Read CHAPTER XVII. of Paul Faber‚ Surgeon, free online book, by George MacDonald, on ReadCentral.com.

THE PARLOR AGAIN.

Faber had never made any effort to believe in a divine order of things ­indeed he had never made strenuous effort to believe in any thing.  It had never at all occurred to him that it might be a duty to believe.  He was a kindly and not a repellent man, but when he doubted another, he doubted him; it never occurred to him that perhaps he ought to believe in that man.  There must be a lack of something, where a man’s sense of duty urges him mainly to denial.  His existence is a positive thing ­his main utterance ought to be positive.  I would not forget that the nature of a denial may be such as to involve a strong positive.

To Faber it seemed the true and therefore right thing, to deny the existence of any such being as men call God.  I heartily admit that such denial may argue a nobler condition than that of the man who will reason for the existence of what he calls a Deity, but omits to order his way after what he professes to believe His will.  At the same time, his conclusion that he was not bound to believe in any God, seemed to lift a certain weight off the heart of the doctor ­the weight, namely, that gathers partly from the knowledge of having done wrong things, partly from the consciousness of not being altogether right.  It would be very unfair, however, to leave the impression that this was the origin of all the relief the doctor derived from the conclusion.  For thereby he got rid, in a great measure at least, of the notion ­horrible in proportion to the degree in which it is actually present to the mind, although, I suspect, it is not, in a true sense, credible to any mind ­of a cruel, careless, unjust Being at the head of affairs.  That such a notion should exist at all, is mainly the fault of the mass of so-called religious people, for they seem to believe in, and certainly proclaim such a God.  In their excuse it may be urged they tell the tale as it was told to them; but the fault lies in this, that, with the gospel in their hands, they have yet lived in such disregard of its precepts, that they have never discovered their representation of the God of Truth to be such, that the more honest a man is, the less can he accept it.  That the honest man, however, should not thereupon set himself to see whether there might not be a true God notwithstanding, whether such a God was not conceivable consistently with things as they are, whether the believers had not distorted the revelation they professed to follow; especially that he should prefer to believe in some sort of vitalic machine, equally void of beneficence and malevolence, existing because it can not help it, and giving birth to all sorts of creatures, men and women included, because it can not help it ­must arise from a condition of being, call it spiritual, moral, or mental ­I can not be obliging enough to add cerebral, because so I should nullify my conclusion, seeing there would be no substance left wherein it could be wrought out ­for which the man, I can not but think, will one day discover that he was to blame ­for which a living God sees that he is to blame, makes all the excuse he can, and will give the needful punishment to the uttermost lash.

There are some again, to whom the idea of a God perfect as they could imagine Him in love and devotion and truth, seems, they say, too good to be true:  such have not yet perceived that no God any thing less than absolutely glorious in loveliness would be worth believing in, or such as the human soul could believe in.  But Faber did not belong to this class ­still less to that portion of it whose inconsolable grief over the lack of such a God may any day blossom into hope of finding Him.  He was in practice at one with that portion of it who, accepting things at their worst, find alleviation for their sorrows in the strenuous effort to make the best of them; but he sought to content himself with the order of things which, blind and deaf and non-willing, he said had existed for evermore, most likely ­the thing was hardly worth discussing; blind, for we can not see that it sees; deaf, for we can not hear that it hears; and without will, for we see no strife, purpose, or change in its going!

There was no God, then, and people would be more comfortable to know it.  In any case, as there was none, they ought to know it.  As to his certainty of there being none, Faber felt no desire to find one, had met with no proof that there was one, and had reasons for supposing that there was none.  He had not searched very long or very wide, or with any eager desire to discover Him, if indeed there should be a God that hid Himself.  His genial nature delighted in sympathy, and he sought it even in that whose perfect operation, is the destruction of all sympathy.  Who does not know the pleasure of that moment of nascent communion, when argument or expostulation has begun to tell, conviction begins to dawn, and the first faint thrill of response is felt?  But the joy may be either of two very different kinds ­delight in victory and the personal success of persuasion, or the ecstasy of the shared vision of truth, in which contact souls come nearer to each other than any closest familiarity can effect.  Such a nearness can be brought about by no negation however genuine, or however evil may be the thing denied.

Sympathy, then, such as he desired, Faber was now bent on finding, or bringing about in Juliet Meredith.  He would fain get nearer to her.  Something pushed, something drew him toward the lovely phenomenon into which had flowered invisible Nature’s bud of shapeless protoplasm.  He would have her trust him, believe him, love him.  If he succeeded, so much the greater would be the value and the pleasure of the conquest, that it had been gained in spite of all her prejudices of education and conscience.  And if in the process of finding truth a home in her bosom, he should cause her pain even to agony, would not the tenderness born of their lonely need for each other, be far more consoling than any mere aspiration after a visionary comforter?

Juliet had been, so far as her father was concerned in her education, religiously brought up.  No doubt Captain Meredith was more fervid than he was reasonable, but he was a true man, and in his regiment, on which he brought all his influence to bear, had been regarded with respect, even where not heartily loved.  But her mother was one of those weakest of women who can never forget the beauty they once possessed, or quite believe they have lost it, remaining, even after the very traces of it have vanished, as greedy as ever of admiration.  Her maxims and principles, if she could be said to have any of the latter, were not a little opposed to her husband’s; but she died when Juliet was only five years old, and the child grew to be almost the companion of her father.  Hence it came that she heard much religious conversation, often partaking not a little of the character of discussion and even of dispute.  She thus became familiar with the forms of a religious belief as narrow as its partisans are numerous.  Her heart did not remain uninterested, but she was never in earnest sufficiently to discover what a thing of beggarly elements the system was, and how incapable of satisfying any childlike soul.  She never questioned the truth of what she heard, and became skilled in its idioms and arguments and forms of thought.  But the more familiar one becomes with any religious system, while yet the conscience and will are unawakened and obedience has not begun, the harder is it to enter into the kingdom of heaven.  Such familiarity is a soul-killing experience, and great will be the excuse for some of those sons of religious parents who have gone further toward hell than many born and bred thieves and sinners.

When Juliet came to understand clearly that her new friend did mean thorough-going unbelief, the rejection of all the doctrines she had been taught by him whose memory she revered, she was altogether shocked, and for a day and a night regarded him as a monster of wickedness.  But her horror was mainly the reflex of that with which her father would have regarded him, and all that was needed to moderate horror to disapproval, was familiarity with his doctrines in the light of his agreeable presence and undeniable good qualities.  Thoroughly acquainted as she believed herself with “the plan of salvation,” Jesus of Nazareth was to her but the vague shadow of something that was more than a man, yet no man at all.  I had nearly said that what He came to reveal had become to her yet more vague from her nebulous notion of Him who was its revelation.  Her religion was, as a matter of course, as dusky and uncertain, as the object-center of it was obscure and unrealized.  Since her father’s death and her comparative isolation, she had read and thought a good deal; some of my readers may even think she had read and thought to tolerable purposes judging from her answers to Faber in the first serious conversation they had; but her religion had lain as before in a state of dull quiescence, until her late experience, realizing to her the idea of the special care of which she stood so much in need, awoke in her a keen sense of delight, and if not a sense of gratitude as well, yet a dull desire to be grateful.

The next day, as she sat pondering what had passed between them, altogether unaware of her own weakness, she was suddenly seized with the ambition ­in its inward relations the same as his ­of converting him to her belief.  The purpose justified an interest in him beyond what gratitude obligated, and was in part the cause why she neither shrank from his society, nor grew alarmed at the rapid growth of her intimacy.  But they only who love the truth simply and altogether, can really know what they are about.

I do not care to follow the intellectual duel between them.  Argument, save that of a man with himself, when council is held between heart, will, imagination, conscience, vision, and intellect, is of little avail or worth.  Nothing, however, could have suited Faber’s desires better.  Under the shadow of such difficulties as the wise man ponders and the fool flaunts, difficulties which have been difficulties from the dawn of human thought, and will in new shapes keep returning so long as the human understanding yearns to infold its origin, Faber brought up an array of arguments utterly destructive of the wretched theories of forms of religion which were all she had to bring into the field:  so wretched and false were they ­feeblest she found them just where she had regarded them as invincible ­that in destroying them Faber did even a poor part of the work of a soldier of God:  Mephistopheles describes himself as

For the nature of Juliet’s argument I must be content to refer any curious reader to the false defenses made, and lies spoken for God, in many a pulpit and many a volume, by the worshipers of letter and system, who for their sakes “accept His person,” and plead unrighteously for Him.  Before the common sense of Faber, they went down like toys, and Juliet, without consciously yielding at first, soon came to perceive that they were worse than worthless ­weapons whose handles were sharper than their blades.  She had no others, nor metal of which to make any; and what with the persuasive influence of the man, and the pleasure in the mere exercise of her understanding, became more and more interested as she saw the drift of his argument, and apprehended the weight of what truth lay upon his side.  For even the falsest argument is sustained in virtue of some show of truth, or perhaps some crumb of reality belonging to it.  The absolute lie, if such be frameable by lips of men, can look only the blackness of darkness it is.  The lie that can hurt, hurts in the strength of the second lie in which it is folded ­a likeness to the truth.  It would have mattered little that she was driven from line after line of her defense, had she not, while she seemed to herself to be its champion, actually lost sight of that for which she thought she was striving.

It added much to Faber’s influence on Juliet, that a tone of pathos and an element of poetry generally pervaded the forms of his denial.  The tone was the more penetrating that it veiled the pride behind it all, the pride namely of an unhealthy conscious individuality, the pride of self as self, which makes a man the center of his own universe, and a mockery to all the demons of the real universe.  That man only who rises above the small yet mighty predilection, who sets the self of his own consciousness behind his back, and cherishes only the self of the Father’s thought, the angel that beholds the eternal face, that man only is a free and noble being, he only breathes the air of the infinite.  Another may well deny the existence of any such Father, any such infinite, for he knows nothing of the nature of either, and his testimony for it would be as worthless as that is which he gives against it.

The nature of Juliet Meredith was true and trusting ­but in respect of her mother she had been sown in weakness, and she was not yet raised in strength.  Because of his wife, Captain Meredith had more than once had to exchange regiments.  But from him Juliet had inherited a certain strength of honest purpose, which had stood him in better stead than the whole sum of his gifts and acquirements, which was by no means despicable.

Late one lovely evening in the early summer, they sat together in the dusky parlor of the cottage, with the window to the garden open.  The sweetest of western airs came in, with a faint scent chiefly of damp earth, moss, and primroses, in which, to the pensive imagination, the faded yellow of the sunset seemed to bear a part.

“I am sorry to say we must shut the window, Miss Meredith,” said the doctor, rising.  “You must always be jealous of the night air.  It will never be friendly to you.”

“What enemies we have all about us!” she returned with a slight shiver, which Faber attributed to the enemy in question, and feared his care had not amounted to precaution.  “It is strange,” she went on, “that all things should conspire, or at least rise, against ’the roof and crown of things,’ as Tennyson calls us.  Are they jealous of us?”

“Clearly, at all events, we are not at home amidst them ­not genuinely so,” admitted the doctor.

“And yet you say we are sprung of them?” said Juliet.

“We have lifted ourselves above them,” rejoined the doctor, “and must conquer them next.”

“And until we conquer them,” suggested Juliet, “our lifting above them is in vain?”

“For we return to them,” assented Faber; and silence fell. ­“Yes,” he resumed, “it is sad.  The upper air is sweet, and the heart of man loves the sun; ­”

“Then,” interrupted Juliet, “why would you have me willing to go down to the darkness?”

“I would not have you willing.  I would have you love the light as you do.  We can not but love the light, for it is good; and the sorrow that we must leave it, and that so soon, only makes it dearer.  The sense of coming loss is, or ought to be, the strongest of all bonds between the creatures of a day.  The sweetest, saddest, most entrancing songs that love can sing, must be but variations on this one theme. ­’The morning is clear; the dew mounts heavenward; the odor spreads; the sun looks over the hill; the world breaks into laughter:  let us love one another!  The sun grows hot, the shadow lies deep; let us sit in it, and remember; the sea lies flashing in green, dulled with purple; the peacock spreads his glories, a living garden of flowers; all is mute but the rush of the stream:  let us love one another!  The soft evening draws nigh; the dew is coming down again; the air is cool, dusky, and thin; it is sweeter than the morning; other words of death gleam out of the deepening sky; the birds close their wings and hide their heads, for death is near:  let us love one another!  The night is come, and there is no morrow; it is dark; the end is nigh; it grows cold; in the darkness and the cold we tremble, we sink; a moment and we are no more; ah! ah, beloved! let us love, let us cleave to one another, for we die!’”

But it seems to me, that the pitifulness with which we ought to regard each other in the horror of being the offspring of a love we do not love, in the danger of wandering ever, the children of light, in the midst of darkness, immeasurably surpasses the pitifulness demanded by the fancy that we are the creatures of but a day.

Moved in his soul by the sound of his own words, but himself the harp upon which the fingers of a mightier Nature than he knew were playing a prelude to a grander phantasy than he could comprehend, Faber caught the hand of Juliet where it gleamed white in the gathering gloom.  But she withdrew it, saying in a tone which through the darkness seemed to him to come from afar, tinged with mockery.

“You ought to have been a poet ­not a doctor, Mr. Faber!”

The jar of her apparent coolness brought him back with a shock to the commonplace.  He almost shuddered.  It was like a gust of icy wind piercing a summer night.

“I trust the doctor can rule the poet,” he said, recovering his self-possession with an effort, and rising.

“The doctor ought at least to keep the poet from falsehood.  Is false poetry any better than false religion?” returned Juliet.

“I do not quite see ­”

“Your day is not a true picture of life such as you would make it. ­Let me see!  I will give you one. ­Sit down. ­Give me time. ­’The morning is dark; the mist hangs and will not rise; the sodden leaves sink under the foot; overhead the boughs are bare; the cold creeps into bone and marrow; let us love one another!  The sun is buried in miles of vapor; the birds sit mute on the damp twigs; the gathered drizzle slowly drips from the eaves; the wood will not burn in the grate; there is a crust in the larder, no wine in the cellar:  let us love one another!’”

“Yes!” cried Faber, again seizing her hand, “let us but love, and I am content!”

Again she withdrew it.

“Nay, but hear my song out,” she said, turning her face towards the window. ­In the fading light he saw a wild look of pain, which vanished in a strange, bitter smile as she resumed. ­“’The ashes of life’s volcano are falling; they bepowder my hair; its fires have withered the rose of my lips; my forehead is wrinkled, my cheeks are furrowed, my brows are sullen; I am weary, and discontented, and unlovely:  ah, let us love one another!  The wheels of time grind on; my heart is sick, and cares not for thee; I care not for myself, and thou art no longer lovely to me; I can no more recall wherefore I desired thee once; I long only for the endless sleep; death alone hath charms:  to say, Let us love one another, were now a mockery too bitter to be felt.  Even sadness is withered.  No more can it make me sorrowful to brood over the days that are gone, or to remember the song that once would have made my heart a fountain of tears.  Ah, hah! the folly to think we could love to the end!  But I care not; the fancy served its turn; and there is a grave for thee and me ­apart or together I care not, so I cease.  Thou needst not love me any more; I care not for thy love.  I hardly care for the blessed darkness itself.  Give me no sweet oblivious antidote, no precious poison such as I once prayed for when I feared the loss of love, that it might open to me the gate of forgetfulness, take me softly in unseen arms, and sink with me into the during dark.  No; I will, not calmly, but in utter indifference, await the end.  I do not love thee; but I can eat, and I enjoy my wine, and my rubber of whist ­’”

She broke into a dreadful laugh.  It was all horribly unnatural!  She rose, and in the deepening twilight seemed to draw herself up far beyond her height, then turned, and looked out on the shadowy last of the sunset.  Faber rose also.  He felt her shudder, though she was not within two arm’s-lengths of him.  He sprang to her side.

“Miss Meredith ­Juliet ­you have suffered!  The world has been too hard for you!  Let me do all I can to make up for it!  I too know what suffering is, and my heart is bleeding for you!”

“What! are you not part of the world?  Are you not her last-born ­the perfection of her heartlessness? ­and will you act the farce of consolation?  Is it the last stroke of the eternal mockery?”

“Juliet,” he said, and once more took her hand, “I love you.”

“As a man may!” she rejoined with scorn, and pulled her hand from his grasp.  “No! such love as you can give, is too poor even for me.  Love you I will not.  If you speak to me so again, you will drive me away.  Talk to me as you will of your void idol.  Tell me of the darkness of his dwelling, and the sanctuary it affords to poor, tormented, specter-hunted humanity; but do not talk to me of love also, for where your idol is, love can not be.”

Faber made a gentle apology, and withdrew ­abashed and hurt ­vexed with himself, and annoyed with his failure.

The moment he was gone, she cast herself on the sofa with a choked scream, and sobbed, and ground her teeth, but shed no tear.  Life had long been poor, arid, vague; now there was not left even the luxury of grief!  Where all was loss, no loss was worth a tear.

“It were good for me that I had never been born!” she cried.

But the doctor came again and again, and looked devotion, though he never spoke of love.  He avoided also for a time any further pressing of his opinions ­talked of poetry, of science, of nature ­all he said tinged with the same sad glow.  Then by degrees direct denial came up again, and Juliet scarcely attempted opposition.  Gradually she got quite used to his doctrine, and as she got used to it, it seemed less dreadful, and rather less sad.  What wickedness could there be in denying a God whom the very works attributed to him declared not to exist!  Mr. Faber was a man of science, and knew it.  She could see for herself that it must draw closer the bonds between human beings, to learn that there was no such power to hurt them or aid them, or to claim lordship over them, and enslave them to his will.  For Juliet had never had a glimpse of the idea, that in oneness with the love-creating Will, alone lies freedom for the love created.  When Faber perceived that his words had begun and continued to influence her, he, on his part, grew more kindly disposed toward her superstitions.

Let me here remark that, until we see God as He is, and are changed into His likeness, all our beliefs must partake more or less of superstition; but if there be a God, the greatest superstition of all will be found to have consisted in denying him.

“Do not think me incapable,” he said one day, after they had at length slid back into their former freedom with each other, “of seeing much that is lovely and gracious in the orthodox fancies of religion.  Much depends, of course, upon the nature of the person who holds them.  No belief could be beautiful in a mind that is unlovely.  A sonnet of Shakespeare can be no better than a burned cinder in such a mind as Mrs. Ramshorn’s.  But there is Mr. Wingfold, the curate of the abbey-church! a true, honest man, who will give even an infidel like me fair play:  nothing that finds acceptance with him can be other than noble, whether it be true or not.  I fear he expects me to come over to him one day.  I am sorry he will be disappointed, for he is a fellow quite free from the flummery of his profession.  For my part, I do not see why two friends should not consent to respect each other’s opinions, letting the one do his best without a God to hinder him, and the other his best with his belief in one to aid him.  Such a pair might be the most emulous of rivals in good works.”

Juliet returned no satisfactory response to this tentative remark; but it was from no objection any longer in her mind to such a relation in the abstract.  She had not yet at all consented with herself to abandon the faith of her father, but she did not see, and indeed it were hard for any one in her condition to see, why a man and a woman, the one denying after Faber’s fashion, the other believing after hers, should not live together, and love and help each other.  Of all valueless things, a merely speculative theology is one of the most valueless.  To her, God had never been much more than a name ­a name, it is true, that always occurred to her in any vivid moment of her life; but the Being whose was that name, was vague to her as a storm of sand ­hardly so much her father as was the first forgotten ancestor of her line.  And now it was sad for her chat at such a time of peculiar emotion, when the heart is ready to turn of itself toward its unseen origin, feeling after the fountain of its love, the very occasion of the tide Godward should be an influence destructive of the same.  Under the growing fascination of the handsome, noble-minded doctor, she was fast losing what little shadow of faith she had possessed.  The theology she had attempted to defend was so faulty, so unfair to God, that Faber’s atheism had an advantage over it as easy as it was great.  His unbelief was less selfish than Juliet’s faith; consequently her faith sank, as her conscience rose meeting what was true in Faber’s utterances.  How could it be otherwise when she opposed lies uttered for the truth, to truths uttered for the lie? the truth itself she had never been true enough to look in the face.  As her arguments, yea the very things she argued for, went down before him, her faith, which, to be faith, should have been in the living source of all true argument, found no object, was swept away like the uprooted weed it was, and whelmed in returning chaos.

“If such is your God,” he said, “I do Him a favor in denying His existence, for His very being would be a disgrace to Himself.  At times, as I go my rounds, and think of the horrors of misery and suffering before me, I feel as if I were out on a campaign against an Evil supreme, the Author of them all.  But when I reflect that He must then actually create from very joy in the infliction and sight of agony, I am ashamed of my foolish and cruel, though but momentary imagination, and ­’There can be no such being!’ I say.  “I but labor in a region of inexorable law, blind as Justice herself; law that works for good in the main, and whose carelessness of individual suffering it is for me, and all who know in any way how, to supplement with the individual care of man for his fellow-men, who, either from Nature’s own necessity, or by neglect or violation of her laws, find themselves in a sea of troubles.”  For Nature herself, to the man who will work in harmony with her, affords the means of alleviation, of restoration even ­who knows if not of something better still? ­the means, that is, of encountering the ills that result from the breach of her own laws; and the best the man who would help his fellows can do, is to search after and find such other laws, whose applied operation will restore the general conduction, and render life after all an endurable, if not a desirable thing.”

“But you can do nothing with death,” said Juliet.

“Nothing ­yet ­alas!”

“Is death a law, or a breach of law, then?” she asked.

“That is a question I can not answer.”

“In any case, were it not better to let the race die out, instead of laboriously piecing and patching at a too old garment, and so leave room for a new race to come up, which the fruit of experience, both sweet and bitter, left behind in books, might enable to avoid like ruin?”

“Ages before they were able to read our books, they would have broken the same laws, found the same evils, and be as far as we are now beyond the help of foregone experiences:  they would have the experience itself, of whose essence it is, that it is still too late.”

“Then would not the kindest thing be to poison the race ­as men on the prairies meet fire with fire ­and so with death foil Death and have done with dying?”

“It seems to me better to live on in the hope that someone may yet ­in some far-off age it may only be, but what a thing if it should be! ­discover the law of death, learn how to meet it, and, with its fore-runners, disease and decay, banish it from the world.  Would you crush the dragonfly, the moth, or the bee, because its days are so few?  Rather would you not pitifully rescue them, that they might enjoy to their natural end the wild intoxication of being?”

“Ah, but they are happy while they live!”

“So also are men ­all men ­for parts of their time.  How many, do you think, would thank me for the offered poison?”

Talk after talk of this kind, which the scope of my history forbids me to follow, took place between them, until at length Juliet, generally silenced, came to be silenced not unwillingly.  All the time, their common humanity, each perceiving that the other had suffered, was urging to mutual consolation.  And all the time, that mysterious force, inscrutable as creation itself, which draws the individual man and woman together, was mightily at work between them ­a force which, terrible as is the array of its attendant shadows, will at length appear to have been one of the most powerful in the redemption of the world.  But Juliet did nothing, said nothing, to attract Faber.  He would have cast himself before her as a slave begging an owner, but for something in her carriage which constantly prevented him.  At one time he read it as an unforgotten grief, at another as a cherished affection, and trembled at the thought of the agonies that might be in store for him.

Weeks passed, and he had not made one inquiry after a situation for her.  It was not because he would gladly have, prolonged the present arrangement of things, but that he found it almost impossible to bring himself to talk about her.  If she would but accept him, he thought ­then there would be no need!  But he dared not urge her ­mainly from fear of failure, not at all from excess of modesty, seeing he soberly believed such love and devotion as his, worth the acceptance of any woman ­even while-he believed also, that to be loved of a true woman was the one only thing which could make up for the enormous swindle of life, in which man must ever be a sorrow to himself, as ever lagging behind his own child, his ideal.  Even for this, the worm that must forever lie gnawing in the heart of humanity, it would be consolation enough to pluck together the roses of youth; they had it in their own power to die while their odor was yet red.  Why did she repel him?  Doubtless, he concluded over and over again, because, with her lofty ideal of love, a love for this world only seemed to her a love not worth the stooping to take.  If he could but persuade her that the love offered in the agony of the fire must be a nobler love than that whispered from a bed of roses, then perhaps, dissolved in confluent sadness and sweetness, she would hold out to him the chalice of her heart, and the one pearl of the world would yet be his ­a woman all his own ­pure as a flower, sad as the night, and deep as nature unfathomable.

He had a grand idea of woman.  He had been built with a goddess-niche in his soul, and thought how he would worship the woman that could fill it.  There was a time when she must, beyond question, be one whose radiant mirror had never reflected form of man but his:  now he would be content if for him she would abjure and obliterate her past.  To make the woman who had loved forget utterly, was a greater victory, he said, than to wake love in the heart of a girl, and would yield him a finer treasure, a richer conquest.  Only, pure as snow she must be ­pure as the sun himself!  Paul Faber was absolutely tyrannous in his notions as to feminine purity.  Like the diamond shield of Prince Arthur, Knight of Magnificence, must be the purity that would satisfy this lord of the race who could live without a God!  Was he then such a master of purity himself? one so immaculate that in him such aspiration was no presumption?  Was what he knew himself to be, an idea to mate with his unspotted ideal?  The notion men have of their own worth, and of claims founded thereon, is amazing; most amazing of all is what a man will set up to himself as the standard of the woman he will marry.  What the woman may have a right to claim, never enters his thought.  He never doubts the right or righteousness of aspiring to wed a woman between whose nature and his lies a gulf, wide as between an angel praising God, and a devil taking refuge from him in a swine.  Never a shadow of compunction crosses the leprous soul, as he stretches forth his arms to infold the clean woman!  Ah, white dove! thou must lie for a while among the pots.  If only thy mother be not more to blame than the wretch that acts but after his kind!  He does hot die of self-loathing! how then could he imagine the horror of disgust with which a glimpse of him such as he is would blast the soul of the woman?’ Yet has he ­what is it? ­the virtue? the pride? or the cruel insolence? ­to shrink with rudest abhorrence from one who is, in nature and history and ruin, his fitting and proper mate!  To see only how a man will be content to be himself the thing which he scorns another for being, might well be enough to send any one crying to the God there may be, to come between him and himself.  Lord! what a turning of things upside down there will be one day!  What a setting of lasts first, and firsts last!