Ann went on with her work. She was not in the habit of indulging herself in moods or reveries; still, within her grew a silent disapproval of Christa. She felt herself superior to her. After a while another thought came upon her with unexpected force. Christa’s motive for taking to the religious life was only self-interest; her own motive was the same; and was not that the motive which she really supposed hitherto to actuate all religious people? Had she not, for instance, been fully convinced that self-interest was the sum and substance of Bart Toyner’s religion? Now between Bart Toyner and Christa and herself she felt that a great gulf was fixed.
Well, she did not know; she did not understand; she was not at all sure that she wanted to understand anything more about Bart Toyner and all the complex considerations about life which the thought of him seemed to arouse in her. She felt that the best way of ridding herself of uncomfortable thoughts about him was to be busy in performing all that he could reasonably require at her hands. It is just in the same way that many people rid themselves of thoughts about God.
All that long day, while the sunlight fell pink through the haze, Ann worked at renovating her own life and Christa’s. She took Christa and went to some girls of their acquaintance, and presented them with all the feathers, furbelows, and artificials which she and Christa possessed. She cooked some of the viands which she had advertised for sale, and prepared all her small stock of kitchen utensils for the new avocation. It was a long hard day’s work, and before it was over the village was ringing with the news of all this change. The minister had already called on Ann and Christa, saying suitable things concerning their father’s terrible crime and their own sad position. When he was gone Christa laughed.
The sweet-scented smoke of the distant forest fires had diffused itself all day in the atmosphere more and more palpably. It was not a gloomy effect, and familiar to eyes accustomed to the Canadian August. All the sunbeams were very pink, and they fell flickering among the shadows of the pear tree upon Markham’s grey wooden house, upon the path and the ragged green in front. Ann had pleasant associations with these pink beams because they told of fine weather. Smoke will not lie thus in an atmosphere that is molested with any currents of wind that might bring cloud or storm. On the whole Ann had spent the day happily, for fair weather has much to do with happiness; but when that unusual flood of blood-red light came at sunset, giving an unearthly look to a land which was well enough accustomed to bright sunsets of a more ordinary sort, Ann’s courage and good humour failed her; she yielded to the common influence of marvels and felt afraid.