Can there be any way out of the misery of such a hell? Will the soul that could not believe in God, with all his lovely world around testifying of him, believe when shut in the prison of its own, lonely self? It would for a time try to believe that it was indeed nothing, a mere glow of the setting sun on a cloud of dust, a paltry dream that dreamed itself—then, ah, if only the dream might dream it was no more! Self-loathing, and that for no sin, from no repentance, would begin and grow and grow; and if a being be capable of self-disgust, is there not some room for hope—as much as a pinch of earth in the cleft of a rock might yield for the growth of a pine? All his years in the world he had received the endless gifts of sun and air, earth and sea and human face divine; now the poorest thinning of the darkness he would hail as men of old the glow of a descending angel; it would be as a messenger from God. Not that he would think of God! It takes long to think of God; but hope, not yet seeming hope, would begin to dawn in his bosom, and the thinner darkness would be as a cave of light, a refuge from the horrid self of which he used to be so proud. And the light would grow and grow across the awful gulf between the soul and its haven—its repentance—for repentance is the first pressure of the bosom of God; and in the twilight, struggling and faint, the man would feel another thought beside his, another thinking Something nigh his dreary self—perhaps the man he had most wronged, most hated—and would be glad that someone was near him: the man he had most injured and was most ashamed to meet, would be a refuge from himself—oh, how welcome!
Artwork by Leah Bond