“The Third Category,” III (1887), 66-83.




[Harvard Monthly 3.2 (November, 1886), 66]


Mr. Robert Christie came to the decision, one day, that Miss Cecily Grampian was the only person he had met whom he could place in the third category.
The day on which Mr. Robert Christie made the decision in regard to Miss Grampian was the beginning of a period of great interest in Mr. Robert Christie’s life. You see how careful I am to say Mister Robert Christie. That gentleman is living yet; and it would mortally offend him that a contemporary should speak his name without prefixing the title. Were I to write to him, I should take yet more especial pains not to prefix the title of Mister, but to affix that of Esquire. Yes, it was an epoch-making day for Mr. Robert Christie when he made his logical decision regarding Cecily Grampian. You must not think I mean to emphasize the word logical. Such a mistake would lead you astray about my friend Mr. Christie, who was not inclined to logic. In truth, he despised it. Were it sublime enough, he would have hated it. But Mr. Christie found nothing so sublime that he could hate, rather than despise it. This contempt, however, did not hinder him from amusing himself with logic when it so pleased his fancy. He was especially fond of using this same logic, accurately to define his relations to people. You will hardly believe me, I know, but I must assert positively that Mr. Christie was far more fond of accurately defining his relations to people than he was of those relations, or the people themselves. What did he know about people? He knew, and could know, nothing. But he could know something about his relations to people, and by accurately defining these relations, by carefully differentiating one from another, and thus getting the particular virtue, and particular flavor, of each, he would not only be acquiring positive knowledge, but would also be adding, by each virtue or flavor, to the fullness of his life. He cared not what people were, provided they were something by themselves. Ethically, he thought nothing about them. He eschewed all more estimates. He questioned only what sensations did he find of which certain people were the subjects; [67] what particular flavor did they possess that might serve his exquisitely sensuous palate. We may adopt the language of the bar-room, and call him a soul-sampler.
It was for convenience, merely, that Mr. Robert Christie placed each acquaintance in one of three categories. Until the day when he made his decision regarding Miss Grampian, the third category had never been used. That category could not, as Mr. Christie believed, be the most exquisite. Nevertheless, it was the hardest to fill. It was no less than that category from which Mr. Robert Christie’s wife was to be chosen.
Mr. Christie was certainly fond enough of Cecily Grampian to wish her to be his wife. Had you asked him if he loved her, the corners of his mouth would have shaped themselves into furrowing curls like the ones the sculptor has given to the corners of the Melian Aphrodite’s mouth, and with something that, by courtesy, we may call a twinkle, from his self-possessed steel-blue eyes, he would have told you, if he deemed you worthy of his confidence, that he did not love her. Were it not so, she would not have been placed in the third category. Indeed, he shrugged his shoulders at the mention of the word love. Early in his life he had taken it seriously, and spent his energies in the endeavor to discover it. He found, to be sure, that certain persons of the opposite sex affected him in a way that he deemed marvellously curious. But it did not take him long to discover that his interest was quite entirely in his own feelings, and not in her whose lot it was to inspire them. It was no woman that he loved, as he readily saw, but loving itself. The emotion of love, its intoxication, his inner sensations made him burn with a passion of which this intoxication and these emotions were the end; to which passion the woman he had fancied he loved, was as fuel to flames. He very soon became indifferent to the object of his love after the flames of it had been lighted. How could he love as long as it was impossible for him to forget or lose himself? Since Mr. Robert Christie had attained to a consciousness of himself, which event, as he so well remembered, had happened on the afternoon of the fifteenth day of the third month of his fifth year, he never once lost that consciousness. He slept little, and dreamt the whole while. But he was perfectly aware that he was dreaming. Defining life [68] as consciousness, Mr. Christie would not have exchanged the latter for anything in the world. Indeed, at the very time in which he made his choice of Miss Grampian, he was conscious of being passably affected in that curious way which others called love, by at least four different young women, each of whom touched him quite differently, so that he enjoyed, and enjoyed intensely, the peculiar flavor of each relationship. It had never occurred to him to compare the merits of these young women, and to rank them accordingly. Mr. Christie, as I have said, was adverse to ethical criticism.
There was Miss Rosalys Storer, with her exquisite, ethereal form, her transparent complexion, her ocean-deep, blue eyes, and rich golden hair. Mr. Christie knew no greater pleasure than to look with her at some drooping, poppy-saturated pre-Raphaelite sketch, or at a drawing of the divine Sandro Botticelli. She had such exquisite sensibility. She grasped the conception so readily, and could talk about it in such a delightful way.
There was Miss Senda Vernon. How he enjoyed the toss of her dramatic hair! Mr. Christie felt that he was quite deeply thrilled by the impetuosity and spontaneity of her manner, and by the delightful touch of Bohemianism that was peculiarly her own. How he enjoyed the rich olive of her complexion, and the flashing sympathy of her eyes, as he sat and read to her. He spent many an evening reading the old French poets, the poets of the Pleiad, to her; while she sat bending over her guitar with which she would accompany herself as she improvised simple but always appropriate tunes to the poems which Mr. Christie had just read.
Then there was the wonderful Miss Claudine Soothby, with her sweet quietude and ever even temper. Mr. Christie used to pretend to himself to flee to her for aid when he found himself at all out of tune. She was really a most lovable person; one who loved Wordsworth so much that the Wordsworthian blitheness of heart, and joyousness of soul, inspired the people who came near her. And besides, Mr. Christie was ravished by the beauty of her eyebrows, and the extraordinary luxuriance of her black, glossy hair, which coiled about the back of her head with indescribable magnificence.
And last I must mention the woman who, on the whole, left the [69] strongest impression on Mr. Christie. It was Miss Gertrude Hammer. She was a woman of magnificent form. Her very presence had that tonic effect on Mr. Christie, which he used to ascribe to brazen trumpets blown in the cool of the early morning. She was a Valkyr doomed to abide in our tides and climes. Mr. Christie found in her a person responsive to his most usual mood: a mood full of the realization of the limitations of life; a mood, disenchanted, disillusioned, without faith in the future; full of sadness, yet full of the gladness that comes from a spirit of utter autonomy, of Titanism almost, coupled with a keen joyance of the beauty and magnificence of Nature. The nearest to a real passion that Mr. Christie had ever felt was his love for Wagner, and that wild, storm-saturated, old-Norse atmosphere, that spirit of triumphant struggle with the woes of existence which Wagner ever bears with him. Mr. Christie never felt in such exalted mood as when he heard Miss Hammer execute one of Wagner’s pieces, or when they were reading together the Niebelungen Lay, or the Eddas, or some of William Morris’ stronger poems.
But these persons belonged to the second category, in which he placed those persons who were all but indispensable to his happiness, who were very dear to him, with whom, however, a closer relationship than that of friend or lover was not desirable. The very intensity of that side of their natures which made them so beloved by Mr. Christie convinced him that they must possess weaknesses to correspond. We get nothing we do not pay for. And the possession of certain exquisite qualities is only too likely to bring with it the lack of what we are accustomed to call certain baser qualities. That lack of baser qualities is the most delightful thing in the world, in a person whom we are to see for a few hours only, every little while; but in a person with whom we are to live at all times, these baser qualities are quite necessary. By baser qualities, I mean for instance, the love of precise order, which as Mr. Christie saw so well, Miss Vernon lacked, or the appreciation of a good dinner which was beyond Miss Storer’s ability. But in the long run, the love of precise order, or the appreciation of a good dinner is more desirable in a wife than the possession of those exquisite qualities that belonged to Miss Vernon or Miss Storer. Strikingly delightful qualities in persons are like gorgeous flowers. They [70] are to be looked at, not tasted. Even if the flower be agreeable to the taste, the stalk is sure to be sour or bitter. And to marry a person with any strikingly delightful qualities, is to swallow the gorgeous flower with its sour, or bitter stalk. Mr. Christie was too well aware of the precise flavor of the enjoyment he got from each of the persons I have mentioned, not to know the complements of these delicious flavors. And even if there were no disagreeable complements, he was not the man to bear the intensity of Miss Hammer at all times, or the changeless mood of Miss Soothby, or the Bohemianism of Miss Vernon, or the delicate anemone tone of Miss Storer. Mr. Christie wished his wife to be goldenly mediocre, womanly, a little bit womanish, even. He wished her to be beautiful, but not strikingly so. He loved great beauty too well to wish to disturb his plastic relations with it. He would enjoy her beauty much more if it were of that kind that needed to be supported by a particular manner of dress, upon which it would be his delight to expend his thought and time. Just such a person he thought he found in Miss Cecily Grampian.
He was living in Cambridge at the time. He had no particular love for that muddy and marshy town. It was habit, partly, that brought him back to it, after a number of years spent abroad. Furthermore, he found that curiously artificial circlet known as “Harvard Society,” more interesting if not more amusing than the society, so dazzlingly nouveau-cultivé, across the Bay. It was also convenient to be near the catacombal catacombs of books in Gore Hall. Furthermore, the students interested him. He was surprised and amused at the many changes that had taken place in the college in a few years. He was interested to watch whether with its new, fact-feeding, uncultivating system of teaching, Harvard would continue to graduate gentlemen. It amused him not a little to see the ambition of some students to elect courses of study with high numbers attached to them. One acquaintance of his took Mathematics 14, and Natural History 24. Mr. Christie by no means despised the new system. Indeed, he was quite ready to profit by it, and was at this very time taking some high-numbered courses of study which yielded him valuable facts for which some poor, toiling professor was sacrificing a lifetime. He was only sorry to see how much these men exaggerated the value of facts, and sometimes [71] waxed angry with them, both for this exaggeration, and their altogether too willing self-sacrifice. He himself was a haughty Bedawi, pitying, if not despising, the poor wretches who settle down and grub for facts. They were, Allah be praised, his prey. Whenever he could disencumber them of any of their treasures of facts he was most happy to do so. But so much of their stuff was useless to him in his free Bedawi life! And he saw that the poor grubs were angry, outraged withal, that he would not come to their booths, and bargain with them, and buy their wares at a high price. He preferred to rob them of what he needed, while they were crossing his domain where the ever golden sun is pouring down its rays upon ever yellow sands.
Among the young men pursuing very advanced studies at Harvard at this time, was one Jack Grampian. He was graduated a few years ago, with highest honors in chemistry. He remained at college, farther to pursue his studies in that really spiritual science. But Jack Grampian, tall, brawny, bristly-haired, brown-whiskered, was many enough to fall passionately in love, a few months after he resumed his studies at Harvard. Yes, he fell passionately in love, and at first sight, with Mr. Whitney’s Sanskrit Grammar. He had remained true to his love, and Mr. Christie found him, master of Sanskrit, making original researches in comparative philology, mythology, and ethnology as a preparation to more especial research in a part of the field of comparative studies yet to be chosen. Mr. Christie valued the studies I have mentioned, sufficiently to be pleased with Jack Grampian’s acquaintance. They grew so intimate that Jack would make full report of his advance to Mr. Christie almost daily. Of course Jack pursued his researches with no sentiment whatever; no more, at any rate than he would have given to chemistry. In reality he was not at all interested in the wonderful system of Hindoo Rabbinism we know of as Brahminism, or in that beautiful flower of the soul, Buddhism. He cared and thought little about them except in so far as they were the subject-matter of the Sanskrit or Pâli text before him. But Mr. Christie knew the value of the study of Brahminism as a cross-section of human institutions, and of Buddhism as a cross-section of the human soul. I think he tried to make Jack see these things as he did. But Jack was altogether too matter [72] of fact, to care to depart from scientific facts to any theories, no matter how fascinating.
Said Jack Grampian to Mr. Christie, one day: “Look here, Christie, my sister has returned to town. I should like to have you meet her. She is a nice girl. What do you say to coming in this evening? Do come. You know where we live; Mt. Vernon St., you know.” Mr. Christie had gotten over being shocked by Jack’s lack of formality, and promised to come on that very evening.
The Grampians were a family in good standing, who owned one of the few pleasantly located, well built houses now left in Boston. It was one of the few so pleasantly retired from the street, on the left as you go down the hill, with the view of the Bay, and the almost Vesuvius-like hill beyond, before you. Mr. Christie walked in from Cambridge in the evening,—a November evening, moonlit, beautiful, sweetly cool, and took especial pains to approach Mt. Vernon St. from Joy St., to avoid turning his back to the river-view. Yes, the evening was beautiful, as Mr. Christie and Jack agreed in affirming. The curtains of the drawing-room had not been drawn, and they were both looking with real admiration at the exquisite tracery of bare elm-twigs in which the moon was hiding, when a slight rustle in the hall made them turn, and before Mr. Christie could realize it, he was repeating to himself: “She looks as if she came out of a picture.” A very homely phrase it is; and Mr. Christie would have been the last one to use it, were it not the only one applicable. She came towards him with a sweet, speaking smile, and the loveliest look of the eye from under long lashes. As she came under the chandelier he was delighted with the auburn gleam that played like a halo about her sweetly-poised head, with its rich chestnut hair, that she wore combed down over the back of her head, and tied in a simple know resting on the nape. Her dress, he noticed, was extremely simple, and so inevitable that, as he afterwards found, he could not bear to see her dressed otherwise. She wore a blue velvet basque, laced front and back, with white lace yoke and sleeves; and a plain skirt of blue cashmere, somewhat lighter in hue than the basque, pleated in front, and falling in simple folds behind.
Their first meeting would have been formal and unapproaching, in Mr. [73] Christie’s own Bostonian way, had it not been for hearty, mediating Jack. Mr. Christie’s serious thoughts, while he was exchanging indifferent first words with Cecily, were wholly concentrated upon the beautiful, picturesque face and form before him. What would not Watts or Burne-Jones do, he thought, to study this perfect pre-Raphaelite picture; this exquisite, subdued complexion; this sweet mouth, with its full under-lip; this delicately proportioned, strong-bridged nose; these heavy eyebrows, with the eyes of opalescent color, sleeping, as they seemed, in a dream of their own under the long lashes; this broad, finely moulded forehead. Her profile he thought perfect: and the slight undulating curve from cheek-bone to chin, especially as he saw it, from over her left shoulder, beyond comparison.
But Mr. Christie’s purely artistic enjoyment was disturbed by Jack’s urgent demand that both he and Cecily should accompany him to the windowed tower on the house-top, where the view would be beautiful tonight, and would be sure to delight Mr. Christie. Cecily snatched a shawl and they went up to the tower. The view was beautiful. The moon-bathed Bay was lying before them, with its surface visibly curving upward as if to reach toward the moon; with the lights running all around it, and the hills in front. As they turned round, the harbor was before them, with the dear city all about them, and stretching away to the south, to the bold undulation of the Blue Hills. Both Cecily and Jack however, assured Mr. Christie that the view was far more beautiful at sunset; especially just then, while the sun was setting over Prospect Hill. Then the whole western sky would be lighted up with its magnificence of reds, and bronze, and olive, and maroon, and copper colors, all pressing towards the setting sun, and finding their reflection in intenser coloring on the Bay beneath them. Mr. Christie must come, at once, while the sunsets were at their best, and dine with them thereafter.
Mr. Christie went away that evening, delighted, and promising to come very soon. Cecily had grown even more interested in him during the evening than she had been from Jack’s account, before she met him. Her invitation, therefore, was more than simply to please Mr. Christie with the beautiful sunset. Mr. Christie was not a handsome man to be [74] sure. He had a form barely passable. His face was more interesting than handsome. A face it was that indicated strength, and self-possession to a great degree. His nose was especially noticeable, from the almost triangular, narrow plateau which rested upon its ridge, and seemed to inspire one with a feeling of strength. His hair, flaxen, lank, glossy, with a sprinkle in it of what I shall venture to call light olive, was by no means attractive. But what did Cecily care about that? His strength, and self-possession she very readily perceived, and that gave her more interest and confidence in him than any other qualities would have. She even increased in her admiration for him as their intimacy grew greater. That grew rapidly; for Mr. Christie called again very soon, and repeated his calls frequently. For his part, Cecily took all his thought for a little while. On the very morning after their first meeting, he began a sketch of her, on which he was kept busy for some days. But Mr. Christie knew himself too well to imagine that he was really in love with Cecily. Oh, no! It was simply the strong interest that always took possession of him, and almost dominated him for a short time after meeting a fairly beautiful and delightful woman. He was so possessed that he even forgot to attend lectures in certain art courses where the handsomest men of the college used to congregate as if by unconscious attraction. Very gods, many of these men seemed to him,—gods in the beauty, and strength and majesty of youth, whom he gladly would have worshipped, and with a fervor equal to any he had felt. Yes, he even forgot these young men, so bent were his thoughts upon Cecily. He soon settled down, however, to a critical, calm, almost cold appreciation of Cecily’s virtues. And that appreciation led him in a little while to place her in his third category.
And Cecily, had she had a third category would not have hesitated long to place Mr. Christie there. She found him more and more delightful as she became accustomed to a certain reticence, amounting to stiffness almost, in his manner. She found that he could talk with her on almost any subject that interested her. With that shed had the vague feeling that beyond the little circle of their common interest were spaces of vast extent which were of equal, or even greater interest to him alone. Another woman, one of the happily small number that make up that female class [75] known as “the Bostonian,”—although it exists more out of Boston than in it,—would either have denied this wider life, or would have been bitterly envious of it. But Cecily took pleasure in Mr. Christie’s greater breadth of life, and thought. In intercourse with him she seemed to get sight of thoughts, and aspects of life that were, although to often shudderingly cold, fresh and grand. She found him always at her service, always entertaining, always one whom she did not fear she would soon exhaust.
Indeed Mr. Christie was in his conduct really all Cecily imagined. He was kind, generous, self-sacrificing, a gentleman. His faults, and they were truly terrible, were little known to others. He did not think them faults, but inevitable conditions. They were due to the tyranny of his philosophy. He found no room in the universe for another than himself. That self included everything, to be sure; everything of which he had consciousness. The very fact that he considered all things parts of his consciousness made him strongly desirous to keep those parts in perfect harmony. All in all, such a motive is stronger as an incentive to ameliorating action, than any other, perhaps. Nevertheless this all-selfishness must blight a person from his heart’s core outward. It made of Mr. Christie a being utterly impersonal, in spite of human interest; incapable of feeling, because there could be no personality to draw out his feelings. Such as he was, is practically non-human; a creature who must soon grow unspeakably hateful to himself, for very weariness of self.
Everything he did,—and others called him preeminently altruistic,—was done because it gave him pleasure. No, not even he did a good action to another for the pleasure it gave him; but he could never quite forget that that was the ultimate reason. It gave him pleasure to be kind, to be generous, to be instructive. His fondness for Cecily was greatly increased just because he could be so much to her, because she was so receptive and willing as a pupil. He spend a good part of his time upon her.
When their intimacy grew to be such that its degree was well understood by them both, two little things began to trouble Mr. Christie. The more serious one was, that Cecily would not always dress as she did on the evening when he met her. It was natural enough that Cecily should not care to appear in the same costume. But Mr. Christie could not bear to [76] see her dressed otherwise. He did not know what to do. It pained and puzzled him. The other thing that disturbed him was that she did not seem to have active enough appreciation of certain works of art. He found that it was just those forms of art which are most closely interwoven with, and based upon the life and passion of the Savior, and His saints, and martyrs that she could least appreciate. Of course, the larger, and more beautiful part of the fine arts was thus without deep meaning to her. He would not have wished her to have too active an interest, to give herself up to dipping, and sipping, and simpering about pictures, and statues, and music, everlastingly. He had all he wished of that in his more intense friends. Cecily he wished to keep within the mean. But the common appreciation of broad aspects of beauty, he thought necessary in her who was to be his wife. He could not see how in the long run he could bear to live with a woman who could not appreciate Fra Angelico’s frescoes, or Raphael’s Sistine Child,—as it should have been called,—or Wagner’s Parsifal.
He began to suspect that her want of appreciation of these beautiful things was due to a lack of religious sentiment. One evening Cecily was singing from “The Messiah” to his accompaniment; and as she finished she exclaimed, “O, I wish those frightful words about blood, and the cross, and the Savior, were not there! I cannot bear them.” Mr. Christie looked up at her, and asked her did she not think the story of the Savior’s passion the most beautiful thing in the world. “Beautiful? No! It is frightful, painful, meaningless!” “It has never occurred to her,” thought Mr. Christie, “that life itself is the sacrifice of the better to the worse, to better the worse.” He then remembered that they had, as yet, never spoken of church matters. Mr. Christie would have been the last man to speak of them, ordinarily. He had until a few days before, never thought of Cecily’s religious beliefs. Indeed, she had none. The church affairs of the Grampians had long been without existence, since Cecily’s birth at least. Whether she had any capacity for religious life, she herself did not know. Thus far she knew and cared nothing about religion. A thoughtful observer might have fancied that the eyes which now slept under her lashes would some time awake; and to a religious life, perhaps. Mr. Christie would not have wished her to be religious. A religious person is [77] always a person of intense feeling, a person committed, moreover; neither of which things would he have in his wife.
Mr. Christie, himself, as you already know, had no religious feelings or beliefs. But he had the profoundest admiration for Christianity, not only as an historic fact and still living force, but for its successful symbolization of human life. It is for the latter reason that he thought Christianity the greatest work of art in the world. Not only had it perfect form, apart from the individual impression it leaves upon each one of us, but those very impressions are upon the most of us stronger than that of all other works of art put together. Whether there is, or is not, in what we call “reality” anything to correspond to Christianity, he did not care. Did he care whether there is anything in reality to correspond to the Venus of Milo? No, not he. He saw the statue and was content. Christianity was a fact of his consciousness, more beautiful than Greek art, more sublime than the Himalayas. Furthermore, had it not inspired a greater part of all the beautiful things the mind and hand of man have created during the past fifteen hundred years? Yes, it had; and, who knows, it may do so again. He, at any rate, was more moved by it today than by all but few other things. He could not go into a church without feeling the exquisite presence of Christianity permeating his entire consciousness. He could not assist in the service of the church without having an image, at least, in his mind, of the wonderful spirit that must have inspired them who first formed and read it. The, to think of the countless souls, alive to the quick, who found in it a consoling power, truly indescribable! But, as I have said, Mr. Christie would not make more than a sentiment of religion. He would not be bound by it, or for it. Indeed, his regard was for the church as distinct from the religion. He had known what religion, what the search for God is, in the childhood of his youth; but he had never known God, who had finally grown to have no more importance to his mind than any other scientific hypotheses. His regard for Christianity was, on the whole, much more because it had inspired artists than for any other reason. And he thought an appreciation of Christianity necessary now to enable us to appreciate the arts.
And how was he to create that appreciation of Christianity, that [78] sentiment of it which he would have in Cecily? She had hardly been to church at all, as she told him. Well, perhaps that would be a way. A few minutes’ walk straight down the hill from Cecily’s house, was a church which Mr. Christie used to attend frequently. He did not like it very well. It was altogether too new. There was something unreal also in it that displeased him. Still, the music was exquisite, the service beautifully intoned, and the sermon yet more beautifully short. Would not Cecily go there with him next Sunday? Yes, she would, if he desired it. On the next Sunday, therefore, they were both at morning service in that church. Cecily had a prejudice against it. She had heard it spoken of as a place much frequented by women who had worn themselves out with society, who were no seeking a new and more exquisite form of excitement. Nevertheless, as she began to hear the distant tones of the approaching choir-boys, she forgot her prejudices; and as they drew nearer and nearer she grew more and more to respond in feeling to the beautiful hymn that they sang. And had not all this good effect been counteracted by the services that followed thereupon, she might have gone away pleased, moved, perhaps. As it was, she refused to come again.
There was a little church in the trans-Tremontane part of the city, dangerously near the South Cove, which Mr. Christie liked to attend. There was no show here of wealth, or extraordinary millinery. Everything was simple, but beautiful, and above all, touching. The plain, snow-white altar seemed to him the very symbol of purity, and the peace that comes from resignation. There was an earnestness and burning zeal about the officiating priest of this church that, though it withered his own unresponsive soul, he greatly admired. Even the choir-boys seemed really to be absorbed in the service; and the faces of two or three of them were such as Fra Angelico might have painted. To this church Mr. Christie ventured to take Cecily one Sunday evening; and he was gratified to find her so well pleased with it that she said she would come again, if he would, on the following Sunday. They came again and again, and Mr. Christie began to think that she was already having quite as much religious sentiment as he wished her to have. More, he would not like. But Cecily was beginning to wake, and her eyes began to be troubled as if they were losing [79] their wonted sleep. And one Sunday in Lent, the full awaking came.
Cecily had been more than usually moved by the service that evening; and as the priest was mounting the narrow steps of the little pulpit, she was quivering with an excitement of which she did not know the cause. The priest began his sermon, and she drank in every word. His eyes seemed to burn into hers. His voice was ringing in her ears. And it seemed to burn her as if others were not there; as if she and the priest were alone in the church. He spoke of the passion of our Lord, and the meaning His sacrifice had for each one of us. “God so loved the world,” he said, “that taking pity on our wretched blindness, He sent us His Son to be born of woman, to be clogged in His Godhead by the earthy, unspeakably low nature of man, and nevertheless by His life, to show us what our lives should be. And the lesson that every act of His life teaches us is sacrifice, the utter sacrifice of self for one’s brother. The tortures and agony of His passion were to purify Him of all that was earthy, and allied to the abysmal powers of the universe. His death for us upon the cross is His sacrifice of Himself to those powers of darkness which are so rampant within each of us. He died for us, and thus overcame the evil powers within us. He rose again in our hearts when we became aware of Him as the power that is aiding us to climb Heaven. And we,—we must follow His example. We must be willing to resign all things even as He did. We must sacrifice ourselves, our lives, our personality, and lose ourselves in the unregenerated mass of our brethren, and there act as a leaven, as a power within them, to lift them from their utter woe and misery.” Cecily had lost herself wholly while the sermon was being delivered. We can not see, as we read the words I have given, what it was that roused her so. But she had lost consciousness almost, as I have said; she seemed for the moment to be the priest; to look out upon the world with his deep sunken eyes, with his perception of its wretched hopelessness. Never irreligious, but simply unconscious of religion, she now awoke to it, suddenly, without warning to herself, and with an intensity, with a passion, with a wild enthusiasm that she would never have dreamt herself capable of feeling.
Mr. Christie was sensitive enough to feel what was going on in [80] Cecily’s heart. He was disturbed, and especially so because he could see no reason for her emotion. The sermon was quite indifferent to him as all sermons were. He could always foretell them from the text and the first few sentences. Besides, as he tried to convince Cecily while they were walking to her home, the sermon was a curious mixture of all kinds of heresies, of many mysticisms that the Church would never recognize. Furthermore, the whole philosophy of resignation irritated him. It seemed to him unworthy of our strong, masculine, Northern races. It seemed to him an offspring of torrid lands and lazy climes. “After all,” said he to Cecily in a tone that seemed to her irritatingly flippant, “resignation is making the best of a hopelessly bad thing. Now, I question whether things are hopelessly bad, as the priests and their coadjutors would have us believe. To me it seems that things are bad enough. They could be no worse. Still, there is some little good in all this evil; perhaps as much as we are capable of enjoying. And to me in seems a thousand times more honorable to gain one drop of pleasure by hard toil, than lazily to resign a universe. Indeed, if these men did not deem the whole universe and eternity necessary to their happiness they never would have cause to preach resignation.” “But what is the moment of pleasure in an eternity of pain?” Cecily interrupted with words new found. “Will not that moment of pleasure make the eternity of pain that follows more painful? Will it not make our lot more wretched? Is it not more profitable, then, to compose ourselves to forego the world, and to lose ourself in helping others, and in the thought of God?” “Forget your misery,—in intoxication, that is,” replied Mr. Christie. “However, you are simply running into the usual hopeless contradictions, my dear Miss Grampian. If it is folly to try to gain a moment of pleasure for one’s self, is it not double folly to try to gain it for another?” And just then they reached Cecily’s house, and Mr. Christie excused himself and went to his rooms.
He was really troubled. He saw now, when it was too late, of course, that he had helped rouse, and to his own dissatisfaction, a human soul. He would have thought himself a fool, were he capable of entertaining such a thought, for not reading Cecily’s eyes, at the very start, and seeing the couchant, dormant strength and passion that were aroused there, which [81] should have warned him from tampering with her soul. He could not help feeling that hers was a much more real, more living, more intense soul than his own. He saw now how easy it is for an inferior nature,—and he had to confess himself inferior,—to rouse a superior one from deathlike slumber. And even at that moment, so much more was he an artist than a feeling man, the artistic value of the situation overcame him. A soul has been awakened; but its awaker is little and puny for it, when it has once rubbed its eyes, and realizes who and where it is. A necromancer may bring Helen to life again, but his soul barely wets her lips. Fortunately, he had no heart. He had no love for Cecily, now, of course. He had made an experiment, and it had failed. Well, he was not sorry. It is always humiliating to acknowledge failure. But perhaps it was a mistake to try to put any one in the third category. For that Cecily would do no longer. He could not thing of placing her in the second. She had not an individual enough flavor of her own for that. What was left for him to do but to place her in the first category? She could henceforth be no more than an acquaintance to him, and never more than that. And the sooner he began that the better. That Cecily might love him he never could think. He could not have realized such a thing. And even if he could have, it would not have altered his determination. He could let no one hinder the free flow of his life.
His calls on Cecily grew fewer and fewer, therefore. And Cecily at first, for some time indeed, did not notice it. She was too busy with her own thoughts upon that wonderfully new and undreamt of life within her, to notice anything. Moreover, the frequent services at the chuches during this Lenten season took a large part of her time. The little trans-Tremontane church where she received her baptism a little after that memorable Sunday remained dearest to her of all. She did not think she was acting hastily. How could she act hastily in matters that would brook no delay? And to stay outside of the fold of the Lord, when one well realizes its existence, what greater sin could there be! But other churches in the city became a joy to her; especially the Friday afternoon service in that great church which hardly seemed sufficiently large to contain the multitudes that crowded then, as they do now, to hear the generous word from [82] the generous soul of its inspired priest. But after Easter she began to feel the rarity of Mr. Christie’s visits; and finally, when he did not come for several days, she grew impatient, and wrote to him:—

“My Dear Mr. Christie:
It is very cruel of you to leave me coldly alone as you are no doing. It is four days since I have seen you. I need your sympathy. I need your help. Oh, do come this evening, and be to me what you have been.
Yours most faithfully,
Cecily Grampian.”

Mr. Christie received the note and read it with a sardonic smile. “The poor creature,” he thought, “expects help from me now. Well, she mistakes me. I have no sympathy whatever with her change. Then, I am getting very tired of it all. It must take an end now before the girl really comes to think that she has a helper and supporter in me.” Nevertheless, he determined to call on Cecily that evening, and did so. She received him with joy, but noticed very soon how frigid his manner and his words were. They seemed to shrivel her. The atmosphere of the room became oppressive to her. Mr. Christie had wished the incumbent of his third category to be a little womanish. And Cecily now proved how worthily she had for a time filled that position, by bursting into a flood of tears, and calling Mr. Christie a cold, unfeeling, heartless brute.
At first Mr. Christie did not notice the insults Cecily was heaping upon him. He was too well occupied with the admiration of her beauty, never so marvelous, never so striking as it was now, in her passion, while the tears were streaming forth from her eyes. And those eyes,—how incomparably beautiful they were! The most magnificent opals were they, swimming in a dew of distilled pearl. Yes, his experiment was, after all, a success. To have seen such incomparable eyes under the only conditions that would bring forth all their splendor, is to be more than well repaid for all trouble. He stood there in rapt admiration, until the carefully critical epithets that Cecily was audibly applying to him, roused him. “You surely can no longer desire my presence, or my acquaintance, then,” he said as soon as he thought he would be heard. “You will allow me to bid you a very good evening, my dear Miss Grampian,” he added, with the most courteous of [83] bows. He thereupon left her, and passed into the hall. She rushed by him while he was putting on his coat. And as he closed the front door, he saw how beautiful was the moon-bathed river before him. Lovelier it was not than on that evening, even, when he met Cecily. He felt at peace with himself. He had just enough cause to be dissatisfied with the world to hum, as he walked down Mr. Vernon St.:—

“Ich hab’ mein Sach auf Nichts gestellt,