“Christ lives. He wanders still in secret over the hills and the valleys of the soul, that little kingdom which should not be of this world, which knows not the things that belong unto its peace. And earlier or later there comes an hour when Christ is arraigned before the judgment bar in each individual soul. Once again the Church and the world combine to crush Him who stands silent in their midst, to condemn Him who has already condemned them. Together they raise their fierce cry, ’Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’”
Mr. Gresley tore the leaf out of the manuscript and threw it in the fire.
But worse remained behind. To add to its other sins, the book, now drawing to its close, took a turn which had been led up to inevitably step by step from the first chapter, but which, in its reader’s eyes, who perceived none of the steps, was a deliberate gratuitous intermeddling with vice. Mr. Gresley could not help reading, but, as he laid down the manuscript for a moment to rest his eyes, he felt that he had reached the limit of Hester’s powers, and that he could only attribute the last volume to the Evil One himself.
He had hardly paid this high tribute to his sister’s talent when the door opened, and Mrs. Gresley came in in a wrapper that had once been white.
“Dear James,” she said, “is anything wrong? It is past one o’clock. Are you never coming to bed?”
“Minna,” said her pastor and master, “I have been reading the worst book I have come across yet, and it was written by my own sister under my own roof.”
He might have added “close under the roof,” if he had remembered the little attic chamber where the cold of winter and the heat of summer had each struck in turn and in vain at the indomitable perseverence of the writer of those many pages.
The only sin which we
never forgive in each other is difference of
Mr. Gresley was troubled, more troubled than he had ever been since a never-to-be-forgotten period before his ordination, when he had come in contact with worldly minds, and had had doubts as to the justice of eternal punishment. He was apt to speak in after years of the furnace through which he had passed, and from which nothing short of a conversation with a bishop had had power to save him, as a great experience which he could not regret, because it had brought him into sympathy with so many minds. As he often said in his favorite language of metaphor, he “had threshed out the whole subject of agnosticism, and could consequently meet other minds still struggling in its turbid waves.”
But now again he was deeply perturbed, and it was difficult to see in what blessing to his fellow-creatures this particular agitation would result. He walked with bent head for hours in the garden. He could not attend to his sermon, though it was Friday. He entirely forgot his Bible-class at the alms-houses in the afternoon.