can I forgive my wife? I can, of course, and do; but in what sense? I would certainly not stoop to any revenge; as certainly I could not think of her but as one changed beyond my recognition.'

`Allow me,' returned the Colonel. `You will permit me to hope that I am addressing Christians? We are all conscious, I trust, that we are miserable sinners.'

`I disown the consciousness,' said Gotthold. `Warmed with this good fluid, I deny your thesis.'

`How, sir? You never did anything wrong? and I heard you asking pardon but this moment, not of your God, sir, but of a common fellow-worm!' the Colonel cried.

`I own you have me; you are expert in argument, Heir Oberst,' said the Doctor.

`Begad, sir, I am proud to hear you say so,' said the Colonel. `I was well grounded indeed at Aberdeen. And as for this matter of forgiveness, it comes, sir, of loose views and (what is if anything more dangerous) a regular life. A sound creed and a bad morality, that's the root of wisdom. You two gentlemen are too good to be forgiving.'

`The paradox is somewhat forced,' said Gotthold.

`Pardon me, Colonel,' said the Prince; `I readily acquit you of any design of offence, but your words bite like satire. Is this a time, do you think, when I can wish to hear myself called good, now that I am paying the penalty (and am willing like yourself to think it just) of my prolonged misconduct?'

`O, pardon me!' cried the Colonel. `You have never been expelled from the divinity hall; you have never been broke. I was: broke for a neglect of military duty. To tell you the open truth, your Highness, I was the worse of drink; it's a thing I never do now,' he added, taking out his glass. `But a man, you see, who has really tasted the defects of his own character, as I have, and has come to regard himself as a kind of blind teetotum knocking about life, begins to learn a very different view about forgiveness. I will talk of not forgiving others, sir, when I have made out to forgive myself, and not before; and the date is like to be a long one. My father, the Reverend Alexander Gordon, was a good man, and damned hard upon others. I am what they call a bad one, and that is just the difference. The man who cannot forgive any mortal thing is a green hand in life.'

`And yet I have heard of you, Colonel, as a duellist,' said Gotthold.

`A different thing, sir,' replied the soldier. `Professional etiquette. And I trust without unchristian feeling.'

Presently after the Colonel fell into a deep sleep and his companions looked upon each other, smiling.

`An odd fish,' said Gotthold.

`And a strange guardian,' said the Prince. `Yet what he said was true.'

`Rightly looked upon,' mused Gotthold, `it is ourselves that we cannot forgive, when we refuse forgiveness to our friend. Some strand of our own misdoing is involved in every quarrel.'

`Are there not offences that disgrace the pardoner?' asked Otto. `Are there not bounds of self-respect?'

`Otto,' said Gotthold, `does any man respect himself? To this poor waif of a soldier of fortune we may seem respectable gentlemen; but to ourselves, what are we unless a pasteboard portico and a deliquium of deadly weaknesses within?'

`I? yes,' said Otto; `but you, Gotthold -- you, with your interminable industry, your keen mind, your books -- serving mankind, scorning pleasures and temptations! You do not know how I envy you.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.