He had a grand idea of woman. He had been built with a goddess-niche in his soul, and thought how he would worship the woman that could fill it. There was a time when she must, beyond question, be one whose radiant mirror had never reflected form of man but his: now he would be content if for him she would abjure and obliterate her past. To make the woman who had loved forget utterly, was a greater victory, he said, than to wake love in the heart of a girl, and would yield him a finer treasure, a richer conquest. Only, pure as snow she must be—pure as the sun himself! Paul Faber was absolutely tyrannous in his notions as to feminine purity. Like the diamond shield of Prince Arthur, Knight of Magnificence, must be the purity that would satisfy this lord of the race who could live without a God! Was he then such a master of purity himself? one so immaculate that in him such aspiration was no presumption? Was what he knew himself to be, an idea to mate with his unspotted ideal? The notion men have of their own worth, and of claims founded thereon, is amazing; most amazing of all is what a man will set up to himself as the standard of the woman he will marry. What the woman may have a right to claim, never enters his thought. He never doubts the right or righteousness of aspiring to wed a woman between whose nature and his lies a gulf, wide as between an angel praising God, and a devil taking refuge from him in a swine. Never a shadow of compunction crosses the leprous soul, as he stretches forth his arms to infold the clean woman! Ah, white dove! thou must lie for a while among the pots. If only thy mother be not more to blame than the wretch that acts but after his kind! He does hot die of self-loathing! how then could he imagine the horror of disgust with which a glimpse of him such as he is would blast the soul of the woman?’ Yet has he—what is it?—the virtue? the pride? or the cruel insolence?—to shrink with rudest abhorrence from one who is, in nature and history and ruin, his fitting and proper mate! To see only how a man will be content to be himself the thing which he scorns another for being, might well be enough to send any one crying to the God there may be, to come between him and himself. Lord! what a turning of things upside down there will be one day! What a setting of lasts first, and firsts last!
THE PARK AT NESTLEY.
Just inside the park, on a mossy knoll, a little way from the ancient wrought-iron gate that opened almost upon the one street of Owlkirk, the rector dug the foundation of his chapel—an oblong Gothic hall, of two squares and a half, capable of seating all in the parish nearer to it than to the abbey church. In his wife’s eyes, Mr. Bevis was now an absolute saint, for not only had he begun to build a chapel in his own grounds, but to read prayers in his own church! She was not the only one, however, who