Page:Out of due time, Ward, 1906.djvu/24

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14
OUT OF DUE TIME.

nerves. He preached very well, we girls thought. Mother did not agree. He read immensely, he wrote for magazines, and he knew my one intellectual acquaintance, Mr. George Sutcliffe. This was a pleasant change after old Mr. Thompson, who had nothing newer in his library than The Life of Milner and Lingard's History, books which I therefore never appreciated until late in life. Father Colnes belonged to the generation of secular priests who began to be called Father instead of Mr., thus abolishing the old distinction between secular clergy and those belonging to religious orders. I see now that he regarded Mary and myself as being most unkindly buried by my mother. He jumped to the conclusion that she was a dévote, who thought that her daughters could only reach another world safely by seeing nothing of this one. That he was very sensitive could easily be seen from a first glance at the pale, thin features and transparent eyelids and nostrils. His eyes were pale too, and his large mouth was weak. Some conditions of nerves sharpen the perceptions, and Father Colnes knew what people felt towards him almost as acutely as if he had been a dog. He saw that my mother did not like him, and I think, unconsciously, he returned the feeling.

It would be most unfair to Father Colnes to suppose him to have been in any way the cause of the troubled state of nerves I fell into, but his influence was not bracing. It is very delicate work to give wise sympathy to those who suffer negatively. It is much more simple to help those who are in pain, than to help those who simply lack joy. Somehow, after he had been talking with Mary and me, I used to feel stifled; nothing in my daily life was quite interesting.

"But why not finish your essay?" queried Mary one day after he had left us.

"What's the use? Father Colnes evidently thinks all my authorities old-fashioned. Besides, I've had no training."

"Then do go on with the story; I'm sure that's very good."