lot to make up, and not much time to do it in."
Concerned by her sudden seriousness, Father Matthew became as sober as she. "There's no need for such haste, Meg. You're young and you've a quick mind. I've no doubt you'll be reading very soon."
Meg avoided his eye. "But there is a need for haste, Father. I've come here this past week without Uncle Timothy's approval. He's made it clear what he thinks about girls learning to read and write. He has a few more boarders now doubling up in the rooms, and Aunt Fiona's working harder than before. He'd be angry if he thought I was wasting my time here."
"Wasting your time?"
"So he says."
Silent for a moment, Meghan finally raised her clear eyes to his once more.
"Is it wrong to want to do this because of pride, Father?"
"Pride, my dear?"
"Da said it gave a man power to be able to read. He said it wasn't a power that others might see, that it was a power inside that gave a man pride and a will to go on to better things."
"Your father was right, Meg. A little pride for such reasons never did a person harm unless it went to excess."
Holding his gaze, Meg finally nodded. "Then I think we must hurry, Father, because I don't know how much longer it'll be before Uncle Timothy finds out I'm still coming here for lessons. He'll not accept it lightly."
The determination in Meghan's tone solidified a decision with which Father Matthew had been struggling. He touched a hand to her thin shoulder. "We'll do that, dear, but first I have something to discuss with you. I had a visit from Mrs. Martin Lang several days ago."
Meghan's sudden paling was unexpected and Father Matthew smiled encouragingly. "She's a very nice woman, and she's concerned about the feelings of the Irish in the valley. She thinks that she may have contributed to the hostility people in the valley seem to feel for everyone connected to the house on the hill by bringing in all her servants from Philadelphia and all Protestants, at that. She thinks we might think she considers Irish Catholics a step beneath them, or that she doesn't trust us in her house."
Meghan's slender nostrils quivered momentarily, and Father Matthew frowned at her unreadable reaction.
"She wants to change that kind of thinking. Since she's in need of another servant, she asked if I could recommend someone who might do. She said she'll pay well and provide a uniform, too."
Father Matthew hesitated again, his eyes on Meghan's suddenly averted face.
"Is something wrong, Meghan? I thought you'd be happy to have a chance for an income. Your uncle would have less cause for complaint about financial strain if you could pay him something, and you could stop here at the rectory to continue your lessons before you go home every day." Father Matthew hesitated again. "Meghan, would you rather I recommend someone else?"
"No, Father!" Meg's eyes snapped back to his, and she shook her head emphatically. "You're right. It'll be much easier at home if I can give Uncle Timothy money on a regular basis. And… and I thank you, Father, for thinking of me."
But Meghan's smile was forced, and Father Matthew struggled against a growing sense of disquiet.
"You're sure, Meg?"
"Yes, I'm sure."
"All right. I'll speak to Mrs. Lang and see if I can bring you up to the house for her approval tomorrow."
"Thank you, Father."
Still uncomfortable with her reaction, Father Matthew forced a smile. "Well, now that we've settled that, we can try our reading."
Pushing her chair back from the table unexpectedly, Meghan stood up. "I think I'd better be going now, Father. Ma wasn't too well this morning, and if I get home early, I'll have some time to spend with her before I begin my evening chores."
"All right, my dear."
A peculiar discomfort lingering, Father