“If I could only have just a weeny, teeny piece,” she sighed.
“Now, you stop that,” commanded Jerry. “Of course it’s hard—but that’s the punishment of it. I could eat a graven image this very minute, but am I complaining? Let’s think of something else. We’ve just got to rise above our stomachs.”
At supper time they did not feel the pangs of hunger which they had suffered earlier in the day.
“I suppose we’re getting used to it,” said Faith. “I feel an awfully queer all-gone sort of feeling, but I can’t say I’m hungry.”
“My head is funny,” said Una. “It goes round and round sometimes.”
But she went gamely to church with the others. If Mr. Meredith had not been so wholly wrapped up in and carried away with his subject he might have noticed the pale little face and hollow eyes in the manse pew beneath. But he noticed nothing and his sermon was something longer than usual. Then, just before be gave out the final hymn, Una Meredith tumbled off the seat of the manse pew and lay in a dead faint on the floor.
Mrs. Elder Clow was the first to reach her. She caught the thin little body from the arms of white-faced, terrified Faith and carried it into the vestry. Mr. Meredith forgot the hymn and everything else and rushed madly after her. The congregation dismissed itself as best it could.
“Oh, Mrs. Clow,” gasped Faith, “is Una dead? Have we killed her?”
“What is the matter with my child?” demanded the pale father.
“She has just fainted, I think,” said Mrs. Clow. “Oh, here’s the doctor, thank goodness.”
Gilbert did not find it a very easy thing to bring Una back to consciousness. He worked over her for a long time before her eyes opened. Then he carried her over to the manse, followed by Faith, sobbing hysterically in her relief.
“She is just hungry, you know—she didn’t eat a thing to-day— none of us did—we were all fasting.”
“Fasting!” said Mr. Meredith, and “Fasting?” said the doctor.
“Yes—to punish ourselves for singing Polly Wolly in the graveyard,” said Faith.
“My child, I don’t want you to punish yourselves for that,” said Mr. Meredith in distress. “I gave you your little scolding—and you were all penitent—and I forgave you.”
“Yes, but we had to be punished,” explained Faith. “It’s our rule—in our Good-Conduct Club, you know—if we do anything wrong, or anything that is likely to hurt father in the congregation, we HAVE to punish ourselves. We are bringing ourselves up, you know, because there is nobody to do it.”
Mr. Meredith groaned, but the doctor got up from Una’s side with an air of relief.
“Then this child simply fainted from lack of food and all she needs is a good square meal,” he said. “Mrs. Clow, will you be kind enough to see she gets it? And I think from Faith’s story that they all would be the better for something to eat, or we shall have more faintings.”