Then suddenly and, as it appeared, inevitably, without movement or sound, she began internally to pray, closing her eyes, careless, and indeed unfearing. It seemed her one hope. And behind the steady movement of her will—sufficient at least to elicit acts of petition—her intellect observed a thousand images and thoughts. She perceived the silence of the house and of the breathless spring night outside; she considered Mr. Cathcart in the inn across the road, Mrs. Baxter upstairs: she contemplated the future as it would be on the morrow—Easter Day, was it not?—the past, and scarcely at all the present. She relinquished all plans, all intentions and hopes: she leaned simply upon the supernatural, like a tired child, and looked at pictures.
* * * * *
In remembering it all afterwards, she recalled to herself the fact that this process of prayer seemed strangely tranquil; that there had been in her a consciousness of rest and recuperation as marked as that which a traveler feels who turns into a lighted house from a stormy night. The presence of that other in the room was not even an interruption; the nervous force that the other had generated just now seemed harmless and ineffective. For a time, at least, that was so. But there came a moment when it appeared as if her almost mechanical and rhythmical action of internal effort began to grip something. It was as when an engine after running free clenches itself again upon some wheel or cog.
The moment she was aware of this, she opened her eyes; and saw that the other was looking straight at her intently and questioningly. And in that moment she perceived for the first time that her conflict lay, not externally, as she had thought, but in some interior region of which she was wholly ignorant. It was not by word or action, but by something else which she only half understood that she was to struggle....
She closed her eyes again with quite a new kind of determination. It was not self-command that she needed, but a steady interior concentration of forces.
She began again that resolute wordless play of the will—dismissing with a series of efforts the intellectual images of thought—that play of the will which, it seemed, had affected the boy opposite in a new way. She had no idea of what the crisis would be, or how it would come. She only saw that she had struck upon a new path that led somewhere. She must follow it.
Some little sound roused her; she opened her eyes and looked up.
He had shifted his position, and for a moment her heart leapt with hope. For he sat now leaning forward, his elbows on his knees, and his head in his hands, and in the shaded lamplight it seemed that he was shaking.
She too moved, and the rustle of her dress seemed to reach him. He glanced up, and before he dropped his head again she caught a clear sight of his face. He was laughing, silently and overpoweringly, without a sound....