Part 3 out of 3
This threw the last upon Saturday, and before the end of the week it was
clear that they must not remain above ground over Sunday. I therefore
arranged that they should be buried late on the Saturday night.
On the Friday morning, a young woman and an old man, unknown to each other,
arrived by the coach from Barnstaple. They had come to see the last of
their friends in this world; to look, if they might, at the shadow left
behind by the departing soul. For as the shadow of any object remains a
moment upon the magic curtain of the eye after the object itself has gone,
so the shadow of the soul, namely, the body, lingers a moment upon the
earth after the object itself has gone to the "high countries." It was
well to see with what a sober sorrow the dignified little old man bore his
grief. It was as if he felt that the loss of his son was only for a moment.
But the young woman had taken on the hue of the corpse she came to seek.
Her eyes were sunken as if with the weight of the light she cared not for,
and her cheeks had already pined away as if to be ready for the grave. A
being thus emptied of its glory seized and possessed my thoughts. She never
even told us whom she came seeking, and after one involuntary question,
which simply received no answer, I was very careful not even to approach
another. I do not think the form she sought was there; and she may have
gone home with the lingering hope to cast the gray aurora of a doubtful
dawn over her coming days, that, after all, that one had escaped.
On the Friday afternoon, with the approbation of the magistrate, I had
all the bodies removed to the church. Some in their coffins, others on
stretchers, they were laid in front of the communion-rail. In the evening
these two went to see them. I took care to be present. The old man soon
found his son. I was at his elbow as he walked between the rows of the
dead. He turned to me and said quietly--
"That's him, sir. He was a good lad. God rest his soul. He's with his
mother; and if I'm sorry, she's glad."
With that he smiled, or tried to smile. I could only lay my hand on his
arm, to let him know that I understood him, and was with him. He walked
out of the church, sat down, upon a stone, and stared at the mould of a
new-made grave in front of him. What was passing behind those eyes God only
knew--certainly the man himself did not know. Our lightest thoughts are of
more awful significance than the most serious of us can imagine.
For the young woman, I thought she left the church with a little light in
her eyes; but she had said nothing. Alas! that the body was not there could
no more justify her than Milton in letting her
"frail thoughts dally with false surmise."
With him, too, she might well add--
"Ay me! whilst thee the shores and sounding seas Wash far away."
But God had them in his teaching, and all I could do was to ask them to be
my guests till the funeral and the following Sunday were over. To this
they kindly consented, and I took them to my wife, who received them like
herself, and had in a few minutes made them at home with her, to which no
doubt their sorrow tended, for that brings out the relations of humanity
and destroys its distinctions.
The next morning a Scotchman of a very decided type, originally from
Aberdeen, but resident in Liverpool, appeared, seeking the form of his
daughter. I had arranged that whoever came should be brought to me first. I
went with him to the church. He was a tall, gaunt, bony man, with long arms
and huge hands, a rugged granite-like face, and a slow ponderous utterance,
which I had some difficulty in understanding. He treated the object of his
visit with a certain hardness, and at the same time lightness, which also I
had some difficulty in understanding.
"You want to see the--" I said, and hesitated.
"Ow ay--the boadies," he answered. "She winna be there, I daursay, but I
wad jist like to see; for I wadna like her to be beeried gin sae be 'at she
was there, wi'oot biddin' her good-bye like."
When we reached the church, I opened the door and entered. An awe fell upon
me fresh and new. The beautiful church had become a tomb: solemn, grand,
ancient, it rose as a memorial of the dead who lay in peace before her
altar-rail, as if they had fled thither for sanctuary from a sea of
troubles. And I thought with myself, Will the time ever come when the
churches shall stand as the tombs of holy things that have passed away,
when Christ shall have rendered up the kingdom to his Father, and no man
shall need to teach his neighbour or his brother, saying, "Know the Lord"?
The thought passed through my mind and vanished, as I led my companion up
to the dead. He glanced at one and another, and passed on. He had looked
at ten or twelve ere he stopped, gazing on the face of the beautiful form
which had first come ashore. He stooped and stroked the white cheeks,
taking the head in his great rough hands, and smoothed the brown hair
tenderly, saying, as if he had quite forgotten that she was dead--
"Eh, Maggie! hoo cam _ye_ here, lass?"
Then, as if for the first time the reality had grown comprehensible, he put
his hands before his face, and burst into tears. His huge frame was shaken
with sobs for one long minute, while I stood looking on with awe and
reverence. He ceased suddenly, pulled a blue cotton handkerchief with
yellow spots on it--I see it now--from his pocket, rubbed his face with
it as if drying it with a towel, put it back, turned, and said, without
looking at me, "I'll awa' hame."
"Wouldn't you like a piece of her hair?" I asked.
"Gin ye please," he answered gently, as if his daughter's form had been
mine now, and her hair were mine to give.
By the vestry door sat Mrs. Coombes, watching the dead, with her sweet
solemn smile, and her constant ministration of knitting.
"Have you got a pair of scissors there, Mrs. Coombes?" I asked.
"Yes, to be sure, sir," she answered, rising, and lifting a huge pair by
the string suspending them from her waist.
"Cut off a nice piece of this beautiful hair," I said.
She lifted the lovely head, chose, and cut off a long piece, and handed it
respectfully to the father.
He took it without a word, sat down on the step before the communion-rail,
and began to smooth out the wonderful sleave of dusky gold. It was, indeed,
beautiful hair. As he drew it out, I thought it must be a yard long. He
passed his big fingers through and through it, but tenderly, as if it had
been still growing on the live lovely head, stopping every moment to pick
out the bits of sea-weed and shells, and shake out the sand that had been
wrought into its mass. He sat thus for nearly half-an-hour, and we stood
looking on with something closely akin to awe. At length he folded it up,
drew from his pocket an old black leather book, laid it carefully in the
innermost pocket, and rose. I led the way from the church, and he followed
Outside the church, he laid his hand on my arm, and said, groping with his
other hand in his trousers-pocket--
"She'll hae putten ye to some expense--for the coffin an' sic like."
"We'll talk about that afterwards," I answered. "Come home with me now, and
have some refreshment."
"Na, I thank ye. I hae putten ye to eneuch o' tribble already. I'll jist
"We are going to lay them down this evening. You won't go before the
funeral. Indeed, I think you can't get away till Monday morning. My wife
and I will be glad of your company till then."
"I'm no company for gentle-fowk, sir."
"Come and show me in which of these graves you would like to have her
laid," I said.
He yielded and followed me.
Coombes had not dug many spadefuls before he saw what had been plain
enough--that ten such men as he could not dig the graves in time. But there
was plenty of help to be had from the village and the neighbouring farms.
Most of them were now ready, but a good many men were still at work. The
brown hillocks lay all about the church-yard--the mole-heaps of burrowing
The stranger looked around him. His face grew critical. He stepped a little
hither and thither. At length he turned to me and said--
"I wadna like to be greedy; but gin ye wad lat her lie next the kirk
there--i' that neuk, I wad tak' it kindly. And syne gin ever it cam' aboot
that I cam' here again, I wad ken whaur she was. Could ye get a sma' bit
heidstane putten up? I wad leave the siller wi' ye to pay for't."
"To be sure I can. What will you have put on the stone?"
"Ow jist--let me see--Maggie Jamieson--nae Marget, but jist Maggie. She was
aye Maggie at home. Maggie Jamieson, frae her father. It's the last thing I
can gie her. Maybe ye micht put a verse o' Scripter aneath't, ye ken."
"What verse would you like?"
He thought for a little.
"Isna there a text that says, 'The deid shall hear his voice'?"
"Yes: 'The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God.'"
"Ay. That's it. Weel, jist put that on.--They canna do better than hear his
voice," he added, with a strange mixture of Scotch ratiocination.
I led the way home, and he accompanied me without further objection or
apology. After dinner, I proposed that we should go upon the downs, for the
day was warm and bright. We sat on the grass. I felt that I could not talk
to them as from myself. I knew nothing of the possible gulfs of sorrow in
their hearts. To me their forms seemed each like a hill in whose unseen
bosom lay a cavern of dripping waters, perhaps with a subterranean torrent
of anguish raving through its hollows and tumbling down hidden precipices,
whose voice God only heard, and God only could still. This daughter
_might_, though from her face I did not think it, have gone away against
her father's will. That son _might_ have been a ne'er-do-well at home--how
could I tell? The woman _might_ be looking for the lover that had forsaken
her--I could not divine. I would speak no words of my own. The Son of
God had spoken words of comfort to his mourning friends, when he was the
present God and they were the forefront of humanity; I would read some of
the words he spoke. From them the human nature in each would draw what
comfort it could. I took my New Testament from my pocket, and said, without
"When our Lord was going to die, he knew that his friends loved him enough
to be very wretched about it. He knew that they would be overwhelmed for a
time with trouble. He knew, too, that they could not believe the glad end
of it all, to which end he looked, across the awful death that awaited
him--a death to which that of our friends in the wreck was ease itself. I
will just read to you what he said."
I read from the fourteenth to the seventeenth chapter of St. John's Gospel.
I knew there were worlds of meaning in the words into which I could hardly
hope any of them would enter. But I knew likewise that the best things are
just those from which the humble will draw the truth they are capable of
seeing. Therefore I read as for myself, and left it to them to hear for
themselves. Nor did I add any word of comment, fearful of darkening counsel
by words without knowledge. For the Bible is awfully set against what is
When I had finished, I closed the book, rose from the grass, and walked
towards the brow of the shore. They rose likewise and followed me. I talked
of slight things; the tone was all that communicated between us. But little
of any sort was said. The sea lay still before us, knowing nothing of the
sorrow it had caused.
We wandered a little way along the cliff. The burial-service was at seven
"I have an invalid to visit out in this direction," I said; "would you mind
walking with me? I shall not stay more than five minutes, and we shall get
back just in time for tea."
They assented kindly. I walked first with one, then with another; heard a
little of the story of each; was able to say a few words of sympathy, and
point, as it were, a few times towards the hills whence cometh our aid. I
may just mention here, that since our return to Marshmallows I have had two
of them, the young woman and the Scotchman, to visit us there.
The bell began to toll, and we went to church. My companions placed
themselves near the dead. I went into the vestry till the appointed hour.
I thought as I put on my surplice how, in all religions but the Christian,
the dead body was a pollution to the temple. Here the church received it,
as a holy thing, for a last embrace ere it went to the earth.
As the dead were already in the church, the usual form could not be carried
out. I therefore stood by the communion-table, and there began to read, "I
am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me,
though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth
in me shall never die."
I advanced, as I read, till I came outside the rails and stood before the
dead. There I read the Psalm, "Lord, thou hast been our refuge," and
the glorious lesson, "Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the
first-fruits of them that slept." Then the men of the neighbourhood came
forward, and in long solemn procession bore the bodies out of the church,
each to its grave. At the church-door I stood and read, "Man that is born
of a woman;" then went from one to another of the graves, and read over
each, as the earth fell on the coffin-lid, "Forasmuch as it hath pleased
Almighty God, of his great mercy." Then again, I went back to the
church-door and read, "I heard a voice from heaven;" and so to the end of
Leaving the men to fill up the graves, I hastened to lay aside my
canonicals, that I might join my guests; but my wife and daughter had
already prevailed on them to leave the churchyard.
A word now concerning my own family. Turner insisted on Connie's remaining
in bed for two or three days. She looked worse in face--pale and worn; but
it was clear, from the way she moved in bed, that the fresh power called
forth by the shock had not vanished with the moment.
Wynnie was quieter almost than ever; but there was a constant _secret_
light, if I may use the paradox, in her eyes. Percivale was at the
house every day, always ready to make himself useful. My wife bore up
wonderfully. As yet the much greater catastrophe had come far short of the
impression made by the less. When quieter hours should come, however, I
could not help fearing that the place would be dreadfully painful to
all but the younger ones, who, of course, had the usual child-gift of
forgetting. The servants--even Walter--looked thin and anxious.
That Saturday night I found myself, as I had once or twice found myself
before, entirely unprepared to preach. I did not feel anxious, because I
did not feel that I was to blame: I had been so much occupied. I had again
and again turned my thoughts thitherward, but nothing recommended itself to
me so that I could say "I must take that;" nothing said plainly, "This is
what you have to speak of."
As often as I had sought to find fitting matter for my sermon, my mind
had turned to death and the grave; but I shrunk from every suggestion, or
rather nothing had come to me that interested myself enough to justify me
in giving it to my people. And I always took it as my sole justification,
in speaking of anything to the flock of Christ, that I cared heartily in my
own soul for that thing. Without this consciousness I was dumb. And I do
think, highly as I value prophecy, that a clergyman ought to be at liberty
upon occasion to say, "My friends, I cannot preach to-day." What a riddance
it would be for the Church, I do not say if every priest were to speak
sense, but only if every priest were to abstain from speaking of that in
which, at the moment, he feels little or no interest!
I went to bed, which is often the very best thing a man can do; for sleep
will bring him from God that which no effort of his own will can compass.
I have read somewhere--I will verify it by present search--that Luther's
translation, of the verse in the psalm, "So he giveth to his beloved
sleep," is, "He giveth his beloved sleeping," or while asleep. Yes, so it
is, literally, in English, "It is in vain that ye rise early, and then
sit long, and eat your bread with care, for to his friends he gives it
sleeping." This was my experience in the present instance; for the thought
of which I was first conscious when I awoke was, "Why should I talk about
death? Every man's heart is now full of death. We have enough of that--even
the sum that God has sent us on the wings of the tempest. What I have to
do, as the minister of the new covenant, is to speak of life." It flashed
in on my mind: "Death is over and gone. The resurrection comes next. I will
speak of the raising of Lazarus."
The same moment I knew that I was ready to speak. Shall I or shall I not
give my reader the substance of what I said? I wish I knew how many of them
would like it, and how many would not. I do not want to bore them with
sermons, especially seeing I have always said that no sermons ought to
be printed; for in print they are but what the old alchymists would have
called a _caput mortuum_, or death's head, namely, a lifeless lump of
residuum at the bottom of the crucible; for they have no longer the living
human utterance which gives all the power on the minds of the hearers. But
I have not, either in this or in my preceding narrative, attempted to give
a sermon as I preached it. I have only sought to present the substance of
it in a form fitter for being read, somewhat cleared of the unavoidable,
let me say necessary--yes, I will say _valuable_--repetitions and
enforcements by which the various considerations are pressed upon the minds
of the hearers. These are entirely wearisome in print--useless too, for
the reader may ponder over every phrase till he finds out the purport of
it--if indeed there be such readers nowadays.
I rose, went down to the bath in the rocks, had a joyous physical ablution,
and a swim up and down the narrow cleft, from which I emerged as if myself
newly born or raised anew, and then wandered about on the downs full of
hope and thankfulness, seeking all I could to plant deep in my mind the
long-rooted truths of resurrection, that they might be not only ready to
blossom in the warmth of the spring-tides to come, but able to send out
some leaves and promissory buds even in the wintry time of the soul, when
the fogs of pain steam up from the frozen clay soil of the body, and make
the monarch-will totter dizzily upon his throne, to comfort the eyes of the
bewildered king, reminding him that the King of kings hath conquered Death
and the Grave. There is no perfect faith that cannot laugh at winters and
graveyards, and all the whole array of defiant appearances. The fresh
breeze of the morning visited me. "O God," I said in my heart, "would that
when the dark day comes, in which I can feel nothing, I may be able to
front it with the memory of this day's strength, and so help myself to
trust in the Father! I would call to mind the days of old, with David the
When I returned to the house, I found that one of the sailors, who had been
cast ashore with his leg broken, wished to see me. I obeyed, and found him
very pale and worn.
"I think I am going, sir," he said; "and I wanted to see you before I die."
"Trust in Christ, and do not be afraid," I returned.
"I prayed to him to save me when I was hanging to the rigging, and if I
wasn't afraid then, I'm not going to be afraid now, dying quietly in my
bed. But just look here, sir."
He took from under his pillow something wrapped up in paper, unfolded the
envelope, and showed a lump of something--I could not at first tell what.
He put it in my hand, and then I saw that it was part of a bible, with
nearly the upper half of it worn or cut away, and the rest partly in a
state of pulp.
"That's the bible my mother gave me when I left home first," he said. "I
don't know how I came to put it in my pocket, but I think the rope that cut
through that when I was lashed to the shrouds would a'most have cut through
my ribs if it hadn't been for it."
"Very likely," I returned. "The body of the Bible has saved your bodily
life: may the spirit of it save your spiritual life."
"I think I know what you mean, sir," he panted out. "My mother was a good
woman, and I know she prayed to God for me."
"Would you like us to pray for you in church to-day?"
"If you please, sir; me and Bob Fox. He's nearly as bad as I am."
"We won't forget you," I said. "I will come in after church and see how you
I knelt and offered the prayers for the sick, and then took my leave. I did
not think the poor fellow was going to die.
I may as well mention here, that he has been in my service ever since. We
took him with us to Marshmallows, where he works in the garden and stables,
and is very useful. We have to look after him though, for his health
When I stood up to preach, I gave them no text; but, with the eleventh
chapter of the Gospel of St. John open before me, to keep me correct, I
proceeded to tell the story in the words God gave me; for who can dare to
say that he makes his own commonest speech?
"When Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and therefore our elder brother,
was going about on the earth, eating and drinking with his brothers and
sisters, there was one family he loved especially--a family of two sisters
and a brother; for, although he loves everybody as much as they can be
loved, there are some who can be loved more than others. Only God is always
trying to make us such that we can be loved more and more. There are
several stories--O, such lovely stories!--about that family and Jesus; and
we have to do with one of them now.
"They lived near the capital of the country, Jerusalem, in a village they
called Bethany; and it must have been a great relief to our Lord, when he
was worn out with the obstinacy and pride of the great men of the city, to
go out to the quiet little town and into the refuge of Lazarus's house,
where everyone was more glad at the sound of his feet than at any news that
could come to them.
"They had at this time behaved so ill to him in Jerusalem--taking up stones
to stone him even, though they dared not quite do it, mad with anger as
they were--and all because he told them the truth--that he had gone away to
the other side of the great river that divided the country, and taught the
people in that quiet place. While he was there his friend Lazarus was taken
ill; and the two sisters, Martha and Mary, sent a messenger to him, to say
to him, 'Lord, your friend is very ill.' Only they said it more beautifully
than that: 'Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.' You know, when
anyone is ill, we always want the person whom he loves most to come to him.
This is very wonderful. In the worst things that can come to us the first
thought is of love. People, like the Scribes and Pharisees, might say,
'What good can that do him?' And we may not in the least suppose that the
person we want knows any secret that can cure his pain; yet love is the
first thing we think of. And here we are more right than we know; for, at
the long last, love will cure everything: which truth, indeed, this story
will set forth to us. No doubt the heart of Lazarus, ill as he was, longed
after his friend; and, very likely, even the sight of Jesus might have
given him such strength that the life in him could have driven out the
death which had already got one foot across the threshold. But the sisters
expected more than this: they believed that Jesus, whom they knew to have
driven disease and death out of so many hearts, had only to come and touch
him--nay, only to speak a word, to look at him, and their brother was
saved. Do you think they presumed in thus expecting? The fact was, they did
not believe enough; they had not yet learned to believe that he could cure
him all the same whether he came to them or not, because he was always with
them. We cannot understand this; but our understanding is never a measure
of what is true.
"Whether Jesus knew exactly all that was going to take place I cannot tell.
Some people may feel certain upon points that I dare not feel certain upon.
One thing I am sure of: that he did not always know everything beforehand,
for he said so himself. It is infinitely more valuable to us, because more
beautiful and godlike in him, that he should trust his Father than that he
should foresee everything. At all events he knew that his Father did not
want him to go to his friends yet. So he sent them a message to the effect
that there was a particular reason for this sickness--that the end of it
was not the death of Lazarus, but the glory of God. This, I think, he told
them by the same messenger they sent to him; and then, instead of going to
them, he remained where he was.
"But O, my friends, what shall I say about this wonderful message? Think of
being sick for the glory of God! of being shipwrecked for the glory of God!
of being drowned for the glory of God! How can the sickness, the fear, the
broken-heartedness of his creatures be for the glory of God? What kind of
a God can that be? Why just a God so perfectly, absolutely good, that the
things that look least like it are only the means of clearing our eyes to
let us see how good he is. For he is so good that he is not satisfied with
_being_ good. He loves his children, so that except he can make them good
like himself, make them blessed by seeing how good he is, and desiring the
same goodness in themselves, he is not satisfied. He is not like a fine
proud benefactor, who is content with doing that which will satisfy his
sense of his own glory, but like a mother who puts her arm round her child,
and whose heart is sore till she can make her child see the love which is
her glory. The glorification of the Son of God is the glorification of the
human race; for the glory of God is the glory of man, and that glory is
love. Welcome sickness, welcome sorrow, welcome death, revealing that
"The next two verses sound very strangely together, and yet they almost
seem typical of all the perplexities of God's dealings. The old painters
and poets represented Faith as a beautiful woman, holding in her hand a cup
of wine and water, with a serpent coiled up within. Highhearted Faith!
she scruples not to drink of the life-giving wine and water; she is not
repelled by the upcoiled serpent. The serpent she takes but for the type of
the eternal wisdom that looks repellent because it is not understood. The
wine is good, the water is good; and if the hand of the supreme Fate put
that cup in her hand, the serpent itself must be good too,--harmless, at
least, to hurt the truth of the water and the wine. But let us read the
"'Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When he had heard
therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where
"Strange! his friend was sick: he abode two days where he was! But remember
what we have already heard. The glory of God was infinitely more for the
final cure of a dying Lazarus, who, give him all the life he could have,
would yet, without that glory, be in death, than the mere presence of the
Son of God. I say _mere_ presence, for, compared with the glory of God, the
very presence of his Son, so dissociated, is nothing. He abode where he was
that the glory of God, the final cure of humanity, the love that triumphs
over death, might shine out and redeem the hearts of men, so that death
could not touch them.
"After the two days, the hour had arrived. He said to his disciples, 'Let
us go back to Judaea.' They expostulated, because of the danger, saying,
'Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither
again?' The answer which he gave them I am not sure whether I can
thoroughly understand; but I think, in fact I know, it must bear on the
same region of life--the will of God. I think what he means by walking
in the day is simply doing the will of God. That was the sole, the
all-embracing light in which Jesus ever walked. I think he means that now
he saw plainly what the Father wanted him to do. If he did not see that the
Father wanted him to go back to Judaea, and yet went, that would be to
go stumblingly, to walk in the darkness. There are twelve hours in the
day--one time to act--a time of light and the clear call of duty; there is
a night when a man, not seeing where or hearing how, must be content to
rest. Something not inharmonious with this, I think, he must have intended;
but I do not see the whole thought clearly enough to be sure that I am
right. I do think, further, that it points at a clearer condition of human
vision and conviction than I am good enough to understand; though I hope
one day to rise into this upper stratum of light.
"Whether his scholars had heard anything of Lazarus yet, I do not know. It
looks a little as if Jesus had not told them the message he had had from
the sisters. But he told them now that he was asleep, and that he was going
to wake him. You would think they might have understood this. The idea of
going so many miles to wake a man might have surely suggested death. But
the disciples were sorely perplexed with many of his words. Sometimes they
looked far away for the meaning when the meaning lay in their very hearts;
sometimes they looked into their hands for it when it was lost in the
grandeur of the ages. But he meant them to see into all that he said by
and by, although they could not see into it now. When they understood him
better, then they would understand what he said better. And to understand
him better they must be more like him; and to make them more like him he
must go away and give them his spirit--awful mystery which no man but
himself can understand.
"Now he had to tell them plainly that Lazarus was dead. They had not
thought of death as a sleep. I suppose this was altogether a new and
Christian idea. Do not suppose that it applied more to Lazarus than to
other dead people. He was none the less dead that Jesus meant to take a
weary two days' journey to his sepulchre and wake him. If death is not a
sleep, Jesus did not speak the truth when he said Lazarus slept. You may
say it was a figure; but a figure that is not like the thing it figures is
simply a lie.
"They set out to go back to Judaea. Here we have a glimpse of the faith of
Thomas, the doubter. For a doubter is not without faith. The very fact
that he doubts, shows that he has some faith. When I find anyone hard upon
doubters, I always doubt the _quality_ of his faith. It is of little use to
have a great cable, if the hemp is so poor that it breaks like the painter
of a boat. I have known people whose power of believing chiefly consisted
in their incapacity for seeing difficulties. Of what fine sort a faith must
be that is founded in stupidity, or far worse, in indifference to the truth
and the mere desire to get out of hell! That is not a grand belief in the
Son of God, the radiation of the Father. Thomas's want of faith was shown
in the grumbling, self-pitying way in which he said, 'Let us also go that
we may die with him.' His Master had said that he was going to wake
him. Thomas said, 'that we may die with him.' You may say, 'He did not
understand him.' True, it may be, but his unbelief was the cause of his not
understanding him. I suppose Thomas meant this as a reproach to Jesus for
putting them all in danger by going back to Judaea; if not, it was only a
poor piece of sentimentality. So much for Thomas's unbelief. But he had
good and true faith notwithstanding; for _he went with his Master_.
"By the time they reached the neighbourhood of Bethany, Lazarus had been
dead four days. Someone ran to the house and told the sisters that Jesus
was coming. Martha, as soon as she heard it, rose and went to meet him.
It might be interesting at another time to compare the difference of the
behaviour of the two sisters upon this occasion with the difference of
their behaviour upon another occasion, likewise recorded; but with the man
dead in his sepulchre, and the hope dead in these two hearts, we have no
inclination to enter upon fine distinctions of character. Death and grief
bring out the great family likenesses in the living as well as in the dead.
"When Martha came to Jesus, she showed her true though imperfect faith by
almost attributing her brother's death to Jesus' absence. But even in the
moment, looking in the face of the Master, a fresh hope, a new budding of
faith, began in her soul. She thought--'What if, after all, he were
to bring him to life again!' O, trusting heart, how thou leavest the
dull-plodding intellect behind thee! While the conceited intellect is
reasoning upon the impossibility of the thing, the expectant faith beholds
it accomplished. Jesus, responding instantly to her faith, granting her
half-born prayer, says, 'Thy brother shall rise again;' not meaning the
general truth recognised, or at least assented to by all but the Sadducees,
concerning the final resurrection of the dead, but meaning, 'Be it unto
thee as thou wilt. I will raise him again.' For there is no steering for a
fine effect in the words of Jesus. But these words are too good for Martha
to take them as he meant them. Her faith is not quite equal to the belief
that he actually will do it. The thing she could hope for afar off she
could hardly believe when it came to her very door. 'O, yes,' she said, her
mood falling again to the level of the commonplace, 'of course, at the last
day.' Then the Lord turns away her thoughts from the dogmas of her faith
to himself, the Life, saying, 'I am the resurrection and the life: he that
believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever
liveth and believeth in me, shall never die. Believest thou this ?' Martha,
without understanding what he said more than in a very poor part, answered
in words which preserved her honesty entire, and yet included all he asked,
and a thousandfold more than she could yet believe: 'Yea, Lord; I believe
that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the
"I dare not pretend to have more than a grand glimmering of the truth of
Jesus' words 'shall never die;' but I am pretty sure that when Martha came
to die, she found that there was indeed no such thing as she had meant when
she used the ghastly word _death_, and said with her first new breath,
'Verily, Lord, I am not dead.'
"But look how this declaration of her confidence in the Christ operated
upon herself. She instantly thought of her sister; the hope that the Lord
would do something swelled within her, and, leaving Jesus, she went to find
Mary. Whoever has had a true word with the elder brother, straightway
will look around him to find his brother, his sister. The family feeling
blossoms: he wants his friend to share the glory withal. Martha wants Mary
to go to Jesus too.
"Mary heard her, forgot her visitors, rose, and went. They thought she went
to the grave: she went to meet its conqueror. But when she came to him, the
woman who had chosen the good part praised of Jesus, had but the same words
to embody her hope and her grief that her careful and troubled sister had
uttered a few minutes before. How often during those four days had not the
self-same words passed between them! 'Ah, if he had been here, our brother
had not died!' She said so to himself now, and wept, and her friends who
had followed her wept likewise. A moment more, and the Master groaned; yet
a moment, and he too wept. 'Sorrow is catching;' but this was not the mere
infection of sorrow. It went deeper than mere sympathy; for he groaned in
his spirit and was troubled. What made him weep? It was when he saw them
weeping that he wept. But why should he weep, when he knew how soon their
weeping would be turned into rejoicing? It was not for their weeping, so
soon to be over, that he wept, but for the human heart everywhere swollen
with tears, yea, with griefs that can find no such relief as tears; for
these, and for all his brothers and sisters tormented with pain for lack of
faith in his Father in heaven, Jesus wept. He saw the blessed well-being
of Lazarus on the one side, and on the other the streaming eyes from whose
sight he had vanished. The veil between was so thin! yet the sight of those
eyes could not pierce it: their hearts must go on weeping--without cause,
for his Father was so good. I think it was the helplessness he felt in
the impossibility of at once sweeping away the phantasm death from their
imagination that drew the tears from the eyes of Jesus. Certainly it was
not for Lazarus; it could hardly be for these his friends--save as they
represented the humanity which he would help, but could not help even as he
was about to help them.
"The Jews saw herein proof that he loved Lazarus; but they little thought
it was for them and their people, and for the Gentiles whom they despised,
that his tears were now flowing--that the love which pressed the fountains
of his weeping was love for every human heart, from Adam on through the
"Some of them went a little farther, nearly as far as the sisters, saying,
'Could he not have kept the man from dying?' But it was such a poor thing,
after all, that they thought he might have done. They regarded merely this
unexpected illness, this early death; for I daresay Lazarus was not much
older than Jesus. They did not think that, after all, Lazarus must die some
time; that the beloved could be saved, at best, only for a little while.
Jesus seems to have heard the remark, for he again groaned in himself.
"Meantime they were drawing near the place where he was buried. It was a
hollow in the face of a rock, with a stone laid against it. I suppose the
bodies were laid on something like shelves inside the rock, as they are in
many sepulchres. They were not put into coffins, but wound round and round
"When they came before the door of death, Jesus said to them, 'Take away
the stone.' The nature of Martha's reply--the realism of it, as they would
say now-a-days--would seem to indicate that her dawning faith had sunk
again below the horizon, that in the presence of the insignia of death, her
faith yielded, even as the faith of Peter failed him when he saw around him
the grandeur of the high-priest, and his Master bound and helpless. Jesus
answered--O, what an answer!--To meet the corruption and the stink which
filled her poor human fancy, 'the glory of God' came from his lips: human
fear; horror speaking from the lips of a woman in the very jaws of the
devouring death; and the 'said I not unto thee?' from the mouth of him who
was so soon to pass worn and bloodless through such a door! 'He stinketh,'
said Martha. 'The glory of God,' said Jesus. 'Said I not unto thee, that,
if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?'
"Before the open throat of the sepulchre Jesus began to speak to his Father
aloud. He had prayed to him in his heart before, most likely while he
groaned in his spirit. Now he thanked him that he had comforted him, and
given him Lazarus as a first-fruit from the dead. But he will be true to
the listening people as well as to his ever-hearing Father; therefore he
tells why he said the word of thanks aloud--a thing not usual with him, for
his Father was always hearing, him. Having spoken it for the people, he
would say that it was for the people.
"The end of it all was that they might believe that God had sent him--a far
grander gift than having the dearest brought back from the grave; for he is
the life of men.
"'Lazarus, come forth!"
"And Lazarus came forth, creeping helplessly with inch-long steps of his
linen-bound limbs. 'Ha, ha! brother, sister!' cries the human heart. The
Lord of Life hath taken the prey from the spoiler; he hath emptied the
grave. Here comes the dead man, welcome as never was child from the
womb--new-born, and in him all the human race new-born from the grave!
'Loose him and let him go,' and the work is done. The sorrow is over, and
the joy is come. Home, home, Martha, Mary, with your Lazarus! He too will
go with you, the Lord of the Living. Home and get the feast ready, Martha!
Prepare the food for him who comes hungry from the grave, for him who has
called him thence. Home, Mary, to help Martha! What a household will yours
be! What wondrous speech will pass between the dead come to life and the
living come to die!
"But what pang is this that makes Lazarus draw hurried breath, and turns
Martha's cheek so pale? Ah, at the little window of the heart the pale eyes
of the defeated Horror look in. What! is he there still! Ah, yes, he will
come for Martha, come for Mary, come yet again for Lazarus--yea, come for
the Lord of Life himself, and carry all away. But look at the Lord: he
knows all about it, and he smiles. Does Martha think of the words he spoke,
'He that liveth and believeth in me shall never die'? Perhaps she does,
and, like the moon before the sun, her face returns the smile of her Lord.
"This, my friends, is a fancy in form, but it embodies a dear truth. What
is it to you and me that he raised Lazarus? We are not called upon to
believe that he will raise from the tomb that joy of our hearts which lies
buried there beyond our sight. Stop! Are we not? We are called upon to
believe this; else the whole story were for us a poor mockery. What is it
to us that the Lord raised Lazarus?--Is it nothing to know that our Brother
is Lord over the grave? Will the harvest be behind the first-fruits? If he
tells us he cannot, for good reasons, raise up our vanished love to-day, or
to-morrow, or for all the years of our life to come, shall we not mingle
the smile of faithful thanks with the sorrow of present loss, and walk
diligently waiting? That he called forth Lazarus showed that he was in his
keeping, that he is Lord of the living, and that all live to him, that he
has a hold of them, and can draw them forth when he will. If this is not
true, then the raising of Lazarus is false; I do not mean merely false in
fact, but false in meaning. If we believe in him, then in his name, both
for ourselves and for our friends, we must deny death and believe in life.
Lord Christ, fill our hearts with thy Life!"
In a day or two Connie was permitted to rise and take to her couch once
more. It seemed strange that she should look so much worse, and yet be so
much stronger. The growth of her power of motion was wonderful. As they
carried her, she begged to be allowed to put her feet to the ground. Turner
yielded, though without quite ceasing to support her. He was satisfied,
however, that she could have stood upright for a moment at least. He would
not, of course, risk it, and made haste to lay her down.
The time of his departure was coming near, and he seemed more anxious the
nearer it came; for Connie continued worn-looking and pale; and her smile,
though ever ready to greet me when I entered, had lost much of its light. I
noticed, too, that she had the curtain of her window constantly so arranged
as to shut out the sea. I said something to her about it once. Her reply
"Papa, I can't bear it. I know it is very silly; but I think I can make you
understand how it is: I was so fond of the sea when I came down; it seemed
to lie close to my window, with a friendly smile ready for me every morning
when I looked out. I daresay it is all from want of faith, but I can't help
it: it looks so far away now, like a friend that had failed me, that I
would rather not see it."
I saw that the struggling life within her was grievously oppressed, that
the things which surrounded her were no longer helpful. Her life had been
driven as to its innermost cave; and now, when it had been enticed to
venture forth and look abroad, a sudden pall had descended upon nature. I
could not help thinking that the good of our visit to Kilkhaven had come,
and that evil, from which I hoped we might yet escape, was following. I
left her, and sought Turner.
"It strikes me, Turner," I said, "that the sooner we get out of this the
better for Connie."
"I am quite of your opinion. I think the very prospect of leaving the place
would do something to restore her. If she is so uncomfortable now, think
what it will be in the many winter nights at hand."
"Do you think it would be safe to move her?"
"Far safer than to let her remain. At the worst, she is now far better than
when she came. Try her. Hint at the possibility of going home, and see how
she will take it."
"Well, I sha'n't like to be left alone; but if she goes they must all go,
except, perhaps, I might keep Wynnie. But I don't know how her mother would
get on without her."
"I don't see why you should stay behind. Mr. Weir would be as glad to come
as you would be to go; and it can make no difference to Mr. Shepherd."
It seemed a very sensible suggestion. I thought a moment. Certainly it was
a desirable thing for both my sister and her husband. They had no such
reasons as we had for disliking the place; and it would enable her to avoid
the severity of yet another winter. I said as much to Turner, and went back
to Connie's room.
The light of a lovely sunset was lying outside her window. She was sitting
so that she could not see it. I would find out her feeling in the matter
without any preamble.
"Would you like to go back to Marshmallows, Connie?" I asked.
Her countenance flashed into light.
"O, dear papa, do let us go," she said; "that would be delightful."
"Well, I think we can manage it, if you will only get a little stronger for
the journey. The weather is not so good to travel in as when we came down."
"No; but I am ever so much better, you know, than I was then."
The poor girl was already stronger from the mere prospect of going home
again. She moved restlessly on her couch, half mechanically put her hand to
the curtain, pulled it aside, looked out, faced the sun and the sea, and
did not draw back. My mind was made up. I left her, and went to find
Ethelwyn. She heartily approved of the proposal for Connie's sake, and said
that it would be scarcely less agreeable to herself. I could see a certain
troubled look above her eyes, however.
"You are thinking of Wynnie," I said.
"Yes. It is hard to make one sad for the sake of the rest."
"True. But it is one of the world's recognised necessities."
"Besides, you don't suppose Percivale can stay here the whole winter. They
must part some time."
"Of course. Only they did not expect it so soon."
But here my wife was mistaken.
I went to my study to write to Weir. I had hardly finished my letter when
Walter came to say that Mr. Percivale wished to see me. I told him to show
"I am just writing home to say that I want my curate to change places with
me here, which I know he will be glad enough to do. I see Connie had better
"You will all go, then, I presume?" returned Percivale.
"Yes, yes; of course."
"Then I need not so much regret that I can stay no longer. I came to tell
you that I must leave to-morrow."
"Ah! Going to London?"
"Yes. I don't know how to thank you for all your kindness. You have made my
summer something like a summer; very different, indeed, from what it would
otherwise have been."
"We have had our share of advantage, and that a large one. We are all glad
to have made your acquaintance, Mr. Percivale."
He made no answer.
"We shall be passing through London within a week or ten days in all
probability. Perhaps you will allow us the pleasure of looking at some of
your pictures then?"
His face flushed. What did the flush mean? It was not one of mere pleasure.
There was confusion and perplexity in it. But he answered at once:
"I will show you them with pleasure. I fear, however, you will not care for
Would this fear account for his embarrassment? I hardly thought it would;
but I could not for a moment imagine, with his fine form and countenance
before me, that he had any serious reason for shrinking from a visit.
He began to search for a card.
"O, I have your address. I shall be sure to pay you a visit. But you will
dine with us to-day, of course?" I said.
"I shall have much pleasure," he answered; and took his leave.
I finished my letter to Weir, and went out for a walk.
I remember particularly the thoughts that moved in me and made that walk
memorable. Indeed, I think I remember all outside events chiefly by virtue
of the inward conditions with which they were associated. Mere outside
things I am very ready to forget. Moods of my own mind do not so readily
pass away; and with the memory of some of them every outward circumstance
returns; for a man's life is where the kingdom of heaven is--within him.
There are people who, if you ask the story of their lives, have nothing to
tell you but the course of the outward events that have constituted, as it
were, the clothes of their history. But I know, at the same time, that some
of the most important crises in my own history (by which word _history_ I
mean my growth towards the right conditions of existence) have been beyond
the grasp and interpretation of my intellect. They have passed, as it were,
without my consciousness being awake enough to lay hold of their phenomena.
The wind had been blowing; I had heard the sound of it, but knew not whence
it came nor whither it went; only, when it was gone, I found myself more
responsible, more eager than before.
I remember this walk from the thoughts I had about the great change hanging
over us all. I had now arrived at the prime of middle life; and that change
which so many would escape if they could, but which will let no man pass,
had begun to show itself a real fact upon the horizon of the future. Death
looks so far away to the young, that while they acknowledge it unavoidable,
the path stretches on in such vanishing perspective before them, that they
see no necessity for thinking about the end of it yet; and far would I be
from saying they ought to think of it. Life is the true object of a man's
care: there is no occasion to make himself think about death. But when
the vision of the inevitable draws nigh, when it appears plainly on the
horizon, though but as a cloud the size of a man's hand, then it is equally
foolish to meet it by refusing to meet it, to answer the questions that
will arise by declining to think about them. Indeed, it is a question of
life then, and not of death. We want to keep fast hold of our life, and, in
the strength of that, to look the threatening death in the face. But to my
walk that morning.
I wandered on the downs till I came to the place where a solitary rock
stands on the top of a cliff looking seaward, in the suggested shape of a
monk praying. On the base on which he knelt I seated myself, and looked out
over the Atlantic. How faded the ocean appeared! It seemed as if all the
sunny dyes of the summer had been diluted and washed with the fogs of the
coming winter, when I thought of the splendour it wore when first from
these downs I gazed on the outspread infinitude of space and colour.
"What," I said to myself at length, "has she done since then? Where is
her work visible? She has riven, and battered, and destroyed, and her
destruction too has passed away. So worketh Time and its powers! The
exultation of my youth is gone; my head is gray; my wife is growing old;
our children are pushing us from our stools; we are yielding to the new
generation; the glory for us hath departed; our life lies weary before us
like that sea; and the night cometh when we can no longer work."
Something like this was passing vaguely through my mind. I sat in a
mournful stupor, with a half-consciousness that my mood was false, and that
I ought to rouse myself and shake it off. There is such a thing as a state
of moral dreaming, which closely resembles the intellectual dreaming in
sleep. I went on in this false dreamful mood, pitying myself like a child
tender over his hurt and nursing his own cowardice, till, all at once, "a
little pipling wind" blew on my cheek. The morning was very still: what
roused that little wind I cannot tell; but what that little wind roused I
will try to tell. With that breath on my cheek, something within me began
to stir. It grew, and grew, until the memory of a certain glorious sunset
of red and green and gold and blue, which I had beheld from these same
heights, dawned within me. I knew that the glory of my youth had not
departed, that the very power of recalling with delight that which I had
once felt in seeing, was proof enough of that; I knew that I could believe
in God all the night long, even if the night were long. And the next moment
I thought how I had been reviling in my fancy God's servant, the sea. To
how many vessels had she not opened a bounteous highway through the waters,
with labour, and food, and help, and ministration, glad breezes and
swelling sails, healthful struggle, cleansing fear and sorrow, yea, and
friendly death! Because she had been commissioned to carry this one or that
one, this hundred or that thousand of his own creatures from one world to
another, was I to revile the servant of a grand and gracious Master? It was
blameless in Connie to feel the late trouble so deeply that she could not
be glad: she had not had the experience of life, yea, of God, that I had
had; she must be helped from without. But for me, it was shameful that I,
who knew the heart of my Master, to whom at least he had so often shown his
truth, should ever be doleful and oppressed. Yet even me he had now helped
from within. The glory of existence as the child of the Infinite had
again dawned upon me. The first hour of the evening of my life had indeed
arrived; the shadows had begun to grow long--so long that I had begun to
mark their length; this last little portion of my history had vanished,
leaving its few gray ashes behind in the crucible of my life; and the final
evening must come, when all my life would lie behind me, and all the memory
of it return, with its mornings of gold and red, with its evenings of
purple and green; with its dashes of storm, and its foggy glooms; with its
white-winged aspirations, its dull-red passions, its creeping envies in
brown and black and earthy yellow. But from all the accusations of my
conscience, I would turn me to the Lord, for he was called Jesus because he
should save his people from their sins. Then I thought what a grand gift it
would be to give his people the power hereafter to fight the consequences
of their sins. Anyhow, I would trust the Father, who loved me with a
perfect love, to lead the soul he had made, had compelled to be, through
the gates of the death-birth, into the light of life beyond. I would cast
on him the care, humbly challenge him with the responsibility he had
himself undertaken, praying only for perfect confidence in him, absolute
submission to his will.
I rose from my seat beside the praying monk, and walked on. The thought of
seeing my own people again filled me with gladness. I would leave those
I had here learned to love with regret; but I trusted I had taught them
something, and they had taught me much; therefore there could be no end
to our relation to each other--it could not be broken, for it was _in the
Lord_, which alone can give security to any tie. I should not, therefore,
sorrow as if I were to see their faces no more.
I now took my farewell of that sea and those cliffs. I should see them
often ere we went, but I should not feel so near them again. Even this
parting said that I must "sit loose to the world"--an old Puritan phrase,
I suppose; that I could gather up only its uses, treasure its best things,
and must let all the rest go; that those things I called mine--earth, sky,
and sea, home, books, the treasured gifts of friends--had all to leave
me, belong to others, and help to educate them. I should not need them. I
should have my people, my souls, my beloved faces tenfold more, and could
well afford to part with these. Why should I mind this chain passing to
my eldest boy, when it was only his mother's hair, and I should have his
So my thoughts went on thinking themselves, until at length I yielded
passively to their flow.
I found Wynnie looking very grave when I went into the drawing-room. Her
mother was there, too, and Mr. Percivale. It seemed rather a moody party.
They wakened up a little, however, after I entered, and before dinner was
over we were all chatting together merrily.
"How is Connie?" I asked Ethelwyn.
"Wonderfully better already," she answered.
"I think everybody seems better," I said. "The very idea of home seems
reviving to us all."
Wynnie darted a quick glance at me, caught my eyes, which was more than
she had intended, and blushed; sought refuge in a bewildered glance at
Percivale, caught his eye in turn, and blushed yet deeper. He plunged
instantly into conversation, not without a certain involuntary sparkle in
"Did you go to see Mrs. Stokes this morning?" he asked.
"No," I answered. "She does not want much visiting now; she is going about
her work, apparently in good health. Her husband says she is not like the
same woman; and I hope he means that in more senses than one, though I do
not choose to ask him any questions about his wife."
I did my best to keep up the conversation, but every now and then after
this it fell like a wind that would not blow. I withdrew to my study.
Percivale and Wynnie went out for a walk. The next morning he left by the
coach--early. Turner went with him.
Wynnie did not seem very much dejected. I thought that perhaps the prospect
of meeting him again in London kept her up.
I will not linger over our preparations or our leave-takings. The most
ponderous of the former were those of the two boys, who, as they had wanted
to bring down a chest as big as a corn-bin, full of lumber, now wanted to
take home two or three boxes filled with pebbles, great oystershells, and
Weir, as I had expected, was quite pleased to make the exchange. An early
day had been fixed for his arrival; for I thought it might be of service
to him to be introduced to the field of his labours. Before he came, I had
gone about among the people, explaining to them some of my reasons for
leaving them sooner than I had intended, and telling them a little about my
successor, that he might not appear among them quite as a stranger. He was
much gratified with their reception of him, and had no fear of not finding
himself quite at home with them. I promised, if I could comfortably manage
it, to pay them a short visit the following summer, and as the weather was
now getting quite cold, hastened our preparations for departure.
I could have wished that Turner had been with us on the journey, but he
had been absent from his cure to the full extent that his conscience would
permit, and I had not urged him. He would be there to receive us, and we
had got so used to the management of Connie, that we did not feel much
anxiety about the travelling. We resolved, if she seemed strong enough as
we went along, to go right through to London, making a few days there the
only break in the transit.
It was a bright, cold morning when we started. But Connie could now bear
the air so well, that we set out with the carriage open, nor had we
occasion to close it. The first part of our railway journey was very
pleasant. But when we drew near London, we entered a thick fog, and before
we arrived, a small dense November rain was falling. Connie looked a little
dispirited, partly from weariness, but no doubt from the change in the
"Not very cheerful, this, Connie, my dear," I said.
"No, papa," she answered; "but we are going home, you know."
_Going home._ It set me thinking--as I had often been set thinking before,
always with fresh discovery and a new colour on the dawning sky of hope. I
lay back in the carriage and thought how the November fog this evening in
London, was the valley of the shadow of death we had to go through on the
way _home._ A. shadow like this would fall upon me; the world would grow
dark and life grow weary; but I should know it was the last of the way
Then I began to question myself wherein the idea of this home consisted. I
knew that my soul had ever yet felt the discomfort of strangeness, more or
less, in the midst of its greatest blessedness. I knew that as the thought
of water to the thirsty _soul_, for it is the soul far more than the body
that thirsts even for the material water, such is the thought of home to
the wanderer in a strange country. As the weary soul pines for sleep, and
every heart for the cure of its own bitterness, so my heart and soul had
often pined for their home. Did I know, I asked myself, where or what that
home was? It could consist in no change of place or of circumstance; no
mere absence of care; no accumulation of repose; no blessed communion even
with those whom my soul loved; in the midst of it all I should be longing
for a homelier home--one into which I might enter with a sense of
infinitely more absolute peace, than a conscious child could know in the
arms, upon the bosom of his mother. In the closest contact of human soul
with human soul, when all the atmosphere of thought was rosy with love,
again and yet again on the far horizon would the dun, lurid flame of unrest
shoot for a moment through the enchanted air, and Psyche would know that
not yet had she reached her home. As I thought this I lifted my eyes, and
saw those of my wife and Connie fixed on mine, as if they were reproaching
me for saying in my soul that I could not be quite at home with them. Then
I said in my heart, "Come home with me, beloved--there is but one home for
us all. When we find--in proportion as each of us finds--that home, shall
we be gardens of delight to each other--little chambers of rest--galleries
of pictures--wells of water."
Again, what was this home? God himself. His thoughts, his will, his love,
his judgment, are man's home. To think his thoughts, to choose his will, to
love his loves, to judge his judgments, and thus to know that he is in us,
with us, is to be at home. And to pass through the valley of the shadow of
death is the way home, but only thus, that as all changes have hitherto
led us nearer to this home, the knowledge of God, so this greatest of all
outward changes--for it is but an outward change--will surely usher us into
a region where there will be fresh possibilities of drawing nigh in heart,
soul, and mind to the Father of us. It is the father, the mother, that make
for the child his home. Indeed, I doubt if the home-idea is complete to the
parents of a family themselves, when they remember that their fathers and
mothers have vanished.
At this point something rose in me seeking utterance.
"Won't it be delightful, wife," I began, "to see our fathers and mothers
such a long way back in heaven?"
But Ethelwyn's face gave so little response, that I felt at once how
dreadful a thing it was not to have had a good father or mother. I do not
know what would have become of me but for a good father. I wonder how
anybody ever can be good that has not had a good father. How dreadful not
to be a good father or good mother! Every father who is not good, every
mother who is not good, just makes it as impossible to believe in God as
it can be made. But he is our one good Father, and does not leave us, even
should our fathers and mothers have thus forsaken us, and left him without
Here the evil odour of brick-burning invaded my nostrils, and I knew that
London was about us. A few moments after, we reached the station, where a
carriage was waiting to take us to our hotel.
Dreary was the change from the stillness and sunshine of Kilkhaven to the
fog and noise of London; but Connie slept better that night than she had
slept for a good many nights before.
After breakfast the next morning, I said to Wynnie,
"I am going to see Mr. Percivale's studio, my dear: have you any objection
to going with me?"
"No, papa," she answered, blushing. "I have never seen an artist's studio
in my life."
"Come along, then. Get your bonnet at once. It rains, but we shall take a
cab, and it won't matter."
She ran off, and was ready in a few minutes. We gave the driver directions,
and set off. It was a long drive. At length he stopped at the door of a
very common-looking house, in a very dreary-looking street, in which no man
could possibly identify his own door except by the number. I knocked. A
woman who looked at once dirty and cross, the former probably the cause of
the latter, opened the door, gave a bare assent to my question whether Mr.
Percivale was at home, withdrew to her den with the words "second-floor,"
and left us to find our own way up the two flights of stairs. This,
however, involved no great difficulty. We knocked at the door of the front
room. A well-known voice cried, "Come in," and we entered.
Percivale, in a short velvet coat, with his palette on his thumb, advanced
to meet us cordially. His face wore a slight flush, which I attributed
solely to pleasure, and nothing to any awkwardness in receiving us in such
a poor place as he occupied. I cast my eyes round the room. Any romantic
notions Wynnie might have indulged concerning the marvels of a studio,
must have paled considerably at the first glance around Percivale's
room--plainly the abode if not of poverty, then of self-denial, although I
suspected both. A common room, with no carpet save a square in front of the
fireplace; no curtains except a piece of something like drugget nailed
flat across all the lower half of the window to make the light fall from
upwards; two or three horsehair chairs, nearly worn out; a table in a
corner, littered with books and papers; a horrible lay-figure, at the
present moment dressed apparently for a scarecrow; a large easel, on which
stood a half-finished oil-painting--these constituted almost the whole
furniture of the room. With his pocket-handkerchief Percivale dusted one
chair for Wynnie and another for me. Then standing before us, he said:
"This is a very shabby place to receive you in, Miss Walton, but it is all
I have got."
"A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things he possesses,"
I ventured to say.
"Thank you," said Percivale. "I hope not. It is well for me it should not."
"It is well for the richest man in England that it should not," I returned.
"If it were not so, the man who could eat most would be the most blessed."
"There are people, even of my acquaintance, however, who seem to think it
"No doubt; but happily their thinking so will not make it so even for
"Have you been very busy since you left us, Mr. Percivale?" asked Wynnie.
"Tolerably," he answered. "But I have not much to show for it. That on the
easel is all. I hardly like to let you look at it, though."
"Why?" asked Wynnie.
"First, because the subject is painful. Next, because it is so unfinished
that none but a painter could do it justice."
"But why should you paint subjects you would not like people to look at?"
"I very much want people to look at them."
"Why not us, then?" said Wynnie.
"Because you do not need to be pained."
"Are you sure it is good for you to pain anybody?" I said.
"Good is done by pain--is it not?" he asked.
"Undoubtedly. But whether _we_ are wise enough to know when and where and
how much, is the question."
"Of course I do not make the pain my object."
"If it comes only as a necessary accompaniment, that may alter the matter
greatly," I said. "But still I am not sure that anything in which the pain
predominates can be useful in the best way."
"Perhaps not," he returned.--"Will you look at the daub?"
"With much pleasure," I replied, and we rose and stood before the easel.
Percivale made no remark, but left us to find out what the picture meant.
Nor had I long to look before I understood it--in a measure at least.
It represented a garret-room in a wretchedly ruinous condition. The plaster
had come away in several places, and through between the laths in one spot
hung the tail of a great rat. In a dark corner lay a man dying. A woman sat
by his side, with her eyes fixed, not on his face, though she held his hand
in hers, but on the open door, where in the gloom you could just see the
struggles of two undertaker's men to get the coffin past the turn of the
landing towards the door. Through the window there was one peep of the blue
sky, whence a ray of sunlight fell on the one scarlet blossom of a geranium
in a broken pot on the window-sill outside.
"I do not wonder you did not like to show it," I said. "How can you bear to
paint such a dreadful picture?"
"It is a true one. It only represents a fact."
"All facts have not a right to be represented."
"Surely you would not get rid of painful things by huddling them out of
"No; nor yet by gloating upon them."
"You will believe me that it gives me anything but pleasure to paint such
pictures--as far as the subject goes," he said with some discomposure.
"Of course. I know you well enough by this time to know that. But no one
could hang it on his wall who would not either gloat on suffering or grow
callous to it. Whence, then, would come the good I cannot doubt you propose
to yourself as your object in painting the picture? If it had come into my
possession, I would--"
"Put it in the fire," suggested Percivale with a strange smile.
"No. Still less would I sell it. I would hang it up with a curtain before
it, and only look at it now and then, when I thought my heart was in danger
of growing hardened to the sufferings of my fellow-men, and forgetting that
they need the Saviour."
"I could not wish it a better fate. That would answer my end."
"Would it, now? Is it not rather those who care little or nothing about
such matters that you would like to influence? Would you be content with
one solitary person like me? And, remember, I wouldn't buy it. I would
rather not have it. I could hardly bear to know it was in my house. I am
certain you cannot do people good by showing them _only_ the painful. Make
it as painful as you will, but put some hope into it--something to show
that action is worth taking in the affair. From mere suffering people will
turn away, and you cannot blame them. Every show of it, without hinting at
some door of escape, only urges them to forget it all. Why should they be
pained if it can do no good?"
"For the sake of sympathy, I should say," answered Percivale.
"They would rejoin, 'It is only a picture. Come along.' No; give people
hope, if you would have them act at all, in anything."
"I was almost hoping you would read the picture rather differently. You see
there is a bit of blue sky up there, and a bit of sunshiny scarlet in the
He looked at me curiously as he spoke.
"I can read it so for myself, and have metamorphosed its meaning so. But
you only put in the sky and the scarlet to heighten the perplexity, and
make the other look more terrible."
"Now I know that as an artist I have succeeded, however I may have failed
otherwise. I did so mean it; but knowing you would dislike the picture,
I almost hoped in my cowardice, as I said, that you would read your own
meaning into it."
Wynnie had not said a word. As I turned away from the picture, I saw that
she was looking quite distressed, but whether by the picture or the freedom
with which I had remarked upon it, I do not know. My eyes falling on a
little sketch in sepia, I began to examine it, in the hope of finding
something more pleasant to say. I perceived in a moment, however, that it
was nearly the same thought, only treated in a gentler and more poetic
mode. A girl lay dying on her bed. A youth held her hand. A torrent of
summer sunshine fell through the window, and made a lake of glory upon the
floor. I turned away.
"You like that better, don't you, papa?" said Wynnie tremulously.
"It is beautiful, certainly," I answered. "And if it were only one, I
should enjoy it--as a mood. But coming after the other, it seems but the
same thing more weakly embodied."
I confess I was a little vexed; for I had got much interested in Percivale,
for his own sake as well as for my daughter's, and I had expected better
things from him. But I saw that I had gone too far.
"I beg your pardon, Mr. Percivale," I said.
"I fear I have been too free in my remarks. I know, likewise, that I am a
clergyman, and not a painter, and therefore incapable of giving the praise
which I have little doubt your art at least deserves."
"I trust that honesty cannot offend me, however much and justly it may pain
"But now I have said my worst, I should much like to see what else you have
at hand to show me."
"Unfortunately I have too much at hand. Let me see."
He strode to the other end of the room, where several pictures were leaning
against the wall, with their faces turned towards it. From these he chose
one, but, before showing it, fitted it into an empty frame that stood
beside. He then brought it forward and set it on the easel. I will describe
it, and then my reader will understand the admiration which broke from me
after I had regarded it for a time.
A dark hill rose against the evening sky, which shone through a few thin
pines on its top. Along a road on the hill-side four squires bore a dying
knight--a man past the middle age. One behind carried his helm, and another
led his horse, whose fine head only appeared in the picture. The head and
countenance of the knight were very noble, telling of many a battle, and
ever for the right. The last had doubtless been gained, for one might read
victory as well as peace in the dying look. The party had just reached the
edge of a steep descent, from which you saw the valley beneath, with the
last of the harvest just being reaped, while the shocks stood all about in
the fields, under the place of the sunset. The sun had been down for some
little time. There was no gold left in the sky, only a little dull saffron,
but plenty of that lovely liquid green of the autumn sky, divided with a
few streaks of pale rose. The depth of the sky overhead, which you could
not see for the arrangement of the picture, was mirrored lovelily in a
piece of water that lay in the centre of the valley.
"My dear fellow," I cried, "why did you not show me this first, and save me
from saying so many unkind things? Here is a picture to my own heart; it is
glorious. Look here, Wynnie," I went on; "you see it is evening; the sun's
work is done, and he has set in glory, leaving his good name behind him in
a lovely harmony of colour. The old knight's work is done too; his day has
set in the storm of battle, and he is lying lapt in the coming peace. They
are bearing him home to his couch and his grave. Look at their faces in
the dusky light. They are all mourning for and honouring the life that is
ebbing away. But he is gathered to his fathers like a shock of corn fully
ripe; and so the harvest stands golden in the valley beneath. The picture
would not be complete, however, if it did not tell us of the deep heaven
overhead, the symbol of that heaven whither he who has done his work is
bound. What a lovely idea to represent it by means of the water, the heaven
embodying itself in the earth, as it were, that we may see it! And observe
how that dusky hill-side, and those tall slender mournful-looking pines,
with that sorrowful sky between, lead the eye and point the heart upward
towards that heaven. It is indeed a grand picture, full of feeling--a
picture and a parable."
[Footnote: This is a description, from memory only, of a picture painted by
I looked at the girl. Her eyes were full of tears, either called forth
by the picture itself or by the pleasure of finding Percivale's work
appreciated by me, who had spoken so hardly of the others.
"I cannot tell you how glad I am that you like it," she said.
"Like it!" I returned; "I am simply delighted with it, more than I can
express--so much delighted that if I could have this alongside of it, I
should not mind hanging that other--that hopeless garret--on the most
public wall I have."
"Then," said Wynnie bravely, though in a tremulous voice, "you
confess--don't you, papa?--that you were _too_ hard on Mr. Percivale at
"Not too hard on his picture, my dear; and that was all he had yet given me
to judge by. No man should paint a picture like that. You are not bound to
disseminate hopelessness; for where there is no hope there can be no sense
"But surely, papa, Mr. Percivale has _some_ sense of duty," said Wynnie in
an almost angry tone.
"Assuredly my love. Therefore I argue that he has some hope, and therefore,
again, that he has no right to publish such a picture."
At the word _publish_ Percivale smiled. But Wynnie went on with her
"But you see, papa, that Mr. Percivale does not paint such pictures only.
Look at the other."
"Yes, my dear. But pictures are not like poems, lying side by side in the
same book, so that the one can counteract the other. The one of these might
go to the stormy Hebrides, and the other to the Vale of Avalon; but even
then I should be strongly inclined to criticise the poem, whatever position
it stood in, that had _nothing_--positively nothing--of the aurora in it."
Here let me interrupt the course of our conversation to illustrate it by a
remark on a poem which has appeared within the last twelvemonth from the
pen of the greatest living poet, and one who, if I may dare to judge, will
continue the greatest for many, many years to come. It is only a little
song, "I stood on a tower in the wet." I have found few men who, whether
from the influence of those prints which are always on the outlook for
something to ridicule, or from some other cause, did not laugh at the poem.
I thought and think it a lovely poem, although I am not quite sure of the
transposition of words in the last two lines. But I do not _approve_ of the
poem, just because there is no hope in it. It lacks that touch or hint
of _red_ which is as essential, I think, to every poem as to every
picture--the life-blood--the one pure colour. In his hopeful moods, let a
man put on his singing robes, and chant aloud the words of gladness--or of
grief, I care not which--to his fellows; in his hours of hopelessness,
let him utter his thoughts only to his inarticulate violin, or in the
evanescent sounds of any his other stringed instrument; let him commune
with his own heart on his bed, and be still; let him speak to God face to
face if he may--only he cannot do that and continue hopeless; but let him
not sing aloud in such a mood into the hearts of his fellows, for he cannot
do them much good thereby. If it were a fact that there is no hope, it
would not be a _truth_. No doubt, if it were a fact, it ought to be known;
but who will dare be confident that there is no hope? Therefore, I say, let
the hopeless moods, at least, if not the hopeless men, be silent.
"He could refuse to let the one go without the other," said Wynnie.
"Now you are talking like a child, Wynnie, as indeed all partisans do at
the best. He might sell them together, but the owner would part them.--If
you will allow me, I will come and see both the pictures again to-morrow."
Percivale assured me of welcome, and we parted, I declining to look at any
more pictures that day, but not till we had arranged that he should dine
with us in the evening.
I will not detain my readers with the record of the few days we spent in
London. In writing the account of it, as in the experience of the time
itself, I feel that I am near home, and grow the more anxious to reach it.
Ah! I am growing a little anxious after another home, too; for the house of
my tabernacle is falling to ruins about me. What a word _home_ is! To think
that God has made the world so that you have only to be born in a certain
place, and live long enough in it to get at the secret of it, and
henceforth that place is to you a _home_ with all the wonderful meaning in
the word. Thus the whole earth is a home to the race; for every spot of it
shares in the feeling: some one of the family loves it as _his_ home. How
rich the earth seems when we so regard it--crowded with the loves of home!
Yet I am now getting ready to _go home_--to leave this world of homes and
go home. When I reach that home, shall I even then seek yet to go home?
Even then, I believe, I shall seek a yet warmer, deeper, truer home in the
deeper knowledge of God--in the truer love of my fellow-man. Eternity will
be, my heart and my faith tell me, a travelling homeward, but in jubilation
and confidence and the vision of the beloved.
When we had laid Connie once more in her own room, at least the room which
since her illness had come to be called hers, I went up to my study. The
familiar faces of my books welcomed me. I threw myself in my reading-chair,
and gazed around me with pleasure. I felt it so homely here. All my old
friends--whom somehow I hoped to see some day--present there in the spirit
ready to talk with me any moment when I was in the mood, making no claim
upon my attention when I was not! I felt as if I should like, when the
hour should come, to die in that chair, and pass into the society of the
witnesses in the presence of the tokens they had left behind them.
I heard shouts on the stair, and in rushed the two boys.
"Papa, papa!" they were crying together.
"What is the matter?"
"We've found the big chest just where we left it."
"Well, did you expect it would have taken itself off?"
"But there's everything in it just as we left it."
"Were you afraid, then, that the moment you left it it would turn itself
upside down, and empty itself of all its contents on the floor?"
They laughed, but apparently with no very keen appreciation of the attempt
at a joke.
"Well, papa, I did not think anything about it; but--but--but--there
everything is as we left it."
With this triumphant answer they turned and hurried, a little abashed, out
of the room; but not many moments elapsed before the sounds that arose from
them were sufficiently reassuring as to the state of their spirits.
When they were gone, I forgot my books in the attempt to penetrate and
understand the condition of my boys' thoughts; and I soon came to see that
they were right and I was wrong. It was the movement of that undeveloped
something in us which makes it possible for us in everything to give
thanks. It was the wonder of the discovery of the existence of law. There
was nothing that they could understand, _a priori_, to necessitate the
remaining of the things where they had left them. No doubt there was a
reason in the nature of God, why all things should hold together, whence
springs the law of gravitation, as we call it; but as far as the boys could
understand of this, all things might as well have been arranged for flying
asunder, so that no one could expect to find anything where he had left it.
I began to see yet further into the truth that in everything we must give
thanks, and whatever is not of faith is sin. Even the laws of nature reveal
the character of God, not merely as regards their ends, but as regards
their kind, being of necessity fashioned after ideal facts of his own being
I rose and went down to see if everybody was getting settled, and how the
place looked. I found Ethel already going about the house as if she had
never left it, and as if we all had just returned from a long absence and
she had to show us home-hospitality. Wynnie had vanished; but I found her
by and by in the favourite haunt of her mother before her marriage--beside
the little pond called the Bishop's Basin, of which I do not think I have
ever told my readers the legend. But why should I mention it, for I cannot
tell it now? The frost lay thick in the hollow when I went down there to
find her; the branches, lately clothed with leaves, stood bare and icy
around her. Ethelwyn and I had almost forgotten that there was anything out
of the common in connection with the house. The horror of this mysterious
spot had laid hold upon Wynnie. I resolved that that night I would, in her
mother's presence, tell her all the legend of the place, and the whole
story of how I won her mother. I did so; and I think it made her trust us
more. But now I left her there, and went to Connie. She lay in her bed;
for her mother had got her thither at once, a perfect picture of blessed
comfort. There was no occasion to be uneasy about her. I was so pleased
to be at home again with such good hopes, that I could not rest, but went
wandering everywhere--into places even which I had not entered for ten
years at least, and found fresh interest in everything; for this was home,
and here I was.
Now I fancy my readers, looking forward to the end, and seeing what a small
amount of print is left, blaming me; some, that I have roused curiosity
without satisfying it; others, that I have kept them so long over a dull
book and a lame conclusion. But out of a life one cannot always cut
complete portions, and serve them up in nice shapes. I am well aware that I
have not told them the _fate_, as some of them would call it, of either of
my daughters. This I cannot develop now, even as far as it is known to me;
but, if it is any satisfaction to them to know this much--and it will be
all that some of them mean by _fate_, I fear--I may as well tell them now
that Wynnie has been Mrs. Percivale for many years, with a history well
worth recounting; and that Connie has had a quiet, happy life for nearly
as long, as Mrs. Turner. She has never got strong, but has very tolerable
health. Her husband watches her with the utmost care and devotion. My
Ethelwyn is still with me. Harry is gone home. Charlie is a barrister of
the Middle Temple. And Dora--I must not forget Dora--well, I will say
nothing about her _fate_, for good reasons--it is not quite determined yet.
Meantime she puts up with the society of her old father and mother, and is
something else than unhappy, I fully believe.
"And Connie's baby?" asks some one out of ten thousand readers. I have no
time to tell you about her now; but as you know her so little, it cannot be
such a trial to remain, for a time at least, unenlightened with regard to
The only other part of my history which could contain anything like
incident enough to make it interesting in print, is a period I spent in
London some few years after the time of which I have now been writing. But
I am getting too old to regard the commencement of another history with
composure. The labour of thinking into sequences, even the bodily labour of
writing, grows more and more severe. I fancy I can think correctly still;
but the effort necessary to express myself with corresponding correctness
becomes, in prospect, at least, sometimes almost appalling. I must
therefore take leave of my patient reader--for surely every one who
has followed me through all that I have here written, well deserves the
epithet--as if the probability that I shall write no more were a certainty,
bidding him farewell with one word: _"Friend, hope thou in God,"_ and for
a parting gift offering him a new, and, I think, a true rendering of the
first verse of the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews:
"Now faith is the essence of hopes, the trying of things unseen."