While she was hurrying toward the awful pool, her husband sat in his study, sunk in a cold fury of conscious disgrace—not because of his cruelty, not because he had cast a woman into hell—but because his honor, his self-satisfaction in his own fate, was thrown to the worms. Did he fail thus in consequence of having rejected the common belief? No; something far above the common belief it must be, that would have enabled him to act otherwise. But had he known the Man of the gospel, he could not have left her. He would have taken her to his sorrowful bosom, wept with her, forgotten himself in pitiful grief over the spot upon her whiteness; he would have washed her clean with love and husband-power. He would have welcomed his shame as his hold of her burden, whereby to lift it, with all its misery and loss, from her heart forever. Had Faber done so as he was, he would have come close up to the gate of the kingdom of Heaven, for he would have been like-minded with Him who sought not His own. His honor, forsooth! Pride is a mighty honor! His pride was great indeed, but it was not grand! Nothing reflected, nothing whose object is self, has in it the poorest element of grandeur. Our selves are ours that we may lay them on the altar of love. Lying there, bound and bleeding and burning if need be, they are grand indeed—for they are in their noble place, and rejoicing in their fate. But this man was miserable, because, the possessor of a priceless jewel, he had found it was not such as would pass for flawless in the judgment of men—judges themselves unjust, whose very hearts were full of bribes. He sat there an injured husband, a wronged, woman-cheated, mocked man—he in whose eyes even a smutch on her face would have lowered a woman—who would not have listened to an angel with a broken wing-feather!
Let me not be supposed to make a little of Juliet’s loss! What that amounted to, let Juliet feel!—let any woman say, who loves a man, and would be what that man thinks her! But I read, and think I understand, the words of the perfect Purity: “Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more.”
If people were both observant and memorious, they would cease, I fancy, to be astonished at coincidences. Rightly regarded, the universe is but one coincidence—only where will has to be developed, there is need for human play, and room for that must be provided in its spaces. The works of God being from the beginning, and all his beginnings invisible either from greatness or smallness or nearness or remoteness, numberless coincidences may pass in every man’s history, before he becomes capable of knowing either the need or the good of them, or even of noting them.