‘I don’t know that,’ he answered, walking gloomily towards the door. He felt so much passion and anger within him, that it did seem as if it would be a relief to utter some of the terrible oaths which he heard frequently in the pit, and which had been familiar enough in his own mouth a few months ago. But now other words, familiar from daily reading, the words that he had repeated to Tim so short a time before, were being whispered, as it seemed, close by his ear: ’Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you; pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you.’ There was a deadly conflict going on in the boy’s soul; and Martha’s angry words were helping the tempter. He sat down despondently on the door-sill, and hid his face in his hands, while he listened to his sister’s taunts against his want of spirit, and her fears that he would give up their home for his new notions.
He was about to answer her at last with the passion she was trying to provoke, when a soft little cheek was pressed against his downcast head, and little Nan lisped in her broken words, ’Me sleepy, Stevie; me say “Our Father,” and go to bed.’
The child knelt down before him, and laid her folded hands upon his knee, as she had done every evening since his father died, while he said the prayer, and she repeated it slowly after him. He felt as though he was praying for himself. A feeling of deep earnestness came over him; and, though his voice faltered as he said softly, ’Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us,’ it seemed as if there was a spirit in his heart agreeing to the words, and giving him power to say them. He did not know then that ’the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered;’ but while he prayed with little Nan, he received great comfort and strength, though he was ignorant of the source from whence they came. When the child’s prayers were ended, he roused himself cheerfully to action; and as long as the lingering twilight lasted, both Stephen and Martha were busily at work in the garden.
‘So thee’s the only master here,’ said Tim when he came up the hill next evening, according to his promise, to help Stephen in his garden.
‘And I’m the missis,’ chimed in Martha, ’but I can’t say how long it may be afore we have to pack off;’ and she gave Tim a very long account of the master’s visit the day before, finishing her description of Stephen’s conduct in a tone of mingled reproach and admiration: ’And he never said a single curse at them!’
‘Not when they were out of hearing?’ exclaimed Tim.
‘I couldn’t,’ answered Stephen; ’I knew what I ought to do then, if I wasn’t quite sure about fighting thee, Tim. My chapter says, “Swear not at all;” and “Let your communication be Yea, yea; Nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil."’