In a few moments the boat swung loose and turned its prow down the river. The bustle of the embarkation distracted him. He watched the hurrying sailors, gazed at the piles of merchandise, walked up and down the deck, listened to the fresh breeze that began to play upon the great, sonorous harp of the shrouds and the masts, and when at last the vessel glided out into the waters of the gulf he lay down in a hammock and fell into a long and dreamless sleep.
Infinite passion, and the pain
Of finite hearts that yearn.”
For a moment after she had read the note which David thrust beneath her door, Pepeeta held her breath; then sinking to her knees, she prostrated herself before that august Being to whom all men bow in last extremities; her head resting upon arms pathetically crossed on the low window sill—bruised but not broken, cast down, but not destroyed—she drank the cup of sorrow to its dregs.
Men hang birds in dark rooms, sometimes, until they learn to sing, and it was to a kindred discipline of her Heavenly Father’s that Pepeeta was being subjected. In that supreme hour of trial she performed the greatest feat of which the soul is capable. She defied her own nature; she committed an act of sacred violence against the most clamorous propensities of her heart.
What that struggle cost her no mortal mind can know. That in her decision she chose the better part some will doubt. The most common justification of our conduct is that we have followed the “dictates of our natures.” But because those natures are double, and the good and evil perpetually struggle for the mastery, we are sometimes compelled to reverse their most strenuous demands.
Those lofty souls who are enabled to perceive their duty clearly and to commit bravely this act of sacred violence must always remain a mystery to those who meanly live upon a lower plane of existence.
It was as certain when this pure soul entered upon her renewed struggle to find the path of duty that she would succeed, as that the carrier pigeon, launched into an unknown region, will find the homeward way; but for a little time she fluttered her wings in ignorance and despair; she found no rest for the soles of her feet, and the ark of refuge was nowhere to be seen.
The nearness of her lover, she could see him in the street; his sorrow, she could behold his white face even by the pale light of the moon; his tender love, whose real depth she had never for a moment doubted; his bitter agony, which she knew she could terminate in a single instant, all appealed to her with an indescribable power. Her own sorrow and loneliness were eclipsed by the consciousness of the sorrow and loneliness of the man whom she loved more than life. She felt the pain in his bosom far more than in her own; but this feeling which added so much to her suffering became a clear interpreter of her duty.