’The cross, therefore, is always ready, and everywhere waits for thee. Thou canst not escape it wheresoever thou runnest; for wheresoever thou goest, thou carriest thyself with thee and shalt ever find thyself.... If thou bear the cross cheerfully, it will bear thee, and lead thee to the desired end, namely, where there shall be an end of suffering, though here there shall not be. If thou bear it unwillingly, thou makest for thyself a (new) burden, and increasest thy load, and yet, notwithstanding, thou must bear it.’
The next evening I was refused admittance to Phoebe’s room. Miss Locke met me at the door, looking more depressed than usual, and asked me to follow her into the kitchen, where we found Kitty in the rocking-chair by the hearth, dressing her new doll.
‘It is just as she treated the vicar and Mr. Tudor,’ she observed disconsolately. ’I don’t quite know what ails her to-day; she had a beautiful night, and slept like a baby, and when I took her breakfast to her she put her arms round my neck and asked me to kiss her,—a thing she has not done for a year or more; and she went on for a long time about how bad she had been to me, and wanting me to forgive her and make it up with her.’
‘Well?’ I demanded, rather impatiently, as Susan wiped her patient eyes and took up her sewing.
’Well, poor lamb! I told her I would forgive her anything and everything if she would only let me go on with my work, for I had Mrs. Druce’s mourning to finish; but she would not let me stir for a long time, and cried so bitterly—though she says she never can cry—that I thought of sending for you or Dr. Hamilton. But she cried more when I mentioned you, and said, No, she would not see you; you had left her more miserable than she was before: and she made me promise to send you away if you came this evening, which I am loath to do after all your kindness to her.’
‘I have brought her some fresh flowers this evening,’ was my reply. ’Do not distress yourself, Miss Locke; we must expect Phoebe to be contrary sometimes.’ And the words came to my mind, “And ofttimes it casteth him into the fire, and oft into the water.” ’You have discharged your duty, but I am not going just yet. Let me help you with that work. I am very fond of sewing, and that is a nice easy piece. Shall you mind if I sing to you and Kitty a little?’
I need not have asked the question when I saw the fretted look pass from Miss Locke’s face.
‘It is the greatest pleasure Kitty and I have, next to going to church,’ she said humbly. ’Your voice does sound so sweet; it soothes like a lullaby. It is my belief,’ speaking under her breath so that the child should not hear her, ’that she is just trying to punish herself by sending you away.’
I thought perhaps this might be the case, for who could understand all the perversities of a diseased mind? But if Phoebe’s will was strong for evil, mine was stronger still to overcome her for her own good. I was determined on two things: first, that I would not leave the house without seeing her; and, secondly, that nothing should induce me to stay with her after this reception. She must be disciplined to civility at all costs. Max had been wrong to yield to her sick whims.