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|Part II||Edith Wharton|
|Page 3 of 4||
"Did he say I was going to get well?"
"What's the use, Ann Eliza? You can't deceive me. I've just been up to look at myself in the glass; and I saw plenty of 'em in the hospital that looked like me. They didn't get well, and I ain't going to." Her head dropped back. "It don't much matter-- I'm about tired. On'y there's one thing--Ann Eliza--"
The elder sister drew near to the bed.
"There's one thing I ain't told you. I didn't want to tell you yet because I was afraid you might be sorry--but if he says I'm going to die I've got to say it." She stopped to cough, and to Ann Eliza it now seemed as though every cough struck a minute from the hours remaining to her.
"Don't talk now--you're tired."
"I'll be tireder to-morrow, I guess. And I want you should know. Sit down close to me--there."
Ann Eliza sat down in silence, stroking her shrunken hand.
"I'm a Roman Catholic, Ann Eliza."
"Evelina--oh, Evelina Bunner! A Roman Catholic--YOU? Oh, Evelina, did HE make you?"
Evelina shook her head. "I guess he didn't have no religion; he never spoke of it. But you see Mrs. Hochmuller was a Catholic, and so when I was sick she got the doctor to send me to a Roman Catholic hospital, and the sisters was so good to me there--and the priest used to come and talk to me; and the things he said kep' me from going crazy. He seemed to make everything easier."
"Oh, sister, how could you?" Ann Eliza wailed. She knew little of the Catholic religion except that "Papists" believed in it--in itself a sufficient indictment. Her spiritual rebellion had not freed her from the formal part of her religious belief, and apostasy had always seemed to her one of the sins from which the pure in mind avert their thoughts.
"And then when the baby was born," Evelina continued, "he christened it right away, so it could go to heaven; and after that, you see, I had to be a Catholic."
"I don't see--"
"Don't I have to be where the baby is? I couldn't ever ha' gone there if I hadn't been made a Catholic. Don't you understand that?"
Ann Eliza sat speechless, drawing her hand away. Once more she found herself shut out of Evelina's heart, an exile from her closest affections.
"I've got to go where the baby is," Evelina feverishly insisted.
Ann Eliza could think of nothing to say; she could only feel that Evelina was dying, and dying as a stranger in her arms. Ramy and the day-old baby had parted her forever from her sister.
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