“But now,” he said to himself, “I can go forward with less compunction. I can gratify my desire for excitement and adventure with perfect safety. I will stay with them for a while, and when I am tired can leave them without any entanglements.” When the situation had been regarded for a little while from this point of view, he felt happier and more care-free than for weeks. He solaced his disappointment with the reflection that he should still be near Pepeeta, but no longer in any danger.
At this profound reflection of the young moth hovering about the flame, let the satirist dip his pen in acid, and the pessimist in gall! There is enough folly and stupidity in the operations of the human mind to provoke the one to contempt and the other to despair.
The cuttle-fish throws out an inky substance to conceal itself from its enemies; but the soul ejects an opaque vapor in which to hide from itself! In this mist of hallucination which rises and envelopes us, the whole appearance of life alters. Passion and desire repress the judgment and pervert the conscience. Conclusions that are illogical, expectations that are irrational and confidences that are groundless to the most final and fatal absurdity seem as natural and reasonable as intuitions.
It is not in human nature to escape this perversion of thought and feeling under the stress of temptation. One may as well try to prevent the rise of temperature in the blood in the rage of fever. There are times when even the upright in heart must withdraw to the safe covert of the inner sanctuary and there fervently put up the master prayer of the soul, “Lord, lead me not into temptation!” But if necessity or duty calls them out into the midst of life’s dangers, let them remember that what they feel in the calm retreat, is not what will surge through their disordered intellects and their bounding pulses when they come within the reach of those fearful fascinations!
It was such a prayer that David had need of when he gave his hand to the gypsy.
“How oft the sight
of means to do ill deeds makes ill deeds
The spring and summer had passed, autumn had attained the fullness of its golden beauty, and the inevitable had happened. David and Pepeeta had passed swiftly though not unresistingly through all the intervening stages between a chance acquaintance and an impassioned love.
Any other husband than the quack would have foreseen this catastrophe; but there is one thing blinder than love, and that is egotism such as his. His colossal vanity had not even suspected that a woman who possessed him for her husband could for a single instant bestow a thought of interest on any other man.
Astute student of men, penetrating judge of motive and conduct that he was, he daily beheld the evolution of a tragedy in which he was the victim, with all the indifference of a lamb observing the preparations for its slaughter. Because of this ignorance and indifference, the fellowship of these two young people had been as intimate as that of brother and sister in a home, and this new life had wrought an extraordinary transformation in the habits and character of both.