Sunday in Bellaire
SUNDAY had always been a rather dreary day to Eunice. The going to church morning and evening was a relief from the dull monotony, and she was a devout admirer of her father's sermons and never failed to discover many beauties and much wisdom in them. Had they not been half as good as they really were, it is probable her devoted love would still have been blind to their imperfections.
But it was the long afternoon that Eunice dreaded when she dared not look into the books that she liked, and found nothing interesting in those she was permitted to read, when she was divorced from the little shuttle that was her constant companion in those moments she called idle during the week, and when there was no refuge even in music: both her father and mother would have been infinitely shocked at the idea of opening the piano on the "Lord's Day" even for the sake of playing "Old Hundred."
When she woke, therefore, on her first Sunday morning in Bellaire, there was added to the discomfort remaining from the experience of the evening before the vague dreariness inseparably associated with the day. But this feeling was dissipated in the cheerful breakfast-room, where she found a table full of bright, rosy-faced boys, a little happier and a little more irrepressible than she had ever seen them before their awe of the new teacher wearing off a little, and with nothing of Sunday gloom about them.
There was a quiet hour afterward for studying Sunday-school lessons and talks with mother, and then the little procession set off for church with Dr. and Mrs. Charlton leading, Lucy and Eunice immediately following, the Big Boys next, as Henry Sidney and George Edgar were called to distinguish them from the two younger ones, and Millicent bringing up the rear with Charles Ernest and Theodore Howard clinging to her hand on either side. As the Charlton pew was in the very front of the church, the filing down the aisle of the long procession always created more or less of a stir in the congregation, and likening it to the circus parade had become a standing joke with Henry Sidney, who had inherited something of his father's humorous way of regarding life.
It was early, but a very good congregation had already assembled, and as Eunice and Lucy took their places in the choir-gallery, Eunice could see that the back of the church was almost entirely occupied by the black coats of the students. At the cabinet organ sat Miss Allen, who gave her a smiling greeting, as did also the other members of the choir. Mr. Rogers came in a moment later, and stopped to speak to her, asking her to change her seat so that she would sit next to him that he might be able to consult her if necessary. It gave her a pleasant little sense of importance thus to be honored before strangers, and by the time they were ready to begin the services she was in good humor with herself and her surroundings and quite ready to sing her best. And then, in the very middle of the opening anthem, she discovered a graceful, indolent figure lounging in the corner of his pew, and so turned that he could gaze directly up at her. It gave her a momentary start, communicated to her voice in a mortifying little quaver; but she recovered herself instantly, and after that sang all the better for the consciousness of that steady gaze. Not that Rex was openly annoying: he had a way which, while it made Eunice perfectly aware of it, yet left him with the air of purposeless and careless glances.
But Eunice was not going to allow herself to be distracted by black eyes or "ungodly" thoughts during the sermon. She sat well back in her seat, where there could be no possibility of Rex catching even a glimpse of the tip of her white straw poke with its wreath of white and purple lilacs around the crown making a cool, fresh setting to the demure face and light brown curls. Then she gave herself up to the enjoyment of the sermon, and by the time the doxology had been sung and the benediction pronounced she felt herself once more an orthodox Christian whose Sunday calm could be disturbed by no bold glances.
Then there was the pleasant dinner-hour, full of bright discussion of the sermon and reviewing of the little incidents of the morning, lingering over the fruit and coffee, while the soft airs and sweet sounds and odors of the late summer came through the open doors, and lingering so long that it was quite time to be getting ready for the afternoon service when they finally left the table. There Eunice saw again that elegantly indolent figure, and that steadfast gaze, and, not knowing that church attendance was compulsory, thought that either Rex McAllister must be a more devout man than she had supposed, or, with a little conscious flutter, that there must be some attraction to draw him to church twice a day.
After the service, Mr. Rogers walked home with her, and Willie Dayton with Lucy; and when they reached the Iron Gate the young men proposed that they should take a little walk around the campus block. It was somewhat at variance with Eunice's Puritan ideas to take a walk for mere pleasure on the Sabbath, but Lucy seemed to think it all right, and she had a feeling that Mr. Rogers was so "good" he would not propose anything wrong; and the air had grown so cool and fresh, and the late sun was throwing long shadows over the grass, and the walk seemed very tempting and must be harmless. When they came to the turnstile opposite South College some one proposed that they should go inside and show Miss Harlowe the campus and West College. They walked up "Middle Path" toward "Rock Steps" under magnificent overarching lindens and elms, and Willie Dayton pointed out his room in West College. Eunice looked up to see it just as Willie added:
"'There is Rex at the window now." And she caught sight of a moody figure leaning out and looking off toward the setting sun in an abstracted fashion, while in one hand he held a smoking cigar.
Eunice did not absolutely believe it was wicked to smoke, but she had grown up with a horror of the habit. There were no smokers in her family or immediate friends, and smoking on Sunday did seem to her to be pretty nearly wicked, but there was something desolate in the pose of the figure at the window–as no doubt Rex intended there should be–and it struck a little chord of pity in Eunice's heart, and went far toward condoning the sin of the cigar.
At the Rock Steps they met Dr. Charlton, with the boys and Millicent, out for a walk also, and they all walked back together in the friendliest fashion, just as if he were not the learned president of whom the students stood in great awe. At the little gate in the hedge the two young men stopped to take their leave, and arranged to call in the evening to take Eunice and Lucy to one of the "down-town" churches.
But when they returned at seven o'clock, they found the whole family gathered around the little melodeon. The doctor was a passionate lover of music, and had a deep, rich bass voice powerful enough to make one wonder where it could find lodgment in his slight frame; and the clear treble of the boys, Millicent's small alto, Willie Dayton's rather light tenor, Mr. Rogers's fine baritone, and the soprano of the three ladies made a pleasant ensemble. There was little regular Sunday-school music in those days, but such as there was they sang for the pleasure of the boys, and then they valiantly attacked the most difficult fugue music or the most intricate harmonies they could find in the old "Lute" for the gratification of the doctor's musical tastes. When they had sung themselves hoarse, which was not until long after Mrs. Charlton had captured and convoyed to bed the younger members of the family, they spent the rest of the evening in pleasant talk, in which the doctor led in his friendly fashion, until Mrs. Charlton, coming in from her siege with the children and bearing in, her hands a big dish of fruit, captured the talk and the young people together.
Willie Dayton, who knew the family customs and had kept a furtive watch on the clock, promptly at quarter to ten rose to go, and of course took Mr. Rogers away with him.
Outside, at the foot of the steps leading up to his room, Mr. Rogers stopped to say good night, but first he said in his grave way:
"I think, Mr. Dayton, Miss Harlowe is going to prove quite an acquisition; she'll be a great help in the choir, and she 's a very charming young woman."
Willie's head was in a whirl, as it always was after an evening spent with Lucy, and he answered absent-mindedly:
"Yes, a little stiff and queer, but she'll do all right." And not until he wondered at Mr. Rogers's abrupt good night did be realize what he had been saying. He called up the steps quickly to the rapidly retreating back:
"Oh, say, Rogers, I didn't mean that, you know; I must have been asleep. I really think she 's a mighty sweet young lady."
Lucy stopped in Eunice's room for a little talk, as usual, and Eunice asked her three questions, which she answered in due order.
The first one was: "Do you always have such pleasant Sundays as this?"
"Oh, yes," said Lucy; "I think Sunday is the nicest day in the week, don't you? I am always looking forward to it."
Eunice did not feel obliged to answer, but went on to her second question: "Is Mr. Rogers studying for the ministry?"
"Oh, no; what makes you think so?"
"I suppose it is because he seems so grave and dignified, not at all like Mr. Dayton and Mr. McAllister."
"He is good enough to be a minister, I should think," said Lucy; "but he is going to study law, I believe. I don't know why he is so different from the others, unless it is because he is a Pennsylvanian and they are Southerners."
Eunice asked her last question with a little hesitation: "Which do you like the better, Mr. Rogers or Mr. McAllister?"
"Oh, Cousin Rex, of course; I know him so much better," and then, bethinking herself that Mr. Rogers had been showing himself quite interested in Eunice, she added quickly:
"But I have no doubt Mr. Rogers is far the finer man of the two."
And then Eunice had no more questions to ask.