Common sense shrank back before the invading flood of fear. What if God had listened? What if He had answered? Ministers, she knew, have great influence with God. What if He had said, “Yes”? What if all the trouble of last night, the blankness of to-day, were part of the answer?
“Never! Never!” she said. She almost said it aloud, so real had her fear been. Her eyes, fixed upon the minister’s face, were terrified, but her soul was strong. Fearful of blasphemy, yet brave, she faced the bogie of a God her thought had evoked, saying, “I make my own choice. Take my lover from me if you will—I shall never give myself to another.”
All this was very wrong, shocking even, especially in church. But it really happened and is apt to happen any Sunday in any church so long as human love rebels at the idea of a Divine love less tender than itself.
Gradually the panic fear died down. Esther’s sane and well-balanced nature began to assert itself. Some voice, small but insistent, began to say, “God is not like that,” and she listened and was comforted. She had not yet come to the love which casts out fear, but she was done with the fear which casts out love.
So that when on the church steps in the sunshine she felt Angus Macnair’s hand tremble in hers, she was able to meet his eyes, straightly, understandingly, but unafraid.
The manner in which Dr. Callandar spent that tragic Sunday is not clearly on record. We have watched Esther so closely that he has been permitted to escape our observation, and it would be manifestly unfair to expect any coherent account of the day from him. He knows that he went for a walk, early, and that he walked all day. He remembers once resting by the willow-fringed pool which had seen his introduction into Coombe, but he could not stay there. Between him and that hot June day lay the wreck of a world. Once he stumbled upon the Pine Lake road and followed it a little way. But here, too, memory came too close and drove him aside into the fields. There he tried to face his future fairly, under the calm sky. But it was hard work. With such a riot of feeling, it was difficult to think. His mind continually fell away into the contemplation of his own misery. It was a bad day, a day which left an ineffaceable mark.
With night came the first sign of peace, or rather of capitulation. He fought no more because he realised that there was nothing for which to fight. There had never been, from the very first moment, a possibility of escape, the smallest ray of hope. Fate had met him squarely and the issue had never been in doubt.