Part 8 out of 9
was not a man who knew him who did not believe he had undermined the
wall. He left a will assigning all his property to trustees, for the
building of a new chapel, but when his affairs came to be looked into,
there was hardly enough to pay his debts.
The minister was now subject to a sort of ague, to which he paid far too
little heed. When Dorothy was not immediately looking after him, he
would slip out in any weather to see how things were going on in the
Pottery. It was no wonder, therefore, that his health did not improve.
But he could not be induced to regard his condition as at all serious.
THE MINISTER'S STUDY.
Helen was in the way of now and then writing music to any song that
specially took her fancy--not with foolish hankering after publication,
but for the pleasure of brooding in melody upon the words, and singing
them to her husband. One day he brought her a few stanzas, by an unknown
poet, which, he said, seemed to have in them a slightly new element.
They pleased her more than him, and began at once to sing themselves. No
sooner was her husband out of the room than she sat down to her piano
with them. Before the evening, she had written to them an air with a
simple accompaniment. When she now sung the verses to him, he told her,
to her immense delight, that he understood and liked them far better.
The next morning, having carried out one or two little suggestions he
had made, she was singing them by herself in the drawing-room, when
Faber, to whom she had sent because one of her servants was ill,
entered. He made a sign begging her to continue, and she finished the
"Will you let me see the words," he said.
She handed them to him. He read them, laid down the manuscript, and,
requesting to be taken to his patient, turned to the door. Perhaps he
thought she had laid a music-snare for him.
The verses were these:
A YEAR SONG.
Through the woods
The winds go.
Beneath, dead crowds;
Above, life bare;
And the besom winds
Sweep the air.
_Heart, leave thy woe;
Let the dead things go._
Through the brown leaves
Gold stars push;
A mist of green
Veils the bush.
Here a twitter,
There a croak!
They are coming--
_Heart, be not dumb;
Let the live things come._
Through the beach
The winds go,
With a long speech,
Loud and slow.
The grass is fine,
And soft to lie in;
The sun doth shine
The blue sky in.
_Heart, be alive;
Let the new things thrive._
A rimy fruit
On a bare bough!
There the winter
And the snow;
And a sighing ever
To fall and go!
_Heart, thy hour shall be;
Thy dead will comfort thee._
Faber was still folded in the atmosphere of the song when, from the
curate's door, he arrived at the minister's, resolved to make that
morning a certain disclosure--one he would gladly have avoided, but felt
bound in honor to make. The minister grew pale as he listened, but held
his peace. Not until the point came at which he found himself personally
concerned, did he utter a syllable.
I will in my own words give the substance of the doctor's communication,
stating the facts a little more fairly to him than his pride would allow
him to put them in his narrative.
Paul Faber was a student of St. Bartholomew's, and during some time held
there the office of assistant house-surgeon. Soon after his appointment,
he being then three and twenty, a young woman was taken into one of the
wards, in whom he gradually grew much interested. Her complaint caused
her much suffering, but was more tedious than dangerous.
Attracted by her sweet looks, but more by her patience, and the
gratitude with which she received the attention shown her, he began to
talk to her a little, especially during a slight operation that had to
be not unfrequently performed. Then he came to giving her books to read,
and was often charmed with the truth and simplicity of the remarks she
would make. She had been earning her living as a clerk, had no friends
in London, and therefore no place to betake herself to in her illness
but the hospital. The day she left it, in the simplicity of her heart,
and with much timidity, she gave him a chain she had made for him of her
hair. On the ground of supplementary attention, partly desirable, partly
a pretext, but unassociated with any evil intent, he visited her after
in her lodging. The joy of her face, the light of her eyes when he
appeared, was enchanting to him. She pleased every gentle element of his
nature; her worship flattered him, her confidence bewitched him. His
feelings toward her were such that he never doubted he was her friend.
He did her no end of kindness; taught her much; gave her good advice as
to her behavior, and the dangers she was in; would have protected her
from every enemy, real and imaginary, while all the time, undesignedly,
he was depriving her of the very nerve of self-defense. He still gave
her books--and good books--Carlyle even, and Tennyson; read poetry with
her, and taught her to read aloud; went to her chapel with her sometimes
of a Sunday evening--for he was then, so he said, and so he imagined, a
thorough believer in revelation. He took her to the theater, to
pictures, to concerts, taking every care of her health, her manners, her
principles. But one enemy he forgot to guard her against: how is a man
to protect even the woman he loves from the hidden god of his
idolatry--his own grand contemptible self?
It is needless to set the foot of narration upon every step of the
slow-descending stair. With all his tender feelings and generous love of
his kind, Paul Faber had not yet learned the simplest lesson of
humanity--that he who would not be a murderer, must be his brother's
keeper--still more his sister's, protecting every woman first of all
from himself--from every untruth in him, chiefly from every unhallowed
approach of his lower nature, from every thing that calls itself love
and is but its black shadow, its demon ever murmuring _I love_, that it
may devour. The priceless reward of such honesty is the power to love
better; but let no man insult his nature by imagining himself noble for
so carrying himself. As soon let him think himself noble that he is no
swindler. Doubtless Faber said to himself as well as to her, and said it
yet oftener when the recoil of his selfishness struck upon the door of
his conscience and roused Don Worm, that he would be true to her
forever. But what did he mean by the words? Did he know? Had they any
sense of which he would not have been ashamed even before the girl
herself? Would such truth as he contemplated make of him her
hiding-place from the wind, her covert from the tempest? He never even
thought whether to marry her or not, never vowed even in his heart not
to marry another. All he could have said was, that at the time he had no
intention of marrying another, and that he had the intention of keeping
her for himself indefinitely, which may be all the notion some people
have of _eternally_. But things went well with them, and they seemed to
themselves, notwithstanding the tears shed by one of them in secret,
only the better for the relation between them.
At length a child was born. The heart of a woman is indeed infinite, but
time, her presence, her thoughts, her hands are finite: she could not
_seem_ so much a lover as before, because she must be a mother now: God
only can think of two things at once. In his enduring selfishness, Faber
felt the child come between them, and reproached her neglect, as he
called it. She answered him gently and reasonably; but now his bonds
began to weary him. She saw it, and in the misery of the waste vision
opening before her eyes, her temper, till now sweet as devoted, began to
change. And yet, while she loved her child the more passionately that
she loved her forebodingly, almost with the love of a woman already
forsaken, she was nearly mad sometimes with her own heart, that she
could not give herself so utterly as before to her idol.
It took but one interview after he had confessed it to himself, to
reveal the fact to her that she had grown a burden to him. He came a
little seldomer, and by degrees which seemed to her terribly rapid, more
and more seldom. He had never recognized duty in his relation to her. I
do not mean that he had not done the effects of duty toward her; love
had as yet prevented the necessity of appeal to the stern daughter of
God. But what love with which our humanity is acquainted can keep
healthy without calling in the aid of Duty? Perfect Love is the mother
of all duties and all virtues, and needs not be admonished of her
children; but not until Love is perfected, may she, casting out Fear,
forget also Duty. And hence are the conditions of such a relation
altogether incongruous. For the moment the man, not yet debased, admits
a thought of duty, he is aware that far more is demanded of him than,
even for the sake of purest right, he has either the courage or the
conscience to yield. But even now Faber had not the most distant
intention of forsaking her; only why should he let her burden him, and
make his life miserable? There were other pleasures besides the company
of the most childishly devoted of women: why should he not take them?
Why should he give all his leisure to one who gave more than the half of
it to her baby?
He had money of his own, and, never extravagant upon himself, was more
liberal to the poor girl than ever she desired. But there was nothing
mercenary in her. She was far more incapable of turpitude than he, for
she was of a higher nature, and loved much where he loved only a little.
She was nobler, sweetly prouder than he. She had sacrificed all to him
for love--could accept nothing from him without the love which alone is
the soul of any gift, alone makes it rich. She would not, could not see
him unhappy. In her fine generosity, struggling to be strong, she said
to herself, that, after all, she would leave him richer than she was
before--richer than he was now. He would not want the child he had given
her; she would, and she could, live for her, upon the memory of two
years of such love as, comforting herself in sad womanly pride, she
flattered herself woman had seldom enjoyed. She would not throw the past
from her because the weather of time had changed; she would not mar
every fair memory with the inky sponge of her present loss. She would
turn her back upon her sun ere he set quite, and carry with her into the
darkness the last gorgeous glow of his departure. While she had his
child, should she never see him again, there remained a bond between
them--a bond that could never be broken. He and she met in that child's
life--her being was the eternal fact of their unity.
Both she and he had to learn that there was yet a closer bond between
them, necessary indeed to the fact that a child _could_ be born of them,
namely, that they two had issued from the one perfect Heart of love. And
every heart of perplexed man, although, too much for itself, it can not
conceive how the thing should be, has to learn that there, in that heart
whence it came, lies for it restoration, consolation, content. Herein, O
God, lies a task for Thy perfection, for the might of Thy
imagination--which needs but Thy will (and Thy suffering?) to be
One evening when he paid her a visit after the absence of a week, he
found her charmingly dressed, and merry, but in a strange fashion which
he could not understand. The baby, she said, was down stairs with the
landlady, and she free for her Paul. She read to him, she sang to him,
she bewitched him afresh with the graces he had helped to develop in
her. He said to himself when he left her that surely never was there a
more gracious creature--and she was utterly his own! It was the last
flicker of the dying light--the gorgeous sunset she had resolved to
carry with her in her memory forever. When he sought her again the next
evening, he found her landlady in tears. She had vanished, taking with
her nothing but her child, and her child's garments. The gown she had
worn the night before hung in her bedroom--every thing but what she must
then be wearing was left behind. The woman wept, spoke of her with
genuine affection, and said she had paid every thing. To his questioning
she answered that they had gone away in a cab: she had called it, but
knew neither the man nor his number. Persuading himself she had but gone
to see some friend, he settled himself in her rooms to await her return,
but a week rightly served to consume his hope. The iron entered into his
soul, and for a time tortured him. He wept--but consoled himself that he
wept, for it proved to himself that he was not heartless. He comforted
himself further in the thought that she knew where to find him and that
when trouble came upon her, she would remember how good he had been to
her, and what a return she had made for it. Because he would not give up
every thing to her, liberty and all, she had left him! And in revenge,
having so long neglected him for the child, she had for the last once
roused in her every power of enchantment, had brought her every charm
into play, that she might lastingly bewitch him with the old spell, and
the undying memory of their first bliss--then left him to his lonely
misery! She had done what she could for the ruin of a man of education,
a man of family, a man on the way to distinction!--a man of genius, he
said even, but he was such only as every man is: he was a man of latent
But verily, though our sympathy goes all with a woman like her, such a
man, however little he deserves, and however much he would scorn it, is
far more an object of pity. She has her love, has not been false
thereto, and one day will through suffering find the path to the door of
rest. When she left him, her soul was endlessly richer than his. The
music, of which he said she knew nothing, in her soul moved a deep wave,
while it blew but a sparkling ripple on his; the poetry they read
together echoed in a far profounder depth of her being, and I do not
believe she came to loathe it as he did; and when she read of Him who
reasoned that the sins of a certain woman must have been forgiven her,
else how could she love so much, she may well have been able, from the
depth of such another loving heart, to believe utterly in Him--while we
know that her poor, shrunken lover came to think it manly, honest,
reasonable, meritorious to deny Him.
Weeks, months, years passed, but she never sought him; and he so far
forgot her by ceasing to think of her, that at length, when a chance
bubble did rise from the drowned memory, it broke instantly and
vanished. As to the child, he had almost forgotten whether _it_ was a
boy or a girl.
But since, in his new desolation, he discovered her, beyond a doubt, in
the little Amanda, old memories had been crowding back upon his heart,
and he had begun to perceive how Amanda's mother must have felt when she
saw his love decaying visibly before her, and to suspect that it was in
the self-immolation of love that she had left him. His own character had
been hitherto so uniformly pervaded with a refined selfishness as to
afford no standpoint of a different soil, whence by contrast to
recognize the true nature of the rest; but now it began to reveal itself
to his conscious judgment. And at last it struck him that twice he had
been left--by women whom he loved--at least by women who loved him. Two
women had trusted him utterly, and he had failed them both! Next
followed the thought stinging him to the heart, that the former was the
purer of the two; that the one on whom he had looked down because of her
lack of education, and her familiarity with humble things and simple
forms of life, knew nothing of what men count evil, while she in whom he
had worshiped refinement, intellect, culture, beauty, song--she who, in
love-teachableness had received his doctrine against all the prejudices
of her education, was--what she had confessed herself!
But, against all reason and logic, the result of this comparison was,
that Juliet returned fresh to his imagination in all the first witchery
of her loveliness; and presently he found himself for the first time
making excuses for her; if she had deceived him she had deceived him
from love; whatever her past, she had been true to him, and was, from
the moment she loved him, incapable of wrong.--He had cast her from him,
and she had sought refuge in the arms of the only rival he ever would
have had to fear--the bare-ribbed Death!
Naturally followed the reflection--what was he to demand purity of any
woman?--Had he not accepted--yes, tempted, enticed from the woman who
preceded her, the sacrifice of one of the wings of her soul on the altar
of his selfishness! then driven her from him, thus maimed and helpless,
to the mercy of the rude blasts of the world! She, not he ever, had been
the noble one, the bountiful giver, the victim of shameless ingratitude.
Flattering himself that misery would drive her back to him, he had not
made a single effort to find her, or mourned that he could never make up
to her for the wrongs he had done her. He had not even hoped for a
future in which he might humble himself before her! What room was there
here to talk of honor! If she had not sunk to the streets it was through
her own virtue, and none of his care! And now she was dead! and his
child, but for the charity of a despised superstition, would have been
left an outcast in the London streets, to wither into the old-faced
weakling of a London workhouse!
THE BLOWING OF THE WIND.
Smaller and smaller Faber felt as he pursued his plain, courageous
confession of wrong to the man whose life was even now in peril for the
sake of his neglected child. When he concluded with the expression of
his conviction that Amanda was his daughter, then first the old minister
spoke. His love had made him guess what was coming, and he was on his
"May I ask what is your object in making this statement to me, Mr.
Faber?" he said coldly.
"I am conscious of none but to confess the truth, and perform any duty
that may be mine in consequence of the discovery," said the doctor.
"Do you wish this truth published to the people of Glaston?" inquired
the minister, in the same icy tone.
"I have no such desire: but I am of course prepared to confess Amanda my
child, and to make you what amends may be possible for the trouble and
expense she has occasioned you."
"Trouble! Expense!" cried the minister fiercely. "Do you mean in your
cold-blooded heart, that, because you, who have no claim to the child
but that of self-indulgence--because you believe her yours, I who have
for years carried her in my bosom, am going to give her up to a man,
who, all these years, has made not one effort to discover his missing
child? In the sight of God, which of us is her father? But I forget;
that is a question you can not understand. Whether or not you are her
father, I do not care a straw. You have not _proved_ it; and I tell you
that, until the court of chancery orders me to deliver up my darling to
you, to be taught there is no living Father of men--and that by the
fittest of all men to enforce the lie--not until then will I yield a
hair of her head to you. God grant, if you were her father, her mother
had more part in her than you!--A thousand times rather I would we had
both perished in the roaring mud, than that I should have to give her up
He struck his fist on the table, rose, and turned from him. Faber also
rose, quietly, silent and pale. He stood a moment, waiting. Mr. Drake
turned. Faber made him an obeisance, and left the room.
The minister was too hard upon him. He would not have been so hard but
for his atheism; he would not have been so hard if he could have seen
into his soul. But Faber felt he deserved it. Ere he reached home,
however, he had begun to think it rather hard that, when a man confessed
a wrong, and desired to make what reparation he could, he should have
the very candor of his confession thus thrown in his teeth. Verily, even
toward the righteous among men, candor is a perilous duty.
He entered the surgery. There he had been making some experiments with
peroxide of manganese, a solution of which stood in a bottle on the
table. A ray of brilliant sunlight was upon it, casting its shadow on a
piece of white paper, a glorious red. It caught his eyes. He could never
tell what it had to do with the current of his thoughts, but neither
could he afterward get rid of the feeling that it had had some influence
upon it. For as he looked at it, scarcely knowing he did, and thinking
still how hard the minister had been upon him, suddenly he found himself
in the minister's place, and before him Juliet making her sad
confession: how had he met that confession? The whole scene returned,
and for the first time struck him right on the heart, and then first he
began to be in reality humbled in his own eyes. What if, after all, he
was but a poor creature? What if, instead of having any thing to be
proud of, he was in reality one who, before any jury of men or women
called to judge him, must hide his head in shame?
The thought once allowed to enter and remain long enough to be
questioned, never more went far from him. For a time he walked in the
midst of a dull cloud, first of dread, then of dismay--a cloud from
which came thunders, and lightnings, and rain. It passed, and a
doubtful dawn rose dim and scared upon his consciousness, a dawn in
which the sun did not appear, and on which followed a gray, solemn day.
A humbler regard of himself had taken the place of confidence and
satisfaction. An undefined hunger, far from understood by himself, but
having vaguely for its object clearance and atonement and personal
purity even, had begun to grow, and move within him. The thought stung
him with keen self-contempt, yet think he must and did, that a woman
might be spotted not a little, and yet be good enough for him in the
eyes of retributive justice. He saw plainly that his treatment of his
wife, knowing what he did of himself, was a far worse shame than any
fault of which a girl, such as Juliet was at the time, could have been
guilty. And with that, for all that he believed it utterly in vain, his
longing after the love he had lost, grew and grew, ever passing over
into sickening despair, and then springing afresh; he longed for Juliet
as she had prayed to him--as the only power that could make him clean;
it seemed somehow as if she could even help him in his repentance for
the wrong done to Amanda's mother. The pride of the Pharisee was gone,
the dignity of the husband had vanished, and his soul longed after the
love that covers a multitude of sins, as the air in which alone his
spirit could breathe and live and find room. I set it down briefly: the
change passed upon him by many degrees, with countless alternations of
mood and feeling, and without the smallest conscious change of opinion.
The rest of the day after receiving Faber's communication, poor Mr.
Drake roamed about like one on the verge of insanity, struggling to
retain lawful dominion over his thoughts. At times he was lost in
apprehensive melancholy, at times roused to such fierce anger that he
had to restrain himself from audible malediction. The following day
Dorothy would have sent for Faber, for he had a worse attack of the
fever than ever before, but he declared that the man should never again
cross his threshold. Dorothy concluded there had been a fresh outbreak
between them of the old volcano. He grew worse and worse, and did not
object to her sending for Dr. Mather; but he did not do him much good.
He was in a very critical state, and Dorothy was miserable about him.
The fever was persistent, and the cough which he had had ever since the
day that brought his illness, grew worse. His friends would gladly have
prevailed upon him to seek a warmer climate, but he would not hear of
Upon one occasion, Dorothy, encouraged by the presence of Dr. Mather,
was entreating him afresh to go somewhere from home for a while.
"No, no: what would become of my money?" he answered, with a smile which
Dorothy understood. The doctor imagined it the speech of a man whom
previous poverty and suddenly supervening wealth had made penurious.
"Oh!" he remarked reassuringly, "you need not spend a penny more abroad
than you do at home. The difference in the living would, in some places,
quite make up for the expense of the journey."
The minister looked bewildered for a moment, then seemed to find
himself, smiled again, and replied--
"You do not quite understand me: I have a great deal of money to spend,
and it ought to be spent here in England where it was made--God knows
"You may get help to spend it in England, without throwing your life
away with it," said the doctor, who could not help thinking of his own
"Yes, I dare say I might--from many--but it was given _me_ to spend--in
destroying injustice, in doing to men as others ought to have done to
them. My preaching was such a poor affair that it is taken from me, and
a lower calling given me--to spend money. If I do not well with that,
then indeed I am a lost man. If I be not faithful in that which is
another's, who will give me that which is my own? If I can not further
the coming of Christ, I can at least make a road or two, exalt a valley
or two, to prepare His way before Him."
Thereupon it was the doctor's turn to smile. All that was to him as if
spoken in a language unknown, except that he recognized the religious
tone in it. "The man is true to his profession," he said to himself,
"--as he ought to be of course; but catch me spending _my_ money that
way, if I had but a hold of it!"
His father died soon after, and he got a hold of the money he called
_his_, whereupon he parted with his practice, and by idleness and
self-indulgence, knowing all the time what he was about, brought on an
infirmity which no skill could cure, and is now a grumbling invalid, at
one or another of the German spas. I mention it partly because many
preferred this man to Faber on the ground that he went to church every
Sunday, and always shook his head at the other's atheism.
Faber wrote a kind, respectful letter, somewhat injured in tone, to the
minister, saying he was much concerned to hear that he was not so well,
and expressing his apprehension that he himself had been in some measure
the cause of his relapse. He begged leave to assure him that he
perfectly recognized the absolute superiority of Mr. Drake's claim to
the child. He had never dreamed of asserting any right in her, except so
much as was implied in the acknowledgment of his duty to restore the
expense which his wrong and neglect had caused her true father; beyond
that he well knew he could make no return save in gratitude; but if he
might, for the very partial easing of his conscience, be permitted to
supply the means of the child's education, he was ready to sign an
agreement that all else connected with it should be left entirely to Mr.
Drake. He begged to be allowed to see her sometimes, for, long ere a
suspicion had crossed his mind that she was his, the child was already
dear to him. He was certain that her mother would have much preferred
Mr. Drake's influence to his own, and for her sake also, he would be
careful to disturb nothing. But he hoped Mr. Drake would remember that,
however unworthy, he was still her father.
The minister was touched by the letter, moved also in the hope that an
arrow from the quiver of truth had found in the doctor a vulnerable
spot. He answered that he should be welcome to see the child when he
would; and that she should go to him when he pleased. He must promise,
however, as the honest man every body knew him to be, not to teach her
there was no God, or lead her to despise the instructions she received
The word _honest_ was to Faber like a blow. He had come to the painful
conclusion that he was neither honest man nor gentleman. Doubtless he
would have knocked any one down who told him so, but then who had the
right to take with him the liberties of a conscience? Pure love only, I
suspect, can do that without wrong. He would not try less to be honest
in the time to come, but he had never been, and could no more ever feel
honest. It did not matter much. What was there worth any effort? All was
flat and miserable--a hideous long life! What did it matter what he was,
so long as he hurt nobody any more! He was tired of it all.
It added greatly to his despondency that he found he could no longer
trust his temper. That the cause might be purely physical was no
consolation to him. He had been accustomed to depend on his
imperturbability, and now he could scarcely recall the feeling of the
mental condition. He did not suspect how much the change was owing to
his new-gained insight into his character, and the haunting
dissatisfaction it caused.
To the minister he replied that he had been learning a good deal of
late, and among other things that the casting away of superstition did
not necessarily do much for the development of the moral nature; in
consequence of which discovery, he did not feel bound as before to
propagate the negative portions of his creed. If its denials were true,
he no longer believed them powerful for good; and merely as facts he did
not see that a man was required to disseminate them. Even here, however,
his opinion must go for little, seeing he had ceased to care much for
any thing, true or false. Life was no longer of any value to him, except
indeed he could be of service to Amanda. Mr. Drake might be assured she
was the last person on whom he would wish to bring to bear any of the
opinions so objectionable in his eyes. He would make him the most
comprehensive promise to that effect. Would Mr. Drake allow him to say
one thing more?--He was heartily ashamed of his past history; and if
there was one thing to make him wish there were a God--of which he saw
no chance--it was that he might beg of Him the power to make up for the
wrongs he had done, even if it should require an eternity of atonement.
Until he could hope for that, he must sincerely hold that his was the
better belief, as well as the likelier--namely, that the wronger and the
wronged went into darkness, friendly with oblivion, joy and sorrow alike
forgotten, there to bid adieu both to reproach and self-contempt. For
himself he had no desire after prolonged existence. Why should he desire
to live a day, not to say forever--worth nothing to himself, or to any
one? If there were a God, he would rather entreat Him, and that he would
do humbly enough, to unmake him again. Certainly, if there were a God,
He had not done over well by His creatures, making them so ignorant and
feeble that they could not fail to fall. Would Mr. Drake have made his
When Wingfold read the letter of which I have thus given the
substance--it was not until a long time after, in Polwarth's room--he
folded it softly together and said:
"When he wrote that letter, Paul Faber was already becoming not merely a
man to love, but a man to revere." After a pause he added, "But what a
world it would be, filled with contented men, all capable of doing the
things for which they would despise themselves."
It was some time before the minister was able to answer the letter
except by sending Amanda at once to the doctor with a message of kind
regards and thanks. But his inability to reply was quite as much from
the letter's giving him so much to think of first, as from his weakness
and fever. For he saw that to preach, as it was commonly understood, the
doctrine of the forgiveness of sins to such a man, would be useless: he
would rather believe in a God who would punish them, than in One who
would pass them by. To be told he was forgiven, would but rouse in him
contemptuous indignation. "What is that to me?" he would return. "I
remain what I am." Then grew up in the mind of the minister the
following plant of thought: "Things divine can only be shadowed in the
human; what is in man must be understood of God with the divine
difference--not only of degree, but of kind, involved in the fact that
He makes me, I can make nothing, and if I could, should yet be no less a
creature of Him the Creator; therefore, as the heavens are higher than
the earth, so His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and what we
call His forgiveness may be, must be something altogether transcending
the conception of man--overwhelming to such need as even that of Paul
Faber, whose soul has begun to hunger after righteousness, and whose
hunger must be a hunger that will not easily be satisfied." For a poor
nature will for a time be satisfied with a middling God; but as the
nature grows richer, the ideal of the God desired grows greater. The
true man can be satisfied only with a God of magnificence, never with a
God such as in his childhood and youth had been presented to Faber as
the God of the Bible. That God only whom Christ reveals to the humble
seeker, can ever satisfy human soul.
Then it came into the minister's mind, thinking over Faber's religion
toward his fellows, and his lack toward God, how when the young man
asked Jesus what commandments he must keep up that he might inherit
eternal life, Jesus did not say a word concerning those of the first
table--not a word, that is, about his duty toward God; He spoke only of
his duty toward man. Then it struck him that our Lord gave him no sketch
or summary or part of a religious system--only told him what he asked,
the practical steps by which he might begin to climb toward eternal
life. One thing he lacked--namely, God Himself, but as to how God would
meet him, Jesus says nothing, but Himself meets him on those steps with
the offer of God. He treats the duties of the second table as a stair to
the first--a stair which, probably by its crumbling away in failure
beneath his feet as he ascended, would lift him to such a vision and
such a horror of final frustration, as would make him stretch forth his
hands, like the sinking Peter, to the living God, the life eternal which
he blindly sought, without whose closest presence he could never do the
simplest duty aright, even of those he had been doing from his youth up.
His measure of success, and his sense of utter failure, would together
lift him _toward_ the One Good.
Thus, looking out upon truth from the cave of his brother's need, and
seeing the direction in which the shadow of his atheism fell, the
minister learned in what direction the clouded light lay, and turning
his gaze thitherward, learned much. It is only the aged who have dropped
thinking that become stupid. Such can learn no more, until first their
young nurse Death has taken off their clothes, and put the old babies to
bed. Of such was not Walter Drake. Certain of his formerly petted
doctrines he now threw away as worse than rubbish; others he dropped
with indifference; of some it was as if the angels picked his pockets
without his knowing it, or ever missing them; and still he found,
whatever so-called doctrine he parted with, that the one glowing truth
which had lain at the heart of it, buried, mired, obscured, not only
remained with him, but shone out fresh, restored to itself by the loss
of the clay-lump of worldly figures and phrases, in which the human
intellect had inclosed it. His faith was elevated, and so confirmed.
Mr. Drew, the draper, was, of all his friends, the one who most
frequently visited his old pastor. He had been the first, although a
deacon of the church, in part to forsake his ministry, and join the
worship of, as he honestly believed, a less scriptural community,
because in the abbey church he heard better news of God and His Kingdom:
to him rightly the gospel was every thing, and this church or that, save
for its sake, less than nothing and vanity. It had hurt Mr. Drake not a
little at first, but he found Drew in consequence only the more warmly
his personal friend, and since learning to know Wingfold, had heartily
justified his defection; and now that he was laid up, he missed
something any day that passed without a visit from the draper. One
evening Drew found him very poorly, though neither the doctor nor
Dorothy could prevail upon him to go to bed. He could not rest, but kept
walking about, his eye feverish, his pulse fluttering. He welcomed his
friend even more warmly than usual, and made him sit by the fire, while
he paced the room, turning and turning, like a caged animal that fain
would be king of infinite space.
"I am sorry to see you so uncomfortable," said Mr. Drew.
"On the contrary, I feel uncommonly well," replied the pastor. "I always
measure my health by my power of thinking; and to-night my thoughts are
like birds--or like bees rather, that keep flying in delight from one
lovely blossom to another. Only the fear keeps intruding that an hour
may be at hand, when my soul will be dark, and it will seem as if the
Lord had forsaken me."
"But does not _our daily bread_ mean our spiritual as well as our bodily
bread?" said the draper. "Is it not just as wrong in respect of the one
as of the other to distrust God for to-morrow when you have enough for
to-day? Is He a God of times and seasons, of this and that, or is He the
All in all?"
"You are right, old friend," said the minister, and ceasing his walk, he
sat down by the fire opposite him. "I am faithless still.--O Father in
Heaven, give us this day our daily bread.--I suspect, Drew, that I have
had as yet no more than the shadow of an idea how immediately I--we live
upon the Father.--I will tell you something. I had been thinking what it
would be if God were now to try me with heavenly poverty, as for a short
time he tried me with earthly poverty--that is, if he were to stint me
of life itself--not give me enough of Himself to live upon--enough to
make existence feel a good. The fancy grew to a fear, laid hold upon me,
and made me miserable. Suppose, for instance, I said to myself, I were
no more to have any larger visitation of thoughts and hopes and
aspirations than old Mrs. Bloxam, who sits from morning to night with
the same stocking on her needles, and absolutely the same expression, of
as near nothing as may be upon human countenance, nor changes whoever
speaks to her!"
"She says the Lord is with her," suggested the draper.
"Well!" rejoined the minister, in a slow, cogitative tone.
"And plainly life is to her worth having," added the draper. "Clearly
she has as much of life as is necessary to her present stage."
"You are right. I have been saying just the same things to myself; and,
I trust, when the Lord comes, He will not find me without faith. But
just suppose life _were_ to grow altogether uninteresting! Suppose
certain moods--such as you, with all your good spirits and blessed
temper, must surely sometimes have experienced--suppose they were to
become fixed, and life to seem utterly dull, God nowhere, and your own
dreary self, and nothing but that self, everywhere!"
"Let me read you a chapter of St. John," said the draper.
"Presently I will. But I am not in the right mood just this moment. Let
me tell you first how I came by my present mood. Don't mistake me: I am
not possessed by the idea--I am only trying to understand its nature,
and set a trap fit to catch it, if it should creep into my inner
premises, and from an idea swell to a seeming fact.--Well, I had a
strange kind of a vision last night--no, not a vision--yes, a kind of
vision--anyhow a very strange experience. I don't know whether the
draught the doctor gave me--I wish I had poor Faber back--this fellow is
fitter to doctor oxen and mules than men!--I don't know whether the
draught had any thing to do with it--I thought I tasted something sleepy
in it--anyhow, thought is thought, and truth is truth, whatever drug, no
less than whatever joy or sorrow, may have been midwife to it. The
first I remember of the mental experience, whatever it may have to be
called, is, that I was coming awake--returning to myself after some
period wherein consciousness had been quiescent. Of place, or time, or
circumstance, I knew nothing. I was only growing aware of being. I
speculated upon nothing. I did not even say to myself, 'I was dead, and
now I am coming alive.' I only felt. And I had but one feeling--and that
feeling was love--the outgoing of a longing heart toward--I could not
tell what;--toward--I can not describe the feeling--toward the only
existence there was, and that was every thing;--toward pure being, not
as an abstraction, but as the one actual fact, whence the world, men,
and me--a something I knew only by being myself an existence. It was
more me than myself; yet it was not me, or I could not have loved it. I
never thought me myself by myself; my very existence was the
consciousness of this absolute existence in and through and around me:
it made my heart burn, and the burning of my heart was my life--and the
burning was the presence of the Absolute. If you can imagine a growing
fruit, all blind and deaf, yet loving the tree it could neither look
upon nor hear, knowing it only through the unbroken arrival of its life
therefrom--that is something like what I felt. I suspect the _form_ of
the feeling was supplied by a shadowy memory of the time before I was
born, while yet my life grew upon the life of my mother.
"By degrees came a change. What seemed the fire in me, burned and burned
until it began to grow light; in which light I began to remember things
I had read and known about Jesus Christ and His Father and my Father.
And with those memories the love grew and grew, till I could hardly bear
the glory of God and His Christ, it made me love so intensely. Then the
light seemed to begin to pass out beyond me somehow, and therewith I
remembered the words of the Lord, 'Let your light so shine before men,'
only I was not letting it shine, for while I loved like that, I could no
more keep it from shining than I could the sun. The next thing was, that
I began to think of one I had loved, then of another and another and
another--then of all together whom ever I had loved, one after another,
then all together. And the light that went out from me was as a nimbus
infolding every one in the speechlessness of my love. But lo! then, the
light staid not there, but, leaving them not, went on beyond them,
reaching and infolding every one of those also, whom, after the manner
of men, I had on earth merely known and not loved. And therewith I knew
that, for all the rest of the creation of God, I needed but the hearing
of the ears or the seeing of the eyes to love each and every one, in his
and her degree; whereupon such a perfection of bliss awoke in me, that
it seemed as if the fire of the divine sacrifice had at length seized
upon my soul, and I was dying of absolute glory--which is love and love
only. I had all things, yea the All. I was full and unutterably,
immeasurably content. Yet still the light went flowing out and out from
me, and love was life and life was light and light was love. On and on
it flowed, until at last it grew eyes to me, and I could see. Lo! before
me was the multitude of the brothers and sisters whom I
loved--individually--a many, many--not a mass;--I loved every individual
with that special, peculiar kind of love which alone belonged to that
one, and to that one alone. The sight dazzled the eyes which love itself
had opened. I said to myself, 'Ah, how radiant, how lovely, how divine
they are! and they are mine, every one--the many, for I love them!'
"Then suddenly came a whisper--not to my ear--I heard it far away, but
whether in some distant cave of thought, away beyond the flaming walls
of the universe, or in some forgotten dungeon-corner of my own heart, I
could not tell. 'O man,' it said, 'what a being, what a life is thine!
See all these souls, these fires of life, regarding and loving thee! It
is in the glory of thy love their faces shine. Their hearts receive it,
and send it back in joy. Seest thou not all their eyes fixed upon thine?
Seest thou not the light come and go upon their faces, as the pulses of
thy heart flow and ebb? See, now they flash, and now they fade! Blessed
art thou, O man, as none else in the universe of God is blessed!'
"It was, or seemed, only a voice. But therewith, horrible to tell, the
glow of another fire arose in me--an orange and red fire, and it went
out from me, and withered all the faces, and the next moment there was
darkness--all was black as night. But my being was still awake--only if
then there was bliss, now was there the absolute blackness of darkness,
the positive negation of bliss, the recoil of self to devour itself, and
forever. The consciousness of being was intense, but in all the universe
was there nothing to enter that being, and make it other than an
absolute loneliness. It was, and forever, a loveless, careless,
hopeless monotony of self-knowing--a hell with but one demon, and no
fire to make it cry: my self was the hell, my known self the demon of
it--a hell of which I could not find the walls, cold and dark and empty,
and I longed for a flame that I might know there was a God. Somehow I
only remembered God as a word, however; I knew nothing of my whence or
whither. One time there might have been a God, but there was none now:
if there ever was one, He must be dead. Certainly there was no God to
love--for if there was a God, how could the creature whose very essence
was to him an evil, love the Creator of him? I had the word _love_, and
I could reason about it in my mind, but I could not call up the memory
of what the feeling of it was like. The blackness grew and grew. I hated
life fiercely. I hated the very possibility of a God who had created me
a blot, a blackness. With that I felt blackness begin to go out from me,
as the light had gone before--not that I remembered the light; I had
forgotten all about it, and remembered it only after I awoke. Then came
the words of the Lord to me: 'If therefore the light that is in thee be
darkness, how great is that darkness!' And I knew what was coming: oh,
horror! in a moment more I should see the faces of those I had once
loved, dark with the blackness that went out from my very existence;
then I should hate them, and my being would then be a hell to which the
hell I now was would be a heaven! There was just grace enough left in me
for the hideousness of the terror to wake me. I was cold as if I had
been dipped in a well. But oh, how I thanked God that I was what I am,
and might yet hope after what I may be!"
The minister's face was pale as the horse that grew gray when Death
mounted him; and his eyes shone with a feverous brilliancy. The draper
breathed a deep breath, and rubbed his white forehead. The minister rose
and began again to pace the room. Drew would have taken his departure,
but feared leaving him in such a state. He bethought himself of
something that might help to calm him, and took out his pocket-book. The
minister's dream had moved him deeply, but he restrained himself all he
could from manifesting his emotion.
"Your vision," he said, "reminds me of some verses of Mr. Wingfold's, of
which Mrs. Wingfold very kindly let me take a copy. I have them here in
my pocket-book; may I read them to you?"
The minister gave rather a listless consent, but that was enough for
Mr. Drew's object, and he read the following poem.
SHALL THE DEAD PRAISE THEE?
I can not praise Thee. By his instrument
The organ-master sits, nor moves a hand;
For see the organ pipes o'erthrown and bent,
Twisted and broke, like corn-stalks tempest-fanned!
I well could praise Thee for a flower, a dove;
But not for life that is not life in me;
Not for a being that is less than love--
A barren shoal half-lifted from a sea,
And for the land whence no wind bloweth ships,
And all my living dead ones thither blown--
Rather I'd kiss no more their precious lips,
Than carry them a heart so poor and prone.
Yet I do bless Thee Thou art what Thou art,
That Thou dost know Thyself what Thou dost know--
A perfect, simple, tender, rhythmic heart,
Beating Thy blood to all in bounteous flow.
And I can bless Thee too for every smart,
For every disappointment, ache, and fear;
For every hook Thou fixest in my heart,
For every burning cord that draws me near.
But prayer these wake, not song. Thyself I crave.
Come Thou, or all Thy gifts away I fling.
Thou silent, I am but an empty grave;
Think to me, Father, and I am a king.
Then, like the wind-stirred bones, my pipes shall quake,
The air burst, as from burning house the blaze;
And swift contending harmonies shall shake
Thy windows with a storm of jubilant praise.
Thee praised, I haste me humble to my own--
Then love not shame shall bow me at their feet,
Then first and only to my stature grown,
Fulfilled of love, a servant all-complete.
At first the minister seemed scarcely to listen, as he sat with closed
eyes and knitted brows, but gradually the wrinkles disappeared like
ripples, an expression of repose supervened, and when the draper lifted
his eyes at the close of his reading, there was a smile of quiet
satisfaction on the now aged-looking countenance. As he did not open his
eyes, Drew crept softly from the room, saying to Dorothy as he left the
house, that she _must_ get him to bed as soon as possible. She went to
him, and now found no difficulty in persuading him. But something, she
could not tell what, in his appearance, alarmed her, and she sent for
the doctor. He was not at home, and had expected to be out all night.
She sat by his bedside for hours, but at last, as he was quietly asleep,
ventured to lay herself on a couch in the room. There she too fell fast
asleep, and slept till morning, undisturbed.
When she went to his bedside, she found him breathing softly, and
thought him still asleep. But he opened his eyes, looked at her for a
moment fixedly, and then said:
"Dorothy, child of my heart! things may be very different from what we
have been taught, or what we may of ourselves desire; but every
difference will be the step of an ascending stair--each nearer and
nearer to the divine perfection which alone can satisfy the children of
a God, alone supply the poorest of their cravings."
She stooped and kissed his hand, then hastened to get him some food.
When she returned, he was gone up the stair of her future, leaving
behind him, like a last message that all was well, the loveliest smile
frozen upon a face of peace. The past had laid hold upon his body; he
was free in the Eternal. Dorothy was left standing at the top of the
stair of the present.
The desolation that seized on Dorothy seemed at first overwhelming.
There was no refuge for her. The child's tears, questions, and outbreaks
of merriment were but a trouble to her. Even Wingfold and Helen could do
little for her. Sorrow was her sole companion, her sole _comfort_ for a
time against the dreariness of life. Then came something better. As her
father's form receded from her, his spirit drew nigh. I mean no phantom
out of Hades--no consciousness of local presence: such things may be--I
think _sometimes_ they are; but I would rather know my friend better
through his death, than only be aware of his presence about me; that
will one day follow--how much the more precious that the absence will
have doubled its revelations, its nearness! To Dorothy her father's
character, especially as developed in his later struggles after
righteousness--the root-righteousness of God, opened itself up day by
day. She saw him combating his faults, dejected by his failures,
encouraged by his successes; and he grew to her the dearer for his
faults, as she perceived more plainly how little he had sided, how hard
he had fought with them. The very imperfections he repudiated gathered
him honor in the eyes of her love, sowed seeds of perennial tenderness
in her heart. She saw how, in those last days, he had been overcoming
the world with accelerated victory, and growing more and more of the
real father that no man can be until he has attained to the sonship. The
marvel is that our children are so tender and so trusting to the slow
developing father in us. The truth and faith which the great Father has
put in the heart of the child, makes him the nursing father of the
fatherhood in his father; and thus in part it is, that the children of
men will come at last to know the great Father. The family, with all its
powers for the development of society, is a family because it is born
and rooted in, and grows out of the very bosom of God. Gabriel told
Zacharias that his son John, to make ready a people prepared for the
Lord, should turn the hearts of the fathers to the children.
Few griefs can be so paralyzing as, for a time, that of a true daughter
upon the departure, which at first she feels as the loss, of a true
parent; but through the rifts of such heartbreaks the light of love
shines clearer, and where love is, there is eternity: one day He who is
the Householder of the universe, will begin to bring out of its treasury
all the good old things, as well as the better new ones. How true must
be the bliss up to which the intense realities of such sorrows are
needful to force the way for the faithless heart and feeble will! Lord,
like Thy people of old, we need yet the background of the thunder-cloud
against which to behold Thee; but one day the only darkness around Thy
dwelling will be the too much of Thy brightness. For Thou art the
perfection which every heart sighs toward, no mind can attain unto. If
Thou wast One whom created mind could embrace, Thou wouldst be too small
for those whom Thou hast made in Thine own image, the infinite creatures
that seek their God, a Being to love and know infinitely. For the
created to know perfectly would be to be damned forever in the nutshell
of the finite. He who is His own cause, alone can understand perfectly
and remain infinite, for that which is known and that which knows are in
Him the same infinitude.
Faber came to see Dorothy--solemn, sad, kind. He made no attempt at
condolence, did not speak a word of comfort; but he talked of the old
man, revealing for him a deep respect; and her heart was touched, and
turned itself toward him. Some change, she thought, must have passed
upon him. Her father had told her nothing of his relation to Amanda. It
would have to be done some day, but he shrunk from it. She could not
help suspecting there was more between Faber and him than she had at
first imagined; but there was in her a healthy contentment with
ignorance, and she asked no questions. Neither did Faber make any
attempt to find out whether she knew what had passed; even about Amanda
and any possible change in her future he was listless. He had never been
a man of plans, and had no room for any now under the rubbish of a
collapsed life. His days were gloomy and his nights troubled. He dreamed
constantly either of Amanda's mother, or of Juliet--sometimes of both
together, and of endless perplexity between them. Sometimes he woke
weeping. He did not now despise his tears, for they flowed neither from
suffering nor self-pity, but from love and sorrow and repentance. A
question of the possibility of his wife's being yet alive would
occasionally occur to him, but he always cast the thought from him as a
folly in which he dared not indulge lest it should grow upon him and
unman him altogether. Better she were dead than suffering what his
cruelty might have driven her to: he had weakened her self-respect by
insult, and then driven her out helpless.
People said he took the loss of his wife coolly; but the fact was that,
in every quiet way, he had been doing all man could do to obtain what
information concerning her there might possibly be to be had. Naturally
he would have his proceedings as little as possible in the public mouth;
and to employ the police or the newspapers in such a quest was too
horrible. But he had made inquiries in all directions. He had put a
question or two to Polwarth, but at that time he _knew_ nothing of her,
and did not feel bound to disclose his suspicions. Not knowing to what
it might not expose her, he would not betray the refuge of a woman with
a woman. Faber learned what every body had learned, and for a time was
haunted by the horrible expectation of further news from the lake. Every
knock at the door made him start and turn pale. But the body had not
floated, and would not now.
We have seen that, in the light thrown upon her fault from the revived
memory of his own, a reaction had set in: the tide of it grew fiercer as
it ran. He had deposed her idol--the God who she believed could pardon,
and the bare belief in whom certainly could comfort her; he had taken
the place with her of that imaginary, yet, for some, necessary being;
but when, in the agony of repentant shame, she looked to him for the
pardon he alone could give her, he had turned from her with loathing,
contempt, and insult! He was the one in the whole-earth, who, by saying
to her _Let it be forgotten_, could have lifted her into life and hope!
She had trusted in him, and he, an idol indeed, had crumbled in the
clinging arms of her faith! Had she not confessed to him what else he
would never have known, humbling herself in a very ecstasy of
repentance? Was it not an honor to any husband to have been so trusted
by his wife? And had he not from very scorn refused to strike her! Was
she not a woman still? a being before whom a man, when he can no longer
worship, must weep? Could _any_ fault, ten times worse than she had
committed, make her that she was no woman? that he, merely as a man,
owed her nothing? Her fault was grievous; it stung him to the soul: what
then was it not to her? Not now for his own shame merely, or the most,
did he lament it, but for the pity of it, that the lovely creature
should not be clean, had not deserved his adoration; that she was not
the ideal woman; that a glory had vanished from the earth; that she he
had loved was not in herself worthy. What then must be her sadness! And
this was his--the man's--response to her agony, this his balm for her
woe, his chivalry, his manhood--to dash her from him, and do his potent
part to fix forever upon her the stain which he bemoaned! Stained? Why
then did he not open his arms wide and take her, poor sad stain and all,
to the bosom of a love which, by the very agony of its own grief and
its pity over hers, would have burned her clean? What did it matter for
him? What was he? What was his honor? Had he had any, what fitter use
for honor than to sacrifice it for the redemption of a wife? That would
be to honor honor. But he had none. There was not a stone on the face of
the earth that would consent to be thrown at her by him!
Ah men! men! gentlemen! was there ever such a poor sneaking scarecrow of
an idol as that gaping straw-stuffed inanity you worship, and call
_honor_? It is not Honor; it is but _your_ honor. It is neither gold,
nor silver, nor honest copper, but a vile, worthless pinchbeck. It may
be, however, for I have not the honor to belong to any of your clubs,
that you no longer insult the word by using it at all. It may be you
have deposed it, and enthroned another word of less significance to you
still. But what the recognized slang of the day may be is
nothing--therefore unnecessary to what I have to say--which is, that the
man is a wretched ape who will utter a word about a woman's virtue, when
in himself, soul and body, there is not a clean spot; when his body
nothing but the furnace of the grave, his soul nothing but the eternal
fire can purify. For him is many a harlot far too good: she is yet
capable of devotion; she would, like her sisters of old, recognize the
Holy if she saw Him, while he would pass by his Maker with a rude stare,
or the dullness of the brute which he has so assiduously cultivated in
By degrees Faber grew thoroughly disgusted with himself, then heartily
ashamed. Were it possible for me to give every finest shade and
gradation of the change he underwent, there would be still an
unrepresented mystery which I had not compassed. But were my analysis
correct as fact itself, and my showing of it as exact as words could
make it, never a man on whom some such change had not at least begun to
pass, would find in it any revelation. He ceased altogether to vaunt his
denials, not that now he had discarded them, but simply because he no
longer delighted in them. They were not interesting to him any more. He
grew yet paler and thinner. He ate little and slept ill--and the waking
hours of the night were hours of torture. He was out of health, and he
knew it, but that did not comfort him. It was wrong and its misery that
had made him ill, not illness that had made him miserable. Was he a
weakling, a fool not to let the past be the past? "Things without all
remedy should be without regard: what's done is done." But not every
strong man who has buried his murdered in his own garden, and set up no
stone over them, can forget where they lie. It needs something that is
not strength to be capable of that. The dead alone can bury their dead
so; and there is a bemoaning that may help to raise the dead. But
sometimes such dead come alive unbemoaned. Oblivion is not a tomb strong
enough to keep them down. The time may come when a man will find his
past but a cenotaph, and its dead all walking and making his present
night hideous. And when such dead walk so, it is a poor chance they do
not turn out vampires.
When she had buried her dead out of her sight, Dorothy sought solitude
and the things unseen more than ever. The Wingfolds were like swallows
about her, never folding their wings of ministry, but not haunting her
with bodily visitation. She never refused to see them, but they
understood: the hour was not yet when their presence would be a comfort
to her. The only comfort the heart can take must come--not from, but
through itself. Day after day she would go into the park, avoiding the
lodge, and there brood on the memories of her father and his late words.
And ere long she began to feel nearer to him than she had ever felt
while he was with her. For, where the outward sign has been understood,
the withdrawing of it will bring the inward fact yet nearer. When our
Lord said the spirit of Himself would come to them after He was gone, He
but promised the working of one of the laws of His Father's kingdom: it
was about to operate in loftiest grade.
Most people find the first of a bereavement more tolerable than what
follows. They find in its fever a support. When the wound in the earth
is closed, and the wave of life has again rushed over it, when things
have returned to their wonted, now desiccated show, then the very Sahara
of desolation opens around them, and for a time existence seems almost
insupportable. With Dorothy it was different. Alive in herself, she was
hungering and thirsting after life, therefore death could not have
dominion over her.
To her surprise she found also--she could not tell how the illumination
had come--she wondered even how it should ever have been absent--that,
since her father's death, many of her difficulties had vanished. Some of
them, remembering there had been such, she could hardly recall
sufficiently to recognize them. She had been lifted into a region above
that wherein moved the questions which had then disturbed her peace.
From a point of clear vision, she saw the things themselves so
different, that those questions were no longer relevant. The things
themselves misconceived, naturally no satisfaction can be got from
meditation upon them, or from answers sought to the questions they
suggest. If it be objected that she had no better ground for believing
than before, I answer that, if a man should be drawing life from the
heart of God, it could matter little though he were unable to give a
satisfactory account of the mode of its derivation. That the man lives
is enough. That another denies the existence of any such life save in
the man's self-fooled imagination, is nothing to the man who lives it.
His business is not to raise the dead, but to live--not to convince the
blind that there is such a faculty as sight, but to make good use of his
eyes. He may not have an answer to any one objection raised by the
adopted children of Science--their adopted mother raises none--to that
which he believes; but there is no more need that should trouble
him, than that a child should doubt his bliss at his mother's breast,
because he can not give the chemical composition of the milk he draws:
that in the thing which is the root of the bliss, is rather beyond
chemistry. Is a man not blessed in his honesty, being unable to reason
of the first grounds of property? If there be truth, that truth must be
itself--must exercise its own blessing nature upon the soul which
receives it in loyal understanding--that is, in obedience. A man may
accept no end of things as facts which are not facts, and his mistakes
will not hurt him. He may be unable to receive many facts as facts, and
neither they nor his refusal of them will hurt him. He may not a whit
the less be living in and by the truth. He may be quite unable to answer
the doubts of another, but if, in the progress of his life, those doubts
should present themselves to his own soul, then will he be able to meet
them: he is in the region where all true answers are gathered. He may be
unable to receive this or that embodiment or form of truth, not having
yet grown to its level; but it is no matter so long as when he sees a
truth he does it: to see and not do would at once place him in eternal
danger. Hence a man of ordinary intellect and little imagination, may
yet be so radiant in nobility as, to the true poet-heart, to be right
worshipful. There is in the man who does the truth the radiance of life
essential, eternal--a glory infinitely beyond any that can belong to the
intellect, beyond any that can ever come within its scope to be judged,
proven, or denied by it. Through experiences doubtful even to the soul
in which they pass, the life may yet be flowing in. To know God is to be
in the secret place of all knowledge; and to trust Him changes the
atmosphere surrounding mystery and seeming contradiction, from one of
pain and fear to one of hope: the unknown may be some lovely truth in
store for us, which yet we are not good enough to apprehend. A man may
dream all night that he is awake, and when he does wake, be none the
less sure that he is awake in that he thought so all the night when he
was not; but he will find himself no more able to prove it than he would
have been then, only able to talk better about it. The differing
consciousnesses of the two conditions can not be _produced_ in evidence,
or embodied in forms of the understanding. But my main point is this,
that not to be intellectually certain of a truth, does not prevent the
heart that loves and obeys that truth from getting its truth-good, from
drawing life from its holy _factness_, present in the love of it.
As yet Dorothy had no plans, except to carry out those of her father,
and, mainly for Juliet's sake, to remove to the old house as soon as
ever the work there was completed. But the repairs and alterations were
of some extent, and took months. Nor was she desirous of shortening
Juliet's sojourn with the Polwarths: the longer that lasted with safety,
the better for Juliet, and herself too, she thought.
On Christmas eve, the curate gave his wife a little poem. Helen showed
it to Dorothy, and Dorothy to Juliet. By this time she had had some
genuine teaching--far more than she recognized as such, and the
spiritual song was not altogether without influence upon her. Here it
THAT HOLY THING.
They all were looking for a king
To slay their foes, and lift them high:
Thou cam'st a little baby thing
That made a woman cry.
O Son of Man, to right my lot
Naught but Thy presence can avail;
Yet on the road Thy wheels are not,
Nor on the sea Thy sail.
My how or when Thou wilt not heed,
But come down Thine own secret stair,
That Thou mayst answer all my need,
Yea, every by-gone prayer.
The spring was bursting in bud and leaf before the workmen were out of
the Old House. The very next day, Dorothy commenced her removal. Every
stick of the old furniture she carried with her; every book of her
father's she placed on the shelves of the library he had designed. But
she took care not to seem neglectful of Juliet, never failing to carry
her the report of her husband as often as she saw him. It was to Juliet
like an odor from Paradise making her weep, when Dorothy said that he
looked sad--"so different from his old self!"
One day Dorothy ventured, hardly to hint, but to approach a hint of
mediation. Juliet rose indignant: no one, were he an angel from Heaven,
should interfere between her husband and her! If they could not come
together without that, there should be a mediator, but not such as
"No, Dorothy!" she resumed, after a rather prolonged silence; "the very
word _mediation_ would imply a gulf between us that could not be passed.
But I have one petition to make to you, Dorothy. You _will_ be with me
in my trouble--won't you?"
"Certainly, Juliet--please God, I will."
"Then promise me, if I can't get through--if I am going to die, that you
will bring him to me. I _must_ see my Paul once again before the
"Wouldn't that be rather unkind--rather selfish?" returned Dorothy.
She had been growing more and more pitiful of Paul.
Juliet burst into tears, called Dorothy cruel, said she meant to kill
her. How was she to face it but in the hope of death? and how was she to
face death but in the hope of seeing Paul once again for the last time?
She was certain she was going to die; she knew it! and if Dorothy would
not promise, she was not going to wait for such a death!
"But there will be a doctor," said Dorothy, "and how am I----"
Juliet interrupted her--not with tears but words of indignation: Did
Dorothy dare imagine she would allow any man but her Paul to come near
her? Did she? Could she? What did she think of her? But of course she
was prejudiced against her! It was too cruel!
The moment she could get in a word, Dorothy begged her to say what she
"You do not imagine, Juliet," she said, "that I could take such a
responsibility on myself!"
"I have thought it all over," answered Juliet. "There are women properly
qualified, and you must find one. When she says I am dying,--when she
gets frightened, you will send for my husband? Promise me."
"Juliet, I will," answered Dorothy, and Juliet was satisfied.
But notwithstanding her behavior's continuing so much the same, a
change, undivined by herself as well as unsuspected by her friend, had
begun to pass upon Juliet. Every change must begin further back than the
observation of man can reach--in regions, probably, of which we have no
knowledge. To the eyes of his own wife, a man may seem in the gall of
bitterness and the bond of iniquity, when "larger, other eyes than ours"
may be watching with delight the germ of righteousness swell within the
inclosing husk of evil. Sooner might the man of science detect the first
moment of actinic impact, and the simultaneously following change in the
hitherto slumbering acorn, than the watcher of humanity make himself
aware of the first movement of repentance. The influences now for some
time operative upon her, were the more powerful that she neither
suspected nor could avoid them. She had a vague notion that she was kind
to her host and hostess; that she was patronizing them; that her friend
Dorothy, with whom she would afterwards arrange the matter, filled their
hands for her use; that, in fact, they derived benefit from her
presence;--and surely they did, although not as she supposed. The only
benefits they reaped were invaluable ones--such as spring from love and
righteousness and neighborhood. She little thought how she interfered
with the simple pleasures and comforts of the two; how many a visit of
friends, whose talk was a holy revelry of thought and utterance,
Polwarth warded, to avoid the least danger of her discovery; how often
fear for her shook the delicate frame of Ruth; how often her host left
some book unbought, that he might procure instead some thing to tempt
her to eat; how often her hostess turned faint in cooking for her. The
crooked creatures pitied, as well they might, the lovely lady; they
believed that Christ was in her; that the deepest in her was the nature
He had made--His own, and not that which she had gathered to
herself--and thought her own. For the sake of the Christ hidden in her,
her own deepest, best, purest self; that she might be lifted from the
dust-heap of the life she had for herself ruined, into the clear air of
a pure will and the Divine Presence, they counted their best labor most
fitly spent. It is the human we love in each other--and the human is the
Christ. What we do not love is the devilish--no more the human than the
morrow's wormy mass was the manna of God. To be for the Christ in a man,
is the highest love you can give him; for in the unfolding alone of that
Christ can the individuality, the genuine peculiarity of the man, the
man himself, be perfected--the flower of his nature be developed, in its
own distinct loveliness, beauty, splendor, and brought to its idea.
The main channel through which the influences of the gnomes reached the
princess, was their absolute simplicity. They spoke and acted what was
in them. Through this open utterance, their daily, common righteousness
revealed itself--their gentleness, their love of all things living,
their care of each other, their acceptance as the will of God concerning
them of whatever came, their general satisfaction with things as they
were--though it must in regard to some of them have been in the hope
that they would soon pass away, for one of the things Juliet least could
fail to observe was their suffering patience. They always spoke as if
they felt where their words were going--as if they were hearing them
arrive--as if the mind they addressed were a bright silver table on
which they must not set down even the cup of the water of life roughly:
it must make no scratch, no jar, no sound beyond a faint sweet
salutation. Pain had taught them not sensitiveness but delicacy. A
hundred are sensitive for one that is delicate. Sensitiveness is a
miserable, a cheap thing in itself, but invaluable if it be used for the
nurture of delicacy. They refused to receive offense, their care was to
give none. The burning spot in the center of that distorted spine, which
ought to have lifted Ruth up to a lovely woman, but had failed and sunk,
and ever after ached bitterly as if with defeat, had made her pitiful
over the pains of humanity: she could bear it, for there was something
in her deeper than pain; but alas for those who were not thus upheld!
Her agony drove her to pray for the whole human race, exposed to like
passion with her. The asthmatic choking which so often made Polwarth's
nights a long misery, taught him sympathy with all prisoners and
captives, chiefly with those bound in the bonds of an evil conscience:
to such he held himself specially devoted. They thought little of
bearing pain: to know they had caused it would have been torture. Each,
graciously uncomplaining, was tender over the ailing of the other.
Juliet had not been long with them before she found the garments she had
in her fancy made for them, did not fit them, and she had to devise,
afresh. They were not gnomes, kobolds, goblins, or dwarfs, but a prince
and princess of sweet nobility, who had loved each other in beauty and
strength, and knew that they were each crushed in the shell of a cruel
and mendacious enchantment. How they served each other! The uncle would
just as readily help the niece with her saucepans, as the niece would
help the uncle to find a passage in Shakespeare or a stanza in George
Herbert. And to hear them talk!
For some time Juliet did not understand them, and did not try. She had
not an idea what they were talking about. Then she began to imagine they
must be weak in the brain--a thing not unlikely with such spines as
theirs--and had silly secrets with each other, like children, which they
enjoyed talking about chiefly because none could understand but
themselves. Then she came to fancy it was herself and her affairs they
were talking about, deliberating upon--in some mental if not lingual
gibberish of their own. By and by it began to disclose itself to her,
that the wretched creatures, to mask their misery from themselves, were
actually playing at the kingdom of Heaven, speaking and judging and
concluding of things of this world by quite other laws, other scales,
other weights and measures than those in use in it. Every thing was
turned topsy-turvy in this their game of make-believe. Their religion
was their chief end and interest, and their work their play, as lightly
followed as diligently. What she counted their fancies, they seemed to
count their business; their fancies ran over upon their labor, and made
every day look and feel like a harvest-home, or the eve of a
long-desired journey, for which every preparation but the last and
lightest was over. Things in which she saw no significance made them
look very grave, and what she would have counted of some importance to
such as they, drew a mere smile from them. She saw all with bewildered
eyes, much as his neighbors looked upon the strange carriage of Lazarus,
as represented by Robert Browning in the wonderful letter of the Arab
physician. But after she had begun to take note of their sufferings, and
come to mark their calm, their peace, their lighted eyes, their ready
smiles, the patience of their very moans, she began to doubt whether
somehow they might not be touched to finer issues than she. It was not,
however, until after having, with no little reluctance and recoil,
ministered to them upon an occasion in which both were disabled for some
hours, that she began to _feel_ they had a hold upon something unseen,
the firmness of which hold made it hard to believe it closed upon an
unreality. If there was nothing there, then these dwarfs, in the
exercise of their foolish, diseased, distorted fancies, came nearer to
the act of creation than any grandest of poets; for these their
inventions did more than rectify for them the wrongs of their existence,
not only making of their chaos a habitable cosmos, but of themselves
heroic dwellers in the same. Within the charmed circle of this their
well-being, their unceasing ministrations to her wants, their
thoughtfulness about her likings and dislikings, their sweetness of
address, and wistful watching to discover the desire they might satisfy
or the solace they could bring, seemed every moment enticing her. They
soothed the aching of her wounds, mollified with ointment the stinging
rents in her wronged humanity.
At first, when she found they had no set prayers in the house, she
concluded that, for all the talk of the old gnome in the garden, they
were not very religious. But by and by she began to discover that no one
could tell when they might not be praying. At the most unexpected times
she would hear her host's voice somewhere uttering tones of glad
beseeching, of out-poured adoration. One day, when she had a bad
headache, the little man came into her room, and, without a word to her,
kneeled by her bedside, and said, "Father, who through Thy Son knowest
pain, and Who dost even now in Thyself feel the pain of this Thy child,
help her to endure until Thou shall say it is enough, and send it from
her. Let it not overmaster her patience; let it not be too much for her.
What good it shall work in her, Thou, Lord, needest not that we should
instruct Thee." Therewith he rose, and left the room.
For some weeks after, she was jealous of latent design to bring their
religion to bear upon her; but perceiving not a single direct approach,
not the most covert hint of attack, she became gradually convinced that
they had no such intent. Polwarth was an absolute serpent of holy
wisdom, and knew that upon certain conditions of the human being the
only powerful influences of religion are the all but insensible ones. A
man's religion, he said, ought never to be held too near his neighbor.
It was like violets: hidden in the banks, they fill the air with their
scent; but if a bunch of them is held to the nose, they stop away their
Not unfrequently she heard one of them reading to the other, and by and
by, came to join them occasionally. Sometimes it would be a passage of
the New Testament, sometimes of Shakespeare, or of this or that old
English book, of which, in her so-called education, Juliet had never
even heard, but of which the gatekeeper knew every landmark. He would
often stop the reading to talk, explaining and illustrating what the
writer meant, in a way that filled Juliet with wonder. "Strange!" she
would say to herself; "I never thought of that!" She did not suspect
that it would have been strange indeed if she had thought of it.
In her soul began to spring a respect for her host and hostess, such as
she had never felt toward God or man. When, despite of many revulsions
it was a little established, it naturally went beyond them in the
direction of that which they revered. The momentary hush that preceded
the name of our Lord, and the smile that so often came with it; the
halo, as it were, which in their feeling surrounded Him; the confidence
of closest understanding, the radiant humility with which they
approached His idea; the way in which they brought the commonest
question side by side with the ideal of Him in their minds, considering
the one in the light of the other, and answering it thereby; the way in
which they took all He said and did on the fundamental understanding
that His relation to God was perfect, but His relation to men as yet an
imperfect, endeavoring relation, because of their distance from His
Father; these, with many another outcome of their genuine belief, began
at length to make her feel, not merely as if there had been, but as if
there really were such a person as Jesus Christ. The idea of Him ruled
potent in the lives of the two, filling heart and brain and hands and
feet: how could she help a certain awe before it, such as she had never
Suddenly one day the suspicion awoke in her mind, that the reason why
they asked her no questions, put out no feelers after discovery
concerning her, must be that Dorothy had told them every thing: if it
was, never again would she utter word good or bad to one whose very
kindness, she said to herself, was betrayal! The first moment therefore
she saw Polwarth alone, unable to be still an instant with her doubt
unsolved, she asked him, "with sick assay," but point-blank, whether he
knew why she was in hiding from her husband.
"I do not know, ma'am," he answered.
"Miss Drake told you nothing?" pursued Juliet.
"Nothing more than I knew already: that she could not deny when I put it
"But how did you know any thing?" she almost cried out, in a sudden rush
of terror as to what the public knowledge of her might after all be.
"If you will remember, ma'am," Polwarth replied, "I told you, the first
time I had the pleasure of speaking to you, that it was by observing and
reasoning upon what I observed, that I knew you were alive and at the
Old House. But it may be some satisfaction to you to see how the thing
took shape in my mind."
Thereupon he set the whole process plainly before her.
Fresh wonder, mingled with no little fear, laid hold upon Juliet. She
felt not merely as if he could look into her, but as if he had only to
look into himself to discover all her secrets.
"I should not have imagined you a person to trouble himself to that
extent with other people's affairs," she said, turning away.
"So far as my service can reach, the things of others are also mine,"
replied Polwarth, very gently.
"But you could not have had the smallest idea of serving me when you
made all those observations concerning me."
"I had long desired to serve your husband, ma'am. Never from curiosity
would I have asked a single question about you or your affairs. But what
came to me I was at liberty to understand if I could, and use for lawful
ends if I might."
Juliet was silent. She dared hardly think, lest the gnome should see her
very thoughts in their own darkness. Yet she yielded to one more urgent
question that kept pushing to get out. She tried to say the words
without thinking of the thing, lest he should thereby learn it.
"I suppose then you have your own theory as to my reasons for seeking
shelter with Miss Drake for a while?" she said--and the moment she said
it, felt as if some demon had betrayed her, and used her organs to utter
"If I have, ma'am," answered Polwarth, "it is for myself alone. I know
the sacredness of married life too well to speculate irreverently on its
affairs. I believe that many an awful crisis of human history is there
passed--such, I presume, as God only sees and understands. The more
carefully such are kept from the common eye and the common judgment, the
better, I think."
If Juliet left him with yet a little added fear, it was also with
growing confidence, and some comfort, which the feeble presence of an
infant humility served to enlarge.
Polwarth had not given much thought to the question of the cause of
their separation. That was not of his business. What he could not well
avoid seeing was, that it could hardly have taken place since their
marriage. He had at once, as a matter of course, concluded that it lay
with the husband, but from what he had since learned of Juliet's
character, he knew she had not the strength either of moral opinion or
of will to separate, for any reason past and gone, from the husband she
loved so passionately; and there he stopped, refusing to think further.
For he found himself on the verge of thinking what, in his boundless
respect for women, he shrank with deepest repugnance from entertaining
even as a transient flash of conjecture.
One trifle I will here mention, as admitting laterally a single ray of
light upon Polwarth's character. Juliet had come to feel some desire to
be useful in the house beyond her own room, and descrying not only dust,
but what she judged disorder in her _landlord's_ little library--for
such she chose to consider him--which, to her astonishment in such a
mere cottage, consisted of many more books than her husband's, and ten
times as many readable ones, she offered to dust and rearrange them
properly: Polwarth instantly accepted her offer, with thanks--which were
solely for the kindness of the intent, he could not possibly be grateful
for the intended result--and left his books at her mercy. I do not know
another man who, loving his books like Polwarth, would have done so.
Every book had its own place. He could--I speak advisedly--have laid his
hand on any book of at least three hundred of them, in the dark. While
he used them with perfect freedom, and cared comparatively little about
their covers, he handled them with a delicacy that looked almost like
respect. He had seen ladies handle books, he said, laughing, to
Wingfold, in a fashion that would have made him afraid to trust them
with a child. It was a year after Juliet left the house before he got
them by degrees muddled into order again; for it was only as he used
them that he would alter their places, putting each, when he had done
with it for the moment, as near where it had been before as he could;
thus, in time, out of a neat chaos, restoring a useful work-a-day world.
Dorothy's thoughts were in the meantime much occupied for Juliet. Now
that she was so sadly free, she could do more for her. She must occupy
her old quarters as soon as possible after the workmen had finished. She
thought at first of giving out that a friend in poor health was coming
to visit her, but she soon saw that would either involve lying or lead
to suspicion, and perhaps discovery, and resolved to keep her presence
in the house concealed from the outer world as before. But what was she
to do with respect to Lisbeth? Could she trust her with the secret? She
certainly could not trust Amanda. She would ask Helen to take the latter
for a while, and do her best to secure the silence of the former.
She so represented the matter to Lisbeth as to rouse her heart in regard
to it even more than her wonder. But her injunctions to secrecy were so
earnest, that the old woman was offended. She was no slip of a girl, she
said, who did not know how to hold her tongue. She had had secrets to
keep before now, she said; and in proof of her perfect trustworthiness,
was proceeding to tell some of them, when she read her folly in
Dorothy's fixed regard, and ceased.
"Lisbeth," said her mistress, "you have been a friend for sixteen years,
and I love you; but if I find that you have given the smallest hint even
that there is a secret in the house, I solemnly vow you shall not be
another night in it yourself, and I shall ever after think of you as a
wretched creature who periled the life of a poor, unhappy lady rather
than take the trouble to rule her own tongue."
Lisbeth trembled, and did hold her tongue, in spite of the temptation to
feel herself for just one instant the most important person in Glaston.
As the time went on, Juliet became more fretful, and more confiding.
She was never cross with Ruth--why, she could not have told; and when
she had been cross to Dorothy, she was sorry for it. She never said she
was sorry, but she tried to make up for it. Her husband had not taught
her the virtue, both for relief and purification, that lies in the
_acknowledgment_ of wrong. To take up blame that is our own, is to
wither the very root of it.
Juliet was pleased at the near prospect of the change, for she had
naturally dreaded being ill in the limited accommodation of the lodge.
She formally thanked the two crushed and rumpled little angels, begged
them to visit her often, and proceeded to make her very small
preparations with a fitful cheerfulness. Something might come of the
change, she flattered herself. She had always indulged a vague fancy
that Dorothy was devising help for her; and it was in part the
disappointment of nothing having yet justified the expectation, that had
spoiled her behavior to her. But for a long time Dorothy had been
talking of Paul in a different tone, and that very morning had spoken of
him even with some admiration: it might be a prelude to something! Most
likely Dorothy knew more than she chose to say! She dared ask no
question for the dread of finding herself mistaken. She preferred the
ignorance that left room for hope. But she did not like all Dorothy said
in his praise; for her tone, if not her words, seemed to imply some kind
of change in him. He might have his faults, she said to herself, like
other men, but she had not yet discovered them; and any change would, in
her eyes, be for the worse. Would she ever see her own old Paul again?
One day as Faber was riding at a good round trot along one of the back
streets of Glaston, approaching his own house, he saw Amanda, who still
took every opportunity of darting out at an open door, running to him
with outstretched arms, right in the face of Niger, just as if she
expected the horse to stop and take her up. Unable to trust him so well
as his dear old Ruber, he dismounted, and taking her in his arms, led
Niger to his stable. He learned from her that she was staying with the
Wingfolds, and took her home, after which his visits to the rectory were
The Wingfolds could not fail to remark the tenderness with which he
regarded the child. Indeed it soon became clear that it was for her sake
he came to them. The change that had begun in him, the loss of his
self-regard following on the loss of Juliet, had left a great gap in his
conscious being: into that gap had instantly begun to shoot the
all-clothing greenery of natural affection. His devotion to her did not
at first cause them any wonderment. Every body loved the little Amanda,
they saw in him only another of the child's conquests, and rejoiced in
the good the love might do him. Even when they saw him looking fixedly
at her with eyes over clear, they set it down to the frustrated
affection of the lonely, wifeless, childless man. But by degrees they
did come to wonder a little: his love seemed to grow almost a passion.
Strange thoughts began to move in their minds, looking from the one to
the other of this love and the late tragedy.
"I wish," said the curate one morning, as they sat at breakfast, "if
only for Faber's sake, that something definite was known about poor
Juliet. There are rumors in the town, roving like poisonous fogs. Some
profess to believe he has murdered her, getting rid of her body utterly,
then spreading the report that she had run away. Others say she is mad,
and he has her in the house, but stupefied with drugs to keep her quiet.
Drew told me he had even heard it darkly hinted that he was making
experiments upon her, to discover the nature of life. It is dreadful to
think what a man is exposed to from evil imaginations groping after
theory. I dare hardly think what might happen should these fancies get
rooted among the people. Many of them are capable of brutality. For my
part, I don't believe the poor woman is dead yet."
Helen replied she did not believe that, in her sound mind, Juliet would
have had the resolution to kill herself; but who could tell what state
of mind she was in at the time? There was always something mysterious
about her--something that seemed to want explanation.
Between them it was concluded that, the next time Faber came, Wingfold
should be plain with him. He therefore told him that if he could cast
any light on his wife's disappearance, it was most desirable he should
do so; for reports were abroad greatly to his disadvantage. Faber
answered, with a sickly smile of something like contempt, that they had
had a quarrel the night before, for which he was to blame; that he had
left her, and the next morning she was gone, leaving every thing, even
to her wedding-ring, behind her, except the clothes she wore; that he
had done all he could to find her, but had been utterly foiled. More he
could not say.
The next afternoon, he sought an interview with the curate in his
study, and told him every thing he had told Mr. Drake. The story seemed
to explain a good deal more than it did, leaving the curate with the
conviction that the disclosure of this former relation had caused the
quarrel between him and his wife, and more doubtful than ever as to
Juliet's having committed suicide.
THE NEW OLD HOUSE.
It was a lovely moon-lighted midnight when they set out, the four of
them, to walk from the gate across the park to the Old House. Like
shadows they flitted over the green sward, all silent as shadows.
Scarcely a word was spoken as they went, and the stray syllable now and
then, was uttered softly as in the presence of the dead. Suddenly but
gently opened in Juliet's mind a sense of the wonder of life. The moon,
having labored through a heap of cloud into a lake of blue, seemed to
watch her with curious interest as she toiled over the level sward. The
air now and then made a soundless sigh about her head, like a waft of
wings invisible. The heavenly distances seemed to have come down and
closed her softly in. All at once, as if waked from an eternity of
unconsciousness, she found herself, by no will of her own, with no power
to say nay, present to herself--a target for sorrow to shoot at, a tree
for the joy-birds to light upon and depart--a woman, scorned of the man
she loved, bearing within her another life, which by no will of its own,
and with no power to say nay, must soon become aware of its own joys and
sorrows, and have no cause to bless her for her share in its being. Was
there no one to answer for it? Surely there must be a heart-life
somewhere in the universe, to whose will the un-self-willed life could
refer for the justification of its existence, for its motive, for the
idea of it that should make it seem right to itself--to whom it could
cry to have its divergence from that idea rectified! Was she not now,
she thought, upon her silent way to her own deathbed, walking, walking,
the phantom of herself, in her own funeral? What if, when the
bitterness of death was past, and her child was waking in this world,
she should be waking in another, to a new life, inevitable as the
former--another, yet the same? We know not whence we came--why may we
not be going whither we know not? We did not know we were coming here,
why may we not be going there without knowing it--this much more
open-eyed, more aware that we know we do not know? That terrible
morning, she had come this way, rushing swiftly to her death: she was
caught and dragged back from Hades, to be there-after--now, driven
slowly toward it, like an ox to the slaughter! She could not avoid her
doom--she _must_ encounter that which lay before her. That she shrunk
from it with fainting terror was nothing; on she must go! What an iron
net, what a combination of all chains and manacles and fetters and
iron-masks and cages and prisons was this existence--at least to a
woman, on whom was laid the burden of the generations to follow! In the
lore of centuries was there no spell whereby to be rid of it? no dark
saying that taught how to make sure death should be death, and not a
fresh waking? That the future is unknown, assures only danger! New
circumstances have seldom to the old heart proved better than the new
piece of cloth to the old garment.
Thus meditated Juliet. She was beginning to learn that, until we get to
the heart of life, its outsides will be forever fretting us; that among
the mere garments of life, we can never be at home. She was hard to
teach, but God's circumstance had found her.
When they came near the brow of the hollow, Dorothy ran on before, to
see that all was safe. Lisbeth was of course the only one in the house.
The descent was to Juliet like the going down to the gates of Death.
Polwarth, who had been walking behind with Ruth, stepped to her side the
moment Dorothy left her. Looking up in her face, with the moonlight full
upon his large features, he said,
"I have been feeling all the way, ma'am, as if Another was walking
beside us--the same who said, 'I am with you always even to the end of
the world.' He could not have meant that only for the few that were so
soon to follow Him home; He must have meant it for those also who should
believe by their word. Becoming disciples, all promises the Master made
to His disciples are theirs."
"It matters little for poor me," answered Juliet with a sigh. "You know
I do not believe in Him."
"But I believe in Him," answered Polwarth, "and Ruth believes in Him,
and so does Miss Drake; and if He be with us, he can not be far from
With that he stepped back to Ruth's side, and said no more.
Dorothy opened the door quickly, the moment their feet were on the
steps; they entered quickly, and she closed it behind them at once,
fearful of some eye in the night. How different was the house from that
which Juliet had left! The hall was lighted with a soft lamp, showing
dull, warm colors on walls and floor. The dining-room door stood open; a
wood-fire was roaring on the hearth, and candles were burning on a snowy
table spread for a meal. Dorothy had a chamber-candle in her hand. She
showed the Polwarths into the dining-room, then turning to Juliet, said,
"I will take you to your room, dear."
"I have prepared your old quarters for you," she said, as they went up
With the words there rushed upon Juliet such a memory of mingled
dreariness and terror, that she could not reply.
"You know it will be safest," added Dorothy, and as she spoke, set the
candle on a table at the top of the stair. They went along the passage,
and she opened the door of the closet. All was dark.
She opened the door in the closet, and Juliet started back with
amazement. It was the loveliest room! and--like a marvel in a
fairy-tale--the great round moon was shining gloriously, first through
the upper branches of a large yew, and then through an oriel window,
filled with lozenges of soft greenish glass, through which fell a lovely
picture on the floor in light and shadow and something that was neither
or both. Juliet turned in delight, threw her arms round Dorothy, and
"I thought I was going into a dungeon," she said, "and it is a room for
"I sometimes almost believe, Juliet," returned Dorothy, "that God will
give us a great surprise one day."
Juliet was tired, and did not want to hear about God. If Dorothy had
done all this, she thought, for the sake of reading her a good lesson,
it spoiled it all. She did not understand the love that gives beyond the
gift, that mantles over the cup and spills the wine into the spaces of
eternal hope. The room was so delicious that she begged to be excused
from going down to supper. Dorothy suggested it would not be gracious to
her friends. Much as she respected, and indeed loved them, Juliet
resented the word _friends_, but yielded.
The little two would themselves rather have gone home--it was so
late--but staid, fearing to disappoint Dorothy. If they did run a risk
by doing so, it was for a good reason--therefore of no great
"How your good father will delight to watch you here sometimes, Miss
Drake," said Polwarth, "if those who are gone are permitted to see,
walking themselves unseen."
Juliet shuddered. Dorothy's father not two months gone and the dreadful
little man to talk to her like that!
"Do you then think," said Dorothy, "that the dead only seem to have gone
from us?" and her eyes looked like store-houses of holy questions.
"I know so little," he answered, "that I dare hardly say I _think_ any
thing. But if, as our Lord implies, there be no such thing as that which
the change appears to us--nothing like that we are thinking of when we
call it _death_--may it not be that, obstinate as is the appearance of
separation, there is, notwithstanding, none of it?--I don't care, mind:
His will _is_, and that is every thing. But there can be no harm, where
I do not know His will, in venturing a _may be_. I am sure He likes His
little ones to tell their fancies in the dimmits about the nursery fire.
Our souls yearning after light of any sort must be a pleasure to him to
watch.--But on the other hand, to resume the subject, it may be that, as
it is good for us to miss them in the body that we may the better find
them in the spirit, so it may be good for them also to miss our bodies
that they may find our spirits."
"But," suggested Ruth, "they had that kind of discipline while yet on
earth, in the death of those who went before them; and so another sort
might be better for them now. Might it not be more of a discipline for
them to see, in those left behind, how they themselves, from lack of
faith, went groping about in the dark, while crowds all about them knew
perfectly what they could not bring themselves to believe?"
"It might, Ruth, it might; nor do I think any thing to the contrary. Or
it might be given to some and not to others, just as it was good for
them. It may be that some can see some, or can see them sometimes, and
watch their ways in partial glimpses of revelation. Who knows who may be
about the house when all its mortals are dead for the night, and the
last of the fires are burning unheeded! There are so many hours of both
day and night--in most houses--in which those in and those out of the
body need never cross each others' paths! And there are tales, legends,
reports, many mere fiction doubtless, but some possibly of a different
character, which represent this and that doer of evil as compelled,
either by the law of his or her own troubled being, or by some law
external thereto, ever, or at fixed intervals, to haunt the moldering
scenes of their past, and ever dream horribly afresh the deeds done in
the body. These, however, tend to no proof of what we have been speaking
about, for such 'extravagant and erring spirit' does not haunt the
living from love, but the dead from suffering. In this life, however,
few of us come really near to each other in the genuine simplicity of
love, and that may be the reason why the credible stories of love
meeting love across the strange difference are so few. It is a wonderful
touch, I always think, in the play of Hamlet, that, while the prince
gazes on the spirit of his father, noting every expression and
gesture--even his dress, as he passes through his late wife's chamber,
Gertrude, less unfaithful as widow than as wife, not only sees nothing,
but by no sigh or hint, no sense in the air, no beat of her own heart,
no creep even of her own flesh, divines his presence--is not only
certain that she sees nothing, but that she sees all there is. She is
the dead, not her husband. To the dead all are dead. The eternal life
makes manifest both life and death."
"Please, Mr. Polwarth," said Juliet, "remember it is the middle of the
night. No doubt it is just the suitable time, but I would rather not
make one in an orgy of horrors. We have all to be alone presently."
She hated to hear about death, and the grandest of words, Eternal Life,
which to most means nothing but prolonged existence, meant to her just
death. If she had stolen a magic spell for avoiding it, she could not
have shrunk more from any reference to the one thing commonest and most
inevitable. Often as she tried to imagine the reflection of her own
death in the mind of her Paul, the mere mention of the ugly thing seemed
to her ill-mannered, almost indecent.
"The Lord is awake all night," said Polwarth, rising, "and therefore
the night is holy as the day.--Ruth, we should be rather frightened to
walk home under that awful sky, if we thought the Lord was not with us."
"The night is fine enough," said Juliet.
"Yes," said Ruth, replying to her uncle, not to Juliet; "but even if He
were asleep--you remember how He slept once, and yet reproached His
disciples with their fear and doubt."
"I do; but in the little faith with which He reproached them, He
referred, not to Himself, but to His Father. Whether He slept or waked
it was all one: the Son may sleep, for the Father never sleeps."
They stood beside each other, taking their leave: what little objects
they were, opposite the two graceful ladies, who also stood beside each
other, pleasant to look upon. Sorrow and suffering, lack and weakness,
though plain to see upon them both, had not yet greatly dimmed their
beauty. The faces of the dwarfs, on the other hand, were marked and
lined with suffering; but the suffering was dominated by peace and
strength. There was no sorrow there, little lack, no weakness or fear,
and a great hope. They never spent any time in pitying themselves; the
trouble that alone ever clouded their sky, was the suffering of others.
Even for this they had comfort--their constant ready help consoled both
the sufferer and themselves.
"Will you come and see me, if you die first, uncle?" said Ruth, as they
walked home together in the moonlight. "You will think how lonely I am
"If it be within the law of things, if I be at liberty, and the thing
seem good for you, my Ruth, you may be sure I will come to you. But of
one thing I am pretty certain, that such visions do not appear when
people are looking for them. You must not go staring into the dark
trying to see me. Do your work, pray your prayers, and be sure I love
you: if I am to come, I will come. It may be in the hot noon or in the
dark night: it may be with no sight and no sound, yet a knowledge of
presence; or I may be watching you, helping you perhaps and you never
know it until I come to fetch you at the last,--if I may. You have been
daughter and sister, and mother to me, my Ruth. You have been my one in
the world. God, I think sometimes, has planted about you and me, my
child, a cactus-hedge of ugliness, that we might be so near and so
lonely as to learn love as few have learned it in this world--love
without fear, or doubt, or pain, or anxiety--with constant satisfaction
in presence, and calm content in absence. Of the last, however, I can
not boast much, seeing we have not been parted a day for--how many years
is it, Ruth?--Ah, Ruth! a bliss beyond speech is waiting us in the
presence of the Master, where, seeing Him as He is, we shall grow like
Him and be no more either dwarfed or sickly. But you will have the same
face, Ruth, else I should be forever missing something."
"But you do not think we shall be perfect all at once?"
"No, not all at once; I can not believe that: God takes time to what He
does--the doing of it is itself good. It would be a sight for heavenly
eyes to see you, like a bent and broken and withered lily, straightening
and lengthening your stalk, and flushing into beauty.--But fancy what it
will be to see at length to the very heart of the person you love, and
love Him perfectly--and that _you_ can love _Him!_ Every love will then
be a separate heaven, and all the heavens will blend in one perfect
heaven--the love of God--the All in all."
They were walking like children, hand in hand: Ruth pressed that of her
uncle, for she could not answer in words.
Even to Dorothy their talk would have been vague, vague from the
intervening mist of her own atmosphere. To them it was vague only from
the wide stretch of its horizon, the distance of its zenith. There is
all difference between the vagueness belonging to an imperfect sight,
and the vagueness belonging to the distance of the outlook. But to walk
on up the hill of duty, is the only way out of the one into the other. I
think some only know they are laboring, hardly know they are climbing,
till they find themselves near the top.
THE LEVEL OF THE LYTHE.
Dorothy's faith in Polwarth had in the meantime largely increased. She
had not only come to trust him thoroughly, but gained much strength from
the confidence. As soon as she had taken Juliet her breakfast the next
morning, she went to meet him in the park, for so they had arranged the
She had before acquainted him with the promise Juliet had exacted from
her, that she would call her husband the moment she seemed in danger--a
possibility which Juliet regarded as a certainty; and had begged him to
think how they could contrive to have Faber within call. He had now a
plan to propose with this object in view, but began, apparently, at a
distance from it.
"You know, Miss Drake," he said, "that I am well acquainted with every
yard of this ground. Had your honored father asked me whether the Old
House was desirable for a residence, I should have expressed
considerable doubt. But there is one thing which would greatly improve
it--would indeed, I hope, entirely remove my objection to it. Many years
ago I noted the state of the stone steps leading up to the door: they
were much and diversely out of the level; and the cause was evident with
the first great rain: the lake filled the whole garden--to the top of
the second step. Now this, if it take place only once a year, must of
course cause damp in the house. But I think there is more than that will
account for. I have been in the cellars repeatedly, both before and
since your father bought it; and always found them too damp. The cause
of it, I think, is, that the foundations are as low as the ordinary
level of the water in the pond, and the ground at that depth is of large
gravel: it seems to me that the water gets through to the house. I
should propose, therefore, that from the bank of the Lythe a tunnel be
commenced, rising at a gentle incline until it pierces the basin of the
lake. The ground is your own to the river, I believe?"
"It is," answered Dorothy. "But I should be sorry to empty the lake
"My scheme," returned Polwarth, "includes a strong sluice, by which you
could keep the water at what height you pleased, and at any moment send
it into the river. The only danger would be of cutting through the
springs; and I fancy they are less likely to be on the side next the
river where the ground is softer, else they would probably have found
their way directly into it, instead of first hollowing out the pond."
"Would it be a difficult thing to do?" asked Dorothy.
"I think not," answered Polwarth. "But with your permission I will get a
friend of mine, an engineer, to look into it."
"I leave it in your hands," said Dorothy.--"Do you think we will find
any thing at the bottom?"
"Who can tell? But we do not know how near the bottom the tunnel may
bring us; there may be fathoms of mud below the level of the
river-bed.--One thing, thank God, we shall not find there!"
The same week all was arranged with the engineer. By a certain day his
men were to be at work on the tunnel.
For some time now, things had been going on much the same with all in
whom my narrative is interested. There come lulls in every process,
whether of growth or of tempest, whether of creation or destruction, and
those lulls, coming as they do in the midst of force, are precious in
their influence--because they are only lulls, and the forces are still
at work. All the time the volcano is quiet, something is going on below.
From the first moment of exhaustion, the next outbreak is preparing. To