Then there was a postscript in Christina’s writing.
“My darling, darling boy, pray with me daily and hourly that we may yet again become a happy, united, God-fearing family as we were before this horrible pain fell upon us.—Your sorrowing but ever loving mother, C. P.”
This letter did not produce the effect on Ernest that it would have done before his imprisonment began. His father and mother thought they could take him up as they had left him off. They forgot the rapidity with which development follows misfortune, if the sufferer is young and of a sound temperament. Ernest made no reply to his father’s letter, but his desire for a total break developed into something like a passion. “There are orphanages,” he exclaimed to himself, “for children who have lost their parents—oh! why, why, why, are there no harbours of refuge for grown men who have not yet lost them?” And he brooded over the bliss of Melchisedek who had been born an orphan, without father, without mother, and without descent.
When I think over all that Ernest told me about his prison meditations, and the conclusions he was drawn to, it occurs to me that in reality he was wanting to do the very last thing which it would have entered into his head to think of wanting. I mean that he was trying to give up father and mother for Christ’s sake. He would have said he was giving them up because he thought they hindered him in the pursuit of his truest and most lasting happiness. Granted, but what is this if it is not Christ? What is Christ if He is not this? He who takes the highest and most self-respecting view of his own welfare which it is in his power to conceive, and adheres to it in spite of conventionality, is a Christian whether he knows it and calls himself one, or whether he does not. A rose is not the less a rose because it does not know its own name.
What if circumstances had made his duty more easy for him than it would be to most men? That was his luck, as much as it is other people’s luck to have other duties made easy for them by accident of birth. Surely if people are born rich or handsome they have a right to their good fortune. Some I know, will say that one man has no right to be born with a better constitution than another; others again will say that luck is the only righteous object of human veneration. Both, I daresay, can make out a very good case, but whichever may be right surely Ernest had as much right to the good luck of finding a duty made easier as he had had to the bad fortune of falling into the scrape which had got him into prison. A man is not to be sneered at for having a trump card in his hand; he is only to be sneered at if he plays his trump card badly.