I must have sung for a long time, to judge by the amount of work I contrived to do, and if I had sung like a whole nestful of skylarks I could not have pleased my audience more. I was sorry to set Miss Locke’s tears flowing, because it hindered her work; tears are such a simple luxury, but poor folk cannot always afford to indulge in them.
I had just commenced that beautiful song, ’Waft her, angels, through the air,’ when the impatient thumping of a stick on the floor arrested me; it came from Phoebe’s room.
‘I will go to her,’ I said, waving Miss Locke back and picking up my flowers. ‘Do not look so scared: she means those knocks for me.’ And I was right in my surmise. I found her lying very quietly, with the traces of tears still on her face; she addressed me quite gently.
’Do not sing any more, please; I cannot bear it; it makes my heart ache too much to-night.’
‘Very well,’ I returned cheerfully. ’I will just mend your fire, for it is getting low, and put these flowers in water, and then I will bid you good-night.’
‘You are vexed with me for being rude,’ she said, almost timidly. ’I told Susan to send you away, because I could not bear any more talk. You made me so unhappy yesterday, Miss Garston.’
I was cruel enough to tell her that I was glad to hear it, and I must have looked as though I meant it.
‘Oh, don’t,’ she said, shrinking as though I had dealt her a blow. ’I want you to unsay those words: they pierce me like thorns. Please tell me you did not mean them.’
‘How can I know to what you are alluding?’ I replied, in rather an unsympathetic tone; but I did not intend to be soft with her to-day: she had treated me badly and must repent her ingratitude. ’I certainly meant every word I said yesterday,’
To my great surprise, she burst into tears, and repeated word for word a fragment of a sentence that I had said.
’It haunts me, Miss Garston, and frightens me somehow. I have been saying it over and over in my dreams,—that is what upset me so to-day: “if we will not lie still under His hand,”—yes, you said that, knowing I have never lain still for a moment,—“and if we will not learn the lesson He would fain teach us, it may be that fresh trials may be sent to humble us."’
Pity kept me silent for a moment, but I knew that I must not shirk my work.
’I am sorry if the truth pains you, Phoebe, but it is no less the truth. How am I to look at you and think that God has finished His work?’
She put up both her hands and motioned me away with almost a face of horror, but I took no notice. I arranged the flowers and tended the fire, and then offered her some cooling drink, which she did not refuse, and then I bade her good-night.
‘What!’ she exclaimed, ’are you going to leave me like that, and not a word to soothe me, after making me so unhappy? Think of the long night I have to go through.’