“You want to go to sleep, then?”
“Well, I don’t feel like talking to-night; do you?”
They talked every night, regularly—talked about dresses, about religion, about other people’s love affairs, and other women’s indiscretions. Sally described hats she had seen on rich women shopping at Knightsbridge; Janet told questionable stories about the lives of models and art students, Sally listening with wondering eyes, needing sometimes to have them explained to her more graphically in order really to understand. So they would continue, in the dark, till one or the other asked a question and, receiving no answer, would turn over on her side, and the next moment be oblivious of everything.
“What’s particularly the matter to-night?” persisted Janet. “Sorry you told Mr. Arthur you didn’t love him?”
“I don’t know.”
“I believe you are.”
There was no such belief in her mind. She knew it would draw the truth. She used it.
“No, I’m not,” said Sally, decidedly. “I’m not sorry.”
“Then what are you so depressed about?”
“Am I depressed?” She sat up again and turned her pillow. “Oh, I haven’t said my prayers yet.” She began to throw off the bed-clothes.
“Well, you’re not going to get out of bed, are you?”
She slid off the bed on to the floor, shuddering as her feet touched the cold linoleum carpet. Habit was strong in her still. She believed in no fixed and certain dogma, but she had never broken the custom of saying her prayers; never even been able to rid herself of the belief that except upon the knees on the hard floor prayers were of little intrinsic value. That she had always been taught; and though the greater lessons—the untangling of the entangled Trinity, the mystery of the bread and wine—had lost their meaning in her mind, ever since her father’s predicament, yet she still held fondly to the simple habits of her childhood.
When Janet saw her finally huddled on her knees, her head, with its masses of gold hair, buried in the arms flung out appealingly before her, she turned and blew out the candle. Sally never answered questions when she was saying her prayers, though Janet frequently addressed them to her, and took the answers for granted.
There she knelt in the darkness, while Janet dug the accustomed grove in her pillow and went to sleep.
What does a woman pray for—what does any one pray for—whom do they pray to, when the composition of their mental attitude towards the Highest is a plethora of doubts? Yet they pray.
Instinctively at night, by the side of their beds, their knees bent—or there is some genuflexion in their heart which answers just as well—they drop into the attitude of prayer. And they all begin in the same way—O God— And not one of them has the faintest notion of whom or what or why that God is.
Whoever, whatever, wherever He is, His power must be supreme to make itself felt through the thick veil of doubt and despair that hangs so heavily about His identity.