The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
The Theology of Sally
by Sonia Cross
Sally was praying: praying as she understood prayer, and this was what she said, "Oh God, I pray Thee, let my rosetree have a bud on it, like Dolly's. Father, I know Thou canst do everything, and I know that if Thy child asks believing, Thou wilt give what he asks; so, Lord, I pray Thee let there be one bud, one single bud on my tree."
Sally had run up after breakfast into her little bed-room, and knelt down, breathless, partly from running and partly from a pleasant and yet awful excitement. She had shut her eyes tight, and forced herself to call up a vivid picture of heaven, so that she might be really speaking to God, and now she saw clearly a foreground of very green, very glassy sea, and across the water, broad, white marble steps, leading to a white throne. The throne was a capacious arm-chair, with a straight back, and queer winged Assyrian-looking beasts forming the arm-rests; a canopy of bright blue velvet, spangled with silver stars, stretched behind and above it, and on the throne sat God. Yes, she saw God. He was like to a very old man, so much she knew, although the face was not very distinct; but it was an old face, and the long waving hair and beard that hung round it were very white and silky. His garment was flowing white, with a beautiful, embroidered key-pattern in gold all round the edge. Sally even saw God's sandaled foot appearing from beneath the garment, and resting on the globe, which is God's footstool. Of course a person would have found it a terribly cold one, for the globe was the right way up, so that the foot rested on the North Pole, but God could make that the coldness did not affect Him.
So Sally knew she was in God's presence, and knew, too, that she had asked very plainly and trustingly for what she wanted, and had used, as far as she remembered, words like those of the Prayer-book, even down to the masculine pronoun that she mentally set in italics.
She got up quietly from her knees, still feeling something of the mystery of the great white presence around her.
Slowly she left the room. Once outside, in the sun-bathed passage, the awful chilly whiteness seemed to half melt away before an inward glow of happiness and satisfaction, which betrayed itself in a little smile of confident contentment.
She had been so distressed when she ran out that bright June morning before breakfast and found that there was still no bud on her tree. Dolly's had three on it already, and yes, Dolly was away at school and could not care about them; it seemed almost a waste. And Sally did so long for one, because mother was coming home in a week's time, and it would be so lovely to have a rose off her own tree to give her. She felt jealous, until conscience suddenly made itself heard, and the Tenth Commandment ran through her mind, "Covet" meant want what is someone else's; no one would ever be likely to covet the Kelly's tumble-down house, nor yet cross old Mrs. Kelly, and they were the only neighbours within two miles of Sally's home, and had no servant, no ox, and no ass; but Dolly was certainly Sally's neighbour in the matter of gardens, and it was not possible to exclude a rose from the comprehensive finish to the Commandment, the "anything" that was evidently put in on account of the variety of human tastes and inclinations.
"So if I covet her rose," reasoned Sally, "I shall be transgressing a jot or a tittle, I don't know which; but that's as bad as transgressing all, and I shall go to hell all the same"; and the thought of flames and fierce dragons, too terrible to be clearly defined, caused a look of dismay to shadow the big grey eyes. But she determined to find some way out of the difficulty, and finally discovered that, after all, the Tenth Commandment was a rather superfluous one, because, if you want a thing very badly, there is no need to covet it, you have only to ask for it with great faith and you will get it, unless it is bad for you.
Sally had asked God several times for a rose-bud, but it had only come with a miscellaneous list of other things that she had spoken of in her little extra evening prayer, so, although she really wanted the bud, perhaps she had not made clear how very special the want was. She therefore decided to make a perfect prayer, one that should contain enough faith to remove even Mount Everest into the middle of the ocean, should it need to be applied to such an object.
Her mind pursued this fascinating subject, and she thought of the upset to the geography books and the confusion that would arise should the great faith miracle take place in the middle of an examination; all the girls who had said the mountain was in the Himalayas would be wrong, and perhaps fail on that account! But all that Sally longed for was the rose-bud, and that was quite a small thing compared with Mount Everest, and could surely be obtained for the same amount of faith.
So the prayer had been made. The solemnity was now over, and it only remained to witness the joyous accomplishment thereof.
Once downstairs, Sally snatched up her garden hat and ran out. How bright the sun was! "I do believe such a warm sun could bring out a bud without any help from God," thought Sally, "so that it won't seem like a miracle to other people when they see the bud, only, of course, I shall know that it is one. I wonder how big it will be?"
A curious creepy feeling ran through her little body and down her legs, and then it seemed as if she were moving through the air without touching the ground. Presently she consciously slackened speed, and went down the terrace and round the peacock-yew not too fast, so as to give the bud plenty of time to get there.
"Well, my nemophila is out, at any rate, since breakfast—oh God! I thank Thee for that," she muttered as the patch of blue caught her eye from a distance. When she reached her own plot she stretched out a leg eagerly till one little foot was firmly planted in the middle of the bed, while the other remained on the path. Thus established, she cast a hasty, nervous glance over the rose-bush, but of course she did not expect to see the bud at the first look. She began a searching examination; patiently she handled every branch, she pulled apart the new leaves at the tips of the twigs, and scrutinized their formation; she gently pinched every place where it was possible that a bud could be found, but no hardness made itself felt anywhere.
"It must be here! I know it is," said Sally, but a sinking feeling began to drag her heart. Her breath came quicker, and her cheeks burned. "I must have overlooked it," she whispered. Her legs were aching, but she renewed her diligent search. Systematically she worked in circles round and round the bush, visiting every leaf, every knot, every tip. Her heart seemed to swell, and she felt a pain gripping her throat; she did not know that the brightness died out of her eyes, nor that the corners of her mouth began to droop; but she experienced the terrible unfathomable pang that accompanies the last flicker of hope.
Only one shoot remained. Dared she touch it? "I know it won't be there—I know it will." Conviction and credulity flashed their decrees simultaneously across her brain. She was trembling all over now. She turned away her head and pinched the tip of the spray. "Yes, I'm sure it's hard, I'm sure there's a bud," she whispered, but all the time she knew in her heart, that there was none. She forced her eyes to look; they saw a dainty leaf, with its leaflets folded tightly together, and at the tip of the stalk another excrescence which she knew would also in time develop into a leaf, but never a bud.
The tears rushed into her eyes, but she brushed them away with the back of her hand, as she took again a firm pose, both feet now planted on the path. It was not a disappointment to her, it was a deception, and, as she stared at the little tree she felt everything unsteady, vaporous, vanishing around her. The tremor passed and the next moment Sally was standing with her arms hanging straight down at her sides, and her face turned up to the blue cloudless shy. "It's not true, about God," she was saying. "The blue goes on for ever and ever, and there's nothing beyond it. I've never got what I wanted by praying, so I shan't say any more prayers; if God had been there I must have found my bud."
Proofread by Leslie Noelani Laurio, December 2008
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