“A penitent if ever there was one, one whom we must help, whom we must lead back to God. Evelyn must remain in the convent. To-morrow we must seek to persuade her. But it will not be difficult.” Then, listening to the wind, the Prioress remembered that the convent roof required re-slating. “Who knows? Perhaps what happened may have been divinely ordered to bring her back to us? Who knows? who knows?” She thought of the many other things the convent required: the chapel wanted re-decorating, and they had to spare every penny they could from their food and clothing to buy candles for the altar; another item of expense was the resident chaplain; and when in bed she lay thinking that perhaps to-morrow she would find a way out of the difficulty that had puzzled her so long.
“Yes, dear Mother, if you are willing to keep me I shall be glad to remain. It is good of you. How kind you all are!”
Very little more than that she could be induced to say, relapsing, after a few words, into a sort of stupor or dream, from which very often it was impossible to rouse her; and the Prioress dreaded these long silences, and often asked herself what they could mean, if the cause were a fixed idea... on which she was brooding. Or it might be that Evelyn’s mind was fading, receding. If so, the responsibility of keeping her in the convent was considerable. A little time would, however, tell them. Any religious instruction was, of course, out of the question, and books would be fatal to her.
“Her mind requires rest,” the Prioress said. “Even her music is a mental excitement.”
“I don’t think that,” Sister Mary John answered. “And as for work, I have been thinking I might teach her a little carpentry. If plain carpentry does not interest her sufficiently, she might learn to work at the lathe.”
“Your idea is a very good one, Sister Mary John. Go to her at once and set her to work. It is terrible to think of her sitting brooding, brooding.”
“But on what is she brooding, dear Mother?”
“No doubt her father’s death was a great shock.”
And Sister Mary John went in search of Evelyn, and found her wandering in the garden.
“Of what are you thinking, Sister?” As Evelyn did not answer, Sister Mary John feared she resented the question. “You don’t like me to walk with you?”
“Yes I do, I don’t mind; but I wonder if the Prioress likes me to be here. Can you find out for me?”
“Why should you think we do not wish to have you here?”
“Well, you see, Sister—oh, it is no use talking.” Her thoughts seemed to float away, and it might be five or ten minutes before she would speak again.
“I wish you would come to the woodshed, Sister. If not, I must leave you.”
“Oh, I’ll go to the woodshed with you.”
“And will you help me with my work?”