A little later, just before ten o’clock, while the sunset glow was still brooding on the harvest fields, the two farm-girls, after a last visit to the cows, slipped into the little sitting-room. Janet, who was mending her Sunday dress, greeted them with a smile and a kind word. Then she moved to the table and took up a New Testament that was lying there. She was an ardent and mystically-minded Unitarian, and her mind was much set towards religion.
“Shall we have prayers at night?” she had said quite simply to the f arm-girls on their arrival. “Don’t if you don’t want to.” And they had shyly said “yes”—not particularly attracted by the proposal, but willing to please Miss Leighton, who was always nice to them.
So Janet read some verses from the sixth chapter of St. John: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on Me hath everlasting life ... I am the Bread of Life ... I am the living Bread which came down from Heaven ... The words that I speak unto you they are spirit and they are life.”
Closing the book, while her quiet eyes shone in the gleaming dusk, she said a few simple things about the Words of Christ, and how the human soul may feed on them—the Word of Love—the Word of Purity—the Word of Service. While she was still speaking, the door opened and Rachel came in. It had been agreed between her and Janet that although she had no objection to the prayers, she was not to be asked to take part in them. So that Janet’s pulses fluttered a little when she appeared. But there was no outward sign of it. The speaker finished what she had to say, while the eyes of her three hearers were sometimes on her face and sometimes on the wide cornfield beyond the open window, where the harvest moon, as yet only a brilliant sickle, was rising. The Earth Bread without—the “Bread of Life” within; even in Jenny’s primitive mind, there was a mingling of the two ideas, which brought a quiet joy. She sat with parted lips, feeling that she liked Miss Leighton very much, and would try to please her with the cows.
Betty, meanwhile, beside her, passed into a waking dream. She was thinking of a soldier in the village: the blacksmith’s son, a tall, handsome fellow, who had just arrived on leave for ten days. She had spent Sunday evening wandering in the lanes with him. She felt passionately that she must see him again—soon.
The little reading passed into the Lord’s Prayer. Then it was over and the two girls disappeared to bed. Janet felt a little awkward when she was left alone with Rachel, but she went back to her sewing and began to talk of the day’s news of the war. Rachel answered at random, and very soon said good-night.
But long after everybody else in the solitary farmhouse was asleep, Rachel Henderson was sitting up in bed, broad awake, her hands round her knees. The window beside her was open. She saw the side of the hill and the bare down in which it ended, with the moonlight bright upon it, and the dark woods crowning it. There were owls calling from the hill, and every now and then a light wind rustled through the branches of an oak that stood in the farm-yard.