The night’s sleep was broken by visions of her, as I had just seen her, so near, so fair. I tried to force my imagination into snatches of remembrance of her face as colored and clear-outlined as the reality—bearing the noble expression it had worn when she said “Would not that be wrong?”
How I sank into self-contempt by comparison!
I wonder if Englishmen feel the passion of love as we French do.
“I love her, I love her,” was my burning ejaculation. “Yet how dare I love her! I am unworthy to stand in her presence! There is only left for me to purify and burn and subdue my heart until it is completely worthy of her holy sight. Worthy of her! And what is worthy of her?”
Again her presence passed before me and a voice seemed to cry “The highest things!”
Thenceforth “The highest things” should be my search, and nothing less. My ambitions had advanced a second step.
“Ici bas tous les lilas meurent;
Tous les chants des oiseaux sont courts;
Je cherche aux etes qui demeurent
And now of the influences which shaped that quest of “the highest things.” There were the conversations in our Secret Society, the “Centre-Seekers.” Picture a winter’s eve, a cosy fire, a weird hall, and a group whose initiation oath was simply “I promise to be sincere.”
“There is the solution of Epicurus,” remarks Holyoake, our Agnostic; “Pleasure, at least, is real. Wrap yourself in it, for you can do no better. Contentment is but one pleasure, as Salvation is another, and even sensuality may be best to you.”
“How about the man who lives for his children?” asked young Fred. Lyle, whose ruddy face was made brighter by the fire glow.
“He has his enjoyment reflected from theirs.”
“What do you think of the friend in ‘Vanity Fair,’ who helps his rival?”
“One of the fools,” replied Holyoake, with an air of settling the matter.
“I can’t believe it that way,” he said thoughtfully.
One member was Lome Riddle; a big bluff chap with a promising moustache, encouraged by private, tuition. “Come along there, Haviland,” he exclaimed, “a nob like you should be one of the ‘boys!’” These fellows don’t know what life is—but to think of a man of muscle going back on us!
“Kick not against the prigs, Riddle!” cried Little Steele in facetious delight.
“Riddle, Riddle, thou art but a poor Philistine.”
“A man of Gath,” contributed another.
“The Philistine has his uses. He is the successful of Evolution,” pronounced Holyoake.
“The future will see methods better than Evolution,” answered Brether, our great firm Scotchman.
“If so, they will be of it,” retorted the Agnostic.