The days passed; week after week went down the hill--or, is it not rather, up the hill?--and out of sight; the moon kept on changelessly changing; and at length Walter was well, though rather thin and white.
Molly saw that he was beginning to brood. She saw also, as clearly as if he had opened his mind to her, what troubled him: it needed no witch to divine that! he must work: what was his work to be?
Whatever he do, if he be not called to it, a man but takes it up "at his own hand, as the devil did sinning."
Molly was one of the wise women of the world--and thus: thoughts grew for her first out of things, and not things out of thoughts. God's things come out of His thoughts; our realities are God's thoughts made manifest in things; and out of them our thoughts must come; then the things that come out of our thoughts will be real. Neither our own fancies, nor the judgments of the world, must be the ground of our theories or behavior. This, at least, was Molly's working theory of life. She saw plainly that her business, every day, hour, moment, was to order her way as He who had sent her into being would have her order her way; doing God's things, God's thoughts would come to her; God's things were better than man's thoughts; man's best thoughts the discovery of the thoughts hidden in God's things? Obeying him, perhaps a day would come in which God would think directly into the mind of His child, without the intervention of things! [Footnote: It may interest some of my readers to be told that I had got thus far in preparation for this volume, when I took a book from the floor, shaken with hundreds beside from my shelves by an earthquake the same morning, and opening it--it was a life of Lavater which I had not known I possessed--found these words written by him on a card, for a friend to read after his death: "Act according to thy faith in Christ, and thy faith will soon become sight."]
For Molly had made the one rational, one practical discovery, that life is to be lived, not by helpless assent or aimless drifting, but by active co-operation with the Life that has said "Live." To her everything was part of a whole, which, with its parts, she was learning to know, was finding out, by obedience to what she already knew. There is nothing for developing even the common intellect like obedience, that is, duty done. Those who obey are soon wiser than all their lessons; while from those who do not, will be taken away even what knowledge they started with.
Molly was not prepared to attempt convincing Walter, who was so much more learned and clever than she, that the things that rose in men's minds even in their best moods were not necessarily a valuable commodity, but that their character depended on the soil whence they sprung. She believed, however, that she had it in her power to make him doubt his judgment in regard to the work of other people, and that might lead him to doubt his judgment of himself, and the thoughts he made so much of.
One lovely evening in July, they were sitting together in the twilight, after a burial of the sun that had left great heaps of golden rubbish on the sides of his grave, in which little cherubs were busy dyeing their wings.
"Walter," said Molly, "do you remember the little story--quite a little story, and not very clever--that I read when you were ill, called 'Bootless Betty'?"
"I should think I do! I thought it one of the prettiest stories I had ever read, or heard read. Its fearless directness, without the least affectation of boldness, enchanted me. How one--clearly a woman--whose grammar was nowise to be depended upon, should yet get so swiftly and unerringly at what she wanted to say, has remained ever since a worshipful wonder to me. But I have seen something like it before, probably by the same writer!"
"You may have seen the same review of it I saw; it was in your own paper."
"You don't mean you take in 'The Field Battery'?"
"We did. Your father went for it himself, every week regularly. But we could not always be sure which things you had written!"
Walter gave a sigh of distaste, but said nothing. The idea of that paper representing his mind to his father and Molly was painful to him.
"I have it here: may I read it to you?"
"Well--I don't know!--if you like. I can't say I care about reviews."
"Of course not! Nobody should. They are only thoughts about thoughts about things. But I want you to hear this!" pleaded Molly, drawing the paper from her pocket.
The review was of the shortest--long enough, however, to express much humorous comment for the kind of thing of which it said this was a specimen. It showed no suspicion of the presence in it of the things Walter had just said he saw there. But as Molly read, he stopped her.
"There is nothing like that in the story! The statement is false!" he exclaimed.
"Not a doubt of it!" responded Molly, and went on. But arrested by a certain phrase, Walter presently stopped her again.
"Molly," he said, seizing her hand, "is it any wonder I can not bear the thought of touching that kind of work again? Have pity upon me, Molly! It was I, I myself, who wrote that review! I had forgotten all about it! I did not mean to lie, but I was not careful enough not to lie! I have been very unjust to some one!"
"You could learn her name, and how to find her, from the publisher of the little book!" suggested Molly.
"I will find her, and make a humble apology. The evil, alas! is done; but I could--and will write another notice quite different."
Molly burst into the merriest laugh.
"The apology is made, Walter, and the writer forgives you heartily! Oh, what fun! The story is mine! You needn't stare so--as if you thought I couldn't do it! Think of the bad grammar! It was not a strong point at Miss Talebury's! Yes, Walter," she continued, talking like a child to her doll, "it was little Molly's first! and her big brother cut it all up into weeny weeny pieces for her! Poor Molly! But then it was a great honor, you know--greater than ever she could have hoped for!"
Walter stared bewildered, hardly trusting his ears. Molly an authoress!--in a small way, it might be, but did God ever with anything begin it big? Here was he, home again defeated!--to find the little bird he had left in the nest beautifully successful!
The lords of creation have a curious way of patronizing the beings they profess to worship. Man was made a little lower than the angels; he calls woman an angel, and then looks down upon her! Certainly, however, he has done his best to make her worthy of his condescension! But Walter had begun to learn humility, and no longer sought the chief place at the feast.
"Molly!" he said, in a low, wondering voice.
"Yes?" answered Molly.
"Forgive me, Molly. I am unworthy."
"I forgive you with all my heart, and love you for thinking it worth while to ask me."
"I am full of admiration of your story!"
"Why? It was not difficult."
Walter took her little hand and kissed it as if she had been a princess. Molly blushed, but did not take her hand from him. Walter might do what he liked with her ugly little hand! It was only to herself she called it ugly, however, not to Walter! Anyhow she was wrong; her hand was a very pretty one. It was indeed a little spoiled with work, but it was gloved with honor! It were good for many a heart that its hands were so spoiled! Human feet get a little broadened with walking; human hands get a little roughened with labor; but what matter! There are others, after like pattern but better finished, making, and to be ready by the time these are worn out, for all who have not shirked work.
Walter rose and went up the stairs to his own room, a chamber in the roof, crowded with memories. There he sat down to think, and thinking led to something else. Molly sat still and cried; for though it made her very glad to see him take it so humbly, it made her sad to give him pain. But not once did she wish she had not told him.