"None--nothing but despair!" he answered. "What else could I
look for, being what I am, and leading such a life as mine? Were
I an atheist--a man devoid of conscience--a wretch with coarse
and brutal instincts--I might have found peace long ere now.
Nay, I never should have lost it. But, as matters stand with my
soul, whatever of good capacity there originally was in me, all
of God's gifts that were the choicest have become the ministers
of spiritual torment. Hester, I am most miserable!"
"The people reverence thee," said Hester. "And surely thou
workest good among them! Doth this bring thee no comfort?"
"More misery, Hester!--Only the more misery!" answered the
clergyman with a bitter smile. "As concerns the good which I may
appear to do, I have no faith in it. It must needs be a
delusion. What can a ruined soul like mine effect towards the
redemption of other souls?--or a polluted soul towards their
purification? And as for the people's reverence, would that it
were turned to scorn and hatred! Canst thou deem it, Hester, a
consolation that I must stand up in my pulpit, and meet so many
eyes turned upward to my face, as if the light of heaven were
beaming from it!--must see my flock hungry for the truth, and
listening to my words as if a tongue of Pentecost were
speaking!--and then look inward, and discern the black reality
of what they idolise? I have laughed, in bitterness and agony of
heart, at the contrast between what I seem and what I am! And
Satan laughs at it!"