"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."
"That is true religion, Mr. Linton," said the clergyman.
"But I agree with those people who think that the world cannot get on without a Church. Now, I am sanguine enough to believe that a Church founded on your ideas of what is orthodox would be the means of doing a great deal of good. It would do a great deal of good to my wife, to start with. She does not know that she is so soon to be a widow. Were she to know, the last months of my life would be miserable to both of us. I have noticed with some pain, or should I say amusement? perhaps that word would be the better--I have noticed, I say, that her life is one of complete aimlessness, and that, therefore, she is tempted to think too much about herself. She is also tempted to have longings for --well, for temptation. Ah, she is a woman and temptation is in the way of women. /Qui parle d'amour, fait l'amour/: temptation comes to the woman who thinks about being tempted. Now, I want to give her something to think about that shall lead her out of the thoughts of temptation which I suppose come naturally to a daughter of Eve--the first woman who thought about temptation and was therefore tempted. My wife is a perfectly good woman, and you will be surprised to find out when I am dead how fond of me she was--she will be the most surprised of all. But she is a woman. If she were not so much of a woman I don't suppose I should ever have cared so much for her as I do. I cared so much for her, Mr. Holland, that I remained away from her in Paris for three months so that I might school myself to my fate, making no sign that would lead her to suspect the truth. Why should she have six months' additional misery? I have strayed. The Church. I want to give my wife an aim in life; to make her feel that she is doing something worthy--to keep her from thinking of less worthy things. Now, I think you will agree with me that there is nothing women are really so fond of as a Church of some sort. To be devout is as much a part of a woman's disposition as to love--the passion of devoutness sometimes takes the place of the passion of love in her nature. Now, I want to give her this idea of a Church to work out when I am dead. I want you to carry out as joint trustee with her your theories in regard to the ritual, the art, the sermon; and for this purpose I should of course provide an ample endowment--say three or four thousand a year; anything you may suggest: I shall leave a great deal of money behind me."
"Your project startles me, Mr. Linton," said George Holland. "It startles me as greatly as the first revelation you made to me did. They may be mistaken--the doctors; I have known cases where the highest authorities were ludicrously in error. Let us hope that."
"Well, we may hope; I may live long enough to lay the foundation stone of the Church myself. But I am most anxious that you should give the whole matter your earnest attention."