“Look here, Christa, do you know that Walker died last night? Now I’ll tell you what it is; you needn’t think that the people who are respectable but not religious will have anything more to do with us, even in the off-hand way that they’ve had to do with us before now. Father’s settled all that for us. Now the only thing we’ve got to do is to turn religious. We’re going to be temp’rance, and never touch a game of cards. You’re going to wear plain black clothes and not dance any more. It wouldn’t be respectable any way, seeing they may catch father any day, and the least we can do is sort of to go into mourning.”
Christa stood bright and beautiful as a child of the morning, and heard the sentence of this long night passed upon her; but instead of looking plaintive, a curiously hard look of necessary acquiescence came about the lines of her cherry lips. Ann was startled by it; she had expected Christa to bemoan herself, and in this look she recognised that the younger sister had an element of character like her own, was perhaps growing to be what she had become. The quality that she honestly admired in herself appeared disgusting to her in pretty Christa, yet she went on to persuade and explain; it was necessary.
“We can’t dance, Christa, for no one would dance with us; we can’t wear flowers in our hats, for no one would admire them. I suppose you have the sense to see that? The men that come here are a pretty easy-going rough lot, but they draw a line somewhere. Now I’ve kept you like a lady so far, and I’ll go on doing that to the end” (This was Ann’s paraphrase for respectability); “so if you don’t want to sit at home and mope, we’ve got to go in for being religious and go to church and meetings. The minister will come to see us, and all that sort will take to speaking to us, and I’ll get you into Sunday school. There are several very good-looking fellows that go there, and there’s a class of real big girls taught by a Young-Men’s-Christian-Association chap. He’d come to see you, you know, if you were in his class.”
Christa was perfectly consoled, perfectly satisfied; she even showed her sister some of the animation which had hitherto come to her only when she was flirting with men.
“Ann,” she said earnestly, “you are very splendid. I got up thinking there weren’t no good in living at all.”
Ann eyed her sharply. Was one set of actions the same to Christa as another? and was she content to forget all their own shame and all her father’s wretched plight if she could only have a few pleasures for herself? It was exactly the passive state that she had desired to evoke in Christa; but there are many spectres that come to our call and then appal us with their presence!