'If anxiety about himself keeps it up--'
'If I let him believe that I do not think he will recover, for the sake of encouraging his repentance, I should be leaving him in a delusion, and that I have no right to do. Better let him feel himself repenting as having to redeem what is past, than merely out of terror, thinking the temptations have given him up, not that he gives them up. Why, when he told me to sell his saddle-horses the other day, and that he should never ride again, it was nothing, and I only roused him up to hope to be out in the spring. Then he began to lament over his beautiful mare,--but when it came to his saying he had sacrificed Violet's drives for her, and that he had been a selfish wretch, who never deserved to mount a horse again, and ending with a deep sigh, and "Let her go, I ought to give her up," there was reality and sincerity, and I acted on it. No, if Arthur comes out of his room a changed character, it must be by strengthening his resolution, not by weakening his mind, by letting him give way to the mere depression of illness.'
'You believe the change real? Oh, you don't know what the doubt is to me! after my share in the evil, the anxiety is doubly intense! and I cannot see much demonstration except in his sadness, which you call bodily weakness.'
'We cannot pry into hidden things,' Percy answered. 'Watch his wife, and you will see that she is satisfied. You may trust him to her, and to Him in whose hands he is. Of this I am sure, that there is a patient consideration for others, and readiness to make sacrifices that are not like what he used to be. You are not satisfied? It is not as you would repent; but you must remember that Arthur's is after all a boy's character; he has felt his errors as acutely as I think he can feel them, and if he is turning from them, that is all we can justly expect. They were more weakness than wilfulness.'
'Not like mine!' said Theodora; 'but one thing more, Percy--can it be right for him to see no clergyman?'
'Wait,' said Percy again. 'Violet can judge and influence him better than you or I. Depend upon it, she will do the right thing at the right time. Letting him alone to learn from his children seems to me the safest course.'
Theodora acquiesced, somewhat comforted by the conversation, though it was one of those matters in which the most loving heart must submit to uncertainty, in patient hope and prayer.
Just before Christmas, Theodora was summoned home; for her mother was too unwell and dispirited to do without her any longer. Her father offered to come and take her place, but Arthur and Violet decided that it would be a pity to unsettle him from home again. Arthur was now able to sit up for some hours each day, and Percy undertook to be always at hand. He was invited to Brogden for Christmas; but it was agreed between him and Theodora that they must deny themselves the pleasure of spending it together; they thought it unfit to leave Violet even for a few days entirely unassisted.