“Come, Faith,” he said, “and sit by me and hold my hand. I have been thinking this evening of the insensibility of the world to their condition. How few perceive the precipice on the edge of which they stand!”
His daughter, who was accustomed to these sombre reflections, bent over, and bringing his hand to her lips, kissed it without saying anything, knowing that he would soon explain himself more perfectly.
“Which,” continued Armstrong, “is wiser, the thoughtless frivolity of Judge Bernard, or the sad watchfulness of Holden?”
“I am not competent to judge, dear father; but if they both act according to their convictions of right, are they not doing their duty?”
“You ask a difficult question. To be sure men must act according to their ideas of right, but let them beware how they get them, and what they are. Yet, can one choose his ideas? These things puzzle me?”
“What else can we do,” inquired his daughter, “than live by the light we have? Surely I cannot be responsible for my involuntary ignorance.”
“How far we may be the cause of the ignorance we call involuntary, it is impossible to determine. A wrong act, an improper thought, belonging to years ago and even repented of since, may project its dark shadow into the present, and pervert the judgment. We are fearfully made.”
“Why pain yourself, dearest father, with speculations of this character? Our Maker knows our weakness and will pardon our infirmities.”
“I am an illustration of the subject of our conversation,” continued Armstrong, after a pause of a few minutes, during which he had remained meditating, with his head resting on his hand. “I know I would not, willingly, harshly judge another—for who authorized me to pass sentence? Yet these ideas would force themselves into my mind; and how have I spoken of our kind and excellent neighbor! There is something wrong in myself which I must struggle to correct.”
We communicate only enough of the conversation to give an idea of the state of Mr. Armstrong’s mind at the time. At the usual family devotions that night he prayed fervently for forgiveness of his error, repeatedly upbraiding himself with presumption and uncharitableness, and entreating that he might not be left to his own vain imaginations.
O! I could whisper thee a tale,
That surely would thy pity move,
But what would idle words avail,
Unless the heart might speak its love?
To tell that tale my pen were weak,
My tongue its office, too, denies,
Then mark it on my varying cheek,
And read it in my languid eyes.