What would Abbie say could she know that it was actually months since Ester had read as much connectedly in her Bible as she had heard read that evening? Yes, Ester had gone backward, even as far as that! Farther! What would Abbie say to the fact that there were many, many prayerless days in her life? Not very many, perhaps, in which she had not used a form of prayer; but their names were legion in which she had risen from her knees unhelped and unrefreshed; in which she knew that she had not prayed a single one of the sentences which she had been repeating. And just at this point she was stunned with a sudden thought—a thought which too often escapes us all. She would not for the world, it seemed to her, have made known to Abbie just how matters stood with her; and yet, and yet—Christ knew it all. She lay very still, and breathed heavily. It came to her with all the thrill of an entirely new idea.
Then that unwearied and ever-watchful Satan came to her aid.
“Oh, well,” said he, “your Cousin Abbie’s surroundings are very different from yours. Give you all the time which she has at her disposal, and I dare say you would be quite as familiar with your Bible as she is with hers. What does she know about the petty vexations and temptations, and bewildering, ever-pressing duties which every hour of every day beset your path? The circumstances are very different. Her life is in the sunshine, yours in the shadow. Besides, you do not know her; it is easy enough to talk; very easy to read a chapter in the Bible; but after all there are other things quite as important, and it is more than likely that your cousin is not quite perfect yet.”
Ester did not know that this was the soothing lullaby of the old Serpent. Well for her if she had, and had answered it with that solemn, all-powerful “Get thee behind me, Satan.” But she gave her own poor brain the benefit of every thought; and having thus lulled, and patted, and coaxed her half-roused and startled conscience into quiet rest again, she turned on her pillow and went to sleep.
Ester was dreaming that the old lady on the cars had become a fairy, and that her voice sounded like a silver bell, when she suddenly opened her eyes, and found that it was either the voice of the marble clock on the mantel, or of her Cousin Abbie, who was bending over her.
“Do you feel able to get up to breakfast, Ester dear, or had you rather lie and rest?”
“Breakfast!” echoed Ester, in a sleepy bewilderment, raising herself on one elbow, and gazing at her cousin.
“Yes, breakfast!”—this with a merry laugh “Did you suppose that people in New York lived without such inconveniences?”
Oh! to be sure, she was in New York, and Ester repeated the laugh—it had sounded so queerly to hear any one talk to her about getting up to breakfast; it had not seemed possible that that meal could be prepared without her assistance.