“They don’t sound attractive, and I am glad. You will depend the more upon me.”
Hilda looked thoughtfully at Miss Livingstone. “I will depend,” she said, “a good deal upon you.”
It was Alicia’s fate to meet the Archdeacon again that evening at dinner. “And is she really throwing her heart into the work?” asked that dignitary, referring to Miss Howe.
“Oh, I think so,” Alicia said. “Yes.”
The labours of the Baker Institution and of the Clarke Mission were very different in scope, so much so that if they had been secular bodies working for profit, there would have been hardly a point of contact between them. As it was they made one, drawing together in affiliation for the comfort of mutual support in a heathen country where all the other Englishmen wrote reports, drilled troops, or played polo, with all the other Englishwomen in the corresponding female parts. Doubtless the little communities prayed for each other. One may imagine, not profanely, their petitions rising on either side of the heedless, multitudinous, idolatrous city, and meeting at some point in the purer air above the yellow dust-haze. I am not aware that they held any other mutual duty or privilege, but this bond was known, and enabled people whose conscience pricked them in that direction to give little garden teas to which they invited Clarke Brothers and Baker Sisters, secure in doing a benevolent thing and at the same time embarrassing nobody except, possibly, the Archdeacon, who was officially exposed to being asked as well and had no right to complain. The affiliation was thus a social convenience, since it is unlikely that without it anybody would have hit upon so ingenious a way of killing, as it were, a Baker Sister and a Clarke Brother with one stone. It is not surprising that this degree of intelligence should fail to see the profound official difference between Baker Sisters and Baker novices. As the Mother Superior said, it did not seem to occur to people that there could be in connection with a religious body, such words as discipline and subordination, which were certainly made ridiculous for the time being, when she and Sister Ann Frances were asked to eat ices on the same terms as Miss Hilda Howe. It must have been more than ever painful to these ladies, regarded from the official point of view, when it became plain, as it usually did, that the interest of the afternoon centred in Miss Howe, whether or not the Archdeacon happened to be present. Their displeasure was so clear, after the first occasion, that Hilda felt obliged when the next one came, to fall back on her original talent, and ate her ice abashed and silent speaking only when she was spoken to, and then in short words and long hesitations. Thereupon the Sisters were of opinion that after all poor Miss Howe could not help her unenviable lot, she was perhaps more to be pitied on account of it than—anything else. It came to this, that Sister Ann Frances even had an exhibitor’s pride in her, and Hilda knew the sensations of a barbarian female captive in the bonds of the Christians. But she could not afford to risk being cut off from those little garden teas. All told, they were few; ladies disturbed by ideas of social duties toward missionaries being so uncommon.