“I would destroy the world,” he said, “to save him from a living death.”
He was justifying himself unto himself.
“Gabriel,” he said, after a pause, “if this outbreak had not occurred now, yet would it certainly have come to pass. It was but a question of time. The breaking-strain on humanity was too great. The world could not have gone on; neither could it have turned back. The crash was inevitable. It may be God’s way of wiping off the blackboard. It may be that the ancient legends of the destruction of our race by flood and fire are but dim remembrances of events like that which is now happening.”
“It may be so, Max,” I replied; and we were silent.
Even the sea bore testimony to the ruin of man. The lighthouses no longer held up their fingers of flame to warn the mariner from the treacherous rocks. No air-ship, brilliant with many lights shining like innumerable eyes, and heavy with passengers, streamed past us with fierce swiftness, splitting the astonished and complaining air. Here and there a sailing vessel, or a steamer, toiled laboriously along, little dreaming that, at their journey’s end, starving creatures would swarm up their sides to kill and devour.
How still and peaceful was the night—the great, solemn, patient night! How sweet and pure the air! How delightful the silence to ears that had rung so lately with the clamors of that infuriated mob! How pleasant the darkness to eyeballs seared so long by fire and flame and sights of murder! Estella and Christina came and sat down near us. Their faces showed the torture they had endured,—not so much from fear as from the shock and agony with which goodness contemplates terrific and triumphant evil.
I looked into the grand depths of the stars above us; at that endless procession of shining worlds; at that illimitable expanse of silence. And I thought of those vast gaps and lapses of manless time, when all these starry hosts unrolled and marshaled themselves before the attentive eyes of God, and it had not yet entered into his heart to create that swarming, writhing, crawling, contentious mass we call humanity. And I said to myself, “Why should a God condescend to such a work as man?”
And yet, again, I felt that one grateful heart, that darted out the living line of its love and adoration from this dark and perturbed earth, up to the shining throne of the Great Intelligence, must be of more moment and esteem in the universe than millions of tons of mountains—yea, than a wilderness of stars. For matter is but the substance with which God works; while thought, love, conscience and consciousness are parts of God himself. We think; therefore we are divine: we pray; therefore we are immortal.
Part of God! The awful, the inexpressible, the incomprehensible God. His terrible hand swirls, with unresting power, yonder innumerable congregation of suns in their mighty orbits, and yet stoops, with tender touch, to build up the petals of the anemone, and paint with rainbow hues the mealy wings of the butterfly.