Like an honest man he had given up attempting to pull God round to his own position. He did not now think for a moment that the act of love and mercy which possessed his soul was a pious one; his motive he believed to be solely his pity for Markham and his love for Ann, which, being natural, he supposed to be selfish, and, being selfish, he knew to be unholy.
It had all come to this, then—his piety, his reformation, his prayers, his thanksgiving, his faith. His heart within him gave a sneering laugh. He was terribly to blame, of course—he was a reprobate; but surely God was to blame too!
Ann Markham’s thoughts of Bart that day were chiefly wondering thoughts. She tried to think scornfully of his refusal to help her; theoretically she derided the religion that produced the refusal, but in the bottom of her heart she looked at it with a wonder that was akin to admiration. Then there was a question whether he would remain fixed in his resolution. If this man did not love her then Ann’s confidence failed her in respect to her judgment of what was or was not; for though she had regarded him always as a person of not much strength or importance, not independent enough to be anything more than the creature of the woman whom he desired to marry, yet, curiously enough, she had believed that his love for her had a strength that would die hard. She did not stop to ask herself how it could be that a weak man could love her strongly. Love, in any constant and permanent sense of the word, was an almost unknown quality among her companions, and yet she had attributed it to Bart. Well! his refusal of last night proved that she had been mistaken—that was all. But possibly the leaven of her proposal would work, and he would repent and come back to her. The fact that he had evidently not betrayed her to the detective gave her hope of this. Her thoughts about Toyner were only subordinate to the question, how she was to rescue her father. With the light and strength of the morning, hope in other possibilities of eluding Bart, even if he remained firm, came back to her. She would at least work on; if she was baffled in the end, it would be time enough to despair. Her sister was not her confidante, she was her tool.
Ann waited until the shadow of the pear tree, which with ripening fruit overhung the gable of their house, stretched itself far down the bit of weedy grass that sloped to the river. The grass plot was wholly untended, but nature had embroidered it with flowers and ferns.
Ann sat sewing by the table on which she kept her supply of beer. She could not afford to lose her sales to-day, although she knew bitterly that most of those who turned in for a drink did so out of prying curiosity. Even Christa, not very quick of feeling, had felt this, and had retired to lounge on the bed in the inner room with a paper novel. Christa usually spent her afternoon in preparing some cheap finery to wear in the cool of the evening, but she felt the family disgrace and Ann’s severity, and was disheartened. As Ann bided her time and considered her own occupation and Christa’s, she marvelled at the audacity of the promise which she had offered to give Bart, yet so awful was the question at stake that her only wish was that he had accepted it.