To-day she stood as fair and pure as in her early childhood, a gentle image of renunciation, "all unspotted from the world," whose withering breath he had so dreaded for his flower. Watching her, a sudden splendour of hope lighted his fine eyes, and a glow of intense happiness fired his usually pale cheek.
She did not say a word; and when her silence caused him to turn his face again towards her, she saw an expression of unutterable pain in his features, usually so well controlled. Then she also felt the growing power of a great and courageous resolution. Her mind rose from the low level of selfish passion to the height of self-sacrificing renunciation.
In all our literature there is nothing more worthy of the Puritan spirit than this laying aside of personal ambitions in order to join in the struggle for human liberty. In his best known sonnet, "On His Blindness," which reflects his grief, not at darkness, but at his abandoned dreams, we catch the sublime spirit of this renunciation. Milton's opportunity to serve came in the crisis of 1649.
Cash, completely pulverised, departed as bidden, desolated over this renunciation of eleemosynary votes; and Robin, Champion, and I finished our supper in peace, if one can call it peace when there is no peace. Champion was leaving by the night mail, for he had promised to address a meeting two hundred miles away next day.
A low, indistinct murmur is heard, and reverberates from sale to sale, the muttering of private probity protesting against public probity, declaring to the new proprietor that his title is defective; it lacks one clause and a capital one, that of the surrender and cession, the formal renunciation, the authentic withdrawal of the former owner.
The thought that for long he should see it no more was even harder than parting. It is the hard things on this earth that are the easiest to do. The great renunciation is easy, but it is infinitely harder to give up the sweet, responsive delight of the eye, the thought, the caress. This also is human. God made it.
"The mystery of my betrothed wife's renunciation of my love had been solved; but the discovery was so hideous that I looked back now and regretted the time of my ignorance and uncertainty. Would it not have been better for me if I had let Margaret Wilmot go her own way, and carry out her sublime scheme of self-sacrifice?
All life lies in these feelings, and life may be hated or wearied of, but never despised. Yes, I repeat it, the teachings of the Stoics can never have a future; from the beginning of time, life has consisted in sensibility to pain and response to irritation." No better indictment has ever been made against those to whom self-denial and renunciation are merely a luxurious attitude of the mind.
Many counsel poverty and deliberate renunciation of all such things. Nor is the happiness they talk of that which the pursuit of intellectual truth brings. This, indeed, confers joy, of which whoever has tasted will not hastily return to the fleshpots of the senses, but it is easy to see that it is not religious. Prayer and veneration have not a part in it.
"This kind is very interesting," said Reckage, "although it is, of course, high-flown. Orange is romantic and scrupulous he knows next to nothing of the sensual life; and that next to nothing is merely a source of disgust and remorse. You follow me?" "Perfectly," said Rennes. "It is a question of temperament. The wonder is that he has not entered, in some delirium of renunciation, the priesthood."