But the tormentor was no demon; she was only doing what all of us have often done, and ought to be heartily ashamed of: she was only emptying her fountain of bitter water. Oppressed with the dregs of her headache, wretched because of her son’s absence, who had not been a night from home for years, annoyed that she had spent time and money in preparation for nothing, she had allowed the said cistern to fill to overflowing, and upon Letty it overflowed like a small deluge. Like some of the rest of us, she never reflected how balefully her evil mood might operate; and that all things work for good in the end, will not cover those by whom come the offenses. Another night’s rest, it is true, sent the evil mood to sleep again for a time, but did not exorcise it; for there are demons that go not out without prayer, and a bad temper is one of them—a demon as contemptible, mean-spirited, and unjust, as any in the peerage of hell—much petted, nevertheless, and excused, by us poor lunatics who are possessed by him.Mrs. Wardour was a lady, as the ladies of this world go, but a poor lady for the kingdom of heaven: I should wonder much if she ranked as more than a very common woman there.
– Chapter VIII
Then first, and from that moment, Letty’s troubles began. Up to this point neither she herself nor another could array troublous accusation or uneasy thought against her; and now she began to feel like a very target, which exists but to receive the piercing of arrows. At first sight, and if we do not look a long way ahead of what people stupidly regard as the end when it is only an horizon, it seems hard that so much we call evil, and so much that is evil, should result from that unavoidable, blameless, foreordained, preconstituted, and essential attraction which is the law of nature, that is the will of God, between man and woman. Even if Letty had fallen in love with Tom at first sight, who dares have the assurance to blame her? who will dare to say that Tom was blameworthy in seeking the society and friendship, even the love, of a woman whom in all sincerity he admired, or for using his wits to get into her presence, and detain her a little in his company? Reasons there are, infinitely deeper than any philosopher has yet fathomed, or is likely to fathom, why a youth such as he—foolish, indeed, but not foolish in this—and a sweet and blameless girl such as Letty, should exchange regards of admiration and wonder. That which thus moves them, and goes on to draw them closer and closer, comes with them from the very source of their being, and is as reverend as it is lovely, rooted in all the gentle potencies and sweet glories of creation, and not unworthily watered with all the tears of agony and ecstasy shed by lovers since the creation of the world. What it is, I can not tell; I only know it is not that which the young fool calls it, still less that which the old sinner thinks it. As to Letty’s disobedience of her aunt’s extravagant orders concerning Tom, I must leave that to the judgment of the just, reminding them that she was taken by surprise, and that, besides, it was next to impossible to obey them.
– Chapter IX
But, supposing it remained Letty’s duty to acquaint her aunt with what had taken place, and not forgetting that, as one of the old people, I have to render account of the young that come after me, and must be careful over their lovely dignities and fair duties, I yet make haste to assert that the old people, who make it hard for the young people to do right, may be twice as much to blame as those whom they arraign for a concealment whose very heart is the dread of their known selfishness, fierceness, and injustice. If children have to obey their parents or guardians, those parents and guardians are over them in the name of God, and they must look to it: If children have to obey their parents or guardians, those parents and guardians are over them in the name of God, and they must look to it: if in the name of God they act the devil, that will not prove a light thing for their answer. The causing of the little ones to offend hangs a fearful woe about the neck of the causer. It were a hard, as well as a needless task, seeing there is One who judges, to set forth how far the child is to blame as toward the parent, where the parent first of all is utterly wrong, yea out of true relation, toward the child. Not, therefore, is the child free; obligation remains—modified, it may be, but how difficult, alas, to fulfill!
– Chapter IX
There can hardly be a plainer proof of the lowness of our nature, until we have laid hold of the higher nature that belongs to us by birthright, than this, that even a just anger tends to make us unjust and unkind.
– Chapter X
The clouds were gathering over Mary, too—deep and dark, but of altogether another kind from those that enveloped Letty: no troubles are for one moment to be compared with those that come of the wrongness, even if it be not wickedness, that is our own. Some clouds rise from stagnant bogs and fens; others from the wide, clean, large ocean. But either kind, thank God, will serve the angels to come down by. In the old stories of celestial visitants the clouds do much; and it is oftenest of all down the misty slope of griefs and pains and fears, that the most powerful joy slides into the hearts of men and women and children. Beautiful are the feet of the men of science on the dust-heaps of the world, but the patient heart will yield a myriad times greater thanks for the clouds that give foothold to the shining angels.
– Chapter XI
The main secret of his progress, the secret of all wisdom, was, that with him action was the beginning and end of thought.
– Chapter XI
…He would have left her in possession of her own peace and the confidence of her friends, which will always prove enough for those who confess themselves to be strangers and pilgrims on the earth—those who regard it as a grand staircase they have to climb, not a plain on which to build their houses and plant their vineyards.
– Chapter XI