Part 6 out of 9
"I have it!" he exclaimed. "You went to church at Nestley last night!
Confound them all with their humbug! You have been letting their
infernal nonsense get a hold of you again! It has quite upset you--that,
and going much too long without your dinner. What _can_ be keeping it?"
He left her hurriedly and rang the bell. "You must speak to the cook, my
love. She is getting out of the good habits I had so much trouble to
teach her. But no--no! you shall not be troubled with _my_ servants. I
will speak to her myself. After dinner I will read you some of my
favorite passages in Montaigne. No, you shall read to me: your French
is so much better than mine."
Dinner was announced and nothing more was said. Paul ate well, Juliet
scarcely at all, but she managed to hide from him the offense. They rose
together and returned to the drawing-room.
The moment Faber shut the door Juliet turned in the middle of the room,
and as he came up to her said, in a voice much unlike her own:
"Paul, if I _were_ to do any thing very bad, as bad as could be, would
you forgive me?"
"Come, my love," expostulated Faber, speaking more gently than before,
for he had had his dinner, "surely you are not going to spoil our
evening with any more such nonsense!"
"Answer me, Paul, or I shall think you do not love me," she said, and
the tone of her entreaty verged upon demand. "Would you forgive me if I
had done something _very_ bad?"
"Of course I should," he answered, with almost irritated haste, "--that
is, if I could ever bring myself to allow any thing you did was wrong.
Only, you would witch me out of opinion and judgment and every thing
else with two words from your dear lips."
"Should I, Paul?" she said; and lifting her face from his shoulder, she
looked up in his from the depths of two dark fountains full of tears.
Never does the soul so nearly identify itself with matter as when
revealing itself through the eyes; never does matter so nearly lose
itself in spiritual absorption, as when two eyes like Juliet's are
possessed and glorified by the rush of the soul through their portals.
Faber kissed eyes and lips and neck in a glow of delight. She was the
vision of a most blessed dream, and she was his, all and altogether his!
He never thought then how his own uncreed and the prayer-book were of
the same mind that Death would one day part them. There is that in every
high and simple feeling that stamps it with eternity. For my own part I
believe that, if life has not long before twinned any twain, Death can
do nothing to divide them. The nature of each and every pure feeling,
even in the man who may sin away the very memory of it, is immortal; and
who knows from under what a depth of ashes the love of the saving God
may yet revive it!
The next moment the doctor was summoned. When he returned, Juliet was in
bed, and pretended to be asleep.
In the morning she appeared at the breakfast table so pale, so worn, so
troubled, that her husband was quite anxious about her. All she would
confess to was, that she had not slept well, and had a headache.
Attributing her condition to a nervous attack, he gave her some
medicine, took her to the drawing-room, and prescribed the new piano,
which he had already found the best of all sedatives for her. She
loathed the very thought of it--could no more have touched it than if
the ivory keys had been white hot steel. She watched him from the window
while he mounted his horse, but the moment the last red gleam of Ruber
vanished, she flung her arms above her head, and with a stifled cry
threw herself on a couch, stuffed her handkerchief into her mouth, and
in fierce dumb agony, tore it to shreds with hands and teeth. Presently
she rose, opened the door almost furtively, and stole softly down the
stair, looking this way and that, like one intent on some evil deed. At
the bottom she pushed a green baize-covered door, peeped into a passage,
then crept on tiptoe toward the surgery. Arrived there she darted to a
spot she knew, and stretched a trembling hand toward a bottle full of a
dark-colored liquid. As instantly she drew it back, and stood listening
with bated breath and terrified look. It _was_ a footstep approaching
the outer door of the surgery! She turned and fled from it, still
noiseless, and never stopped till she was in her own room. There she
shut and locked the door, fell on her knees by the bedside, and pressed
her face into the coverlid. She had no thought of praying. She wanted to
hide, only to hide. Neither was it from old habit she fell upon her
knees, for she had never been given to kneeling. I can not but think,
nevertheless, that there was a dumb germ of prayer at the heart of the
action--that falling upon her knees, and that hiding of her face. The
same moment something took place within her to which she could have
given no name, which she could have represented in no words, a something
which came she knew not whence, was she knew not what, and went she knew
not whither, of which indeed she would never have become aware except
for what followed, but which yet so wrought, that she rose from her
knees saying to herself, with clenched teeth and burning eyes, "I _will_
As if she had known the moment of her death near, she began mechanically
to set every thing in order in the room, and as she came to herself she
was saying, "Let him kill me. I wish he would. I am quite willing to
die by his hand. He will be kind, and do it gently. He knows so many
It was a terrible day. She did not go out of her room again. Her mood
changed a hundred times. The resolve to confess alternated with wild
mockery and laughter, but still returned. She would struggle to persuade
herself that her whole condition was one of foolish exaggeration, of
senseless excitement about nothing--the merest delirium of feminine
fastidiousness; and the next instant would turn cold with horror at a
fresh glimpse of the mere fact. What could the wretched matter be to him
now--or to her? Who was the worse, or had ever been the worse but
herself? And what did it amount to? What claim had any one, what claim
could even a God, if such a being there were, have upon the past which
had gone from her, was no more in any possible sense within her reach
than if it had never been? Was it not as if it had never been? Was the
woman to be hurled--to hurl herself into misery for the fault of the
girl? It was all nonsense--a trifle at worst--a disagreeable trifle, no
doubt, but still a trifle! Only would to God she had died rather--even
although then she would never have known Paul!--Tut! she would never
have thought of it again but for that horrid woman that lived over the
draper's shop! All would have been well if she had but kept from
thinking about it! Nobody would have been a hair the worse then!--But,
poor Paul!--to be married to such a woman as she!
If she were to be so foolish as let him know, how would it strike Paul?
What would he think of it? Ought she not to be sure of that before she
committed herself--before she uttered the irrevocable words? Would he
call it a trifle, or would he be ready to kill her? True, he had no
right, he _could_ have no right to know; but how horrible that there
should be any thought of right between them! still worse, any thing
whatever between them that he had no right to know! worst of all, that
she did not belong to him so utterly that he must have a right to know
_every_ thing about her! She _would_ tell him all! She would! she would!
she had no choice! she must!--But she need not tell him now. She was not
strong enough to utter the necessary words. But that made the thing very
dreadful! If she could not speak the words, how bad it must really
be!--Impossible to tell her Paul! That was pure absurdity.--Ah, but she
_could_ not! She would be certain to faint--or fall dead at his feet.
That would be well!--Yes! that would do! She would take a wine-glass
full of laudanum just before she told him; then, if he was kind, she
would confess the opium, and he could save her if he pleased; if he was
hard, she would say nothing, and die at his feet. She had hoped to die
in his arms--all that was left of eternity. But her life was his, he had
saved it with his own--oh horror! that it should have been to disgrace
him!--and it should not last a moment longer than it was a pleasure to
Worn out with thought and agony, she often fell asleep--only to start
awake in fresh misery, and go over and over the same torturing round.
Long before her husband appeared, she was in a burning fever. When he
came, he put her at once to bed, and tended her with a solicitude as
anxious as it was gentle. He soothed her to sleep, and then went and had
On his return, finding, as he had expected, that she still slept, he sat
down by her bedside, and watched. Her slumber was broken with now and
then a deep sigh, now and then a moan. Alas, that we should do the
things that make for moan!--but at least I understand why we are left to
do them: it is because we can. A dull fire was burning in her soul, and
over it stood the caldron of her history, and it bubbled in sighs and
Faber was ready enough to attribute every thing human to a physical
origin, but as he sat there pondering her condition, recalling her
emotion and strange speech of the night before, and watching the state
she was now in, an uneasiness began to gather--undefined, but other than
concerned her health. Something must be wrong somewhere. He kept
constantly assuring himself that at worst it could be but some mere
moleheap, of which her lovelily sensitive organization, under the
influence of a foolish preachment, made a mountain. Still, it was a huge
disorder to come from a trifle! At the same time who knew better than he
upon what a merest trifle nervous excitement will fix the attention! or
how to the mental eye such a speck will grow and grow until it absorb
the universe! Only a certain other disquieting thought, having come
once, would keep returning--that, thoroughly as he believed himself
acquainted with her mind, he had very little knowledge of her history.
He did not know a single friend of hers, had never met a person who knew
any thing of her family, or had even an acquaintance with her earlier
than his own. The thing he most dreaded was, that the shadow of some old
affection had returned upon her soul, and that, in her excessive
delicacy, she heaped blame upon herself that she had not absolutely
forgotten it. He flung from him in scorn every slightest suggestion of
blame. _His_ Juliet! his glorious Juliet! Bah!--But he must get her to
say what the matter was--for her own sake; he must help her to reveal
her trouble, whatever it might be--else how was he to do his best to
remove it! She should find he knew how to be generous!
Thus thinking, he sat patient by her side, watching until the sun of her
consciousness should rise and scatter the clouds of sleep. Hour after
hour he sat, and still she slept, outwearied with the rack of emotion.
Morning had begun to peer gray through the window-curtains, when she
woke with a cry.
She had been dreaming. In the little chapel in Nestley Park, she sat
listening to the curate's denouncement of hypocrisy, when suddenly the
scene changed: the pulpit had grown to a mighty cloud, upon which stood
an archangel with a trumpet in his hand. He cried that the hour of the
great doom had come for all who bore within them the knowledge of any
evil thing neither bemoaned before God nor confessed to man. Then he
lifted the great silver trumpet with a gleam to his lips, and every
fiber of her flesh quivered in expectation of the tearing blast that was
to follow; when instead, soft as a breath of spring from a bank of
primroses, came the words, uttered in the gentlest of sorrowful voices,
and the voice seemed that of her unbelieving Paul: "I will arise and go
to my Father." It was no wonder, therefore, that she woke with a cry. It
was one of indescribable emotion. When she saw his face bending over her
in anxious love, she threw her arms round his neck, burst into a storm
of weeping, and sobbed.
"Oh Paul! husband! forgive me. I have sinned against you terribly--the
worst sin a woman can commit. Oh Paul! Paul! make me clean, or I am
"Juliet, you are raving," he said, bewildered, a little angry, and at
her condition not a little alarmed. For the confession, it was
preposterous: they had not been many weeks married! "Calm yourself, or
you will give me a lunatic for a wife!" he said. Then changing his tone,
for his heart rebuked him, when he saw the ashy despair that spread over
her face and eyes, "Be still, my precious," he went on. "All is well.
You have been dreaming, and are not yet quite awake. It is the morphia
you had last night! Don't look so frightened. It is only your husband.
No one else is near you."
With the tenderest smile he sought to reassure her, and would have
gently released himself from the agonized clasp of her arms about his
neck, that he might get her something. But she tightened her hold.
"Don't leave me, Paul," she cried. "I was dreaming, but I am wide awake
now, and know only too well what I have done."
"Dreams are nothing. The will is not in them," he said. But the thought
of his sweet wife even dreaming a thing to be repented of in such
dismay, tore his heart. For he was one of the many--not all of the
purest--who cherish an ideal of woman which, although indeed
poverty-stricken and crude, is to their minds of snowy favor, to their
judgment of loftiest excellence. I trust in God that many a woman,
despite the mud of doleful circumstance, yea, even the defilement that
comes first from within, has risen to a radiance of essential innocence
ineffably beyond that whose form stood white in Faber's imagination. For
I see and understand a little how God, giving righteousness, makes pure
of sin, and that verily--by no theological quibble of imputation, by no
play with words, by no shutting of the eyes, no oblivion, willful or
irresistible, but by very fact of cleansing, so that the consciousness
of the sinner becomes glistering as the raiment of the Lord on the mount
of His transfiguration. I do not expect the Pharisee who calls the
sinner evil names, and drags her up to judgment, to comprehend this;
but, woman, cry to thy Father in Heaven, for He can make thee white,
even to the contentment of that womanhood which thou hast thyself
Faber unconsciously prided himself on the severity of his requirements
of woman, and saw his own image reflected in the polish of his ideal;
and now a fear whose presence he would not acknowledge began to gnaw at
his heart, a vague suggestion's horrid image, to which he would yield no
space, to flit about his brain.
"Would to God it were a dream, Paul!" answered the stricken wife.
"You foolish child!" returned the nigh trembling husband, "how can you
expect me to believe, married but yesterday, you have already got tired
"Tired of you, Paul! I should desire no other eternal paradise than to
lie thus under your eyes forever."
"Then for my sake, my darling wife, send away this extravagance, this
folly, this absurd fancy that has got such a hold of you. It will turn
to something serious if you do not resist it. There can be no truth in
it, and I am certain that one with any strength of character can do much
at least to prevent the deeper rooting of a fixed idea." But as he spoke
thus to her, in his own soul he was as one fighting the demons off with
a fan. "Tell me what the mighty matter is," he went on, "that I may
swear to you I love you the more for the worst weakness you have to
"Ah, my love!" returned Juliet, "how like you are now to the Paul I have
dreamed of so often! But you will not be able to forgive me. I have read
somewhere that men never forgive--that their honor is before their wives
with them. Paul! if you should not be able to forgive me, you must help
me to die, and not be cruel to me."
"Juliet, I will not listen to any more such foolish words. Either tell
me plainly what you mean, that I may convince you what a goose you are,
or be quiet and go to sleep again."
"_Can_ it be that after all it does not signify so much?" she said
aloud, but only to herself, meditating in the light of a little
glow-worm of hope. "Oh if it could be so! And what is it really so much?
I have not murdered any body!--I _will_ tell you, Paul!"
She drew his head closer down, laid her lips to his ear, gave a great
gasp, and whispered two or three words. He started up, sundering at once
the bonds of her clasped hands, cast one brief stare at her, turned,
walked, with a great quick stride to his dressing-room, entered, and
closed the door.
As if with one rush of a fell wind, they were ages, deserts, empty
star-spaces apart! She was outside the universe, in the cold frenzy of
infinite loneliness. The wolves of despair were howling in her. But Paul
was in the next room! There was only the door between them! She sprung
from her bed and ran to a closet. The next moment she appeared in her
Paul sat sunk together in his chair, his head hanging forward, his teeth
set, his whole shape, in limb and feature, carrying the show of
profound, of irrecoverable injury. He started to his feet when she
entered. She did not once lift her eyes to his face, but sunk on her
knees before him, hurriedly slipped her night-gown from her shoulders to
her waist, and over her head, bent toward the floor, held up to him a
They were baleful stars that looked down on that naked world beneath
To me scarce any thing is so utterly pathetic as the back. That of an
animal even is full of sad suggestion. But the human back!--It is the
other, the dark side of the human moon; the blind side of the being,
defenseless, and exposed to every thing; the ignorant side, turned
toward the abyss of its unknown origin; the unfeatured side, eyeless and
dumb and helpless--the enduring animal of the marvelous commonwealth, to
be given to the smiter, and to bend beneath the burden--lovely in its
patience and the tender forms of its strength.
An evil word, resented by the lowest of our sisters, rushed to the man's
lips, but died there in a strangled murmur.
"Paul!" said Juliet, in a voice from whose tone it seemed as if her soul
had sunk away, and was crying out of a hollow place of the earth, "take
it--take it. Strike me."
He made no reply--stood utterly motionless, his teeth clenched so hard
that he could not have spoken without grinding them. She waited as
motionless, her face bowed to the floor, the whip held up over her head.
"Paul!" she said again, "you saved my life once: save my soul now. Whip
me and take me again."
He answered with only a strange unnatural laugh through his teeth.
"Whip me and let me die then," she said.
He spoke no word. She spoke again. Despair gave her both insight and
utterance--despair and great love, and the truth of God that underlies
"You pressed me to marry you," she said: "what was I to do? How could I
tell you? And I loved you so! I persuaded myself I was safe with
you--you were so generous. You would protect me from every thing, even
my own past. In your name I sent it away, and would not think of it
again. I said to myself you would not wish me to tell you the evil that
had befallen me. I persuaded myself you loved me enough even for that. I
held my peace trusting you. Oh my husband! my Paul! my heart is crushed.
The dreadful thing has come back. I thought it was gone from me, and
now it will not leave me any more. I am a horror to myself. There is no
one to punish and forgive me but you. Forgive me, my husband. You are
the God to whom I pray. If you pardon me I shall be content even with
myself. I shall seek no other pardon; your favor is all I care for. If
you take me for clean, I _am_ clean for all the world. You can make me
clean--you only. Do it, Paul; do it, husband. Make me clean that I may
look women in the face. Do, Paul, take the whip and strike me. I long
for my deserts at your hand. Do comfort me. I am waiting the sting of
it, Paul, to know that you have forgiven me. If I should cry out, it
will be for gladness.--Oh, my husband,"--here her voice rose to an agony
of entreaty--"I was but a girl--hardly more than a child in knowledge--I
did not know what I was doing. He was much older than I was, and I
trusted him!--O my God! I hardly know what I knew and what I did not
know: it was only when it was too late that I woke and understood. I
hate myself. I scorn myself. But am I to be wretched forever because of
that one fault, Paul? Will you not be my saviour and forgive me my sin?
Oh, do not drive me mad. I am only clinging to my reason. Whip me and I
shall be well. Take me again, Paul. I will not, if you like, even fancy
myself your wife any more. I will be your slave. You shall do with me
whatever you will. I will obey you to the very letter. Oh beat me and
let me go."
She sunk prone on the floor, and clasped and kissed his feet.
He took the whip from her hand.
Of course a man can not strike a woman! He may tread her in the mire; he
may clasp her and then scorn her; he may kiss her close, and then dash
her from him into a dung-heap, but he must not strike her--that would be
unmanly! Oh! grace itself is the rage of the pitiful Othello to the
forbearance of many a self-contained, cold-blooded, self-careful slave,
that thinks himself a gentleman! Had not Faber been even then full of
his own precious self, had he yielded to her prayer or to his own wrath,
how many hours of agony would have been saved them both!--"What! would
you have had him really strike her?" I would have had him do _any thing_
rather than choose himself and reject his wife: make of it what you
will. Had he struck once, had he seen the purple streak rise in the
snow, that instant his pride-frozen heart would have melted into a
torrent of grief; he would have flung himself on the floor beside her,
and in an agony of pity over her and horror at his own sacrilege, would
have clasped her to his bosom, and baptized her in the tears of remorse
and repentance; from that moment they would have been married indeed.
When she felt him take the whip, the poor lady's heart gave a great
heave of hope; then her flesh quivered with fear. She closed her teeth
hard, to welcome the blow without a cry. Would he give her many stripes?
Then the last should be welcome as the first. Would it spoil her skin?
What matter if it was his own hand that did it!
A brief delay--long to her! then the hiss, as it seemed, of the coming
blow! But instead of the pang she awaited, the sharp ring of breaking
glass followed: he had thrown the whip through the window into the
garden. The same moment he dragged his feet rudely from her embrace, and
left the room. The devil and the gentleman had conquered. He had spared
her, not in love, but in scorn. She gave one great cry of utter loss,
and lay senseless.
THE BOTTOMLESS POOL.
She came to herself in the gray dawn. She was cold as ice--cold to the
very heart, but she did not feel the cold: there was nothing in her to
compare it against; her very being was frozen. The man who had given her
life had thrown her from him. He cared less for her than for the
tortured dog. She was an outcast, defiled and miserable. Alas! alas!
this was what came of speaking the truth--of making confession! The
cruel scripture had wrought its own fulfillment, made a mock of her, and
ruined her husband's peace. She knew poor Paul would never be himself
again! She had carried the snake so long harmless in her bosom only to
let it at last creep from her lips into her husband's ear, sting the
vital core of her universe, and blast it forever! How foolish she had
been!--What was left her to do? What would her husband have her to do?
Oh misery! he cared no more what she did or did not do. She was
alone--utterly alone! But she need not live.
Dimly, vaguely, the vapor of such thoughts as these passed through her
despairing soul, as she lifted herself from the floor and tottered back
to her room. Yet even then, in the very midst of her freezing misery,
there was, although she had not yet begun to recognize it, a nascent
comfort in that she had spoken and confessed. She would not really have
taken back her confession. And although the torture was greater, yet was
it more endurable than that she had been suffering before. She had told
him who had a right to know.--But, alas! what a deception was that dream
of the trumpet and the voice! A poor trick to entrap a helpless sinner!
Slowly, with benumbed fingers and trembling hands, she dressed herself:
that bed she would lie in no more, for she had wronged her husband.
Whether before or after he was her husband, mattered nothing. To have
ever called him husband was the wrong. She had seemed that she was not,
else he would never have loved or sought her; she had outraged his
dignity, defiled him; he had cast her off, and she could not, would not
blame him. Happily for her endurance of her misery, she did not turn
upon her idol and cast him from his pedestal; she did not fix her gaze
upon his failure instead of her own; she did not espy the contemptible
in his conduct, and revolt from her allegiance.
But was such a man then altogether the ideal of a woman's soul? Was he a
fit champion of humanity who would aid only within the limits of his
pride? who, when a despairing creature cried in soul-agony for help,
thought first and only of his own honor? The notion men call their honor
is the shadow of righteousness, the shape that is where the light is
not, the devil that dresses as nearly in angel-fashion as he can, but is
none the less for that a sneak and a coward.
She put on her cloak and bonnet: the house was his, not hers. He and she
had never been one: she must go and meet her fate. There was one power,
at least, the key to the great door of liberty, which the weakest as
well as the strongest possessed: she could die. Ah, how welcome would
Death be now! Did he ever know or heed the right time to come, without
being sent for--without being compelled? In the meantime her only
anxiety was to get out of the house: away from Paul she would understand
more precisely what she had to do. With the feeling of his angry
presence, she could not think. Yet how she loved him--strong in his
virtue and indignation! She had not yet begun to pity herself, or to
allow to her heart that he was hard upon her.
She was leaving the room when a glitter on her hand caught her eye: the
old diamond disk, which he had bought of her in her trouble, and
restored to her on her wedding-day, was answering the herald of the
sunrise. She drew it off: he must have it again. With it she drew off
also her wedding-ring. Together she laid them on the dressing table,
turned again, and with noiseless foot and desert heart went through the
house, opened the door, and stole into the street. A thin mist was
waiting for her. A lean cat, gray as the mist, stood on the steps of the
door opposite. No other living thing was to be seen. The air was chill.
The autumn rains were at hand. But her heart was the only desolation.
Already she knew where she was going. In the street she turned to the
Shortly before, she had gone with Dorothy, for the first time, to see
the Old House, and there had had rather a narrow escape. Walking down
the garden they came to the pond or small lake, so well known to the
children of Glaston as bottomless. Two stone steps led from the end of
the principal walk down to the water, which was, at the time, nearly
level with the top of the second. On the upper step Juliet was standing,
not without fear, gazing into the gulf, which was yet far deeper than
she imagined, when, without the smallest preindication, the lower step
suddenly sank. Juliet sprung back to the walk, but turned instantly to
look again. She saw the stone sinking, and her eyes opened wider and
wider, as it swelled and thinned to a great, dull, wavering mass, grew
dimmer and dimmer, then melted away and vanished utterly. With "stricken
look," and fright-filled eyes, she turned to Dorothy, who was a little
behind her, and said,
"How will you be able to sleep at night? I should be always fancying
myself sliding down into it through the darkness."
To this place of terror she was now on the road. When consciousness
returned to her as she lay on the floor of her husband's dressing-room,
it brought with it first the awful pool and the sinking stone. She
seemed to stand watching it sink, lazily settling with a swing this way
and a sway that, into the bosom of the earth, down and down, and still
down. Nor did the vision leave her as she came more to herself. Even
when her mental eyes were at length quite open to the far more frightful
verities of her condition, half of her consciousness was still watching
the ever sinking stone; until at last she seemed to understand that it
was showing her a door out of her misery, one easy to open.
She went the same way into the park that Dorothy had then taken
her--through a little door of privilege which she had shown her how to
open, and not by the lodge. The light was growing fast, but the sun was
not yet up. With feeble steps but feverous haste she hurried over the
grass. Her feet were wet through her thin shoes. Her dress was fringed
with dew. But there was no need for taking care of herself now; she felt
herself already beyond the reach of sickness. The still pond would soon
wash off the dew.
Suddenly, with a tremor of waking hope, came the thought that, when she
was gone from his sight, the heart of her husband would perhaps turn
again toward her a little. For would he not then be avenged? would not
his justice be satisfied? She had been well drilled in the theological
lie, that punishment is the satisfaction of justice.
"Oh, now I thank you, Paul!" she said, as she hastened along. "You
taught me the darkness, and made me brave to seek its refuge. Think of
me sometimes, Paul. I will come back to you if I can--but no, there is
no coming back, no greeting more, no shadows even to mingle their loves,
for in a dream there is but one that dreams. I shall be the one that
does not dream. There is nothing where I am going--not even the
darkness--nothing but nothing. Ah, would I were in it now! Let me make
haste. All will be one, for all will be none when I am there. Make you
haste too, and come into the darkness, Paul. It is soothing and soft and
cool. It will wash away the sin of the girl and leave you a----nothing."
While she was hurrying toward the awful pool, her husband sat in his
study, sunk in a cold fury of conscious disgrace--not because of his
cruelty, not because he had cast a woman into hell--but because his
honor, his self-satisfaction in his own fate, was thrown to the worms.
Did he fail thus in consequence of having rejected the common belief?
No; something far above the _common_ belief it must be, that would have
enabled him to act otherwise. But had he _known_ the Man of the gospel,
he could not have left her. He would have taken her to his sorrowful
bosom, wept with her, forgotten himself in pitiful grief over the spot
upon her whiteness; he would have washed her clean with love and
husband-power. He would have welcomed his shame as his hold of her
burden, whereby to lift it, with all its misery and loss, from her heart
forever. Had Faber done so as he was, he would have come close up to the
gate of the kingdom of Heaven, for he would have been like-minded with
Him who sought not His own. His honor, forsooth! Pride is a mighty
honor! His pride was great indeed, but it was not grand! Nothing
reflected, nothing whose object is self, has in it the poorest element
of grandeur. Our selves are ours that we may lay them on the altar of
love. Lying there, bound and bleeding and burning if need be, they are
grand indeed--for they are in their noble place, and rejoicing in their
fate. But this man was miserable, because, the possessor of a priceless
jewel, he had found it was not such as would pass for flawless in the
judgment of men--judges themselves unjust, whose very hearts were full
of bribes. He sat there an injured husband, a wronged, woman-cheated,
mocked man--he in whose eyes even a smutch on her face would have
lowered a woman--who would not have listened to an angel with a broken
Let me not be supposed to make a little of Juliet's loss! What that
amounted to, let Juliet feel!--let any woman say, who loves a man, and
would be what that man thinks her! But I read, and think I understand,
the words of the perfect Purity: "Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin
If people were both observant and memorious, they would cease, I fancy,
to be astonished at coincidences. Rightly regarded, the universe is but
one coincidence--only where will has to be developed, there is need for
human play, and room for that must be provided in its spaces. The works
of God being from the beginning, and all his beginnings invisible either
from greatness or smallness or nearness or remoteness, numberless
coincidences may pass in every man's history, before he becomes capable
of knowing either the need or the good of them, or even of noting them.
The same morning there was another awake and up early. When Juliet was
about half-way across the park, hurrying to the water, Dorothy was
opening the door of the empty house, seeking solitude that she might
find the one Dweller therein. She went straight to one of the upper
rooms looking out upon the garden, and kneeling prayed to her Unknown
God. As she kneeled, the first rays of the sunrise visited her face.
That face was in itself such an embodied prayer, that had any one seen
it, he might, when the beams fell upon it, have imagined he saw prayer
and answer meet. It was another sunrise Dorothy was looking for, but she
started and smiled when the warm rays touched her; they too came from
the home of answers. As the daisy mimics the sun, so is the central fire
of our system but a flower that blossoms in the eternal effulgence of
the unapproachable light.
The God to whom we pray is nearer to us than the very prayer itself ere
it leaves the heart; hence His answers may well come to us through the
channel of our own thoughts. But the world too being itself one of His
thoughts, He may also well make the least likely of His creatures an
angel of His own will to us. Even the blind, if God be with him, that
is, if he knows he is blind and does not think he sees, may become a
leader of the blind up to the narrow gate. It is the blind who says _I
see_, that leads his fellow into the ditch.
The window near which Dorothy kneeled, and toward which in the instinct
for light she had turned her face, looked straight down the garden, at
the foot of which the greater part of the circumference of the pond was
visible. But Dorothy, busy with her prayers, or rather with a weight of
hunger and thirst, from which like a burst of lightning skyward from the
overcharged earth, a prayer would now and then break and rush
heavenward, saw nothing of the outer world: between her and a sister
soul in mortal agony, hung the curtains of her eyelids. But there were
no shutters to her ears, and in at their portals all of a sudden darted
a great and bitter cry, as from a heart in the gripe of a fierce terror.
She had been so absorbed, and it so startled and shook her, that she
never could feel certain whether the cry she heard was of this world or
not. Half-asleep one hears such a cry, and can not tell whether it
entered his consciousness by the ear, or through some hidden channel of
the soul. Assured that waking ears heard nothing, he remains, it may be,
in equal doubt, whether it came from the other side of life or was the
mere cry of a dream. Before Dorothy was aware of a movement of her will,
she was on her feet, and staring from the window. Something was lying on
the grass beyond the garden wall, close to the pond: it looked like a
woman. She darted from the house, out of the garden, and down the other
side of the wall. When she came nearer she saw it was indeed a woman,
evidently insensible. She was bare-headed. Her bonnet was floating in
the pond; the wind had blown it almost to the middle of it. Her face was
turned toward the water. One hand was in it. The bank overhung the pond,
and with a single movement more she would probably have been beyond help
from Dorothy. She caught her by the arm, and dragged her from the brink,
before ever she looked in her face. Then to her amazement she saw it was
Juliet. She opened her eyes, and it was as if a lost soul looked out of
them upon Dorothy--a being to whom the world was nothing, so occupied
was it with some torment, which alone measured its existence--far away,
although it hung attached to the world by a single hook of brain and
"Juliet, my darling!" said Dorothy, her voice trembling with the love
which only souls that know trouble can feel for the troubled, "come with
me. I will take care of you."
At the sound of her voice, Juliet shuddered. Then a better light came
into her eyes, and feebly she endeavored to get up. With Dorothy's help
she succeeded, but stood as if ready to sink again to the earth. She
drew her cloak about her, turned and stared at the water, turned again
and stared at Dorothy, at last threw herself into her arms, and sobbed
and wailed. For a few moments Dorothy held her in a close embrace. Then
she sought to lead her to the house, and Juliet yielded at once. She
took her into one of the lower rooms, and got her some water--it was all
she could get for her, and made her sit down on the window-seat. It
seemed a measureless time before she made the least attempt to speak;
and again and again when she began to try, she failed. She opened her
mouth, but no sounds would come. At length, interrupted with choking
gasps, low cries of despair, and long intervals of sobbing, she said
something like this:
"I was going to drown myself. When I came in sight of the water, I fell
down in a half kind of faint. All the time I lay, I felt as if some one
was dragging me nearer and nearer to the pool. Then something came and
drew me back--and it was you, Dorothy. But you ought to have left me. I
am a wretch. There is no room for me in this world any more." She
stopped a moment, then fixing wide eyes on Dorothy's, said, "Oh Dorothy,
dear! there are awful things in the world! as awful as any you ever read
in a book!"
"I know that, dear. But oh! I am sorry if any of them have come your
way. Tell me what is the matter. I _will_ help you if I can."
"I dare not; I dare not! I should go raving mad if I said a word about
"Then don't tell me, my dear. Come with me up stairs; there is a warmer
room there--full of sunshine; you are nearly dead with cold. I came here
this morning, Juliet, to be alone and pray to God; and see what He has
sent me! You, dear! Come up stairs. Why, you are quite wet! You will get
your death of cold!"
"Then it would be all right. I would rather not kill myself if I could
die without. But it must be somehow."
"We'll talk about it afterward. Come now."
With Dorothy's arm round her waist, Juliet climbed trembling to the
warmer room. On a rickety wooden chair, Dorothy made her sit in the
sunshine, while she went and gathered chips and shavings and bits of
wood left by the workmen. With these she soon kindled a fire in the
rusty grate. Then she took off Juliet's shoes and stockings, and put her
own upon her. She made no resistance, only her eyes followed Dorothy's
bare feet going to and fro, as if she felt something was wrong, and had
not strength to inquire into it.
But Dorothy's heart rebuked her for its own lightness. It had not been
so light for many a day. It seemed as if God was letting her know that
He was there. She spread her cloak on a sunny spot of the floor, made
Juliet lie down upon it, put a bundle of shavings under her head,
covered her with her own cloak, which she had dried at the fire, and was
leaving the room.
"Where are you going, Dorothy?" cried Juliet, seeming all at once to
"I am going to fetch your husband, dear," answered Dorothy.
She gave a great cry, rose to her knees, and clasped Dorothy round
"No, no, no!" she screamed. "You shall not. If you do, I swear I will
run straight to the pond."
Notwithstanding the wildness of her voice and look, there was an evident
determination in both.
"I will do nothing you don't like, dear," said Dorothy. "I thought that
was the best thing I could do for you."
"No! no! no! any thing but that!"
"Then of course I won't. But I must go and get you something to eat."
"I could not swallow a mouthful; it would choke me. And where would be
the good of it, when life is over!"
"Don't talk like that, dear. Life can't be over till it is taken from
"Ah, you would see it just as I do, if you knew all!"
"Tell me all, then."
"Where is the use, when there is no help?"
"No help!" echoed Dorothy.--The words she had so often uttered in her
own heart, coming from the lips of another, carried in them an
incredible contradiction.--Could God make or the world breed the
irreparable?--"Juliet," she went on, after a little pause, "I have often
said the same myself, but--"
"You!" interrupted Juliet; "you who always professed to believe!"
Dorothy's ear could not distinguish whether the tone was of indignation
or of bitterness.
"You never heard me, Juliet," she answered, "profess any thing. If my
surroundings did so for me, I could not help that. I never dared say I
believed any thing. But I hope--and, perhaps," she went on with a smile,
"seeing Hope is own sister to Faith, she may bring me to know her too
some day. Paul says----"
Dorothy had been brought up a dissenter, and never said _St._ this one
or that, any more than the Christians of the New Testament.
At the sound of the name, Juliet burst into tears, the first she shed,
for the word _Paul_, like the head of the javelin torn from the wound,
brought the whole fountain after it. She cast herself down again, and
lay and wept. Dorothy kneeled beside her, and laid a hand on her
shoulder. It was the only way she could reach her at all.
"You see," she said at last, for the weeping went on and on, "there is
nothing will do you any good but your husband."
"No, no; he has cast me from him forever!" she cried, in a strange wail
that rose to a shriek.
"The wretch!" exclaimed Dorothy, clenching a fist whose little bones
looked fierce through the whitened skin.
"No," returned Juliet, suddenly calmed, in a voice almost severe; "it is
I who am the wretch, to give you a moment in which to blame him. He has
done nothing but what is right."
"I don't believe it."
"I deserved it."
"I am sure you did not. I would believe a thousand things against him
before I would believe one against you, my poor white queen!" cried
Dorothy, kissing her hand.
She snatched it away, and covered her face with both hands.
"I should only need to tell you one thing to convince you," she sobbed
from behind them.
"Then tell it me, that I may not be unjust to him."
"I can not."
"I won't take your word against yourself," returned Dorothy
determinedly. "You will have to tell me, or leave me to think the worst
of him." She was moved by no vulgar curiosity: how is one to help
without knowing? "Tell me, my dear," she went on after a little; "tell
me all about it, and in the name of the God in whom I hope to believe, I
promise to give myself to your service."
Thus adjured, Juliet found herself compelled. But with what
heart-tearing groans and sobs, with what intervals of dumbness, in which
the truth seemed unutterable for despair and shame, followed by what
hurrying of wild confession, as if she would cast it from her, the sad
tale found its way into Dorothy's aching heart, I will not attempt to
describe. It is enough that at last it was told, and that it had entered
at the wide-open, eternal doors of sympathy. If Juliet had lost a
husband, she had gained a friend, and that was something--indeed no
little thing--for in her kind the friend was more complete than the
husband. She was truer, more entire--in friendship nearly perfect. When
a final burst of tears had ended the story of loss and despair, a
"Oh, those men! those men!" said Dorothy, in a low voice of bitterness,
as if she knew them and their ways well, though never had kiss of man
save her father lighted on her cheek. "--My poor darling!" she said
after another pause, "--and he cast you from him!--I suppose a woman's
heart," she went on after a third pause, "can never make up for the loss
of a man's, but here is mine for you to go into the very middle of, and
lie down there."
Juliet had, as she told her story, risen to her knees. Dorothy was on
hers too, and as she spoke she opened wide her arms, and clasped the
despised wife to her bosom. None but the arms of her husband, Juliet
believed, could make her alive with forgiveness, yet she felt a strange
comfort in that embrace. It wrought upon her as if she had heard a
far-off whisper of the words: _Thy sins be forgiven thee_. And no
wonder: there was the bosom of one of the Lord's clean ones for her to
rest upon! It was her first lesson in the mighty truth that sin of all
things is mortal, and purity alone can live for evermore.
TWO MORE MINDS.
Nothing makes a man strong like a call upon him for help--a fact which
points at a unity more delicate and close and profound than heart has
yet perceived. It is but "a modern instance" how a mother, if she be but
a hen, becomes bold as a tigress for her periled offspring. A stranger
will fight for the stranger who puts his trust in him. The most foolish
of men will search his musty brain to find wise saws for his boy. An
anxious man, going to his friend to borrow, may return having lent him
instead. The man who has found nothing yet in the world save food for
the hard, sharp, clear intellect, will yet cast an eye around the
universe to see if perchance there may not be a God somewhere for the
hungering heart of his friend. The poor, but lovely, the doubting, yet
living faith of Dorothy arose, stretched out its crippled wings, and
began to arrange and straighten their disordered feathers. It is a fair
sight, any creature, be it but a fly, dressing its wings! Dorothy's were
feeble, ruffled, their pen-feathers bent and a little crushed; but
Juliet's were full of mud, paralyzed with disuse, and grievously singed
in the smoldering fire of her secret. A butterfly that has burned its
wings is not very unlike a caterpillar again.
"Look here, Juliet," said Dorothy: "there must be some way out of it, or
there is no saving God in the universe.--Now don't begin to say there
isn't, because, you see, it is your only chance. It would be a pity to
make a fool of yourself by being over-wise, to lose every thing by
taking it for granted there is no God. If after all there should be one,
it would be the saddest thing to perish for want of Him. I won't say I
am as miserable as you, for I haven't a husband to trample on my heart;
but I am miserable enough, and want dreadfully to be saved. I don't call
this life worth living. Nothing is right, nothing goes well--there is no
harmony in me. I don't call it life at all. I want music and light in
me. I want a God to save me out of this wretchedness. I want health."
"I thought you were never ill, Dorothy," murmured Juliet listlessly.
"Is it possible you do not know what I mean?" returned Dorothy. "Do you
never feel wretched and sick in your very soul?--disgusted with
yourself, and longing to be lifted up out of yourself into a region of
higher conditions altogether?"
That kind of thing Juliet had been learning to attribute to the state of
her health--had partly learned: it is hard to learn any thing false
_thoroughly_, for it _can not_ so be learned. It is true that it is
often, perhaps it is generally, in troubled health, that such thoughts
come first; but in nature there are facts of color that the cloudy day
reveals. So sure am I that many things which illness has led me to see
are true, that I would endlessly rather never be well than lose sight of
them. "So would any madman say of his fixed idea." I will keep my
madness, then, for therein most do I desire the noble: and to desire
what I desire, if it be but to desire, is better than to have all you
offer us in the name of truth. Through such desire and the hope of its
attainment, all greatest things have been wrought in the earth: I too
have my unbelief as well as you--I can not believe that a lie on the
belief of which has depended our highest development. You may say you
have a higher to bring in. But that higher you have become capable of by
the precedent lie. Yet you vaunt truth! You would sink us low indeed,
making out falsehood our best nourishment--at some period of our
history at least. If, however, what I call true and high, you call false
and low--my assertion that you have never seen that of which I so speak
will not help--then is there nothing left us but to part, each go his
own road, and wait the end--which according to my expectation will show
the truth, according to yours, being nothing, will show nothing.
"I can not help thinking, if we could only get up there," Dorothy went
on,--"I mean into a life of which I can at least dream--if I could but
get my head and heart into the kingdom of Heaven, I should find that
every thing else would come right. I believe it is God Himself I
want--nothing will do but Himself in me. Mr. Wingfold says that we find
things all wrong about us, that they keep going against our will and our
liking, just to drive things right inside us, or at least to drive us
where we can get them put right; and that, as soon as their work is
done, the waves will lie down at our feet, or if not, we shall at least
walk over their crests."
"It sounds very nice, and would comfort any body that wasn't in
trouble," said Juliet; "but you wouldn't care one bit for it all any
more than I do, if you had pain and love like mine pulling at your
"I have seen a mother make sad faces enough over the baby at her
breast," said Dorothy. "Love and pain seem so strangely one in this
world, the wonder is how they will ever get parted. What God must feel
like, with this world hanging on to Him with all its pains and cries--!"
"It's His own fault," said Juliet bitterly. "Why did He make us--or why
did He not make us good? I'm sure I don't know where was the use of
"Perhaps not much yet," replied Dorothy, "but then He hasn't made you,
He hasn't done with you yet. He is making you now, and you don't like
"No, I don't--if you call this making. Why does He do it? He could have
avoided all this trouble by leaving us alone."
"I put something like the same question once to Mr. Wingfold," said
Dorothy, "and he told me it was impossible to show any one the truths of
the kingdom of Heaven; he must learn them for himself. 'I can do little
more,' he said, 'than give you my testimony that it seems to me all
right. If God has not made you good, He has made you with the feeling
that you ought to be good, and at least a half-conviction that to Him
you have to go for help to become good. When you are good, then you will
know why He did not make you good at first, and will be perfectly
satisfied with the reason, because you will find it good and just and
right--so good that it was altogether beyond the understanding of one
who was not good. I don't think,' he said, 'you will ever get a
thoroughly satisfactory answer to any question till you go to Himself
for it--and then it may take years to make you fit to receive, that is
to understand the answer.' Oh Juliet! sometimes I have felt in my heart
as if--I am afraid to say it, even to you,--"
"_I_ shan't be shocked at any thing; I am long past that," sighed
"It is not of you I am afraid," said Dorothy. "It is a kind of awe of
the universe I feel. But God is the universe; His is the only ear that
will hear me; and He knows my thoughts already. Juliet, I feel sometimes
as if I _must_ be good for God's sake; as if I was sorry for Him,
because He has such a troublesome nursery of children, that will not or
can not understand Him, and will not do what He tells them, and He all
the time doing the very best for them He can."
"It may be all very true, or all great nonsense, Dorothy, dear; I don't
care a bit about it. All I care for is--I don't know what I care for--I
don't care for any thing any more--there is nothing left to care for. I
love my husband with a heart like to break--oh, how I wish it would! He
hates and despises me and I dare not wish that he wouldn't. If he were
to forgive me quite, I should yet feel that he ought to despise me, and
that would be all the same as if he did, and there is no help. Oh, how
horrid I look to him! I _can't_ bear it. I fancied it was all gone; but
there it is, and there it must be forever. I don't care about a God. If
there were a God, what would He be to me without my Paul?"
"I think, Juliet, you will yet come to say, 'What would my Paul be to me
without my God?' I suspect we have no more idea than that lonely fly on
the window there, what it would be _to have a God_."
"I don't care. I would rather go to hell with my Paul than go to Heaven
without him," moaned Juliet.
"But what if God should be the only where to find your Paul?" said
Dorothy. "What if the gulf that parts you is just the gulf of a God not
believed in--a universe which neither of you can cross to meet the
other--just because you do not believe it is there at all?"
Juliet made no answer--Dorothy could not tell whether from feeling or
from indifference. The fact was, the words conveyed no more meaning to
Juliet than they will to some of my readers. Why do I write them then?
Because there are some who will understand them at once, and others who
will grow to understand them. Dorothy was astonished to find herself
saying them. The demands of her new office of comforter gave shape to
many half-formed thoughts, substance to many shadowy perceptions,
something like music to not a few dim feelings moving within her; but
what she said hardly seemed her own at all.
Had it not been for Wingfold's help, Dorothy might not have learned
these things in this world; but had it not been for Juliet, they would
have taken years more to blossom in her being, and so become her own.
Her faint hope seemed now to break forth suddenly into power. Whether or
not she was saying such things as were within the scope of Juliet's
apprehension, was a matter of comparatively little moment. As she lay
there in misery, rocking herself from side to side on the floor, she
would have taken hold of nothing. But love is the first comforter, and
where love and truth speak, the love will be felt where the truth is
never perceived. Love indeed is the highest in all truth; and the
pressure of a hand, a kiss, the caress of a child, will do more to save
sometimes than the wisest argument, even rightly understood. Love alone
is wisdom, love alone is power; and where love seems to fail it is where
self has stepped between and dulled the potency of its rays.
Dorothy thought of another line of expostulation.
"Juliet," she said, "suppose you were to drown yourself and your husband
were to repent?"
"That is the only hope left me. You see yourself I have no choice."
"You have no pity, it seems; for what then would become of him? What if
he should come to himself in bitter sorrow, in wild longing for your
forgiveness, but you had taken your forgiveness with you, where he had
no hope of ever finding it? Do you want to punish him? to make him as
miserable as yourself? to add immeasurably to the wrong you have done
him, by going where no word, no message, no letter can pass, no cry can
cross? No, Juliet--death can set nothing right. But if there be a God,
then nothing can go wrong but He can set it right, and set it right
better than it was before."
"He could not make it better than it was."
"What!--is that your ideal of love--a love that fails in the first
trial? If He could not better that, then indeed He were no God worth the
"Why then did He make us such--make such a world as is always going
"Mr. Wingfold says it is always going righter the same time it is going
wrong. I grant He would have had no right to make a world that might go
further wrong than He could set right at His own cost. But if at His own
cost He turn its ills into goods? its ugliness into favor? Ah, if it
should be so, Juliet! It _may_ be so. I do not know. I have not found
Him yet. Help me to find Him. Let us seek Him together. If you find Him
you can not lose your husband. If Love is Lord of the world, love must
yet be Lord in his heart. It will wake, if not sooner, yet when the
bitterness has worn itself out, as Mr. Wingfold says all evil must,
because its heart is death and not life."
"I don't care a straw for life. If I could but find my husband, I would
gladly die forever in his arms. It is not true that the soul longs for
immortality. I don't. I long only for love--for forgiveness--for my
"But would you die so long as there was the poorest chance of regaining
your place in his heart?"
"No. Give me the feeblest chance of that, and I will live. I could live
forever on the mere hope of it."
"I can't give you any hope, but I have hope of it in my own heart."
Juliet rose on her elbow.
"But I am disgraced!" she said, almost indignantly. "It would be
disgrace to him to take me again! I remember one of the officers'
wives----. No, no! he hates and despises me. Besides I could never look
one of his friends in the face again. Every body will say I ran away
with some one--or that he sent me away because I was wicked. You all had
a prejudice against me from the very first."
"Yes, in a way," confessed Dorothy. "It always seemed as if we did not
know you and could not get at you, as if you avoided us--with your
heart, I mean;--as if you had resolved we should not know you--as if you
had something you were afraid we should discover."
"Ah, there it was, you see!" cried Juliet. "And now the hidden thing is
revealed! That was it: I never could get rid of the secret that was
gnawing at my life. Even when I was hardly aware of it, it was there.
Oh, if I had only been ugly, then Paul would never have thought of me!"
She threw herself down again and buried her face.
"Hide me; hide me," she went on, lifting to Dorothy her hands clasped in
an agony, while her face continued turned from her. "Let me stay here.
Let me die in peace. Nobody would ever think I was here."
"That is just what has been coming and going in my mind," answered
Dorothy. "It is a strange old place: you might be here for months and
"Oh! wouldn't you mind it? I shouldn't live long. I couldn't, you know!"
"I will be your very sister, if you will let me," replied Dorothy; "only
then you must do what I tell you--and begin at once by promising not to
leave the house till I come back to you."
As she spoke she rose.
"But some one will come," said Juliet, half-rising, as if she would run
"No one will. But if any one should--come here, I will show you a place
where nobody would find you."
She helped her to rise, and led her from the room to a door in a rather
dark passage. This she opened, and, striking a light, showed an ordinary
closet, with pegs for hanging garments upon. The sides of it were
paneled, and in one of them, not readily distinguishable, was another
door. It opened into a room lighted only by a little window high up in a
wall, through whose dusty, cobwebbed panes, crept a modicum of
second-hand light from a stair.
"There!" said Dorothy. "If you should hear any sound before I come back,
run in here. See what a bolt there is to the door. Mind you shut both.
You can close that shutter over the window too if you like--only nobody
can look in at it without getting a ladder, and there isn't one about
the place. I don't believe any one knows of this room but myself."
Juliet was too miserable to be frightened at the look of it--which was
wretched enough. She promised not to leave the house, and Dorothy went.
Many times before she returned had Juliet fled from the sounds of
imagined approach, and taken refuge in the musty dusk of the room
withdrawn. When at last Dorothy came, she found her in it trembling.
She came, bringing a basket with every thing needful for breakfast. She
had not told her father any thing: he was too simple, she said to
herself, to keep a secret with comfort; and she would risk any thing
rather than discovery while yet she did not clearly know what ought to
be done. Her version of the excellent French proverb--_Dans le doute,
abstiens-toi_--was, _When you are not sure, wait_--which goes a little
further, inasmuch as it indicates expectation, and may imply faith. With
difficulty she prevailed upon her to take some tea, and a little bread
and butter, feeding her like a child, and trying to comfort her with
hope. Juliet sat on the floor, leaning against the wall, the very
picture of despair, white like alabaster, rather than marble--with a
bluish whiteness. Her look was of one utterly lost.
"We'll let the fire out now," said Dorothy; "for the sun is shining in
warm, and there had better be no smoke. The wood is rather scarce too. I
will get you some more, and here are matches: you can light it again
when you please."
She then made her a bed on the floor with a quantity of wood shavings,
and some shawls she had brought, and when she had lain down upon it,
kneeled beside her, and covering her face with her hands, tried to pray.
But it seemed as if all the misery of humanity was laid upon her, and
God would not speak: not a sound would come from her throat, till she
burst into tears and sobs. It struck a strange chord in the soul of the
wife to hear the maiden weeping over her. But it was no private trouble,
it was the great need common to all men that opened the fountain of her
tears. It was hunger after the light that slays the darkness, after a
comfort to confront every woe, a life to lift above death, an antidote
to all wrong. It was one of the groanings of the spirit that can not be
uttered in words articulate, or even formed into thoughts defined. But
Juliet was filled only with the thought of herself and her husband, and
the tears of her friend but bedewed the leaves of her bitterness, did
not reach the dry roots of her misery.
Dorothy's spirit revived when she found herself once more alone in the
park on her way home the second time. She must be of better courage, she
said to herself. Struggling in the Slough of Despond, she had come upon
one worse mired than she, for whose sake she must search yet more
vigorously after the hidden stepping-stones--the peaks whose bases are
the center of the world.
"God help me!" she said ever and anon as she went, and every time she
said it, she quickened her pace and ran.
It was just breakfast-time when she reached the house. Her father was
coming down the stair.
"Would you mind, father," she said as they sat, "if I were to make a
room at the Old House a little comfortable?"
"I mind nothing you please to do, Dorothy," he answered. "But you must
not become a recluse. In your search for God, you must not forsake your
"If only I could find my neighbor!" she returned, with a rather sad
smile. "I shall never be able even to look for him, I think, till I have
found One nearer first."
"You have surely found your neighbor when you have found his wounds, and
your hand is on the oil-flask," said her father, who knew her
indefatigable in her ministrations.
"I don't feel it so," she answered. "When I am doing things for people,
my arms seem to be miles long."
As soon as her father left the table, she got her basket again, filled
it from the larder and store-room, laid a book or two on the top, and
telling Lisbeth she was going to the Old House for the rest of the day,
set out on her third journey thither. To her delight she found Juliet
fast asleep. She sat down, rather tired, and began to reflect. Her great
fear was that Juliet would fall ill, and then what was to be done? How
was she to take the responsibility of nursing her? But she remembered
how the Lord had said she was to take no thought for the morrow; and
therewith she began to understand the word. She saw that one can not
_do_ any thing in to-morrow, and that all care which can not be put into
the work of to-day, is taken out of it. One thing seemed clear--that, so
long as it was Juliet's desire to remain concealed from her husband, she
had no right to act against that desire. Whether Juliet was right or
wrong, a sense of security was for the present absolutely necessary to
quiet her mind. It seemed therefore, the first thing she had to do was
to make that concealed room habitable for her. It was dreadful to think
of her being there alone at night, but her trouble was too great to
leave much room for fear--and anyhow there was no choice. So while
Juliet slept, she set about cleaning it, and hard work she found it.
Great also was the labor afterward, when, piece by piece, at night or in
the early morning, she carried thither every thing necessary to make
abode in it clean and warm and soft.
The labor of love is its own reward, but Dorothy received much more.
For, in the fresh impulse and freedom born of this service, she soon
found, not only that she thought better and more clearly on the points
that troubled her, but that, thus spending herself, she grew more able
to believe there must be One whose glory is perfect ministration. Also,
her anxious concentration of thought upon the usurping thoughts of
others, with its tendency to diseased action in the logical powers, was
thereby checked, much to her relief. She was not finding an atom of what
is called proof; but when the longing heart finds itself able to hope
that the perfect is the fact, that the truth is alive, that the lovely
is rooted in eternal purpose, it can go on without such proof as belongs
to a lower stratum of things, and can not be had in these. When we rise
into the mountain air, we require no other testimony than that of our
lungs that we are in a healthful atmosphere. We do not find it necessary
to submit it to a quantitative analysis; we are content that we breathe
with joy, that we grow in strength, become lighter-hearted and
better-tempered. Truth is a very different thing from fact; it is the
loving contact of the soul with spiritual fact, vital and potent. It
does its work in the soul independently of all faculty or qualification
there for setting it forth or defending it. Truth in the inward parts is
a power, not an opinion. It were as poor a matter as any held by those
who deny it, if it had not its vitality in itself, if it depended upon
any buttressing of other and lower material.
How should it be otherwise? If God be so near as the very idea of Him
necessitates, what other availing proof of His existence can there be,
than such _awareness_ as must come of the developing relation between
Him and us? The most satisfying of intellectual proofs, if such were to
be had, would be of no value. God would be no nearer to us for them all.
They would bring about no blossoming of the mighty fact. While He was in
our very souls, there would yet lie between Him and us a gulf of misery,
Peace is for those who _do_ the truth, not those who opine it. The true
man troubled by intellectual doubt, is so troubled unto further health
and growth. Let him be alive and hopeful, above all obedient, and he
will be able to wait for the deeper content which must follow with
completer insight. Men may say such a man but deceives himself, that
there is nothing of the kind he pleases himself with imagining; but this
is at least worth reflecting upon--that while the man who aspires fears
he may be deceiving himself, it is the man who does not aspire who
asserts that he is. One day the former may be sure, and the latter may
cease to deny, and begin to doubt.
THE DOCTOR'S STUDY.
Paul Faber's condition, as he sat through the rest of that night in his
study, was about as near absolute misery as a man's could well be, in
this life, I imagine. The woman he had been watching through the first
part of it as his essential bliss, he had left in a swoon, lying naked
on the floor, and would not and did not go near her again. How could he?
Had he not been duped, sold, married to----?--That way madness lay! His
pride was bitterly wounded. Would it had been mortally! but pride seems
in some natures to thrive upon wounds, as in others does love. Faber's
pride grew and grew as he sat and brooded, or, rather, was brooded upon.
He, Paul Faber, who knew his own worth, his truth, his love, his
devotion--he, with his grand ideas of woman and purity and unity,
conscious of deserving a woman's best regards--he, whose love (to speak
truly his unworded, undefined impression of himself) any woman might be
proud to call hers--he to be thus deceived! to have taken to his bosom
one who had before taken another to hers, and thought it yet good enough
for him! It would not bear thinking! Indignation and bitterest sense of
wrong almost crazed him. For evermore he must be a hypocrite, going
about with the knowledge of that concerning himself which he would not
have known by others! This was how the woman, whom he had brought back
from death with the life of his own heart, had served him! Years ago she
had sacrificed her bloom to some sneaking wretch who flattered a God
with prayers, then enticed and bewitched and married _him_!
In all this thinking there was no thought but for himself--not one for
the woman whose agony had been patent even to his wrath-blinded eyes. In
what is the wretchedness of our condition more evident than in this,
that the sense of wrong always makes us unjust? It is a most humbling
thought. God help us. He forgot how she had avoided him, resisted him,
refused to confess the love which his goodness, his importunities, his
besieging love had compelled in her heart. It was true she ought either
to have refused him absolutely and left him, or confessed and left the
matter with him; but he ought to have remembered for another, if ever he
had known it for himself, the hardness of some duties; and what duty
could be more torturing to a delicate-minded woman than either of
those--to leave the man she loved in passionate pain, sore-wounded with
a sense of undeserved cruelty, or to give him the strength to send her
from him by confessing to his face what she could not recall in the
solitude of her own chamber but the agony would break out wet on her
forehead! We do our brother, our sister, grievous wrong, every time
that, in our selfish justice, we forget the excuse that mitigates the
blame. That God never does, for it would be to disregard the truth. As
He will never admit a false excuse, so will He never neglect a true one.
It may be He makes excuses which the sinner dares not think of; while
the most specious of false ones shrivel into ashes before Him. A man is
bound to think of all just excuse for his offender, for less than the
righteousness of God will not serve his turn.
I would not have my reader set Faber down as heartless, His life showed
the contrary. But his pride was roused to such furious self-assertion,
that his heart lay beaten down under the sweep of its cyclone. Its turn
was only delayed. The heart is always there, and rage is not. The heart
is a constant, even when most intermittent force. It can bide its time.
Nor indeed did it now lie quite still; for the thought of that white,
self-offered sacrifice, let him rave as he would against the
stage-trickery of the scene, haunted him so, that once and again he had
to rouse an evil will to restrain him from rushing to clasp her to his
Then there was the question: why now had she told him all--if indeed she
had made a clean breast of it? Was it from love to him, or reviving
honesty in herself? From neither, he said. Superstition alone was at the
root of it. She had been to church, and the preaching of that honest
idiotic enthusiast, Wingfold, had terrified her.--Alas! what refuge in
her terror had she found with her husband?
Before morning he had made up his mind as to the course he would pursue.
He would not publish his own shame, but neither would he leave the
smallest doubt in her mind as to what he thought of her, or what he felt
toward her. All should be utterly changed between them. He would behave
to her with extreme, with marked politeness; he would pay her every
attention woman could claim, but her friend, her husband, he would be no
more. His thoughts of vengeance took many turns, some of them childish.
He would always call her _Mrs. Faber_. Never, except they had friends,
would he sit in the same room with her. To avoid scandal, he would dine
with her, if he could not help being at home, but when he rose from the
table, it would be to go to his study. If he happened at any time to be
in the room with her when she rose to retire, he would light her candle,
carry it up stairs for her, open the door, make her a polite bow, and
leave her. Never once would he cross the threshold of her bedroom. She
should have plenty of money; the purse of an adventuress was a greedy
one, but he would do his best to fill it, nor once reproach her with
extravagance--of which fault, let me remark, she had never yet shown a
sign. He would refuse her nothing she asked of him--except it were in
any way himself. As soon as his old aunt died, he would get her a
brougham, but never would he sit in it by her side. Such, he thought,
would be the vengeance of a gentleman. Thus he fumed and raved and
trifled, in an agony of selfish suffering--a proud, injured man; and all
the time the object of his vengeful indignation was lying insensible on
the spot where she had prayed to him, her loving heart motionless within
a bosom of ice.
In the morning he went to his dressing-room, had his bath, and went down
to breakfast, half-desiring his wife's appearance, that he might begin
his course of vindictive torture. He could not eat, and was just rising
to go out, when the door opened, and the parlor-maid, who served also as
Juliet's attendant, appeared.
"I can't find mis'ess nowhere, sir," she said. Faber understood at once
that she had left him, and a terror, neither vague nor ill-founded,
possessed itself of him. He sprung from his seat, and darted up the
stair to her room. Little more than a glance was necessary to assure him
that she had gone deliberately, intending it should be forever. The
diamond ring lay on her dressing-table, spending itself in flashing back
the single ray of the sun that seemed to have stolen between the
curtains to find it; her wedding ring lay beside it, and the sparkle of
the diamonds stung his heart like a demoniacal laughter over it, the
more horrible that it was so silent and so lovely: it was but three days
since, in his wife's presence, he had been justifying suicide with every
argument he could bring to bear. It was true he had insisted on a proper
regard to circumstances, and especially on giving due consideration to
the question, whether the act would hurt others more than it would
relieve the person contemplating it; but, after the way he had treated
her, there could be no doubt how Juliet, if she thought of it at all,
was compelled to answer it. He rushed to the stable, saddled Ruber, and
galloped wildly away. At the end of the street he remembered that he had
not a single idea to guide him. She was lying dead somewhere, but
whether to turn east or west or north or south to find her, he had not
the slightest notion. His condition was horrible. For a moment or two he
was ready to blow his brains out: that, if the orthodox were right, was
his only chance for over-taking her. What a laughing-stock he would then
be to them all! The strangest, wildest, maddest thoughts came and went
as of themselves, and when at last he found himself seated on Ruber in
the middle of the street, an hour seemed to have passed. It was but a
few moments, and the thought that roused him was: could she have betaken
herself to her old lodging at Owlkirk? It was not likely; it was
possible: he would ride and see.
"They will say I murdered her," he said to himself as he rode--so little
did he expect ever to see her again. "I don't care. They may prove it if
they can, and hang me. I shall make no defense. It will be but a fit end
to the farce of life."
He laughed aloud, struck his spurs in Ruber's flanks, and rode wildly.
He was desperate. He knew neither what he felt nor what he desired. If
he had found her alive, he would, I do not doubt, have behaved to her
cruelly. His life had fallen in a heap about him; he was ruined, and
she had done it, he said, he thought, he believed. He was not aware how
much of his misery was occasioned by a shrinking dread of the judgments
of people he despised. Had he known it, he would have been yet more
miserable, for he would have scorned himself for it. There is so much in
us that is beyond our reach!
Before arriving at Owlkirk, he made up his mind that, if she were not
there, he would ride to the town of Broughill--not in the hope of any
news of her, but because there dwelt the only professional friend he had
in the neighborhood--one who sympathized with his view of things, and
would not close his heart against him because he did not believe that
this horrid, ugly, disjointed thing of a world had been made by a God of
love. Generally, he had been in the habit of dwelling on the loveliness
of its developments, and the beauty of the gradual adaptation of life to
circumstance; but now it was plainer to him than ever, that, if made at
all, it was made by an evil being; "--for," he said, and said truly, "a
conscious being without a heart must be an evil being." This was the
righteous judgment of a man who could, by one tender, consoling word,
have made the sun rise upon a glorious world of conscious womanhood, but
would not say that word, and left that world lying in the tortured chaos
of a slow disintegration. This conscious being with a heart, this Paul
Faber, who saw that a God of love was the only God supposable, set his
own pride so far above love, that his one idea was, to satisfy the
justice of his outraged dignity by the torture of the sinner!--even
while all the time dimly aware of rebuke in his soul. If she should have
destroyed herself, he said once and again as he rode, was it more than a
just sacrifice to his wronged honor? As such he would accept it. If she
had, it was best--best for her, and best for him! What so much did it
matter! She was very lovely!--true--but what was the quintessence of
dust to him? Where either was there any great loss? He and she would
soon be wrapped up in the primal darkness, the mother and grave of all
things, together!--no, not together; not even in the dark of nothingness
could they two any more lie together! Hot tears forced their way into
his eyes, whence they rolled down, the lava of the soul, scorching his
cheeks. He struck his spurs into Ruber fiercely, and rode madly on.
At length he neared the outskirts of Broughill. He had ridden at a
fearful pace across country, leaving all to his horse, who had carried
him wisely as well as bravely. But Ruber, although he had years of good
work left in him, was not in his first strength, and was getting
exhausted with his wild morning. For, all the way, his master,
apparently unconscious of every thing else, had been immediately aware
of the slightest slackening of muscle under him, the least faltering of
the onward pace, and, in the temper of the savage, which wakes the
moment the man of civilization is hard put to it, the moment he flagged,
still drove the cruel spurs into his flanks, when the grand, unresenting
creature would rush forward at straining speed--not, I venture to think,
so much in obedience to the pain, as in obedience to the will of his
master, fresh recognized through the pain.
Close to the high road, where they were now approaching it through the
fields, a rail-fence had just been put up, inclosing a piece of ground
which the owner wished to let for building. That the fact might be
known, he was about to erect a post with a great board announcing it.
For this post a man had dug the hole, and then gone to his dinner. The
inclosure lay between Faber and the road, in the direct line he was
taking. On went Ruber blindly--more blindly than his master knew, for,
with the prolonged running, he had partially lost his sight, so that he
was close to the fence before he saw it. But he rose boldly, and cleared
it--to light, alas! on the other side with a foreleg in the hole. Down
he came with a terrible crash, pitched his master into the road upon his
head, and lay groaning with a broken leg. Faber neither spoke nor moved,
but lay as he fell. A poor woman ran to his assistance, and finding she
could do nothing for him, hurried to the town for help. His friend, who
was the first surgeon in the place, flew to the spot, and had him
carried to his house. It was a severe case of concussion of the brain.
Poor old Ruber was speedily helped to a world better than this for
horses, I trust.
Meantime Glaston was in commotion. The servants had spread the frightful
news that their mistress had vanished, and their master ridden off like
a madman. "But he won't find her alive, poor lady! I don't think," was
the general close of their communication, accompanied by a would-be
wise and really sympathetic shake of the head. In this conclusion most
agreed, for there was a general impression of something strange about
her, partly occasioned by the mysterious way in which Mrs. Puckridge had
spoken concerning her illness and the marvelous thing the doctor had
done to save her life. People now supposed that she had gone suddenly
mad, or, rather, that the latent madness so plain to read in those
splendid eyes of hers had been suddenly developed, and that under its
influence she had rushed away, and probably drowned herself. Nor were
there wanting, among the discontented women of Glaston, some who
regarded the event--vaguely to their own consciousness, I gladly
admit--as _almost a judgment_ upon Faber for marrying a woman of whom
nobody knew any thing.
Hundreds went out to look for the body down the river. Many hurried to
an old quarry, half full of water, on the road to Broughill, and peered
horror-stricken over the edge, but said nothing. The boys of Glaston
were mainly of a mind that the pond at the Old House was of all places
the most likely to attract a suicide, for with the fascination of its
horrors they were themselves acquainted. Thither therefore they sped;
and soon Glaston received its expected second shock in the tidings that
a lady's bonnet had been found floating in the frightful pool: while in
the wet mass the boys brought back with them, some of her acquaintance
recognized with certainty a bonnet they had seen Mrs. Faber wear. There
was no room left for doubt; the body of the poor lady was lying at the
bottom of the pool! A multitude rushed at once to the spot, although
they knew it was impossible to drag the pool, so deep was it, and for
its depth so small. Neither would she ever come to the surface, they
said, for the pikes and eels would soon leave nothing but the skeleton.
So Glaston took the whole matter for ended, and began to settle down
again to its own affairs, condoling greatly with the poor gentleman,
such a favorite! who, so young, and after such a brief experience of
marriage, had lost, in such a sad way, a wife so handsome, so amiable,
so clever. But some said a doctor ought to have known better than marry
such a person, however handsome, and they hoped it would be a lesson to
him. On the whole, so sorry for him was Glaston, that, if the doctor
could then have gone about it invisible, he would have found he had more
friends and fewer enemies than he had supposed.
For the first two or three days no one was surprised that he did not
make his appearance. They thought he was upon some false trail. But when
four days had elapsed and no news was heard of him, for his friend knew
nothing of what had happened, had written to Mrs. Faber, and the letter
lay unopened, some began to hint that he must have had a hand in his
wife's disappearance, and to breathe a presentiment that he would never
more be seen in Glaston. On the morning of the fifth day, however, his
accident was known, and that he was lying insensible at the house of his
friend, Dr. May; whereupon, although here and there might be heard the
expression of a pretty strong conviction as to the character of the
visitation, the sympathy both felt and uttered was larger than before.
The other medical men immediately divided his practice amongst them, to
keep it together against his possible return, though few believed he
would ever again look on scenes darkened by the memory of bliss so
For weeks his recovery was doubtful, during which time, even if they had
dared, it would have been useless to attempt acquainting him with what
all believed the certainty of his loss. But when at length he woke to a
memory of the past, and began to desire information, his friend was
compelled to answer his questions. He closed his lips, bowed his head on
his breast, gave a great sigh, and held his peace. Every one saw that he
was terribly stricken.
THE MIND OF JULIET.
There was one, however, who, I must confess, was not a little relieved
at the news of what had befallen Faber. For, although far from desiring
his death, which indeed would have ruined some of her warmest hopes for
Juliet, Dorothy greatly dreaded meeting him. She was a poor dissembler,
hated even the shadow of a lie, and here was a fact, which, if truth
could conceal it, must not be known. Her dread had been, that, the first
time she saw Faber, it would be beyond her power to look innocent, that
her knowledge would be legible in her face; and much she hoped their
first encounter might be in the presence of Helen or some other ignorant
friend, behind whose innocent front she might shelter her conscious
secrecy. To truth such a silence must feel like a culpable deception,
and I do not think such a painful position can ever arise except from
wrong somewhere. Dorothy could not tell a lie. She could not try to tell
one; and if she had tried, she would have been instantly discovered
through the enmity of her very being to the lie she told; from her lips
it would have been as transparent as the truth. It is no wonder
therefore that she felt relieved when first she heard of the durance in
which Faber was lying. But she felt equal to the withholding from Juliet
of the knowledge of her husband's condition for the present. She judged
that, seeing she had saved her friend's life, she had some right to
think and choose for the preservation of that life.
Meantime she must beware of security, and cultivate caution; and so
successful was she, that weeks passed, and not a single doubt associated
Dorothy with knowledge where others desired to know. Not even her father
had a suspicion in the direction of the fact. She knew he would one day
approve both of what she did, and of her silence concerning it. To tell
him, thoroughly as he was to be trusted, would be to increase the risk;
and besides, she had no right to reveal a woman's secret to a man.
It was a great satisfaction, however, notwithstanding her dread of
meeting him, to hear that Faber had at length returned to Glaston; for
if he had gone away, how could they have ever known what to do? For one
thing, if he were beyond their knowledge, he might any day, in full
confidence, go and marry again.
Her father not unfrequently accompanied her to the Old House, but Juliet
and she had arranged such signals, and settled such understandings, that
the simple man saw nothing, heard nothing, forefelt nothing. Now and
then a little pang would quaver through Dorothy's bosom, when she caught
sight of him peering down into the terrible dusk of the pool, or heard
him utter some sympathetic hope for the future of poor Faber; but she
comforted herself with the thought of how glad he would be when she was
able to tell him all, and how he would laugh over the story of their
precautions against himself.
Her chief anxiety was for Juliet's health, even more for the sake of
avoiding discovery, than for its own. When the nights were warm she
would sometimes take her out in the park, and every day, one time or
another, would make her walk in the garden while she kept watch on the
top of the steep slope. Her father would sometimes remark to a friend
how Dorothy's love of solitude seemed to grow upon her; but the remark
suggested nothing, and slowly Juliet was being forgotten at Glaston.
It seemed to Dorothy strange that she did not fall ill. For the first
few days she was restless and miserable as human being could be. She had
but one change of mood: either she would talk feverously, or sit in the
gloomiest silence, now and then varied with a fit of abandoned weeping.
Every time Dorothy came from Glaston, she would overwhelm her with
questions--which at first Dorothy could easily meet, for she spoke
absolute fact when she said she knew nothing concerning her husband.
When at length the cause of his absence was understood, she told her he
was with his friend, Dr. May, at Broughill. Knowing the universal belief
that she had committed suicide, nothing could seem more natural. But
when, day after day, she heard the same thing for weeks, she began to
fear he would never be able to resume his practice, at least at Glaston,
and wept bitterly at the thought of the evil she had brought upon him
who had given her life, and love to boot. For her heart was a genuine
one, and dwelt far more on the wrong her too eager love had done him,
than on the hardness with which he had resented it. Nay, she admired him
for the fierceness of his resentment, witnessing, in her eyes, to the
purity of the man whom his neighbors regarded as wicked.
After the first day, she paid even less heed to any thing of a religious
kind with which Dorothy, in the strength of her own desire after a
perfect stay, sought to rouse or console her. When Dorothy ventured on
such ground, which grew more and more seldom, she would sit listless,
heedless, with a far-away look. Sometimes when Dorothy fancied she had
been listening a little, her next words would show that her thoughts had
been only with her husband. When the subsiding of the deluge of her
agony, allowed words to carry meaning to her, any hint at supernal
consolation made her angry, and she rejected every thing Dorothy said,
almost with indignation. To seem even to accept such comfort, she would
have regarded as traitorous to her husband. Not the devotion of the
friend who gave up to her all of her life she could call her own,
sufficed to make her listen even with a poor patience. So absorbed was
she in her trouble, that she had no feeling of what poor Dorothy had
done for her. How can I blame her, poor lady! If existence was not a
thing to be enjoyed, as for her it certainly was not at present, how was
she to be thankful for what seemed its preservation? There was much
latent love to Dorothy in her heart; I may go further and say there was
much latent love to God in her heart, only the latter was very latent as
yet. When her heart was a little freer from grief and the agony of loss,
she would love Dorothy; but God must wait with his own patience--wait
long for the child of His love to learn that her very sorrow came of His
dearest affection. Who wants such affection as that? says the unloving.
No one, I answer; but every one who comes to know it, glorifies it as
the only love that ever could satisfy his being.
Dorothy, who had within her the chill of her own doubt, soon yielded to
Juliet's coldness, and ceased to say anything that could be called
religious. She saw that it was not the time to speak; she must content
herself with being. Nor had it ever been any thing very definite she
could say. She had seldom gone beyond the expression of her own hope,
and the desire that her friend would look up. She could say that all the
men she knew, from books or in life, of the most delicate honesty, the
most genuine repentance, the most rigid self-denial, the loftiest
aspiration, were Christian men; but she could neither say her knowledge
of history or of life was large, nor that, of the men she knew who
professed to believe, the greater part were honest, or much ashamed, or
rigid against themselves, or lofty toward God. She saw that her part was
not instruction, but ministration, and that in obedience to Jesus in
whom she hoped to believe. What matter that poor Juliet denied Him? If
God commended His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners
Christ died for us,' He would be pleased with the cup of cold water
given to one that was not a disciple. Dorothy dared not say she was a
disciple herself; she dared only say that right gladly would she become
one, if she could. If only the lovely, the good, the tender, the pure,
the grand, the adorable, were also the absolutely true!--true not in the
human idea only, but in absolute fact, in divine existence! If the story
of Jesus was true, then joy to the universe, for all was well! She
waited, and hoped, and prayed and ministered.
There is a great power in quiet, for God is in it. Not seldom He seems
to lay His hand on one of His children, as a mother lays hers on the
restless one in the crib, to still him. Then the child sleeps, but the
man begins to live up from the lower depths of his nature. So the
winter comes to still the plant whose life had been rushing to blossom
and fruit. When the hand of God is laid upon a man, vain moan, and
struggle and complaint, it may be indignant outcry follows; but when,
outwearied at last, he yields, if it be in dull submission to the
inexorable, and is still, then the God at the heart of him, the God that
is there or the man could not be, begins to grow. This point Juliet had
not yet reached, and her trouble went on. She saw no light, no possible
outlet. Her cries, her longings, her agonies, could not reach even the
ears, could never reach the heart of the man who had cast her off. He
believed her dead, might go and marry another, and what would be left
her then? Nothing but the death from which she now restrained herself,
lest, as Dorothy had taught her, she should deny him the fruits of a
softening heart and returning love. The moment she heard that he sought
another, she would seek Death and assuredly find him. One letter she
would write to leave behind her, and then go. He should see and
understand that the woman he despised for the fault of the girl, was yet
capable of the noblest act of a wife: she would die that he might
live--that it might be well with her husband. Having entertained,
comprehended and settled this idea in her mind, she became quieter.
After this, Dorothy might have spoken without stirring up so angry an
opposition. But it was quite as well she did not know it, and did not
I have said that Dorothy wondered she did not fall ill. There was a hope
in Juliet's mind of which she had not spoken, but upon which, though
vaguely, she built further hope, and which may have had part in her
physical endurance: the sight of his baby might move the heart of her
husband to pardon her!
But the time, even with the preoccupation of misery, grew very dreary.
She had never had any resources in herself except her music, and even if
here she had had any opportunity of drawing upon that, what is music but
a mockery to a breaking heart? Was music ever born of torture, of
misery? It is only when the cloud of sorrow is sinking in the sun-rays,
that the song-larks awake and ascend. A glory of some sort must fringe
the skirts of any sadness, the light of the sorrowing soul itself must
be shed upon it, and the cloud must be far enough removed to show the
reflected light, before it will yield any of the stuff of which songs
are made. And this light that gathers in song, what is it but hope
behind the sorrow--hope so little recognized as such, that it is often
called despair? It is reviving and not decay that sings even the saddest
Juliet had had little consciousness of her own being as an object of
reflection. Joy and sorrow came and went; she had never brooded. Never
until now, had she known any very deep love. Even that she bore her
father had not ripened into the grand love of the woman-child. She
forgot quickly; she hoped easily; she had had some courage, and
naturally much activity; she faced necessity by instinct, and took
almost no thought for the morrow--but this after the fashion of the
birds, not after the fashion required of those who can consider the
birds; it is one thing to take no thought, for want of thought, and
another to take no thought, from sufficing thought, whose flower is
confidence. The one way is the lovely way of God in the birds--the
other, His lovelier way in his men and women. She had in her the making
of a noble woman--only that is true of every woman; and it was no truer
of her than of every other woman, that, without religion, she could
never be, in any worthy sense, a woman at all. I know how narrow and
absurd this will sound to many of my readers, but such simply do not
know what religion means, and think I do not know what a woman means.
Hitherto her past had always turned to a dream as it glided away from
her; but now, in the pauses of her prime agony, the tide rose from the
infinite sea to which her river ran, and all her past was borne back
upon her, even to her far-gone childish quarrels with her silly mother,
and the neglect and disobedience she had too often been guilty of toward
her father. And the center of her memories was the hot coal of that one
secret; around that they all burned and hissed. Now for the first time
her past _was_, and she cowered and fled from it, a slave to her own
history, to her own deeds, to her own concealment. Alas, like many
another terror-stricken child, to whom the infinite bosom of tenderness
and love stretches out arms of shelter and healing and life, she turned
to the bosom of death, and imagined there a shelter of oblivious
darkness! For life is a thing so deep, so high, so pure, so far above
the reach of common thought, that, although shadowed out in all the
harmonic glories of color, and speech, and song, and scent, and motion,
and shine, yea, even of eyes and loving hands, to common minds--and the
more merely intellectual, the commoner are they--it seems but a
phantasm. To unchildlike minds, the region of love and worship, to
which lead the climbing stairs of duty, is but a nephelocockygia; they
acknowledge the stairs, however, thank God, and if they will but climb,
a hand will be held out to them. Now, to pray to a God, the very thought
of whose possible existence might seem enough to turn the coal of a dead
life into a diamond of eternal radiance, is with many such enough to
stamp a man a fool. It will surprise me nothing in the new world to hear
such men, finding they are not dead after all, begin at once to argue
that they were quite right in refusing to act upon any bare
possibility--forgetting that the questioning of possibilities has been
the source of all scientific knowledge. They may say that to them there
seemed no possibility; upon which will come the question--whence arose
their incapacity for seeing it? In the meantime, that the same condition
which constitutes the bliss of a child, should also be the essential
bliss of a man, is incomprehensible to him in whom the child is dead, or
so fast asleep that nothing but a trumpet of terror can awake him. That
the rules of the nursery--I mean the nursery where the true mother is
the present genius, not the hell at the top of a London house--that the
rules of the nursery over which broods a wise mother with outspread
wings of tenderness, should be the laws also of cosmic order, of a
world's well-being, of national greatness, and of all personal dignity,
may well be an old-wives'-fable to the man who dabbles at saving the
world by science, education, hygiene and other economics. There is a
knowledge that will do it, but of that he knows so little, that he will
not allow it to be a knowledge at all. Into what would he save the
world? His paradise would prove a ten times more miserable condition
than that out of which he thought to rescue it.
But any thing that gives objectivity to trouble, that lifts the cloud so
far that, if but for a moment, it shows itself a cloud, instead of being
felt an enveloping, penetrating, palsying mist--setting it where the
mind can in its turn prey upon it, can play with it, paint it, may come
to sing of it, is a great help toward what health may yet be possible
for the troubled soul. With a woman's instinct, Dorothy borrowed from
the curate a volume of a certain more attractive edition of Shakespeare
than she herself possessed, and left it in Juliet's way, so arranged
that it should open at the tragedy of Othello. She thought that, if she
could be drawn into sympathy with suffering like, but different and
apart from her own, it would take her a little out of herself, and
might lighten the pressure of her load. Now Juliet had never read a play
of Shakespeare in her life, and knew Othello only after the vulgar
interpretation, as the type, that is, of jealousy; but when, in a pause
of the vague reverie of feeling which she called thought, a touch of
ennui supervening upon suffering, she began to read the play, the
condition of her own heart afforded her the insight necessary for
descrying more truly the Othello of Shakespeare's mind. She wept for
Desdemona's innocence and hard fate; but she pitied more the far harder
fate of Othello, and found the death of both a consolation for the
trouble their troubles had stirred up in her.
The curate was in the habit of scribbling on his books, and at the end
of the play, which left a large blank on the page, had written a few
verses: as she sat dreaming over the tragedy, Juliet almost
unconsciously took them in. They were these:
In the hot hell o'
Jealousy shines Othello--
Love in despair,
An angel in flames!
While pure Desdemona
Waits him alone, a
Ghost in the air,
White with his blames.
Becoming suddenly aware of their import, she burst out weeping afresh,
but with a very different weeping--Ah, if it might be so! Soon then had
the repentant Othello, rushing after his wife, explained all, and
received easiest pardon: he had but killed her. Her Paul would not even
do that for her! He did not love her enough for that. If she had but
thrown herself indeed into the lake, then perhaps--who could tell!--she
might now be nearer to him than she should ever be in this world.
All the time, Dorothy was much and vainly exercised as to what might
become possible for the bringing of them together again. But it was not
as if any misunderstanding had arisen between them: such a difficulty
might any moment be removed by an explanation. The thing that divided
them was the original misunderstanding, which lies, deep and black as
the pit, between every soul and the soul next it, where self and not God
is the final thought. The gulf is forever crossed by "bright shoots of
everlastingness," the lightnings of involuntary affection; but nothing
less than the willed love of an infinite devotion will serve to close
it; any moment it may be lighted up from beneath, and the horrible
distance between them be laid bare. Into this gulf it was that, with
absolute gift of himself, the Lord, doing like his Father, cast Himself;
and by such devotion alone can His disciples become fellow-workers with
Him, help to slay the evil self in the world, and rouse the holy self to
like sacrifice, that the true, the eternal life of men, may arise
jubilant and crowned. Then is the old man of claims and rights and
disputes and fears, re-born a child whose are all things and who claims
and fears nothing.
In ignorance of Faber's mood, whether he mourned over his harshness, or
justified himself in resentment, Dorothy could but wait, and turned
herself again to think what could be done for the consolation of her
Could she, knowing her prayer might be one which God would not grant,
urge her to pray! For herself, she knew, if there was a God, what she
desired must be in accordance with His will; but if Juliet cried to him
to give her back her husband, and He did not, would not the silent
refusal, the deaf ear of Heaven, send back the cry in settled despair
upon her spirit? With her own fear Dorothy feared for her friend. She
had not yet come to see that, in whatever trouble a man may find
himself, the natural thing being to make his request known, his brother
may heartily tell him to pray. Why, what can a man do but pray? He is
here--helpless; and his Origin, the breather of his soul, his God, may
be somewhere. And what else should he pray about but the thing that
troubles him? Not surely the thing that does not trouble him? What is
the trouble there for, but to make him cry? It is the pull of God at his
being. Let a man only pray. Prayer is the sound to which not merely is
the ear of the Father open, but for which that ear is listening. Let him
pray for the thing he thinks he needs: for what else, I repeat, can he
pray? Let a man cry for that in whose loss life is growing black: the
heart of the Father is open. Only let the man know that, even for his
prayer, the Father will not give him a stone. But let the man pray, and
let God see to it how to answer him. If in his childishness and
ignorance he should ask for a serpent, he will not give him a serpent.
But it may yet be the Father will find some way of giving him his
heart's desire. God only knows how rich God is in power of gift. See
what He has done to make Himself able to give to His own heart's desire.
The giving of His Son was as the knife with which He would divide
Himself amongst His children. He knows, He only, the heart, the needs,
the deep desires, the hungry eternity, of each of them all. Therefore
let every man ask of God, Who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth
not--and see at least what will come of it.
But he will speak like one of the foolish if he say thus: "Let God hear
me, and give me my desire, and I will trust in Him." That would be to
tempt the Lord his God. If a father gives his children their will
instead of his, they may well turn on him again and say: "Was it then
the part of a father to give me a scorpion because, not knowing what it
was, I asked for it? I besought him for a fancied joy, and lo! it is a
sorrow for evermore!"
But it may be that sometimes God indeed does so, and to such a possible
complaint has this reply in Himself: "I gave thee what thou wouldst,
because not otherwise could I teach the stiff-necked his folly. Hadst
thou been patient, I would have made the thing a joy ere I gave it thee;
I would have changed the scorpion into a golden beetle, set with rubies
and sapphires. Have thou patience now."
One thing is clear, that poor Juliet, like most women, and more men,
would never have begun to learn any thing worth learning, if she had not
been brought into genuine, downright trouble. Indeed I am not sure but
some of those who seem so good as to require no trouble, are just those
who have already been most severely tried.
But while the two ladies were free of all suspicion of danger, and
indeed were quite safe, they were not alone in the knowledge of their
secret. There was one who, for some time, had been on the track of it,
and had long ago traced it with certainty to its covert: indeed he had
all but seen into it from the first. But, although to his intimate
friends known as a great and indeed wonderful talker, he was generally
regarded as a somewhat silent man, and in truth possessed to perfection
the gift of holding his tongue. Except that his outward insignificance
was so great as to pass the extreme, he was not one to attract
attention; but those who knew Wingfold well, heard him speak of Mr.
Polwarth, the gate-keeper, oftener than of any other; and from what she
heard him say, Dorothy had come to have a great reverence for the man,
although she knew him very little.
In returning from Nestley with Juliet by her side, Helen had taken the
road through Osterfield Park. When they reached Polwarth's gate, she
had, as a matter of course, pulled up, that they might have a talk with
the keeper. He had, on the few occasions on which he caught a passing
glimpse of Miss Meredith, been struck with a something in her that to
him seemed to take from her beauty--that look of strangeness, namely,
which every one felt, and which I imagine to have come of the
consciousness of her secret, holding her back from blending with the
human wave; and now, therefore, while the carriage stood, he glanced
often at her countenance.
From long observation, much silence and gentle pondering; from constant
illness, and frequent recurrence of great suffering; from loving
acceptance of the same, and hence an overflowing sympathy with every
form of humanity, even that more dimly revealed in the lower animals,
and especially suffering humanity; from deep acquaintance with the
motions of his own spirit, and the fullest conviction that one man is as
another; from the entire confidence of all who knew him, and the results
of his efforts to help them; above all, from persistently dwelling in
the secret place of the Most High, and thus entering into the hidden
things of life from the center whence the issues of them diverged--from
all these had been developed in him, through wisest use, an insight into
the natures of men, a power of reading the countenance, an apprehension
of what was moving in the mind, a contact, almost for the moment a
junction with the goings on of their spirits, which at times revealed to
him not only character, and prevailing purpose or drift of nature, but
even the main points of a past moral history. Sometimes indeed he would
recoil with terror from what seemed the threatened dawn in him of a
mysterious power, probably latent in every soul, of reading the future
of a person brought within certain points of spiritual range. What
startled him, however, may have been simply an involuntary conclusion,
instantaneously drawn, from the plain convergence of all the forces in
and upon the individual toward a point of final deliverance or of near
catastrophe: when "the mortal instruments" are steadily working for
evil, the only hope of deliverance lies in catastrophe.
When Polwarth had thus an opportunity of reading Juliet's countenance,
it was not wearing its usual expression: the ferment set at work in her
mind by the curate's sermon had intensified the strangeness of it, even
to something almost of definement; and it so arrested him that after the
ponies had darted away like birds, he stood for a whole minute in the
spot and posture in which they had left him.
"I never saw Polwarth look _distrait_ before," said the curate, and was
about to ask Juliet whether she had not been bewitching him, when the
far-away, miserable look of her checked him, and he dropped back into
his seat in silence.
But Polwarth had had no sudden insight into Juliet's condition; all he
had seen was, that she was strangely troubled--and that with no single
feeling; that there was an undecided contest in her spirit; that
something was required of her which she had not yet resolved to yield.
Almost the moment she vanished from his sight, it dawned upon him that
she had a secret. As one knows by the signs of the heavens that the
matter of a storm is in them and must break out, so Polwarth had read in
Juliet's sky the inward throes of a pent convulsion.
He knew something of the doctor, for he had met him again and again
where he himself was trying to serve; but they had never had
conversation together. Faber had not an idea of what was in the creature
who represented to him one of Nature's failures at man-making; while
Polwarth, from what he heard and saw of the doctor, knew him better than
he knew himself; and although the moment when he could serve him had not
begun to appear, looked for such a moment to come. There was so much
good in the man, that his heart longed to give him something worth
having. How Faber would have laughed at the notion! But Polwarth felt
confident that one day the friendly doctor would be led out of the
miserable desert where he cropped thistles and sage and fancied himself
a hero. And now in the drawn look of his wife's face, in the broken
lights of her eye, in the absorption and the start, he thought he
perceived the quarter whence unwelcome deliverance might be on its way,
and resolved to keep attention awake for what might appear. In his
inmost being he knew that the mission of man is to help his neighbors.
But in as much as he was ready to help, he recoiled from meddling. To
meddle is to destroy the holy chance. Meddlesomeness is the very
opposite of helpfulness, for it consists in forcing your self into
another self, instead of opening your self as a refuge to the other.
They are opposite extremes, and, like all extremes, touch. It is not
correct that extremes meet; they lean back to back. To Polwarth, a human
self was a shrine to be approached with reverence, even when he bore
deliverance in his hand. Anywhere, everywhere, in the seventh heaven or
the seventh hell, he could worship God with the outstretched arms of
love, the bended knees of joyous adoration, but in helping his fellow,
he not only worshiped but served God--ministered, that is, to the wants
of God--doing it unto Him in the least of His. He knew that, as the
Father unresting works for the weal of men, so every son, following the
Master-Son, must work also. Through weakness and suffering he had