Within certain self-pleasing limits Ann had always been a good-natured and generous person, and she experienced a strong impulse of this good nature and generosity just now, but it was only for a moment, and she stifled it as a thing that was quite absurd. Her father must be relieved, of course, from his horrid situation; and, after all, Bart could help him quite easily, more easily than any other man in the world could, and then come back and go on with his life as before. Questions of conscience had never, so far, clouded Ann’s mental horizon. A moment’s effort to regain her habitual standpoint made it quite clear to her that in this case it was she, she and Christa, who were making the sacrifice; a minute more, and she could almost have found it in her heart to grumble at the condition of the vow which she had so liberally sketched the night before, and only the fact that there was something about Bart which she did not at all understand, and a fear that that something might be a propensity to withdraw from his engagement, made her submissively adhere to it.
“Christa and I will sign the pledge. We will give up dancing and wearing finery. We will stop being friends with worldly people, and we will go to church and meetings, and try to like them.” Ann repeated her vow.
Bart took the pen and ink with which she chronicled her sales of beer and wrote the vow twice on two pages of his note-book; at the bottom he added, “God helping me.” Ann signed them both, he keeping one and giving her the other.
This contract on Ann’s part had many of the elements of faith in it—a wonderful audacity of faith in her own power to revolutionise her life and control her sister’s, and all the unreasoning child-likeness of faith which could launch itself boldly into an unknown future without any knowledge of what life would be like there.
On the part of Toyner the contract showed the power that certain habits of thought, although exercised only for a few months, had over him. Good people are fond of talk about the weakness of good habits compared with the strength of bad ones. But, given the same time to the formation of each, the habits which a man counts good must be stronger than those which he counts evil, because the inner belief of his mind is in unity with them. Toyner believed to-night that he was in open revolt against a rule of life which he had found himself unable to adhere to, and against the God who had ordained it; but, all the same, it was this rule, and faith in the God which he had approached by means of it, that actuated him during this conference with Ann. As a man who had given up hope for himself might desire salvation for his child, so he gravely and gently set her feet in what he was accustomed to regard as the path of life before he himself left it.