“Is it a legacy?”
“It’s pay,” she cried, with pleasure dimpling about her lips. “I have been paid—we have all been paid! It’s so unusual—it makes me feel quite generous. Let me see. I’ll give you this, and this, and this,”—she counted into her open palm ten silver rupees,—“all those I will give you for your mission. Prends!” and she clinked them together and held them out to him.
He had risen to go, and his face looked grey and small. Something in him had mutinied at the levity, the quick change of her mood. He could only draw into his shell; doubtless he thought that a legitimate and inoffensive proceeding.
“Thanks, no,” he said, “I think not. We desire people’s prayers, rather than their alms.”
He went away immediately, and she glossed over his scandalous behaviour, and said farewell to him as she always did, in spite of the unusual look of consciousness in her eyes. She continued to hold the ten rupees carefully and separately, as if she would later examine them in diagnosing her pain. It was keener and profounder than any humiliation, the new voice, crying out, of a trampled tenderness. She stood and looked after him for a moment with startled eyes and her hand, in a familiar gesture of her profession, upon her heart. Then she went to her room, and deliberately loosened her garments and lay down upon her bed, first to sob like that little child she remembered, and afterwards to think, until the world came and knocked at her door and bade her come out of herself and earn money.
The compulsion which took Stephen Arnold to Crooked Lane is hardly ours to examine. It must have been strong, since going up to Mrs. Sand involved certain concessions, doubtless intrinsically trifling, but of exaggerated discomfort to the mind spiritually cloistered, whatever its other latitude. Among them was a distinctly necessary apology, difficult enough to make to a lady of rank so superior and authority so voyant in the Church militant, by a mere fighting soul without such straps and buttons as might compel recognition upon equal terms. It is impossible to know how far Stephen envisaged the visit as a duty—the priestly horizon is perhaps not wholly free from mirage—or to what extent he confessed it an indulgence. He was certainly aware of a stronger desire than he could altogether account for that Captain Filbert should not desert her post. The idea had an element of irritation oddly personal; he could not bear to reflect upon it. It may be wondered whether in any flight of venial imagination Arnold saw himself in a parallel situation with a lady. I am sure he did not. It may be considered, however, that among mirages there are unaccountable resemblances—resemblances without shape or form. He might fix his gaze, at all events, upon the supreme argument that those who were given to holy work, under any condition, in any degree, should make no rededication of themselves. This had to support him as best it could against the conviction that had Captain Filbert been Sister Anastasia, for example, of the Baker Institution, and Ensign Sand the Mother Superior of its Calcutta branch, it was improbable that he would have ventured to announce his interest in the matter by his card, or in any other way.