“If it isn’t the wind I don’t know in the world what’s doing on the millish,” said the old lady.
And then baby smiled through the big round beads that stood in her sea-blue eyes and held out her arms to me.
Oh God! Oh God! Was not this my answer?
In her different way Christian Ann had arrived at the same conclusion. Long before the thought came to me she had conceived the idea that Father Dan and the Reverend Mother were conspiring to carry me off, and in her dear sweet womanly jealousy (not to speak of higher and nobler instincts) she had resented this intensely.
For four days she had smothered her wrath, only revealing it to baby in half-articulate interviews over the cradle ("We’re no women for these nun bodies, going about the house like ghosts, are we, villish?"), but on the fifth day it burst into the fiercest flame and the gentle old thing flung out at everybody.
That was the morning of the departure of the Reverend Mother, who, after saying good-bye to me in my bedroom, had just returned to the parlour-kitchen, where Father Dan was waiting to take her to the railway station.
What provoked Christian Ann’s outburst I never rightly knew, for though the door to the staircase was open, and I could generally catch anything that was said in the room below (through the open timbers of the unceiled floor), the soft voice of the Reverend Mother never reached me, and the Irish roll of Father Dan’s vowels only rumbled up like the sound of a drum.
But Christian Ann’s words came sharp and clear as the crack of a breaker, sometimes trembling with indignation, sometimes quivering with emotion, and at last thickening into sobs.
“Begging your pardon, ma’am, may I ask what is that you’re saying to the Father about Mary O’Neill? . . . Going back to Rome is she? To the convent, eh? . . . No, ma’am, that she never will! Not if I know her, ma’am. Not for any purpose in the world, ma’am. . . . Temptation, you say? You know best, ma’am, but I don’t call it overcoming temptation—going into hidlands to get out of the way of it. . . . Yes, I’m a Christian woman and a good Catholic too, please the Saints, but asking your pardon, ma’am, I’m not thinking too much of your convents, or believing the women inside of them are living such very unselfish lives either, ma’am.”
Another soft rumble as of a drum, and then—
“No, ma’am, no, that’s truth enough, ma’am. I’ve never been a nun myself, having had better work to do in the world, ma’am. But it’s all as one—I know what’s going on in the convents, I’m thinking. . . . Harmony and peace, you say? Yes, and jealousy and envy sometimes, too, or you wouldn’t be women like the rest of us, ma’am. . . . As for Mary O’Neill, she has something better to do too, I’m thinking. . . . After