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Chronicles of Avonlea Lucy Maud Montgomery

XI. The Miracle at Carmody

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The big building, shadowy from the great elms around it, was very still. A faint murmur came from the closed room behind the pulpit where the rest of the Sunday school was assembled. In front of the pulpit was a stand bearing tall white geraniums in luxuriant blossom. The light fell through the stained-glass window in a soft tangle of hues upon the floor. Salome felt a sense of peace and happiness fill her heart. Even Judith's anger lost its importance. She leaned her head against the window-sill, and gave herself up to the flood of tender old recollections that swept over her.

Memory went back to the years of her childhood when she had sat in this pew every Sunday with her mother. Judith had come then, too, always seeming grown up to Salome by reason of her ten years' seniority. Her tall, dark, reserved father never came. Salome knew that the Carmody people called him an infidel, and looked upon him as a very wicked man. But he had not been wicked; he had been good and kind in his own odd way.

The gently little mother had died when Salome was ten years old, but so loving and tender was Judith's care that the child did not miss anything out of her life. Judith Marsh loved her little sister with an intensity that was maternal. She herself was a plain, repellent girl, liked by few, sought after by no man; but she was determined that Salome should have everything that she had missed--admiration, friendship, love. She would have a vicarious youth in Salome's.

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All went according to Judith's planning until Salome was eighteen, and then trouble after trouble came. Their father, whom Judith had understood and passionately loved, died; Salome's young lover was killed in a railroad accident; and finally Salome herself developed symptoms of the hip-disease which, springing from a trifling injury, eventually left her a cripple. Everything possible was done for her. Judith, falling heir to a snug little fortune by the death of the old aunt for whom she was named, spared nothing to obtain the best medical skill, and in vain. One and all, the great doctors failed.

Judith had borne her father's death bravely enough in spite of her agony of grief; she had watched her sister pining and fading with the pain of her broken heart without growing bitter; but when she knew at last that Salome would never walk again save as she hobbled painfully about on her crutch, the smouldering revolt in her soul broke its bounds, and overflowed her nature in a passionate rebellion against the Being who had sent, or had failed to prevent, these calamities. She did not rave or denounce wildly; that was not Judith's way; but she never went to church again, and it soon became an accepted fact in Carmody that Judith Marsh was as rank an infidel as her father had been before her; nay, worse, since she would not even allow Salome to go to church, and shut the door in the minister's face when he went to see her.

"I should have stood out against her for conscience' sake," reflected Salome in her pew self-reproachfully. "But, O dear, I'm afraid she'll never forgive me, and how can I live if she doesn't? But I must endure it for Lionel Hezekiah's sake; my weakness has perhaps done him great harm already. They say that what a child learns in the first seven years never leaves him; so Lionel Hezekiah has only another year to get set right about these things. Oh, if I've left it till too late!"

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Chronicles of Avonlea
Lucy Maud Montgomery

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