Awakened by that daily cruelty, the advent of hot water, Edward Pierson lay in his chintz-curtained room, fancying himself back in London. A wild bee hunting honey from the bowl of flowers on the window-sill, and the scent of sweetbrier, shattered that illusion. He drew the curtain, and, kneeling on the window-seat thrust his head out into the morning. The air was intoxicatingly sweet. Haze clung over the river and the woods beyond; the lawn sparkled with dew, and two wagtails strutted in the dewy sunshine. ‘Thank God for loveliness!’ he thought. ’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 beautiful morning!
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.”