The white people
„SORCERY and sanctity,” said Ambrose, „these are the only realities. Each is an ecstasy, a withdrawal from the common life.”
Cotgrave listened, interested. He had been brought by a friend to this mouldering house in a northern suburb, through an old garden to the room where Ambrose the recluse dozed and dreamed over his books.
„Yes,” he went on, „magic is justified of her children. I There are many, I think, who eat dry crusts and drink water, with a joy infinitely sharper than anything within the experience of the ‘practical’ epicure.”
„You are speaking of the saints?”
„Yes, and of the sinners, too. I think you are falling into the very general error of confining the spiritual world to the supremely good; but the supremely wicked, necessarily, have their portion in it. The merely carnal, sensual man can no more be a great sinner than he can be a great saint. Most of us are just indifferent, mixed-up creatures; we muddle through the world without realizing the meaning and the inner sense of things, and, consequently, our wickedness and our goodness are alike second-rate, unimportant.”
„And you think the great sinner, then, will be an ascetic, as well as the great saint?”
„Great people of all kinds forsake the imperfect copies and go to the perfect originals. I have no doubt but that many of the very highest among the saints have never done a ‘good action’ (using the words in their ordinary sense). And, on the other hand, there have been those who have sounded the very depths of sin, who all their lives have never done an ‘ill deed.'”
He went out of the room for a moment, and Cotgrave, in high delight, turned to his friend and thanked him for the introduction.
„He’s grand,” he said. „I never saw that kind of lunatic before.”
Ambrose returned with more whisky and helped the two men in a liberal manner. He abused the teetotal sect with ferocity, as he handed the seltzer, and pouring out a glass of water for himself, was about to resume his monologue, when Cotgrave broke in–
„I can’t stand it, you know,” he said, „your paradoxes are too monstrous. A man may be a great sinner and yet never do anything sinful! Come!”