“I used to feel more drawn to the ascetic achievement and its rewards,” he remarked thoughtfully, “than I do now.”
“If I were not a Presbyterian in Canada,” she told him, “I would be a Buddhist in Burma. But I have inherited the Shorter Catechism; I must remain without the Law.”
Finlay smiled. “They are the simple,” he said. “Our Law makes wise the simple.”
Advena looked for a moment into the fire. She was listening, with admiration, to her heart; she would not be led to consider esoteric contrasts of East and West.
“Isn’t there something that appeals to you,” she said, “in the thought of just leaving it, all unsaid and all undone, a dear and tender projection upon the future that faded—a lovely thing we turned away from, until one day it was no longer there?”
“Charming,” he said, averting his eyes so that she should not see the hunger in them. “Charming—literature!”
She smiled and sighed, and he wrenched his mind to the consideration of the Buddhism of Browning. She followed him obediently, but the lines they wanted did not come easily; they were compelled to search and verify. Something lately seemed lost to them of that kind of. glad activity; he was more aware of it than she, since he was less occupied in the aesthetic ecstasy of self-torture. In the old time before the sun rose they had been so conscious of realms of idea lying just beyond the achievement of thought, approachable, visible by phrases, brokenly, realms which they could see closer when they essayed together. He constantly struggled to reach those enchanted areas again, but they seemed to have gone down behind the horizon; and the only inspiration that carried them far drew its impetus from the poetry of their plight. They looked for verses to prove that Browning’s imagination carried him bravely through lives and lives to come, and found them to speculate whether in such chances they might hope to meet again.
And the talk came back to his difficulties with his Board of Management, and to her choice of a frame for the etching he had given her, by his friend the Glasgow impressionist, and to their opinion of a common acquaintance, and to Lorne and his prospects. He told her how little she resembled her brother, and where they diverged, and how; and she listened with submission and delight, enchanted to feel his hand upon her intimate nature. She lingered in the hall while he got into his overcoat, and saw that a glove was the worse for wear. “Would it be the heroic-in-little,” she begged, “to let me mend that?”
As he went out alone into the winter streets he too drew upon a pagan for his admonition. “’What then art thou doing here, O imagination?’” he groaned in his private heart. “’Go away, I entreat thee by the gods, for I want thee not. But thou art come again according to thy old fashion. I am not angry with thee, only go away!’”