“I see no reason to hope so. Either there is no God, and we shall still be at the mercy of the blind destiny we suffer under here; or there is a God, the God who looks on at this world and makes no sign! The sooner we escape from Him by annihilation the better.”
“Christians would tell you He had given a sign.”
“Yes; so they do in words and deny it in deeds. Nothing is sadder in the whole tragedy, or comedy, than these pitiable efforts to hide the truth, to gloss it over with fables which nobody in his heart of hearts believes—at least in these days. Why not face the worst like men? If we can’t help being unhappy we can help being dishonest and cowardly. Existence is a misfortune. Let us frankly confess that it is, and make the best of it.”
He was not looking at his watch now; he was pacing the room. At last, he was in earnest, and had forgotten all accidents of time and place before the same enigma which perplexed myself.
“The best of it!” I re-echoed. “Surely, under these circumstances, the best thing would be to commit suicide?”
“No,” he cried, stopping and turning sharply upon me. “The worst, because the most cowardly; so long as you have strength, brains, money—anything with which you can do good.”
He looked past me through the window into the outer air, no longer faintly tinged, but dyed deep red by the light of the unseen but resplendent sunset, and added slowly, dejectedly, as if speaking to himself as much as to me—
“Yes, there is one thing worth living for—to help to make it all a little more bearable for the others.”
And then all at once, his face, so virile yet so delicate, so young and yet so sad, reminded me of one I had seen in an old picture—the face of an angel watching beside the dead Christ; and I cried—
“But are you certain He has made no sign; not hundreds of years ago, but in your own lifetime? not to saint or apostle, but to you, yourself? Has nothing which has happened to you, nothing you have ever seen or read or heard, tempted you to hope in something better?”
“Yes,” he said deliberately; “I have had my weak moments. My conviction has wavered, not before religious teaching of any kind, however, nor before Nature, in which some people seem to find such promise; but I have met one or two women, and one man—all of them unknown, unremarkable people—whom the world never heard of, nor is likely to hear of, living uneventful obscure lives in out-of-the-way corners. For instance, there is a lady in this very neighbourhood, a relation of Sir George Atherley, I believe, Mrs. de No—”
“Her ladyship would like to see you in the drawing-room, sir,” said Castleman, suddenly coming in.
The doctor bowed to me and immediately left the room.
MRS. MOSTYN’S GOSPEL
“No, they have not seen any more ghosts, sir,” replied Castleman scornfully next day, “and never need have seen any. It is all along of this tea-drinking. We did not have this bother when the women took their beer regular. These teetotallers have done a lot of harm. They ought to be put down by Act of Parliament.”