Simpson had flared up at his last words. His mouth set and his eyes burned suddenly. Bunsen, watching him coolly, wondered that he could kindle so; until that moment he had seemed but half alive. When he spoke his words came hurriedly—were almost unintelligible; yet there was some quality in his voice that compelled attention, affecting the senses more than the mind.
“Unsavoury company? That’s best for a parson. ’I come not to bring the righteous but sinners to repentance.’ And who are you to brand the woman as common or unclean? If she is a heathen priestess, yet she worships a god of some sort. Do you?” He stopped suddenly; the humility which men hated in him again blanketed his fanaticism. “It is my task to give her a better god—the only true God—Christ.”
Bunsen, his legs wide apart, kept his eyes on the sea, for he did not want to let Simpson see him smiling, and he was smiling. Witherbee, who had no emotions of any sort, pulled his moustache farther down and looked at the clergyman as though he were under glass—a curiosity.
“So you’re going to convert the whole island?” he said.
“I hope to make a beginning in the Lord’s vineyard.”
“Humph! The devil’s game-preserve, you mean,” Bunsen suddenly broke in.
“The devil’s game-preserve, then!” Simpson was defiant.
“The ship calls here every other Saturday,” was all Bunsen said to that. “You may need to know. I’ll send your trunk ashore.”
He stepped into the cripple’s boat and started for the ship. Witherbee did not speak; Simpson, still raging, left him, strode to the end of the pier, and stood there, leaning on a pile.
His gust of emotion had left him; a not unfamiliar feeling of exaltation had taken its place. It is often so with the extreme Puritan type; control relaxed for however brief a moment sends their slow blood whirling, and leaves them light-headed as those who breathe thin air. From boyhood Simpson had been practised in control, until repression had become a prime tenet of his faith. The cheerful and generally innocent excursions of other men assumed in his mind the proportions of crime, of sin against the stern disciplining of the soul which he conceived to be the goal of life. Probably he had never in all his days been so shocked as once when a young pagan had scorned certain views of his, saying; “There’s more education—soul education, if you will have it—in five minutes of sheer joy than in a century of sorrow.” It was an appalling statement, that—more appalling because he had tried to contradict it and had been unable to do so. He himself had been too eager to find his work in life—his pre-ordained work—ever to discover the deep truths that light-heartedness only can reveal; even when he heard his call to foreign missions—to Hayti, in particular—he felt no such felicity as a man should feel who has climbed to his place in the scheme of things. His was rather the sombre fury of the Covenanters—an intense conviction that his way was the only way of grace—a conviction that transcended reason and took flight into the realm of overmastering emotion—the only overmastering emotion, by the way, that he had ever experienced.