“Hush, my child; if you talk like that you will lose your faith. Nobody is pleased or vexed with anybody for the colour of their hair.”
“Yes, where I come from a peasant girl suffers a little for having red hair. Also a man with a hump, he cannot marry unless he owns many pigs.”
“Eileen! Who has put such dreadful thoughts into your head?”
“That is what I ask myself, ma mere. Many things are done to me and I sit in the centre looking on, like the weathercock on our castle at home, who sees himself turning this way and that way and can only creak.”
“A weathercock is dead—you are alive.”
“Not at night, ma mere. At home in my bedroom I used to put out my candle every night by clapping the extinguisher upon it. Who is it puts the extinguisher upon me?”
The good sister almost wished it could be she.
But she replied gently, “It is God who gives us sleep—we can’t be always awake.”
“Then I am not responsible for my dreams anyhow?”
“I hope you don’t have bad dreams,” said the nun, affrighted.
“Oh, I dream—what do I not dream? Sometimes I fly—oh, so high, and all the people look up at me, they marvel. But I laugh and kiss my hand to them down there.”
“Well, there’s no harm in flying,” said the nun. “The angels fly.”
“Oh, but I am not always an angel in my dreams. Is it God who sends these bad dreams, too?”
“No—that is the devil.”
“Then it is sometimes he who puts the extinguisher on?”
“That is when you have not said your prayers properly.”
Eileen opened wide eyes of protest. “Oh, but, dear mother, I always say my prayers properly.”
“You think so? That is already a sin in you—the sin of spiritual pride.”
“But, ma mere, devil-dreams or angel-dreams—it is always the same in the morning. Every morning one finds oneself ready on the pillow, like a clock that has been wound up. One did not make the works.”
“But one can keep them clean.”
Eileen burst into a peal of laughter.
“Qu’avez-vous donc?” said the good creature in vexation.
“I thought of a clock washing its face with its hands.”
“You are a naughty child—one cannot talk seriously to you.”
“Oh, dear mother, I am just as serious when I am laughing as when I am crying.”
“My child, we must never cultivate the mocking spirit. Leave me. I am vexed with you.”
As her first communion approached, however, all these simmerings of scepticism and revolt died down into the recommended recueillement. Her days of retreat, passed in holy exercises, were an ecstasy of absorption into the divine, and the pious readings began to assume a truer complexion as the experiences of sister-souls, deep crying unto deep. Oh, how she yearned to take the vows, to leave the trivial distracting life of the outer world for the peace of self-sacrificial love!