened with delight at the sight of her. And she did not like the sensation of being shut up out of danger, and saved arbitrarily from temptation. Her heart rose with determination to keep her own pure ideal path, whatever solicitations or blandishments might assail her. And indeed, to Agnes, as to a knight of romance, it is not to be denied that "the danger's self was lure alone."
T is very hard to be obliged to alter our relationships with our friends, and still more hard to alter the habits which have shaped our lives. Mr. Beresford, when he was forbidden to continue his visits to his neighbour, was like a man stranded, not knowing what to make of himself. When the evening came he went to his library as usual, and made an attempt to settle to his work, as he called it. But long before the hour at which with placid regularity he had been used to go to Mrs. Meredith's, he got uneasy. Knowing that his happy habit was to be disturbed, he was restless and uncomfortable even before the habitual moment came. He could not read, he could not write how was he
to spend the slowly moving moments, and how to account to her for the disturbance of the usual routine? Should he write and tell her that 13.