He sat watching the hands of his clock, and a peaceful meditation about a certain carnation that unfortunately burst its calyx was interrupted by a sudden thought. Whence the thought came he could not tell, nor what had put it into his head, but it had occurred to him suddenly that ’if Father Peter had lived a few weeks longer he would have found means of exchanging Nora Glynn for another schoolmistress, more suitable to the requirements of the parish. If Father Peter had lived he would have done her a grievous wrong. He wouldn’t have allowed her to suffer, but he would have done her a wrong all the same.’ And it were better that a man should meet his death than he should do a wrong to another. But he wasn’t contemplating his own death nor Nora’s when this end to the difficulty occurred to him. Our inherent hypocrisy is so great that it is difficult to know what one does think. He surely did not think it well that Father Peter had died, his friend, his benefactor, the man in whose house he was living? Of course not. Then it was strange he could not keep the thought out of his mind that Father Peter’s death had saved the parish from a great scandal, for if Nora had been dismissed he might have found himself obliged to leave the parish.
Again he turned on himself and asked how such thoughts could come into his mind. True, the coming of a thought into the consciousness is often unexpected, but if the thought were not latent in the mind, it would not arise out of the mind; and if Father Peter knew the base thoughts he indulged in—yes, indulged in, for he could not put them quite out of his mind—he feared very much that the gift of all this furniture might—No, he was judging Father Peter ill: Father Peter was incapable of a mean regret.
But who was he, he’d like to be told, that he should set himself up as Father Peter’s judge? The evil he had foreseen had happened. If Father Peter felt that Nora Glynn was not the kind of schoolmistress the parish required, should he not send her away? The need of the parish, of the many, before the one. Moreover, Father Peter was under no obligation whatsoever to Nora Glynn. She had been sent down by the School Board subject to his approval. ’But my case is quite different. I chose her; I decided that she was to remain.’ And he asked himself if his decision had come about gradually. No, he had never hesitated, but dismissed Father Peter’s prejudices as unworthy.... The church needed some good music. But did he think of the church? Hardly at all. His first consideration was his personal pleasure, and he wished that the best choir in the diocese should be in his church, and Nora Glynn enabled him to gratify his vanity. He made her his friend, taking pleasure in her smiles, and in the fact that he had only to express a desire for it to be fulfilled. After school, tired though she might be, she was always willing to meet him in the church for choir practice. She would herself propose to decorate the altar for feast-days. How many times had they walked round the garden together gathering flowers for the altar! And it was strange that she could decorate so well without knowing much about flowers or having much natural taste for flowers.