’Those poor boys at the front!’ And
kneeling with his elbows on the sill, he began to
say his prayers. The same feeling which made him
beautify his church, use vestments, good music, and
incense, filled him now. God was in the loveliness
of His world, as well as in His churches. One
could worship Him in a grove of beech trees, in a
beautiful garden, on a high hill, by the banks of
a bright river. God was in the rustle of the
leaves, and the hum of a bee, in the dew on the grass,
and the scent of flowers; God was in everything!
And he added to his usual prayer this whisper:
“I give Thee thanks for my senses, O Lord.
In all of us, keep them bright, and grateful for
beauty.” Then he remained motionless, prey
to a sort of happy yearning very near, to melancholy.
Great beauty ever had that effect on him. One
could capture so little of it—could never
enjoy it enough! Who was it had said not long
ago: “Love of beauty is really only the
sex instinct, which nothing but complete union satisfies.”
Ah! yes, George—Gratian’s husband.
George Laird! And a little frown came between
his brows, as though at some thorn in the flesh.
Poor George! But then, all doctors were materialists
at heart—splendid fellows, though; a fine
fellow, George, working himself to death out there
in France. One must not take them too seriously.
He plucked a bit of sweetbrier and put it to his
nose, which still retained the shine of that bleaching
ointment Noel had insisted on his using. The
sweet smell of those little rough leaves stirred up
an acute aching. He dropped them, and drew back.
No longings, no melancholy; one ought to be out, this
It was Sunday; but he had not to take three Services
and preach at least one sermon; this day of rest was
really to be his own, for once. It was almost
disconcerting; he had so long felt like the cab horse
who could not be taken out of the shafts lest he should
fall down. He dressed with extraordinary deliberation,
and had not quite finished when there came a knock
on his door, and Noel’s voice said: “Can
I come in, Daddy?”
In her flax-blue frock, with a Gloire de Dijon rose
pinned where it met on her faintly browned neck, she
seemed to her father a perfect vision of freshness.
“Here’s a letter from Gratian; George
has been sent home ill, and he’s gone to our
house. She’s got leave from her hospital
to come home and nurse him.”
Pierson read the letter. “Poor George!”
“When are you going to let me be a nurse, Daddy?”
“We must wait till you’re eighteen, Nollie.”
“I could easily say I was. It’s
only a month; and I look much more.”
“You might be anything from fifteen to twenty-five,
my dear, according as you behave.”
“I want to go out as near the front as possible.”
Her head was poised so that the sunlight framed her
face, which was rather broad—the brow rather
too broad—under the waving light-brown
hair, the nose short and indeterminate; cheeks still
round from youth, almost waxen-pale, and faintly hollowed
under the eyes. It was her lips, dainty yet
loving, and above all her grey eyes, big and dreamily
alive, which made her a swan. He could not imagine
her in nurse’s garb.