Part 2 out of 9
moneys he owed could have prevented him from refusing!
In truth it was impossible the old minister should have any great esteem
for the flashy youth, proud of his small Latin and less Greek, a mere
unit of the hundreds whom the devil of ambition drives to preaching; one
who, whether the doctrines he taught were in the New Testament or not,
certainly never found them there, being but the merest disciple of a
disciple of a disciple, and fervid in words of which he perceived scarce
a glimmer of the divine purport. At the same time, he might have seen
points of resemblance between his own early history and that of the
callow chirper of divinity now holding forth from his pulpit, which
might have tended to mollify his judgment with sympathy.
His people had behaved ill to him, and he could not say he was free from
resentment or pride, but he did make for them what excuse lay in the
fact that the congregation had been dwindling ever since the curate at
the abbey-church began to speak in such a strange outspoken fashion.
There now was a right sort of man! he said to himself. No attempted
oratory with him! no prepared surprises! no playhouse tricks! no studied
graces in wafture of hands and upheaved eyes! And yet at moments when he
became possessed with his object rather than subject, every inch of him
seemed alive. He was odd--very odd; perhaps he was crazy--but at least
he was honest. He had heard him himself, and judged him well worth
helping to what was better, for, alas! notwithstanding the vigor of his
preaching, he did not appear to have himself discovered as yet the
treasure hid in the field. He was, nevertheless, incomparably the
superior of the young man whom, expecting him to _draw_, the deacons of
his church, with the members behind them, had substituted for himself,
who had for more than fifteen years ministered to them the bread of
Bread!--Yes, I think it might honestly be called bread that Walter Drake
had ministered. It had not been free from chalk or potatoes: bits of
shell and peel might have been found in it, with an occasional bit of
dirt, and a hair or two; yes, even a little alum, and that is _bad_,
because it tends to destroy, not satisfy the hunger. There was sawdust
in it, and parchment-dust, and lumber-dust; it was ill salted, badly
baked, sad; sometimes it was blue-moldy, and sometimes even maggoty; but
the mass of it was honest flour, and those who did not recoil from the
look of it, or recognize the presence of the variety of foreign matter,
could live upon it, in a sense, up to a certain pitch of life. But a
great deal of it was not of his baking at all--he had been merely the
distributor--crumbling down other bakers' loaves and making them up
again in his own shapes. In his declining years, however, he had been
really beginning to learn the business. Only, in his congregation were
many who not merely preferred bad bread of certain kinds, but were
incapable of digesting any of high quality.
He would have gone to chapel that morning had the young man been such as
he could respect. Neither his doctrine, nor the behavior of the church
to himself, would have kept him away. Had he followed his inclination he
would have gone to the church, only that would have looked spiteful. His
late congregation would easily excuse his non-attendance with them; they
would even pitifully explain to each other why he could not appear just
yet; but to go to church would be in their eyes unpardonable--a
declaration of a war of revenge.
There was, however, a reason besides, why Mr. Drake could not go to
church that morning, and if not a more serious, it was a much more
painful one. Some short time before he had any ground to suspect that
his congregation was faltering in its loyalty to him, his daughter had
discovered that the chapel butcher, when he sent a piece of meat,
invariably charged for a few ounces beyond the weight delivered. Now Mr.
Drake was a man of such honesty that all kinds of cheating, down to the
most respectable, were abominable to him; that the man was a professor
of religion made his conduct unpardonable in his eyes, and that he was
one of his own congregation rendered it insupportable. Having taken
pains to satisfy himself of the fact, he declined to deal with him any
further, and did not spare to tell him why. The man was far too
dishonest to profit by the rebuke save in circumspection and cunning,
was revengeful in proportion to the justice of the accusation, and of
course brought his influence, which was not small, to bear upon the
votes of the church-members in respect of the pastorate.
Had there been another butcher in connection with the chapel, Mr. Drake
would have turned to him, but as there was not, and they could not go
without meat, he had to betake himself to the principal butcher in the
place, who was a member of the Church of England. Soon after his
troubles commenced, and before many weeks were over he saw plainly
enough that he must either resign altogether, and go out into the great
world of dissent in search of some pastorless flock that might vote him
their crook, to be guided by him whither they wanted to go, and whither
most of them believed they knew the way as well as he, or accept the
pittance offered him. This would be to retire from the forefront of the
battle, and take an undistinguished place in the crowd of mere
camp-followers; but, for the sake of honesty, as I have already
explained, and with the hope that it might be only for a brief season,
he had chosen the latter half of the alternative. And truly it was a
great relief not to have to grind out of his poor, weary, groaning mill
the two inevitable weekly sermons--labor sufficient to darken the face
of nature to the conscientious man. For his people thought themselves
intellectual, and certainly were critical. Mere edification in holiness
was not enough for them. A large infusion of some polemic element was
necessary to make the meat savory and such as their souls loved. Their
ambition was not to grow in grace, but in social influence and
regard--to glorify their dissent, not the communion of saints. Upon the
chief corner-stone they would build their stubble of paltry religionism;
they would set up their ragged tent in the midst of the eternal temple,
careless how it blocked up window and stair.
Now last week Mr. Drake had requested his new butcher to send his
bill--with some little anxiety, because of the sudden limitation of his
income; but when he saw it he was filled with horror. Amounting only to
a very few pounds, causes had come together to make it a large one in
comparison with the figures he was accustomed to see. Always feeding
some of his flock, he had at this time two sickly, nursing mothers who
drew their mortal life from his kitchen; and, besides, the doctor had,
some time ago, ordered a larger amount of animal food for the little
Amanda. In fine, the sum at the bottom of that long slip of paper, with
the wood-cut of a prize ox at the top of it, small as he would have
thought it at one period of his history, was greater than he could
imagine how to pay; and if he went to church, it would be to feel the
eye of the butcher and not that of the curate upon him all the time. It
was a dismay, a horror to him to have an account rendered which he could
not settle, and especially from his new butcher, after he had so
severely rebuked the old one. Where was the mighty difference in honesty
between himself and the offender? the one claimed for meat he had not
sold, the other ordered that for which he could not pay! Would not Mr.
Jones imagine he had left his fellow-butcher and come to him because he
had run up a large bill for which he was unable to write a check? This
was that over which the spirit of the man now brooded by far the most
painfully; this it was that made him leave his New Testament in the
study, let his pipe out, and look almost lovingly upon the fast-flowing
river, because it was a symbol of death.
He had chosen preaching as a profession, just as so many take
orders--with this difference from a large proportion of such, that he
had striven powerfully to convince himself that he trusted in the merits
of the Redeemer. Had he not in this met with tolerable success, he would
not have yielded to the wish of his friends and left his father's shop
in his native country-town for a dissenting college in the neighborhood
of London. There he worked well, and became a good scholar, learning to
read in the true sense of the word, that is, to try the spirits as he
read. His character, so called, was sound, and his conscience, if not
sensitive, was firm and regnant. But he was injured both spiritually and
morally by some of the instructions there given. For one of the objects
held up as duties before him, was to become capable of rendering himself
_acceptable_ to a congregation.
Most of the students were but too ready to regard, or at least to treat
this object as the first and foremost of duties. The master-duty of
devotion to Christ, and obedience to every word that proceeded out of
His mouth, was very much treated as a thing understood, requiring little
enforcement; while, the main thing demanded of them being sermons in
some sense their own--honey culled at least by their own bees, and not
bought in jars, much was said about the plan and composition of sermons,
about style and elocution, and action--all plainly and confessedly, with
a view to pulpit-_success_--the lowest of all low successes, and the
These instructions Walter Drake accepted as the wisdom of the holy
serpent--devoted large attention to composition, labored to form his
style on the _best models_, and before beginning to write a sermon,
always heated the furnace of production with fuel from some exciting or
suggestive author: it would be more correct to say, fed the mill of
composition from some such source; one consequence of all which was,
that when at last, after many years, he did begin to develop some
individuality, he could not, and never did shake himself free of those
weary models; his thoughts, appearing in clothes which were not made for
them, wore always a certain stiffness and unreality which did not by
nature belong to them, blunting the impressions which his earnestness
and sincerity did notwithstanding make.
Determined to _succeed_, he cultivated eloquence also--what he supposed
eloquence, that is, being, of course, merely elocution, to attain the
right gestures belonging to which he looked far more frequently into his
landlady's mirror, than for his spiritual action into the law of
liberty. He had his reward in the success he sought. But I must make
haste, for the story of worldly success is always a mean tale. In a few
years, and for not a few after, he was a popular preacher in one of the
suburbs of London--a good deal sought after, and greatly lauded. He
lived in comfort, indulged indeed in some amount of show; married a
widow with a large life-annuity, which between them they spent entirely,
and that not altogether in making friends with everlasting habitations;
in a word, gazed out on the social landscape far oftener than lifted his
eyes to the hills.
After some ten or twelve years, a change began. They had three children;
the two boys, healthy and beautiful, took scarlatina and died; the poor,
sickly girl wailed on. His wife, who had always been more devoted to her
children than her husband, pined, and died also. Her money went, if not
with her, yet away from him. His spirits began to fail him, and his
small, puny, peaking daughter did not comfort him much. He was capable
of true, but not yet of pure love; at present his love was capricious.
Little Dora--a small Dorothy indeed in his estimation--had always been a
better child than either of her brothers, but he loved them the more
that others admired them, and her the less that others pitied her: he
did try to love her, for there was a large element of justice in his
nature. This, but for his being so much occupied with _making himself
acceptable_ to his congregation, would have given him a leadership in
the rising rebellion against a theology which crushed the hearts of men
by attributing injustice to their God. As it was, he lay at anchor, and
let the tide rush past him.
Further change followed--gradual, but rapid. His congregation began to
discover that he was not the man he had been. They complained of lack of
variety in his preaching; said he took it too easy; did not study his
sermons sufficiently; often spoke extempore, which was a poor compliment
to _them_; did not visit with impartiality, and indeed had all along
favored the carriage people. There was a party in the church which had
not been cordial to him from the first; partly from his fault, partly
from theirs, he had always made them feel they were of the lower grade;
and from an increase of shops in the neighborhood, this party was now
gathering head. Their leaders went so far at length as to hint at a
necessity for explanation in regard to the accounts of certain charities
administered by the pastor. In these, unhappily, _lacunae_ were patent.
In his troubles the pastor had grown careless. But it was altogether to
his own loss, for not merely had the money been spent with a rigidity of
uprightness, such as few indeed of his accusers exercised in their
business affairs, but he had in his disbursements exceeded the
contribution committed to his charge. Confident, however, in his
position, and much occupied with other thoughts, he had taken no care to
set down the particulars of his expenditure, and his enemies did not
fail to hint a connection between this fact and the loss of his wife's
annuity. Worst of all, doubts of his orthodoxy began to be expressed by
the more ignorant, and harbored without examination by the less
All at once he became aware of the general disloyalty of his flock, and
immediately resigned. Scarcely had he done so when he was invited to
Glaston, and received with open arms. There he would heal his wounds,
and spend the rest of his days in peace. "He caught a slip or two" in
descending, but soon began to find the valley of humiliation that
wholesome place which all true pilgrims have ever declared it.
Comparative retirement, some sense of lost labor, some suspicion of the
worth of the ends for which he had spent his strength, a waking desire
after the God in whom he had vaguely believed all the time he was
letting the dust of paltry accident inflame his eyes, blistering and
deadening his touch with the efflorescent crusts and agaric tumors upon
the dry bones of theology, gilding the vane of his chapel instead of
cleansing its porch and its floor--these all favored the birth in his
mind of the question, whether he had ever entered in at the straight
gate himself, or had not merely been standing by its side calling to
others to enter in. Was it even as well as this with him? Had he not
been more intent on gathering a wretched flock within the rough,
wool-stealing, wind-sifting, beggarly hurdles of his church, than on
housing true men and women safe in the fold of the true Shepherd?
Feeding troughs for the sheep there might be many in the fields, and
they might or might not be presided over by servants of the true
Shepherd, but the fold they were not! He grew humble before the Master,
and the Master began to lord it lovingly over him. He sought His
presence, and found Him; began to think less of books and rabbis, yea
even, for the time, of Paul and Apollos and Cephas, and to pore and
ponder over the living tale of the New Covenant; began to feel that the
Lord meant what He said, and that His apostles also meant what He said;
forgot Calvin a good deal, outgrew the influences of Jonathan Edwards,
and began to understand Jesus Christ.
Few sights can be lovelier than that of a man who, having rushed up the
staircase of fame in his youth--what matter whether the fame of a paltry
world, or a paltry sect of that world!--comes slowly, gently, graciously
down in his old age, content to lose that which he never had, and
careful only to be honest at last. It had not been so with Walter Drake.
He had to come down first to begin to get the good of it, but once down,
it was not long ere he began to go up a very different stair indeed. A
change took place in him which turned all aims, all efforts, all
victories of the world, into the merest, most poverty-stricken trifling.
He had been a tarrer and smearer, a marker and shearer of sheep, rather
than a pastor; but now he recognized the rod and leaned on the staff of
the true Shepherd Who feeds both shepherds and sheep. Hearty were the
thanks he offered that he had been staid in his worse than foolish
Since then, he had got into a hollow in the valley, and at this moment,
as he sat in his summer-house, was looking from a verge abrupt into what
seemed a bottomless gulf of humiliation. For his handsome London house,
he had little better than a cottage, in which his study was not a
quarter of the size of the one he had left; he had sold two-thirds of
his books; for three men and four women servants, he had but one old
woman and his own daughter to do the work of the house; for all
quadrupedal menie, he had but a nondescript canine and a contemptuous
feline foundling; from a devoted congregation of comparatively educated
people, he had sunk to one in which there was not a person of higher
standing than a tradesman, and that congregation had now rejected him as
not up to their mark, turning him off to do his best with fifty pounds a
year. He had himself heard the cheating butcher remark in the open
street that it was quite enough, and more than ever his Master had. But
all these things were as nothing in his eyes beside his inability to pay
Mr. Jones's bill. He had outgrown his former self, but this kind of
misery it would be but deeper degradation to outgrow. All before this
had been but humiliation; this was shame. Now first he knew what poverty
was! Had God forgotten him? That could not be! that which could forget
could not be God. Did he not care then that such things should befall
his creatures? Were they but trifles in his eyes? He ceased thinking,
gave way to the feeling that God dealt hardly with him, and sat stupidly
indulging a sense of grievance--with self-pity, than which there is
scarce one more childish or enfeebling in the whole circle of the
emotions. Was this what God had brought him nearer to Himself for? was
this the end of a ministry in which he had, in some measure at least,
denied himself and served God and his fellow? He could bear any thing
but shame! That too could he have borne had he not been a teacher of
religion--one whose failure must brand him a hypocrite. How mean it
would sound--what a reproach to _the cause_, that the congregational
minister had run up a bill with a church-butcher which he was unable to
pay! It was the shame--the shame he could not bear! Ought he to have
been subjected to it?
A humbler and better mood slowly dawned with unconscious change, and he
began to ponder with himself wherein he had been misusing the money
given him: either he had been misusing it, or God had not given him
enough, seeing it would not reach the end of his needs; but he could
think only of the poor he had fed, and the child he had adopted, and
surely God would overlook those points of extravagance. Still, if he had
not the means, he had not the right to do such things. It might not in
itself be wrong, but in respect of him it was as dishonest as if he had
spent the money on himself--not to mention that it was a thwarting of
the counsel of God, who, if He had meant them to be so aided, would have
sent him the money to spend upon them honestly. His one excuse was that
he could not have foreseen how soon his income was going to shrink to a
third. In future he would withhold his hand. But surely he might keep
the child? Nay, having once taken her in charge, he must keep the child.
It was a comfort, there could be no doubt about that. God had money
enough, and certainly He would enable him to do that! Only, why then did
He bring him to such poverty?
So round in his mill he went, round and round again, and back to the old
evil mood. Either there was no God, or he was a hard-used man, whom his
Master did not mind bringing to shame before his enemies! He could not
tell which would triumph the more--the church-butcher over dissent, or
the chapel-butcher over the church-butcher, and the pastor who had
rebuked him for dishonesty! His very soul was disquieted within him. He
rose at last with a tear trickling down his cheek, and walked to and fro
in his garden.
Things went on nevertheless as if all was right with the world. The
Lythe flowed to the sea, and the silver-mailed salmon leaped into the
more limpid air. The sun shone gracious over all his kingdom, and his
little praisers were loud in every bush. The primroses, earth-born suns,
were shining about in every border. The sound of the great organ came
from the grand old church, and the sound of many voices from the humble
chapel. Only, where was the heart of it all?
THE CHAMBER AT THE COTTAGE.
Meanwhile Faber was making a round, with the village of Owlkirk for the
end of it. Ere he was half-way thither, his groom was tearing after him
upon Niger, with a message from Mrs. Puckridge, which, however, did not
overtake him. He opened the cottage-door, and walked up stairs,
expecting to find his patient weak, but in the fairest of ways to
recover speedily. What was his horror to see her landlady weeping and
wringing her hands over the bed, and find the lady lying motionless,
with bloodless lips and distended nostrils--to all appearance dead!
Pillows, sheets, blankets, looked one mass of red. The bandage had
shifted while she slept, and all night her blood had softly flowed. Hers
was one of those peculiar organizations in which, from some cause but
dimly conjectured as yet, the blood once set flowing will flow on to
death, and even the tiniest wound is hard to stanch. Was the lovely
creature gone? In her wrists could discern no pulse. He folded back the
bed-clothes, and laid his ear to her heart. His whole soul listened.
Yes; there was certainly the faintest flutter. He watched a moment: yes;
he could see just the faintest tremor of the diaphragm.
"Run," he cried, "--for God's sake run and bring me a jug of hot water,
and two or three basins. There is just a chance yet! If you make haste,
we may save her. Bring me a syringe. If you haven't one, run from house
to house till you get one. Her life depends on it." By this time he was
shouting after the hurrying landlady.
In a minute or two she returned.
"Have you got the syringe?" he cried, the moment he heard her step.
To his great relief she had. He told her to wash it out thoroughly with
the hot water, unscrew the top, and take out the piston. While giving
his directions, he unbound the arm, enlarged the wound in the vein
longitudinally, and re-bound the arm tight below the elbow, then quickly
opened a vein of his own, and held the syringe to catch the spout that
followed. When it was full, he replaced the piston, telling Mrs.
Puckridge to put her thumb on his wound, turned the point of the syringe
up and drove a little out to get rid of the air, then, with the help of
a probe, inserted the nozzle into the wound, and gently forced in the
blood. That done, he placed his own thumbs on the two wounds, and made
the woman wash out the syringe in clean hot water. Then he filled it as
before, and again forced its contents into the lady's arm. This process
he went through repeatedly. Then, listening, he found her heart beating
quite perceptibly, though irregularly. Her breath was faintly coming and
going. Several times more he repeated the strange dose, then ceased, and
was occupied in binding up her arm, when she gave a great shuddering
sigh. By the time he had finished, the pulse was perceptible at her
wrist. Last of all he bound up his own wound, from which had escaped a
good deal beyond what he had used. While thus occupied, he turned sick,
and lay down on the floor. Presently, however, he grew able to crawl
from the room, and got into the garden at the back of the house, where
he walked softly to the little rude arbor at the end of it, and sat down
as if in a dream. But in the dream his soul felt wondrously awake. He
had been tasting death from the same cup with the beautiful woman who
lay there, coming alive with his life. A terrible weight was heaved from
his bosom. If she had died, he would have felt, all his life long, that
he had sent one of the loveliest of Nature's living dreams back to the
darkness and the worm, long years before her time, and with the foam of
the cup of life yet on her lips. Then a horror seized him at the
presumptuousness of the liberty he had taken. What if the beautiful
creature would rather have died than have the blood of a man, one she
neither loved nor knew, in her veins, and coursing through her very
heart! She must never know it.
"I am very grateful," he said to himself; then smiled and wondered to
whom he was grateful.
"How the old stamps and colors come out in the brain when one least
expects it!" he said. "What I meant was, _How glad I am!_"
Honest as he was, he did not feel called upon to examine whether _glad_
was really the word to represent the feeling which the thought of what
he had escaped, and of the creature he had saved from death, had sent up
into his consciousness. Glad he was indeed! but was there not mingled
with his gladness a touch of something else, very slight, yet potent
enough to make him mean _grateful_ when the word broke from him? and if
there was such a something, where did it come from? Perhaps if he had
caught and held the feeling, and submitted it to such a searching
scrutiny as he was capable of giving it, he might have doubted whether
any mother-instilled superstition ever struck root so deep as the depth
from which that seemed at least to come. I merely suggest it. The
feeling was a faint and poor one, and I do not care to reason from it. I
would not willingly waste upon small arguments, when I see more and more
clearly that our paltriest faults and dishonesties need one and the same
But indeed never had Faber less time to examine himself than now, had
he been so inclined. With that big wound in it, he would as soon have
left a shell in the lady's chamber with the fuse lighted, as her arm to
itself. He did not leave the village all day. He went to see another
patient in it, and one on its outskirts, but he had his dinner at the
little inn where he put up Ruber, and all night long he sat by the
bedside of his patient. There the lovely white face, blind like a statue
that never had eyes, and the perfect arm, which now and then, with a
restless, uneasy, feeble toss, she would fling over the counterpane, the
arm he had to watch as the very gate of death, grew into his heart. He
dreaded the moment when she would open her eyes, and his might no longer
wander at will over her countenance. Again and again in the night he put
a hand under her head, and held a cooling draught to her lips; but not
even when she drank did her eyes open: like a child too weak to trust
itself, therefore free of all anxiety and fear, she took whatever came,
questioning nothing. He sat at the foot of the bed, where, with the
slightest movement, he could, through the opening of the curtains, see
By some change of position, he had unknowingly drawn one of them back a
little from between her and him, as he sat thinking about her. The
candle shone full upon his face, but the other curtain was between the
candle and his patient. Suddenly she opened her eyes.
A dream had been with her, and she did not yet know that it was gone.
She could hardly be said to _know_ any thing. Fever from loss of blood;
uneasiness, perhaps, from the presence in her system of elements
elsewhere fashioned and strangely foreign to its economy; the remnants
of sleep and of the dream; the bewilderment of sudden awaking--all had
combined to paralyze her judgment, and give her imagination full career.
When she opened her eyes, she saw a beautiful face, and nothing else,
and it seemed to her itself the source of the light by which she saw it.
Her dream had been one of great trouble; and when she beheld the shining
countenance, she thought it was the face of the Saviour: he was looking
down upon her heart, which he held in his hand, and reading all that was
written there. The tears rushed to her eyes, and the next moment Faber
saw two fountains of light and weeping in the face which had been but as
of loveliest marble. The curtain fell between them, and the lady thought
the vision had vanished. The doctor came softly through the dusk to her
bedside. He felt her pulse, looked to the bandage on her arm, gave her
something to drink, and left the room. Presently Mrs. Puckridge brought
her some beef tea.
THE MINISTER'S GARDEN.
Up and down the garden paced the pastor, stung by the gadflies of debt.
If he were in London he could sell his watch and seals; he had a ring
somewhere, too--an antique, worth what now seemed a good deal; but his
wife had given him both. Besides, it would cost so much to go to London,
and he had no money. Mr. Drew, doubtless, would lend him what he wanted,
but he could not bring himself to ask him. If he parted with them in
Glaston, they would be put in the watchmaker's window, and that would be
a scandal--with the Baptists making head in the very next street! For,
notwithstanding the heartless way in which the Congregationalists had
treated him, theirs was the cause of scriptural Christianity, and it
made him shudder to think of bringing the smallest discredit upon the
denomination. The church-butcher was indeed a worse terror to him than
Apollyon had been to Christian, for it seemed to his faithlessness that
not even the weapon of All-prayer was equal to his discomfiture; nothing
could render him harmless but the payment of his bill. He began to look
back with something like horror upon the sermons he had preached on
honesty; for how would his inability to pay his debts appear in the eyes
of those who had heard them? Oh! why had he not paid for every thing as
they had it? Then when the time came that he could not pay, they would
only have had to go without, whereas now, there was the bill louring at
the back of the want!
When Miss Drake returned from the chapel, she found her father leaning
on the sun-dial, where she had left him. To all appearance he had not
moved. He knew her step but did not stir.
"Father!" she said.
"It is a hard thing, my child," he responded, still without moving,
"when the valley of Humiliation comes next the river Death, and no land
of Beulah between! I had my good things in my youth, and now I have my
She laid her hand on his shoulder lovingly, tenderly, worshipfully, but
did not speak.
"As you see me now, my Dorothy, my God's-gift, you would hardly believe
your father was once a young and popular preacher, ha, ha! Fool that I
was! I thought they prized my preaching, and loved me for what I taught
them. I thought I was somebody! With shame I confess it! Who were they,
or what was their judgment, to fool me in my own concerning myself!
Their praise was indeed a fit rock for me to build my shame upon."
"But, father dear, what is even a sin when it is repented of?"
"A shame forever, my child. Our Lord did not cast out even an apostle
for his conceit and self-sufficiency, but he let him fall."
"He has not let you fall, father?" said Dorothy, with tearful eyes.
"He is bringing my gray hairs with sorrow and shame to the grave, my
"Why, father!" cried the girl, shocked, as she well might be, at his
words, "what have I done to make you say that?"
"Done, my darling! _you_ done? You have done nothing but righteousness
ever since you could do any thing! You have been like a mother to your
old father. It is that bill! that horrid butcher's bill!"
Dorothy burst out laughing through her dismay, and wept and laughed
together for more than a minute ere she could recover herself.
"Father! you dear father! you're too good to live! Why, there are forks
and spoons enough in the house to pay that paltry bill!--not to mention
the cream-jug which is, and the teapot which we thought was silver,
because Lady Sykes gave it us. Why didn't you tell me what was troubling
you, father dear?"
"I can't bear--I never _could_ bear to owe money. I asked the man for
his bill some time ago. I could have paid it then, though it wouldn't
have left me a pound. The moment I looked at it, I felt as if the Lord
had forsaken me. It is easy for you to bear; you are not the one
accountable. I am. And if the pawnbroker or the silver-smith does stand
between me and absolute dishonesty, yet to find myself in such a
miserable condition, with next to nothing between us and the workhouse,
may well make me doubt whether I have been a true servant of the Lord,
for surely such shall never be ashamed! During these last days the enemy
has even dared to tempt me with the question, whether after all, these
unbelievers may not be right, and the God that ruleth in the earth a
mere projection of what the conscience and heart bribe the imagination
to construct for them!"
"I wouldn't think that before I was driven to it, father," said Dorothy,
scarcely knowing what she said, for his doubt shot a poisoned arrow of
despair into the very heart of her heart.
He, never doubting the security of his child's faith, had no slightest
suspicion into what a sore spot his words had carried torture. He did
not know that the genius of doubt--shall I call him angel or demon?--had
knocked at her door, had called through her window; that words dropped
by Faber, indicating that science was against all idea of a God, and the
confidence of their tone, had conjured up in her bosom hollow fears,
faint dismays, and stinging questions. Ready to trust, and incapable of
arrogance, it was hard for her to imagine how a man like Mr. Faber,
upright and kind and self-denying, could say such things if he did not
_know_ them true. The very word _science_ appeared to carry an awful
authority. She did not understand that it was only because science had
never come closer to Him than the mere sight of the fringe of the
outermost folds of the tabernacle of His presence, that her worshipers
dared assert there was no God. She did not perceive that nothing ever
science could find, could possibly be the God of men; that science is
only the human reflex of truth, and that truth itself can not be
measured by what of it is reflected from the mirror of the
understanding. She did not see that no incapacity of science to find
God, even touched the matter of honest men's belief that He made His
dwelling with the humble and contrite. Nothing she had learned from her
father either provided her with reply, or gave hope of finding argument
of discomfiture; nothing of all that went on at chapel or church seemed
to have any thing to do with the questions that presented themselves.
Such a rough shaking of so-called faith, has been of endless service to
many, chiefly by exposing the insecurity of all foundations of belief,
save that which is discovered in digging with the spade of obedience.
Well indeed is it for all honest souls to be thus shaken, who have been
building upon doctrines concerning Christ, upon faith, upon experiences,
upon any thing but Christ Himself, as revealed by Himself and His spirit
to all who obey Him, and so revealing the Father--a doctrine just as
foolish as the rest to men like Faber, but the power of God and the
wisdom of God to such who know themselves lifted out of darkness and an
ever-present sense of something wrong--if it be only into twilight and
Dorothy was a gift of God, and the trouble that gnawed at her heart she
would not let out to gnaw at her father's.
"There's Ducky come to call us to dinner," she said, and rising, went to
"Dinner!" groaned Mr. Drake, and would have remained where he was. But
for Dorothy's sake he rose and followed her, feeling almost like a
repentant thief who had stolen the meal.
THE HEATH AT NESTLEY.
On the Monday morning, Mr. Bevis's groom came to the rectory with a note
for the curate, begging him and Mrs. Wingfold to dine at Nestley the
same day if possible.
"I know," the rector wrote, "Monday is, or ought to be, an idle day with
you, and I write instead of my wife, because I want to see you on
business. I would have come to you, had I not had reasons for wishing to
see you here rather than at Glaston. The earlier you can come and the
longer you can stay the better, but you shall go as soon after an early
dinner as you please. You are a bee and I am a drone. God bless you.
The curate took the note to his wife. Things were at once arranged, an
answer of ready obedience committed to the groom, and Helen's
pony-carriage ordered out.
The curate called every thing Helen's. He had a great contempt for the
spirit of men who marry rich wives and then lord it over their money, as
if they had done a fine thing in getting hold of it, and the wife had
been but keeping it from its rightful owner. They do not know what a
confession their whole bearing is, that, but for their wives' money,
they would be but the merest, poorest nobodies. So small are they that
even that suffices to make them feel big! But Helen did not like it,
especially when he would ask her if he might have this or that, or do so
and so. Any common man who heard him would have thought him afraid of
his wife; but a large-hearted woman would at once have understood, as
did Helen, that it all came of his fine sense of truth, and reality, and
obligation. Still Helen would have had him forget all such matters in
connection with her. They were one beyond obligation. She had given him
herself, and what were bank-notes after that? But he thought of her
always as an angel who had taken him in, to comfort, and bless, and
cherish him with love, that he might the better do the work of his God
and hers; therefore his obligation to her was his glory.
"Your ponies go splendidly to-day, Helen," he said, as admiringly he
watched how her hands on the reins seemed to mold their movements.
They were the tiniest, daintiest things, of the smallest ever seen in
harness, but with all the ways of big horses, therefore amusing in their
very grace. They were the delight of the children of Glaston and the
"Why _will_ you call them _my_ ponies, Thomas?" returned his wife, just
sufficiently vexed to find it easy to pretend to be cross. "I don't see
what good I have got by marrying you, if every thing is to be mine all
"Don't be unreasonable, my Helen!" said the curate, looking into the
lovely eyes whose colors seemed a little blown about in their rings.
"Don't you see it is my way of feeling to myself how much, and with what
a halo about them, they are mine? If I had bought them with my own
money, I should hardly care for them. Thank God, they are _not_ mine
that way, or in any way like that way. _You_ are mine, my life, and they
are yours--mine therefore because they are about you like your clothes
or your watch. They are mine as your handkerchief and your gloves are
mine--through worshiping love. Listen to reason. If a thing is yours it
is ten times more mine than if I had bought it, for, just because it is
yours, I am able to possess it as the meek, and not the land-owners,
inherit the earth. It makes _having_ such a deep and high--indeed a
perfect thing! I take pleasure without an atom of shame in every rich
thing you have brought me. Do you think, if you died, and I carried your
watch, I should ever cease to feel the watch was yours? Just so they are
your ponies; and if you don't like me to say so, you can contradict me
every time, you know, all the same."
"I know people will think I am like the lady we heard of the other day,
who told her husband the sideboard was hers, not his. Thomas, I _hate_
to look like the rich one, when all that makes life worth living for, or
fit to be lived, was and is given me by you."
"No, no, no, my darling! don't say that; you terrify me. I was but the
postman that brought you the good news."
"Well! and what else with me and the ponies and the money and all that?
Did I make the ponies? Or did I even earn the money that bought them? It
is only the money my father and brother have done with. Don't make me
look as if I did not behave like a lady to my own husband, Thomas."
"Well, my beautiful, I'll make up for all my wrongs by ordering you
about as if I were the Marquis of Saluzzo, and you the patient Grisel."
"I wish you would. You don't order me about half enough."
"I'll try to do better. You shall see."
Nestley was a lovely place, and the house was old enough to be quite
respectable--one of those houses with a history and a growth, which are
getting rarer every day as the ugly temples of mammon usurp their
places. It was dusky, cool, and somber--a little shabby, indeed, which
fell in harmoniously with its peculiar charm, and indeed added to it. A
lawn, not immaculate of the sweet fault of daisies, sank slowly to a
babbling little tributary of the Lythe, and beyond were fern-covered
slopes, and heather, and furze, and pine-woods. The rector was a
sensible Englishman, who objected to have things done after the taste of
his gardener instead of his own. He loved grass like a village poet, and
would have no flower-beds cut in his lawn. Neither would he have any
flowers planted in the summer to be taken up again before the winter. He
would have no cockney gardening about his place, he said. Perhaps that
was partly why he never employed any but his old cottagers about the
grounds; and the result was that for half the show he had twice the
loveliness. His ambition was to have every possible English garden
As soon as his visitors arrived, he and his curate went away together,
and Mrs. Wingfold was shown into the drawing-room, where was Mrs. Bevis
with her knitting. A greater contrast than that of the two ladies then
seated together in the long, low, dusky room, it were not easy to
imagine. I am greatly puzzled to think what conscious good in life Mrs.
Bevis enjoyed--just as I am puzzled to understand the eagerness with
which horses, not hungry, and evidently in full enjoyment of the sun and
air and easy exercise, will yet hurry to their stable the moment their
heads are turned in the direction of them. Is it that they have no hope
in the unknown, and then alone, in all the vicissitudes of their day,
know their destination? Would but some good kind widow, of the same type
with Mrs. Bevis, without children, tell me wherefore she is unwilling to
die! She has no special friend to whom she unbosoms herself--indeed, so
far as any one knows, she has never had any thing of which to unbosom
herself. She has no pet--dog or cat or monkey or macaw, and has never
been seen to hug a child. She never reads poetry--I doubt if she knows
more than the first line of _How doth_. She reads neither novels nor
history, and looks at the newspaper as if the type were fly-spots. Yet
there she sits smiling! Why! oh! why? Probably she does not know. Never
did question, not to say doubt, cause those soft, square-ended fingers
to move one atom less measuredly in the construction of Mrs. Bevis's
muffetee, the sole knittable thing her nature seemed capable of. Never
was sock seen on her needles; the turning of the heel was too much for
her. That she had her virtues, however, was plain from the fact that her
servants staid with her years and years; and I can, beside, from
observation set down a few of them. She never asked her husband what he
would have for dinner. When he was ready to go out with her, she was
always ready too. She never gave one true reason, and kept back a
truer--possibly there was not room for two thoughts at once in her
brain. She never screwed down a dependent; never kept small tradespeople
waiting for their money; never refused a reasonable request. In fact,
she was a stuffed bag of virtues; the bag was of no great size, but
neither were the virtues insignificant. There are dozens of sorts of
people I should feel a far stronger objection to living with; but what
puzzles me is how she contrives to live with herself, never questioning
the comfort of the arrangement, or desiring that it should one day come
to an end. Surely she must be deep, and know some secret!
For the other lady, Helen Lingard that was, she had since her marriage
altered considerably in the right direction. She used to be a little
dry, a little stiff, and a little stately. To the last I should be far
from objecting, were it not that her stateliness was of the mechanical
sort, belonging to the spine, and not to a soul uplift. Now it had left
her spine and settled in a soul that scorned the low and loved the
lowly. Her step was lighter, her voice more flexible, her laugh much
merrier and more frequent, for now her heart was gay. Her husband
praised God when he heard her laugh; the laugh suggested the praise, for
itself rang like praises. She would pull up her ponies in the middle of
the street, and at word or sign, the carriage would be full of children.
Whoever could might scramble in till it was full. At the least rudeness,
the offender would be ordered to the pavement, and would always obey,
generally weeping. She would drive two or three times up and down the
street with her load, then turn it out, and take another, and another,
until as many as she judged fit had had a taste of the pleasure. This
she had learned from seeing a costermonger fill his cart with children,
and push behind, while the donkey in front pulled them along the street,
to the praise and glory of God.
She was overbearing in one thing, and that was submission. Once, when I
was in her husband's study, she made a remark on something he had said
or written, I forget what, for which her conscience of love immediately
smote her. She threw herself on the floor, crept under the writing table
at which he sat, and clasped his knees.
"I beg your pardon, husband," she said sorrowfully.
"Helen," he cried, laughing rather oddly, "you will make a consummate
idiot of me before you have done."
"Forgive me," she pleaded.
"I can't forgive you. How can I forgive where there is positively
nothing to be forgiven?"
"I don't care what you say; I know better; you _must_ forgive me."
"Do get up. Don't be silly."
"Forgive me. I will lie here till you do."
"But your remark was perfectly true."
"It makes no difference. I ought not to have said it like that. Forgive
me, or I will cry."
I will tell no more of it. Perhaps it is silly of me to tell any, but it
moved me strangely.
I have said enough to show there was a contrast between the two ladies.
As to what passed in the way of talk, that, from pure incapacity, I dare
not attempt to report. I did hear them talk once, and they laughed too,
but not one salient point could I lay hold of by which afterward to
recall their conversation. Do I dislike Mrs. Bevis? Not in the smallest
degree. I could read a book I loved in her presence. That would be
impossible to me in the presence of Mrs. Ramshorn.
Mrs. Wingfold had developed a great faculty for liking people. It was
quite a fresh shoot of her nature, for she had before been rather of a
repellent disposition. I wish there were more, and amongst them some of
the best of people, similarly changed. Surely the latter would soon be,
if once they had a glimpse of how much the coming of the kingdom is
retarded by defect of courtesy. The people I mean are slow to _like_,
and until they come to _like_, they _seem_ to dislike. I have known such
whose manner was fit to imply entire disapprobation of the very
existence of those upon whom they looked for the first time. They might
then have been saying to themselves, "_I_ would never have created such
people!" Had I not known them, I could not have imagined them lovers of
God or man, though they were of both. True courtesy, that is, courtesy
born of a true heart, is a most lovely, and absolutely indispensable
grace--one that nobody but a Christian can thoroughly develop. God grant
us a "coming-on disposition," as Shakespeare calls it. Who shall tell
whose angel stands nearer to the face of the Father? Should my brother
stand lower in the social scale than I, shall I not be the more tender,
and respectful, and self-refusing toward him, that God has placed him
there who may all the time be greater than I? A year before, Helen could
hardly endure doughy Mrs. Bevis, but now she had found something to like
in her, and there was confidence and faith between them. So there they
sat, the elder lady meandering on, and Helen, who had taken care to
bring some work with her, every now and then casting a bright glance in
her face, or saying two or three words with a smile, or asking some
simple question. Mrs. Bevis talked chiefly of the supposed affairs and
undoubted illness of Miss Meredith, concerning both of which rather
strange reports had reached her.
Meantime the gentlemen were walking through the park in earnest
conversation. They crossed the little brook and climbed to the heath on
the other side. There the rector stood, and turning to his companion,
"It's rather late in the day for a fellow to wake up, ain't it,
Wingfold? You see I was brought up to hate fanaticism, and that may have
blinded me to something you have seen and got a hold of. I wish I could
just see what it is, but I never was much of a theologian. Indeed I
suspect I am rather stupid in some things. But I would fain try to look
my duty in the face. It's not for me to start up and teach the people,
because I ought to have been doing it all this time: I've got nothing to
teach them. God only knows whether I haven't been breaking every one of
the commandments I used to read to them every Sunday."
"But God does know, sir," said the curate, with even more than his usual
respect in his tone, "and that is well, for otherwise we might go on
breaking them forever."
The rector gave him a sudden look, full in the face, but said nothing,
seemed to fall a thinking, and for some time was silent.
"There's one thing clear," he resumed: "I've been taking pay, and doing
no work. I used to think I was at least doing no harm--that I was merely
using one of the privileges of my position: I not only paid a curate,
but all the repair the church ever got was from me. Now, however, for
the first time, I reflect that the money was not given me for that.
Doubtless it has been all the better for my congregation, but that is
only an instance of the good God brings out of evil, and the evil is
mine still. Then, again, there's all this property my wife brought me:
what have I done with that? The kingdom of heaven has not come a
hair's-breadth nearer for my being a parson of the Church of England;
neither are the people of England a shade the better that I am one of
her land-owners. It is surely time I did something, Wingfold, my boy!"
"I think it is, sir," answered the curate.
"Then, in God's name, what am I to do?" returned the rector, almost
"Nobody can answer that question but yourself, sir," replied Wingfold.
"It's no use my trying to preach. I could not write a sermon if I took a
month to it. If it were a paper on the management of a stable, now, I
think I could write that--respectably. I know what I am about there. I
could even write one on some of the diseases of horses and bullocks--but
that's not what the church pays me for. There's one thing though--it
comes over me strong that I should like to read prayers in the old place
again. I want to pray, and I don't know how; and it seems as if I could
shove in some of my own if I had them going through my head once again.
I tell you what: we won't make any fuss about it--what's in a name?--but
from this day you shall be incumbent, and I will be curate. You shall
preach--or what you please, and I shall read the prayers or not, just as
you please. Try what you can make of me, Wingfold. Don't ask me to do
what I can't, but help me to do what I can. Look here--here's what I've
been thinking--it came to me last night as I was walking about here
after coming from Glaston:--here, in this corner of the parish, we are a
long way from church. In the village there, there is no place of worship
except a little Methodist one. There isn't one of their--local
preachers, I believe they call them--that don't preach a deal better
than I could if I tried ever so much. It's vulgar enough sometimes, they
tell me, but then they preach, and mean it. Now I might mean it, but I
shouldn't preach;--for what is it to people at work all the week to have
a man read a sermon to them? You might as well drive a nail by pushing
it in with the palm of your hand. Those men use the hammer. Ill-bred,
conceited fellows, some of them, I happen to know, but they know their
business. Now why shouldn't I build a little place here on my own
ground, and get the bishop to consecrate it? I would read prayers for
you in the abbey church in the morning, and then you would not be too
tired to come and preach here in the evening. I would read the prayers
here too, if you liked."
"I think your scheme delightful," answered the curate, after a moment's
pause. "I would only venture to suggest one improvement--that you should
not have your chapel consecrated. You will find it ever so much more
useful. It will then be dedicated to the God of the whole earth, instead
of the God of the Church of England."
"Why! ain't they the same?" cried the rector, half aghast, as he stopped
and faced round on the curate.
"Yes," answered Wingfold; "and all will be well when the Church of
England really recognizes the fact. Meantime its idea of God is such as
will not at all fit the God of the whole earth. And that is why she is
in bondage. Except she burst the bonds of her own selfishness, she will
burst her heart and go to pieces, as her enemies would have her. Every
piece will be alive, though, I trust, more or less."
"I don't understand you," said the rector. "What has all that to do with
the consecration of my chapel?"
"If you don't consecrate it," answered Wingfold, "it will remain a
portion of the universe, a thoroughfare for all divine influences, open
as the heavens to every wind that blows. Consecration--"
Here the curate checked himself. He was going to say--"is another word
for congestion,"--but he bethought himself what a wicked thing it would
be, for the satisfaction of speaking his mind, to disturb that of his
rector, brooding over a good work.
"But," he concluded therefore, "there will be time enough to think about
that. The scheme is a delightful one. Apart from it, however,
altogether--if you would but read prayers in your own church, it would
wonderfully strengthen my hands. Only I am afraid I should shock you
"I will take my chance of that. If you do, I will tell you of it. And if
I do what you don't like, you must tell me of it. I trust neither of us
will find the other incapable of understanding his neighbor's position."
They walked to the spot which the rector had already in his mind as the
most suitable for the projected chapel. It was a bit of gently rising
ground, near one of the gates, whence they could see the whole of the
little village of Owlkirk. One of the nearest cottages was that of Mrs.
Puckridge. They saw the doctor ride in at the other end of the street,
stop there, fasten his horse to the paling, and go in.
THE GARDEN AT OWLKIRK.
No sooner had Faber left the cottage that same morning, than the foolish
Mrs. Puckridge proceeded to pour out to the patient, still agitated both
with her dream and her waking vision, all the terrible danger she had
been in, and the marvelous way in which the doctor had brought her back
from the threshold of death. Every drop of the little blood in her body
seemed to rush to her face, then back to her heart, leaving behind it a
look of terror. She covered her face with the sheet, and lay so long
without moving that her nurse was alarmed. When she drew the sheet back,
she found her in a faint, and it was with great difficulty she brought
her out of it. But not one word could she get from her. She did not seem
even to hear what she said. Presently she grew restless, and soon her
flushed cheek and bright eye indicated an increase of fever. When Faber
saw her, he was much disappointed, perceived at once that something had
excited her, and strongly suspected that, for all her promises, Mrs.
Puckridge had betrayed the means by which he recovered her.
He said to himself that he had had no choice, but then neither had the
lady, and the thing might be hateful to her. She might be in love, and
then how she must abominate the business, and detest him! It was
horrible to think of her knowing it. But for knowing it, she would never
be a whit the worse, for he never had a day's illness in his life and
knew of no taint in his family.
When she saw him approach her bedside, a look reminding him of the
ripple of a sudden cold gust passing with the shadow of a cloud over
still water swept across her face. She closed her eyes, and turned a
little from him. What color she had, came and went painfully. Cursing in
his heart the faithlessness of Mrs. Puckridge, he assumed his coldest,
hardest professional manner, felt her pulse with the gentlest, yet most
peremptory inquiry, gave her attendant some authoritative directions,
and left her, saying he would call again in the afternoon.
During seven days he visited her twice a day. He had good cause to be
anxious, and her recovery was very slow. Once and again appeared
threatenings of the primary complaint, while from the tardiness with
which her veins refilled, he feared for her lungs. During all these
visits, hardly a word beyond the most necessary passed between them.
After that time they were reduced to one a day. Ever as the lady grew
stronger, she seemed to become colder, and her manner grew more distant.
After a fortnight, he again reduced them to one in two days--very
unwillingly, for by that time she had come to occupy nearly as much of
his thoughts as all the rest of his patients together. She made him feel
that his visits were less than welcome to her, except for the help they
brought her, allowed him no insight into her character and ways of
thinking, behaved to him indeed with such restraint, that he could
recall no expression of her face the memory of which drew him to dwell
upon it; yet her face and form possessed him with their mere perfection.
He had to set himself sometimes to get rid of what seemed all but her
very presence, for it threatened to unfit him for the right discharge of
his duties. He was haunted with the form to which he had given a renewal
of life, as a murderer is haunted with the form of the man he has
killed. In those marvelous intervals betwixt sleep and waking, when the
soul is like a _camera obscura_, into which throng shapes unbidden, hers
had displaced all others, and came constantly--now flashing with
feverous radiance, now pale and bloodless as death itself. But ever and
always her countenance wore a look of aversion. She seemed in these
visions, to regard him as a vile necromancer, who first cast her into
the sepulcher, and then brought her back by some hellish art. She had
fascinated him. But he would not allow that he was in love with her. A
man may be fascinated and hate. A man is not necessarily in love with
the woman whose form haunts him. So said Faber to himself; and I can not
yet tell whether he was in love with her or not. I do not know where the
individuality of love commences--when love begins to be love. He must
have been a good way toward that point, however, to have thus betaken
himself to denial. He was the more interested to prove himself free,
that he feared, almost believed, there was a lover concerned, and that
was the reason she hated him so severely for what he had done.
He had long come to the conclusion that circumstances had straitened
themselves around her. Experience had given him a keen eye, and he had
noted several things about her dress. For one thing, while he had
observed that her under-clothing was peculiarly dainty, he had once or
twice caught a glimpse of such an incongruity as he was compelled to set
down to poverty. Besides, what reason in which poverty bore no part,
could a lady have for being alone in a poor country lodging, without
even a maid? Indeed, might it not be the consciousness of the
peculiarity of her position, and no dislike to him, that made her treat
him with such impenetrable politeness? Might she not well dread being
She would be wanting to pay him for his attendance--and what was he to
do? He must let her pay something, or she would consider herself still
more grievously wronged by him, but how was he to take the money from
her hand? It was very hard that ephemeral creatures of the earth, born
but to die, to gleam out upon the black curtain and vanish again, might
not, for the brief time the poor yet glorious bubble swelled and
throbbed, offer and accept from each other even a few sunbeams in which
to dance! Would not the inevitable rain beat them down at night, and
"mass them into the common clay"? How then could they hurt each
other--why should they fear it--when they were all wandering home to the
black, obliterative bosom of their grandmother Night? He well knew a
certain reply to such reflection, but so he talked with himself.
He would take his leave as if she were a duchess. But he would not until
she made him feel another visit would be an intrusion.
One day Mrs. Puckridge met him at the door, looking mysterious. She
pointed with her thumb over her shoulder to indicate that the lady was
in the garden, but at the same time nudged him with her elbow, confident
that the impartment she had to make would justify the liberty, and led
the way into the little parlor.
"Please, sir, and tell me," she said, turning and closing the door,
"what I be to do. She says she's got no money to pay neither me nor the
doctor, so she give me this, and wants me to sell it. I daren't show it!
They'd say I stole it! She declares that if I mention to a living soul
where I got it, she'll never speak to me again. In course she didn't
mean you, sir, seein' as doctors an' clergymen ain't nobody--leastways
nobody to speak on--and I'm sure I beg your pardon, sir, but my meanin'
is as they ain't them as ain't to be told things. I declare I'm most
terrified to set eyes on the thing!"
She handed the doctor a little morocco case. He opened it, and saw a
ring, which was plainly of value. It was old-fashioned--a round mass of
small diamonds with a good-sized central one.
"You are quite right," he said. "The ring is far too valuable for you to
dispose of. Bring it to my house at four o'clock, and I will get rid of
it for you."
Mrs. Puckridge was greatly relieved, and ended the interview by leading
the way to the back-door. When she opened it, he saw his patient sitting
in the little arbor. She rose, and came to meet him.
"You see I am quite well now," she said, holding out her hand.
Her tone was guarded, but surely the ice was melting a little! Was she
taking courage at the near approach of her deliverance?
She stooped to pick a double daisy from the border. Prompt as he
generally was, he could say nothing: he knew what was coming next. She
spoke while still she stooped.
"When you come again," she said, "will you kindly let me know how much I
am in your debt?"
As she ended she rose and stood before him, but she looked no higher
than his shirt-studs. She was ashamed to speak of her indebtedness as an
amount that could be reckoned. The whiteness of her cheek grew warm,
which was all her complexion ever revealed of a blush. It showed plainer
in the deepened darkness of her eyes, and the tremulous increase of
light in them.
"I will," he replied, without the smallest response of confusion, for he
had recovered himself. "You will be careful!" he added. "Indeed you
must, or you will never be strong."
She answered only with a little sigh, as if weakness was such a
weariness! and looked away across the garden-hedge out into the
infinite--into more of it at least I think, than Faber recognized.
"And of all things," he went on, "wear shoes--every time you have to
step off a carpet--not mere foot-gloves like those."
"Is this a healthy place, Doctor Faber?" she asked, looking haughtier,
he thought, but plainly with a little trouble in her eyes.
"Decidedly," he answered. "And when you are able to walk on the heath
you will find the air invigorating. Only please mind what I say about
your shoes.--May I ask if you intend remaining here any time?"
"I have already remained so much longer than I intended, that I am
afraid to say. My plans are now uncertain."
"Excuse me--I know I presume--but in our profession we must venture a
little now and then--could you not have some friend with you until you
are perfectly strong again? After what you have come through, it may be
years before you are quite what you were. I don't want to frighten
you--only to make you careful."
"There is no one," she answered in a low voice, which trembled a little.
"No one--?" repeated Faber, as if waiting for the end of the sentence.
But his heart gave a great bound.
"No one to come to me. I am alone in the world. My mother died when I
was a child and my father two years ago. He was an officer. I was his
only child, and used to go about with him. I have no friends."
Her voice faltered more and more. When it ceased she seemed choking a
"Since then," she resumed, "I have been a governess. My last situation
was in Yorkshire, in a cold part of the county, and my health began to
fail me. I heard that Glaston was a warm place, and one where I should
be likely to get employment. But I was taken ill on my way there, and
forced to stop. A lady in the train told me this was such a sweet, quiet
little place, and so when we got to the station I came on here."
Again Faber could not speak. The thought of a lady like her traveling
about alone looking for work was frightful! "And they talk of a God in
the world!" he said to himself--and felt as if he never could forgive
"I have papers to show," she added quietly, as if bethinking herself
that he might be taking her for an impostor.
All the time she had never looked him in the face. She had fixed her
gaze on the far horizon, but a smile, half pitiful, half proud,
flickered about the wonderful curves of her upper lip.
"I am glad you have told me," he said. "I may be of service to you, if
you will permit me. I know a great many families about here."
"Oh, thank you!" she cried, and with an expression of dawning hope,
which made her seem more beautiful than ever, she raised her eyes and
looked him full in the face: it was the first time he had seen her eyes
lighted up, except with fever. Then she turned from him, and, apparently
lost in relief, walked toward the arbor a few steps distant. He followed
her, a little behind, for the path was narrow, his eyes fixed on her
exquisite cheek. It was but a moment, yet the very silence seemed to
become conscious. All at once she grew paler, shuddered, put her hand to
her head, and entering the arbor, sat down. Faber was alarmed. Her hand
was quite cold. She would have drawn it away, but he insisted on feeling
"You must come in at once," he said.
She rose, visibly trembling. He supported her into the house, made her
lie down, got a hot bottle for her feet, and covered her with shawls and
"You are quite unfit for any exertion yet," he said, and seated himself
near her. "You must consent to be an invalid for a while. Do not be
anxious. There is no fear of your finding what you want by the time you
are able for it. I pledge myself. Keep your mind perfectly easy."
She answered him with a look that dazzled him. Her very eyelids seemed
radiant with thankfulness. The beauty that had fixed his regard was now
but a mask through which her soul was breaking, assimilating it. His
eyes sank before the look, and he felt himself catching his breath like
a drowning man. When he raised them again he saw tears streaming down
her face. He rose, and saying he would call again in the evening, left
During the rest of his round he did not find it easy to give due
attention to his other cases. His custom was to brood upon them as he
rode; but now that look and the tears that followed seemed to bewilder
him, taking from him all command of his thought.
Ere long the shadow that ever haunts the steps of the angel, Love, the
shadow whose name is Beneficence, began to reassume its earlier tyranny.
Oh, the bliss of knowing one's self the source of well-being, the stay
and protector, the comfort and life, to such a woman! of wrapping her
round in days of peace, instead of anxiety and pain and labor! But ever
the thought of her looking up to him as the source of her freedom, was
present through it all. What a glory to be the object of such looks as
he had never in his dearest dreams imagined! It made his head swim, even
in the very moment while his great Ruber, astonished at what his master
required of him that day, rose to some high thorny hedge, or stiff rail.
He was perfectly honest; the consequence he sought was only in his own
eyes--and in hers; there was nothing of vulgar patronage in the feeling;
not an atom of low purpose for self in it. The whole mental condition
was nothing worse than the blossom of the dream of his childhood--the
dream of being _the_ benefactor of his race, of being loved and
worshiped for his kindness. But the poison of the dream had grown more
active in its blossom. Since then the credit of goodness with himself
had gathered sway over his spirit; and stoical pride in goodness is a
far worse and lower thing than delight in the thanks of our fellows. He
was a mere slave to his own ideal, and that ideal was not brother to the
angel that beholds the face of the Father. Now he had taken a backward
step in time, but a forward step in his real history, for again another
than himself had a part in his dream. It would be long yet, however, ere
he learned so to love goodness as to forget its beauty. To him who _is_
good, goodness has ceased to be either object or abstraction; it is _in_
him--a thirst to give; a solemn, quiet passion to bless; a delight in
beholding well-being. Ah, how we dream and prate of love, until the holy
fire of the true divine love, the love that God kindles in a man toward
his fellows, burns the shadow of it out!
In the afternoon Mrs. Puckridge appeared with the ring. He took it, told
her to wait, and went out. In a few minutes he returned, and, to the
woman's astonishment, gave her fifty pounds in notes. He did not tell
her he had been to nobody but his own banker. The ring he laid carefully
aside, with no definite resolve concerning it, but the great hope of
somehow managing that it should return to her one day. The thought shot
across his heaven--what a lovely wedding present it would make! and the
meteor drew a long train of shining fancies after it.
THE PARLOR AT OWLKIRK.
When he called, as he had said, in the evening, she looked much better,
and there was even a touch of playfulness in her manner. He could not
but hope some crisis had been passed. The money she had received for the
ring had probably something to do with it. Perhaps she had not known how
valuable the ring was. Thereupon in his conscientiousness he began to
doubt whether he had given her its worth. In reality he had exceeded it
by a few pounds, as he discovered upon inquiry afterward in London.
Anyhow it did not much matter, he said to himself: he was sure to find
some way of restoring it to her.
Suddenly she looked up, and said hurriedly:
"I can never repay you, Dr. Faber. No one can do the impossible."
"You can repay me," returned Faber.
"How?" she said, looking startled.
"By never again thinking of obligation to me."
"You must not ask that of me," she rejoined. "It would not be right."
The tinge of a rose not absolutely white floated over her face and
forehead as she spoke.
"Then I shall be content," he replied, "if you will say nothing about it
until you are well settled. After that I promise to send you a bill as
long as a snipe's."
She smiled, looked up brightly, and said,
"If you don't keep your promise, I shall have to take severe measures.
Don't fancy me without money. I _could_ pay you now--at least I think
It was a great good sign of her that she could talk about money plainly
as she did. It wants a thoroughbred soul to talk _just_ right about
money. Most people treat money like a bosom-sin: they follow it
earnestly, but do not talk about it at all in society.
"I only pay six shillings a week for my lodgings!" she added, with a
What had become of her constraint and stateliness? Courtesy itself
seemed gone, and simple trust in its place! Was she years younger than
he had thought her? She was hemming something, which demanded her eyes,
but every now and then she cast up a glance, and they were black suns
unclouding over a white sea. Every look made a vintage in the doctor's
heart. There _could_ be no man in the case! Only again, would fifty
pounds, with the loss of a family ring, serve to account for such a
change? Might she not have heard from somebody since he saw her
yesterday? In her presence he dared not follow the thought.
Some books were lying on the table which could not well be Mrs.
Puckridge's. He took up one: it was _In Memoriam_.
"Do you like Tennyson?" she asked.
"That is a hard question to answer straight off," he replied.--He had
once liked Tennyson, else he would not have answered so.--"Had you asked
me if I liked _In Memoriam_" he went on, "I could more easily have
"Then, don't you like _In Memoriam_?"
"No; it is weak and exaggerated."
"Ah! you don't understand it. I didn't until after my father died. Then
I began to know what it meant, and now think it the most beautiful poem
I ever read."
"You are fond of poetry, then?"
"I don't read much; but I think there is more in some poetry than in all
the prose in the world."
"That is a good deal to say."
"A good deal too much, when I think that I haven't read, I suppose,
twenty books in my life--that is, books worth calling books: I don't
mean novels and things of that kind. Yet I can not believe twenty years
of good reading would make me change my mind about _In Memoriam_.--You
don't like poetry?"
"I can't say I do--much. I like Pope and Crabbe--and--let me see--well,
I used to like Thomson. I like the men that give you things just as they
are. I do not like the poets that mix themselves up with what they see,
and then rave about Nature. I confess myself a lover of the truth beyond
"But are you sure," she returned, looking him gently but straight in
the eyes, "that, in your anxiety not to make more of things than they
are, you do not make less of them than they are?"
"There is no fear of that," returned Faber sadly, with an unconscious
shake of the head. "So long as there is youth and imagination on that
side to paint them,--"
"Excuse me: are you not begging the question? Do they paint, or do they
see what they say? Some profess to believe that the child sees more
truly than the grown man--that the latter is the one who paints,--paints
out, that is, with a coarse brush."
"You mean Wordsworth."
"Not him only."
"True; no end of poets besides. They all say it now-a-days."
"But surely, Mr. Faber, if there be a God,--"
"Ah!" interrupted the doctor, "there, _you_ beg the question. Suppose
there should be no God, what then?"
"Then, I grant you, there could be no poetry. Somebody says poetry is
the speech of hope; and certainly if there were no God, there could be
Faber was struck with what she said, not from any feeling that there was
truth in it, but from its indication of a not illogical mind. He was on
the point of replying that certain kinds of poetry, and _In Memoriam_ in
particular, seemed to him more like the speech of a despair that had not
the courage to confess itself and die; but he saw she had not a
suspicion he spoke as he did for any thing but argument, and feared to
fray his bird by scattering his crumbs too roughly. He honestly believed
deliverance from the superstition into which he granted a fine nature
was readier to fall than a common one, the greatest gift one human being
could offer to another; but at the same time he could not bear to think
of her recoil from such utterance of his unfaith as he had now almost
got into the habit of making. He bethought himself, too, that he had
already misrepresented himself, in giving her the impression that he was
incapable of enjoying poetry of the more imaginative sort. He had indeed
in his youth been passionately fond of such verse. Then came a time in
which he turned from it with a sick dismay. Feelings and memories of
agony, which a word, a line, would rouse in him afresh, had brought him
to avoid it with an aversion seemingly deep-rooted as an instinct, and
mounting even to loathing; and when at length he cast from him the
semi-beliefs of his education, he persuaded himself that he disliked it
for its falsehood. He read his philosophy by the troubled light of wrong
and suffering, and that is not the light of the morning, but of a
burning house. Of all poems, naturally enough, he then disliked _In
Memoriam_ the most; and now it made him almost angry that Juliet
Meredith should like so much what he so much disliked. Not that he would
have a lady indifferent to poetry. That would argue a lack of poetry in
herself, and such a lady would be like a scentless rose. You could not
expect, who indeed could wish a lady to be scientific in her ways of
regarding things? Was she not the live concentration, the perfect
outcome, of the vast poetic show of Nature? In shape, in motion of body
and brain, in tone and look, in color and hair, in faithfulness to old
dolls and carelessness of hearts, was she not the sublimation, the
essence of sunsets, and fading roses, and butterflies, and snows, and
running waters, and changing clouds, and cold, shadowy moonlight? He
argued thus more now in sorrow than in anger; for what was the woman but
a bubble on the sand of the infinite soulless sea--a bubble of a hundred
lovely hues, that must shine because it could not help it, and for the
same reason break? She was not to blame. Let her shine and glow, and
sparkle, and vanish. For him, he cared for nothing but science--nothing
that did not promise one day to yield up its kernel to the seeker. To
him science stood for truth, and for truth in the inward parts stood
obedience to the laws of Nature. If he was one of a poor race, he would
rise above his fellows by being good to them in their misery; while for
himself he would confess to no misery. Let the laws of Nature
work--eyeless and heartless as the whirlwind; he would live his life, be
himself, be Nature, and depart without a murmur. No scratch on the face
of time, insignificant even as the pressure of a fern-leaf upon coal,
should tell that he had ever thought his fate hard. He would do his
endeavor and die and return to nothing--not then more dumb of complaint
than now. Such had been for years his stern philosophy, and why should
it now trouble him that a woman thought differently? Did the sound of
faith from such lips, the look of hope in such eyes, stir any thing out
of sight in his heart? Was it for a moment as if the corner of a veil
were lifted, the lower edge of a mist, and he saw something fair beyond?
Came there a little glow and flutter out of the old time? "All forget,"
he said to himself. "I too have forgotten. Why should not Nature forget?
Why should I be fooled any more? Is it not enough?"
Yet as he sat gazing, in the broad light of day, through the cottage
window, across whose panes waved the little red bells of the common
fuchsia, something that had nothing to do with science and yet _was_,
seemed to linger and hover over the little garden--something from the
very depths of loveliest folly. Was it the refrain of an old song? or
the smell of withered rose leaves? or was there indeed a kind of light
such as never was on sea or shore?
Whatever it was, it was out of the midst of it the voice of the lady
seemed to come--a clear musical voice in common speech, but now veiled
and trembling, as if it brooded hearkening over the words it uttered:
"I wrong the grave with fears untrue:
Shall love be blamed for want of faith?
There must be wisdom with great Death:
The dead shall look me through and through.
"Be near us when we climb or fall:
Ye watch, like God, the rolling hours
With larger other eyes than ours,
To make allowance for us all."
She ceased, and the silence was like that which follows sweet music.
"Ah! you think of your father!" he hazarded, and hoped indeed it was her
father of whom she was thinking.
She made no answer. He turned toward her in anxiety. She was struggling
with emotion. The next instant the tears gushed into her eyes, while a
smile seemed to struggle from her lips, and spread a little way over her
face. It was inexpressibly touching.
"He was my friend," she said. "I shall never have such love again."
"All is not lost when much is lost," said the doctor, with sad comfort.
"There are spring days in winter."
"And _you_ don't like poetry!" she said, a sweet playful scorn shining
through her tears.
"I spoke but a sober truth," he returned; "--so sober that it seems but
the sadder for its truth. The struggle of life is to make the best of
things that might be worse."
She looked at him pitifully. For a moment her lips parted, then a
strange look as of sudden bodily pain crossed her face, her lips closed,
and her mouth looked as if it were locked. She shut the book which lay
upon her knee, and resumed her needlework. A shadow settled upon her
"What a pity such a woman should be wasted in believing lies!" thought
the doctor. "How much better it would be if she would look things in the
face, and resolve to live as she can, doing her best and enduring her
worst, and waiting for the end! And yet, seeing color is not the thing
itself, and only in the brain whose eye looks upon it, why should I
think it better? why should she not shine in the color of her fancy? why
should she grow gray because the color is only in herself? We are but
bubbles flying from the round of Nature's mill-wheel. Our joys and
griefs are the colors that play upon the bubbles. Their throbs and
ripples and changes are our music and poetry, and their bursting is our
endless repose. Let us waver and float and shine in the sun; let us bear
pitifully and be kind; for the night cometh, and there an end."
But in the sad silence, he and the lady were perhaps drifting further
and further apart!
"I did not mean," he said, plunging into what came first, "that I could
not enjoy verse of the kind you prefer--as verse. I took the matter by
the more serious handle, because, evidently, you accepted the tone and
the scope of it. I have a weakness for honesty."
"There is something not right about you, though, Mr. Faber--if I could
find it out," said Miss Meredith. "You can not mean you enjoy any thing
you do not believe in?"
"Surely there are many things one can enjoy without believing in them?"
"On the contrary, it seems to me that enjoying a thing is only another
word for believing in it. If I thought the sweetest air on the violin
had no truth in it, I could not listen to it a moment longer."
"Of course the air has all the truth it pretends to--the truth, that is,
of the relations of sounds and of intervals--also, of course, the truth
of its relation as a whole to that creative something in the human mind
which gave birth to it."
"That is not all it pretends. It pretends that the something it gives
birth to in the human mind is also a true thing."
"Is there not then another way also, in which the violin may be said to
be true? Its tone throughout is of suffering: does it not mourn that
neither what gives rise to it, nor what it gives rise to, is any thing
but a lovely vapor--the phantom of an existence not to be lived, only to
be dreamed? Does it not mourn that a man, though necessarily in harmony
with the laws under which he lives, yet can not be sufficiently
conscious of that harmony to keep him from straining after his dream?"
"Ah!" said Miss Meredith, "then there is strife in the kingdom, and it
can not stand!"
"There is strife in the kingdom, and it can not stand," said the doctor,
with mingled assent and assertion. "Hence it is forever falling."
"But it is forever renewed," she objected.
"With what renewal?" rejoined Faber. "What return is there from the jaws
of death? The individual is gone. A new consciousness is not a renewal
She looked at him keenly.
"It is hard, is it not?" she said.
"I will not deny that in certain moods it looks so," he answered.
She did not perceive his drift, and was feeling after it.
"Surely," she said, "the thing that ought to be, is the thing that must
"How can we tell that?" he returned. "What do we see like it in nature?
Whatever lives and thrives--animal or vegetable--or human--it is all
one--every thing that lives and thrives, is forever living and thriving
on the loss, the defeat, the death of another. There is no unity save
absolutely by means of destruction. Destruction is indeed the very
center and framework of the sole existing unity. I will not, therefore,
as some do, call Nature cruel: what right have I to complain? Nature can
not help it. She is no more to blame for bringing me forth, than I am to
blame for being brought forth. Ought is merely the reflex of like. We
call ourselves the highest in Nature--and probably we are, being the
apparent result of the whole--whence, naturally, having risen, we seek
to rise, we feel after something we fancy higher. For as to the system
in which we live, we are so ignorant that we can but blunderingly feel
our way in it; and if we knew all its laws, we could neither order nor
control, save by a poor subservience. We are the slaves of our
circumstance, therefore betake ourselves to dreams of what _ought to
Miss Meredith was silent for a time.
"I can not see how to answer you," she said at length. "But you do not
disturb my hope of seeing my father again. We have a sure word of
Faber suppressed the smile of courteous contempt that was ready to break
forth, and she went on:
"It would ill become me to doubt to-day, as you will grant when I tell
you a wonderful fact. This morning I had not money enough to buy myself
the pair of strong shoes you told me I must wear. I had nothing left but
a few trinkets of my mother's--one of them a ring I thought worth about
ten pounds. I gave it to my landlady to sell for me, hoping she would
get five for it. She brought me fifty, and I am rich!"
Her last words trembled with triumph. He had himself been building her
up in her foolish faith! But he took consolation in thinking how easily
with a word he could any moment destroy that buttress of her phantom
house. It was he, the unbeliever, and no God in or out of her Bible,
that had helped her! It did not occur to him that she might after all
see in him only a reed blown of a divine wind.
"I am glad to hear of your good fortune," he answered. "I can not say I
see how it bears on the argument. You had in your possession more than
"Does the length of its roots alter the kind of the plant?" she asked.
"Do we not know in all nature and history that God likes to see things
grow? That must be the best way. It may be the only right way. If that
ring was given to my mother against the time when the last child of her
race should find herself otherwise helpless, would the fact that the
provision was made so early turn the result into a mere chance meeting
of necessity and subsidy? Am I bound to call every good thing I receive
a chance, except an angel come down visibly out of the blue sky and give
it to me? That would be to believe in a God who could not work His will
by His own laws. Here I am, free and hopeful--all I needed. Every thing
was dark and troubled yesterday; the sun is up to-day."
"There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood leads
on to fortune," said the doctor.
"I begin to fear you mean what you say, Mr. Faber. I hoped it was only
for argument's sake," returned Miss Meredith.
She did not raise her eyes from her work this time. Faber saw that she
was distressed if not hurt, and that her soul had closed its lips to
him. He sprang to his feet, and stood bending before her.
"Miss Meredith," he said, "forgive me. I have offended you."
"You have not offended me," she said quietly.
"Hurt you then, which is worse."
"How should I have got through," she said, as if to herself, and dropped
her hands with her work on her knees, "if I had not believed there was
One caring for me all the time, even when I was most alone!"
"Do you never lose that faith?" asked the doctor.
"Yes; many and many a time. But it always comes back."
"Comes and goes with your health."
"No--is strongest sometimes when I am furthest from well."
"When you are most feverish," said the doctor. "What a fool I am to go
on contradicting her!" he added to himself.
"I think I know you better than you imagine, Mr. Faber," said Miss
Meredith, after just a moment's pause. "You are one of those men who
like to represent themselves worse than they are. I at least am bound to
think better of you than you would have me. One who lives as you do for
other people, can not be so far from the truth as your words."
Faber honestly repudiated the praise, for he felt it more than he
deserved. He did try to do well by his neighbor, but was aware of no
such devotion as it implied. Of late he had found his work bore him not
a little--especially when riding away from Owlkirk. The praise,
notwithstanding, sounded sweet from her lips, was sweeter still from her
eyes, and from the warmer white of her cheek, which had begun to resume
its soft roundness.
"Ah!" thought the doctor, as he rode slowly home, "were it not for
sickness, age, and death, this world of ours would be no bad place to
live in. Surely mine is the most needful and the noblest of
callings!--to fight for youth, and health, and love; against age, and
sickness, and decay! to fight death to the last, even knowing he must
have the best of it in the end! to set law against law, and do what
poor thing may be done to reconcile the inexorable with the desirable!
Who knows--if law be blind, and I am a man that can see--for at the
last, and only at the last do eyes come in the head of Nature--who knows
but I may find out amongst the blind laws to which I am the eyes, that
blind law which lies nearest the root of life!--Ah, what a dreamer I
should have been, had I lived in the time when great dreams were
possible! Beyond a doubt I should have sat brooding over the elixir of
life, cooking and mixing, heating and cooling, watching for the flash in
the goblet. We know so much now, that the range of hope is sadly
limited! A thousand dark ways of what seemed blissful possibility are
now closed to us, because there the light now shines, and shows naught
but despair. Yet why should the thing be absurd? Can any one tell _why_
this organism we call man should not go on working forever? Why should
it not, since its law is change and renewal, go on changing and renewing
forever? Why should it get tired? Why should its law work more feeble,
its relations hold less firmly, after a hundred years, than after ten?
Why should it grow and grow, then sink and sink? No one knows a reason.
Then why should it be absurd to seek what shall encounter the unknown
cause, and encountering reveal it? Might science be brought to the pitch
that such a woman should live to all the ages, how many common lives
might not well be spared to such an end! How many noble ones would not
willingly cease for such a consummation--dying that life should be lord,
and death no longer king!"
Plainly Faber's materialism sprang from no defect in the region of the
imagination; but I find myself unable to determine how much honesty, and
how much pride and the desire to be satisfied with himself, had
relatively to do with it. I would not be understood to imply that he had
an unusual amount of pride; and I am sure he was less easily satisfied
with himself than most are. Most people will make excuses for themselves
which they would neither make nor accept for their neighbor; their own
failures and follies trouble them little: Faber was of another sort. As
ready as any other man to discover what could be said on his side, he
was not so ready to adopt it. He required a good deal of himself. But
then he unconsciously compared himself with his acquaintances, and made
what he knew of them the gauge, if not the measure, of what he required
It were unintelligible how a man should prefer being the slave of blind
helpless Law to being the child of living Wisdom, should believe in the
absolute Nothing rather than in the perfect Will, were it not that he
does not, can not see the Wisdom or the Will, except he draw nigh
I shall be answered:
"We do not prefer. We mourn the change which yet we can not resist. We
would gladly have the God of our former faith, were it possible any
longer to believe in Him."
I answer again:
"Are you sure of what you say? Do you in reality mourn over your lost
faith? For my part, I would rather disbelieve with you, than have what
you have lost. For I would rather have no God than the God whom you
suppose me to believe in, and whom therefore I take to be the God in
whom you imagine you believed in the days of your ignorance. That those
were days of ignorance, I do not doubt; but are these the days of your
knowledge? The time will come when you will see deeper into your own
hearts than now, and will be humbled, like not a few other men, by what
THE BUTCHER'S SHOP.
About four years previous to the time of which I am now writing, and
while yet Mr. Drake was in high repute among the people of Cowlane
chapel, he went to London to visit an old friend, a woman of great
practical benevolence, exercised chiefly toward orphans. Just then her
thoughts and feelings were largely occupied with a lovely little girl,
the chain of whose history had been severed at the last link, and lost
A poor woman in Southwark had of her own motion, partly from love to
children and compassion for both them and their mothers, partly to earn
her own bread with pleasure, established a sort of _creche_ in her two
rooms, where mothers who had work from home could bring their children
in the morning, and leave them till night. The child had been committed
to her charge day after day for some weeks. One morning, when she
brought her, the mother seemed out of health, and did not appear at
night to take her home. The next day the woman heard she was in the
small-pox-hospital. For a week or so, the money to pay for the child
came almost regularly, in postage-stamps, then ceased altogether, and
the woman heard nothing either from or of the mother. After a fortnight
she contrived to go to the hospital to inquire after her. No one
corresponding to her description was in the place. The name was a common
one, and several patients bearing it had lately died and been buried,
while others had recovered and were gone. Her inquiries in the
neighborhood had no better success: no one knew her, and she did not
even discover where she had lived. She could not bear the thought of
taking the child to the work-house, and kept her for six or eight weeks,
but she had a sickly son, a grown lad, to support, and in dread lest she
should be compelled to give her up to the parish, had applied for
counsel to the lady I have mentioned. When Mr. Drake arrived, she had
for some time been searching about in vain to find a nest for her.
Since his boys had been taken from him, and the unprized girl left
behind had grown so precious, Mr. Drake had learned to love children as
the little ones of God. He had no doubt, like many people, a dread of
children with unknown antecedents: who could tell what root of
bitterness, beyond the common inheritance, might spring up in them? But
all that was known of this one's mother was unusually favorable; and
when his friend took him to see the child, his heart yearned after her.
He took her home to Dorothy, and she had grown up such as we have seen
her, a wild, roguish, sweet, forgetful, but not disobedient child--very
dear to both the Drakes, who called her their duckling.
As we have seen, however, Mr. Drake had in his adversity grown fearful
and faint-hearted, and had begun to doubt whether he had a right to keep
her. And of course he had not, if it was to be at the expense of his
tradespeople. But he was of an impetuous nature, and would not give even
God time to do the thing that needed time to be done well. He saw a
crisis was at hand. Perhaps, however, God saw a spiritual, where he saw
a temporal crisis.
Dorothy had a small sum, saved by her mother, so invested as to bring
her about twenty pounds a year, and of the last payment she had two
pounds in hand. Her father had nothing, and quarter-day was two months
off. This was the common knowledge of their affairs at which they
arrived as they sat at breakfast on the Monday morning, after the
saddest Sunday either of them had ever spent. They had just risen from
the table, and the old woman was removing the cloth, when a knock came
to the lane-door, and she went to open it, leaving the room-door ajar,
whereby the minister caught a glimpse of a blue apron, and feeling
himself turning sick, sat down again. Lisbeth re-entered with a rather
greasy-looking note, which was of course from the butcher, and Mr.
Drake's hand trembled as he opened it. Mr. Jones wrote that he would not
have troubled him, had he not asked for his bill; but, if it was quite
convenient, he would be glad to have the amount by the end of the week,
as he had a heavy payment to make the following Monday. Mr. Drake handed
the note to his daughter, rose hastily, and left the room. Dorothy threw
it down half-read, and followed him. He was opening the door, his hat in
"Where are you going in such a hurry, father dear?" she said. "Wait a
moment and I'll go with you."
"My child, there is not a moment to lose!" he replied excitedly.
"I did not read all the letter," she returned; "but I think he does not
want the money till the end of the week."
"And what better shall we be then?" he rejoined, almost angrily. "The
man looks to me, and where will he find himself on Monday? Let us be as
honest at least as we can."
"But we may be able to borrow it--or--who knows what might happen?"
"There it is, my dear! Who knows what? We can be sure of nothing in this
"And what in the next, father?"
The minister was silent. If God was anywhere, he was here as much as
there! That was not the matter in hand, however. He owed the money, and
was bound to let the man know that he could not pay it by the end of the
week. Without another word to Dorothy, he walked from the house, and,
like a man afraid of cowardice, went straight at the object of his
dismay. He was out of the lane and well into Pine street before he
thought to put on his hat.
From afar he saw the butcher, standing in front of his shop--a tall,
thin man in blue. His steel glittered by his side, and a red nightcap
hung its tassel among the curls of his gray hair. He was discussing,
over a small joint of mutton, some point of economic interest with a
country customer in a check-shawl. To the minister's annoyance the woman
was one of his late congregation, and he would gladly have passed the
shop, had he had the courage. When he came near, the butcher turned from
the woman, and said, taking his nightcap by the tassel in rudimentary
"At your service, sir."
His courtesy added to Mr. Drake's confusion: it was plain the man
imagined he had brought him his money! Times were indeed changed since
his wife used to drive out in her brougham to pay the bills! Was this
what a man had for working in the vineyard the better part of a
lifetime? The property he did not heed. That had been the portion of the
messengers of heaven from the first. But the shame!--what was he to do
with that? Who ever heard of St. Paul not being able to pay a butcher's
bill! No doubt St. Paul was a mighty general, and he but a poor
subaltern, but in the service there was no respect of persons. On the
other hand, who ever heard of St. Paul having any bills to pay!--or for
that matter, indeed, of his marrying a rich wife, and getting into
expensive habits through popularity! Who ever heard of his being
dependent on a congregation! He accepted help sometimes, but had always
his goats'-hair and his tent-making to fall back upon!--Only, after all,
was the Lord never a hard master? Had he not let it come to this?
Much more of the sort went through his mind in a flash. The country
woman had again drawn the attention of the butcher with a parting word.
"You don't want a chicken to-day--do you, Mr. Drake?" she said, as she
turned to go.
"No, thank you, Mrs. Thomson. How is your husband?"
"Better, I thank you sir. Good morning, sir."
"Mr. Jones," said the minister--and as he spoke, he stepped inside the
shop, removed his hat, and wiped his forehead, "I come to you with
shame. I have not money enough to pay your bill. Indeed I can not even
pay a portion of it till next quarter-day."
"Don't mention it, Mr. Drake, sir."
"But your bill on Monday, Mr. Jones!"
"Oh! never mind that. I shall do very well, I dare say. I have a many as
owes me a good deal more than you do, sir, and I'm much obliged to you
for letting of me know at once. You see, sir, if you hadn't--"
"Yes, I know: I asked for it! I am the sorrier I can't pay it after all.
It is quite disgraceful, but I simply can't help it."
"Disgraceful, sir!" exclaimed Mr. Jones, almost as if hurt: "I wish they
thought as you do as has ten times the reason, sir!"
"But I have a request to make," the pastor went on, heedless of the
butcher's remark, and pulling out a large and handsome gold watch:
"Would you oblige me by taking this watch in security until I do pay
you? It is worth a great deal more than your bill. It would add much to
the obligation, if you would put it out of sight somewhere, and say
nothing about it. If I should die before paying your bill, you will be
at liberty to sell it; and what is over, after deducting interest, you
will kindly hand to my daughter."
Mr. Jones stared with open mouth. He thought the minister had lost his
"What do you make of me, sir?" he said at last. "You go for to trust me
with a watch like that, and fancy I wouldn't trust you with a little
bill that ain't been owing three months yet! You make me that I don't
know myself, sir! Never you mention the bill to me again, sir. I'll ask
for it, all in good time. Can I serve you with any thing to-day, sir?"
"No, I thank you. I must at least avoid adding to my debt."
"I hope what you do have, you'll have of me, sir. I don't mind waiting a
goodish bit for my money, but what cuts me to the heart is to see any
one as owes me money a goin' over the way, as if 'e 'adn't 'a' found my
meat good enough to serve his turn, an' that was why he do it. That does
"Take my word for it, Mr. Jones--all the meat we have we shall have of
you. But we must be careful. You see I am not quite so--so--"
He stopped with a sickly smile.
"Look ye here, Mr. Drake!" broke in the butcher: "you parsons ain't
proper brought up. You ain't learned to take care of yourselves. Now us
tradespeople, we're learned from the first to look arter number one, and
not on no account to forget which _is_ number one. But you parsons,
now,--you'll excuse me, sir; I don't mean no offense; you ain't brought
up to 't, an' it ain't to be expected of you--but it's a great neglect
in your eddication, sir; an' the consekence is as how us as knows better
'as to take care on you as don't know no better. I can't say I think
much o' them 'senters: they don't stick by their own; but you're a
honest man, sir, if ever there was a honest man as was again' the
church, an' ask you for that money, I never will, acause I know when you
can pay, it's pay you will. Keep your mind easy, sir: _I_ shan't come to
grief for lack o' what you owe me! Only don't you go a starving of
yourself, Mr. Drake. I don't hold with that nohow. Have a bit o' meat
when you want it, an' don't think over it twice. There!"
The minister was just able to thank his new friend and no more. He held
out his hand to him, forgetful of the grease that had so often driven
him from the pavement to the street. The butcher gave it a squeeze that
nearly shot it out of his lubricated grasp, and they parted, both better
men for the interview.
When Mr. Drake reached home, he met his daughter coming out to find him.
He took her hand, led her into the house and up to his study, and closed
"Dorothy," he said, "it is sweet to be humbled. The Spirit can bring
water from the rock, and grace from a hard heart. I mean mine, not the
butcher's. He has behaved to me as I don't see how any but a Christian
could, and that although his principles are scarcely those of one who
had given up all for the truth. He is like the son in the parable who
said, I go not, but went; while I, much I fear me, am like the other who
said, I go, sir, but went not. Alas! I have always found it hard to be
grateful; there is something in it unpalatable to the old Adam; but from
the bottom of my heart I thank Mr. Jones, and I will pray God for him
ere I open a book. Dorothy, I begin to doubt our way of
church-membership. It _may_ make the good better; but if a bad one gets
in, it certainly makes him worse. I begin to think too, that every
minister ought to be independent of his flock--I do not mean by the pay
of the state, God forbid! but by having some trade or profession, if no
fortune. Still, if I had had the money to pay that bill, I should now be
where I am glad not to be--up on my castletop, instead of down at the
gate. He has made me poor that He might send me humility, and that I
find unspeakably precious. Perhaps He will send me the money next. But
may it not be intended also to make us live more simply--on vegetables
perhaps? Do you not remember how it fared with Daniel, Hananiah,
Mishael, and Azariah, when they refused the meat and the wine, and ate
pulse instead? At the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer
and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of
the king's meat. Pulse, you know, means peas and beans, and every thing
of that kind--which is now proved to be almost as full of nourishment as
meat itself, and to many constitutions more wholesome. Let us have a
dinner of beans. You can buy haricot beans at the grocer's--can you not?
If Ducky does not thrive on them, or they don't agree with you, my
Dorothy, you will have only to drop them. I am sure they will agree with
me. But let us try, and then the money I owe Mr. Jones, will not any
longer hang like a millstone about my neck."
"We will begin this very day," said Dorothy, delighted to see her father
restored to equanimity. "I will go and see after a dinner of herbs.--We
shall have love with it anyhow, father!" she added, kissing him.
That day the minister, who in his earlier days had been allowed by his
best friends to be a little particular about his food, and had been no
mean connoisseur in wines, found more pleasure at his table, from
lightness of heart, and the joy of a new independence, than he had had
for many a day. It added much also to his satisfaction with the
experiment, that, instead of sleeping, as his custom was, after dinner,
he was able to read without drowsiness even. Perhaps Dorothy's
experience was not quite so satisfactory, for she looked weary when they
sat down to tea.
THE PARLOR AGAIN.