Nan had told him she had never been married, and a sense of delicacy had indicated to him that this was a subject upon which he must not appear to be curious. To question her for the details would have been repugnant to his nicely balanced sense of the fitness of things. Nevertheless, he reflected, if her love had been illicit, was it more illicit than that of the woman who enters into a loveless marriage, induced to such action by a sordid consideration of worldly goods and gear? Was her sin in bearing a child out of wedlock more terrible than that of the married woman who shudders at the responsibilities of motherhood, or evades the travail of love’s fulfilment by snuffing out little lives in embryo? He thought not. He recalled an evening in New York when he had watched a policeman following a drab of the streets who sought to evade him and ply her sorry trade in the vicinity of Herald Square; he remembered how that same policeman had abandoned the chase to touch his cap respectfully and open her limousine door for the heroine (God save the mark!) of a scandalous divorce.
“Damn it!” he murmured. “It’s a rotten, cruel world, and I don’t understand it. I’m all mixed up.” And he went to bed, where, his bodily weariness overcoming his mental depression, he slept.
He was man enough to scorn public opinion, but human enough to fear it.
The heir of the Tyee mills and forests was not of a religious turn of mind for all his strict training in Christian doctrine, although perhaps it would be more to the point to state that he was inclined to be unorthodox. Nevertheless, out of respect to the faith of his fathers, he rose that Sunday morning and decided to go to church. Not that he anticipated any spiritual benefit would accrue to him by virtue of his pilgrimage down to Port Agnew; in his heart of hearts he regarded the pastor as an old woman, a man afraid of the world, and without any knowledge of it, so to speak. But old Hector was a pillar of the church; his family had always accompanied him thither on Sundays, and a sense of duty indicated to Donald that, as the future head of the clan, he should not alter its customs.
By a strange coincidence, the Reverend Mr. Tingley chose as the text for his sermon the eighth chapter of the Gospel according to St. John from the first to the eleventh verses, inclusive. Donald, instantly alert, straightened in the pew, and prepared to listen with interest to the Reverend Mr. Tingley’s opinion of the wisdom of Jesus Christ in so casually disposing of the case of the woman taken in adultery.
“Dearly beloved,” the pastor began, carefully placing an index-finger between the leaves of his Bible to mark the passage he had just read, “the title of my sermon this Sunday shall be: ’The First Stone. Let him who is without sin cast it.’”
“Banal, hypocritical ass!” Donald soliloquized. “She was the mezzo-soprano soloist in your choir four years, and you haven’t tried to help her since she came back to the Sawdust Pile.”