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The Lake eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 225 pages of information about The Lake.
All night he had lain awake; he must have been a little mad that night, for he could only think of the loss of a soul to God, and of God’s love of chastity.  All night long he had repeated with variations that it were better that all which our eyes see—­this earth and the stars that are in being—­should perish utterly, be crushed into dust, rather than a mortal sin should be committed; in an extraordinary lucidity of mind he continued to ponder on God’s anger and his own responsibility towards God, and feeling all the while that there are times when we lose control of our minds, when we are a little mad.  He foresaw his danger, but he could not do else than rise from his bed and begin to prepare his sermon, for he had to preach, and he could only preach on chastity and the displeasure sins against chastity cause to God.  He could think but of this one thing, the displeasure God must feel against Nora and the seducer who had robbed her of the virtue God prized most in her.  He must have said things that he would not have said at any other time.  His brain was on fire that morning, and words rose to his lips—­he knew not whence nor how they came, and he had no idea now of what he had said.  He only knew that she left the church during his sermon; at what moment he did not know, nor did he know that she had left the parish till next day, when the children came up to tell him there was no schoolmistress.  And from that day to this no news of her, nor any way of getting news of her.

His thoughts went to the hawthorn-trees, for he could not think of her any more for the moment, and it relieved his mind to examine the green pips that were beginning to appear among the leaves.  ’The hawthorns will be in flower in another week,’ he said; and he began to wonder at the beautiful order of the spring.  The pear and the cherry were the first; these were followed by the apple, and after the apple came the lilac, the chestnut, and the laburnum.  The forest trees, too, had their order.  The ash was still leafless, but it was shedding its catkins, and in another fifteen days its light foliage would be dancing in the breeze.  The oak was last of all.  At that moment a swallow flitted from stone to stone, too tired to fly far, and he wondered whence it had come.  A cuckoo called from a distant hill; it, too, had been away and had come back.

His eyes dwelt on the lake, refined and wistful, with reflections of islands and reeds, mysteriously still.  Rose-coloured clouds descended, revealing many new and beautiful mountain forms, every pass and every crest distinguishable.  It was the hour when the cormorants come home to roost, and he saw three black specks flying low about the glittering surface; rising from the water, they alighted with a flutter of wings on the corner wall of what remained of Castle Hag, ’and they will sleep there till morning,’ he said, as he toiled up a little path, twisting through ferns and thorn-bushes.  At the top of the hill was his house, the house Father Peter had built.  Its appearance displeased him, and he stood for a long time watching the evening darkening, and the yacht being towed home, her sails lowered, the sailors in the rowing-boat.  ‘They will be well tired before they get her back to Tinnick;’ and he turned and entered his house abruptly.

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