The idea was preposterous; it could not be seriously considered for a moment. She had allowed herself to be carried away by her affection for her friend to make accusations against him, in which even she herself would not persist in her quieter moments.
He found it quite easy to prove that Phyllis had been in the wrong and that he was in the right; but this fact did not prevent an intermittent recurrence during the evening of that feeling of uneasiness, as those words of the girl, "/If Ella Linton were wicked, you would be held responsible for it in the sight of God/," buzzed in his ears.
"Would she have me become an ordinary clergyman of the Church of England?" he cried indignantly, as he switched on the light in his bedroom shortly before midnight--for the rushlight in the cell of the modern man of God is supplied at a strength of so many volts. "Would she have me become the model country parson, preaching to the squire and other yokels on Sunday, and chatting about their souls to wheezy Granfer this, and Gammer that?" He had read the works of Mr. Thomas Hardy. "Does she suppose that I was made for such a life as that? Poor Phyllis! When will she awake from this dream of hers?"
Did he fancy that he loved her still? or was the pain that he felt, when he reflected that he had lost her, the result of his wounded vanity--the result of his feeling that people would say he had not had sufficient skill, with all his cleverness, to retain the love of the girl who had promised to be his wife?
Before going to bed he had written replies to the two letters. The bishop had suggested an early hour for their interview--he had named eleven o'clock as convenient to himself, if it would also suit Mr. Holland. Two o'clock was the hour suggested by Mr. Linton, if that hour would not interfere with the other engagements of Mr. Holland; so he had written agreements to the suggestions of both his correspondents.
At eleven o'clock exactly he drove through the gates of the Palace of the bishop, and with no faltering hand pulled the bell. (So, he reflected for an instant,--only an instant,--Luther had gone, somewhere or other, he forgot at the moment what was the exact locality; but the occasion had been a momentous one in the history of the Church.)
He was cordially greeted by the bishop, who said:
"How do you do, Holland? I took it for granted that you were an early riser--that's why I ventured to name eleven."