"/If Ella Linton were wicked, you should be held responsible for it in the sight of God/."
Those were her words, and those words cut asunder the last strand of whatever tie there had been between him and Phyllis.
His duty as a clergyman intrusted with the care of the souls of the people, he had neglected that, she declared with startling vehemence. He had been actuated by vanity in publishing his book--his article in the /Zeit Geist Review/--she had said so; but there she had been wrong. He felt that she had done him a great injustice in that particular statement, and he tried to make his sense of this injustice take the place of the uneasy feeling of which he was conscious, when he thought over her other words. He knew that he was not actuated by vanity in adopting the bold course that was represented by his writings. He honestly believed that his efforts were calculated to work a great reform in the Church. If not in the Church, outside it.
But his duty in regard to the souls of the people---- Oh! it was the merest sophistry to assume that such responsibility on the part of a clergyman is susceptible of being particularized. It should, he felt, be touched upon, if at all, in a very general way. Did that young woman expect that he should preach a sermon to suit the special case of every individual soul intrusted (according to her absurd theory) to his keeping?
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?