“Then I may stay?” she said at the end.
“I am satisfied—if a way can be found.”
“I will find a way,” she replied.
After which he went back through the city streets to his disciples in new humility and profounder joy, knowing that virtue had gone out of him. She in her room where she lodged also considered the miracle, twice wonderful in that it asked no faith of her.
It is difficult to be precise about such a thing, but I should think that Hilda gave herself to the marvellous aspect of what had come and gone between them, for several hours after Arnold left her. It was not for some time, at all events, that she arrived at the consideration—the process was naturally downward—that the soul of the marvel lay in the exact moment of its happening. Nothing could have been more heaven-sent than her precious perception, exactly then, that before the shining gift of Arnold’s spiritual sympathy, all her desire for a lesser thing from him must creep away abashed for ever. Even when the lesser thing, by infinitely gradual expansion, again became the greater, it remained permanently leavened and lifted in her by the strange and lovely incident that had taken for the moment such command of her and of him. She would not question it or reason about it, perhaps with an instinct to avert its destruction; she simply drew it deeply into her content. Only its sweet deception did not stay with her, and she let that go with open hands. She wanted, more than ever, the whole of Stephen Arnold, all that was so openly the Mission’s and all that was so evidently God’s. It will be seen that she felt in no way compelled to advise him of this her backsliding. I doubt whether such a perversion of her magnificent course of action ever occurred to her. It was magnificent, for it entailed a high disregarding stroke; it implied a sublime confidence of what the end would be, a capacity to wait and endure. She smiled buoyantly, in the intervals of arranging it, at the idea that Stephen Arnold stood beyond her ultimate possession.
There were difficulties, but the moment was favourable to her, more favourable than it would have been the year before, or any year but this. Before ten days had passed she was able to write to Arnold describing her plan, and she was put to it to keep the glow of success out of her letter. She kept it out, that, and everything but a calm and humble statement—any Clarke Brother might have dictated it—of what she proposed to do. Perhaps the intention was less obvious than the desire that he should approve it.