“The balance of power?”
“Heavens!—no! The balance of philosophy.”
Pierson smiled. “That sounds very clever, George; but again, I don’t follow you.”
“The balance between the sayings: ‘Might is Right,’ and ‘Right is Might.’ They’re both half-truth, but the first was beating the other out of the field. All the rest of it is cant, you know. And by the way, sir, your Church is solid for punishment of the evildoer. Where’s mercy there? Either its God is not merciful, or else it doesn’t believe in its God.”
“Just punishment does not preclude mercy, George.”
“It does in Nature.”
“Ah! Nature, George—always Nature. God transcends Nature.”
“Then why does He give it a free rein? A man too fond of drink, or women—how much mercy does he get from Nature? His overindulgence brings its exact equivalent of penalty; let him pray to God as much as he likes—unless he alters his ways he gets no mercy. If he does alter his ways, he gets no mercy either; he just gets Nature’s due reward. We English who have neglected brain and education—how much mercy are we getting in this war? Mercy’s a man-made ornament, disease, or luxury—call it what you will. Except that, I’ve nothing to say against it. On the contrary, I am all for it.”
Once more Pierson looked at his daughter. Something in her face hurt him—the silent intensity with which she was hanging on her husband’s words, the eager search of her eyes. And he turned to the door, saying:
“This is bad for you, George.”
He saw Gratian put her hand on her husband’s forehead, and thought—jealously: ’How can I save my poor girl from this infidelity? Are my twenty years of care to go for nothing, against this modern spirit?’
Down in his study, the words went through his mind: “Holy, holy, holy, Merciful and Mighty!” And going to the little piano in the corner, he opened it, and began playing the hymn. He played it softly on the shabby keys of this thirty-year old friend, which had been with him since College days; and sang it softly in his worn voice.
A sound made him look up. Gratian had come in. She put her hand on his shoulder, and said:
“I know it hurts you, Dad. But we’ve got to find out for ourselves, haven’t we? All the time you and George were talking, I felt that you didn’t see that it’s I who’ve changed. It’s not what he thinks, but what I’ve come to think of my own accord. I wish you’d understand that I’ve got a mind of my own, Dad.”
Pierson looked up with amazement.
“Of course you have a mind.”
Gratian shook her head. “No, you thought my mind was yours; and now you think it’s George’s. But it’s my own. When you were my age weren’t you trying hard to find the truth yourself, and differing from your father?”
Pierson did not answer. He could not remember. It was like stirring a stick amongst a drift of last year’s leaves, to awaken but a dry rustling, a vague sense of unsubstantiality. Searched? No doubt he had searched, but the process had brought him nothing. Knowledge was all smoke! Emotional faith alone was truth—reality!