Probably her fierce determination to go through with her self-elected expiation, no matter what the cost, had a good deal to do with her ultimate breakdown. With unswerving resolution she had forced herself to obedience, to the performance of her appointed tasks in spite of their distastefulness; and behind the daily work and discipline there had been all the time the ceaseless, aching longing for the man who had loved her and who had gone away.
It was not surprising, therefore, that the tired body and nerves at last gave way, and in the delirium of brain fever Magda revealed the whole pitiful story of the mistakes and misunderstandings which had brought her in desperation to the Sisters of Penitence.
Fortunately it was upon Sister Bernardine that the major part of the nursing devolved, and it was into her gentle ears that Magda unwittingly poured out the history of the past. Bit by bit, from the ramblings of delirium, Sister Bernardine pieced together the story, and her shy, virginal heart found itself throbbing in overflowing sympathy—a sympathy that sought expression in the tender care she gave her patient.
During the long, slow days of convalescence Magda, very helpless and dependent, had gradually learned to love the soft-footed little Sister who came and went throughout her illness—to love her as she would not, at one time, have believed it possible she could grow to love anyone behind the high grey walls which encircled the sisterhood.
If the past year had taught her nothing else, it had at least taught her that goodness and badness are very evenly distributed. She had found both good and bad behind those tall grey walls just as she had found them in the great free world outside.
Her last memory, as her first, was of Sister Bernardine’s kind eyes.
“Some of us find happiness in the world,” the little Sister had said at parting, “and some of us out of it. I think you were meant to find yours in the world.”
It was Magda’s own choice to leave the sisterhood on foot. She had nothing to take with her in the way of luggage, and she smiled a little as she realised that, for the moment, she possessed actually nothing but the clothes she stood up in—the same in which she had quitted Friars’ Holm a year ago, and which, on departure, she had substituted for the grey veil and habit she was discarding.
At first, as she made her way along the street, she found the continuous ebb and flow of the crowded thoroughfare somewhat confusing after the absolute calm and quiet of the preceding months, but very soon the Londoner’s familiar love of London and of its ceaseless, kaleidoscopic movement returned to her, and with it the requisite poise to thread her way through the throngs that trod the pavements.