down in those reeking streets, climbing about in the foul tenement- houses, taking a sick child in her arms, speaking a word of cheer--a good physician going about doing good! And it might have been! Why was it that this peace of nature should bring up her image, and that they should seem in harmony? Was not the love of beauty and of goodness the same thing? Did God require in His service the atrophy of the affections? As long as he was in the world was it right that he should isolate himself from any of its sympathies and trials? Why was it not a higher life to enter into the common lot, and suffer, if need be, in the struggle to purify and ennoble all? He remembered the days he had once passed in the Trappist monastery of Gethsemane. The perfect peace of mind of the monks was purchased at the expense of the extirpation of every want, all will, every human interest. Were these men anything but specimens in a Museum of Failures? And yet, for the time being, it had seemed attractive to him, this simple vegetable existence, whose only object was preparation for death by the extinction of all passion and desire. No, these were not soldiers of the Lord, but the fainthearted, who had slunk into the hospital. All this afternoon he was drifting in thought, arraigning his past life, excusing it, condemning it, and trying to forecast its future. Was this a trial of his constancy and faith, or had he made a mistake, entered upon a slavish career, from which he ought to extricate himself at any cost of the world's opinion? But presently he was aware that in all these debates with himself her image appeared. He was trying to fit his life to the thought of her. And when this became clearer in his tortured mind, the woman appeared as a temptation. It was not, then, the love of beauty, not even the love of humanity, and very far from being the service of his Master, that he was discussing, but only his desire for one person. It was that, then, that made him, for that fatal instant, forget his vow, and yield to the impulse of human passion. The thought of that moment stung him with confusion and shame. There had been moments in this afternoon wandering--when it had seemed possible for him to ask for release, and to take up a human, sympathetic life with her, in mutual consecration in the service of the Lord's poor. Yes, and by love to lead her into a higher conception of the Divine love. But this breaking a solemn vow at the dictates of passion was a mortal sin--there was no other name for it--a sin demanding repentance and expiation. As he at last turned homeward, facing the great city and his life there, this became more clear to him. He walked rapidly. The lines of his face became set in a hard judgment of himself. He thought no more of escaping from himself, but of subduing himself, stamping out the appeals of his lower nature. It was in this mood that he returned. Father Monies was awaiting him, and welcomed him with that look of affection, of more than brotherly love, which the good man had for the younger priest. "I hope your walk has done you good." "Perhaps," Father Damon replied, without any leniency in his face; "but that does not matter. I must tell you what I could not last night. Can you hear me?" They went together into the oratory. Father Damon did not spare himself. He kept nothing back that could heighten the enormity of his offense. And Father Monies did not attempt to lessen the impression upon himself of the seriousness of the scandal. He was shocked. He was exceedingly grave, but he was even more pitiful. His experience of life had been longer than that of the penitent. He better knew its temptations. His own peace had only been won by long crucifixion of the natural desires. "I have nothing to say as to your own discipline. That you know. But there is one thing. You must face this temptation, and subdue it." "You mean that I must go back to my labor in the city?" "Yes. You can rest here a few days if you feel too weak physically." "No; I am well enough." He hesitated. "I thought perhaps some other field, for a time?" "There is no other field for you. It is not for the moment the question of where you can do most good. You are to reinstate yourself. You are a soldier of the Lord Jesus, and you are to go where the battle is most dangerous." That was the substance of it all. There was much affectionate counsel and loving sympathy mingled with all the inflexible orders of obedience, but the sin must be faced and extirpated in presence of the enemy. On the morrow Father Damon went back to his solitary rooms, to his chapel, to the round of visitations, to his work with the poor, the sinful, the hopeless. He did not seek her; he tried not to seem to avoid her, or to seem to shun the streets where he was most likely to meet her, and the neighborhoods she frequented. Perhaps he did avoid them a little, and he despised himself for doing it. Almost involuntarily he looked to the bench by the chapel door which she occasionally occupied at vespers. She was never there, and he condemned himself for thinking that she might be; but yet wherever he walked there was always the expectation that he might encounter her. As the days went by and she did not appear, his expectation became a kind of torture. Was she ill, perhaps? It could not be that she had deserted her work. And then he began to examine himself with a morbid introspection. Had the hope that he should see her occasionally influenced him at all in his obedience to Father Monies? Had he, in fact, a longing to be in the streets where she had walked, among the scenes that had witnessed her beautiful devotion? Had his willingness to take up this work again been because it brought him nearer to her in spirit? No, she could not be ill. He heard her spoken of, here and there, in his calls and ministrations to the sick and dying. Evidently she was going about her work as usual. Perhaps she was avoiding him. Or perhaps she did not care, after all, and had lost her respect for him when he discovered to her his weakness. And he had put himself on a plane so high above her. There was no conscious wavering in his purpose. But from much dwelling upon the thought, from much effort rather to put it away, his desire only to see her grew stronger day by day. He had no fear. He longed to test himself. He was sure that he would be impassive, and be all the stronger for the test. He was more devoted than ever in his Work. He was more severe with himself, more charitable to others, and he could not doubt that he was gaining a hold-yes, a real hold-upon the lives of many about him. The attendance was better at the chapel; more of the penitent and forlorn came to him for help. And how alone he was! My God, never even to see her! In fact, Ruth Leigh was avoiding him. It was partly from a womanly reserve--called into expression in this form for the first time--and partly from a wish to spare him pain. She had been under no illusion from the first about the hopelessness of the attachment. She comprehended his character so thoroughly that she knew that for him any fall from his ideal would mean his ruin. He was one of the rare spirits of faith astray in a skeptical age. For a time she had studied curiously his efforts to adapt himself to his surroundings. One of these was joining a Knights of Labor lodge. Another was his approach to the ethical-culture movement of some of the leaders in the Neighborhood Guild. Another was his interest in the philanthropic work of agnostics like herself. She could see that he, burning with zeal to save the souls of men, and believing that there was no hope for the world except in the renunciation of the world, instinctively shrank from these contacts, which, nevertheless, he sought in the spirit of a Jesuit missionary to a barbarous tribe. It was possible for such a man to be for a time overmastered by human passion; it was possible even that he might reason himself temporarily into conduct that this natural passion seemed to justify; yet she never doubted that there would follow an awakening from that state of mind as from a horrible delusion. It was simply because Ruth Leigh was guided by the exercise of reason, and had built up her scheme of life upon facts that she believed she could demonstrate, that she saw so clearly their relations, and felt that the faith, which was to her only a vagary of the material brain, was to him an integral part of his life. Love, to be sure, was as unexpected in her scheme of life as it was in his; but there was on her part no reason why she should not yield to it. There was every reason in her nature and in her theory why she should, for, bounded as her vision of life was by this existence, love was the highest conceivable good in life. It had been with a great shout of joy that the consciousness had come to her that she loved and was loved. Though she might never see him again, this supreme experience for man or woman, this unsealing of the sacred fountain of life, would be for her an enduring sweetness in her lonely and laborious pilgrimage. How strong love is they best know to whom it is offered and denied. And why, so far as she was concerned, should she deny it? An ordinary woman probably would not. Love is reason enough. Why should artificial conventions defeat it? Why should she sacrifice herself, if he were willing to brave the opinion of the world for her sake? Was it any new thing for good men to do this? But Ruth Leigh was not an ordinary woman. Perhaps if her intellect had not been so long dominant over her heart it would have been different. But the habit of being guided by reason was second nature. She knew that not only his vow, but the habit of life engendered by the vow, was an insuperable barrier. And besides, and this was the touchstone of her conception of life and duty, she felt that if he were to break his vow, though she might love him, her respect for him would be impaired.
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