Her mind fled back. She understood a hundred things now. She perceived that that sudden anger at breakfast had been personal disappointment—not at all that lofty disinterestedness on behalf of the mother that she had pretended. She understood too, now, the meaning of those long contented meditations as she went up and down the garden walks, alert for plantains, the meaning of the zeal she had shown, only a week ago, on behalf of a certain hazel which the gardener wanted to cut down.
“You had better wait till Mr. Laurence comes home,” she had said. “I think he once said he liked the tree to be just there.”
She understood now why she had been so intuitive, so condemnatory, so critical of the boy—it was that she was passionately interested in him, that it was a pleasure even to abuse him to herself, to call him selfish and self-centered, that all this lofty disapproval was just the sop that her subconsciousness had used to quiet her uneasiness.
Little scenes rose before her—all passed almost in a flash of time—as she stood with her hand on the medieval-looking latch of the gate, and she saw herself in them all as a proud, unmaidenly, pharisaical prig, in love with a man who was not in love with her.
She made an effort, unlatched the gate, and moved on, a beautiful, composed figure, with great steady eyes and well-cut profile, a model of dignity and grace, interiorly a raging, self-contemptuous, abject wretch.
It must be remembered that she was convent-bred.
By the time that Laurie’s answer came, poor Maggie had arranged her emotions fairly satisfactorily. She came to the conclusion, arrived at after much heart-searching, that after all she was not yet actually in love with Laurie, but was in danger of being so, and that therefore now that she knew the danger, and could guard against it, she need not actually withdraw from her home, and bury herself in a convent or the foreign mission-field.
She arrived at this astonishing conclusion by the following process of thought. It may be presented in the form of a syllogism.
All girls who are in love regard the beloved
as a spotless,
Maggie Deronnais did not regard Laurie
Baxter as a spotless,
Ergo. Maggie Deronnais was not in love with Laurie Baxter.
Strange as it may appear to non-Catholic readers, Maggie did not confide her complications to the ear of Father Mahon. She mentioned, no doubt, on the following Saturday, that she had given way to thoughts of pride and jealousy, that she had deceived herself with regard to a certain action, done really for selfish motives, into thinking she had done it for altruistic motives, and there she left it. And, no doubt, Father Mahon left it there too, and gave her absolution without hesitation.