There was presented to him at once and clearly an opportunity for joy -- casual, accidental joy, but joy. If he could not manage joy, at least he might manage the intention of joy, or (if that were too much) an effort towards the intention of joy. The infinity of grace could have been contented and invoked by a mere mental refusal of anything but such an effort. He knew his duty -- he was no fool -- he knew that the fantastic recognition would please and amuse the innocent soul of Sir Aston, not so much for himself but in some unselfish way for the honour of history. Such honors meant nothing, but were part of the absurd dance of the world, and to be enjoyed as such. He knew he could share that pleasure. He could enjoy; at least he could refuse not to enjoy. He could refuse and reject damnation.
With a perfectly clear, if instantaneous knowledge, of what he did, he rejected joy instead. He instantaneously preferred anger, and at once it came; he invoked envy and it obliged him.
Cue the succubus that walks through the door to Hell opened in the man's soul.
There is a type of sin that one nurses almost because it is a sin. There is a dark pleasure in damning oneself if one might diminish another -- even to oneself -- in one's own anger. Perhaps this was why Jesus was so insistent on right relationships with others. "But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire." (Mt 5:22).
The anger and envy may have seemed to leap out unexpectedly from the morning paper, but they were already in the character's heart. He should have been been aware, been prepared. "Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour." (1 Pe 5:8)
Indeed, he does.
In Descent Into Hell, none of the characters kill anyone, or commit adultery, or go after any of the big sins. They politely inch their way down their own ropes into the solitary, hot blackness of Hell.
Catch us the foxes,
the little foxes,
that spoil the vineyards,
for our vineyards are in blossom.