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Work: A Story of Experience HTML version

XIV. Which?
MR. POWER received Christie so hospitably that she felt at home at once, and took up
her new duties with the energy of one anxious to repay a favor. Her friend knew well the
saving power of work, and gave her plenty of it; but it was a sort that at once interested
and absorbed her, so that she had little time for dangerous thoughts or vain regrets. As he
once said, Mr. Power made her own troubles seem light by showing her others so terribly
real and great that she was ashamed to repine at her own lot.
Her gift of sympathy served her well, past experience gave her a quick eye to read the
truth in others, and the earnest desire to help and comfort made her an excellent almoner
for the rich, a welcome friend to the poor. She was in just the right mood to give herself
gladly to any sort of sacrifice, and labored with a quiet energy, painful to witness had any
one known the hidden suffering that would not let her rest.
If she had been a regular novel heroine at this crisis, she would have grown gray in a
single night, had a dangerous illness, gone mad, or at least taken to pervading the house
at unseasonable hours with her back hair down and much wringing of the hands. Being
only a commonplace woman she did nothing so romantic, but instinctively tried to sustain
and comfort herself with the humble, wholesome duties and affections which seldom fail
to keep heads sane and hearts safe. Yet, though her days seemed to pass so busily and
cheerfully, it must be confessed that there were lonely vigils in the night; and sometimes
in the morning Christie's eyes were very heavy, Christie's pillow wet with tears.
But life never is all work or sorrow; and happy hours, helpful pleasures, are mercifully
given like wayside springs to pilgrims trudging wearily along. Mr. Power showed
Christie many such, and silently provided her with better consolation than pity or advice.
"Deeds not words," was his motto; and he lived it out most faithfully. "Books and work"
he gave his new charge; and then followed up that prescription with "healthful play" of a
sort she liked, and had longed for all her life. Sitting at his table Christie saw the best and
bravest men and women of our times; for Mr. Power was a magnet that drew them from
all parts of the world. She saw and heard, admired and loved them; felt her soul kindle
with the desire to follow in their steps, share their great tasks, know their difficulties and
dangers, and in the end taste the immortal satisfactions given to those who live and labor
for their fellow-men. In such society all other aims seemed poor and petty; for they
appeared to live in a nobler world than any she had known, and she felt as if they
belonged to another race; not men nor angels, but a delightful mixture of the two; more as
she imagined the gods and heroes of old; not perfect, but wonderfully strong and brave
and good; each gifted with a separate virtue, and each bent on a mission that should
benefit mankind.
Nor was this the only pleasure given her. One evening of each week was set apart by Mr.
Power for the reception of whomsoever chose to visit him; for his parish was a large one,
and his house a safe haunt for refugees from all countries, all oppressions.