The music stopped entirely, and Sadie’s great truthful eyes were fixed in horror on his face. “Is it possible,” she said at length, “that that is all, and he can bear such determined ill-will toward you? and they call him an earnest Christian!”
At which remark Dr. Douglass laughed a low, quick laugh, as if he found it quite impossible to restrain his mirth, and then became instantly grave, and said:
“I beg your pardon.”
“For what, Dr. Douglass; and why did you laugh?”
“For laughing; and I laughed because I could not restrain a feeling of amusement at your innocently connecting his unpleasant state of mind with his professions of Christianity.”
“Should they not be connected?”
“Well, that depends upon how much importance you attach to them.”
“Dr. Douglass, what do you mean?”
“Treason, I suspect, viewed from your standpoint; and therefore it would be much more proper for me not to talk about it.”
“But I want you to talk about it. Do you mean to say that you have no faith in any one’s religion?”
“How much have you?”
“Dr. Douglass, that is a very Yankee way of answering a question.”
“I know; but it is the easiest way of reaching my point; so I repeat: How much faith have you in these Christian professions? or, in other words, how many professing Christians do you know who are particularly improved in your estimation by their professions?”
The old questioning of Sadie’s own heart brought before her again! Oh, Christian sister, with whom so many years of her life had been spent, with whom she had been so closely connected, if she could but have turned to you, and remembering your earnest life, your honest endeavors toward the right, your earnest struggles with sin and self; the evident marks of the Lord Jesus all about you; and, remembering this, have quelled the tempter in human form, who stood waiting for a verdict, with a determined—“I have known one”—what might not have been gained for your side that night?
As it was she hesitated, and thought—not of Ester, her life had not been such as to be counted for a moment—of her mother.
Well, Mrs. Ried’s religion had been of a negative rather than of a positive sort, at least outwardly. She never spoke much of these matters, and Sadie positively did not know whether she ever prayed or not. How was she to decide whether the gentle, patient life was the outgrowth of religion in her heart, or whether it was a natural sweetness of disposition and tenderness of feeling?
Then there was Dr. Van Anden, an hour ago she would surely have said him, but now it was impossible; so as the silence, and the peculiar smile on Dr. Douglass’ face, grew uncomfortable, she answered hurriedly: “I don’t know many Christian people, Doctor.” And then, more truthfully: “But I don’t consider those with whom I am acquainted in any degree remarkable; yet at the same time I don’t choose to set down the entire Christian world as a company of miserable hypocrites.”