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"We are all the children of the Puritans," Mrs. Herman said smiling. "Of course there is an ethical strain in all of us."
Her cousin, Philip Ashe, who wore the dress of a novice from the Clergy House of St. Mark, regarded her with a serious and doubtful glance.
"But there is so much difference between you and me," he began. Then he hesitated as if not knowing exactly how to finish his sentence.
"The difference," she responded, "is chiefly a matter of the difference between action and reaction. You and I come of much the same stock ethically. My childhood was oppressed by the weight of the Puritan creed, and the reaction from it has made me what you feel obliged to call heretic; while you, with a saint for a mother, found even Puritanism hardly strict enough for you, and have taken to semi- monasticism. We are both pushed on by the same original impulse: the stress of Puritanism."
She had been putting on her gloves as she spoke, and now rose and stood ready to go out. Philip looked at her with a troubled glance, rising also.
"I hardly know," said he slowly, "if it's right for me to go with you. It would have been more in keeping if I adhered to the rules of the Clergy House while I am away from it."
Mrs. Herman smiled with what seemed to him something of the tolerance one has for the whim of a child.
"And what would you be doing at the Clergy House at this time of day?" she asked. "Wouldn't it be recreation hour or something of the sort?"
He looked down. He never found himself able to be entirely at ease in answering her questions about the routine of the Clergy House.
"No," he answered. "The half hour of recreation which follows Nones would just be ended."
His cousin laughed confusingly.
"Well, then," she rejoined, "begin it over again. Tell your confessor that the woman tempted you, and you did sin. You are not in the Clergy House just now; and as I have taken the trouble to ask leave to carry you to Mrs. Gore's this afternoon, more because you wanted to see this Persian than because I cared about it, it is rather late for objections."
Philip raised his eyes to her face only to meet a glance so quizzical that he hastened to avoid it by going to the hall to don his cloak; and a few moments later they were walking up Beacon Hill.
It was one of those gloriously brilliant winter days by which Boston weather atones in an hour for a week of sullenness. Snow lay in a thin sheet over the Common, and here and there a bit of ice among the tree- branches caught the light like a glittering jewel. The streets were dotted with briskly gliding sleighs, the jingle of whose bells rang out joyously. The air was full of a vigor which made the blood stir briskly in the veins.