Mrs. Sand found it difficult to make up her mind upon several points touching the visit of the Reverend Stephen Arnold. Its purport, of which she could not deny her vague appreciation, drew a cloud across a rosy prospect, and in this light his conduct showed unpardonable; on the other hand it implied a compliment to the corps, it made the spiritual position of an officer of the Army, a junior too, a matter of moment in a wider world than might be suspected; and before this consideration Mrs. Sand expanded. She reflected liberally that salvation was not necessarily frustrated by the laying-on of hands; she had serene fancies of a republic of the redeemed. She was a prey to further hesitations regarding the expediency of mentioning the interview to Laura, and as private and confidential it ministered for two days to her satisfactions of superior officer. In the end, however, she had to sacrifice it to the girl’s imperturbable silence. She chose an intimate and a private hour, and shut the door carefully upon herself and her captain, but she had not at all decided, when she sat down on the edge of the bed, what complexion to give to the matter, nor had she a very definite idea, when she got up again, of what complexion she had given it. Laura, from the first word, had upset her by an intense eagerness, a determination not to lose a syllable. Captain Filbert insisted upon hearing all before she would acknowledge anything; she hung upon the sentences Mrs. Sand repeated, and joined them together as if they were parts of a puzzle; she finally had possession of the conversation much as I have already written it down. As Mrs. Sand afterward told her husband, Miss Filbert sat there growing whiter and whiter, more and more worked up, and it was impossible to take any comfort in talking to her. It seemed as if she, the Ensign, might save herself the trouble of giving an opinion one way or the other, and not a thing could she get the girl to say except that it was true enough that the gentleman wanted to marry her, and she was ashamed of having let it go so far. But she would never do it—never! She declared she would write to this Mr. Arnold and thank him, and ask him to pray for her, “and she as much as ordered me to go and do the same,” concluded Mrs. Sand, with an inflection which made its own comment upon such a subversion of discipline.
Stephen, under uncomfortable compulsion, sent Laura’s letter—she did write—to Lindsay. “I cannot allow you to be in the dark about what I am doing in the matter,” he explained; “though if I had not this necessity for writing you might reasonably complain of an intrusive and impertinent letter. But I must let you know that she has appealed to me, and that as far as I can I will help her.”