Kitty was lying on the rug, fast asleep, with the doll in her arms.
‘I found them like this when I came in,’ whispered Miss Locke; ’she must have been listening to the music and fallen asleep. How late you have stopped with Phoebe! it is nearly eight o’clock!’
‘I do not think the time has been wasted,’ I answered cheerfully, as I bade her good-night and stepped out into the darkness. Is time ever wasted, I wonder, when we stop in our daily work to give one of these weak ones a cup of cold water? It is not for me to answer; only our recording angel knows how some such little deed of kindness may brighten some dim struggling life that seems over-full of pain.
A MISSED VOCATION
It was pleasant to wake to bright sunshine the next morning, and to hear the sparrows twittering in the ivy.
It had been my intention to set apart Sunday as much as possible as a day of rest and refreshment. Of course I could not expect always to control the various appeals for my help or to be free from my patients, but by management I hoped to secure the greater part of the day for myself.
I had told Peggy not to expect me at the cottage until the afternoon; everything was in such order that there was no necessity for me to forgo the morning service. My promise to Phoebe Locke would keep me a prisoner for the evening, but I determined that her sister and Kitty should be set free to go to church, so my loss would be their gain.
I thought of Jill as I dressed myself. She had often owned to me that the Sundays at Hyde Park Gate were not to her taste. Visitors thronged the house in the afternoon; Sara discussed her week’s amusements with her friends or yawned over a novel; the morning’s sermon was followed as a matter of course by a gay luncheon party. ‘What does it mean, Ursula?’ Jill would say, opening her big black eyes as widely as possible: ’I do not understand. Mr. Erskine has been telling us that we ought to renounce the world and our own wills, and not to follow the multitude to do foolishness, and all the afternoon mother and Sara having been talking about dresses for the fancy-ball. Is there one religion for church and another for home? Do we fold it up and put it away with our prayer-books in the little book-cupboard that father locks so carefully?’ finished Jill, with girlish scorn.
Poor Jill! she had a wide, generous nature, with great capabilities, but she was growing up in a chilling atmosphere. Young girls are terribly honest; they dig down to the very root of things; they drag off the swathing cloths from the mummy face of conventionality. What does it mean? they ask. Is there truth anywhere? Endless shams surround them; people listen to sermons, then they shake off the dust of the holy place carefully from the very hem of their garments; their religion, as Jill expressed it, is left beside their prayer-books. Ah! if one could but see clearly, with eyes purged from every remnant of earthliness,—see as the angels do,—the thick fog of unrisen and unprayed prayers clinging to the rafters of every empty church, we might well shudder in the clogging heavy atmosphere.