“You see, Evelyn,” the Prioress said, “it is contrary to the whole spirit of the religious life to treat the lay sisters as servants, and though I am sure you don’t intend any unkindness, they have complained to me once or twice that you order them about.”
“But, my dear Mother, it seems to me that we are all inferior to the lay sisters. To slight them—” “I am sure you did not do so intentionally.”
“I said, ‘Do hurry up,’ but I only meant I was in a hurry. I don’t think anything you could have said could have pained me more than that you should think I lacked respect for the lay sisters.”
Seeing that Evelyn was hurt the Prioress said:
“The sisters have no doubt forgotten all about it by now.”
But Evelyn wanted to know which of the sisters had complained, so that she might beg her pardon.
“She doesn’t want you to beg her pardon.”
“I beg you to allow me, it will be better that I should. The benefit will be mine.”
The Prioress shook her head, and listened willingly to Evelyn, who told her of her letter to Monsignor. “Now, wasn’t it extraordinary, Mother, that I should have written like that about Sister Bridget, and to-day you should tell me that the lay sisters complained about me? If the complaint had been that I was inclined to put the active above the contemplative orders and was dissatisfied with our life here—”
“Dissatisfied!” the Prioress said.
“Only this, Mother: I have been reading the story of the Order of the Little Sisters of the Poor, and it seems to me so wonderful that everything else, for the moment, seems insignificant.”
The Reverend Mother smiled.
“Your enthusiasms, my dear Evelyn, are delightful. The last book you read, the last person you meet—”
“Do you think I am so frivolous, so changeable as that, dear Mother?”
“Not changeable, Evelyn, but spontaneous.”
“It would seem to me that everything in me is of slow growth—but why talk of me when there is Jeanne to talk about; marvellous, extraordinary, unique—” Evelyn was nearly saying “divine Jeanne,” but she stopped herself in time and substituted the word “saintly.” “No one seems to me more real than this woman, no one in literature; not Hamlet, nor Don Quixote, not Dante himself starts out into clearer outline than this poor servant-girl—a goatherd in her childhood.” And to the Prioress, who did not know the story of this poor woman, Evelyn told it, laying stress—as she naturally would— on Jeanne’s refusal to marry a young sailor, whom she had been willing to marry at first, but whom she refused to marry on his returning after a long voyage. When he asked her for whom she had refused him, she answered for nobody, only she did not wish to marry, though she knew of no reason why she should not. It was not caprice but an instinct which caused Jeanne to leave her sweetheart,