Skip to Content
Indiana University

Search Options




View Options


The Autobiography of Christopher Kirkland, Vol. 3. Linton, E. Lynn (Elizabeth Lynn), 1822–1898.
previous
next
page: 36

CHAPTER II.

I HAD furnished my house with such taste as I possessed and such sufficiency as my means would allow; and I had made it what I thought would please my wife to live in, and interest her to keep in good condition. I say ‘I,’ because she left all the details to me, down to the most intimate arrangements. Our rôles were inverted from the beginning, and I had to be man and woman both. She had no taste, she said. She did not care whether a room were blue or brown, green or yellow. She thought it a pity—and more—to spend on material the time and money which page: 37 should be given to humanity; and she could not be made to approve of that which she regarded as the maladministration of a trust. But as it was my own money that I was spending, she let it pass without active opposition, and contented herself with being a kind of passive drag on the wheel, neither aiding nor preventing.

Also she allowed me to change the ordering of things for the children. Their epicene costume was put off for the ordinary jackets and frocks of ordinary English children; the boys were sent to school, a governess taught the girls at home. She used to laugh at their studies, but quite good-naturedly, without malice or bitterness—only with a little gentle ridicule; the ridicule of superior insight and higher aims—finding art and literature mere waste of precious time, and woman's work, such as sewing and the like, degrading to the finer functions. Still, she left Miss Palmer, the governess, very much page: 38 to herself, and did not interfere in her curriculum. She was indeed very sweet and complaisant in those early days; and of two threads, the white is as true as the black.

All things in the house, and the house itself, being new and fresh, the radical defects of my wife's character as a mistress were not at the first visible. Though I objected to the children amusing themselves by carving fancy arabesques on the side-board, playing at ball in the drawing-room, slitting up the oil-cloth, and the like, things went on with peaceful serenity; and for the first two months we ‘stood on velvet.’ Also, the sense of security from poverty, of rest from strain, of a stable background and a strong arm on which to lean, won Esther to a certain amount of domesticity and made many things in her new life comforting and joyful. Then she liked me in a way that had the charm of novelty. She looked up to me as more page: 39 practical than herself, and as having a surer judgment in worldly matters; and for the time she laid aside her own and accepted my responsibility, which was like taking breath on an uphill climb. To Joshua she had been a goddess, immaculate and absolute. Her will had been his law, and he had placed his honour in his worship and his manhood in his obedience.

‘She is my Madonna,’ he once said to me. ‘I know no higher revelation than her will.’

Consequently she had loved him with that kind of spiritual supremacy, that kind of intellectual condescension, which had sometimes wearied her and made her long for at least equality in her companion.

‘If only I could find some one who would say “No” to my “Yes”!’ she said to me one day, when she had sought counsel of her husband and had received only acquiescence.

She had found in me what she had often page: 40 longed for in Joshua—that is, a strong individuality and a clear will; definite aims and sharply defined thoughts; and at the first, as I say, the novelty pleased her and she enjoyed this new phase of love and life. But—

Though by nature and temperament Esther was purely feminine, by habits of life she had become unsexed in the way of personal independence and political activities; and very soon the restrictions of home began to irk and gall. She submitted at the outset because of novelty and because of gratitude; but she submitted of her own free will, as her gift of grace, not her duty. And what she gave she felt that she could at any moment reclaim. While it was pleasant to her to be loved for her compliance rather than respected for her power and obeyed as an almost inspired autocrat, she was the very soul of sweet surrender. When it should become no longer pleasant—what then?

page: 41

In the details of the house-management my wife was, of course, absolute mistress; in the general ordering I was master. That is, I demanded a well-regulated interior, good manners in the children, no debts, and neither insufficiency in the commissariat nor extravagance in the supplies. I interfered not at all in the working of these general laws; but I was firm on the main points; and I thought I was in my right to require the niceness and refinements of a gentleman's home.

For the rest, Esther was naturally unhindered. She kept her own friends and asked them to the house when she would; and I always bade them welcome and gave them good cheer. She went and came as she would, subject only to the necessary restraints of a family life, and I never questioned nor interfered. I, on my side, was as free. But soon she began to object to my friends. She wanted me to forswear them as worldly, fashionable, frivolous, un- ungodly page: 42 godly; and when I would not, she made the house so painful to them that for self-respect they could not return.

Also she began to disregard those times and rules without which no home-life can go on with comfort or decency. For an eight o'clock breakfast she would come down at ten; for a six o'clock dinner she would appear at eight: and she took it as unloving—not disrespectful, but unkind—if we sat down without her. This was disastrous for us all. For my own work it was ruinous; for the children, destructive both to their health and education. But remonstrance made matters worse, and the only way in which I could touch my wife was by a tender kind of coaxing flattery—beseeching her to do of her own free, grand, loving heart that which was the absolute obligation of her plain duty. And I ask, how is married life possible under such conditions?

Again, I had occasion to be disturbed page: 43 on account of the expense at which we lived. And yet we did not seem to live extravagantly. The lines on which our home was based were modest, and well within my income; but I had to draw largely from such savings as the furnishing of the house had left; and my hope of making provision for the future was merged in the fear that my earnings would not cover our expenditure. Money ran away like water in sand. Where did it go? This was a subject on which Esther was strangely sensitive; and I could not get her to explain how it was that we lived so simply and yet spent so lavishly. Even her hospitalities to poor patriots and penniless propagandists, large as they were, did not appear to cover that ever-increasing margin; and to this hour I do not know into what underground channel the surplus flowed.

Naturally I held that I was in my right as a partner, to put it no more strongly, to page: 44 lay it on my wife's conscience, both for my sake and her children's, to be more careful, more exact. She could not bear the mildest remonstrance on the money question, but turned back on me all that I complained of in her, and said that I was the one to blame, because of the criminally extensive base-lines on which the whole home had been constructed. Poor soul! By this time novelty had worn itself threadbare and the original stuff showed through.

She had grown weary of it all; weary of her part of wife whose husband was at the head of affairs; of her duties as house-mistress, restrictive and necessitating some amount of self-sacrifice as they did; of the order and regularity of a well-conditioned home; of the need of conventional, I should say civilized, propriety, which she confounded with fashionable frivolity—of all that makes the sign-manual of gentlehood in domestic life and personal habits. So long accus- accustomed page: 45 tomed as she had been to a hand-to-mouth kind of existence, where Providence had been her bank and Chance had paid her dividends, she resented my prosaic precision as faithlessness, and accounted it to me as moral cowardice that I should take thought for the selfish things of to-morrow, when the altruistic things of to-day needed doing.

These discussions on money were the first real rifts in the lute; and they widened day by day. They precipitated the end which must have come under any conditions. For I see now that my marriage had no real element of stability in it. Unless Esther or I could have radically changed, we must have made shipwreck on one of the many rocks ahead. And though we struck first on that of my worldliness, others had to come.

There crept into our lives a certain mystery which I have never been able to page: 46 fathom. A young Pole, who was said to have escaped from prison, was brought to our house in my absence by one of my wife's political friends, and an asylum was begged for him. Who he was, what he was, what he had done there or was doing here, I did not know then and I do not know now. That he was the centre of some movement and held the strings of some plot was evident; but in what direction, and to what end, were kept from me. I only knew that he was a refugee called M. Boris, and that my wife and he had a secret together which included certain experiments in chemistry, photography, and printing—all of which were conducted in an upper room, whence I was rigidly excluded.

Some of my own possessions disappeared at this time. Letters from eminent political men which had come to me in the way of business, and two Foreign-Office passports, which had page: 47 served me in my former wanderings, were taken from my writing-table drawers, notwithstanding those patent locks which were pronounced unassailable. I never found a trace of my lost property; and when I accused M. Boris, Esther's passionate indignation was so intense as very nearly to make an end of everything. Finally she sealed my mouth by declaring that she herself had taken those papers, for what purpose she would not say. I might kill her, she said, but she would never confess.

I had nothing for it but to accept her declaration as she made it; though, as I still connected M. Boris with the affair, I insisted on it that he should leave the house. The sequel proved that I took nothing by my action. I only diverted the channel, I did not stop the outfall.

My wife's domesticity gave way as suddenly as a house of cards falls to the ground. The old fever of propagandism, page: 48 the craving for political activity, blazed out afresh. She flung up the reins, saying that all life was not centred in clean table-cloths and the accurate adding-up of butchers' bills; and that the highest duties of a faithful servant of God and lover of humanity were not to be found within the four walls of home. Any honest maid-of-all-work could do the work that she was doing now, but that for which she was specially consecrated was lying undone, with no one to take it up. Her sphere was in political morality; her duty was to preach the rights of the weaker and liberty for all the oppressed. To give to one household only, albeit her own, the energies meant for humanity at large, was desertion of her flag and infidelity to God.

In vain I argued, pleaded, rebuked, reasoned—was now, I am ashamed to say, violently angry, with all the passion and excess of my old undisciplined days, and page: 49 now as violently sorry. Esther was not to be moved; and, by this time, a distinct flavour of personal dislike to me added strength to her resolve as well as bitterness to her feelings. It was not wonderful then that she went back on the old track, the new having failed to satisfy her. In a week's time from our first stormy discussion my wife's name was placarded on all the hoardings in London, and she was announced as giving a lecture on the 16th—the subject being, ‘The Down-trodden Nationalities of Europe.’

I was grieved, disappointed, humiliated and angry. I thought that my wife's affection for me should have been deeper than it proved to be; that, looking at things in the most prosaic light of reciprocity, the friendship I had had for her and hers, the help I had given them in times past, the heartiness with which I had adopted her children and done my best to benefit them, and the sincerity with which page: 50 I had sought to build up her ruined home and take her out of poverty into sufficiency, should have secured from her some consideration for me in return. I was wrong. I had not calculated on the force of that nature which, expelled with a pitchfork though it may be, is sure to come back in spite of the prongs. I had no help for it. The strong hand of a husband is all very well to talk about. What if the wife resists? You cannot lock her up, nor create a public scandal. You have to bear what you do not like, or break with her altogether. And as I was not then prepared to do this, I had to take my philosophy in both hands and make the best of things as they were—bad enough as they were in all conscience!

The dyke had broken down just as the pitchfork had failed. My wife went back to her old ways with all the keener zest, because of the cessation which had strengthened and rested her. She was every page: 51 where but at home—now in Carlisle and now in Falmouth—at Norwich one week, at Swansea another, lecturing and agitating on every conceivable subject connected with Liberal politics, but always sincere—always the Madonna doubled with the sibyl—always enthusiastic, pure, beautiful, religious and unpractical.

The home and the children were thrown entirely on my hands, and I had to do the best I could for them. The young governess, Miss Palmer, was too timid to be an efficient lieutenant and the eldest girl was too young. The house was neglected and ill-conducted; and the servants were but inadequate mistresses of affairs and unsatisfactory mistresses of themselves. When Esther was by chance at home, the place was like an office with the coming and going of many women and men, her coadjutors. When she was away she billeted on me, in her place, consecrated friends who continued the work and kept up the ball.

page: 52

Finally, things came to a complete disruption, as was inevitable. My wife suddenly announced her intention of going back to the old house in Epping Forest. She must do her life's work, she said, for she knew that she was called, and that it was God's will she should abandon the flesh-pots of Egypt for the purer manna of righteousness. Our marriage, though not broken by the law—there was no cause for divorce on either side—had been a failure, a mistake, and must be in perpetual abeyance henceforward. She was sorry she had yielded to temptation and gone into the snare of worldliness with me; but she had done so unwittingly, believing that I was as whole-hearted as herself. She had found instead that I was worldly, unregenerate, Laodicean; caring more for persons than for principles; not knowing what truth meant; devoted to pleasure; greedy of praise; a traitor to the cause; shallow rather than broad; a miserable pretence page: 53 and a sham, not a reality. God had called to me as to her from the heights of Sinai, and I had knelt with the idolators and worshipped the Golden Calf rather than the Living and Eternal Jehovah. As she had expected when she had married to have found in me a faithful disciple and not a renegade to the cause of righteousness—a helper and not a hinderer—she was justified in breaking a social bond which was antagonistic to higher duties, and was both a lie and a snare. God was greater than man, and His laws were beyond ours. God called her to His work as He had called the prophets before her. And, even as Christ had forsaken father and mother, and life itself, to fulfil His Father's mission, so must she forsake me and all the material advantages of our union for her Father's work. She was testifying for the truth; and in abandoning me she was abandoning the world, the flesh and the devil, which I repre- represented page: 54 sented for the one part and served for the other.

All this she said with the passionate fervour of conviction; and, like Warren Hastings when he heard Burke's indictment against him, I held my breath, and wondered if what she said were indeed true.

Was I really the base and ignoble creature she painted? God knows! I was only conscious of having tried to do my day's work faithfully to be loyal to my principles and true to the light by which I walked; obedient to my conscience, and honest before God and man. When she accused me of this unfaithfulness—this moral dishonour—I remembered my Love, and what my devotion to the truth, as I had made it for myself, had cost me. And I took heart of grace to hope that I was less vile than my wife believed me to be, and that for all my many glaring faults and radical defects she had judged me below page: 55 my deserving. Rather indeed, than that she left me because she had found me too worldly and insincere to live with—I, whose marriage with her had been a sacrifice in every part, and who had not deceived her in one fact, one feeling of my whole life—I preferred to believe that she had outlived the love which had never been more than fancy. She had gone through the pleasure found in the first novelty of an assured life, and had tired of her very comforts.

She was one of those ascetic Bohemians who frankly prefer poverty and disorder to sufficiency and regularity. Give her the choice, and she would rather have a dish of herbs on a bare table than a stalled ox with glass and silver and damask as the adjuncts. All conventional proprieties irked her; and it was positive pain to her to be brought into line with the ordinary habits of the ordinary world. For though one might well deny her wisdom, no one could doubt her sincerity; and for all the page: 56 humiliation she heaped on me, I desire only to speak with respect of her.

To illustrate her wholeness of character: I remember the first evening party to which we went after we were married, when she wore an evening gown, how she blushed for shame and wept for sorrow, and could scarcely be persuaded to dress herself in what was to her the livery of sin. It was unfitting, she said; and more—it was wrong. While there was a poor woman in England who wanted a pair of shoes, she had no right to more than was absolutely necessary for decency. All superfluity was robbery; and this silk gown was a crime.

In the children's dress she allowed no ornament of any kind, and she never went beyond grey for the colour. One of our first discussions of an animated kind—not broadening into a quarrel—was, when I bought for the eldest girl a pretty kind of pink stuff I had seen in the shop-window that I thought would suit her page: 57 age and complexion. Esther refused to allow the child to wear it. The beginning of womanly evil was in personal vanity, she said; and no daughter of hers should learn to take pleasure in dress, nor think twice how she should best win admiration.

These matters, trivial as they are, show the thoroughness of her asceticism, and explain other things which perhaps lie deeper than the mere gratification of the senses. Certainly, they explain the impatience which, after a time, she felt with the order, the very beauty, of the home I had made for her; and how she went back to that barrack on the borders of Epping Forest as one suffering from nostalgia goes back to the old home.

So ended the family life to which I had grown pleasantly accustomed. The children had become as dear to me as my own; I had none of my own, and they took the place of these. I had done my best for page: 58 them in such things as I held to be vital to their interest. But since my wife had learned to despise me, she had opposed all my action with regard to them. My advice was tainted with the sin of worldly-mindedness. I was the enemy of truth and the advocate of insincerity; I was, therefore, not fit to counsel those whom she hoped to make thorough like herself. Hence, by the logic of conscientiousness, she held that she not only consulted the highest good of her children, but also that she obeyed the express will of God, when she repudiated my counsel and opposed my wishes. Wherefore I had ceased to be of good to them, and had become only a hindrance instead. I felt that it was better for her children to be brought up in the one simple atmosphere of their mother's influence, than in the storms and dissensions of two such opposing currents of thought as hers and mine had become. They were hers too; they were not mine; page: 59 and she had the most right to them. So I let her go first to the old barrack without me, where she lived after her own rules, and thence to America, where she said her life's work was to be found.

Had things been different between us, I would have thrown up everything in England, and I would have gone with her. I could have written in America as well as here, and perhaps with even better results. Had my wife still loved and respected me, even while she differed from me—had she not begun to treat me with systematic neglect and intolerable contempt—had she not thought it her duty to oppose me in everything, merely because it was I who proposed; as a saint should deny the devil, not because he offered evil, but because it was the devil who offered anything at all—had she not made her own life apart, and kept every fact in that life a profound secret from me—nor stood between me and the children, teaching them to doubt my page: 60 moral worth, my truth and sincerity, and to refuse my right of rule—I would have kept with her to the end. But a continuance of my present life was impossible, would I retain one shred of self-respect. So I bade them farewell; and they started on their voyage alone.

When my home was finally broken up and all things were swept away, I found myself possessed of only a few shillings as my sole capital. My last investment was sold to pay the last of the household bills; and the clearance was complete. I was just where I had stood twenty years ago, and had lost in my marriage the whole of my private means. This was the least of my troubles. I was strong and in the meridian of my working powers; and I could always make my way. But when I had to ask the most genial and friendly of my two chiefs for an advance of fifty pounds to float my stranded bark into serviceable waters again, I felt as if the page: 61 whole thing had been a dream, and that I was once more a boy, with all my life to make anew.

Now that time has dulled the edge of sorrow and dissolved all the bitterness in the cup, I can look back on things as they were and appreciate them at their true value. I blame my wife in nothing. We are what we are, and we cannot act differently from ourselves—at least, not for long. My wife had mistaken a passing fancy for love, and had found out her mistake by use and wear. While she liked me, she believed me good; when she ceased to care for me, she found me evil. Judged from her own point of view, she was right to repudiate me and all my works in the matter of her own life and with respect to the children. Less extreme than she, I was just by so much the farther from the grace of truth; and to keep my pace would have been consenting with sinners. She despised as sensuality and worldliness page: 62 all that I held essential to gentlehood; and she carried on to me personally the same repudiation, because I was moderately well-born and had both the habits and traditions, the likings and the fastidiousness, of a gentleman. I lost all hold on her imagination, her taste, her esteem, her love.

‘You have lost your charm for me,’ she said one day, quite quietly, without anger or passion. ‘Joshua kept his beauty for me to the end. You have lost yours.’

Yes; I had lost all personal charm for her because I had lost all moral value; and her very repugnance to me was a proof of her own sincerity.

It was strange how deeply the loss of my home-life affected me. I had never pretended to love Esther as I had loved—as I still loved—Cordelia; nor to find in her that idealizing and poetic fascination I had found in Adeline Dalrymple. My first love had been my boyish romance; my page: 63 second the rooted reality of my manhood; but she, my wife, had been my friend, my companion, my housemate—my regard for her had been very true—and the sentiment that I had helped her in her hour of need, and done well for her fatherless children, had been one of the holiest joys of my life.

Now, when I stood alone in the desert, I knew that all this past happiness had been illusion; as I knew that all the future way must be in isolation—that I and the consciousness of disappointment must be for ever one, and that I must live in a solitude of heart more complete than any I had ever yet known. For the first time I asked myself that bitter question: Was life indeed worth the pain it brought?—Was its joy equal to its despair?

Days came and went, and weeks passed into months, like clouds over a river rather than as landmarks planted four-square on the solid ground of fact. I looked back on a mirage and forward into vacancy. The page: 64 present had no comfort, and there was no future to make amends. I was debarred from all hope of love, and I could never rebuild my wrecked and ruined home. Time was too short now to enable me to make a fortune worth having—for I was only a worker, not a speculator; and I had suddenly lost that personal ambition which had glorified my boyish dreams of success. Large as was my volume of vitality—strong as were my energies—with all my passionate determination to conquer fate and make a good thing of life and fortune—to never own that I was beaten, nor to give up the struggle while one hour's sunlight remained—the strain under which I had lived for so many years had told on me; and the disappointment of my last hopes, the frustration of my latest endeavour, completed my temporary demoralization.

I existed only. I did not live, in the true sense of the word. That is, I neither loved nor hoped. I shrank from the world page: 65 as a wounded animal creeps into the jungle. Indeed, by now I had scarcely any world from which to shrink. The advanced class and all Esther's friends condemned me for my separation; and by the fact of my marriage, and from its outset, I had given up most of my own acquaintances—or the few whom I had still retained had given me up, affronted by my wife's hostile manner when they had called to see us. So that now, save one or two intimate personal friends, I was alone. And society, like fortune, was all to be won afresh.

This stretch of backwater into which I had drifted, by turning my mind inward, brought back over me the flood of speculation which for some time now had been dammed up by action and a certain stability of negation, as well as by a great deal of positive affirmation. Ever and ever in the solitude of the evening and the stillness of the night came thronging about me those page: 66 unanswerable questions touching the meaning of the universe; the end of life; the action of the Great First Cause on this entangled web we call human history; our relations with the unseen; the ultimate evolution of the ‘mind-stuff’ which lies behind matter; the self-consciousness of matter; the destinies of the human race; the destiny of the individual soul; and how far the Unknown will be for ever the Unknowable—those questions which we cannot answer yet cannot stay, and which sometimes seem as if they must land the seeker in the pathless maze of madness. What did it all mean? In the wilderness we call life, who can strike the right road? In the darkness we call faith, who can come to the light?

One dominant ray had long seemed to me to be the true illumination—one unassailable fact had been my solid foothold—GOD! I believed in a Great First Cause, providential, intelligent, loving; to be page: 67 spiritually communicated with by prayer; informing humanity; directing history; but unrevealed, save in the mind of man and physical creation—His act and incorporate idea. I believed in the truth of the religious instinct, though all religions were equally symbolic in their structure, and their iconology was equally untrue as human fact. Buddhism was as true as Mohammedanism; Brahminism was as real as Judaism; and the Christian Trinity was no more actual than the Twelve Great Gods whom it banished from Olympus. The self-evolved purity of Buddha was like the Hidden Wisdom of Christ; and both were the outcome of that human faculty—that stream of tendency—which attains to righteousness by endeavour. The aspiration towards a higher life, the belief in a divine power, which underlies all religions alike—this was the immutable and imperishable core. The form, the name, was the mere provisional envelope. page: 68 The only advantage which one faith had over another, seemed to me to be in the relative power of expansion left to the human intellect, the liberality of its formulas, and the smallest amount of historic untruths and scientific absurdities mixed up with its theology. Hence Unitarianism had long been the nearest approach to Truth that I could find—Unitarianism founded on the Christian basis, where denial of the divinity did not include disregard for the doctrines of Christ.

But now, both solid comfort and spiritual enlightenment seemed to fail me here. One of the congregation, I was on the outside of the body and not harmonious with the teaching. That most eloquent preacher of them all, at last ceased to hold me. His sermons were poetic, beautiful, full of spiritual imagination, but there was always in them a limitation of inquiry, and that dogmatism of unproved assertion which prevented my page: 69 full assent. They assumed their premises too absolutely, and built up the conclusions too arbitrarily, where there was really no Q.E.D. Unlike science, which begins from the unit and from the two and two which makes four proves all the rest, his arguments, however clearly defined, were nebulous and unproved, though arbitrary, and you had to grant too much if you would accept the residue. And they were wanting in that human element in which Stopford Brooke, of all men, is most conspicuous. They touched the stronger passions, the more tragic pain of life, with too delicate a hand, too flimsy a sweep; and gave nor heed nor thought to the more turbulent forces of emotion. They were too etherealized for work-a-day uses; and, though on a broader basis than the Established Church, still the doctrines they taught were always theological—always treating the hypothetical as the absolute—and as if he, the preacher, were afraid of page: 70 opening issues which might admit of divergence, and the consequent wandering of the startled flock—whither?

One thing, for a time, gave me cause to doubt the justice of my own dissatisfaction and kept me longer in the congregation than else would have been. The spiritual food which did not nourish me was sufficient for Sir Charles Lyell, whose fine and thoughtful face was always to be seen in his place. Yet he was an intellectual giant where I was but a pigmy.

Since the failure of my marriage, this dissatisfaction with my spiritual state and position had been growing. That thing which I had done with so much pure religiousness of feeling—wherein I had taken counsel of the Lord and believed that I was doing His will and putting my hand to the work He had appointed me to do—that thing had fallen into ruins; and God, who had then seemed to be my page: 71 leader, had since abandoned me when most needed. No prayers had helped me, no cries for guidance, for patience, for support had been heard. During the dark days of stormy dissension which had prefaced our separation, I had turned to my God, my Father, with all the fervour and passion of my soul. I had carried to Him so much despair, so much bleeding agony of heart, that at last I dared not trust myself in church nor chapel. The passion of it all overwhelmed me with too much violence. And when such hymns as ‘Nearer, my God, to Thee,’ or, ‘My God, my Father, while I stray,’ were sung, I more than once broke down, and was too unmanned to dare a repetition of the trial. But to all my seeking I had no answer. None! none! no more than in those early days of youthful violence and unrest; and the dark solitude in which my soul had lived had been terrible and appalling.

This want of spiritual consolation as my page: 72 own experience—this seeking and not finding—gave increased stimulus to those incessant questionings on the meaning of life and the nature of God by which I was now torn as on the rack. I saw dimly the terrible end which I was nearing. I would not confess it, but I was dumbly conscious in my own soul of the result of all this frustration of endeavour. To do in faith and to fail, to cry and not be heard, to ask and not be answered, to struggle and not get free:—there was only one end possible to such a life, and that was—the abyss.

previous
next