The Legacy of Cain
36. The Wandering Mind
For the moment, the Minister disappointed me.
Without speaking, without even looking up, he took out his pocketbook, and began to
write in it. Constantly interrupted either by a trembling in the hand that held the pencil, or
by a difficulty (as I imagined) in expressing thoughts imperfectly realized--his patience
gave way; he dashed the book on the floor.
"My mind is gone!" he burst out. "Oh, Father in Heaven, let death deliver me from a body
without a mind!"
Who could hear him, and be guilty of the cruelty of preaching self-control? I picked up
the pocketbook, and offered to help him.
"Do you think you can?" he asked.
"I can at least try."
"Good fellow! What should I do without you? See now; here is my difficulty. I have got
so many things to say, I want to separate them--or else they will all run into each other.
Look at the book," my poor friend said mournfully; "they have run into each other in
spite of me."
The entries proved to be nearly incomprehensible. Here and there I discovered some
scattered words, which showed themselves more or less distinctly in the midst of the
surrounding confusion. The first word that I could make out was "Education." Helped by
that hint, I trusted to guess-work to guide me in speaking to him. It was necessary to be
positive, or he would have lost all faith in me.
"Well?" he said impatiently.
"Well," I answered, "you have something to say to me about the education which you
have given to your daughters."
"Don't put them together!" he cried. "Dear, patient, sweet Eunice must not be confounded
with that she-devil--"
"Hush, hush, Mr. Gracedieu! Badly as Miss Helena has behaved, she is your own child."
"I repudiate her, sir! Think for a moment of what she has done --and then think of the
religious education that I have given her. Heartless! Deceitful! The most ignorant
creature in the lowest dens of this town could have done nothing more basely cruel. And
this, after years on years of patient Christian instruction on my part! What is religion?
What is education? I read a horrible book once (I forget who was the author); it called