And now the organ broke softly, miraculously, into enchanting and enveloping sound, that seemed to shake the church bodily with its great trembling touch, and from a door on the left of the altar the procession streamed,—altar-boys and altar-boys and altar-boys, followed through the altar-gate by the tall young priest who would “say the Stations.” Other priests, a score of them, filled the altar-stalls; one, seated on the right between two boys, would presently preach.
The procession halted somewhere over in the distant: arches, the organ thundered the “Stabat Mater.” Susan could only see the candles and the boys, but the priest’s voice was loud and clear. The congregation knelt and rose again, knelt and rose again, turned and swayed to follow the slow movement of the procession about the church.
When priest and boys had returned to the altar, a wavering high soprano voice floated across the church in an intricate “Veni Creator.” Susan and Mary Lou sat back in their seats, but Virginia knelt, wrapped in prayer, her face buried in her hands, her hat forcing the woman in front of her to sit well forward in her place.
The pulpit was pushed across a little track laid in the altar enclosure, and the preacher mounted it, shook his lace cuffs into place, laid his book and notes to one side, and composedly studied his audience.
“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen. ‘Ask and ye shall receive—–’” suddenly the clear voice rang out.
Susan lost the sermon. But she got the text, and pondered it with new interest. It was not new to her. She had “asked” all her life long; for patience, for truthfulness, for “final perseverance,” for help for Virginia’s eyes and Auntie’s business and Alfie’s intemperance, for the protection of this widow, the conversion of that friend, “the speedy recovery or happy death” of some person dangerously ill. Susan had never slipped into church at night with Mary Lou, without finding some special request to incorporate in her prayers.
To-night, in the solemn pause of Benediction, she asked for Peter Coleman’s love. Here was a temporal favor, indeed, indicating a lesser spiritual degree than utter resignation to the Divine Will. Susan was not sure of her right to ask it. But, standing to sing the “Laudate,” there came a sudden rush of confidence and hope to her heart. She was praying for this gift now, and that fact alone seemed to lift it above the level of ordinary, earthly desires. Not entirely unworthy was any hope that she could bring to this tribunal, and beg for on her knees.
Two weeks later she and Peter Coleman had their evening at the Chutes, and a wonderful evening it was; then came a theater trip, and a Sunday afternoon that they spent in idly drifting about Golden Gate Park, enjoying the spring sunshine, and the holiday crowd, feeding the animals and eating peanuts. Susan bowed to Thorny and the faithful Wally on this last occasion and was teased by Thorny about Peter Coleman the next day, to her secret pleasure. She liked anything that made her friendship for Peter seem real, a thing noticed and accepted by others, not all the romantic fabric of her own unfounded dreams.