As she sat in the chapel, all white muslin and white veil, her hair braided under a little cap, the new rosary of amethyst—a gift from home—at her side, her hands clasped, exalted by incense and flowers and the sweet voices of the choir, chanting Gounod’s Canticle, “Le Ciel a visite la terre,” she felt that never more would she let this celestial visitant go. When after the communion she pulled the last piece of veiling over her face, she felt that it was for ever between her and the crude world of sense; the “Hymn of Thanksgiving” was the apt expression of her emotions.
But next time she came under these aesthetic, devotional influences—even as her own voice was soaring heavenward in the choir—she thought to herself, “How delicious to have an emotion which you feel will last for ever and which you know won’t!” And a gleam of amusement flitted over her rapt features.
When Eileen returned to the Convent after her first summer vacation in Ireland she was richer by a surreptitious correspondent. He wrote to her, care of Marcelle, who had a careless mother. He was a young officer from the neighbouring barracks who, invited to make merry with the hospitable O’Keeffe, had fallen a victim to Eileen’s girlish charms and mature appearance, for Eileen carried herself as if her years were three more and her inches six higher. Her face had the winsome Irish sweetness; it, too, looked lovelier than a scientific survey would have determined. Her nose was straightish, her mouth small, her lashes were long and dark and conspired with her dark hair to trick a casual observer into thinking her eyes dark, but they were grey with little flecks of golden light if you looked closelier than you should. Her hands were large but finely shaped, with long fingers somewhat turned back at the tips, and pretty pink nails—the hands were especially noticeable, because even when Eileen was not playing the pianoforte, she was prone to extend her thumb as though stretching an octave and to flick it as though striking a note.
It was not love-letters, though, that Lieutenant Doherty sent Eileen, for the schoolgirl had always taken him in a motherly way, and indeed signed herself “Your Mother-Confessor.” But the mystery and difficulty of smuggling the letters to and fro lent colour to the drab Convent days, far vivider colour than the whilom passing of verses. So long as Marcelle’s desk remained next to Eileen’s it was comparatively easy—though still risky—while one’s head was studiously buried in “Greek roots,” for one’s automatic hand to pass or receive the letter beneath the desks through the dangerous space of daylight between the two. “Let not your right hand know what your left hand doeth,” Eileen once quoted when Marcelle’s conscience pricked. For Marcelle imagined an amour of the darkest dye, and could not understand Eileen’s calmness any more than Eileen could understand Marcelle’s romantic palpitations alternating with suggestive sniggerings.