There was a pause. She turned to look at me, and, as if struck by something in my face, said gently, soothingly:
“Yes, it is a terrible thought, but only for the unregenerate. It has no terror for me. I trust it need have no terror for you. After all, how simple, how easy is the way of escape! You have only to believe.”
“And then you are safe, safe for evermore. Think of that. The foolish people who wish to explain away eternal punishment, forget that at the same time they explain away eternal happiness! You will be safe now, and after death you will be in heaven for evermore.”
“I shall be in heaven for evermore, and always there will be hell.”
“Where the others will be?”
“What others? Only the wicked!”
“Aunt Eleanour! Aunt Eleanour!” called the children once more.
“I must go to them! But, Mr. Lyndsay, think over what I have said.”
And I remained and obeyed her, and beheld, entire, distinct, the spectre that drives men to madness or despair—illimitable omnipotent Malice. In its shadow the colour of the flowers was quenched, and the music of the birds rang false. Yet it wore the consecration of time and authority! What if it were true?
“Mr. Lyndsay,” said Denis at my elbow, “Aunt Eleanour has sent me to fetch you to tea. Mr. Lyndsay, do you hear? Why do you look so strange?”
He caught my hand anxiously as he spoke, and by that little human touch the spell was broken. The phantom vanished; and, looking into the child’s eyes, I felt it was a lie.
CANON VERNADE’S GOSPEL
There was no Mrs. de Noel in the carriage when it returned; she had gone to London to stay with Mrs. Donnithorne, whom Atherley spoke of as Aunt Henrietta, and was not expected home till Wednesday.
“I am sorry,” Lady Atherley observed, as we drove home through the dusk; “I should like to have had her here when Uncle Augustus was with us. I would have asked Mrs. Mostyn to dine with us, but I am not sure she and Uncle Augustus would get on. When her sister, Mrs. Donnithorne, met Uncle Augustus and his wife at lunch at our house once, she said she thought no minister of the Gospel ought to allow his child to take part in worldly amusements or ceremonials. It was very awkward, because Uncle Augustus’s eldest girl had been presented only the day before. And Aunt Clara, Uncle Augustus’s wife, you know, who is rather quick, said it depended whether the minister of the Gospel was a gentleman or a shoe-black, because Mrs. Donnithorne was attending a dissenting chapel then where the preacher was quite a common uneducated sort of person. And after that they would not talk to each other, and, altogether, I remember, it was very unpleasant. I do think it is such a pity,” cried Lady Atherley with real feeling, “when people will take up these extreme religious views, as all the Atherleys do. I am sure it is quite a comfort to have someone like you in the house, Mr. Lyndsay, who is not particular about religion.”