Ester had no pledge to break, except the pledge with her own conscience; and it is most sadly true that that sort of pledge does not seem to be so very binding in the estimation of some people. So Ester sat and toyed with hers, and came to the very unwarrantable conclusion that what her uncle offered for her entertainment it must be proper for her to take! Do Ester’s good sense the justice of understanding that she didn’t believe any such thing; that she knew it was her own conscience by which she was to be judged, not her uncle’s; that such smooth-sounding arguments honestly meant that whatever her uncle offered for her entertainment she had not the moral courage to refuse. So she raised the dainty wine-glass to her lips, and never once bethought herself to look at Abbie and notice how the color mounted and deepened on her face, nor how her glass remained untouched beside her plate. On the whole Ester was glad when all the bewildering ceremony of the dinner was concluded, and she, on the strength of her being wearied with her journey, was permitted to retire with Abbie to their room.
“Now I have you all to myself,” that young lady said, with a happy smile, as she turned the key on the retreating Maggie and wheeled an ottoman to Ester’s side. “Where shall we commence? I have so very much to say and hear; I want to know all about Aunt Laura, and Sadie, and the twins. Oh, Ester, you have a little brother; aren’t you so glad he is a little boy?”
“Why, I don’t know,” Ester said, hesitatingly; then more decidedly, “No; I am always thinking how glad I should be if he were a young man, old enough to go out with me, and be company for me.”
“I know that is pleasant; but there are very serious drawbacks. Now, there’s our Ralph, it is very pleasant to have him for company; and yet—Well, Ester, he isn’t a Christian, and it seems all the time to me that he is walking on quicksands. I am in one continual tremble for him, and I wish so often that he was just a little boy, no older than your brother Alfred; then I could learn his tastes, and indeed mold them in a measure by having him with me a great deal, and it does seem to me that I could make religion appear such a pleasant thing to him, that he couldn’t help seeking Jesus for himself. Don’t you enjoy teaching Alfred?”
Poor, puzzled Ester! With what a matter-of-course air her cousin asked this question. Could she possibly tell her that she sometimes never gave Alfred a thought from one week’s end to another, and that she never in her life thought of teaching him a single thing.
“I am not his teacher,” she said at length “I have no time for any such thing; he goes to school, you know, and mother helps him.”
“Well,” said Abbie, with a thoughtful air, “I don’t quite mean teaching, either; at least not lessons and things of that sort, though I think I should enjoy having him depend on me in all his needs; but I was thinking more especially of winning him to Jesus; it seems so much easier to do it while one is young. Perhaps he is a Christian now; is he?”