XXIV. A Charitable Impulse
For a fortnight things ran smoothly in the Good-Conduct Club. It seemed to work
admirably. Not once was Jem Blythe called in as umpire. Not once did any of the
manse children set the Glen gossips by the ears. As for their minor peccadilloes
at home, they kept sharp tabs on each other and gamely underwent their self-
imposed punishment--generally a voluntary absence from some gay Friday night
frolic in Rainbow Valley, or a sojourn in bed on some spring evening when all
young bones ached to be out and away. Faith, for whispering in Sunday School,
condemned herself to pass a whole day without speaking a single word, unless it
was absolutely necessary, and accomplished it. It was rather unfortunate that Mr.
Baker from over-harbour should have chosen that evening for calling at the
manse, and that Faith should have happened to go to the door. Not one word did
she reply to his genial greeting, but went silently away to call her father briefly.
Mr. Baker was slightly offended and told his wife when he went home that that
the biggest Meredith girl seemed a very shy, sulky little thing, without manners
enough to speak when she was spoken to. But nothing worse came of it, and
generally their penances did no harm to themselves or anybody else. All of them
were beginning to feel quite cocksure that after all, it was a very easy matter to
bring yourself up.
"I guess people will soon see that we can behave ourselves properly as well as
anybody," said Faith jubilantly. "It isn't hard when we put our minds to it."
She and Una were sitting on the Pollock tombstone. It had been a cold, raw, wet
day of spring storm and Rainbow Valley was out of the question for girls, though
the manse and the Ingleside boys were down there fishing. The rain had held up,
but the east wind blew mercilessly in from the sea, cutting to bone and marrow.
Spring was late in spite of its early promise, and there was even yet a hard drift
of old snow and ice in the northern corner of the graveyard. Lida Marsh, who had
come up to bring the manse a mess of herring, slipped in through the gate
shivering. She belonged to the fishing village at the harbour mouth and her father
had, for thirty years, made a practice of sending a mess from his first spring
catch to the manse. He never darkened a church door; he was a hard drinker
and a reckless man, but as long as he sent those herring up to the manse every
spring, as his father had done before him, he felt comfortably sure that his
account with the Powers That Govern was squared for the year. He would not
have expected a good mackerel catch if he had not so sent the first fruits of the
Lida was a mite of ten and looked younger, because she was such a small,
wizened little creature. To-night, as she sidled boldly enough up to the manse
girls, she looked as if she had never been warm since she was born. Her face
was purple and her pale-blue, bold little eyes were red and watery. She wore a
tattered print dress and a ragged woollen comforter, tied across her thin
shoulders and under her arms. She had walked the three miles from the harbour
mouth barefooted, over a road where there was still snow and slush and mud.
Her feet and legs were as purple as her face. But Lida did not mind this much.