Open main menu

Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/180

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

Regret nothing, however. There, not far off in the darkness, are the sands of Vauville and Cape La Hogue on the coast of France. There was but one possible shelter for us,—that was Spain. France was no less dangerous to us than England. Our deliverance from the sea would have led only to the gibbet. We had no alternative but to be hanged or drowned. God has chosen for us; let us give him thanks. He has vouchsafed us the grave which cleanses. Brethren, the hand of God is in it. Remember that we just now did our best to send that child on high, and that at this very moment, as I speak, there is, perhaps, in the world above a soul accusing us before a Judge whose eye is upon us. Let us make the best use of this last respite; let us make an effort, if time be granted us, to repair, as far as possible, the evil that we have done. If the child survives us, let us do what we can to aid him; if he is dead, let us seek his forgiveness. Let us cast our sins from us. Let us ease our consciences of this load. Let us pray that our souls be not cast out from the presence of Almighty God, for that is the worst of shipwrecks. Bodies go to the fishes, souls to the Evil One. Have pity on yourselves. Kneel down, I tell you. Repentance is the only bark which never sinks. You have lost your compass; you have gone sadly astray; but you can still pray."

The wolves had become lambs: such transformations often occur at the hour of death. Even tigers lick the crucifix. When the dark portals of the grave yawn, to believe is difficult, not to believe is impossible. However unsatisfactory the different religious creeds of mankind may be, no matter how little they correspond with his conception of the life hereafter, the boldest soul quails when the moment of final dissolution comes. There must be something that begins when this life