Then Sister Angela lit a lamp and taking my hand she led me up a stone staircase to the Dormitory, which was a similar room, but not so silent, because it was full of beds, and the breathing of the girls, who were all asleep, made it sound like the watchmaker’s shop in our village, only more church-like and solemn.
My bed was near to the door, and after Sister Angela had helped me to undress, and tucked me in, she made her voice very low, and said I would be quite comfortable now, and she was sure I was going to be a good little girl and a dear child of the Infant Jesus; and then I could not help taking my arms out again and clasping her round the neck and drawing her head down and kissing her.
After that she took the lamp and went away to a cubicle which was partitioned off the end of the Dormitory and there I could see her prepare to go to bed herself—taking the white bands off her cheeks and the black band off her forehead, and letting her long light hair fall in beautiful wavy masses about her face, which made her look so sweet and home like.
But oh, I was so lonely! Never in my life since—no, not even when I was in my lowest depths—have I felt so little and helpless and alone. After the Sister had gone to bed and everything was quiet in the Dormitory save for the breathing of the girls—all strangers to me and I to them—from mere loneliness I covered up my head in the clothes just as I used to do when I was a little thing and my father came into my mother’s room.
I try not to think bitterly of my father, but even yet I am at a loss to know how he could have cast me away so lightly. Was it merely that he wanted peace for his business and saw no chance of securing it in his own home except by removing the chief cause of Aunt Bridget’s jealousy? Or was it that his old grudge against Fate for making me a girl made him wish to rid himself of the sight of me?
I do not know. I cannot say. But in either case I try in vain to see how he could have thought he had a right, caring nothing for me, to tear me from the mother who loved me and had paid for me so dear; or how he could have believed that because he was my father, charged with the care of my poor little body, he had control over the little bleeding heart which was not his to make to suffer.
He is my father—God help me to think the best of him.
At half past six in the morning I was awakened by the loud ringing of the getting-up bell, and as soon as I could rouse myself from the deep sleep of childhood I saw that a middle-aged nun with a severe face was saying a prayer, and that all the girls in the dormitory were kneeling in their beds while they made the responses.
A few minutes later, when the girls were chattering and laughing as they dressed, making the room tingle with twittering sounds like a tree full of linnets in the spring, a big girl came up to me and said: