“Forgiveness won’t help him. The only forgiveness he would care for is to marry me.”
“Of course. It is the only way you can forgive him.”
Rachel turned away. Her stubborn, quivering face showed a frightful conflict.
The Bishop watched her.
“My child,” he said, gently, “we all say we follow Christ, but most of us only follow him and his cross—part of the way. When we are told that our Lord bore our sins, and was wounded for our transgressions, I suppose that meant that He felt as if they were His own in His great love for us. But when you shrink from bearing your fellow-creature’s transgressions, it shows that your love is small.”
Rachel was silent.
“If you really love him you will forgive him.”
Rachel clinched and unclinched her hands.
“You are appealing to a nobility and goodness which are not in me,” she said, stubbornly.
“I appeal to nothing but your love. If you really love him you will forgive him.”
“He has broken my heart.”
“I thought that was it. It is yourself you are thinking of. But what is he suffering at this moment? You do not know or care. Where is he now, that poor man who loves you? Rachel, if you had ever known despair, you would not thrust a fellow creature down into it.”
“I have known it,” said Rachel, hoarsely.
“Were not you deserted once? You were deserted to very little purpose, if after that you can desert another. Go back in your mind, and—remember. Where you stood once he stands now. You and his sin have put him there. You and his sin have tied him to his stake. Will you range yourself for ever on the side of his sin? Will you stand by and see him perish?”
Silence; like the silence round a death-bed.
“He is in a great strait. Only love can save him.”
Rachel flung out her arms with an inarticulate cry.
“I will forgive him,” she said. “I will forgive him.”
“Les ames dont
Et les etoiles sont trop loin;
Je mourral dans un coin.”
How Hugh shook off Lady Newhaven when she followed him out of the Palace he did not know. There had been some difficulty. She had spoken to him, had urged something upon him. But he had got rid of her somehow, and had found himself sitting in his bedroom at the Southminster Hotel. Anything to be alone! He had felt that was the one thing in life to attain. But now that he was alone, solitude suddenly took monstrous and hideous proportions, and became a horror to flee from. He could not bear the face of a fellow-creature. He could not bear this ghoul of solitude. There was no room for him between these great millstones. They pressed upon him till he felt they were crushing him to death between them. In vain he endeavored to compose himself, to recollect himself. But exhaustion gradually did for him what he could not do for himself.