“I shall be very pleased indeed.”
“Well, we have only got two or three minutes to decide what it is to be. Will you come up to the organ loft?”
And that afternoon the Wimbledon laity had the pleasure of hearing two prima donne at Benediction.
One day in the last month of Evelyn’s noviceship—for it was the Reverend Mother’s plans to put up Evelyn for election, provided she could persuade Evelyn to take her final vows—Sister Mary John sat at the harmonium, her eyes fixed, following Evelyn’s voice like one in a dream. Evelyn was singing Stradella’s “Chanson d’Eglise,” and when she, had finished the nun rose from her seat, clasping her friend’s hand, thanking her for her singing with such effusion that the thought crossed Evelyn’s mind that perhaps her friend was giving to her some part of that love which it was essential to the nun to believe belonged to God alone; and knowing Sister Mary John so well, she could not doubt that, as soon as the nun discovered her infidelity to the celestial Bridegroom, she would separate herself at once from her. A tenderness in the touch of the hand, an ardour in the eye, might reveal the secret to her, or very likely a casual remark from some other nun would awaken her conscience to the danger —an imaginary danger, of course—but that would not be her idea. Formal relations would be impossible between them, one of them would have to leave; and, without this friendship, Evelyn felt she could not live in the convent.
The accident she foresaw happened two days after, when sitting in the library writing. Veronica came in. Evelyn had seen very little of her lately, and at one time Evelyn, Veronica, and Sister Mary John had formed a little group, each possessing a quality which attracted the others; but, insensibly, musical interests and literary interests— Sister Mary John had begun to teach Evelyn Latin—had drawn Evelyn and Sister Mary John together, excluding Veronica a little. This exclusion was more imaginary than real. But some jealousy of Sister Mary John had entered her mind; and Evelyn had noticed, though Sister Mary John had failed to notice, that Veronica had, for some time past, treated them with little disdainful airs. And now, when she opened the door, she did not answer Evelyn at once, though Evelyn welcomed her with a pretty smile, asking her whom she was seeking. There was an accent of concentrated dislike in Veronica’s voice when Evelyn said she was looking for Sister Mary John.
“I heard her trampling about the passage just now; she is on her way here, no doubt, and won’t keep you waiting.”
The word “trampling” was understood by Evelyn as an allusion to the hobnails which Sister Mary John wore in the garden. Veronica often dropped a rude word, which seemed ruder than it was owing to the refinement and distinction of her face and her voice. A rude word seemed incongruous on the lips of this mediaeval virgin; and Evelyn sat nibbling the end of the pen, thinking this jealousy was dangerous. Sister Mary John only had to hear of it. The door opened again; this time it was Sister Mary John, who had come to ask Evelyn what was the matter with Veronica.