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Work: A Story of Experience

IV. Governess
DURING the next few weeks Christie learned the worth of many things which she had
valued very lightly until then. Health became a boon too precious to be trifled with; life
assumed a deeper significance when death's shadow fell upon its light, and she
discovered that dependence might be made endurable by the sympathy of unsuspected
friends.
Lucy waited upon her with a remorseful devotion which touched her very much and won
entire forgiveness for the past, long before it was repentantly implored. All her comrades
came with offers of help and affectionate regrets. Several whom she had most disliked
now earned her gratitude by the kindly thoughtfulness which filled her sick-room with
fruit and flowers, supplied carriages for the convalescent, and paid her doctor's bill
without her knowledge.
Thus Christie learned, like many another needy member of the gay profession, that
though often extravagant and jovial in their way of life, these men and women give as
freely as they spend, wear warm, true hearts under their motley, and make misfortune
only another link in the bond of good-fellowship which binds them loyally together.
Slowly Christie gathered her energies after weeks of suffering, and took up her life again,
grateful for the gift, and anxious to be more worthy of it. Looking back upon the past she
felt that she had made a mistake and lost more than she had gained in those three years.
Others might lead that life of alternate excitement and hard work unharmed, but she
could not. The very ardor and insight which gave power to the actress made that mimic
life unsatisfactory to the woman, for hers was an earnest nature that took fast hold of
whatever task she gave herself to do, and lived in it heartily while duty made it right, or
novelty lent it charms. But when she saw the error of a step, the emptiness of a belief,
with a like earnestness she tried to retrieve the one and to replace the other with a better
substitute.
In the silence of wakeful nights and the solitude of quiet days, she took counsel with her
better self, condemned the reckless spirit which had possessed her, and came at last to the
decision which conscience prompted and much thought confirmed.
"The stage is not the place for me," she said. "I have no genius to glorify the drudgery,
keep me from temptation, and repay me for any sacrifice I make. Other women can lead
this life safely and happily: I cannot, and I must not go back to it, because, with all my
past experience, and in spite of all my present good resolutions, I should do no better, and
I might do worse. I'm not wise enough to keep steady there; I must return to the old ways,
dull but safe, and plod along till I find my real place and work."
Great was the surprise of Lucy and her mother when Christie told her resolution, adding,
in a whisper, to the girl, "I leave the field clear for you, dear, and will dance at your
wedding with all my heart when St. George asks you to play the 'Honeymoon' with him,
as I'm sure he will before long."
 
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