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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Minister’s Sacrifice
By Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–1896)
From ‘The Minister’s Wooing’

WHEN Miss Prissy left the room, the doctor sat down by the table and covered his face with his hands. He had a large, passionate, determined nature; and he had just come to one of those cruel crises in life in which it is apt to seem to us that the whole force of our being, all that we can hope, wish, feel, enjoy, has been suffered to gather itself into one great wave, only to break upon some cold rock of inevitable fate, and go back, moaning, into emptiness.  1
  In such hours men and women have cursed God and life, and thrown violently down and trampled under their feet what yet was left of life’s blessings, in the fierce bitterness of despair. “This, or nothing!” the soul shrieks in her frenzy. At just such points as these, men have plunged into intemperance and wild excess; they have gone to be shot down in battle; they have broken life and thrown it away like an empty goblet, and gone like wailing ghosts out into the dread unknown.  2
  The possibility of all this lay in that heart which had just received that stunning blow. Exercised and disciplined as he had been by years of sacrifice, by constant, unsleeping self-vigilance, there was rising there in that great heart an ocean tempest of passion; and for a while his cries unto God seemed as empty and as vague as the screams of birds tossed and buffeted in the clouds of mighty tempests.  3
  The will that he thought wholly subdued seemed to rise under him as a rebellious giant. A few hours before, he thought himself established in an invincible submission to God’s will that nothing could shake. Now he looked into himself as into a seething vortex of rebellion; and against all the passionate cries of his lower nature, could, in the language of an old saint, cling to God only by the naked force of his will. That will rested unmelted amid the boiling sea of passion, waiting its hour of renewed sway. He walked the room for hours; and then sat down to his Bible, and roused once or twice to find his head leaning on its pages, and his mind far gone in thoughts from which he woke with a bitter throb. Then he determined to set himself to some definite work; and taking his Concordance, began busily tracing out and numbering all the proof-texts for one of the chapters of his theological system,—till at last he worked himself down to such calmness that he could pray: and then he schooled and reasoned with himself, in a style not unlike, in its spirit, to that in which a great modern author has addressed suffering humanity:—  4
  “What is it that thou art fretting and self-tormenting about? Is it because thou art not happy? Who told thee that thou wast to be happy? Is there any ordinance of the universe that thou shouldst be happy? Art thou nothing but a vulture screaming for prey? Canst thou not do without happiness? Yea, thou canst do without happiness, and instead thereof find blessedness.”  5
  The doctor came lastly to the conclusion that blessedness, which was all the portion his Master had on earth, might do for him also; and therefore he kissed and blessed that silver dove of happiness which he saw was weary of sailing in his clumsy old ark, and let it go out of his hand without a tear.  6
  He slept little that night: but when he came to breakfast, all noticed an unusual gentleness and benignity of manner; and Mary, she knew not why, saw tears rising in his eyes when he looked at her.  7

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