"I suggest nothing of the sort, though you dissent already from a good many of the fundamental practices of the Church, if I may be permitted the expression. Now, I should like to make a provision for your future, Mr. Holland."
"My dear sir, such a proposition seems to me to be a most extraordinary one. I hope you will not think me rude in saying so much. I have not suggested, Mr. Linton, as other clergymen might, that you mean an affront to me, but I don't think that anything would be gained by prolonging--"
"Permit me to continue, and perhaps you may get a glimmer of gain. Mr. Holland, I am what people usually term a doomed man. So far as I can gather I have only about six months longer to live."
"Perhaps it is merciful on the part of Heaven to destroy a man when he has reached the age of forty. We'll not go into that question just now. I was warned by a doctor two years ago that I had not long to live. It appears that my heart was never really a heart--that is to say, it may have had its affections, its emotions, its passions, but pneumatically it is a failure; it was never a blood-pump. Six months ago I was examined by the greatest authority in Europe, and he pronounced my doom. Three days ago I went to the leading specialist in London, and he told me I might with care live six months longer."
"My dear Mr. Linton, with what words can I express to you my deep feeling for you?"
George Holland spoke after a prolonged pause, during which he stared at the white-faced man before him. A smile was upon that white face. George was deeply affected. He seemed to have stepped out of a world of visions--a world that had a visionary Church, visionary preachers, visionary doctrines--all unsubstantial as words, which are but breath --into a world of realities--such realities as life and death and---- Ah, there were no other realities in existence but the two: life and death.
And Mr. Linton continued smiling.
"You may gather that I wrote to you in order that you may help me to make my soul. What a capital phrase! I didn't do that, Mr. Holland. I have never been sanguine about man and his soul. I know that it doesn't matter much to God what a man thinks about himself or his soul. It really doesn't matter much whether he believes or not that he has a soul: God is the Principle of Right--the Fountain of Justice, and I'm willing to trust myself to God."