"What! with all that fever?" exclaimed Dr. Stanley, aghast.
"Well, that was the queerest thing about it," said Mrs. Seabrook, in a tone of perplexity; "there wasn't a sign of fever about her and the swelling of her throat was all gone. But for looking a trifle pale and hollow-eyed, she seemed nearly as well as ever. She would not talk of herself, though; she just evaded our questions—Miss Williams was with me—but ran on about Dorothy and school matters in general, as lively as a cricket. Now, putting this and that together, I am inclined to think that Miss Minturn had something to do with this wonderful change. What do you think?" she concluded, turning to her brother with an eager look.
"I would not be at all surprised if she had," Dr. Stanley gravely observed.
"You 'would not be at all surprised'! Then, Phillip, you do believe in Christian Science healing, after all!" exclaimed his sister, almost breathlessly.
"No, I do not 'believe' in it, and yet I know that strange, even marvelous, things are done in its name," Phillip Stanley replied. "Has Will never told you that I suggested we try it before having Dorrie submit to an operation?" he added, after a moment of thought.
"No, he has never mentioned the subject to me."
"Well, I did," and then the young man proceeded to relate the incident that had occurred on the Ivernia during his return passage and his subsequent conversation with his brother-in-law.
"While I have no faith in it as a 'demonstrable science,'" he continued, "and while there is much that, to me, seems absurdly inconsistent in what they teach, I am not so egotistical and obstinate as to utterly repudiate, with a supercilious wave of the hand, any method of healing that could do what I know was done for that suffering child last fall. And, my dear sister, I am sure I do not need to tell you that I would be willing to yield everything—go to any legitimate length to save our Dorrie from a trying ordeal, which, after all, might not bring the result we hope for. It is a question that remains to be proved, you know," he concluded, gently.
"Do not think for a moment," he presently resumed, "that I believe Christian Science could cure her; at the same time I would not object to giving it a trial—making a test—to see if it would relieve her present suffering."
"Why not test it upon yourself, Phil?" his sister abruptly demanded.
The man started, then flushed.
"You refer to my imperfect sight?"
"Yes, of course; you need it for nothing else."
"Pshaw! Emelie; there is nothing that can mend a dislocated optic nerve," returned the physician, with an impatient shrug.
They walked on some distance farther, both intent upon the subject which they had been discussing.
"Well, Phillip, I am going to ask Will to try what it will do for Dorothy," Mrs. Seabrook at length asserted, in a resolute tone. "Of course, if it is only mental treatment, it cannot do the child any harm, even if it does her no good."
"I hope you may succeed, dear, in winning his consent," her brother returned. "He was rather short with me about it, and I could see that, for some reason, he was quite stirred up over the subject."
"I think it would be unreasonable to refuse to make a trial of it, after we have spent years fruitlessly testing other things," was the somewhat sharp reply. Then she added, as she turned her face towards home: "I think I will have to go back now, Phil. I have been out nearly an hour, and I must not impose upon Miss Minturn. This walk and talk have done me good, though. I feel both cheered and refreshed."
They walked briskly back to the seminary, chatting socially on various topics, and Dr. Stanley was glad to see a healthful glow upon his companion's cheeks and a brighter look in her eyes by the time they entered the building.
They found Katherine reading the ninety-first psalm to Dorothy, who was lying restfully among her pillows, with a look of peace in her eyes that was like balm to the mother's aching heart.
The moment Phillip Stanley caught sight of Katherine he settled his chin with a resolute air, a sudden purpose taking form in his thought.
"Emelie," he said, in his sister's ear, "will you manage so that I can have a few minutes' conversation with Miss Minturn?"
She nodded, giving him a bright look, then went forward to Dorothy's side, while Dr. Stanley turned to greet Katherine, who had risen upon their appearance.
DR. STANLEY ASKS SOME QUESTIONS.
"We meet occasionally, Miss Minturn," Dr. Stanley observed in a genial tone, as he cordially extended his hand to her. "I hope everything is progressing satisfactorily in the junior class."
"As far as I know, all is well," she returned, her scarlet lips parting in a smile that just showed the tips of her white teeth, though she flushed slightly under her companion's glance. "I can speak with authority for only one, however. I am compelled to work pretty diligently; but I rather enjoy that."
"I am sure you do. I recall a fluent reading from Horace, which I inadvertently interrupted on the Ivernia, last fall, and which must have required earnest application; and I also remember that that same student could not be tempted from her task until the lesson was done," the gentleman rejoined, jocosely. Then turning to Dorothy, he inquired:
"And how does my small niece find herself this afternoon?"
"Miss Minturn, I have enjoyed my walk more than I can tell you," said Mrs. Seabrook, as she removed her hat and wrap, but wondering at the unaccustomed crimson in the girl's cheeks. "And now," she added, "if you have time I would like to show you a portfolio of engravings which Prof. Seabrook received last week from an old classmate who is now abroad."
Katherine could never resist fine pictures, and followed her hostess into an adjoining room, where the portfolio was placed upon a table, and she was invited to inspect its contents at her leisure, Mrs. Seabrook excusing herself to prepare some nourishment for Dorothy.
Katherine found many of the engravings to be copies of paintings by some of the great masters, and which she had seen, in various galleries, the previous summer. They were very finely executed, and she became so absorbed in them that she was unconscious of the presence of anyone until Dr. Stanley's smooth, cultured tones fell upon her startled ears.
"That is a beautiful thing, Miss Minturn," he observed, bending nearer to look more closely at a copy of a section of the 'Creation' as painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican at Rome. "The foreshortening and perspective there is wonderful! Michael Angelo was the master of them all! Of course, you have seen many of the wonders of that great storehouse of art?"
"Yes; mamma and I spent a great deal of time in the Vatican. What a treasure vault it is!" Katherine replied, and then, as she turned other pictures to view, they fell to talking of scenes familiar to them both.
At length she came upon a reproduction of the healing of the lame man by Peter, at the "Gate Beautiful" of the Temple in Jerusalem.
It was full of strength and life, as well as of touches of beauty and pathos, and the girl's face lighted with keen appreciation as she saw it.
"That is a queer story," Dr. Stanley observed, and eagerly seizing the opportunity for which he had been waiting.
"Queer?" repeated Katherine, inquiringly.
"Yes; it seems so to me. Do you believe that man—Peter, I believe, was his name—performed that cure instantaneously, as related?"
"No; but God did, working through him," said Katherine.
"You firmly believe that such an incident really occurred?"
"I certainly do."
"And you just as firmly believe that such healing can be done now?"
The girl lifted a quick, searching look to her companion, half expecting to see the skeptical curl, which she so well remembered, wreathing his mobile lips.
But, instead, she found herself looking into a pair of grave, earnest blue eyes, and there was no sign of levity or derision in the fine face.
"Yes, it has been done many times during the last thirty years," she quietly replied.
"Do you speak from actual knowledge or only from hearsay?"
"Both. I know of two cases, and my mother could tell you of several others."
"Do you believe that Dorothy could be healed? made straight and well?"
"Oh, Dr. Stanley!" Katherine breathed, with luminous eyes. "Yes, indeed! yes. Will they try the Science for her? Oh! how I have yearned to have that dear child made whole!"
Her face was so radiant with hope, yet so softly tender and so beautiful, the physician was deeply moved.
"I cannot say as to that," he replied. "But will you tell me, Miss Minturn, what, in your method, heals the sick?"
"God—the power that created the universe and holds it in His grasp, who 'spake and it was done.'"
"Ah! but that is so vague, so intangible, I cannot comprehend your meaning," said the man, with an impatient shrug of his broad shoulders. "I do not doubt the existence of God," he continued, "nor His omnipotence, for I believe that the Creator must have all power over His own creation. But how—how can suffering humanity avail itself of that power? If I could grasp that—if I were sure it could be done by a really scientific process, I would never again prescribe a drug or touch a surgical instrument."
He spoke with evident emotion, almost passionately, for they could hear Dorothy sobbing, from the returning pain, in the other room, and, with all his learning and experience, the man had a heart- sickening sense of discouragement in view of his own and others' helplessness to cope with that demon of torture which was surely destroying his niece and, indirectly, wearing to a shadow his only sister.
"You say you believe in God—that you do not doubt His power; but is that statement of your attitude quite true, Dr. Stanley?" Katherine gently inquired. "If you really believed it, if all who claim that they have faith in an omnipotent God really believed it, would you or they ever assume that drugs or surgical instruments were needed to assist God to do His work?"
"Jove! that is an argument that has never occurred to me before!" Phillip Stanley exclaimed. "But," he went on, doubtfully, "the curse came, and man was driven to do something to mitigate it; and it has been conceded, all down the ages, that these same doctors and material remedies are agencies that were required and provided by an all-wise Providence for that purpose."
"Yes, man, in his arrogance, has claimed that, and so has practically denied the omnipotence of God. But this same God has said, over and over, 'Whatsoever ye ask ye shall receive,' and 'Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.' But he has never said, 'Ask to be healed of disease and I will send you doctors, to experiment with drugs, roots and herbs, and mechanical appliances;' or, 'if ye are worn out with care and heavy-laden with suffering they shall build you costly sanitariums, wherein to rest and be treated.' But only the rich or a favored few may avail themselves of these. If these remedies or retreats were infallible and could reach all mankind, there might be some plausibility in such arguments; but such is not the case, as you must know. Where, in God's Word, which is conceded to be the guide for humanity, do you find authority for them?" Katherine inquired, in conclusion.
"You have me there, Miss Minturn," rejoined her companion, with a quizzical smile; "honesty compels me to confess that I have not been much of a Bible student, at least of late years. But allow me to say that your arguments against doctors, drugs and hospitals are very quaint, not to say convincing," he added, with an amused laugh.
"Well, let me assure you that you cannot find an instance, from Genesis to Revelation, where God commands man to call upon physicians, or to use material remedies for sickness any more than for sin," Katherine continued, earnestly. "But we do find many injunctions to depend upon Him alone in such extremity. In Deuteronomy we read, 'And the Lord will take away from thee all sickness.' Again, we are told what the penalty is for not calling upon Him—'Asa died because he sought the physicians and not unto God.' David tells us, 'It is God who healeth all our diseases,' and there are many more passages I could quote to prove the point."
"But why, if that is the only right way, has not God made it so plain that no one could go astray?" questioned Dr. Stanley.
"He has made it plain, and man would not go astray if he were obedient; but, in his arrogance and egotism, he has ignored God and 'sought out many inventions' [Footnote: Eccles., 7.29.] to rob Him of His prerogative," said Katherine.
"Well, to go back still farther, why has God permitted such evils and untold misery to exist in the world?" thoughtfully inquired the gentleman.
"He has not 'permitted' it," the girl positively declared.
"Isn't that rather a bold assertion, if God is omnipotent?" Phillip Stanley demanded, in surprise.
"No; for He asserts that He looks on evil with 'no degree of allowance.' For instance, you are supposed to be supreme in the sick room, your word law; but if your patient ignores your directions and remedies and substitutes others in place of them, you are not 'permitting' such willful disobedience. But the patient suffers for it none the less, and you are in no way responsible for his condition. So mortals, in their presumption and perverseness, have become idolaters, have set up false gods or devices to rob God of His power. Take another illustration: Truth and honesty are supreme in their realm, but there are people who prefer to lie when truth would serve them better, and who would rather steal than get an honest living. But truth and honesty do not permit—are not responsible for such perversion. Until the liar and the thief turn to truth and honesty, to reclaim them, they will suffer from the results of their sins; they cannot substitute anything else."
"I see your point, Miss Minturn, and you have given me something to think of. You argue, too, like a veritable doctor of divinity," said Dr. Stanley, with a smile.
"Oh! no, I do not," retorted Katherine, with a roguish gleam in her brown eyes; "for, let your doctor of divinity get sick and he will argue for material remedies every time."
"That is true, and my intellect, my education and experience prompt me to reason from the same standpoint," was the grave response. "My professional pride also cries out 'Absurd! Impossible! Impractical!' But I dearly love that little girl in there," and the man's voice grew gentle as a woman's and trembled in spite of his manhood, as he glanced towards the adjoining room. "I love my sister, whose life is a mental and physical martyrdom, and I would sacrifice all I have—yea, even professional authority and pride—to bring health and happiness to them. There is one thing left to try for Dorothy, to relieve that pain—only one; but my heart shrinks, revolts from it. That is why I have sought this conversation with you, Miss Minturn, hoping to get a little insight regarding your methods; and, while I do not grasp the so- called 'science' of it at all, I am impressed that you Scientists have something that we physicians have not. But I marvel at your profound thought upon such a subject at your age."
"You would not marvel at my ability to elucidate a difficult problem in trigonometry?" said Katherine, smiling.
"No, for that would be a natural outgrowth of your education."
"Yes, and the same argument holds good regarding what we have been talking of," was the quick response. "I have been taught it from my youth up, and although I know but very little of Christian Science, for it is infinite, yet what I have learned I know just as clearly as I know certain statements in the 'History of the United States'; yes, far more clearly," she interposed, with a little laugh, "for I am obliged to take the historian's account for granted, in part, while I can demonstrate, prove Christian Science for myself."
Dr. Stanley's shapely brows were arched ever so slightly at this assertion.
"Have you ever done any healing, Miss Minturn?" he inquired. "Have you ever cured anyone of a severe illness?"
Katharine flushed under his glance and question.
"A person cannot be said to know very much about mathematics unless he is able to demonstrate mathematical problems," she observed, after a moment of hesitation.
"I see; you mean that anyone who acquires the principles of Christian Science can demonstrate it by healing the sick?"
"Yes. It is the Christ-science, or the Science of Christianity, as demonstrated and taught by Jesus, who said, 'The works that I do shall ye do also if ye believe in Me.' So anyone who conscientiously investigates it, from an honest desire to know the Truth, will grow into the practice of it."
"Miss Minturn, do you believe that you could help Dorothy?" earnestly inquired Phillip Stanley.
"I know that she could be helped under right conditions; and I wish—I feel sure that my mother's understanding is sufficient to meet the case," she thoughtfully returned.
"'Under right conditions,' what do you mean by that?"
"Dorothy would have to be willing to be treated, and the consent of Prof. and Mrs. Seabrook would also be necessary."
"Then nothing could be done for her by your method except under those conditions?" and Dr. Stanley's tone conveyed a sense of disappointment.
"No; it would not be right—it would be interfering where one would have no authority to intrude."
"But it would be doing good; that is always justifiable, is it not? even if the child could be given but one night's peaceful rest to prove its efficacy."
"Some physicians believe in hypnotism; do you?" Katherine inquired, with apparent irrelevancy.
"Well, under certain circumstances, it might be employed to advantage, but, as a rule, I am opposed to it."
"We utterly repudiate it as a very dangerous and demoralizing practice; but, Dr. Stanley, would you think it right, under any circumstances, for a person to hypnotize you without your consent?"
"Indeed I would not; it would be a dastardly act," emphatically declared the physician.
"On the same principle, Christian Scientists feel that they have no right to treat, or try to influence anyone mentally, even to do good, without permission," Katherine explained, as she arose, thinking, perhaps, enough had been said on the subject.
"Just one moment, please, Miss Minturn," said the gentleman, detaining her. "There is one thing more I would like to speak of. Will you kindly look me directly in the eyes?" Somewhat surprised, Katherine turned her glance upon his and looked searchingly into those fine eyes so deeply blue, but flushing as she did so.
"Can you detect any difference in them?" he questioned.
"No, I cannot," she said, and knowing now why he had asked it, for she remembered what Miss Reynolds had told her.
"Well, there is," he affirmed, "for I am blind in my left eye, although scarcely anyone would observe it; at least I can only discern light from darkness. It was caused by an accident when I was a child. Do you believe, Miss Minturn, that normal sight could be restored to that eye?"
"I know that it could," Katherine began.
"Yes, of course, you know that God has power to restore it," her companion interposed; "but do you believe any practitioner would take my case and encourage me to hope for such a result?"
"Assuredly," said the girl, with unwavering confidence.
"Truly, your faith is unbounded," Phillip Stanley observed, with a smile in which there was a glimmer of skepticism. "I wish it could find an echo in my own heart, for I would give a great deal for so priceless a boon. But where do your practitioners go to learn their method?"
"To our text-book, 'Science and Health.' It—"
"That little leather-covered book I used to see you reading on shipboard?"
"Yes; it contains the whole of Christian Science, and, Dr. Stanley"—with a significant nod—"he who will may read."
"I understand"—with a responsive laugh—"one has to put forth individual effort in order to acquire valuable knowledge. Pray pardon me for detaining you so long, and possibly I may ask to talk with you further after I have consulted my sister and her husband. Really, Miss Minturn"—he interposed in a deprecatory tone and flushing with a sense of the incongruity of his position- -"I am afraid I am rather faithless, but something impels me to suggest that a trial be given the Science treatment before the adoption of severe measures. Good-afternoon, and thank you for your courtesy and patience."
He shook hands cordially with her, then bowed himself away.
PROF. SEABROOK'S ULTIMATUM—AND BROKEN RULES.
Dr. Stanley, after sitting a while with Dorothy, to watch the effect of a remedy given to relieve her suffering, went directly back to the city, wearing a very thoughtful face.
Upon reaching his office, and finding no one awaiting him, he picked up a book from his desk and went out again, directing his steps towards the public library.
Arriving there, he searched the catalogue and, at length, finding the title he desired, wrote the number on his card and presented his book to be exchanged.
When the wished-for volume was handed to him he opened the cover and glanced at the title page, reading therefrom, "Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker G. Eddy." A peculiar smile, in which there may have been a trace of self- contempt, wreathed his lips as he slipped it under his arm and then made his way from the building.
He stopped at a cafe near by and partook of a light meal, after which he returned to his office and read from his book as long as daylight lasted, without once laying it aside. Then, lighting a student lamp, he became absorbed again, reading on until the clock struck ten.
"There is much I do not understand! much I cannot grasp!" he exclaimed, a note of impatience in his voice, and the perplexing work was tossed somewhat irreverently upon the table. "It so radically reverses preconceived ideas and opinions; it seems so abstruse, vague and intangible, it irritates me. And yet, in the light of what Mrs. Minturn and her daughter have told me, I believe I have caught a glimpse, here and there, of the meaning of some of its statements. It is like trying to march through a tangled wilderness," he continued, as he picked up the book again and slowly slipped the leaves through his fingers; "but I'll read the thing through, now that I have begun it, though I have a suspicion that I shall only get deeper into an impenetrable thicket."
While Phillip Stanley was thus engaged, Mrs. Seabrook was earnestly discussing the same subject with her husband. She related to him her recent conversation with her brother, also her suspicions regarding what had so almost miraculously banished Miss Reynolds' severe malady, and repeated some things which she had overheard during her brother's interview with Katherine.
Prof. Seabrook, usually so considerate and tender in all his relations with his dear ones—such a gentle man in every sense of the word—sat listening with averted face and brow heavily overcast, his finely chiseled lips compressed into an obstinate, rigid line.
"William, do let us give it a trial; it certainly could do no harm, and it might give Dorrie some relief from the pain," pleaded his wife, but studying the unsympathetic face opposite her with mingled anxiety and surprise.
There was an awkward silence when she concluded; but at length her companion observed, in a repressed tone:
"Emelie, Phillip and I have already discussed this subject."
"I know; he has told me, Will; but I thought, perhaps, after you had given the matter more consideration, in view of these recent developments, you might think more favorably of it," Mrs. Seabrook eagerly interposed.
"But I do not think more favorably of it," was the cold response.
"But why? What possible objection can you have to giving the method a trial?" queried Mrs. Seabrook and flushing with momentary indignation at his intolerant attitude. "You have eagerly welcomed and tried everything that numerous physicians have suggested and which, after years of patient experimenting, have done absolutely no good. I cannot understand why you should be so obstinately opposed to what anyone can see, can do no possible harm, even if no permanent relief is derived from it."
"I am not so sure that 'no harm' would result from it," the professor observed, in an inflexible voice.
"I wish you would explain what you mean, Will, and not hold yourself so obscurely aloof from the subject," returned his wife, with unusual spirit and an unaccustomed spark in her mild eyes. "I am not a child, to be merely told that a thing is not good for me, and consequently cannot have it. If there is a good and sufficient reason why Dorothy shall not have Christian Science treatment, I would like to know what it is. For eight years I, as well as my child, have been a martyr in a chamber of torture, and my burden is growing heavier than I can bear."
Her lips quivered and her voice broke with those last words.
Her husband reached out his hand and laid it caressingly against her face, drawing her head down upon his shoulder.
"I know it, sweetheart," he said, with tremulous tenderness, "and my own heart rebels against it every day of my life. Perhaps I have seemed arrogant in my attitude toward what you have suggested. I feel so. I am utterly intolerant of Christian Science and will have nothing to do with it."
"But why, Will? You do not state any reason. Why do you condemn it without a trial—without investigation? You know nothing about it- —-"
"I know all I wish," the man interrupted, with curling lips. "I have never mentioned the fact, but I have read the Christian Science text-book and have found it to be a conglomeration of the most absurd statements, theories and contradictions it has ever been my lot to peruse. As a matter of principle, as a Christian, I abjure its teachings, for they are diametrically opposed to my religious views; and as a D.D. and a Ph.D. I feel that I should be subjecting myself to the rankest criticism and ridicule were I to give it countenance in any way whatsoever. I do not stand alone in my attitude, by any means, for the book has been discussed in our Philosophical Association, which, as you well know, is composed of some of the brightest men and most profound thinkers in the State; and it was utterly repudiated and denounced as fallacious and un- Christian in its teachings, and calculated to do inestimable harm. The idea of an obscure woman setting herself up as a reconstructor of the religious faiths of the world! It is simply the height of presumption and absurdity," he concluded, with considerable heat.
"But when you think of it, how much better it would be if there was only 'one Lord, one faith and one baptism' in the world, instead of hundreds. How is anyone to know which is the right one?" said Mrs. Seabrook, thoughtfully. "We claim to be Presbyterians, but we can offer no proof that our creed is better than any other, while the Christian Scientists claim that their healing proves their religion to be the Christianity taught by the Master."
"Yes, they claim a great deal; but they want to overturn altogether too much for me to accept it," dryly observed her husband.
"But they maintain that it is founded on the Bible."
"True; and that is wherein it is most harmful. It is the false teaching calculated to 'deceive the very elect.' Emelie, it irritates me to talk about it; let us drop it, please," and with a frowning brow the man arose and restlessly paced the floor.
"Then you will not consent to try the healing for Dorothy?" and there was a plaintive note in the weary mother's voice which smote painfully upon the husband's ears.
That ended the conversation, and with a heavy heart Mrs. Seabrook went back to her child to take up her accustomed night vigil, but with a secret sense of injustice and rebellion such as she had seldom experienced.
That same evening, after supper, when Katherine went to her room she found Sadie dressing to go out.
The girl looked flushed and excited, a condition so at variance with her usual composure and languid manner that Katherine regarded her with surprise. She was also making a rather elaborate toilet, and she wondered where she could be going.
"Oh! honey," she exclaimed, as her chum appeared in the doorway, "don't you want to come with me?"
"Where? Is there a theater party on the tapis?" Katherine inquired, as she watched a labored effort to tie a coquettish bow at her throat.
"Oh! no; I have to go down to Madam Alberti's for my new hat. I want it for church to-morrow," Sadie explained. "I have permission, but can't go alone, you know. Annie Fletcher was going with me, but her brother has just come—so that's off."
"Why, yes; I'd like the walk," said Katherine, with animation. "But I supposed, from the 'fuss and feathers' you are putting on, that you were bound either for the theater or to make a fashionable call."
"Well—you know it doesn't get dark very early now, and one meets so many people on the street, especially on Saturday evening, one must look passable," Sadie returned, but the flush on her cheeks grew brighter while she spoke.
Katherine hastily donned her hat, and, taking a light wrap on her arm, signified her readiness to accompany her.
On their way downstairs Miss Minot stopped at Miss Williams' door.
"I've got to tell her that Annie can't go, and I am taking you in her place," she said, as she rapped for admittance.
"Of course, Miss Minturn can go if she has no special duties," Miss Williams observed, when the matter was explained to her. "And," she added, archly, "I think the change is all for the best, for when I allow two mischief-loving girls, like you and Annie, to go off by themselves, I sometimes have rather more of a sense of responsibility than is comfortable."
"Now, Miss Williams, that is rather hard on Annie and me," drawled Sadie, while the quick color flew to her face again, "though I'm sure it's a right smart compliment to Katherine. But thank you all the same for permission, and—I reckon you'll feel perfectly 'com- fortable'—you'll not be afraid there's any mischief brewing now," she concluded, demurely.
"No, indeed; I know you are in excellent hands," smiled Miss Williams, and the two girls went on their way.
The walk "downtown" was delightful, for the evening was balmy and fragrant with unfolding flowers and foliage. Arriving at Madam Alberti's, they found her fashionable rooms filled with customers, and were obliged to wait sometime before Miss Minot could be served.
Then, when the hat was finally brought, there was something that did not quite suit her fastidious taste and had to be changed. By the time this was effected it had grown quite dark outside; but as they started out Sadie lingered by the door and looked up and down the street with an air of expectation, mingled with some anxiety, Katherine thought.
"Let us go into Neal's for a soda and some candy," Sadie at length proposed, and, as candy was also one of Katherine's weaknesses, they stepped into a confectioner's, next door, and made their purchases. While waiting for their change a young man, stylishly attired, approached Sadie and, lifting his hat, saluted her with much empressement.
Sadie smiled, blushed, and addressed him as "Mr. Willard," then introduced Katherine, who was beginning to understand some things that had puzzled her, and to feel quite uncomfortable.
They stood chatting together until their change was handed them, when they passed out of the store, Mr. Willard taking possession of Miss Minot's bandbox with an air of proprietorship which, to say the least, was suggestive.
When they reached the first corner Katherine halted.
"I suppose we will take a car, Sadie, it is getting so late," she quietly remarked.
"Oh, it is so fine, let us walk back," said the girl, appealingly.
Katherine was dismayed, particularly as Mr. Willard supplemented, affably:
"I hope you can be persuaded, Miss Minturn. It will give me great pleasure to see you safely home."
Katherine knew it would never do. It would be a rank violation of the rules, which explicitly stated that no young lady could receive attention from young men without permission direct from the principal, on penalty of expulsion.
"Thank you, Mr. Willard; but I think we will take a car," she courteously but decidedly replied.
"Oh, come now, Katharine, don't be disobliging," Sadie here interposed; "there can be no harm in our walking quietly back to the seminary together. Ned—er—Mr. Willard has met Prof. Seabrook, and it will be all right."
The slip which revealed Mr. Willard's first name, and also betrayed something of the intimacy which existed between the young couple, appalled Katherine, and confirmed her suspicions that the meeting had been previously planned, and drove her to radical measures.
She turned politely to the young man and observed:
"Mr. Willard, if we had Prof. Seabrook's permission, no doubt the walk would be very enjoyable; but since we have not, and the rules are explicit, I am sure you will appreciate our position and excuse us. There is our car. Will you kindly signal for us?"
Of course there was nothing for the gentleman to do but obey, which he did with an icy:
"Certainly, Miss Minturn, and pray pardon my intrusion."
They were obliged to wait a moment for some people to alight, and during the delay Katherine heard him say in an aside to her roommate:
"Next time, Sadie, don't bring a prude with you."
"Next time!" Katherine repeated to herself, with a, heart-bound of astonishment. These meetings, then, were of frequent occurrence, and there was no telling what regret and disgrace her friend was storing up. For herself, for it was only a question of time when she would be found out.
Of course, she could not talk the matter over with her on the car, but when they alighted and were entering the school grounds she felt she must speak a word of caution.
"Sadie, did you have an appointment to meet Mr. Willard to-night?" she inquired.
"Well, suppose I did!" was the defiant retort.
"If you did, you certainly had no right to draw me into anything of the kind," said Katherine, indignantly. "It was not an honorable thing to do."
"Well, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to give me away?" demanded the girl, tartly.
"I have no wish to tell tales of anyone," she replied; "but, truly, I do not like what I have heard and seen to-night. Sadie, I overheard what Mr. Willard said to you just as we were getting on the car."
"Lor'! Did you? Well, of course, he didn't like it; to have all our fun spoiled and—-"
"And it proved to me that you are in the habit of meeting him clandestinely," interposed Katherine, determined to sift the affair to the bottom.
"I'm sure I don't know what business you have to meddle," spiritedly began the girl, when Katherine checked her again by saying:
"You know, Sadie, that my only thought is to save you from getting into trouble," and she laid a gentle hand upon the arm of the angry girl.
"I reckon I made a mistake asking you to go with me," Sadie observed, in a calmer tone after a moment of silence, "but—but— Katherine, I might as well own up—I'm—engaged to Ned Willard."
"Engaged! Sadie! Where did you meet him? How long have you known him?" exclaimed Katherine, aghast.
"Oh, about three months. I met him the night Mrs. Bryant gave that theater party."
"Did Mrs. Bryant introduce him to you? Was he with her party?"
"N-o; but Nellie Nixon knew him and introduced us on our way out after the play."
"Does your guardian know of your engagement?"
"No. Ned thought it would be as well not to say anything about it at present," Sadie reluctantly admitted, but cringing visibly at the question.
"Dearest," said Katherine, fondly, "I feel that I have no right to 'meddle,' as you say, in your affairs, but I do not see how you can respect or trust a man who would draw you into a secret engagement and then endanger your reputation and standing in school by insisting upon clandestine meetings. If he possessed a fine sense of honor he would go to your guardian, frankly tell him of his regard for you, and ask his permission to address you openly. What is Mr. Willard's business, Sadie?"
"I—I don't know," the girl confessed, with embarrassment. Then bridling, added: "Well, but I don't care shucks about that. I have money enough for both—or shall have next year, when I am twenty- one."
"I am afraid he is of the same opinion," Katherine said, to herself; but, thinking it might be unwise to dwell upon that point, made no reply.
"You are not going to tell anyone, honey," Sadie pleaded, and pausing upon the steps before entering the building. "I think it will be downright mean if you do," she added, hotly, as she saw the troubled look on her chum's face.
"Sadie, I wouldn't for the world do anything for the sake of being 'mean'; but I am sure you are doing very wrong, and will deeply regret it some day," was the grave reply.
"If you give me away it will get me into an awful scrape."
"I know it; and my greatest concern is to save you from anything of the kind. Will you stop meeting Mr. Willard on the sly?"
"Oh, Katherine, and not see him at all!" exclaimed Sadie, in a voice of dismay.
"Dear, are you so fond of him?" queried Katherine, gently.
The girl flushed from neck to brow.
"Indeed—indeed, I am," she confessed, with downcast eyes.
"Well, then, if it has gone that far he should at least allow you to respect him!" said Katherine, a thrill of indignation vibrating in her tones. "Don't go on this way, Sadie," she pleaded; "write him that you cannot meet him again in any such way; but tell him, if he will make himself known to your guardian, and get his permission to call upon you, you will receive him here."
"If I will do that, will you promise not to say anything about to- night?" demanded the girl, eagerly.
"Yes," Katherine replied, after a moment of thought; at the same time she did not feel quite satisfied with the state of affairs.
"All right; I will write Ned to-morrow and tell him," Sadie returned, with a sigh of relief as they entered the building and passed on to their room.
Before going to rest, Katherine slipped away to see Miss Reynolds and ascertain if she could do anything for her before retiring.
She found her reading, but Miss Reynolds at once laid down her book and welcomed the girl with a bright smile.
"I am all right, Kathie, and I have been having a perfect feast," she said, touching the "Science and Health" in her lap.
They spent a few minutes in social chat, then she sent Katherine away, saying she must make up the sleep she had lost the night before, and our faithful little Scientist was glad, after her busy day, to seek her couch, where she was soon sleeping peacefully and knew no more until she awoke the next morning to find the bright May sunshine flooding her room, and told herself, with a sigh of content, that it was the Sabbath, and a whole restful day of truth and love before her.
She was made happy, on descending to breakfast, to find Miss Reynolds in her accustomed seat. They exchanged smiling glances, and, later, the teacher said, in a low tone:
"Come to my room this afternoon, Kathie, if you have nothing special to do; I have more questions for you."
Katherine said she would, and, as soon as the meal was over, hastened away to prepare for church.
It was a beautiful day, and she decided to walk instead of taking a car, as usual. She reached the hall just in season to slip into a seat before the opening hymn was given out.
When she arose with the congregation to sing, she glanced around to see if there was anyone near her whom she knew. Her astonishment may be imagined when her eye fell upon Jennie Wild, just across the aisle from her.
The girl had also espied her and nodded a smiling and half-defiant recognition, which Katherine gravely returned.
THE STORY OF A STRAY WAIF.
For a moment Katherine felt as if she were being made the target for the arrows of error from every quarter; for here was another lawless girl on her hands, and another infraction of rules which threatened to involve her in disagreeable complications.
But, after silently declaring that "evil could not make her its channel, either directly or indirectly," she resolutely put disturbing thoughts away, determined that her mind should not be distracted from the lesson.
She did observe, however, that Jennie paid the strictest attention throughout the service, joining in the Lord's Prayer, and in the hymns with a vigor which indicated thorough enjoyment of that portion of it.
The moment the benediction was pronounced she came directly to her and greeted her with a half-deprecatory air, but with a roguish gleam in her saucy eyes.
Katherine lingered a little to speak to some acquaintances, and also introduced her companion; then they passed out of the hall together.
"Did you have Prof. Seabrook's permission to come here this morning, Jennie?" Katherine inquired, when they were on the street, but feeling confident of receiving a negative reply.
Jennie took refuge in one of her comical grimaces and shrugged her plump shoulders.
"Ask me no questions and I will tell you no—stories," she laughingly rejoined.
"I am answered," Katherine gravely observed.
"I don't care. I wanted to come, and I knew it wouldn't do to ask the professor, after what he said to you about Christian Science," said the girl, in self-justification, but flushing consciously beneath the look of disapproval in her companion's eyes. "I think the service was just lovely," she went on, glibly. "How happy all those people seemed—as if there wasn't a thing in the world to trouble them. And that 'silent prayer'!—it just made me think of Elijah and the 'still small voice,' after the tempest and the earthquake. I was sorry when it was over."
"I am glad you enjoyed the services, Jennie. They are always very restful to me, and Sunday is my day to be marked with a 'white stone' for that reason," and there was a look of peace in the soft, brown eyes that assured Jennie of the truth of her words.
"Oh, I think Sunday is a bore, as a rule," she observed, with another shrug. "I'm always lonesome if I don't go to church, and, if I do, I never know 'where I am at'—as the Irishman put it— after listening to a long sermon. That was a queer idea, though, in the lesson to-day, about there being only one Mind in the universe. Where do you get your authority for that, Miss Minturn?"
"There is but one God, who is Spirit or Mind, and He is omnipresent," Katherine explained.
"What are you going to do with us, then? I mean your mind and mine?"
"This mortal mind is only a counterfeit—"
"A counterfeit of what?"
"Of the One Mind, or the divine intelligence. The same as gas and electric light are counterfeits of real light from the sun, or the one source of light; but, oh, dear! I am talking Science, Jennie, and Prof. Seabrook said I must not," said Katherine, cutting herself short.
"The idea of trying to bridle anyone's tongue, in any such way, in this free country!" cried Jennie, aggressively. "But that lady read from the Bible that there is 'nothing covered that shall not be revealed, neither hid that shall not be made known'; then the man read something about it being a law of God for truth to uncover error. Do you believe that, Miss Minturn?"
"Do you Scientists really know how to find out anything that is hidden or—or secret?" eagerly inquired the girl.
"I think I don't quite catch your meaning, Jennie."
"I'll tell you why I asked you that," she replied, an intense look in her dark eyes, her cheeks flushing crimson. "Perhaps you have heard something about me—that—that I am a kind of waif?"
"Yes, I have, dear," Katherine admitted.
"Well, it is true, and I'll tell you all about it," was the confidential rejoinder. "My aunt—she taught me to call her so, though she isn't related to me in any way—was traveling from Kansas City to Chicago, about sixteen years ago, and there was a terrible accident. Auntie was in a rear car and wasn't hurt in the least, but the first and second sleepers were completely wrecked. A good many people were killed, and others so badly injured they didn't live long. As soon as auntie could pull herself together she went out to see if she could help anybody, and she found me, a little tot only a year old, screaming in the gutter beside the track. She took me back into her car and looked me over, to see if I was injured; but, aside from a few bruises and scratches, I appeared to be all right, and, after a while, she quieted and soothed me to sleep. Then she went out again to try to learn to whom I belonged; but she could not get the slightest clew, and everyone said the person or persons I was with must have been among the killed. She advertised, and the railroad officials made every effort to find my friends for a long time; but nothing ever came of it. Auntie began to grow fond of me, and said she would never let me go until she had to give me up to my own folks. Of course, they have never been found, and so I grew up with her."
"But wasn't there anything about you by which you could be identified?" inquired Katherine, who had been deeply interested in the pathetic story.
"Nothing but a string of amber beads with a queer gold clasp, and with the initials 'A. A. to M. A. J.' engraved on the back of it. Now, do you think that Christian Science could solve such a riddle as that?" demanded the girl, in conclusion.
Katherine smiled faintly.
"There is nothing of clairvoyance in Christian Science, dear, and that is a hard question to explain to you," she said. "I mean difficult to answer so that you would clearly understand me. But it is sufficient for every human need, and very wonderful things have been demonstrated through the right comprehension of it. I know of men who govern their business by it, and who have solved some very perplexing problems. But I am talking again!" she exclaimed, and breaking off suddenly once more.
"Oh, if I could only find out who I am, I'd be a Christian Scientist, or—anything else!" cried Jennie, with tears in her eyes, but gritting her teeth to keep the drops from falling. "It is dreadful to feel yourself to be such an enigma! Think of it! to have your identity lost. I get awfully worked up over it sometimes. Auntie is a dear, and I love her with all my heart, for she has been an angel of goodness to me. She isn't very well off, but she wanted me to have a first-class education and be with nice girls; so, after talking with Prof. Seabrook, she said if I would be willing to work for a part of the expense she would try to make up the rest."
"How perfectly lovely of Miss Wild!" said Katherine, earnestly. "And you, too, Jennie, deserve great credit for your own efforts to get a good education. But—"
"I wonder if I may say it?" mused Katherine, doubtfully.
Jennie slipped her hand within Katherine's arm and gave it a fond little hug.
"Miss Minturn, I've loved you ever since the day you came to Hilton. You are a dear—you have been just as kind as you could be to me, and you may say anything you like," she impulsively returned.
"Thank you; that is giving me a good deal of license," was the laughing response; "but what I wanted to say was—make the getting of your education, instead of fun, your chief object, and don't spoil your record by breaking rules."
"As I have to-day, for instance?" supplemented Jennie, flushing.
"Yes, to-day, and—on some other occasions that I could mention."
The girl gave vent to a hearty, rollicking laugh.
"You manage to see considerable with those innocent eyes of yours," she said, after a moment. "But I don't get very much fun after all. With all my work and my studies there is precious little time left me for recreation, and, sometimes, I get so full I just have to kick over the traces. But—surely you don't think I could get any harm from your service to-day," she concluded, demurely.
"That is not the point, Miss Mischief, and you know it. Of course, there was nothing but good in the service for you, or anyone. But you didn't find anything in it—did you?—to countenance disobedience?"
"No," said Jennie, seriously; "and I suppose, too, that if any of the teachers or girls had seen me come away from the hall with you it might have given the impression that you had countenanced my going. But, Miss Minturn, I have wanted to get at the secret of— of your dearness, ever since you came here. But I promise you, though, I will not put you in jeopardy again by running away to your church."
Katherine nodded her approval at this assurance, then changed the subject, and they chatted pleasantly until they reached the seminary.
After dinner Katherine repaired, as she had been requested, to Miss Reynolds' room. She found her teacher sitting at her desk, her Bible and "Science and Health" open before her.
"You see, I cannot let the great subject alone," she said, welcoming the girl with a smile and glancing at her books. "Now that I have begun to get a glimpse of the truth, it is like a fountain of pure, cold water to a man perishing from thirst—I cannot get enough of it; I just want to immerse myself in it. And, see here," she added, touching a letter lying beside the books, "I have written to the publishing house in Boston for several of Mrs. Eddy's works. I want them for my very own."
"You are surely making progress," Katherine returned, with shining eyes.
She was very happy, for this eager, radiant woman seemed an entirely different being from the helpless sufferer to whom she had been called less than forty-eight hours previous.
"Sit down, Kathie," said her teacher, indicating a chair near her. "I hope I am making progress," she added, growing suddenly grave. "I find there is need enough of it, and I have been both on the mount and into the valley to-day."
"That is the experience of everyone," was the smiling reply, "but it all means progress just the same."
"I see that everyone who begins to get a glimpse of the truth, in Christian Science, must also begin to live it at once, if he is honest."
"Yes, we have to live it in order to prove it."
"And the first thing to do is, as Jesus commanded, to have one God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. That word 'love' has taken on a new meaning for me to-day, Kathie. It means an impersonal love, which, like the 'rain'—in Jesus' simile—'falls alike upon the just and the unjust.'"
Katherine lifted questioning eyes to the speaker, for her voice was now accusingly serious.
"And one cannot demonstrate the Love that is God," she went on, "unless he loves in that way—without regard to personality."
"That is true—how quickly you grasp these things!" said her companion.
"Ah! but I have grasped something, with this, that is not at all agreeable," said the woman, with a peculiar glitter in her eyes which the girl had never seen there before.
"How so? Pardon me, though, I should not have asked that," corrected Katherine, flushing.
"But I am going to tell you all the same," said Miss Reynolds. "Ten years ago my father died. He was supposed to be a rich man, but when his affairs were settled my mother and I were left with almost nothing. His partner represented that the firm was heavily involved, but said if we would sign our interest in the business over to him, for a certain amount, he would perhaps manage to pull through and save us the expense of having things adjusted by law. We were not at all satisfied with the state of affairs, but we were helpless, as we had no money to spend in litigation, and we were forced to accept his terms. He made over to us a small house on the outskirts of our town, together with a mere pittance, which barely served to support us until I secured a position as teacher. I have taken care of my mother and myself ever since. But that man and his family have never abated their style of living one whit, and are to-day rolling in luxury. There can be no doubt that we were robbed of a fortune, and yet there was no possible way of proving it. I have never been able to meet or even think of that man since, without smarting as under a lash, and with a feeling of resentment and a sense of personal injury that never fail to give me a sick headache, if I allow my thoughts to dwell upon him. That isn't love, Kathie."
"No," gravely; but the voice was also very tender.
"Everything is either 'for' or 'against' in Christian Science?"
"There is, I see, no middle ground; so, if one cannot think compassionately, even tenderly, of one's enemy one is guilty of— hate?" said Miss Reynolds, with quivering lips and averted eyes.
Again Katherine was silent; but her glance was very loving as it rested on her teacher's troubled face.
"Tell me how to get rid of these feelings, Kathie," she resumed, after a moment, "for they make me wretched at times. I find myself mentally going over the same ground, again and again, holding imaginary conversations with the man who has wronged me, arguing the case and bringing up evidence, as if it were being tried before a judge and jury. How would you conquer it in Science?"
"Every wrong thought we hold has to be reversed—"
"Oh! do you mean I must declare that that man is not dishonest— that he has not wronged me? That I have not been injured and do not resent that injury?" interposed the woman, looking up with flashing eyes, a scarlet spot burning on either cheek. "Child, you don't know what I have suffered. My father took that man into his business and gave him a start when he had not a dollar in the world, and it was such base ingratitude to rob his family and let them sink into poverty. Ah! the bitter tears I have shed over it!"
Then she suddenly relaxed and sank back in her chair with a deprecatory smile.
"Kathie, you did not suspect your teacher of having such a seething volcano concealed in her breast, did you?" she observed, sadly.
"What you have told me makes me think of a verse of 'The Mother's Evening Prayer,' in 'Miscellaneous Writings,'" [Footnote: By Mary Baker G. Eddy, page 389.] said Katherine, gently; and she repeated in a low tone:
"Oh! make me glad for every scalding tear, For hope deferred, ingratitude, disdain! Wait, and love more for every hate, and fear No ill, since God is good, and loss is gain."
"Say that again please, clear," pleaded Miss Reynolds, with a sudden catch in her breath; and Katherine went through it the second time.
"Ah! that shows how she has risen to the heights she has attained," said Miss Reynolds, in a reverent tone. "We are to be 'glad' for whatever drives us closer to God, to 'wait' and 'love' through all."
"And to know that every man is our brother—the perfect image and likeness of God, and we must not bind heavy burdens of sin and dishonesty upon him in resentful thought."
"Yes, I see; we have to 'blot it all out,'" said Miss Reynolds, wearily. "I caught something of that in my study to-day and that was what sent me down into the valley, for it seemed such an impossible thing to do. You could see what a strong grip it had on me in rehearsing it to you."
"All wrong thought brings the sting—the smart of the lash; but love—right thinking—brings the 'peace of God,'" said Katherine.
"Ah! it is a case of 'as ye sow ye shall also reap,'" said Miss Reynolds, drawing a long breath. "But, Kathie, do you think it will be possible for me to so reverse my thought about that man that I can grow to love him?"
"You do love him now; only error is trying to make you think that a dear brother is not worthy of your love," said the girl, softly.
"Oh, Katherine! we have to come under the rod, don't we?" and her voice almost broke.
"There is also the staff," was the low-voiced reply. "Truth, the rod, uncovers and smites the error; then Love, the staff, supports our faltering steps—'meets every human need.'" [Footnote: "Science and Health," page 494.]
Silence fell between them, during which both were deeply absorbed in thought, while the fire gradually faded from the elder woman's eyes and the scarlet from her cheeks.
At length she turned with an earnest look to her companion.
"Kathie," she said, in a clear, resolute tone, "I have put my 'hand to the plow,' and I am not going to 'look back.'"
"Then everything will come right," said the girl, with a brilliant smile, as she bent forward and kissed her on the lips.
A SOPHOMORE RACKET.
Monday evening, after study hours were over, again found Katherine in her teacher's room, for now that the woman had begun to get an understanding of the spiritual interpretation of the Scriptures her desire to know more was insatiable; while our young Scientist was only too glad to lend her what help she could along the way.
They went over the Sunday lesson together, and afterward fell to talking upon certain points that had especially attracted their attention, becoming so absorbed that they took no account of time until the clock struck the half hour after eleven.
"Why!" Katherine exclaimed, and starting to her feet, "if you were not a teacher I should be guilty of flagrant disobedience in being out of my room at this hour."
"Dear child, I have been very thoughtless to keep you so long," said Miss Reynolds, regretfully, "but I certainly had no idea of time. And what is time, anyway? I begin to realize that it is only a mortal invention, and that we are living in eternity now. But I must not begin on this infinite subject again to-night; go! go!" She laughingly waved the girl away, and she slipped noiselessly out into the hall to seek her own room.
Miss Reynolds was located on the second floor of the east wing, and Katherine roomed in the west wing, consequently she was obliged to go down a flight of stairs, cross the main or central hall, and up another flight to gain her own quarters.
The lights were all out, but the moon was full, coming in through the windows with a soft radiance, and thus she had no difficulty in finding her way.
She had crossed the main hall, and just entered a short passage leading to the west wing, when she came suddenly upon some one, who appeared to be trying to shrink out of sight into a corner.
"Why, who is it?" she cried, in a repressed but startled tone.
"Sh! sh! keep mum!" was the warning response as the figure drew near her.
"Jennie!" Katherine whispered, amazed, "what are you doing here at this unearthly hour of the night?"
"Hush! don't give me away for the world," said the girl, laying a nervous hand upon her arm. "There's something going on in yonder— it's the fun I told you about a while ago. I'm not in the plot, but I'm bound to be in at the finish, for it's going to be a hot time, I can tell you."
"Really, dear, you are better out of it altogether," Katherine gravely returned. "You know what we were talking of yesterday, about breaking rules and spoiling one's record."
"Aren't you breaking rules, too?" retorted Jennie, aggressively.
"No; I have just come from Miss Reynolds' room."
"Well, I'm going to see this through, now I've started in. I've had to pinch and pound myself for the last two hours, though, to keep awake, and I'm not going to miss the 'racket' after all that bother," declared the girl, clinging tenaciously to her purpose.
"Hark!" she added, a moment later, in a startled whisper, as a titter of irrepressible mirth was borne to their ears from somewhere beyond them.
It seemed to proceed from the landing at the head of the stairs which led to the second story, but was quickly suppressed and all was still again.
"Well," said Katharine, after listening a. moment, "I must go on to my room, and my advice to you, Jennie, is to return at once to yours. Good-night," and, leaving the willful "racket"-lover to her fate, she stole softly away.
She paused at the foot of the stairs to listen again, when the swish of garments fell on her ear, then a voice, which she immediately recognized, whispered:
"Be sure you tie your end tight, Carrie."
Katherine moved lightly up a step or two and heard the answer:
"I have; now, Rose, scud up to the next floor and give the signal, while I go for my cymbals," and a smothered laugh followed.
Again there was a rustle of garments and the soft slipping of unshod feet over the upper flight of stairs, while Katherine as noiselessly sped over the lower one.
On reaching the landing she looked about her to ascertain, if possible, what mischief was brewing.
The hall was very dimly lighted by a window at each end, and, as the moon had not yet got around to that quarter, it was almost impossible to discern anything; but, lower down the hall, she thought she could detect two lines, stretched across from opposite doors, about three feet from the floor.
Not wishing to get involved in the prospective mischief, and as her room was just at the head of the stairs, she softly turned the handle of the door and slipped inside.
Scarcely a minute elapsed after she had closed and locked it, when there came a deafening crash and bang, mingled with the blowing of whistles, horns and combs, that seemed sufficient to awaken the "Seven Sleepers" in their cavern of refuge.
"Oh, heavens! Whatever is the matter?" screamed Sadie, starting up in affright. "Are you there, Katharine?"
"What was that noise? Did you hear it?"
"Indeed I did."
They listened for a moment or two, but there was no sound.
Then it seemed as if some commotion had arisen somewhere, and a medley of muffled voices was borne to their ears.
Presently steps were heard on the stairs, whereupon Sadie sprang out of bed, slipped on a wrapper, and, opening her door a crack, saw the watchman with his lantern just mounting into view.
Then the voice of one of the teachers—Miss Clark—rang out excitedly, while she vainly tugged at her door which had been connected with the one opposite by a piece of clothesline:
"Young ladies, what is the meaning of this outrage? Release me immediately."
"Ye'll just hev to wait a minute, marm," said the watchman, with an audible chuckle of amusement as he comprehended the situation, while he put down his lantern and plunged his hand into various pockets in search of his knife.
Looking farther down the hall, Sadie saw that Miss Williams had been imprisoned in the same manner, while a promiscuous assortment of tin pans, covers and plates lay in a heap upon the floor, and telling their own story regarding the recent crash.
There was not a person, save the watchman, in sight.
But, presently, doors were cautiously opened and tousled heads appeared in the apertures, while timid voices made inquiries as to what had happened.
The watchman—who had been making his rounds, as was his custom at midnight, hence his timely appearance upon the scene—soon had the indignant teachers released, and then went on to the next floor, where similar conditions prevailed.
On being given their liberty, Miss Clark and Miss Williams immediately bestirred themselves to ferret out the culprits; but, of course, everybody was innocent and as eager as themselves to ascertain "who could have been guilty of so daring an escapade at that hour of the night."
Poor Jennie, however, was destined to pay the penalty of her temerity.
A moment or two after Katherine left her, she had also stolen cautiously up the stairs, but on moving farther down the hall had run against one of the ropes.
Like a flash she comprehended something of the nature of the joke, and, hearing steps and smothered laughter above, turned back and slipped into a closet at the end of the hall, where she shrank into a corner and waited with eager ears and bated breath for the denouement.
When it came, however, she heartily wished she was anywhere else in the world; but there was nothing for her to do except to wait quietly in her place of concealment until the breeze blew over, when she hoped she could steal away, unobserved, to her room. If the watchman had not appeared upon the scene so opportunely, she would have made a break immediately after the crash; but, hearing his steps, she knew that her escape was cut off in that direction. She could not even mingle with the other girls, when they began to gather in the halls to "help investigate," and so find protection in numbers; for she belonged in the other wing, and her presence in the west wing would at once warrant the worst possible construction being put upon her appearance there.
So she shrank closer into her corner and stood motionless, hoping no one would think of looking there.
Vain hope, however, for Miss Williams, having closely questioned various ones without gaining any satisfaction, walked straight to the closet and opened the door, when the light from her candle flared directly upon Jennie's white, frightened face and shrinking figure.
"Ah! Miss Wild! so you are implicated in this disgraceful escapade!" the teacher sternly exclaimed, as she laid a forcible hand upon her arm and drew her from her hiding place. "What was your object and who were your accomplices? for, of course, you could not have carried it out alone," she concluded, sharply.
Miss Clark now joined them, while many of the students gathered around and regarded Jennie with blank and wondering faces.
"I—-I don't know-there wasn't—er—anybody," stammered Jennie, too confused and overcome with fright to speak connectedly.
"Don't tell me that! It is impossible that you could conceive such a plot and execute it without help, and I am going to sift it to the bottom," was Miss Williams' sharp retort; for she by no means relished being aroused at midnight by such a frightful bedlam, to find herself a prisoner in her room.
"Truly, Miss Williams, I wasn't in it at all," Jennie affirmed, with more coherence, and lifting an appealing look to the incensed woman.
"Miss Wild, don't add falsehood to your other offenses. What were you hiding here for, if you had nothing to do with it? But"— suddenly cutting herself short—"I think we will defer further investigation until to-morrow. Go to your room at once, and remain there until I come to you in the morning. Young ladies, retire— all of you—and those who, in any way, have participated in this affair, prepare to make open confession, for I assure you it will not be dropped until you do."
She waved them imperatively away, and they immediately vanished with cheerful alacrity from her austere presence, while Jennie also sped away without one backward glance.
Miss Williams then turned to the watchman and observed more calmly:
"Mr. Johnson, it seems we were all more frightened than hurt. My first impression was that there had been a terrific explosion, and the sensation of being fastened in one's room at such a time isn't at all agreeable. I am glad you were at hand to help and reassure us."
"Ye were in rather a ticklish box, mum; fur, by the powers! 'twur like a pan-dom-i-num let loose," replied the man, stooping to recover his lantern and to conceal a broad grin of appreciation, for it was well known he enjoyed a joke as well as anyone, even to the point of sometimes abetting the perpetrators. "But what'll we do wid all the truck?" he added, glancing at the pile of tinware on the floor.
"Oh, leave it where it is until morning, and the maids will take care of it," Miss Clark suggested; and then the teachers also repaired to their rooms, the watchman went his way, his broad shoulders shaking with silent laughter, and quiet settled down once more upon Hilton's ruffled west wing.
Katherine had remained in the background throughout the entire disturbance, quietly disrobing and getting ready for bed.
Sadie had been so frightened by the startling noises outside, she did not observe—the room being dark—or dream that her roommate was still up and dressed. She supposed that she had come in while she was sleeping and retired without waking her; thus Katherine escaped being questioned or obliged to make any explanations.
But she lay awake some time after the house had settled into stillness, trying to decide what steps she ought to take, knowing what she did about the matter.
She knew it would not be right to allow Jennie to suffer for what she was in no way responsible, even though she had broken rules in being out of her room at so late an hour. But what her duty was regarding reporting the leaders in the "racket," if they obstinately refrained from confessing their offense, she could not readily determine. She finally resolved that she would do her utmost to exonerate Jennie without incriminating anyone else, if possible.
She arose with the first stroke of the rising bell, performed her usual duties with what dispatch she could, and then sought Miss Williams shortly before the breakfast hour.
The teacher greeted her cordially, and inquired with a significant smile:
"Were you frightened nearly out of your senses, with the rest of us last night, Miss Minturn?"
"Oh, no; but perhaps I might have been if I had been asleep. I know something about the affair, Miss Williams, and I have come to talk it over with you," Katherine explained.
"Ah!" and the woman looked both astonished and interested.
"Jennie Wild told you the truth last night," she went on. "She had nothing whatever to do with the 'racket,' even though appearances point strongly the other way."
She then proceeded to tell all that she knew about the matter, but without revealing the names of the ringleaders.
"Well, this certainly does put an entirely different aspect upon the affair," Miss Williams observed, when she concluded. "I am more than glad, too, because my sympathies are with Miss Wild, in spite of her tendency to bubble over now and then. Circumstantial evidence is not always true evidence, is it?" she added, with a smile. "I was highly indignant with her last night, for I felt sure she was prominent in it—and she certainly was guilty of disobedience."
"Yes; her curiosity surely got the better of her judgment," Katherine assented.
"Well, could you identify those girls, whom you overheard in the hall?" Miss Williams now inquired.
Katherine flushed. She had been dreading this question.
"I did not see anyone," she returned with a faint smile, after a moment of hesitation.
"I see, my dear; you do not wish to 'tell tales,' and I appreciate your position," said her companion, with a wise nod that had nothing of disapproval in it. "Well"—after considering a moment— "we will say no more about it until Prof. Seabrook has been consulted. Jennie, however, will have reason to be grateful to you for helping her out of what, otherwise, might have proved a very awkward situation."
Miss Williams went at once to the girl and released her from the confinement she had imposed upon her the previous night. She explained how Miss Minturn had come to her rescue, and Jennie, who had for once been thoroughly frightened, vowed she would "never be caught in a scrape of any kind" during the remainder of her course.
Considerable excitement prevailed during the day, and the "midnight escapade" was the one topic of conversation whenever a group of girls came together; but it was not until study hours were over in the afternoon that any active measures to "investigate" the matter were instituted. Then Katherine was summoned to the principal's study, where she found the four teachers who had the west wing in charge, and Jennie, assembled.
Jennie was rigorously catechised, but had very little to tell. She had overheard something of a plot that promised considerable excitement and fun; she had also heard some one whisper, "Monday, at midnight," and her curiosity had been raised to the highest pitch, therefore she had been unable to resist being "in at the finish." She could not tell who were the leaders, for she had neither seen nor heard anyone, having slipped into the closet before the crash came. Being hard pressed, however, she admitted that she thought the sophomores were chiefly concerned in the "racket."
Katherine was then requested to relate all that she knew about it, whereupon she repeated what she had already told Miss Williams.
"You have corroborated what Miss Wild has stated, and have also exonerated her from any complicity in the affair," Prof. Seabrook observed, when she concluded. "I judge that it must have been confined entirely to the sophomore class. Now we must get down to individuals, if possible. Miss Minturn, did you recognize the voices of those two girls whom you overheard in the hall last night?"
"Truth compels me to say that I did," Katherine replied, a hot flush mounting to her brow.
"Their names, if you please," commanded the principal, briefly.
"I beg that you will excuse me from naming them," she pleaded.
"It is plainly your duty to expose them, Miss Minturn. The affair is of too serious a nature to allow sentiment to thwart discipline and the preservation of law and order," returned the gentleman, in an inflexible tone.
"Pardon me," she said, "but I cannot feel it my duty—at least until—"
"That is equivalent to saying that you will not comply with my request," interposed the professor, his eyes beginning to blaze in view of what he regarded as a defiant attitude.
"No, sir; I could not be so disrespectful," Katherine gently replied. "Please allow me to say that I would have taken no action whatever in the matter but for the sake of saving Miss Wild from being unjustly accused."
Jennie flashed her an adoring look as she said this.
"I just wanted to hug you!" she told her afterwards.
"Miss Wild is no doubt properly grateful; all the same you have no right to shield the guilty ones, and I shall hold you to your duty," inflexibly responded Prof. Seabrook.
Katherine saw that he was determined to make her name the culprits, and, for a moment, she was deeply distressed. Then her face suddenly cleared.
"May I suggest that it is the duty of the offenders to confess their own wrongdoing?" she questioned, in a respectful tone; adding: "It certainly is their right to have the opportunity given them, and I would prefer not to rob them of it; while it would release me from a very awkward position if they would do so."
"I think Miss Minturn is right, Prof. Seabrook," Miss Williams here remarked. "I am sure we can all understand how she feels about it, and we know that it would place her under the ban of the whole school if she were to expose the ringleaders without giving them the opportunity, as she says, to volunteer a confession."
Katherine shot a look of gratitude at the speaker, who nodded her sympathy in return.
An uncomfortable silence followed, during which the much-tried girl felt that her principal regarded her as obstinate as well as sentimental, and was more than half inclined not to yield his point, in spite of Miss Williams' espousal of her cause.
"Very well; let it rest here for the present," he at length curtly observed. "You are temporarily excused, Miss Minturn. But if the offenders do not promptly come forward, I shall expect you to tell all you know, later."
Katherine bowed and slipped quietly from the room, but with a choking sensation in her throat, a feeling of injustice pressing heavily upon her heart.
She paused in the hall a moment, after closing the door, trying to calm her perturbed thoughts, when these words from her dear "little book" came to her:
"Let Truth uncover and destroy error in God's own way, and let human justice wait on the divine." [Footnote: "Science and Health," page 542.]
Then she went on her way, at peace with herself and all the world.
After Katherine was dismissed, Jennie was sternly reprimanded for her infraction of rules, cautioned against future disobedience, a penalty imposed upon her, and then told she might go back to her duties.
She moved slowly to the door, stood there a moment irresolute, a thoughtful look on her young face; then deliberately turned and walked straight back to her principal.
"Prof. Seabrook," she began, "I have another confession to make to you, and I'm willing to take any punishment you may think I deserve. I do this because I want you to know the kind of girl Miss Minturn is, for—I think you do not half appreciate her. I've loved her from the first minute I saw her in this room with you, the day she came; she makes everybody love her, and I've often wondered if it is her Christian Science that helps her to be so— so dear and true. I've tried to make her tell me something about it, but she wouldn't—she always says you told her not to talk about it to the students. I asked her last week to let me go with her to her service on Sunday. But she said no, unless I would get permission from you. But—I did go," Jennie continued, growing scarlet to her brows, yet looking the man unflinchingly in the eyes. "I started out early and was there when she came into the hall, and walked home with her afterwards. She didn't spare me; she told me I had done wrong and read me a lecture about spoiling my record by breaking rules. I want you to know this, because some one may have seen us come out of the Christian Science hall together and might think she took me there; but she never breaks a rule, and she isn't a bit priggish about it, either. She tried her best to make me go back to my room before the 'racket' last night, and I just want you to know that she's true blue, through and through."
Jennie looked very spirited and pretty with her flushed cheeks and glowing eyes as she faced her principal, and, without flinching a hair, told her simple, straightforward story in the presence of the other teachers.
Prof. Seabrook was fond of the girl, for she possessed many lovable qualities and was very faithful in the performance of her duties. If he had been inclined to be severe, because of her other offense, his heart was very tender towards her now; for he fully appreciated her honesty and the moral courage she had manifested in taking this stand for Katherine.
He was uncomfortably conscious, too, that his own attitude towards Miss Minturn had not been quite considerate. He recognized her loveliness of character, her excellence in scholarship, her conscientious deportment; in fact, he had no fault whatever to find with her, except that she was a Christian Scientist, and the remembrance of this always stirred him, in the most unaccountable manner, whenever he came in contact with her.
He regarded Jennie thoughtfully for a moment after she concluded, then a gleam of amusement crept into his eyes and his lips twitched with repressed mirth, as he dryly observed:
"Well, Jennie, it seems that you are making quite a record for yourself by breaking rules. I hope there will be no occasion for further self-condemnation after this. You may go now."
The girl was glad to go, and was "scared stiff," as she affirmed afterward, when she came to think over what she had said. But her desire to have justice done Katherine had made her forget herself, for the time, in defending her.
Still, as was characteristic, her spirits quickly rebounded, and she flew away to find some of the sophs and reel off a graphic report of what had just occurred in the principal's study.
Consternation at once took possession of some of their number, for it was evident that, even though Prof. Seabrook and the teachers were ignorant of the names of the guilty ones, Miss Minturn had recognized the ringleaders, and so their supposed secret was out.
A private meeting of all concerned was immediately called, and the matter thoroughly discussed.
"So Miss Minturn claims it would 'rob us of our moral responsibility' if she should give us away!" remarked Rose Tuttle, a buxom girl of eighteen, with a roguish face and an independent air. "That's a novel way of looking at it—isn't it, girls?—and escaping the fate of a 'telltale,'" and the ringing laugh which completed these remarks was echoed by several others.
"Puts us in a tight box, though," said Carrie Archer, another merry sprite, as she gnawed the rubber on her pencil with a thoughtful air.
"All the same, I think Katherine Minturn is O. K., and I'm ready to make my best courtesy to her," gravely observed a girl who was sitting beside her.
"Well, I begin to think she is rather fine myself, in spite of her absurd Christian Science. But what are we going to do about this affair?" inquired Miss Tuttle, with an impatient shrug of her plump shoulders.
"Oh, let's fight it out," cried a shrill voice from a corner.
"That means let Miss Minturn fight it out," retorted Carrie Archer, spiritedly.
"Well, she's game—she won't tell, and it will all die out of itself, after a while."
"But that would leave a very uncomfortable sting behind—the sting of cowardice," said Rose Tuttle, with very red cheeks. "I tell you what, my dear fellow sophs," she went on, after an irresolute pause, "if Miss Minturn had given us away to-day every mother's daughter of us would have called her a 'spy' and a 'tattler.' But, although she knows exactly as well as you and I do"—a chuckle of mirth escaping her—"who tied those ropes to the doors, she has just faced the professor and those teachers and practically told them that she would not give us away."
"Why couldn't she have held her tongue altogether, then?" grumbled a discontented voice.
"Good gracious, Nell! knowing what she did she couldn't keep mum and let 'Wild Jen'—poor goosie! whose curiosity is always getting her into some scrape or other—bear the whole brunt of it," Miss Archer replied, with curling lips. "No, she has put us upon our honor, and if we don't do the square thing I think she'll have a right to call us—sneaks."
"Carrie, you're hitting out pretty straight from the shoulder," cried her friend Rose, with a short laugh.
"Well, maybe; but I didn't miss myself in the trial of my muscle," was the dry rejoinder.
There was much more talk after the same order, the ayes and nays on the question of "open confession" being about equally divided; while all began to feel that there wasn't quite as much fun as they had anticipated to be gotten out of midnight escapades.
"Well, sophies, I'll tell you what I'm going to do," finally said Miss Archer, breaking in upon the hubbub of voices, a look of determination settling over her face, "but first I'll say what I'm not going to do: I'm never going to hear it said that I forced somebody else to stand in a gap that I hadn't the courage to fill. I'm not going to sneak out of sight behind another to save myself. I started this ball rolling and planned the details of the affair, and, now, I am going straight to Prof. Seabrook and tell him so and swallow the bitter pill he gives me with what grace I can. It won't be sugar-coated, either. I won't give anyone else away, so don't be afraid," she interposed in response to terrified exclamations and frightened faces. "I'll just do the square thing myself, and you know it is always the commanding officer who is held responsible for leading his subordinates astray."
Miss Archer was the daughter of an ex-colonel, which will account for her simile.
There was dead silence for a full minute after she ceased speaking, and the faces in that quiet room would have been an interesting study for a physiognomist.
Then Rose Tuttle sprang to her feet and held out her hand to her friend.
"I wonder who is 'game' now?" she cried, in a ringing voice.
Miss Archer's eyes flashed with sudden inspiration.
"Here! give me a pencil, somebody; I've broken the point off mine," she said, as she moved her chair to a table and drew a blank sheet of paper towards her.
Half a dozen were handed her, and, selecting one, she continued:
"This is going to be a voluntary surrender. I'm not going to wait to be summoned before my superior officer and 'given an opportunity.'"
She wrote rapidly for a few minutes, while her companions regarded her in curious silence.
"Hear now," she finally commanded, as she threw down her pencil, and, lifting her paper with an impressive flourish, read:
"TO THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF AT HILTON: News of certain matters, pending at headquarters, just received by scout. Wherefore this is to certify that the undersigned planned and led the attack on West Wing on the night of May the twentieth. In view of the demands of honor, of admiration for, and the sentence menacing the valiant party at present held as hostage, I hereby make confession, and unconditional surrender, together with all munitions of war, and also herewith beg absolution for subordinates.
"Signed. CAROLINE WEBSTER ARCHER, "Capt. Co. S, Hilton Volunteers, U. S. A."
"How will that do, my brave company of sophomores?" she cried, with laughing eyes, as she finished reading her effusion. "I'm afraid it isn't quite up to the mark in military technicalities, but, perhaps, it will answer our purpose."
"It isn't going to do at all, Carolina MIA," returned Rose Tuttle, with an emphatic nod of her head. "If you assume that you were the captain in the fracas, I certainly was first lieutenant, and I'm going to stand by the cap. until the last gun is fired. Give, me that paper."
It was passed to her, and in a clear, bold hand she wrote:
"The captain cannot be allowed to go to the front alone.
"Signed. ROSE ASHLEY TUTTLE, First Lieutenant Co. S, H. V., U. S. A."
There were grave faces all about her as she read what she had written and then pushed the paper from her.
Presently a voice remarked:
"Girls, good soldiers always follow their leader." Then another figure glided to the table and a third signature was appended to the document.
It was the "bugle call" that fired them all, and in less time than it takes to record it, the name of every other girl in the room was signed underneath, then inclosed in a bracket and the name "Private Co. S, H. V., U. S. A." written outside of it, after which the paper was passed back to Miss Archer.
"Company S, I'm proud of you!" she exclaimed, with crimson cheeks and something very like tears in her eyes.
"I—I hope the professor won't think it is too—too flippant," some one suggested, in a doubtful tone.
"Do you suppose he will, Carrie?" queried Rose, turning to her friend in sudden consternation.
Miss Archer flushed hotly.
"I—don't—know," she said, with a thoughtful pause between each word. "I am sure I did not mean it to sound so. The idea came to me to put it that way when I spoke of the 'commanding officer being held responsible.' I'll tear it up, if you say so, and go and tell him the whole story instead." And she held it up between the thumb and forefinger of both hands as if to suit the act to her words.