“Did you say she is one of your friends?” she asked in a cold, sneering voice that hurt Virginia more than anything she had yet felt.
“Yes, I said so.” Virginia’s face flushed, but she seemed to recall a verse that Mr. Gray had used for one of his recent sermons, “A friend of publicans and sinners.” Surely, Jesus would do this that she was doing.
“Do you know what this girl is?” asked Madam Page, in an angry whisper, stepping near Virginia.
“I know very well. She is an outcast. You need not tell me, grandmother. I know it even better than you do. She is drunk at this minute. But she is also a child of God. I have seen her on her knees, repentant. And I have seen hell reach out its horrible fingers after her again. And by the grace of Christ I feel that the least that I can do is to rescue her from such peril. Grandmother, we call ourselves Christians. Here is a poor, lost human creature without a home, slipping back into a life of misery and possibly eternal loss, and we have more than enough. I have brought her here, and I shall keep her.”
Madam Page glared at Virginia and clenched her hands. All this was contrary to her social code of conduct. How could society excuse familiarity with the scum of the streets? What would Virginia’s action cost the family in the way of criticism and loss of standing, and all that long list of necessary relations which people of wealth and position must sustain to the leaders of society? To Madam Page society represented more than the church or any other institution. It was a power to be feared and obeyed. The loss of its good-will was a loss more to be dreaded than anything except the loss of wealth itself.
She stood erect and stern and confronted Virginia, fully roused and determined. Virginia placed her arm about Loreen and calmly looked her grandmother in the face.
“You shall not do this, Virginia! You can send her to the asylum for helpless women. We can pay all the expenses. We cannot afford for the sake of our reputations to shelter such a person.”
“Grandmother, I do not wish to do anything that is displeasing to you, but I must keep Loreen here tonight, and longer if it seems best.”
“Then you can answer for the consequences! I do not stay in the same house with a miserable—” Madam Page lost her self-control. Virginia stopped her before she could speak the next word.
“Grandmother, this house is mine. It is your home with me as long as you choose to remain. But in this matter I must act as I fully believe Jesus would in my place. I am willing to bear all that society may say or do. Society is not my God. By the side of this poor soul I do not count the verdict of society as of any value.”