Phase the Fifth: The Woman Pays
40. CHAPTER XL
At breakfast Brazil was the topic, and all endeavoured
to take a hopeful view of Clare's proposed experiment
with that country's soil, notwithstanding the
discouraging reports of some farm-labourers who had
emigrated thither and returned home within the twelve
months. After breakfast Clare went into the little
town to wind up such trifling matters as he was
concerned with there, and to get from the local bank
all the money he possessed. On his way back he
encountered Miss Mercy Chant by the church, from whose
walls she seemed to be a sort of emanation. She was
carrying an armful of Bibles for her class, and such
was her view of life that events which produced
heartache in others wrought beatific smiles upon
her--an enviable result, although, in the opinion of
Angel, it was obtained by a curiously unnatural
sacrifice of humanity to mysticism.
She had learnt that he was about to leave England, and
observed what an excellent and promising scheme it
seemed to be.
"Yes; it is a likely scheme enough in a commercial
sense, no doubt," he replied. "But, my dear Mercy, it
snaps the continuity of existence. Perhaps a cloister
would be preferable."
"A cloister! O, Angel Clare!"
"Why, you wicked man, a cloister implies a monk, and a
monk Roman Catholicism."
"And Roman Catholicism sin, and sin damnation. Thou
are in a parlous state, Angel Clare."
"I glory in my Protestantism!" she said severely.
Then Clare, thrown by sheer misery into one of the
demoniacal moods in which a man does despite to his
true principles, called her close to him, and
fiendishly whispered in her ear the most heterodox
ideas he could think of. His momentary laughter at the
horror which appeared on her fair face ceased when it
merged in pain and anxiety for his welfare.
"Dear Mercy," he said, "you must forgive me. I think I
am going crazy!"